A couple of years ago I saw this brilliant documentary about 'La Matanza', the traditional slaughter of pigs in little Spanish villages. The filmmakers tracked down a village that still breeds and slaughters their own pigs the traditional way. I wish I could remember what it was called and watch it again. Despite it causing some people to not want to be in the same room as me (it depicted the slaughter in brutal honesty), I thought there was something quite romantic about it (yes I am still single). They followed the whole process from drinking shots early in the morning before the slaughter (to help cope with the horror that was about to unfold infront of their eyes) to the butchery of the meat and all of the traditional dishes that are prepared on the day.
There was a particularly great scene where chorizo was being prepared and about five women were having a very heated argument about the seasonings. In the end it was left to the oldest lady in the village to make the call. Of course before you stuff the meat into intestines to make sausages you need to test the seasoning, so they cook up a bit of the chorizo meat and taste it. According to MoVida Solera, Prueba de Matanza con Patatas Panadera (Fresh Chorizo with Baker's Potatoes) soon became a dish in its own right and is popular all year round, not just during pig slaughtering season.
I bought a boned pork shoulder, removed, sliced, oiled and salted the skin. I then roasted it on a rack over a tray to catch the drips of pork fat and turned the skin into crackling - precious, precious crackling. Having removed the skin, I chopped the meat into 1cm chunks and discarded any bits of gristle, although there weren't many.
Next I measured out the ingredients for the rub/marinade; paprika, cloves, cumin, pepper, oregano, crushed garlic and sea salt. I coated the meat with the rub and then mixed in the olive oil and left overnight. I assume this is a deviation from when the dish was made purely to test the chorizo flavouring.
The next day I slowly fried the sliced potatoes - not how I'd cook potatoes usually. I was a little wary of them not cooking and I think I had the heat maybe a little bit too high, they browned more than they did in the photos. I tried it again later and they came out much more like the book.
Then into a very hot sauté pan went what would be the chorizo meat. I was making a single portion as a test before a dinner party so I just cooked a single portion of meat and because I was only introducing a small amount of the cold meat to the pan it retained more heat and cooked faster... (science!). So, the meat was just slightly overdone and a little chewy. I was nervous about cooking the shoulder like this, as it's typically best cooked low and slow. But honestly later that evening when I cooked it again it was perfect! The meat was beautifully tender.
I fried an egg, seasoned the cooked meat with salt and garnished with thyme sprigs before placing the cooked egg on top.
It's pretty easy. But really that is the trick to the food in this book, not many recipes have more than 8 ingredients. It's simple food but to make it well you need the best ingredients you can find and try to cook them as best as you can.
The result was delicious, the potatoes were soft, so was the meat and the runny egg was almost a sauce. I thought the thyme sprigs would be too much and overpower the other flavours, instead occasionally you'd get little bursts of thyme in a mouthful. I think if I was seasoning the meat for chorizo it'd need a lot more of everything, the flavour was a lot more tame than I thought it would be but maybe that is another way the dish has evolved. My friend Ben, who doesn't like spice so much, was relieved as I'd started the evening off with some particularly spicy nuts. He asked if I was going to quote his feedback, when I said I would he said “It's very good”. Thanks for your insights Ben.
I also made the lamb kebabs and the roasted capsicum salad ('Pinchitos Morunos' and 'Pimientos Asados') from the book. The lamb was amazing, very tender, full of flavour without any one spice dominating. I loved the roast capsicum salad but I don't think it was a croud favourite as I had quite a bit left. It's so easy though, you simply roast four capsicums until they're brown, peel the skin, chop and leave to cool before dressing with salt, sherry vinegar, olive oil and chopped onion.
The Books Cooked
'MoVida Solera' is the fourth cookbook by Frank Camorra, owner of Sydney and Melbourne tapas restaurants, MoVida. In it he searches for the traditional recipes of Andalusia in the south of Spain, meeting food and wine producers, farmers, fishermen, chefs and cooks who share the recipes they have cooked in their kitchens for generations. It is available now from all good bookstores, RRP $70.00.