Migas “El Poli”

Migas

Migas

Migas, a typical Spanish dish whose literal translation means breadcrumbs, yet is so much more. Many countries have dishes that use up stale bread, as once upon a time nothing was ever thrown away….. it is rather a shame that we now throw away vast quantities of foodstuffs without a second thought!

So what are migas? Well, basically breadcrumbs with a little onion, garlic and local sausages. The breadcrumbs get their flavour by soaking up the fats from the meats. Just trust me for now, properly done they are delicious.

I have two recipes for you today for making migas, a quick version and the traditional one. As I suspect you will prefer the quick version I will start with that!

To see the recipes and the full post please click here

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Gâteau Basque

As you know I am all about in season produce. Today I thought I would talk about one of my favourite cakes, as it contains almonds, and here at least it is the almond season. I have also just come back from a trip to Laruns, my original source of this delicious delicacy.

Laruns and the mountains

Laruns, France

Laruns is a small French town in the central Pyrenees. It is the last major town before the Portalet pass into northern Spain. The town has much to recommend it, from the Gabas cheese from just up the road, to the chilled sweet white wines that are perfect for hot summer days, or the Gâteau Basque.

It is many years since I bought my first Gâteau Basque in the small bakery in the centre of town and I have

Gâteau Basque Layers

Gâteau Basque Layers

continued to buy them every time I have been down that way. As I commented in a previous post, I love custard, and this gâteau has a custard like middle layer. Unfortunately I could never work out what the outer layers were! The way it just melted in the mouth was so divine…… I decided I had to find a recipe.

The gâteau gets its name from the Basque Country, which is an area on the Atlantic coast of Spain that has a narrow border with France. Good food is to be had in most if not all of Spain, but is especially good in the Basque Country. As it is wetter than much of Spain, vegetables grow well and there is good grass to fatten livestock or to produce good quality milk and cheeses. They also have the Atlantic coast for fishing.

I decided it was time to consult my friend and advisor Google, who would surely know the answer. Alas it was not to be. A couple of years went by without much progress. I would buy a Gâteau Basque in Laruns and upon eating the last crumb burst into a flurry of activity trawling the web in search of a recipe. I found very few and those that I found never gave the gâteau I was looking for. Also, although I travelled relatively often to the Basque Country, I never actually saw a gâteau in a cake shop either.

It wasn’t until relatively recently that the obvious answer hit me. Talk about not seeing the wood for the trees……. I could get the gâteau in France, and the “Greater” Basque Country used to occupy an area in the south of France too. As soon as I started searching the internet in French I came up with recipes that did sound like what I was buying in Laruns. So after much searching and no small amount of trial and error, here is my version of the traditional (French) Gâteau Basque:


Gâteau Basque

Ingredients (20cm diameter gâteau):

For the custard filling:Gateaux Basque

250ml Milk

50g Sugar

1/2 Vanilla pod

2 drops Almond essence

3 Egg yolks

20g Flour

50g Ground almonds

For the pastry:

250g Flour

10g Baking powder

1 Egg, beaten

100g Sugar

Pinch Salt

125g Butter, melted

For the glaze:

1/2 Egg yolk

7.5ml Milk


Method:

Before I jump in with the how, a couple of comments:

Although this recipe is longer and more complex than what I normally post, do not be put off. It is not that difficult. Please also note that although the pastry is delicate, it shouldn’t be rolled out too thin. This is one of those recipes, thankfully, that bucks the current trend of wafer-thin pastry. This pastry is there to be eaten and is delicious. So just roll it out normally and put into the tin. If you do end up with breakages or holes in the pastry, they can be fixed by simply pressing in a little more dough. So don’t worry and give it a try. Do not use commercial shop-bought pastry, it will not be the same.

Boil the milk with two thirds of the custard filling sugar, the vanilla pod and the almond essence for a few minutes. Leave for a couple of hours to steep. Open vanilla pod. Extract seeds and beat back into the milk.

Meanwhile make the pastry. Mix the flour and baking powder then beat in the egg with a spoon. Beat in the sugar and the melted butter. Add just enough cold water, normally just a few drops, to make a pastry then seal in cling film for about 30 minutes.

Note that if margarine is used instead, you should chill the dough for at least an hour. Butter will harden quicker and the pastry will not roll out well.

With a whisk beat together the custard filling egg yolks, remaining sugar and the flour. Slowly beat in the milk. Beat in the almonds. Bring back to the boil to thicken up the custard.

Preheat the oven to 190ºC.

