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Category: seafood | fish

Cassava & Plantain (or Bananas) Mofongo with Pollo Encebollado

I made this dish a couple of weeks ago and although it was “to die for”, I took horrible and unappetising pictures*… so I just had to repeat it of course! ¬†Well, and the second and most important reason is that it’s really delicious. ūüėČ

The first time I made it with regular sweet bananas, the kind you eat as fruit. I fried them just like you do with the plantains and mixed it with the cooked cassava root. The result was very tasty, slightly sweet and a great combination with the pork back rashers/bacon. So, if you don’t have plantains on hand, definitely try this with regular bananas.

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With the plantains, the flavour will depend on whether you’re using the “platano verde” (less ripe) or the “maduro” (ripe and sweeter). I happen to have one of each!

Mofongo is a traditional dish in Puerto Rico and usually served with a tomato-based sauce with chicken, shrimp or pulled pork. But the sauce and toppings you use are entirely up to you and your palate. I am not a big fan of tomato-based sauces, so I made a typical Spanish recipe, called Pollo Encebollado, which is basically chicken with onions. It’s super easy to make and always comes out delicious.

I served the mofongo with creamed spinach, for the recipe please click on the link.

Cassava & Plantain Mofongo with Pollo Encebollado
Recipe Type: Easy
Cuisine: Latin American, Spanish
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 large cassava, peeled (about 300g), cut into chunks
  • 2 large plantains (or if you don’t have them, 3 regular bananas can also be substituted – it makes the dish sweeter), cut into thick slices
  • 4 cloves garlic, halved
  • 2 strips of pork back rashers or bacon, diced
  • 3 large chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces (you can also use thighs/legs meat for juicier results)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 large golden onions
  • 3 small red onions
  • 1/8 cup to 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric/curcuma
  • sea salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup filtered water
Instructions
  1. For the mofongo: Cook the pork rashers or bacon in a fry pan. Set aside.
  2. Peel and cut the cassava into slices. You can either cook it in water until tender or fry it. Drain and set aside.
  3. Fry the plantains or bananas in coconut or olive oil. Drain and set aside.
  4. In a mortar or large bowl, with a pestle, ground the 4 cloves of garlic.
  5. Add the cassava and bananas and ground everything until you form a paste. You may have to do this in step, if you have a small mortar.
  6. Add the pork rashers or bacon bits. Mix well.
  7. Place on serving plates, by shaping the mofongo into a “bowl”. I made mine by placing it inside a round cookie form and later making an indentation in the center.
  8. For the “onion chicken” or pollo encebollado:
  9. In a deep sauce pan or wok, heat the olive oil with the chicken.
  10. Cook until the chicken is slightly brown on all sides.
  11. Add the onions and turmeric and cook about 5 minutes, until the onions begin to get tender.
  12. Add the water and wine and season to taste.
  13. Cook for 20-25 minutes on low heat and until the sauce thickens. Add more water if necessary, should the sauce become too thick.
  14. Serve over the mofongo “bowls” and enjoy!

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*I have to admit that I’m posting this time around anyway, although I also don’t think the pictures are that great. I really¬†must¬†start using my better camara and learning more about styling and food photography!

Moules Marinieres (Mussels) & Happy New Year!

One of my favourite things to eat during the summer months when travelling through Belgium and France are “moules frites”. Moules are mussels and frites are french fries. Belgium is famous for their french fries, where there are shops dedicated to selling only frites with mayonnaise and spicey sauces and there’s even a museum dedicated to the french fry!

Ironically, I’ve never been a huge fan of french fries, unless they are homemade…but the moules I can’t get enough of! Since this past summer, I had been dreaming with making some moules marinieres at home, but haven’t been able to find the mussels in my local shopping area in London.

But now, on our holiday visit with my parents, we went to their local fish shop and bought some perfect mussels¬†for our New Year’s Day lunch, which ended up being more of an early dinner with a delicious second plate of salmon with spaghetti squash… but that’s for another post! ūüėČ

The following version is pretty basic, to which you can add things like roquefort cheese or other flavours should you wish to. My favourite is this basic sauce, however, and that is what we enjoyed today.

MOULES MARINIERES

Ingredients, for 4 (or about 2 kilos of moules)

  • 2 kilos fresh, medium to smaller sized mussels
  • 1/2 liter dry white wine
  • fresh parsely, 4-5 sprigs
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large leaks, cleaned and finely sliced
  • fresh thyme, a large sprig
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 3¬†stalks celery with leaves
  • 50g butter (about 1/2 stick)

Process

Clean the mussels and rinse well to ensure they have no sand. Make sure to only use the ones that are closed, as the animal is thus alive. Set aside. (If storing overnight – before cleaning, as we did in the fridge, place a bowl filled with something heavy, such as potatoes, over top to ensure they do not open.)

