Couscous with Stuff

Having leftover rump one needs to do something with the residual. Today’s lunch was the same beef (still delicious) with a quick couscous.

with couscous 27112008297

The beef was nuked at 1/3 power for 5 minutes (I prefer slow microwaving for warming things up) just to take the chill off. The couscous was --- boiling a big cup of chicken stock (you have homemade, frozen, saved from your chicken carcasses?) and tossing in the same amount of couscous, setting it aside to soak up the liquid.

Meanwhile, fry a half a chopped onion, a diced carrot, a smooshed and minced garlic clove, and a finely diced tomato. That goes into the couscous after the couscous has sat in the boiling hot chicken stock for 5 minutes.

Then, the couscous needs a drizzle of very good olive oil.

The carrot gives the couscous a nice bit of color.

Cuadril : Rump

Argentinean meat is widely imported to Spain and it’s particularly good. This is a rump-tip I think you would call it.

tapa 25112008292

This one I stuffed with leftover rice, mixed with 5 chopped up little (gherkin?) pickles, double that of green olives, seared it in a frying pan first then baked in a 150 C [300F] oven for an half hour for each half kilo [1/2 hr / #]. Let it sit for 10 minutes, covered with foil, before slicing. Looks pretty impressive for something made up on the spur of the moment. And tasted damn good.

Since the oven was going anyway I baked a potato in there too.

Pizza Style Porridge Oats

Serves 1

You will need:

  • 70g corn flour
  • 30g porridge oats
  • 5 limes
  • 20g port
  • 10ml milk


  1. pre-heat the oven to 200 C
  2. throw the corn flour away
  3. sift the port
  4. melt the port
  5. strain the milk
  6. throw the milk away
  7. sauté the port
  8. discard the porridge oats
  9. barbeque the limes
  10. bake for 40 minutes and serve hot


Now, if the above seems a bit odd that’s because it’s from the Random Recipe Generator – which creates a new recipe for you each time you load their page.  Note: It’s not on my own website and might disappear; that’s outside of my control.

I find it to be great fun.  I’m posting it here so I don’t lose the bookmark – and thought you might find it amusing too.

But that brings up what might be an interesting idea.  I could pick a number between 1 and 80,000 and look up a random recipe in the (rather large) recipe database that I have.  Okay, let’s find a random number…and I’ll go reinstall my database software (which broke when I moved to my new machine) and load up the recipes.  Good idea?


This is the sort of place where I grew up.  Compare and contrast with the beach.

bosque-11082007293 (tofino)

Well, not in the forest actually.  It was almost 4 whole city blocks away.  And it didn’t have one of those nice boardwalks in it. But I did spend a fair amount of time there.  Lots of kids did in those back then (that would likely be prohibited behaviour these days).

Life brings changes.   Must say though, I do miss the trees at times.


Here’s a fun one. These are little chorizo sausages. About the length of my middle finger (but substantially fatter). Just meat (pork), salt, garlic, and a lot of pimento/paprika (best is the Pimenton de Vera – the “sweet” not the hot kind). You can fry them up but I like to microwave them.


Two tricks: 1) prick each one a couple of times or else they’ll explode very messily while heating; 2) cover them with a tallish plastic microwave plate cover – to prevent the juices messing up the entire inside of the microwave.

What I like about this is that the fats and the paprika splash all over the inside of the cover; generating random spots all over the edge of the plate. Very artistic. Sort of Jackson Pollock.

A Glass

Went for a glass of wine.  Which they typically serve with a little something on the side; a tapa.


In this case, just a slice of baguette with some tomato and a house-made sauce.  Simple, but nice to have with the wine – maybe better than peanuts.

It’s a hell of a life.


Did you know that you can divide a banana into three equal wedges using no tools?

This is a Canary Island banana; a little shorter than the usual ones you see and I think it’s got more of a curve too. Also – they’re firmer (but not too firm) and have more flavour.


In Quito I learned to peel bananas from the opposite end. Instead of trying to break open the part that attaches at the top you can squeeze the outer tip and it will crack open to ease the peeling process.


