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Barcelona: Paella to Parc Guel

Following the recent tragedy in Barcelona, I wanted to share this piece about my experience of the beautiful city that is one of my favourite places to have visited.

Back in February I took a city break to Barcelona to explore not only the works of Gaudi but also to try out the food. A chance to see where the best places to eat are and where to go for authentic Spanish food. It is a City renowned for great food from Tapas to Paella it was a place I had always wanted to visit.

When walking through the streets of Barcelona you aren’t short of choices of places to eat. As great as this is it can be difficult to know where the best place to go is. A city filled with stunning architecture and many places to walk you’ll soon work up an appetite. This makes choosing where to eat all the more important.

To point us in the right direction we asked at the hotel one evening as to where they suggested we eat for authentic Spanish food and he advised we try La Tramoia. With ‘Tramoia’ meaning intrigued it is certainly a restaurant you need to discover for yourself, until then intrigued you will be. Situated along the main road just off Las Ramblas, the road known for its selection of designer shops, it is perfectly located to stop and refuel after a hard day shopping.

As you walk in you are greeted with a mix match environment, beautifully presented with a homely feel as though you’ve walked into someone’s – very large – kitchen. We ordered the seafood paella filled with prawns, clams, calamari, and mussels – all the flavours of the sea. You can taste the olive oil, rich tomatoes, with the rice absorbing all these flavours to create a fragrant and thick slow cooked rice dish.

Certainly filling, but you’ll still be left wanting more, for the combination of flavours is something you’ll want to last. The beauty of the city extends to its food, the mosaic detail of Gaudi’s work in Park Guel is reminiscent in the paella with each individual piece of rice merged together to create a piece of art. Something so good you’ll be going back for more.

Staff were friendly, spoke their best English although, at times, communication can be a little on the difficult side. This can be quite refreshing as it makes the restaurant feel genuine. Something I always tend to look out for is who is eating in the restaurant, here there were many Spanish families and friends all enjoying the food. This, to me, is a sign of good food, if the locals are willing to eat here too then it must be of a good standard. But try yourself and let the food do the talking.

To drink, we asked for a glass of the house wine, to which the waiter prompted we try the Catalan wine. It is clear that many traditional restaurants within the area are potentially biased in that they push for you to have the Catalan wine, after all, it is their wine essentially. This is a nice touch as you can truly experience dining in Barcelona as a local, with locally sourced produce. He was however nothing but friendly and not pushy to the point you felt forced to try this.

IMG_7181.JPGWhen it comes to dessert it is something I may not always have room for, but, when I saw they served my favourite, Catalan crème brulee I  had to try it. It was different to the crème brulee I have had before, it had a hint of cardamom in it. Usually, I am not a huge fan of cardamom – it can work in some dishes and it did in this one. It was an interesting combination of flavours and although I did enjoy it I wouldn’t search high and low for it again. For me, the traditional flavour works well enough on its own it does not need too much adjusting, if any. It was accompanied by a cantucci biscuit, the almond flavour created a nice contrast with the dish and the added texture was a great touch.

 

We spent our last morning at the Picasso museum, admiring his many pieces of work. On our stroll back to the hotel we were exploring through the back roads of the city. Here we discovered a rather large local indoor market, but not the kind of market typically found in England. Filled with fresh fish, cheeses and cured meats, it was pure heaven. All the ingredients you need to make a great meal, from fresh vegetables with vibrant greens and reds to the smell of fresh fish making you feel as though you are by the sea. So, of course, as you do, we brought manchego and pecorino as well as some salami. This is the kind of place where they know their food.

 

It was off the beaten track – away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It was the kind of place locals seemed to stop on their way to work to grab a coffee or bite to eat. Being lunchtime, we ordered some tapas to share, with some advice from the waitress as to which anchovies would be best, along with patatas bravas, and serrano ham, accompanied by a side of bread.

