Mushroom Croquetas

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Throwing away food is a crime. The rich minority of the world expects their tomatoes to be perfectly round and red, immaculate carrots, zucchinis, aubergines… all our fruit must look like it came out of a food magazine. The ugly vegetables get thrown away, together with tons of food that runs out of date both in the supermarkets and at home.

When legislation on food is there to protect us, there are some things that hace been taken too far. Recently we started having expiration dates on eggs for God’s sake! If an egg is bad, you will know. A bad egg stinks to the point of making you sick. I have known people to throw away perfectly fine eggs just because they were 3 days overdue. I have eaten the equivalent to a gallon of out of date yogurt while growing up. I am here, I am fine, I have no allergies and I have a strong stomach. Please don’t go around now thinking that it is ok to eat rotten food, but we should definitely reexamine our standards and be better at managing our supplies.

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Back in the day, no food turned to waste, we just couldn’t afford it and so, many recipes were born out of women’s creativity to turn leftovers into a meal. One the most famous recipes in Spain for this, is Croquetas. They are small balls of bechamel, white sauce if you prefer, cooked with whatever had been leftover from a bigger meal. It could be scraps of cured ham, maybe cod crumbles, maybe chicken from a broth… It is quite a messy recipe, it does make your kitchen dirty and it takes a bit of patience. On top of this, they are not healthy food at all. They are fried and breaded so I will not go around recommending them for people that want to lose weight but they are absolutely delicious ¬†and as such, I thought I would share with you this lovely recipe so you can make it for your friends and celebrations.

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They good thing is that they can be prepared in advance, frozen and once you make them, you will have plenty for a while.

Ingredients (makes 25)

2 tbsp. plain flour

1 litre of full fat milk

25 gr. of butter

1 small onion

125 gr. mushrooms

Olive oil

1 egg

1 cup of breadcrumbs

salt & pepper

How to…

Peel and chop the onion very finely, fry in low heat with a small amount of olive oil until they turn transparent. Add the clean sliced mushrooms and salt. Let cook until they loose most of the water in them. Then add the butter, let it melt and add the four and toast it until it looks golden brown.

It is now time to start adding your milk, little my little, about half a glass of milk each time and in between, do no stop stirring the mixture so it starts blending like a normal bechamel. Every time it starts to dry out, add more milk. You want to do that until you run out of milk, correct the salt level and keep stirring until the bechamel is thick enough and doesn’t stick to the pan any more. It can take up to 30 minutes of continuous stirring, so it is pretty labour intense.

Once the sauce is done, pour it on a large plate or tray and cover with transparent film making sure it doesn’t leave any pockets of air between the film and the mixture, this is in order to avoid a “skin” from forming on top of it.

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Let it cool down completely, even overnight.

In a bowl, beat up the egg and in another bowl pour the breadcrumbs, then take the film of the mixture and with a spoon, start making balls of around 2 to 3 centimetre diameter. It will be easier to do it you oil your hands before to stop them from sticking to your hands. Once you are happy with the ball roll it in egg, then in breadcrumbs and then keep aside. Once you are done with all the croquetas you can fry them or keep them for later in the fridge for about 5 or 6 days or frozen for up to 6 months.

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To fry them, you have to either use a frier or a small pan with enough oil to cover the balls up to the middle (about 2 to 3 fingers of oil). The oil needs to be very hot and they need to be fried in small batches to keep the oil temperature up and so they are not too close together, since they could break.

You only need to fry them for about 45 seconds to 1 minute on each side, until they are golden brown.

Mediterranean Hake

 

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If you live by the sea you will know what I am talking about. It’s a sound every child that grew up with the scent of sea salt in the nostrils can identify. It is a faint, almost fading eerie sound of bells that come from the sea at down. Some days are clear but where I come from, fog is generally the background setting for the fishermen that return to shore. It grows in intensity as the waves rock the small boats and the engines buzz their way into the port. It means fresh fish. It means tired men. Fishing is done at night, is then when hakes are catch. They live fifty meters under the surface of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and they are closely related to cods. They are long, thin, slippery predators that feed on lanternfish on the continental shelf. They eat, and they are eaten, the circle of life.

They have a subtle flavour, soft and flaky that makes is a commercially important species and the star of a myriad of traditional dishes in the old continent. Modern fishing techniques, on those giant boats that carry no bells, have polluted the water with anisakis making a parasite that was seldom found in the fish an everyday problem. You see, I recently discovered why, apparently fish are processed as they are caught and the byproduct of the cleaning of the fish, it’s thrown back to the sea, where other fish feed on it. Sounds as an intrinsically good idea, until you realise that we are spreading a disease that was naturally contained before in the fish and that actually causes severe allergic reactions on human beings, well done us. Again.

