Sunday, 27 March 2011

How To Make Tapas the Sarah Way

Being a culinary genius and all, and since today is National Spanish Paella Day, here are my recipes for tapas, done my very special way, tantrums and all. Of course, tapas are not paella but I'm using the tenuous link of them both being Spanish and food to write this.

It's also pretty handy that, by chance, I happened to make tapas just the other night.

Glazed Chorizo
Chorizo ring
Sainsbury's House Red Wine for £3.69 (I'm a skint student, okay?)

1. Dry fry the chorizo. It will produce its own tasty chorizo flavoured oil.
2. Once the pan is sufficiently oily and the chorizo is sufficiently brown, add a nice big glug of the wine. You could (and should, since it tastes better) use a better red wine, like Rioja. Port or sherry are also tasty in this dish.
3. Reduce the wine down 'til you have nice sticky, winey (or port-y or sherry-...y) chorizo.

Patatas Bravas

Baby new potatoes
Can chopped tomatoes (Sainsbury's basics, of course)
Pinch of paprika
Clove of garlic
Knob of butter
Glug of that Sainsbury's House Red again.

I've made this before, but couldn't remember or find the recipe, so I made it up. It worked, but I guess it's difficult to get wrong.

1. Cut potatoes in half and boil until tender.
2.  Melt knob of butter in a pan at a medium heat.
3. Fry the garlic in the butter.
4. Search frantically for the can of tomatoes you know (slash hope) is somewhere at the back of your cupboard. Dread another quick dash to the supermarket before finally finding it behind the kidney beans.
5. Look through your spices for one that is suitably 'Spanish-y' and that will go with tomatoes. Reject Chinese five-spice and Garam Masala. Settle, finally, for paprika and chuck some of that in.
6. Bring tomatoes et cetera to the boil and then simmer until you have a thick, rich, tomatoey sauce. This should take about 20 minutes.
7. Drain your tatties and put the tomato stuff on top.

If you want to make patatas bravas con quesa, which I didn't, add a sprinkle of grated manchego and grill 'til the cheese is melted and golden brown.


This isn't Spanish, but it's tasty and I fancied eating halloumi so I decided it could be honorary tapas. This recipe is adapted from one by Nigella Lawson and by a complete happy coincidence happens to be currently featured as 'What We're Eating Today' on her website. So if you want her actual recipe, click on her name back there.

250g block of halloumi, drained
Lime juice
Clove of garlic, crushed
Olive oil

1. Chop halloumi into bite-size pieces.
2. Dry fry halloumi at a medium heat until golden brown on both sides.
3. Meanwhile, combine all the other ingredients in a shallow dish to make a dressing for the fried halloumi. If, like me, you can't find a shallow dish you're not already using, a soup bowl does the trick. Put in a bit of everything and keep tasting 'til you have the flavours right.
4. Add the nice golden brown halloumi to the dressing and then eat most of it before the rest of your tapas are ready.

Spanish Surprise

Again, a Nigella recipe was the inspiration for this dish. The actual recipe is not on her website, but can be found in her book Nigella Express under the title 'Spanish Omelette'.


3 Spring onions
75g roasted red pepper from a jar.
4 eggs
225g halved baby new potatoes
75g manchego cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil potatoes until tender. If you're sensible, unlike me, you will cook them along with the exact same potatoes you're cooking for your patatas bravas.
2. Mix eggs, chopped spring onion, and sliced roast red peppers together in a bowl. Add salt & pepper to taste.
3. Drain potatoes, combine with eggy mixture.
4. Heat a tablespoon of oil and a knob of butter in a frying pan.
5. Pour potato and egg mix into pan (preferably the frying pan you've just heated the oil and butter in) and cook.
6. Get distracted by doorbell ringing. Answer door.
7. On return to the kitchen, realise you forgot to put the cheese into the omelette mix before putting it in the pan. Decide to add it now instead.
8. Realise omelette is burnt on the bottom and it's too late to add cheese now. Decide to flip omelette to cook the top. You can cut the burnt bits off and grate the cheese on the top after and it will taste the same.
9. Be unable to flip omelette because it is stuck to the bottom of the pan. Make a mess.
10. Have a tantrum and completely over-react. Cry a bit. Call self a failure. Consider not cooking the rest of the meal. Declare it will taste horrible. Stomp about a bit. Slam some pans around.
11. Realise you're too hungry to not cook the rest of the meal, and being a brat. Transfer horrible omelette mix to pyrex dish and grate cheese on top. Place under grill until cheese is melted and golden brown.
12. Rename your omelette 'Spanish Surprise', taste it, and realise it is exactly as you envisioned in taste if not in looks.

