Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Time to fire up the BBQ: rib eye steak, chimichurri, deep fried onion blossoms and Fuzion Organic Malbec

Summer and BBQ. You just can't beat that! My not so secret weapons for making the most of it? Big, juicy rib eye steak, chimichurri and gloriously crunchy deep-fried onion blossoms. 

Another dressing worth trying would be Romesco. And hey - how about a little surf and turf with this mango, chili and crayfish dressing?

In case cutting your onions into blossoms is just too Hyacinth Bucket for you, just cut the onions into 1 cm thick slices and folow the steps down below. Trust me - you're not going to want to miss out on these babies!

Serves 2

rib eye steaks:

2 rib eye steaks
a little bit of oil
salt, pepper

Take the meat into room temperature a couple of hours in advance. Pat the steaks dry, brush with a little bit of oil and grill for 3 minutes on each side. Season with salt and pepper, wrap in tin foil and leave to rest for 15 minutes. 

In case you use a pan instead, heat it up, add a couple of tbsp of oil and a similar knob of butter. Cook the steaks in the mixture, basting them ever now and them . Wrap in foil and leave to rest. 

In the meanwhile prep the sides. 


6 handfuls of parsley (roughly 60 grams or two large bunches)
3 tbsp fresh oregano (or 1,5 tbsp dried)
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cilli flakes
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp orange juice
1,25 dl oil
(1 tsp sugar)

Measure the ingredients into a food processor and blizz until smooth. Check the taste and adjust with salt, pepper and/or sugar if needed.

Deep fried onion blossoms:

4 small onions or 2 larger ones

2 dl al purpose flour
1 tbsp salt 
1 tbsp black pepper
1/2 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp fresh thyme (or 1/2 tbsp dried)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 eggs

bread crumbs (or Panko for extra crispness)

Oil for frying

Cut off about 1,5 cm piece off the top of the onion (not the hairy stem). Peel the onions and place them on a achopping board cut side down. Starting about 1 cm from the stem, cut the onion all the way through to the middle on all for sides, then repeating it 2-3 times in each quarter (depends on the size of the onions). Turn it around and gently separate the "petals" from each other.

Combine the dry ingredients in a deep bowl. Toss the onions in it, one at a time and the dip into the egg (spooning some of the mixture inside the petals if needed). The  coat them in bread crumbs (again making sure you get some inside the petals, too). Shake off the excess and deep fry until golden and crunchy. Drain on kitchen towels and serve.

Aptly enough for the Souther American vibe (oh, bit, are they onto something with their meat feasts...!), the wine pairing comes from South America, too. Fuzion Organic Malbec is cheao and cheerful organic Argentinian  - exactly what casual , fun get togethers call for. 

It's medium bodied with soft berry notes and juiciness that make it a easy pairing for a variety of BBQ treats. The jamminess pairs well with spicier dishes, too!





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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Chocolate meat balls? Albondigas de choco - cuttlefish balls

Though I've spent years researching (yes, thats one way of putting it...) the selection in Andalusian tapas bars, occasionally even I'm in for a surprise. In Cadiz I kept bumping into albondigas de choco, which I was immediately intrigued by. Albondigas we all know - the blog has recipes for traditional Spanish tapas meat balls and for a version pimped with chorizo. But choco? Chocolate? Chocolate meat balls? Seriously?


Turned out choco means cuttlefish, which is something that's being fished and consumed in Cadiz a lot. Just look at the selection at the fish market... And if there's something I love even me than chocolate, it is any member of the octopus family. Dios mios - these dreamily light and flully balls are probably the best thing I brought back from my trip. Just try them - they'll melt in your mouth!

Makes 30 balls

Albondigas de choco - cuttlefish balls:

500 g cuttlefish 
1 smallish onion
2 garlic cloves
handful of chopped parsley
1,5 tsp finely grated lemon zest
2 eggs
9 tbsp bread crumbs
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

(Plus flour for dredging, optional)

For frying: 1 dl oil

The sauce:

1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2,5 dl whte wine
5 dl good fish stock
1 bay leaf
pinch of saffron

Clean the cuttlefish if needed. Rinse and drain thoroughl. Cut into smaller pieces and measure into  a food processor along with the rest of the ingredients. Blizz until you have a smooth mixture (it's ok to leave some rougher bits). Avoid the temptation to add more bread crumbs to get a more solid texture as that easily results in dry and hard balls. And that's something we don't want...

Let the mixture rest in cold for half an hour. 

Roll into 30 balls (the mixture is a little loose, but don't worry - that's just what we want!) and dredge them in flour, shaking off the excess. This part is optional, but it does help thicken the sauce, too. Fry them in oil until golden brown and transfer aside. 

