Posts filed under ‘Food’

Paella Day

Thursday is Paella Day here in Barcelona (maybe in all of Catalunya?). Every bar and restaurant that serves a menu del dia (those lovely three-course meals with drink and bread that one can get for as little as 7 euros) has paella on the menu on thursdays. Nobody really knows when/how the tradition started but it’s been around for as long as people can remember.

Paella is one of those emblematic foods that became the gastronomic symbol for a particular country, much like feijoada in Brazil and curry in India. Like the curry it’s a pretty general dish rather than a particular recipe (it basically mean rice cooked in a paella – a wide, flat dish) and like the feijoada, despite being known internationally as the country’s national dish, it hails from a specific region and it is better known (or better period) in some regions than in others. I don’t think I would go for a paella in Madrid (as I wouldn’t go for a feijoada in Manaus), but I wouldn’t miss one in any Catalan or Valencian seaside town.

In Barcelona, there’s paella for all tastes. There are expensive ones at the seafood restaurants around Barceloneta, there are crappy, horrible ones at touristy restaurants across the city (stay as far away from restaurants with a placard in front with several pictures of paellas saying “El Paellador” or some such name), and homey, honest ones at bars & restaurants for lunch. I tend to favour the latter. So on thursdays Alan comes to meet me at the archives, we go over to one of the many bars & restaurants nearby and have lunch together. Today’s paella had seafood (shrimp, bits of calamari, mussels, clams…) and meat. I had a salad to start – they call is a ensalada verde but it resembles very little the green salads we eat in canada; the lettuce (that’s the green part) comes covered in tuna, cucumber, carrots, tomatoes, olives, onions, corn nibblets, bits of pickles, chicory, endives, etc… – followed by the very juicy and fresh paella, acompanied by peach juice and finished with yogurt. All for the modicum price of 7.50 euros. Hmmm, as Borat would say – I LIKE, very MUCH. Long live Paella Day!!

Here’s a picture of Sebastian and Patxi making paella & black rice when we first met:

Chefs at work

I have to get him to teach me how to make it….

January 25, 2007 at 7:46 pm 3 comments

It all started with a BBQ chicken…

Nothing like having fesh, wholesome ingredients to feel inspired to cook! Judging by the number of times I mention restaurants on this blog, you might think I don’t cook very often. But I do. I love to cook. I love coming up with new things in the kitchen. But I have to feel inspired and this week, a BBQ chicken did it!

It all started on wednesday when I picked up a BBQ chicken for lunch. I had onions and garlic at home, so I picked up a few tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, carrots and celery as well since I wanted to make a broth with the carcass afterwards.

I wanted a moist rice to have with the chicken but since I was too hungry to take the time to make risotto, I opted for some basmati rice with some nice tomato sauce instead.

Basmati rice with tomato sauce

  • 1/2 cup basmati rice
  • 2 tomatoes, finelly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup water, boiled
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste (I used herb salt)
  • paprika/red pepper powder to taste

Heat a small sauce pan. Add the olive oil and stir fry the onions for about 5 min. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 1-2 mins. Mix in the chopped tomatoes and let simmer until you have a nice sauce, about 5-10 mins. Season with salt, pepper, paprika, red pepper powder. Add the basmati rice, mix in thoroughly. Pour the hot water and let the rice cook – it will take about 10 mins.

The result was nice and moist, exactly what I wanted to balance the dryness of the chicken.

After we finished lunch, I cleaned the rest of the BBQ chicken off the carcass and put it the way. Since you can’t let a good chicken carcass go to waste, I decided to make some chicken broth. So I put the chicken bones in a pot, added a couple coarsely chopped carrots, one large onion, 2 celery sticks, 2-3 bay leaves, some dried herbs (I only had parsley), poured about 2-3 litres of water and let it all simmer for about 3 hours.

