On then to Toledo. A walled city surrounded by a rushing river. It looks very magical, and it is easy to imagine the rich history that Toledo has. There is much to see, Toledo is a rare place where historically Christians, Muslims and Jews lived in harmony alongside each other. There are ancient mosques, synagogues and an impressive gothic cathedral too.
Don’t even dare try to order tapas in San Sebastian. There are no tapas there (unless you happen to be in an Andalucian restaurant). In the Basque region and San Sebastian it is all about the pintxos (pronounced pincho). Small bites, served on sticks and piled high on the bars that line the San Sebastian streets. When finished you present the sticks to the bartender, and that is how they calculate your bill. Different sticks denote different prices where there is variation.
A little about San Sebastian first. A small city in the Basque country of 200,000 people straddling a long beautiful bay, San Sebastian is near the French border and is home to three of Spain’s seven 3 michelin star restaurants. It is second only to Kyoto for the number of michelin stars per square metre. This is pretty impressive but there is much more to this city. There are the many pintxo bars, the cider houses and all of the lovely local Txacoli wine. If you have not had it, I suggest you seek some out. It is lightly sparkling, dry and fruity. It is also way too easy to drink, but at 11%, that is ok (up to a point!). The cider in San Sebastian is very tart and dry. Both are poured from a height, which is an art in itself.
The original pintxo is the gilda, created in the 1940s in Bar Casa Vallés in San Sebastian and named for Rita Hayworth in the film Gilda. There was censorship in Spain at the time, and San Sebastian residents would hop across the border to France to watch banned films. The gilda, with olives, guindilla (a green pepper usually pickled in vinegar, and sometimes hot, but not usually) and an anchovy is tall and spicy, which reminded them of Rita. Swit-swoo. There are many different types of pintxos now, often served on bread or in bread, but not always. Men would have them with a drink after work before they went home, and for the locals they are still treated as an appetiser before the meal that follows.
I went on a pintxos tour in San Sebastian’s old town with Iñigo from Go Local San Sebastian on the Saturday lunchtime that I was in town, last weekend. We went to the two best streets for pintxos, 31 de Agosto and Fermín Calbeton. It was a perfect introduction to San Sebastian pintxos culture, the locals were all out enjoying a tipple and pintxos. The streets were buzzing. Iñigo is a passionate and enthusiastic local, and he has terrific knowledge.
Pintxos at A Fuego Negro
We started as we should with the gilda at A Fuego Negro, it was my first one ever but I had many more over the weekend. They have a modern and stylised approach to the pintxo which was a nice contrast to the more traditional bars that followed. I followed this with a fried sea anemone served with tigers milk, which was I think the best way I have had it. They can sometimes be too squidgy for me but the batter was crisp and a perfect contrast to the anemone inside. It was lovely that they were sourced from the harbour too. The tigers milk on the side was great (a Peruvian addition, it is what ceviche is cured in although this was less tart).
Pintxos at Gandarias
Our next stop was Gandarias which greeted us with the traditional heaving pintxos bar. It was very difficult to choose, I tried some solomillo (sirloin) with green peppers, a plate of gorgeous fried porcini (which were in season), and then we had a choice from whatever was on the bar or having one cooked (there were seafood and meat skewers available). There was red peppers stuffed with crab and then deep fried, elvers (tiny eels) with peppers on toast, tortilla sandwiches, lots of jamon, jamon sandwiches, and I had a small open sandwich of red pepper, morcilla (Spanish black pudding) and a fried quails egg and one of bread topped with jamon and three mushrooms drizzled with Idiazabal cheese, a local cheese made in Idiazabal from unpasteurised sheeps milk.
Pintxos at La Cepa
Our final stop was La Cepa, a quirky spot where all of the tables showcase something within. Ours had artwork made of sweets. Again, the bar was laden with pintxos, many many pintxos. We started with a gorgeous platter of jamon, which was glistening as it had been at room temperature for a bit (as jamon always should be, that way to better taste it). There was a beautiful plate of fried fresh guindilla peppers, a few hot as with padron (and in Spain it is also common to eat the green peppers from Gernika). There was dessert and coffees too, but I skipped dessert as I was already full of pintxos.
