The best pintxos in San Sebastián


San Sebastián has pretty much been done to death by food writers and bloggers, but with good reason. There is really nowhere comparable, and I have eaten my way around a lot of great European, North American and Australian food cities over the last decade. I have never found anywhere where every restaurant could provide at least one outstanding dish, as well as many excellent ones, for under a fiver. While eating at a bar counter with a stranger’s elbow lodged in your rib as you spill dish after dish down your front may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, even people on a budget can get to try cooking from  incredibly talented chefs. Pintxos start at around two euro, and a glass of txacoli is in the same range.

So with that in mind, here are my favourite dishes or pintxos bars from five days and nights of eating everything humanly possible in San Sebastián. We tried to hit most of the best known places, but missed out on trying the cheesecake in La Vina and the tortilla in Bar Nestor. We tried the anchovies in Txeptxa but since I really just don’t like anchovies, it didn’t make the cut but if you do like them, it’s definitely worth a visit.


Ganbara – Grilled mushrooms with egg yolk

Ganbara is the grand dame of San Sebastián pinchos. It is pricier than the rest, with luxurious ingredients and a strong focus on pastry. Possibly the most Instagrammed dish in San Sebastián is the wild mushrooms grilled with egg yolk (hongos a la plancha). At close to €20 for a small racion, this is by far the most expensive dish that we tried, but it was utterly perfect. The mushrooms were delicate with a rich meaty texture, and the raw egg yolk brought the dish together. I am completely phobic about eggs but somehow I managed to both eat and adore this dish. Ganbara is always a popular spot with tourists and with foodie tours, but we managed to snag a rare corner bit of counter on a Wednesday lunchtime to try this.


Anything meaty at La Cuchara de San Telmo

La Cuchara de San Telmo is legendary for its rich meaty dishes like foie gras and beef cheek. On our two visits, we managed to try both of these, plus the duck ravioli with mushrooms and jus (pictured above), the crispy pigs ear with romesco, and a racion of morcilla. With the exception of the morcilla racion, all of these were priced at around €4.00. La Cuchara de San Telmo is a sweaty and tense experience. Two men on either end of the counter take orders sporadically and you try to carve out a bit of space to wait. Food tends to come in waves, so you’ll see portions of foie gras fly out, followed a few minutes later by beef cheeks and so on. If you’re unlucky, you can be waiting ten minutes for each dish. It’s one of the few places that doesn’t have pintxos on the bar, and it’s full of other foodie tourists elbowing each other for counter space. The best move is to bring food onto the little square outside, away from the fray.

Braised Veal Cheek with Red Wine and Orzo Risotto with Idiazabal at Bora Berri

I didn’t manage to get a picture of these dishes, but being totally honest, they were not the most photogenic. Borda Berri has a similar vibe to La Cuchara de San Telmo, which makes sense since its chef came from there, with a list of small hot pintxos at about €3-4 euro a go and no pintxos on the counter. The creamy orzo risotto (risotto de puntalete) with local sheep’s milk cheese was a standout dish, as well as the veal cheek braised in red wine (carrilera de tenera al vino tinto) were standouts. I think these dishes are pretty similar to the ones at La Cuchara, but the space is slightly less hectic and sweaty, and I thought the veal cheeks were better seasoned here.


Spicy tomato mussels, patatas bravas and squid bravas at La Mejillonera

La Mejillonera is essentially a Spanish version of a chip shop. It serves a few fried dishes instantly at a counter, and has a constant turnover of mainly local customers. There are photos displayed above the counter of the five mussel dishes, patatas bravas, and different squid dishes available. Uniformed men take your order, shout it down the counter with a dramatic emphasis and a minute later you are presented with your food. Mussels in a spicy tomato sauce (mejillones al tigre), deep fried squid with aioli and bravas sauce (calamares bravas), and fried potatoes with the same aioli and bravas sauce (patatas bravas) are essential to try here, and can be seen dotted up and down the counter. You can get a double portion of the bravas for €3.50, mussels for €3.80 and a half racion of calamares for around €5. This is the perfect place for a quick lunch break from the Concha beach, which is just a few minutes away.

Chorizo Croquetas at Bar Gure Txoco

Over the river in Gros, things are a little quieter. Bar Gure Txoco has a huge selection of croquetas to choose from, but our favourites were the chorizo ones, which managed to combine spiciness and sweetness with the creamy bechamel perfectly. They’re a little pricier than most croquetas in San Sebastián, at €2.50 for two, but totally worth it. This is a good spot if you want a break from the slightly relentless Old Town atmosphere.


