I spent a little bit of my garden leave in the wonderful city of Madrid – during the mornings I brushed up on my Spanish in Spanish school and I spent my afternoons pottering around the city, seeing the sites, eating the food and of course – doing my Spanish homework.
Aside from being a beautiful city with lovely people, lots of beautiful things to see and amazing food and drink – Madrid is special to me as it was my first trip abroad on my own – I had a little apartment close to the palace and so my trip was proof to myself that I can be a big girl and do things on my own. As much as I LOVE going away with Elix and my friends I have to admit, my time alone in Madrid was really special (despite a couple of lonely evenings when my mum, dad and Elix had teary phone calls from me feeling blue and stressed about my Spanish homework!).
Armed with my trusty Olive, Good Food and Delicious magazines I ventured out right from my very first evening determined to taste as much tapas as possible and find the perfect tortilla (as well as practise my Spanish – obviously!).
I guess this blog is to tell you about some of the places I went to and some of the food I ate as well as a couple of my favourite Spanish recipes to cook at home.
The most important food place to visit in Madrid (in my opinion) is Mercado de San Miguel which is one of Madrid’s oldest markets. The market is full of different stalls selling wine, tapas, charcuterie, cheese, cookbooks, paella and sweets. Its the perfect place to go if you want to try lots of little dishes with a nice glass of Spanish wine and enjoy this whilst standing in the middle of the market, people watching and soaking up the electric atmosphere. Here i tried, chorizo paella, salt cod croquettas, bocadillos (little sandwiches), jamon (ham), tortilla, fresh fruit and churros con chocolate.
Another Spanish specialty I tried (and subsequently bought) was sobrasada. This is a spicy pork sausage – similar I guess to chorizo but with a texture similar to pate and so can be spread or used in the same way as mince. I first came across this Mediterranean meat in one of Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes recipes (Chicken with Sobrasada, Courgette and Butter Beans) where the sobrasada is cooked in a frying pan and then removed so that the chicken and courgette can be later cooked in the oil for extra taste. I have always substituted the sobrasada with chorizo which works splendidly. In a little cafe in Madrid I tried the sobrasada con huevos de cordoniz y aroma de pimenton (sobrasada with quails eggs and paprika). The spicy, peppery sobrasada was spread generously on crusty toast with runny quails eggs on top mellowing the kick of the paprika.
One of my favourite places to eat after school was Plaza de Santa Ana where there were lots of little bars and cafes with outside seating so I could sit in the square with a cold cerveza and read my foodie magazines. One restaurant I really enjoyed because of the lovely food and also the brilliant service (the staff were very patient with me trying my best Spanish to order and ask questions) is called El Lateral. On top of my usual tortilla I also enjoyed albondigas (meatballs) which came in a rich gravy (as a northerner this was bound to go down well!) and bacalao which is salted cod. This is usually dried but here it came ceviche style on bread with a sweet tomato sauce. The calamares and patatas bravas were also to die for both here and everywhere else I tried them in Madrid! The patatas bravas come with half thick spicy tomato sauce and half garlic aioli – both of which are perfect for the crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside potato cubes! Yum!
One of my favourite Spanish recipes to cook for dinner is from Rick Stein’s Spain book. It is lamb stuffed aubergine with spices and manchego cheese. Lamb mince is fried with onion, red pepper, garlic, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika, ground cumin and dried chilli. Once the mixture is browned and onions are soft, this is simmered with a tomato sauce (i always use chopped tomato, garlic, chilli and tomato puree – rich but not too sweet). Slice an aubergine in half and roast in the oven until the centre is soft enough to be scooped out. Once the skin is charred and the flesh is soft, scoop out and mix with the spiced mince mixture then place back into the aubergine. Top with grated manchego cheese and bake for a further 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the filling is piping hot.
I think i’ve nattered on enough about Madrid and Spanish food so I will save my blog about the time I made a tapas feast for my “cuisine” night (Zoe, Bex, Caz and I take it in turns to host cuisine night dinner parties where we each cook food from a different country) using my Spanish cookbook – yes, all in Spanish – for another time!
Buenas Noches! x
ps – if some of my Spanish is wrong then apologies – am a bit rusty since my trip in February!