Bloody Lovely: Morcilla Croquettes

Hello all!

Abuelita Conchi, the instigator of this recipe

Abuelita Conchi, the instigator of this recipe

Thank you for popping back for another one of my ReciPez ;-). This time I am delighted to present Croquetas de Morcilla, one of my pieces de resistance, immediately devoured every time they make an appearance at any party. Extremely popular in Spain, croquetas can come with a variety of fillings, the most traditional being serrano ham, but also chicken, boiled egg or morcilla in this case. Abuelita Conchi used to cook these for us, inspired by a similar dish she had in an Asturian restaurant, so they hold a huge emotional value for me as well. Fantastic as finger food, although not as good as picnic food as they’re much better when eaten hot, I will often prepare a batch of these and taken them along to my friends’ to be fried there. They are freezer-friendly too, so you can keep them frozen and whip them out for a speedy and tasty snack should unexpected visits turn up. Get ready to roll 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 25 gr butter (salted or unsalted)
  • 2 tbsp plain white flour
  • 1/2 litre milk
  • 1 cooking morcilla (Spanish black pudding), chopped into small pieces
  • flour for dusting
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • breadcrumbs
  • oil (sunflower/olive) for deep-frying

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Recommended cooking music: Mano Negra “Casa Babylon”

Instructions:

  • The filling for these croquettes is a thick bechamel sauce, to which we will add the morcilla later. For this I usually follow Maria Luisa Garcia’s recipe, to be found in her excellent book El Arte de Cocinar, very popular with Asturians and still sold today. The milk has to be warm when it’s added, so it’s a good idea to heat it in a pan on a low fire while you tinker with the other bechamel ingredients. In the meantime, melt the butter in a saucepan, and when it’s melted, add the flour, stirring continuously for about 3-4 minutes, trying not to brown or burn it.

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  • When finished, remove from the fire and add the milk a little bit at a time, stirring and getting rid of any lumps that appear (which will be many), to give the bechamel a smooth and creamy texture

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  • When all the milk has been added, stir well and de-lump, and put back on a medium fire. Cook for about 15 minutes or until it reaches a thick and creamy consistency, stirring all the time with a whisk, to get ready of yet more lumps that will keep cropping up.

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  • Once the bechamel has reached the desired consistency, remove from fire and stir in the morcilla.

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  • Decant the croquette filling into a shallow oven dish and cool for several hours, ideally overnight at room temperature, or if you’re in a hurry in the fridge until it’s cold and bouncy to the touch. If you have any pets, or humans prone to sticking their paws into food, it might be best to cover the dish with kitchen foil or cling film. I once left mine on the kitchen counter to find a cat’s paw print on it when I went to use it!

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  • When the filling is ready to use, get your breading ingredients ready: flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs. Also, you’ll need a container or a plate to put the rolled croquettes in.

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  • Take a teaspoon and scoop up a heaped spoonful of the morcilla paste on to the flour and roll. Using your hands, roll this paste into a cylindrical shape. Then dip into the egg, take it out with a fork and transfer to the breadcrumbs bowl. Roll and take out on to a plate. Voila! You have a croquette 🙂

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  • Repeat until you’ve run out of paste. Once you’ve got all the croquettes, if you wish to cook them straight away, get a deep frying pan ready and fry them in abundant oil. Make sure the oil is really hot before putting them in, or they will split (there is a high chance this will happen anyway, so don’t worry if it does; people will eat them anyway, I assure you!). Cook until golden, then take out on to a plate or bowl covered in kitchen paper, to absorb some of the oil.

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Serve and enjoy! (Cute mini-paella dish optional)

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Hasta la proxima, amigos! 🙂

Pez x

Fabada Asturiana (It’s Bean a Long Time)

Hello!

Apologies for the long interval between posts. Life does sometimes get in the way! The dish I am presenting today is the Asturian dish par excellence – fabada asturiana (eminently non-veggie-friendly – sorry!). It is, essentially, a very comforting bean-and-sausage stew which is fairly easy to make, although it does take at least a couple of hours to cook, which makes it the ideal dish to cook if you’re pottering around the house doing other things, as it requires minimal supervision. As it often happens with stews, it tends to taste better the day after you’ve cooked it, but you can certainly eat it on the same day. This is how you do it.

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 kilo “fabes” (large white kidney beans, best if you can get the real thing, but if not regular white kidney beans will do)
  • 1 or 2 chorizos (I had to add one more, so probably two is best)
  • 1 morcilla (Spanish black pudding, ensure you get the cooking one, as opposed to the snacking one!)
  • 1 or 2 pieces of lacon (similar to ham hock)
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 – 2 bay leaves
  • splash of olive oil
  • couple pinches of saffron
  • salt to taste

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Recommended music to cook to: La Bandina “…de Romandela”Stats

Instructions:

  • VERY IMPORTANT: the fabes will need to be soaked prior to cooking, ideally overnight, but if not, 6-8 hours during the day will do. The lacon might need to be soaked too, if it is too salty.
  • Once all ingredients are ready to cook, place the meat at the bottom of a large saucepan or medium pot; it doesn’t matter if it’s too large, as the fabes will increase in size when cooking. Place the fabes on top of the meat.

