Spain: Mi plato es tu plato
Our next cooking adventure had us tasting the flavors of Albacete, a lovely Spanish town located just south-east in the Iberian Peninsula. When most think of Spain, it’s perhaps not unusual that images of sunny beaches, sensuous dancing, and of course, delicious tapas immediately spring to mind. And while all this may be, the quiet town of Albacete is quite uncommonly known for its incomparable talent for crafting exquisite (and incredibly sharp) folding knives, as we quickly learned from our Albacete native, Elena. She swore by them, as nothing was quite as appreciated when it came time to…. Prepare a feast of tapas and other delights (what did you think we were going to say, silly?).
It’s no exaggeration that our jaws literally dropped in admiration as soon as we stepped into the gorgeous apartment that Elena shares with her boyfriend Christoffer. Elena is an interior architect, whilst her boyfriend works as an art director, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise that every corner of their Midsommarkransen apartment looks primed and ready for a Scandi-inspired photoshoot.
As soon as Elena prepared an incredible cold cut plate and put on the evening’s romantically Spanish playlist (link below), we started dreaming ourselves away from the hustle and bustle of our 9 to 5’s, imagining a quieter life working in… olive oil production (???) in a tiny Spanish town- say, Albacete? Given its location, it is sheltered from the hordes of (*cough Swedish *cough British) tourists that often set up shop on the sunny beaches along the coast. This quiet town offers perhaps a more authentic Spanish experience than more popular tourist destinations such as Costa del Sol, and most importantly, the food that Elena and her boyfriend prepared with us has us looking into one-way flights to Albacete (hey, one can dream right?).
Before we dive any further, we must pause for a moment to confess that Christoffer was the head chef mainly responsible for the deliciousness we experienced that evening (although Elena was a pro at creating and styling the beautiful and delicious cold cut plate that we couldn’t help but nibble on throughout the evening). It is apparent that what Christoffer lacked in Spanish ancestry, he more than made up for with his unparalleled skills in making the perfect Spanish tortilla (he’s even received the stamp of approval by Elena’s mother, which is as we all know, the strongest seal of approval there is).
Without further ado, it’s time to enjoy some comida español together!
A Spanish evening for 4:
Serve with: a red Rioja or a cool Mahou beer
Listen to: The indie tunes of the 90’s band Surfin’ Bichos to get a feel for the Spanish flavour.
This meal was served together with a few cold cuts and cheese, a staple at the Spanish dinner table. We had some thinly sliced chorizo, cured hams and manchego cheese which we couldn’t avoid nibbling on throughout the dinner.
Pisto (a kind of ratatouille-ish vegetable stew)
Time: about 30 min
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 red bell peppers, finely chopped (with white parts cut off)
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped (with white parts cut off)
About ½ dl olive oil
½ zucchini, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed and roughly chopped
2 x 400g crushed tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
Add in the olive oil in a large pot on medium heat.
Add in onion and let sizzle for about 1-2 minutes, until onion becomes slightly translucent.
Add in peppers and let sit for a few more minutes.
Add in zucchini and fry everything until a soft texture (about 10 min). Keep stirring now and then so the vegetables don’t stick to the bottom.
Add garlic and let sit for a few more minutes while stirring (your kitchen will now be filled with the most heavenly smell).
Lastly, pour in the crushed tomatoes, salt and sugar and stir. Let the stew simmer for a few minutes.
Ready to serve!
Tortilla de Patatas
A Spanish classic that is as simple as it is delicious!
4 medium sized potatoes
1 ½ - 2 dl of olive and vegetable oil (we mixed the two)
10 small eggs
More olive oil
Peel the potatoes and slice into very thin slices (we used a mandolin for this).
In a large skillet, pour in the oil so that it is a few cm high. Set the stove to low heat.
Rinse the potato slices in cold water and pat dry to get rid of some of the starch.
Once the oil sizzles when you add something into the skillet it is ready for frying. Add a few slices of potatoes at a time and fry until colour is slightly golden.
Repeat this until all potato slices are fried. Put them in strainer or something similar and add salt.
In a large bowl, mix in the eggs and add in the potatoes. Whisk everything together.
In a large skillet, pour some olive oil and turn heat to low-medium.
Pour in the omelette mixture and using a spatula keep “lifting” the edges of the omelette. This way it becomes “higher” and gets a more fluffy texture.
Once the surface is not very liquid use a plate to cover the skillet and flip over, so that the omelet lands on the plate. Put the omelete back into the skillet with the bottom side now on the top, so that you fry both sides.
Keep pushing the edges of the omelette into the middle so as to make it fluffier. The omelette should be a few cm in height.
You are now ready to serve!
Kryddhyllan: What is your favorite food from home and why?
Elena: What is my favorite from home? Pisto, that’s why we cooked it! And it’s my favorite because my mom has always been making it, it’s a simple dish with few ingredients and easy to cook. My mom has always been doing these sort of simple dishes, so that’s why I love it so much.
