It’s been a while since I’ve returned from Barcelona but I certainly have not forgotten it (Barcelona posts still sneak into my Instagram to this day), and I haven’t forgotten either that I promised you all a gift from my travels. And I’ll be unveiling that today (finally)!
But first, a little something about one of my favorite personal Barcelona traditions…my regular visit to La Boqueria, the old marketplace in the middle of the city.
Since I first stepped foot in the market, years ago, before I even started cooking, it has always been inspiring…even if, in those early days, I didn’t know that the bubble in my tummy and the tingle in my heart were inspiration, before I even knew what that inspiration meant or where it was leading to. Even then, it pulled at my heart. To this day, it still does.
And that’s why I always return.
I usually go in the morning, as early as I can manage, to avoid the flocks of tourists that descend in droves, cameras flashing.
(Now, I completely understand that I myself am a tourist, and yes, I do take photos, but that doesn’t mean I want to be jockeying for position just to take a nice shot of someone’s gorgeous tomatoes. And it’s not just photos I’m after! La Boqueria, sans tourists, is a great place to people watch…and, of course, shop!)
I like to go when it is mostly locals, there to do their daily marketing, old men and ladies pulling their typically European shopping carts behind them, visiting their regular stalls, conversing with their usual purveyors. They chat (the Spanish are world experts in chatting…there is no other place I think where it is easier to practice the local language for free!) with the stall owners, with each other, pointing and gesticulating, laughing at something that has amused them, or passionately displeased about something that has rubbed them the wrong way. Whichever it is, it is something I love to watch.
I too, am chuffed to say, have a “usual purveyor”. She is an older lady who has a spice stall (I have mentioned her before on Instagram) and I have been visiting for some years now. She has various whole and ground spices, spice mixes, whole dried peppers, and other dried goods. She also carries some dried legumes (beluga lentils!) and nuts (gorgeously long and slim pine nuts!). There are other spice sellers at the market, with fancier looking stalls, and admittedly, more engaging sellers, but her genuine personality, initial gruffness, and complete disregard for the internet, won my heart. She also carries the same name as my daughter. She is a bit towards the back, to the left…just look for Carmen Y Jesus.
I will usually buy some La Chinata pimenton de La Vera from her, along with her “asados mix” (for meat), “pescados mix” (for fish), “paella mix” (for, um, paella), some dried peppers (nyoras and choriceros…to put in stews or in fabada), bouquet garni (here in the form of a bunch of dried herbs wrapped in bay leaves), beluga lentils (if my maleta is not too heavy already), maybe some nuts (those pine nuts!), maybe some other interesting items I spot during that particular visit. She is always patient with my inquiries and my less-than-perfect Spanish. I like to stay and chat with her for a bit…and feel, for those short moments, like a real local.
After the spices, I’ll wander around, lost in the sights and smells of the market. I’ll find other things “I just have to have”, deliberate if I can successfully journey with it home, and if so add it to my already bulging market bag. If I see something I want to remember with a picture, I ask the purveyor first if I can photograph it, usually with a statement of how beautiful their produce is to encourage a positive response (Such pretty tripe!!). Some will say yes. Several will say no. I respect that (as should everyone else visiting the market…please respect the purveyors’ wishes! Not everyone wants to be InstaFamous.).
When I’m about to leave, bags filled with dry (or cured) goods (that I am already planning how to most efficiently pack into my maleta), I take one last look back, wistfully wishing that I could somehow manage to take fresh goods (mushrooms! tomatoes! tripe!) home with me as well. Maybe one day I’ll figure that out.
But, before anything though, before exploring, observing, taking photos, or visiting my spice lady, I’ll head to Pinotxo’s for breakfast. His bar stools fill up fast…another reason I like to go early. If all the stools are taken, I just wait patiently, the customers don’t dawdle, and everyone waits their turn. I’ll usually have a xuxo and a café con leche. His xuxos are the best I’ve ever tasted. They are more like a fried croissant, rather than a churro (like how they are here). They are stuffed with a filling that is both rich and light at the same time, and tastes of crema catalana. The whole thing is dusted in sugar, which, when you bite into it, gets on everything (your face, your shirt, and, unless you are wearing a turtleneck, in your bra). The first time I had it, he told me that it was so good I would marry him (almost!).
