Saturday, 30 November 2013

How to make a Spanish tortilla

It is quite shameful but it took us more than half a year to have a go with this simple but delicious meal. As always when it comes to cooking we asked our Spanish friends to help us out. All the four of us had something important to do. This time Juan Carlos gave up the wooden spoon and the apron and focused on the preparation of the drinks (that are almost as important as the meal itself), Meritxell took over our tiny kitchen and expertly prepared the lunch and explained the steps, I was busy switching between noting everything faithfully in my notebook and taking expert photos of every action and Paul… well, Paul was busy supervising everybody and everything.

Finding the ingredients was surprisingly difficult as there are only tiny supermarkets in the Albayzín but we managed to get everything over three days and a little last minute shopping. Here are the things we had to gather for a tortilla for four people:
-          1 big onion
-          4 BIGGER sized potatoes (Meritxell was insistent on the ‘bigger’)
-          8 eggs
-          300ml olive oil
-          Salt
These were the given measures but at the end we completely changed everything. One word of warning: make sure that you use a pan that hasn’t been scratched so when you turn the tortilla it doesn’t stuck to it.

1.      Start with the most boring thing in the world: peel the potatoes.

2.      Cut them up. 

The Spanish follow two different schools at this step:
-          You can cut them up into slices (this is what Meritxell favours, too)

-          You can cut them into chunks.

3.     Slice up the onions. 

4.      Beat the eggs.

5.      Cook the first batch of potatoes in a sea of oil (it looked more like an ocean for us) but don’t cook them too much, just so that they are not hard but not brown.

6.      Put them straight into the already beaten eggs. Add some salt.
(Some people like to mix the salt with the onions.)

7.      Cook the second batch of potatoes, this time for a bit longer.

8.      After the potatoes come the sliced onion batch into the oil.

9.      Mix the onions with the eggs.

10.      Take the remaining pieces of the onion out of the oil and pour most of it out.

11.  When you pour the egg-onion-potato mixture in the pan the oil has to be hot but then turn the gas/fire/electricity down so that the egg can cook thoroughly without burning.

12.  Use a wooden spoon to take the sludge off the side of the pan so it doesn’t burn.

13.  When the egg is halfway done comes
Turn the tortilla.

14.  We were really lucky as we were given a ‘tortilla overturner device’ from our guests but you can use a lid as well that is bigger than the pan for this difficult manouver. Turn the fire up then down again.

15.  Push the whole thing back in the pan and shape it with the wooden spoon.

16.  If needed, turn the tortilla again.

17.  Turn off the gas and leave the tortilla in the pan for a bit longer to soften in the residual warmth.

And that’s it, it’s done! They say the sign that it is perfectly done is that the middle big is still a bit soft. 
You can serve it hot or cold, it’s delicious either way. Tried and tested and it got the Edit&Paul seal of approval both ways. 

And what happened after?

You can pimp it up by adding vegetables such as aubergines, pepper, spinach, peas etc. but keep it vegetarian otherwise it won’t be original! or something like that).

I’ll quickly add an interesting story. Do you know Ferran Adriá, the chef of the famous El Bulli restaurant? If the rumors can be believed this is the tortilla that he came up with:
1.: get a bag of chips. Open.
2.: Break the eggs straight in the bag.
3. Shake it up well.
4. Pour it into the pan and cook it like a normal tortilla.
5. Eat.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Other bars worth mentioning

In my previous blog post I introduced you the tapas bars where in addition to your drink you not only get a fee tapa but it will taste good as well. I’d also like to talk about a few more restaurants as even though they didn’t make it in the previous list I think they’re still worth mentioning.

1.      Babel
It’s a very popular tapas bar amongst the younger generation in the centre and the reason is that they serve tapa from all over the world! The list you can choose from is extensive and there’s just as much vegetarian choice as non-vegetarian and this is rare to find in Spain. The food served is not only special but also looks different, the octopus I ordered was surrounded by blue and pink mayo rings! Even though the place doesn’t deserve to be in my previous list if you want something different it’s worth popping in here.
Calle Elvira, 40.

2.      La Mancha
This bar got its name from the birthplace of Cervantes’ main character, Don Quijote (de la Mancha). The décor is based on the story and I found it very nice, too. The place is frequented by the middle aged generation and the tapa is not free here BUT. For a few of euros you get a whole plateful of food that was enough for both of us together! The menu is very long and a food is displayed in the bar so you need serious self-discipline to be able to say no after the first plate. Whenever you get tired of getting cheap food with your beer come here to enjoy culinary pleasures. Don’t forget to try the flamenquín!
C/ Joaquin Costa, 10.

3.      La Parrala

They say you cannot have good paella in Andalucía. They also say never have a paella in a place where it´s served as a dinner. (Spanish people only eat it for lunch therefore everything they serve in the evening will be ´for the tourists´.) Even though this might be true for Seville or Cadíz I can sincerely recommend trying a place in La Parrala. It opens at 19:30 and in an hour it’s already full with locals and tourists alike. The moment will come when you get fed up with eating tapa all the time and you want to have a good, hearty meal. This is the place to come then. 
Calle Colcha, 6.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Granada – The best (free) tapas bars

The two things that everybody knows about Granada is that it’s the most beautiful city in Spain and the tapas is free! Whenever you order a beer, a glass of wine or a soft drink you will get a free tapa with it. In some places you get what they put in front of you but in others there’s a whole selection you can choose from. In a few places I even saw vegetarian tapas on offer and that’s something as it’s hard to be a vegetarian in the country of jamón!

