Mercat de la Llibertat

mercat de la llibertat

Having come up to Gràcia several times to visit Mercat de l’Abaceria, I discovered that it closed on 21st July and will be renovated – which means demolished and rebuilt. This is a great shame since pretty much all the stalls were made of marble and it was a fantastic example of how Barcelona markets used to look. No doubt though, all the market stall holders relocated to a prefabricated structure, will appreciate the mod cons that come with a new building (when it’s finished).

modernista

Not to be outdone, I went and visited another Gràcia market instead – Mercat de la Llibertat, which opened in 1888 and was refurbished in 2009. The original cast iron framework is Modernista in style and was designed by architect Miquel Pasqual i Tintorer. The decorative ironwork was designed by architect, Francesc Berenguer i Mestres. There are shops or cabins around the exterior – these normally sell cloth, garments, home wares, etc. (there are similar shops and stalls outside other local markets).

la porta

The first thing I noticed in this modernised space was air conditioning and with that, electric doors (quite Star Trek) wich open when you approach. When it’s 30º C outside the AC is very welcome, though I’d still prefer old style market stalls and food wrapped in paper.

I arrived after lunch, when stall holders are reopening and tidying up their stalls. Whilst Mercat de la Llibertat isn’t a touristy market, it’s still handy to arrive at a quiet time for photographs.

pedro

Above is the Pedro Fruits del Mar stall. The Fish Lady was busy chopping a merluza (hake) for her customers.

peixos

She’d previously been arranging her display for the late afternoon shoppers.

tino

Tino specialises in fresh fruit, prepared salads, pastries, couscous and juices – today they were doing a special on Macedònia – fruit salad.

tomaquets

They had some stunning tomatoes too!

vicky victoria

Vicky Victoria (opposite) is another fish stall,

cranc

selling live crabs

llagosta

and spiny lobster. I was impressed by how clean the tanks were and in spite of the lobster sitting on a crab, the crustaceans do have a lot of space to move around.

bayo soler carn

Bayo Soler have one of the largest stalls in the market,

buey vasco

selling meat and poultry on the right

bayo soler formatge

with cheese and charcuterie on the left.

antolín

Antolín sells fruit and vegetables,

pebrots

all of which looked stunning, especially these red peppers.

bordas

Bordas is a meat stall at the top of the next isle,

cabra

specialising in beef, goat, lamb and veal. Note the whole goat above.

jixiang sushi

Just next door, I was surprised to find Jixiang Sushi – though perhaps not that surprising, since sushi has become very popular everywhere. There are quite strong ties between Spain and Japan, since both countries are great fish lovers. Most people don’t realise that Iberian Jesuits took tempura (the name comes from Latin and relates to fasting) to Japan in the 16th century and that the Japanese come to buy the finest bluefin tuna from the South – the fish are caught (using a 3,000 year old method) when they enter the Mediterranean to spawn.

joan noi

At the bottom of the market (it’s on a hill) I discovered a fabulous fish stall – Joan Noi.

rap

It sells some fantastic fish (as you’d expect), like the monkfish above

lunching

and it also has a restaurant (El Tast de Joan Noi), on the other end, which looks very good and reasonable to boot.

joan noi menu

See for yourself on the menu above. I will be returning, at some point, for lunch!

lagrana

In the center of the market I found Lagrana,

fruits secs

selling local dried fruit and nuts, some of which could give Fortnum and Mason a very good run for their money.

bonpreu

As with most renovated Catalan markets, there’s a small supermarket, Bonpreu, attached to Mercat de la Llibertat.

bonpreu interior

I find this somewhat strange, but I’ve been told that all market stalls are relatively cheap to rent, so perhaps the local government charges supermarkets a premium to subsidise the market stallholders. I was even more surprised this week to discover a huge Lidl in the basement of the newly renovated Sant Antoni Market …right next to a Roman wall!

