Saffron Milk Cap with Squid and Tomatoes

It’s nearly the end of the season for this delicious mushroom. And what better idea than to close the season with a new recipe! Normally we would combine Saffron Milk Cap with Chorizo and roasted Bell Pepper. Thinking more about Spain and its markets (the one in Valencia is our all-time favourite) we came up with the idea of combining the mushroom with fish? Or gambas? Or perhaps squid?

Wine Pairing

We opened a bottle of Domaine Font-Mars Picpoul de Pinet 2021. Picpoul de Pinet (Son terroir c’est la mer) is a white wine from the South of France between Narbonne and Montpellier. The terroir (think calcareous soil) is influenced by the sea, which is reflected in the mineral taste of the wine. The story is that Picpoul could be read as pique poul which translates into something like ‘stings the lip’; a nice reflection of the high acidity of the grapes. This acidity guarantees a refreshing white wine, which is exceptional given the warm climate. The wine is bright yellow with a very subtle touch of green. It’s aromatic, floral and fruity. The taste has notes of citrus and apple.
In general we suggest drinking a refreshing, unoaked white wine that goes well with seafood.

What You Need

  • For the Squid
    • 150 grams of Squid
    • 4 Tomatoes
    • One Garlic Clove
    • Red Wine
    • Thyme
    • Olive Oil
  • 150 grams of Saffron Milk Cap
  • Parsley and or Celery Leaves
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

The day before serving: clean the squid. Slice (not too thin). Peel, seed and dice the tomatoes, use a strainer to get as much tomato juice as possible. Chop the garlic finely. Heat a skillet, add olive oil and add the sliced squid. Fry for a few minutes, add the garlic and the tomatoes. Reduce the heat. After a few minutes add the tomato juice, half a glass of red wine and thyme. Leave to simmer for 2 hours or until the squid is ready both in flavours and texture. Cool and transfer to the refrigerator.

The next day clean the mushroom and slice (not too thin). Chop the parsley and or celery leaves. Heat a skillet, add olive oil and add the sliced mushroom. Fry for one minute, then reduce heat. Add the squid mixture and cook for a few minutes. Taste and add cayenne pepper. You’re looking for a fairly sharp, spicy taste. Add half of the chopped parsley/celery. After a few minutes serve the mixture and garnish with parsley/celery. The idea is to have a mixture (not a sauce) of squid and mushrooms, coated with tomatoes. 

Saffron Milk Cap with Red Bell Pepper and Chorizo

This mushroom is absolutely delicious, which is reflected in its Latin name Lactarius deliciosus. When you cut a thin slice of the stem, you will see the intense, orange colored milk of the mushroom.
The mushroom may be a bit green, which is the result of bruising, so nothing to worry about. Cleaning it may require rinsing with cold water because leaves and mud may be stuck to the cap.

It is a popular mushroom in Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Scotland, Poland, Russia and many other countries. In Spain they are combined with garlic and parsley, in Turkey with spinach to make börek or used in a rich tomato stew and in Poland and Russia they are salted with herbs such as dill and caraway.

Many recipes suggest blanching the mushrooms for 2, 3 or even 10 minutes, but that’s not necessary. Much better idea is to use them in stew like recipes, allowing for the flavours to integrate. Talking about flavours, Saffron Milk Cap is a touch nutty, sweet and mild.

The season is relatively short, from August until October, November. Which in a way makes the joy of buying and preparing these delicious mushrooms even greater!

Wine Pairing

We very much enjoyed a glass of Portuguese Segredos de São Miguel, a full bodied, warm red wine, made from grapes such as Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira. You will taste lots of fruit and a touch of toast.

In general you’re looking for a full bodied wine, with some acidity and smooth tannins. A glass of Malbec will also be a good choice.

What You Need

  • 150 grams of Saffron Milk Caps
  • Roasted Red Bell Pepper
  • 50 grams of Sliced Chorizo
  • Parsley
  • One Garlic Glove
  • Black Pepper
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

Clean the mushroom and slice (not too thin). Chop the garlic. Peel the skin of the roasted bell pepper and slice. Warm a skillet, add olive oil and gently add the sliced Spanish chorizo (yes, we know, it seems a bit odd. You would expect us to use fresh chorizo, which is great when you want to create something like a sauce or ragu, but we like the idea of being able to taste all three main elements, on their own and in combination). Add the garlic. After a minute or so add the mushrooms and the bell pepper. Fry gently. After 5 or 10 minutes add some chopped parsley. Leave on low heat. Add some more parsley. Just before serving add the remaining parsley and some black pepper.