Kokotxas, and really anything at Zeruko

Zeruko is a modern, award-winning pintxo place with efficient staff, and often a bit more space than the others. The counter is groaning with excellent pintxos, and they also have a long list of hot pintxos to order from the kitchen. The standout dish was the kokotxas (part of a hake’s throat, I think) which come on a little skewer over a hot grill with some bread and a green sauce. You turn the kokotxas skewer yourself, ten seconds on each side, place it on the bread, and douse it in a sauce from a test tube. I was too busy timing and grilling to get an actual photo. We actually didn’t find this dish on the menu, so I’m not sure what its proper name is, but you will see it at every table so just point and ask for it. It costs €5.50, but is very much worth it, particularly as they have trimmed away a lot of the fat you normally get with kokotxas, leaving a lean and sweet skewer of fish without the weird gelatinous mouthfeel that other kokotxas dishes had. I also loved the goats cheese with foie gras and honey pintxo on the bar, and the sea urchin with avocado.


Octopus with potato soup and bacon at Casa Urola

Like Ganbara and Borda Berri, Casa Urola is a stalwart of San Sebastián food tours, and we saw loads of groups during our evening there. With a decor that looks like a living room on Desperate Housewives, it does not look anything like what I’d expect from a cutting-edge pintxos bar, but everything we tried was glorious. It is one of the few places with proper tables and chairs in the bar (there is also a dining room upstairs offering similar food at a huge mark-up). If you hang around long enough, you can snag a seat and work your way through the whole tapas menu. The hot dishes are worth the wait, and the staff are great at wrestling through the crowds to give them to you. The food is elegantly presented like an amuse bouche in a Michelin restaurant, but at the same San Sebastian prices of less than €5 a pop.


Mackobe with Txips at A Fuego Negro

A Fuego Negro is a more recent arrival on the San Sebastián pintxos scene, with an interior like a Nu-Metal band’s fast food franchise. The menu is displayed through a series of illustrated placards on the wall above the bar. The staff here are extremely efficient and manage to stay in a good mood despite the constant pressure. There are different small dishes at between €3 and €6, as well as larger portions of things like fried wild chicken for around €15 to €18. It may seem a bit unadventurous for San Sebastián, but there is a reason everyone around you is ordering the Mackobe, a miniature Kobe beef burger with banana chips.




Pintxo-pote, San Sebastián


Pintxo-pote is a Basque institution. A selection of bars offer a drink and a pintxo for a small fixed price, usually €2, one night each week. In San Sebastián, the main pintxo-pote scene is on Thursday nights in Gros.  The hub is around Plaza Cataluña, Bermingham Kalea, San Frantzisko Kalea and Zabaleta Kalea.It starts at 19:00 and goes on until around 23:00, or until the food runs out, whichever happens first.

Most bars have signs outside saying they offer pintxo-pote, and some have signs saying they very definitely do not. You can usually tell which is which anyway by the crowds and debris outside. These are not the high-end basque pintxos that tourists elbow each other for in the Old Town, but there are some pretty tasty things on offer. The pintxos are lined on the counter of the bar ready to go. The drink on offer is generally wine, beer or cider.

I have zero photos of our pintxo-pote crawl. Trying to take anything close to a half-decent photo holding a flimsy plastic plate and being jostled by surfers and students is tricky, but here is a round-up of our pintxo-pote experience.

The first thing to be aware of is that the wine on offer is usually pretty disgusting. Sadly, txacoli is rarely part of the deal. The cider and beer, on the other hand, were good everywhere we tried them. Basque cider is light, slightly effervescent and crisp. Sticking with beer and cider is also a smart idea if you’re planning to try a lot of places, and don’t like waking up the next day in a bush with croquette crumbs across your cheeks and grease-smeared hands.

We started in La Plata, just off Plaza Cataluña. The options here were pretty good, and we settled on a squid ink croquette, and some sort of delicious chewy pastry filled with melted cheese that looked a little like a doughnut. This was a stalwart of pintxo-pote spreads as it turned out. They tend towards the stodgier end of things, presumably to soak up all the alcohol. Next up was Bar Mendi on San Frantzisko Kalea which offered the standard bread pintxos, as well as small plates of paella, patatas bravas and ensaladilla rusa. We went for a plate of bravas, and a pintxo with ham, goats cheese and crispy onion. We then moved on to Bora Gerri, on Kalea Bermingham. This had a selection of deep fried things like croquettes and prawns on skewers, as well as some bread tapas, so we went for three prawns on a skewer, and some txistorra sausage on bread.

