Buenos dias and welcome to day two of this semana Española! My family and I are really delighted with all the Spanish food I have been cooking these days. The rich, earthy flavors and ingredients of the Spanish kitchen are really bringing in the sunshine- a welcomed treat considering the cool, gloomy weather we are having this summer here in the Netherlands! It can be gray and raining outside, but the moment I start frying chorizo or I smell the oaky aroma of smoked paprika, I am in sunny Spain!
Around this time of year, many of the Dutch are returning home from their vacation, and since Spain is one of the most popular destinations, I really hope these posts will help you hold on to that holiday feeling for just a little longer. For me, these last couple of days have been very inspirational. I am really looking beyond what's in the pan and trying to understand the ingredients that characterize the country's cuisine. It's also amazing how much similarities I sometimes see with the kitchen of my parent's native Antioquia- a region of Colombia which appears to have a particularly huge Basque influence. This is evident in foods such as morcilla, chorizo and many of the beans and meat dishes we Paisas eat. I even discovered yesterday that our arepa (small cake made of cornflour and water), may be closely related to the talo of the Basque Country! I am still in the processing of discovering my own culinary roots, but understanding the Spanish kitchen and cooking techniques is really shedding some light on many of the dishes my family prepared while I was growing up.
Today's dish is albóndigas, or Spanish meatballs. I remember we ate a lot of these when I was little. My mother usually served them over rice or sometimes she served them in a soup with potatoes. In Spain, albóndigas are served as tapas or as a main dish. The following recipe also comes from the book I mentioned in yesterday's post, The Real Taste of Spain. Again, I have made a few alterations based on my own preferences and keeping in mind the ingredients I had at hand.
These tender, juicy albóndigas are first browned before cooking for about 45 minutes in a flavorful tomato sauce. You'll notice that the recipe asks that you first roll the balls through some flour before rolling them in egg white. I must admit I've always done this the other way around (and in a whole beaten egg), so I found this technique rather messy. I leave the choice up to you! The albóndigas and their hearty tomato sauce go beautifully over a bed of fluffy, white rice. Buen provecho!
500g minced beef and pork
sea salt and freshly-ground pepper
pinch of nutmeg
2 garlic cloves, pressed
4 tbsps dry sherry
small handful of chopped parsley
small handful of fresh breadcrumbs
2 eggs, split
4 tbsps mild olive oil
For the sauce:
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
a can of chopped tomatoes (400g)
200ml good beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika powder
pinch of sugar
In a large bowl, combine the minced meat, salt, pepper, nutmeg, garlic, sherry, parsley and breadcrumbs. Allow this to stand in the fridge for about an hour. Add the egg yolks to the mixture and make sure everything is combined well. I like to use a potato masher to do this. Whisk the whites lightly in a separate bowl and put the flour in a shallow plate. Divide the mixture into 12 balls and roll them first through the flour and then through the egg whites. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and fry the meatballs in two batches until they are browned but not cooked. Place the browned meatballs on a separate plate. Once all the meatballs are cooked, lower the heat and add the onions and garlic to the pan and gently sweat them. Add the chopped tomatoes, stock, bay leaf and paprika powder and allow the sauce to cook for about 5-8 minutes or until it has thickened a little. Add the meatballs to the sauce, cover the pan and let them simmer gently for about 45 minutes. Serve over white rice as a main meal or make the meatballs smaller and serve them as tapas.