PS

Roasting a red bell pepper before using it, is such a good idea. Simply slice the bell pepper in 4, put on the highest rack in the oven and grill for 10 minutes or until truly burned. Remove from the oven, put in a container, close it and wait for an hour or so. Remove the skin of the bell pepper and it’s ready to use. Roasted bell peppers are sweet and intense, with only a touch of smokiness.

Salmorejo

A delicious, rich, creamy, velvety, elegant, complex, delicious, cold tomato soup from Andalucía (southern Spain) with lots of generous flavours. It is ideal on a hot summer’s evening and great as a vegetarian starter. It is very simple to make: purée skinned, fresh, ripe tomatoes with stale, white bread, olive oil and garlic. Garnish with Jamón Serrano (also from Andalucía) and hard-boiled egg.

Salmorejo and Gazpacho are very different soups. Gazpacho comes with red bell pepper, chili and onions; Salmorejo is purely about tomatoes and is much creamier and softer, because bread is a key ingredient. It’s nice to decorate gazpacho; Salmorejo must be garnished. Salmorejo is a beautifully balanced soup.

Removing the skin is mandatory when making Salmorejo. The idea to roast the tomatoes is a twist that enhances the flavours of the tomatoes, but it is not part of the original Salmorejo, so feel free to skip this step.

What You Need

  • 500 grams of Excellent Ripe Tomatoes
  • Slice of stale White Artisanal Bread without the crust
  • 1 small Garlic Clove
  • 1 tablespoon of Jerez Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 hard-boiled Egg
  • (optional) diced Serrano Ham
  • Black Pepper
  • (optional) Salt

What You Do

Peel the tomatoes. Soak the bread in water for 10 minutes. Optional: slice the tomatoes in two and transfer to an oven (200 °C or 390 °F) for 15 minutes and let cool. Chop the garlic clove. Blender the tomatoes, the bread (and the water) and the garlic until very smooth. It should be really smooth, cream like; this may take 1 minute on turbo! On low speed add the vinegar and slowly add the olive oil. Taste, add salt and pepper if required and perhaps some more olive oil. Allow to cool for at least 2 hours.
Serve in cold bowls and garnish with roughly chopped hard-boiled egg and diced Serrano ham.

PS

If you enjoy cold soups as much as we do, then we have more recipes for you: Gazpacho, Ajo Blanco and Avocado and Cucumber Soup.

Salmorejo ©cadwu
Salmorejo ©cadwu

Spanish Tortilla

We have fond memories of the Mercat Central in Valencia, one of the largest markets in Europe. Its architecture is amazing, but even more stunning are the products on sale: fruit, vegetables, mushrooms, chicken, fresh meat, sausages, hams, herbs, spices, fish, bread, wine, pickles, snails, weeds, offal, rice, nuts: anything and everything you can dream of.
And of course various bars with the tastiest tapas ever. We would go shopping early in the morning, buy what we needed that day (perhaps a bit more than just that) and buy two bocadillos de tortilla: a small crunchy roll with tortilla made with egg, onions and potato. We would run back to our apartment, make coffee, sit down and enjoy the rich, velvety, long taste of bread and tortilla.
Fond memories indeed.

Making Spanish tortilla is a matter of combining the best ingredients and being patient.

What You Need

  • 200 grams of Potato (waxy ones, we used Roseval)
  • 1 large Spanish (White) Onion
  • ½ Grilled Red Bell Pepper
  • 4 Eggs
  • Black Pepper
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

Heat a pan and gently fry the thinly sliced potatoes, slowly, in plenty of oil. You don’t want crunchy, golden potatoes, they should be nearly done, that’s all. In a separate pan glaze the quartered and sliced onion, also for let’s say 15 minutes. Let both cool. Dry the sliced grilled red bell pepper with kitchen paper. Beat the eggs and add potatoes and onions. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. For some reason this is a crucial step, one that should not be skipped. Add sliced red bell pepper and fresh black pepper. Warm a medium sized non-stick pan (22 cm or 9 inch), add oil and fry the tortilla until the top is slightly set. It could take 20 minutes so please don’t be tempted to increase the heat. Transfer to a plate, put the pan on top of the tortilla and flip. Fry a few minutes.
Serve lukewarm, perhaps with some chopped parsley and a crunchy roll.

PS

You could peel a fresh red bell pepper, but better is to clean it, slice in 4 to 6 chunks, flatten these and grill for 10 minutes. This should char the pepper significantly. Transfer to a plastic container and close. Leave for a few hours. Now you can easily remove the skin. This way a bell pepper has a richer, more complex taste and is easier to digest, but it is of course not as crunchy as a fresh bell pepper. 