If you buy your fish at a decent fishmonger, they will be able to spot the parasite if it’s there and remove it, and it is totally safe to eat. It is a highly nutritious fish, low in fat and very good for children. It doesn’t have too many bones and it’s not too “fishy” (if you know what I mean).

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I have paired my hake today with fresh tomato relish with herbs (and no sugar) and some wholegrain couscous. The fish has been cooked in the microwave (steamed) and has a lemon rind, fresh basil and olive oil dressing. All those flavours are very Mediterranean and pair perfectly with one another. It can be made in advance and just heated up in the oven so it’s great if you have people over, pretty easy and fuss free. This recipe is gluten free and low GI which makes it appropriate for low carb diets and diabetic patients. Should you be vegan and not eat fish, tempeh is a great alternative for this recipe.

Ingredients (serves 2):

2 large ripe tomatoes

2 fillets of hake

60 gr. of gluten free couscous

1 bush fresh basil

Fresh Oregano (or dried if you cannot get hold of it)

1 lemon

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt & Pepper

How to…

Chop the tomatoes in small square pieces and cook them in 1/2 tsp. of olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper and the fresh herbs also chopped. Let the water evaporate until the it acquires the consistency of a sauce, tomatoes are very high in water and it could ruin your dish later on.

Prepare the couscous according to the packaging instructions, usually is twice the volume of water that the one of couscous, pinch of salt and a dollop of butter, you can use olive oil too instead. You can add some sultanas and some toasted pine nuts to the couscous to make it more a more substancial meal (for lunch instead of dinner for example).

Clean the hake fillets and wash them. To cook them in the microwave set them in a tray with 3 tbsp of water per fillet and cover them with transparent film. Cook at 800w for 2 minutes and check if they are ready. Be careful and don’t put them for too long the first time around because it is very easy to overcook fish in the microwave. You can always put more time on them if needed.

For the fish sauce: grate the lemon rind and put it in a mortar, add the fresh basil and mash with pestle. Add a pinch of salt, dash of lemon juice and then carefully mix in 2 tbsp. of good extra virgin olive oil. serve the dish as per the picture if you wish or get creative.

Bon appetit!

Protein Green tea Nice cream with Cacao Nibs

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I come from the best place in the world. It’s not (only) me who says this, we are very privileged, and i like to remind myself of that as often as possible. Being grateful is part of being happy. I was born in a misty coastal region in the most septentrional part of the Iberian peninsula, this place, never conquered, never surrendered is called the Basque Country.

Nested between mountains and green as an emerald, this land goes to die in the winding, rocky cliffs of the Atlantic Ocean. Not a turquoise, sky reflecting sea… a wild, severe and feisty one more like that was claimed the lifes of many fishermen and sailors through the centuries. It’s an ancient land, one were its people speak the oldest, most mysterious language in Europe, of unknown origins. A secret language catalogued by the UN as “the hardest language to learn in the world” followed by Mandarin.

It rains a lot, that is why it’s kept it so clean and beautiful and the reason why the land blesses the inhabitants with flavourful vegetable products. The ample cold waters of the sea provide some of the tastiest fishes in the world, our green pasture feeds excellent cattle and we serve our steaks over coal in pieces that are in excess of 1 kilo of weight.

Maybe that is where my love of food first come. It is difficult not to be a foodie in the Basque Country, and it is difficult not to be disappointed when you travel. From here, I want to invite you all to come and visit my beautiful, peaceful and fantastic part of the world, you wont regret it.

Today, I want to share a small snack recipe that can double up as a breakfast of post workout meal. It is made with green tea, since Japan is one of the few places that I have travelled to and felt that the food culture was equally respectful of the raw material as my own. Different yes, but similar in its perfectionism, and for that, here is my Matcha Nice cream with Vanilla protein. I hope you like it.

Ingredients (serves 2)

1 frozen chopped banana

1 scoop vanilla protein

1 tsp Matcha green tea

Dash of coconut milk

2 mini matcha choc chip cookies

Cacao nibs

Rose petals (dried)

How to…

In a blended, mix the banana, vanilla and matcha with a dash of coconut milk. Adjust the milk to your desired consistency, I wanted mine a bit firm so I put a little less.

Serve and adorne with japanese choc chip cookies, cacao nibs and rose petals.

Your children will love it, since it was cookies and everything is super healthy so win win! Have a lovely week peeps!

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