Prepare all of the vegetables. Create a bouquet with the parsley, thyme, bay leaves and the part of the leaves of 2 celery stalks. I tied mine with a nylon string used for cooking. Set aside.

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, leeks, garlic and saute until soft (but not long enough to change colour). Then add the bouquet and stir to mix.

Add the white wine. Immediately add the mussels and stir to mix well with the onion mixture. Add the remaining celery stalk, cut in 2-3 pieces. Cover and cook, stirring a couple of times, until all the mussels open up, about 8 minutes.

Remove from heat and allow to sit about 3 minutes, covered, before serving.

In France and Belgium, the moules are served in their own enamel-coated 1-kg cooking pots. However, as we do not have these pots, we served them in shallow bowls. Enjoy with some Spanish albarinho or favourite white wine!

Garlic Butter Shrimp & Mushrooms with Courgette Pasta

While in Vietnam, I took a cooking course in Hanoi and used this amazingly rustic kitchen tool. I was even luckier when our instructor/chef allowed me to take one home with me. It’s slightly dangerous looking (thankfully I had the Tetanus vaccination just before the trip) and can be made with a piece of wood and a can of soda actually. Anyway, we made a divine green papaya salad, which I intend to make soon, as soon as my order of Vietnamese food stuff arrives. But in the meantime, I’ve played around with the tool to make spaghetti out of courgettes or zucchini.

I’ve seen a number of gluten-free and Paleo sites using this type of “pasta” as a substitution for real pasta dishes and I thought I’d give it a try too. I have to say, they are amazing, better than wheat or regular pasta!

The dish today is a variation of an appetiser that I’ve made for one Christmas that my parents visited us in Germany. My father couldn’t stop raving about it…so I thought I’d make something similar with which to accompany the “pasta”.

 

GARLIC BUTTER SHRIMP & MUSHROOMS WITH COURGETTE PASTA

Ingredients, for 2

  • 4 courgettes/zucchini
  • 6 cloves of garlic (adjust according to your taste, however), minced
  • 1/2 kilo of raw shrimp, shelled, rinsed and pat dry
  • 6 medium brown mushrooms, sliced
  • sea salt and pepper, to taste
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • juice of 1 1/2 lemons
  • fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese

Process

Rinse the courgettes and peel. With a special vegetable slicer (or if you are lucky to have one of the same tools I have), create noodles out of the vegetables. Set aside. Place a pot with water and a pinch of salt on the stove over  high heat and bring to boil.

In the meantime, in a saucepan or wok, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. When both are hot, add the garlic and saute 3 minutes, stirring frequently so that the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the shrimp and cook at medium heat until they start to turn pink. Add the mushrooms and cook until shrimp are done, about 1-2 minutes (do not overcook, or the shrimp will be hard and dry). Add sea salt and pepper, to taste. Squirt lemon juice over and stir. Remove from heat.

When the water is at boiling point, add the courgette pasta and cook about 3 minutes. Do not cook longer or you’ll end up with a vegetable mush instead of the stringy pasta shape desired. You also want the vegetable to be slightly al-dente.

To serve: place the pasta on the plate and spoon the garlic shrimp and mushrooms with sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and cilantro. And it’s ready to eat!

 

 

Ceviche

I literally cried, sneezed and coughed my way through making this dish. The sneezing and coughing started when I cut up the peppers (and they were only “mild”) and the crying took place with the chopping up of the onion. Onions always do this to me. I used to get away with not crying when I have my contacts on; but lately not even the contacts protect me from a bout of tears…

My mother learned how to make ceviche, when we lived in Panama. And this dish, which is traditional in a number of Latin American countries, is a favourite at home with my father and now my husband. In fact, my husband always requests ceviche when we are visiting my parents.

Ceviche can be made with shrimp, scallops or fish (the one we use the most and which provides the best results is sea bass). But whatever seafood you do use, make sure it’s very fresh and of course, raw. The citrus juices do the “cooking”.