What a great introduction to San Sebastian!
For more info on Go Local San Sebastian Tours, visit their site. I highly recommend them. This post was brought to you as a result of the #SeeSanSebastian blog trip, created and managed by iambassador in partnership with San Sebastian. I maintain full editorial control of the content published on Eat Like a Girl, as always. All of our lives are too short for any alternative!
Pic: Tapas in Granada, from top left: Jamon Serrano, Queso Manchego, Chorizo in cider, Artichokes with anchovies, Tortilla.
Ah, Andalucia! London seems so grim by comparison. It’s a wonderful part of the world: sunshine, sea, fabulous food, beautiful wine, lots of cheese & lovely people. We went to Granada for 3 nights, then, headed east to Agua Amarga on the coast for a weeks relaxation and a friends wedding. It was a great experience on many fronts, very relaxing, great & very reasonable food and wine, lots to see, cultural things to do, lots of friends about and a great wedding to finish it all off with.
I haven’t had a chance to get into the kitchen yet but I intend to this evening. I have lots of Spanish treats to tuck into: chorizo, morcilla, manchego, luscious olive oil, rioja and more. I did cook quite a bit in Spain though and will leave you with this quick and very tasty bite.
One evening we wanted something quick to snack on with wine. We had a fridge full of goodies, you’d think were there for a month with a family of ten! So, we pulled out a fresh loaf of bread, the jamon iberico, chorizo iberico, a big juicy tomato and a fine wedge of queso manchego. Jamon Iberico is a cured ham made from the black iberian pig (or cerdo negro) and made only in Spain. These pigs feed mainly on acorns in southern Spain. There are different grades of the ham but the best, bellota, comes from pigs that are only fed acorns after an inital few weeks fattening with barley and corn. The meat is flecked with fat and is delicious. Chorizo iberico is also made from iberico pork. It’s very expensive outside of Spain so we made the most of the cheaper prices in Spain. Queso Manchego (manchego cheese) is a sheeps milk cheese from La Mancha. It’s aged for approximately 3 months – the older the better for me, I love it when it gets a crumbly crystalline texture.
Bread with jamon iberico, chorizo, tomato and manchego
(Excuse my photo, my camera broke so this is taken with another one)
This is so simple. It relies on good quality ingredients so be sure to get the best you can.
Ingredients (for 4 people snacking):
Chorizo (Iberico if you can) sliced,
Jamon (Iberico if you can but serrano is also very good), sliced
a big juicy tomato, sliced
a loaf of crusty bread, sliced
Manchego cheese or similar, sliced
a good extra virgin olive oil
It couldn’t be simpler, put a slice of cheese, one of the meats and tomato on the bread and drizzle with generous amounts of a good extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy with a glass of rioja or whatever your tipple is.
I am off to the kitchen now to indulge. I’ll post some recipes over the coming days.
My love of beans, lentils, and all pulses has been expressed many times. They are nutritious, delicious and so flexible, they are a dream for anyone who loves to cook. They can become soups, dips, stews, patties and burgers, the dried beans can be ground into a flour and become pancakes and lots of other wonderful things. Take the humble chickpea, and all its possibilities. Falafel, chickpea burgers, hummus, panelle, socca, before we even consider what we can do with it when it is simply its joyful self.
I wrote about my love for beans in my first book and how I batch cook them and freeze them to be used as and when I need them. Home cooking dried beans may seem like a fiddle, but all it takes is time, no intricacy, and the results are far superior, cheaper too. Beans are the ultimate frugal food, and for this reason maybe they don’t garner as much respect as they deserve. The underdog of the kitchen cupboard, some countries know how good they are and they elevate them. Principally Spain, I adore wandering through markets dotted with sacks of varied pulses, proud and shiny, and I always bring kilos of them home. Italy too, also France, and that is just looking at our nearest neighbours.
This post is published in partnership with Bombay Sapphire, who sponsored this post. It is the second of two posts. In the first, I shared my preview of The Grand Journey from Bombay Sapphire and shared my Saffron and Coriander Crusted Lamb Chops recipe which featured two of the 10 botanicals. Here I share my experience of The Grand Journey itself. Enjoy!
