There are things I miss about Barcelona.

I dont miss the pickpockets. I don’t miss the sweaty crowds gawping at costumed, out of work actors who are standing still on Las Ramblas. I don’t miss Gaudi’s Park Guell- in fact, to be honest, I could have missed the dusty hills even while we were there.

But there are two places which to this day make me long for another Spanish segue;

La Boqueria

My love affair with foreign food markets (Paris’Moufftard, Les Halles de Lyon…) contines. Just off Las Ramblas it’s a cornucopia of delights and curiosities. To the back there’s slippery piles of seafood, including razor clams, prawns and teeny teeny fish who look like they’ve suffered the indignity of being internally displaced from a nearby decorative tank. There’s jamon with pedigree better than you’d find in a private school, displays of fresh produce so shiny and carefully layed out that the Easter show pavillions should be watching their back. Beneath glass counters there are renditions of ‘heads shoulders knees and toes’ from every corner of the animal nursery. There are troughs of sweets, jewelled jellies, and then there are the juices. Oh the juices. The size of a medium Maccas lemonades, there they are all lined up, everywhere you turn; a licorice allsort display of virtuous beverages. For two to three euro ( one even, at the end of the day when they’re trying to clear the stocks) it’s fresh raspberry, papaya, pineapple and coconut, kiwi and bannana, strawberry and apple.

We and every other person who accidentally drank too much cresta rosada with tapas the night before and woke to regret the pedro ximenex with dessert crawled to them every morning, only lifting their sunglasses to peruse the surrounding produce after drinking half. Restorative, redolent with fruits of many forrests I’d even fly on a connecting flight through Heathrow for another of the raspberry and pear. Then once the dust of the night before has been brushed away you can really start to appreciate La Boqueria- don’t even get me started on how good the tortillas at the bars at the back are washed down with a cheeky glass of cresta rosada… and then the cycle of Barcelona starts all over again…



Matamala

If I had to conjure a place for my local, to be around the corner from my home, to feed me morning, noon, night and for a sneaky bit of dessert on the way home when the days have been just a bit too tough, I’d imagine a place like Matamala.

It would be modern and clean, with cosy banquette seats and graceful lighting. The staff would be funny and sweet. There would be a ridiculously good looking man shaving jamon iberico in the window with zen like precision. There would be a counter at the front, where you could have a great cafe solo con leche ( espresso with milk on the side)and a nutty jamon and sheep cheese roll on the way to work. Or a bowl of muesli and yogurt and a coffee while reading the paper for three euro and a bit. If there was a produce store at the front with bread, gourmet chocolates and spices for little presents or pick me ups, that would be a bonus too.

If there was a section where you could sit and slowly make yourself through reasonably priced tapas menu and unearth favourites like crispy andalusian squid,or slivers of fried artichoke chips so slim they sing hymms to the mandolin that made them, or little chunks of four different sausages, from light pork to the sticky blood nestled in white bean puree, or just bread, charcoal striped and rubbed with garlic and smushed tomato you’d be delighted.

But that’s just what you’d discover one night. You’d then come back at lunch the next day and keep eating. You’d discover that you also love the plate of just shaved jamon, or the little cast iron pot of warming chickpea stew, or skewers of grilled prawns and cherry tomatoes that are bursting from their skin. You love that you can get cava, cresta rosada and cheap dry rose by the glass.

Then you come back after a disappointing dinner somewhere else, just for a nightcap. You’d fall in love the cheese plate, with four crescendoing tastes of sheep milk cheese, with accompaniments like apple rosemary and walnut or a puddle of roast pumpkin jam. You’d love even more the 90 % cocoa solids chocolate log, that is so dense you almost have to send out a search party to retrieve your fork from its centre. You’d adore that the insane richness of the chocolate goes perfectly with glasses of syrup like pedro ximenex sherry, which, if the waitstaff find you charming enough by now, they’ll throw in for good measure and good will. You’d then get misty at the eyes when you taste the roasted almond icecream, which manages to be complicated and dirty and angelic all at once.

Matamala is the kind of place you want to have around the corner. It’s the kind of place that even though we were only in Barcelona for four days, we stumbled upon it and then went back three more times. It’s the kind of place I want around the corner from where I live so much that I’m tempted to go back to our little apartment in Barcelona, even though it’s on the other side of the world.

Matamala
Rambla Catalunya 13
Tel. 93 323 0251

Spanish segues at home

Roast capsicum and onion tortilla

Roast two red onions, quartered and a red capsicum, quartered, sprinkled with olive oil and salt in a 160 degree oven for forty minutes until soft.

Place the red capsicum in an oven bag, or covered in glad wrap for five minutes when it comes out of the oven and peel the skin off. Cut into strips

Cut ten new potatos into small slivers. Steam them until just soft.

In a non stick fry pan layer the roast onion petals, capsicum strips and steamed potato slivers.

In a seperate bowl break six free range eggs. Add a pinch of salt, a good grinding of pepper and two tablespoons of marscapone. Whisk together.

Turn the grill in the oven on low.

Turn the heat on the stovetop under the frypan with the vegetables onto medium. Pour the egg and marscapone mixture ontop. It should cover the vegetables. If it doesn’t, whisk another two eggs with a teaspoon of marscapone and pour over the top until it does. It’s not rocket science. Add two handfuls of mozzarella or sheep cheese to the top of the egg and vegetables. Nobody ever said ‘there’s too much cheese in my tortilla’.

Wait until the egg has set around the edges, but is still slightly runny. Place the whole frypan under the grill and grill until the top is bubbling and brown.

Cut into wedges and serve with crusty warm bread as a breakfast/ snack, or with a green salad with a sharp lemon/ oil dressing for a light lunch.

To really feel like you’re in Spain, pour yourself a glass of rose and turn off your phone. Trust me. It helps.