El Bulli Spanish Tapas

Earlier this week my family and I celebrated my graduation from Uni at Randwick’s El Bulli Spanish Tapas! I was really excited as I’ve wanted to dine here for ages but, because of its location (which is a bit far from where I live) its often been forgotten! Luckily though, mum suggested it and I am so glad that she did!

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When we arrived we walked into a dimly lit room, furnished with wooden style benches and a quaint little bar. It was warm and cosy (totally the opposite of the weather outside!) and the staff were very friendly and welcoming. The seated us at a window table, sort of like a nook, where one side of the seating was a long bench filled with comfortable cushions and furnishings. Right from the outset, the restaurant smelt fantastic so I couldn’t wait to start eating! My family and I have been to a couple of Spanish Tapas style restaurants, so our rule is always to try to order a couple of different dishes each time that we go and with the menu presented to us we were spoilt for choice. Personally, I love Spanish tapas style food, in fact I would love to cook it one night for my family, although I’m not quite sure about the logistics of it for five people, but still, that would be a great night! So as a result we’ve only ever really eaten Tapas at a restaurant, which is a shame because it can be quite expensive. I will say that while the meals at El Bulli weren’t cheap, the food was fantastic!

We started off with some Sangria (of course!) and then ordered a selection of tapas dishes to share. Our first dish to arrive was the Pinchitos de Pollo ($16.50) which are essentially chicken skewers. These were beautiful though, moist perfectly cooked chicken skewered and marinated in chimichurri (a herby, green marinade common in Spanish cooking) before being grilled and drizzled with lemon and a light mayonnaise. Perfect little portions of tasty-ness!

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Following this, the Patatas Bravas ($12.50) arrived, with soft, pillowy potato quarters fried to give them a crispy outside, before being cooked in a rich and spicy tomato sauce. Yum Yum! We also shared the Empanadillas ($17.50)  (a personal favourite of mine) which are a deep fried puff pastry filled with mince, herbs and egg! Seriously crispy pastry filled with the most beautifully seasoned and flavoured mince, I could have eaten these all day!

One of the evenings specials was the Zucchini Flowers which were stuffed with a ricotta filling before being lightly battered and deep fried! I love zucchini flowers, and my boyfriend (whose never tried them before) devoured these ones! So crispy on the outside and stuffed to the brim with rich, creamy ricotta. The flowers were plump and fresh and had so much beautiful flavour to them!

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Now if that wasn’t enough, we then ordered a seafood Paella ($29.50) for one to share, which was divine! Perfectly cooked rice with a rich tomato and saffron flavour topped with flavoursome choritzo, chicken and fresh seafood including huge King Prawns, Octopus, Mussels and Clams! It never ceases to amaze me with just how much flavour some people can pack into such a little rice dish! Seriously good and highly highly recommended!

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The highlight dish for me though was one that I had almost told mum not to bother with; Zarzuela ($33.50) a dish I don’t think I’ve ever seen at a Spanish restaurant before, but have heard of in cooking shows. Essentially, it is a seafood soup or broth but wow, I really don’t think I have ever tasted something so unbelievably flavoursome before. There were so many layers of flavours, salty, sweet, spicy and of course seafoody. It was all perfectly balanced and a perfect dish for such cold cold weather. I would highly highly recommend this dish, plus it was huge!! Even my dad loved this one, and he hates spicy food! The broth itself also had a light tomato flavour and just the right amount of spice to hit the back of your throat, but not overpower the soft flavours of the seafood. Now thats a dish I would love to learn how to make.

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We had hoped to order dessert (Churros) but at almost $17 per serve we decided to go to the Italian restaurant around the corner instead, which was a shame as churros would have been delish! Overall, we had a wonderful evening and the food was fantastic! It’s a shame they don’t have a set menu so that you could try more options (for a slightly cheaper price) but hey I’m not complaining, the food was phenomenal! If your ever in Randwick (or Surry Hills as theres another one there) then make sure you stop by!! You won’t regret it! Yum!!

