Saturday, October 25, 2014


Spanish national flag, la roja y gualda.

Spaniards love their national flag--la roja y gualda--the red and yellow (except, that is, for die-hard republicans who add a band of purple and for Catalan separatists who add an inset of a lone star on the red and yellow bars). The national flag waves at World Cup soccer matches and basketball championships, at the Olympics, at tennis tournaments when Rafael Nadal is playing.

Even at the dinner table Spaniards are said to love the roja y gualda. Foods colored red with pimentón or yellow with saffron are amongst the nation's favorite dishes.  La comida amarilla--the yellow meal--so appreciated everywhere in Spain, is best represented by paella, but there are many more yellow dishes. While the orange-red of pimentón is appreciated in many regions, it seems to be a basic color of life in Galicia.

Saffron is a spice of the Old World, known to the Romans and re-introduced to Europe by the Moors, who brought it to Spain. Pimentón, the dried and milled capsicum pepper, is a spice of the New World, discovered by Columbus who was after a fast-track to the Spice Islands.

About saffron. Saffron (azafrán) is like gold--precious and expensive. It's expensive because it takes the tiny stigmas of 75,000 crocus sativus to make a half-kilo of the spice. They come from a mauve-colored crocus that's blooming now, late October into early November.  The finest saffron comes from La Mancha (where it has denominación de origen) and Murcia, but cheap saffron from Iran is imported, packaged in Spain and marketed globally.
Denominación La Mancha.

Because it is so valued, saffron has long been an ingredient in special foods, those served on fiesta days, for weddings and baptisms. But for ordinary cooking, la comida amarilla is made with artificial yellow coloring.
Artificial yellow coloring.

The powdered yellow coloring is widely called azafrán, although it is not, or else by the most popular brand name, Aeroplano. Many bright-yellow paellas served up in ordinary bars and restaurants contain not a wisp of true saffron. Not to be substituted, however, is turmeric, another yellow spice, which has a powerful aroma of its own, used in many curries.

Real Spanish saffron is sold in natural threads (hebras) in sachets or plastic packets, weighing from a half-gram to two or three grams. One-half gram, about a teaspoonful of threads, is enough for two or three meals, whether paella, bouillabaisse or risotto. The good stuff has an aroma of honey, sweet hay, a little medicinal. It's color intensifies the longer it is soaked in hot liquid.

Store saffron in a dry place, protected from direct light. The threads should be pulverized before using in cooking. If they are crisp and dry, that's easily done in a mortar or in a teacup, using the butt-end of a knife. If the saffron wisps are limp, wrap them in a piece of foil or parchment and toast them in a frying pan for a minute. Then crush them.

Dissolve the crushed saffron in a little hot liquid--stock, water, milk--and allow to infuse for 10 minutes. Then add the saffron liquid to the food to be cooked. For a sumptuous gilding to a finished dish, scatter  a few wisps of saffron on top.

Pimentón de la Vera, smoked paprika from Extremadura.

Two types of capsicums dried for grinding into pimentón, choriceros on the left, and ñoras.

About pimentón (paprika). Not just a colorful sprinkle on the top of a dish, pimentón is used lavishly for both color and flavor. It is, arguably, the most important spice in the Spanish repertoire.

In Spain there are at least two types of pimentón--pimentón dulce, sweet paprika, and pimentón picante, piquant paprika, with a bite, but not as hot as cayenne.

There are further distinctions. Several regions of Spain are renowned for the quality of their pimentón--Navarra, Extremadura and Murcia, in particular. Some even have denominación de calidad--a designation of quality.

One of these is Pimentón de la Vera, paprika from the La Vera region of Extremadura. Sweet and piquant peppers are slowly dried in oak-fired kilns, which give them a wonderful ruddy color and dusky, smoky flavor.

Pescado en Amarillo
Fish in Saffron Sauce
Sea bass fillets en amarillo, in a saffron sauce.

Use a solid-fleshed fish in this dish. Good choices are grey mullet (lisa), conger eel (congrio), monkfish (rape), cuttlefish (sepia), dogfish (cazón), sea bass (lubina) or swordfish (pez espada). The sauce is usually thickened with bread and/or ground almonds. Potatoes may be cooked right in the sauce. Any dish cooked en amarillo, yellow, is usually garnished with green peas and parsley. 

