Getting back into cooking since 2009.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Long weekend, small plates

This weekend was another one of those meaningless public holidays, which really meant an excuse to spend hours in the kitchen. 

We cooked a tapas-ish feast for a few friends. It's tapas-'ish' because the dishes aren't all Spanish. I can't be bothered with scrupulous authenticity.

To start we had some spiced almonds, which were blanched almonds pan-fried with cayenne pepper, salt, oregano and paprika. Delicious. I can definitely see myself snacking on these all summer. Soda also made a Cava cocktail with Licor 43, vanila extract and orange peel which was pretty great.

Our first wave of dishes included some ugly-but-satisfying jamon croquettes (pictured above), from this easy recipe. We also had a salad of white anchovies, parsley and shallots. I love white anchovies. I like to think of them as gateway anchovies, because they're not hairy and not too salty, so they'll hook anyone who's not already an anchovy fiend. It turns out that all our friends already love anchovies (we know good people), so this was just preaching to the converted.  

We served things in threes, with the third part of the first wave of dishes being chickpea pancakes with onion confit and creme fraiche. I'm not sure what I was thinking with that one.

The second wave included some slightly disappointing shoestring fries with smoked paprika salt that were a bit soggy, but also the spectacularly successful salad of home-cured salmon with blood orange and fennel, pictured above, and these quail egg, chorizo and romesco bites (pictured below).

I got the idea for these little bites from an old Manthatcooks post in which Mr Spice Magazine made an apéritif thing of chorizo, aioli and sliced soft-boiled quail egg. Soft boiling and peeling quail eggs seemed a bit fiddly to me, so I fried them and cut around the yolks (messily, as you can see), and sat them on top of romesco rather than aioli. I'm not sure what everyone else thought (I think they were confused, mostly) but I was quite happy with these. I made the romesco extra acidic to try and balance the yolks, which worked well I thought. Someone did mention that it tasted like bacon and eggs, which was true and a pretty big compliment in my book. 

The third wave of dishes included albondigas (aka meatballs) with a sauce of blended piquillo peppers. The sauce was incredible and vibrant, one of the highlights of the night. It was just a tin of Spanish piquillo peppers, blended, with salt. Nothing else.

We also had some slow-braised octopus that I dressed in a lemon vinaigrette. This was another highlight. I'll post the recipe for this later. Unfortunately both the albondigas and the octopus were not particularly photogenic, so I don't have photos of those dishes. 

The third wave also included some beautiful thin new-season asparagus with an anchovy dressing. I just quickly grilled the asparagus and tossed them in the dressing. Lucky everyone was an anchovy fan.
The final set of savoury dishes included oxtail rillettes with a Pedro Ximenez reduction, which was one of my favourite dishes of the night. I braised the oxtail for 3 or 4 hours in tomatoes and white wine with smoked paprika, then shredded the meat off the bone, blended with a few cornichons and capers, spooned it into a ramekin and baked in a bain marie. Once it was warm and semi-set I turned it out onto a plate alongside some sherry that had been reduced to a sticky syrup with a star anise and some blood orange peel. We served this with some thin slices of baguette, so that you slathered a bit of meat and a bit of sauce on a crostini. Holy hell this was flavourful. This is another that I'll write up later with a proper recipe.

The final course also included some squid with a chorizo and sherry vinegar dressing. Tasted great, though I overcooked the squid slightly. 

Finally we had little capsicums stuffed with manchego cheese. The butcher at Torre on Lake St saw me eyeing off a can of piquillo peppers (which I ended up using with the meatballs), and offered to get me some little peppers that would be better for stuffing. He came through with the goods, these were delicious.

We finished with churros and pots of chocolate. Delicious.


  1. HOLY SHIT. I want an oxtail rillette soooo bad now. And that quail egg thingy. You guys are ridiiiiiculous in the kitchen.

  2. If by "ridiiiiiculous" you mean "semi-competent but a bit inclined to get carried away and do too many things" then, yes, agreed.

    PS the clear highlight of the night was baby Bea Crombie (she has tiny feet)

  3. Wow I have absolutely no patience for this kind of thing. No wonder FoodHax is dead.

  4. what kind of thing? Cooking? Or cooking lots of courses?

  5. Little things! Lots of little things. I'm a one dish in the oven for three hours type of cook. Any more steps than that and I'll get anxious.

  6. nat, you're a sucker for a slow-cooked piece of meat. I will retain this information for future use.

  7. The homecured salmon salad was inspired. I thoroughly enjoyed everything...except Bea's feet, which although tiny, do require 30 hours of cooking. At least.
    Adult B x