At this point we needed a break and a sit-down, because unlike most of the crowd, we are not in our twenties anymore. The streets had become a sea of discarded plastic plates and cups, the pavements filled with inebriated students smoking a seemingly endless amount of roll-ups. Fortunately, we spotted Essencia wine bar on Zabaleta Kallea, a glorious place with a giant list of wines by the glass, and, unusually for San Sebastian, a great sherry list too. We decided to go for one more pintxo-pote, which ended up being a fairly lacklustre empanadilla at Bar Labrit opposite, before calling it a night.

Pintxo-pote offerings do not match the kind of gourmet pintxos you get in the old town, but this is the Basque Country, so they are still way better than what you should be able to get for this price. San Sebastián can be a pricey place, but a night out and a meal for €10 is an offer that can’t be missed, and an experience you won’t get in other regions of Spain.



Guts & Glory, Amsterdam


In the five months since I returned to once again live in Holland, I have had to do something I hate doing. I have had to acknowledge that I was wrong. The blow has been softened by the fact that I have been proved wrong in a very enjoyable way. Last year, I wrote about the shortage of good, casual restaurants in Amsterdam. I was so very wrong. Over the past few months, I have eaten some of the best meals I can remember, in different restaurants across Amsterdam. I have tried Australian small plates, Dutch tasting menus, Michelin-starred street food, Israeli seafood, and plenty of things besides. And it has all been wonderful.

Most recently, I visited Guts & Glory, on the dodgier end of Utrechtsetraat. Located on a strip of coffee shops, seedy bars, and hipster fast food, it’s an unlikely location for such glorious cooking. The restaurant works with a theme, changing every few months, and develops a set menu around it. The last theme was Japan, the current theme is Spain, and the next is rumoured to be Thailand. They have also created menus revolving entirely around one ingredient. Taking chefs out of their comfort zone, to create quintessential dishes from different countries is an interesting idea, and one that could go very wrong. Here, it just works.


IMG-20170809-WA0002I’m not an expert on Spanish food, but it was great to see so many classic dishes brought to life in new ways. We went for the pre-theatre four course menu, on a Monday night after a weekend of heavy eating. The sun was glimmering, so we braved the breeze for a table on the street. The meal started with a plate of pan con tomate. Light crispy bread rubbed with garlic, topped with chunks of tomato and drizzled in olive oil. It’s a simple dish, but one that requires excellent ingredients. Here the tomatoes were fresh and sweet, the bread was light, and the olive oil grassy. We moved on to an amuse (still not hitting our first actual course) of watermelon gazpacho, a miniature jamon croquette, and olive stuffed with jalapeno cream cheese and topped with crispy chorizo crumbs. My recreations of this gazpacho have since become a weekly event in my house.

Our first actual course was corvina marinated in sherry in an ajo blanco sauce with slices of fresh grape on top. Corvina is the fish of the moment in Amsterdam, and this was a beautiful way to serve it. The sherry slightly cured the white meat and gave bite, which was balanced by the creamy almond sauce, and the sweetness of the grapes. Sadly, I did not get a picture of this dish but it was lovely.



The next course was a riff on paella, a simple tomato rice with chorizo oil, blow-torched at the last minute to crisp on top and served with three plump mussels. After that came a rump of Dorset lamb with romesco sauce and goats curd. I don’t eat meat regularly, and I sometimes think I could probably give it up entirely. This was the kind of lamb that shatters those illusions. Perfectly pink, soft and with just the right amount of fat to keep it juicy. We moved on to a pre-dessert of crema catalana flavoured with orange blossom and a truly incredible dessert of fresh churros coated in fennel seeds and sugar, chocolate sorbet and a liquorice caramel sauce.


Guts & Glory also manages that rare combination of great food and excellent customer service. Our waitress let my dad try several wines when he couldn’t decide which he wanted from the list. She kept a good eye on everything that was happening on the terrace outside the restaurant throughout the evening. When the chef noticed that a man at a neighbouring table was not a fan of the fishy dishes that had been served, he offered to cook him something different and gave him some options.