And to split it into three… peel it, hold firmly with one hand, push finger into the banana longitudinally - the thing will split a 1/3 wedge of the banana off of one side. Just give it a good poke. The pull the remaining two wedges apart.


It’s very interesting that this works this way. Three equal parts – don't know why.


Sure, I was a bit sloppy and broke one of the pieces. Oops.

Last item: Bananas are reportedly useful to combat depression; developing serotonin in the body from the tryptophan that they contain (as does turkey I’ve heard). The down side is that the most tryptophan is in the peel. Ironically, eating a banana peel would make me more depressed, not less.

On the Beach

If you have to be somewhere in mid November… here would be an okay place.


No mention of food today as there wasn’t any of interest.  Spent the whole day developing rectangular eyeballs while proof reading every page of a new website. 

Note: the scene above is outside – which I do not see much of lately. Harrumph.

Chipirones : Cuttlefish

A mentioned midday menus for 10 € the other day.  If you go for a place that offers 15€ menus you get yet another level of establishment.


Sort of a classy place.

You get a starter, second and a main course.  I selected the Chipirones as a main; better known as Cuttlefish.

You probably don’t eat a lot of black food but they make the sauce with the squid ink (and some onions very very finely chopped)  – which contrasts well with the traditional white rice it’s served with.


That’s a sort of squid; the tentacles are chopped and stuffed into the “sac” of the beast.  Mine was mixed with some spices and a few pine nuts.


Really, trust me, it’s very good.

A Salad

Still with the lunches you might say. And well you might as that’s generally what I’ve been taking pictures of. Dinner tends to be yet less structured than the lunches; likely to be whatever I drag out of the refrigerator when I feel hungry around 10 or 11 at night.

Today it’s even a sort of healthy option; albeit that I moderated the healthiness by using a nice dressing and some cheeses.


Mixed greens (buy a bag – I can’t use it up fast enough or get a mix of different greens if I buy whole heads). Made this seem sort of like a ceasar salad by adding grated parmesan cheese to the dressing (made up of 3 parts oil, 1 of vinegar – whipped up with a fork to an emulsion – I should a smashed a garlic into it too). The croutons (the brown cubes) were lying about (which is what inspired the whole ceasar idea). The white cubes are of Queso de Burgos – one of those soft, fresh, cheeses that are so good for you. I don’t know if fresh (not hard) cheese is available in general supermarkets in Canada & the U.S. these days (it wasn’t when I lived there years ago) but it’s certain to be found in your ethnic latin markets.

A good balanced salad – with the cheese it’s got a a bit of protein too.

Pisto and Eggs

I seem to be on an egg theme this week.

Went out to dinner at a local cafe/restaurant (a few tables and a bar).  Among the dishes offered was Pisto and Eggs (well, one egg).


That’s a nice runny fried egg on top of a dish of pisto (see prior post here).   We’re not afraid of less-than-hard-cooked eggs here.

Practically vegetarian – of a sort.


Last year I visited Banff, Alberta; there’s no snow – it was August. Living next to this mountain would make for an imposing impression – every day . Or, I would be constantly afraid it was going to fall on me.


As you look down this road the main street of town is in front of you on the other side of the bridge; closer to the mountain. Yikes.

Garbanzos & Vegetables

Today it’s sort of quick and easy. If nothing else, tasty. Love the garbanzos.

veg garbanzos-14112008265

Soak the garbanzos the night before; in the morning toss the water (strain, that is). The peas… were frozen (but get really good ones – not cheapies). French beans, would be better cut a little smaller; closer to the size of the garbanzos. Carrot, cubed into garbanzo-sized chunks. Potato, ‘bout a half of one, cubes too. And slice a half an onion in julienne.

Put the garbanzos in water, covering, cook for 10 minutes… while you toss the veggies in an oiled pan. Add vegetables to garbanzos. Let it stew until the garbanzo beans have become al-dente (not tough but still a bit of crunch). Maybe another 10-15 or so.

That’s it. If you can cut vegetables up fast this dish is a cinch. Oddly enough, I didn’t put any garlic in it. Hmmm… maybe next time.

Rice & Egg

A quick lunch. Sort of like Chinese Fried Rice but without the veggies.