An evening on a train with expertly crafted gin cocktails and food from a Michelin star chef sounds like a pretty perfect evening. Add that this train, the Laverstoke Express (named for the home of the Bombay Sapphire distillery) brings you from Spain to Tuscany to the Moon.
The Grand Journey details were kept firmly under wraps and turned out to be a multi sensory experience in a vintage style train carriage in London’s Banking Hall, led by hugely entertaining hosts serving expertly crafted food and drink featuring the 10 botanicals from Bombay Sapphire. It was a fun and surreal immersive gin filled evening showcasing the 10 botanicals used to flavour Bombay Sapphire in both food and cocktails.
On arrival, we were presented with a G&T in a signature Bombay Sapphire G&T glass with bright blue stem. The train was beside, complete with steam and train noises. The lights were low, and the mood dark, spirits were high. We were beckoned in and took our seats in the low light. I wondered, why so dark? Once we were all seated it was immediately obvious why. Film of the destinations was broadcast on the windows and also on the tables. Koi carp swam around our plates and Moroccan tile patterns danced around one of our drinks.
Eat Like a Girl is 10 today. TEN! Woah, happy birthday to you, little thing!
10 years ago, at about this time, I was sitting at my (very messy) office desk feeling overwhelmed. It was towering with notebooks and papers relating to the science publishing projects that I was working on (I studied science at degree level and then technology for my masters). I worked late, and to relax I cooked when I got home. Many evenings and weekends would be spent exploring food shops from far off lands and bringing home ingredients that I hoped google would help me understand or one of my many cookbooks which I had been hoarding for years.
(there was punctuation, I swear!)
I have always been a cook more than anything, as much as I love to eat out now. I didn’t eat out much when I first moved to London, I didn’t have much money after the bills were paid, but I did cook, and I looked at restaurant menus all the time, taking inspiration from them to my kitchen back home. I was obsessed with travel, and travelled when I could (rarely), taking inspiration from those trips back home to my kitchen also.
I took enormous pleasure dunking lots of bread in my soup when I was a child. In advance of eating it, lots of bread, sometimes killing the soup in the process. I occasionally ended up with a disappointing bowl of flavoured soggy bread. Castilian garlic soup is the perfect soup for people who love to dunk bread in their soup. It is perfectly balanced, the bread has absorbed the flavours and then yielded to everything, this soup is the ultimate bowl of comfort. One of, at any rate.
I first had this soup at Botin in Madrid, Spain. A prelude to my meal of roast suckling pig, which is what I had come to try. Garlic soup though? Lets give that a bash too. What arrived was a bowl of soup rich with bread, stringy egg and a punchy broth. I loved it, and I have had it many times since.
You will find much pleasure in the bars and local restaurants of Galicia. You might have noticed that in other parts of Spain there are many Galician restaurants too, usually opened by migrants from there. Galicia is beautiful but making a living there traditionally has been hard, so many moved abroad to work or to other parts of Spain.
Galician food is deservedly popular from steaming bowls of Caldo Gallego (a wonderful soup with potatoes, greens, chorizo, beans and often a ham broth) to Polpo a la Gallega (tender slow cooked octopus, sliced and served over boiled potato, with smoky paprika), Empanada Gallega (a closed pastry tart, filled with tuna, peppers, tomato, garlic) and for sweet Torta de Santiago (an almond cake traditionally served to pilgrims as they finish their Camino de Santiago). With it all you can have the local Albariño wine, served traditionally from a bowl.
When I think of Galicia, I think of grey skies rushing blue, clouds chasing the rain away fortified by the wind. More rain behind to soak the land again, bringing four seasons in one day. Galicia is not what you expect of Spain. Maybe it is the weather, looking more to the North than the South. I loved the laid back vibe there, and the people. Galicia had been on my bucket list for a while, and it proved to be a lovely place to visit.
