Posts filed under ‘Cooking and food’

Mercado de la Boqueria

Today turned out to be just the kind of day I love. Once we got the day rolling we headed up to the mercado in Gracia. This is the market we usually do all our meat, fruit, fish and vegetable shopping. It’s quite an amazing place and Saturday mornings, it’s really busy. Different stalls sell vegetables ………

meat ……………………….

fish ……………………….

We left Gracia and brought our stuff home. We had intended to go shopping for a jacket for Alex. When we got home Jackie called and asked if we could meet Sebastian at the chinese market and help him bring the stuff home. Off we went to the chinese market and walked back to Sebastian’s place with all the food. We dropped off the food and had to go to Mercado de la Boqueria. We had heard a lot about this place. It’s just off La Ramblas and is very famous. So off we go.

The first stall we pass by was filled with all kinds of mushrooms, and I mean all kinds. I’d never seen so many different kinds of mushrooms……..

Then we came across these Japanese Tomatoes, I think they’re called Tomates Kumato. They were almost black, really cool.

We ventured deeper into the market and Sebastian went to the stalls he always goes to. I saw a red cabbage that had been cut in half and it reminded me of the series that Edward Weston had done. He’s famous for his B&W study of a green pepper. The photos he took are stunning. Here is my attempt at the cabbage …….

Sebastian showed us how to tell fresh fish. The gills should be bright red and the eyes still bright. If the gills are fading then the fish is starting to age. They had lots of fish stalls there, some with massive tuna.

The fish monger will cut the fish any way you want it.

Note how they are already getting into the Christmas spirit. Alex and Sebastian trying to decide on what fruits to get.

On our way out Sebastian just had to show us the candy section. They had so many types of candy it would have been hard to choose. Check out Alex’s blog for a different perspective on our mercado tour.

We left the market and went to drop off our purchases, pick up Jackie and head over the Shalomar’s for lunch. Great meal, great friends, Great day. Tomorrow Alex goes to her first book club meeting at Jackie’s. Sebastian, Myself, Pau and Gerard will try to find something to amuse us. Shouldn’t be hard in Barcelona.

December 2, 2006 at 10:05 pm Leave a comment

Sant Cugat del Valles

Barcelona is one truly amazing city. The more we discover its secrets the more impressive it gets. This morning, Alex and I took the metro from Provenca station to Vallvidrera. It’s only 2 or 3 stops but the metro station is in a park , Serra de Collserola. Our objective was to hike from Barcelona to Sant Cugat. It’s about a 15 to 20 km hike with an altitude difference of 200 metres. I really didn’t feel like going but I knew that because I felt this way it was probably going to be a good day. It was.
We left home at 7:15 and walked over to the Provenca station. Getting out at Vallvidrera was a real surprise because it was a LOT cooler there than home. Exiting the station, we were given a hardcover book of Catalan poetry. Why? it was a holday to celebrate being Catalan so all kinds of cultural events were happening around Catalunya.

We were right at the entrance to the park and ready to start our trek. The trail began at the information centre which was a little uphill. Once we reached the start, Alex synchronized our position on the map so we could follow the trail a little easier. A good thing too because many of the directional signs had been removed by vandals and there are many trails in the park. The beginning of the trail was more or less a dirt road. It was an easy path but climbed steadily. This was our view about 45 minutes into the walk, behind Tibidabo and up quite high.

A little further along and the trail split a few ways. It was a good thing we had the map. We had to walk along a road for a few hundred metres and at this point we took a paved trail that veered down off the road. We followed it for about a kilometre and then came to some switchback. We checked the map and saw that we were on the wrong trail. There were two trails that were very close at the road and we took the first one we saw. Climbing back to the road we saw the other trail about 5 metres further. Proceeding along the correct trail we crossed a viaduct and stopped to admire the view. It was still morning and the haze was quite heavy. Far off, you could just see Montserrat and even from that distance it was still impressive. I tried taking a photo but it didn’t come out. Could have used a polarizing filter. Just after the viaduct there were some ruins and three trails leading off in different directions. After consulting the map and the guide book we found the right one.

The trail varied significantly in quality, going from paved path to rock strewn, narrow gorges. It was at this point that we had the roughest and narrowest part of the hike. The trail was quite steep, both up and down sections, and rocky but if you took your time and carefully picked your way it was ok.

So, here we are picking our way carefully through the rough spots when I hear this pounding behind me. We move out of the way and this jogger comes running by. He was like a gazelle, bouncing from rock to rock. I was impressed with his sure footedness (is that a word). By the way, he wasn’t the only jogger to go by.

