Category Archives: Food

CALÇOTADA 2013

Most of you already know I settled in Barcelona almost 9 years ago. For 5 ½ years I was involved with a Catalonian frrrrr…guy, however we didn’t use to enjoy these local traditions involving feasts. It had to be my friend Mireia and all her crew the ones to invite me to join some special days. On one hand the Day of Catalunya in September, the traditional fests in the city and the annual ritual of spending a weekend (February-March) at Mireia’s family countryside house in La Selva Del Camp.

In coincidence with the celebration of her brother-in-law’s birthday, we set this past weekend as the date for our calçotada.

cooking

For your information, calçot is a variety of green onion which grows in Valls, near Tarragona (80km from Barcelona approx). It’s barbecued and then wrapped in paper to keep warm, and finally it’s served with a wonderful sauce name romesco, which contains onion,  tomato, almonds and hazelnuts, garlic and some more stuff. If you ever try one, and it’s good, you’ll be dipping bread or whatever that can be dipped.

romesco

The way to eat calçots is quite dirty as you have to peel it, removed the burnt skin and then deep in the sauce. Some people use gloves. I think that sucks. I prefer getting my hands dirt, as a proof that I’ve been eating such delicious.

calçots

In calçotadas you have to be careful. Lots of booze, too much food, laughs and long chats. These events imply no hurries, and not planning any other activity afterwards because there’s a high chance you might feel wasted afterwards.

This year everybody was quite relaxed and calmed down, especially comparing to the party held 2 years ago. At 2pm we were all pissed. This year there were newly couples, which were more tender to each other and therefore quite slow, the house was very cold as last week weather had been awful, and some of us were just knackered  after a rough week at work. Still we had a great laugh, had walks in the country, played poker, slept siesta, and some other stuff I don’t usually do in Barcelona. Basically I disconnected from my job which is stressing the hell out of me lately.

friends

It’s impossible for me to conceive a calçotada day without friends, and in fact I only eat calçots once a year. it’s a great opportunity to spend some time outdoors, far from civilization, and surrounded by friends and adorable dogs and enjoying nature and the pleasures of food and drink disconnecting from the tough and sometimes unbearable reality.

God bless these events, and thanks Mireia for allowing me to join and enjoy such wonderful days with you, your family and friends.

I LIKE IT HOT, BABY

Dear friends. After so many posts related to music and live shows, even though I still have many albums of the week pending, I feel like writing about something different again.

First I have to apologize in case you feel disappointed after reading all this, considering the catchy title I’ve chosen for this post. Nope, not talking about sex, at least not now. What can I say? There are so many things which catch our attention by just a glance, I couldn’t miss the chance to try to make you notice me. Yeah! You can call me attention whore this time. I won’t deny.

Few days ago someone threw the question about hot spicy food. To be honest I started developing a taste for hot food about 10 years ago for no reason. It was weird because I couldn’t stand it, truth is that as I grew older, I felt the need of experiencing with stronger tastes.

Some of my previous experiences involving spicy food were remarkable. The most outstanding happened when I was living in London.

Joe, my ex, he did love spices, and also was fan of experimenting with food. We used to live in an Indian neighborhood, where many cheap typical restaurants were available. We are not talking about super cool and fashion Indian restaurants, we are talking about Indians and people from Pakistan who used to hang out those places, implying food was quite traditional. Also note these places weren’t precisely very attractive in their appearance and neatness.

He was very enthusiastic about a place named A1. The restaurant probably had a different name as the label was written in their language, and the only thing we could understand. Anyway, one night I accompanied him reluctantly to have dinner together. Of course I didn’t know what I was having, but it was kind of spinach or dolmas. I couldn’t try the second course. Those damn spinach were the hottest thing I ever tasted and nothing I tried to do was relieving my poor tongue and mouth burning. Even the Pepsi I was drinking tasted hot at some point. I cried and cried, Joe was laughing at me observing my reaction, but the worst thing was my stomachache which lasted for a week. Feeding was just  a torture after 5 minutes, with cramps and this nonstop feeling of nausea. I’ve never visited any Indian restaurant ever since.

