Fabada Asturiana- Spanish White Bean Stew

Hello everyone! I haven’t posted any recipes or the past 6 weeks because I have been very busy attending a 4-week intensive course in Spanish cuisine at the Madrid Cordon Bleu School. Every day we had a 3-hour demonstration class followed by a 3-hour practical class. It was quite tiring: here is a picture of me on the first day of class when I was rested and ‘raring to go.’ Four weeks later, I didn’t feel quite so rested!

                                          that’s me on the right

After doing this course, I am definitely not an expert in Spanish cuisine, but I can say that the Spanish do use a lot of olive oil and smoked paprika (pimenton) in their cooking. They also use a lot of cured meats such as chorizo and Iberian ham.

One traditional dish from the Asturias region of northwest Spain is called Fabada Asturiana. This stew uses fabes (white beans) combined with smoked pork sausages from Asturias (chorizo asturiana), and blood sausages from the region (morcilla asturiana). The addition of the pancetta gives this dish a hearty smoked flavor- perfect especially for the cooler weather. (While I was in Madrid, the temperature reached an average of 90 F every day, however I still liked eating this dish)!

The fabes are large white kidney beans from Asturias that are creamy and tender- however you could also use cannellini or Great Northern beans as a substitute. I had never tried morcilla or blood sausages before but these had a light texture that I really liked. These sausages need to be added at the very end of the cooking, otherwise they tend to break up and ‘disappear’ in the stew. If you don’t have access to the morcilla, you could substitute another type of sausage of your choice.

And don’t worry about soaking the white beans overnight and cooking them for two hours ahead of time! I used the quick-soak method, where you bring the beans briefly to a boil and let soak for only 1-hour- this will save you a lot of time!

Blood sausage from Asturias (morcilla asturiana), Smoked sauage from Asturias (chorizo asturiana) and pancetta

So, if you want to experience a taste of Spain (without having to travel to the country) try making this smoky bean stew, Fabada Asturiana!

Fabada Asturiana (Spanish White Bean Stew)
Serves 6
A smoky Spanish stew from the region of Asturianas
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Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
2 hr
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
2 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1 lb dried white beans (fabes, cannellini or Great Northern beans)
  2. 1 onion, chopped
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. ½ lb pancetta or speck bacon, cut into ½ inch strips
  5. 2 'chorizos asturianas' (or other Spanish chorizo)
  6. 2 ‘morcillas asturianas’ (blood sausages)
  7. 12 cups water (or enough water to cover the beans and other ingredients)
  8. 3-4 threads of saffron
  9. Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Rinse the dried beans. Fill a large saucepan or Dutch oven with water and bring to a boil; add the beans and boil for one minute. Remove from heat and cover the pan with a lid- let the beans soak for one hour. Strain the beans and set aside. In a large pot or Dutch oven, ‘sweat’ the onions and garlic in a little olive oil until they are translucent. Cut the pancetta into thin strips and the chorizos into ¼ inch slices and add to the pot and cook for about one minute. Add the soaked beans to the pan and enough water to cover the ingredients; add a few threads of saffron and salt to taste. Cook for at least 1 hour on a medium-low heat until all flavors have infused together.
  2. While the ingredients are cooking, cut the morcilla (blood) sausages into thin slices and bake in a pre-heated oven at 320 F (160 C) for 10 minutes. Add them to the stew during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking. Serve warm in individual bowls.
Notes
  1. You could substitute the morcilla blood sausage with any other sausage of your choice. Also, if you do not have access to 'chorizo asturiana', you could substitute a general Spanish chorizo for this.
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Flaky Mexican Empanadas

Since I had some dough left over from my previous post Dutch Apple Pie, I decided to make some Mexican Empanadas. These empanadas are flaky, tender and full of flavor- you can use them as a main course, an accompaniment at breakfast time, or for a snack  when you open the fridge bleary-eyed at 1:00 am looking for something to eat.

‘Empanada’ comes from the Spanish word empanar which means ‘coated in bread’, but I think of them as being like a ‘turnover.’ Originating in Spain, empanadas are now served in many countries, including Argentina, India, Indonesia and the Philippines. Even Australia  has its own version of an empanada with its meat and vegetable-filled pasty. Imagine my embarrassment when I first came to Australia in 1979 and asked for a pastie- I was quickly told that the correct pronunciation is pah-stie!

I’m calling my recipe a ‘Mexican empanada’ because I’ve used ingredients such as Mexican pork (or beef) chorizo, jalapeño peppers, cumin and Mexican chili powder. Mexican pork chorizo is different than Spanish chorizo since it is sold raw in a casing and must be cooked before eating.