 I didn't thicken the sauce, but reduced it. I used sea bass fillets, pan-frying them separately and placing them on top of the sauce. 

4 (6-ounce)fillets of sea bass
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
1/4 cup hot water
2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for frying the fish
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon flour plus more for dredging the fish
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups fish stock
Cooked potatoes to serve (optional)
Cooked peas or broccoli florets, to serve
Chopped parsley to garnish

Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper and let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Place the crushed saffron in a small bowl and add the hot water. Let it steep for at least 10 minutes.

Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the onion and garlic until softened, 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and fry a few minutes longer. Stir in the teaspoon of flour. Add the wine, fish stock and the saffron water. Simmer the sauce, covered, for 20 minutes. Puree in a blender and, if desired, sieve it (to remove any tomato seeds or skin). Return the sauce to the pan.

Dredge the fish fillets in flour and pat off excess. Heat oil in a large skillet to a depth of 1 inch. Fry the fish, flesh side down, until golden. Turn and fry, skin side down, until golden. Remove and keep warm.

Reheat the sauce. Divide it between four dishes and top with the pieces of fish. Add cooked potatoes and peas or broccoli. Garnish with parsley.

Pescado en Pimentón
Fish in Pimentón Red Sauce

Chunks of fish cooked in a red pimentón sauce. The recipe is here.

Cazuela de Patatas (Rojas y Gualdas)
Potato Casserole, Red or Yellow

Potatoes--rojas (pimentón) y gualdas (saffron).

This cazuela dish can be cooked red or yellow. At the Spanish table, it might be served as a first course, instead of a soup. It's also good as a side or, add meat, fish, shellfish or poultry and serve it as a main dish.

The yellow version is especially good with the addition of fish (even canned sardines or tuna), clams or mussels. It can be thickened with ground almonds. Again, green peas, peppers and parsley are usually added, but other green vegetables are fine. 

The red pimentón potatoes make a great side with grilled or roasted meat. Add mushrooms, bacon or ham to ramp up the flavor. I used a mixture of pimentón--1 teaspoon hot (picante) pimentón, 1 teaspoon smoked pimentón de la Vera, and 1 teaspoon ordinary sweet pimentón. 

Use "baking" potatoes, such as russets. They soak up the flavors of the sauce.

2 pounds potatoes, cut in 1-inch dice
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, not peeled, lightly crushed to split them
1 small green pepper, chopped
1/2 cup water or stock
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Bay leaf, thyme or rosemary
Pinch of ground cumin
For the yellow potatoes:
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
1/4 cup hot water
For the red potatoes:
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes added to the sofrito of onions and peppers
4 teaspoons pimentón (sweet, hot, or smoked)

If preparing the potatoes in advance, cover them with water until ready to cook. Drain them before adding to the pan.

If preparing the yellow potatoes, place the crushed saffron in a small bowl and add the hot water.

Heat the oil in a cazuela (earthenware casserole) or heavy skillet. Sauté the onion, garlics and green pepper for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and fry 5 minutes longer. (If preparing the red potatoes, add the tomatoes too.) Add the water or stock, salt and pepper, bay, thyme or rosemary and cumin. (If preparing the yellow potatoes, add the saffron water.)

Bring the liquid to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Allow to set 10 minutes before serving.

Cazuela patatas en amarillo.

Cazuela de patatas en pimentón.

Just for fun, la roja y gualda, made with potatoes.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Chiles en Nogada, a recipe from Gourmet magazine.

I  miss Gourmet magazine. The food magazine ceased publication a few years ago, financially challenged in a digital age. I miss the terrific photo spreads, the recipes, of course, and even the ads. I liked opening up each new issue (living abroad, they arrived late in the month) and deciding which recipes I would try in my kitchen.