Despite the intimidating name, there were no dishes here to frighten the horses. What we had was a menu of classic dishes that had small innovations, but focused mainly on flavour. Each dish was one that I had tried in one guise or another before on trips to Spain, but the best version I’d ever had. If they stuck with just this theme, and turned into a Spanish restaurant, I would happily keep coming back for these same dishes. But I’m also really excited to see what comes next.

Guts & Glory, Utrechtsestraat 6, Amsterdam


Watermelon Gazpacho

Gazpacho2017 has been a big year so far, for me at least. I have moved job twice, house twice, and country once. I am now back in the canal-strewn city that gave this blog its name a long time ago. Very little has changed since I left in 2011, as befits a city where you can live in a house that was built in the 1590s, but returning to a student city as a proper adult makes you see it in a whole new light. So, in honour of the theme of the same but different, an updated recipe from the early days of the blog.  I have been making gazpacho for years, and didn’t think it needed improving until I tried a watermelon version at Guts & Glory in Amsterdam. The watermelon balances out the heaviness of the garlic and oil, and brings out the sweetness in the tomatoes. It’s simple and quick to make, but chilling it properly is the key to bringing all the flavours together.

Serves four as a starter portion


  • 500g cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 red peppers (preferably the sweet, pointed kind), roughly chopped
  • 350g watermelon, peeled and cubed
  • 1 fat garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 1 shallot, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sherry, white or red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil + a little extra for drizzling before serving
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of toasted pumpkin seeds


  • Blend all of the ingredients together in a food processor or with a stick blender until  you have a thick, smooth soup.
  • Chill overnight, or for at least two hours.
  • Season well before serving, according to your preference.
  • Serve topped with some toasted pumpkin seeds, and a swirl of olive oil.

Mussels with Tomato, Fennel and Feta

IMG_1077 (1)

Weekend trips to Holland are not the best for my waistline. Holiday food traditions have sprung up over the years, and are difficult to escape. A kaasbroodje, liquid cheese wrapped in puff pastry, as a late breakfast on the train out of Schiphol. Bitterballen, balls of shredded meat wrapped in bechamel and deep fried dipped in mustard, as a reward after long cycles across the coastal dunes. Freshly made Turkse pizza, or lahmacun, from the elderly Tunisian/Greek man on the main street who takes more pride and satisfaction in his culinary skills than a Michelin chef. Fresh bread from the market with chunks of hard goats cheese, devoured on the banks of the canal because the ducks there have developed not only the size, but the tenacity of feral cats and will snatch food straight from your hands.

One of the only healthy traditions which has sprung up is cooking a large pot of mussels, a staple at Dutch supermarkets, at some point in the weekend. Mussels are full of vitamins and acids which are said to help brain function and reduce inflammatory conditions. While this may not be the most photogenic dish, it is a very tasty one, especially combined with a dollop of aioli and fresh bread to mop up the sauce. The recipe is adapted from the ever reliable Morito cookbook. The recipe allows for some mussels to be thrown out, because it’s never a good idea to take a chance on shellfish.

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a starter/tapa


  • 1 sliced bunch of spring onions, green and white parts
  • 1 thinly sliced bulb of fennel
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 5 finely chopped cloves of garlic
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar or honey
  • 50ml white wine
  • 1 kilo mussels
  • 150g feta, crumbled
  • 1 handful of chopped fresh tarragon
  • Olive oil


  • Sort through the mussels and find every mussel that is open, even slightly.
  • Tap each opened mussel sharply on the side of a counter top or sink.
  • If it closes, keep it.
  • If it stays open, throw it away.
  • If you’re not sure, throw it away.
  • Rinse all the now fully closed mussels thoroughly with water.
  • Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat and cook the fennel and fennel seeds slowly for five minutes.
  • Add the chopped spring onion and cook for another five minutes.
  • Add the garlic and chilli flakes and cook for a minute or two more.
  • Add in the tomato, sugar/honey bay leaves and white wine and bring to the boil, then reduce to the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  • Bring the mixture back to the boil and add the cleaned mussels to the pot.
  • Put on a lid, and cook until the mussels are opened (about 3-4 minutes).
  • If there are any closed mussels when the majority have opened, discard them.
  • Stir in the tarragon and feta, and stir immediately.




