Spanish Themed Birthday Dinner

boquerones (anchovies marinated in vinegar)
I cook only once or twice a year. This year the first time was last month when I treated my friends for my birthday celebration. For dinner I decided on a Spanish theme to reminisce on all the wonderful tapas and Spanish food I ate on my recent trip to Spain.

One of our favorite discoveries in Spain was the boquerones or anchovies marinated in vinegar. I did so much research trying to find out what anchovies were in Filipino. With Rochelle’s help and her marketing skills she found these big dilis in the market and that’s what I used.

This could be served plain as pictured above but I sprinkled some crunchy chili garlic on top for more flavor. My friends loved this. I had to refill the plate twice.
boquerones (anchovies marinated in vinegar)-001
boquerones (anchovies marinated in vinegar)

In Spain I noticed a lot of tapas were made with small pieces of bread with different toppings. I bought baguette from Lartizan in Santi’s deli and toasted them until crisp and spread three citrus marmalade and thin slices of Manchego cheese (also from Santi’s). Fig jam would also taste good.
bread topped with 3 citrus marmalade & manchego cheese
bread topped with three citrus marmalade & manchego cheese

I encountered this yummy combination of chocolate and chorizo at Beso Cucina Vinoteka and replicated it using Crumpy chocolate spread (or Nutella) and the Joselito Bellota Iberico chorizo I bought in Spain.
bread topped with chocolate spread & chorizo
bread topped with chocolate spread & chorizo

I’ve had some really bad croquetas in Manila and Spain and I was determined to make mine better. I must say based on my friends’ reaction and consumption I succeeded. Recipe to follow.
croquetas de pollo (chicken croquetas)
croquetas de pollo y chorizo (chicken & chorizo croquettes)

My cook actually made this. Just sauté garlic in olive oil, add shrimp, red pepper flakes, pimenton or paprika, splash of white wine and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Easy peasy.
gambas al ajilo
gambas al ajilo

What’s a Spanish dinner without sangria?

Caprese salad is an Italian dish and Rochelle’s favorite discovery in Rome so she made this simple salad made with mozzarella cheese, sliced tomatoes, basil leaves, pine nuts and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. So simple but delicious.
caprese salad
caprese salad

Instead of cochinillo I served my new favorite Chinese roasted duck from Annapolis Seafood Palace. Yes it’s not Spanish but who cares?
roasted duck
roasted duck

I bought a whole slab of frozen beef belly or short plate from Unimart and tried my hand at roasting it using El Cirkulo’s recipe. It turned out pretty good!!!
slow roasted beef belly
slow roasted beef belly

I served horseradish and mustard with the steak. No gravy needed. I also brought out a bottle of Whisk onion balsamic marmalade and my friends just loved the sweet, tangy onions with the steak. It’s a match made in food heaven. 
Whisk onion marmalade
photo from Whisk’s Facebook page

I don’t have luck making paella and I did try making squid ink paella one week before. It didn’t pass my taste test so I looked for a squid ink risotto recipe and it turned out wonderful. It almost tasted as good as my favorite paella in Barcelona. Recipe to follow.
squid ink risotto
squid ink risotto

I saw these ridiculously simple dessert wontons on Donna Hay’s show and it was just super delicious.
Chocolate and Cinnamon Wontons
Chocolate and Cinnamon Wontons

The cheese plate below contained manchego cheese in olive oil (in bowl) from Terry’s, fig bar from Montserrat, apricots, dates, nuts and my latest discovery cassava lace cookies from Cassava Creme.
cheese, nuts, fig bar, apricots, dates, cassava lace cookies

A pack of 20 super thin cookies cost only P100 and it’s sooooo good. Crisp, buttery and with a texture similar to oatmeal but using cassava. Really ingenious.
Cassava Lace cookies
Cassava Lace cookies

I also served cheese, langka and macapuno cassava tarts also from Cassava Creme.
Cassava Creme

I was given one of my favorite cakes from Becky’s Kitchen.
Becky's Kitchen prune cake
Becky’s Kitchen prune cake

Debbie gave me a box of mini cakes from Shangri-La Makati’s Sinfully Circles bakeshop. I didn’t even know they had such good French cakes.
cakes from Sinfully Circles, Shangri-La Makati
cakes from Sinfully by Shangri-La Makati at Greenbelt 5

My favorite was the green tea opera cake.
green tea opera cake
green tea opera cake

I was so excited to hang a flag I found in my luggage from Europe since I thought it was a flag of Spain. It was only Pat who asked, “isn’t that a flag of Italy?” And since no one believe her I didn’t take it down. Silly me.
my victims, este, friends

Only Debbie loved my fat dachshund, Coffee.
Debbie & Coffee
Debbie & Coffee

Almost all the food I served was prepared one to two days in advance. Only the steak was roasted on the same day. Even the risotto was half cooked the day before and I just finished it when my guests were ready for the main course.