There were lot’s of mountain bikers up there too and at one point there was quite an interesting bit of trail. We could hear the cyclists coming so we stood to one side of the trail. It was hilarious because the first rider stood up and braked for all he was worth. He ended up at the side of the trail and about three riders behind him all drove into each other. The other three manged to stop in time and they all proceeded cautiously down this piece of trail. They were questioning the guide as to the mountain bike classification of Media because of the traildifficulty and the steep, narrow inclines. Anyhow, we met up with them at the bottom as they were changing someone’s back tire.

We continued along this trail until a point where five trails intersected. Some of the trails are classed as GR or Gran Recorregu and PR or Petit Recorregu. These are long distance and short distance trails that make up a nation wide network of trekking trails. At this point we required serious map consultation. Imagine taking a GR trail and ending up in Madrid ????

Once again we headed off on the right path and exited the difficult phase at a restaurant, Masia can Borrell. It was a farm at some time and very rustic. The food was very Catalan and fit the mood we were in. We ordered pan amb tomaquet and Jamon con melon. the pan was served as separate items. We had to rub the garlic and tomato onto the bread. the food was DELICIOUS, just enough to keep us going.

We studied the map and headed back out to the trail. At this point the trail passed through open meadows. It was nice to have such large variations in trail quality and surroundings.

As soon as we walked through the fields and back into the woods, we entered the final three kms before reaching Sant Cugat. The trail here was very easy and peaceful.

It was around here that we saw this weird tree, all by itself, in the middle of a field.

This tree is known as Pi d’en Xandri. It is over 200 years old and I guess at that age, needs help in standing. Actually, it’s quite an impressive and healthy tree for 200 years old.

Well, we finally arived in Sant Cugat, three and a half hours after leaving Barcelona. We headed up to the monastery that is in the old part of the city.

This place was OLD. You could feel the age as you walked around the buildings. I beleive it was founded around 900 AD and has quite the history. It’s a Benedictine monastery so has ties with Montserrat.

Alex was looking at some copies of manuscript and mentioned the century it was from. A little later on we saw copies of the same manuscript in the museum with some background info on it and she was dead on. She always amazes me with how much she knows.

After we left the abbey, Alex wanted to visit the church. It was a part of the monastery and was built in the 12th or 13th century. We got there to find the big doors closed and locked.

Alex went back to the monastery to ask when the church would be open and I waited outside. In a few minutes, a man came running over and unlocked the doors. I couldn’t beleive it. Alex came around the corner and I asked her how she managed to have so much pull. She laughed and told me that they said the church doesn’t open until 6:00 PM so we were very fortunate.

We toured the church and I found graves from the 1400’s . I always look on the floor because they buried influential people in the church floors. Some graves were too old to read, their markings all worn off.

Ok, it was time to go so we headed out to the square, had a clara and some aceitunas and then trekked over to the train station. We arrived home around 3:00 after a truly great day.

September 12, 2006 at 7:14 pm 3 comments

Delta del Ebro(Delta de l’Ebre)

This past week was really something else. The football game on Tuesday, an amazing dinner at Cardamon (C/ Carders, 31) on Thursday night and a great weekend with friends at the delta. The restaurant is in the old part of Barcelona and is in a building built in 1734. That’s older than I am, wow. The food there is great and it’s not too expensive. Naomi introduced us to this place a few weekes ago.

Then on Friday, Francisca, Jackie, Sebastian, Naomi, Alex and I took the train from Barcelona to Delta del Ebro. The following description is an excerpt from the Barcelona city guide.
The Ebro Delta covers 320 square kilometres and is the second largest wetland area in the western Mediterranean, after the French Camargue.
It has many natural habitats not common to the rest of Catalonia: large lakes of salt water (such as La Tancada) or fresh water (such as L’Encanyissada), kilometres of beaches with sand dunes (El Fangar) and salt wastelands (Erms de la Tancada, Punta de la Banya), places where underground fresh water comes to the surface (Els Ullals), shallow bays (El Fangar or Els Alfacs), riverbank woods and fluvial islands that, together with the ecosystems created by man – rice fields and salt pans – constitute a unique landscape of great natural wealth.

This diversity of ecosystems and flora and fauna has led to the protection of a large part of the Delta and in 1983 it was declared a “natural park”. It is in fact an ornithological paradise where you can see more than 300 species of birds.

We rented a nice little house in Sant Carles de la Rapita and arrived Friday evening around 7:30.

Off we go to explore and walk by the sea towards Sant Carles. On the way we passed by the fishing port. Lot’s of activity there.

We found a place where we rented bicycles to go cycling the next day. Sebastian is quite the cyclist and has cycled all over the place. Places like New Zealand and in the Himalayas (almost as far up as base camp for Everest climbers). You can tell he is comfortable on the bike just by looking at his form……….but that’s a whole other story.

Sant Carles is a tourist town and very popular.The mountains on one side,

the sea on the opposite side and the delta to one end. The delta itself is very flat and a large part of it is used by farmers to grow rice. Because rice grows in water, there are many irrigation canals flow control gates in the fields.