CEVICHE DE GAMBAS (SHRIMP CEVICHE) 

Ingredients:

  • 400g fresh, raw shrimp
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeeze lime juice
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 small green chili pepper (mine, as said, were mild; however, you can substitute for poblano or jalapeno if you want a bit more “punch” in the ceviche), finely chopped
  • 1 small red chili pepper, finely chopped
  • lime wedges, for serving
  • tortilla chips

Process:

In a glass or ceramic bowl, combine all of the ingredients, except the shrimp and lime wedges. Add the shrimp and toss well to coat. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight, until the shrimp are opaque and have absorbed the flavours of the marinade. The citrus, salt and the peppers actually “cook” or macerate the shrimp. (I left mine overnight in the fridge.)

Serve cold with tortilla chips and lime wedges.

Oven-Baked Fish and Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

After a weekend on the continental side of the North Sea and eating only fish and seafood, I was determined to continue once we arrived home, since I love anything that comes from the sea and don’t always get enough of it. I was a bit undecided about with what to pair the fish I settled on, as their wasn’t much left in the fridge after our trip, until I read an interesting recipe on my friend’s blog, Edible Harmony. Edible Harmony has gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free, healthy recipes, all of which are delicious for any palate!
I found a recipe for fried “rice”, which is not made with rice at all, but ground cauliflower instead. And I was inspired (especially since I had a head of cauliflower in the fridge!). It’s a healthy variation for a traditional accompaniment to any dish.

Oven-Baked Fish & Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

Ingredients, for two persons
  • 2 whole fish, any type you prefer
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • majada: a bunch of parsley and 3-4 cloves garlic
  • sea salt to taste
  • olive oil
  • white cooking wine
Process
Preheat oven to 180C, fan setting. Clean the fish and place in a baking dish, greased with olive oil. In a mortar and pestle, grind the parsley, the garlic, and a pinch of sea salt to create the majada.
Put some of the majada inside the gut, along with a couple of slices of tomato. Use remaining majada and tomato slices on top of the fish. Pour some olive oil over fish and add some white wine to the dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until fish is cooked inside and there is no blood showing. (Depending on your oven, the time can vary.)
Serve with Cauliflower “Rice”, adapted from Edible Harmon’s recipe*
Ingredients
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • soy sauce (if you do not use soy, even fermented, substitute for sea salt or coconut aminos, as Edible Harmony suggests)
  • olive oil, about 3 tablespoons
  • sesame oil, about 2 teaspoons
Process
Wash and cut up the cauliflower in medium chunks/florets. In a blender, grind the cauliflower florets until they are the size of rice. Set aside.
In a wok, heat the oils and add the onions and garlic. Saute 2 minutes and add the carrots. Stir-fry until the carrots are tender, but not soft (“al dente”). Push the vegetables to one side of the wok, and add the beaten eggs on the other side.
Cook and scramble the eggs. Once they are done, add the cauliflower and stir all of the contents together.  Add soy sauce to taste and continue stir-frying until the cauliflower is tender, but not too soft.
*To my regular fried-rice, I add other vegetables and pineapple, depending what I have on hand. As I was new to this recipe, I only added carrots. But you can obviously experiment, as you like.

Mayonnaise Without Eggs! (and Ensaladilla)

Today was the penultimate torch relay day for the London Olympics 2012. So, we rushed out to see it passing through North End Road, in West Kesington. We made the right choice of viewing location, as there were many people, but nothing overwhelming nor crowded. In fact, it was rather easy to get there on the tube, as well as coming back home.
Since we left before lunch, we decided to eat out at our destination. We each had a kebab, standing on the sidewalk, waiting for the torch relay procession. It was probably the worst kebab we’ve ever had. Needless to say, yet I’m saying it nonetheless, we ate a few bites and threw the kebabs out. So, by the time we arrived home, we were quite hungry and with nothing prepared to eat.
I’ve had a craving for¬†homemade mayonnaise for some days now. I remember helping my great-uncle in Spain make traditional, egg mayonnaise, and having to pour the olive oil very slowly and very carefully, as he whipped the egg yolks with a fork by hand. It was a tedious and patience-defying process, but the results were delicious!
Anyway,¬†, I decided today was the day to make it and of course make proper use of it with a typical Spanish summer salad, called Ensaladilla, since it’s so warm out in London.
The ensaladilla takes on various forms, depending on one’s own preference and family recipes. The most typical one is called ensaladilla rusa, named after Lucien Olivier, a Russian chef, who created the salad circa 1860. It generally includes peas. However, I don’t really like them, so I make mine without. Additionally, instead of the canned tuna I used today, one can use cooked fish of a meaty/chunky type or even fresh, cooked tuna. My mother particularly likes to make hers with chunks of cooked sea bass.
Mayonnaise Without Eggs or Milk Mayonnaise*
I started making a traditional egg mayonnaise, but after ruining two batches and with no eggs left, I decided I should try the milk version, which I haven’t made in a long time.
Ingredients
  • 100 ml of room temperature milk
  • 150 ml of olive oil, extra virgin
  • sea salt
  • lemon juice
Process
Add the juice of 1/2 a lemon and a pinch of salt to the milk. Place this in a blender and start to blend. Add olive oil, VERY slowly (as a string), until emulsified. You will know if you’ve gone past the emulsifying point, as the milk and the oil will separate. If this happens, you will have to start all over again. For the ensaladilla, I made a double batch.


