I’m going to be honest, I’ve never been particularly interested in Spanish food. Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely, it’s just that whenever I think about trying some Mediterranean food I immediately think of either Italian, or more of an eastern Mediterranean mezze-type meal. This is probably one of the things I’ve really enjoyed about this challenge so far: forcing me to cook different foods I wouldn’t normally think about.
When I was coming up with ideas for this week, my first thoughts were Paella or Tapas. Paella is great – but I certainly don’t feel ready to attempt such an iconic dish, especially as I’m not the most confident seafood cook. Tapas appealed to me more as it gave me the license to be creative with what I made, and it brought up warm memories of Tapas restaurants in Spain.
I was originally thinking of working with one seafood Tapas, one meat (probably chorizo related) Tapas, and three or four veggie ones. This was quickly reduced to just a seafood (probably calamari) Tapas and a few veg ones. When I couldn’t get hold of calamari, this changed again to a mix of four veggie Tapas. Whilst they were individually very easy, it would have added quite a bit of work by throwing a fifth one in there, so I’m quite happy with my final choices of Gazpacho – a family favourite – fried aubergine with honey, Padron peppers, and patatas bravas.
I also decided to make Sangria – and given the lovely warm weather where I am today I’m very happy I did. It was delicious and fruity and a bit sweet, and I am definitely making more this summer. Regarding drinks, one of my friends decided to bring some red wine and coke, which is apparently a Spanish delicacy, and I have to say I wasn’t so much of a fan.
I’m not going to include detailed recipes of everything I cooked for this, (as that would make for a very long, fragmented post) but rather go through each dish one by one, giving a brief rundown of how they were made, and my thoughts – more of a review than my usual F1 Food Challenge post.
I mentioned above this is a family favourite, and growing up in France (whilst not quite the more southern, Mediterranean climate of Spain) I am no stranger, to long, hot, dry summers. My parents are both huge fans of Med food in general, and so year after year Summer would truly begin when Dad brought out huge batches of home made, ice-cold Gazpacho. I’ve recently returned from France and didn’t have the chance to enjoy any this year, so when my mum suggested it I leapt at the opportunity. The recipe I used can be found here, and it’s very basic: blitz up half a cucumber, half a red onion, two cloves of garlic, a pepper, six tomatoes, some oil, vinegar, and breadcrumbs. I have never made this before so I was a bit uncertain if it would turn out as good as my dad’s and, (sorry dad) I actually think it’s better. This recipe also suggested throwing some cumin in and honestly it was such a good touch, it adds a really nice, flavourful subtlety. I served the whole thing with some ice cubes to keep it cool and it was a huge success – I’ll definitely be making it all summer long!
This is probably one of the first things most people think of when you mention Tapas, the classic roast potato and tomato dish is an iconic addition to the Tapas table. I’d never made this before either, but a brief look over this recipe helped me along the way. Chop up your potatoes into small cubes, cook for about 40-50 minutes at 180 fan in some olive oil, and pour over a tomato sauce (with onions, garlic, and paprika). A very basic recipe if you’ve ever made other roast potato dishes, and a really nice side dish that keeps you coming back for more.
This was probably my least authentic dish. I couldn’t access actual Padron peppers so I had to use some basic supermarket ones. A quick google search found me this recipe; essentially you fry the peppers in olive oil until they blister or char slightly. By far the easiest of the Tapas dishes, while they were delicious they were quite spicy (this was almost certainly my own fault for having to use other peppers) and I would probably only remake these if I was hosting or going to another Tapas night.
Fried Aubergine with Honey
This one is another family favourite, first discovered whilst on holiday in Menorca. We’ve all loved aubergine for so long, when we found fried aubergine with honey on the menu at a Tapas bar we had to try it. It was delivered to our table so thin and crispy and sweet that we became obsessed with it and tried to recreate it at home. However my parents aren’t huge fans of deep frying things (understandably) and so it was never quite on the same level.
I have recently started steaming aubergine when I cook it no matter what the finished dish is meant to look like as I find that gives a really nice melt in the mouth character to it. So for this dish, I thinly sliced the aubergine, steamed the pieces, then shallow fried them until golden brown and crispy. The finished bits of aubergine were topped with local honey – and this was by far the most popular of the Tapas I cooked, as they had a really lovely caramel flavour as well as being crunchy and crisp.
Not to be cliché, but this was probably my favourite thing I made. I left 200g strawberries, a lemon, two oranges (all cut up) in the fridge overnight with 3 tbsp sugar and some cinnamon, and this morning added that to a bottle of red wine I had left over, and some lemonade. With lots of ice added the entire thing turned out so nicely (I have to say I was surprised with how good it was) and was a great addition to a delicious Mediterranean feast, and exciting race!