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Archive for June, 2022

Retama Restaurant: “Where each bite and each sip tells a story” (excerpt from the website)

Our last days in Spain came quicker than we could have imagined. We were away for seven weeks and I would have thought that I would be looking forward to getting home but my feelings were mixed. Yes, I looked forward to the amenities we have in our home, but I was also very sad to leave such a beautiful country. The produce was delicious and I knew I would miss that, the prices were definitely cheaper than Toronto, even converting to Euros. Our favourite house wine was 3.95 Euros! Going out for a meal was usually less than 40 Euros, including a bottle of wine! But the temperatures were on the rise, often reaching 30° C (86° F) so I was looking forward to leaving that behind.

One of our last and most memorable meals was at Retama Restaurant, a One-Star Michelin in La Caminera Hotel. We chose the Traditional Menu (mainly because they didn’t have rabbit on it) and it was delicious. Each course had a story relating back to the terroir of the region, La Mancha.

The reception

The inner courtyard

 

The Lobby

The Introduction

This wonderful meal tells the story of the terroir of the La Mancha region. Olive, olive wood, garlic are prominent on the landscape and the first bites lead you into this narrative. We began with little savoury meringues, made with garlic and olive oil. They were very strongly flavoured with garlic and we worried that it would scar the rest of the meal, but the chef created a small vile of olive soup, made with the juice of actual olives, which totally negated the strong garlic flavour and there was no lingering garlic aftertaste.

Amuse 1: Tomatoes are a huge part of the Spanish landscape and the La Mancha region is no different. This course of Amuses consisted of a tomato powder cookie (foreground), a spool of tomato spaghetti (left) and local eggplant with Manchegan Ratatouille. All delicious, wonderful textures with strong tomato flavours without being too acidic.

House-made sourdough bread

Bread course: Homemade sourdough bread with goat butter and a local, award winning olive oil. It was difficult not to scarf this down but we knew we had to save room in our bellies!

Pickled Partridge

The next main was a pickled partridge in a smoky tomato broth with edible flowers, tomato jelly (centre) and unknown foam (you know how I feel about foam!) Partridges run wild in fields around the restaurant.
In the background is a almond crisp with a partridge foie gras mouse, absolutely delicious.

Sous Vide Egg Yolk

The next course was a sous vide egg yolk of a local black chicken with a red crest, it wasn’t liquid but it was definitely rich and creamy served on a bed of foie cream, roast corn and honey jelly. A super-rich dish but extremely moreish. I will try to replicate this one. (Note that apparently, the Spanish make foie gras without force-feeding the ducks)

Cod with tomato, bread and garlic soup

The second last protein was a sous vide cod with cilantro sauce served in a bed of Castilian soup (a local bread and garlic soup, not at all overwhelming, think bouillabaisse).
This was also served with a La Mancha specialty called an Atascaburras ball (top left-ish) made with salted cod and potatoes. It is baked and not deep-fried. It was outstanding, I am trying to track down a recipe.

Sous vide lamb

The final meat course was sous vide lamb, it was seared and served with black garlic from Las Pedroñeras garnished with medium-dry tomatoes. The lamb was mildly gamey and extremely rich, I could only eat a couple of bites, at this point we were getting pretty full. I believe the glass-like garnish was a saffron tuille.

Dessert #1

There are almonds grown in this region as well, so it was expected as an ingredient. This was an almond praline base with cardamon chai tea ice cream, and it was outstanding!

Dessert #2

As lemons are also part of the La Mancha region landscape, they had to be part of a dessert. It was called Lemon Extravaganza! The base was a lemon sabayon with candied citrus peel, on top of almond “earth” and meringue shards. Best dessert, bar none! But we love lemon!

The coffee course

Unfortunately, we don’t drink coffee after twelve so they served this course as a third dessert. We are absolutely stuffed at this point but we managed to get it down, fortunately, they were small bites. They called them Petit fours, there were mini lavender macarons, anise beignets, chocolate hazelnut discs and a wonderful chocolate olive oil dome. A beautiful end to a memorable evening.

La cuenta

The accounting (la cuenta) is served up in this adorable little chest.

I would definitely recommend this restaurant if you are passing through the region. It was extremely good value (it was 68 Euros if memory serves). I loved the stories linked to each dish and the beautiful way they were presented. Service was spot on and extremely professional as you would expect. Our server spoke fluent English and was extremely easy to understand.

 

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As our time in Spain was dwindling in late May, I began to think more about using up pantry items. Here is another recipe that was created to use up pantry ingredients I purchased for our time in Spain. I wanted to use up the flour, sugar and a lime that I had sitting around. Unfortunately, I had only a little butter that I needed for the remainder of the week so I improvised and used reduced table cream. I figured if you could make cookies using olive oil, then you should be able to make cookies using cream, but I only had table cream which is generally about 18% fat so I reduced it about half in volume which I was hoping would give me about 36% fat or at least more than 18%. The cookies turned out delicate, not crumbly and slightly chewy. JT thought some coconut would be lovely in them so perhaps I’ll try that next time. I would have liked a little more lime flavour so I upped the zest in the recipe below because I only had one lime, two I think, would be perfect.

