Autumn Tastes Like Quince

Fruit tastes best when eaten in season and as we are in quince harvest time and we do love seasonal products, it is time to review this fruit known as “source of health”.

Its scientific name “Cydonia oblonga” comes from Cydonia, a city on the island of Crete famous for growing quinces, which in Ancient Greece was already well-known and highly prized.

For centuries, this fruit has been considered an essential part of the Mediterranean diet due to its beneficial nutritional contents, such as pectin, the natural fibre that many fruits have under the skin. Quince is one of the fruits that contains the highest percentage of this, providing much more fibre than other fruit, such as peaches, apricots or plums. It combats intestinal disorders. It is also a food rich in minerals such as iron, phosphorus and potassium, essential minerals that will help you to keep your muscles and bones in perfect condition. Quince also contains a significant amount of Vitamin C, which we need to absorb iron into our blood.  A totally cholesterol free product and that contains no fat or gluten.

Quince is a bright golden yellow aromatic fruit. Despite being hard, astringent and sour to eat raw, it’s excellent to make into a jam, jelly or paste. So, we are going to prepare an excellent autumnal dessert, whose principal ingredient is obviously the quince paste:

Quince and Manchego Millefeuille

The one that we are using for this recipe is processed in Murcia, Spain and packaged in an elegant heat-sealed plastic shaped like an ingot 🙂 easy piece!!

Queso_de_Irati_con_membrillo_y_nueces_-_jlastras

Cooking level: very very easy

Time: Prep: 10 minutes or less…

For this recipe, you will need:

1 pack of Emily quince paste

200g wedge of Manchego cheese

6 whole walnuts in the shell

6 organic honey spoons

First of all, remove the husks by applying pressure to the ends of the walnut and set aside.

Cut the Manchego cheese into squares, finger-thick. You will use three slices for each mille-feuille so you’ll need nine in total.

Cut also the quince jam the same thickness and size as your cheese. You’ll use two for each mille-feuille so you’ll need six quince slices.

Now it’s time to decorate the plate. Small details that will help make your dessert amazing:

Put one teaspoon of organic honey and spread it in a circular pattern. Honey adds a complementary color and flavor to the dessert.

Assembly:

Lay down one rectangle of Manchego cheese and sprinkle sugar on it, if you have a kitchen blowtorch caramelize the sugar, if you don’t, don’t worry, just place the quince jam square and gently press down, continue until you place the final layer of cheese.

Decorate the top of the millefeuille with the whole walnut and a touch of honey. Eh voila! And excellent dessert with an incredible taste, rich in fibre and totally healthy.

Bon appétit!!

Advertisements

Rioja Harvest 2014: Laguardia and Ábalos

Our export manager, Vanessa, who handles our wine selections, just got back from a trip to Rioja. She met with some suppliers and stumbled upon some great new wine finds. The harvest has proven to be quite complicated this year with sporadic rainfall which has left some grapes bloated and with lower fruit and sugar concentrations. It is a pity because the growing season was considered exceptional. It remains to be seen exactly how the rains will affect the final product. Each region may have divergently different outcomes.

Rioja is divided into three distinct regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa, and Rioja Baja. It includes three Autonomous Communities: La Rioja, Navarra and the Basque Country (with the province of Álava).

rioja_regions map

Traditionally, Rioja has used American oak, and lots of it. The pores in American oak are slightly larger compared to French oak and take less time for the barrels to impart the oak aromas. The vanilla that comes from American oak complements the fruit of the tempranillo and other grape varietals like graciano and mazuelo. Rioja has also benefitted from French oenologists, particulary from Bordeaux, who came when they found themselves out of growable vines after the phylloxera louse ravaged them in the 19th century. Many Riojano bodegueros are now marrying traditional American oak style in the body of the barrel with the more modern finesse of French oak on the ends or lids of the same barrels.

We look forward to taking a deeper look over the next few posts at the Rioja wine-growing region. Below is a short collection of some of the highlights of our 2014 Rioja scouting trip. Salud!

