Red Fruits Muffins

It’s Christmas time! During these lovely days the best thing is staying with friends and relatives while listening to others’ gossip (yes, we do love gossip!) in the enchanting atmosphere of your home. This is the time to enjoy simple and genuine moments like having a cup of tea and sharing freshly baked muffins.  Don’t know how to prepare them? You don’t have excuses ;)! Just follow my recipe and in less than an hour you will enjoy delicious and soft red fruits muffins.

Red Fruit Muffin

American muffins are extremely easy to elaborate, you just need to prepare the dough, add your favorite ingredients and bake them.  I chose red fruits because I love their intense color and their acid taste but you can do muffins with an endless combination of ingredients either sweet or salty: black chocolate, white chocolate, carrot, figs, peanuts, apple, mascarpone, coconut, pineapple, rosemary, sesame and so on.  Of course you can combine those ingredients, mix flavors and create the muffin that best please your palate.

red fruits muffin

Red Fruits Muffins

Ingredients:

9.4 fl oz cream

0.15 lb butter

3 eggs

0.7 lb flour

0.6 oz yeast

0.3 lb sugar

A pinch of salt

Lemon Zest

10 oz red fruits (fresh or frozen): mulberry, blueberry, red currant, strawberry

Elaboration:

Preheat the oven at 460º F (240ºC). Mix the melted butter with the sugar and stir till obtaining a thick cream.  Pour the cream and the eggs and keep stirring with a whisk. In another bowl mix the flour with yeast, salt and lemon zest.  Pour the thick cream into the bowl with the flour and stir everything up one more time.  Pour the batter into molds with the help of a table spoon and top with red fruits – I added some white chocolate chunks. Bake them at 410ºF (210ºC) for about 15-17 minutes.

preparing muffins

And please, let some for your guests!

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Christmas Time in Zürich!

Sunset in Zürich

A magnificent and huge lake where you can see the snow-covered Alps reflected in, elegant and tiny streets on a romantic channel, pretty hills surrounding traditional roof tile houses and a gargantuan golden church clock which dominates the panorama. Welcome to Zürich,  the richest and largest town in Switzerland.

Zürich

Walking in Banhofstrasse, Zurich’s main street, during Christmas time is an authentic experience.  Every single thing is shimmering and there are Christmas trees everywhere. In the night thousands of colored lights create a magic atmosphere, it’s like living in a fairytale.  You can also perceive this feeling in the elegant and warm bars and cafés of the city center.  One of my favorite is the Schober café, a fantastic confiserie where it is possible to find delicious sweet treats like banana and kiwi marmalade, lavender honey, the incredibly tasty tarte au citron meringuée and a collection of macarons. The Schober café is special not only for the excellent confectionery but also for the traditional decoration of molded ceiling and the exquisite white furniture.  Any respectable foodie should tempt his senses with the legendary Schober’s hot chocolate!

Zürich

If you go to Zürich don’t miss the chance to visit Sprüngli, one of the best place for chocoholic and addicted to pastries ;). Here, one of the most peculiar products is the Luxemburgerli, a soft flavored biscuit with a heart of delicious filling.

Luxemburgerli

Luxemburgerlis are like mini-macarons and they are only produced with natural ingredients.  You can find them in a large variety of flavors like champagne, raspberry, Bourbon vanilla, chocolate, lemon and caramel (my favorite!).  Take one and let it dissolve on your tongue, it’s simply delicious!

Luxemburgerli

The name of these authentic treats comes from a young pastry chef from Luxembourg who was visiting Sprüngli to learn more about his profession during the 50’s.  Here, he started producing his airy specialty which was called Luxemburgerli because of his origin.  Nowadays Luxemburgerglis are the emblem of Zürich and you can only find them at Sprüngli!

Luxemburgerli

Visiting Zürich during this period becomes an extraordinary experience because of the Christmas markets:  hundreds of wooden huts selling Christmas decorations, wooden toys and typical Swiss delicatessen like raclette.

Zürich Christmas Market

Christmas

The biggest and most beautiful is the Zürich Hauptbahnhof Christmas Market where you can admire the enormous shining Swarovski Christmas tree.

Swarovski Christmas Tree

Grüetzi from Zürich! I wish you all a foody Christmas!

Christmas toy

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Olla Podrida, the Authentic Castilian Stew

“This plate that is steaming in front of me appears to me to be olla podrida, because of the diversity of ingredients that there are in some ollas podridas, I won’t be able to stop running into some that is to me of taste and benefit…”.  This is the way Don Quixote described olla podrida, the authentic Castilian stew.  The adjective podrida derives from poder which means powerful since during the Middle Ages only rich people could afford such an opulent dish.  This delicacy is also called cocido or puchero and it is cooked all over Spain especially during Christmas time. You could of course cook it for your Christmas feasts, I am sure your relatives and friends will really appreciate it!