Take a 20cm diameter tin with straight sides. Grease with butter and sprinkle with flour before use.

Gateaux BasqueRoll out two thirds of the pastry and cover the base and the sides of the tin. Leave an overlap. Pour in the custard. Take the other third, roll out and use the base of the tin to cut out a circle. Carefully place over the custard.

Beat together the glaze ingredients.

Trim the pastry along the sides of the dish if necessary, there should be just enough to fold over onto the pastry circle lid. Paint the edge with a little of the glaze and fold down the pastry onto the lid pressing gently to seal around the edges.

Paint over the top of the gâteau with the rest of the glaze.

Bake for 30 minutes at 190ºC. Leave to cool in the mould.


Well I hope you like this French speciality. Give it a try and let me know what you think via the comments option on the post. Thanks.


2015 Lincoln W. Betteridge

Sloe, sloe, quick quick, sloe…….. 

Sloe, sloe, quick quick, sloe……..

The Spanish have an excellent saying, “sin prisa sin pausa”. It is a bit like the story of the tortoise and the hare, where one can get further by not rushing and not stopping rather than rushing around and, well and basically getting nowhere fast.

Pacharan

Pacharan

I don’t know about the sloe, or slow, at the moment as I seem to be rushing around from dawn to dusk. Not only am I harvesting many of my fruit trees at the moment and collecting vegetables, I am also collecting what nature provides at this time of year, walnuts, blackberries and sloes. I thought I would just do a quick post on the latter.

Sloes are generally used to make sloe gin. In Spain however they make Sloe Anisette, or should I say Pacharán. If you have been to Spain you may have seen and enjoyed the drink. It is actually from the region of Navarra where the spelling is slightly different due to the Basque influence and they would write it as Patxaran

The recipe couldn’t be simpler, the only difficulty is to leave it long enough for the flavours to fully infuse. All the recipes use the berries with additional ingredients to subtly change the flavour. Many people make their own and are often reluctant to share their secret ingredients, here however is my own brew:


Pacharan

Ingredients:

1L Sweet Anisette

Pacharan..... with the berries just starting to colour the anisette

Pacharan….. with the berries just starting to colour the anisette

1 cup Sloes

2 Cinnamon sticks

12 Coffee grains

Method:

Mix all the ingredients together and leave for at least 3 months.


As you can see, the recipe couldn’t be simpler!

Sweet Anisette is a spirit found in Mediterranean countries. It is similar to Pastis but is made via distillation rather than maceration.

I hope you enjoy it and good luck picking the berries as the bushes are quite prickly!


©2015 Lincoln Woodward Betteridge

Custards

I thought in this edition I would talk about custards…… something so simple yet to me one of the most delicious substances known to man. Yes, the humble custard is right up there at the top of my list of favourite foods. It is something that is often made with custard powder or indeed bought ready made, but it is so simple to make from scratch.

Just on a side note here, I always try and make everything from base ingredients. It is often cheaper, it reduces the number of products I have to buy and store and perhaps more importantly it helps me to know just what I am putting into my stomach!

I guess my love of custard started when I was growing up and eating for England. My Mother was good enough to buy custard in bulk. For pudding I never had fruit, unless of course it came in a pie or similar. But pie or cake, it didn’t matter, it was served completely submerged in thick custard. At first it was made from a powder which thickened, coloured and flavoured the milk, later ready made and just simply poured straight out of the tin. I was so anxious to eat the stuff I quite often didn’t even go to the bother of heating it up first!

Vanilla Slice

Vanilla Slice….. simplicity yet perfection

Then of course there were the ready made puddings or cakes that already came with custard in them. Top of the list has got to be the vanilla slice. Two simple puff pasty wafers sandwiching a thick layer of custard. Mix a little icing sugar and water, spread on the top and the perfect cake is formed.

The first recipe I ever collected was for thick custard to be used in vanilla slices. I still have it, unfortunately I no longer have the name of the person who gave me the recipe. I always like to give credit where it is due, and this time I have failed. So, if by some miracle, the reader of the following story recognises it, thanks again for one of my most used recipes.

For the first two years of my University life I caught the train to what was then Blackburn College or Preston Polytechnic. Now Blackburn college had amongst other things a catering college! Every day I was accompanied for part of the journey by four ladies who were studying the finer arts of catering. They weren’t always the most communicative ladies, indeed they sometimes looked a little peaky, often on Monday mornings….. must have been all that custard they ate at weekends!

Custard, nothing quite like it.