Now that I had some nice homemade both, I had to use it, so I decided to make a soup. I looked through the cupboard and found some Puy lentils. I also had about a cup of tomato rice from lunch. It wasn’t enough for another meal, so I decided to use it in the soup. Here’s what I came up with:

Lentil & rice soup

  • 1/2 cup Puy lentils
  • 1 cup left-over tomato rice (you could use a little bit barley or 1/4 cup basmati rice)
  • 1 onion, chopped finelly
  • 2 small carrots, chopped in small cubes
  • 1/2 zuchini, shredded
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1tsp turmeric (curcuma)
  • red pepper powder
  • 1l chicken broth
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a medium soup pot and stir fry the onions and garlic for a couple of minutes. Add the carrots and stir fry for a few more minutes. Combine the dry spices and let it fry for another minute. Blend in the lentils, add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. When the lentils are almost done (15-20 min), mix in the rice and let it simmer for a few more minutes.

It was delicious and a nice meal in a cold night. It tasted even better the next day.

But I wasn’t done with the chicken broth or the left-over BBQ chicken yet. I wanted a single-plate dinner so I decided to make a paella. In Spain, I have learned that a paella is not really a specific recipe, but rather short grain rice cooked in a paella (pan, in Spanish) like these:

Paella

So here is what I came up with:

Paella de pollo con vegetales

  • 200g short grain rice
  • 1-2 cup leftover BBQ chicken, chopped
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 small green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 500 ml chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • paprika
  • red pepper powder
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley

Heat the paella (or a medium casserole, if you don’t have one) over medium heat. Stir fry the onions for a few minutes and then add the garlic and ginger. Cook for another minute or two. Add the tomatoes & green peppers. Season with the dry spices, salt & pepper. Simmer for about 10 mins. If the tomatoes are of the acid kind, add 1/2 tsp of sugar. Stir in the white wine and let it evaporate, another 2-3 mins. Add the BBQ chicken and let it simmer in the sauce for a few minutes. Combine the rice & zucchini, add the parsley and mix thoroughly. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Correct the salt & pepper, cover and let it cook until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid, about 10-15 mins depending on the kind of rice. Once cooked, let it sit for 10 mins and serve. It will look something like this:

Chicken paella

All in all, a fun cooking week with a few ingredients!

Speaking of ingredients, the choice of spices on these dishes weren’t random or dictated solely by taste. I believe in the medicinal properties of food, and often keep that in mind when choosing how to season a dish.

Turmeric, for instance, is a root from the ginger family and is mostly sold as a powder made from the dried root. Also used as a dye for its bright yellow colour, it is one of the main ingredients of yellow curry and very mild in taste. It’s a strong anti-carcinogen (helps prevent the growth of cancer cells) and has a protective effect on the liver. Look here for more information. Because of its attractive colour – I love yellow – and mild taste, it goes well on any dish and I tend to use it often. Turmeric and oregano are probably the spices I use most often (btw, a USDA study found that, gram for gram, oregano has the highest antioxidant activity of 27 fresh culinary herbs.; I didn’t use it in any of the recipes above because unfortunately, I have run out of it).

Paprika/red pepper powder/chili powder – All of these are related and contain capsaicin, whose anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects may lower the risk of cancer.

Garlic – also has anti-carcinogenic effects and improves the immune system, helping fight colds & other sicknesses. I also it for almost everything.

Ginger – It has been used in Asian, Indian and Arabic medicine since Ancient times. It aids digestions, helps ease stomach ailments, bowel problems, eases the symptoms of the common cold or flu, nausea, etc.

December 28, 2006 at 11:18 pm 5 comments

Mercat de la Boqueria

As promised, here are the photos of our recent visit to the market. I didn’t take too many photos since we were there to do some shopping for the chinese lunch our friend Jackie hosted last weekend. But I will come back to shoot more… Click on any of the pictures to see a slideshow.