I never clipped recipes. I saved all the back issues. About 30 years worth. Until finally, I had to unload them to make room for other things. But first I leafed through them all, rereading some articles, clipping and saving only those marvelous “centerfold” menus for parties, holiday dinners, brunches, picnics. What a record of how menus and food styling have changed! When did tobacco ads disappear? From 1987, a “movie night” photo spread depicts those old clunky videos. In the 1970s, still determinedly French, aspics and quiche appeared over and over.  By the mid-80s, there were dozens of chocolate mousse recipes, but now there is hummus, bulgur, arugula, kale, pine nuts and the food processor.

Some of the pre-digital camera and pre-PhotoShop pictures would never make it today on ! But I loved the styling, the exuberant textiles, china, glassware, whether it was for a “formal Thanksgiving,” a “Victorian Christmas dinner” or a “weekend in the country.”

Gourmet was an inspiration to me as a food writer, too. For 30 years I wrote a monthly cooking column about Spanish food for an English-language magazine in Spain. I often borrowed seasonal ideas, ingredient themes and holiday lore from Gourmet, adapting them for Spanish recipes.

Now, as I cull the remainder of the Gourmet stash and all those centerfold pages, I am cooking through some of them before they go.

One is a whole menu for “A Beach Weekend,” from August 1987. I prepared the Pan-Grilled Salmon with Olive Oil and Basil; Summer Squash with Lemon; Barley, Bell Pepper, and Corn Salad, and Frozen Nectarine Mousse with Raspberries.

Cooking the "centerfold"--pan-grilled salmon, barley salad, summer squash.

Barley salad hardly needs a recipe--cooked barley, chopped red bell pepper, corn, chopped parsley, vinegar and olive oil.

Salmon, summer squash, barley salad--recipes from Gourmet.

The other is a recipe for the Mexican dish, Chiles en Nogada (Stuffed Poblano Chiles with Walnut Sauce and Pomegranate Seeds), from an article about chiles from September 2006.

The photo from Gourmet is--surprisingly--not so good. Still, I tried to copy the colors.

The chiles are roasted and skinned, stuffed with a mixture of braised pork, tomatoes, cinnamon, allspice, peach, dried apricots, raisins and pine nuts, sauced with a sweetened cream of ground walnuts and almonds, and served sprinkled with ruby-red pomegranate seeds. (The recipe can be found  on the database at .

I have peppers in the garden—not actually poblano chiles, but similar—as well as pomegranates, almonds, walnuts.

Filling with pork, fruit, tomatoes.
Chiles are stuffed, ready for the oven.
What a ravishing dish!

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Here’s how I came to make lunch for two American chefs. An old friend, Gerry Dawes, got in touch, saying he was taking two young chefs around western and southern Spain on a mission to explore regional Spanish cooking. One of them, Ryan McIlwraith, will be the executive chef for a new, Spanish-inflected restaurant  in San Francisco (at 888 Brannon), part of the Absinthe Group (name and opening date still not announced). The other, Joel Erlich, will be the executive sous chef there.

Lunch at my house: Chef Ryan McIlwraith (left) and Gerry Dawes, gastronome.
I know Gerry from way back in the 1970s, when he lived in the same village where I live. Now he’s  an expert on Spanish gastronomy, wine and travel, who does specialized custom tours for culinary luminaries.

Gerry said they would be traveling from Sanlucar de Barrameda via Ronda to Málaga and would like to stop off in Mijas so he could introduce the chefs to me and to my cookbooks.

Sure, I said, come for a late lunch.

Ohmygod. Whatever will I cook for a couple of chefs? This would be Ryan’s third culinary trip to Spain, so he was no novato. He was previously chef de cuisine at Michael Chiarello's  Coqueta (San Francisco) where he garnered experience working with Iberian-inflected cuisine.

“What do you know about gazpachuelo?” Gerry asked me. “Ryan wants to try a version of that while we’re down there.  Is there any place we can have it?”

Gazpachuelo--Mediterranean seafood chowder.
Gazpachuelo, although it sounds like “gazpacho,” is not a cold soup. It’s a hot soup, typical of the traditional Málaga kitchen. The simplest version is made with nothing more than egg, olive oil and potatoes, although refined versions usually include fish and shellfish, ham and a bit of Sherry as well.

So, it would be gazpachuelo for lunch. As starters, I added another village dish, calabaza frita, sauteed pumpkin (I just happen to have a pile of pumpkins from the garden), and a salad of oranges, onions, olives and salt cod, called salmorejo in my village (yes, salmorejo is something entirely different in Córdoba).

