Sunday, 27 April 2008

Tortilla: it's all about the lid

I had big plans for cooking last Sunday. I was going to make Minestrone for my lunches, and pumpkin ravioli for our dinner. The minestrone took longer than i expected, and by the time it was ticking away on the stove i couldn't be bothered to make the raviolis. So i decided to do tortilla and salad.

Tortilla is one of our regular stand-bys, like Sag Paneer. It's one of those dishes that define us in a way. Kelsie even included making tortilla in one of her film projects. Anyways, lately i've been having conversations with some of my work mates about how to make tortilla and what can go wrong. I thought i'd document how i do it, and hope it helps.

Here are some tips that i've picked up either from other people or by trial and error:

  • Make sure you use the right proportion of eggs to potatoes and onion. Use way more potatoes and onion than egg. The quantities in the recipe below work with a 9" frying pan. If your pan is smaller or larger, adjust quantities as necessary.

  • Cook the potatoes and onion really slowly. It usually takes about 20 minutes. You don't want them to brown, just to become tender. The longer you cook the onions the sweeter, less oniony they'll taste.

  • It's all about the lid. For perfect tortilla flipping you need a flat lid that is the exact diameter of the pan you're using. In Spain they sell tortilla flipping pan lids. My ma got me the one i use and it works great -- no drips and the tortilla slides back into the pan really easily.

  • When you're flipping the tortilla don't freak out. I know this is a strange tip, but i've found the more you hesitate when you're flipping the tortilla the more chance you have of messing it up. Have faith in your trusted tortilla flipping lid, and go for it!

Tortilla Espanola
800g potatoes, peeled
2 large onions, cut in half and sliced
olive oil
salt and pepper
handful of chopped parsley (optional)
6 eggs

  1. Cut the potatoes into small pieces. Use a paring knife and slice off little chips of the potato. They don't need to be uniform, just more or less the same thickness.

  2. Place the potatoes and onions in your frying pan and add olive oil. I usually make sure the olive oil comes about halfway up the sides of the pan. There should be enough onions and potatoes to fill the pan. Turn the heat on low and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes and onions are tender. Stir from time to time.

  3. While the onions and potatoes are cooking, put the eggs in a large bowl and beat with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the chopped parsley if using.

  4. When the onions and potatoes are ready, drain them and reserve the olive oil. Add them to the eggs and mix well.

  5. Add some of the reserved olive oil to the pan and turn the heat on medium. Add the egg mixture back to the pan and cook until set. Periodically run a knife around the outside edge of the eggs to make sure they're not sticking. You want to cook the eggs until nicely browned.

  6. Flip the tortilla. place the lid on the pan, turn the pan over so the tortilla is sitting on it, and quickly slide back into the frying pan.

  7. Cook until the second side is set and browned. Turn out onto a serving dish and enjoy! Note: we usually serve this with some mayo on the side.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Guest post: A Day at Nick Nairn's Cook School

Today's posting was writting by our friend Lindsay, who was lucky enough to spend a day at Nick Nairn's Cook School up near Aberfoyle at Lake of Mentieth.

Here's what she has to say about her day:

Course: More Modern Scottish Cookery:
You are asked to arrive about 9.45 in the morning for coffee and biscuits with your fellow cooks. A lot of people were there with friends but there were quite a few of us there on our own and we paired up before heading into the kitchen.

The kitchen is amazing and is set up to have a demo kitchen at the top of the room (with a giant mirror over it so you can see into the chefs pots as they cook) and lots of sub kitchens (one for every 2 people) that each have a huge gas range cooker, sink and drawers with all the implements and equipment that you need.

For the 1st few hours we watched the chefs make a Langoustine bisque (which we later used to make our main course), a cardamom custard and chocolate sauce.

We stopped at about 12.30 for scones with jam and cream and a cup of tea. Then we got back into the kitchen to start cooking.

We made scallops with black pudding for starter and while the handling of the live scallops was not for the squeamish, the dish was easy to do and looked very impressive. I don't like black pudding but the Stornoway black pudding they used was fantastic and I am now a convert.

For the main course we made a fish stew type thing with coconut milk, chilli and coriander. It was really tasty.