As advanced, something changed in me and all of a sudden I found myself delighted by the strong taste of wasabi, pouring Tabasco on my Bloody Mary’s, adding cayenne pepper to everything when cooking, adoring jalapeños, and looking for strong stuff.

I’ve been suffering a bit of writer’s block lately, and especially with this post. I wasn’t very sure about the way to go on with it, but finally I found the solution, one of my favorite, a top 5 spicy shit I love nowadays. Are you ready to burn?

WASABI PEAS

I discovered wasabi together with all these Japanese rolls and felt in love with the taste right away. When I have veggie makis I can’t stop dipping the pieces with it till I start crying and my nose leaking. Wasabi is addictive.

At one of these international markets addressed to foreign residents, mainly Indian and Asian in general, I found these wasabi peas, quite typical in Japan, and even though I’m not very fond of peas, decided to give them a try. Holy shit! What a blast! This apparent harmless snack is hot, and super tasty. The more you eat the hotter it gets. I could eats tons of this.

PIRI PIRI

I bought this small can in Japan more than two years ago, and there’s still some remaining. This piri piri is also named Africans Bird Eye Chili, and is typical in countries such as Mozambique, Malawi, Ghana an others.

First time I added it to some pasta, my tongue was burning, because I exceeded in quantity. You just need a tiny quantity to cheer up your meals. Pretty cool.

JALAPEÑOS

I can’t recall the first time I tried jalapeños. I mistook them for pickles, but as soon as I tasted I realized they were something special. I love jalapeños with cheese nachos, in salads, accompanying hamburgers, in pasta sauce…it doesn’t matter, its texture, appearance and flavor can adapt to be part of many meals. It’s easy to combine.

Best combination would be nachos with jalapeños, guacamole, sour cream and melted cheese. I tried them in Manhattan at Tick Tock Diner, right by Penn Station 5 years ago, and I cried with sincere happiness.

SHAW’S FLAMING HOT CHUTNEY

I went to this typical British food shop for expats, close in my neighborhood, named A Taste of Home, just to have a look and buy those Cadbury Creme Eggs I love so much. in essence everything is triple more expensive than in the UK, but it’s actually great for occasional self-indulgence.

I haven’t tried to prepare homemade chutney yet, which is this sweet and sour strong sauce combined with fruits or vegetables, mixed with spices, mostly to serve with meat or similar (seitan in my case or even pasta). There were lots of different flavors, and started checking them: mango, ginger, curry… Hey! Wait a minute, what is THAT???!

Chilli, red peppers, mustard seeds…oh dear! That’s my kinda thing!

Went to the counter and the lady attendant stares at the jar, then stares at me, then stares at the jar, and eventually she says:

“you don’t want to try this. It’s super hot and you’re gonna hate me for selling you this”.

It took me a while to convince the woman I was purchasing the hot chutney at my own risk, explaining I love spicy food. She sold it reluctantly, and strongly warned me not to pour to much.

Honestly, it looks hotter than it is actually, but the taste is great. Believe me, I ended up the jar spreading the sauce directly in bread. Hell yeah! What a blast!

CAYENNE PEPPER

Nice and easy, one of my favorite condiment. I use it for many many meals. Stewed lentils, pasta sauce, rice, burritos… I need this pinch of hot to achieve the ultimate intensity in flavor. As a vegetarian, I really seek for food to be tasty, and cayenne pepper is perfect for that. I’m so used to it, people always comment the food I cook for the is spicy, yet bearable.

I’d love hearing some of your suggestions. Any particular spice I should try?

APRON SEASON

Winter is coming!

Never such a simple sentence became so popular and cool. It’s threatening, it works as a warning, and at the end of the day, it’s a fact, an axiom.