Calabaza frita, pumpkin sautee, for a starter.

Another starter--salmorejo--salad with oranges, onions, olives and salt cod.

Chefs Joel Erlich (left) and Ryan McIlwraith in my kitchen.
Chef Ryan serves the soup.

Ryan and Joel joined me in the kitchen as I finished off the soup, poaching chunks of hake in fish stock, whipping up olive oil mayonnaise (Hojiblanca varietal oil, so typical of Málaga) and whisking it into the hot soup. Pros that they are, the chefs served the soup.

What did they think?

“I enjoyed it very much,” said Ryan. “Sure, my chef brain kicks in and starts reworking every morsel I put in my mouth. That just comes naturally after awhile. A little more salt and umami (ham bones, mushrooms in the stock, more Sherry) would have elevated the dish pretty quickly.

“I'm also always looking for acid, texture, and freshness. Would herbs or spices make this dish more exciting for American palates?  What about a topping of crispy potatoes or leeks?  What seasonal Californian vegetables would have brought texture and freshness to the dish—radishes, beets, cardoons, watercress, sun chokes—maybe all of the above,” he laughed.

“What local fish would work best? Lingcod, black cod, or petrale sole maybe. Maybe a finishing oil of chive or sorrel oil would give it punch and break up the flavors on the palate.  And, because we always eat first with our eyes, what dish would it be best served in? Some sort of local ceramic pottery or classic Spanish cazuela.”

“Wow!” says I. A glimpse inside the mind of a chef. I will definitely think about Ryan’s ideas next time I make gazpachuelo. My rendition absolutely needed  more salt and I completely forgot to add the lemon juice to the mayonnaise. Ham bone in the fish stock is a great idea. Crispy leeks would be fine. But, no, no, no beets in it! Don’t go there, Ryan!

Chef Ryan is not saying whether gazpachuelo will be on the menu of the new restaurant, nor revealing anything else on his menu yet. It's all still top secret.

The point of Ryan and Joel’s trip (Madrid-Ávila-Segovia-Sevilla-Sanlucar-Granada-Córdoba), planned by Gerry Dawes, who knows everybody in Spain who is part of the gastronomy world, was to familiarize themselves with regional dishes, with an emphasis on Andalusian-style tapas and dishes with Moorish and Jewish roots. 

“We visited all four of the ibérico ham regions,” said Ryan. “In California, we buy Cinco Jotas, so it was amazing to see their new facility and all of the history and science that goes into preserving the true Iberian pig.” They also spent time with Florencio Sanchidrian, a master ham cutter, to learn the art of slicing jamón ibérico.

“We’ve met so many outstanding people on this trip,” said Ryan. “One is Javier Hidalgo of Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana (Sanlucar de Barrameda).  He gave us a tour of his family’s bodega and a great education in Sherry.  We had lunch with him at Casa Bigote and went to the market with him in Sanlucar.  He is also a biologist and horse jockey, what a smart and interesting individual.

“Almost every morning for breakfast we had café con leche, fresh squeezed OJ, and pan con tomate with ibérico de bellota ham.  I would attack each day with a smile if that was my breakfast every day for the rest of my life.”

Ryan noted the absence of eggs for breakfast in Spain, with egg dishes appearing throughout the rest of the day.

“I’m a huge fan of eggs with dinner,” he said. “Fabulous scrambled eggs with wild asparagus for lunch or Spanish-style fried egg on top of vegetable and ham dishes are some that won’t leave my taste memory anytime soon.”

“Why a Spanish-themed restaurant in San Francisco?” I asked Ryan.

“Small plates with bold flavors, shared amongst friends—it’s my favorite way to dine," he replied.  "Spain has such a rich history of undiscovered gems that you find in all the different regions.  As a chef, studying Spain and Spanish food continues to drive me forward."

In my kitchen with the chefs--video by Gerry Dawes.


This is the recipe for gazpachuelo that I served to the chefs. Following their suggestions, I’ve added more olive oil and Sherry to the recipe. Oh, yeah, and salt. Important to taste! The fish I used was merluza (fresh hake). I used the head, bones and trimmings to make a fish stock.