The leftover rice from the day before yesterday.  Olive oil into a pan (just a touch), rice into pan, heat it up, salt and pepper, crack an egg into it, stir.  In this case formed into a sort of omelet shape.

I was thinking  of adding cheese bit who needs the cholesterol?  Maybe fry up a little Serrano ham or bacon to go along with it.

If this had about 3 eggs instead of just one and was made with potatoes instead of rice it would strongly resemble a Spanish Tortilla [frittata].

This week’s been really down to the simple, the basics, of surviving in the kitchen with minimum effort (and not going out to eat [no time]). 

But… the web site I’m coding is looking not too bad -  so it balances out.  This weekend I might have to take myself out to dinner to make up for a whole slew of mediocre eating - - or I’ll go for a pizza someplace.

Salad for Lunch

Had a salad for lunch today.  Took off some time from the keyboard to put something on the stove.


¿On the stove? you ask? For a salad? Well… yes.  For the reduced balsamic vinegar.

Take a 250 ml bottle of balsamic vinegar [1/2 pint]; dump it into a frying pan; add a good pinch if salt; turn on the fan over the stove (‘cause it sort of stinks) and boil it down until it’s 1/4 of the volume.  There’s a magic moment when it goes from liquid to syrupy and the taste goes from acidic to sweet.  The salt’s important to make that sweet taste intensive.  Use a frying pan to have the maximum surface area to reduce quickly.

Once you have this reduced, set it aside to cool.

The salad bit is spinach, sprinkle on Maldon salt (better in salads that regular salt), drizzle on a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil (to wash the salt down through the leaves), then the slices of goat cheese [chevre], drizzle a little more oil one (to make sure that the balsamic syrup drips prettily), then drizzle on the balsamic syrup and sprinkle on a touch more Maldon salt (more for decoration than anything).

That’s it.  You’ll have a load of balsamic syrup left over but it’s good  for all sorts of things; ice cream, for example.

Somehow I got a pretty good picture of this.  The secret I think is to use the macro mode  steady the camera really well (a phone actually in this case).

Eggs & Rice

The continuing adventures of blindingly simple meals.  Today, lunch, a favorite Spanish midday combination.


Simple enough (not as simple a microwaving something, but still…).  Rice - I used “Bomba” rice; it’s a bit like rice for rissoto; short, plumps up well, absorbs liquid like crazy.  Cooked that with some oil and a couple of crushed garlic cloves in the bottom of the pan.  2 1/2 parts liquid to rice; 15 minutes. Added a bullion cube that was lying around the cupboard to add flavour and salt. Fried an egg, very soft, in an excess of oil (those who fear less than hard cooked eggs are advised to avoid this dish).  Egg on top of rice.  Take your fork to it and get all that runny egg yolk all over the place.

Chicken Tikki Masala

This maybe looks like a good one.  Be not fooled.


Due to the continuing programming/web-site-building exercise I am still eating quick and easy.  In this case, it was a disappointment. 

We’re talking a kilo [2#] of cubes of chicken breast, a few of those cute little potatoes, and a jar (!) of tikki masala sauce.

Okay, I copped out again and went for a prepared product.  I’ve made tikki masala before (see here. amchar masala actually) and it’s got a lot of ingredients and takes a while to prepare.  Not having time for that sort of thing I just bought a jar of masala at the supermarket, cooked the chicken chunks in a frying pan and tossed the lot into a pot with the masala sauce and cooked it together for 20 minutes or so.

Tasty… well not really.  The limitations of a commercial product were evident here.  Although a bit spicy it did not have any significant flavour.  Nothing that excited the taste buds.   Thus, this one wasn’t a winner.  Thus #2, lesson learned; make a load of masala all at once and store some away for occasions such as this. 

But, hey! It was easy – that’s got something going for it.

It Gets Worse: A Hamburger (sort of)

After yesterday’s lunch out of a can, today I present a hamburger..

hamburger 06112008245

As you can see it’s a precooked, probably frozen, maybe microwaved, meat patty.  It comes with chunky previously frozen chips [french/freedom/foreign fries] (almost cooked all the way through), a slice of processed cheese (top left), and you get to add ketchup and mayonnaise to your liking.

