July 13, 2010

7/12: THE FINAL: Spain v Netherlands

Olé, olé, olé, olé!!! THE DAY HAS ARRIVED! It is amazing how quickly one month of feasting, drinking and excitement can pass. As you know, we've been pulling hard for Spain to take this year's Cup all along and we're sure that they will - after all, the Octopus has spoken (and rest assured, you won't find any octopus on our menu in his honor, despite their prevalence in Spanish cooking).
Our celebratory menu, which we plan on preparing just as soon as the massive hangover fades, highlights the Spanish conquest by taking over Dutch cuisine with Spanish flavors. Here at World Cup Food Challenge, Spain conquers on the pitch and in the kitchen!

Erwtensoep, also called snert, is a pea soup once referred to as the "glory of Dutch cuisine." It is traditionally made a day ahead to give the flavors time to steep together and served with a thick slab of kielbasa (smoked sausage).  We guarantee that the world's best Dutch pea soup would fail to stand up against Caldo Gallego, the traditional soup of Galicia where foul peas are replaced with garbanzo beans (think hummus) and kielbasa replaced with glorious chorizo. Celery, eternally one of the most hated foods globally, is left out altogether. We do agree with the Dutch on thing, though - this soup is even better the next day.
Spain conquers Snert: Caldo Gallego Erwtensoep
1/2 pound thickly sliced pancetta, chopped
1 cup dried white beans, soaked overnight in water and drained
1 large onion, diced
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 turnips, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 lb Spanish chorizo, sliced thinly
1 lb dark leafy green such as Broccoli di Rabe or mustard greens
Cook the pancetta in a large heavy pot over medium heat until most of the fat is rendered. Add the beans to the pot, cover in water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat and simmer, partially covered, ~45 min until softened. Add the onions, potatoes, and turnips and cook for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened. Add the chorizo and greens and cook for 10 minutes, or until the greens are tender.

Hete Bliksem literally means "hot lightning" in Dutch, despite its lack of hot or lightning. Plus one, however, for the fun name. A tart yet smokey take on mashed potatoes, it is typically served alongside Gehaktballen, or Dutch meatballs, one of the best loved dishes of Nordic cuisine. If you must try traditional Dutch versions, we recommend the recipe over at Kayotic Kitchen, where Kay blogs live from Gouda (and lucky for her, she's not much of a football fan - allowing us to plug her recipe without disdain).
Due to the Arabic and North African influences, meatballs are common throughout Spain, especially in Andalucia where they are served in tavernas, steaming in the cazuela alongside a tall glass of Cruzcampo. While recipes for Dutch meatballs call for a pinch of nutmeg and mustard to flavor the beef, the Andalucian version spices up rich lamb with cumin, paprika and a saffron-almond sauce.

Hete Bliksem simmers a slab of bacon in water and then uses this water to boil the potatoes, adding flavor. The potatoes are then mashed with the chopped bacon and sautéed apples. Our Spanish version uses a cansalada to flavor the potatoes and substitues tangly Cabrales for the tart apples. The addition of milk and ample butter create a creamy, indulgent purée where once was a pile of Dutch starch. Cansalada, a form of salted pork fat back is used abundantly in Catalan home cooking and you will be hard pressed to find potatoes that do not feature its delightfully fatty flavors. Any pork fatback will do and our recipe calls for a ham hock, more commonly found in American kitchens. Puré de Patatas (mashed potatoes) flavored with this fat are called Trinxat in Catalan.
Spain conquers Hete Bliksem: Relámpagos calientes (Hot Lightning in Spanish)

1/2 lb ham hock
3 shallots, diced but not finely
2 1/2 lb potatoes, peeled and diced
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup hot milk
1/4 lb Cabrales (Asturian blue cheese similar to Gorgonzola)

Brown the ham hock in oil at the bottom of a large stock pot. Add the shallots and sauté until soft. Add the potatoes, cover with water and boil the potatoes gently until tender, ~20 min. Drain off about half the water and then use a potato masher or hand mixer to purée. Beat in the butter and milk until thick and creamy. Stir in the Cabrales and season with salt and pepper.

Spain conquers Gehaktballen: Albóndigas Andalucia
2 lb Ground lamb
1/2 md Onion, minced
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp Pimenton (Spanish paprika)
1 T minced parsley
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 Egg
1/2 c Flour
For the sauce:
1 lg Spanish onion, chopped
6 T Spanish olive oil
1 1/2 C beef stock
1/4 C Blanched almonds
1/4 tsp Saffron threads
3 Garlic cloves
1 T parsley
Combine the lamb through lemon juice and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Add the egg and mix well. Form into 1-in balls, dust with flour and refrigerate at least 10 min. Heat oil in a frying pan until just smoking. Add meatballs and cook until they begin to brown. Add the onion and cook until golden. Add stock and let simmer 15 min.
Pulse almonds, saffron, garlic and parsley in a food processor or spice grinder until a fine powder. Stir into the meatballs and serve immediately alongside the potatoes.

