Marvellous Magical Mijas…

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Just got back from a fabulously relaxing two weeks in Spain in the gentle surroundings of Mijas Pueblo in the hills of southern Andalucia. This photo, taken at one of my favourite restaurants – Bar Parasol – sums up how I felt! These two guys, Victor and JavI, were waiters there and they were so kind to me and my family. Few English venture to this restaurant, which is at the far end of Fuengirola, in a quiet back street, and it meant we got to sample real Spanish food with real Spaniards. I recommend it highly! Anyway, this is more of a pictorial record of some of the food we ate, with a recipe or two along the way. So, here goes.

IMG_5514 This is one restaurants take on the classic ensaladilla rusa. The base was creamed cold mashed potatoes mixed with chopped boiled egg, chives, and mayo. Then it was topped with fillets of fresh mackerel. A truly flavoursome starter.

IMG_5583Most mornings I started the day with tostados – toasted bread rolls topped wither with finely chopped tomatoes, or simply with olive oil and a little salt. Always accompanied by a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a café con leche. Obligatory!

IMG_5515 Pimientos pan fried were an almost ever present at supper – I adore them.

IMG_5581We ate lots and lots of fish – these freshly caught sardines were so succulent cooked a la plancha, and we also had plates of pan fried anchovies too, which were very meaty. In some places they were barbecued on long sticks over slowly smoking wood chips. The smell was divine!

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Lots of restaurants pride themselves on their mixed fried fish plate – this one immediately above – had bacalao, squid, octopus, baby squid and hake. This was a ración, a larger version of a tapa..and very filling! This was only 5 euros – about £3. Crazy. The picture above that is of a mix of chipirones – tiny squid and calamari.

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This dish was one of the tastes of the fortnight – Iberican Slow Cooked Pork Cheeks – click the link for a great version of this recipe!

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Egg, bacon and chips? In Spain, believe me, this is a much tastier take on an English staple supper. Here, the eggs are gently fried with garlic and served with quickly pan fried, thickly sliced Serrano ham and succulent pimientos.

IMG_5529The choice of ham everywhere is remarkable – this, believe it or not, was in a Lidl in Mijas. The counter was about 20 foot long, full of every kind of ham and morcilla you could wish for.

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Back to Bar Parasol, this was where you chose your fish fish each day for lunch – sardines, anchovies, squid, hake, red snapper, clams and baby clams – almejas – were on offer this day, but it frequently changed delineating on the catch that morning. What a life! To be able to eat like this every day!

IMG_5649 And as often as we could we ended our nights with a cocktail at Oscar’s Tapas Bar in the centre of Mijas. Wonderful owners and again, highly recommended if you ever visit Mijas.

IMG_5647 On our last night there it was the Luna Mora festival – the Moon of the Moors, and the whole town was lit up by candles. Magical.

More to follow soon – including a recipe for one of my favourite cold summer soups! And it’s not Gazpacho!

Hasta luego!

The Joy of Food Tasting

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Great Taste Awards 2015 – My Day of Judgement! 

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The Great Taste Awards promote the very best of what local, independent, national and international retailers – have to offer. They are organised by the mighty Guild of Fine Food, established 1995, located in Gillingham, Dorset, and organised professionally, politely and to perfection by an able and talented family run team.

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The Guild’s raison d’etre is to support and promote speciality food producers and the independent delis, farm shops and food halls that sustain them. It has over 1300 members. It organises and implements a network of activities designed to promote excellence in all sectors of the trade and build closer links between producers and retailers.

The Great Taste logo is now widely recognised, setting products apart from the rest – a logo that says this producer cares about its product – love and time has gone into it.

And is it popular with producers? You bet! The Guild had to cap this year’s entry to 10,000 products. Judges come from a wide range of backgrounds to ensure each product gets a fair crack of the whip – over 400 judges over the course of 50 days meet in teams of 4 or 5 throughout the months of March to June to get through this wealth of culinary craft – to decide which ones get awarded the logo and up to 3 stars – all of the entries are, of course, blind-tested. Last year, only153 foods achieved the highest and most coveted rating of three stars. 697 foods grabbed 2 stars and 2531 were awarded a 1 star. That means only 34% of entries were accredited – it’s tough, but those who get that cherished black and gold sticker to pop on their produce value it highly. Winning is important to the producers as it differentiates their products from the norm and means the customer has a guarantee that the products they buy have a reliable seal of approval based upon great taste… not marketing.

