Just enough of what you crave is as good as any feast, but a feast (when you fancy it) is pretty good, too.
If you’re gastronomically inclined, a visit to the Catalonian capital Barcelona, is a must. If you’ve already been, then you’ll know how good the food is and celebrate it with me, and if you’re busy planning to visit (it seems anyone who’s anyone is) then this feast will give you a little taste of what’s to come.
We visited Barcelona back in May and we ate a lot of really good food, so it’s little surprise that now, having got a taste for the pork-rich and Mediterranean influenced cuisine, I’m craving it more than ever!
Of course, Manchester has an abundance of Spanish restaurants that’d easily satisfy that craving if you don’t want to cook, some of our favourites include: Evuna, El Gato Negro and Iberica, but if you’re having friends over, or just want to recreate a morsel of Catalan cuisine at home, have a go at making at least one of these dishes. Tip: if you do only cook one dish, the sticky pigs’ cheeks are a must!
Barcelona’s a city that’s steeped in history and culture, offering architectural wonders at every turn (below Gaudi’s: La Sagrada Familia and Casa Batlló), as well as, of course, serving up a gastronomic delight.
If you’re planning where to eat in Barcelona (undoubtedly, the first thing I do when I’m planning any trip), add El Xampanyet to your list, for tapas and craft beer, or, Can Culleretes, for traditional and heartier dishes like suckling pig. For lunch, it has to be Boqueria Food Market at least once and maybe even twice. It’s world-renowned and is known for its quality produce as much as its lively atmosphere and bar-style stalls (particularly, for pinchxos and fish) where diners happily eat and chat, with a fork in one hand and a glass of cold, crisp white wine in the other.
Go hungry, work your way around the busy stalls selling (and offering tastes of) cones of cured meat, Spanish cheeses, offal, pinchxos, fresh fish, nougat, fruit, nuts, and pastries, and make sure you try everything! Everything.
The dishes we’ve selected for our ‘feast’ aren’t all strictly Catalan in origin, in fact, tapas as a way of eating, wasn’t always even part of Catalan culture having been imported, but they’re all certainly dishes you’ll find being served if you visit Barcelona today.
I’ve separated the recipes into individual dishes so that you can select your favourites, or have a go at making them all. If you decide to make the whole feast, I’d recommend setting aside a whole afternoon and cooking the dishes as set out in the order below. Enlist help, or, at least music and wine to assist you.
Let me know how it goes and if anyone would like any tips about visiting Barcelona (air bnb recommendations, excursions, activities, or beer drinking), ask away!
Aplaudiments! (That’s ‘Cheers’, in Catalan.)
Enough for 2-4 hungry food lovers.
Sticky Pigs’ Cheeks
Pigs’ cheeks are very cheap and slow-cooked with a few simple ingredients, they reward you and your guests well: neck-deep in flavour, they’re unctuous and melt in the mouth.
Pigs’ cheeks, 4
Flour, 1 tbsp
Butter, a generous knob
Olive oil, a glug
Garlic, 1/2 a bulb
Thyme, a large sprig
Sherry, a generous glug
Chicken stock, 200ml
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Remove any sinew or excess fat from the pigs’ cheeks and pat dry. Season both sides well with salt and pepper and dust with the flour. Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan and seal the meat on all sides.
Remove the pigs’ cheeks from the pan and set aside. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, tomato and thyme (remove any twiggy stems), and fry for 8-10 minutes until the onions are soft and golden. Add the paprika and a generous glug of sherry and allow to simmer, then add the chicken stock and stir, scraping up any bits that have stuck to the bottom (these are the best bits).
Place the pigs’ cheeks in a casserole dish, or slow cooker, then add the vegetables and sauce to the dish. Stir gently. If cooking in the oven, do so at 150C/130C Fan/Gas for 3 hours. If cooking in a slow cooker, cook on a low heat for 4-6 hours (until the meat falls apart easily). To serve, remove the pigs’ cheeks and pass 2-3 ladles of sauce through a sieve in to a stock pan. Reduce, and simmer until thick and really sticky. Spoon the sauce all over the pigs’ cheeks.
