Cass’s blog, written on 19th August 2018
I’ve just revisited my first blog about cooking at home in Spain, written in March 2015. Well, reader, a few things have changed – and some absolutely haven’t! Coo-ee! For instance, I’M still here!
Jonathan’s comments in manly blue; Cass’s rebuttals in ladylike pink
Our nearest town Gandia has, hurrah, gone sushi crazy, even in the supermarkets, but I’m prepared to bet that it will never, ever, appear in our village. I’ve watched older people recoil in hilarious disgust when offered some – the general, and pretty trenchant, view is that fish wants cooking and rice belongs in paella. And that, amigos, is the end of the conversation up our way.
People often ask me if I now cook a mean paella and the answer is, no, I wouldn’t dream of it. For me, the joy of paella is that someone else cooks it! It’s something to be relished, with friends, over a long, long lunch. We’re incredibly lucky that we have a wonderful restaurant not five minutes’ drive from home where a traditional paella Valenciana (chicken and rabbit only, none of your seafood up here) is cooked over a wood fire and is utterly delicious. It’s called La Puigmola Restaurant and it’s the best!
There’s always enough for leftovers too, which is sometimes even more joyous. I will admit to sacrilege here and say that when we indulge in the leftovers we add chilli flakes (which I sneak over from the UK) and some spicy chorizo. Go ahead purists, yell at me, but please don’t tell anyone Spanish. In fact if they knew about our spicy paella AND that we’re occasional sushi-eaters, they’d probably chase us out of town with sticks. Worse, they’d be disappointed. *shudders* As they were after the Brexit result: “Why? What did we do?”
Tortilla, which I love, is the other thing I don’t attempt. Everyone’s Gran makes the ‘best tortilla in the world’ so why would I? The current tragedy though is that the restaurant in the village where I used to get fresh ones made has closed. Sob! I am tortilla-deprived (please, readers, don’t send in tortillas – she’ll be fine) I will not! I used to love that when I ordered one, they asked how many eggs I wanted, rather than how many people it was for.
What I DO make, in the egg department, is Jonathan’s lunchtime favourite – boccadillo con tortilla francesa, which is basically a plain omelette in a baguette sandwich. Somehow, it’s so much more than the sum of its parts and very Spanish and I now turn it out with absolute confidence. Oddly, even though I always buy Spanish olive oil when I’m in the UK, it never tastes the same there.
My latest, and long-awaited (I honestly don’t know what she does with her time!) *smacks* Ow!, success is Gazpacho Andaluz. For years, I slavishly followed recipes, blitzed the ingredients in my food processor and it tasted…fine, but was always bitty and a bit chewy and not what I wanted. Finally, I sent up distress signals on Facebook and guess what – you shouldn’t use a food processor but a blender. I do not begin to understand the science of this Which, for those of you who know Cass, is highly unusual Do YOU understand it?? Let’s not do this here, sweetheart…but suddenly I have smooth, non-chewy gazpacho. I do go the extra mile and sieve it as well, but it’s totally worth it.
As I cook every day here, I always have pots of fresh herbs in the garden because, weirdly, they’re hard to get. I am forever whizzing up fresh pesto (with penne and leftover roast chicken, yum Yup!) and I’m currently obsessed with Moroccan chermoula made with coriander – I believe the traditional one is made with parsley, and we both feel that parsley is the dullest and most pointless herb ever. Also – memo to all chefs everywhere – no one wants a sprig of it on top of their fish. My addition to all chefs everywhere: do not, ever again, put a random slice of orange on my plate, especially if I am having eggs. It’s horrid. This chermoula literally takes about five minutes to make and, in my humble opinion, transforms into a treat a basic meal of chicken breast and couscous, or barbecued lamb cutlets, or….I’m getting hungry. Recipe below.
You need a handful of coriander, two cloves of garlic and a whole green chilli whizzed up together or finely chopped. Then add three tablespoons of olive oil and four tablespoons of lemon juice with one and a half teaspoons of ground cumin and one teaspoon of spicy paprika and a bit of salt. I tend to make it in the afternoon so that it has time to macerate (?) Oh dear! Is that you sniggering at the back, Perkins? but if you’re in a hurry, post-work, it should be just as nice straight to the table.
I do a bit of batch cooking now and again, so that I don’t always have to cook from scratch, and it always makes me happy to just get something out of the freezer if I’m not in the mood. We also sometimes go to the cash and carry and get a huge piece of beef fillet and then slice it into steaks and freeze them in twos – then it’s homemade oven chips and cheat-y béarnaise sauce, courtesy of Nigella Lawson. (Three egg yolks and a teaspoon of dried tarragon whisked over a bain mariewith an obscene amount of butter. You’re welcome). By the way, for those of you who are particular about quantities: UK’s ‘an obscene amount of butter’ is roughly equivalent to US’s ‘a bunch of butter’
By the way, I very much doubt that I’ll ever do a My London Kitchen blog. This is mostly because, well, M&S, Ocado, Deliveroo… I’m not an idiot!