Bringing The Basque Country To Your Home: A Pintxos Cooking Class

"How do you make mayonnaise?", asked Íñigo, our chef for the evening.

I racked my brain. The last time I read the ingredients of a mayonnaise jar was when I was very hungover and bored at some point in 2007.

"Eggs", I said proudly, showing the pathetic limit of my mayonnaise ingredient knowledge. Trying his best not to be patronising, Íñigo told me eggs were indeed one ingredient, and vegetable oil is the other. That's pretty much it.

Chatting to chef Íñigo in the kitchen of our pintxos cooking class in San Sebastian - Tenedor Tours
Chatting with Chef Íñigo

This was the start of my Basque Country cooking lesson, courtesy of Tenedor Tours. After gorging my way around Bilbao, eating pintxo after pinxo, I moved on to the gastronomic capital of Europe - San Sebastian.

I spent the final evening of my trip learning how to make different elements of pintxo dishes, including my favourite Gilda pinxto. Our chef for the evening was local, proud Basque Country man Íñigo Zeberia. Backed up by the team at Tenedor Tours, we had a great evening, learning more about how to make Basque Country foods, and pairing them with different drinks.



After wandering through the old town streets of San Sebastian, we headed through an old wooden door and up the stairs to a lovely little apartment, run and owned by Gabriella Ranelli, head of Tenedor Tours.

The chefs kitchen - San Sebastian cooking class - Basque Country


With a glass of fresh Txakoli wine in my hand and a kiss on both cheeks, we got underway, with chef Íñigo saying we were going to learn how to make the Gilda pinxto (all recipes at the bottom of this post!).

Chef Íñigo from Tenedor Tours - San Sebastian - Basque Country


The Gilda is the classic pintxo - green, salty, and a bit spicy, it’s the taste of the Basque coast on a stick. It's also meant to have aphrodisiac qualities...

With a bit of fiddling with an anchovy fillet, spicy green guindilla peppers and an olive, we made (and gleefully devoured) our Gilda pinxo.

Gilda pintxo - San Sebastian cooking class - Basque Country
My Gilda pintxo!

Next up, we learnt how to make mayonnaise! This, bizarrely, got me very excited. I'm still not quite sure why.

Simply crack the egg into a blender, add a little salt, pepper and vinegar (and maybe a shredded clove of garlic if you fancy garlic mayonnaise), then begin to blend. Slowly and gradually add the vegetable oil until it has the consistency of mayonnaise, then season to taste.

HOW SIMPLE IS THAT? A jar of mayonnaise in Tesco costs well over a £1, and I just made a bucket load for less than a £1. I was won over. Although I confess I still haven't made any at home.

After a top up of Txakoli and a swig of Vermut, we added some of the mayonnaise to create a rich salsa rosa. This was then mixed with egg and tuna and stuffed (skilfully!) into skinned and pickled piquillo peppers. Yum!

Vermut with orange bitters and soda water - San Sebastian cooking class - Basque Country
Vermut, served on a silver mirrored tray
The final dish we made was 'urchin' prawns, the party trick of the cooking class.

Chef Íñigo with an urchin prawn - Tenedor tours cooking class - San Sebastian

All set to make the delicious urchin prawns - Tenedor tours cooking class - San Sebastian

Covering the prawns in angel hair pasta - Tenedor tours cooking class - San Sebastian

Dipped in egg wash, then flour, we put the king prawns to 'bed' with small strands of angel hair pasta. The prawns were then deep fried for a few seconds, then fished from the fryer and placed next to some basil mayonnaise, from the bowl we made earlier. Then it was dipping time! Don't they look great?

Deep fried spiky urchin prawns - Tenedor tours cooking class - San Sebastian, Basque Country

Then came the best part. Whilst we were enjoying making the pintxo dishes, Íñigo was also slow cooking a few dishes in the background. Dishes that would allow us to sit down at the table, enjoy some local Rioja and share stories.

First up was Pork 'secreto' (translated as secret pork), a tasty cut from the pata negra pigs shoulder. Cooked to perfection, this was served with a rich, fruity piperrada sauce.

Then it was time for a Basque Country cheese board. As some of you know I am a sucker for a good cheese board, so let me run through what we had.

