FOODventures, TRAVELventures

In which I wax lyrical once more about Barcelona

I’m a little bit in love/obsessed with Barcelona. I keep going back and I keep needing to go back. Thankfully, I do have friends there making it way too easy to go back on a whim or maybe it’s simply the pull of the blue and orange tones of that beaut of a city that is just too much. Or maybe it’s the way of life? Beach, food, music and friends, how can anyone say no?

I will move there, soon enough I’ll go there for a weekend and just decide to stay – it’s not unheard of…

ANYWAYS.

I was naughty…I didn’t take as many pictures of food as I had intended. In fact, I only really took a picture of one of my meals…it was damn good too. I think for the most part it was a sudden onset of shyness in being in such local places, and also in large part to a deep impatience to eat what’s in front of me. You know…don’t let your food get cold and all…important stuff.

Since there are not many pictures of food, I’ll just have to describe it because guys, you need to go. And you need to eat.

DO IT.

EL MUNDIAL

El Mundial for proper tapas and Catalan feel – it was my favourite of the trip too, I had aubregine chips with honey and they were just heaven in my mouth, along with some grilled clams in a white wine sauce type thing where the juices were just so good and thank god for bread to soak up! It was just super, I ate there three times in a week. Also get the pimentos de padron – they are lovely and salty and wonderful – you can get this anywhere and even do them at home (we found some in Waitrose – from Spain and it’s a a favourite snack in Casa Reyes) but it’s worth ordering, along with some chipirones – crunchy squid bits. Don’t be intimidated by the tentacles. DO IT. Its a narrow place with a long bar and marble tables to the side and genuinely just looks old school, reminded me of the kind of places my family used to drag me to as a kid. Quite frankly the opening hours are seemingly sporadic, I walked by it daily (often a few times a day since my friend lives next door) and sometimes it was open, and sometimes it was not, but maybe it was me who was sporadically walking by.

Plaza Sant Agusti Vell, 1, 08003 Barcelona, Spain

MOSQUITO
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Not spanish tapas BUT still a great place is Mosquito which does “exotic tapas” so dumplings and other delicious asian food like Pho and crispy friend duck amongst other things. The beautiful dumplings and amazing crispy duck breast with plum sauce were my favourite. So much so that I’m thinking about it right now and I actually physically miss it. If you do go, get the duck – it’s the 2nd option that’s 7.60 because they don’t specify it just says duck 1 and duck 2 (or if you get the catalan menu like my friend and I did and had to decipher what the hell was what -we learned that duck is Anec, so get the anec) Below is the menu in Catalan: feel free to just order the same, it was sexy.

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Also get the coconut tapioca for dessert, it was grand. There’s a great array of craft beer as well which is so nice to see – craft beer revolution is world wide, HOORAY. There’s always a queue as well but it goes quickly and its vastly worth it. Seriously. GO.

Carrer dels Carders, 46, 08003 Barcelona, Spain

ESPAI MESCLADIS
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Espai Mescladis is lovely for lunch – I had a great lentil soup and a chicken empanada and some artesian beer but what’s best is the actual space, it’s mostly inside a courtyard and good atmosphere – takes ages to order though so don’t go hungry. My lunch didn’t photograph well and I was pretty hungry, so again, apologies for lack of food pictures. However, the food is not the only attraction – it’s just such a lovely space worthy of just a glass of artesian cola or a coffee and a good book (I sat there for hours, but I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves).

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Carrer dels Carders, 35, 08003 Barcelona, Spain

LA CANDELA
La Candela was also very lovely for a sit down dinner or lunch, I had a great white bean and tuna thing but their menu changes daily – they have a cute little narrow place but also some tables outside and the staff are pretty nice. I took my laptop there to work a few days and it became a firm favourite .
Placa de Sant Pere, 12, 08003 Barcelona, Spain

LA XANPANERIYA
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I’ve already told you about this. But to reiterate.

GO THERE, EAT THINGS & DRINK CAVA.
Carrer de la Reina Cristina

A little photo diary from the rest of my trip…because Barcelona is beautiful and I can’t get enough of it.

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FOODventures, TRAVELventures

Sneak peek: Barcelona

I’m a regular visitor to Barcelona as it’s pretty cheap/quick to get there from London AND I’ve got friends to visit there, which is as perfect an excuse to go again and again if there ever was one. Even though there are a great deal of other places to visit and people to see, Barca always feels fresh and new to me so never truly feel guilty for going there over anywhere else. It’s a brilliant city break with the ocean – I mean really, can it get more perfect? Food, ocean, city life. Trifecta of AWESOME.