Vineyards in Rioja Alta with sun actually shining

Vineyards in Rioja Alta with sun actually shining

Looking toward Laguardia

Looking toward Samaniego from Bodegas Baigorri

Rioja with Cantabrian Mountains in background

Rioja with Cantabrian Mountains in background

Harvest friends in Ábalos, Rioja Alta taking a break

Harvest friends in Ábalos, Rioja Alta taking a break

View from Laguardia to vineyards below

View from Laguardia to vineyards below

IMG_3861

Church in Ábalos, Rioja Alta

IMG_3858

Typical door leading to interior courtyard/entryway, Ábalos, Rioja

IMG_3866

Great little hotel and bar in Ábalos, RIoja Alta

IMG_3863

Lunchtime, Ábalos, Rioja Alta

IMG_3857

Medieval Ábalos, Rioja Alta

IMG_3854

Medieval Ábalos, Rioja Alta

IMG_3853

Medieval Ábalos, Rioja Alta

IMG_3848

Medieval Ábalos, Rioja Alta

Gardens, Ábalos, Rioja Alta

Gardens, Ábalos, Rioja Alta

Building, Ábalos, Rioja Alta

Building, Ábalos, Rioja Alta

Church, Ábalos, Rioja Alta

Church, Ábalos, Rioja Alta

Rec center for the elderly and retired, Ábalos, Rioja Alta

Rec center for the elderly and retired, Ábalos, Rioja Alta

Church, Ábalos, Rioja Alta

Church, Ábalos, Rioja Alta

Church, Ábalos, Rioja Alta with Cantabrian mountains in background

Church, Ábalos, Rioja Alta with Cantabrian mountains in background

On standby, Ábalos, Rioja Alta

On standby, Ábalos, Rioja Alta

Church, Ábalos, Rioja Alta

Church, Ábalos, Rioja Alta

'Very old door', Ábalos, Rioja Alta

‘Very old door’, Ábalos, Rioja Alta

Church, Ábalos, Rioja Alta

Church, Ábalos, Rioja Alta

Church, Ábalos, Rioja Alta

Church, Ábalos, Rioja Alta

Laguardia

Laguardia

Old medieval arches, Laguardia

Old medieval arches, Laguardia

Flowers in Laguardia

Flowers in Laguardia

Treating us to a wine in her bar, Laguardia

Treating us to a wine in her bar, Laguardia

For customers only!

For customers only!

Interior of bar, Laguardia

Interior of bar, Laguardia

Tapas, Laguardia

Tapas, Laguardia

Old press converted into table, Laguardia

Old press converted into table, Laguardia

Beautiful old stone floor, Laguardia

Beautiful old stone floor, Laguardia

Bar interior, Laguardia

Bar interior, Laguardia

Old bodega-turned-bar, Laguardia

Old bodega-turned-bar, Laguardia

Old bodega-turned-bar, Laguardia

Old bodega-turned-bar, Laguardia

Tapas offerings outside underground bodega and bar, common in Laguardia

Tapas offerings outside underground bodega and bar, common in Laguardia

Local flavor

Local flavor

Beautiful hotel for the well-heeled, Laguardia

Beautiful hotel for the well-heeled, Laguardia

Where are my shoes? Shoe sculpture, Laguardia

Where are my shoes? Shoe sculpture, Laguardia

Our export manager, Vanessa Harris

Our export manager, Vanessa Harris

Church grounds, Laguardia

Church grounds, Laguardia

Church tower, Laguardia

Church tower, Laguardia

Laguardia coat of arms

Laguardia coat of arms

These dancing clock figures come out every hour and do a little song and dance number and then go back into their clock cave.

These dancing clock figures come out every hour and do a little song and dance number and then go back into their clock cave.

IMG_3700

Rainy afternoon during harvest in Laguardia, Rioja

Rainy afternoon during harvest in Laguardia, Rioja

Cloudy skies in Laguardia

Cloudy skies in Laguardia

 

 

Arzak-Inspired Hake and Clams with Bellota Ham Crisp

This month we’ve changed the look of our newsletter and added a blog to our website (check out sidebar for naming-contest details!). There we’ll include wine pairings for featured wines, classic Spanish recipes prepared by real people, and trends in gastronomy on the Iberian peninsula. The beloved bellota ham will usually make an appearance along with chorizo, lomo, Manchego cheese and all the other reasons why you keep coming back to San Jamón. The beauty of bellota ham is the sweet and salty simplicity that melts in your mouth. But, it has other preparations. This month we toast our ham (gasp!) in the oven and set it along side hake in salsa verde and potatoes with toasted bellota ham ‘dust’ sprinkled on top. Recipe is inspired by Juan Mari Arzak of the eponymous Michelin, three-star restaurant.

I'm in luck! Hake is on sale at local fish market.

I’m in luck! Hake is on sale at local fish market.

We prepared this dish in the San Jamon kitchen. But first, I had to visit the fishmonger to get some fresh hake. Having paid close attention to Arzak’s recipe notes, I inquired if the hake was 24-hours old. He assured me that it was a fresh catch even after I explained that I preferred a day-old one. Getting a puzzled look, I added that Arzak recommends this otherwise the excess water retained by said hake would make the dish insipid. The fishmonger nodded and smiled silently, several times, as he artfully prepared my merluza of questionable age. It was never clear to me exactly how old the fish was as much as we tried to take chef Arzak’s tips to heart. It was safe to assume the fish was at least a few hours old as fish in this part of Spain (Valladolid) usually comes from Galicia very early the same morning.

