In Search of Cecina

A week or so ago, we were browsing through a friend’s Spanish recipe book. [Barrafina, since you ask.] As I flicked through, on almost every other page I found myself thinking, “oh, that looks worth trying”. This is an unusually high hit rate for any cookery book where I am concerned. We borrowed said book and I noted a few recipes to try during our current cool spell.

The first recipe I thought I‘d try featured Merluza [Hake] served on a bed of peas and broad beans, sweated with onion, then simmered in chicken stock before being minted. The Spanish are inordinately fond of Hake and I’m beginning to understand why; it may be a member of the generally rather dull Cod family but it actually has flavour and a very delicate, soft flesh. The Spanish are also very fond of their habas [broad beans], so this had “Spain” written all over it.

Only when I began assembling my ingredients did I realize that this vegetable mixture was coincidentally very similar to a fish accompaniment that I developed myself, also featuring peas with broad beans and mint, though I add diced cucumber with baby courgettes and use spring onions, instead. I don’t use stock but just sweat the veggies in butter. Very similar, though.

I had trouble with one ingredient, which was really just a garnish on top of the Hake. I’d never heard of it before: cecina, which is pronounced th-e-theen-a and not ch-e-cheen-a, as I did mentally. I think the trouble was that it had been described as cured beef, somewhat like the Italian Bresaola, so I’d mentally turned it into an Italian ingredient. Anyway, I scoured the shops looking for some cecina.

In Spain, there are more packs of thinly sliced meat products than than you can shake an Iberico black-hoofed pig at. There are countless jamons of one quality or another,almost as many sausage derivatives including, of course, Chorizo but also salami-like concoctions, and many more besides. During all my shop scourings, what I couldn’t see was a word resembling cecina on any packet. Not to be deterred, I grabbed some jamon as a substitute and proceeded. How bad could it be? [It wasn’t at all bad and the hake was excellent.]

Seleccion CuradosYesterday we were out at a friend’s birthday bash in a restaurant so we knew we’d want only something light in the evening. I grabbed some olive and anchovy banderillas, a selection of smoked fish, some cheese and a packet of thinly shaved ham-like meat. The packaging was less than informative but the contents looked different and interesting. I can’t show you, it’s all gone. 😀

Cecina de VacaAnyway the meat was a packet too far last night but we’ve just enjoyed it for today’s lunch. It seemed vaguely smoked but I suspect it was simply cured. After we’d scoffed it all, we turned over the container and there on the reverse …

So why couldn’t they write that important stuff, what the packet actually contained, on the front, pray tell?

I’ll know next time, though I’ll do the minted veggies my way if I do it again. 😉

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Posted in 2017-2018 Winter

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