Ensaladilla
Ingredients
  • 4 medium carrots, washed and not peeled
  • 4 medium potatoes, washed and not peeled
  • 3 medium eggs, boiled for 11 minutes
  • 1/2 kilo of small shrimp or the equivalent of medium shrimp, by volume, with shells
  • two small cans of tuna in olive oil, or fresh tuna, cooked, if you prefer
  • pimiento morron (for decoration, and optional)
Process
Place the washed vegetables in a pot with water and cook. The carrots should be tender, but not overcooked, in about 20 minutes. Poke them with a fork; if they require more time, adjust. The potatoes should take about 30 minutes to be tender, but as potatoes vary by type, check with fork as well. When the vegetables are done, rinse with cold water and let cool. Peel and cut into squares.
Boil the eggs. When done, rinse with cold water and let cool. Peel, reserving the egg yolk for decoration. Cut the whites into squares.
Cook the shrimp in their shells in a separate pot. Once they are done, rinse with cold water and let cool. Peel. If they are medium sized, save a few for decoration, and cut the rest in half.
Place all of the cooked ingredients and two small cans of tuna in a bowl. Add all the mayonnaise, reserving about 6 tablespoonfuls. Mix well, without breaking the vegetables. Spread into a shape in a serving platter and cover with the remaining mayonnaise. Spread the mayonnaise over so it looks like frosting of a cake.
Decorate with grated egg yolks, some shrimp and pimiento morron.
Buen Provecho!
*I’m a bit lactose intolerant yet don’t generally have a problem with the milk version, but for those of you who do, you can substitute with yoghourt or make the egg version, which I’ll post separately.¬†

Tapeo Sevillano (Tapas Sevilla-style) and Coquinas de Huelva

I was in Sevilla in late June-early July, and in time to enjoy the snail season, amongst other delights for the palate. Snails are commonly eaten in Spain, as caracoles (little snails) and cabrillas (a large, escargot size). The mollusk is in season from the beginning of Spring to roughly late-July, mid-August, depending on origin. Lately, the season starts as early as March, with these snails coming from Morocco. The harvest of the local snail typically starts in April-May.
Caracoles are typically served in small transparent glasses, where one can see the snails and the clear, spicy broth through the glass. When eating caracoles, Spaniards tend to make a lot of noise trying to suck out the little critters.
Cabrillas (pictured below) on the other hand are made in a thicker sauce, usually almond or tomato-based. It’s a delicious treat to dip some bread into the sauce and enjoy this in addition to the snails.
There are, of course, hundreds, if not thousands, of varieties of tapas. In fact, one can make a tapa out of any dish. The origin of the tapa is obscured in legends and stories. But the general consensus is that bartenders starting placing a small plate on top of a glass of wine or beer or even a coffee to cover the contents and protect them from flies falling in, while the customers chatted between sips. In Sevilla, I’ve always heard that bartenders in coffee houses would send over a coffee or drink to the customers of the barber shops with a cover to protect the beverage en route across the street. Whatever the history, little by little, the tapa has evolved into an entire cuisine, which is quite sophisticated and a delectable way to experience the rich flavours of Spain.Spaniards like to have a few tapas and a cold beer, preferably a Cruzcampo, or a glass wine before lunch, usually eaten at home during the approximately two hour mid-day break from work. Tapas are also enjoyed in the evening, and times vary by region. In the south, where we eat the latest, one can usually find a tapa bar open from about 8pm onwards until 1am or later, if it’s summer and the evening is warm.