I travelled to Barcelona with Jet2CityBreaks who offer great hotel and flight city break packages. Jet2 fly to El Prat Airport in Barcelona which is a short hop from town and very handy for a city break. I wanted to explore Barcelona from all angles, traditional to modern and budget to blowout. Every recommendation is researched in advance and tried and tested by my demanding palate. You will love Barcelona, and all of the wonderful things that you can eat and drink there. First in this series: Barcelona Eating Guide: Traditional to Modern and Budget to Blowout. This is the second (and last).
Now that we know where to eat in Barcelona, let’s focus on where to drink. Barcelona has a terrific bar culture and it is a fun city. You will find plenty to satisfy, old school, contemporary and exciting. You will find a lot of gin. Spain is the biggest gin market in the EU and the third largest in the world (doffs cap to Spain!). They have lots of varieties and pour it freehand and generously in large glasses reminiscent of fish bowls. You must try some Spanish gin when you are there too, one of my favourites is the Nordes gin, fragrant of gentle sea breezes and crashing waves.
I travelled to Barcelona with Jet2CityBreaks who offer great hotel and flight city break packages. Jet2 fly to El Prat Airport in Barcelona which is a short hop from town and very handy for a city break. I wanted to explore Barcelona from all edible angles, traditional to modern and budget to blowout. Every recommendation is researched in advance and tried and tested by my demanding palate. I went on a food tour too. You will love Barcelona, and all of the wonderful things that you can eat there.
Everyone loves Barcelona, even contrarians like me. It seems like everyone has been, and if they haven’t, they want to go. An individual city, so much sets it apart from quirky Gaudi architecture to the beautiful engraved pavement tiles, the most famous of which is the Flor de Barcelona pictured below. Barcelona is a city that loves beauty and attracts artists, a bohemian place that is relaxed and fun and also very stylish. Barcelona has the calm of the sea and beaches as well as a busy city centre lined with restaurants and bars.
I haven’t always love marzipan. In fact, I hated it before I even knew what it was. My first shocking bite was as a child. One morning when I got up to watch my raft of Saturday morning cartoons I spied a gorgeous wrapped hamper of sweets, shaped like fruits and brightly coloured. Shiny even. I took a bite and was horrified. What was that? The shock of my expectations of a sweet meeting a more savoury flavour, something very intense. A flavour that adults like and children don’t, well children like me at least.
Marzipan even came hidden in my treasured Christmas cake. Christmas cake made with tea, which my grandmother made for us every year, and beautiful sweet icing on top. Icing like a gentle snowy landscape, covering a shocking layer of yellow marzipan below. I would nibble the icing off, delicately remove the layer of marzipan putty and cast it aside, before devouring the cake.
Menorca is a small island with a big heart. Not just a big heart but a serious heritage. It is clearly Spanish but all a little different, from the stone house structures that look prehistoric and like the many UNESCO heritage sites scattered throughout the island. These are relatively modern and are used to house animals in farm fields. They add to Menorca’s sense of wildness and natural beauty. There is little modern here to interfere.
La Mancha will surprise you. Inland and south of Madrid, La Mancha is home to fields of bright saffron crocuses (and their gorgeous stamens, aka saffron), windmills atop hills surfing waves of wild rocket, each tender stem reaching for the stars and proud with rocket flowers. There are beautiful rural towns with ancient buildings and theatres. Country squares full of locals dancing, painting, enjoying local festivals. Don Quixote was set here and you can see it everywhere.
Galicia loves seafood. The scallop shell is an emblem of their pilgrim walk, the camino de Santiago. I saw a church covered entirely (and beautifully) in scallop shells and many pilgrims with a scallop shell painted with the camino emblem attached to their backpack or their wooden walking stick.
Razor clams are a favourite, as are clams, more pedestrian (but still fabulous) mussels and gnarly percebes, plucked from the cliffs before the waves crash in by expert brave fishermen. If you have been to Spain you will have noticed the percebes, it is hard to imagine that you can eat them that first time they take you by surprise. Black and pointed, looking like a velociraptor talon, not something tender, saline and delicious. Harvested in Galicia and popular in Spain, they are cooked by plunging them briefly in boiling salted water for just a couple of minutes. Pinching them to remove the outer leathery carcass reveals a delicate addictive interior, juicy and bright.