We cycled along the dirt roads that run all over the area and went down any road that headed in the general direction we wanted to go. It was quite windy so the heat wasn’t much of a problem.

We eventually ended up in a conservation area and nature park. This was the wetlands of the area.

Lot’s of birds. As a matter of fact, the park is a very popular bird watching area so there are lots of blinds for observing the wildlife as Francisca is.

We ended up in a pueblo (small village) called Poble Nou where we stopped for lunch. The menu consisted of 6 plates. The food was amazing (as usual) but we only ordered the menu for three because we would not have been able to eat all the food that was on the menu for one. There were six of us and we still walked away stuffed.

We cycled from there to the beach at platja dels Eucaliptus which was about a 30 minute cycle from the resaurant. I must confess that my butt was becoming slightly tender. Once we got to the beach I was in the water in minutes. Floating in the salt water was soooooo relaxing. Soon, we had to start back. We had no idea how far we’d gone or how long it would take us to get back to Sant Carles. We had to have the bikes back by 8:00 or risk paying extra but you know, we were on a holiday so if we got back later, so what. We weren’t going to race back to get there on time. Ok, a confession, even if we wanted to we couldn’t race back to get there on time. All we could do was hope to get back period. The following photos were taken in the middle of the ride, please note the expressions on the faces of the cyclists, Jackie and Alex. Let me just say that we all didn’t look that fresh at this point.

We finally made it back to the shop and we were still in good spirits, tired but very happy to be back and we were on time. We calculated that we had cycled at least 50 kms that day. I know it doesn’t sound like much but it was a full day.

We started walking back towards our casa and picked up food from different shops along the way. Francisca and Sebastian were playing catch with a half full water bottle which brought looks of concern on some passers by. About a kilometre from our casa I decided it would be far easier to run than continue walking so I finished up with a short run.

That night Sebsation cooked on the barbeque and we sat, drank wine and chatted the evening away.

Sunday was a quiet day for me, too much sun the previous day. The chicas went to the beach and Sebastian and I stayed at the casa playing chess. Actually, he was playing chess, I was playing Rambo. We left for the train station at 4:30 and that was the weekend.

Alex and I had a great time.

August 28, 2006 at 10:27 am Leave a comment

On Sunday Life is a Beach

Talk about spontaneity. Naomi called this morning to inform that they were heading up to Sant Pol de Mar. alex was feeling better and she thought a day at the beach was just what the doctor ordered. We gathered our beach gear and went over to Jackie and Sebastien’s place. By the way, I DO have to mention here that Jackie loves the sugar pie (big smile on my part). Naomi had to head home to get her beach gear so we agreed on the 12:48 train. As the time approached to leave for the station, Jackie had a shower and was applying cream to protect her body against the harsh beach environment. Now, let me explain a little something about German and Canadian attitudes towards schedules. We LOVE to have extra time to be where we are supposed to be without the stress of hurry and worry. Now for those who are last minute arrivals(am I referring to Jackie) and are used to being like this, I do believe there is no stress or worry. Needless to say, Sebastien told Jackie we’d meet her on the way to Placa Catalunya. We started our walk towards the station with a stop at the bank, a five minute wait at the top of Ramblas and another few minutes at the entrance to the station. We decided that we would now go for the 1:18 train since Jackie was nowhere in sight. We went into the station to buy our tickets and a familiar voice hollers out from inside the turnstyles. Jackie had been there for a while. She was waiting for us and we were all stressed about her being late. Anyhow, we bought our tickets and called Naomi to tell her we were back on track for the 12:48. She says she’s out of the station buying some water, taking it easy and if she gets there fine if not, she’ll meet us there. Now that is the way to be, totally relaxed. In the end, everyone got on the 12:48 and we were on our way.

The day was great, not too cold and not too hot. It was quite windy so surf was up and we could body surf one metre waves for approximately one metre. Really short runs. Naomi was in the sun soaking up the rays and got some really nice color.

It was time for food so the following went to the beach restaurant.

Sylvie

Alex and I

Detlef , he owns a german restaurant (Pano de Boca) in Lisbon. Read about it in Naomi’s blog.

Franko

Jackie and Sebastien

Kevin (Sylvie’s brother visiting from Germany) Sylvie’s other brother stayed on the beach and slept through it all. I gather they had been partying pretty intensely. In Barcelona, parties usually end sometime after the sun comes up

Our sweet Naomi (aka Shark)

and this is what we had, a lovely paella.

We were all pretty stuffed after lunch and our bellies were sticking out (but just a little) so we decided we needed to put our bellies back into their proper sizes. After all, we were at the beach. I really think that Naomi had a very crushing experience with cheeky Jackie and Sebastien close behind.

We had a great day and everyone went to another beach party that evening. Alex and I headed home as she still isn’t quite up to speed.