The patatas bravas were crispy on the outside and fluffy inside, accompanied by aioli, a garlic mayonnaise style dip. It was also contrasted with a spicy tomato sauce, both flavours work well together and create a nice balance, the cool mayonnaise with added spice from the tomato sauce. I suppose in comparison the English version could be the roast potato, with this idea of a crispy outside and soft centre. For me, I would always choose patas bravas when having Tapas in the same way I would only have roast potatoes with a roast dinner, how could you not? Though they may be heavy, the small portions served with the tapas works well. The anchovies were marinated in a white wine vinegar and olive oil style dressing.

IMG_7185.JPGThis is where the bread is used to soak up all the olive oil and white wine vinegar. Lastly, the serrano ham, delicately thin but full of flavour. Add to the bread to combine the great flavours.

 

Barcelona was certainly a great city to visit, though you may be surrounded by many tourists here and there it is not hard to escape away and find yourself in the heart of the more traditional Barcelona. This is where you will find the best food and eat like a local. For true Spanish cuisine, the price is not as expensive as it is in restaurants targeted at tourists.

Nevertheless, there is still great food on almost every corner, just be vigilant when choosing where to eat, to make sure you are getting only the best flavours. For a quick getaway break it certainly made a lasting impression with the eyes as well as the taste buds, and is without a doubt a place I will explore again.

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Creamy Pancetta Linguine

This recipe is quick but tasty, the creamy sauce combined with the soft mushrooms and crispy pancetta finished with a slight nutty flavour from the parmesan is one of my favourite pasta dishes. I prefer using linguine or bucatini rather than spaghetti as I like the pasta thicker. This is a great recipe if you’re pushed for time but still want a good home cooked meal.

Ingredients:

  • Pancetta
  • Mushrooms
  • Cream
  • Parmesan
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Linguine

Method:

  1. Add a small amount of olive to the frying pan and cook the pancetta completely
  2. Remove the pancetta and cook through the mushrooms
  3. Once cooked add the Pancetta back into the pan with the cream and parmesan
  4. Crush the garlic and add to the sauce
  5. Simmer while the pasta is cooking
  6. Take some of the water the pasta was cooked in and add to the sauce, I usually add around half a ladle depending how thick you like it
  7. Drain the pasta and add to the frying pan
  8. Mix well and serve

Quick and easy Tortellini

This super easy pasta is ideal for an evening when you have little time or energy but still want good food. With just a few ingredients and no time at all this dish is a perfect go to. As a student living away at university and working part time after a long day like most people I don’t always want to spend hours cooking which is why I love this pasta. It also doesn’t cost a lot to make.


Ingredients:

  • Fresh Tortellini
  • Olive oil
  • Red onion
  • Tomato puree
  • Garlic Powder
  • Cream
  • Oregano
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Chilli (Optional)

Method:

  1. Fry the onions off in the Olive oil
  2. Continue to fry the onions adding the Tomato Puree, add according to how many you are cooking for*
  3. Add enough water depending how much Puree you have used, slightly thicker is better
  4.  Add the Oregano and Garlic Powder, I like lots of Oregano
  5. Add the cream and rest of the ingredients
  6. Cook on low for a little while until the Tortellini is ready
  7. Drain the Tortellini and mix straight into the frying pan, serve with fresh basil.
*Be sure to fry the Tomato puree before adding water as it improves the flavour

 

Pasta is one of my favourites as theres endless combinations and always something new to try, make sure you try this one at home! It’s full of flavour, creamy and delicious. I like using Tortellini with porcini mushrooms as I love the flavour, Spinach and Ricotta also works well. I have also found that ASDA’s Tortellini is really tasty, half a packet is a good single portion size. Unfortunately as this is quite a cream based sauce if you keep it overnight the sauce dries up, but it takes no time to make a little extra sauce.

 

Poached egg with smashed avocado

For a cooked breakfast I love the combination of avocado and egg, mushroom works nicely too. This is a great way to start the day, its healthy but tasty too. It’s not overly complicated either. For poached eggs I find I get the best results using cling film but I cook it slightly longer when using cling film as I like to make sure it’s cooked fully.


