This is my patatas bravas designed especially for the photo. They did not look this appetising in the Tupperware at the food fair!
This is a Spanish dish that can be found all over Spain. It was mentioned in one of our lectures. When my family and I travelled around Spain in the middle of last year we found these on every menu in every region (we thought we were top shit for knowing the proper pronunciation not registering the grimace each wait staff would try to suppress when we ordered it). The sauce is usually more orange in colour and smooth, however, due to my limited utensils in my share house it looks more red and lumpy (still good though!)
Making the dish was fun. Very simple but also many elements that required no over seasoning and the sauce required at least 24 hours of sitting after cooking. The potatoes were the hardest part just to get them perfectly crispy. Ideally you would be served the dish straight from the oven but given that the meal needed to travel to its food fair location they were a touch soggier and cooler than they should have be.
I personally enjoy the spice of the sauce so I added a little extra chilli. They were all eaten at the food fair and people seemed to enjoy them (despite the sogginess).
The dish has personal significance because before each meal our family sit down for ‘laughs’ which is essentially some antipasto we enjoy whilst helping out with cooking dinner. After traveling to Spain we started enjoying some Patatas Bravas before our meals and it has come to represent my families eating habits. I can not hear the dish without thinking of my mum and dad and brothers in the kitchen.
Olive oil, Garlic, Onion, Tomato Chopped and Pureed, Paprika, Chilli, Sugar, Potato, Parsley
During the week a friend and I decided to indulge in our favourite past time; eating pasta. We had done our research and found a place that was even named after the flour it used in its signature pasta: Tipo 00
This modern Italian restaurant had a 45 minute wait just to get a table for two! We saw that a sign that the food was good so waited the 45 minutes and were seated up at the bar. The restaurant was dark and intimate (unlike the photo shown above which was taken during the day and not at night when we went) with a fun electric vibe. The wait staff were banterous and reminiscent of cheeky Italian waiters.
With the fun and vibrant atmosphere came mouth watering smells wafting from the open kitchen. We were seating at the bar and chatted away to the bar tender who was spinning bottles and fixing cocktails in the most impressive way. We both ordered pasta (dah), I had the special with king prawns and my friend the classic ragu Bolognese. The portion size at first was eyebrow raising, with what appeared to be a relatively small amount of pasta. My dish came with two king prawns on top and my friends’ with a generous amount of ragu.
Both smelt like heaven on a designer plate. One dish with overt tomato smells and the other smelling of the ocean (in a good, edible way). The first mouthful left us both speechless well past chewing and swallowing ,it was astoundingly delicious. Mine required hands on action to peel the prawns which made me feel like I was in the Italian countryside with my family enjoying a meal the old fashioned way and tasted rather similar! The ragu (which I sampled), tasted like love.
Over all the modern Italian cuisine may have looked sleek and new age but it tasted like home, albeit a home you never knew you had in the Italian countryside, but still home.
I have named this entry inspiration because this simple and seemingly delicious dessert has inspired me to try my hand at baking (not a small feet if you knew how badly I have failed in the past). The dish is called Cicerchiata.
It is a simple Italian dessert heralding from the Marche region, which, lies along Italy’s central Adriatic Coast. Now I know that this region has many culinary traditions revolving around meat and seafood, however, I decided to discuss this dessert because of its simplicity. It represents Italian cuisine in a way that contradicts popular opinion, it is not heavy, it doesn’t contain tomatoes or basil and there is certainly no meat (obviously its a dessert). But these things are all heavily associated with Italian cooking and I wanted to highlight the lighter and simpler side of the coin.
The recipe is mostly for the sweet dough balls. Once made and risen you simply cook and then arrange them as you please (traditionally done in a circle) and smother in honey. Some recipes add crushed almonds and decorate with hundreds and thousands. The small shape of the balls is where the dish gets its name, deriving from the Italian word cicerchia. This is a small bean similar in size to a chickpea but with a sweater taste.
As mentioned the Marche region is famous for meaty meals, as a result this ancient dessert was made as something lighter to juxtapose the hearty coronary inducing secondi. It is also one of the only desserts that utilises ingredients solely from the Marche region with most other desserts coming about when ingredients were transported between regions.
The dish is not well known or made in Australia unless your family has Italian ties then you may see this at your christmas table.
ps. I tried making it … Lets just say I didn’t put a photo up for a reason (I told you I was bad)
THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER EATEN: Rillettes de Porc
Rillettes is a deeply French creation not dissimilar to pate, especially in texture. It is made from local produce in the Tours, Anjou and Sarthe (La Mans) regions. I was lucky enough have this taste sensation whilst sitting at a beautiful bed and breakfast in La Mans country.
The family that owned the B&B invited us to diner at their table (pictured) and cooked us a traditional French meal (there are no pictures of the meal itself because I felt rude taking pictures whilst dining). The start of this epicurean journey was marked by the popping of Champagne and the dipping of bread into homemade Rillettes de Porc. For me the journey could have ended then and there, the rustic texture had my knees shaking and the depth of flavour quickly saw me take a second dip.
I enquired about the delicious dip and was told in depth the process of making the little pot of heaven which involves several hours of work and generally contains pork belly, lean raw ham and lard. I was told that rillettes is commonly confused with pate as it is made to be dark, smooth and creamy in the Tours and Anjou regions, as a result rillettes was referred to as ‘the poor’s pate’. In Sarthe however, rillettes are characterised by a rustic texture complete with larger pieces of pork and lighter colour.
Rillettes are popular in France and can be made with a number of different game and can even be found in the tinned section of a supermarket, however, it is not this common in Australia.
Merluza en Salsa Verde. Hake in Green Sauce.
Hake, Olive Oil, Garlic, Parsley, Pepper, Salt, White wine. With boiled eggs and asparagus to serve.
That’s it. That is how simple this dish is. And its simplicity revolutionised food in its home region of Basque. With the Franco dictatorship coming to an end French cuisine remained the ultimate benchmark for refined modern cooking (Anderson; Unity and Diversity La Olla Podrida). One Basque chef went against the over indulgent, time consuming methods of haute cuisine and created this simple and delicious dish. This at a time when regional identity was frail, the dish came to represent the strength and sincerity of not just Basque but Spanish cuisine.
It can be prepared in a number of different ways, the most common is to add almejas (clams) and sometimes peas. However, no matter the additions the integrity of the dish remains in the method. The fish is seasoned before being gently added to an oil coated pan and lightly cooked in salsa verde. Such a simple method that creates such a memorable dish.
The Basque Region of Spain prides itself on fresh seafood, especially line caught hake which is heralded as being the best of its kind with a stronger texture and nicer skin than hake from other areas. When preparing this meal beyond the borders of Basque country it is difficult to get your hands on this quality hake. As a result, in places like France and Australia hake is usually substituted with cod or monkfish.
The simplicity of the dish is what makes it so wonderfully Basque but it is also what causes it to be difficult to place as distinctly Spanish. The presentation in terracotta makes the distinction easier but in countries like France and Australia the dish is usually plated for individual consumption, loosing some of its Spanish heritage.
All in all the dish is simply delicious.