Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pork with fennel seeds and lemon

I prepare this dish when I have people for supper or lunch at short notice – you need the patience to queue at the butchers and let the slices of Presa spend no more than 2 hours in the marinade. Note that you should never crush garlic for a marinade. As soon as you BBQ or a la plancha the meat – the crushed garlic will be the first thing to burn. Burnt garlic not only flavours an entire dish, it is also indigestible. This marinade requires unpeeled cloves of garlic, given a huge thump with the side of your fist or the back of a sturdy knife, until they split.

Broken/ Bruised/ Bashed Garlic Cloves x 4

This marinade will do a 600-800g sliced Presa

Soy Sauce x 6 tablespoons

Lemon Rind x 1 large, finely grated

Olive Oil x 2 tbs

Fennel Seeds x 3 tsp

Parsley - very small handful - roughly chopped

Good grind of Black Pepper

Sprinkle of Crushed Chilli

Assemble all ingredients in non-metallic dish. Stir with fork. Add slices of Presa and mix. Leave for up to 2 hours.If it's a larger piece for roasting, leave for 24 + hours, turning occasionally

BBQ or grill on each side for a few minutes. It is perfectly acceptable to serve this pink – not rare – just pink. It’s at its best when pink.

This is also perfect with Chuletas de Cerdo Ibérico (pork chops).

I occasionally buy a piece of Aguja de cerdo blanco, without fat and without bone.

As far as I can make out, this cut is the spare-rib chop – without the chop.

If you marinade the aguja in the above for a day or so, turning it when you remember, then removed from marinade and discard any garlic cloves attached to the meat and seal in a very hot oven proof pan.

Pour the marinade – including the garlic cloves and a litre of Galician cider over the sealed meat. Cover tightly with foil and roast at 140 deg for about 2 hours – checking to see if you should add more cider from time to time.

This is fabulous served with Pea Puree and Warm Potato Salad with Sundried Tomatoes & Onion.

Come visit Annie B's Spanish Kitchen!

The World's Healthiest Pork

Spain's most famous gourmet product - The worlds healthiest pork.

Without a doubt one of Spain’s genuine world leading gourmet delights is Cerdo Ibérico – the pork from the black Iberian Pig.

What makes this meat so incredibly special is that for the last few months of each pig’s life, they are allowed to graze free range Dehesas (acorn forests), munching their way through tons of bellotas (acorns), which have fallen from helm oak and cork oak. It is these acorns which gives the fat of the pigs its unique, sweet flavour. When you see Cerdo ibérico in its raw state, you first notice how the meat is shot through with streaks of creamy white fat. This fat dissolves during the cooking process and flavours and tenderises the meat to such an extent that it must be one of the top edible gifts from Mother Nature.

The happy Iberian pig can only be bred in a few parts of Spain and there is nowhere else in the world that it will get this unique flavour. In Spain this region stretches from as far south as the Aracena region, around Jubago - the jamón capital of Spain - and then up to as far north as Salamanca.

The acorns are the key to the quality of the meat. The acorns make these pigs terribly thirsty, so they run around looking for water, making them athletic little things, developing fine bones which are evident in the bone of jamón ibérico (hams), usually produced from their rear legs. When I first came to live in Spain, my Spanish friends would tut, tut and finger wag at me when I pulled the fat off a slither of jamón ibérico (also refered to as Pata Negra because of their black hooves) and cast it aside. They regard this fat as a delicacy and I now tend to agree. Its sweetness literally melts in your mouth. Wrapped around a tiny picos (break stick), followed by a sip of Fino, is simply divine.

Breeding these pigs is no cheap task – this is the opposite spectrum of intensive pig farming. This is then reflected in the price which makes jamón ibérico de bellota the most expensive ham in the world.

The most expensive and best quality is called jamón ibérico de bellota (acorn). These pigs have been free range, dining on the carpets of fallen acorns on dehasas in Southern Andalucía for the most part of their lives. The more exercise these pigs get, the more the fat blends into their muscles and the tastier the meat becomes. It is considered that 5J ["cinco jotas"], is the King of jamón bellota.

The next grade is called jamón ibérico de recebo. This ham is from pigs that are both pasture and compound fed a combination of acorns and grain.

