Saturday, 29 September 2012

Cordobese Cuisine

Spain is famous for many different dishes around the world. From paella to churros, olives to oranges, there's plenty for the palette.

This region of Spain is particularly famous for it's olive oil. They are the largest producer accounting for 30% of the world's olive oil, 75% of which is produced here in Andalucia. They have it with everything, even in their cupcakes.

My first breakfast here, we had toast. I opted for margarine as there was no butter. But everyone else drizzled olive oil and a sprinkling of sugar. I had never thought of that combination before so the next morning that's what I had. Man, it was so delicious. I look forward to breakfast now just so I can have it again. Sometimes, I even have it for dinner. It's so good.

Dinner is usually a smaller lighter meal, as lunch is always the big one. It's later than we have it in England too - usually at 9:30pm. This schedule took absolutely no time at all to get used to. It was nice to have a big lunch and a small dinner as I never felt completely stuffed before I went to sleep.

The thing that I like to make the most is a cheese toastie. But of course, there's a Spanish twist.
The cheese is called Entrepinares Cheese, produced in Valladolid, Spain. It's a semi-cured mixture of cows, goat and sheeps milk.
With that there's a type of sausage that can only be bought in Murcia that doesn't have a special name. It's bright red and soft enough to spread.
The bread is, white. Standard.

Desserts are also pretty good here. One day Miriam presented me with this:

It's a mini Pastel Cordobés which is basically puff pastry filled with a pumpkin jam. Amazing.

And for something a bit more towards the strange there is blood sausage. A Spanish style black pudding.

Don't let the name deter you. It was delightful. I can't wait to have this again at some point. It might be called blood sausage but it doesn't taste like blood. It was fragrant and full of flavour. One little bruschetta was the perfect portion size. 
I can't compare it to black pudding as I've never tried it. Believe it or not, I've never had the guts. But after this, I would definitely try it!

There are lots of other things that I've tried since I've been here but didn't take a photo of. 

Like the family's rabbit rice. "The best rabbit rice in the world!" as quoted from everyone. It was delicious, delicately flavoured with herbs and spices which turned the rice yellow. It was also my first time eating rabbit. It didn't have a strong taste, but it was very tender.

A very famous dish here is gazpacho which is a cold veggie soup made with tomatoes, cucumbers and other things. The family make it often and it's the perfect refreshment for a hot sweaty day.
Special to Cordoba and this region of Spain is Salmorejo, which is a thick version of gazpacho often added to other things such as tortilla patatas or sometimes just dipped with bread, crisps and whatever else you can get your hands on! It's very popular in the house and cries of happiness are always heard when it's made. 

With so much delicious food and olive oil, I don't know how the women here stay so slim!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Yo Te Esperaré

Spanish music is great! Well, what I've heard so far. It's super catchy and easy to dance to.

Forget Eurovision. Who knew that that competition wasn't a real representation of the nation's musical genius???
So here's a song that's been stuck in my head on repeat for the last week or so since I first heard it. 

And for those with a curious mind, the lyrics translated to English are:

I feel like they took a piece of my soul
If you go there will be nothing left of a
lifeless heart that at the root of your departure is left shouting, but in a low voice.
I feel like the life is leaving me because I'm not with you
I feel that my moon is no longer you love
neither all the life nor all the water in the sea will be able to
pay all the love that you taught me to feel
without you I'm going to die alone, if you return I want to awaken
because far away doesn't serve my hand to walk
because I'm only waiting for you to one day be able to escape
I'll wait for you
we will feel together in front of the sea
and from your hand I will be able to walk
and although all my life has passed I will wait for you
and in your eyes there is still love
and your look says I will return
and although all my life has passed I will wait for you
I'll wait for you
we will feel together in front of the sea
and from your hand I will be able to walk
and although all my life has passed I will wait for you
and in your eyes there is still love
and your look says I will return
and although all my life has passed I will wait for you



Delicious and er... Nutritious?

Who cares!!!

Deep fried deliciousness dipped in sugar or a steamy cup of thick hot chocolate. There are many different types of chocolates and flavours to choose from. This one was milk chocolate and amaretto. Non alcoholic of course. 

So yummy!

The best place to go in Córdoba is a place called Cafetería Marta II.

If you come visit, this is one place I'll definitely take you!

Monday, 17 September 2012

The Curious Case of Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Say Hola to Miriam's and my batch of cupcakes! Aren't they so cute? Or que kookeeeee... I'm not sure how you spell it but that's what the cool kids say in Spanish.

