Books, Bikes, and Food

Reviews, Recipes, Rides… and some other things, too.


Recipe: Artichokes with Bacon

Having returned from a business trip to Brazil on a Saturday evening, and with German shops still stubbornly closed on Sundays, my food situation was somewhat bleak this weekend. However, I had a wonderful glass of artichokes in my pantry, from Tudela no less. These artichokes, which my Mother in Law thankfully knows to provide me with on each of our visits, are melt-in-your-mouth tender and cause an artichoke flavour explosion to happen in your mouth. I also had some diced bacon in the freezer and some red onions were knocking about. Almost all you need for a light, flavourful summer dinner.

But first, here are some gratuitous Brazil pictures:

The Niemeyer Auditorium in São Paulo is pretty striking.

Rio de Janeiro, stunning as ever. (I wanted to post a different picture here but Instagram won’t let me, I don’t understand…)*

OK, now for the food.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 400g (net weight) canned artichoke hearts, cut in halves
  • the artichoke water from the can
  • 1 (red) onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp white flour
  • 1 tbsp diced bacon
  • 1 tsp dried parsley (you can also use fresh)
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Reduce the heat and add the diced onions. Cook until they start becoming translucent, add the minced garlic and the bacon and cook a bit more. Add the parsley and the flour and stir. Then add the artichoke water, turn up the heat and keep stirring until the flour has dissolved and the sauce starts thickening. Add the artichokes and continue to cook until they’re heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

* P.S. – A really annoying thing has happened; apparently Instagram has decided to take away the option of getting to the source code of a picture to embed it directly through the source URL. It’s a bit crap because now I can’t control the size of the pictures, whether they’re centred in the text, and it has all the Instagram caption and “likes” etc. Plus, it seems to “eat” or rather not let me post certain pictures. GRRRRRRR. Has anyone discovered a way of finding the source URL? Thanks 🙂


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Dinner for Two: Salmorejo and Blue Cheese Cream with Strawberry Purée

dinner42This is the cecina edition of Dinner for TwoCecina is basically cured or smoked meat, similar to ham, but it usually has a stronger taste, and it can be made from meats that aren’t pork. We had some that friends brought us when they came to visit, and this weekend it was time to use it. We were in the mood for something fresh and summery, since the weather has been playing along really nicely. And it’s strawberry season! So we came up with two ideas. Salmorejo is a dish from Andalucía that we became addicted to last year on our holiday in the region. It’s a cold purée made from tomatoes and bread. It’s a bit similar to gazpacho, very refreshing, but since it’s got bread in it it’s more substantial and filling. Mr BBF used this recipe and topped it with some cecina that he briefly toasted in the microwave. We also decided to make a starter (which we later decided to have as desert) of blue cheese cream with strawberry purée, also topped with cecina (no microwaving this time. For this, we were inspired loosely by this recipe, but we wanted fresh strawberries, so I just made a real purée rather than using strawberry jelly. It was simply delightful. We enjoyed our feast with some txakoli and some cecina drizzled with olive oil:   Blue cheese cream with strawberry purée (serves 2-3) Ingredients

  • 60g blue cheese
  • 120g mascarpone
  • about 40ml milk (depending on the thickness of the cheese cream, start out with 30ml then add more if needed)
  • one large handful fresh strawberries
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • cecina or ham to garnish

For the blue cheese cream, cut the blue cheese into pieces and place them in a plastic bowl. Add the mascarpone and the milk and mix a bit with a fork, further crumbling the cheese. With a hand-held blender purée the mix until thick and very creamy. Taste and potentially season with salt and pepper (we didn’t). Also if you like you can vary the blue cheese to mascarpone ratio. I liked it as it was (I like cheese a lot), but Mr BBF would have preferred it with slightly less blue cheese. For the strawberry purée, wash and dice the strawberries, mix them with the 2 tbsp sugar in another plastic bowl. Purée with your trusty hand-held blender until it’s nice and creamy. Layer the cheese cream and strawberry purée into glasses and refrigerate until just before servingNow, I learned a lesson here. Inspired by the original recipe, I put the strawberry purée at the bottom of our glasses. But since our purée didn’t have jelly, it was more fluid than the cheese cream and the layering didn’t work that well. So I would recommend to start with the cheese and then layer the strawberry purée on top. Alternatively, you could spike the strawberry purée with some gelatine to make it less liquid. Refrigerate until serving time. Just before serving, garnish with the cecina and half a strawberry per portion. Salmorejo (serves 2-3 as a main) Ingredients 

  • 800g fresh ripe tomatoes
  • 100ml olive oil
  • 150g white wheat bread, crust cut off
  • 1/2 clove of garlic (this is really enough, just trust us on this one)
  • salt to taste

Warning: this recipe makes a bit of a mess in your kitchen, but it’s absolutely worth it. Peel the tomatoes, either using a very sharp peeler or using the poaching method. Chop them and place them in a large pot, bowl, or in a blender if you have one. Purée the tomatoes, then pass them through a colander to get rid of remaining peel and seeds. Dice the bread and add it to the tomato purée; leave for about 10 minutes to help soften the bread. In the meantime, peel the garlic clove and mince half of it. Add the garlic, the olive oil and salt to the purée and blend until smooth. Season to taste and refrigerate until serving. Cut some cecina or ham into small pieces and pop them into the microwave for a few seconds to make them crunchy. Ladle salmorejo into soup plates and garnish with the cecina. ¡Qué aproveche!