Menorca in Spring is covered in flowers. Wild joyful ones, carefree and colourful with tall stems and bright petals. So many poppies lining old stone walls, gates made of wild olive wood and bristling against ancient UNESCO world heritage monuments, occasionally a donkey, some cows or some sheep. There are wild orchids too, tiny and discreet. Up to 25 types. I found one hiding on a walk to the seashore.
The Wild Flowers of Menorca
There are over 900 types of wild flowers recorded there. Menorca doesn’t have an Autumn, instead they call it Winter-Spring, in reference to the wild flowers that flourish at that time of year. So, it isn’t inaccurate so to call the honey produced in Menorca thousand flower honey. There are hives dotted throughout the island. Sebastià Pons has 350 dotted along 8 locations on the island. Sebastià is the producer of Miel S’eixam (along with all of those busy bees), a raw honey produced and sold in season.
Visiting Miel S’eixam hives
Down winding Menorcan country roads, through fields rich with flowers and past some curious cows we found some of Sebastià’s hives. It was an overcast day, which was a good thing, as his bees can become agitated in the heat. They are part African bee (he had some genetic analysis done), and they are aggravated by red and black, which were the colours that I was wearing that day. Bad planning but not to worry, I had a full beekeeper outfit, complete with hat, to protect me from any unwarranted bee attention. Although Sebastià was keen to stress that he allows himself to be stung on occasion as he believes it is good for him, citing back pain in particular (and there is scientific evidence that the immune reaction to bee stings can be beneficial for other situations).
I watched the bees fly in and out and could not help but think of those two terms busy bees and mind your own beeswax. I watched them return to their hives with the pollen attached to their legs as tiny perfect cylinders (pollen is bee protein, and is very good for us too). A separate hive had started to form in a nearby bush, which I walked to through wild flowers as tall as me (and that would be 5ft 3!). Sebastià had placed a box nearby for them.
The Benefits of Raw Honey
Raw honey is unpasteurised and so has not been subjected to the heat that can strip honey of its health benefits and breadth of flavour. Local raw honey helps with hay fever too, and it has to be local, as what you are doing when you are eating it, is inoculating yourself with local pollen, and getting your body used to it before the onslaught of the season. It is rich with antioxidants, and minerals like iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and selenium. It is vitamin rich, containing B6, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and niacin. Raw honey also mops up free radicals and there is evidence that shows it enables significant suppression and prevention of cell damage. We focus too much on the fact that it is sweet and confuse it with processed white sugar. Honey has long been a valuable energy resource for us, and a health food.
Miel S’eixam was not yet available (it sells speedily when in season, and the season has yet to start this year), and raw honey is hard to come by at home but it is available if you look for producers in your area. I get excellent local raw honey at my farmers market in Balham, London of varying types depending on the location of the hives. I buy 3 types: forest, lime and borage (the borage is said to be particularly good for hay fever). They have pollen too, which is dried (and this removes a lot of the properties) but with notice they can get me some frozen pollen which is still very good.
If you are lucky enough to be in Menorca during honey season, make sure to get some. And have it with sobrassada as the locals do.
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I travelled to Menorca as part of a project between iAmbassador and Visit Menorca, who sponsored this project. As always, I have complete editorial control.
Well, hello. Ham hock, so neglected, and why? It can be difficult to find now, unless you have a terrific butcher that stocks it. We need to bring it back. It should be in our supermarkets, it should be in our kitchens. Ham hock is so versatile, and incredibly frugal. Less than £5 for 1.5kg or so, even in the fanciest of butchers.
In an ideal world when I cooked my ham hock I would have had a bounty of carrots, celery, onions and bay leaves, but I didn’t. This would have resulted in the perfect ham stock, but the stock that I got at the end was so intensely hammy, it was wonderful anyway. It has formed the base of most of my cooking for the last few days. And I still have enough left for another bowl of something. Something good!
This soup is a fond look back at my Irish roots where bacon and cabbage are the informal national dish. I love beans, and had in my fridge some gorgeous judion de la granja, plump creamy butter beans from Spain, cooked from scratch as is always best, and not as much a drama as most people seem to think it is. You can use whatever white beans you can get your hands on, and whatever your favourite is.