The third type is called jamón ibérico de pienso, or simply, jamón ibérico. This ham is from Iberian pigs that are solely compound fed on grain and some acorns. The term pata negra is also used to refer to jamón ibérico in general and may refer to any one of the three above types.

It is important to note that Jamón Serrano comes from Cerdo Blanco (the more common white pigs) that is solely grain fed. This comprises around 90% or the pork and ham production in Spain. It is the cheapest of all the jamóns. It’s still delicious and perfect for sandwiches or cooking should your recipe call for jamón.

Another important thing to understand – in terms of price and quality – is which leg you are buying. A jamón ibérico is normally the hind leg of the pig. A paletilla is the front leg. Nevertheless, a paletilla can have an excellent taste and undergoes the same processes of ham-making. The difference is that a paletilla is smaller and has more fat. Therefore it’s cheaper. So if you’re considering buying a whole jamón and can’t afford a Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, ask for a Paletilla Ibérico de Bellota. It is usually half the price.

Here I am banging on about the fabulous flavour of Cerdo Ibérico and now suggesting a marinade to enhance it! When correctly administered (yes Dr.) marinades can bring out flavours - wrongly administered and they can kill them all. Fennel seeds and pork are an Italian marriage. Italian salami’s are often are spiked with fennel seeds. It’s said that Roman Legionaries would chew on fennel seeds as they marched to suppress the pangs of hunger. I have tried this. I have even tried being massaged using pure fennel seed oil – it doesn’t work........

Presa Ibérico is my favourite cut of Cerdo Ibérico. Presa is the muscle between the top of the shoulder and the beginning of the loin. It can be found in most supermarkets pre packaged and sliced. If you go to your butcher – don’t be put off when you see a LUMP of pork, looking rather fatty. Remember it’s the fat that makes it special. As it cooks, the fat will caramelize and intensify the sweetness. Tell your butcher it’s for the BBQ or plancha. He should slice it like we slice smoked salmon in UK. Another cut on offer, Secreto is much cheaper but I find it a bit gristly and too fatty. Some people far prefer this cut because of the tasty fat content. These are the people you can sell your fat to whilst ripping it off a slice of jamón ibérico!

Finally, it should be noted this type of saturated animal fat is actually good for you as not only is it the best quality fat; it also leaves you feeling more satisfied. Animal fats give us energy and boost the immune system and can actually lower bad cholesterol

Peña Gastronómica de Vejer "La Viña", Vejer de la Frontera, 11150 Cadiz, Andalucia, Spain

Telephone: +34 620 560 649 Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Monday, November 2, 2009


It's Pomegranate season here in Vejer! Pomegranates are one of Mother Nature's Super Foods. Beneath the tough outer skin, those jewelled morsels are packed with anti-oxidents and offer numerous health benefits. Today I was invited to pick pomegranates and oranges. The rounded fruits weighed heavily on the delicate branches and those that had already fallen were being targeted by thousands of health conscious ants.

Tomorrow I'm planning to squeeze the pomegranates and oranges, mix the juices with loads of ice and Vodka - it's a health drink so don't let anyone suggest otherwise.

More Pomegranate ideas coming soon from Annie B's Spanish Kitchen!


Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Day in the Kitchen

A mother and daughter day at Annie B's Spanish Kitchen, preparing lunch for their family!

We started at 10am and the rest of the family joined us at 2 pm for lunch by the pool in the sunshine.

We started with Ajo Blanco (chilled garlic & almond soup) garnished with floating Frozen Moscatel Grapes (great ice cubes!) . Then BBQ'd Moroccan Chicken with Vegetable Stack, & Couscous w Lemon Zest, Mint, Parsley, S & P plus loads of Olive Oil. Garnished with a fab Cucumber Raita. Baked Chocolate Cake with Pedro Ximenez Prunes ended what was a truly fabulous lunch.

Everyone loved it all, especially the Ajo Blanco.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cherries and Gruyere

Last night my friends Brian ans Susie came to stay at Annie B's Spanish Kitchen. They brought with them a case of new season's cherries and warned that although really juicy, they were slightly tart. They went on to tell me that on Saturday they bought cherries and a hunk of Gruyere albeit not by design - they just came across both at a market.They started nibbling on both later that day and discivered the accidental combination was spectacular.

For some strange reason - I also had gruyere in my fridge.Obviously a ment to be fridge supply as it's not something I normally buy.If I hadn't had it, it's unlikely I'd have gone searching the shops as I thought the idea of the combo quite weird.