Custard, nothing quite like it.

It must be said that at that age I wasn’t that interested in cookery. Even if I had been, meat and chips plus cake and custard would not have taken too long to learn. I didn’t eat much else after all. If it wasn’t for the local fish and chip shop I wouldn’t have eaten any fish at all. As for vegetables, my Mother used to send me in to town for sacks of potatoes…. yes I do mean sacks and not bags!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I asked one of these four ladies for a recipe, a recipe for the custard in vanilla slices. Here, more than thirty years later is the recipe:


Custard Filling (with Custard Powder)

Ingredients:

750ml Milk

1 Egg

75g Custard Powder

75g Sugar

75g Margarine


Method:

Put most of the milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil.

Beat the egg and then beat into the reserved cold milk. Mix into the custard powder and sugar to form a paste.

Pour the boiling milk over the custard powered paste mixing together. Put the mixture back into the pan and back onto the heat until thickened.

Take off the heat and beat in the margarine.


This recipe served me well for many, many years. I decided to adapt the original recipe to omit the custard powder. Here therefore is my recipe for Custard Filling:


Custard Filling (Homemade)

Making custard.

Making custard.

Ingredients:

400ml Milk

1 Vanilla pod

4 Egg yolks

40g Cornflour

50g Vanilla Sugar

40g Margarine


Method:

Split the vanilla pod with a sharp knife. Put most of the milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil with the vanilla pod. Leave to infuse for at least 15 minutes.

Remove the pod. Scrape out the seeds and put back into the milk.

Beat the egg yolks with the cornflour and sugar and the reserved milk.

Pour the the warm milk over the egg mixture. Put the mixture back into the pan and back onto the heat until thickened.

Take of the heat and beat in the margarine.


Vanilla pods in sugar

Vanilla pods in sugar

Just a word or two on vanilla pods and vanilla sugar. Many vanilla pods are sold wrapped in plastic. Many people buy vanilla pods just before use, or at an earlier date but keep them in the original plastic wrapping. I always have four or five pods to hand but I store them upright in tall glass jars almost covered in sugar. They are easy to pull out of the sugar for use and the sugar itself is infused with the vanilla. The sugar on its own adds an amazing vanilla flavour to any recipe.

So what about pouring custard? I recalled that my Grandmother used to make custard from scratch, without any shop bought powder. Below you will find my recipe for pouring custard. I use a little cornflour to help with the consistency. I know that purists our there might be offended by this addition, but I believe it helps the consistency of the custard and reduces the risk of the eggs curdling:


Pouring Custard (Homemade)

Ingredients:

1 Vanilla Pod

250ml Milk

2 Egg yolks

30ml Cornflour

50g Vanilla Sugar


Method:

Treacle Tart with pouring custard

Treacle Tart with pouring custard

Split the vanilla pod with a sharp knife. Put most of the milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil with the vanilla pod. Leave to infuse for at least 15 minutes.

Remove the pod. Scrape out the seeds and put back into the milk.

Beat the egg yolks with the cornflour and sugar and the reserved milk.

Pour the the warm milk over the egg mixture. Put the mixture back into the pan and back onto the heat until thickened.


Well that’s about it for this time. Enjoy the custard recipes and as always, please feel free to give feedback or comments, if I am going to make this blog better I need to know what you think!


©2015 Lincoln W. Betteridge

All you need to know about Ranchos, a great Spanish stew…….

Yesterday I was in the Spanish village of Cosuenda, experiencing their local fiestas. The village itself is in the Cariñena wine region, half hidden in a valley about 2000ft up in the Iberico mountain range. What prompted me to put fingers to keyboard was the rancho competition that was underway.

P1020804

Cosuenda in Fiestas

In one of the better Spanish dictionaries, the María Moliner, it defines a rancho as a meal for soldiers and prisoners and generally of poor quality.

So why a competition to see who could make the best one? Well the dictionary couldn’t be more wrong because although the rancho ingredients are relatively humble, a rancho has a great taste and it is also a very good meal for when friends are round. A rancho, much as with a bar-b-que, is an informal gathering and allows the guests to chat and share a drink with the cook whilst back seat driving the whole culinary process.

P1020782

Hard at it, preparing the fire and the ingredients

So what is a rancho, well basically put a stew of chicken, coney (or rabbit) and sausages with potatoes and rice. There are many variations on these basic ingredients and there are even fish ranchos.