Mexican Pork Chorizo

The Process

To assemble the empanada, first roll-out 50 grams (3 tbsps) of dough into a small circle, then place several tablespoons of the meat filling in the middle of the circle.

Next, fold the dough in half, neaten-up the raw edges using a knife and then press the raw edges together firmly. Crimp the ends of the dough either using the tines of a fork or ‘fluting’ the ends like a pie crust.

Or, maybe you are brave enough to try the repulgue technique, which is so pretty:

Finally, brush each empanada with an egg wash and bake at 420 F (215 C) until golden in color. And please let me know how your empanadas turn out- I am dying to know!

Thank you so much for stopping by my blog- you give me inspiration to keep on going to explore the fascinating world of food!

Flaky Mexican Empanadas
Yields 12
A flaky and flavorful Mexican 'turnover'- also known as an Empanada
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For the filling
  1. 1-2 tbsps oil
  2. 1 lb lean beef
  3. ¼ lb Mexican pork (or beef) chorizo
  4. ½ onion, diced
  5. 2 garlic cloves
  6. ½ red bell pepper, chopped
  7. jalapeño or red chili pepper, diced
  8. 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
  9. Salt to taste
  10. Splash of cumin
  11. Splash of Mexican chili powder
For the dough
  1. 2 1/2 cups (300 g) white flour
  2. 11 tbsps (150 g) cold butter, cubed
  3. 1 1/2 eggs
  4. 2 - 3 tbsp. cold water
For the egg wash
  1. 1 egg combined with splash of water
To prepare the empanada filling
  1. Over medium-high heat, cook the chopped onion, garlic, red bell pepper and jalapeno pepper in oil until the veggies turn soft and translucent (2-3 minutes). Add the lean beef and Mexican pork (or beef) chorizo and fry until brown. The chorizo is rather fatty so the mixture will turn rather liquid and ‘bubbly.’ Add the can of diced tomatoes and season with salt, cumin and Mexican chili powder- adjust the seasoning to suit your taste. Let cool completely before adding the filling to the prepared dough.
To prepare the dough
  1. Place flour in large bowl. Add cold butter cubes and rub mixture with palms and finger tips until mixture resembles fine sand. Alternatively, place flour and butter in food processor bowl and pulse until mixture resembles texture of fine sand.
  2. Add 1 1/2 eggs and stir until mixture starts to form a ball. If required, add 2-3 tbsps. of ice cold water and mix until dough hangs together in firm ball shape.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead several times until it forms a firm ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least 15 minutes.
To assemble the empanadas
  1. Remove dough from fridge and divide into balls weighing about 50 grams (3 tbsps) each. On a lightly-floured surface, roll out each ball into a circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Add 2-3 tbsps of the filling into the center of each dough circle, fold the dough in half then press the bottom edges of the dough together with your fingers. Crimp the bottom edges together using the tines of a fork or fluting the edges as you would do in making a pie.
  2. Brush each empanada with the egg wash and bake at 420 F (215 C) for 20 minutes or until the crust turns golden brown. Serve warm with a little tomato sauce or salsa on the side.
Notes
  1. If you can't find Mexican pork (or beef) chorizo in your supermarket, substitute regular pork (or beef) and increase the amount of cumin and Mexican chili powder seasoning in the recipe.
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Al’s Famous Chili

chili

This is Al’s Famous Chili- it’s so ‘famous’ that it’s survived more than 50 years in the family! “Who’s Al?”, you might be asking. Well, Al is my brother who passed away in 2001 at the age of 57.

Al was a real adventurer- he liked to fly his Cessna airplane down into Baja, California- places so remote there were just dirt tracks for a landing field and the term ‘air traffic controller’ didn’t even exist in the local language. Al also liked to scuba dive in Truk Lagoon in the Pacific Ocean, exploring the eerie graveyard of World War II sunken ships and occasionally salvaging a few old bottles.

Alan

Al also had a sense of humor- you never knew when he would sneak a Whoopee Cushion under you as you started to sit down.

And Al, of course, was known for his famous chili. When he and his wife, Diane, were newly-weds, they bought a Crockpot (one of those old round things that are now considered ‘vintage’). A little recipe book came with it, including the recipe for Chili Con Carne. Al decided to try the recipe and the rest is history- his famous chili continues to be served over 50 years later- in fact we had some several days ago during the 2016 Super Bowl.

The recipe is so simple I don’t even need to add any extra tips or explanations- except that the recipe works best in a slow cooker, but could also be put together on the stovetop in less than 30 minutes, if you’re in a hurry.

