As you can probably see from the rather earnest, patriotic posts of Anzac day- we’re home.

The honeymoon is over baby…

We got home about two and a bit weeks ago and the novelty of being a grown up again with a full time job and sober smoked salmon salad lunches has swiftly worn off.
What hasn’t worn off is the novelty of Spain.

You see, along with six kilos of cable style accoutrement from Bangkok’s IT City, there was a whisper of Spain that came off the plane. It’s in my broken bedtimes, new found habit of starting conversations with ‘hola’, obsession with saffron and taste for tapas.

Barcelona was magical. We had a strikingly clean and convenient apartment just off Placa Catalunya and a hectic schedule of eating. It was about cramming the most food ish fun into the smallest amount of time. In that spirit of efficiency, here’s some of my list.

Barcelona Top Tips.

Moo

We couldn’t get a booking at the famed Roca brothers up the road so we took the next best available option- their outpost in the centre of town. Moo is in the hotel Omm. It’s all shiny sleek and the design and the advertising execs who frequent it for lunch make you wish you’d blow dried your hair before you came. They do a twist on the traditional matching of wines to the courses. Here it’s counter intuitive; they’ve picked the classic food/wine pairings and then designed a dish to complement the wine.

It’s a lazy sommelier’s field day. Heroes of the six course lunch were a ridiculously rich play on the pairing of Cherries and Tourigha which had cheeky little cherries chuffed full of foie gras. Lamb and Temperanillo came with sheeps cheese, aubergine and cumin and then a Pigeon and Syrah with a blackberry syrup and black olive powder. Some of the kids who’d be picked last for the softball team on the menu would be the cheese course of local sheeps milk specialty Idiazabel with apple . It came as a little house of cheese, stuffed with an apple sorbet. Essentially you’ve got happy flavours but a war of temperatures, freezing each other out, in the way Arnie wished he could have in Batman Forever.

Summary: Food interesting. Concept novel, eating the Roca’s food an experience in itself. Room very shmick. Fireplace in hotel lobby worth a visit on its own. Get there a little early for your booking and have a drink and bask in its ultra modern glow. Coffee more than acceptable. Cost: Around $130 euro each. Dress code? Artfully chic. Blow dried hair would help.
Moo Restaurant
Hotel Omm, Rosello 265
http://www.hotelomm.es

Cal Pep

“You have to go to Cal Pep!” is what we’ve been told and read. It’s one of the seminal tapas experiences of Barcelona. So we do- twice. The first time is on Saturday night. We scurry and hurry to get there as close to 8pm as possible, because we’ve also been told about the queues that form for this 16 seat bar. No need to worry. No one’s getting in. Despite having not read it, anywhere, one of Barcelona’s most famous tapas places isn’t open on Saturday nights. But it is for Tuesday lunch. So we’re there, smack on 1.00 pm and find our way to the front of the queue.

If you’re going to Cal Pep you have to just let yourself go. You won’t be able to control what you’re eating- you’ll just have a series of things put in front of you. You won’t be able to prevent the people being smushed against the wall behind you glaring at you with devil eyes, wishing you’d hurry up and leave so they can eat. And you probably won’t be able to prevent Pep himself coughing, right near your food. So the hygiene standards on the day raised the Hungry One’s eyebrows. The quality of the food kept them down. Winners: dredged and fried bonito fish and prawns with aioli. Tuna tartare so meaty we thought it might be. Potato tortilla which oozed and collapsed as you cut it with a fork. There were many others, all made right in front of you, gaggingly fresh, with seafood and meats that sashay straight from the grills over to the bar for you.

Summary: A Barcelona pilgrimage. Get there when it opens. A glass of Cava to start and a bottle of the house Rosado will leave you sozzled but not having to scrimp for wine money at dinner that night. Coffee? Passable. Dessert? Make sure you get the crema catalana (aka crème brulee)- it’s the bomb. Wear? Smart casual is fine. There are more than enough tourists shuffling in from the Picasso museum so as long as you’re not wearing a fanny pack, you’ll be fine.

Plaça Olles 8
08003 Barcelona, Spain
+34 933 107 961

In that spirit of reflection, here’s some of how we’ve been trying to recreate the experience of Spain now we’re home;


Roast pumpkin and garlic brochettas

Mix half a roasted butternut pumpkin, a rustically mashed clove of roasted garlic and a cup of béchamel and about two tablespoons of marscapone. ( As below, I make my bechamel with chickpea flour, just cos I like it better that way). Add a quarter of a cup of ground almonds to thicken th gloop to a muddy paste.

Spread your muddy paste on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and bake on a low oven (130 degrees) for about twenty minutes until it has a bit more structural integrity. Take it out of the oven and roll the mixture into little golf balls. Dredge the golf balls in seasoned polenta. Put the balls on a tray and put them in the fridge to set for about half an hour.

Shallow fry the balls in olive oil until they’re crispy. Dip in the quince aioli. Serve with napkins.

Quince aioli

Soften a tablespoon of quince paste in a saucepan with a little hot water ( a teaspoon will do).

Make aioli ( real mayo with smushed garlic). Fold in the quince paste gloop at the end. Taste and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. It should be sweet and deep but not sicky.

More to come, from both home and away, I promise.