Galicia Guide: Part 2



Vigo is the biggest city in Galicia, and not really a tourist destination.  Our main reason for going there was to visit the Cies Islands, a nature reserve off the coast, but it turned out to be a great city in and of itself. It’s perched on the side of a fairly steep hill with views out over the Ria, and is largely modern and 19th century, with sweeping boulevards through the city centre. It reminded me of Marseille without the constant feeling that someone is about to mug you. The old town is quite small, you can cross it in five minutes, and is filled with shaded winding passageways leading out into bustling light filled squares. We stayed in the centre in a hotel that seemed to have acquired all of its furnishings from some kind of adult film company prop sale. Each night, without fail, we ended up starting off in  A Lareira, a lovely little wine and food shop in the Old Town which had a few tables. There you could get a selection of great local wines by the glass and delicacies such as cured beef ‘jamon’ and little pinchos. We also enjoyed Taberna Baiuca another wine bar in an adjoining square, which was playing host to the world’s largest dog while we were outside.





Sanxenxo is trying to market itself as the Marbella of Galicia, and honestly, the comparison is a bit too kind on Sanxenxo. It’s a town of high rise sixties flats crowded around a city beach. Apparently, it’s the favourite holiday spot for Madrilenos. We spent a considerable portion of the trip in the bus station there, wandering up to various staff, pointing at buses and saying ‘Pontevedra’ in an increasingly fearful tone as bus after bus disappeared off with no regard for timetables. Its saving grace was a visit to the lovely vineyards at Adega Eidos, where we were given a tour in impeccable English by Noella (despite the fact that they get about one set of English language visitors per month). Adega Eidos is at the top of a large hill near the bus station, which we climbed twice. Learn from our mistake, the vineyard is not open from 1-3pm. They make three different albarino wines here as well as some liqueurs, which we tasted after a tour of the lab, vat rooms and the vineyard itself. The tour was genuinely interesting if you’re curious about wine, and trying three entirely different tasting wines made from the same grapes in the same fields gave a great insight into viniculture. Noella was knowledgable and chatty, and we ended up staying far longer than expected. I didn’t bring a camera, but you can see it all on their website.





The Cies Islands

The  largest of the Cies Islands is home to the best beach in the world according to the Guardian. It is in fact home to two mountains and multiple beaches, including a nude beach that the guidebook explains is referred to locally as ‘the German beach’. They islands are a nature reserve which only allow 4000 visitors per day, which means that you need to book well in advance in order to be sure of being allowed to visit. We did none of this, and instead turned up at the port hungover and half asleep at 9am in the hopes of getting a cancelled ticket, which we immediately did.  Fighting nausea and exhaustion on the boat over, I wondered if spending 8 hours on an island in the Atlantic was a bad idea. It wasn’t. It is one of the most spectacular places I’ve been. In our eight hours, we managed to climb to all of the various peaks, and swim at most of the beaches (my convent education didn’t leave me feeling suitably prepared for a nude beach). There are two reasonably priced restaurants on the island, as well as public toilets and a supermarket in the small campsite by Lanzada beach which made my hoarding of litres of bottled water and toilet paper in my tote bag pretty redundant. Bring lots of suncream.

Lanzada Beach

Cies 2 Cies Islands



 Halfway through our hellish five hour journey from Cambados to Vigo, a journey of some 50km (timetables are basically a sick joke in Galicia), we spent a large amount of time navigating the suburbs of Pontevedra. They are some of grimmest suburbs I’ve ever seen. So much so, when we arrived in Vigo, I frantically tried to figure out if we could cancel our upcoming two day stay there (we couldn’t). Fortunately, the old town of Pontevedra turned out to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve been, straight out of Don Quixote. Medieval squares lined with arcades gave way to narrow streets lined with tapas bars. We didn’t actually end up eating or drinking anywhere spectacular, in part due to spending a night watching the World Cup final in a bar that kept loading us up with stodgy free pinchos, but exploring the old town after dark was one of the highlights of the trip.

Pontevedra 1 Pontevedra2





Butter Beans with Black Pudding, Pine Nuts and Sultanas

Butterbean Black Pudding

The last few weeks have gone past in a bit of a blur. I moved back to my home city of Dublin after nearly five years away, started college/work and have been finding my feet. I suppose it is appropriate enough then that this post is a quick and easy recipe using a very traditional Irish ingredient.