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  • Peel the onion and cut it into two halves; separate all layers and place them over the fabes and the meat. Add the bay leaves and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil.

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  • When the water gets to boiling point, you’ll need to “frighten” the fabes (I swear this is the proper term!) by pouring a bit of cold water into the pot. Turn the fire right down at this point, and cover the pot with the lid almost completely. If you are using saffron that hasn’t been dried (like the one in the photo), a way of drying it out is wrapping in a piece of white paper if it isn’t already wrapped, and placing it on top of the lid while the fabes cook, taking care to keep it dry.

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  • You can now leave the fabada to cook all by itself, keeping an eye on it to make sure the fabes never run out of water: they must always be just about covered in water. As and when the water runs low, “frighten” it again with a small glass of cold water – I normally check mine ever 20 minutes or so. If you want to rearrange the fabes in the pot for a more even cooking and to avoid sticking to the bottom, you can do this by shaking the pot. You must NOT use a kitchen utensil to do this, as this will most likely break them up.
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“Fabes y compangu, please; shaken, not stirred” James Bond

  • Fabada takes at least 2-3 hours to cook as it’s on such a low fire; when the fabes get to the point when they’re almost cooked but still a bit tough, take the saffron off the pot lid and grind it by using a rolling pin over it while it’s still wrapped in the paper. Add the ground saffron to the stew and stir.

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  • When the fabes are thoroughly cooked, remove the pot from the fire and leave to stand for a bit. Add salt at this point if necessary, although the meat is already salty, so you may not need to. As I said, you can even serve it the day after. When it’s ready to serve, take the “compangu” (the meat) out, and cut into pieces. Remove the bay leaves from the stew.

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  • Traditionally, the fabes and the compangu are served separately, but obviously up to you. Enjoy your tasty fabada! 🙂

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Tortilla Sunrise

Now then! Is there a better way to start a Spanish cooking blog than with the absolute favourite of Spanish dishes: the humble tortilla? It certainly is the favourite of my friends (or, rather, those who have had the chance to try it), for it is by far the number one of my sPezialities. Do not be deceived by the simplicity of its ingredients: you may only need potatoes, eggs, oil, onions and salt to make it, but it is in the combination of those ingredients and the techniques involved that the secret to omelette perfection lies. How many people will this particular tortilla feed? That is, I fear, an unknown quantity: it depends on whether you’re having it as a single dish (2-3 people) or accompanied by what we call “salad-y bits” (3-4 people, or 5 or more but don’t expect any leftovers), or how big your appetite is: one could happily eat a whole one, but I suspect not without feeling quite ill afterwards. Each to their own.

Utensils you will need:

  • A potato-peeling implement, whether it is an actual potato peeler or a sharp knife
  • A sharp, medium-sized knife (oh alright, you can use the *really* big one if you like, but mind your fingers; you’ve been warned) for slicing the potatoes and dicing the onion
  • A chopping board
  • Two bowls, or one bowl and one colander
  • A wooden spoon, a draining spoon or skimmer, a fork
  • A non-stick frying pan: this is very important, especially if you’re a tortilla novice. It just means that your tortilla will have a nice, tortilla-like finish, and not a non-descript egg-and-potato-mess-like one. The deeper and smaller in diameter the frying pan, the thicker and juicier the tortilla will be. Drool
  • A plate slightly bigger in diameter than the frying pan, for turning the omelette

Ingredients:

  • 9 small-medium potatoes (the smaller the potatoes the longer they’ll take to peel and cut)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 white onion
  • Salt
  • Abundant oil (light olive or sunflower, or a mixture of both work best)

Recommended cooking music: Amar en Tiempos Revueltos

Let’s get started, shall we?

Peel the potatoes and place inside bowl numero uno or colander

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potato-peeling stage

Cut potatoes into thin slices: they way I do it is, I half them lengthways, then make another lengthways cut into each half leaving an inch or so at the bottom so they’re easier to handle. Place one half flat side down on the chopping board and slice thinly.

potato-slicing stage

The slices don’t have to be very small, as long as they are thin; this way they’ll cook more quickly.

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detail of potato slices

Place abundant oil in the frying pan: the potatoes have to be deep-fried, so you may have to do them in several batches. The oil must be very hot when you put the potatoes in; while it heats up, salt the potatoes to your taste. One way of checking when the oil is ready is to put a piece of potato in the frying pan. When it starts bubbling and moving about, then it’s ready!

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I wandered lonely as a potato slice in a panful of oil…

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…that floats on high… oh okay, I’ll desist now

Place the potatoes (or first batch of them) in the hot oil with the aid of the draining spoon/skimmer. They’ll need space to breathe, so don’t put too many in! The oil must be hot, but not so hot that the potatoes get burnt or even browned, so you may need to turn it down a bit. A moderate simmer tends to be good.