Add remaining onion and garlic into the oil left from frying the balls. Sauté util their soft and translucent but don't let them brown. Pour in white wine and bring to boil. Let boil for 5 minutes and then add fish stock, saffron and bay leaf. Check the taste and season as needed. 

Let boiluntil it thickens. Then add the balls, lower the heat and let simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Serve. With some chilled Verdejo and dreams of Andalusian sun...




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Friday, 20 May 2016

Cadiz by night

Though Cadiz charmed me with all its light and colour, it's quite possibly even more beautiful by night.

That's when its run-down charm really comes to life in a magical way.

Because Cadiz does not have an airport, many of the tourists that come here are cruise ship passengers. About 300 ocean liners top here for a day, bringing with them about 400 000 tourists. As the evening falls they will have returned to their ships and continued their journey and the locals start populating city's  cafes and tapas bars.

The narrow streets of old city are completely empty and one gets to explore them all by themselves. A laughter echoes in the air from one of city's many squares, where people gather until late at night.

Grandmothers catch up with the latest gossip from the wrought iron balconies from opposite sides of the streets. Somewhere laundry is being hung. Over there someone is deep in his thoughts, smoking the last cigarette of the evening.

Imagination starts racing on the dimly lit cobble stoned alleys. There's something about the ambiance that echoes 1920's Paris. Any moment one would expect a Ford A-model pull up from around the corner, emptying a decadent bunch of people on the street in their search of a speakeasy. Gentlemen in their dapper suits carrying bottles of Champagne, giggling ladies with curly hair and long pearl strands.

Cadiz is magical. 

At the end of one street there's a shop that's still open. A Chinese group is comparing the prices of bottles of whisky. I turn around. I'm not ready for this spell to be broken; to join the rest of the world. I want to stay in this moment and hold on to this feeling of having all this all to myself. 

I emerge from my thoughts smiling and continue my expedition. Ooh, I wonder what's behind that corner...!

* The trip was organized in collaboration with Cadiz Tourism *





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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Cadiz - city of light, colour and watchtowers

With population of only 120 000 Cadiz feels instantly welcoming and homey. But frustrating, too. In the first 2 days I always seem to be at the wrong place though my hotel is located right next to City Hall Square Plaza Ayuntamiento, located between the new and Old Cadiz. 

Then I remember the troubles I experienced in Tunis (and, in all honesty, in every single city I've ever visited), which I explained away with theory (than in my own head genuinely made sense) that midgets had been up all night (again), relocating all the streets...

Yep, my legendary sense of direction's got the best of me (again) - I've been holding the map upside down. 

Cadiz is built in the shape of a hand. Its narrow arm, on both sides surrounded by the sea, houses the new Cadiz. The old Cadiz, with barrios, her ancient neighbourhoods, spreads around the hand, located on the shores of Atlantic.

Those different coloured lines painted on the cobble stones mark diferent sightseeing routes making their way through the old city. Convenient. Though I, of course,  only learnt that after I'd finally managed to find myself on the map...

And sights there are to see - Cadiz is, after all, the oldest continuously inhabited city in Spain and the whole Southern Europe. The names comes from the Arabic name for the city, Qadis, which was derived from the Latin name for a fortress. But all this can be traced back to the Phoenicians, that famous sea-faring nations. 

They were the ones who founded the city 1100 BC and the city was of great significance to them. The only Phoenician sarcophagi ever discovered in Spain, were discovered here. Apart from a couple of others found in Sicily, they are the only to ever surface in Europe at large. 

The male coffin was addicentally discovered in 1887. The archaeologist who found it remained, until his death, convinced there had to be a female one somewhere out there, too (cherchez la femme!) and sure enough - almost a hundred years later one was found.  You'll never guess where, though: underneath the house that archaeologist had lived in that now had been torn down.

Both of these sarcophagi are now located in Cadizin archaeological museum (another interesting detail about the museum is, that the admission is free for all EU citizens).

After the Phoenicians the city served as Roman naval base, followed by a Visigoth Period. From 711 onwards the city was ruled by Moorish conquerors until King Alfonso X The Wise reconquered the city in Reconquista of 1262.

Much like elsewhere in Andalusia, the legacy of the Arab conquerors lives on in the local architecture so don't forget to peer into the courtyards and hallways, covered in these amazing azulejos, ornamental Andalusian tiles. 

The centuries after Reconquista saw Cadiz blossom. Christopher Columbus set sail here for his second and fourth journey to the New World and following those trips Cadiz only grew more important. It became an important port for trade which also had its downside: it subsequently became a major target for attacks by the English.