Black pudding is not (as I have seen on some websites) a dessert, but a blood sausage traditionally eaten for breakfast. Fry-ups of sausage, eggs, rashers (bacon), black and white pudding are a pretty traditional Irish breakfast, although not one people have every day or even every week. There are some other more controversial components like tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, hash browns  fried bread or potato farls (a kind of fried potato bread), and everyone has their strong opinions on these. More recently, these have been adapted into the breakfast roll, a terrifying Irish delicacy involving cramming all of the above into a baguette along with ketchup and brown sauce. Managing to eat one without most of it ending up down your front requires a combination of ingenuity,flexibility and luck that few possess. I’ve never given it a go, but have seen better people than me try and fail.

I’m not a huge fan of fry-ups, but I really missed black pudding while I was away. It is quite spicy, a bit like haggis, and utterly delicious as long as you’re not too squeamish about what it’s made of. This recipe was adapted from one by an Irish chef, Paul Flynn, using things we had around the kitchen. The butter beans were a bit mushed when they came out of the can, so it ended up a bit like a hash, but it tasted great. You could use any kind of beans for this. Morcilla or boudin noir would be good substitutes for black pudding, or any kind of strong sausage. This makes four small tapas type portions.


  • 1x 400g tin of butter beans, drained
  • 100g of black pudding, chopped into smallish cubes
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbs toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tbs sultanas
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon snipped chives
  • Cider, white wine or sherry vinegar, to taste (lemon juice would work too)
  • Olive oil


  • Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat.
  • Saute the onion for 3-4 minutes until softened.
  • Add the garlic for an extra 2 minutes.
  • Toss in the beans, black pudding, and sultanas and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat, toss in the pinenuts and herbs.
  • Dress with a bit of vinegar to sharped according to your taste.
  • Drizzle with a bit more olive oil if you like.
  • Season and serve warm.

Mussels with Fennel Alioli

Mejillones con alioli

I have a special place in my heart for mussels. Mussels were my gateway drug to shellfish. It started at a party. There were people to impress, I had a reputation to maintain. I tried a smoked mussel tentatively, nervously, surprised at how good it felt. After that came scallops. Then I moved on to harder stuff. Regular clams were followed Razor clams. Raw scallop by raw sea urchin. At this stage, there isn’t a mollusc I can say no to.

Mussels are pretty universal in any European country with a coastline. You find them north and south, in warm waters and cold. They are also the most inexpensive of shellfish, at least anywhere I’ve lived. Though not, of course, anywhere near as cheap as Jamie Oliver seems to think. Here in Denmark you can usually get two kilos for about 35 kroner, which is pretty affordable by Danish standards. They come fresh from the Limfjord, an hour north of Aarhus. It’s better known internationally for its oysters, but Limfjord mussels are beautifully blue shelled creatures, very plump and sweet. You can see the incredible blue in my wallpaper photo, which was taken on the edge of the Limfjord.

Mussels with alioli is a Spanish inspired tapa. Mussels are served all over Spain in various tapa styles. This makes enough for 4 as a meal with bread or frites, 8 as a tapa, or a nice big sharing plate for a party.


For the mussels

  • 2kg of mussels
  • 150ml wine
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped, white and light green parts only
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

For the alioli

  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • Approximately 100ml to 150ml of neutral oil like sunflower
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons toasted fennel seeds
  • Salt, pepper,lemon juice and honey, to taste


  • First make the alioli.
  • Toast the fennels seeds in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant.
  • Put the egg yolk, garlic, mustard and vinegar in a large bowl and whisk together.
  • Using an electric whisk, or hand whisk if you’re incredibly strong or masochistic, slowly whisk in the oil teaspoon by teaspoon.
  • Whisk well for 30 seconds to 1 minute before adding next teaspoon.
  • The alioli will slowly emulsify over the course of about five minutes, but you have to be very careful not to add too much oil at once or it won’t work.
  • Once it is nice and thick add the fennel seeds.
  • Season with lemon juice, salt, pepper and (if you like it a bit sweeter) honey to your taste.
  • Clean and check the mussels.
  • Clean by scrubbing under running water.
  • Any open mussels, tap them on the side of the sink.
  • The mussels should close up quickly.
  • If the mussels don’t close up throw them out, they’re dead.
  • Saute the onion and leek in the butter on a low-medium heat in a pan large enough to hold the mussels.
  • After 3-4 minutes, add the garlic.
  • After 5 minutes, add the wine.
  • Turn up the heat, add the mussels and put a lid on the pan.
  • Cook for 3-4 minutes until the mussels are all open (there may be a few that don’t, throw them out, they’re dead too), shaking the pan every minutes or so.
  • Remove the mussels, take off one side of the shell of each and arrange on a plate.
  • Add a half teaspoon of aioli to each mussel.
  • Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Scallops with Salmorejo and Chorizo Crumbs