In spite of my reservations about modernising old markets, I was pleasantly surprised by Mercat de la Llibertat – it hasn’t been spoiled. The stalls sell the very best produce, which isn’t cheap, but it’s not excessive either. I would come here to shop and I’m definitely returning to eat the fish in Joan Noi.

Mercat de la Llibertat is at: Placa Llibertat, 27, 08012, Gràcia Barcelona.

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Bodega E. Marin

bodega e. marin

While I was walking round Gràcia looking for markets and restaurants, I came across Bodega E. Marin, a fantastic old bodega. In Spain these are wine shops/cellars, which may also sell groceries, but the focus is on wine.

interior

Through the front door of this bodega there are a couple of counters on either side and small stools for customers to sit and sip a glass of wine.

holy spirit

On the left hand side, just past the counter there are shelves crammed full of every spirit ever distilled. I counted 12 types of tequila on one section of shelf alone. Botas (wine skins) and Torres Artesanal Potato Chips hang from the shelves, hiding the precious liquors.

coffee cup

Below the drink there’s a fan siting on top of a cigarette machine. To the right sits a glass fronted refrigerator containing bar snacks (tapas) – patates braves, croquetes, anxoves, músculs, etc. On the front door to the bodegas, among many hand written signs for drinks, I noticed entrepans (between bread) – sandwiches (in a baguette) of llom, truita de patates, fuet, formatge, etc. – all priced between €3 – €4. Beyond the fridge there’s a full size espresso machine and almost to the roof you will see huge wine barrels.

ceiling

No space is left unused – there are even bottles hanging from the ceiling!

counter and wine taps

Directly above the counter there are more wine barrels – these are not for display – there are taps (right) connected to the barrels to dispense wine. Not so many years ago these bodegas contained more barrels than bottles. You can go in and order a glass of wine, port or sherry straight from the cask. Not many tourists realise that people bring in their own bottles and jugs to be filled up. In the days before mass production this was normal.

carajillo

I had a carajillo de cognac to keep me going for the rest of the afternoon – it cost me €1.65. Expect to pay between €1 – €2 for a glass of local wine from the barrel. No doubt they sell a great vermut de la cassa. Bottles of wine, cava and spirits will be cheaper here than most supermarkets.

Bodega E. Marin is at: Milà i Fontanals 72, 08012, Gracia, Barcelona.

carrer de milans

I noticed a review of Bodega E. Marin where someone suggested keeping it quiet and not telling anyone, so that it would remain unspoiled. Years ago, I lived on Carrer de Milans and we had a fantastic bodega on the corner – it was twice as big as E. Marin and also served as a corner shop selling ham, cheese, potatoes, etc. Back then one could buy water in recycled 10 litre glass bottles and the bodegas stocked them. Once you’d paid a deposit the water cost peanuts. I occasionally bought a litre of port from the barrel – I think it cost 125 pesetas (about €0.75). Sadly that bodega is long gone and they are disappearing fast, so do frequent the old bodegas and do tell all your friends!

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La Cerveseria

la cerveseria

I cycled up to Gràcia (once a village in it’s own right, but now a suburb of Barcelona) today, in search of Mercat de l’Abaceria, the oldest market in the barrio, but sadly it was closed. It’s possible that it’s closed for August (as are many businesses in Barcelona), but it is also due to be refurbished soon. Looking to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse and as I was up in Gracia, I thought I ought to look for a suitable place for lunch.

bar

I found La Cerveseria in Plaça de la Revolució, which reminded me somewhat of a German bierkeller by name and on the inside.

interior

I had been looking for a shaded table outside, however, the menú del día looked good and was served indoors only. It’s also worth noting that there were 20 or so locals, eating good food downstairs – I took that to be a good sign.

menú

It was a hot day and as I’d cycled up hill and walked around for 45 minutes, the idea of cold air conditioning with a cheap lunch won me over.

vermut

I promptly ordered a refreshing vermut de la casa before the menú del día arrived.

aceitunas

My friendly waiter brought over a dish of little olives to go with the drink. I was beginning to like this place and forgot about the large wall TV (blissfully silent), showing the latest news.

