I think I might have found the place I want to live. Andorra has the highest life expectancy in the world and it’s famous for shopping. This little country, wedged between France and Spain, with a population of 76,900 has 2000 shops! It’s also known for having the most dramatic scenery in all of the Pyrenees. And, on average, it has 300 days of sunshine a year. The only disadvantage that I can see is that it’s land locked – but then it’s between France and Spain. I mean, how awful could that be! But then I read that the country does have a sea opening – so there you go! I wonder how much real estate is there?
Andorra was under both French and Spanish occupation until World War Two. Andorran cuisine is mostly Catalan with French influences. Lamb and pork are very popular and they love their pasta and vegetables, like potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage and celery, and they also eat fish.
Tomorrow – September 8 – Andorra will celebrate their national day. I would have cooked Andorran cuisine in celebration of this special day, but quite frankly, Tuesdays are a rat race for me with John’s football practice, and it is the kid’s first day of school! I don’t know if they’re happy about it but I certainly am!
Okay, here’s another reason why I want to move to Andorra, I love the food!! The dinner tonight was darn right yummy! We had Carpaccio of Andorran Veal, Catalan Spinach Salad, and Trinxat (cabbage and potato cake). It was a bit of a pain to make but I’d do it again. I think the biggest problem tonight was that I had three things going at once. I was in a frenzy trying to mash potato and cabbage into bacon grease while tying rolled up veal with string, and blanching spinach all at the same time!.
Carpaccio of Andorran Veal is a traditional Andorran recipe of thinly sliced veal filled with mushrooms coated in honey and covered with grated Parmesan cheese. This was not a hard recipe – if I wasn’t mashing and blanching. Only two things gave me pause. For one, it called for finely sliced ceps. I had no idea what ceps were and had to get out the handy dandy dictionary. Ceps are mushrooms. Aka Porcini. I know what porcinis are! Also, the recipe requires basil, and wouldn’t you know, I forgot to get basil at the grocery store yesterday. I couldn’t run out to the store and get it – the grocery stores were closed since it’s Labor Day. Those who live in U.S. cities will have a hard time imagining having days where everything shuts down. Well, it does here! So I had to use dry basil as a subsititute. It was the best I could do.
Trinxat. This is a traditional Andorran recipe of fried potato and cabbage cake served with bacon. This took some time, and linguistically it was complicated. I had to boil the potatoes and cabbage, then mash them, then cook the bacon, then take half (and I had a crap load) of the potato mixture and add it to the bacon grease and flatten it like a pancake. Now here’s the good part: when the one side was brown I had to flip this huge pile of mush onto a plate and then flip it back again into the pan to cook the other side. Easier said then done when one side is stuck to the pan and the other side is mush and your plate is smaller than your pan and you're wondering how you're going to flip it without it all coming apart or dropping on the floor. When it was done I was supposed to neatly cut it in thirds and cover each slice with bacon . Yeah, well, I did that, but it didn’t look pretty. For the second half of my mixture I got smart and made little pancakes. Why didn’t I think of that before?
Lastly, I made the Catalan Spinach Salad that was actually quite easy to do and the end result was fantastic. I will definitely make that again. Kevin and the kids liked every thing ( truthfully the kids weren’t crazy about the spinach but they forced themselves to eat it anyway. Kevin loved the spinach – he said that was his favorite). Julia loved the Trinxat – she practically ate the whole plate, and the veal was superb too. John gave the meal a 7.5 out of 10, ( I gave it a 9) but quite honestly, he was so tired from playing his football game (where he scored 4 touchdowns!) that I’m not sure if he was fully present.
But I was in the moment, savoring the Andorran dishes and dreaming of living in the little country wedged between France and Spain.
CARPACCIO OF ANDORRAN VEAL
6 thin slices of veal
250 g ceps, finely sliced
juice 1 lemon
1 TBSP basil leaves, shredded
150 g freshly-grated parmesan
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Salt, white pepper
Slice the veal into very thin slices (or buy it already sliced thin), then add to bowl along with the lemon juice, basil leaves, 3 TBSP olive oil, garlic, salt and white pepper. Set aside for 20 minutes to marinate. Spread veal with honey and then add oil to pan and fry meat for about 20 seconds per side, then remove. Arrange ceps over the veal then roll the slices and tie with string - ensuring the ends are closed. Brush with oilve oil then cook on a griddle pan just long enough to make the outside. Remove the string, brush the meat with honey, then dip in the grated Parmesan to coat.
CATALAN SPINACH SALAD
2 bunches of spinach, stemmed, shredded and blanched
2 TBSP olive oil
50g pine nuts
Gently fry the garlic with with oil until the garlic turns golden, then add the raisins and the pine nuts. Cook and stir until the raisins plump up and the pine nuts begin to color. Arrange the spinach in a warmed serving bowl and top it with the raisin and pine nut mixture.
1 savory cabbage
About 4 large baking potatoes, peeled
12 thick bacon slices
1 garlic clove
75g bacon fat, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper.
Bring two pots of water to a boil - one for the cabbage and one for the potatoes. After adding the potatoes and cabbage to the water return to boil, reduce heat of the cabbage and simmer for about 45 minutes. Drain the potatoes, return to pot and toss over low heat to dry, then transfer to a large bowl. When cabbage is done, drain, cool. Take out core, then drain again (I shredded the the cabbage and took out the core before I boiled it). Squeeze to extract any more water (while the cabbage was in the strainer I used my potato masher to extract the water. It will be way too hot to actually squeeze with your hands). Add cabbage to bowl with the potatoes and mash them, then season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a large frying pan, fry bacon until well done - drain and set aside. Add half of the bacon fat to the pan and then cook until the fat is rendered. Add half of the potato mixture and flatten into a pancake. Cook on high until base forms at nice crust (about 8 minutes). Place a large plate over the pan and invert so the trinxat falls on the plate. Now slide back into pan to cook the other side. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture. Cover with bacon slices, then cut and serve.