Monday, 22 April 2013

Northern Food on tour: Self-catering in Spain again

I wouldn't normally choose to holiday twice in the same place in a matter of months, but thanks to the kindness and generosity of others we found ourselves heading off to Malaga once more for a repeat of last September's festivities.

I'm exceedingly grateful that we did because we had just as much fun this time around, but with the added bonus of a) not having all of our documents and stuff stolen, and b) my making a marriage proposal (accepted, thankfully). Good times.

On the eating and drinking front it was largely another self-catering affair, save for a pizza lunch in Nerja, a very average, touristy menu del dia in Granada, and a mini tapas crawl around Malaga (of which more later). We ate the same sort of thing as last time;- plenty of fresh fruit and salads to balance out the inevitable ham, bread and booze.

I'll not bore you with all the details, but here are a few things that were new discoveries or particularly good in spring rather than autumn.

The seasonal goods were all a month or two ahead of Britain, asparagus and strawberries being in particularly fine nick. We bought both in the supermarket, but later spotted strawberries growing locally and being sold at just three euros for an enormous box full.

As an aside it's interesting to note the lack of variety in the Spanish supermarkets, or at least what I perceived to be so. The number of fresh produce lines must be barely a quarter of what you'd find in the average British supermarket, but things are evidently much more seasonal. Asparagus and strawberries were in abundance in April, but were nowhere to be seen in September. Do we really need to be eating such things year round, expensive and air-freighted from Peru, or should we do as the Spanish seem to and gorge on them for pennies, but only when the right time arrives? On the other hand the lack of variety is definitely just that where some things are concerned. Good luck trying to get fresh herbs in a Spanish supermarket.

What is always readily available, and in wondrous, inexplicable variety in even the crappiest stores, is seafood. Especially shellfish. Bigging up Spain for eating seasonally and locally falls down completely when it comes to seafood, as they'll import the stuff from anywhere on the planet so long as it's good.

A bag of plump raw prawns were outstanding dunked in pungent alioli after flash-frying in olive oil with a good grind of salt and pepper. Beautifully sweet and perky, they were even good enough to make me eat a few Chinese-style;- sucking the juice from the heads. The cost of these little beauties? Seven euros something a kilo, which would be plenty for about six people.

My final and most exciting new discovery, and the one most fittingly Spanish given its use of delicious Andalusian booze, is Pedro Ximenez sherry as dessert ingredient. This is hardly a new idea, but the first time I'd got round to trying it.

Pedro Ximenez, or PX as it's commonly known, is the sweetest of all the sherry wines. It's thick, almost treacly with a complex, raisiny flavour. First attempt was PX poured straight over vanilla ice cream. Very good, but there was better to come.

A few recalcitrant plums were the only rubbish fruit we bought, with dry mealy flesh making it a waste of time eating them raw. Cooking a plum often works wonders though, so I quartered them and baked them slowly (they were in a medium oven for over an hour) with a generous pour of the PX. The result, served with more of the same ice cream, was divine. Tender fruit oozing syrupy, umber juice that was rich in dark, tannic flavour. Writing this is making me crave it now. If you see a strange man in Tesco late at night buying sherry, fruit and ice cream that'll probably be me.

This time around we did a little bit more sightseeing, visiting Granada and Malaga. The former really needs no introduction, the Alhambra is one major destination that absolutely lives up to its billing. It's stunning, just go.

Malaga on the other hand is a little hard done by, it doesn't always get the best press but is really rather lovely, especially on a Friday evening when what seems like the entire population is out on the streets enjoying themselves: talking, strolling and eating and drinking rather well. I'm going to write about that tomorrow.


Gillian said...


Dave said...


Lee Burns said...

All sounds great. I like the PX/plum idea. Don't normally go for uber-sweet things, but I bloody love Pedro ximinez, it's basically liquid sticky toffee pud. Oh yeah, and congrats!

Dave said...

Thanks Lee! I'd say liquid sticky toffee pud is a pretty accurate description of the stuff.

John Vonn said...

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samuel jordan said...

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