Gazpacho

Simple, tasty, refreshing and quick: what more could you ask for on a summer’s evening? We love a cold soup, for instance Ajo Blanco or Avocado and Cucumber Soup.

Gazpacho, another Spanish classic, is not just a mixture of tomatoes, bell pepper, chili, garlic and white onion. It absolutely needs Jerez vinegar and excellent olive oil. The olive oil will give that velvety, rich feeling in your mouth and the vinegar with the chili gives the gazpacho that typical, sharp freshness.
You will need the very best of vegetables: ripe, tasty and with a firm structure.
The bell pepper should, according to some recipes, be a green Cubanelle pepper. Hard to find for us, so we’re happy to use a green bell pepper.

Prepare the Gazpacho 8 hours in advance and serve in cold bowls. 

What you need

  • 4 large, meaty, tasty red Tomatoes
  • ½ white (Spanish) Onion
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper
  • 2 Fresh Garlic Gloves
  • ½ Red Chili
  • 1 small Cucumber (optional in our view)
  • 3 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 tablespoons Jerez Vinegar
  • Pinch of Salt

What You Do

Cut the tomatoes in 4 and remove the seeds. Transfer to a sieve and use the back of a spoon to squeeze out the liquid. Discard the seeds. Chop the tomato chunks, onion, bell pepper, gloves and chili. Use a blender to mix tomato chunks, tomato juice, onion, bell pepper, gloves and chili until you have a fairly smooth soup. Add olive oil and Jerez vinegar and pulse. Taste, add pinch of salt and more olive oil or vinegar if needed. Transfer to refrigerator to let cool. You could decorate with green bell pepper or chopped tomato (provided it’s peeled and seeded).

PS

Most recipes mention passing the mixture through a sieve. This way you will get a smoother, but also thinner soup. That’s probably why these recipes suggest adding white bread to the mixture.

Gazpacho ©cadwu
Gazpacho ©cadwu

Escargots de Bourgogne

We noticed that more and more supermarkets and shops sell snails. Canned, frozen or with garlic butter ready to be cooked in the oven, all very tempting. Snails are high on protein, low on fat, high on minerals, low on calories. A glass of white wine and some crusted bread; what more do you need as a healthy starter?
But before buying snails it’s important to look at the label and find out what kind of snail you’re buying.

The snail used for the classic Escargots de Bourgogne is called Helix Pomatia. It’s protected in many countries. Farming of this snail is not profitable. Excellent taste, expensive and hard to find.
There are three alternatives: Helix Aspera (either the small one called Petit Gris or the large one called Gros Gris) and Helix Lucorum. The last one is considered to be less tasty than the other three, but when prepared well, it’s a very nice, affordable alternative. All three can be farmed.

It could also say Achatina on the label. This is a different kind of land snail, much larger than the first four. It’s taste and texture are okayish.

Sometimes it simply says ‘Escargots’ and ‘Gros’ on the tin. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, it may and it may not. Some companies cook larger (sea) snails, chop these, and sell the chunks as ‘Escargots’. The term ‘Gros’ is supposed to make you think of the Gros Gris. Don’t be fooled: they are rubbery, tasteless and a waste of money.

The classic Escargots de Bourgogne are prepared with butter, garlic and parsley. We like to add a bit of tarragon and a pinch of salt. Traditionally they are served in the shell and you need a tong and a special fork to eat them. The ones we use are from a can, so no special equipment required. 

Wine Pairing

The obvious choice is a glass of Bourgogne: a chardonnay with a touch of oak. The wine must be dry, mineral and medium bodied.

What You Need

  • 12 snails
  • Butter
  • Parsley
  • Garlic
  • Tarragon
  • Salt
  • 2 Snail Plates

What You Do

You could of course buy fresh snails (which makes us think of the amazing market in Valencia! So much choice, such excellent quality. Also various kinds of snails, fresh and alive, obviously, also the Caragolus, the snail that is required when you prepare a traditional Paella Valenciana) but otherwise buy them canned. Remove them from the can, wash carefully with lots of water and set aside.

Chop parsley, tarragon and garlic very fine. Using a fork, combine butter, herbs, garlic and a pinch of salt. Transfer six snails to a snail plate, add a chunk of butter to every snail, transfer the snail plate to an oven at 160 °C or 320 °F for 10 minutes or until boiling hot. Serve the snail plate on a cool plain white plate.

