NEWSLETTER - MAY 2012
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There is always something happening in supermarkets -
new products, product demonstrations, shelves reorganised
so you can't find anything. Not always interesting, quite
often boring and sometimes a chore but just occasionally something
catches your eye, something is interesting . . .
Spanish goat's cheese
Just eaten a midnight snack. It was 1.00 am when I started
so I suppose technically I can't call it a midnight snack.
Very enjoyable! I do not make a habit of having late night
snacks but just this once I thought why not. There was a whole
round of Spanish goat's cheese in the fridge and a packet
of savoury biscuits in the cupboard just making the temptation
What has this got to do with supermarkets? Nothing directly
but I wanted to cover the subject of enjoying good food and
I have always had a bad attitude towards food. I shudder
to think of the trouble my mother had feeding me. If I did
not like something, I did not like it . . . even if I had
never tried it. As a child, and even into my teenage years,
I was very reluctant to try any new foods. The usual reaction
on coming to the table would be Yuk, I'm not eating
that. To make it worse my mother would pander to my
fussiness and often cook me something different to what everyone
else was having.
Spanish Goat's Cheese with Garlic
These days I like to think I am a lot more adventurous with
food, and will try anything once. But there lies the problem.
I will often try something once and then dismiss that particular
food just on the basis of one tasting or one example. I am
probably not alone in having this attitude to food and it
makes you wonder how many of us miss out on some really great
foods just because we are too narrow minded.
It was the recent arrival by courier of a Spanish goat's
cheese that set this train of thought in motion. Can you imagine
my reaction if my mother had tried putting goat's cheese on
the table - if it was not Cheddar or Cheshire cheese it was
Before saying anything about this particular cheese I should
give you some idea of my attitude towards goats cheese.
I blame Raymond Blanc! It seems like a long time ago now
- I worked as a kitchen assistant for Raymond Blanc when his
brasserie, le petit Blanc, opened in Cheltenham. One of the
most popular starters was Goat's Cheese in Filo Pastry deep
fried. (I think it had tapenade on the cheese as well.). It
was never something I would have ordered when eating there
bur as I often got to cook it I did get the opportunity to
taste when one went wrong. As I said they were one of the
most popular starters but they really put me off eating goats
cheese ever again . . . until last year.
Last year I came across Blue Goat's cheese when visiting
Hogue Farm shop near Newmarket. Now that is something
really special, the cheese that is, although La Hogue is impressive
too. The texture is far firmer and the taste . . . well, you
try it and see. It is a really classy cheese. I do not remember
the name but I have tried other blue goats cheese and they
are all good if you cannot make it to La Hogue Farm shop.
Suddenly blue goat's cheese made me more receptive to the
idea that perhaps all goats cheese was not the same. So when
the opportunity to try a wheel of Goats Cheese with Garlic
came along I jumped at the chance . . . and I am really glad
I did. This was a real class act all the way from Spain. Totally
different from anything I have tried before. It is a hard
cheese and what a lovely flavour. I am not good at putting
into words how something tastes so will not even try, but
this is something you should try for yourself.
The Goats Cheese with Garlic came from Orce Serrano Hams
and this is how it is described on their web site:
For lovers of goats cheese and stronger cheeses
this combination is well suited to bossy red wines or to
compliment mature reserva hams. A delicious goats cheese
with strong yet balanced hints of garlic resulting in a
unique Spanish flavour. A cheese for the adventurous and
this make me a connoisseur? You certainly feel like one when
eating it. My wife tried it whilst I was out and she had it
with some of the new Bon Maman lemon marmalade and said it
tasted really good. (Going to sneak off and try that myself
in a minute!)
The moral of this story is not to have tunnel vision when
it comes to food and try everything you get the chance to
try. You will not like everything but imagine how many good
things you might be missing out on.
If you would like to try this particular cheese you will
find it on the Spanish
Tapas page of the Orce Serrano Hams web site. (Plenty
more to choose from as well.)
Editorial note: This site is not paid to
promote any of the products or places featured in this newsletter.
THE GOOD LIFE IN SPAIN
SPANISH BARBECUE COOKING
Spanish barbecue cooking is enjoyed almost all year round
in Spain due to the long summers and dry winters. In fact,
cooking on the barbecue is preferred even during the cooler
months, in the summer you will see the locals taking cover
under the shade while various members of the family bustle
around the outdoor barbecue usually with the head of house
taking control over the entire proceedings! The Spanish barbecue
is a joy to behold and a world away from undercooked sausages
and drizzly weather. It is fair to say that the Spanish, like
most Mediterraneans are experts at cooking outdoors.
Cooking Over Flame
of the more common Spanish meals cooked over the barbecue
is the paella or dishes such as sam feina, a vegetable
based dish also requiring a flat based pan like the paellera
or paella pan. These typically Spanish dishes can be cooked
over a barbecue grill but by far the best way is to use a
metal tripod which the pan sits on. The most important factor
in cooking dishes such as paella outdoors over naked flame
is the flame itself. This is in fact when the barbecue never
actually becomes a barbecue at all more of a fire.