I couldn't believe it! The sweetness of the gruyere complimented the tartness of the cherries brilliantly.

You've got to try this!


Friday, May 8, 2009

Sherry - Manzanilla

If I could think of something like the Heineken advert from years ago, with JR Ewing preaching that Heineken could reach parts that other beers couldn't, I would do the same for a glass of chilled Manzanilla sherry.

Manzanilla is the most powerful one sip wonder that I have ever come across! The first sip goes from your ears, to the back of your throat, then down your throat, exploring avenues that you won't know are even there until you try it for yourself. The second sip is a repeat perfomance.I normally start talking again after the 3rd..............

Manzanilla is a Fino sherry, like Tio Pepe, but the difference is Tio Pepe is made in Jerez whilst Manzanilla is made in the coastal town of Sanlucar.It's all within the Sherry tri-angle. In Sanlucar, the barrels are left on the quayside, rather like whisky in Islay, soaking up the salty sea air through the wood of the casks. That's why it becomes the ideal partner for anything salty - olives, almonds, prawns dipped in salt and anchovies.

Manzanilla, like Fino, is best drunk quite soon after opening because neither are exposed to oxygen until you pop that cork and then degenerate as soon as you do. Most supermarkets in UK carry a couple of Manzanillas, some even carry half bottles which is an excellent idea. Must be served chilled - it would be like drinking warm lager otherwise.

A glistening copa of Manzanilla before lunch is compulsary at Annie B's Spanish Kitchen.

Try it - the pleasure is just sooooooooooooooooo there!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Boquerones en Vinagre

There are some things in life that I just can't resist. One of these is Boquerones en Vinagre. Those glistening silvery jewels draped over a plate, drizzled with peppery olive oil and sprinkled with finely chopped fresh garlic letting the vinegar marinade come through........heaven. Pre lunch is when I crave them,accompanied by a chilly glass of Manzanilla. I like them wrapped around picos - tiny breadsticks but my Spanish friends say they should be on eaten on top of the bread served alongside the picos.

One day last week, whilst in one of my favourite Pescaderias in town, pondering my purchase of the day, Oliva, directing me away from my favoured pescados, enthused that the boquerones were 'Muy Bueno'.They did look fab. All plump and healthy - albeit dead. I shrugged my shoulders,asking what I would do with them. She suggested a la plancha or frito.

Boquerones fritos are a legend in their own right and one of the few things we don't do at Annie B's Spanish Kitchen is deepfry fish. I hate the smell for one thing and you can eat pescado frito in town way ahead of anything I'd produce for sure. A la plancha - for me,some fish yes but oily fish no - particularly not small oily fish.

Then she suggested en vinagre - woo hoo!! How? Simple replied Oliva demonstrating on her selected victim. Rip the head off, run your finger along the backbone seperating flesh from bone, snap that off at the tail, open it out, wash and lay flat in a dish with rim. After you've treated all your anchovies like this, sprinkle with sea salt and cover completely with white vinegar. You then leave this in the fridge for 4 hours or more but the flesh must have turned white before the next stage. Remove the fillets, rinse and pat dry. Now cover lightly with Olive Oil and chopped garlic. This has to be the freshest garlic you can lay your hands on. A grind of black pepper. And that's it.

Assuming that you start this process the morning of anchovy purchase,they will be ready for consumption the following day, just intime for that Manzanilla. Trust me - there are few things better than this.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Vejer - Annie's article for Living Spain

Annie’s buying a house in Spain’ muttered my mother to my father over marmalade and oatcakes one morning.’ What on earth would she want to do that for?’ he replied with his usual Scottish canniness.

Exactly 3 years on, it’s turned out to be the very best decision I’ve ever made.

In 2003, disillusioned re. entrusting my future to failing pension funds and aware I was sitting on a great deal of equity in my London house, I decided to head to The Costa de la Luz to find ‘my pension’ which could double up as a rental income property. My inspiration came from a January screening of Vacation, Vacation. The beautiful beaches, the guarantee of a cool breeze, original Spanish tapas bars and all within the Sherry region!!! I was off – a woman with a mission – 1 x beachfront apartment required!

Until this visit, I’d never ventured further west than Corte Ingles in Puerto Banus! I thought that Trafalgar was a square in London and that Cadiz was something to do with Christopher Columbus. I’d never heard of Vejer or even aware that the some of the most beautiful beaches in the world were within a 2 hour reach of London.

