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What to Eat in Madrid & Where to Eat It

Madrid is a serious food city. It is also a city that parties hard and keeps extremely late hours. I went to bed early each night over the weekend that I was there, at 3am. Woah, Madrid! Madrileños eat as they drink, and that eating is a serious business. Their expectations are high, and so they should be, quality abounds, and once you steer clear of the tourist joints, you will eat well.

This list is based on my last trip there, a week ago. It is well researched and sampled, but not exhaustive. Madrid is brilliant and exciting in that it has an enviable list of great places to eat. Which is why I plan to go back there as soon as I can manage it. For this trip, I asked the locals, as only people who live there can have the full breadth of experience required to pick a sample for a weekend.

Conspicuously absent on this list until my return is Callos Madrileños (Madrid style tripe), Cocido Madrileño (a heavy chickpea based stew) and DiverXO (Madrid’s exciting 3* restaurant). The first two seemed more wintry, so I decided to save them for a trip in a colder time, and DiverX0 needs very early booking and a day dedicated to it.

Eat Cochinillo (Suckling Pig) at Los Galayos & Santceloni

I enquired of a local, where should I eat suckling pig in Madrid? He replied, well of course I don’t eat it in Madrid, I head to the small villages in the Sierras where it is the best. I despaired a little, I didn’t have time to go to the Sierras. But, where should I eat it in Madrid? OK: Los Galayos is best, and that is where the locals go, was what he disclosed. There is also Botín, the oldest restaurant in the world (according to the Guinness Book of Records) and where Hemmingway is said to have eaten two suckling pigs with two bottles of rioja in one seating. It is supposed to be excellent, but it is firmly on the tourist map, so I chose the local alternative, which was just around the corner. The suckling pig (less than one month old) was tender and sublime, with a thin crisp crackling surfing a rich glorious fat. A large portion, it was very well priced at €21.75. At the other end of the scale, the suckling pig loin at two michelin starred Santceloni is steeper at €53, but it is excellently executed. It is served as racks of ribs and loin which are roasted to the point where the flesh is moist and luscious and there is a perfect crisp skin.

Eat Anything (Everything?) at StreetXo

StreetXo, the street food offering from DiverXO’s 3 star chef David Muñoz in El Corte Inglés, is one of the most exciting restaurants that I have eaten at this year. Creative and inspired, each dish was sharp, elegant and full of flavour. There is one u shaped counter around the open kitchen, with some stools. I chose to stand. I stood there for 3 hours, and ate as much as I could. No dish disappointed and there was lots of surprises.

David happened to be there on the night that I visited, and he said that the menu changes all the time, so while I can’t say for sure that these dishes will be on when you visit, try anything, and if the peking dumpling with pigs ear or the butter fish are on, dive in. I ate too much and had a few glasses of wine, and my bill was still less than €50. It opens at 8.30, and I arrived 5 minutes later. All the seats were gone, but I got a space at the counter. Anyone who arrived after had to wait, so do get there early. (Note: StreetXO relocates from El Corte Inglés to a bigger premises in Madrid in November).

Eat Churros & Porras with Coffee or Chocolate

I am sure you are all familiar with churros but when in Madrid you must also have the local version, porras. Porras translates as truncheon, and reflects the larger size, which is even better for absorbing what you dip it into. It is common in Spain to dip churros in hot thick chocolate, but in Madrid, locals prefer to dip it in coffee, which became my perfect regular breakfast while I was there. Seek out a Fabrica de Churros & Patatas Fritas, most neighbourhoods have them, and it is where locals go to buy fresh patatas fritas (crisps!), churros and porras. Chocolatería San Ginés, one of Madrid’s oldest cafés, is very popular with tourists but is still very good, and locals love it too. Go there to have them with chocolate.

Go to Madrid’s Markets

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The pointlessness of my list and some photos from Seville

I bet they are working on a list

I have a list. Really, I do and I try to stick to it. But I just hate sticking to lists. I love grabbing my biro and adding to it. It is stupidly long.

