The one thing in common among all my friends whom I have interviewed for Yummy Yum is the passion and excitement with which they speak about their home countries and their cuisine. The narrations are so animated and enthusiastic that I am transported to a whole new world. No different was my discussion with friend and EC partner Barbara about her home cuisine.
At a café near the Square, I was enjoying Barbara’s mouth-watering descriptions of the food she loves, the ones she misses and, of course, of how tasty the cuisine is. To my surprise, the person at the next table gave himself the liberty to join our conversation. A total stranger and only a visitor to her home country, he went on to vouch for everything Barbara said – the taste, the quality, the variety. I was taken aback, no doubt, but also couldn’t help but believe there was something amazing about this cuisine. I had to know more. If you know Barbara, you probably know where we are – this is the land of the tapas, the sherry and the Sangria. A land that has some amazing weather, wonderful beaches, one of the widest varieties of seafood and is one that has nurtured some of the world’s most famous chefs – Bienvenidos!! We’re now in Spain!!!
Spanish cuisine is influenced by the Mediterranean, Roman and Moorish cuisines and, as is typical of most other cuisines, varies by region. Barbara and the stranger we met reiterated that Spanish cuisine is one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. Typical dishes are either beef, pork, seafood, vegetable or bean-based and include the famous Tortilla de Patata (potato omlette), Paella (a rice-based dish with a combination of meat, seafood, vegetables and beans), Cocido (a chickpea-based stew cooked with beef, chicken, fat, chorizo and vegetables) and Gazpacho (a tomato-based vegetable soup). The Spanish people are very fond of garlic and use it extensively in their cooking. The cooking medium is mainly olive oil with baking, broiling and frying being some of the common cooking techniques. The Spanish are world famous for their tapas, small plate appetizers usually enjoyed as small meals between the main ones. Barbara mentions some of the typical Tapas favorites to be cheese, olives, Jamon Serrano (ham) and Caña de lomo (cured pork sirloin sausages). Jamon Serrano, Barbara goes on to explain, is so integral to their lives that it is had with almost every meal and at all times. Typical meals include a light breakfast, a heavy lunch at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, and a late dinner at 9 or 10 in the evening with light snacks in between. A typical meal includes soup, a main dish and a light dessert of mainly fruits. It was interesting to know that though they do have some dessert, it is not an important part of the cuisine.
Barbara had invited some of us to a lunch at her home to celebrate her birthday. She treated us to some delicious whisky pork and the famous Spanish tortilla. It was truly Yummy Yum and Barbara proudly claims she makes one of the best tortillas in town. She couldn’t be wrong and has a recipe truly worth keeping.
Tortilla de Patatas:
Salt to taste
Procedure: Peel and chop the potatoes. Clean, add salt and put aside. Chop the onions and add to the potatoes. Heat oil in a pan. Once the oil is hot, fry the potatoes and the onion in a low flame until the potatoes become soft. Once the potatoes are soft (not fried, this is why the flame has to be low) remove carefully and put in a bowl where previously the eggs have been beaten. Add salt again, and if the mixture is too thick add less than ¬ cup of milk or an extra egg. (Barbara’s tip: Don’t worry if finally you need to add two more eggs. It depends on the size of the potatoes.) In another and smaller frying pan put a little olive oil, spread it well and put it on medium flame. Once it is warm add the whole mix back into the pan. Let it cook for 2 or 3 minutes. When you see that the sides are cooked (and you can remove it easily) use a flat plate in order to turn the omelet and cook the other side. (Barbara’s tip: Be careful! It sounds complicated, but it is really easy!)
Solomillo al Whisky:
(Pork sirloin with Whisky)
1 or 2 pork sirloins in small slices
4 or 5 garlic cloves
1 tablet of chicken flavor bouillon
Juice of 1 lemon
_ cup whiskey
Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Procedure: Saute 3 or 4 garlic cloves with olive oil in a frying pan and put them in the slow cooker. In the same oil and with higher flame, saute the small seasoned sirloin slices. Once they are sauted, introduce the garlic and the pork into the frying pan and add 1 tablet of chicken flavor bouillon, the juice of 1 lemon, ¬ or _ cup of whiskey and a few drops of Worcestershire sauce (optional). After one or two minutes, put all the ingredients in the slow cooker, including the garlic cloves. Cook it for 3 hours on low. If you do not have a slow cooker you can cook it in a frying pan or a pot. You only need to add a little more quantity of lemon juice and whiskey. Then cook it on slow for 1 hour approximately for the yummy yum garlicky sirloin.
I must admit that I cannot get over the ‘shock’ of a complete stranger overhearing and, most importantly, joining in on a conversation. But now I think I understand why, and you will too, when you taste the Tortilla and the Solomillo – you just want to tell someone how good it is.
Join Yummy Yum next week as we travel to a different part of the world to a cuisine we haven’t yet explored. See you next week in Vietnam.
Niranjana Neelakantan Gupta is an EC Partner. A home-maker, Niranjana is enjoying exploring the cuisines of the world and introducing friends and family to some of the yummiest dishes from across the globe.