Recipe: White Beans with Spinach, or alubias con espinacas

This recipe is my take on this one for spinach with chickpeas from Smitten Kitchen. They claim that things sound better when named in Spanish, and knowing this to be absolutely true my white beans with spinach were quickly turned into alubias con espinacas, making the recipe sound all the more attractive. Then I popped a soft-boiled egg on top and it was perfection.

The great folks over at Smitten Kitchen use fresh spinach and dried chickpeas, but for me it was canned white beans and frozen spinach. It worked beautifully, too.

Ingredients (2 portions)

  • 1 can of white beans, drained and rinsed
  • frozen spinach (I used about two handful of the portionable stuff)
  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml passata
  • 1 tsp tomato purée
  • olive oil
  • 1 dried small chile
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp (smoked) paprika
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • fresh lemon juice to taste
  • salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the minced garlic, chile, paprika and cumin, stir well and cook until the garlic is golden. Add the beans and stir to coat them evenly with the spices. Add the passata, tomato purée, vinegar, and the spinach. Cook until the spinach is fully defrosted. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. While the beans and spinach are cooking away, boil the egg for five minutes. Plop the beans and spinach onto two soup plates and crack the soft-boiled eggs on top. Enjoy with some toasted bread.

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Recipe: Gazpacho

It was my birthday last Saturday, the last one before I officially turn old next year. (Although thanks to a 15 year-old from my sports club, who steadfastly refused to believe I was any older than 21, I can still safely claim I just turned 22.) Luckily, summer decided to celebrate with me and bow out on a high – it was hot and sunny, the last day before autumn arrived on Sunday. I’d invited some friends over, and to go with the weather I fed them gazpacho (and chili, and Mr Liburuak made a Spanish omelette and a fantastic pasta salad that I’ll very likely talk about another day). This cold Spanish tomato soup is fantastic for hot evenings, and also later on in the year as a starter before you tuck into your autumnal comfort food of choice.

I used this recipe and doubled the quantities.

Ingredients (serves four to six as a starter)

  • 6 large, meaty tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 slices of white bread without the crust
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • white wine vinegar

Place the bread slices on a deep plate and cover with water, a pinch of salt, and a drizzle of olive oil. Set aside. Peel the cucumber. Chop the tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, onion and garlic and place them in a large plastic bowl for puréeing or in a blender. Add a little bit of water and puree them. Add the slice of bread and keep pureeing or blending until the gazpacho has a creamy texture. Pour through a colander to eliminate the pieces of peel and tomato seeds floating around (this step will be a bit messy, but the gazpacho will be so much creamier after). Add vinegar and salt to taste. Chill the gazpacho in the fridge. Before serving, drizzle a few drops of olive oil and sprinkle some diced cucumber on top. Enjoy!

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Recipe: Asian-Spanish “Fusion” Chicken Breast

I’m calling this “fusion” for lack of a better name. Really, the only thing “fusion” about it is the sauce, which is based on soy sauce. This is the kind of recipe that fits the bill if you’re looking for something slightly but not too exotic, and of course, if you have some piquillo peppers at hand. Which, if you’re not in Spain, can sometimes be harder than imagined. Also, it’s ideal if you like getting (most of) your dishes done while cooking, because it involves some waiting time. This recipe is from El País a few years ago.

Ingredients (1 portion)

For the chicken:

  • 1/2 chicken breast
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

For the pimientos:

  • about 5 pimientos del piquillo
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • good pinch of salt
  • olive oil

Mince one clove of garlic and pop it in a bowl or a soup plate. Add the soy sauce, lemon juice, olive oil and honey and mix well. Wash and dry the chicken breast and place it in the mixture. Let it sit for 30 minutes, turning it over occasionally.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. In an oven dish, cook the chicken breast for about 15-20 minutes. Keep the soy sauce mixture!

Slice the second clove of garlic and cut the pimientos del piquillo into thin strips. In a small frying pan, fry the garlic in olive oil until a bit golden, then add the pimientos, sugar and salt, and let them caramelise. This will only take about 5 minutes, so don’t start straight away when you’ve put the chicken in the oven (do some dishes in the meantime).

Once the chicken breast is done, get it out of the oven and put it on a plate. If it has left some juice, mix that with the soy sauce left over from macerating the chicken, and in a small pan, reduce the sauce until it thickens a bit. If your chicken breast, like mine, refuses to leave juice, just use the soy sauce mixture by itself in this step. Cut the chicken breast into slices, arrange the pimientos on the plate and pour the sauce on top. Enjoy!