Monday, 1 September 2014

Catalan Curiosity – Vanilla Salt Inspiration

As well as being a heart-warming tale of love and life, Vanilla Salt is a mouthwatering tale of Catalan cuisine. The main characters have a huge passion for food, and as this novel is written by acclaimed chef Ada Parellada, the food passion that seeps through the pages is so strong you can almost taste in. Reading this book made me feel hungry a lot of the time, and Catalan food is not something I’ve really experienced before.

So this book inspired me to do a little research and get creative in the kitchen with an attempt to make some Catalan inspired dishes! At the back of Vanilla Salt is a handy glossary of the foods mentioned throughout the story so I used this as my starting point and let the good old internet fill in the rest!

For a main course I decided to attempt botifarra amb mongetes which is Catalan sausage with white beans. As much as I would have loved to have sourced authentic Catalan ingredients I decided to make this a bit last minute. For the botifarra, I ended up getting some chorizo-style pork sausages (which was about as Spanish as I could get.

I cooked pancetta in a pan of olive oil until it was brown and then added the sausages for about 5-10 minutes until they browned as well. I then removed the meat and used the remaining oil to fry up some white onions, garlic and parsley. 

After a few minutes I added a tin of white beans and cooked for about 10 minutes, being careful not to burn everything! I re-added the meat until it was cooked and it was then ready to serve! 

In addition to this, as a kind of side dish, I attempted sofregit, which should be a mixture of onions and tomatoes (and sometimes other veg) cooked in olive oil and reduced to a jammy consistency. This I did, minus the jammy consistency part, but it was still delicious.

I had also wanted to make escalivada, an appetizer made from strips aubergine and red peppers, but didn’t realise I had no red peppers until it was too late! So my supposed escalivada turned into olive-oil fried aubergine strips instead, which also went quite well with the main.

 Being a bit slap dash and last minute, my Catalan inspired meal actually turned out quite nice, full of simple ingredients, yet colourful and full of flavour. I had lots of fun in the kitchen (feeling a bit chefy with my multiple dishes going all at once) and enjoyed a meal that was something different.


I would definitely recommend Vanilla Salt to foodie fans and if anyone else has been inspired to try some Catalan cooking (or has any pointers for me!) I would really love to hear from you. 

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