Castilian Stew Ingredients

The ingredients of cocido not only differ depending on the region, I could say every family has its own cocido recipe.  In Madrid housewives add cabbage and turnip, in Galicia turnip tops, in the Basque Country spinaches and poached eggs.  However, even if there are differences, classical ingredients are almost the same:

  • four different kinds of meat like pork, veal, chicken and lamb
  • legumes like chickpeas, lentils or red beans
  • vegetables like potatoes, carrots, turnip, onions and celery
  • pasta,  usually added in Catalonia

The most interesting aspect of cocido is the way it is presented.  All kinds of cocido are served in 3 different plates which according to the card game hierarchy are called jack, horse and king. First comes a warm and tasty stock, then colored and tender vegetables and finally succulent meats.

Chickpeas and potatoes purée

Since in every family ingredients and modalities differ, I am going to propose you my own version of cocido. Trust me, it is excellent and easy to prepare, even if a bit long. I’m going to make a rich, thick delicious stock (my jack), a sort of potatoes and chickpeas purée (my horse) and a combination of delicious meats (my king).

Meat and vegatables stock

Castilian stew

Ingredients:

2 medium onions

3 carrots

2 garlic cloves

1 branch of celery

1 leek

1 yellow turnip

2 lb potatoes

2 lb chickpeas

0.8 lb chuck beef

1 Catalan black botifarra (if you don’t find any use a normal sausage)

1 Catalan white botifarra (if you don’t find any use a normal sausage)

3 pieces of ham-knuckle

1 chicken leg

Butter

Elaboration:

Soak chickpeas in water for almost 10 hours. Boil potatoes till they are tender, peel them and mash them with a fork. Pour water in a casserole and add the rest of the vegetables – peeled and whashed –  and all the meat except for botifarra. Add salt and pepper.  Bring to rolling boil. When it starts boiling, lower the flame and let it stew for 4-5 hours. In the meantime, take a little quantity of stock from the casserole and pour it into a saucepan with the chickpeas. Let it boil till the chickpeas are cooked. Then put smashed potatoes and chickpeas into the blender and purée it.  After 3 hours put the butifarras into a saucepan with water and let it simmer for 30 minutes. When they are ready, slice them and add them to the rest of the cocido. Let everything cook for almost 1 more hour. Serve your steaming and thick stock, then your fantastic potatoes and chickpeas purée and finally the luxuriant and gluttonous meat.

beef, chicken and pork meat

Ready to show your hand?

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Spezzatino – Italian Beef Stew

Winter is almost here and during these cold days the most pleasant thing is to enjoy the warmth of your home and prepare a great Sunday meal. The recipe I propose you today is part of the traditional Italian gastronomy. It reminds me of the Sundays in front of the fireplace when the smell of bay leaves and pepper came from a clay pot.  Earthy and inviting fragrances turned waiting into an enjoyable moment.  And the surprise arrived when I could taste that pulpy, bright and steaming dish called spezzatino, Italian beef stew.

spezzatino

But let’s talk about meat! Which is the best cut for beef stew? The ideal beef for stews is boneless typically from the chuck.  The ideal size for cooking is 1-1/2 inch cube.  My suggestion is to choose bright cherry red meat and being careful when you go to the butcher. Ask him questions, he’ll be happy to answer and serve you well.

Bright Cherry Red Meat

Spezzatino

Ingredients:

2.2 lb  chuck beef

3 table spoons olive oil

1 garlic clove

3 carrots

2 medium onions

1 branch of celery

1 leek

1 yellow turnip

1 glass of red wine

2 bay leaves

Flour

Tomato sauce

Stock

onion carrots leek garlic

Elaboration:

Peel all the vegetables and cut them into 2 cm thick slices. Then put them in a casserole – better if it is a clay pot – and let them brown with olive oil.  Flour the meat and let it brown with vegetables. Pour red wine and stock and let evaporate. After 15 minutes, pour the tomato sauce, season with salt and pepper and add the bay leaves. Let everything simmer for about 2 or 3 hours, stirring occasionally, till the sauce gets thick and the meat is very tender.

Italian Beef Stew

Serve your steaming spezzatino with potato purée. Buon appetito!

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Delight your palate at Casa Fausto!

Heart is what differentiates normal and rational things from the extraordinary ones.  You can feel it through subtle gestures, through the energy and the effort to achieve desires, through the enthusiasm for every new idea.  In la Teixonera, a hilly neighborhood of Barcelona with incredible sights of the city, there’s a place where you can find a warm and Mediterranean atmosphere.  White walls, blue sunny windows and cozy wooden furniture, Casa Fausto is a unique restaurant where people meet to enjoy excellent wines and seasonal fresh market cuisine.  But what turns Casa Fausto into a superb restaurant is the passion and the zeal of Manuel García, the heart behind this lovely place.  Come and visit him! He will welcome you with a cordial smile, he will tempt you with delicious appetizers, he will entertain you with his humor and he will surprise you with accuracy and attention to details.

