Thursday, 16 August 2012

iberian feast

Having recently returned from a trip to glorious Porto I have now developed a serious taste for the drink that gives the town its name. The city is visually stunning and lots of fun to explore with some lovely bars, restaurants and cafes and a great atmosphere. One of the most memorable parts of the trip was learning about port and you really can't go there and not sample the drink. In one particular bar you can enjoy a huge variety of ports from a range of bodegas. They also offer a tasting selection accompanied by chocolate and fruit. We enjoyed the atmosphere of this bar so much that we returned on subsequent nights.

Since returning home we have now set ourselves the task of finding our favourite tawny port. We've got three bottles lined up and will be accompanying the tasting with some of our favourite Iberian foods.

Gambas al Pil Pil
Approx 300g raw prawns
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3-5 cloves garlic (add more if you want it extra stinky), finely sliced
at least 1 tsp dried red chilli flakes but feel free to add more to taste.
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat up your pan, add the oil followed by the garlic and chili flakes. 
  2. Once the garlic is golden brown, take care not to let it burn, add your prawns and cook until they have turn pink all over and are completely cooked. This will take a couple of minutes. 
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Put the whole lot into a serving dish, oil and all, and you're ready to eat. It isn't particularly low calorie but it is really tasty to dip your bread in the garlicky, chili, prawn oil. Yum.

Padron Peppers (Pimientos de Padron)
Whilst this is a Spanish recipe, Padron peppers come from the town of Padron in Galicia, which is the bit of Spain that overhangs Portugal in the north. This is a ridiculously easy recipe but it is important you get the correct peppers and don't scrimp with the salt. In season, Padron Peppers are starting to appear in supermarkets. I've also noticed an Italian equivalent called Friggitelli in some supermarkets. They are not the same kind of pepper but could serve the same purpose in a tapas selection.

Packet of Padron Peppers - 130g is enough for two to share as a tapa
Olive Oil - approx 2-3 tbsp
Sea Salt - Maldon would be perfect here.

2 Servings: 128 calories, 14g fat, 2g sat fat
  1. Heat a frying pan until it is very hot, a couple of minutes should do it. 
  2. Pour in a generous glug of olive oil, you want the base of the pan to have a covering of about 2-3mm depth. 
  3. Put the peppers in the pan keeping the heat high. Move them around a bit so they cook evenly. You are aiming for the peppers to blister and colour up. This will take about 2-3 minutes. 
  4. Take the peppers off the heat and pour into a serving dish. Sprinkle them generously with the sea salt and serve. If you're not concerned about calories it is nice to dip your bread in the oil left behind in the serving dish.

Grilled Courgette & Aubergine
Another super easy recipe but full of great flavours. You can eat this warm or prepare it in advance and chill it for eating later. You can cut the courgette and aubergine any way you like but it is easier to serve and eat if you try and keep them similar.

1 courgettes, sliced lengthways 5mm thick - approx. 220g
1 aubergines, sliced lengthways 5mm thick - approx. 500g 
Olive Oil - 2 tbsp
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
Black Pepper
Fresh rosemary, chopped - 1 sprig
Fresh oregano, chopped - 1 sprig
clove of garlic, crushed
Oil Spray
For a variation try adding a sprinkle of dried chilli flakes and/or a teaspoon of fennel seeds.
  1. Heat up your griddle pan, it needs to be very hot - do not add any fat to the pan, it will smoke and burn needlessly.
  2. Mix together the olive oil, herbs, salt, pepper, lemon juice and zest and garlic (and the chilli flakes and/or fennel seeds if you're using them) and leave to one side. 
  3. Once the pan has heated up, lightly spray the veg slices and place the pan in a single layer and cooked for a couple of minutes on each side. Don't move them around otherwise you won't get the grill marks. 
  4. When the slices lift up easily from the pan and have got a decent colour on them turn them over. Depending on the size of your grill pan you might need to do this in batches. Once each batch is cooked, remove them from the pan and place in your serving dish.
  5. Once all the courgette and aubergine is cooked pour the oil, lemon juice and herb mix over them slices and then leave for at least 10 minutes for the flavours to mix. 

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