Foods and Wines

Delicious recipes from Christine Cushing

Iberico Cheese on Spanish Olive oil Torta

You can’t have a tapas gathering without cheese and this Ibérico cheese is a great and lesser known blend of cow, sheep and goat’s milk.  I love to serve it on a hand broken piece of Spanish torta, drizzled with some honey.

  • 4 oz. Ibérico cheese, also called Black Wax (120 gm),
  • 2 Spanish olive oil tortas, broken into 4 pieces each
  • honey to drizzle, optional

Take the cheese out of fridge and bring to just under room temperature, still wrapped, before slicing.  This will bring out the best flavour of the cheese and prevent it from sweating.  Break uneven pieces of the crisp torta and top with thin slices of cheese.  Drizzle with honey, if desired.

Makes 8 tapas

Ibérico Wrapped Quince Paste

Once you taste the combination of sweet rich quince paste and jamón (ham) Ibérico or Serrano, you will be hooked, like I was .  This is a super quick addition to any tapas menu and so easy to serve.

  • 8 slices of jamón (ham) Ibérico or Serrano
  • 8 batons of quince past, available in specialty stores, 5 cm x ½ cm in size

Wrap each quince baton with jamón (ham) Ibérico or serrano allowing a bit of the quince to show through. This is best served right away so the ham doesn’t sweat. They can be assembled in advance, wrapped tightly and refrigerated for several hours until ready to serve.

Makes 8 tapas

Manchego Cheese on Spanish Fig Medallions

The king of Spanish cheese, Manchego features that iconic zesty, sharp sheep’s milk depth that increases the more it is aged.  Pairing it with either a date or fig medallion is ideal.

  • 4 oz. Manchego cheese, (120 gm),
  • 1 small roll Spanish fig or date paste logs with almonds, sliced into medallions

Take the cheese out of fridge and bring to just under room temperature, still wrapped, before slicing.  This will bring out the best flavour of the cheese and prevent it from sweating.

Slice fig or date paste logs into thin medallions.  Top with thin slices of Manchego cheese

Makes 8 tapas

Marisma Saffron Rice pudding brulee

Marisma is a medium grain artisan Spanish rice, similar to Bomba. It’s the perfect texture for rice pudding and with the addition of just a pinch of saffron it blurs the line between sweet and savoury. Caramelizing the tops adds a light crunch and a slightly contrasting bitter note.  I add just enough saffron to turn it a gentle yellow colour or it will be too strong. 

  • 3 cups whole milk (750 ml)
  • 1 cup water (250 ml)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (75 ml)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1” piece of orange zest
  • ½ vanilla bean, scraped
  • ¼ tsp saffron threads, or to taste
  • 1/3 cup Marisma or Bomba rice (80ml)
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar to caramelize tops (45 ml)

In a heavy bottom medium pot, heat milk, water, sugar, salt and spices over medium high heat. Add rice. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until rice is almost tender, about 10 minutes. Remove lid and continue to cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until it thickens. Mixture will be loose and will thicken in fridge.   Pour into individual ramekins for larger portions or if you prefer a tapas size, cover with plastic wrap right on surface to prevent skin from forming. Cool in fridge and add a Tbsp. into a ceramic spoon, just before serving.

Sprinkle each serving with sugar to cover surface. Caramelize the sugar with blow torch, being very cautious of hot caramel.  Serve immediately.

Makes 6 x 3 oz. (90 gm) or 24 tapas size spoons

Olive oil Madeleines

These little almond cakes are delectably moist and slightly chewy. I used an arbequina oil that really pairs well with the ground almonds and hint of lemon. The classic way to make these is in shell shaped moulds, but I have also made them in mini muffin tins, as an alternative. It is critical to use a great quality oil or the flavour of  madeleines will suffer.

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (60 ml + 15 ml)
  • 1/3 cup ground almonds (75 ml)
  • 3/4 cups icing sugar, sifted (175 ml)
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract (1 ml)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour  + 1 Tbsp. (70 ml)
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp. lemon  juice (5 ml)
  • Sliced almonds, toasted to garnish
  • Arbequina extra virgin olive oil for serving, optional
  • Icing sugar, for dusting cakes

Preheat oven to 375 °F

Brush 1 large madeleine pan with 1 Tbsp. olive oil.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg whites, olive oil , ground almonds, icing sugar, vanilla,  salt and flour. Add the lemon  zest and juice. Whisk until combined.