Shells Pheasants Peppers Xmas candy

Tomatoes Mushrooms Big egg Eggs

December 8, 2006 at 12:44 am 1 comment

Lunch break

11:30 AM. I was working away at the archives (or trying to) when my cellphone buzzed. It was a text msg from Alan. The message was clear: “Wushu for lunch?” I knew I couldn’t really afford the time, that I should work overtime to compensate for the upcoming trip to Lisbon, but when it comes to food, I have no will-power. So Wushu it was.

Since it is mushroom season, the plato del dia was chicken with japanese mushrooms in a soy-based sauce served with jasmine rice. Dessert was a really nice passion fruit mousse served in a yogurt “soup” with biscuit. With a drink, it went for 9.90 euros.

Plato del dia

December 5, 2006 at 11:06 pm 9 comments

Boqueria

Today we went to the Mercado de la Boqueria for the first time. We have been here for 8 months now and still hadn’t been. I knew it was amazing and I wanted to save it to a day when there wouldnt be so many tourists around. Today we went with Sebastian to shop for tomorrow’s book club chinese lunch (more on that later). All I can say is WOW. The place is amazing! The market of my dreams. They have e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. I love markets. I love the energy and vibrancy of popular markets and we try to go to the local one in Gracia at least once a week. But the Boqueria is something else… Since I shoot with a film camera, you’ll have to wait a few days for the pictures…

Here are some pictures from their internet site:

Vegetable stalls

Mushrooms anyone?

December 2, 2006 at 9:33 pm 3 comments

Wushu pictures

Christine, a friend from Montreal, was visiting last week and in between tourist sites, we took her to Wushu, our favourite restaurant. I also took the time to play with my new 50mm lens. Here are some of the pics:

Brad working away Curry Rojo con Gambas Plates Anise Pea

If you want to see larger version of these pictures, click on the first one on the left… Alternatively, you’ll find a slide show on the bottom. By the way, the dish is a Red Curry with Shrimp (Thailand). Yummm, sooo tasty

December 1, 2006 at 12:24 am 2 comments

Fall/Winter in Barcelona

Alan is still wearing sandals. I’m ok in just a fleece sweater. Sounds like a cool summer day?

Nope, it’s November 29th!! And it was 22 C the other day!

After seven Canadian winters, this weather feels really weird. I can only imagine what it must feel for Alan, who has lived in Canada all his life. As for me, I’m pretty sure I’ll miss the snow. There’s nothing quite like waking up one day to find the world covered in white. That was always my favourite time in the winter. Early in the morning, before the snow-removal trucks came by to clear the streets. Sometimes all you could see was a lonely set of footprints crossing the street. And the silence. The snow works a bit like a sound muffler so it’s usually pretty quiet when it snows. It is so peaceful…

But that’s ok. If we miss snow too much, we can always catch a train north and be in the middle of a ski resort in a couple of hours. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to enjoy the unusual nice weather and feast on the fall products at the local markets and whatever hint of fall colours we can find (most trees are still green).

Squash at Vic Market

Maket at Vic

Mushroom season

Rovellons

Girona colous

Chestnuts

Girona colous

November 29, 2006 at 10:02 pm 7 comments

A Casa Portuguesa: Is the luso-hispanic divide breaking down?

Despite sharing a border and being ruled once by the same king for nearly a hundred years, Portugal and Spain have always kept each other at arms’ length. The two countries have much in common but numerous wars over the centuries led to a relationship that at times have been marked by open mistrust and antagonism. For long they simply ignored the other’s existence; Portugal turned towards alliances with England while Spain looked up at France. The opening of a little Portuguese haven in Gracia shows that this distance is beginning to shorten.

One of the great advantages of the development of our global village, the advent of mass tourism, the Internet, and the breaking of barriers brought forth by the EU is that old rivalries slowly fade as people discover that the country next door is actually a nice place to visit. As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, I’ve met a lot of people here who has lived in Lisbon or other parts of Portugal. They have encouraged Alan and I to visit and in a few weeks we’ll be setting out to Lisbon.