First up, we Idiazabal cheese from a producer called Garoa. Idiazabal is the most traditional cheese in the Basque Country.  The other pale coloured cheese was called Espil, and is made in the north of the Basque Country with Pyrenean goats milk. And last but not least, the cheese that blew away my taste buds was a particularly tasty Basque raw sheep milk blue cheese called Urdiña. The cheese is made locally in San Sebastian by Ramon Lizarraga.


This trip was in conjunction with Basque Country tourism. Many thanks to Gabriella and the team at Tenedor Tours for a fantastic experience!

Simon and Joey at the Tenedor Tours cooking class, San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain


RECIPES


GILDA PINTXOS

Ingredients:

  • 4 olives 
  • 12 guindilla peppers 
  • 4 good salt-cured anchovies 
  • Maldon salt 
  • Extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 4 long toothpicks

Method:

1. Line up the peppers and cut off the stems. Put three peppers on each toothpick, followed by one end of the anchovy.
2. Deftly slide the three peppers and lone anchovy to the other end of the skewer, and wrap the anchovy around the peppers, bundling them all up.
3. Bring everything back to its rightful and pointy end, and poke the pick through the last remaining bit of anchovy.
4. Add the olive to the end, drizzle it generously with good olive oil, and crush a pinch of flaky sea salt over the top.
5. With one bold move, eat the gilda pintxo in a single bite, followed by a sip of txakoli wine :)


MAYONNAISE

Ingredients:
  • 1 egg from a happy hen
  • A splash of vinegar
  • A cup of vegetable oil
  • A pinch of salt

Method:

1. Crack open the egg and let it fall with a "plop" to the bottom of the mixing container. Add a little splash of vinegar or lemon juice (chef's choice!), and place the head of the blender at the bottom of the container.
2. Turn the blender on, and, keeping it at the bottom of the container, mix up the egg and vinegar.
3. Without stopping the blender, slowly add the oil in a thin stream. Make sure to keep the mixer at the bottom of the container.
4. Once about half the oil has been added, the mixture should have a thicker texture. Add the rest of the oil a bit faster and move the mixer all around the container, mixing and emulsifying every last drop of oil.
5. Season with salt to taste. Add your favorite herbs or spices.


SALSA ROSA COCKTAIL SAUCE

Ingredients (makes around a cup):
  • Half a cup of mayonnaise 
  • Tablespoon of ketchup 
  • Teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce 
  • Teaspoon of Patxaran liqueur or cognac 
  • A few drops of Tabasco sauce
Simply mix together.


STUFFED PEPPERS

Ingredients (serves 4 - 6):

  • Best-quality tinned bonito (tuna fish)
  • 1 finely minced spring onion 
  • 1 hardboiled egg 
  • Several generous spoonfuls of freshly-made salsa rosa 
  • Piquillo peppers 
  • Toasted baguette slices 
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for shine

Method:

1. Drain the bonito and break it apart with your fingers
2. Shred the hardboiled egg on top, add in the minced spring onion, and mix everything together.
3. Add several generous, heaping spoonfuls of salsa rosa.
4. Grind a bit of black pepper, should that be to your liking.
5. Carefully stuff each pepper, but don't overfill!
6. Place each stuffed pepper on a toasted baguette slice, brush with a bit of olive oil, and enjoy


URCHIN PRAWNS

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 8 King rawns 
  • All-purpose flour 
  • An egg from a happy hen 
  • 1cm pieces of angel hair pasta 
  • Salt and pepper 
  • Vegetable oil 
  • Mayonnaise + your choice of fresh herbs (try cilantro or basil!)
  • Deep frying implement

Method:

1. Arrange your breading station: a plate with flour, a bowl with a beaten egg, and another plate with the noodles.
2. Set a couple of centimeters of oil to gently heat up while you work on your production line.
3. Clean the prawns, leaving the tail and last joint, and remove the gut with a toothpick which runs down the spine of the prawns.
4. Salt and pepper a clean plate. Yes, salt and pepper the plate. Arrange the prawns on the plate, and salt and pepper them from above. Both sides are now seasoned, no turning over required.
5. Gently dip the prawns into the flour, then the egg, and finally lay the prawns onto the pasta noodles, making sure the noodles are really stuck on them, and arrange them on an empty plate.
6. Bring the oil up to medium-hot and deep fry the prawns until golden (less than 1 minute)
7. Drain the excess oil on paper and let them cool for a minute while you make the dipping sauce.
8. Chop and add the herbs and spices of your choice to the mayonnaise

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