The mayo, top right, I enhanced with a generous sprinkling of pepper.  I use that for the fries, not for the burger.  The burger itself comes on a pure-white-bread soft, chewy, bun.  The good thing is the it goes for only €3,40 at the local café/bar.

It’s not gourmet but it is, in its way, satisfying.   Like eating a McDonald’s burger in China.  Not something you would want to do often but somehow… comforting. 

Not being a week when I have a lot of time to cook “real” food I may be eating a lot of this kind of stuff.

It’s the Weekend : Escudella

One mustn’t expect brilliant blog entries on the weekend; and besides, I’m battling with an SQL server that keeps bopping up and down so I’m getting very depressed.

Thus, since I’m frightenedly busy doing I.T. stuff the lunch is rather on the simple side.

Lunch. This is Escudella (which means “bowl”). It’s a Catalan stew (that’s the part that has Barcelona). You can see a some carrot; a meatball; a sliced sausage (under that bit of carrot, probably it contains chicken meat); a morcilla slice (the dark coloured one); a chunk of pork fat (in front); noodles; and, less than readily visible in this picture, there are beans too. All in a nice light beef/meat broth.

Traditionally it’s served in three parts: one plate each for the vegetables, the meat and the soup. Not so in this case.


So, what’s special about this particular dish today? Well… I’ll confess – it came out of a can.

Now, I have to get back to the broken data base (which has, in turn, broken a corresponding web site; but luckily it’s only in the development phase and hasn’t yet gone into production. Although this data base breakage does not, I think, bode well).

Home Made Butter

This is not one that I did myself but it’s good to know that making butter by hand is still done these days.  I really must try it myself; and I want one of these old butter churns – not that I need more stuff to store in the kitchen.  I recall, vaguely, doing this once when I was a kid; either as a school project or ‘cause mom was trying to entertain us kids.

I see that instead of a real churn you can made it with your electric mixer.  Perhaps not as much fun as doing it by hand but since I already have one of these it might be the way to go for the first try.

See the blog post: Home Made Butter from Jon Sarriugarte

butter by kitchenaid 
Picture attribution Growers & Grocers

Fado : Vera Playa : Spain

In Spain there’s a strong tradition of restaurants serving a fixed price menu – originally a workers’ lunch. It’s evolved somewhat recently and the local “white tablecloth / linen service” restaurant here also offers a prix-fix menu midday.  Just €10 (drinks not included) so I don’t know if they in fact make any/much money on it.  Just the cost of the operating their dining room must eat significantly into the margins.  They have nice plates, good utensils, tablecloths to be cleaned – it’s got to all add up to the base cost of even opening the doors.

None the less, they offer this meal (I order wine that approaches the cost of the entire lunch so I hope that improves the margins for them) – so I’m perfectly happy to take advantage of it.

Just a couple of courses. First, besides the bread and alioli (garlic mayo) they set down before you order, some little homemade breaded cod mousse’es:

Followed by a simple steak, with a creamy tomato sauce of mushrooms and onions, some fries;that’s a roasted red pepper in the back there for decoration.

Cooking thin steaks like that, properly, is more difficult for the kitchen than doing a big fat sirloin.  So I’d say they’re doing pretty good.

Restaurante Fado [Fado Restaurant]
Avenida Tortuga Boba, 2
Vera Playa, Spain
Tel: 950 467 770

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Lentils : Lentejas

I have a penchant these days of cooking something that freezes well.   That is, cook for 4, have one for lunch today, one tomorrow, freeze 2.

This is a simple, simple, dish-up of lentils.


Thats morcilla you see at the front edge of the picture.  Morcilla of Burgos, made with pigs blood, onion, rice and a blend of secret spices.  I’ll have to try making this at home.  They do, after all, sell fresh blood in the local supermarket (yes, they really do) and I’ve yet to ever buy some and give it a whirl.

This recipe consists of cooking some lentils with some other vegetable and meat-based ingredients to give it more body and enhance the flavour.