Ingredients:

  • Avocado
  • Egg
  • Toast
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Paprika 

Method:

  1. Boil some water in a saucepan
  2. Cut a small amount of cling film and rub the inside with Olive Oil
  3. Place the cling film on top on the glass and crack the egg onto it
  4. Bring the sides up and twist at the top
  5. Once the water has boiled place the egg in simmering water for 5-7 minutes
  6. Meanwhile toast some bread and cut the Avocado
  7. Place the Avocado on the bread and use a fork to break the avocado up
  8. Place the egg on top and drizzle Olive Oil. Salt and Pepper to taste.

Or try something just as simple…

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Scrambled egg with Avocado

This is even easier and still fills you up. I find avocado refreshing in the morning but personally don’t like to have it on its own as sometimes it can lack flavour so it’s perfect as a side. This is really easy to make and exactly what you need before a busy day.

Turkish: Kervan Sofrasi – North London

If you’re looking for great Turkish food at a reasonable price then this your place. The portion size will be sure not to leave you hungry – and there will probably still be leftovers, which I always bring home. I love restaurants that focus less on the fancy dinning wear and more or authentic flavours. With its simple interior and traditional food Kervan will give you everything you need for your dining experience.

There are 3 Kervan Sofrasi’s in North London, 2 in Edmonton and 1 in Southgate, (click to visit to website). They all serve the same food but I think the Southgate restaurant is their best one. Value for money is great and when I go with friends or family we often get some platters to share, the Kervan Special which is just £32.50. These contain a bit of everything Lamb and Chicken chops, wings shish and donner, you name it and its there, also served with rice, cous cous and bread.

I rarely order starters as they provide you with bread and salad free of charge, sometimes i’ll order hummus as it goes well with the bread. One dish I definitely would recommend the Lahmacun as a side, it’s a thin piece of crispy dough topped with onions, peppers, tomato, chilli and parsley, incredible flavours and irresistible taste. If you love meat then you’ll definitely be able to find something great on the menu.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been here as I’ve lost count, it’s probably one of my go to restaurants as its not too far nor is it too expensive, I’ve celebrated birthdays and different occasions and they’re great at serving large parties.

Rating: 5/5

Churros

It wasn’t until I decided to make these I realised how easy they were to make. This recipe makes quite a lot so it is time consuming when frying but most definitely worth it. Combined with a Chocolate and Dulce de Leche sauce these sweet treats are addicting. And if you’re not a huge fan of cinnamon simply adjust the amount, I don’t mind cinnamon but it is perfect with these.


Ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk

  • ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 2 tablespoons of butter

  • 1 cup flour

  • 2 eggs

  • Frying oil

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 can of condensed milk
  • 1 large bar of Milk Chocolate
  • Cream

Method

  1. In a saucepan add the milk, butter and 1 tablespoon of sugar
  2. Remove from heat when bubbles start to form and add all the flour all, stirring constantly
  3. Cook the dough until it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and forms a smooth ball
  4. Allow it to cool and mix in the eggs
  5. Place the dough into a piping bag with a large flower nozzle
  6. Squeeze the bag over the hot oil cutting with scissors at desired length
  7. Fry in hot oil until golden brown, coat with the mixture of cinnamon and sugar
  8. For the chocolate sauce melt the cream and chocolate together on a low heat
  9. For the Dulce de Leche put the can of condensed milk in simmering water for 2-4 hours.

These churros taste delicious, with a crispy edge and a soft warm centre, they taste great on they’re own but both sauces make it even better. They’re ideal if there is a lot of people as it makes enough for around 6-8 people.

Albondigas Inspired Dish

If you haven’t yet been to Las Iguanas then you’re seriously missing out, it definitely is one of my favourite restaurants. This recipe was inspired by their dish Albondigas, I took note of some of the ingredients and made it my own. When I am cooking I like to make it up as I go, trying out different combinations.

I love Kofta meat that I learnt to make from my mother so I decided to combine them in a sauce similar to an Albondigas dish and it tastes delicious. It’s easy too as its pretty much the same herbs and spices in the meatballs as the sauce.


