Tag Archives: spanish

Pulpo a la Gallega

Octopus. The idea of it is so appealing when you see it on a menu… slow cooked, char grilled, tender and fleshy, new born into a sea of olive oil and garlic and Mediterranean fantasy. You could be sitting in a trattoria in Italy, a taverna in Greece, or a whatever they call a place where you get drunk and eat good food anywhere else. It’s a holiday dish, the kind of food you eat when you’re off somewhere else far from home pretending to be young and adventurous and carefree. “I’ll have the octopus and a carafe of the house white” You say with a confidence born from a sun tan you really don’t deserve.

Then long after the memory of the holiday and the tan have faded, you’re back home trying to explain to all your friends just how amazing this octopus dish you had was…So you pick up one up in the local fish monger, and the grim reality of this carnivorous marine mollusk sets in. Octopuses are not pretty creatures. They’re long, wet, slimy, unwieldy things that defy your attempts to nicely put them in a bag, and once you do, more closely resemble the contents of a larger animals stomach, than something you should consider eating.

Of course, we are in the fortunate position in 2012 of knowing that millions of people have gone before us to both cook and enjoy this wonderful creature, and the advent of modern fishing has made it’s capture and transportation to our homes much simpler than bygone eras where you had to wrestle with one yourself. Risking life, limb and ink-eye to get your evening meal.

So in true “What I did on my holidays” fashion, here is a dish that I came to love while traveling around the north of Colombia. It is of course of a classic Spanish dish from the North West region of Galicia, from which it’s name is derived Pulpo alla Gallega (Galician Octopus).

Now there are many areas of conjecture as to which approach to take to cooking the octopus, so I’m not going to go out on a limb and say that my way is the right way, but it worked well for me the few times I’ve made it, so let your conscience be your guide as to how you do yours.

Ingredients

  • 1 large fresh octopus (~1kg in weight)
  • ~1kg potatoes (waxy ones like Ruby Lou or Kipfler work well)
  • The best Spanish sweet paprika you can find
  • Good quality olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh flat leaf parlsey
  • 1 bay leaf

How I made mine

Gingerly take your octopus by the top part, which hopefully has the head and beak removed, and is comprised of a ring where all the legs are attached. In a large bowl in the sink, wash the octopus well in cold water. Some people say you should freeze the octopus before you start, as that helps to tenderise it, but I haven’t felt the need to do that (it gets perfectly tender when it’s cooked for long enough).

Then in the biggest pot you can find (the Spanish say it needs to be a copper pot, but I think you can do just fine without), fill with water and a bay leaf and bring to the boil.

Once the water is boiling carefully dunk the octopus into the water and leave it there for 30 seconds. You’ll see the water stops boiling as the cold octopus lowers the temperature, so after 30 seconds, take it back out and let the water come to the boil again. This process of dunking into boiling water is supposed to set the gelatine in the legs and helps to preserve the texture you want.

Dunk the octopus back in and out of the water 3 more times and then leave it in there for around 40 minutes on a high simmer until you can pierce it with a knife and it’s soft inside with some resistance outside.

About 20 minutes into the cooking processes, peel the potatoes and drop them into the pot with the octopus whole. They’ll cook along with the octopus and absorb all that briny flavour. They’ll also turn a slightly alarming shade of red, which you shouldn’t be scared by.

Then when the potatoes and octopus are cooked, take them out and let them cool down on a board, before cutting the octopus into round slices along the leg, and slicing the potato into slightly larger rounds. The arrange the potatoes on a plate or board, season liberally with good sea salt and olive oil, and then add a layer of octopus to the top. Season again with more oil, a healthy sprinkling of paprika, and some finely chopped fresh parsley.

Serve it on it’s own, with some crusty bread, or as the first course in a Spanish feast. Make sure you have plenty of crisp white wine, invite a few people who understand what it’s all about, and enjoy the satisfaction that you can bring the best of the world to your door step if you really want to.

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Spanish Flavours

Rosa Jamon

** Update **

Rosa and Spanish Flavours have finally moved to their new location at the top end of Oxford St, Mt Hawthorn. They are no longer in the Wembley Food Court. The new premises has the deli section as before with chorizo, jamon, and cheeses, and then on the other side is a cafe where they’ll be serving coffee, churros and breakfasts.

New location is 413 Oxford St, Mt Hawthorn (or close to it, look for the Spanish flag coloured building).