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yes, that *is* rather a lot of oil

In the meantime, beat the eggs in bowl numero dos.

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egg yolk broke thereby spoiling the photo. You just can’t get the ingredients these days

When the potatoes are done (cooked through but not brown or burnt) take them out of the pan with the draining spoon and stir into the bowl with the eggs.

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tortilla starts taking shape

If you have a second bath of potatoes to fry, do so now. If not, or while they are cooking, chop the onion into smallish pieces. Then, you can either fry it in a little bit of oil until it’s soft, or you can add it to the last batch of potatoes you’re cooking.

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any tips to avoid crying while chopping onion much appreciated!

Once all the potatoes and onion are cooked, place everything in the bowl with the eggs and mix thoroughly to form a heterogeneous mix. You can then decide whether the mixture needs any more eggs or not – as long as it’s soft and there’s enough egg to bind it together, the rest is up to you.

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I know you’ll be tempted to just eat it like this. Be patient 😉

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Once you’re happy with the texture of your omelette mix, pour away most of the oil in the frying pan, leaving just a bit to cover the bottom and prevent the omelette from sticking. Once it’s *really* hot (which can be checked by pouring a tiny bit of the mixture into the pan and wait until it sizzles), pour the whole tortilla mix into the frying pan, distributing it with a wooden spoon to make sure it’s even.

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only a little oil needed this time

*drum roll*

*drum roll*

One way to find out whether this first side is cooked is by grabbing the handle of the pan and trying to make the tortilla slide around inside the pan; if it slides easily that means it is cooked. Then comes the most daunting part of the tortilla-making process: the turning of the omelette! It really isn’t difficult: all it needs is determination and a fairly strong wrist. For turning the omelette, place the plate face-down over the pan, lift the pan by the handle and, holding the plate tightly against the pan, turn it upside down quickly, being extra careful not to let the plate slide out of place. Lift the pan, keeping the plate straight, and slide the omelette back into the pan to cook the other side. It’s a good idea to do this over the bowl, to capture any spillage that may occur!

Once the other side is done (repeat the sliding around operation same as with the other side), you can check for consistency by pricking the tortilla with a fork. There isn’t a “correct” texture: as long as it’s cooked inside, it’s up to the cook’s taste how runny or well-done it can be served. I would recommend turning the omelette several times as opposed to just once or twice, as this helps cook the omelette inside without browning it on the outside. A golden hue is ideally what we’re looking for.

Once the tortilla is cooked to your taste, simply turn it back on to a plate and serve. You may want to wait until it’s cooled a bit!

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Yes, that is a *tortilla container*. Thanks mum! 🙂

One of the many good things about tortilla is you can eat it hot or cold, by yourself or sharing with friends, at any time of day or night. Especially delicious when coming back from a night out, and perfect picnic food. All in all, one of my favourite dishes ever.

For a vegan version of my world-famous tortilla, please visit the lovely Goldtop‘s blog, where you’ll find a vegan tortilla recipe I wrote a looong time ago http://www.goldtop.org/news/2007/05/tortilla-power/

I hope you enjoy your tortillas. Please feel free to add any comments, questions or feedback!

Pez x

Why hello there; nice of you to drop in. Cup of coffee?

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Hello, and welcome to Pezzarella’s Kitchen. My name is Astrid (aka Lopez, aka Pez, aka Pezzarella – hence the blog title)

Thank you for popping by – please do make yourself comfortable.

So, what is this all about, then? Well; as a Spaniard living in London for a few years now, and much as I enjoy the huge gastronomic variety that can be found in this beautiful city, I sometimes find myself hankering for traditional dishes as cooked by generations of Spanish and Asturian mums and grandmas. With this blog I aim to bring a little bit of my home to you, readers. I will therefore be posting traditional recipes (ReciPez) in as much detail as possible and with photos in glorious technicolour for your reading and cooking pleasure.

Some of these ReciPez will be sPezialities – i.e. tried and tested methods that I’m used to cooking over and over again, and some of them will be exPeziments – i.e. dishes I’ve never cooked before but which I will be sharing with you step by step and we can, together, discover the results.

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Madreñes – traditional Asturian clogs, a gift from my very good friend Covi 🙂

A few of the dishes I have on the pipeline for you are tortilla (or Spanish omelette – my tip-top sPeziality), fabada (a traditional Asturian bean dish with lots of pork meat in it; fabada or worse – geddit??) and paella (an exPeziment – can you believe I’ve never cooked one?!)

One cautionary word: my ReciPez will describe for the most part the way I cook these meals, methods inherited from my mum and my nanas Conchi and Irene. Never will I claim that these are the only or the best recipes for a specific dish, and so if anyone has any comments or suggestions, I welcome them – as long as everyone plays nicely. After all, we are here with the purpose of sharing and enjoying a damn good meal. No?

So, with all this in mind… let the feast begin! Buen provecho 🙂

Pez x