Saturday, 18 October 2014

Adventures In Food: Spain

{pintxos and tapas}
If France is foodie heaven, I don't know how to describe Spain! The food scene is INCREDIBLE! So many of the best chefs in the world are Spanish and for a reason! There is so much traditional food for vegetarians to enjoy but also a fresh and new approach to lots of dishes. We ate in several very cool places that weren't fancy or expensive but had exciting food (especially in Madrid). But in Basque region, pintxos (small bites) are everything. In San Sebastian's Old Quarter, you walk into a bar with plates covering the bar, they hand you a plate and you choose what you want. Options include croquettes, patatas bravas (potatoes with some sort of sauce), tortillas, various riffs on hongos revueltos (scrambled mushrooms), and lets not forget hundreds of variations of blue/goats cheese with jam/honey and nuts! And that's just the vegetarian options! Oh my goodness if you like trying lots of different things, this is for you. You must order a txakoli (type of wine) with your plate. When you've picked over the bar, go next door to the next place and repeat all over again!
This way of ordering tapas is popular in Barcelona and Madrid as well. Sometimes you order from a menu rather than from sight. The quality often varies, it definitely depends on the establishment. In Granada and in one very special bar in Madrid, tapas come free with your drink! The chickpea salad (above right) was one of these, there was a small menu of tapas to choose from when I bought my drink. Often having individual serves (like of gazpacho, above left, or black rice risotto with goats curd and semi dried tomatoes, bottom right) means it will be of better quality. I also loved eating generous rounds of goats cheese baked with jam or honey (bottom left), if you don't eat goats cheese before your trip to Spain you will after!

Sometimes tapas were so big they were almost a meal! Left is a beautiful radicchio, blue cheese, apple and walnut salad that would be great party finger food! Also eggplant baked with blue cheese, lovely fresh buffalo mozzarella caprese salad, more goats cheese baked with fig compote, and roasted new potatoes with aioli mousse. It doesn't cost a lot to eat like this!
Note the ever present sangria or wine and olives!
A famous Spanish dish, this one from the San Miguel market in Madrid was perfect with a crispy bottom and plenty of saffron.
In case I haven't convinced you enough of Spain as a food destination, a day hike around Granada proved that the locals love to grow their own. We walked past acres of (seemingly) wild thyme and rosemary, ate blackberries and grapes dangling over the side of the road, figs and peaches warm from the sun and even had almonds straight off the tree with our teeth as the nutcracker! They were so delicious! I now firmly believe everyone should eat a fresh almond once in their life... which means you should go to Spain!

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