I can still remember my first Spanish lesson at high school; it was about 9 years ago now and was a taster lesson for those of us who thought they might want to study it for GCSE. In the space of an hour I learnt how to order ice cream, coca-cola, lemonade and beer (everything a 14 year old needs to get by on a holiday) and fell in love with the language then and there. I carried on studying Spanish through to my A levels before deciding to drop it in favour of studying science at university.
My love for the Spanish language and culture didn’t stop though and I’ve since been lucky enough to work in central Spain on two different occasions. One thing that I remember vividly about these trips (as well as the life experience of course…) and that will always draw me back to Spain is, of course, the food. Spaniards have a way with ingredients that, no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get right here in England. Be it juicy sun-ripened tomatoes, smoky chorizo or freshly caught plump prawns they always get the flavour combinations right and serve the most simple foods in a manner that tastes absolutely delicious and always keeps you wanting more.
Two weeks ago I had my family holiday to the Spanish province of Catalonia – a day and a half in Barcelona followed by a week in the little sea side town of Llafranc. A very picture-heavy post from me today, I wanted to share my idea of food heaven with you and give you a little insight into the nibbles I treated myself to whilst (attempting to) work on my bronzed Mediterranean goddess look – I hope you enjoy it 🙂
Barcelona & La Boqueria
Once I found out we’d be visiting Barcelona (all be it for just over 24 hours) I did my usual Google search to find out what there is to do there in such a short space of time. It didn’t take me long to find ‘La Boqueria’ and mark it down as my must-visit when in the city (after a trip to Camp Nou for the boyfriends birthday present).
There was literally every kind of stall you can imagine and this fresh food market; fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, chocolates, nuts chillies, sweets and ice creams along with the necessary lunch stalls for the many tourists that were heaving throughout the market. The prices of things on offer from most of these stalls were so low I couldn’t help but buy something from every other one I stopped at; watermelon for €1, fresh strawberry juice for €2 and a freshly baked empanada for €2.50, you name it and I can bet that I tried it. I even came home with a big jar of lemon fragranced salt – perfect with fish incase you’re wondering – that cost me a grand total of only €3! I can’t say that Spain’s second largest captured me enough to want to visit again, but I’d be persuaded to say yes to going back if I was promised a trip here again.
A few of my top tips for any of you visiting (that can’t fit me in your suitcase):
1) Take lots of loose change when you visit, for every stall that doesn’t take your fancy, there’s two that will, so go prepared to buy yourself a few treats from these without having to worry about breaking into a note or getting shortchanged.
2) Watch your valuables: This might sound patronising but if you’re anything like I was, you will forget where you are and forget about your phone/wallet/iPod in your back pocket. Just move anything of value to somewhere out of sight and easy reach – there’s a reason Barcelona is one of the worlds worst city for pickpockets!
3) Take a camera: You might not get to visit again, so take lots of pictures for kitchen inspiration (and rainy day motivation) and enjoy all the sounds and smells that are wafting from the many traditional tapas stalls.
La Costa Brava
Once we left Barcelona our real do-nothing-except-lounge-on-the-beach-all-day holiday began. We went back to an area we’ve stayed in on and off for the last 8 years in a cosy little villa that meant we were able to indulge ourselves in restaurant-bought dinners when we felt like we’d earned a treat that day and cook up our own Spanish feasts on the days we hadn’t quite done enough to justify giving ourselves a night off of washing up!
Our usual breakfast and my favourite way to start a day away from home – freshly baked pastries and bread, fresh fruit and of course the holiday staple that is nutella.
Our lunches mostly consisted of a salad tossed together with whatever bits and pieces were in the fridge, fresh bread from the local bakery, sliced cheeses, cold meats, local tomatoes and lots of tinned fish (muscles in escabeche were most popular – if you haven’t tried them already you need to do so immediately – go on, run to your supermarket and pick up a tin now, I’ll wait for you)!
No trip to a Spanish seaside town is complete without a serving of paella, and this one didn’t disappoint. A traditional ‘Paella Marinara’ – it came crammed full of squid, muscles, prawns and clams and tasted every bit as good as I hoped.
One thing I came to love during my stay in Madrid 2 years ago was gazpacho: the perfect lunch time treat to quench your thirst and hunger and give you a break from the almost unbearable heat – it may look like a humble tomato soup but the flavour you get from the garlic really packs a punch and I could eat (or would it be drink) this stuff by the galleon on a sunny day.
I tried the local speciality dish of fideuà, a paella style dish made with short strands of spaghetti-style pasta/noodles with fried squid running through it. Served with aioli (similar to garlic mayonnaise) on the side, it was delicious and I’m really glad I tried it, I just wish it had contained more seafood!
To finish, a typical Crema Catalana, a dish very similar to a Creme Brûlée – I polished the lot off and then helped my sister finish hers too!
I already wish I was back there wasting away days in the Mediterranean sun, a glass of sangria in one hand, a scoop of ice cream in the other; until next year España! What’s your favourite holiday nibble?