Serves 6.

1 egg, room temperature
¾ extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
8 cups fish stock
1 ½ cups diced potatoes
¼  cup shelled peas, fresh or frozen
1 ½  cups boneless chunks of white fish
¼ cup chopped serrano ham
1/3 cup peeled shrimp (3 ounces)
Roasted red pepper, chopped (optional)
½ cup Sherry (fino or amontillado)
Salt, to taste

Place the egg in a blender container. With the motor running, add the oil in a slow stream until it is emulsified. Blend in the lemon juice and salt. Set aside.

Put the fish stock in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Add the peas and cook 5 minutes more.

Then add the chunks of fish, ham, shrimp and Sherry. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

With the motor running, ladle some of the hot soup into the emulsion in the blender. Remove the soup from the heat and whisk the emulsion into the soup. Serve immediately. The soup can be reheated, but do not boil.

Orange and Cod Salad

In my village this salad is called salmorejo. But in Córdoba and Sevilla salmorejo is something else altogether, a thick gazpacho. The salad, also known as remojón or ensalada malagueña (Málaga salad) sometimes includes potatoes as well as oranges.

The cod is scattered on top almost like a seasoning. Chunks of canned tuna, drained; cooked shrimp, or strips of serrano or ibérico ham can be substituted for the dry salt cod.

4 ounces dry salt cod (bacalao)
4 oranges, peeled and pith removed
6 scallions or 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
10 green or black pitted olives
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
Red pepper flakes (optional)

Place the cod in a bowl and cover with water. Soak it, changing the water once, for 12 hours. Rinse, squeeze out water, then pat dry on paper towels.

Toast the salt cod under over a gas flame or under the broiler until it is lightly browned. Shred or chop the cod, discarding any skin and bones.

Slice the oranges or else separate them into segments and cut the segments in half to make bite-sized pieces. Arrange on a serving plate. Scatter sliced onions on top. Arrange the olives on the oranges.

In a small bowl combine the minced garlic, oil, vinegar and red pepper flakes. Scatter the bits of cod over the salad and drizzle with the dressing.

The recipe for calabaza frita (pumpkin sauté), pictured above, appears here.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


Collected issues of Spain Gourmetour magazine.
Desperate to make room for an ever-expanding collection of kitchen props— napkins and placemats, cutlery, plates and bowls, cups and glasses—so essential for food photography, I started clearing out cupboards where I’ve stashed back issues of food magazines. Most of them I dumped.

Cupboards are full--need space for more stuff.

But, the stacks of SPAIN GOURMETOUR, a glossy magazine published three times a year from 1986 until 2012 by ICEX, the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade, to promote Spain’s food and wines, cuisine and culture abroad—they were a different matter.

I started leafing through them, intending to pull tear sheets of the articles I contributed and the reviews of my cookbooks. Elimination did not go well! I found so much to reread, so many wonderful photos, that I couldn’t bear to throw the magazines out!

SPAIN GOURMETOUR was never a “general interest” food mag. It was aimed at professionals within the sector, rather than at consumers. About half of the content was dedicated to Wine—the people who make it, grape varietals, regions, trends, individual bodegas (yes, advertisers merited editorial coverage—that was the point).

The remaining half, about food and travel, was why I saved the magazines. A two-part series about the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. An article by Antonio Muñoz Molina about “vernacular food.” One by Sonia Ortega (for many years the coodinator/editor of Spain Gourmetour), “La Vera, Away From It All,” about the birthplace of pimentón, the monastery at Yuste where Emperor Charles V retired from the world. In one great issue from 1995, appeared a very personal look inside Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli—way before he was acclaimed the best chef in the world—written by María José Sevilla; an article about Chupa Chups lollipops by Tom Burns, and one about bananas from the Canary Islands by Iñígo Moré.

Ajoarriero pictured in Spain Gourmetour #54.

I decided that before pitching out these magazines, I wanted to prepare some of the recipes from the magazine. I chose, from No. 54, 2001, “The New Spanish Chefs, Part 2,” by Vicky Hayward, with stunning photos by Toya Legido. This portrays seven chefs, each from a different area of Spain, and looks at recurrent themes that lie behind their work: the renovation of Spain’s regional cuisines, a shared belief in the importance of a personal cooking style; the pioneering role of self-taught cooks.

