At this time of year I am always asked the same question: do you know a good recipe for Roscón de Reyes?…
After spending Christmas and Boxing Day in England, the Tapas family headed to Spain to welcome the New Year and make sure we didn’t miss the Three Kings (Reyes Magos) as they came straight from Orient in their camels carrying gifts for all the Spanish kids, LittleT included.
While there I made sure I put my blogging cap on and took lots of photos to show you the place where I grew up. Actually, I grew up in Vigo (about 20-30 minutes drive from Playa América, locally known as Praia América) but we always spent our summers in this area. Back then it never occurred to me that it wasn’t normal to close the house in town for the summer and go to my grandma’s beach house for the summer (my grandma also lived in Vigo and closed her place there for the summer too). Totally normal, ¿no?
Let me take you on a little tour.
First off this is Playa América. Set on a beautiful bay with Baiona to one end and Monteferro to the other. This is a fantastic setting for sunbathing with a view, if you come before or after peak season you can enjoy the sound of the waves and the seagulls pretty much on your own.
|Playa América, Monteferro and the Estelas Islands|
|My first attempt at taking a panoramic photo with my iPhone|
This is Baiona, a historic town with crooked stone streets famous for being the first place that heard the news of Columbus’ discovery of the Americas. You can visit a replica of the famous carabela La Pinta that arrived to the port on March 1st 1493. If you like getting dressed up in period costume, every March you can take part in the medieval Festa da Arribada to celebrate the arrival of the caravel. If you decide to come, the Parador is THE place to stay. If you can’t stretch that far there are plenty of budget options in the area and you can still visit the Parador either on foot or by car, don’t miss a walk all around the wall, finishing off with coffee and a snack inside. Make sure you take in the force of the Atlantic Ocean as you face away from the bay.
|The port of Baiona from the wall of the Parador|
|Another view of the Parador with a glimpse of the Islas Cíes and the open sea|
|The rompeolas, where the waves break with impressive results on rainy, windy days|
|I seem to have developed a thing for street lighting, don’t ask!|
Back in Playa América for sunset before retreating for the night. There is something extremely special and soothing about sitting down to listen to the waves while watching the sun sink into the ocean.
|Winter sunset in Baiona, in the middle of the photo is the Parador|
|See? Another one|
|The “castle” of Playa América, just a private beach house but LittleT loved it just like her mother before her|
Fantastically friendly locals and delicious food complete the
offering of this area, what are you waiting for? You can fly to Vigo
itself, Santiago, Coruña or Porto (yes, it’s in Portugal but it is
feasible). Well? Go on, they will welcome you with open arms, a glass of
Albariño and a cold Estrella Galicia beer.
*All photos taken with my iPhone 4S
As most of you lovely regular readers know, I grew up in Northern Spain, Marmitako is not typical of my region (Galicia) but, if you move your finger a little bit to the East along the Northern coast of Spain you will find Cantabria and the Basque Country, where Marmitako (Spanish tuna casserole) is the perfect homemade hearty food. It actually is more typical of the summer when the fish used (bonito) is in season. But it’s a hot hearty dish so it will warm your cockles in the winter (I wonder what the tuna will think of me talking about cockles!).
My mother used to cook Marmitako quite a bit growing up. You see, unlike me, she had cookery lessons in school and outside (this was Franco time) and, as she was supposed to be a proper lady, I remember her attending courses and the multitude of notes and books she brought back with her. I have recently asked her for some, will she let me have them? We shall see.
I have been cooking Marmitako the conventional way for a few years, actually not that conventional as I started cooking it when I lived on my own and I just did quite a quick version. This is the Thermomix conversion, with the help of the Marmitako recipe in the Spanish Imprescindible book that comes with Thermie as standard in Spain.
Time: Approx. 45 minutes total
- 150 g onion (in chunks)
- 100-120 g red pepper (in chunks), you can use peppers of other colours but my personal favourite is red
- 100 g chopped tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves
- 40 g extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 760 g floury potatoes. Cut the potatoes with a knife but don’t cut them fully with it, cut them about half way and the rest you snap with your hands, this helps them absorb better and the starch works for a better sauce. My potatoes weren’t very big so I quartered them, made a deep cross with the knife on them and snapped the rest. This is called “chascar patatas” in Spanish.
- 400 g water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 300 g fresh tuna (in chunks, not too big not too small)
- Black pepper
- A handful of dried mixed herbs or dried herbes de provence, you can use parsley too
Thermomix TM 31, chopping board for vegetables, chopping board for fish, a couple of knives. I also used a bowl full of fresh water for the potatoes, I like placing them in water for a bit as I peel them.
- Place the pepper, onion, tomato, garlic and oil in the bowl: 3 seconds, speed 5.
- Spatula in hand, make sure you slide down anything that has climbed to the sides: 7 minutes, Varoma, speed 1.
- Add the paprika: 3 seconds, speed 3.
- Put the butterfly in place and add the potatoes: 2 minutes, 100ºC, reverse, spoon speed.
- Add the water and salt: 24 minutes (adapt this to your potatoes, I started with 20 but needed a further 4 minutes), Varoma, reverse, spoon.