I’ve been telling everyone I know about Spanish Flavours since the first time I found about it myself. It is the only (to my knowledge) Spanish providore in Perth, and more importantly, the only one run by Rosa, the dynamo proprietor and doyen of all things Spanish.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a home cook or an award winning chef who’s been running restaurants for years. Rosa will tell you how it’s done. Her cheeky smile and attitude are what fills the humble little store with life and makes it something special. Just ask a few stupid questions (like I do every time), then sit back and wait to be educated.

Rosa’s chorizo is used all over Perth by the most discerning chefs. You’ll find it on the menu at Cantina with her name attached in homage. I really can’t quite say just how much I love it. There was a phase not so long ago where I think I lived on it for the better part of a few weeks. I’d put it in omelettes, paella, risotto, pasta, grilled, fried in red wine, fried in cider, fried in it’s own luscious fat and juices. Friends and late night visitors to my place will attest to just how satisfying it is to mop up a bowl of Roas’s fried chorizo with a thick piece of bread smothered in butter.

flaming chorizo

Aisde from chorizo, her’s is also the best place to find jamon iberico, jamon serrano, manchego cheese, a delicious goats cheese that the name of which escapes me, quince paste, guava paste, saffron, tortilla flour, smoked paprika, paella pans, cazuelas, paella rice (calasparra), and everything else you need to make your next Spanish dish as authentic as possible.

Also, *plug plug plug* if you’d like to know a little more about the delightful lady that is Rosa and her possible links to the world of gypsy magic and mind reading, check out my article in the latest edition of Spice Magazine, which aside from what I scribble down on napkins and throw at Anthony to print, is a rather quality publication with fantastic local content.

Rosa was kind enough to donate some of her time doing what she loves best (talking) so I could put together a little story about the shop, where she’s come from, and where she’s going.

Jabugo La Jabuguena JamonSpanish Flavours :: Guava pasteSpanish Flavours :: ChorizoSpanish Flavours :: PimentonSpanish Flavours :: Paella seasoningSpanish Flavours :: GuayaquilSpanish Flavours :: Papa CriollaCazuelaJamonJamonSlicing Jamon at Spanish FlavoursSlicing Jamon at Spanish FlavoursSlicing Jamon at Spanish FlavoursRosa from Spanish FlavoursRosa from Spanish FlavoursRosa from Spanish Flavours

Spanish Flavours
413 Oxford St
Mt Hawthorn
(08) 9284 1313 (unless it’s changed)

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Pata Negra

Jamon serrano from Pata Negra restaurant Spanish red wine from Pata Negra

David Coomer is about as close as Perth gets to food royalty. His Star Anise restaurant in Shenton Park has been a mainstay at the top end of the dining scene for many years, and his reputation for sourcing great quality produce and making beautiful dishes out of them has placed him at the top of his game.

Which is why there’s been such interest in his latest venture, Pata Negra. When the announcement was made that David Coomer was going to be opening a Spanish restaurant in Nedlands, a great thrill ran through the collective stomachs of the greater dining community of Perth, hoping perhaps, that someone would come and pull us up from the quagmire of mediocre tapas restaurants.

Imagine my surprise then, to run into David at my favourite Spanish providore (article coming), buying much of the same ingredients as I do for said new restaurants launch party (though perhaps in slightly larger quantities than I ever have). I took some delight in the fact that he had to put up with as much, if not more hassle dealing with Rosa the feisty Spanish providore as I ever have. Who’s opinion on food and all things Spanish is undeniably parochial, and ultimately final. Regardless of whether she’s talking to a novice or an award winning chef.

After chatting for a while David kindly invited me along to the media launch the coming Sunday evening, a chance to explain the concept and demo some dishes before a full restaurant opening the following Tuesday. I wandered around chatting to wait staff and chefs Matt Stone (former sous chef from Star Anise) and Kurt Samson (previously of the Builders Arms and Momo in Melbourne), who will be heading up Pata Negra while David controls the reigns at Star Anise. It was a great night and a chance to sample some of the menu in it’s infancy, which had the immediate effect of whetting my appetite for the real deal.

Now I’m not prone to rhetoric as much as other writers in the food game in our fair city, but I will say that despite the build up, and all the hype, my first meal at Pata Negra was fantastic. So forgive me if I leave out details of the rustic mismatched furniture and glassware, and the warmly arcane lighting fixtures. I’ll also also brush over the unexpectedly icy dash to the bathrooms via the outdoors, and the unexplained mineral water that was poured into the next door tables glasses. Which are not all superfluous, but didn’t detract from the experience.

