“In true fashion, most people don’t decide what they want to be until they’re 30 or so.” ~ Ruth Roberts
Could Ruth, my instructor, today have been more spot on in validating the reason for this adventure? This was her response when I asked her how she got started cooking. Her background in the sport was marbled like a good piece of meat. She took a class in France, and landed a job cooking elaborate lunches for bankers in Madrid. As she told me, a lot of the skill in cooking comes from learning as you go, and I’d learn a notebook full in my class today in Sevilla. There will be tips in this particular blog, so keep reading if you’re interesting in learning what they are!
We started out at the market, and decided on a menu of Tapenade de Aceitunas Verdes y Almendras (olive and almond tapenade), Gambas Al Ajillo (prawns in garlic oil), Razor and Regular Clams, Escalivada con Salsa Romesco (baked vegetables with a vinaigrette and romesco sauce), and Dorada a la Sal (Sea Bream baked in a salt crust). Our sweet was Mantecados, a traditional Spanish powdered sugar cookie.
After carting our loot home, we got straight to work in Ruth’s kitchen. Her home was beautiful, and the view was amazing on a day when the sun finally decided to show his face. The cumulus clouds were a perfect contrast to the bright, blue sky, and the skyline a perfect backdrop for our lunch on the terrace.
Now, for the tips and information:
- In Sevilla, they eat TONS of fish. Most of the stalls at the market were fresh fish mongers, and popular varietals include baby shark, cuttlefish, dorada (this is what we made), razor clams, monkfish, hake, swordfish, and more. If you don’t like fish, don’t come to Sevilla. You’ll be bummed!
- When roasting whole eggplants (or aubergines), prick them before putting them into the oven. If you don’t, it will explode and you’ll spend more time than you care to know cleaning it up.
- Do you know how to peel a whole, roasted pepper? After you remove it from the oven, wrap it in tinfoil and then in newspaper or a paper back to let it cool. The skin will peel right off. If you leave it out to cool, the skikn will stick back to the pepper.
- Don’t discard the more tender unused artichoke leaves. Boil them in water for about 10-15 minutes and strain out the leaves. The resulting water was really refreshing, and it’s good for your liver.
- To make your own dried herbs, hang them to dry (like you would roses), or dry them in a lower oven. When they’re dry, strip them from their stems, grind them in a coffee grinder (I’ll be purchasing one of these and I hate coffee), and jar them. Fresh, dried herbs for years.
- To make a proper stock (fish, meat, or veg), you should always start with cold water so the flavor comes out of what you’re boiling instead of getting trapped inside.
Ok, so that brings me to the end of the tips. As you can see, I learned a lot during this one-on-one lesson about Spanish cuisine, although it was more tailored to the cuisine of Sevilla. Dining on Ruth’s veranda over the meal we put together was phenomenal. Our menu was fresh, healthy, and most importantly, simple (it probably sounds much more elaborate than it was). I wouldn’t hesitate to entertain with this menu because of the speed with which it could be put together. With practice, I could have all of this done in an hour, I suppose.
Ruth Roberts- Seville Cooking Class
Next Stop: Madrid