olimpias_soup

Olimpia Soup

I’ve named this soup after my grandmother, who came up with this recipe trying to find a way for my sisters and I to eat vegetables. The three of us still love this simple soup and I am using it myself with my sons with the same goal in mind. I admire how she solved a problem using a deep understanding of the limited ingredients she had at hand. Nowadays innovation is the goal in itself, leading most of the time to a rootless mixing of ingredients (Thai-Mex, Japo-Spanish, you name it) and overcomplication which will be lost as trends change over time. On the opposite side, there is my grandmother handing us a recipe still being used after two generations.

The soup uses unto, rancid pork back fat, a flavoring ingredient from Galicia and Northern Portugal. The best way to get a similar flavor would be making a light stock with prosciutto bones. If you cannot get any of those, use unsmoked bacon fat.

Ingredients:

* 2 cups of potatoes, finely cubed
* 2 cups of green beans, finely cubed
* 2 cups of carrots, finely cubed
* 1 large garlic clove
* A small piece of unto, unsmoked bacon fat or 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Cover the vegetables with just enought water and boil until very tender.

Meanwhile, mash the fat, garlic and salt to make a paste and add to the soup.

That’s it!

fagiolli

Beans with basil and parsley

This recipe comes from a book I bought in Naples. I could not find a single reference to it anywhere. It has no ISBN and the name of the author is missing. I got it from a street vendor selling all kinds of odd stuff. Very napolitean.

The recipe is very simple. As always, use the best ingredients you can find to let the flavors shine.

Ingredientes:
* A medium onion, finely chopped
* Half a stalk of celery, finely chopped
* A handfull of basil leaves, finely chopped
* A handfull of parsley, finely chopped
* 4-5 cups of boiled beans
* Olive oil
* Salt and pepper

1. Gently fry everthing but the beans until the onion is translucent.
2. Add beans, stir and cook briefly.
3. If you have stale bread, put a slice on each plate and cover with the beans.

Marmitako recipe

Marmitako (Basque tuna stew)

This recipe was published many years ago in the great Spanish blog Ondakin. It’s a family recipe (from the blog’s author’s mother) so I follow it without changing a comma. It’s a nice summer dish for cooler climates or even hotter ones if you don’t mind sweat running down your forehead.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 kilo of tuna
  • 1/2 kilo floury potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 Italian green pepper, sliced
  • 1 choricero pepper (or any sweet non-smoked dried chilli)
  • 2 medium oniones, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • Parsley
  1. Cover the choricero pepper or dried chili with boiling water and let it soften.
  2. Gently cook the onions in olive oil until traslucent. Then add carrots, peppers and garlic.
  3. Keep cooking for a couple of minutes and add peeled, seeded and choped tomatoes and white wine. Cook until the alcohol evaporates.
  4. With a rounded knife scrap the flesh of the chorizero pepper and mash into a pulp. Add to the pot.
  5. Add potatoes. The best way to make chunks is with a fork, sticking a fork in it and twisting it until a piece breaks apart. The potatoes will thicken the sauce better than clean cut with a knife.
  6. Add water and cook for half an hour, until the broth is slightly thickened.
  7. Add tuna, cover, and cook for 5 minutes over low heat. Do not overcook or you risk drying out the fish.
Braised chicken recipe

My mom’s braised chicken

My mother is over for a few days to spend some time with her grandsons and she is cooking some of hers most popular dishes. My youngest nephew particularly loves this one.

Use a pot where the chicken pieces fit in a single layer to get a good gravy.

Ingredients

  • One chicken cut in pieces
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 bay leave
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • Olive oil
  1. Brown the chicken in medium heat.
  2. Add onions and garlic keep cooking until brown.
  3. Add brandy and cranck up the heat until alcohol evaporates and the vigourous boiling ends and becomes a frying matter.
  4. Add water but do not cover chicken completely, turn down the heat and add salt. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
  5. Turn the chicken pieces and cook for another 15 minutes.
  6. Serve. It goes well with a green vinegary salad.
chicken-pistachio-dill

Chicken, pistachio and dill

This is a recipe from a Persian cookbook I don’t like very much but not completely useless with some interesting dishes like this one: simple, pretty and flavorful.

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken legs, cut in two
  • 2 onions
  • 1 cup of shelled pistachios, soaked overnight
  • 1 bunch of dill
  • A pinch of turmeric
  • Oil, salt and pepper
  1. Lightly brown the chicken legs in oil.
  2. Add onions, finaly sliced and cook until soft and starting to brown
  3. Add turmeric, four cups of water and salt and pepper to your taste. Cook for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Now add the pistachios to the pot and cook for another 10 minutes.
  5. Finely chop a bunch of dill, add to the pot and serve.
Lambi with cous cous

Lamb with cous cous

Do not confuse with cous cous with lamb. It’ a different thing well worth a try. Instead of steaming cous cous the traditional way and then serving it with a stew, we cook everthing in the same pot. The tricky part is adding the right amount of water and pasta. According to the Egyptian recipes book I have, it should be nor dry, nor soggy. It’s easier to go short on the water and add a little bit more if it looks dry.