The fishmonger showing the freshness of fish according to the brillance of the red interior.

The fishmonger showing the freshness of fish according to the brillance of the red interior.

Spraying knife for hake preparation at fishmarket

Spraying knife for hake preparation at fish market

Removing the spine. I asked him to save it, along with the head, for a homemade fish broth.

Removing the spine. I asked him to save it, along with the head, for a homemade fish stock.

Cooking level: easy with a little finesse

Time: Prep: 20 minutes; Cooking: 30 minutes (or slightly more if you wanted a thicker, more reduced sauce and/or you choose to make a basic fish stock from spine and head)

For this recipe, you will need:

-For the hake in sauce-

4 200g loins of steaky white fish with skin. This recipe calls for merluza (hake), but cod or halibut would work great as well

4 cloves of garlic

2 heaping spoonfuls of italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped

12 spoonfuls of extra virgin olive oil

1 glass of cold water

salt

-For the sautéed clams and vinaigrette-

250g of fresh (not 24-hour!) clams

4 spoonfuls of extra virgin olive oil

spoonful of onion, finely chopped

2 spoonfuls of cider vinegar

1 small dried cayenne chili pepper

-For the hake in sauce-

Clean the loins, better with a cloth. Season them. Put a pan  on the stovetop wide enough to fit all the loins. Crowding a pan is the worst for even cooking. Simmer garlic, parsley and oil. Before the garlic starts to brown add the hake loins skin side up. Add glass of water (for this I diverted from Arzak version and ladled in a previously made fish stock from spine and head instead of the water. It made the sauce less translucent, but possibly more flavorful and more body.) and keep cooking for about 3 minutes (depending on thickness), shaking the pan to pickup the sauce. Then turn over the loins and continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Season. Before dishing you should make sure that the sauce is well blended, if not, take the spines off the head (if you did not make optional fish stock), moving the pan sauce and reducing on med-high heat.

Hake in sauteed garlic and parsley before adding fish broth.

Hake in sautéed garlic and parsley before adding fish broth.

Ladling fish stock into fish, sauteed garlic and fish juices

Ladling fish stock into fish, sauteed garlic and fish juices

-For the sautéed clams and vinaigrette-

Take a bowl, a couple of hours before, and place the clams in salted water to loosen sand trapped in clams. Rinse well. Put a pan with olive oil and the pepper (ground between your fingers) over high heat. Check clams and saute pan moving well. As soon as they open, remove them. Make a vinaigrette with olive oil , vinegar, fresh garlic, onion and salt. Raise heat briefly, but do not boil. Remove the shells of clams and season your meat with the warm vinaigrette.

Parsley and ground cayenne pepper in olive oil

Parsley and ground cayenne pepper in olive oil

–For the ham crisp and ham ‘dust’-

Cut the ham into thin slices . Put them on a tray and enter the oven at 200 C degrees for 10 minutes ( until very crispy and toasted ). Then crush one slice in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder until reduced to fine powder. We broke the other toasted slice into pieces and used as garnish. It looks very professional and is actually quite easy.

Two slices San Jamón bellota ham laid out carefully on oven tray

Two slices San Jamón bellota ham laid out carefully on oven tray

Between two sheet pans at 300 F for 10 minutes

Between two sheet pans at 375 F for 10 minutes

It was not included in Arzak’s recipe, but we also added some slow-cooked potatoes that we first fried in olive oil for about 3 minutes each side on medium-high heat, and then added the rest of the fish stock on a low simmer. If you leave it to boil, the potatoes will break up.

Potatoes frying in extra virgin olive oil

Potatoes frying in extra virgin olive oil

The dish can be prepared in a full meal portion or in a smaller, tapas-style size.

Tapa of hake with clams in salsa verde and crisp bellota ham

Tapa of hake with clams in salsa verde and crisp bellota ham

Hake on blue plate

Send us photos of how your hake and ham turned out! What do you think of this recipe?

 

Visitors from A Far

We had two customers come to Valladolid to visit us last week. They were in the middle of a long road trip from southwest England all the way to Spain via ferry. We had a lovely time showing them around our area and taking them to our favorite tapas bars.

Safe travels Anne and Hugh! We look forward to our U.K. visit 🙂

If you are ever in the area, give us a ring!

(from L - R) Vanessa, our export manager with Miguel, owner of San Jamón, with our guests, Hugh and Anne

(from L – R) Vanessa, our export manager with Miguel, owner of San Jamón, with guests, Hugh and Anne at Marqués de Olivara winery in Toro, Spain