Escargots de Bourgogne ©cadwu
Escargots de Bourgogne ©cadwu

Cold Soup: Ajo Blanco

It’s September, time fo buy fresh almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts; time to make Spanish Almond Soup. It’s made of white almonds, water, old bread, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and perhaps a pinch of salt. And trust us, there is no need to add anything else. No cucumber, green apples, jalapeño, chicken stock, pepper, flowers, white grapes, milk, aioli, Balsamic vinegar, raisins, cream, yoghurt, pine nuts or melon. We love creativity, but the ingredients people suggest to brighten up Ajo Blanco, it’s amazing. Especially because there is no need to add anything to the original.

Mention Ajo Blanco and someone will say ‘white gazpacho’. Because both are cold soups, because both are from Spain? We can’t think of any other reason, so please, please don’t even think about gazpacho when you serve Ajo Blanco.

What You Need

  • 70 gram White Almonds
  • 200 ml ice-cold Water
  • 30 gram old stale White Artisanal Bread without the crust
  • 1 medium Garlic Clove
  • 1 tablespoon Jerez Vinegar
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 70 ml Olive Oil
  • 10 gram of Roasted Almonds

What You Do

Buy excellent almonds, so not the soft, bland ones from the supermarket. Start by very, very lightly roasting the white almonds in a dry non-stick pan. Let cool. Soak the bread for 10 minutes. Roughly chop the garlic. Using a heavy blender or food processor whizz the almonds, the garlic and some of the water until nearly smooth. Squeeze out the bread. Add bread and remaining water to the mixture. Continue blending. Add vinegar and salt. Check the mixture for taste and smoothness. It should be very smooth, cream like; this may take 1 minute on turbo! When happy with both smoothness and taste, slowly add olive oil with the blender running on low speed. Transfer the mixture to the refrigerator for at least two hours. Also cool the bowls you want to use.
Just before serving crush some roasted almonds and sprinkle these on the soup.

Chicken with Fresh Oregano

Thyme, Oregano, Basil, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage: all powerful Mediterranean herbs. Oregano, or Wild Marjoram, is an interesting one. Probably best known as the herbal ingredient of pizza. A dried herb, one to store in a jar, forget about and then use beyond its ‘use-by date’ and be disappointed.
Such a pity because fresh oregano is aromatic, slightly bitter, pungent and perhaps chemical, depending on the variety, of course. Great to combine with lamb, a tomato salad, grilled fish and of course chicken. It’s also great to flavour olive oil with oregano. So ask your supermarket or local greengrocer for fresh oregano!

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our chicken and oregano with a glass of Rioja Paternina Reserva 2015 produced by Marques de la Concordia. Reserva means that the wine ages for a minimum of 3 years, with at least 1 year in oak barrels. The grapes are tempranillo, mazuelo and garnacha; very typical for Rioja. It’s a powerful, full-bodied red wine with aromas of black cherries and touch of vanilla and various spices. The wine goes very well with the velvety chicken and the very present flavours of the oregano.

What You Need

  • Chicken Thighs
  • Olive Oil
  • Black Pepper
  • Chicken Stock
  • Lots of Fresh Oregano

What You Do

Halve the thighs, heat a heavy iron skillet, add olive oil and quickly fry the meat on all sides. Reduce the heat and add two third of the chopped oregano. Keep on low to medium heat for 10 minutes or so. Add some chicken stock, just to deglaze the pan. You will notice that the juices becomes green thanks to the oregano, so please coat the meat with the cooking liquid. Just before serving add the remaining oregano, some freshly ground black pepper and mix.
Serve with green beans, cooked in water with fresh garlic, wrapped in pancetta (after having grated some nutmeg over the beans) and then fried for 5 minutes in some olive oil.

  • Chicken with Fresh Oregano ©cadwu
  • Federico Paternina Rioja Reserva 2015 ©cadwu
  • Fresh Oregano ©cadwu



Ajo Blanco

Tasty, Simple and Rich

The talent of keeping things simple: that’s very true for Spanish Almond Soup. It should consist of white almonds, water, old bread, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and perhaps a pinch of salt. And trust us, there is no need to add anything else. No cucumber, green apples, jalapeño, chicken stock, pepper, flowers, white grapes, milk, aioli, Balsamic vinegar, raisins, cream, yoghurt, pine nuts or melon. We love creativity, but the ingredients people suggest to brighten up Ajo Blanco, it’s amazing. Especially because there is no need to add anything to the original.