Spoon the mixture evenly into the oiled madeleine pan or mini muffin tin.

Bake at 375 °F for 15-17  minutes, until golden and firm. Turn cakes out onto a wire rack and cool.

Serve the cakes dusted with icing sugar, toasted almonds and drizzle more olive oil, if desired.

Makes 12  madeleines

Raw Asparagus salad with Extra virgin olive oil and Tiny Croutons

This refreshing tapa is my way of featuring vegetables that are in season and a great contrast to the delicious cheeses and hams that generally take centre stage.  It is best served 30 minutes after making, while the asparagus has just started to soften but is still crisp.  My favourite olive oil to use for this was the Hojiblanca variety which is forward in tomato, artichokes and fresh herbal notes.

  • 8 asparagus spears, woody stem removed
  • Grated zest of ½ lemon
  • ¼ -1/3 cup good quality Hojiblanca extra virgin olive oil (50-75 ml), divided
  • 3 Tbsp. tiny croutons, made from good quality bread (45 ml)
  • 1 tsp. chopped chives (5ml)
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 4 grape tomatoes, cut into quarters

Rinse asparagus well and with a vegetable peeler slice thin strips until each spear is sliced into ribbons.  Transfer to a small bowl and add lemon zest, 2 Tbsp. olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and let stand.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan heat 2 tbsp. olive oil over low heat until hot but not smoking.  Add the tiny croutons and fry gently for 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly until crisp and golden.  Remove with slotted spoon and place on paper towel.

To serve, spoon a small mound of asparagus onto little tapas plates of spoons, top with several tomato quarters, drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with tiny croutons. Serve immediately

Makes 8 tapas portions

Salt Cod Fritters with Olive oil Emulsion

  • 7 ounces salt cod (200 grams)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 – 4 tbsp. flour (45-60 ml)
  • 2 large Yukon gold potato, cooked, and mashed
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaved parsley (25 ml)
  • Olive oil for frying

Emulsion:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1/3 – ½ cup cornicabra olive oil (75-125 ml)
  • salt to taste
  • smoked paprika for garnish

Cover salt cod in large bowl filled with cold water.  Soak for 24 hours, changing the water several times. Drain and pat dry.

Cook the potatoes in their skins and peel while still warm.  Mash in ricer or food mill and cool.

Coarsely chop the fish and place in a bowl. Mix in the eggs, flour and mashed potato. Add the chopped green onions and parsley. Season with pepper and cook a small patty in oil to test for salt before adding any further salt. The mixture should be loose but dry enough to hold together in a disc. Adjust with more flour if needed.  Shape fish mixture into small quenelles with 2 spoons. Alternatively, shape croquettes into round patties or cylinders.

Pour olive oil into a medium skillet 2” high. . Heat oil over medium heat.  When there are small steady bubbles around a wooden spoon when inserted into oil, it is perfect temperature (345 °F ). Shallow fry fritters in batches for 3-4 minutes per side, or until rich golden brown and firm… Remove the fish fritters from the oil and place on a paper towel lined plate.

Sauce:

In a small bowl or food processor, whisk egg yolk with lemon and add olive oil in a steady stream until the desired consistency is achieved.  Serve immediately.  Do not refrigerate for later use.

Serve with dip or squeeze of lemon. Garnish plate with smoked paprika.

Makes about 12 fritters

Spanish Sausage and Eggs

This recipe is my fun take on sausage and eggs, in the form of a savoury pot de crème or cream custard.  The sausage is a hidden gem in the bottom of the custard that you only discover when your spoon finds it. I have used custom porcelain cups that are oven proof, but you can use espresso cups instead. When the pots are cooked, the centres should be a bit wiggly which can be deceiving when you’re trying to judge doneness. Make sure you take them out of the oven at this stage or you’ll overcook them.