So there you have it, how to make tapas the Spanish Sarah way. Serve it all with slightly stale crusty bread that was reduced at the supermarket, and olive-oil and balsamic vinegar. Wash it all down with the rest of the bottle of Sainsbury's House Red Wine. Et voila (or whatever the Spanish equivalent of 'et voila' is).

And of course, Happy National Spanish Paella Day!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Procrastination from Dissertation

I am an extremely skilled procrastinator, and if there were such a thing as a degree in Procrastination I would have a PhD in it already. 

Today my to-do list looked like this: 

I woke up feeling motivated and ready to go. One item to tick off? Easy!

Actually, that’s a lie. Scratch that. 

I dragged myself out of bed and, obviously, needed breakfast. So I decided to make porridge, because it takes a long time to make. While waiting, I decided to check my emails in case I had an urgent one from Uni telling me dissertations were cancelled. If that happened and I hadn’t checked, my day would be wasted! I didn’t have any such email, but the naughty internet still sucked away an hour of my time. During this hour, I found a recipe for peanut butter cookies and it said they only took fifteen minutes to make! So I thought to myself, well, I can surely spare fifteen minutes to make these cookies, and then I will still have all day to do my dissertation, and I will also have nice home-made (because if it’s home-made it’s healthier and therefore counts as one of your five-a-day.) cookies to help me through the trauma of it.  

So I went and searched through my cupboard for the required ingredients, and found that I didn’t have enough sugar; I would have to go to the supermarket. Problem: I was still in my pyjamas.

Forty-five minutes later I was on my way to the supermarket (because straightening one’s hair and applying a full face of make-up is clearly essential in this situation. And that’s after the trying-on and discarding – on to the bedroom floor - of several different outfits). The supermarket is five minutes away, if that, from my flat but I somehow accidentally went there via Topshop (twenty minutes away in the opposite direction)  and then decided that since I was in Topshop I might as well try on some things I had no intention of buying. And then, once I had dragged myself out of Topshop I decided that since I was in town, I might as well have a look round some other shops. After a couple of hours of aimless wandering and lusting after clothes and shoes I can’t afford, I ended up buying a new cafetiere  (It’s purple and makes one cup of coffee and cost £15; I cannot afford to pay £15 for a one-cup cafetiere but did so anyway because it is absolutely essential to my life to have a purple cafetiere.) and Glamour magazine. 

Three hours later I finally arrived back at the flat and then, of course, had no choice but to read every single page of Glamour, including all the adverts (even all those crappy ones for plastic surgery and teeth whitening in the back few pages), which wasted another couple of hours. It was then I realised that I hadn’t bought sugar to make those fifteen-minute cookies with, and it being a good bit after lunch-time, I was hungry. 

Unfortunately, I’d made tapas last night, and had left-over Spanish omelette and patatas bravas to munch on, meaning no time could be wasted in preparing food. So I decided to watch a program on BBC iPlayer while I ate. It was, of course, extremely high-brow and made a lasting impression on me, so much so that I now have no remaining recollection of what I watched. Only that it was ninety minutes in length, by which point I was feeling rather sick due to over-consumption of potato. 

I still wanted to make those cookies, but now they had become something to procrastinate from doing, too. I decided to clean the fridge in order to have a clean environment in which to bake. Clean fridges are essential to baking. But on my way through to the kitchen I spotted the Census form sitting on the living room table and decided I’d better fill it in. It took a disappointingly short amount of time, so I phoned my mother. She was only mildly disgruntled that I was using her to procrastinate. That’s what mums are for. 

Then mum had to go and I realised there was now no escaping the dreaded dissertation. But somehow the TV went on. I don’t know how that happened, but it did. There was nothing really on worth watching, so I had to spend some time deciding which DVD out of four shelves-worth to watch. Deciding was a long process, involving organising them alphabetically and then by genre. I finally settled on The Last Kiss. Once it was over I came online to check something, but ended up creating this blog instead. 

Once I’ve posted this, I am going to do some dissertation. Although, as mum reminded me on the phone, we lose an hour tonight. So I should probably just go to bed early and get that hour of sleep I would otherwise miss. 

Tomorrow I will need to tidy away all those clothes I discarded on my bedroom floor, clean the fridge as promised, go to the gym after eating all that potato today, and then make a start on my dissertation.

And I never did make those cookies; so I should probably do that, or else how will I get through my dissertation without sustenance?!