This was my second year and this time I was better prepared for the challenge that lay ahead – it is quite an assault on your stomach lining if you do not pace yourself – wise not to have a big breakfast and wise during the day to sip lots of water and have palate cleansing slices of apple on hand. The day began at 10.00am and the first session lasted until 12.45pm. My table had 15 items to judge – however, that is added to as other tables pass on entries that need a second opinion to confirm a rating. By 12.45 we had tasted 27 different products which ranged from exotic fruit juice to marmalade to hand crafted chocolates to game terrine, Christmas pudding – a real feast for the eyes this one as it was topped with gold leaf (!) – green tea ice cream, olives, smoked duck and honey.

IMG_5535 Goldfinger’s Pud?

 A well-earned break allows judges a chance to mingle, chat, swap experiences and general networking.

The second session began at 2.30pm and lasted until just after 5pm. The judges are not in the same groups for the afternoon allowing a wider variety of opinion. I tasted 25 products bringing the total to 52 for the day. This year I felt a lot better on the way home, and my stomach was not the washing machine it felt like last year! The second set of products we tasted included cured camel meat – no getting the hump jokes, please – fudge, Iberico ham – stunning – Bronze free range roast turkey, Piada flat bread, salsa verde, lamb stock, rapeseed oil, chilli jam, venison sausages…..wow…it was a real feast for the senses. Of course, we only taste a small mouthful of ech, but there is always a temptation to have a second mouthful of some and occasionally a third – always a good sign for the chances of that product getting close to the 3 star award!

IMG_5533 A stunning game terrine was one of the highlights of the day for me

Is it enjoyable? It sure is – the company of other foodies, from a wide range of backgrounds – food festival organisers, cheese makers, chefs, writers, bakers, organic veg box producers to name but a few – makes it a delight and an education. It is also a privilege to taste such provenance and to know that you have a say in helping many producers hopefully get the rewards they deserve. I loved every minute of it – it is hard work – but immensely pleasurable and satisfying.

Long may these awards last and, if you have never visited the Guild’s website you must. Or catch them on twitter @guildoffinefood

And here are just a few of the varied foods I tasted!

Salmon and leek tarts and hand made choices filled with orange ganache

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IMG_5540 IMG_5541 Chilli pickle (left) and leavened cake (right)IMG_5547

                                  

               Orange liqueur (right))

    pistachio truffles (below)

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Bronze free range turkeyIMG_5545

IMG_5543 A red traminer ice wine jelly – I cannot tell you how good this was!

Zesty lime – filled chocolates            IMG_5539

And in the pic below – taken just before the tasting began – i am on the table far left in the specs looking studious!

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From Alfredos 2014 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

A BIG THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU FROM EVERY CORNER OF THE GLOBE WHO POPPED IN TO ALFREDO’S DURING 2014!       MUCH APPRECIATED!

HAVE A VERY HAPPY 2015 FULL OF PEACE, HAPPINESS…AND GOOD FOOD!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,800 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Lake District Bound…

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Annual trip to the Lakes and cooking for 15 !

Spent much of today shopping for our week in the Lakes. We will be sharing a large house in Little Langdale with my in-laws and my 2 sister -in- laws and their families. And I get to do all the cooking – by choice I have to add. It gives me the chance to pretend I am running a small restaurant!

So, I have sorted out the evening menu for the next 7 days and done all the shopping.

FRIDAY – A huge pot of beef and pork ragu with fettuccine followed by pan fried plums in white wine and a raspberry balsamic glaze.

SATURDAY – Starter – Tomato, Basil and tomato salad followed by chicken thighs wrapped in jamon serrano served with green beans pan fired in garlic and butter and new potatoes.

SUNDAY – Mushrooms oven baked with garlic, chilli and coriander butter followed by 2 large legs of Tikka Lamb served with an Indian Crushed Salad.

MONDAY – Starter of cold meats, dips and olives followed by ham and nettle frittata with a tomato sauce.

