Sunday, March 20, 2011


Hooray, Carnaval! Cancelled two weeks in a row because of rain, today carnaval processions hit the streets in my village with raucous banging, ringing, singing and dancing.

Carnavales are the pre-Lenten bacchanalia that, by the Church calendar, should have ended a week ago. But, all that planning for costumes shouldn’t go by the wayside because of a few rainstorms!

After the groups make their way through village streets, everyone congregates in the big plaza for more music, shenanigans, showing off and awards for best costumes. And, of course, food. On this sunny afternoon a couple of bars are serving drinks and snacks.

Pinchitos are spicy mini-kebabs grilled on a plancha. Also from the plancha are hamburgers and thinly-sliced pork loin placed on mini-buns and garnished with lettuce and tomatoes. A huge paella gets a final garnish of shrimp before being served up to the crowds.

Another stall (this one in benefit of a charity) sells small bowls of potaje de callos, a tripe and sausage stew with garbanzos (the recipe is here).

Later in the afternoon, ladies fire up a vat of oil to fry buñuelos, small crullers or doughnuts, so good with the thick, thick hot chocolate ladled from a big pot. (The recipe for drinking chocolate is here.)

Mini-Kebabs with Moorish Spices

Pinchitos Morunos

Exotic Moorish spices from nearby Morocco give the meat—usually pork—a lot of flavor. In Spain, spice vendors sell a ready-mixed blend, especia para pinchitos, pinchito spice, which contains lots of cumin, coriander, red chile, turmeric and ginger. If you can´t get the spice mix, use instead a spoonful of curry powder combined with ground cumin.

The trick is to cut the meat into quite small pieces, so that it cooks in the few minutes it takes to brown. Thin metal skewers work best and can be reused. If using bamboo skewers, soak them first in water and take care that they don´t come in contact with the heated griddle.

Makes 16 mini-kebabs.

1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut in ¾ inch cubes
6 tablespoons chopped parsley
10 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup fresh lemon juice

Combine the cumin and curry powder. Place half the cubes of pork in a non-reactive bowl and sprinkle with half the parsley, garlic, salt, spice mixture and lemon juice. Add remaining pork, then parsley, garlic, salt, spice and lemon juice. Marinate, covered and refrigerated, for 24 hours. Turn the meat 2 or 3 times.

Thread 4 or 5 pieces of meat onto thin metal skewers. Cook them on a hot griddle, turning until browned on all sides, 7 to 8 minutes.

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