Another delicacy, which was in season during my visit, is coquinas de Huelva. Coquinas are a small, elongated clam found on the beaches of the coast of Huelva. My mother tells me many stories of how as a child, growing up there, she and her cousins would go “fishing” for coquinas during the summer. They are very easy to make and as addictive as eating pipas, or sunflower seeds (another typical Andalusian pastime)!
Coquinas de Huelva
Ingredients
  • fresh coquinas, about 1 wine glass per person (about 50 g per person), washed
  • olive oil
  • parsley to taste, finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • sea salt
Process
In a skillet, pour about 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil, and heat up. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and the coquinas. Cook, moving occasionally, until the clams open.
Once all the clams are open, add the white wine and the parsley. Cook 1 minute or so and add salt to taste, if necessary. Remove from stove and serve immediately. Enjoy!
*Instead of coquinas (pictured), another variety of clams can be used. 

Welcome with Fideua

Wow! London is so inviting when the sun shines and it’s warm out. I went out for a walk to take advantage of this rarity, in a city, which is typically grey and wet. And on the walk, I made the decision to create this blog to share my experiences, discoveries and photographs of my travels and to have a place to compile recipes, which I find in my search and passion for new foods and challenges.
Gorgeous sunshine during my walk today.


I am half-Spanish, half-American and grew up in the south of Spain. I’ve travelled around the world since the prime age of 3 months…and hope to never stop discovering new places and revisiting old ones!¬†

Now, I live in London with my husband, and we moved here about 6 months ago. Adjusting to the weather has been a challenge, although we were relocated from Germany, which does not necessarily have 360 days under the sun, as Spain proclaims. But London has a lot to offer otherwise and it’s an amazing place to explore.

Yet, every once in a while, there is a need to get away and soak up some Vitamin D au naturel, in Spain for example.


During my recent visit to Sevilla, not only did I procure a healthy tan, but also enjoyed a number of my favourite dishes. One of them is a typical dish from Valencia, called Fideua, which my aunt made for me.

Valencia is the region of Spain, south of Catalonia, on the Mediterranean coast. It’s famous for producing Valencia oranges, Marcona almonds, rice, and has an extensive repertoire of seafood dishes; one of the most famous is the paella.

The Fideua is similar to the paella, but is made with noodles instead of rice.


Fideua de Gandia, adapted from Evarist Miralles, Best Chef Spain 2011. 

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 400 g of Fideua noodles (number 3 in Spain)¬†
  • 250 g of monkfish, clean and cut up in chunks
  • 12 large shrimp, with skin and heads
  • 1 teaspoon of pimenton (or paprika)
  • 1 calamar or sepia (squid), cleaned and cut up in slices and pieces
  • 2-3 large spoonfuls of tomato sauce with chunks or homemade tomato sauce
  • “majada de ajo”: 2-3 cloves of garlic and parsley, crushed with a mortar and pestle
  • 1 litre of fish broth*
  • 1/2 cup of white cooking wine
  • sea salt to taste
Fish broth: in a pot, bring to boil and simmer, the following ingredients: 2-2.5 litres of water, one whole fish (scaled and clean), one large onion, 2 carrots (cut into large pieces), and 2 celery sticks. Cook for about 30 minutes, and leave to rest for about 20 minutes, so the flavours integrate. 

Process
In a large skillet or paella pan (for 6 persons), heat the olive oil, enough to cover about half of the bottom of the pan. Once the olive oil is warm, add a few pinches of sea salt and stir. Add the shrimp and saute, enough for the shrimp to turn pink. Remove the shrimp from the pan. 

In the same oil, saute the monkfish and remove from pan. Again in the same oil, saute the calamar/sepia. Add the pimenton to the calamar, frying just a bit and moving both the calamar and pimenton together. Do not over-fry the pimenton, or it will turn sour. Add the tomato sauce and stir well. Then add a few spoonfuls of the majada and 1/2 cup of white wine. Cook for 1-2 minutes. 

Add the fideua noodles, stir and cook about 1 minute. Add the fish broth (generally 1.5 times of broth per unit of noodles). The broth should be thin and clear, for a better fideua. Cook 5-7 minutes. 

Place the monkfish and shrimp on top of the noodles and cook an additional 4 minutes, or until the pasta is “al dente”. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

And to really bring out the flavours of the seafood in this dish, we generally pair it with a chilled Albari√Īo, the Spanish white wine from Galicia, in northeastern Spain. Buen provecho!


Note: In the version pictured, as I didn’t have monkfish or calamar at home, I used a small whiting and clams instead. I used the fish head and the clams to make the broth, removing the clams as they opened, to not overcook. I sauteed the whiting, in large chunks, just as the recipes says to do with the monkfish. Then added the fish, with the clams, at the same time as the shrimp.¬†

As you can see, you can substitute a variety of seafood, depending on your taste and what you may have available in your kitchen. I tend to do that a lot, so I don’t have to go out shopping at the last minute. ūüėČ
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