First made in Gouda in the 18th C, Stroopwafel are layered caramel wafers, legendary in the Netherlands with a rich Dutch history. Today, we give them a new, better tasting history - a Spanish one. The batter is fairly similar to an American waffle and the filling is a simple boiled sugar syrup and butter. If they make it to the Cup in 2014 we'll expect they'll discover better things whilst in Brazil and will come home with Dulce de Leche and Guayaba filled Stroopwafel, or say forget it altogether and just eat alfajores.
As Stroopwafel are typically eaten as a snack, rather then a dessert, we've put our version in as a cheese course that can be served as an appetizer or before dessert. If you've experienced cruise ship or country club fine dining, you're familiar with dainty Parmesan tuiles. I've always loved these, no matter how overdone, and am happy to conquer the Dutch by preparing them with a Spanish cheese. 
Garrotxa, a nutty sheep's milk cheese from Cataluña, presents the walnut flavors of aged Reggiano, the crispness of Champagne and the freshness of young grass in a single cheese.  You can also use Mahon, one of the few cow's milk cheeses of Spain, which has a butter and intense tangy flavor to it, but it is a crumbly cheese whose texture proposes a challenge to this particular dessert. It's flavors, however, wildly compliment fig. If you'd like to experiment, Cheese From Spain presents a wealth of facts and flavor profiles in astonishingly bad organization sure to suck you in, frustrate and delight.

A specialty of Andalucia, Pan de Higo was created to preserve figs for the winter. It not only travels well, looks lovely and pairs divinley with a variety of wines and cheeses, but it is possibly the easiest dish to make in the world - no cooking involved. I would argue that Pan de Higo probably yields the greatest impressive to effort ratio in the history of food. 
Spain conquers Stroopwafel: Garrotxa 'Wafel' de Higo

Prepare the 'Pan' de Higo:
1/2 lb dried figs, stems removed and chopped
1/4 C Marcona almonds, toasted
¼ tsp ground cloves
2 T sesame seeds
½ tsp anise seeds
1 orange, zest and juice
Cinnamon, to taste
1 T honey
Brandy (optional)
Pulse the almonds in a food processor until chopped but not fine. Repeat with the figs. Mix the almonds, figs, cloves and seeds together. Add the zest and juice of the orange to taste. Add cinnamon to taste. Add just enough honey to make a thick, but spreadable paste. If moisture is needed, add brandy or more orange juice.
Prepare the Garrotxa 'Wafel':
6 T Garrotxa, finely grated
Sprinkle 1 T cheese on a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the cheese starts to bubble, remove and press down on a plate into a thin disc shape. Prepare the other 5 tuiles.
Assemble the Stroopwafel:
Glaze a Garrotxa wafer with the fig mixture (it will be easier to spread if warmed) and top with another wafer.

Griesmeelpudding is an old and rather traditional Dutch dessert that boils coarse, semolina flour into a sweet porridge. It is often served with raisins and sprinkled with cinnamon. While boiled porridge puddings sound fine and British, a custard of sweet rice milk infused with real cinnamon and orange essence wins any day. You may leave out the raisins, as many prefer, but growing up my Grandma always included raisins and I swear by them! Prevelant throughout Latin America, these versions of rice pudding thicken with evaporated milk rather than egg and cream since these ingredients were not widely available. If you've enjoyed these versions, the original Spanish recipe will delight you as the texture is far silkier and simply, heavenly.
Spain conquers Griesmeelpudding: Arroz Con Leche
3 T brandy
1/2 C sultana raisins
1 C long-grain white rice
2 cinnamon sticks
1 lemon or orange
1/2 gallon (fresh) whole milk
1/2 cup raw honey 
1/2 cup cream
3 eggs
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
ground cinnamon to taste
Soak the raisins in brandy overnight. Remove the zest (the colored, not white portion of the rind) from the lemon or orange (I like them both and mix it up or use whatever is on hand). Soak the rice, zest, and cinnamon in water for at least 1 hr, preferably overnight. Add the milk and honey to the rice and simmer for ~30 min, making sure to stir the rice so it does not stick.
Whisk together the cream, eggs, juice and salt. Remove the cinnamon sticks and add the egg cream to the rice. Cook over low heat until thick. Stir in the raisins and sprinkle with cinnamon to serve. 


  1. Now this is what I call a real Food World Cup !

  2. Thanks, Mr Noodles - I like your concept too and have added you to our blogroll.