The first time I made this, I used a lot of cream, and it was drop dead gorgeous and steeped in luxury. I would encourage you to do the same occasionally. The second time I made it, I tamed it, quietened it down, and let the broth and ham shine through. I finished it with chives once, and mint another time. Mint is my favourite, it sings clearer and brighter, but chives will do too.
I plan to get another hock or two in the coming days. I have plans for pies, croquettes, more soup, and lots of joy.
Note on the recipe: this assumes that you have boiled a ham hock. If you haven’t, you can substitute a good broth of your choice, chicken or vegetable if you don’t have ham or pork. And use any ham or bacon that you have to hand. But do try and source a ham hock for next time. They are gorgeous.
Other soup recipes on Eat Like a Girl:
From Bangkok: Prawn Tom Yum Kung (a vibrant and delicious Thai soup)
Recipe: Ham Hock, Butter Bean and Cabbage Soup
makes 2 bowls of soup
150g ham hock, pulled apart gently (from a whole ham hock, if possible, see method below)
100g cabbage (of your choice, kale and sprout tops work well too)
400ml ham stock
1 onion, cut in half and sliced finely
1 bay leaf
250g butter beans (cooked from scratch ideally, but this will equate to one drained tin too)
100ml cream (heavy cream or single cream, depending on where you are!)
optional: 1 tsp Korean gochujaru (red pepper powder) or chilli of your choice for some heat and flavour
2 tbsp fresh chopped chives or torn mint
a knob of butter and a tsp of light oil
If you have a ham hock, and that is where you are starting, cook it in a big pot of water – no salt – and skim any scum that comes to the top off. Then, if you have them, bay leaves, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and peppercorns for the perfect super ham stock. Boil for 2 hours, then remove the ham hock from the broth, and remove the ham from the bone (it should just fall off). Strain the stock, you will have a lot more than you need, but it will freeze well, or you could just keep it in the fridge and use it all week as I did. You will have leftover ham too, this recipe is for a small portion, double or treble as required.
Melt the butter and add the oil over a medium heat. Add the sliced onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softening.
Add the ham, beans, cabbage, bay leaf and stock and bring to the boil. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the cream and stir through. Turn off the heat.
Serve immediately finished with the herb of your choice.
We all avoid tourist spots when we travel, mainly because they are mostly dreadful. But some cities are serious about food, and even their tourist places can be excellent. Like Madrid.
It is unfair to label Botín a tourist spot though. True, it is mainly tourists that eat there now. Lots of writers have feasted on suckling pig over the years here too, including Graham Greene & Hemingway. Goya was a waiter there. Hemingway is quoted as saying “We lunched upstairs at Botin’s. It is one of the best restaurants in the world. We had roast young suckling pig and drank rioja alta. Brett did not eat much. She never ate much. I ate a very big meal and drank three bottles of rioja alta.”
I always liked Hemingway.
Botín has been open since 1725, and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest restaurant in the world. Suckling pig is roasted here in the wood fired oven (which dates from 1725 also) in the Castillian way.
The restaurant is quaint and gorgeous, all dark wood and bright tiles. The counter as you enter is low, with scarlet red drawers. You can eat in the cellar (I did), on the ground floor or on the bright first floor. As you walk in, you are invited to look at the oven, and the shelves of small suckling pigs alongside. It is a remarkable sight, and is the perfect amuse for your dinner.
I had heard much of the garlic and egg soup, and on the menu it is capitalised. So, yes, I ordered that. A terracotta bowl of bread and bacon soup spiked with garlic was presented to me, with a perfect fried egg on top, complete with runny yolk. A meal in itself, but I was hungry. I had a glass of house wine, just one, which was alright, but I would suggest you get a bottle of something better if not dining alone. Or rock like Hemingway and have three bottles of rioja alta. Next time, I will try.
After the soup, I saw a platter of suckling pig whisked to a table at the front of the restaurant, where my waiter plated it with small perfect roast potatoes on the side, all carefully drizzled with roasting juices. I had a leg, split down the centre, revealing gorgeous tender flesh inside. A sheet of crisp light crackling lay on top, and it was all so gorgeous, porky, rich and moist. I ate it all, and I ate it swiftly. Joy with every bite.
