Yes, today I am writing about a Spanish cuisine kitchen practical class. On the menu were paella, tapas and churros.
Tapas are bite-sized appetizers which were initially served in tapas bars in Spain along with alcoholic drinks. The word ‘Tapas’ means ‘to cover’. One of the references is that of the small tapas plates which were used to cover the drinks from fruit flies. This class consisted of less number of components for each dish. Therefore, we had a lot more time to think about the menu that was to be prepared. The idea was to make something innovative with the ingredients available, to reduce food waste and to create dishes without the boundary of any specific cuisine in mind.
This class consisted of less number of components for each dish. Therefore, we had a lot more time to think about the menu that was to be prepared. The idea was to make something innovative with the ingredients available, to reduce food waste and to create dishes without the boundary of any specific cuisine in mind.
Seafood paella: In this paella, we added calamari, prawns, mussels along with Chorizo, which is a Spanish pork sausage. We saved the squid ink for later use. We cooked the paella in a paella pan which was served after cooking in the same pan. It was meant for two people to share. There was a beautiful socarrat, which is the toasted crust at the bottom of the paella pan, while our chef checked the paella for all the components.
Mussels with squid ink in a saffron vinaigrette (amuse bouche): We saved the saffron stock which we used to flavour the paella and just have a look here at how fresh the leftovers are.
There were a lot of mussels left after cooking the paella so we thought of making another dish. This time we made an amuse bouche which is a small dish, usually consisting of a few bites, which is offered to diners at their arrival. This dish is smaller than an appetizer and it reflects the menu of the day.
So, we cooked the mussels in this saffron stock with shallots and lemon juice to add some acidity to the dish. We also used the reserved squid ink to heighten the flavour of the dish.
Sous vide salt cod and croquettes with tomato spheres: There were two techniques used to make this dish. Sous vide to cook the salt cod and spherification for making the tomato spheres. If there was one thing that could be done differently, I would use fresh fish instead of the salted and preserved codfish which we used here.
One of the key differences in the making of these croquettes was the ingredient used to make them. Usually, everyone is familiar with croquettes made with root vegetables like various potatoes or beets, but these were made with Mornay sauce which is a derivative sauce of Béchamel sauce.
Since the menu was based on Spanish cuisine, we used Manchego cheese instead of the traditional Gruyere cheese that is used to make Mornay sauce. As you can imagine the difficulty to shape a sauce into roundels and then crumb them thicker than you would so that they are deep-fried to the correct doneness. I will admit that it was a very tedious task.
I tasted Manchego cheese for the first time and it is as beautiful on the palate as it is to your eyes. For the tomato spheres, we strained freshly made tomato puree. What happens next of this strained tomato pulp? Do I waste it? Keep reading to find out more about this strained, delicious, thick tomato pulp which constituted the main part of the tomato.
We used the strained tomato juice to make spheres using a molecular gastronomy technique called spherification. Sodium alginate was added to the tomato juice and calcium chloride to the water bath in which we gradually added the tomato juice to form spheres. It was very difficult to make spheres which looked somewhat close to spheres and held their shape till we plated and presented our dishes.
Churros with dulce de leche and tomato granita: Pate a choux is one of the pastry preparations which is closest to my heart. I like the versatility of pate a choux because whether I bake it or deep-fry it, both lead to a very different appearance, taste and texture. I like to make it also because it is very similar to one of the traditional Indian dessert which I have been eating since I was a kid. The churros were coated with cinnamon sugar after being deep-fried. Here dulce de leche meaning ‘sweet milk or sweet of milk’ was served with the churros. I cooked the dulce de leche for 4 hours till it was caramel in colour and was not very thick.
Tomato granita with churros, really? I did not write that by mistake. In fact, that’s another component which I made using the strained tomato pulp which was to be discarded while making the tomato spheres. I made a delicious tomato granita which helped to balance the overly sweet churros with dulce de leche. This class taught me so many new techniques along with the practice of reducing food waste to the maximum.