The review starts here

It was Friday night and the place was packed. Open since Tuesday, this was their 4th night of service. I’d booked for 8:30pm, ringing the day before to make sure I could get a seat, but was reassuringly told by the manager that tables would be set aside every night for walk in traffic. Lazy diners of Perth unite ! You should be able to stroll into Pata Negra at any given time with no forewarning and land yourself a table. The tables in question are a series of small communal spots at the front. The rest of the restaurant seems to run with two sittings, one at 6:30pm (the early bird special) and the later at 8:30pm.

A quick peruse of the wine list while we waited for the table to be ready showed an interesting mix of Spanish and Portuguese wines, and Australian wines in the same vein. New world Tempranillo blends mixing alongside Douro and Rioja. It was nice to see some decent cheaper options amongst the mix too. The cheapest bottle of wine being $35, which is not bad for a restaurant of this nature. Though it’s immediately apparent that the style of this place is meant to be warm, fun, and casually intimate. We settled on a bottle of Portuguese Douro that I know virtually nothing about. It was medium bodied and fruit driven and was a wonderful match to many of the dishes.

So the food.

The menu is split into sections. Tapas at the top, which are all small dishes. Working down through different sections based on the type of dish. If I recall correctly it was Sea (seafood things), Earth (vegetable dishes), Land (meats), Queso (cheeses). I know I’m forgetting or mislabeling them, but will clarify at some point when I go back. All the dishes are designed to share, thought not necessarily as individual pieces. But the concept of the shared table seems to be a central theme. The dishes are predominantly Spanish in feel, though there’s a strong Moorish / Middle Eastern influence coming from Kurt Samson’s background in running Momo with Greg Malouf and his own personal style of hearty tagines.

We started with some of the pork crackle. To call it pork crackle though is almost a misnomer. It’s essentially lighter than air pork rind fried to puffy crunchy perfection, served with a yoghurt dipping sauce and paprika. The joy of crunching into them is a must for any true lover of the pig.

Pata Negra: Pork crackle Pata Negra: Kingfish Ceviche

Next up was some Jamon Serrano. At half the price of the restaurants namesake Jamon Iberico, it makes for a deliciously rich, salty indulgence. The fat is lovely and supple (though not as melt in your mouth as the pata negra), and it’s a generous portion of 40 grams for $15. A massive ham slicer sits atop the stairs in the entrance to the kitchen, which will no doubt get a considerable workout over the years as this place shaves many a leg of ham to it’s salty end.

A small anchovy fillet laid across a rich tomato salsa on a thin wafer was next. A wonderful combination of textures and flavours as it all came together in a satisfying bite.

Now a brief respite and a chance to collect thoughts, enjoy the wine, schmooze with other local food illumenati and choose some more dishes. The only problem so far is that there are far too many to choose from, that all look good.

So after some wrangling we settle on some wood roasted portobello mushrooms and the one dish it seems most food writers can’t go past… fabada. Fabada is a rich stew with confit duck, chorizo, ham hock, and beans (in this case lentils), quite similar to cassoulet… a lovingly rich rustic dish of epic proportions.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. The wood oven at Pata Negra is a legacy of the pizza shop that used to be there a while ago. As a lazy university student I fondly remember walking past Sol Pizza on the way to somewhere else other than university. Hopefully my lack of patronage wasn’t why it closed in the first place… but regardless the wood oven works well, and is used to great effect by Pata Negra to create a number of their dishes.

The wood roasted mushrooms then, were an explosion of earthy joy. Juicy, dense, perfectly cooked… I could have had just that one dish and been completely satisfied. Shavings of parmesan over the top only enhanced the depth of flavour. How good they were, yet how simple, was quite simply astounding.

The Fabada came served in a cazuela. The confit duck consisted of one large maryland piece split in half, that fell apart at the mere thought of a fork. The lentils mingled with Rosa’s intensely spicy chorizo and smokey ham hock. It was exactly what I was hoping for. Homely, hearty, soul restoring.

For dessert, we couldn’t go past some of the house made Pedro Ximenez ice cream. Served with a sweet doughnut made from brioche and deep fried, then rolled in cinnamon and sugar. All I can say is thank God for a complete absence of churros, I miss you not. I also tried the poached persimmon, with yoghurt ice cream, sadly reaffirming the fact that I really don’t enjoy persimmon. The yoghurt ice cream rich and creamy, although I’ve been told I need to include in this review that my initial reaction was: “Wow, this yoghurt is really yoghurty”. Such is the brilliance of my observatory powers.

Pata Negra: ice cream churn Pata Negra: pedro ximenez ice cream, spanish doughnut

I finish the night with a glass of Pedro Ximenez and a smug expression on my face at a fantastic first meal in a new restaurant destined for great things. Is this Perth’s answer to Movida ? Only time will tell. But with what I’ve seen so far the sky is the limit. The team behind Pata Negra is committed to bringing great food to Perth. The service was quick and attentive, and you can tell they care about giving people the right kind of experience.

