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. Continue reading
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.
Hello! Greetings from Lockdown London and my tiny kitchen! I am opening up my home to you live on Zoom to share with you some of my favourite easy dishes.
Come join us on Zoom for our new LIVE show, The Cooking and Cocktail Show, at 5pm this evening! Drinks extraordinaire Oisín Davis and I are co-hosting. I am doing the food, simple tasty and gorgeous stuff that you can easily recreate at home, and Oisín is applying the same philosophy to his drinks. He is already an expert at recreating fab cocktails using simple home kit that you have already.
We had our first episode last week and it was all about rhubarb. I made Spiced Lamb Chops with Rhubarb and Instant Mini Rhubarb and Rose Cheesecakes (and I will be sharing both recipes with you this week). Oisín showed us how to make his rhubarb cordial and how to make a gorgeous Tom Collins cocktail with it with a favourite Irish gin.
This week we are heading to SPAIN! We are going to share simple recipes with you to liven your lockdown evenings. I will be sharing some favourite tapas recipes inspired by my travels to Spain. Two veggie, one meat and one seafood tapas from me and Oisín has a fabulous easy to recreate cocktail and a twist on a Spanish classic drink up his sleeve to share with you.
We would love you to join us! We embrace all interaction, you can ask us questions and chat with us. But it is only live. So you have to be there! Come on over to Zoom at 5pm or just before and use our Meeting ID 85036832178. If you have not used Zoom before, don’t worry, I hadn’t either. It is dead easy! Give yourself a little time to set up your account so you are ready and in the room for 5pm.
Can’t wait to see you then!
Stew conjures images of dark early evenings and a need for warmth. Maybe I need another name for this as it is bright and sings of summer days or longer spring evenings.
I have done many variations of this stew over the years and with Summer descending quickly upon us (20C and sunny in London today!), it seems a perfect time to make and share it again. It is perfection with a glass of rosé right now. Continue reading
Bean salad conjures images of sad tins and limp mixed beans presented to vegetarians after a last minute panic before a dinner party. Yes, I was a vegetarian once! A long time ago. Beans that have lived too long in saccharine sweet syrupy and salty water. Beans that once had flavour but that is now mainly erased. Beans too soft to be interesting.
Yes. Beans? They can be so much better.
The thing with beans is once you try them cooked from dried or take the time to cook them yourself, you spot immediately that there is a world of difference. It is also an incredibly frugal way to cook. A 500g packet of dried beans can cost as little as £1 and it will feed you for a week. Of course you won’t want to eat beans for a whole week, they would quickly lose their lustre. They freeze so well though, and I freeze them in 250g portions, the approximate equivalent of a tin.
But they take so long! Nah. Soak them overnight even if strictly speaking you don’t need to, or are told you don’t. It takes no effort and it saves on cooking time and improves on texture. Importantly it makes them more digestible and massively reduces any gaseous effects. Most small beans will cook in half an hour. Larger, in 45 minutes. Easy.
Which beans? Any and all. The ever present chickpea, adopted by so many cultures. As happy in an Italian soup bowl and a Spanish stew as in a Middle Eastern hummus. Butter beans! Small plump luscious ones from Greece and once twice the size from Spain called Judion de la Granja. Spain in particular has an enormous love for beans and sells them from enormous sacks in markets. Yes, Italy does too, but in Italy the selection is more focussed. I find new beans in Spain all the time. Continue reading
We are going to have to start a yellow tomato fan club and get you a hat and a badge. So said my guy at the tomato stand last weekend when I asked my usual weekly question, do you have any more yellow tomatoes? The yellow beef tomatoes that they sell are sublime and now a hallmark of every summer for me. As the season draws to a close I near panic about the looming lack of yellow tomatoes in darker days. Yellow tomatoes are distilled sunshine and last weekend I bought many in an effort to retain every sun soaked minute and prolong summer.
It has been a while since I have been to Spain – something that I must rectify soon – I fancy a retreat filled with excellent food and long days reading. A little wine too, of course. I am whisked back to Spain from my kitchen when I make of gazpacho, salmorejo and ajo bianco, the holy trinity of gorgeous cold Spanish soups.
Salmorejo – a speedy and gorgeous Spanish cold tomato soup
But you have surely been everywhere by now? Say so many people about my travels. Far from it, I explain, and I still have such enthusiasm to move and explore. Some countries I have been to several times (Italy, Spain, France, Australia, Canada and Borneo are my most visited), and there are many that I have yet to set foot in at all. Many in Europe, many everywhere. Until last week, Austria was one.
Friends love it. For skiing, for wine (and I already know that I love their wine). I love winter, I love to pop into winter for a while, deep sharp blinding white winter, and to bounce back out again. But I am not much of a winter sports person, I am more about walking around and kicking in the snow, enjoying the winter food and hanging out. I love the cold air and how fresh I feel in it. With the cold you can wear the right clothes, if it is too hot all you can do is suffer (especially if you are pale – transparent like me!). A book on a snowy terrace as opposed to whooshing down a piste in boots too tight whilst attached to skis. I love to wander and find out of the way restaurants on top of mountains and hang out for a while. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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.
Hello! I’m Niamh (Knee-uv! It’s Irish).
You are very welcome here. Eat Like a Girl has been my place to scribble online since 2007. That’s 14 years of recipes and over 1000 posts to explore.
Eat Like a Girl? It’s simple, we love to eat too. Anything else you’ve heard about women and only eating salad? It’s noise and misogyny.
But, we really love an excellent salad too. Shouldn’t everyone?!
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