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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review: Going Loco at Casa Iberica

Casa Iberica on Urbanspoon
I recently stumbled upon Casa Iberica Deli in Fitzroy. Well not really stumbled but rather one of my foodie colleagues told me of them.  Located in the South American speciality area of Johnston Street, it is a haven for all things Latino. Literally minutes by tram from my office, it makes for an inspiring lunch break with a little bit of a pantry stock up in between. This mini supermarket boasts a huge range of goods from the South American continent and a few other contributors.  For four decades Casa Iberica Deli has been bringing the Latino tastes to homes in Melbourne. Much to my demise I have never discovered them before.  Shame on me!
In stock, you will find a variety of dried goods, like beans, pulses and Mexican chillies.  On this visit I picked up a bag of dried Habanero to add that extra kick and irreplaceable flavour to my dishes - I recall that Crazy Wing in Russell Street used these quite liberally in their chicken wings.  Still on the chilli tip is the Arbol variety which is known to add heat to dishes - ideas of crushed chilli over steaming pastas flow to mind, and in the same aisle I grabbed a bunch of Pasilla or Chile Negro which are flavour bombs for stews and salsas - recipe ideas flow on through.  
There are also small bags of spices that can be purchased - and I think this is the best way to buy spices (in small amounts) large amounts tend to lose their flavour when stored for prolonged periods.  Between $2 and $5 a bag, there's always an excuse to pick up some Cinnamon quills, Cayenne Pepper and don't go past the Paprika - sweet and smoky? or hot and smoky?
I have been meaning to make up a batch of authentic paella, and with the Casa Iberica house paella rice at $7 a kilo, I am on my way to cooking it up (Watch this space for the recipe blog) If you want to get even more authentic then pick up some imported Bomba or Calasparro which is a tad bit more but worth it.
As you approach the delicatessen the aromas of cured meats, cheeses and pickled condiments are just tantalising.  You cannot pass up the opportunity to put some chorizo and jamon ham on your menu.  The most helpful attendant was happy to assist with any questions on the goods on offer and even gave me a taste of the different manchego cheese to help me decide which one to get.  Manchego is a specialty sheep's milk cheese originating in the La Mancha region of Spain. With a nice sharp bite to it, i am convinced this is going to end up on a crusty piece of bread with a little Spanish Olive Oil drizzled.
Hot Sauce is and ingredient/condiment that I most favour and resistance was useless to the quaint bottle of Habenero sauce - with three choices in colour : Red, Green or Brown (with a tagline of XXXtra Hot) - which one do you suppose I get?  Hmmmm.....no competition - load me up with that XXX bad boy! I remember on a recent visit to Cruzao Arepa Bar I had a similar tasting hot sauce that was added to their fresh chilli paste - I will be giving that a go at home now that's for sure.  
I did mention that I was there on my lunch break so what to do for lunch.  I needed a quick fix as I had spent most of my time browsing and needed something i could eat on the tram on the way back to work.  Casa Iberica does not disappoint here , as it has ready-made pastries behind the glass counter ready for your gourmet consumption.  Here you will find Empanada's with different fillings and also the famous Portuguese Tarts - at 3 for $5.00 my advice is...indulge away.  
I ate my beef empanada on the tram on the way back and did not hesitate to splash some hot sauce on it. Onlookers might have thought I was some sort of mad man who couldn't wait to get home to open his hot sauce - I say, I am simply Loco for Casa Iberica.  Well worth a foodie visit.
Oh...and I was also able to pick up a bottle of Peri Peri Chillies that have been the key ingredient in my Chilli Chicken Portuguese Style dish - so expect a plate of this to be cooked up soon.  Another most intriguing ingredient that I found was Cuttlefish Ink (Squid Ink) - I have seen a black risotto with calamari dish some time back on the food channel, and this has given me the inspiration to create my very own Black & White Risotto (Stay tuned!!!!) 

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