Get there soon and tell me what you think.

Pata Negra
26 Stirling Hwy, Nedlands
Phone: 08 9389 5517
Fax: 08 9389 5519

http://www.patanegra.com.au

Pata Negra on Urbanspoon

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Masterchef Australia : Salmorejo with WA Marron & baby herbs

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I came, I saw, I did not conquer.

The wiley among you would have guessed that my last post was in regards to Masterchef Australia auditions. Channel 10’s new big reality TV show for the year and the single train of though that has been occupying my mind for the past few weeks now.

I applied for the show before Christmas and then was pleasantly surprised to hear that I’d got an audition. The details for the audition were that we had to bring along one dish that would impress the judges. It should best be served cold, as there were no facilities to heat things up before they were tasted, and it should showcase your cooking ability and knowledge of flavours.

So being the resourceful food blogger that I am, I started scouring the internet and coming up with as many ideas as possible for a dish that would be seasonal, local, interesting but simple, and ultimately delicious.

With my trusty group of taste testers in tow I toured through the culinary landscapes. Starting off along the lines of a roast beetroot salad with goats curd, rocket, caramelised walnuts and orange, then went towards a roast pumpkin salad with blue cheese, toasted pine nuts and baby spinach, then ventured towards carpaccio of beef, tuna tataki, ceviche of king fish, gazpacho with morton bay bug tails. My taste buds then went a little sweet and I experimented with panna cotta, with frangelico and lime.

I took into account a lot of the great ideas put forward by all you lovely contributors and then a week before the audition I had an almighty cook-athon. Raiding the markets for the freshest, most delicious looking produce I could, then spending all afternoon prepping up all the potential dishes.

I called the taste testers over for a final opinion on the direction to go in. It was a one of the last dishes however, that caught their attention. Kam had casually dropped the idea of salmorejo into the comments, and so while prepping up the gazpacho, I left some tomato aside to make that as well. It was an instant hit and my direction was set.

Salmorejo is basically a cold Spanish soup made with tomatoes, stale bread that’s soaked in water, garlic, olive oil, and sherry vinegar. The hardest part about the dish is pronouncing it properly (sal-mor-echo), the rest is dead simple.

Pinchey Baby Herbs

Salmorejo comes from Cordova in Spain, and there it’s generally served with boiled eggs and jamon. I decided to serve mine with some local marron. Thinking the sweetness and lightness would be a great addition to the flavours in the soup, and getting a great suggestion from Deb about using baby herbs to give the dish some lift, without overpowering the flavour of the marron, as the chiffonaded basil I was using to garnish could be a little too much.

Once the main ingredients were set I diligently set about perfecting it. Trying as many different types of tomatoes as I could get my hands on, eating copious amounts of herbs at my local garden centre, and sourcing the freshest marron I could find. Fortunately Dad came to the rescue on that one, letting me know about a marron farm just outside of Corrigin. He rang up and they went out to the dams and fished some out just for me, then he drove them up to Perth in a box for me, well and truly alive and kicking (and ready to sever any fingers inadvertently left too close to the pinchey end).

The ingredients were thus finalised, and the night before the audition I sat up til 1am making the final batch of salmorejo and cooking the marron, ready for the 7:30am (!!) start time. How exactly I made it to the audition on time and awake I have no idea. But everything came together pretty smoothly.

Of course the auditions didn’t start at 7:30am. We instead sat in line for a good couple of hours while the camera guys and producers got little grabs of people looking excited and panned up and down the ever growing queue of people unnecessarily standing outside the building in the growing heat.

New queue buddies Manda, Tash, John, and I chatted about what we were all doing there in the first place, talked food, reality tv, and mused that we’d probably have the worlds best picnic with all the great food in everyones collective eskies at the moment.

So finally we get inside, sign our lives over to Masterchef and head into a little room to be briefed on the process. I’m not entirely sure what I signed when I put my signature to the release form, so I won’t give away any inside secrets about the show (not that I know any), but suffice to say it should be great to watch.

After our initial briefing we were split up into groups, and headed into our first audition session. About 10 people per group all went into a smaller room with a group of producers and assembled their dishes on a table up the front. Then two at a time talked about who they were and why they made the dish they made, and tasted the other persons dish and gave a little feedback on it.