I’m more a mid-season person, passionate for Spring and Fall, but even though I’m living in Barcelona, where climate is milder than inland and we don’t experience rough super low temperatures nor snow on regular basis, it’s true we share this same extreme change of season which always catches you by surprise no matter how insistently you’ve been warned about. You just can’t believe temperature is dropping 10ºC overnight, when two day ago you were melting and sweating the shit out of you due to humidity and warm weather. But it happens, and now I’m in front of my computer wearing a ragged jumper, and wrapped in one of these couch blankets, because the house is actually cold, and temperature on the street is finally lower.

Weather changes and the time Daylight saving time is over. Two key factors for rearranging habits only exclusive for Summer. Outdoors activities remain minimum and now I have to focus on what I want to do for these next 7 months.

And this is the perfect moment for giving my last passion carte blanche. Yeah, friends! The season of cooking and experimenting has officially started with me putting on my Swedish apron.

On one hand I’ve started perfectioning all these soup spoon dishes, including different soups and creams, and also, and quite important in my veggie diet, all these legume based dishes. Warm and tasty meals to balance the fresh salads. Cold weather requires solid meals to strengthen and improve our body defenses.

Thus I started with this veggie bean stew which I like to name as Eugenio’s beans, because I’ve never been a die hard fan of this legume, till he prepared this wonderful stew last winter, concerned of my veggie condition.

It is really easy to prepare, even though, as with most stews, it’s a fact that the slower and longer it takes to cook, the better it tastes. Red and green pepper, carrots and garlic, parsley, cayenne and other spices, vegetable soup, olive oil and the beans are required.

As Halloween is getting closer and unfortunately I won’t have my planned disguise ready (I’ll keep the project on hold till Carnival time probably), I was also thinking of skeleton shaped cookies or similar stuff. But there was a consideration I forgot, as simple as the fact I can’t bake cookies yet. Serious, I’ve tried carrot cake and brownies, but bakery is not my specialty yet, probably because I have this idea in mind that you need a large working space for mixing and needing the necessary dough, and the kitchens I’ve been dealing with, are quite narrow and uncomfortable for such procedures.

Once I thought of this, my Halloween plans were reduced to none, well to attend a gig, and perhaps do this Trick or Treat candy exchange thing. Shit! I used to have a beautiful with bag for candies, my cool hat, the perfect tees with skulls for the event, and once I had this bat wing hairband which looked super cool. I hate to realize about how many stuff I was thrown away in the name of “space and order”… MY ASS!

Anyway, let’s forget about crap and let’s focus on me being a super strong headed girl who is determined to learn how to prepare and bake cookies.

First thing I did is one of the typical things I always do, I love anticipating and many times I do it wrong, but as soon as I saw this human cookie cutter at a Tiger Store, I had to have it. I’ve seen moulds and cutters of Star Wars, but I add them to my wishlist, for the future and if I finally enjoying baking cookies.

My friend Arantza is the specialist in bakery, she’s completely devoted to muffins, the so-called cupcakes, cookies, cakes, plumcakes, and bread. Man, her Guinness bread and cupcakes are RAD! She’s also a top Internet tracker, as me, and is able to find all kind of recipes and kitchen utensils and gadgets. Of course you can imagine I thought of her immediately to have one of these quick approach on the subject, so she could send me a cookie recipe for dummies like me. I reconsidered about the flat shape cookies and said to myself I had to start in the humblest and easiest way. There’s plenty of time to improve and be cool.

Thus I had this baking session, having fun with the making of the dough, mixing flour, different kinds of sugar, chocolate pears, eggs, butter…to get this hard to handle stuff, which would turn into a cookie after 20 minutes. For some time I had my doubts, thinking I was doing something wrong, but I wasn’t, everything was under control. Sometimes I feel marveled at such simple things, a disgusting looking piece of dough becoming nice chocolate chip cookies. Love it!

And here’s the result of my first homemade cookies.

Before I forget, I feel the need to comment that the preparation of these treats was done under the influence of the King’s Elvis Live In Las Vegas, thus I’d like to call them Elvis in Vegas cookies. I know, I’m a freak, but I’m pretty sure I’ve made some of you smile, huh?