A deliscious, chewy cookie.

Lime Sugar Cookies

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 24 cookies about 5 cm in diameter

Ingredients:

  • 270 g all-purpose flour
  • 5 g baking soda
  • 2.5 g kosher salt
  • 251 g granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
  • 78 g reduced table cream (see notes)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2.5 mL vanilla extract
  • 15 mL lime juice 
  • Zest of 2 limes

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
  2. Combine the sugar, table cream, eggs, vanilla, lime juice and zest and mix well.
  3. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and just fold in so that there is no visible flour. Set in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Drop about 15 mL cookies (about a tablespoon) onto a parchment-lined sheet bake for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

Notes:

  • For the table cream in this recipe, pour 250 mL table cream into a heavy bottom saucepan and reduce on high heat until about half (about 30 minutes), stirring occasionally so it doesn’t over boil. Cool completely.

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Sometimes it’s just the simplest things that are the best. While we were in Spain, we had a lot of tapas, they serve tapas every time you order a glass of vino. Sometimes it is as simple as delicious olives, or sometimes it’s a little ham sandwich. While we were in Granada, we slipped into this adorable little bar and ordered a couple of glasses of vino with some tapas. Before we even had our first sip, they brought out a good quantity of homemade potato chips and these little round sandwiches (about 7-10 cm in diameter). If we hadn’t already ordered a selection of cheeses and charcuterie, we would have been done! And they would not have been offended. This is Spain, where a glass of good quality wine is €3.50 (less than $5) AND it comes with food! And there is no expectation of tipping, most restaurants add a small service fee per person so you needn’t worry about it.

We were sitting at home one evening when we decided to have a glass of vino and JT asks what we were having for hors d’œuvres! I had to scramble a bit because I hadn’t pre-made anything for the freezer but I did have some incredible peppers (did I mention how wonderful vegetables taste in Spain?) so I sliced them thinly and sautéed them and presented them with some toasted Spanish pine nuts. They were fantastic! So simple. If you’re serving a crowd, you might want to add a splash of red wine and some sliced chorizo, served with crusty bread of course. This is definitely going into my repertoire because I always have peppers at home.

I haven’t stipulated quantities because it’s what you have on hand. I used about a half of pepper each of the red and yellow and about 1/4 of an onion.

These are some of the sweetest peppers we’ve ever tasted.

Sautéed Peppers with Pine Nuts

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

 Ingredients:

  • Red peppers, deveined and seeded, cut into strips
  • Yellow peppers, deveined and seeded, cut into strips
  • Onion, thinly sliced
  • Splash of olive oil
  • Pine Nuts, toasted
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 Ingredients:

  1. Sauté the onions and peppers in a splash of olive oil. Add the chorizo and red wine, if using
  2. Sprinkle with pine nuts, salt and pepper and serve with crusty bread.

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We’re coming up to our last few weeks in Spain and I’m thinking about how to use up all the groceries we bought. I probably shouldn’t have bought a pack of sugar (about 350 g) but it was only about €0.50 so I’m not going to kill myself but I will give an honest go of using some of it. Peanut butter is not a common ingredient in Spain (most likely all of Europe) and is therefore expensive (€6.00 for a 500 g jar) but JT loves the stuff, so we splurged. We’ll be away for about 9 days of the last 18 days in Spain so I wanted to start on my pantry cleanup sooner than later.

I didn’t want to buy another package of butter so I needed a recipe that did not use it. Fortunately, this one is an old favourite, slightly modified to incorporate pantry ingredients. The 30 g portions make a decent size cookie but not large by any stretch of the imagination. The butter is not beaten into the peanut butter (mainly because I didn’t have a mixer) just mixed in well, without too much exertion which makes it an easy cookie recipe. I’ll be definitely keeping this one in my repertoire.

Delicious cookies with just the right amount of chewiness.

Pantry Clean Out Peanut Butter Cookies

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 19 cookies about 30 g each

Ingredients:

  • 250 g crunchy peanut butter (natural, no salt or sugar added)
  • 2 eggs
  • 80 g flour
  • 165 g sugar
  • 3 g salt
  • 50 dark chocolate with sea salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine the peanut butter and eggs and mix well.
  3. Combine the flour, sugar and salt and mix well.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well.
  5. Portion out 30 g balls and flatten slightly with your palm. Dot the chocolate pieces onto each one evenly.
  6. Bake for 8-12 minutes at 350° F.

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