Some of you may remember Ben from popping up at Bitten Street (back in the day) and also co-running the Taco Bandits pop-up on Magdalen Road. He’s now Head Chef at St Annes College in Oxford, and has conjured up a whole Spanish date night for you to cook at home, with limited ingredients. – Jacqui
How to make Ben’s Spanish Date Night
This entire meal has been made with limited ingredients, that you will find either in your kitchen cupboards or easily accessible, so the lockdown is no excuse!
Kicking off our Spanish date night is Salmorejo, a chilled soup from Andalusia, made with not much more than tomatoes and bread, ridiculously easy.
It’s also way better than gazpacho IMO.
As everyone has gone mad for baking during the lockdown, this is a great way to use up any of that homemade bread kicking around the kitchen.
Originally it’s served with diced Jamon and diced boiled egg sprinkled over the top. I’ve gone for a soft poached quails egg because I found some in Meatmaster the other day. To save you running around cooking a three-course meal on date night, make your life easy and make the salmorejo the day before.
Serves 4 – takes 15 minutes
You will need:
- 5 ripe tomatoes – diced
- ¼ loaf of stale bread – crusts removed and diced
- 2 garlic cloves
- 500ml olive oil
- 1 tsp sherry vinegar
- Pinch of sea salt & pepper
- 2 slices of cured ham – diced into 0.5cm pieces
- 2 quail eggs poached or 1 hen egg hard-boiled – diced into 0.5cm pieces
Dice the tomatoes into 8 pieces, remove the crust from the bread and dice the same as the tomato. In roughly three batches, throw the tomato, bread, garlic and olive oil into a liquidiser and blend until smooth.
Next, pass the mixture through a sieve to remove all the tomato seeds and skin, etc. Add the salt, pepper and vinegar (if you don’t have sherry vinegar any other vinegar will do fine) to the sieved soup, serve cold in a bowl with your ham and egg over the top, finish with a small drizzle of olive oil.
Tips: Make sure you save the pulp after sieving, it’s great to serve on top of a piece of grilled fish or barbecued meat like a salsa, or mixed through a roasted vegetable salad. This time it’ll be used in the main course.
MAIN: Barbequed pork collar steak, chorizo & kale butterbeans, roasted aubergine
Easy straight forward cooking is all this recipe needs. Everyone knows how to cook a steak so that’s the main component sorted.
Other than that is a simple chorizo and butterbean stew, with half the work already done from saving that pulp when the salmorejo was made. The garnish is a straight forward 4 ingredient mix which, when eaten with the rest of the dish, gives a great citrusy freshness.
Serves 2 – takes 45 minutes
You will need:
- 2 pork collar steaks
- 1 cooking chorizo sausage – diced into 1cm pieces
- 4 cloves garlic – thinly sliced (like in that famous Goodfellas scene)
- 1 tin butterbeans
- ½tbsp sherry vinegar
- 2 sprigs of thyme or ¼ teaspoon of dried thyme
- All of the salmorejo pulp
- 100g curly kale – into 1cm thick slices
- 3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 aubergine – cut on an angle – 2cm pieces
- ½ lemon – juice only
- 4 sprigs of flat leaf parsley – chopped
Get the coals going in the BBQ, unless you’re using gas – if neither you can pan fry as you would any other steak.
Cut the aubergine and place in a roasting tray with oil, salt and pepper, roast on 180℃ for roughly 30 mins until completely soft and slightly browned. When cooled, mix with 2tbsp of the olive oil, the lemon juice and the chopped parsley – garnish done – spoon over the steak when plating up. To get ahead this can also be done the day before and warmed up on the night.
In a cold frying pan with no oil, add the chorizo and place on a medium heat on the stove. When the chorizo begins to release its own oils and starts to colour slightly, add the sliced garlic and cook until the garlic is a rich golden colour and slightly crispy.
Add the butterbeans and cook with the garlic and chorizo for 2 minutes, then add the sherry vinegar and thyme. Now add the pulp from the salmorejo, along with 150ml water and the extra virgin olive oil.
Finally, add the sliced kale and cook on a gentle heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and check the seasoning – ready to serve.
Season the pork steaks with sea salt, pepper and a small drizzle of olive oil. Throw on the barbecue and depending on thickness cook for a few minutes either side. Let the steaks rest for 5 minutes before plating up. Finish the plate with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
DESSERT: Tarta de Santiago, candied orange, whipped cream (gluten-free)
This recipe is really simple. It’s another great one for lockdown because it requires a good amount of whisking, which if you decide to go manual is a pretty solid workout. Apart from the whisking there is nothing to it, mix it all up, pour into a tin and whack it in the oven.
An authentic tart de Santiago will always have a cross stencilled to the top, it’s up to you if you want to do this, you could stencil absolutely anything if you want to or stencil nothing at all. I did stencil because I currently have plenty of time on my hands, and it’s not really a tarta de Santiago without it. A good job for bored kids in the house maybe….
Serves 8 to 10 – takes 1 hour
You will need:
- 260g ground almonds
- 255g caster sugar
- 1 orange – zest only
- 1 lemon – zest only
- 6 eggs
- 1tsp almond essence
- 1tsp cinnamon
- 1tbsp icing sugar for dusting
- 1 homemade cross-shaped stencil
Preheat the oven to 170℃ or 150℃ fan. Choose your cake tin or moulds and grease very well around the edges, then line the base with greaseproof paper.
Whisk together 75g of the caster sugar with the egg whites to form stiff peaks (hold it above your head if you’re brave enough, then send us those pics!).
Whisk together the remaining 180g of caster sugar with the egg yolks, lemon and orange zest until light and foamy. Fold in the ground almonds, cinnamon and almond essence.
In four batches mix the egg whites into the egg yolk and almond mix. The first two batches, beat into the mix. The second two batches, gently fold through until fully combined being careful not to knock all of the air out of the mix.
Pour into the cake tin or moulds and bake in the pre heated oven for 25 to 40 minutes. A standard 20cm to 28cm cake tin will take roughly 40 minutes. Smaller individual moulds like mine take 25 minutes. They should be an even golden colour and when poked with a knife, the knife should be clean when removed from the cake.
Leave to cool, remove from the tin or mould. If you’ve made one, place your stencil on the top of the cake and, using a sieve, dust icing sugar over the top. Plate up, add some garnish and enjoy.
For the garnish:
- 1 orange thinly sliced
- 1tbsp caster sugar
- 150ml double cream
- ½ tbsp icing sugar
Place the orange slices on a tray and dust with the caster sugar, leave in an oven on 100c for between 1.5 and 2 hours turning half way through cooking until crisp. Tip – this can be done the day before.
Whip the cream and icing sugar until whipped cream consistency. If you have any you can add a drop of vanilla, I happened to have some Pedro Ximenez sherry so added a capful of that.
And there we have it, Spanish date night sorted! You will definitely be in someone’s good books 😉
Let us know if you give it a try!
Post your comments below, or tag us on socials @BittenOxford if you have a go at your own Spanish date night, we’d love to see your results!
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