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Max Abroad : The Best of Spain

Quite simply writing about the best things Spain has to offer and anything that might crop up along the way. Spain is a lot more than just sun, sand and sea...

Cartagena - fusion cuisine
31 July 2014

In Cartagena fusion cuisine is age-old: Romans, Phoenicians and Arabs have left their mark on family recipes, based on a variety of ingredients that few regions can boast of having as it is considered to be one of the best vegetable gardens, bursting with an array of autoctonous varieties. This, together with a rich cuisine and culture, makes the gastronomy of Cartagena one of the most surprising. The best way to conquer the cuisine of Cartagena is, like in battles of old, through the port. Its fish market is supplied by two seas: the Mediterranean and the Mar Menor: grouper, gilthead bream, dentex, mullet, anchovies, crayfish, clams, prawns, whitebait..., the hard thing is choosing.

The oldest recipes in the area, salazones (salted fish), also come from the sea. Fish was preserved this way back in the Bronze Age. Phoenicians and Romans extended this use to several types of fish: tuna, mullet, skipjack tuna, sardines, anchovies, ling or meagre, which come with fresh peas or tomatoes in the bars of Cartagena. The sea and the vegetable garden, the hallmarks of Cartagena.

To make the most of the flavours of the Mediterranean and the Mar Menor, a 'caldero' is the best option. This is the name of the traditional rice dish that fishermen prepared over a fire on the beach. Rock fish or whitebait for flavour, with gilthead gilthead bream or mullet and, as they say, love and affection to prepare the broth by frying the ingredients in parts and stirring the rice until it's cooked to perfection. The fish is served in one dish and the rice in another, both accompanied by alioli. Purists require the dish to be presented on the table in a zinc or clay pot and served in a clay cup or bowl.

Another classic is Michirones. White beans eaten with cocktail sticks as a tapa or on the table during household celebrations. Michirones are another hallmark of the gastronomy in Cartagena. They are stewed with chorizo, ham, pork fat, potatoes and chilli peppers. It's a good idea to have a chilled bottle of local wine nearby: the people here like their michirones spicy. You can also find the cultural influence of the port in this typical dish. The food had to be able to withstand long journeys, hence the habit of cooking dry beans instead of fresh like in other areas of Murcia.

Los Exploradores are another characteristic food from Cartagena. The name of this dish indicates that its recipe was a result of an experiment, with a successful contrast between sweet and savoury, making it an exquisite dish that is hard to forget. Los exploradores (the explorers), as they call it, are a kind of pasty filled with morcón sausage and egg or mince and coated in icing sugar.

 

Needless to say, you can't get up from the table without ordering un asiático (an Asian), a coffee made with condensed milk, brandy and Licor 43 (fruit and spice liqueur). It was first served in the early 20th century at the request of sailors from - you guessed it- Asia. There is even a competition for this Asian concoction: 'La ruta del asiático' (The asiático route). For two weeks all the bars in the city strive to make the best combination of the three liqueurs.

 

 

Cartagena is the perfect place to eat its traditional dishes 'a tajo parejo', as the locals say to describe eating heartily and in an orderly fashion....

 

 

All eyes are on two dishes: Cartagena-style octopus and San Antón rolls. The first is a dish of small rock octopus that are cooked on the large grills the bars bring out onto the street. The second is a dessert that requires you to stay on your toes: according to tradition "quien roba un rollo a san Antón, novios tendrá un montón" (she/he who steals a roll from San Antón will have boy/girlfriends a plenty). The rolls are offerings to the saint. At the San Antón festival the saint kindly looks the other way.

                                                       Anything for love.

 



Like 0        Published at 20:24   Comments (1)


Murcian cuisine - unjustly unknown
09 July 2014

When you sit down to eat in any restaurant in Murcia you have to ask for the menu plus a glossary of terms or a culinary dictionary, as Murcian cooking has its own stamp, even in the language. Meat balls are pelotas; green beans, bajocas; Potatoes are crillas and the artichoke, alcaucil. A very special language to describe the exquisite delicacies grown in the largest and richest orchards and vegetable farms in the country. Their produce, combined with traditional and carefully prepared recipes result in tasty and filling dishes.

Murcian cuisine, unjustly unknown in much of Spain, would be nothing without the presence of two basic ingredients from its farms: tomatoes and peppers, the stars of many of the dishes. Pipirrana is the best example of this. It is a salad based on these two products, to which can also be added aubergines and onions. Another classic of Murcian cuisine is zarangollo, a vegetable dish par excellence featuring courgettes and onions.