Kryddhyllan: Does it remind you of home whenever you have it?
Elena: I mean yeah it definitely reminds me of home. My mom does it without zucchini though, and with longer chops of pepper than what we did tonight. But the taste is basically the same, and I love it. It reminds me of home.
Kryddhyllan: Beautiful! We do too. What brought you to Sweden?
Elena: My master’s! I studied here at Konstfack, furniture design.
Kryddhyllan: Nice! Why Konstfack?
Elena: Because I’ve always loved Scandinavian design and Nordic style, and as an interior architect I really wanted to discover it more. I fell in love with Finland first, I was there visiting a friend and was like “I need to move to Finland!”, but when I applied for university there, they didn’t reply. I also applied to Denmark and Sweden, and it was Sweden that replied and said “you got in, we’re delighted to have you here!”. So that’s how I ended up in Sweden!
Kryddhyllan: Thank god Sweden was on top of their game.
Elena: Yes *laughs. I mean I hadn’t even visited Sweden before moving here, I just landed and started school, and everything happened.
Kryddhyllan: But I love how you say that you love Finland. That’s not a phrase you hear that often.
Elena: I know *laughs. It’s connected to Scandinavian design, because I’m a big fan of Alvar Aalto so when I went to see his architecture I was like “ok, all Scandinavia is like this!”, and then you find out that it’s so different, that Sweden is so different from Finland, Denmark is so different from Sweden! And Norway too, a bit more quiet. At the end it’s just about finding your little- yeah. I love Finland.
Kryddhyllan: Agreed. And since moving here, what are your favorite new dishes?
Elena: Oh my god, my favorite new dishes… before I moved here, I was very traditionalist Spanish, so I’d never even tasted you know, like Thai food or Indian food and stuff like that because in Spain it’s not that common. So of course I fell in love with the food from all around the world and how easy it is to get it in Stockholm. As we were discussing before, it’s not that easy to get African food in Spain, and for me, I fell in love with that. Then I also discovered some very crazy Swedish foods, like surströmming and blodpudding, and I fell in love with that too!
Kryddhyllan: You did get very excited when we saw blodpudding at the supermarket.
Elena: That’s because it reminds me of morcilla, a blood sausage that we have in Spain. So actually we have a lot of similar things.
Kryddhyllan: Is there a dish that you would say is one of your absolute favorites?
Elena: Hmm… call me boring but I love meatballs, with a nicely done sauce like Christoffer does, it’s his grandmother’s recipe.
Kryddhyllan: Ah, like brunsås?
Christoffer: No, it’s made with moose.
Elena: Yes the meatballs are made from moose, it’s so delicious. I also like surströmming, I’ve had only good experiences with it because I’ve never smelled it. They kept it away from me and then prepared this really nice dill with potatoes and very nice bread, and the surströmming was already clean, so I got a nice toast with surströmming already prepared for me in the garden in the summer in Norrland, and I fell in love. People say “no, you cannot like surströmming!” and I’m just like “yes I do! I like it!”
Kryddhyllan: That’s more than what most Swedes would say. It’s impressive. And did you know anything about Swedish food before you came here?
Elena: Of course. I knew the basics, so IKEA. Meatballs. Maybe everybody says that?
Kryddhyllan: Quite a few people.
Elena: Yeah *laughs. But I also thought that salmon consumption was even bigger here. I had this fixed idea that Swedish people eat a lot of salmon. And of course you guys eat salmon, but not in as huge an amount as I thought. So you have these stereotypes in your head and then you realize it’s quite like that. There’s a lot of variety in the way you guys cook, and lots of different influences.
Christoffer: It’s quite funny, when your cousin was here and the expectations that she had were similar to yours. Even with cured salmon, she thought it would be cooked in an oven or something. You know, gravad lax is not quite like that *laughs.
Elena: Yeah, my cousin got so disappointed, she was trying to cut the salmon with a knife and she just, she couldn’t eat it! She had another idea that salmon had to be baked in the oven with a lot of onion.
Kryddhyllan: No, no, no. We do cook salmon a lot of different ways, but there’s never too much fuss around the process. That’s so funny, sad that she was disappointed though! And what would you say is the best and worst thing about Swedish food?
Elena: The best and worst in the dishes?
Kryddhyllan: Yeah, in the food, culture, dishes yeah everything.
Elena, looking at her boyfriend: Help me here!
Christoffer: I dunno…
Elena: Ok, the best is that people are so open-minded about trying other foods in restaurants. The worst is that sometimes people that love food as well become very limited in the way that they cook at home. For example, there are so many people that appreciate and love food, but cook the same dishes over and over on a daily basis. So, it’s sad that people don’t have time to cook nice food on a daily basis. You know what I mean? Everybody brings their lunchboxes and sometimes things are just a quick fix thing put together, because people don’t have time. So I think that’s a bad thing. We spend too much time in the office, and then we have to cook to go to the office. I wish we had more time for that, you know? Because I know people have so much potential! That’s a bad thing. That we don’t have as much time to spend on food, and cooking food. I certainly don’t. Thank god I have Christoffer who loves to cook, but I would take three hours in the kitchen trying to figure out something. It’s the time I think.