I tried a couple of them last night but they were still a bit warm and too soft, but I’ve had a couple of them for breakfast and they tasted great. I’m not joking, I know the shape is not perfect, and I’ll work on that, but the most important things, the taste and texture, are outstanding, and I’m very proud of myself, of course.

I really don’t know whether passion for cooking comes together with age, or it’s also my veggie condition which has inspired me in being more creative regarding meals, the truth is that I don’t feel lazy about cooking any longer, and I enjoy being so focused on something which requires my attention in such a way, because I’m usually messy doing 5 things at the same time, but with cooking I’m quite disciplined, and I like it.

What about you, any special recipes for this season you might like to share? I’m all ears and eyes.

 

MY LAST VEGGIE ACHIEVEMENT: HOMEMADE SEITAN

In one of my first posts, I talked about the pain of being a veggie in Spain, and explain you my situation concerning my choice. It’s been more than one year and a half since I wrote this, and even though the situation is more or less the same, I reckon there’s been some improvements.

To start with, it’s been exactly two years already since I decided to change my eating habits and become vegetarian . Why? There were many reasons I could list, I’ll only mention that despite being a cold meat lover, this is ham, chorizo (Spanish paprika sausage) or black sausage, once I realized, thanks to having an upset stomach after a brunch, that I could live without chorizo, I decided to quit. I’m glad I did, my digestions have improved, and I feel quite fine.

 In these two years I’ve learned some tips, discovered nice veggie and vegan restaurants in the city, recovered certain ingredients I didn’t use to like, and cooked new meals. I’m not an expert but I’m improving, and wow! It’s impressive to discover awesome combinations of vegetables and other ingredients you never thought of, such as the lentils stewed with cabbage, carrot, mushrooms and cayenne.

Not everything is positive. As vegetarianism is still seen as something fashionable practiced by a minority, some not very common products found in herbalists’ such as tofu, seitan, different type of cereals, and special kinds of flour, and other elaborated food, are extremely expensive. It’s a shame!

I’ve been participating many years in music forums, and there’s one in particular which started this topic of discussion related to vegetarianism and veganism, as seems that there are some people in the same condition. We usually exchange recipes, advise tips of any kind, share addresses of restaurants and post pictures of our cooking achievements. There’s a guy who’s starting a vegan catering business, and he’s sort of our veggie spiritual leader. We were chatting once and suggested I should prepare my own seitan, because its process of cooking was real easy.

Weeks ago I started buying all the stuff required, but I had the idea it’d be long and frustrating, according to some comments telling the taste wasn’t good or texture was crap, and felt a bit lazy about it, plus  I’m avoiding cooking much lately because the heat is quite discouraging and uncomfortable, to be honest. Till last night.

I had the need of doing something productive and different, thus I recovered the recipe this guy, Manolo, had sent me back in the day. Preparing and kneading  the dough and then make the balls took me about 20minutes, and then it had to be cooked with stock for 45 minutes. It was too easy I was positive something was going wrong and I had forgotten some step.

Nevertheless  I was gladly surprised by the good results. The balls were very tasty and juicy, which was the most important issue to deal with, because I want to eat something I really like. Having achieved that, my next concern is to get the balls a little bit more compact in the future, but guess perfectioning is just a matter of time and practise, same as when I started cooking risotto.

Some of you probably haven’t the slightest idea about what seitan is , nor what it is made of. Seitan is the substitute for meat, in the veggie/vegan world. It’s very tasty and not only the color but also the texture, have resemblance. It’s made of wheat gluten (protein), garlic powder, breadcrumbs, with spices, soy sauce and vegetable soup. It’s very nutritious, and depending on the origin it’s made, there are different varieties. Check the Wiki and you’ll see.

