Just before my trip to Spain (for a family wedding), I’d promised to tell you about the famous Segovian suckling pig. Well, unfortunately Hubbie fell ill as soon as we reached Madrid, so a trip to Segovia was out of the question. The pigs escaped us once again! Thankfully, Spain isn’t by any means short of other wonders to please the palate.
My favourite has to be the Jamon Iberico de Bellota. This is an entire leg of pork that is cured and then carved by an artisan into thin (but power-packed) slices. Apologies to my wonderful Italian friends, but eat your heart out, Parma! The flavour and texture of the jamon is incredible. The pigs (of the black Iberian variety) are reared free range, and they spend their cushy lives wandering oak forests and feasting on acorns (bellota). According to popular belief, the bellota is what imparts that extraordinary nutty punch to the jamon’s flavour (and the pigs’ easy-going lifestyle is what results in the firm yet yielding texture of the meat). We had plenty of it at the wedding reception, having stationed ourselves on the trade route between the carving table and the marquee full of guests.
Another favourite Spanish classic of mine is paella. There are varieties featuring chicken and rabbit, but I prefer the seafood kind. My father-in-law makes a mean paella, and the first time he treated us to it, he was surprised to learn that South Asian cooking (e.g., Cinnamon’s beloved biriyani) uses saffron as well. Indeed, paella and biriyani seem pretty similar to me – rich rice dishes with meat and the magical saffron. I figure this must be due to the Arab influence in Spain through the Moors and the Arab/Persian influence in South Asia (through, for example, the Mughals). I’m hoping to get a copy of the family paella recipe to share with you, but I didn’t want to hold up the post for it, so you’ll just have to be patient!
What I can share with you though is a recipe for my final favourite; that simple classic, which serves as breakfast, lunch on the go, or a light dinner with salad: the Spanish Tortilla. Having grown up thinking of a tortilla as a round flat bread, the Spanish egg tortilla took me by surprise. Modern versions at boutique hotels feature some sort of deconstructed omelette, but imho you can’t beat the true tortilla – one that looks almost baked like a cake. I asked my husband (whose tortilla recipe this is) what the secret to a good tortilla is – his response: “you have to make sure the potatoes are really happy”. Translated from Spanish into English, I think that means lots of time, attention and good quality olive oil. Que Aproveche!
1. Ingredients: eggs, large onions, potatoes, plenty of olive oil, salt, pepper (and chorizo if you like it)
2. Chop the onions finely. Peel the potatoes and chop roughly into small cubes (not more than about an inch a side).
3. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan, and once hot add onions and potatoes. Cook until the potatoes are reasonably soft and on the verge of browning (but not completely there yet).
4. Whisk eggs and add some salt and pepper. When the onions and potatoes are ready, add the eggs (ensure an even distribution) and turn the gas to a low setting.
5. If you like, add a few slices of chorizo, but make sure it goes into the liquid egg mixture and doesn’t sit on the surface (because chorizo doesn’t taste so good if it cooks on the frying pan surface).
6. Once this side is cooked to your satisfaction, turn it over by sliding it from the frying pan onto a plate and turning the plate over onto the frying pan.
7. When it’s ready, serve it with a nice lemony-dressed salad and good quality baguette. If you have leftovers, you can make Spanish sandwiches with butter and baguettes.