fideuà

I ordered Fideuà a la Marinera amb Allioli (seafood fideuà with garlic mayonnaise) as my starter. Fideuà is a very popular paella like dish, made with short pasta instead of rice – as with paella, fideuà should never contain chorizo! This fideuà was a good one, with, clams, squid, mussels and langostinos (prawns).

tonyina

For my main course I ordered Tonyina a la Planxta amb Vinagreta de Soja i Llimona (tuna steak cooked on the griddle with a soya and lemon vinagrette dressing), served with fried potatoes in their skins. This was excellent!

iogurt

For pudding I had iogurt – yogurt with cherries and fruit syrup on top.

vi rosat

Included in the price of my lunch was a 500ml garrafa (carafe) of very good vi rosat – that’s two thirds of a bottle!

factura

I was astonished, when I got my bill – the lunch, including 3 courses, wine, olives, bread and a vermut was €10.50!

I suspect it may get a little noisy here at night, but there are always tables outside. Nevertheless, the lunch and service were excellent and I will go back!

La Cerveseria is at: Plaça de la Revolució 3, 08012, Gracia, Barcelona.

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Can Miguel

can miguel

I went to Calella twice this week with Oli and Nookie. We had been warned that restaurants on the Costa Brava could be for tourists only – all pizza and bad tapas (tapas do not come from Cataluña), but we embarked on a mission to find somewhere good regardless. Earlier in the week we thought we’d found and excellent restaurant, the menú diari looked good, it was full of Catalans and the camarera was charming. It all went well until we got to the main course where the fideuà was tasteless and rubbery. I think it was the first time I’ve ever had a bad fideuà! Needless to say, my camera went back in my bag and the restaurant will be nameless.

Today our luck changed and we found an excellent place called Can Miguel. with huge parasols to shade us from the sun and friendly staff.

menú diari

You will see from the menú diari, above, that the food promised to be good – 3 course with wine or beer for €12.50.

vi rosat

I ordered my usual vi rosat, which did a very good impression of Carlsberg in the film, Ice Cold In Alex.

musclos can miguel

To start, Nookie ordered musclos “Can Miguel” – Can Miguel’s signature mussel dish. Normally these come with garlic, but they were very happy to adjust the recipe to suit their guests. The bowl was enormous, so we all ate them. Despite the missing garlic, they were delicious!

amanida russa

Oli ordered Amanida Russa – Russian Salad, a very popular dish in Iberia, made of potatoes and other vegetables in mayonnaise. It is said that mahonnaise originally came from Mahón in Menorca.

gaspatxo a la andalusa

As it was about 30º C outside, I chose gaspatxo a la andalusa – an Andalucian Gazpacho, a cold raw tomato soup, chilled in the fridge and designed to cool you down. Note the little bowl of chopped crunchy vegetables to float on top of the soup.

amanida mixta amb tonyina

Nookie quite often wants a second starter instead of the main course. You will see here, that she was very well looked after with an Amanida Mixta amb Tonyina – a mixed salad with tuna.

pollastre al curri

Oli ordered Pollastre al Curri – chicken curry, which he pronounced excellent.

lluç a la planxa

I ordered Lluç a la Planxa – hake cooked on the griddle, which came with a generous helping of potatoes, mixed vegetables and asparagus.  Nookie had half the asparagus – her second favourite vegetable after artichokes and she did give me lots of mussels!

fruites

For pudding, Nookie had fresh fruit which came in a lovely glass bowl in the shape of half an apple.

panna cotta

Oli ordered Panna Cotta, an Italian sweetened, cream pudding, set with gelatin in a mould.

tarta de fresas

My pudding was a Tarta de Fresas – a strawberry tart, which I expected to be more French in style, but nevertheless, it was astonishingly light and quite delicious.

carajillo

Nobody will be surprised to see me finish my lunch with a carajillo de cognac, a fantastic pick me up of espresso topped up with Spanish Brandy. They even serve it with a Malteser like sweet.

la cuenta

We werendelighted with Can Miguel, which compared extremely well with some of our favourite restaurants in Barcelona. It’s also worth noting how good value it is at lunchtime.