  • ½ cup whipping cream (125 ml)
  • ¼ cup whole milk (50 ml)
  • freshly grated nutmeg to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. grated iberico cheese or manchego (30 gm)
  • 1 oz.  diced spicy chorizo (20 gm)
  • smoked paprika , garnish
  • chives, garnish

Preheat oven to 300 °F.

Combine the cream, milk , nutmeg and grated cheese in a medium saucepan, over low heat.  Whisk just to melt cheese and blend well. Remove from heat.

Stir warm but not hot cream mixture over egg yolks, whisking to thoroughly blend.

Place 6 espresso cups or small oven proof cups in a baking dish, 2 inches deep. Divide diced chorizo evenly among cups and place into baking dish.  Gently pour egg mixture into each cup filling not quite to the top.

Pour enough hot water into baking pan to come halfway up sides of custard cups. Bake custards at 300 °F in a still oven, until softly set (centres will move slightly when cups are shaken gently), about 25-35 minutes. Remove custards from water. Cool on a rack. Cool to room temperature before serving.  Refrigerate if not serving same day and bring back to room temperature to serve.

Sprinkle with dusting of smoked paprika for garnish and chives.

Makes 6 tapas size portions

Super Tender Grilled Octopus with Spanish Flavours

The easiest way to get tender octopus at home is to first poach it until completely tender. Grilling it after gives you that slightly chewy texture and char that reminds me of the seaside. It’s totally fine to buy octopus frozen and thaw it before poaching it.

  •  1 lb octopus tentacles (450 gm )
  • 2  cup  water (500 ml)
  • 1cup  fino dry sherry (250 ml)
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • grated zest of 1 large orange
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley stems, whole
  • 1 tsp. whole  peppercorns (5 ml)
  • 2 Tbsp.  cup extra virgin olive oil (25 ml)
  • Sherry vinegar, to taste
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced and gently fried till golden
  • Green Spanish olives, sliced, for garnish
  • Parsley leaves
  • Smoked paprika, optional

In a medium pot, combine octopus, water, sherry, onion, orange zest, garlic, bay leaves, parsley stems and pepper corns. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to low and simmer uncovered for 60-90 minutes or until fork tender.  Let cook in liquid.

Peel away the dark membrane with hands and cool to room temperature.  Discard cooking liquid. At this point , octopus can be refrigerated until ready to grill.

To grill,  combine extra virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar and cooled octopus in a bowl.  Toss to coat and season with salt and pepper. Let stand for 15-20 minutes to develop flavour while grill is heating up.

Preheat grill on high.

Grill tentacles on high for 3-4 minutes on each side until slightly charred and tender.

To serve slice each tentacle and arrange on small plate or spoon.  Top with garlic chips, slices of green olives and parsley leaf.

Makes 8 tapas

Verrine of potato, piquillo pepper and artichoke

Verrine is a French word used to describe a small glass that you would serve a layered appetizer in.  I love this layered combination of creamy potatoes, piquillo peppers, topped with a crispy fried artichoke quarter.

  • 2 large Yukon gold potatoes, boiled, peeled and mashed (about 250 gm)
  • 1/3 cup whole milk (75 ml)
  • 3 Tbsp. butter (45 ml)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated fresh nutmeg to taste
  • 8 small piquillo peppers, jarred
  • 2 small artichoke, cut into quarters, choke removed
  • juice 1/2 lemon
  • ¼ cup fine semolina (50 ml)
  • extra virgin olive oil for frying

Cook potatoes and mash. Combine with butter, milk and seasoning.  Stir and adjust thickness with more milk as desired.

To prepare artichokes, trim 1/3 off tops and remove outer third of hard leaves. Transfer immediately to a bowl of cold water with the juice of ½ lemon to prevent too much browning.

Cut into quarters. Remove furry choke.  Trim outer core until only the tender middle is left.  Pat dry and dredge in semolina for frying.

Heat oil in a small skillet to 325°F. Note that temperature of oil must be lower to cook artichokes before they burn.  Fry for 5-7 minutes or until golden and tender.  Drain on paper towel lined sheet.

To assemble verrine, fill a small piping bag with potato mixture and pipe in bottom of verrine.  Top each with a piquillo pepper and top with fried artichoke.

Serve immediately at room temperature.

Makes 8 tapas

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