Check out their website here….

 

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Risotto al Nero di Seppia…AKA Squid Ink Risotto

ImageOne of my most favourite dinner recipes to make in Summer is Squid Ink Risotto. While for some people, the thought of eating squid ink is a little odd, I absolutely love it! I’m not quite sure exactly how I would describe the flavour that Squid Ink adds to a dish other than that it is distinctly seafood-like without being overbearing or “fishy”. I think that part of the reason that I love this dish is because of the story behind the first time I ever encountered it. For me, this dish reminds me of my first time overseas when I travelled to Spain. Prior to this, I had never tried Squid Ink, come to think of it I don’t think I had even realised you could use it as an ingredient! But I saw it on a menu one night at dinner and thought “hey why not” after being told it was quite a traditional Spanish dish. When it came out to the table, I was presented with a beautiful white plate filled with plump little grains of black rice which was served with sweet juicy mango, fresh basil and ripe roasted tomatoes. I can honestly still taste the it! As I ate it all I could think of was “wow! I can’t wait to cook this for my family when I get home” and thats exactly what I did. Over the years I’ve found a few different recipes online which I’ve gradually adapted to match what I remember to be the flavours of what I tasted in Spain. So here it is, my recipe for Risotto al Nero di Seppia (aka Squid Ink Risotto).

 

 

What You’ll Need: (Serves 4)

1 TBS Squid Ink (you can buy this from some deli’s, the fish markets or your local fish shop might keep them when they clean the squid)Image

3 shallots or 1 red onion (finely diced)

1 bay leaf

250g Arborio Rice (traditionally Carnaroli Rice is used)

250ml white wine

1L chicken stock

70g butter

125ml Verjuice/lemon juice

Grilled baby Octopus or prawns to garnish

Basil leaves (garnish)

Cherry Tomatoes (spray lightly with olive oil and roast in the oven for 30mins)

1 Mango cheek, peeled and sliced

What I Did:

1. In a large saucepan, heat a small amount of olive oil and add your diced shallots or onion. Keep the heat low so that these soften without becoming browned or burnt. Heat your stock in a separate pan or in a container in the microwave.

2. Turn the heat up to a medium-high level and add your rice, stirring through the onion mixture. This is called toasting the rice and is important as it will help it to absorb all the liquid later. Keep stirring until the rice becomes slightly translucent in the centre. 

3. Add your wine, deglazing the pan and let this simmer for a couple of minutes or until it is mostly absorbed.Image

4. Now for the boring part! Add your stock, ladle by ladle until it is absorbed. You need to stir the rice continuously so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Also add your bay leaf at this stage. This process should continue for about 14mins or until the rice has just a slight bite to it.

5. Add your squid ink (from this point on use a plastic spatula to stir the mixture. A wooden spoon will stain and trust me, it NEVER comes out!). Continue stirring and adding stock for a further four minutes

6. At the end of this time, your rice should be cooked through but still have a very slight bite to it (so its not mushy). Turn the heat off and add your butter and verjuice, stirring the mixture. Pop a lid on top and leave to sit for five minutes. Now would be a good time to cook your seafood or set yourself up for plating. 

7. Give it a taste and see if it needs any extra salt or pepper. It generally should be fairly well salted already from the squid ink and stock so I don’t normally add any extra, but its completely up to your taste. 

8. If your adding seafood, stir it in and then serve in a nice bowl, topping with fresh mango, roasted tomato and basil. (Note, don’t use tinned mango. I’ve tried it once before and it was way too sweet and a little slimy from the sugar syrup it was tinned in. For this recipe, fresh is best wherever possible! Also please please give the mango a go! I know fruit in a savoury dish is a bit unusual but it completely makes it! I promise!) 

So there it is! my favourite Summer recipe! Hope your adventurous enough to give it a go! Trust me, you won’t regret it!

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