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I’m headed back in a few weeks time and will report back with a definitive guide of where to go and what to eat (the more I go, the more I learn, you see?) because this time I actually have the monies to eat out and have more time than usual. Here’s a sneaky peek with my ultimate Barcelona recommendation (seriously, if anyone mentions they are going, I immediately mention this little slice of heaven…sometimes I just mention it, just because).

The Xampaneria

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This gem of a place was discovered on my first visit to Barcelona – the cava is cheap AND lovely. That little glass really gives potency to the phrase “small and mighty” because I have never not stumbled out of that place and that’s only after one or two, let alone half a bottle if you stay in there long enough. You can even buy by the bottle in the bar itself during the day time to drink it there or take it home!

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You have two options, rosat or normal – the rosat is sweeter and lighter than the normal cava which is drier and tastes more of the grapes. We always get the rosat, but thats mainly because my friends have massive sweet tooths. The best part is that you have to order a tapa or a sandwich, so no eating on an empty stomach (wise) and it’s also delicious. There’s chorizo, cheese, croquettas (and we all know about my deep obsession with croquettas/croquettes), sandwiches with chorizo, morcilla and all sorts of other delicious meats. It’s a minuscule place, so get there early before you have to squeeze through crowds of people and elbow your way to the bar.

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FOODventures

Lemon Coconut Cake

I really should have finished my application for the Great British Bake Off 2013, I’ve really outdone myself with this cake, as has Waitrose with its recipe skills – sadly, I have a hard time not being too lazy to fill out applications. Born out of boredom, a need for a cake for a little get together with some family friends and what seems like an inherited sense of laziness (mi madre didn’t want to go and buy a cake) we thought we would make this little beauty.

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And frankly I am so glad we did. It was spongy, it was coconutty and lemony, it was creamy, it was simple and it was just pretty beautiful. I keep saying to people I don’t normally like cakes and while I think at one point in my life this was really true, I think the tides have turned. However, the surprise I get every time I do like a cake, I think will never wane. Maybe it was years of bad store bought cakes in school and friends birthdays that made me think I didn’t like cake? WHO KNOWS. This cake, whether I actually like cake or not, is a damn winner anyways. Unless you dislike coconut and lemon…in which case, this is quite obviously not the cake for you. Or is it?! When it was mentioned that it was a coconut cake, one of the ladies made a face like she was sucking on a lemon and said “coconut wasn’t her favourite” (the face really said, giiiirl I hate coconut) and she ate a big slice and then had seconds. So maybe try it? It was good.

Anyways, recipe! HERE. NOW! YAY!

This takes about 50-55 minutes

YOU WILL NEED: 

125g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (be careful to not get any of the pith in there!)
100ml coconut cream
4 medium eggs
225g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
75g desiccated coconut (I took some coconut liberties and added a wee bit more – probably around 80g)

For le filling:

170ml double cream
60ml coconut cream
2 tbsp lemon curd

WHAT TO DO:

1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C, gas mark 4. Grease and line the base of two 18cm round sandwich cake tins with baking parchment paper.

2. Rub in the lemon zest with the sugar with your fingers until pretty much incorporated and super fragrant. Place the butter in a large bowl and using an electric whisk, beat together with the sugar and lemon zest until light and pale. Gradually whisk in the coconut cream and eggs adding a little flour to prevent it curdling. Sift in the remaining flour, baking powder and the desiccated coconut and fold until well combined. Divide the mixture equally between the tins, levelling the surfaces. Bake for 25–30 minutes until golden. Cool in the tins for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

3. For the filling, whip the cream to soft peaks with the coconut cream and then swirl through the lemon curd. Sandwich between the cakes (I added a thin layer of lemon curd as well, but I really like lemon) and then sift some icing sugar on top, about a tsp or 3 if you’re like myself. A lovely idea we had was to put a piece of lace on top and THEN sift that icing sugar on, but we did not find any lace. Still though, a nice idea for someone else.

Bangin.