Blanc Manger

The use of almonds and almond milk to thicken liquid was well known in medieval times. In the classic Van Soeter Cokene (1971), professor Johanna Maria Van Winter describes four recipes for Blanc Manger, the oldest one (Blamensier) from Germany (14th century).  It contained white almonds, goat milk, chicken, lard, sugar and violets (for colouring). A similar dish was enjoyed by Royalty in England in the 15th century. Also from that century is Brouès d’Allemagne. It contained almond milk, ginger, cinnamon, onions, lard and many other ingredients making for a hearty dish. Blancmanger was also known in 15th century France, as a dish for the sick with almonds and sugar.

Ajo Blanco seems to have its origin in Roman time, others mention Moorish roots. The soup is linked to Málaga and Granada. Ajo Blanco survived and Blamensier became extinct. Perhaps because Ajo Blanco is tasty, simple and rich whereas Blamensier is rather tasteless with the consistency of porridge?

Gazpacho

Mention Ajo Blanco and someone will say ‘white gazpacho’. Because both are cold soups, because both are from Spain? We can’t think of any other reason, so please, please don’t even think about gazpacho when you serve Ajo Blanco.

What You Need

  • 70 gram White Almonds
  • 200 ml ice-cold Water
  • 30 gram old stale White Artisanal Bread without the crust
  • 1 medium Garlic Clove
  • 1 tablespoon Jerez Vinegar
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 70 ml Olive Oil
  • 10 gram of Roasted Almonds

What You Do

Buy excellent almonds, so not the soft, bland ones from the supermarket. Start by very, very lightly roasting the white almonds in a dry non-stick pan. Let cool. Soak the bread for 10 minutes. Roughly chop the garlic. Using a heavy blender or food processor whizz the almonds, the garlic and some of the water until nearly smooth. Squeeze out the bread. Add bread and remaining water to the mixture. Continue blending. Add vinegar and salt. Check the mixture for taste and smoothness. It should be very smooth, cream like; this may take 1 minute on turbo! When happy with both smoothness and taste, slowly add olive oil with the blender running on low speed. Transfer the mixture to the refrigerator for at least two hours. Also cool the bowls you want to use.
Just before serving crush some roasted almonds and sprinkle these on the soup.

Ajo Blanco © cadwu
Ajo Blanco © cadwu

Pimientos de Padrón

Lovely and Simple Starter

Pimientos de Padrón are mild, sweet tasting and small green peppers, originally from the Galicia region in Spain, but now widely available in Spain and Portugal. Story has it that one in a hundred (or more?) is actually very spicy, but rest assured, we have eaten many more and never encountered a spicy one. Ask your greengrocer for these lovely peppers because we’re sure you will enjoy them.

Wine Pairing

We would suggest drinking a Vinho Verde with the Pimientos de Padrón. Vinho Verde is a wine from the most northern part of Portugal, between the Douro and Minho rivers. Verde refers to the fact that the grapes are harvested very early in the year. This implies that the grapes contain a fairly small amount of sugar. As a result of this the wine (in most cases) has a fairly low percentage of alcohol (think 10%). But don’t be surprised if you find one with a higher percentage.

About Vinho Verde

In general we feel Vinho Verde is undervalued. It’s a great, very taste wine; one that is not just wonderful on a summers evening.
Vinho Verde is not a wine to store, so make sure you buy one from the most recent harvest.
Most Vinho Verde wines are white. They tend to have a very subtle bubble. The taste is light, floral and the wine comes with some clear acidity.
We also found a rosé and a red Vinho Verde. Seldom have we seen a wine with such an intense colour! To balance the acidity of the red Vinho Verde you must be combined with fat meat or rich sauces. We combined it with grilled Secreto of Iberico pork, which is a treat in its own right. Secreto is a thin, juicy cut from acorn fed, free range Iberico pigs.

Secreto

As an extra: for two people buy 300 grams of Secreto. In a way the structure of the secreto resembles skate. One side of the secreto will look nice, fat and meaty, the other may look like if you have to remove extra fat. Which is exactly what you need to do! After having done that, heat a heavy grill pan (or the barbeque) and grill the meat for 4 times one minute, creating a nice pattern. The cuisson should be rosé. It’s not a problem if the thinner parts of the secreto are well done because the meat will be very juicy anyway, thanks to the fat. Serve with a sautéed courgette. The bitterness and the sweetness of the courgette combines really well with the juicy secreto. The red Vinho Verde will balance the fat and will turn the combination of secreto and courgette into an intriguing dish.

What You Need

  • Pimientos de Padrón
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt

What You Do

Clean the Pimientos de Padrón and dry the peppers. Heat a heavy skillet, add olive oil and fry the peppers for a few minutes. Make sure they are fried but not cooked. Sprinkle some sea salt over the Pimientos de Padrón, fry for a few seconds making sure the salt is somewhat adsorbed in the olive oil. Serve immediately.