TUESDAY – Starter of bruschetta with basil pesto, shaved parmesan and chopped tomatoes followed by Spicy Pork tenderloin in a red pepper and cream sauce and basmati rice.

WEDNESDAY – Starter – green salad with a french dressing followed by salmon fillets in a lime and coriander mayonnaise with warm crushed salted new potatoes.

THURSDAY – Starter to be decided followed by a green lentil hotpot with belly pork, chorizo, sausages and black pudding and warm bread.

I have also provided a gigantic selection of cheeses each night to follow each main course.

Hope they are going to like it!

It is lots of fun and my 2 sisters in law and my mother in law appreciate a week of no cooking – so I get lots of Brownie Points there!

Lots of walks to build up an appetite during the day. Should be a good week – will report back on my return – most of the recipes above can be found on this blog. 

Whatever you are up to – enjoy!

IMG_4087This is where we will  be staying!

Ask Alfredos !!

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NEW BLOG LAUNCH !

Just to let you know that I have started a second blog Ask Alfredos designed to answer questions on food, food history, origins, recipe ideas…well indeed anything anyone wants to ask!

I will endeavour to answer the questions within 24 hours or sooner! Plus there will be posts on gadgets, recipe books, food history, art and food, cooks and chefs, restaurants, delis, health and nutrition plus great links.

Let us see where the new journey takes us!  This blog will, of course, continue as usual! 

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Please feel free to pop across there…..!

 

Valencian Vacation Exquisite Cuisine…

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Edible Highlights of my Recent Trip to Oliva, Spain

As a rather grey gloom descends over my part of Hampshire recalling my recent trip to Spain brings back wonderful feelings but also a little sadness that it is over! The food was fabulous and we met so many wonderful restauranteurs and waiters. The people of Oliva are serenely calm folk and their way of life is incredibly enviable. It was so cheap too.

I could not believe it. A beer and a tapa of jamon and bread with olive oil for example was a crazy 1 euro 50….

IMG_4525 This jamon was actually from Aragon – I bought 100gm straight afterwards for just 3 euros…mmmmm….!!!

The fish was delectable and we ate a lot. Anyway, here is a montage of shots of food and life where we stayed.

IMG_4466 First day shopping at the local supermarket -Mercadona – I could live in this shop!! –  5 -yes, 5 ladies on the fish counter alone! Our local supermarket here struggles to provide one! And this is about 4 times the size of my local fish counter – and we are an island!!

And so much choice it took my breath away…

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IMG_4524 Locally caught caracolas…

 

and squid a plenty…

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IMG_4522  And this was the indoor market – air conditioned and packed with amazing meat, fish and veg stalls as well as 2 great tapas bars.

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Click on the next picture to get the full panorama of this haven….

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IMG_4490 A medley of fish for supper one evening including beautiful boquerones…

And then a little more! …swordfish with pan fried octopus…stunning…

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IMG_4563  Sardines….

and succulent chipirones  IMG_4586

IMG_4460 Squid a la plancha….

A real favourite of mine was the exquisite empanadas in the tapas bars…one here is filled with morcilla and the other with spinach and tomato. IMG_4580

IMG_4531  I came across this too – never had it before – a mix of chorizo and morcilla – rich and succulent and a perfect accompaniment to a cold beer!

IMG_4533  My kids loved me making patatas braves for lunch by the pool…with a variety of meats cooked a la plancha….

IMG_4532.…and we all adore the pimentos padrón.

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Refreshing desserts too….

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All washed down with a variety of beverages from ice cold rosé…to cava…to one of my favourite beers…Estrella from Barcelona…as well as mojitos, martinis and dessert wines!

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And as well as all the fabulous array of food…I will miss my pool!

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And I bet you are thinking ..why has he not mentioned anything about the classic

Valencian paella??

Well, I had an amazing one at a truly wonderful restaurant called Ca Fran…but that meal and restaurant deserves a post of its own…so hang fire…it is on its way!

Hasta pronto!

Valencia bound

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From Alfredo’s With Love On Summer Break!

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The time is almost here – tomorrow I will be off to a villa just south of Valencia near Oliva, not far from the Costa Azahar…I cannot wait. Peace and quiet amongst the orange and lemon groves. Heaven! The weather here has been great this week in Hampshire with highs of 30 degrees and we have also been graced by a couple of seriously spectacular electrical storms the last two nights.

