Never go on trips with anyone you don’t love….Ernest Hemingway "I am not a glutton -- I am an explorer of food." Erma Bombeck (1927-1996)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Spanish Foods

Spanish food and wine is very much diverse in character, with variations in the cuisine culture stemming from geographic, cultural and climatic differences. One could say, however, that typical Spanish food is influenced heavily by the fact that the country has extensive access to the sea, giving the food culture a Mediterranean soul. Spain’s long history and diverse cultural influences combine to give culinary enthusiasts thousands of Spanish food recipes and tastes to choose from.

When looking at the history of Spanish food, the considerable evidence of Jewish and Moorish influence comes to the fore. For centuries the Moors held a strong influence over Spain and up until today Spanish food reflects this. Pork, however, has proved to be very popular for hundreds of years in Spain, possibly linked to the Christian identity which characterised Spanish culture; since neither Jews nor Muslims eat pork.

Modern Spanish food would not be the same without tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or beans; ingredients sourced from South America during the Spanish colonial era. Indeed it is the Latin American touch which differentiates Spanish dishes from the Mediterranean norm. Spain is responsible for some 44 percent of the world’s olive oil production, so it is not surprising that olive oil is a vital ingredient in Spanish food.

Across the country traditional Spanish food is still made by hand using fresh ingredients bought from the market. These ingredients can be purchased in Spanish food shops around the world, or you can pick them out from a selection of grocery stores. Handmade home cooked food, fresh from the market is less commonplace in the urban centres, such as Madrid; however the rural areas are lucky enough to enjoy the open air markets which give a cultural flavour to the region. The food is often cooked outside over a fire, many times in a brick or clay oven.

Another cultural convention in Spain is to provide snacks whenever a drink is served, the snacks are known as tapas, and can come in the form of olives, cheese or pork. In many bars tapasare included in the price of wine, sherry or beer.

For the sweeter tooth there is a traditional favourite, the churro, a fried pastry dough snack which is served with hot chocolate to dip it in.

Although there is very much varieties within Spanish food, the following character traits generally run across the board:

1) Olive oil is used to cook in, but can also be used in its raw state.
2) Sofrito- a mix of garlic, onion and tomato cooked in olive oil - is often used as a point of departure in preparing a meal.
3) Garlic and onions are the two most popular seasonings.
4) Drinking wine during a meal is a cultural norm in Spain.
5) Bread is served with almost all meals.
6) Salads are extremely popular, especially in the summer months.
7) For dessert the Spanish will often serve a dairy product or a piece of fruit, keeping cakes or tarts for special events or occasions.


Organic Food

Organic food is generally considered to be produced without the use of artificial fertilisers, without synthetic pesticides or antibiotics, hormones or other growth promoters. There are thus standards to which organic food is produced, traditionally on small family run farms, but there are some larger operations emerging since evidence has emerged that organic farming is more environmentally friendly and more sustainable that many contemporary farming techniques. There are also benefits for the people who eat organic farm produce.

The advantages of organic food for the consumer include higher nutritional levels, and over the long term studies have found the health benefits to be substantial. It is perhaps for this reason that organic baby food has become very popular. A university of Washington study found that preschool children fed regular diets had six times more metabolised organophosphate pesticides in their bodies than children who had been fed on organic diets. Organic fruit vegetables and juices as a part of a healthy balanced diet can considerably reduce exposure to harmful pesticides.

When shopping for organic foods to complete the cooking formulas of your favourite organic food recipes, look out for the organic certification of a product. The certification of organic food is done to protect the consumer in the growing market for organic foods. This prevents a producer from defrauding a consumer, or tricking you into eating what you don’t want to. There are, however, various certification bodies with different criteria, so this should be kept in mind. Also remember that the certification of a product is primarily a marketing drive by the producer, who is trying to get you to buy the product.

When visiting an organic food shop, sometimes called a health food store, you will notice that the prices seem slightly inflated. These organic food suppliers ask more for their products because most of the time the farm that supplies them is a small scale operation. This means that the cost cutting benefits of mass production are usually not applicable to organic foods. Consumers who value the ethics and benefits of organic food are usually willing to pay a bit extra for their organic groceries.

In the United States the sales in organic foods have increased between 17 and 20 percent over the past few years, while so called conventional products have seen a considerably lesser growth of 2 to 3 percent over the same period.

There has even been an increasing trend amongst those who enjoy spoiling their pets to such a degree that they are bying organic dog food. According to the Organic Trade Association, sales in organic pet foods have risen to three times the growth rate of organic products made for human consumption.

Organic food is far healthier that non organic

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Great Hungarian Goulash

Goulash, in non Hungarian terms is a combination of meat, Usually beef, carrots, potatoes, sauerkraut and spices in a thickish sauce.

The dish can be cooked in a pot on the stove or in a casserole dish in the oven.

The ingredients that you will need for goulash are fairly simple and straight forward. Here’s the list:

1) Cubes of Beef. I use number eight or number ten cuts for goulash. They are less expensive cuts and quite good enough.

2) Potatoes, diced into large cubes

3) Carrots, cut into thickish rings.

4) Sauerkraut.

5) Onions, cubed and lightly fried.

6) Bullion cubes.

7) Sweet Paprika powder.

8) Black pepper

9) Crushed Garlic.

10) Tomato Puree (or paste. optional)

11) Water


For a family of four to six people you will need about one kilogramme of beef. The content of potatoes and carrots use in the goulash should make up about two thirds of the quantity of the beef.


The first job is to sear the meat on all sides on a lightly oiled skillet. Once that’s done transfer the meat into your cooking pot. at this stage add your sweet paprika, sprinking about three teaspoons onto the meat while stirring over the flame.

You can now add about one small half teaspoon of black pepper, stirring onto the meat. Now add water until the meat is covered by about one inch of water. Heat until the pot is boiling and then turn the heat down so that the pot is simmering.

Add about one large cup of sauerkraut and stirr in. After this add one large cup of chopped and lightly fried onions and one teaspoon of crushed garlic.

Leave the pot to cook now for about half an hour stirring only occaisionally.

When the half hour is up check to see if the meat is tenderizing. Once the meat is starting to show signs of softening add a bullion cube and taste. You may need to add a little more depending on which type of bullion cubes you use.

Stirr well and then add the potatoes and carrots. Continue to stirr occaisionally making sure that the ingredients do not stick to the bottom of the pot.

If you like a tomato taste to your goulash, use a little tomato puree to thicken the dish, add two to three teaspoons of tomato puree and stirr in well.

Tomato paste is tart and for this reason we do not add it until the final stages of cooking because it causes the meet to toughen again and go rubbery. Aditional cooking time will be needed to soften the meat.

Continue to cook the dish until all the ingredients are soft enought to eat but not breaking up.

If you like your goulash to have a little bite, you can add a few drops of tabasco.

The way that I thicken the sauce is to take about one teaspoon of corn flour mixed into a little water and to stirr it into the boiling mixture. This way the cornflour gives the goulash a nice shiny appearance.

An optional extra that gives goulash a pleasant sweetish taste is to add some garden peas. I do this occaisionally for a change.

In effect Goulash is an all in meal that has a combination of protein, carbohydrate and vegetables.

I like to serve goulash in a long oval bowl on a plate with a few slices of gorgious, thick crusted caroway seed bread.

A strong red wine heps the goulash to go down a treat.

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