The conclusion of this experiment is positive, positive in the mood for a continuity. Considering the whole process took  about an hour (70min I’d say), and analyzing efforts and costs, it’s worth cooking it myself at home, quantities are large enough for several days, and you can divide the balls so they can be frozen. So… Yeah, thumbs up! There are not many cons if you move yourself fine in the kitchen. You should see mine, it’s very small, but I’ve learned to manage, and it’s enough for me.

We’ve got used to half and fully processed food, because it’s a fact modern times require saving time on behalf of certain activities, however, and especially concerning food, there are a bunch of stuff we could elaborate ourselves, away from industrial procedures, using better quality ingredients, improving our healthy habits and finally saving lots of money.

C’mon people, let’s put on the apron and start some mayhem in the kitchen! At the end of the day you’ll feel proud of yourself, I promise.

EXERCISE YOUR ARM AND THEN PLEASE YOUR BELLY

Having this past weekend my two favorite squatters at the Hellhouse, has reminded me, as for some requests too, I should share with you the recipe of my risotto on the rocks. Obviously it’s not the best in the world and please don’t think I’m too arrogant, but gotta tell you, nobody has complained up to date, and some friends even ask me for cooking it for them, so…

Sometimes people do not dare to try elaborate meals thinking they are too complex. Let me tell you, some more time than usual required for cooking something does not mean it has to be complicated. You can be 40-60 minutes with risotto, but it’s the easiest thing ever, only you’ll have to exercise your arm stirring nonstop and need a fresh beer at the time, because being so close to the stoves make you sweat.

OK, let’s get started.

WHAT YOU NEED (quantities are thought for you and 3 more guests)

  • 400gr rice (there are special types just for risotto, I use the one I have at home, long most of times).
  • 1 litre vegetable stock (I’m veggie, remember, but I used to do it with chicken one before).
  • One big onion sliced.
  • 4 cloves of garlic to be smashed.
  • Parmesan cheese, better if fresh grated
  • A glass of white wine, better if dry.
  • Mushrooms. I’ve recently discovered best option is dehydrated for one reason: the water you use is perfect to add to the blowing of the rice and it gets super tasty. One of these packs of 30gr is enough. Any kind is fine.
  • Butter and olive oil.
  • Salt, pepper, thyme, parsley…herbs are cool.

SHOWTIME!

Before starting two advices and a comment:

On one hand, wash the rice and let it dry out for a little while. Starch is removed so rice grain can absorb everything better.

Regarding the mushrooms, heat water on the microwave for 4 minutes, then leave the mushrooms grow (sounds awful I know!! hahaha!) for 20 minutes approx.

Some people use a big flat saucepan, like the ones for paella, I use a deep regular pot so I can stir without messing so much.

OK, are you ready with your apron on? Let’s go!

  1. Considering you have sliced the onion, smashed the cloves, rice is drying out and mushrooms have been chopped too, this is, all the warming-up done, add a generous chunk of butter and a gentle spurt of olive oil on the pot, till butter melts.
  2. Onion and garlic go first, for 2-3 minutes, till they start getting golden, then it’s time for the mushrooms, for about 3-5 minutes more. Season the vegetables with salt, pepper and thyme, and do not stop stirring.
  3. We start cooking the rice now, so everything you need to use should be at hand, unless you have your personal kitchen assistant, because from now onwards you’ll be stirring like a motherfucker. First just the rice, with the vegetable mix, lowering the heat power.
  4. Pour the wine. Once absorbed, start adding the mushrooms stock, covering the rice. Repeat the procedure once and once again, for about 20 minutes, till you reckon the rice grain is well cooked. Remember, in order to acquire that special texture, do not allow rice gets dry at all.
  5. When you switch of the shovel, add a gentle quantity of parmesan cheese and parsley, and stir for the last time, so it gets thickened.
  6. I always do the same my granny used to when cooking rice. Cover it with a cloth, and leave it settling for 15 minutes or so. Don’t get impatient, it’ll taste better!
  7. Serve it with some more grated Parmesan grated cheese on top.

What do you think? I reckon this is easy-low medium level…Anyway, let me know the outcome in case you try, and enjoy!