Here is a photocopy of the page from the little recipe book from over 50 years ago- the page is a little dog-eared and yellowed now, but the recipe is still going strong and still brings to life the memory of Al- we will never forget him!

Al's recipe cropped jpeg

 

Al's Famous Chili
Serves 6
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
4 hr
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
4 hr
Ingredients
  1. ¼ cup olive oil
  2. 1 large onion, chopped
  3. 1 green pepper, chopped
  4. 1 pound ground beef
  5. 1 15-ounce can of tomato sauce
  6. ¼ cup catsup
  7. ¼ cup chili sauce
  8. ¼ cup water
  9. Salt to taste
  10. ¼ tsp paprika
  11. ¼ tsp tsp cayenne
  12. 1 tbsp chili powder
  13. 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  14. 1 can pinto beans, drained
  15. 1 can red kidney beans, drained
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a large skillet and sauté onion, green pepper and meat. Pour off excess fat and place in the Crock Pot with remaining ingredients. Cover and cook for 4-6 hours at Low Heat. If beans are desired, add to the uncooked mixture.
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Albóndigas Mexican Meatballs

Mexican Meatballs (1 of 1) (1 of 1)

I’m so embarrassed! I was in the midst of photographing these Mexican Meatballs when my camera shutter button jammed. I was stuck- no more pictures! I was worried that my meatballs would go stale on me, so I drove 17 miles to a camera repair shop, only to be told that my camera worked fine. I just needed to recharge the camera batteries! That was one of those embarrassing moments that I’d like to forget.

Now back to the Mexican Meatballs. ‘Albóndigas’ means ‘meatballs’ in Spanish and are a popular Spanish tapas dish. The thing that makes them Mexican Meatballs is the addition of a chipotle chile in the sauce. Chipotles are smoked jalapeno peppers and they give a nice smoky taste to the dish. I’ve used chipotles in several other of my dishes: Smoky Chipotle Chicken with Chorizo and Smoky Chipotle Eggs Baked in a Skillet. You can find chipotles in various supermarkets (particularly in Southern California) or in Mexican specialty markets.

To make the meatballs, you combine minced beef and pork together with diced onion, breadcrumbs, egg, cumin and oregano. After browning the meatballs, the mouth watering sauce or ‘soup’ is made with diced tomatoes, a chipotle pepper, beef stock and seasonings. It’s enough to make you want to grab that nearby piece of bread and sop up the juices.

Words to describe this dish would be ‘spicy, delicious, appetizing, inviting, tasty, delectable and toothsome’… oh hell, I’m running out of words here. But be sure and have your camera batteries charged before photographing this dish!

 Mexican Meatballs (2 of 2) (1 of 1)

 

Albóndigas Mexican Meatballs
Serves 6
Spicy meatballs served in a mouth watering chipotle sauce
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For the Mexican Meatballs
  1. 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  2. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  3. 1/2 lb ground beef
  4. 1/2 lb ground pork
  5. 3 tbsp. Mexican beef or pork chorizo (optional)
  6. 1/4 cup ground breadcrumbs
  7. 1 raw egg
  8. 1 tsp ground cumin
  9. 1/2 tsp oregano
  10. 1 tsp salt
For the sauce/soup
  1. 1 small onion, diced
  2. 2 cloves garlic, diced
  3. 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, chopped
  4. 1/4 tsp cumin
  5. 2 cups beef stock
  6. 1 can chopped tomatoes
  7. 1 tsp salt
  8. juice from 1 lime
To serve
  1. 1 - 2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, minced
  2. cooked white rice
For the meatballs
  1. Sauté the chopped onions and garlic in olive or vegetable oil for several minutes until soft.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the raw beef, pork and Mexican chorizo, breadcrumbs, raw egg, cooked onions and garlic, cumin, oregano and salt.
  3. Form the mixture into meatballs about 1 - 1.5 inches wide and brown for several minutes over medium heat for several minutes. Set aside.
For the sauce/soup
  1. In a large skillet or casserole dish, sauté the chopped onions and garlic in olive or vegetable oil until soft. Add the chopped chipotle chile, cumin, beef stock, diced tomatoes, salt and lime juice to the pan. Stir over medium heat for several minutes.
  2. Add the browned meatballs to the pan, cover and let simmer for at least 10 minutes until the meat is thoroughly cooked. Serve over rice and garnish with chopped coriander.
Notes
  1. Adjust the amount of cumin and chipotle chile according to your personal taste. The addition of the 3 tbsp. of Mexican chorizo to the meatballs is optional- I added the chorizo to give the meat more flavour.
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Beef Cheeks Braised in Red Wine

IMG_3917

Beef Cheeks- the most tender meat you’ll ever eat!