Grilled Nebraska Loin

Manuel came up with the idea to open Casa Fausto almost 2 years ago, during a gastronomic trip around Italy. He visited enchanting places like Florence and Pisa in Tuscany, Verona and Venice in Veneto, the Cinque Terre in Liguria, Bologna in Emilia-Romagna and the island of Sardinia.  Throughout this experience he could discover authentic culinary secrets and once he came back, he felt ready to own his restaurant.  He started looking for a place till one day he found an abandoned canteen with a sign saying ‘Casa Fausto’. He suddenly realized that was the place! He eventually discovered that was the ancient bus depot of the Vallcarca-Coll district and he decided to restore the old original sign.  Nice, isn’t it?

Grilled Nebraska Loin

Grilled Nebraska loin, fried cuttlefish, scallop croquettes, grilled Rovellons, mini squid hamburgers with onion marmalade and black squid ink bread, mini beef hamburgers stuffed with foie with dried tomatoes and tomato bread. These are just some of the delicacies you can taste at Casa Fausto.  Every ingredient is fresh and refined, every combination is made to get unforgettable and luscious flavors.

Mini squid hamburgers with onion marmalade and black squid ink bread, mini beef hamburgers stuffed with foie with dried tomatoes and tomato bread

Casa Fausto is definitely my favorite restaurant in town! If you come to Barcelona don’t miss the chance to try it, I strongly recommend it!

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Flavors from Italy: Pickled Eggplants Under Oil

Nostalgia. Today I feel nostalgic for summer and I’m thinking about the typical family dinners in Calabria during the warm August nights.  We used to start eating antipasti (appetizers) like cured ham, black baked olives, goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and the famous pickled eggplants under oil. Eggplants are the most common ingredient in Calabrian summer dishes. People cook them in so many ways that you can eat eggplants almost every day.

Eggplants

My grandma loves to marinate eggplants so she can conserve them under oil and enjoy their tasty flavor during the all year.  Of course when I go to visit her she always gives me some little jars of her favorite eggplants.  She’s so proud of them! Well, I have to say they’re incredibly savory and that they achieve a perfect balance between salty and sour.

Eggplants

Try to prepare them! Here you have my grandma’s recipe!

Pickled Eggplants Under Oil

Ingredients for 2 medium jars

6.6 lb eggplants

Wine vinegar

3 table spoons of salt

4 medium garlic cloves

Oregano

Crushed hot pepper

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Elaboration

Cut the end of the eggplants, peel them and slice them like French fries. Lay the slices in a bowl (preferably a wooden bowl) and sprinkle with salt, minced garlic, oregano, and hot pepper. Add vinegar and let them marinate during 4-5 days. Leave the excess salt and squeeze them. Try them and if they’re not tender enough boil in water for 3 minutes. Pour the eggplants into a colander and drain them. Squeeze the strips and leave to dry on an absorbent towel. Pour some oil into the jar and then add some marinated eggplants, minced garlic, oregano and hot pepper. Repeat until your jar is completely full. Then close it tightly being sure eggplants are totally immerged in oil.

Eggplants

Serve them as an appetizer with toasted bread and some spicy Italian sausages. Enjoy!!!

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Cup&Cake

Cupcakes

First you look at it.  Its luscious and tempting shapes catch your eye.  Swirls of authentic softness.  Freshness.  You follow the waving lines of his colored piled-high icing. Then you pay attention to the details of the decorations:  rainbow sprinkles, cherry candies, fluffy marshmallows, colored smarties, chocolate drops… So you decide to try it and you cannot even describe how sweet, creamy and surprising it is. You’re smiling, you’re happy, you have just enjoyed a cupcake!

Cupcakes

Cupcakes are like little portions of pleasure.  They evoke a nostalgic feeling of coziness and comfort. When I think about them I imagine a housewife – like Bree Van de Kamp ;) – preparing delicious and genuine cupcakes for her sons.  Do you know why people call them cupcakes? There are two theories about the origin of this name:

1)      It comes from the amount of ingredients used to prepare them (a cupful of flour, a cupful of butter, cupful of sugar etc.).

2)      Cupcakes were originally baked in cups.

Cupcakes

In Barcelona there is a bakery that elaborates delicious and homemade cupcakes.  It’s a place where you can take your time, enjoy a creamy cappuccino and share sweet delicacies.  Cup&Cake has born with the main objective to retrieve genuine treats from the past. They use the best ingredients to get high quality products. Everything you find there is made by them. It’s an enchanting place because you can sit with other people, toast bread and spread marmalade on it while sharing conversations.

Cupcakes

My suggestion: abhor pre-cooked food and visit Cup&Cake!

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