Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Easy Recipes with Jamon Bellota

The exquisite taste of Jamon Bellota makes of it a delicatessen. In this section, I will give you some recipes which with you can surprise your friends and guests.
Jamon Bellota with melon starter (Melon con Jamon) for 2
For this recipe for 2 people you just need a small melon and 200grs Jamon Bellota. The traditional Spanish way is to serve the slices of melon wrapped in the slices of Jamon Bellota, but to give it a more chic touch we will do a bit different. Put the melon in the blender till it is like a soup. Slice the ham in small square pieces and do it in the melon soup. You can save a couple of slices to put them in a toast as an accompaniment.
Jamon Bellota with Mushrooms (Champiñones con Jamon) for 2
In this recipe we will use 150grs Jamon Bellota, one packet of fresh mushrooms, half glass of sherry (you can also use dry white wine) and a bit of parsley.
Wash or clean the mushrooms with a vegetables brush. Cut them in 2 or in 4 depending of their size. Chop the ham in small squares. In a pan, heat a bit of olive oil and throw the ham on in. Let it fry for a couple of minutes and then add the mushrooms. Stir it till the mushrooms are a bit brown and then add the sherry and let it cook slowly till a big part of the sherry has evaporated. Finally, cut the parsley in small pieces and put it on top to serve.
Jamon Bellota with tomato, oil and bread (Pan tomaca) for 2
This recipe is typical from Barcelona.
You need 100grs of sliced ham, 6 slices of toasted bread (better the French baguette type or any type more consistent than the sandwich one), a bit of olive oil, salt and 2 fresh tomatoes.
Grate the tomatoes (a cheese grater will do perfectly) in a bowl. Add a bit of olive oil and salt to taste. Put this mix over the toasted bread. Add the slices of ham on top of the bread and you are ready to enjoy!

Monday, June 29, 2009

History of Tapas

Spanish kitchen has its roots in people's cooking. It is simple, traditional foodbased on the ingredients available locally or the crops that grew in the region. The various mountains in the Spanish lanscape acted as natural obstacles for communication and transport till the last half of the 20th century. This is the main reason for such a variety and differences from region to region.

Tapas are snacks eaten between main meals as food that allows the body to survive until lunch or dinnertime (“tentempié” or “tapita” custom extended amongst Mediterranean cultures). They are also a good opportunity to socialize and discuss work-related topics.

Legends over the origin of tapas.

  • A story claims that while on a long trip, King Alfonso the 10th, the Wise, had stopped in a tavern in Cádiz, and he ordered a glass of jerez (sherry). It was windy, so the inn keeper served him his glass covered by a slice of jamon bellota to prevent the sherry from getting sand. The king liked it (although we wonder if the ham wouldn't have been sandy), and when he asked for a second glass, he requested another tapa or “cover” just like the first.
  • Another version claims that the same king, due to an illness, had to take small bites of food with some wine between meals. Once recovered decreed that no wine was to be served in any of the inns in Castile unless accompanied by something to eat.

  • There is also a legend that says that during the Kingdom of the Catholic Kings and due to the increase of criminality and violence caused by workers coming out of inns after drinking high quantities of beer and wine, the innkeepers were forced to serve the alcoholic beverages with a tapa, in principle cold (jamon bellota, manchego cheese,etc). Customers must first eat the tapa in order to drink. This way the alcohol did not fell into empty stomachs and people were not so drunk.

  • A more realistic approach is that the tapa first appeared because of the need of farmers and workers of other unions to take a small amount of food during their working time, which allowed them to carry on working until time for the main meal. This snack was taken with wine, as it induced a mellow mood and increased strength, while in winter it warmed the body against the cold days in the fields. In summer, in the South they drank “gazpacho” (cold tomato soup), instead of wine.

Many dishes are prepared today using the same cooking methods and ingredients as they were two or three hundred years ago. What is sure is that food in Spain is fresh, abundant and full of taste and the Spanish love their food dearly.

Traditionaly, tapas are served with a glas of wine or sherry, although in Asturias, cider replaces wine.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Jamon Bellota: 5J

The jamon bellota 5J is a ham that is that only one of its kind in the world. 5J ham from thoroughbred Iberian pigs fattened on acorns (bellotas). Is a trade mark developed by Sánchez Romero Carvajal and with the time has been grown into the synonym of maximum quality for the Iberian products. In 1983 Osborne bought some participation in Sánchez Romero Carvajal, and nowadays owns 100% of the company. Their main focus is the recovery, selection and improvement of the pure race of the Iberian pig that happened to be then close to the extinction.

The elements that made the jamon bellota quality so high are:

  • It is to be found in the city of Jabugo since 1879.
  • The black pig is unique to the Iberian peninsula and its has a genetic defect making the fat go into the muscle, giving it a marble look.
  • The pigs are breed at liberty.
  • Their diet is based on acorns.
  • Jamon bellota is cured craft of the hand of the Master Jamonero and hand sliced to keep all the flavor.
  • The meet produces good cholesterol. In Spain they are called “olive tress with legs” as they have a lot of oleic acid in them.
  • It takes 36 months average for the jamon bellota to be cured.

The strict quality control and high sensory standards set by the mark, they convert to jamon bellota 5J in a scarce product in the market and the preferred by the experts and lovers of the gastronomy. Just recently, it was awarded 3 stars by the International Taste & Quality Institute.

There are different types of Iberian products depending on their feeding:

- bellota: 16% (ca. 100% Iberico)
- recebo: 23% (ca. 50% Iberico)
- cebo: 61% (ca. 10% Iberico)

The best way to eat jamon bellota is with some toasted bread with some tomato and olive oil.