H and I attended the Ray McVinnie Italian cooking night (more on that later) at Sabato yesterday. I was thrilled to pick up quite a few cooking tips and I think H was just thrilled about the tasting.
We stocked up on our usuals – cheese (which shall remain brandless for now since I am not the one who eats them), Valrhona cocoa, Sabato salsa verde and a cheeky bottle of marinated garlic. On top of that we gave in to Ray McVinnie’s recommendation for Ines Rosales Sweet Olive Oil Tortas. When THE Anna Wintour of NZ food tells you something is divine, there is no way you could not try it.
I am not well versed in Spanish food. In fact my one Spanish culinary moment came when, by a stroke of genius, I added preserved lemons in a chicken casserole and served it with capers and olives. It was not until last night that I realised one is only meant to eat the skin of preserved lemons and not the flash… Don’t laugh. I went to law school not cooking school.
These tortas hail all the way from a little village near Serville. Recalling over a century of proud history, they are handmade by generations of Ines Rosales locals specially trained in the craft of tortas for six months. Elephant ears they are sometimes called. The Sabato lady recounted how amazing it was that at a flick of the wrist each women were able to shape rounds of torta doughs into flat discs of crisps. Because of the specific motion, these tortas are only made by women with delicate wrists. The final stage of the process is to wrap individual tortas into sheets of translucent wax paper, giving them an authentic and inviting feel. The only machinery involvement is at the final stage of sealing plastic wrappers for six tortas. Six pieces of heaven.
We went for the original flavour: olive oil, anise and sesame seeds.
This morning I jumped out of bed, eager beaver as ever. There was an extra spring in my steps. Today is the day I try out the tortas. Today is the day I fashion myself to be some kind of connoisseur in fine food and pretend to be in the same league as Mr McVinnie. I rubbed my hands together, titillated to play the role of the snob.
With a steamy hot cup of coffee in hand, I opened the packet of tortas. Peering inside, I could see a couple of oil stains had made the wax wrapping paper all the more translucent. Oil stained wax paper always make me think of traditional markets in Taiwan mum used to take me to when I was a kid. I remember being given Taiwanese flat pancakes wrapped in wax paper for me to nibble on while mum shopped. There is a reason why I was a fat child. Mmmm… nostalgia… my good friend.
Peeling back the wax paper, I was greeted with a flat sheet of sugar sprinkled crisp bread. The delicate smell of anise drifted by. Straight away I felt myself salivating. Looking around to make sure I was alone (I don’t know why I do that, but whenever I am about to eat something much anticipated I always make sure I am alone, maybe because deep down I don’t want to share), I snapped off a tiny corner, sniffed at it, licked it, nibbled on it (trick I picked up from Soufflé) and finally popped the rest in my mouth only to hear the crunch crunch of my choppers and feel the angels singing in my head. The anise and sugar struck a perfect balance of sweet but not too sweet, spicy but not too spicy. The sesame made the taste robust and distinguished the tortas from mere sugary treats for children.
I do not know what happened next but when I came to, the sheet of torta was gone and I was left with a full mug of coffee, untouched.