Very early on during my 5 day visit, I became aware that there was very little property available for sale. I feared I was going to leave empty handed and that it wasn’t to be. Then out of the blue, it was suggested I look at a townhouse in Vejer. It was 3 times more than my budget but no harm in looking.

It was love at first sight. Casa Alegre was in the final throes of restoration. An ancient Andalucian patio home with 5 small family units based around the courtyard providing communal cooking, bathroom and washing facilities. I had a premonition that something magical was about to unfold.

The courtyard had become a pool, and the units, 3 ensuite bedrooms, 2 sitting rooms, various hallways, dining room, kitchen, various patio and terrace areas and the crowning glory – an azotea (azotea’s only exist in Andalucia!) with spectacular views over the old town of Vejer, all the way over the Straits of Gibraltar to Morocco. The house filled me with ideas of a different life, of escapism, of relaxation and indulgence. That was it. That’s what I wanted to create.

This house would work well anywhere but the fact it’s in somewhere as bewitching and charming as Vejer was the icing on the cake. My charming neighbours, the fish and produce market, the family run tapas bars, the butcher’s shop with seats (you just can’t go there in a rush!), the wafting smells from Andalucian kitchens, the Moroccan inspired architecture, the gentle humour and kindness of everyone – you would have to travel far to find somewhere like Vejer. As one of my Jimmy Choo high heel tottering girlfriend’s remarked, finally accepting that sensible rubber soled shoes are required for Vejer ‘ If someone doesn’t like Vejer, they have a problem’.

Vejer has brought untold pleasure to my family, my friends and guests who have rented my house. Even my father rejoices in the fact his daughter has found somewhere for him to have a breakfast coffee and brandy in a different bar every day!

My tips and advice to anyone buying a property here would be (apart from a good lawyer of course)

1. When transferring money to a Spanish bank – check that you pay charges at source. Spanish banks levy hefty charges – I have learned this the hard way.

2. The escitura (title deed) is very important so don’t pass any money until you know the escitura exists. Given the various family units, Casa Alegre has 3 escituras, one of which didn’t come through until a year after I paid 80% and received the keys. I took a risk but my lawyer knew that the owners were in court proving ownership.

3. Check the level of your electricity supply. Some of these old houses aren’t geared up to hairdryers or dishwashers. Anything that ‘heats up’ requires more electricity.

4. Buy beds and white goods locally. The service will be fantastic.

5. Bring all bedding from UK. Spanish bedding is a minefield if you require goose down duvets, pillows and pure cotton bedding.

6. Another weird thing I’ve found difficult to find here is decent plastic glassware – a must if you have a pool or a breezy azotea.

7. It has taken years to finally build in traditional wardrobes etc. I have learned to become patient (that hasn’t been easy) as the manana principle truly exists. There are many fabulous local craftsmen

8. A simple rule when it comes to furnishing your home is to keep it Spanish with a splash of Moroccan. In many instances furniture from the UK just doesn’t look right and artwork/artefacts from other parts of the world looks out of place.

3 years later, I have, for the time being, left my life in London behind. Leaving Vejer after every trip became more and more difficult and it made no sense not to be here full time. I’m thriving living back in a village/town community after 20 years in London. I awake every morning to the most spectacular views from my bedroom. From my desk I over look the ancient church and town. I no longer wear a watch and relay on the hourly and half-hourly church bells (the stop at midnight until 8am!).

The simple pleasure of biting into a dewy new season’s freshly picked organic peach currently outweighs Risotto Nero at Le Caprice (you can get that here too – only it’s even better!). Being able to walk along the beach with glistening sand underfoot and the negative ions from he crashing waves leaves me wondering why it’s taken me so long to be here.

My business is in safe hands, my house is sold and I am enjoying a long awaited ‘Gap Year’. I plan to buy various other properties and recreate the comfort of Casa Alegre for the work weary in need of a recharge. This area is full of opportunities to do this. If you see something and it feels right – go for it! I promise you won’t regret it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chocos con Curry

I have an on going love affair with cephalopods.