Lentils : Lentejas

Serves: 4


  • 250 gr lentils [1 1/4 C]
  • 1 green pepper, brunoise [diced]
  • 1 onion, brunoise [diced]
  • 1 tomato, brunoise [diced] (peeled and deseeded)
  • 1 morcilla, whole, Burgos type (with rice) [blood sausage] (see alternatives in the notes for those who aren’t into morcilla)
  • 250 gr potatoes (little ones, or cut up big ones) [1/4 #]
  • 1 red chili pepper
  • 1/2 C dry white wine
  • water
  • salt
  • pepper


  1. Lentils into a pot and add everything else on top except the potatoes
  2. Pour in the wine
  3. Add water to double the depth of the ingredients (the lentils soak up a lot)
  4. Bring to a boil
  5. Lower the heat, cover, simmer for 15 minutes
  6. Check for seasoning (add enough salt and pepper)
  7. Check for tenderness of the lentils; they should be not crunchy but still have some “bite” to them (time will vary according to the particular lentil you have.  It could take up to an hour )
  8. Add the potatoes (top up with water)
    • Might as well retrieve the chili pepper about now
  9. Bring to a boil again
  10. Lower the heat simmer for 15 minutes (cover off, or on, doesn’t really matter)
  11. Check for seasoning again and don’t be afraid of using salt
  12. Cut the morcilla in slices and serve


  1. I used lentajas castillanas; sort of brown/green.  They’re the most common kind I think; other lentils are perfectly acceptable (the little orange ones might be kind of fun)
  2. Presoak lentils overnight or for at least 4 hours and drain.  Some say that lentils don’t need to presoak all that long but I think that just stretches out the cooking time.  Presoaking I like to think of as the environmentally-aware way of doing it; using less energy to cook the things.
  3. Don’t add salt until after the lentils are fairly cooked; it’s said to toughen them
  4. I dice up the peppers, onion and tomatoes to be evenly dice-sized roughly the same diameter as a cooked lentil.  Visually and texturally this gives a nice finished dish.
  5. Use chorizo (spanish sausage) instead of morcilla if you still can’t get your head (or lips) around blood sausage
    • The very ingredient-challenged could resort to chopped up hot dogs
  6. Freezes well.  I made it for 4, froze 2 in zippered plastic freezer bags (keep the zip seam oriented upwards while freezing and defrosting to avoid slight leakage. Those things are not perfectly hermetically sealed)

Basque Chicken – Easy Variant

I haven’t posted a recipe since September but I haven’t been cooking either.  Since this blog is about what I actually do,  there hasn’t been anything of that nature to write about.  To get back into the swing of things I’m repeating one of my favorite easy recipes (that I’ve written about a couple of times before [1] [2]. Although the recipe’s been in here twice before I’ll give you this variant, slightly different, as I actually made it this time (it’s never the same twice).

This time it looks like this:


It’s pretty simple.  Made from, more or less, the following ingredients



Thus, the ingredients that require any work on our part are:  some chicken, a green pepper, an onion and 4 cloves of garlic.  Other ingredients are required but those others don’t need to be prepared.

Basque Chicken

Serves: 4


  • 1 kg chicken (whole, cut up or pieces) [1#]
  • 1 green pepper, julienne
  • 1 onion, julienne
  • 4 cloves garlic, brunoise [diced fine]
  • 3 tomatoes (oops, I forgot that they had to be prepared – peeled and deseeded and diced would be good [or use a jar of strained tomatoes)
  • 2 C dry white wine
  • 1 red chili pepper
  • oil
  • salt
  • pepper


  1. Salt and pepper the chicken
  2. Oil into a hot pot and brown the chicken. for color
  3. Remove chicken, add onions, soften
  4. Add garlic and peppers, soften
  5. Add tomatoes, stir
  6. Add chicken
  7. Wine to cover, add chili pepper, bring to a boil
  8. Lower the heat, cover, simmer for 20 minutes
  9. Remove chicken and vegetables, leaving the “sauce”.  Hold the chicken/vegs warm (cover with foil maybe)
  10. Remove the chili pepper and toss away
  11. Reduce the sauce to a saucy consistency (coats the back of a spoon)
    • The dish can be held at this point for a good little while
  12. Return chicken/vegs to sauce, crank the heat to quickly warm it up
  13. Serve


  1. I buy a whole chicken and cut it up; using the carcass to make stock
  2. Start with a pot that’s big enough to hold all the ingredients; one that you can cover
  3. Sometimes I do the chicken first, sometimes the veggies
  4. This is the only point where the chicken picks up color so brown them well
  5. “Real” Basque Chicken also Serrano ham in the recipe.  I left it out this time.

