After the wedding, I slept like a log and woke up feeling hungry. Lindsay turned up with croissants at midday and after a cup of tea we all decided to have lunch at the Victoria (again). I enjoyed a particularly good fideuà and crema catalana. While we were savouring carajillos, I remembered that the Mercat de Mercats (Market of Markets) was on.
Like the Christmas Market, the Mercat de Mercats is held in Plaça de la Cathedral. This is an annual event showcasing local food and drink from market stall holders, shops, restaurants and wine producers. I kicked myself, because we should have come here for lunch! I was feeling a bit sleepy after the Victoria, but nevertheless, as it was the last day of the three day event, I pulled myself together and got on with the job at hand.
I have to confess that I skipped the wines after drinking half a bottle for lunch and on reaching the food section I hesitated for just a second …before being overwhelmed and delighted by the quality of the produce.
had quite a selection of exciting food, including fondue, steak tartar (above),
but they do sell the most astonishing array of chocolates,
nuts and candies, reminiscent of Fortnum and Mason in London.
including a fantastic looking paella de marisco (sea food)
and arròs negre (black rice with squid ink).
La Cabana d’Alcover is a small family business near Tarragon, growing organic olives
to make a high quality extra virgin olive oil (which smells of green fruit, freshly cut grass and ripe banana). Apparently they keep a herd of sheep to control the weeds!
These are top quality hand made chorizo and fuet
and I love these astonishingly long secallona.
Formatges Montbrú make a number of cheeses from cows, goats, sheep and buffalo. I noticed that they had a sign stating zero lactose and when I looked it up, discovered that buffalo milk is virtually lactose free. Regardless, the cheese is very tasty! The cheese is made in Moià (home to prehistoric caves) and about 31 miles from Barcelona.
The quince is a member of the Rosacae family (which also contains apples and pears). It originally came for the Eastern Mediterranean, but has spread throughout Europe and was once far more popular in Britain than it is today.
The quince can be used to produce a wine or strong liquor, though the most popular culinary products are quince jelly, jam and pudding. In Spain it is very often eaten with cheese (Manchego), in a bocadillo (sandwich) or as part of a cheese platter. The hardened jelly is sometimes referred to as quince cheese.
Hortet del Baix was started by two farming families, who have gone into organic fruit and vegetable box delivery, similar to companies doing this in the UK.
Arrossaires del Delta de l’Ebre are a rice growing cooperative on the Ebro Delta in the Province of Tarragona. The Arrossaires grow Bomba rice (above), which is the best known variety cooked on the East Coast of Spain. Bomba rice is very popular for dishes such as paella, Arròs Negre and Arròs a Banda. Bomba is thought to have been brought to Spain by the Moors and is believed to have originated from an Indian strain.
While looking at the Arrossaires’ stall, I noticed that they have diversified into making liqueurs from rice, flavouring them with cream, figs and herbs. They are also the first people to produce a rice malt beer – good news for people allergic to gluten.
Their cured pork belly was excellent.
They day had started out slightly chilly, from the rain yesterday, but this afternoon the sun shone brightly and it became quite hot and humid. I was very grateful to Sanpellegrino, who handed out free citrus flavoured water. It was so hot that I went back for a second can!
The Valle de Arán (Aran Valley) is the only part of Cataluña on the north side of the Pyrenees. The stall pictured above showcased their produce, including caviar, casis, cider, hazlenuts, jam, mustard and paté.
Fires i Mercats showcased vegetables,
meat and cheeses from traditional regional fairs and markets.
Mel Muria Bio has produced award winning honey for 6 generations – they now have over 2,000 hives and sell their products throughout Cataluña and Spain.
Sushi Catala is Olga Rovira’s unique Catalan take on the Japanese dish.
Olga believes that her sushi ingredients should be fresh, local and economical. It’s worth noting that there’s quite a bit of Catalan Japanese fusion going on in top Barcelona restaurants. I find this unsurprising since seafood is such a large part of the Spanish diet. In fact, Tempura originally came from Iberia via Christian missionaries – the Japanese just refined it and they have been coming to Spain to buy the very best tuna for many years.
They produce some excellent award winning organic cheese from goat and sheep milk.
I was encouraged to try all their cheeses and liked the hard ovella (sheep cheese above) so much that I bought a piece.
The above bacallà croquetas (salt cod), had a perfect crunch, with the right mix of creamy cod filling – to die for!
The chicharrónes (fried pork fat) were very tempting,
but were not nearly as good as this bull blanc (a bladder or intestine stuffed with pork mince and seasoning). I was quite interested in buying one of these, but they tried to push the more expensive lomo (cured pork tenderloin) on me instead, so I moved on.
Quesos Ojos del Guadiana come from Cuidad Real, so they were a long way from home. They make a first class Manchego, which they say is the “Best sheep cheese in the world.” It could definitely be one of them!
This beautiful piece of beef is from Barrachina Meat & Burguer (their spelling of burger on the stall) – a shop and restaurant next to the Boqueria. I’m quite sure this wasn’t minced up and served in a bun.
I was impressed with their brightly coloured seasoned meats (above) and I believe they are big on barbecue.
Symposion Especialitats Gregues specialise in Greek produce and have a stall in the Boqueria. Back in the 90s one couldn’t find taramasalata for love nor money in Barcelona, which I considered odd, because of the Catalan love for cod and the popularity of tarama in France, just next door.
I was a little surprised to see them selling empanadas, but I realised that they contained Greek style fillings.
and little rolls containing tuna or anchovies for €2.
Large cups of olives also cost €1.
I was very keen to try their black truffle potato chips (crisps) too! These are available from their stall in the Boqueria.
and here, anchovies with pimiento.
Even the little olives stuffed with salmon and cream cheese looked delicious.
Baron de Roquette Buisson came all the way from France,
with their foie gras, cassoulet and confit de canard. It is said that Jews fleeing from the Inquisition took the white beans in cassoulet to France from Spain. Most beans, aside from native broad beans, came from the Americas and would have come through Spain before reaching the rest of Europe. Cassoulet itself may be derived from the Jewish Cholent.
Yet more olives from Olives i conserves El Pinyol.
They also had remarkable value for money tapes, of tuna and red pepper,
eels and olives.
anchovies and olives
and some fantastic brandada in cones.
After all the shopping and tasting, I was exhausted. I didn’t even get to the restaurant demonstration section as I was badly in need of a siesta.
…later on, awake and refreshed, I cycled across the square at around 11.30pm and found that the market had completely disappeared!