The recipe can be found here.

If you clicked on the recipe, you may notice a few oddities. Or at least oddities from my previous cooking experiences.

Firstly, you're thinking,

"Your cupcakes don't look anything like the ones in the photo, yours are waaaaay cuter!"

Well, thank you.

Secondly, the website is called Horno y Adorno. Which you might think means something about adornments turning you on. This is semi true.

Thirdly, the whole website is in Spanish. No, my supernatural linguistic capabilities have not yet endowed me the gift of Español. I had to rely on Miriam's culinary direction. 

Dubious thoughts crossed my mind when instead of butter or margarine, this recipe called for olive oil
One yoghurt pot full infact.
Followed by 3 yoghurt pots of flour and one yoghurt pot of sugar.

Yes, the ingredients were measured in yoghurt pots. Not too dissimilar to the American concept of cups I guess but how ingenious to use the empty container of one of the ingredients to measure the rest. 

After all the ingredients were put in to one bowl, so no need to mix the butter and sugar first, the whole lot was blended using a hand blender. The same kind you would use to make soup. 

I had no idea how these cupcakes/muffins were going to turn out. I was trying to hypothesise all the different scientific reasons why you can't mix cake batter using a blender (otherwise Delia Smith would do it, wouldn't she?) but I had to let go of the inner control freak and go with the flow. 

The cakes by the way are delicious. Not just cute, the chocolate frosting with Barbie Princess sprinkles make the cake. 

I love baking!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Friday Night Basketball!

On Friday, Audrey, a teacher at my school, gave me free tickets to see Unicaja Malaga play CB Murcia in a basketball friendly.
I didn't know who to root for. While on one hand I had actually been to Malaga thanks to it's airport, en route to Marbella, on the other hand, Murcia has some seriously tasty sausage.
My gut instinct told me to root for Murcia.

All previous sporting events that I'd been to in the past, be it baseball, football, rugby etc. have included beer, loud noises and most likely some form of heckling of the opposite team.
Here, people were drinking Nestea and Coca-Cola, a good play was recoginised with polite applause and well, heckling requires some sort of enemy. Both team were supported, although perhaps there were more Malaga fans. It's hard to tell without the heckling.

Coming up, a series of action shots.

There were two players from the Spanish national team (who won silver at the Olympics). One olympian on each team.

During half time, a stampede of children ran on to the court and queued up to take shots at the basket. If they made it they would win 6 free pizzas from Telepizza.
Most of them didn't make it first time, but the organisers were so nice, the children were allowed to repeat until they made it.

Trophies came out at the end of the game. I wasn't entirely sure what they're for. To me a trophy is presented at the end of a tournament, but I was pretty sure this game wasnt a big final. But it was nice to have a trophy anyway.

All in all, it was a really good game, faced paced and lots of scoring. I'm no basketball expert but I had a good time. It was a great atmosphere, really family friendly unlike other sports events. Murcia won, probably because of the amazing sausage!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Day 2 - Seville Tour

Woke up early to do the free morning tour. After the free breakfast, a guide met us at the hostel and walked us down to the main meeting area where people from other hostels were also congregated.

The first place on the tour was Seville Cathedral, it's architecturally really interesting because it used to be a mosque back when the area was Muslim, and the original minaret is still part of the cathedral.

Our guide was very knowledgeable and had a lot to tell us about the cathedral as we went around the whole building.

I found this particular wall really interesting. Maybe because it's a mystery as to what these markings mean. They discovered them by accident one day while they were cleaning the building. There are a couple of theories but nothing confirmed.

The whole building was very interesting to learn about. Made me miss those Classics lessons back in school. I might have to start reading more about architecture!
It's the Muslim influences that beguile me the most. It's what makes this area of Europe different.

This is the statue on top of the minaret. It was added during the conversion to Christianity. I'm sure if you wanted to learn more about it you'd google it.

This is the Plaza De España. It's so beautiful, I would like to spend some more time there next time I'm in Seville. We didn't get to walk around the whole place, but there was a lot of meaning in it's construction. Which surprisingly was only in 1929.

Each area of Spain was represented there with it's coat of arms, a map and an image depicting something that area is well known for. Cordoba apparently is known (unofficially) for having the most beautiful women in Spain! I don't find that very difficult to believe!

Our very informative guide also told us the secret sign language of the fans that women used to use to convey their interest in a prospective male back in the day when flirting was forbidden. Or at the very least frowned upon. I wish we still had this level of coyness rather than some guy whistling at you.