In 1587 certain Francis Drake invaded the port for three days, capturing six ships, destroying further 31 and delaying the Spanish Armada's departure by a whole year.

Casa de Contratación, House of Trade that oversaw the trade between Spain and Americ,a was initially located in Seville, but was later relocated to the logistically more ideal Cadiz. In the 18th century the city was responsible for a whopping 75 percent of the  trade between the two countries. 

The importance of sea-faring and trade is visible in city's architecture, too: Cadiz is also known as the city of watchtowers. 

(I doubt that's why Jehovah's Witnesses were out in full force with their Watchtowers, however, but they were - all over the city.)

Back in 18th century there were 160 watchtowers in the city, out of those 126 are still standing. The merchants and nobility were busy building incredible town houses out of which each one housed towers where the watch men would keep an eye on the approaching ships. 

A typical example is this Casa del Almirante, built in 1690. This four-storey delight, dripping with red and white marble, stands in the Old City close to the City Hall Square and completely captured my heart. Even more so after I learnt it's actually for sale. 

What a fine place this would make for that little commune of ours, don't you think?

What has proven to be problematic with these buildings is their protected status. This means that all the restoration is regulated by strict rules which make the process one very costly and time-consuming enterprise. This usually scares off even the most persistant of boutique hotel entrepreneurs.

One tower that is open for the public, too is Torre Tavira, which offers beautiful panoramic views over the entire Cadiz.

Should you need a cooling breeze, head over to popular Park Genovés, famous for its tree sculptures. Columbus himself is told to have brought back some of the old, exotic trees found in Cadiz still today. 

Elsewhere in Spain the people of Cadiz are known as gaditanos; a name derived from city's ancient name. They're famous for their fun-loving nature and zest for life. Part of this is definitely down to the annual Carnival - the one in Cadiz has a reputation as the wildest one in the whole of Spain. 

Gaditanos are always said to be ready to party, enjoy good food and wine and their friends' company late into the night.

(No wonder I felt so at home, then!)

I've also heard Cadiz being called the Havanna of Europe. No wonder - Cadiz is such a celebration of light and colour. 

That joie de vivre really bubbles in the air. And it is catchy. 

I'd go back tomorrow if I could. How about you guys? Familiar with the charm of Cadiz yourselves? What were your favourites?





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Monday, 16 May 2016

Ensaladilla ceviche - globetrotter's fish ceviche salad

Oh, how well I ate in Andalusia (again...) - I've feasted on enough seafood and Iberico pork to see me through the rest of the.. well, month, anyway. Travelling alone is a bit tricky though- when everything sounds and looks so irresistible, one person really struggles to get through all the food at the table with no-one to share it with...

Sure, tapas bars have some salads on their menus, too, but they're hardly the lighter option. Ok, the ensaladillas might have some genuine veggies in them, too, but swimming in a massive quantities of mayo. 

After returning home I've been trying to eat a little lighter and so one day I whipped u a batch of this fresh and summery fish ceviche salad. Instead of mayo it has some Greek yogurt and even that just a couple of spoonfuls. The salad is quite a United Nations, boasting influences from all over the world in the form of sweet chilli sauce, pomegranate seeds, fresh coriander and mint.

The portion below feeds six as a starter. Easily. As a tapas size portions it's enough for 10. At least. 

I really ought to do something about my greed.

Serves 6-10

Fish ceviche salad with watermelon and mint:

700 g neutral flavoured white fish (halibut, sea bass...)
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 tsp salt
5 limes, juiced

3 tomatos, deseeded and chopped to 1 cm cubes
1/2 large cucumber, deseeded and chopped to 1 cm cubes
200 g watermelon (rind removed), chopped to 1 cm cubes
the seeds of a pomegranate
2 bunches of coriander, finely chopped
handful of chopped mint leaves

3 tbsp Greek yogurt
3 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1/2 tsp granulated garlic

salt, pepper (to taste) 

Dice the fish into 1 cm cubes. Transfer into a (plastic) bowl with onion. Sprinkle salt on top and to with lime juice. Cover and leave to cure in the fridge for half an hour, stirring every now and then. In the meanwhile prep the rest of the ingredients.

Cut the tomatos and cucumber in half. Scoop out the seeds and chop the veggies into 1 cm cubes. Combine with the herbs. In another bowl mix together the dressing.

Drain the fish and onion and add into the veggies. Gently fold in the dressing. Check the taste, season as needed and serve.

Great with corn crisps and very, very cold corn beer...





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