I skipped dessert, and so my bill came to €38 or so, but there is a deal to have the soup, pig, ice cream, half a bottle of house wine and half a bottle of water for €45. I loved it and would highly recommend a visit. Embrace your inner tourist and treat yourself to some gorgeous suckling pig in the oldest restaurant in the world when you next visit Madrid.
Botín, Calle Cuchilleros, 17, 28005 Madrid, Spain
+34 913 66 42 17
Related Madrid posts on Eat Like a Girl:
Head to Menorca and fill your boots with cheese, wine, sobrasada & GIN! A gorgeous, chilled out and very under rated island, Menorca was one of my favourite places to visit this year. Here is your guide for the best of the artisan products. There are also links here to my Menorca Eating & Drinking Guide and the best Sunday lunch on the island (lobster soup, as you are asking!).
Menorcans claim mayonnaise. The French don’t agree, but Menorcans say that mayonnaise originated in Mahón and was taken to France where it was popularised after the French victory over the British in Menorca in 1756. The sauce was salsa mayonesa in Spanish, later becoming mayonnaise when the French embraced it. Who could blame each side for declaring they are responsible for the origin? I adore the gorgeous emulsion of egg yolk and oil. A bold claim from a small island like Menorca and an insight to their proud culinary heritage.
Menorca is still steeped in salsa mayonesa, which they make fresh and serve with many dishes. There is also Mahón cheese (a cows milk cheese which has a PDO, which means the origin and method of production are protected), Menorcan sobrasada (wonderful spreadable gently spiced pork sausage), Menorcan gin and a growing wine industry. Menorca is small enough to whizz around and experience all of it in a couple of days.
From November to March it is possible to do a tour of Binifadet with a wine tasting, and a tasting of their other products including jams and goats cheese marinaded in red wine. 9 wines are made here, I recommend the sparkling white which is 100% chardonnay and the white merluzo (a white wine made from merlot). The setting is beautiful and there is a restaurant there too, although I haven’t had time to eat there yet, I would try and fit in a meal on the terrace.
Raw cows milk is used to make the Mahón cheese at S’Arangí, each cheese is rubbed in olive oil and paprika, which gives it its distinct rust rind. Goats cheese is made here too, and terrific sobrasada. All of which are available to buy to take home. They can vac pack it for you too. A must.
Hort de Sant Patrici
Cheese and wine are on offer at this family run and it is possible to do a tour and tasting. Mahón cheese is made in the traditional manner (from cows milk), and three wines also (a rosé made from Syrah and 2 reds). There is a lovely family run hotel on site too (Ca Na Xini), in a blissful rural location.
A bakery that sells all of the Menorcan traditional delicacies, swing by here to try as much as possible, and don’t the ensaimada, particularly the sobrasada one. Take one home too, beautifully gift packaged.
Made from wine spirit, juniper and selected aromatics, gin was initially made in Menorca to satisfy the appetites of British soldiers and sailors stationed in Menorca in the 18th century. Gin has since become part of the cultural fabric of Menorca. Xoriguer is a family owned gin producer that distils gin in copper stills on the coast in Mahón. Traitionally, Menorcan men would start the day with a thimbleful of gin, called a ginlet. For aperitif it is popular to have a pomada, a drink made with local Xoriguer gin and cloudy lemonade. You can get this gin everywhere there, but a trip to the distillery and a tour is well worth it.
Related Menorca posts from Eat Like a Girl:
Where to Eat, Drink & Stay in Menorca
A Perfect Sunday Lunch: Caldereta de Langosta in Menorca at Es Cranc (Traditional Lobster Soup + a Recipe)
Related Menorca posts from the web:
I travelled to Menorca as part of a project between iAmbassador and Visit Menorca, who sponsored this project. As always, I’m free to write what I like and I do! Life is short etc. :)
My trip to San Sebastian wasn’t all about pintxos and restaurants, although it was all about eating. I spent Sunday afternoon cooking with Tenedor Tours, and learning all about Basque food that I could cook at home.