Kryddhyllan: Yeah, you get so tired when you come home, it’s true. But a good perspective, that’s quite new. And moving on to more things related to favorite foods: If you had to pick one food or dish or type of food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Elena: Oh my god, that’s so hard. In the whole world?
Kryddhyllan: Yeah, but some people have picked types of cuisines and stuff.
Elena: Oh boy, I’m gonna sound crazy when I think of what I want to say. *looks at Christoffer. Okay, you choose yours first.
Christoffer: Ok, that’s simple. I would have steak tartar, that’s my favorite thing in the entire world. I love it. I could eat it every day.
Elena: That’s pretty hardcore.
Christoffer: I love it so much.
Elena: That would be so much protein, you would look so different! It would be so crazy.
Christoffer: Yeah, but I love it. I could eat it forever.
Elena: I mean I love it too. And all sorts of cold cuts too, like cheeses, jamon, chorizo, that sort of thing forever. There was also this thing I had in the back of my head I was going to say, but then I thought about cold cuts and I forgot *laughs. Hmm…
Kryddhyllan: You said it was a bit crazy, no?
Elena: Ah yes, Quiches! Any kind of quiches, forever. So you have a quiche, and it’s always the same. But then you can add broccoli one day, another day you have ham, another day… yeah, quiches!
Kryddhyllan: Nice! So cold cuts, quiches, and steak tartar.
Elena: Oh my god…
Kryddhyllan: Good combo! And if you had to choose one spice to use to flavor your food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Elena: Pepper. Black pepper.
Christoffer: Yeah, and I mean salt, that’s already a basic.
Kryddhyllan: I dunno… if it was between black pepper and salt…
Christoffer: Yeah then it would be salt over black pepper.
Elena: Me too.
Kryddhyllan: We’ve had this discussion before, about whether salt is a mineral or a spice.
Elena and Christoffer: It’s a mineral.
Christoffer: Then yeah, black pepper.
Elena. Or garlic…
Christoffer: That’s not a spice.
Kryddhyllan: It is a flavor though…
Elena: Yeah, but black pepper.
Kryddhyllan: It’s decided. Next question: what’s the best meal you’ve ever had in your entire life? Or a meal you really remember well?
Elena: Yes, I remember one summer I was with my grandparents when they were still alive, and they invited my whole family, all my uncles and aunts and super good friends, and I was very young. It was very humid and I was touching the grass with my barefeet, and I was having and entrecote as a child, with Roquefort cream. And I remember thinking to myself “this is the most amazing thing!”, so that was pretty cool! I think I was like 13 or 14 or something. My sister and I had the same thing, and I remember that when my sister and I went back to that restaurant, we ordered the same thing, we wouldn’t even look at the menu. I remember this moment very well.
Christoffer: I dunno… Well I have a lot of good memories, but the best… I really liked when we were in Le Chateau Briand.
Elena: It’s run by a Basque chef who moved to Paris and opened his own tiny place. Very crazy nice. We did a wine pairing, what was your favorite thing there Christoffer?
Christoffer: One of my favorite things was how much you didn’t like the dessert, and I loved it so it was pretty funny. It was this egg yolk that had been cured in sugar for like two weeks, and it becomes this gelatinous, sugary thing.
Kryddhyllan: That sounds really good.
Christoffer: It was. And it was served on this merengue.
Elena: I thought it was gonna be sweet.
Christoffer: It was!
Elena. It was very eggy.
Christoffer: Yeah, it was like a sugary merengue made of egg whites, and it was like a reconstructed egg. And Elena was so disappointed…
Elena: It was the last bite after this long meal filled with great dishes and I took a bite and just thought “ugh, this is not what I expected..”
Christoffer: I had so much fun teasing you about it.
Elena. Actually, you were embarrassed about me not liking it!
Christoffer: That’s because you couldn’t hide it! You were very much like *makes a face.
Kryddhyllan: But again, usually the best food memories are connected to a memory, less the food.
Elena: And people’s reactions to the food!
Kryddhyllan: That too! Okay last question, what is your favorite restaurant at the moment? Can be anywhere in the world.
Elena: At the moment…. Hmmmm 450 gradi. 800 grader is not bad either. It’s at St. Eriksplan, you need to go.
Christoffer: Yeah it’s very good. But a favorite… I mean there’s the place I go to the most, it’s called The Burgundy in Gamla Stan, and it’s very good. It’s actually a wine bar, and they’re owned by the same people who have Djuret and Pubologi. It sort of becomes my favorite because I go there a lot. They do a wine plate of the week and it’s themed. They always have a plate a week that’s 150kr, one week it was German themed.
Elena: They also have after works for people who work in restaurants, so they’re open late for them and it’s very nice. That and 450 gradi, I really regret not having the Nutella pizza. Next time!