August 13, 2006 at 7:29 pm 3 comments

Reprieve

Wow, this has been one boring week. On Friday I thought I’d repeat Thursday and go to the gym. I was going to swim 4000 metres in however long it took. I figured at least I’d be doing something. Didn’t work out though, I got to my club only to discover that it was closed until Monday. They are doing major renovations to the facilities and I guess they reached a point where they needed to shut down. We do have access to other Claror clubs so we’re not left out completely. Anyhow, I head back home. Now I have to face what I’ve been avoiding all week. Cooking ……………….

A little background here. Jackie and Sebastien had organized a cooking party. All the cooking and preparation was to be done at their place and each person was to cook something from their country of origin. Alex was cooking bobo de camarao and I was making tarte au sucre. I had been stressing about the pie crust all week long and now it was time to organise my ingredients and directions for both the crust and the filling. I found a recipe for pie crust on the web and went with that. Gordon sent me the following recipe for the filling and that’s what I went with…………..

Tarte au sucre (Tante Monique)

Quantité Ingrédient

1 tasse Crème 35%
2 tasses Cassonade
2 Jaunes d’œufs
½ tasse Farine
¼ tasse Beurre
1 cuillerée à thé Vanille
1 cuillerée à thé Lait

Préparation

Préchauffer le four à 400oF (205oC). Battre un des jaunes d’œufs dans une tasse de crème 35%. Mêler la farine, la cassonade et le beurre, et y ajouter le mélange jaune d’œuf/crème. Faire cuire en brassant continuellement jusqu’à ce que le mélange épaississe. Ajouter la vanille. Laisser refroidir. Verser ensuite le mélange refroidi dans une abaisse de pâte à tarte non cuite. Recouvrir de languettes de pâte en damier. Mêler le deuxième jaune d’œuf avec le lait et badigeonner les languettes de pâte avec le mélange. Cuire au four pendant 20 minutes jusqu’à ce que les languettes de pâte soient dorées.

Once I was organised I helped Alex clean and shell the shrimp. She showed me how to remove the heads by twisting it off. Yikes, I was traumatized. I had to cut the heads off ten thousand shrimp, ok maybe not ten thousand but a lot of them. It took us most of the afternoon to clean them then we packed everything up and headed off to their place and I started my pie crust. It looked ok but then how do I know what it’s supposed to look like. I’ve seen bread dough so I figured it should look like that. I finaly got there and then it was time to start the filling. After adding, mixing, stirring and heating I put the pot aside to cool. It did not look very appetizing. Sorry Gordon and Jean, I did not do your recipe justice.

Meanwhile, more people are arriving and cooking space is becoming prime real estate.

I grabbed the oven before anyone else could and put my “creation” into the heat for 20 minutes. What came out of the oven was a boiling mass of primordal guck. Needless to say my worst fears were realized, I had failed as a world class dessert chef, how depressing. I might add that Sebastien runs a chef school here in Barcelona and with everyone running around you could see he was enjoying himself.

What an amazing menu. I couldn’t begin to name all the dishes that people cooked up but I absolutely enjoyed every one of them (except one lonely pie) . There were German, Australian, Spanish, Catalan, Canadian, Brazilian, Chilean, Uruguayan and French dishes. Nat and Mandy brought kangaroo meat, it was great. I have to confess, I had two kebobs of the meat. We ate and drank and enjoyed the camraderie made even better by full stomachs and the warm glow brought on by fine wine.

At the beginning of the evening, Alex was feeling a bit under the weather and running a slight fever. We think it was a touch of food poisoning. She was well cared for by Francisca and Jackie and towards the end of the evening was not doing too badly.

I am constantly awed by the personalities of the people we’ve met here. To me, they are all true individuals who are living life to it’s fullest. Each and every time we are invited to Jackie’s we meet another individual who is right up there. Last night was no exception. Backtracking, Alex and I plan on doing el Comino de Santiago when she graduates and before she starts working and last night we met Franko, a friend of Sebastiens.

Franko

He left the Lake Constance area (border of Switzerland and Germany) in May and did an extended version of the camino. He walked 2444 kms to Santiago. What an amzing period of self discovery he must have had. He was saying that he did not need map or compass as the trail is clearly marked all the way to Santiago de Compostela. I regret I didn’t have the opportunity to sit down and discuss his experiences because it wasn’t really the time or place to have such a discussion.

Last but not least, a hearty welcome home to Ana who was off in Austrailia for the past month. She just arrived home this morning and was already out with her friends……Welcome home Ana

Ana

Today, Saturday is slow. Alex is still not up to speed so we’re just hanging around. Besides, it’s a rainy, cool day (for a change) here in Barcelona. Looks like my boring days are over.

August 12, 2006 at 5:52 pm 5 comments


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