We met in the lively old town of San Sebastian in a gorgeous apartment dedicated to Gabriella’s cooking classes. There was a long room with an open kitchen at one end, and a table set up for us to eat at after. The light was beautiful, crisp and Autumnal, and Gabriella was waiting, brandishing a bottle of Txacoli and a warm welcome.
Gabriella has been running tours in Spain since 1997. In San Sebastian she works with chefs from the Basque Culinary Center (where she also teaches), and puts together sociable fun Basque cooking workshops followed by a meal where you devour your efforts. Our chef was Íñigo Zeberio (Princess Bride fans, there are a lot of Íñigos in San Sebastian, and you may find that phrase – My name is Íñigo etc. – circling around your head repeatedly). A San Sebastian native, Íñigo brought us through seven recipes, all very hands on with lots of tips and tricks shared too.
We started with a clever recipe for vermut stuffed olives where the vermut (Spanish vermut, not vermouth) was stuffed with a very simple vermut gel made with vermut and xanthan gum. Vermut is a terrific drink if you haven’t come across it yet, it is gorgeous with soda and orange bitters (I brought both back with me). Then we moved on to that pintxo classic, the Gilda, which requires a little bit of skill to put it together, all very well described with a hands on demo, the details are in the recipe below too.
After the gilda, we made a homemade mayonnaise which became part of a gorgeous rich salsa rosa, which in turn went into stuffed peppers. Urchin prawns (I immediately thought hedgehog when I saw them!) were prawns coated in crisp dried pasta and fried, served with basil mayonnaise as a dip. Pork secreto (yes: pork secret), is a fabulous cut from the pata negra pig shoulder. Dense, rich and so luxurious, we had this with a fruity piperrada, a pepper sauce which we made too. Íñigo also fitted in a gorgeous scrambled egg with fresh boletus (porcini).
Gabriella is on hand at all times with stories and plenty of Txacoli and Vermut. It was such a fun afternoon and now I can have a little taste of San Sebastian at home too.
More on San Sebastian: Where to Eat Pintxos in San Sebastian (Donostia), in Spain.
Gabriella runs many different types of tours, you can find out more on her website Tenedor Tours. With thanks to Gabriella for sharing her lovely recipes.
A classic pintxo, perhaps the first with a name of its own. Green, salty, and a bit spicy, it’s the taste of the Basque coast on a stick.
12 guindilla peppers
4 good salt-cured anchovies Maldon salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 long toothpicks
Line up the peppers and cut off the stems. Put three peppers on each toothpick, followed by one end of the anchovy.
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.
Bring everything back to its rightful and pointy end, and poke the pick through the last remaining bit of anchovy.
Add the olive to the end, drizzle it generously with good olive oil, and crush a pinch of flaky sea salt over the top.
With one bold move, eat the gilda in a single bite, followed by a sip of txakoli.
8 prawns (or 12 prawns…or 16, perhaps)
Might as well go ahead and make it 20 prawns, to be safe. All-purpose flour
An egg from a happy hen
1cm pieces of angel hair pasta
Salt and pepper
Neutral vegetable oil
Mayonnaise + your choice of fresh herbs (try cilantro or basil!)
Arrange your breading station: a plate with flour, a bowl with a beaten egg, and another plate with the noodles. Set a couple of centimeters of oil to gently heat up while you work on your production line.
Clean the prawns, leaving the tail and last joint, and remove the gut with a toothpick.
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.
Gently flour, egg, and noodle the prawns, making sure the noodles are really stuck on there, and arrange them on an empty plate.
Heat the oil until a piece of the pasta sizzles on impact, reduce the heat a little and fry the prawns until golden.
Drain the excess oil on paper and let them cool for a minute while you make the dipping sauce.
Chop and add the herbs and spices of your choice to the mayonnaise.
Dip, crunch, enjoy.
This post was brought to you as a result of the #SeeSanSebastian blog trip, created and managed by iambassador in partnership with San Sebastian. I maintain full editorial control of the content published on Eat Like a Girl, as always. All of our lives are too short for any alternative!