A tapas staple fuelled with paprika and chilli. This potato dish and tomato sauce dish is as well paired with rich meat dishes as it is a light and fresh fish dishes.
Olive Oil, a few glugs
Garlic, 3 cloves
Tomato Puree, 2 tbsps
Paprika, 1 tbsp
Chilli powder, 1 tbsp
Chopped tomatoes, 2
Fry the onion and garlic in olive oil for 5 minutes, or until soft and golden, stir in the tomato puree, paprika and chilli powder and fry for a further minute. Next, add the chopped tomatoes and molasses and leave to simmer on a low heat, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, chop new potatoes with the skins on to 1cm cubes. Boil until soft. Strain and add to a pre-heated and oiled baking tray. Season well and roast for 20-25 minutes, until golden and crispy.
When the potatoes are cooked, remove from the oven and place in a serving dish. To serve, pass the sauce through a sieve, or serve as is, spooning it all over the potatoes.
Spinach, Pine Nuts and Apricots
A slight twist on this classic Catalan dish, that usually incorporates raisins.
Olive oil, a glug
Dried Apricots, 50g
Pine nuts, 30g
Salt and pepper, to taste
Soak the apricots in warm water for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, wilt the spinach in boiling water and drain thoroughly.
In a frying pan, heat a glug of olive oil and add the pine nut kernels shaking the pan every so often until they’re golden on both sides. Add the wilted spinach to the pan, and drain the apricots and add these to the pan, too.
Season and gently toss for a few minutes until everything is heated through and then spoon in to a serving dish.
Pan con Tomate (Tomato Bread)
In Catalunya, they don’t butter their bread but rub it with tomatoes and olive oil instead. One bite, and you’ll know why.
Tomatoes (good quality and room temperature), 2
Olive oil, a glug
Salt, a pinch
*I used a good quality sourdough loaf here as I couldn’t get a baguette and it was perfectly delicious
Slice a baguette and warm it in the oven, or lightly toast under the grill. Blitz, for barely a few seconds, the tomato, olive oil and salt, until they’re just about acquainted. Spoon and rub the mixture over the baguette. Enjoy with sliced cured meats, and cheeses.
Cheese and Potato Croquetas/Croquettes
Crisp and fluffy, and enriched with egg yolk. These croquetas are perfect for crowd-pleasing and aoili dipping.
Potato (mashed), 250g
Fresh Breadcrumbs (toasted), 100g
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Vegetable or Sunflower oil, 500ml
Make mashed potato. Add the butter, cheese and 1 egg yolk (keep the white to one side) to the warm mashed potato and beat until fully incorporated. Leave to cool.
Whisk the egg (with the remaining white from the previous step) and pour into a shallow dish, in two other shallow dishes, add the breadcrumbs to one and the flour to the other.
Shape dollops (roughly 30g) of potato into cylinders and then, gently, dip these in to the flour, egg and finally the breadcrumbs. Once all of the potato is shaped, heat a shallow pan of vegetable, or sunflower oil. Fry the croquetas for 2 minutes either side, remove with a slatted spoon and drain on kitchen towel. Serve with ailio (garlic or truffle).
Surprisingly quick and simple to make and most delicious when hot and fresh from the fry.
Squid (cleaned body tubes), 3-5
Vegetable oil, 500ml (if cooking in the same oil as the croquettes, sift out any remaining breadcrumbs before frying the squid)
Lemon, 1 – for serving
Slice the squid in to rings, opening out with your fingers. Dip the squid rings in to the egg to coat them, and then the flour.
Heat the oil in a shallow pan, carefully drop the rings into the pan and fry for a minute or so either side. Remove with a slatted metal spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Squeeze the lemon over the calamari at the table.
Just enough of what you crave is as good as any feast