Everything is in the wrong order, but who cares, right? I don’t. Perhaps, I should. But caring about lists is just not my bag, baby. I love clambering up and down my list, reviewing, striking things off because I am bored of just the idea of it. I find it difficult sometimes to get things done. I do always get there in the end though.

I definitely indulge my whims far too much.

I have been cooking all day and have so many recipes to share with you. My favourite would have to be big green olives from Spain stuffed with homemade ricotta, sobrasada (spreadable spicy sausage from Mallorca) and sage, breadcrumbed and then deep fried to form little olive bullets.

The filling is like spicy creamy molten lava. It will shock, burn and make you smile. And you will go for another one. With sobrasada running down your chin, you will dip your hand back in and risk another shot.

Oh and I made candied bacon apples too. Yes, I did, I really did. They are awesome.

Lots more too but, you know, I just fancy sharing some of my photos from Seville with you right now. My list is on the verge of a tantrum. I will deal with it tomorrow.

Patience, readers, that olive recipe will be with you very soon. For now, enjoy a little immersion in Sevilla.

E Morales in Sevilla, Spain

E Morales in Sevilla, Spain

Tuna Belly! On toast. At E Morales in Sevilla, Spain

Tuna Belly! On toast. At E Morales in Sevilla, Spain

Amazing anhovies. On toast. At E Morales in Sevilla, Spain

Amazing anhovies. On toast. At E Morales in Sevilla, Spain

Not a looker but a fantastic spiced chickpea and spinach dish. At E Morales in Sevilla, Spain

Not a looker but a fantastic spiced chickpea and spinach dish. At E Morales in Sevilla, Spain

Casablanca tapas bar, Sevilla, Spain

Casablanca tapas bar, Sevilla, Spain

Migas at Casablanca tapas bar, Sevilla, Spain

Migas at Casablanca tapas bar, Sevilla, Spain

Amazingly delicious tiny fried fish with egg and other tasty bits at Casablanca tapas bar, Sevilla, Spain

Amazingly delicious tiny fried fish with egg and other tasty bits at Casablanca tapas bar, Sevilla, Spain

iberico pork at Casablanca tapas bar, Sevilla, Spain

iberico pork at Casablanca tapas bar, Sevilla, Spain

Happy campers at Casablanca tapas bar, Sevilla, Spain

Happy campers at Casablanca tapas bar, Sevilla, Spain

Wonderful flamenco dancers in Sevilla, Spain

Wonderful flamenco dancers in Sevilla, Spain

Wonderful flamenco dancers in Sevilla, Spain

Wonderful flamenco dancers in Sevilla, Spain

Wonderful flamenco dancers in Sevilla, Spain

Churros! In Sevilla, Spain

Churros! In Sevilla, Spain

Little love locks, in Sevilla, Spain

Little love locks, in Sevilla, Spain

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Jamon, Jamon! The World of Jamon Iberico de Bellota

I have a cultural and genetic obligation to love the humble pig. Traditionally all Irish houses had one, hiding behind the half door, and it would feed a family for much of the year. Bacon and cabbage is a national institution, we’re obsessed with white and black pudding, and the Christmas ham is wheeled out all through the year. My mother was raised on pigs head and trotters (we call them crubeens – little feet in Irish), but we never had them as children. They would be raised as a threat if we wouldn’t eat our mash and peas. Now as an adult, I adore them.

Jamon Iberico de Bellota - curing

Spain takes the humble ham to a different level with their Jamon Iberico, specifically Jamon Iberico de Bellota. The pata negra (pigs with black feet) love acorns and live in an area where there are many. They are like small shuffling acorn junkies. They are allowed a lot of space to move, and to forage for and snaffle acorns so they get a lovely dispersal of intramuscular fat. This fat delivers intense flavour and a lovely melt in the mouth texture (the fat starts to melt at 20 deg C).

Sierra de Sevilla Pata Negra Farm

The farm I visited – part of Sierra de Sevilla – had 300 pigs on 900 hectares – that’s 3 hectares each. They cruise around munching, eating so much that they put on up to 40kg in their last 3 months.