Weather in Valencia region looking v promising too…

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Food this week has been barbecues and paellas and cold spreads, home made pestos and salads.

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This morning I got in the desayuno mood with scrambled eggs topped with several slices of lightly pan fried jamon serrano. Working on my Spanish too with a fab app called…wait for it…Cat Spanish – it is very good and highly recommended!

I will, I assure you, be taking lots of food photos whilst away and will post on my return plus any new recipe ideas.

I hope you all have a peaceful and relaxing time wherever you are this summer, surrounded by friends, family, good food and wine!

 

Hasta luego!

 

Gourmandize UK Paris Competition – My Entry!

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‘To eat, to love, to sing and to digest; in truth,

these are the four acts in

this opera buffa that we call life,

and which vanishes like the bubbles in

a bottle of champagne’.

(Gioacchino Rossini 1792 – 1868)

This marvellous quote sums up my approach to life… and what better way of celebrating it than getting the chance to cook one of my favourite created by the great composer himself – Steak Rossini.

Rossini is said to have given the recipe to the chef at the Cafe Anglais in the Boulevards des Italiens in Paris. He was not only a composer but a real lover of good food and he was equally well known in the field of gastronomy. He adored truffles in particular, which he enchantingly called, ‘the Mozart of mushrooms.’

To get the chance to cook this dish in the heart of the city he adored with the best foie gras, truffles and the finest rump steak would be quite, quite something. It is a simple dish dependent on the best ingredients and great attention to timing.

The French cuts of steak are wonderfully diverse. They have chateaubriand, a large cut for several people; tournedos, small compact round steaks cut from the eye of the fillet and, closer to the narrow end of the fillet, the filet mignon. Then there is entrecote (literally, ‘between the ribs’). There is also faux filet, or contrefilet, the lean eye of meat which runs along the top of the sirloin, and onglet – a real favourite of mine.

What no doubt irks the French is that the steak was introduced to France by the English as the occupying forces after ‘The Battle of Waterloo.’

Ah well, but at least they have turned them into a real art!

And the Steak Rossini is one worth displaying in The Louvre!

If you fancy voting for me…please visit the Gourmandize UK site before MAY 19th …. or click on the link below! Merci beaucoup!  Link is

http://www.gourmandize.co.uk/keith-bradbury-10-member-nominee.htm

I may not win…there are so many phenomenal folk out there wanting to do the same….but I know if I did go I would soak up every last moment and it would spur my desire to be a published food writer.

 

A bientôt!

 

Onglet steak….a real favourite of mine

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Onglet steak....a real favourite of mine

Nothing else to say really…the pic says it all. I enjoyed this fab steak at Brasserie Blanc in Winchester earlier this week. It simply melted in the mouth – cooked rare, or at the very most, medium rare with a pepper corn sauce on the side it is a delectable delight and incredibly tender.

If you are ever in Winchester – you must visit this restaurant. It is light, stylish and you feel as if you are deep in French territory. Marvellously polite and unobtrusive staff….a wine list to die for – the Côtes de Bourg was full of velveteen finesse. A perfect accompaniment to the steak.

Raymond Blanc describes this restaurant thus: ‘ When you are lucky enough to open a restaurant in a city as beautiful as Winchester, it is your duty to make sure you don’t detract from it. The two Georgian shops on Jewry Street fit the bill. A fantastic frontage lovingly restored. To my absolute delight we discovered that one of the shops had been a butchers in a previous life and that one of the tiled walls remained somewhat intact, part of the wall depicts a cow that I have named Clementine. The Brasserie is a bit of a rabbit warren with two balconies and a patio, dining rooms over two floors, a small private room with its own balcony and an open kitchen on the first floor. It means we have many different little Brasseries each with a slightly different atmosphere.’

Onglet comes from the hanging flank of the cow and is known as, unsurprisingly, ‘hanger steak’ in the U.S. and where I am from we call it ‘skirt’..the Italians call it ‘lombatello‘ and the Spanish ‘solomillo de pulmón‘.

Whatever you call it, this is a remarkable cut – inexpensive and highly regarded for its immense flavour.

I love it!