The reason is that unlike a typical barbecue bed of hot coals,
flame can be controlled which is ideal for rice based dishes,
considering the paella (no matter which version you choose)
is a fairly simple dish to make it allows the chef more time
to regulate the flames. Remembering that nothing in Spain
requires any immediate rush the paella can be cooked normally
or slower depending on the cooks preference to the meat
they are using in the dish.
The best way to prepare for your outdoor paella is establish
how much wood you will need for the fire, a good bucket full
of sticks will certainly do, it is surprising how little wood
is required to cook such a dish but small thin sticks produce
big fat flames... Retain a couple of thicker pieces to place
around the edge of the fire as these will smoulder helping
to give the dish that lovely outdoor smoky flavour. Light
your fire in the normal way with either fire lighters, newspaper
and kindling, from this point on carefully manoeuvre the sticks
under the pan so that the flames gently lick around the edges.
Twenty-five minutes later . . . Paella done.
Cooking Over Coals (Brasa)
over brasa is very different and takes more time,
many Spanish dishes are named a la brasa which
means cooked over hot coals. It is worth mentioning at this
point that the majority of Spanish barbecues are fired with
wood, charcoal is available but the preferred method is wood
such as pine which is collected from nearby woodland or even
harder wood such as almond, olive or dried oak all of which
create a lengthy and intense heat.
There are various dishes that can be cooked over brasa and
the main one is meat, whether it be pork, beef, chicken or
lamb. Fish are also welcome on the Spanish barbecue, sardines
and gilthead bream being a favourite and not forgetting gambas
or prawns which are usually cooked in a clay cazuela with
garlic and chilli. Preparing for brasa may take a while but
is certainly worth it, the process from lighting to cooking
can take as long as three hours but considering the nature
of the event itself, food being the focal point of friends
and family get togethers a mere three hours is just enough
time to enjoy a few tapas, aperitivos and some conversation.
Brasa needs to begin as a normal fire, gently adding larger
and thicker pieces of hard wood as and when required. The
main trick with brasa is to pile up the wood once the fire
is fully established and leave it - do not stoke the fire
until you are ready to cook, what you will have will resemble
white, charred, broken logs on the fire which when stoked
will disintegrate into burning hot coals - this is perfect
brasa. Leave the coals for a good ten minutes before cooking
as they will in fact be too hot. Barbecue your
chosen meats and enjoy some real Mediterranean flavour and
al fresco dining.
barbecue equipment >>>
TO MAKE RECIPES . . . CUTTING
recipe from Natoora
for Extra Fine Beans wrapped in Pancetta is very simple to
do but adds a real tasty twist to a well known vegetable.
FINE BEANS WRAPPED IN PANCETTA
250g extra fine beans
4 slices of pancetta
1 tsp salt
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
the oven to 200°C.
tail and wash the beans.
in lightly salted boiling water for around 4 minutes so
that they are still crisp.
they blanch, melt the butter and mix it with the sugar,
salt and soy sauce.
the beans well and place around 10 on each pancetta slice,
then wrap the pancetta around them.
the base of a baking tray with baking paper.
Place the beans wrapped in pancetta on the baking tray.
with the soy sauce and butter mixture.
for about 10 minutes or until the pancetta is crisp and
PEA AND MINT SOUP
refreshing spring soup is so quick and easy to make . . .
a wonderful way to enjoy fresh peas.
500g fresh peas (1kg unpodded)
200g creme fraiche or double cream
sprig of mint
fried crispy pancetta (optional)
a pan of water to the boil (sufficent water to cover the
the mint to the water to infuse before adding the peas.
the peas and blanch for around 2 to 3 minutes. Make sure
they are cooked but retain their lucious green colour
or your soup will look dull.
cooked, drain the liquid into a seperate bowl as you will
need some of it in a minute.
the peas into a blender and add the cooking liquid so
that it just covers the peas.
into a puree and season to taste.
nearly all of the creme fraiche or cream, approximately
150g , then pulse with the blended peas.
serve into warm bowls, add a dollop of cream, and sprinkle
over crispy pancetta if you fancy an extra crunch and
SCHOOLS TAUGHT DOMESTIC SCIENCE
8 ozs Quaker oats (or similar)
5 ozs butter
Juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp golden syrup
oven to 180°C / Gas mark 4
the butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan but do not let
these ingredients boil.
in the oats and lemon juice until everything is combined.
the misture into a sandwich tin so that it is evenly spread
for 30 minutes.
from oven and allow to cool.
cool cut into fingers.
in an airtight container.
MIXING BOWL . . . RANDOM BITS AND PIECES
on pastry making
secret to good pastry making is five fold and the tips given
here can be transferred to most pastry and bread recipes:
that ingredients are measured exactly, the smaller the amount
made the greater the disaster for smaller mistakes made.
sieve the flour at least three times, this is not to remove
any lumps as commonly thought, but to evenly distribute
the gluten content. If it is not evenly distributed then
the pastry can shrink when cooked in the areas where there
is concentrated gluten content.
a little lemon juice - this encourages the gluten strands
to relax and shorten.
/ handle the pastry as lightly as possible. When rubbing
in the butter in short pastries use your fingertips only
and lift them into the air, this allows air to get into
the pastry and make it lighter, more delicate.
and every time the pastry is handled allow it to rest for
at least an hour - after making, after rolling, etc. This
allows the gluten strands to relax again, as each time you
handle the pastry you stretch them out.
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