23 December 2012

Red-wine and chocolate cake

Very easy to prepare, with an intense flavor. A perfect little chocolate bite to end a Christmas meal.

  1. Preheat oven at 170 ºC
  2. In a bowl and using a hand mixer, add these one by one, mixing until smooth each time:
    85 g unsalted butter (better if it is already at room temperature)
    + 180 g brown sugar
    + 50 g white sugar
    + 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
    + 175 mL red wine
    + 5 mL vanilla extract
  3. In a second bowl, mix together, using a sieve:
    135 g wheat flour
    + 40 g pure cacao powder
    + 1 sachet baking powder
    + 1/4 teaspoon salt
    + 1/4 ground cinnamon
  4. Pour the dry ingredients over the wet batter and mix well together until homogeneous.
  5. Transfer to a greased 20 cm baking tin.
  6. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until fully cooked inside.
  7. Let the cake cool down and sprinkle some caster sugar on the top.

I learnt this from Smitten Kitchen.

18 February 2012

Tortilla de patatas, for non-Spaniards

(Traditional cooking method first; scroll down for an updated method).

This entry is dedicated to you, my non-Spanish friend who loves tortilla but does not quite know how to make it. I'll tell you a little secret: it's not that difficult. You just need some patience to chop-chop-chop, fry-fry-fry and clean-clean-clean afterwards. And probably a little practice until you learn exactly how long you should fry the tortilla. But that's it. In any case, don't worry, because even though your first tortilla might not look perfect, I can assure you that all the trials will be delicious. So grab a knife and let's get started!

You will need (for 6 servings):
  • 1 Kg 130 g potatoes
  • 275 g onion
  • 1 large pepper (optional)
  • 4 large eggs
  • salt
  • 1 L olive oil

These quantities are approximate. I just weighted the ingredients I used in this tortilla, hoping that serves you as guidance. But you can vary the ratios and put more onion if you like, or leave the pepper out, or if you feel really vicious, you might add some pieces of chorizo. Just saying.

About the oil: If you use olive oil your tortilla will have an incredible taste, so this should be your first option. But you can also use sunflower oil instead. In any case, the oil will not retain any strong taste, so you can keep it and use it again later.

How to prepare an authentic Tortilla de Patatas:

1- Peel the potatoes, wash them and dice them into pieces approximately 1 cm thick. Do the same with the onions and pepper.

2- Heat the oil in a large pan and deep-fry the potatoes and the onions-pepper separately (the potatoes will need more time to cook).

The oil should not be too hot, because you don't want your potatoes to get crispy. You want them cooked but soft. But you also should watch out that the oil is not too cold, otherwise the potatoes will be soaked in oil and your tortilla will end up too greasy. This is one of the points where you might need some practice.

Also, don't forget to stir the potatoes a couple of times while frying them, so that they cook homogeneously and don't stick to the bottom of the pan.

Take the potatoes out of the pan trying to drain as much oil as possible. You can also let them rest on a colander while you fry the onions-pepper.

3- Bring the fried potatoes, onions and pepper to a big bowl. Add some salt. Whisk the eggs and add them to the bowl. Use a fork to mix it all together.

4- Heat a pan the desired size and add a few drops of oil. Pour in the egg mixture and distribute it evenly with the help of a fork. Let it cook a few minutes at medium heat. Be careful that the tortilla cooks inside without its surface getting burnt.

5- Now you have to flip the tortilla over. To do this, you should help yourself with a plate. Put the plate on the pan, covering it, and place your hand in the centre. Flip the pan, so that the tortilla lays on the plate now. Gently, let it slide back to the pan, the uncooked side downwards. Use a spatula to fold the edges in, so that your tortilla will look round and nice. Let it cook for a few more minutes, and serve.

Forks, ready, enjoy!

Update 10. June 2017 (just a few years later, phew!):

I realised that deep-frying poses a serious obstacle for me: I'm afraid of burning myself, I'm terrified of how long I will have to spend cleaning the kitchen later, and I don't even know where to store the oil afterwards. As a result a couple of years had gone by without a single tortilla making an appearance on my dining table. 

That's no way to live one's life, you will surely agree. 

So I have modified the cooking method, even though I swore I would rather never eat a tortilla again than use microwaved potatoes. Well, guess what. I have swallowed my words, of course. In any case, the final texture is so close to the original that my Spanish friends could not tell the difference. The trick is being generous with the oil when frying the onions. Even so you will be using way less oil than with the traditional method.

1mod - Peel, wash and chop the vegetables. For this method I find it best to chop potatoes in thin slices. They do not need to be regular, but let's say, about 2-3 mm thick, 2x2 cm wide and long is a good size.

2mod - Bring potatoes to a big bowl. Add salt and 2-3 tablespoons olive oil. Use a fork to stir everything and better distribute the salt and oil. Cover with a microwave plastic cover and cook in your microwave at highest power for 5 minutes. Take the bowl out, stir the potatoes again, and microwave for another 5 minutes. Do this a couple of times, until the potatoes are cooked. Use a fork to check they are soft.

3mod - Pour some olive oil on the pan, enough to cover the bottom. Heat to medium-sized and fry the onions (and peppers if using them) until they are cooked and tender. Don't be shy with the amount of oil, you don't need a large amount, but you want the onions to taste like fried, not boiled. This can totally make the difference in the final flavor.

4mod - Add fried onions and peppers to the bowl containing cooked potatoes. Add whisked eggs and mix everything together.

5mod - Pour mix on the same pan you used to fry the onions. You won't need to add extra oil. Using a fork carefully, distribute the mix evenly on the pan. Cook for a few minutes on medium-low, until you notice that the egg is almost cooked. Then flip the tortilla over as explained on step 5 above, let it cook for a couple more minutes, and serve.

08 September 2011

Weekend in Cádiz

I went to Cádiz last weekend, to visit my parents and grandma. And to finally catch some summer feeling. The first thing that always strikes me when I go back is the light there, how clean blue the sky looks, how intensely all the colours shine... I don't have the skills needed to capture all that in a picture. The area does not receive the name "Costa de la luz" ("Coast of light") in vane.

That's me swimming in the Atlantic in a gorgeous beach morning

My mother is one of the best cooks I know. This sounds like a cliché, but is completely true. Not only is she a great cook, but also a loving mother who had the gentleness to treat me with all sorts of fresh fish during my visit. What a pleasure that was, and how grateful my emigrant stomach still feels. Thank you, mommy!

Assorted fried fish: anchovies, marinated dogfish, hake, and king prawns

Roasted bullet tuna

I love fish, far better than meat, and that gives me a hard time here in Berlin. The Germans do eat fish sometimes, but certainly not as often as I would like. I know a couple of restaurants in Berlin that serve good fish, sometimes fried, sometimes roasted and with sauce, sometimes pickled. But I miss the rather simplistic Andalusian cooking style, those recipes in which the predominant taste is the fish's own taste (ehem ehem... except in marinated dogfish!)

All right then. I guess I'm just feeling a bit homesick.