Mayo 2004: Vera Playa: Spain

I am rather a big fan of pizza; as you may have gathered.  A favorite of mine here in the south of Spain, on the Mediterranean, a hundred meters [yards] from the beach, is a place called Mayo 2004. Once I got down here from Madrid the first thing I did was pop over and have myself one of their nice little pizzas.pizzatunamayo200408102008218

This one’s tuna.  Thin crust, crispy, tomato sauce, mozzarella, a scattering of red and green peppers, tuna of course, and I have them add onions.  The bases seem to be premade, commercially bought, but they’re very good ones.  Properly baked. One size only.  One pizza per person is about right.  A very nice product.

I wrote about them once before and now, a year later, they’re still putting out a good product so that says something for their consistency.

You can find them and Avenida Tortuga Boba [Silly Turtle Ave] (head south from Vera towards Garrucha, then left down the AL-7107 [towards Villaricos] and turn right at the Consum supermarket). They’re closed mid-October to mid-November, resting after the high season for tourists, but when they open again in a couple of weeks I’ll be back in there for lunch.

Pizzería La Cúpula: Las Matas: Madrid: Spain

Having said goodbye to Toronto by going to my favorite smoked meat place I started in Spain at my favorite pizzería [or, pizzeria, note: the difference is the accent over the `i´]. Here is the Solidaría pizza that I had; where they donate a portion of the proceeds of the sale to charity.


It has tomato, mozzarella, raisins, pine nuts, capers, onions and a few lovely black olives and a sprinkling of oregano. The combination of capers, raisins and pine nuts is ingenious; they’re all sort of the same size yet have three distinct flavors and textures.

The place is called La Cúpula and makes what are probably the best artisanal pizzas in Madrid. Thin crust, not too heavy on the cheese. Only one size of pizza. One pizza per person is about right; because they’re so very tasty. The wine list is very good too; composed of only ecological wines – and quite well priced. Beside pizzas they also have some imaginative salads, a couple of pastas and usually some nice artisanal desserts (try the apple pie).

We’re talking an authentic wood burning oven, everything is hand made, even the dough for the pizzas is prepared by hand. The emphasis is on natural, organic, and ecological ingredients and simple presentation. A great family place; not expensive. It’s a small joint and usually very busy so reservations might be recommended; especially around the weekend (see web site for contact info). A great casual atmosphere and everyone seems very happy.

The place can be a little hard to find; located as it is in an out of the way corner of a small town 26 kms outside of Madrid called Las Matas (in the municipality of Las Rozas). But finding it is worth it.

View Larger Map

Closed Mondays, open for lunch and dinner the rest of the time. If you’re in the neighborhood it’s worth going out of your way to try it out. One odd thing, if the front door seems closed or locked go around to the side entrance where the terrace is (on the left); that’s the entrance everyone usually uses (I think it’s a trick they use to keep the crowds down).

Full disclosure: I used to work at this place thus you might expect me to be biased. None the less the general opinion of their pizzas is the same as mine; they're great.

Caplansky's at the Monarch: Toronto: Little Italy

I made a post previously about a place in Toronto called Caplansky's that does wonderful smoked meat sandwiches. Like this:

smoked meat 01102008212

Isn't it beautiful? Yes, it is; and delicious to boot.

The place is upstairs at the Monarch Tavern (12 Clinton St, south of College). Currently the hours are Tuesday to Sunday, noonish 'til nine.

It's so special that I reserved a visit for lunch on my last day in Toronto before returning to Spain. I miss it already. The menu's expanding and they had poutine too (french fries with gravy and cheddar cheese curd [delicious]).

Anytime I'm ever in Toronto Caplansky's is definitely going to get a visit from me.

Now that I have that out of my system perhaps I'll move on to Spain-related posts tomorrow.