A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about food

Amongst Peppers and Prawns.

sunny 20 °C

Sitting sneakily to the side of the madness that is the renowned and infamous Ramblas, amongst all its lunacy, beauty, chaos and history is La Boquería market, one of the most popular sights of the city and one that is surely on the to-do list of every first-timer in Barcelona. Dodging and hopping, as if attempting a tribal dance, around the hoards that forever hover outside, we eventually arrive at the entrance, and are greeted by sweet and salted dangling hams in all their shapes and forms, proudly posing for endless snap-happy tourists. They looks delicious – the hams that is – and we are instantly tempted by a tapa and a tipple. But we should wait however, as there is so much more inside!

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Like Willie Wonka’s factory, La Boquería is a gastronomic explosion of colours, flavours and aromas, which accompanied by an orchestral clamour and an overdose of people is a roller-coaster ride of a market. Glisteningly sticky sweets and sugar-encrusted treats fill the air with a rich bouquet which blends with exotic fragrances of herbs and spices from realms far and wide. Soon after, magnificent, brilliant fruits enter the playing field, flamboyantly displaying their vibrant shades in a shower of pomp and glory. And above, robust red chilli peppers and shining tomatoes hang from stall tops in true Mediterranean style.

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The maze continues and we are presented with alluring arrangements of exquisite breads and fresh patisserie delights not forgetting endless, potent and dizzying cheeses. We stop and start, are knocked and nudged and no doubt ourselves provoke an irritation or two. But on we press through this culinary bedlam and soon stumble to the fish section – and what an abundant exhibition there is to! Mammoth prawns and twitching crabs, slithery squids and sharp pointy teeth either tempt or terrorise all who pass by, ensuring epic paellas or fishy nightmares. And speaking of nightmares we are of course in La Boquería presented with vast meat selections too – chicken and pig heads included.

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This whirlwind of a marketplace is truly a love it or hate it kind of thing. Some visitors are blown away by the incredible standard and extraordinary range of products on sale, and are amazed by the vibrant colours and infinite sights and sounds produced by this theatre of cuisine. Whilst others, are simple overwhelmed and annoyed by the chaotic number of people squeezed up and down the aisles. Either way, it’s a real experience and surely one not to be missed!

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Posted by lauracerys 13:23 Archived in Spain Tagged food barcelona market spain la_boqueria las_ramblas Comments (0)

What Bibs, Plastic Gloves and Spring Onions Have in Common

sunny 16 °C

I’m perched on a wobbly chair swigging from a cup of woody, red wine, eagerly anticipating what is to come. February has arrived and the Calçotada season is in full swing across Catalonia. I don’t really understand what I’m doing here, or what’s about to appear in front of me, but I’m resoundingly assured that it is something which is not to be missed, that it is a true celebration of Catalan cuisine. I glance around me, inquisitively taking in my surroundings. I’m at what appears to be some kind of farm/factory. Outside there are barrels filled with calçots, giant spring onions and a local delicacy, queuing up ready to be tossed onto a giant charcoal-smothered barbecue. Smoke and flavour billows through the air and weather beaten men stand around with pitch forks and shovels, prodding the prized veg and attending to their every need. Around me, are long tables filled with families and friends clamorously chattering, debating, gossiping, their cups and plates permanently brimming with whatever the waiter bestows upon them. I ponder whether the scene being acted out before me is indeed the definition of rustic?

Before long I’m presented with a giant bib and a pair of plastic gloves. I’m perplexed. I thought we were going out for a traditional Catalan meal? But I’m fervently advised that these items are not some kind of bizarre fashion statement, but a vital tool if I’m to avoid a disastrous outcome to the day. I process the information, but confusion still leads the way. Suddenly, the feast begins. Mountains of pa amb tomàquet, the famous local tomatoey bread, are brought to the table along with piles of robust, steaming artichokes. I mirror those around me and decorate my helping with a dash of salt and oil, not forgetting a dollop of hearty romesco sauce – the epitome of Catalan accompaniments. The starters are fantastic, abounding in simple, delicious homemade flavours, and naturally I help myself to seconds.