Ingredientes:

  • Two small legs of lamb (or veal shanks)
  • Two onions, finely sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup medium sized cous cous
  • Grated sharp sheep cheese
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper
  1. Cut the meat in bit sized cubes and brown thoroughly.
  2. Add onions and cook in medium for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  3. Add water or vegetable stock and gently boil until the meat is tender (about 1 1/2 hour.) Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add cous cous and cook for 5 minutes. Cover the pot and let it stand another five minutes and then check. If it looks too dry, add a bit of hot water, stir with a spoon and let it rest for another 5 minutes.
  5. Stir to break the big lumps of cous cous. Add cheese. Serve and enjoy.
macaroni, potato and chicken stew

My mom’s macaroni and potato chicken stew

A dish beloved by my sisters, sons and nephews. What can you say about it when you see three generations enjoying this simple recipe?

Use as much olive oil as your conscience allows you. It brings everything together.

  • Half a chicken cut in bit sized pieces (for a big mouth, if you ask)
  • An onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup macaroni
  • 2 medium floury potatoes, cubed
  • A mild flavored olive oil
  1. Brown chicken pieces in olive oil. How dark should it be? If in doubt, give it another 5 minutes.
  2. When the meat is nicely browned, add the onion and let it cook until it darkens.
  3. Add water until it almost covers the chicken and cook for 30 minutes. Add salt.
  4. Add potatoes and cook for another 5-10 minutes (the time depends on the potatoes you use).
  5. Finish the dish adding macaroni, covering the pot, cooking for another minute or two and let it stand for another 10.

The trick here is to add the right amount of water so we do not end up with a watery sauce. It should be thickish and with just the right amount to make it whole instead of just a mix of ingredients with no character. Pasta and potatoes do not always soak up the same amount of water. You should adjust to what you use.

 

Meatballs and eggs

Tava Kyabab, meatballs and eggs

This is a quick and easy dish from Azerbaijan, the type of recipe that makes you wonder how good it can be if made with the best ingredients, not the ones I get from the supermarket.

  • 500 g minced beef
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 6 eggs
  1. Mix meat and onions, season with salt and pepper and make 6 meatballs.
  2. Add two tablespoons of vegetable of oil to the pot and brown meatballs on both sides over medium heat, around 5 minutes per side.
  3. Beat eggs and add to the pot. Lower the heat, cover with a lid and cook until set.

Serve it with a tart salad and good bread and you’ll be in heaven.

Autumn Shackshucka

Autumn Shakshouka

Since Yottam Ottolenghi praised this recipe in his book Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi (just Google for it before and after the date of publication), the world seems to have discovered a dish that has been very popular in its many different variations despite celebrity chefs (just to name a few regional variations: Spanish huevos guisados, Azerbaijani  pomidor gayganagy, and Georgian chirbuli).

He includes it again in his book Jerusalem: A Cookbook, saying that the recipe changes depending on what’s in season. Wise words: you cannot make anything tasty (well, what I consider tasty) with tomatoes during the winter. So this is the recipe with potatoes.

  • 1 large potato, cubed
  • 1 red pepper, cubed
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons tomate paste
  • 1 red chili pepper
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt and olive oil
  1. Sauté pepper, chili and potatoes until almost done over medium heat.
  2. Add onion, garlic and cumin. Keep cooking until cumin releases its aroma.
  3. Add tomato paste disolved in some water. Adjust seasoning, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Make four holes with a spoon and place one egg in each. Cover and cook to your liking.
  5. Serve with plenty of bread.
meatballs and potatoes

Meatballs and Potatoes

This is my one pot take on a dish from my mother’s repertoire. She browns the meatballs, then adds the sauce ingredients, and finishes the dish with fry potatoes. Her dish looks better, by my version tastes as well and it’s a lot leaner (as in lean manufacturing.)

  • 2 potatoes, cut in small cubes
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Minced veal (around 500 g)
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Parsley, finely chopped
  • Breadcrumbs, soaked in milk or water
  • 1 large egg
  • Flour
  • Saffron
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Mix meat, garlic, parsely and egg. Squeeze as much water as you can out of the breadcrumbs and add to the previous mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Make small meatballs (you get the the ideal size when you need two happy bites to eat one) and sprinkle with some flour.
  3. Fry the potato cubes in 3 tablespoons of olive oil until brown.
  4. Add onions and fry for 1 minute.
  5. Make room for the meatballs and cook shaking the pot occasionally.
  6. Add saffron, salt and pepper and 1/4 of water. Put the lid on and cook for 10 minutes.
  7. Done.