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FOODventures, TRAVELventures

Typich München

München, ist so cray! (there was a bus tour we went on, and honestly there was a song at the end and I am genuinely CONVINCED this is what it said – and it would be completely correct, München IS cray)

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End of October (sadly, we missed Oktoberfest – but no matter, we had out own Oktoberfest, and for sure I will make it a point to come back!) and when we landed it was a beautiful sunny autumn day, quite nippy but nothing too serious, but by day two we were met by heavy, heavy snow and let me tell you, there is little in the world more beautiful than autumn leaves in all their colourful glory, blanketed in white.

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So, if traveling to Germany late October, I would certainly suggest to first of all, be prepared weather wise (we got there and it was 14 degrees celsius and by day two it was snowing and -1) and also maybe going on a mini diet before hand. I never appreciated salad so much until three days in cream drenched, beer heavy, pretzel loving Munich, salad and sparkling water ( a hangover godsend) and maybe be prepared to look for places with vegetarian options well before hand. There was a veggie in our little party and he had a hard time getting food and ended up eating a lot of pretzels (which would be fine, because the pretzels are AMAZING, but for five days straight? Maybe not quite that amazing.)

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I mean look at that plate. LOOK AT IT.

THERE IS SO MUCH CREAM…and it is a breaded veal meatball (or rather, breaded veal burger as it is not a ball at all) with tiny spätzle (tiny dumpling noodle things) delicious, but frankly between the cream and the beer, woah. Even I couldn’t eat it all.

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Yes, the above is a GIANT POTATO DUMPLING AND IT WAS BEAUTIFUL. The sauce you ask? That there my lovlies is DARK ALE GRAVY with some pork belly and crispy bits of crackling. Hands down the very best meal I had while I was there, followed closely by a luscious chicken Ceasar salad, however that salad may have been elevated to new heights because of three full days of beer, pretzels and cream…

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A definite highlight would be the Stadtmuseum which is filled with hours of fun, history and really creepy (and some wonderful) puppets. In hindsight, we probably shouldn’t have gone to the museum on the one day it was NOT snowing and below zero degrees, but it was raining.

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Munich was brilliant, I had a wonderful couple of days and while mildly dehydrated due to gallons of beer (the only good reason to be mildly dehydrated) it was so wonderful. To actually go on a bus tour and see things we wouldn’t have seen from just walking was brilliant. Walking around half aimlessly is I usually see cities and feel apart of it, which of course we did, so much walking and I really feel as if Munich was home for a few days. So much in fact that I genuinely miss it and will certainly be back to explore some more. Maybe during the Christmas market time, or in the summer because frankly everywhere is wonderful in the summer. Just imagine, cold cold steins of beer, walking around with ice cream, going the the giant park we didn’t get to see and lots of that caesar salad I mentioned earlier. With more beer and ice cream, naturally. *(I’m lusting for summer in the midst of early winter and the first snow storm of 2013 here in the UK, as one does)

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Beer, empty pretzel baskets, bicycles, pool, a lovely group of people and old stuff. Wonderful!

Typich München baby!

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FOODventures

my favourite brownies

Brownies

BROWNIES.

Once upon a time, in a kitchen far, far away I thought I couldn’t bake (an incident with some banana bread muffins gone terribly awry:  plastic-y on the outside and completely liquid on the inside, how this happened is beyond me). Nowadays, making these bad boys has become a deliciously bad habit. I’ve found that the best way is certainly to use melted chocolate rather than powdered cocoa. It also looks infinitely cooler in pictures.

Recipe courtesy one of my favourite food blogs, the wonderful Smitten Kitchen!(http://smittenkitchen.com/)

*mildly adapted to suit my need for dark chocolate and London location*

3 ounces (85 grams) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 stick (4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing pan
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (6 1/8 ounces or 175 grams) sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla (sometimes I use one vanilla pod if I’m feeling fancy!)
1/4 teaspoon table salt or 1/2 teaspoon flaky salt (about 2 grams)
2/3 cup (83 grams) all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 176°C. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, with the ends extending over opposite sides of pan. Repeat with second piece of parchment paper in opposite direction. Butter the parchment paper.

Melt the dark chocolate and butter together in a large bowl over a simmering pot of water until it is 90% melted; remove from heat and stir the mixture until it is smooth. Whisk in the sugar, then the eggs (one at a time) then vanilla. Add flour and salt together, stirring until just combined. Spread into prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

photo cred: Ciara Quilty-Harper (flatmates are excellent)

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