Soon the moment arrives to don my bib and gloves and I sense, that it’s show-time. There in my protective gear I feel like a surgeon about to start work on a patient. I look around at my friends – we all look ridiculous. Before long heaped silver platters piled high with calçots are noisily and ungracefully brought over by the waiters and plonked down in front of us. Suddenly it all makes sense. Suddenly I understand the need to dress up as some overgrown plastic baby – the calçots are filthy! Smeared in blacker than black charcoal from their barbecue expedition, they indeed could do some serious damage if they were to come into contact with my clothes. I begin to worry that they could even stain my face! And I inquire as to how you even go about attempting to eat a calçot? I’m told to watch and learn.

I copy the Calçotada veterans around me who are professionally and smoothly stripping the sodden outside layer of their chosen calçot away. Then, as if it were a perfectly normal way to eat, they raise their arm and dangle said spring onion from above, then nibble away from bottom to top. “You can’t be serious!” I utter. “What’s the point in that? Why can’t I just use a knife and fork?”. I receive bellowing laughter in response. I don’t get it. So, I try it their way. Impossible. I nearly poke myself in the eye with my calçot, and escape with a mere cheek splatter – which now means it’s smeared in charcoal. Seriously, how can the others chomp away so effortlessly? Maybe it’s just me being an idiot? By now my friends are on their second. I give up, and utilize my plate and cutlery. Gasps of horror and jests are thrown my way, but I’ll be the cleanest at the end of the day.

I have to admit, I wasn’t so sure about this whole barbecued spring onion business, and had severe doubts as to their tastiness. But, I am pleasantly surprised – they really are delicious! And along with the endlessly flowing cava they are going down a treat! Soon the waiters bring over trays of butifarra sausages, sizzling lamb chops, mounds of chips, and forests of salad, not forgetting the typical mongeta beans. There is literally no room on the table or my plate for any more food. But on it goes finding spaces wherever it can. The feast is overwhelming – a quintessentially rustic, country banquet, and I’m loving every minute of it! But I am so, so full that by now I feel like the Michelin man, as though I’m going to have to be rolled home, and when I’m offered desert and coffee I give a dazed shake of my head. It has been a fantastic and unforgettable experience, really giving me an insight into true Catalan culture. But if I eat anything else, I really am going to burst. So I bid thee farewell Calçotada, and shall see you again next year!

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Posted by lauracerys 07:03 Archived in Spain Tagged food spain catalonia rustic calçots cava Comments (0)

The Great British Christmas Dinner!

Surely, one of the very best things about Britain.

rain 5 °C

The suspense mounts for weeks for those of us living abroad. As soon as the tree goes up, dreams of a glistening roast embellished with perfectly rolled up pigs in blankets take over. M&S inspired images of tumbling roast potatoes, smooth, slow-trickling gravy and swirly-steamy veg play out in our minds, tantalising our tastebuds for days on end. And before we know it, the momentous occasion arrives.

Christmas morning, and the rich aroma of slow roasting meat fills the house, providing a warming, wintry ambience and provoking a steel band of rumbles in our stomachs. We hover around the oven, hoping to catch a glimpse or a waft of what will be the flavoursome festive centrepiece. At some point your mother starts to panic about whether there’s enough veg, but you look around you in disbelief and confirm to her that the ten different varieties themselves would suffice for a Christmas dinner, let alone the turkey, the beef and the p’s & g’s that go with them!

Soon the table fills up with delicious, piping hot mounds which together make up the colourful collage that is, Christmas dinner. Bright, cheery carrots mingle with bouncy, vivid green sprouts, and the wise, old broccoli stands apart, thinking himself king of the veg. Potatoes and parsnips harmonise, a choir of crispy, roasted goodness, whilst mash lays in a bowl by the side like a fluffy, creamy cloud. Peas chitter-chatter, rolling around like fools, and stuffing holds tight, fearing the crash of the impending spoon. And finally, swede sits bored, yawning in the corner, occasionally conversing with the lethargic Yorkshire puddings. Then, suddenly, the over door is flung open, and the prized showpieces carefully lifted, emerging from the steam like superstars.

Next comes an important moment for any man during the festive season – the carving of the meat. Dad carefully finds the perfect angle and gracefully slices away to produce succulent, rounded pieces of turkey and beef. Picture perfect, and you just can’t resist, so you steal a little slice – just to test it, of course! And then the grand, long anticipated moment arrives, and you all sit down and finally get stuck in. Brilliant! And surely, one of the very best things about Britain!

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Posted by lauracerys 09:35 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged food christmas dinner uk britain Comments (0)

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