COOL JOINTS – IN DREAMS CAFE

Few days ago, my friend Jaume suggested I should also talk about cool places to have drinks or dinner, or whatever. I thought it might be a good idea, but lately I’m not going out so much due to my state of poverty.

My latest two discoveries in Madrid have made me decide that, from time to time, I’ll start recommending joints to crash in. The idea is to add some picks and highlight what I like most and why, far from creating  Zagat or Michelin guides, and my visits must not be necessarily recent. And I can tell you something for sure, I know maaany cool places.

Let’s get started.

I had heard about In Dreams Café in Madrid some months ago. All of a sudden, several people were telling me wonders about this place, so I needed to check it out last weekend. Saturday was the chosen day for having lunch and few cocktails before Michael Monroe’s show.

Truth is that we were all a bit hangover because Friday, intended to be a “light” night, ended up in the morning, and our stomachs were damaged, yet starving.

When we arrived, I had a crush on the joint immediately. It’s kind of a small  and cozy American diner, full of icons and very kitsch, with pink walls and red lights, full of retro furniture, leopard  and classic rock presence on every spot. It’s not that the place is dirt, no way, but you know, it reminded me of those NY venues and pubs, where you can see everything is in its place but there are certain details not taken care of, which make the joints special and unique. Don’t know how to explain it, certain rock places exude some sort of decadence which make them real, alive, and In Dreams Café made me have same feeling.

Good music, relaxing atmosphere, not only you can have amazing cocktails but also you can eat, and honestly, what I tasted was great. Dishes have glorious names, I had the veggie Pat Boone burger (yess, we veggies are welcome!), and my friends the Elvis burger, both served in these plastic baskets, as in the old American movies. The onion rings, OMG! They were unbelievable, and pity I wasn’t really hungry (I don’t usually eat much before a gig, and then this very often turns against me, allowing mayhem to step in), because desserts and milkshakes were very suggesting.

The girls, we had two Bloody Mary’s, including the celery stick, and it’s really cool waiters ask you how much you want your drink to be spicy, and Kiko, had an American, which tasted really good.

I find these all-in places fantastic, great atmosphere, allowing you to keep conversations filled up with great music, plus food and elaborated drinks are maaaarvelous.

You wanna know how much I liked the place? Let me tell you one thing, we came back for more Bloody Mary’s the day after. Convinced? That place is a must, wish there was something like that here, it’s a place the owner might have not invested millions on it, yet passion for American 50-60’s stuff is out of question. 

(In Dreams Cafe is in C/San Mateo 4, 28004 Madrid, close to Tribunal tube st.)

WHO SAID LEARNING TO COOK IS BORING?

Sometimes books for cooking are boring as hell. No pictures you can take as reference, weird ingredients you have to travel to Honolulu to get them…

You’ll be lucky if manage to approach 3-4 recipes from a book. I have 6-7 books and have been able to cook  15 dishes the most.

Remember once I tried to prepare brick dough… I swear I followed each step but everything failed, the kitchen was full of sticky stuff everywhere, I had to go to the supermarket in a hurry to buy one of these prepared ones and felt like having wasted my time. Frustrating!

Believe it or not, Ryan Adams posted this link on his FB wall, saying this was the best internet stuff he had found last week.  I’m a diehard fan of Adams, you already know that, and to be honest, I’ve checked out some of his music recommendations with positive results, so I had to watch this…and I flipped!

I agree it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen through the net, a Black Metal chef, OMFG! Don’t feel like giving it a try? I need more of his stuff, c’mon!!

I bought most of the ingredients required for the cooking of this satanic phad thai, and was meant to do it on Saturday, testing it on my favorite guinea pig, Agnès. Unfortunately, after barely 3 hours sleep because Friday night turned to be drinking mayhem, I woke up still drunk and didn’t feel like doing experiments. Thus, hopefully in a couple of weeks, I will put it into practice and will be able to give you some feedback…that, unless any of you try earlier and want to share it with me… Any volunteer?