Can Miguel is at: Riera Capaspre, 4, 08370 Calella, Cataluña.

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Rabbit Vindaloo

wild rabbits

Most people in Britain probably think of vindaloo as a spicy lamb dish, sold in Indian restaurants and as a ready meal from supermarkets. However, vindaloo actually started off as a Portuguese pork or rabbit dish – Carne de vinha d’alhos, meat marinated with wine and garlic.

The Portuguese discovered India in 1498 and established their colony and trading posts over the next 100 years or so. Carne de vinha d’alhos came with the sailors, packed in barrels. Some say the pork was layered with garlic and wine, though centuries earlier, the Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans arriving in Iberia were well aware of the preserving properties of vinegar and the Moors who filled the Roman vacuum were known to have preserved meat and fish (in escabeche like dishes) with vinegar thereafter. So to my mind Portuguese sailors would have used wine vinegar, not wine, to preserve their meat, as Portuguese chefs do today.

vindaloo

Vindaloo became a staple food in Portuguese Goa, made by Franciscan priests, who’d gone to “save” the natives. Since wine vinegar was unavailable to the Franciscans, they made an alternative from fermented palm wine instead. Local ingredients, such as cinnamon, tamarind, black pepper and cardamom were added, along with chilli from Portuguese colonies in South America. When the British arrived in India, they liked vindaloo so much they brought it home. Duck vindaloo was a particular favourite. Early English cookbooks stuck to the traditional Goan recipe, though over the last century or so, British vindaloo has became a hot curry, without the vinegar marinade.

So here’s my take on a Portuguese Indian dish, made with rabbit – a popular meat on both continents and often used in Portuguese carne de vinha d’alhos.

First of all, make a masala (which can be a wet or dry mixture) to marinate the meat.

The Masala (spice mix for the marinade):

75ml red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons hot pimentón de la vera
2 teaspoons dulce pimentón de la vera
a level teaspoonful ground cinnamon
a level teaspoonful ground turmeric
8 cardamom pods
20 black peppercorns
8 cloves
1 level teaspoon coriander seeds
1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds

warmed spices

Warm all the whole masala spices (not the powdered ingredients) in a dry frying pan until they start to give off an aroma (don’t get them too hot, as they will burn) – this will bring out the flavours.

ground spices

Remove the warm spices to a mortar (remove the cardamom seeds from their pods) and grind them up with a pestle.

Rabbit Vindaloo (serves 4):

2 strips of pork belly (rind removed and cubed)
1 rabbit chopped into about 14 pieces
2 large onions (chopped)
1 head of garlic (finely chopped)
3 large tomatoes (grated)
3 small red and green chillies (chopped)
a piece of ginger about the size of thumb (grated)
2 dessertspoonfuls of tomato purée
a squirt of anchovy paste
Extra virgin olive oil for frying
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
a large pinch of crushed dried chillies
a large pinch of sea salt
additional red wine vinegar to taste (if required)
The rabbit’s blood – mix this with a little red wine vinegar to stop it congealing, cover and keep it in the fridge until required

pork belly

I added  two strips of chopped pork belly to the rabbit, for fat and flavour (…and of course one does want to keep the Inquisition at bay!), as wild rabbit is rather lean.

meat

Chop the rabbit into about 14 pieces and put all the meat into a container that will fit in the fridge.

masala

Sprinkle on all the masala spices and pour on the red wine vinegar.

marination

Mix the meat and marinade with your hands – it’s messy, but probably does the best job. Cover and allow the meat to marinate for 24 hours or so. Do take the meat out of the fridge for a couple of hours before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature.

onions

When you are ready to cook, fry two large onions in olive oil, until they go translucent.

ginger and garlic

Stir the chopped garlic and grated ginger into the onions,

peppers

before adding the red and green chillis.