The first time I tried Beef Cheeks was at the Prairie Hotel in Parachilna, South Australia- a small town (or I’d call it a ‘place’ rather than a town) –  a squllion miles from anywhere in the Australian Outback. Looking at the menu there, I decided to pass up the ‘Red Curry of Goat’ and the ‘Mixed Feral Grill’ which consisted of Kangaroo Fillet, Emu Fillet Mignon and Camel Sausage, all thrown together on a plate.

Prairie Hotel- Beef Cheeks discovered in the Outback

Prairie Hotel- Beef Cheeks discovered in the Outback

Instead, I decided to try the ‘Beef Cheeks Braised in Red Wine’- I had never heard of eating Beef Cheeks before but decided to give it a go- what the heck, I could always fall back on the Goat Curry if it didn’t work out. I’m glad I did try it because this meat was the most tender I had ever eaten- the meat almost seems to melt in your mouth and the wine sauce makes it even more delicious!

As lovers of good food, most of us will sometimes go to great lengths to find the most tender and succulent of meats to eat and will pay up to $40 per kilo ($18 per pound) for a prime fillet of beef. But did you know that Beef Cheeks only cost around $9 per kilo ($4 per pound) and you can get the same tenderness as a fillet? The only thing is you will have to order the Beef Cheeks from your butcher- I have never seen them for sale in Australian or American supermarkets and it can take awhile for them to arrive. The good news is that you can also substitute other cuts of beef for this recipe, such as beef brisket or shoulder.

For this recipe, the beef cheeks are first marinated in red wine for at least 12 hours, then cooked in a wine/stock liquid for at least 2 hours, until the meat is tender and ‘flakes apart.’ The remaining cooking liquid is then reduced and thickened slightly, then served with the meat. Best served with creamy mashed potatoes on the side.

Beef Cheeks

Beef Cheeks

Diced Veggies

Diced Veggies

Marinade added to Beef Cheeks and Veggies

Marinade added to Beef Cheeks and Veggies

Beef Cheeks Braised in Red Wine

4 beef cheeks, trimmed

The Marinade

    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
    • 1 celery stick, chopped
    • 3 garlic cloves
    • 8 black peppercorns
    •  3 cups (750 ml)  red wine
    • 3/4 cup (180 ml) port or cognac

The Braising Liquid/Sauce

    • Vegetables from the marinade
    • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
    • 2 cups (500 ml) red wine from the marinade
    • 3 cups (750 ml) beef stock
    • 1 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 4 sprigs of thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried thyme)

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 360 F (180 C).
  2. Trim the beef cheeks of all fat and sinew and place into a deep bowl or saucepan.
  3. Prepare the marinade: Chop the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and then scatter these veggies and the peppercorns over the beef cheeks.
  4. Bring the wine and port to a boil in a saucepan; lower the heat and let simmer for a few minutes. (Boiling helps to reduce the acidity of the wine). Remove from the heat and let cool, until warm to the touch.
  5. Pour the warm marinade over the meat and vegetables. Let cool for a bit longer, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 12 – 24 hours (the longer, the better).
  6. Prepare the braising (cooking) liquid: remove the meat from the marinade and then strain the veggies; you now have the three components: the meat, the veggies and the remaining wine marinade.
  7. Season both sides of the beef cheeks with salt and pepper. Heat some olive or peanut oil in a dutch oven or large braising pan over high heat; reduce the heat slightly and brown the meat for about 1 minute on each side (the beef cheeks can burn easily, so be careful). Remove the meat and set aside.
  8. Now add the reserved vegetables to the pan and ‘sweat’ them over the heat until they are translucent in color. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring for 1 more minute.
  9. Return the beef cheeks to the pan and then add the wine from the marinade, the beef stock, brown sugar, bay leaves and thyme. Bring the mixture to the boil, , reduce the heat and let simmer for a few minutes Cover with lid and place in pre-heated oven for at least 2 hours until the meat is very tender and flaky. Occasionally check the level of the braising liquid during the cooking; if the liquid has evaporated too quickly, add more marinade to the pan as required.
  10. Finish the sauce: When ready, remove the pan from the oven, remove the beef cheeks from the pan and keep warm. Strain the veggies from the remaining braising liquid and transfer to a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for  8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a whisk. Continue until the liquid has thickened to a medium consistency.
  11. To serve, slice the meat on a plate and ladle over the sauce. Servce with creamy mashed potatoes.