Sometimes, if I am extra hungry (which is often), or if what he has behind his counter looks extra delicious (which is often), I will order something after the xuxo. The last time I was there was one such time. There was this platter of garbanzos (chickpeas) with bits of dark sausage that was just calling to me. Suffice to say, I loved it. A simple dish of garbanzos with morcilla (Spanish blood sausage) with flecks of herbs and bits of red…that I was guessing were chili flakes. Like the hungry home cook that I am, I asked one of the guys behind the counter if it was, indeed, chili flakes, and he answered that it was “chimichurri”. A light bulb went off in my head as I knew my spice lady had just such a chimichurri mix so I made sure to grab a tub…and one extra for one of you. (Giveaway details below!!!)
This is my attempt at recreating that dish…and that memory.
Garbanzos with Morcilla
- Olive oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced (or pressed through a garlic press)
- 150 grams morcilla (this was 2 pieces for me, but it depends on how big your morcilla is), removed from its casings
- 1 400-gram can garbanzos, drained
- 2 heaping tablespoons pine nuts
- 2-3 teaspoons chimichurri seasoning
– Bring a skillet to medium high heat. Add a swirl of oil (the morcilla will release its own oil as well). When the oil is hot add the garlic until the aroma wafts up and hits your nose. Stir a bit but do not let it color.
– Add the morcilla to the skillet, breaking it apart. Sauté, tossing, until the morcilla starts to release some of its aromatic oil. Add the chickpeas and pine nuts and toss through, sautéing for 2-3 minutes more.
– Add the chimichurri seasoning and mix thoroughly. Cook for a minute or two more, then remove from the pan and serve.
I haven’t added any salt to this recipe, with good reason. The morcilla, I feel, is salty enough. One of the things I love about this simple dish is precisely the the intense flavor of the morcilla against the mild creaminess of the grabanzos. And the herby touch of the chimichurri mix, with the kiss of chili flakes, marries everything together perfectly.
For the chimichurri seasoning, I used the one pictured here (which one of you will be winning!) but you can certainly use your own mix, just adjust the amount based on its potency. You can also, alternately, season this with chopped parsley, oregano, and chili flakes, which are the main components in chimichurri (plus garlic, but this recipe already has garlic).
Now on to the giveaway! Before even heading to La Boqueria this time, I already knew I wanted to get some extra things to share with one of my readers — some things that I use myself in my own cooking, that I knew would warm my heart thinking of one of you using it in your cooking as well.
So I put together a selection of a few goodies:
Dried bouquet garni – they have this all over the market in Barcelona (and I believe the rest of Europe). They are dried herbs wrapped in some dried bay leaves and tied up. Since I don’t always have all the fresh herbs to make a bouquet garni at a moment’s notice, I like having these dried bundles on hand. Great in stews, braises, and a long-cooking Bolognese sauce.
“Por Asados” spice mix – This is my spice lady’s all-purpose mix for meats. I use it on any grilled/roasted/pan-fried meat, from beef to chicken to lamb. I sometimes use it on its own and sometimes with some pimenton de la Vera. Although it contains some salt, I usually add more salt when using it – use your taste as a guide.
La Chinata Pimenton de la Vera (dulce) – Spanish smoked paprika…by far my favorite spice! It comes in three variants: dulce (sweet – what I use the most and what I am giving away here), agridulce (bittersweet), and picante (spicy). I use it in so many dishes, and not just in Spanish cooking. Its smoky flavor is reminiscent of chorizo…so add it to anything you think would benefit from that smoky hit (which is a lot of things!). I use it in everything from gambas to pasta sauce to a fried egg. It is an essential ingredient in my callos, lentejas, and fabada. La Chinata smoked paprika carries a denominacion de origen which is a regulatory classification ensuring the quality of a product. I have had various smoked paprikas and you can indeed taste the difference of one with a D.O. It is worth it, for me, to seek them out even if it means paying extra.
Chimichurri mix – Another one from my spice lady, and what I use in this recipe. You can rub this on meat before cooking or even toss with some veg before roasting with some olive oil. Or fry some garlic slices in olive oil, add a big pinch of this, and toss through some pasta.
Here are the guidelines:
– All you need to do to enter is leave a comment on this post saying why you want these goodies! That’s it!!
– This giveaway is open to all readers with a Philippines mailing address.
– You need to have a valid email address through which I can correspond with you and let you know if you’ve won.
There you go…nothing too complicated I hope! Maybe one day I’ll be rich and famous and I can fly a bunch of us to Barcelona to explore La Boqueria together. Until that day comes though, I hope you’ll be happy with these little tokens that I love…from my kitchen to yours.
P.S. A little bonus: this is what you can do if you have leftovers…re-fry it gently in some olive oil, make a space in the middle, and crack an egg into it. Breakfast!