From these, I selected two recipes—one by Pepe Rodríguez Rey, chef of El Bohio in Illescas, Toledo (near Madrid) and one by José Carlos García, chef of the eponymous restaurant in Málaga. Both have since garnered a Michelin star and various gastronomy awards. Stepping from the kitchen into show-biz, Pepe Rodríguez Rey also is one of the judges on MasterChef España.

SPAIN GOURMETOUR, the magazine, was replaced by the on-line, digital web site,, which publishes excellent feature stories, background and information about everything from Spain’s gastronomy world (yes, even a bio about me). But, for me, it will never replace the magazine and the delight in opening up each new issue. Some of the issues of the magazine can be viewed at A daily blog update is at .

I chose these recipes because they were do-able—no unusual ingredients, tools or techniques required. No agar-agar or sous vide or nitrogen baths. I adjusted them a little bit, noted in ital. For example, I made the full recipe for the coca crust, but only prepared half the quantity of sardines (so I had dough for a pizza the following day).

All of these photos are mine--the ones from Spain Gourmetour are ever so much better!

Modernized version of salt-cod ajoarriero from La Mancha.
Salt-cod Ajoarriero with Manchego, Pine Kernels and Black Olives
(Recipe by Pepe Rodríguez Rey appeared in No. 54, 2001, of SPAIN GOURMETOUR.)

This recipe is based on a very old regional dish traditionally made just with salt-cod, potato, olive oil and garlic. In this version, gelatin is used instead of potatoes to thicken the cod puree.

Serves 4. (In small portions, as many as 8.)

250 g (8 oz) salt-cod fillet
250 ml (8 fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
½ head of garlic, trimmed but not skinned
400 ml (13 fl oz) milk
1 ½ leaves of gelatin (3 g/1/8 oz), softened in water
(or, use 1 teaspoon gelatin granules, softened in ¼ cup of the milk)

To serve:
16 toasted pine kernels
8-12 black olives
4-cm (1 ½-in) thinly cut squares of mature Manchego cheese, rind removed
Fresh chives or parsley
Baby croûtons (dice and fry crisp in olive oil)
A little mild extra virgin olive oil

Soak the salt-cod in water for 24-36 hours, turning every four hours and replacing the water two to three times.When the salt is removed, skin the fish.

Warm the olive oil with the garlic over the lowest heat for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse.

Gently heat the salt-cod in milk (if using granulated gelatin, save out ¼ cup of milk) for 10-15 minutes. Remove the cod.

Soften the leaf gelatin in a cup of cold water, drain it. (If using granular gelatin, soften it in ¼ cup of the milk. Do not drain.) Dissolve the gelatin in the warm milk.

Puree the salt-cod in blender. Pour in the milk and then, slowly, beat in the olive oil until you have an emulsified puree. Leave to set in a cool place. (Refrigerate.)

Serve the ajoarriero slightly chilled or just below room temperature, spooning it on to each plate and scattering the pine kernels, olives and croûtons over the top. Finish with a little mild olive oil. Prop up a square of Manchego vertically against the mixture.

Coca with sardines, pumpkin jam, pistachio vinaigrette and almond sorbet.

Marinated Sardine and Pumpkin Jam Coca with Pistachios and Almond Gazpacho Sorbet
(Recipe by José Carlos García appeared in No. 54 of SPAIN GOURMETOUR.)

“The coca, something like a Spanish Mediterranean pizza, is inspired by the grilled sardines we eat on the beach here in Málaga.)

I suspect this recipe was originally made with marinated, raw sardines. I followed the instructions to “fry” the sardines in oil—but the silvery skins disappeared in frying, so mine did not resemble the magazine photo! It tasted wonderful, though—nice contrasts between the sweet jam, vinaigrette, crunchy nuts, cold “ice cream.”

See below for the “pumpkin jam.”

