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Andalusian recipes, travel, and design

Tag: Sevilla

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.
  • 100 ml of room temperature milk
  • 150 ml of olive oil, extra virgin
  • sea salt
  • lemon juice
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.

  • 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)
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. 

Las Albondigas de Mama & Sevilla Tiene Un Color Especial

Sevilla has a special colour, the sevillana song says…it’s vibrant, welcoming, mystical, full of “alegria”, and pure magic! It’s one of my favourite cities of Spain. It’s hard to not feel energised when walking along its streets and encountering her people, especially during special events such as Holy Week or the Feria de Abril. But Sevilla is special anytime of year; albeit it can be a hot inferno in the summer, it is still enjoyable.
 Horse carriages, waiting for passengers, outside the Palacio Arzobispal
Sevilla smells of orange blossom, of incense, of roasted chestnuts…her boisterous and joyful people are always ready to wish you a good day with a smile, and maybe a wink, and the sun shines differently in Sevilla, its luminosity and intensity enhancing the kaleidoscope that envelopes the visitor.
Peacock in the gardens of the Alcazar de Sevilla

Giralda and part of the Cathedral, from the Patio de los Naranjos (both the Giralda and the Patio are part of the original structure of the Moorish mosque pre-dating the Cathedral)

Legend tells that the city was founded by Hercules. But historians tell us otherwise. One of the first people to make the city flourish were the Tharsis, followed by the Greeks and the Romans, whose descendants named the city Ispal, which later evolved to Sevilla. The Moors established an important seat of their empire in what they called Hispalis.

The Moors, reigning in most of Andalucia and parts of Spain for close to 800 years, left a huge influence in the language, the cuisine, the architecture and the culture, in general.

Inside patio of the Alcazar de Sevilla, Moorish section

From the time of Al-Andalus, we have inherited many ingredients, such as almonds, oranges, apricots, altramuces (lupin beans), rice, and numerous recipes and dishes. Many of these moorish ingredients and dishes that eventually made it into the Spanish vernacular start with an “a”, such as azafran (saffon), aceitunas (olives), aceite (oil), albondigas (meatballs); and many include a combination of spices brought to Spain by the Moors and their trade routes with the East, such as canela (cinnamon), comino (cumin), culantro (coriander) and anis. Pickling fish in vinegar solutions (boquenos en vinagre, adobo) was also brought to Spain by the Moors, and is extensively used today in the Andalusian cuisine.Although today, we have a lot of “fusion” ideas in our tapa and menu repertoire, it’s hard to eat anywhere in Spain without eating something that originated with the Moors.One of the dishes I make regularly, because it’s easy and healthy are albondigas (meatballs). Meatballs are usually served as small balls, fried and then covered in a tomato sauce. However, as I don’t like mine fried, nor am I a big lover of tomato sauces, here is my mother’s version, altered by me.

Algondigas a la Maria Luisa* 

Ingredients, for 4-6

  • 800g minced/ground meat
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons flaxmeal (you can also use bread crumbs)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • olive oil, about 3-4 tablespoons
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1 medium onion, cut julienne style
  • chicken broth
  • saffron, 3-4 threads
  • 1-2 teaspoons turmeric
In a mixing bowl, mix the ground meat, chopped onion, garlic, eggs, flaxmeal, sea salt and nutmeg. You want to mix just enough so all of the ingredients are blended. With your hands, form balls and set aside on a platter.

In a large saucepan or pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute about 4-5 minutes. Add the saffron threads and turmeric and saute about 30 seconds before adding the white wine. Cook for 2-3 minutes to reduce the wine.

Add some chicken broth, about 1 cup. Insert the raw meatballs into the saucepan, making sure to place carefully side by side or if needed on top of each other, without breaking. Add more broth, enough to cover the meatballs (about one finger above them, actually). Over low heat, cook for 40 minutes covered. Check frequently, and if the broth evaporates too much, add a bit more. The desired sauce consistency is slightly thick, so you do not want to add too much broth.

My husband loves to eat these meatballs with homemade french fries, but they can be served alone, with some vegetables or rice, whatever your preference.

Buen Provecho!


*Maria Luisa is my mother’s name and this is a revised version of her original recipe. Maria Luisa is also the name of the largest public park in Sevilla, which is a glorious place for a reprise from the Andalusian sun. Filled with an extensive variety of flora, lovely avenues, arabesque fountains, and a variety of birds, such as peacocks, pigeons, and ducks, it’s a peaceful and enchanting environment, recently named “bien de interes cultural” (cultural interest property). On it’s north side, the park ends at the Plaza de Espana, the emblematic architectural project of the 1929 World Fair.  A must see, when in Sevilla! 

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
  • 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
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.