From wild mushrooms to wine syrup

The five-star resort in San Sebastian (photo credit: AYA MASSIAS)
The five-star resort in San Sebastian
(photo credit: AYA MASSIAS)
San Sebastian, in Spain’s Basque country, was the starting point for our recent culinary tour aimed at exploring Spain’s Rioja wine country. Leading our tour group, we stayed at a five-star hotel where we had a private little kosher kitchen at our disposal.
San Sebastian’s daily morning farmers’ markets offer the best products, from which my friend Inyaki (a great chef from Bilbao) and I cooked up some amazing meals. Our guests had never tasted this kind of gourmet kosher food and were over the moon.
From Andalusia, we brought with us a few cases of Ramon Cordova, a kosher-certified high-end Rioja wine, and even got hold of a few cases of the fantastic Flor de Primavera or Peraj Ha’abib, one of the best kosher wines in the world today and produced in the cellar of Capcanes in Tarragon.
One of the highlights of the tour was the charming fishing village of Getaria in the Bay of Biscay on the coastal road between Bilbao and San Sebastian. The moment you get there you become aware of the delicious smell of grilled fish in the air. Our guide took us to one of the local restaurants by the harbor, where fishing boats constantly arrive with fresh fish, which are cleaned and immediately put onto the charcoal barbecue. We bought some of the fresh Dover sole and brought it back to our hotel, where we were allowed to barbecue in the garden. Traditional Basque dancers, music and the great weather combined to make it an unforgettable evening.
Another highlight of the tour was meeting Basilio Izquierdo Torres in La Rioja.
One of Spain’s best-known and largest wine producers, he provided the wines for the wedding of King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain in 2004. We visited him in his winery, where we discussed kosher wines and he shared his thoughts.
Two of this week’s recipes are from this unforgettable tour. One of them, Lenguado a la Vasca (Dover sole in a white wine, lemon and butter sauce), is from the fishing village of Getaria. Another, Pastel de Carne, Setas y Laurel (beef, wild mushrooms and bay-leaf pie), is from San Sebastian. The dessert is from Andalusia: pears cooked in red wine with cinnamon sticks, cloves, orange peel and nutmeg, inspired by the surplus of tasty pears growing in our garden.
The writer is a trained chef, former owner of restaurants in New York and Jerusalem, and runs Yaya Food & Travel Ltd. (gourmet kosher Jewish heritage and culinary tours in Spain, Portugal, Provence, Gibraltar, Sicily and Morocco).
Serves 4
■ 2 x 650 gr. Dover sole (filleted)
■ 125 gr. butter
■ Juice of 1 lemon
■ 1 glass dry white wine
■ 8 sage leaves
■ 1 garlic clove, sliced
■ ¼ glass extra virgin olive oil
■ ½ glass flour
■ Sea salt and pepper
Put half the oil and half the butter into a medium-sized, heavy-duty pan, and place on a medium fire. When butter is dissolved and oil is hot, start sautéing the sole fillets previously dipped in flour.
Bring out when nice and light brown and place into a large Pyrex dish. Make sure there is ample room for the 8 fillets. Sprinkle them with garlic, white wine, oil and butter (the other half), sage leaves, salt and pepper, and cook in a medium-hot oven for 30 minutes. Serve hot with mashed potatoes and sprinkle with finely chopped curly parsley.
■ 500 gr. puff pastry
■ 500 gr. fresh beef, rib-eye steak (cut into 2.5-cm. pieces)
■ 1 onion, chopped
■ 1 carrot, chopped
■ 4 cloves garlic, chopped
■ 2 bay leaves
■ 1 kg. selection of wild mushrooms (any will do)
■ 1 glass dry red wine
■ 1 l. chicken or beef stock
■ 1 glass extra virgin olive oil
Prepare a 45-cm. pie dish by covering the inside with baking paper.
With a floured rolling pin, roll out the puff pastry evenly to the thickness of a coin. Place the pastry, loosely, over the pie dish and press down with your fingers, making sure it sticks to the edges.
(Set aside a piece of dough to cover the pie with.) Place a medium-sized pan on the fire and, when heated, pour in the olive oil and immediately add the meat. Cook for 10 minutes, then add the onion, carrot, garlic, bay leaves, red wine and half the stock and cook for 35 minutes. Then add the mushrooms and the rest of the stock and cook for an extra 30 minutes.
Pour into the prepared pie dish, cover with the remaining pastry, brush the top with beaten egg and bake the pie at the bottom of the oven for 45 minutes at 200°C, until the pastry is a lovely dark golden color. Serve very hot with a good glass of dry red wine.
Serves 6
■ 6 pears (sweet and juicy; I use Comice pears)
■ 3 cinnamon sticks
■ 12 cloves
■ Grated peel of ½ orange
■ 1 tsp. nutmeg
■ 150 gr. sugar
■ 1½ liter good dry red wine
Into a medium-sized pot, pour the wine and put the cinnamon sticks, cloves, orange peel, nutmeg and sugar. Place onto a medium flame. When the wine starts to boil, add the peeled and pitted pears (leave on the stems).
After 45 minutes the pears will be soft and ready; take them out of the wine, but keep boiling the wine until it becomes a syrup.
Then place the pears in the fridge to cool, as well as the wine syrup, transferred to a glass container with a lid.
Serve cold with vanilla or white-chocolate ice cream. Immediately before serving, drizzle the red wine syrup over the pears.