Our tour through Spain continues with the discovery of historically rich North-Eastern region that confines with France: Catalonia.
Catalonia’s origins go back to the Middle Ages, when Barcelona and other counties were considered Frankish feuds. It was only with the marriage of the Count of Barcelona, Ramon Barenguer IV, with the Queen Petronilla of Aragon that the Kingdom of Aragon was finally created and slowly got back its counties from France, which happened only in 1258. It was around this time that the term Catalunya began to be used, from castle’, the person who ruled the castle (or castellan).
Catalan cuisine, a Mediterranean cuisine, uses fresh ingredients and embraces both pork, poultry, lamb and, particularly on the coast, fish.
Sauces and condiments are also typical of Catalonia: picada is only one of the many mayonnaise-based, characteristic sauces that you will find in this region.
Among all the unbelievably fresh and flavory dishes that the Catalan cuisine offers, the pick of the week fell on Coques, plural for Coca. And no, it’s not a surrogate, Spanish version of Coca Cola! But if you have a little knowledge of English ethnology you might have guessed that the word sounds almost like “cake”. Coca is in fact a pastry made with either sweet dough (with eggs and sugar added), or savory dough(with yeast and salt) an decorated with nuts, fruit, meat, cheese and vegetables. Coques can also be closed, which means they have a filling, or open, in this case meaning with a pastry base and topping. And it’s not over yet! Coques might even have a hole and look like donuts, or they can be eaten without toppings just to accompany a meal. Finally, Coca is a typical dish for festivities like Christmas and Easter, and the common Coca de Recapte is typically consumed during picnics (recapte means “picnic”).
12 gm fresh yeast or 2 tsp dried yeast
½ tsp caster sugar
50 ml extra-virgin olive oil
500 gm (3 1/3 cups) plain flour
80 ml (1/3 cup) olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 fresh bay leaves
1 each large red and green capsicum (350gm each), seeds and membrane removed, very thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tbsp coarse polenta
250 gm zucchini (about 3), very thinly sliced
300 gm cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Combine yeast in a bowl with 330ml lukewarm water and stir until yeast dissolves. Add sugar, 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil and ½ tsp fine sea salt and whisk together. Cover and stand in a warm place until foamy (25-30 minutes). Add flour and stir to combine, then place in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and knead on low speed until soft and smooth (10-12 minutes). Rest for 5 minutes, then knead again until smooth and elastic (4-5 minutes). Cover and stand in a warm place until risen (25-30 minutes).
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and bay leaves, sauté until slightly golden (4-5 minutes). Add capsicum and garlic, then cover and cook, stirring regularly until capsicum is tender (15-20 minutes). Remove from heat, set aside.
Preheat oven to 220C. Divide dough into six equal portions, then roll out on a lightly floured surface into 30cm tongue-like shapes. Sprinkle three well-oiled baking trays with polenta, place dough pieces on top, cover and stand in a warm place until slightly risen (12-15 minutes).
Toss zucchini in a bowl with a little salt and remaining extra-virgin olive oil. Brush pizza bases lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt flakes and divide onion and capsicum mixture among the bases, leaving a 1cm border. Scatter tomato, zucchini and parsley over the top, drizzle with a little more oil and season to taste. Bake until bases are golden and crisp (10-12 minutes) and serve immediately.
Recipe taken from MoVida Ristica: Spanish Traditionas and Recipes by Frank Camorra and Richard Cornish