grated tomato

Grate three large tomatoes into the onion mixture

vegetables

and allow this to cook for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle on the crushed chilli, black mustard seeds and sea salt, along with a squirt of anchovy paste and tomato purée,

marinated meat

Stir all the meat and marinade into the vegetables, bring to a gentle simmer, cover and allow to cook for an hour.

rabbit blood

After 60 minutes, taste the vindaloo and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Stir in the rabbit blood and vinegar mixture to thicken the sauce. Cook uncovered for a further 30 minutes or until the meat is tender. Do add a little water if the sauce gets too thick.

rabbit vindaloo

Serve with basmati rice, chapatis or nan bread. I’m very fond of aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower in a spicy sauce) as an accompaniment and perhaps a little lemon pickle (which is very hard to find in the UK).

I recommend drinking a Portuguese Douro red wine with vindaloo, such as a Quinta do Vallado or a Goa Beer.

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Kangaroo Casserole

kangaroo casserole

As I left the Squirrel Barbecue, Oli thrust a bag of leftovers at me and said, “See what you can do with these.” I cycled off into the night and on arriving home, just remembered to put the bag in the fridge before falling into a very deep sleep.

On careful examination the next day, I discovered 3 kangaroo fillets, 3 large squirrel legs, 6 chicken heart kebabs and a couple of ostrich burgers. The ostrich burgers were a bit bland, so I reheated them for breakfast with a fried egg on top. The other ingredients looked perfect for a casserole.

Kangaroo Casserole recipe (serves 4):

3 pieces of kangaroo fillet (chopped)
3 pieces of squirrel (boned and chopped)
6 chicken heart kebabs (including santa tomatoes, mushrooms and onion)
3 slices smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
2 carrots (chopped)
2 sticks celery (chopped)
1 pint beef stock
a splash red wine vinegar
a dessertspoon of tomato purée
a large squeeze anchovy paste
a pinch of crushed chilli
2 bay leaves
1 heaped dessertspoons of plain flour
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil for frying

barbecued kebabs

Start by frying the onion in olive oil until it goes translucent and sprinkle on a pinch of crushed chilli. Add the chopped streaky bacon and let it change colour. Stir in the carrot, celery and garlic – cook that for a few minutes before squirting in tomato purée and anchovy paste. Dust with flour and mix the ingredients together to form a roux, before pouring on the beef stock and a splash of red wine vinegar. Add the chopped meat and kebab ingredients plus bay leaves, then season with salt and pepper.

Put the lid on and increase the temperature until the casserole comes to a simmer. Have a good taste and adjust the seasoning, as you see fit. Put the lid back on and remove the dish to a pre heated oven at 150º C for two hours (stirring occasionally).

casserole

Kangaroo casserole turned out to be incredibly delicious – the taste and smell were absolutely amazing.  The tender, slightly beefy kangaroo and gamey squirrel (both smokey from the barbecue) came together like the very best venison equivalent imaginable.  It was all I could do to stop myself wolfing the whole lot down solo.

Serve with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. No doubt this goes best with an Australian red wine, such as Kilikanoon GSM (which is a good match for a barbecue).

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Squirrel Barbecue

squirrel barbecue

Last Sunday I was on barbecue duty chez Rick and Su in Golders GreenOli expressed a keen interest in squirrel and ordered 5 from The Wild Meat Company. Rest assured, these are grey squirrel and not our native red variety. Grey squirrels were introduced to Britain from America in 1876 – they are a larger species (which gives them a competitive edge) and sadly they carry a disease which kills our own red ones (now an endangered species). There are approximately 2.5 million grey squirrels in the UK and aside from threatening the red squirrel population, they do a considerable amount of damage to woodlands and parks, therefore, grey squirrel are regularly culled as per rabbits and deer. In my opinion, they taste pretty good, so why not eat them!

wild meat

In the meantime, I came across some other exotic meats at Kezie Foods and they were having a sale!