The pudding was sensational. We made individual soft chocolate cakes to go with the custard and chocolate sauce the chefs made earlier. They served it all with a dollop of marmalade ice cream that they made the day before and while I don't like marmalade, it is one of the nicest ice creams I have ever tasted and offset the pudding perfectly. The chefs thought that we might struggle to eat the cake as the whole thing is quite rich and we had eaten a lot at that point. A second one might have taken longer than the 10 seconds it took to scoff the first one, but it could have been done!

Wine is served throughout the day with the food which you eat at big dining tables. Before you make anything the chefs demo it and then walk around while you cook to give you a hand. We were really lucky and got both chefs (John and Andy) as you usually only get one per class. They were great fun and couldn't have been more helpful.

The day ends at about 5.30pm and you then have to try and restrain yourself in the shop they have which sells everything from range cookers to kitchen utensils, books and ingredients. If you left the car at home and are drinking wine, then leave your credit cards too!!

It is expensive so not something you would do too often, and most people had been given it as a present like I was. But I couldn't recommend it highly enough, and whether you think you think you should be on Masterchef or have trouble boiling an egg, you will have a fantastic day and come away itching to have friends round for dinner so you can show off what you learned.

clams with linguine

Originally uploaded by silamuta
I made this recently as I was craving it and pictures and recipes were appearing everywhere. It was sooooo good the first night that I made it again the second night.

Clams with Linguine (you could also use spaghetti)

500g fresh clams.
(soaked in water for a few hours so that they get rid of the salt and grit)
a fistfull of pasta. (use yer noggin when measuring)
chilli flakes or fresh chilli chopped
fresh parsley, finely chopped

cook pasta according to direction on packet
5 mins before pasta is done fry up 2 cloves of garlic, but dont brown it, in a glug of olive oil
add chilli flakes
add parsley and season
after 2 or 3 mins add clams, cover with lid and cook till clams open.
after a few mins discard any unopened clams.
drain and add pasta to clams and sauce.
serve and eat with love

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Cook the Book: Ensalada de remolacha y patata

It's April, it smells like springtime in the air and I've decided to mark the new season by starting a 'cook the book' series in here. In this and future posts I'll be trying out recipes from the book you see here on the right. I chose this book because when I visited Granada last time, i got in the routine of watching Karlos Aguinano's program on tv in the afternoon. He's fun to watch and has a great sense of humour. Even though I don't speak spanish (kelsie does), i'm finding it a fun challenge to translate the recipes and try them out at home. The seasonality of recipes matches what i've been getting in my weekly organic veg box too.

Today's recipe is a salad of beetroot and potato along with some other nice additions. Though he's got it listed in the starter section for spring, it could easily work as a light supper.

Ensalada de remolacha y patata (Beetroot and potato salad)
2 cooked beetroot
2 cooked potatoes
200g mushrooms (in the book it was called hongos)
200g cooked green beans
4 leaves of swiss chard blanched
8 radishes
12 prawns or langoustine tails
1 small onion
chopped parsley
olive oil
vinegar and salt

  1. In the middle of a plate place the cooked green beans and cover them with the chopped swiss chard leaves and stalks.

  2. All around the outside of the plate, arrange the potato, peeled and cut into rounds, alternating with beetroot, also cut into rounds.

  3. In a saute pan heat the olive oil and quickly cook the prawns or langoustine tails until they turn pink.

  4. Top the salad with the cooked prawns and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.

  5. Finally, decorate with sliced onion rings and season with olive oil and vinegar.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

eggs n rice oh yeah

eggs n rice oh yeah
Originally uploaded by silamuta
So when Mel and I first started living in New York together we would share recipes of quick snacks and things we like to eat when we are in a rush. She told me bout rice and eggs and when she told me I couldn't get it. Why would anyone wanna eat fried eggs with boiled rice for a snack? But I gave it a go. And I liked it. She told me the story of how her mum would serve this up at home as a quick meal. Very often the dish would contain a slice or two of spam. Apparently its what they eat for breakfast in the Philippines; often accompanied by fresh fruit. These days I often have this for breakfast or even lunch now. I use 2 fresh organic eggs fried up in some butter. I cook one cup of basmati rice in two cups of water (trying not to burn the rice!!) and top it all of with a few dashes of soy sauce. Mels ma likes to use kikomans and if its good enough for mels ma its good enough for me. Mel likes hers with hot sauce on top. The odd bottle of Tsingtao helps to wash it all down too. (but maybe not for breakfast!)