Artist and designer Mirthe Blusse and I go way back. Last year, we worked together on a series of travel journals for the German newspaper Die Zeit. She drew beautiful black and white pictures of several iconic buildings in Europe. She then moved from Amsterdam to Barcelona, where she works as an artist in residence. She happens to be a creative cook as well! “For me cooking is a way to create and relax. We are all gourmands in my family and my parents passed on their love for good food and encouraged me to cook. However, they never wanted to spend hours and hours in the kitchen. The infamous cookbook ‘Darling, you shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble’ was a favorite in our home. It is full of recipes that look impressive, but are extremely easy to prepare. I promise you that the following two recipes are along those lines. I’m not very good at precisely following recipes myself, so please feel free to be creative.”
SALAD WITH SPINACH, RASPBERRIES & GOAT CHEESE
“One of the great things of living in Barcelona is that people don’t plan their lives too far ahead. Mañana is already a long way from now. So often you are invited for a dinner or picknick on the very same day. Usually everyone brings something along and since the Spanish tend to focus more on alcohol, meat or empanadas (and alcohol again), this easy-does-it-salad has proven to be quite an unexpected success. It was passed on to me by a Catalan friend.” This salad can be made with raspberries and soft goat cheese, but is also good with walnuts and coarsely grated Parmesan cheese.
8.8 oz/250 g fresh spinach
2.6 oz/75 g mixed seeds & nuts (pine nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds)
7 oz/200 g fresh raspberries
4.5 oz/125 g soft goat cheese
For the dressing:
6 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp balsamico vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard (I like Maille)
1 tbsp honey
1. For the dressing, mix all ingredients in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Wash the spinach thoroughly and put in a large bowl. Toast the seeds in a dry frying pan until golden.
3. Mix the dressing with the spinach. Garnish the salad with raspberries and goat cheese.
PASTA CON SEPIA Y ALMEJAS
“I love fresh fish and could eat it every day. Here in Barcelona it is very easily available. Apart from local fish stores, many supermarkets have an indoor fish shop with all sorts of exotic sea creatures staring at you gloomingly from huge piles of ice. Usually, I cannot resist and often enough I take home a net of shells as well.”
Pasta – serves 4
Action Time: 20 minutes + 30-60 minutes ‘purging’
2 lb/1 kg small shells (clams)
4-6 small sepia (squid), cleaned by your fish monger, cut in rings
4 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small red chili pepper, chopped (seeds removed if you want it less spicy)
8.5 fl.oz/250 ml white wine
1 bunch of flatleaf parsley
14 oz/400 g spaghetti or penne
1 lemon, in wedges
Extra: aluminium foil
1. Put the shells in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Add some salt to the water and let the shells sit for about 30-60 minutes (this is called ‘purging’). Drain the shells and scrub them under cold running water to remove any grit. Don’t use chipped shells or shells that do not shut after a tap against the counter.
2. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sepia rings, cook them really short (they’re not supposed to overcook), remove from the skillets and keep warm under aluminium foil. In a large pot, bring a large amount of water to a boil.
3. Heat a little oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and chili pepper and cook for 30 seconds. Add the white wine, let the alcohol evaporate and add the parsley and shells. Stir-fry everything until all shells are open. Throw away shells that didn’t open. Mix the sepia with the shells and keep warm.
4. Cook the pasta al dente, according to the instructions on the package. Drain the pasta and mix in the shells and sepia. Divide over 4 plates and garnish with a lemon wedge. Eat immediately.