Ingredients:

Kofta Meatballs:

  • Lamb Mince
  • Crushed Garlic
  • Egg
  • Coriander
  • Mint
  • Cumin

Sauce:

  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Cumin
  • Bay Leaves
  • Coriander
  • Mint
  • Garlic
  • Red Onion
  • Olives (optional)
  • Chilli
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sugar

 

Method:

  1. Start by making the meatballs, place all the ingredients in a bowl and combine
  2. Once everything is incorporated shape into balls, making sure all are even sizes.
  3. Dice the onion and lightly fry in Olive oil, adding the meatballs and garlic
  4. Once the meatballs have browned add the tin of chopped tomatoes.
  5. Add the rest of the ingredients (herbs and spices) to taste.
  6. When cooking with tomato based sauces sometimes I like to add a pinch of sugar to balance flavours as the tomatoes can be too bitter.
  7. Cook on low and simmer
  8. To serve I like to fry Italian bread in a little olive oil

 

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You can adapt this dish to however you like, it could be served with rice or add in some aubergine.  In the picture I served it with fried flatbread which really complemented the dish. Or alternatively it could be a small starter before your main course or serve as part of a tapas.

Be sure to try it out and make it your own, enjoy!

 

Oreo Nutella Cheesecake

The combination of Nutella and Oreo is one of my favourites. An Oreo base, a smooth mascarpone and creamy Nutella, topped with an Oreo crunch, what more could you want. I’d made this cheesecake previously just minus the Nutella layer and was in love with it. But after watching different video’s I was inspired to add a Nutella layer and now its one of my top desserts to make. I was looking for a filling that wasn’t overly Oreo-fied, so I decided on combining mascarpone with cream cheese and here are the results.


Ingredients:

  • 2x Original Oreos
  • 1x Double Stuffed Oreos
  • 200g Cream Cheese
  • 200g Mascarpone
  • 50g Nutella
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 20g Icing Sugar

Method:

  1. Take one pack of double stuffed Oreos and scooped the inside into a separate bowl
  2. Add the biscuits to a bag with a packet of original Oreos and smash into small pieces
  3. Combine with butter then press into a lined tin to create the base, refrigerate
  4. Next, melt the Oreo filling and add the mascarpone and cream cheese
  5. Combine with a hand mixer adding icing sugar and a dash of vanilla extract
  6. Once combined remove half into a separate bowl and add Nutella
  7. Smooth on top of the base one layer at a time
  8. Finish with crushed Oreos round the edge and refrigerate to set

I’m a huge fan of Oreos and Nutella so what better combination but I also don’t like things too sweet and this has the right balance. To serve I like to cut some strawberries add a little lemon and sugar and leave to release juices, just add on top. Alternatively it tastes good on its own. Enjoy!

 

Granola with mixed berries

I love breakfast and like to switch it up and try new things. This homemade berry and yoghurt mix topped with granola was inspired by the yoghurt compotes you can buy ready made. I decided to try my own as I sometimes find the shop bought ones a little too sweet.

This method is super easy, quick and better yet can last the week, perfect when you’re pushed for time in the mornings. It’s so simple that you really can adapt it to what you like and it’s a good way to save on money. I usually buy the summer fruits frozen berries and I get my greek yogurt from a Turkish Food shop as you get better value for money, but any yoghurt you like will be fine.


Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of frozen berries
  • Greek yoghurt
  • Granola (strawberry and yoghurt is my favourite)
  • Honey (Optional)

Method:

  • I put the whole bag of berries depending on how many its for, (for myself I do part of the bag at a time) in a saucepan on a low heat with a small amount of water. Adjust the amount of water depending how thick or watery you prefer
  • Once the berries are soft I squeeze some against the side of the pan to break them down while keeping some whole.
  • Pour into a jug and keep in the fridge
  • Each morning simply put 4-5 tablespoons of Greek Yoghurt in a bowl, some of the berries, top with your favourite granola and a squeeze of honey then you’re good to go.

It really is so simple and you can add anything you like, sometimes ill add fresh fruit depending on what I have. I use the supermarket’s own brand of Granola as I prefer the combination than some of the branded ones and they taste just as good if not better.