- Add the tuna and a couple of twists of the pepper mill: 3 minutes, Varoma, reverse, spoon speed. Lift the measuring cup to add the herbs a bit at a time during these 3 minutes.
- When the Thermomix finishes doing its job, don’t touch anything, just leave it to rest for 5-10 minutes (depending on how much patience you have).
TIP: Add a bit of white wine about 3 minutes into step 2.
Are you new to the Feisty Tapas blog? Welcome! Feel free to have a good browse, you will find out more information about me in the aptly named “About me” section. If you don’t know what on earth a Thermomix is, this post
will tell you all about it. If you live in the UK and you already have a
Thermomix or are giving some serious thought to buying one, I run the fantastic Thermomix Owners UK Facebook group.
|Olives stuffed with piquillo peppers with lomo and tomatoes|
Things have changed though and now it’s easy to find good Spanish olives, in fact next time you’re at your local food market, look for an olive stall and make sure you take home olives from Spain to enjoy with a glass of wine, a beer or a coke; couple them with crisps (no funny flavours though!) for the bar effect and a good selection of Spanish cheeses and cold meats (chorizo, iberico ham, lomo). If you don’t have a good food market near you, just head to your nearest supermarket or deli, you are sure to find some there.
|The canyon of the river Sil|
As most of you already know, I’m Spanish. But that doesn’t mean that I’m from the land of paella. I grew up in Northwest Spain, in Galicia, an unspoilt region hidden in the top left corner of the Iberian Peninsula, just above Portugal. In fact, I grew up not far away from the border with Portugal, in a seaside town called Vigo.
Galicia is a land proud of its culture, language, food, wine and Celtic heritage and an area of huge diversity. From the Atlantic Ocean coast, dotted with blue flag sandy beaches, to ancient rolling mountains with stunning views of blue bays and green valleys. From quirky villages to granite-clad cities and from deep river canyons to spa towns with thermal waters. This is Green Spain at its best.
On the road
Galicia is perfect for a road trip, try driving from Vigo to Verín taking as many detours as you wish to admire the views and sample the local fare. The motorway itself has fabulous views but it’s worth getting off it and checking out Ourense, taking a river cruise through the canyon of the river Sil and, seen as you’re there already, why not make a night of it and stay at an old monastery turned four star parador nestled (and I don’t use the word lightly) in a mountain and surrounded by trees?
On arrival to the Parador de Santo de Estevo, previously an immense Benedictine monastery, I recommend an afternoon coffee (they’ll probably bring you some bica with it, it’s a delicious sponge cake typical of this area, think of it as “sweet tapas”). The Parador has an enormous breakfast buffet and a beautiful restaurant serving exquisite dinners, we stayed a couple of nights and had dinner there both evenings. Don’t forget to bring a swimming costume for the beautiful spa and make sure you try the outdoor hot tub. The next day you could go on to Verín, famous for its carnival, medieval castle, mineral springs (make sure you stop at Cabreiroá to drink some straight from the spring, it’s naturally slightly fizzy and it’s delicious) and, despite not being anywhere near the sea, their perfectly cooked octopus.
|Coffee and bica at Parador de Santo Estevo|
From Vigo, you could also choose to drive south following the
Atlantic Ocean down to the Val Miñor and its famous microclimate
(whatever the weather in neighbouring Vigo, you can rest assured once
you get to this beautiful valley the weather will be even better). Then
on to Baiona to visit the replica
of one of Christopher Columbus’ renowned caravels, La Pinta, which
arrived with the news of the discovery of the Americas on March 1st 1493
(yes, us Galicians were the first to find out). After a walk round Baiona’s charming streets and a visit to its Parador,
keep driving south along the coast to watch the waves kiss the shore
(on a stormy day the waves are gigantic and, rather than kissing, they
fight the rocks for space with impressive results). The locals say that
if you point your finger right out to the Ocean here you will be
pointing to New York!
|Parador Santo Estevo’s courtyard|
After driving a few more miles down the coast with the ocean on your right and the mountains rising on your left. You will arrive to A Guarda, where you can visit archaeological treasures in the Celtic village of Santa Tecla before crossing south of the Miño River to Portugal, this is one of the most beautiful natural borders you will ever see. Once in Portugal there is plenty to see but don’t forget to turn the car round again and drive in a northerly direction from Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, with its world-famous cathedral and grey stone streets bordered by ancient arcades and shrouded in the mystery of the superstitious Galician fog.
|Val Miñor seen from O Cortelliño.|
Whether you drive north or south, east or west, you will have to park the car and travel by sea to visit one of Galicia’s best kept secrets, Islas Cíes, an island paradise just a short boat ride away from either the harbour of Vigo or of Baiona. Whether you get there on the bus-boat or on a rented yacht, it’s not to be missed, so much so that their main beach headed The Guardian’s list of top 10 beaches of the world in 2007. But beware, this haven is zealously protected and, as the nature reserve that it is, access tends to be limited to Easter week and the summer months.
|Islas Cíes seen from Praia de Patos|
There is a lot more to see and do in Galicia, this is just a tiny sample. One thing is clear, whether you want a beach holiday, a cultural break, an urban escape, a rural retreat or a luxurious spa, you will most definitely find it here.
Make sure you read Galicia (Spain). Part 2: Food and drink for the gourmet traveller