Any menu featuring squid, octopus or cuttlefish is my paradise and if it features all three - then happiness quickly turns to agony re. choice. In Vejer we're spoilt for choice with availability of fabulous frito mixto in almost every bar and restaurant. Freshly deep fried Calamari with a squeeze of a freshly picked lemon has to be right up there as one of the best things ever. The area is well known for it's world class Choco's (cuttlefish), caught off the local shoreline

The sight of a racion of freshly fried Puntallitas can stop me in my tracks - it's almost as if those tiny tenticles are waving at me - come get me, come get me! And I do, with a glass of chilly Manzanilla in one hand, picking at these salty deepfried morsels with the other.

Freshly boiled Pulpo, served on warm sliced potatoes with a generous drizzle of fabulous Olive Oil, a scattering of the freshest Paprika and a sprinkling of sea salt has to be one of the simplest yet consistantly fabulous combinations.

Another irrisistable combination in my eyes is Arroz Negro. This week I made it with tiny baby chocos or Almendritas as they're know in town. It's a labour of love extracting each thick and crunchy backbone but well worth the effort. The ink from Chocos is far tastier and intense than ink from it's calamari cousin. If you're buying squid for arroz negro, try to ask for the ink sack from a cuttlefish. Excellent little sachets of ink are available from some supermarkets.

Chocos con Patats is yet another of my favourites. My good friend Linda in town asked me round to help her prepare the dish her way. While we were making it I thought - this could make a fabulous curry. A couple of days later I tried to do it and the result was spectacular.

I've kept to the traditional Chocos con Papas method of using shed loads of white wine, not a normal addition to curry, using a simple ready mixed curry powder, adding sachets of coconut cream and substituting sweet potatoes for white potatoes.

I served it to great applause to my regular Spanish Food Critics , Pepe and Fernando, using rice noodles but rice too would be great. This would feed 4 easily.

1 kilo cleaned and diced Cuttlefish

750gms sweet potato – scrubbed and diced roughly 1'' square

2 medium onions peeled and chopped

3 cloves garlic peeled and chopped

1” square peeled Ginger chopped

3 tablespoons mild curry powder

3 tablespoons garam marsala

1 tablespoon sweet pimienton

A bottle of white wine

Sachect of coconut cream or a tin of coconut milk with liquid drained and hard cream retained

Sliced Spinach - optional

Chopped Fresh Coriander - optional


Peel dice and fry onions, garlic and ginger in a bit of olive oil. Keep striring for alomst 10 minutes until the onion looses it's acidity. Add the curry powder and garam marsala - stir for about 4 minutes. Add the chocos and stir for a further 3 mins. Cover with white wine and bring to the boil. You may not need the whole bottle to cover them. Always cook with wine you would drink. Once it's come to the boil and the alcohol has boiled off, add the diced sweet potatoes, pimenton and coconut cream. Perhaps you will need to add some water to ensure that everything is covered with liquid. Taste and add salt at some stage.

This will be ready when the sweet potatos are soft. At that stage fold through your sliced spinach and stir until wilted. Sprinkle with fresh corriander.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Jose Andres agrees with our favourite too!!

January 06, 2009

Chef's Choice: José Andrés

Cocktail party
Daily Traveler Julia Bainbridge
opts for a hand-feeding of Andrés'
jamon and caviar roll-ups.

Who but a chef would cross the globe for his favorite snack? Condé Nast Traveler asked José Andrés, who just opened The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel Beverly Hills--and published a new cookbook--for his tips.

Favorite Hometown Restaurants: "At Indique, in D.C., chef K.N. Vinod serves delicious Indian food--order anything from the tandoor oven. I love the Korean barbecue, japchae noodles, and seafood pancakes at Yechon, in Annandale, Virginia."

Favorite Restaurants Worldwide: "In Juneau, I had wonderful king and spider crab at Tracy's King Crab Stick (364 S. Franklin St., 907-723-1811). I'm a big fan of Soto, in Manhattan. The chef is a master with sea urchin--I especially like this version with cold tofu skin."

Favorite Getaway: "My family and I vacation in Zahara de los Atunes, a beach town in southern Spain known for its tuna. I cook it with local ingredients like anchovies and extra-virgin olive oil, tomatoes, onions, herbs, and paprika. We always go to Restaurante La Castilleria there (11158 Vejer de la Frontera, 34-956-451-497). Everything is cooked over a wood fire."

Perfect In-flight Meal: "Slices of jamon Ibérico and a little bit of caviar."