Spain may be on the amber list, but we can still cook standout Mediterranean dishes at home this summer…
With Spain currently on the amber list for most of the UK (meaning you shouldn’t travel there unless you really have to), a holiday to Madrid/Seville/Granada has been scribbled off this year’s list of conceivable summer plans. But while we may not be able to kid ourselves that the British coast is the same as a Mediterranean beach, we can recreate Spanish dishes at home.
Spain’s signature fresh flavours and simple techniques are ideal for warm, sun-filled days – and the latest edition of Omar Allibhoy’s cookbook Spanish Made Simple showcases his home country’s cuisine at its tastiest.
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Having spent time working at Catalonia’s iconic Michelin-starred restaurant El Bulli, the Madrid-born chef (and founder of restaurant group Tapas Revolution) has condensed his encyclopaedic knowledge of Spanish cuisine into a user-friendly guide. Spanish Made Simple follows Allibhoy’s overriding kitchen philosophy: “cook without fuss, eat like a king” – and that pretty much sums up our plans for the summer so far.
Below, Allibhoy shares his recipes for a Spanish-style starter, main and dessert – all ideal summer fare. For a tasty vegetable-based first course, we’ll be whipping up his stuffed piquillo peppers. Flash-fried mushrooms are stirred into a silky bechamel and spooned into sweet pepper shells. Then you’ll make a creamy, cheesy piquillo sauce to pour on top, and serve the lot with chunky hunks of bread for dipping.
If you’re after a hearty, yet summer-appropriate main, Allibhoy’s chilindrón stew is exactly what your summer self needs. Don’t expect pretty presentation – according to the chef, it’s a classic “ugly brown but very tasty slow-cooked stew” that makes up for what it lacks in style with incredible flavours galore. Think soft caramelised vegetables, sweet smoked paprika and tender lamb mince, all wrapped in a silky wine-based sauce.
Make no mistake – we haven’t forgotten about dessert. In fact, Allibhoy may have just struck upon the perfect summer pudding. Juicy sautéed pineapple is celebrated in all its caramelised glory with just a few finishing touches (namely, whipped cream and dark rum).
All that’s left to do is decide whether to accompany your Spanish feast with a glass of tinto de verano, vermouth or cerveza…
Piquillo peppers stuffed with mushrooms
Omar says: “I have always been a big fan of mushrooms in all their forms – from taking long walks with family to pick wild mushrooms, to cooking them in many ways at home. This recipe is packed full of tastiness.”
- 150g wild mushrooms, such as oyster, or a mixture of field mushrooms
- 50ml olive oil
- ¼ small onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- a splash of white wine
- 30g butter
- 30g plain flour
- 400ml whole milk, hot
- a pinch of grated nutmeg
- 15 tinned piquillo peppers
- 40oml double cream
- 50g grated cheddar cheese, plus extra for topping
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- bread, to serve
Trim the mushrooms, removing the stalks, and wipe them with a damp cloth. If they are very dirty, rinse carefully under cold water and quickly dry with kitchen paper. Roughly chop.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a high heat and fry the mushrooms for at least 2 minutes, season with salt and pepper, stir thoroughly and season again. Fry for further 2 minutes. Add the onion and cook for 1 more minute. Add the garlic, thyme and cook for 2 more minutes, then add the wine and cook for 1 more minute.
Lower the heat to medium and add the butter. Let it melt, then add the flour and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the flour is lightly toasted. Add the hot milk, little by little, and the nutmeg, whisking until you have a smooth and silky white sauce. Simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring from time to time to make sure it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan, until the sauce has thickened. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill completely in the fridge. After at least 2 hours, the béchamel should be firm and ready to handle.
Preheat the oven to 160°C/gas mark 3.
Bring the cream, piquillo peppers and cheese to the boil in a small pan over a medium heat and cook for 10 minutes. Use a hand blender to blend to a smooth sauce.
Using a spoon, fill the peppers with the mushroom béchamel. Lay them on a baking sheet and pour the piquillo sauce on top. Scatter some more grated cheese over the top. Bake for 15 minutes until lightly browned and crispy on top. Serve with bread.
Chilindrón lamb and pepper stew
Omar says: “This dish is commonly found in northern Spain and was always cooked in the spring with the new lamb season. It’s one of those ugly brown but very tasty slow-cooked stews Spain is famous for. We also use other meats for this dish, such as goat or chicken.”
- 1kg diced lamb
- a pinch of ground cumin
- 200g plain flour
- 175ml olive oil
- 2 large carrots (cut into thin strips)
- 1 large Spanish onion (cut into thin strips)
- 3 garlic cloves (finely sliced)
- 1 red bell pepper (cut into thin strips)
- ½ green bell pepper (cut into thin strips)
- a few bay leaves
- 4 tomatoes (peeled and chopped)
- a pinch of sugar
- 1 tsp sweet pimentón (sweet smoked paprika)
- 200ml white wine
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 sprig fresh thyme, plus extra to garnish
- fried diced potatoes, to serve
Season the lamb with the salt, pepper and just a little pinch of ground cumin, then coat with the flour. Heat the olive oil in a shallow frying pan and toss the coated lamb in the pan for about 5 minutes to seal the edges. Remove the lamb, leaving the oil in the pan, and set it aside to rest.
Add the carrot, onion, garlic and peppers to the cooking oil along with the bay leaves and thyme and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 10 minutes and then add the diced fresh tomatoes with the sugar and cook for a further 5 minutes, until the ingredients are combined to make a tomato paste, or sofrito.
Add the lamb back to the pan with the sweet pimentón, white wine and 1 litre water and cook over a low heat for a couple of hours, or until the meat is tender, adding more water if necessary. The result should be a rich, dense and silky sauce. Garnish with fresh thyme and serve with fried diced potatoes.
Caramelised poached pineapple in rum with a coconut cream
Omar says: “This is a recipe I learned from my years with Ferran Adrià. It was a very refined dish, as you would expect, served during the summer in a martini glass with all sorts of foams and innovative touches. This is my stripped-back version, full of flavour and very simple to make.”
- 3 tbsp caster sugar, plus 1 tsp
- 200g cubed pineapple
- 25ml dark rum
- 50g coconut cream
- 100ml double cream
- 1 tsp muscovado sugar
Place a pan over a high heat and sprinkle over 3 tablespoons of the sugar. Cook until caramelised and dark, about 4 minutes, then add the pineapple cubes and sauté. Add 100ml water and the rum to the pan and let simmer over a low heat for about 5 minutes. Chill.
In a separate bowl whip the coconut cream, the teaspoon of sugar and the double cream. Pour a little of the caramelised pineapple into a cocktail glass and top with the coconut whipped cream. Sprinkle with muscovado sugar to finish off.
Spanish Made Simple: 100 Foolproof Spanish Recipes for Every Day by Omar Allibhoy (£14.99, Quadrille) is out now
Photography: Martin Poole