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This is a quick, easy and elegant scallop dish that would make a perfect dinner party starter. The Salmorejo sauce is the most time consuming part (still only about 10-15 minutes) and should be made the day before and chilled in the fridge to allow the flavours to mix. Salmorejo is a traditional Spanish chilled soup, whose only difference from gazpacho seems to be the omission of onions. Unfortunately, due to the calibre of tomato available in London in early Spring, mine initially turned out a rather sludgy colour as the green pepper was clearly in control of the situation. This was remedied by adding tinned tomato puree, and a small amount of tomato ketchup, which I am fairly sure is a criminal offence in Spain, but which aesthetically did the trick. Mine was made with fresh locally sourced scallops from Rye Bay (which were sold to me with an extensive lecture about the evils of foreign scallops which are apparently pumped full of salt and chemicals to plump them up) so I sliced them horizontally to create two thinner discs, but if you are using pearl scallops, this step can be omitted. This serves 2 as a starter.


  • 3 Large scallops, cut into 6 discs
  • 3 large plum tomatoes
  • 1 green pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon each tomato puree/ketchup (entirely optional)
  • 50g chorizo
  • Toasted pinenuts (optional)
  • Olive oil


  • To make the salmorejo, finely chop the tomatoes, pepper, and garlic.
  • Mix in a large bowl or pot and blend with a stick blender.
  • Add the breadcrumbs, vinegar, paprika and some water and blend further.
  • Strain through a sieve, and if necessary add the tomato puree/ketchup to enhance the colour (I feel bad even writing that).
  • Add some olive oil (1-2 tablespoons) to taste, store in an airtight container and chill overnight.
  • Finely chop the chorizo (after removing the casing) and fry in hot oil, stirring constantly, until quite crispy around 3-5 minutes.
  • Leave to cool slightly, then chop and basically bash into crumbs using a sharp and heavy knife.
  • Use the chorizo oil to pan fry the scallops with seasoning (this should be around 45 seconds on each side, until the edges have turned golden brown but the middle still has a little bit of bounce if pressed down).
  • Serve in a shell or small bowl filled with salmorejo and topped with the chorizo crumbs and toasted pinenuts.

Baked Scallops with Spiced Tomato and Chorizo (Vieras al horno)

I seem to be going through a scallop moment right now. They are very quick to cook, taste very rich but are actually very healthy (low fat, high protein) and they are pretty much the first fish I have figured out that I really like, as opposed to tolerate when deep fried into oblivion. I’m just back from a trip to Venice, where I managed to get some scallop shells from a restaurant (weirdly, they are not that easy to get with scallops unless you have a specialised fishmonger nearby).Due to Ryanair weight limits on luggage, my boyfriend very kindly agreed to bring them over state borders in his shorts pockets, making a rather hilarious clacking noise which led to many disconcerted stares from our fellow passengers (nothing is more uncomfortable in air travel than an unexplained and unidentifiable noise).

This is a very quick and beautiful looking dish. It would make a great dinner party starter as it looks complicated and time consuming, but really is only about 15 minutes of work, and you can pre-prep them and just throw in the oven at the last minute. I am also having a bit of a moment with Rick Stein’s new Spanish cookbook, where I got these from, it has yet to throw me a bad recipe, and they are all relatively easy. I could not source guandillo chilli’s, so I used my old favourite smoked paprika instead. Serves 4 as a starter


  • 8 large scallops
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 70g chorizo, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 roasted red pepper (from a jar is fine), chopped
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • a handful of breadcrumbs
  • olive oil


  • Preheat the oven to 200C.
  • fry the shallots and chorizo on a medium heat in a splash of oil for 8 or so minutes, adding the garlic for the last two.
  • Add the tomatoes, pepper, and paprika, season, and simmer for 3 minutes.
  • Clean the scallops.
  • Spoon the sauce equally between the 8 shells (use ramekins if you can’t find shells).
  • Slice the scallops in half horizontally and place on top of the sauce.
  • lightly season.
  • Top with breadcrumbs tossed in olive oil.
  • Bake for 8-9 minutes (the crumbs should be golden, the scallops a tiny bit coloured at the edges and springy)