Our guide telling us more information, probably about the building behind him. A lot of the buildings have this red and yellow colour scheme. It's very specific - the yellow represents the sand and the red.. Well I wish I could remember. I'm pretty tired.

Our three and a half hour tour ended here, at the Isabel Columns. Very concupiscent story about Queen Isabel - She might just be my new found hero. If there isn't a movie about this story, there should be one!

When the tour finished, it was so hot I was hunting for shade. I had no idea it was 38C (100.4F) apparently, in the summer it can reach the 50s (aprox 131F) I don't know how I'm going to survive!
I decided to follow the map that the hostel had given me to hunt down a copy of the Lonely Planet Spain so I didn't feel so blind.
On the way back to the hostel, I walked past a structure nick named "The Mushroom", AKA The Metropol Parasol. While it was impressively big, it seemed a bit misplaced in Seville where the rest of the city had been very historic, there's a monumental piece of modern sculpture.

I'm still not entirely sure what the purpose of it is, other than there's a restuarant underneath it. It's cool in the same way "The Bean" in Chicago is. In that it's big, it makes for some good photos and it's novel. Getting planning permission for that must've taken some balls.

Onwards! To the train station!
Where I ordered a mini chicken baguette type sandwich which turned out to be tuna. It's a good thing I'm not a fussy eater. I must learn more Spanish!!

I'm staying with a host family who are so friendly and hospitable I think I'll forever be in their debt! It's a great opportunity to really immerse myself and learn about Spanish culture and their way of life.

Things I must get used to:
  • Kissing on both sides of the face as a greeting.
  • Eating dinner late at night, tapas style.
  • Siestas! And the subsequent closing of shops.
  • The heat.
  • Jambon is ham, but cured meat - not the same as we have.
  • Yoghurt here is kinda sour, but not gone off.
 I'm sure there'll be more things, but for now, that's the list.

Hola Cordoba! You and I will become great friends!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Day One - Seville - First Impressions

Unedited photo

When you first step off the plane, you're greeted by the warm hug of the Sevillian climate. Just in time for the sunset to make you feel like you've walked in to a sentimetal romance novel.

The journey to the hostel was simple enough. I followed the signs to the bus stop and waited in the longest queue ever to get on the airport bus. I was lucky enough to be one of the first on the bus (I didn't manage to get on the previous one) because not only did I have space on the rack for my mega suitcase, I also managed to bag myself a seat!

I got off the bus at the last stop and walked to the hostel following the map I had printed back at home. Man, I wish I would've just taken the bus as was recommended by the hostel. Two heavy bags on cobbled streets? Nightmare. However, it added to the relief when I finally found the hostel.

The place I'm staying is called The Garden Backpacker. The staff have been wonderfully friendly so far, showing me where to go and helping me with my bags. The air conditioning was greatly appreciated after lugging my bags there!

They have activities organised and the whole atmosphere is very sociable. But being the good girl that I am, I decided against the pub crawl and instead went for dinner in a restuarant nearby recommended by the hostel staff.

It was a very rustic restuarant, keeping its traditional interior. The menu was confusing but there was a lot of fish. I didn't know how to ask any questions so I went for the easiest thing: Eggs with ham, pepper, cod and mushroom.  I figured it would be an omelette.
What I got was this:

It's kinda cool when you think you've ordered something boring and you get something different. Ham is actually some sort of dried/cured meat and the rest is as you see it. Needless to say, it was delicious and even though I was stuffed after, I couldn't help but let curiosity win and try the "homemade flan with pumpkin shreds".

My gosh.
It was delicioso!! I was dubious at first, but that goop on the side is ambrosia. The flan had a very thick consistency and was a little sour, and it complimented the pumpkin perfectly!

On the way home, I passed an old disused church, but that wasn't the creepiest building. No, that superlative goes to an old house on the way back to the hostel where the windows were broken and semi boarded up. You could still partly see inside, but you could tell it was dusty and distraught. There was even a picture of what I first thought was a witch's face, but I don't actually know what it is.

There's a lot of beautiful architecture here, as you would expect. I've seen Venetian style blinds on the outside of windows, not sure why or what for yet. There's free sangria at the hostel with the beautiful garden with the luxurious hammock but I'll just miss out on it. The weather is hot and the people are hotter. Seriously, I've not seen a single ugly Spanish person.
The feeling of being the heroine of a romance novel hasn't quite fizzled out yet. And I hope it never does!

This is Chapter One.

I guess the title of the book will be figured out in 10 months time!