Last night we discovered a wine bar/delicatessen/bakery specialized in Portuguese products. It’s up in Gracia, on calle Verdi, past the cinema. Called A Casa Portuguesa, they have wonderful pastéis de nata and while having one with a nice cortado I struk conversation with the outgoing girl behind the bar. She thought I was German at first but that’s another story. Anyways, they have been open only two months and are doing well. The owners are Portuguese and soon realized there were no Portuguese shops in Barcelona (!). They decided not only to fill that void and provide the Portuguese community with a shopping spot but also to educate the locals on things Portuguese. As soon as we mentioned we would be visiting Lisbon in a few weeks, the Portuguese girl behind the bar pulled out all kinds of guide books and starting writing down recommendations of places we should visit. She was so nice!! If that’s the way people are in Lisbon, this promises to be a memorable trip!!

As for the long-held rivalry between Spain and Portugal, the girls assure me they have never once experienced it here in Barcelona. They mostly get surprise and interest from locals as they discover the rich culture of the little country on the other side of the peninsula. One young guy exclaimed “wow! they make wine in Portugal??” The girls just smile incredulous and without missing a beat go on to introduce the poor soul into the richness of the Portuguese wine industry.

With a space so inviting and warm, there’s no way the rivalry could last 😉 These are the pictures of last night’s port wine tasting event:

Portuguese goodies

hmmm, those jams and fruits look wonderful…

Vinegar

Clever way of displaying bottles of vinegar

serving port Cash

A Casa Portuguesa is on C/ Verdi 58, Gracia, Barcelona. Check out their website on www.acasaportuguesa.com . Don’t miss the Ginginha de Óbidos (sweet cherry liquor) served in chocolate cups. The Pasteis de Belem are also very good.

November 23, 2006 at 7:34 pm 2 comments

Alan’s birthday

Yesterday we celebrated Alan’s birthday at Wushu. We invited Joy and Jesús, whom we hadn’t seen in weeks, and went out for an early dinner (7:30 pm). Paula and Bradley were in fine form. The salmon tataki was made with salmon caught in the ocean rather than river salmon and although it lacked the bright salmon colour, it was a bit “gamier” than regular farmed salmon. I had curry rojo con gambas (Malaysia), Alan had curry curray (Japan) con ternera, Jesús had lo-men con gambas (China), and Joy had Laksa con gambas (Malaysia). We all tried each other’s food but my favourite was the curry rojo. I love the mix of chili with coconut milk. We enjoyed it all with two bottles of cava, the spanish champagne. Bradley then treated us to a two-course dessert: mango lassi followed by chocolate brownie served with vanilla ice cream & fried bananas.

Wushu continues to be a great deal. Amazing service, fresh & well-prepared meals, nice ambiance. We had two appetizers, four main courses with extra rice, two bottles of cava, coffees for 74 euros. Great meal.

November 8, 2006 at 9:06 pm Leave a comment

Alan’s birthday

Yesterday we celebrated Alan’s birthday at Wushu. We invited Joy and Jesús, whom we hadn’t seen in weeks, and went out for an early dinner (7:30 pm). Paula and Bradley were in fine form. The salmon tataki was made with salmon caught in the ocean rather than river salmon and although it lacked the bright salmon colour, it was a bit “gamier” than regular farmed salmon. I had curry rojo con gambas (Malaysia), Alan had curry curray (Japan) con ternera, Jesús had lo-men con gambas (China), and Joy had Laksa con gambas (Malaysia). We all tried each other’s food but my favourite was the curry rojo. I love the mix of chili with coconut milk. We enjoyed it all with two bottles of cava, the spanish champagne. Bradley then treated us to a two-course dessert: mango lassi followed by chocolate brownie served with vanilla ice cream & fried bananas.

Wushu continues to be a great deal. Amazing service, fresh & well-prepared meals, nice ambiance. We had two appetizers, four main courses with extra rice, two bottles of cava, coffees for 74 euros. Great meal.

November 8, 2006 at 9:06 pm Leave a comment

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