making kebabs

I arrived to a flurry of activity. Su and Groucho were busy making kebabs with chicken and lamb hearts,

mini peppers

mini peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, etc.

celeriac salad

Oli started to make a celeriac salad, slicing the vegetables wafer thin with a Mandoline
…he cut his finger early on, so I took over.

asparagus and pea pasta

Rabina made a beautiful asparagus and pea salad, along with a spinach and orange salad (which I somehow missed).

bhel puri

Rick made a delicious, crunchy Bhel Puri – a savoury dish from India, typically containing puffed rice, potatoes, onions and tamarind sauce.

fish house punch

Rick and Su’s son Sam (top mixologist), sadly had to work, but suggested a cocktail for a Sunday afternoon.

fish house punch on tap

Rick obligingly mixed the Fish House Punch beforehand, so that we had it on tap!

quail egg tarts

With kebabs all made, Su and Groucho turned their hand to quail egg fancies – I was relieved not to get the job cracking lots of quail’s eggs without breaking a yolk – it’s hard work.

garden party

With guests in attendance, it was time to light the fire.

sous-vide beef and pork

First to be burnt were the beef short ribs (A.K.A. oven busters) and pork belly slices – both pre cooked sous-vide for several days.

flamin’ meat

Of course, as soon as I picked up my camera there was a forrest fire, but no harm done. The beef and pork just needed a little scorching to crispen up the fat and caramelise the sugars.

beef short ribs

These short ribs were probably the most tender I’ve ever eaten.

gran cerdo

Bridget arrived with a top red wine from Spain, that had us all laughing – Gran Cerdo.

Joseph Barnes Wines say:This hugely enjoyable red is made by cult winemaker Gonzalo Gonzalo Grijalba, the ‘enfant terrible’ of the Rioja region. Having first studied biology at the University of Leon and then Oenology at the University of Rioja, he proceeded to make biodynamic wines in the hills of Rioja. The ‘Gran Cerdo’ or ‘large pig’ is 100% Tempranillo and, true to form, Gonzalo Gonzalo includes no information on the label other than a rant aimed at the bank managers who have refused to lend him money to develop his business.”

wine legend

“You really should read the back label!”

zebra sausages

The zebra sausages turned out to be very popular, so much so that we had to cut them all into three pieces.

quail fancies

The quail fancies looked and tasted brilliant,

quail fancies with caviar

especially with a little caviar on top.

lamb heart kebabs

Next on the grill, were the lamb heart kebabs,

kangaroo steak and ostrich burgers

followed by kangaroo steak and ostrich burgers.

meat oli

The kangaroo fillet was spectacular. I’ve eaten the meat before and it has been a little tough, but this cut was tender like the very best steak. The taste is somewhere between beef and venison.

sous-vide squirrel

Squirrel are quite muscular, so they too got the sous-vide treatment.

grilled squirrel

The squirrel were a little gamey (like venison) and the long slow pre cook ensured it’s tenderness. The flavour is similar to hare or an older male rabbit …perhaps with a few nuts.

chicken heart kebabs

Next to the squirrel were more kebabs – this time with chicken hearts.
During the afternoon, liberal quantities of French fried potatoes were ferried around the garden on trays, to accompany the meat.

chicory

Chicory (endive) was the last thing to get a grilling – the heat was a bit fierce early on.

salsa de romesco

Rabina made an authentic salsa romesco especially for the chicory …and for a minute I was back in Cataluña.

chit chat

Meanwhile, Adrian Stout gave me the evil eye – or perhaps it was indigestion?

tongue tacos

Just as the barbecue was cooling off, the ox tongue tacos arrived. This was sous-vide ox tongue, as per the recent Barcelona barbecue, where Oli cooked it until it was falling apart.

filo

For pudding, Rick made 3 layers of filo pastry, with honey drizzled on each – this was sprinkled with crushed cashew nuts.

puddin’

…and of course there were strawberries with cream.

As it grew dark we sat outside on a bench and talked late into the night. As you can imagine, liberal quantities of cocktails, wine and cava were consumed.

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