We are very lucky when we are Up the Mountain, to live less than an hour and a half from the amazingly beautiful city of Granada. Home to the stunning Palace of the Alhambra, it’s a city that softly breathes echoes of its mediaeval Moorish past at every corner.
Today I’m going to take you on a little walk from the top of the hill which overlooks the Alhambra, to enjoy the amazing views of the palace from the Mirador (view point) de San Nicolás – probably one of the most photographed views in Granada.
If you wind your way slowly down the hill you get back to the town centre, walking through narrow streets.
Not many cars here, only residents, the little bus and taxis can enter.
Granada is famed for its tapas – with every drink, something wonderful to taste.
Peek through windows.
And fortify yourself with coffee and pastries. These little ones are called Piononos, named after a Pope and made in Santa Fé, a town just outside the city of Granada.
This past weekend was a huge religious festival with special cakes for “The Virgin” being sold everywhere.
A stroll around the centre and a chuckle at the Eco Roundabout!
Photos taken on my phone, so not the greatest quality, but when in Granada, you just have to soak up the atmosphere, enjoy the tapas and tea shops, and promise to go back again.
Although we love our life Up the Mountain, sometimes it´s good to get out. Last night a new friend organised tickets for a group of us to go the theatre in Malaga to see a show at the Instituto Andaluz de Flamenco. As you´d expect from the name of the venue, it was an evening of dance – Flamenco fused at times with ballet. Very lovely, and certainly nothing like some of the dreadful “shows” some venues put on to keep the tourists happy. I´m sorry I can´t show you any photos as some of the costumes were spectacular.
After the show we were not quite ready to go home, you may recall that the Spaniards believe the night is for fun and partying, so we headed over to a the development, recently opened at Málaga port, where many of the large cruise ships stop.
It reminded me a little of Sydney Harbour with lots of shops, bars and restaurants and I hope that as the warmer weather comes and more people learn about it, it will be a huge success.
We went to a Cervecería, a beer “tavern” where they serve buckets of beer…
And then a final stroll back to the car, giving us the opportunity to enjoy views of the Cathedral and the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro – a Moorish fortification overlooking the city.
Wearily we made our way home, only to find out this morning that an earth tremor had been felt at 4am in the next village. Clearly the beers had done their work and we had slept through the whole thing!
A few days ago Big Man came back from a trip to Granada raving about a different kind of tapas he had eaten that day in a bar. First of all I need to explain all about Granada and tapas. Granada (the entire province, not just the city) is famed for and rightly proud of its tapas culture. In most other regions you are asked if you´d like a tapas to accompany your drink and offered a choice. This can simply be cheese, jamon or olives or quite sophisticated grilled or fried fish, fillets of meat, or potato or seafood salad.
In Granada you don´t get offered, you just get given. Most bars will have their own specialities and generally their first tapas will be x, the second y and so on. Of course, if they serve you something you don´t want or like, you can ask for something different. They even have a word for going out and moving from bar to bar sampling the best they have to offer. It´s called “tapear”…isn´t that wonderful? Sounds so much nicer than going on a pub or bar crawl! It also helps with not ending up with a sore head if you drink alcohol as you are eating as you go along.
So, back to the tapas he ate. Apparently it was runner beans with bacon. It sounds simple, and it was, but he said it was delicious and fresh and made a lovely change from the usual fare. After cross questioning him under a spotlight (ok, I made that last bit up) he told me that he thought the beans had been cooked a little first in water, then stir fried with little cubes of bacon. Then he thought there might have been garlic and couldn´t make his mind up if there had been tomato, but probably not. What a great way to use up some of my runner bean glut and to get my super marvelous bean shredder out again!
So that was pretty much it. I sliced my beans finely (I used about 2 cups) and boiled them for a few minutes then drained them. I diced a couple of slices of smoked streaky bacon which I fried until slightly brown at the edges, threw in two cloves of crushed garlic and the beans and stir fried them for a few minutes more.
Big Man pronounced them even better than the ones in the bar, mainly because I had used some of my precious stock of lovely English bacon supplied by my pals. And I´m happy as we have a new quick and tasty dish to use up some of our runner beans which we´re currently picking at a rate of about a kilo a day.
This one is so quick and simple, it doesn´t even need a recipe! Perhaps just a quick explanation, though. This is served in Andalucía as a pre meal appetiser in the summer or when unexpected guests pop round and it´s drink time. Add a plate of slice Spanish cheese, some jamon or salchichon (salami), a cool drink of your choice and you´ve served a super speedy tapas selection without even really trying!
Wash and cut a lettuce heart into eighths, open a tin of anchovies (in olive oil if possible) and lay an anchovy over each slice, pour the oil from the tin over, add a squeeze of lemon or white wine vinegar and serve. These are picked up with the fingers, or little cocktail forks if you´re feeling refined, then just munched and crunched.
If you can´t stomach anchovies, replace with a strip of roasted red pepper.
As promised, another version of the famed Andalucían gazpachos. This one originates from the beautiful city of Córdoba, and is my favourite version of all. It is different in that it uses very few ingredients but can be served three ways – very thick as a dip with small breadsticks (known as Picos), medium thick garnished with chopped hard boiled egg and jamon or tuna as a chilled soup starter, or diluted with water as a refreshing drink. So…three dishes in one!