One of the curing rooms at Sierra de Sevilla

Fat? Well, we shouldn’t be afraid of fat anyway, our bodies need it, even if many diet book wielding folks would tell us otherwise.  Especially good fats, and my friends, the fat in Jamon Iberico de Bellota is good. With high percentages of oleic acid (also found abundant in olive oil), due to the acorn munching obsessive nature of the pig, this fat is thought to help to reduce bad cholesterol and raise levels of the good one. It’s that healthy Mediteranean diet again, isn’t it?

Ham cutter at the tasting room at Sierra de Sevilla

I now have an addiction, I already did. Add that to my current truffle problem and I fear I may need to get a part time job to support it.

Details: I experienced the Jamon Day as a guest of Hospes Hotels, a lovely boutique hotel in central Seville. A day trip with driver and car for up to 4 people to the Sierra de Sevilla farm, jamon factory with jamon carving session and tasting costs €520 all incl. 

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A Postcard from Seville

Seville is charming and very pretty, and even though I am back, I had to post some photographs. This is just a selection of the ones I have gone through so far so it’s not comprehensive. I took so many, and it takes a long time to go through them all.

More soon on my visit to the pata negra farm (black pig) and jamon iberico de bellota factory. Swoon, I miss that jamon. So delicious. Also, my favourite tapas which were at El Rinconcillio, Cafe Bar Las Teresas & E Morales (listed now as a few of you have been in touch asking for recommendations :).

Cathedral gardens in Seville

Old & New Seville

Snails at the market

Breadhead (couldn't resist - I was started by this - funny!)

Pretty sunset in Seville

Entrance to the Alcazar

Tapas at E Morales, Seville

Lovely man, and lovely tapas at Las Teresas, Seville

Pata Negra Farm

Pata Negra!

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Postcard from Barcelona, Day 2

I woke up reasonably grumpy today, mainly very tired, and plan free. I don’t like to plan too heavily when I travel, as I like a little free range explore and the freedom to be lazy, frankly. As I left my hotel this morning that’s exactly what I did. Wander, slowly and slightly lazily, watching as I went.

I followed the sound of some church bells, peeling in the distance, they were joyful and I knew there would surely be activity nearby. Choir song burst out of a basement. I happened upon a gorgeous large church, and just as I arrived the doors jolted open and people erupted out. Children had footballs that they were already bouncing and adults joined in. It evolved from a quiet moody square to one that was  jostling, playful and quite busy. Girls in communion dresses wandered around, clearly proud of their elegance. In the corner there was a lovely little tapas bar (Fragments Cafe). I thought coffee.

This pic from phone... I didn't have my camera

This pic from phone... I didn't have my camera

Despite the menu being in English as well as Spanish it was an entirely local affair. I was the only English speaker there from what I could see. I started with coffee and progressed to a refreshing glass of vermut (local vermouth with an orange slice and two green olives served within) which was presented with a free tapas. Did I mention I love it here? Some iberico jamon croquetas later and I was sold and very happy. Some foods just get those endorphins flowing, croquetas are definitely one.

This pic from phone... I didn't have my camera

A wander around Barcelona to build up the appetite and help digest breakfast brought me by many of the sights and near the sea. The evening finished perfectly with some great tapas and wine with another visiting London food blogger, Sabrina Ghayour at La Vinya Del Senyor, a gorgeous local bar in the shadow of the looming impressive Santa Maria del Mar.

What will tomorrow bring? Who knows. That’s how I like it.

La Vinya Del Senyor

Santa Maria Del Mar

Taking a Break at Santa Maria del Mar

Santa Maria Del Mar - I do not know this guy! It's totally random.

Santa Maria Del Mar

Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down at Sagrada Famiglia

Sagrada Famiglia

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A Visit to La Boqueria in Barcelona

The Boqueria, Barcelona

La Boqueria, Barcelona

When in Barcelona, what does any self respecting food blogger do but visit the Boqueria! I’d been told by so many people that it was a must, and had seen it on tv and read about it on other blogs. So, on my recent hectic weekend trip to Barcelona, I made sure there was an afternoon free to fit it in.