There’s a wide selection of bars and when I say ‘wide’ I mean there’s so many that it’s just impossible to choose! Even if you ask a few locals which are the best places they will probably tell you five names in quick succession and they will be all different. I would say don’t be shy, go and have a drink in all of them you fancy the look of!

They say nothing is free in this world and it’s true for the ‘free’ tapa, too. Apparently the price of the tapa is calculated in the price of your drink but still, for a couple of euros you get a small beer and a small plate of food, in my eyes this is a bargain! Just look at the beer prices in London! Or Madrid, for that matter.

The other side of the coin is that even though the food is free the quality can leave something to be desired. During our stay we ventured into bars that had been suggested and bars that hadn’t and I made a short list of the ones that in our opinion serve good quality free tapas.

1.      Diamantes
Whenever you search for the ’10 best tapas bars Granada’ this will be pretty much always on the top of the list and this is also my favourite. The reason is simple: they serve the best seafood you ever get to eat in Andalucía. This is one of those bars where you cannot choose your tapa. Every time we went inside we got a different type of food but they were all exceptionally good. Paul later figured out their trick. Every time a customer orders a whole plate they make a bit more of it and give the extra to the next customer as a tapa. It works so well that they have two bars in the centre. There’s a big one on Plaza Nueva,13, but we prefer the small one on Calle Navas, 28. 

2.      El Espejo
This is Paul’s favourite. There’s always a list of about 7-8 interesting tapas to choose from and they all made of quality ingredients. Every time we went out to sample a few new places we always ended up here. We trusted their cooking so much that we even tried eating snails here.
Calle Elvira, 40.

3.      Om Kalsum
We discovered this little gem quite late in our stay so unfortunately didn’t get to eat through their menu. It’s a bit away from the centre and has an Arabic vibe to it and got its name from a famous Egyptian singer. The tapa is based on Arabic tastes and they are all very tasty.
Calle Jardines, 6. 

And this is it! I’m sure you will find other bars that you like as well but these are the ones that we would suggest going to.

Oh, and a piece of advice: don’t try the Chinese tapa!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Granada – Teterias (Tea rooms)

Apart from the Alhambra and the Moorish architecture Granada inherited other noteworthy things as well such as the tradition of drinking tea in a teteria, or tea room. There are many teterias in Granada and in the Albayzín there’s a whole road dedicated to them, the Calle Calderería Nueva. As with everything else, however, if you don’t know where to go you might end up somewhere that doesn’t provide the experience you’re looking for. After looking for the suitable place on the internet we found one that was suggested by the Guardian: the charming As-Sirat (Teteria Andalusi).

Having our friends, Juan Carlos and Meritxell with us provided an excellent time to try a tea in one of the famous tea rooms therefore under the pretence of showing them a Granadian tradition we ourselves got to try the experience, too. After a morning of walking around in the neighbourhood we finally ventured into the As-Sirat and sat down around one of the tables.

The teteria is not only a tea house where you go to drink your afternoon tea, the experience is more exotic than that. The place itself is decorated in oriental and Arabic style, it feels like being in a tiny Alhambra. You are seated next to a low table on tiny chairs and you spend the first few minutes admiring your surroundings.

Even though the menu here was very extensive our group choose a traditional Moroccan mint tea that does not only quench the thirst but also refreshes tired tourists. The tea has already been sweetened and the leaves come in a gorgeous pot. You have to pour it from high up so the drink cools down on the way to the small decorated glasses. Apparently the ritual has to be repeated six times but we only did it twice.

I chose a different tea called ‘the Dream of the Alhambra’. This consisted not only of tea leaves but also some fruit bits and flower petals. This is how it looked.

The As-Sirat teteria is a bit further away from the street of tea rooms on Placeta de la Charca, off Panderos del Albayzín. I can recommend it to everybody.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Carmen de los Martires

So far all the carmenes I introduced had something special about them. The Carmen de la Victoria is the oldest and the Carmen de los Geranios is a carmen and a museum at the same time. The Carmen of the Martyrs gets a prize in three aspects: it’s the biggest (according to surface area), has the most horrible past and has the most spectacular views over Granada.

You can find this place on the other side of the Alhamra, right next to it. It has a huge harden, just over seven hectars, designed in Englsh-French style. It is full of trees, fountains and benches. It is a perfect place to bring a book and a bottle of wine here, sit on a bench and read away from the noise of the city.

Even though nowadays it’s a peaceful, quite area it wasn’t always like this, as the name suggests. During the Muslim rule lots of pits were dug here in order to store salt and bread. When the Catholic Kings have arrived to take back the city the Moors put the captive Christian soldiers in these pits. When later Isabella found this out she ordered a convent to be built here in memory of the Christian martyrs who suffered under the Muslims thus founding the first Christian church of Granada after the Moorish rule. Later this was demolished and the palace was built in its place.

As soon as you step in the garden the first thing you notice is the views. This carmen has the advantage of not only showing the Alhambra but also the other side of Granada and the Sierra Nevada. On clear days you can see all the mountains that surround this gorgeous city. Don’t forget to look for the peacocks!

The Carmen de los Martires is open to the public every day from 10am. It’s on a road that was named after itself, on the Paseo de los Martires.