  Zarangollo


The ñora is another favourite on Murcian hobs. It is a hot red pepper with a spherical shape, which is sun-dried. This product is used in both in cooking and preparing cold meats and has a Denomination of Origin. Calasparra rice also enjoys this distinction, and along with the beans, gives body to endless local dishes. 

If your thing is stew recipes, you’ll find some very interesting dishes in Murcia, such as olla gitana (gypsy hotpot) (based on chickpeas, potatoes, green beans, pumpkin, tomato and onion) or cocido stew with pelotas, in other words, with meatballs. Tasty stews are also prepared based on chicken and rabbit, especially if you order them al cabañil (with potatoes, garlic and vinegar).

 Olla Gitana


Salted and dried fish are other dishes that you must try in Murcia, as well as the cheese, especially the goat varieties and the Queso al Vino, which has a soft texture, intense white colour and a reddish rind caused by its immersion in wine. To accompany so much flavour, Murcia also has three Denominations of Origin in wines: Jumilla, Bullas and Yecla.

The icing on the cake is provided by the desserts of Arab origin, as unique as paparajotes (fried lemon leaves fried in a batter of flour, egg, milk and sugar); and the almojábenas (bagels of flour, sugar, eggs and oil, bathed in honey).

Unresistable!



Like 0        Published at 18:42   Comments (3)


Tapas in Granada
03 July 2014

 

Tapas are a culinary tradition in almost all of Andalusia, but in Granada they have mastered this art of bringing gastronomy to the small plate like nowhere else. Perhaps it is because eating well is necessary to have enough energy to explore the countless nooks to be found around this city. Granada is a marathon where you can enjoy every step as in no other place. In fact, this is how Lorca defined it: "Granada is fit for sleeping and dreaming, everywhere bounded by the indescribable...”. 

The typical olives and almonds were long ago relegated to Granada's history. In Granada's bars these days they compete to offer the most flavoursome, original and generous tapa with each drink. So ordering a wine, a vermouth, a small glass of beer or a soft drink always comes with its reward.

Granada is a city to get to know on foot, to get lost in its narrow alleys and to explore every corner, where you are sure to find the best spots with the most surprising tapas. A good place to start your tour is the Realejo district, the city's former Jewish quarter. Around Campo del Príncipe there are terraces and bars to have delicious tapas made from ham, cheese, fried fish, omelettes or patatas a lo pobre (poor man's potatoes, fried with peppers and eggs). La Esquinita is a bar not to be missed there, especially its artichokes sautéed with baby squid and prawns. Finger-licking good!

Around the cathedral you can also find two areas with plenty of bars:  the Gran Vía and the streets surrounding the City Hall. Between Gran Vía de Colón and Plaza Nueva you will find some of the most popular bars in Granada, many located around Calle Elvira. This small artery through the city centre is a real focal point for tapas fans. It leaves you in Plaza Nueva, the central axis of the old quarter, built over a vault spanning the Darro River. From here you can continue down Carrera del Darro, parallel to the river, which empties into Paseo del Padre Manjón, an area full of outdoor seating with views of the Alhambra: a must-stop in good weather. Calle Navas begins at City Hall; it is a pedestrian area for having something to eat away from the bustle and traffic. Tapas featuring tripe, fried baby broad beans with ham, chunky migas (fried bread, garlic and oil) and papas a lo pobre (poor man's potatoes, fried with peppers and eggs) are some of the area specialities. A good tapas option here is Los Diamantes, where trying the fried fish is a must.

The narrow alleys that start at the riverbank bring you into the heart of the Albaicín, the city's most emblematic neighbourhood with the best views of the Alhambra and declared a World Heritage Site. Although not a proper tapas area per se, it is home to some of the best and most emblematic restaurants in Granada. 

For those with strength and hunger to burn, Sacromonte is worth a visit to try one of Granada's most typical dishes on site: the Sacromonte omelette. It is an original recipe of the abbey of the same name that contains sweetbreads and lamb testicles, which the abbot would offer to students very cheaply.

And if you don't mind venturing a little farther from the centre, there is the La Chana district, an area frequented by university students where the tapas are famous for being generous and cheap.



Like 0        Published at 19:06   Comments (1)


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