Aidan at the Boqueria

Aidan at La Boqueria

Many of you will know Aidan Brooks, food blogger and chef, up until recently he was working in Michelin starred Comerç 24 in Barcelona. I am a very big fan of Aidan’ blog, it’s always interesting and entertaining. I shared a lovely meal with him at The Providore’s over the summer and had always planned to visit and eat at Comerç 24 while he was still working there. It wasn’t to be, as he had moved on already by the time I finally got there. We arranged instead, to meet and tour the Boqueria on a Saturday afternoon last month.

The Boqueria, Barcelona

La Boqueria, Barcelona

Barcelona is a lovely city, and this particular weekend in November it was gorgeous. It was so bright and sunny! Having just left London I was armed with a heavy coat, but it was too nice to wear it. I wandered the streets under an enormous blue sky in a t-shirt and cardigan – in November!

Tapas bar at the Boqueria, Barcelona

Tapas bar at La Boqueria, Barcelona

The Boqueria is an enormous indoor food market off of one of Barcelona’s main and iconic streets, La Rambla. It’s a series of stalls, shops and tapas bars, heaving with locals and tourists and selling almost anything you could imagine you’d want to buy. I saw all kinds of shellfish, offal, blood, porchetta, chorizo, jamon, mushrooms, herbs, really, anything your heart may desire seems to be available at the Boqueria.

Padron Peppers

Padron Peppers

First thoughts? It’s like the English Market in Cork, only bigger. That just goes to show how good the English Market is, to my mind, as many rate the Boqueria as one of the best in the world. Ok, it’s alot bigger but when it comes to vibe, produce and authenticity, it’s a near match! I loved finding out all about the local produce (thanks Aidan) and soaking up all the smells and colours.

Jamon! Boqueria, Barcelona

Jamon! La Boqueria, Barcelona

I really wanted to eat there especially after spending a few minutes watching someone frying razor clams and scallops at a tapas stall there and boy did I want some. It was way too busy though so we went elsewhere. I’ll definitely be going back to complete the experience and blog about it thoroughly, but maybe not on a Saturday.

Pigs! Little uns, big uns. Boqueria, Barcelona.

Pigs! Little uns, big uns - La Boqueria, Barcelona

Fishmongers - Boqueria, Barcelona

Fishmongers - La Boqueria, Barcelona

All sorts of dried fish - Boqueria, Barcelona

All sorts of dried fish - La Boqueria, Barcelona

Mushrooms - La Boqueria, Barcelona

Mushrooms - La Boqueria, Barcelona

Jamon Iberico Bellota - La Boqueria, Barcelona

Jamon Iberico Bellota - La Boqueria, Barcelona

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Eating in Granada: Taberna el 22

We landed in Granada on our first night a little weary following our delayed flight and very hungry! We had arranged to rent an apartment in the old Medina facing the Alhambra. I called our new landlord, Pedro, a really lovely guy, who gave me the briefest of Spanish courses advising how to pronounce Aljibe de los Tomasas in the Albaicin, our new address, a beautiful old moorish quarter set in a hillside facing the alhambra. Despite repeating it 14 times for him on the bus, I was not in the least confident (nor was he!), however, the taxi driver understood me and off we sped up the labyrinthine streets. It was midnight at this stage and Pedro advised that not many places would be open for food but we could try the place at the foot of the medina opposite the 16th-century Iglesia de San Gregorio church, I must find out the address but unfortunately I was too absorbed in my eating and drinking to think of it! Unfortunately, we were too late for tapas so we only had drinks, but, we came back the following night with some friends for more.

There’s a great Andalucian tradition of providing free tapas with drinks. We didn’t go explicitly for food but were hopeful we’d get some nibbles. Over four rounds of drinks we were given four tapas: a lovely rice dish, some cracked wheat with dried fruit and other bits, jamon on bread with green olives, and spinach and pine kernals on bread. Delicious and all free with very reasonably priced drinks. The bar itself has alot of character, it’s very small but has a large terrace where most people sit. If you’re ever in Granada I would advise a visit.

Some pics of the food follow, I will attempt to recreate in the coming weeks![Read more]

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A taste of Spain

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,
and/or
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

Method:

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.