Serves 4 (or more, if you use the quantities given)

1 kg (2 lb) fresh sardines, filleted
600 ml (20 fl oz) white wine vinegar
150 ml (5 fl oz) water
60 g (2 oz) sea salt
**3-4 tbsp angel’s hair or other pumpkin jam
Hojiblanca varietal olive oil, for shallow-frying
Large pinch of Maldon salt flakes
10 ml (2 tsp) Sherry vinegar

Pastry for the coca:
500 g (1 lb) patisserie flour
20 g (just over ½ oz) fresh yeast, dissolved in (¼ cup) warm water
5 g (1/8 oz) fine cooking salt
200 ml (7 fl oz) cold water
25 ml (¾  fl oz) Hojiblanca varietal extra virgin olive oil

7 g (¼ oz) skinned green pistachios, chopped
2 tbsp homemade thick tomato/onion sofrito
4 tbsp Hojiblanca varietal extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp chopped spring onion

Almond gazpacho sorbet:
250 g (8 oz) shelled and skinned almonds
2 garlic cloves, green shoots removed
2 thick slices country bread, crusts removed, soaked in cold water and squeezed dry
300 ml (10 fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
50 ml (just over 1 ½ fl oz) grapeseed oil
150 ml (5 fl oz) cold water
Sherry vinegar, to taste
Salt, to taste
Sprig of fresh herbs

Yeast dough for the coca.
Make the pastry. Work the water, oil and fresh yeast into the flour by hand or with a mixer. Knead the dough until it is elastic and smooth. Leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Knead again and roll out thinly into a large rectangle to fit a baking sheet (the quantities given will make two cocas). Cover with a damp cloth to avoid drying out and leave to rise again for 20-30 minutes.

Spread a thin layer of pumpkin jam over the center, leaving the edges as a border, and bake in a medium oven (170ºC/350ºF) for 8 minutes or until just golden (I found the crust needed about 14 minutes at that temperature). Cool.

Marinate the filleted sardines in the vinegar, water and salt for 10 minutes or until just white on top. Dry them well on kitchen paper towels, fry quickly in olive oil to leave the centers slightly raw. Cut them across into slices revealing the white center. (As noted, this did not work for me.)

Mix all the ingredients for the vinaigrette.

Mince or grind (blender or food processor) the raw almonds, garlic and dampened bread for the gazpacho. Whisk in the olive and grapeseed oils as if for a mayonnaise. Dilute with water to a gazpacho-like consistency (like thickened milk) and add salt and vinegar. Chill. Make into ice cream. It should be set but creamy at the time of serving.

To serve, lay the sardine slices over the pastry and dress them with a little Sherry vinegar and Maldon salt. Serve the coca, sliced, on plates with drops of the vinaigrette around the coca. Spoon a small scoop of gazpacho sorbet on top and decorate with a sprig of herbs.

Coca with sardines, vinaigrette, almond-gazpacho sorbet.

From the pumpkin patch.

***Pumpkin Jam
Dulce de Calabaza

(Recipe excerpted from MY KITCHEN IN SPAIN by Janet Mendel.)

The above coca recipe calls for angel’s hair or pumpkin jam. Angel’s hair, or cabello de angel, is a confitura, jam, made from cidra, Malabar gourd. Cooked with sugar, the gourd’s flesh separates into golden filaments—“angel’s hair.” (A little like spaghetti squash—but not the same.) Angel’s hair is used as a filling for empanadillas, little fried pies, beloved at Christmas time. Pumpkin jam is a good substitute, though the texture is different from angel’s hair.

You will need a small pumpkin or other winter squash weighing 2 1/2-3 pounds, to obtain 2 cups of cooked pulp. Cook it with very little water and drain well. Or, cut it in half, remove seeds and microwave, cut-side down, for 4 minutes. Turn, and microwave for 4 minutes longer.

2 cups pumpkin purée, well drained
2 cups sugar
1 strip lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3-inch cinnamon stick

Place the purée, sugar, lemon peel, cloves and cinnamon in a heavy pan. Place on heat, partially covered to prevent splattering, until mixture is bubbling. Reduce heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the purée is thickened to jam consistency, 20-25 minutes. (A heat disperser is useful to prevent the purée from scorching.)

Place in clean jars and seal. Cool completely, then refrigerate. Use within two weeks.