Ranchos are normally cooked in a large pan that has three metal feet so that it can sit above the flames. Some people prefer to use a standard pan and a raised base:

P1020800

Pan with legs, or a stand, take your pick!

Either way works just fine. If neither are available then just cook in a normal pan on the stove.

Everyone has their own recipe. Just wandering the square and talking to the the different teams I could see big differences. One team for example added in a little monkfish to enhance the flavour whilst another used swiss chard leaves like a sponge at the last moment to soak up any excess fats.

My own recipe is as follows:


Meat Rancho

Ingredients (4 Good Servings):

1 Large onion

2 Green peppers

4 Garlic cloves

¼ Chicken in pieces

¼ Coney in pieces

125g Pork ribs, in pieces

125g Pork ribs in adobo in pieces

250g Longaniza in pieces

Bay leaf

Rosemary

Thyme

3 Large potatoes

50g Rice

Salt and pepper


Method:

Any variety of meats can be used. Where coney can’t be had just substitute with chicken. Where longaniza can’t be found I would just use some local sausages.

Pork ribs in adobo are ribs that have been marinated to give a spicier flavour. Just put in what you have. As I say every recipe is different and it is more about finding a mixture that you like than a strict set of ingredients.

P1020788

Just a bit more salt I think…….

Chop the onion, peppers and garlic. Put into a bowl.

Put the meat together in another bowl.

Fry the vegetables until almost done, then add in the meat and brown nicely. Cover with water. Add in the herbs then leave at a good simmer for 45 minutes.

Peel then break the potatoes into medium sized pieces. Add into the rancho and cook for a further 10 minutes. Spaniards always break the potatoes by partially inserting a knife then pulling rather than cutting the potatoes into pieces. This leaves a rough surface that they believe better releases the starches and therefore thickens the stock.

Add the rice and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 15 minutes.

Salt and pepper should be added with the individual ingredients, then adjusted at the end. If the “adobo” ribs are salty, then add less salt with the meat.


P1020802

The local support.

The previous weekend we had some German friends, “U” and “R” over (hello,  you know who UR). It turned out that R had eliminated meat from his diet, so the rancho I was going to make ended up being a fish rancho.  Fish ranchos are not that common, but I had a recipe up my sleeve from a town called Falces in Navarra.

Navarra and the Basque Country are great places to eat, possibly the best in Spain, so any recipe from there is fine with me. As to why Falces, well my wife and I have been to there a few times as her Uncle is from there. On one of the trips I picked up the recipe.

Before I get into the recipe, a word on fish in Spain. Spaniards in general eat a large amount of fish, but Spain is a large country and many towns are a long way from the sea. Whilst with modern transport this is no longer an issue, that of course wasn’t always  the case. One of the commonest ways of preserving fish for a long road trip was by salting. The commonest fish then, and possibly even now, is salted cod.

The fish is dried using salt and can then be kept almost indefinitely. It is brought back from the dead by soaking in water. The secret is how many long to soak for and how many times to change the water. If unsure it is always best to over soak, as if the final dish is lacking in seasoning one can always add a little more salt. It is always easier to add salt than to take it away! Either way, taste the stock throughout the cooking of the rancho, only adding additional salt if required.


P1020809

Just add water and let it stew……

Fish Rancho from Falces

Ingredients (4 Good Servings):

500g Dried cod strips

1 Large Onion

2 Green peppers

8 Garlic cloves

3 Tomatoes

250g Large prawns

White wine

3 Large potatoes

50g Rice

Salt and pepper


Method:

To remove the salt from the cod soak it in water in the fridge for 36 hours changing the water three times.

The bigger the pieces of dried cod, the more expensive and the more time it will need in the water. These is a cheap dish so typically small strips of cod are used.

Fresh cod can also be used, but add in five to ten minutes from the end of the cooking time depending upon the size of the pieces.

Chop the onion, garlic and peppers then fry until almost done.

Peel and chop the tomatoes. Add the tomatoes, prawns and cod into the pan. Fry for a couple of minutes then add a good dash of white wine and water to cover.

Cook for 15 minutes at a good steady simmer.

Peel and break the potatoes, don’t cut. Add potatoes into the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Add the rice and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 15 minutes.

Salt and pepper should be adjusted at the end. Taste the stock and add in additional salt as necessary.


This is my first real post to this blog, so I hope someone is out there reading it! Please let me know what you think, both about the post in general or the recipes themselves. I would love to hear back from you, the only way for me to improve is to understand what I can do better.

Either way, thanks for taking the time to read my musings and hope you stay around to read my future posts.