Ingredients for this are few and it will serve from 6 (as tapas) to 2 (as a soup) approximately:
2-3 slices of stale bread without the crust (should be a fairly dense bread rather than sliced white from the supermarket)
About 500g of tomato, cored and peeled (I had one HUGE tomato as you can see in the photo) but usually the volume of the tomato once in the jug is a little more than the volume of the breadcrumbs
A chunk of red pepper (optional)
Half a clove of garlic (don´t recommend you use more or it will overpower the taste the taste of the salmorejo)
Once again, the holy trinity of water, salt and vinegar appear but we´ll use very little water this time.
Dribble a very little amount of water onto the bread which you will have put into a mixing jug, and leave for a minute or two to absorb it.
Add the tomato and pepper if you are using it. The truly authentic recipe doesn´t use red pepper, but after wondering why my salmorejo never looked as red or tasted as sweet as anyone else´s, I was let into the secret of the locals round here – red pepper!
Add your garlic, a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of vinegar and at least two tablespoons of olive oil and start to blend with the hand blender.
You need to get this really smooth, almost like a purée. The more oil you add, the smoother the mixture will be, although I tend to go easy on it just for the sake of my waistline! Taste every so often and adjust the salt and vinegar to your liking. Again, it should be “alegre” or lively in flavour.
When you´re done, leave to chill in the fridge for about an hour.
Traditionally it´s served in a deep earthenware bowl (to maintain the freshness) with chopped hard-boiled egg and jamon on top. Some people substitute the jamon for tinned tuna but I guess chopped bacon would also be nice.
It´s also great as a dip or sauce served with little breadsticks (like very short grissini) or croutons.
Love ´em or hate ´em – my friends and family seem to be divided in their opinion of croquettes. I´m most definitely in the “Love” camp, as is one of my god daughters who can eat them non stop. Big Man sits in the other camp and every now and then I try a new batch on him to see if I can convert him. He loved the Falafel I made recently, which are pretty “croquettey” in my view, so I haven´t given up hope.
Croquettes in Spain are generally made with a béchamel base to hold them together, rather than potato, which is the way I´ve always done them. I´ve never tried to make them Spanish style, but after making a fish pie the other day I had a small bowl of béchamel sauce left over and I thought I´d give them a go. What with having dogs and chickens, it´s unusual now for me to have many leftovers in the fridge. The chickies get the sad vegetables, salad and fruit (if I haven´t already turned them into soups or jams) and the dogs get bones and scraps of meat. Anything else should go onto the compost heap, but there never seems to be enough left!
Croquettes can be made from any filling, but I really recommend searching through your fridge and using up any little scraps of leftovers. I had a small bowl of cubed jamon which hadn´t gone into the soup and a few leaves of chard which were looking a bit floppy, so my decision was made. Other suggestions could be cold veg, tuna, leftover chicken, cheese, hard boiled eggs…ooh, I could go on, but I´ll just get on with telling you how they were made.
Not a lot of photos today as my hands were getting mucky (despite wearing latex gloves) when making the croquettes and Big Man wasn´t around to take snaps for me.
Ingredients used were:
About 2 cups of cold béchamel which had gone quite solid. If you need to make it from scratch, use about 250-300ml of milk for your béchamel and then leave it in the fridge to get really cold.
About a cup and a half of filling – I had a cup of very finely chopped Spanish jamon and a cup of shredded chard which, when cooked, reduced to half its volume
A tablespoon of plain flour
Salt and pepper
A beaten egg
Dried breadcrumbs for coating the croquettes
Oil for deep frying
A pair of latex gloves if you don´t want to get too mucky and a couple of tablespoons
Start by mixing your filling into the béchamel and season to taste. Add the flour to bind together slightly.
Beat your egg in a shallow bowl and prepare another bowl with some breadcrumbs.
Take heaped spoonfuls of the mixture and shape either by hand or with the spoons into croquettes. I went for the traditional cylinder shape but this is really up to you. As soon as you start to work with the béchamel it will soften (hence my recommendation of using gloves!) but persevere as things will get easier once you get to the breadcrumb stage.
Roll your croquette in the beaten egg mixture. Using a spoon to lift it in and out and spoon the egg over seems to help here, then drop it into the breadcrumb mix. Roll it around and then put onto a plate.
When all your croquettes are ready, and I got eight pretty big ones from the above mixture, pop them back into the fridge for at least an hour or until you are ready to cook them.
Get your oil nice and hot, once it starts to smoke, turn it down a little and gently drop the croquettes in. They probably take less than a minute to cook – just enough time for the outside to turn a golden brown and the centre to warm up. Lift them out with a slotted spoon onto some greaseproof paper and then to a serving plate. You can make them in advance and then gently warm them up for a few minutes in the oven if you are not serving straight away.
Pour yourself a nice cold glass of white wine or dry Spanish sherry and imagine a hot Andalucían summer´s evening in a noisy tapas bar while you enjoy your Croquetas de Jamon!
So in 2016 I turned 50. I was in Italy for my 21st, 30th and 40th. To keep this birthday tradition going I always knew I'd be in Italy for my 50! This blog starts with my 5 week adventure in Puglia but my love affair with Italy continues.....