Here are some of the recipes. Others will be posted tomorrow.
boquerones (anchovies marinated in vinegar)-001
1 kilo fresh anchovies or dilis
White wine vinegar
Extra Virgin olive oil
Garlic, smashed
Salt (optional)

1. Remove head and tail of the fish. Discard innards and bones and rinse well.
2. Pat fish fillet with paper towel to remove extra moisture.
3. Place a layer of anchovy fillets in a shallow dish. Sprinkle with salt and pour white wine vinegar over fish until well covered. Add smashed garlic on top of the fish. You can put as little or as much as you want.
4. Soak in vinegar overnight in the refrigerator.
5. Pour off vinegar and rinse fish fillets gently in water.
6. Arrange fish fillets on a serving platter and pour extra virgin olive oil on top and serve. Top with crunchy garlic if desired.

A bottle (750 mL) of red wine (I used Franzia wine in a box 😀 )
1 to 2 cans Sprite or 7up
1 shot (1 1/2 oz) brandy (optional)
1 lemon
1 orange
1 apple
1 lime (optional)
1/3 cup sugar, to taste
1 pitcher or larger drink container

1. Squeeze juice from orange and lemon into your pitcher then slice the fruit and toss it in the pitcher for more flavor depth.
2. Cut apple into small cubes and add to the pitcher. Add Sprite and brandy. Pour in the red wine. Add sugar to taste. Mix well. Refrigerate 24 to 48 hours before serving.

slow roasted beef belly
Slow Roasted Beef Belly (El Cirkulo)
1 pc. boneless beef belly or short plate, about 3-4 kg,
1/2 cup whole peppercorns, crushed
1/2 cup rock salt
2 heads of garlic, peeled and minced

1. Preheat oven to 280 degrees F.
2. Combine crushed peppercorns, salt and garlic into a paste. Rub on top of beef.
3. Place beef on a rack and onto a roasting pan. Place in oven. Cook at 280F for 4 to 5 hours or until tender.

IMPORTANT: oven temperature must be this low in order to break down the connective tissues of the beef resulting in a melt in your mouth succulent roast beef.

spice mix for roast beef
Leslie’s note: I used Kirkland’s Mediterranean sea salt & freshly ground tellicherry peppercorn for the spice mixture. I also added dried rosemary and fresh thyme to the mixture.

Chocolate and Cinnamon Wontons -001
Chocolate and Cinnamon Wontons (Donna Hay)
16 wonton wrappers
2 tbsp butter, melted
16 small squares dark chocolate
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp fine sugar

Chocolate and Cinnamon Wontons  copy
Lindt dark chocolate (inverted)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Brush the edges of the wonton wrappers with a little butter and place a chocolate square on one half of each wrapper. Fold over the wrappers to enclose and press to seal.

2. Place on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Brush wontons with butter and sprinkle with combined cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 8 minutes, or until golden brown.

I only release my inner Martha once a year since it’s a lot of work planning my menu, shopping for ingredients and cooking. But this year I think it was worth it since everything turned out well. I enjoyed eating the leftovers the next day even more. Happy birthday to me!

Sinfully by Makati Shangri-La
2nd Level, Greenbelt 5, Greenbelt
Paseo de Roxas cor. Legaspi St., Ayala Center
Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines
telephone: (+63 2) 729-6626

Cassava Creme Royale
277 P. Guevarra Street, San.Juan City
8 Examiner St. West Triangle, Q.C.
telephone: 571-8677, 421-7353, 921-7197

14 thoughts on “Spanish Themed Birthday Dinner

  1. Leslie, for someone who cooked once a year you can whip up a very nice meal for everyone. It better than eating in restaurant. Your dog have very cute puppy dog eyes.


  2. All I can say is wow! I cook more often than you (within a year), but I don’t think I can whip up all these dishes. Great job, and belated happy birthday! 🙂


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