Barcelona Part 1 - early doors

I've recently returned from Barcelona and it was certainly one of the most eventful trips for some years and most relaxing as the kids were at home.

By most eventful I mean in the manner of Man v Food, a rather jolly but quite tiring programme where the host weekly tries to eat himself to death in front of a baying crowd of overstuffed calorie bags and which climaxes with the proclamation; "IN THE BATTLE OF MAN VS of them WON". Winning depends on whether the host was able to eat, within a specified time limit, a whole donkey dipped in jam or some other symbol of american dining excess. As a rule of thumb if the challenge relates to mass or volume he can and if its related to Scoville scale he can't and ends up red and crying and drooling.
I no longer watch it because I don't consider food to be an enemy to be battled (I'd like the program renamed Man LOVES Food), however in my recent Barcelona BATTLE OF MAN V WON (but then LOST pathetically to a bottle of Cava at Passadis de Pep which he didn't order or want). Let me explain with some wobbly lines and flashbacks……
I've been coming to eat Barcelona for 12 years and throughout that time i've had some truly fantastic experiences; from my early visits which were all about location such as Tapas de Sol, a sunny lunch spot right on the end of Rambla del Mar (i dont think it's there anymore) serving crispy rubbery calamari, oily fried mushrooms with diced serrano nuggets and many other clichés, through to current favourites where the ingredients take centre stage such as the menu degustacion at Santa Maria which for my money provides the best value in Barcelona.

In the first years I would frequent La Cuineta where a man dressed as a butler in a dark wood room would bring me favas and botifarra, a monkfish tail with a rich caper tomato sauce and a meringue dessert set on fire at the table or Los Coracoles drawing me in with chickens roasting on an open spit outside (i used to peer through the cracks in the shutters before opening time to see the kitchen in action) and full of flamboyant and very friendly young men (one day the penny finally dropped). On subsequent trips i spent time in the Placa Reial; afternoons languishing outside La Taxidermista (which like its strutting peacock customers was far too fond of itself and is now closed) watching the constant parade of buskers and artistes moving slowly past like talentless airplanes queuing to take off to nowhere, think X Factor with small change as prizes. Once I found myself standing in the long queue of le Quinze Nits because everyone else was and discovered you could eat well and a lot for c.€15 with everyone seated at once and served the same small selection of simple delicious food.

Later I added breakfast to my repertoire (and felt like I had another channel on my food televison, just as I did on my booze telly when I discovered dessert wine) at the sometimes overrated but often enjoyable Bar Pinotxo and I now intermittently make Garbanzos con Butifarra Negra [i'm not sure this video link works so recipe below  but this is a brilliant website] with Morcilla or any blood pudding (even our own Bury Black pud but be gentle or it breaks up too much) to remind me of the Boqueria market.
to fill up 2 big people and 2 little ones heres my recipe in order of appearance;
2 large onions thinly sliced sweated in plenty of olive oil with a big pinch of salt
4 cloves of chopped garlic fried for a minute
400g skinned, chopped morcilla fried quite hard for 3-4 minutes
2 handfuls of pine nuts added to the pan and coloured
a big splash of sherry burnt off
2 handfuls of plumped lexia raisins soaked in hot water
lots and lots of chopped parsley and a good splash of sherry vinegar.
Season to taste
A final stir and then onto a serving plate [or into little dishes] topped with a little more finely chopped parsley

Since my first visit to Boqueria I have been buying (I now beg Catalan visitors to bring me or send) bags of Marcona almonds to roast with salt, paprika and olive oil or to use in Jamie Olivers pancetta and broad bean salad. This magical recipe can be made reasonably successfully with just frozen peas as my life is too short to pod broad beans (or extract cardoman seeds, skin tomatoes, peel carrots, weigh ingredients). The risk is that Boqueria goes the way of Borough, tiptoeing towards tourist trap, today it remains an iconic destination and my first point of reference upon arrival in Barcelona.

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Spanish, Mediterranean, Lifestyle, Wine