I have to say all the dishes looked excellent, and all the ones I tried after the session tasted great. There was a terrine of chicken, lobster, and scallop, some vietnamese rolls with marron, a japanese tofu custard, a smoked salmon stack, a nectarine and pomegranate salad with lamb, a mango pudding with layers of panna cotta and jelly, a flourless chocolate liqueur cake with a berry sauce, scotch eggs with home made chutney, a layered salmon tartare, and a number of other different and wonderful dishes.

My salmorejo was very well received by everyone who tried it though. I was really happy with how the flavours came together and it looked great on the plate. When I heard my name called out for the second interview I was super happy. Those who made it through gathered anxiously outside, and those who didn’t were bid a fond farewell. It was surprising the amount of camaraderie generated in such a small time…but I guess that’s what being part of a shared experience can do to you.

Then on to my second interview with some other producers. I took my second plate of the soup and marron in and placed it delicately on the table in front of them, only to have them mostly ignore it and get straight to the nitty gritty of why I deserved to be on the show. I did my best to justify just how keen I was and made sure to emphasise keywords like passion, dedication, commitment, and honesty… a motivation speaker would have been so proud of me.

Then, when I thought it was all over, I had another chat with yet another producer. This time the lovely Keily, who wanted to know all about where I came from and what I liked, and if I were a food, what food would I be. It was all quite comfortable and positive when I left it was with a fairly strong idea that I’d be getting a call back for the next round of auditions, where I’d have to prepare a dish and present it in front of the judges for real.

So when the call came through at 8pm that night saying sorry, you didn’t make it through, I will admit, I was a little disappointed. Ok, very disappointed. But what can you do really. It’s TV, they have a specific group of people they are looking for and I guess I didn’t fit into whatever that was. If my dish hadn’t of been so well liked I think I’d be more upset, but as it stands I did everything I wanted and said everything I felt I needed to in the auditions to represent who I am.

Pretty much anyone who knows me will know just how competitive I am, but at the same time I won’t get hung up on things I have no control over. Plus as much as I’d like to hate everyone else who did get through to round 2, everyone I met was really nice and I have nothing but good things to say about the whole audition process.

So to all the lovely people I met over the course of the day (Tash, Manda, John, Rob, Charles, Antoneo, Patrice, Pete) I wish you well and look forward to seeing just who does go through to be the first Australian Masterchef.

And now… how about the recipe for my dish.

Salmorejo with West Australian Marron and baby herbs

You will need

  • Roughly 500g of tomatoes – the reddest ripest you can find, I tried about 4 different types
    and eventually settled on baby roma tomatoes which were plump and red and super sweet
  • 200g stale bread – I used a loaf of sourdough that was left out for a few days, but really any kind of bread would be fine, just not multigrain.
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic – vary this depending on how strong you want the garlic to come through
  • 2-3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 100 ml of good olive oil
  • salt and pepper to season to taste

How I made mine

Depending on your tomatoes you may want to peel and core them before you start. I was using baby tomatoes and it wasn’t really an option, so I instead blended whole in a food processor and then strained them through a sieve to get rid of the skin and seeds. If you however, have a thing for peeling tomatoes (or you’re some kind of sadist) then you’ll get a great result that way too.

So blend the tomatoes with the garlic cloves, soak the bread in water til it’s soggy, and then squeeze the excess water out. What you’re basically making is a tomato emulsion, and the bread is here to stabilise and thicken it, and give it a nicer consistency.

While the food processor is still going, add the bread bit by bit until it’s all smoothly blended. It should be somewhat thick at this stage. Check the flavour and consistency and then add your sherry vinegar to taste, and gradually blend in the olive oil until you’ve got the consistency and flavour you like.

This soup is a real vehicle for the produce. So the better the tomatoes and olive oil you use, the better it’s going to taste. Once all of that is blended through, add salt and pepper and perhaps more sherry vinegar to taste, and more bread if you need to change the consistency.

Then either into the fridge for a while to chill it right down, or get a bit tricky a blend 3 or 4 ice cubes into the mixture for a quick cool down. I think it tastes better the colder it is, especially on baking hot Australian summer days.

The marron I simply cooked whole in salted water (after putting them into the freezer for 15 minutes to put them to sleep, and pushing a knive down through their heads between their eyes for a quick, tho still traumatic enough, death).

My final dish is then just arranging the soup on the bottom, a small mound of chopped and lightly seasoned marron into the middle of the dish, and a delicate topping of baby herbs on top. I ended up using baby basil, purple basil, asian parsley, and coriander. An elegant swirl of olive oil and the dish is ready to serve.

I recommend making a large bowl of it and watching Master Chef while bitching and moaning to your friends about what might have been :)