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Pimientos de Padrón

17 Sep

Os pementos de Padrón, uns pican e outros non – Galician Saying

Translation: Some are hot. Some are not.

I love these. Perhaps I’m biased. They are pretty much considered the national dish from the land of my birth. That’s Galicia – in the northwest of Spain. Notice the quote? Not quite Spanish is it? Yep, that’s Galego. Named for the town of Padrón, most of these tiny peppers are sweet and mild. The odd one is not. It’s hot. Very hot. There may be tears. Consider yourselves warned.

On a recent trip to Galicia, I ate these little beauties almost every day. Next to jamón, they are probably my favourite local thing. At a bar in the spa town of Caldas de Reis, after arriving a little too late for lunch we were offered a lovely plate of these and a massive mountain of bread. A satisfying meal with an element of gambling thrown in. What is not to love? At the time it was early spring, when typically the peppers contain less of the spicy compound capsaicin, and we were hard pressed to find a hot one among the batch we ate. Even though we had no “winners”, they were delicious nonetheless.

Pimientos del Padrón y Pan ©2013 Helena McMurdo

Up until recently, it was hard to find these outside of Spain. Lately I’ve seen them regularly in blog posts from New York and yearn for them wistfully. I chanced upon some in Portland, Oregon a couple of years ago at Toro Bravo. I saw them in Seattle for sale. But I had never seen them in Vancouver.

So imagine my delight when I stumbled across them at the Trout Lake Farmer’s market. The lovely people from Klippers Organics of Cawston BC had a load of them. And I am told, they are the only ones growing them in Canada. Fill me up. I was a pretty happy girl leaving the market with my peppers in tow.

Pimientos de Padrón ©2013 Helena McMurdo

Fry them quickly in olive oil, toss them with some sea salt. Nothing more is required.

Fried Pimientos de Padrón ©2013 Helena McMurdo

Pimientos de Padrón with Maldon ©2013 Helena McMurdo

It’s September or maybe it’s the way they are grown here but I found the majority of these were hot and yes there were some tense moments. But they were good. So good. When can I get more?

Galicia: Pulpo do Feira

12 Jul

One of the classic items to eat in Galicia is Pulpo do Feira. Translation: Octopus-“Market Style”. In my grandmother’s local market, the women working the Pulpo tent dip their sticks rhythmically into the huge copper pot, their hands seemingly immune to the scalding water below. Then using scissors, they snip the legs into pieces so quickly it’s amazing that any of them still have fingers. You take your seat in the covered tent and someone plunks down a bottle of wine and a huge loaf of bread and you order your ration. It’s drizzled with olive oil,  and sprinkled with salt and pimentón. Y ya está. (That’s it!) Meaty deliciousness.

Image

Galicia: Te gusta?

10 Jul

I’m back from a recent trip to Galicia and I wanted to share some of the images I made as well as some of the memories I have from this place. As many of you know, I was born in Spain or more specifically – as my relatives remind me often – in Galicia. Which is different.

When we were kids, we visited in the summers from our home in the North of Canada. The differences were dramatic. In Yellowknife, the Frozen North, the chickens came wrapped in plastic on meat trays in the YK Super A, the local grocery store. In Galicia hens strolled around the yard of my grandparents house and baby chicks were gifts from my Abuelo (grandfather) to me and my two sisters when he came back from the local market. Today in North America we would call it a ‘Farmer’s’ Market. In Galicia, then as now, no one felt the need to specify this obvious detail. We were disappointed to learn that grandma’s chickens laid no more than one egg a day and sometimes not even any. This did not seem to tally with the pictures in our kindergarden schoolbooks of mother hen sitting on a mountain of eggs. Our relatives viewed us as city slickers (clearly not the case as anyone who has been to Yellowknife can attest), but our words and actions revealed that we ignorant of country ways. They  laughed when my sister tried hopelessly to shake a chicken in order to induce an increase in egg production.

Big excitement happened when one of the neighbours would move cows from one field to another yelling; Vaca Ve!  My sisters and I would copy them, grabbing a stick and yelling the refrain, not really understanding the words but getting the message.  Today there are fewer cows in the village. But they still move back and forth in a rhythm that marks the days. Today they wear ear tags and in the words of one of the neighbours, “they have more paperwork than we do”.

Galicia Village Textures © 2013 Helena McMurdo

When we were kids, my grandparents ran a little bar come shop and their little corner of the world seemed a bustling place with neighbours dropping by to have a drink, a slice of jamón or to buy some basic essential like shampoo or the famous black soap from LaToja.

We found it all so very amusing, helping to serve the drinks and being paid in chocolate and Chupa Chups. Much of our time was spent being poked by neighbours and relatives who spoke freely with their pronouncements as to which of us was the fattest, skinniest, best looking, tallest, most intelligent etc. “The food must be very bad in Canada. The children are so skinny” The bar is  no more but the neighbours still have a lot to say. Now they tell me I am fatter but in a good way. “Estás bien ahora.”

On of the first spanish phrases I remember learning was ‘Te gusta?‘” Do you like it? Someone was always offering food. (What is a local custom became even more impressive presumably because of our perceived state of malnutrition.) Most of the things being offered to eat were too simply too scary for our young and picky palates to consider. Squid? Octopus? No thank you. “No me gusta”. We seemed happy to exist on a diet of Fanta de Naranja, Maria Biscuits and Cola Cao with the odd tortilla francesa (omelette) thrown in. But I do remember always liking jamón and chorizo.

Today, I’m making up for my prior fussiness. In fact, there seems to be little that I don’t like. This is simple food; Green Beans with Garlic and Smoked Paprika, Kale with chorizo and a perfect farm fresh egg, a slice of empanada made in the local panadería. Octopus is boiled and sprinkled with salt and paprika and served with boiled potatoes.

Food in Galicia_©2013 Helena McMurdo

The cooking is not complicated. The ingredients are what make it. And nature provides. Y si me gusta!

Galicia : A Preview

5 Jul

So if you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, I’ll tell you. I’ll skip the usual excuses for not posting earlier and just say here’s a bit of a teaser for what’s to come in the next week or so – a recap of my trip to Galicia. I hope that for the meantime, you enjoy these.Image

Pimientos&Chorizo ©2013 Helena McMurdo

Sunset Near O Cebreiro © 2013 Helena McMurdo

Galician Headdresses ©2013 Helena McMurdo

 

 

Campeones España

14 Jul

When we planned our trip to Spain, we weren’t thinking of the World Cup. We picked our return date of July 12th, somewhat randomly.  It was only after I had booked that we realized that the World Cup Final would be on July 11th and that we would be in Madrid and that there was a very good chance that Spain would be in the Final. So from that point, it was very much a case of believe and it will happen. Continue reading

Madrid – Pan de Lujo

10 Jul

Place setting, olive oil & basil

Here are some pictures from our Lunch at Pan de Lujo in Salamanca district. Very cool, oasis like setting. We had a group of 5 and shared a few dishes.  All yummy. An escapist atmosphere out of the hustle and bustle. Continue reading

Taste of Childhood

9 Jul

I love Fanta de Limon. (Lemon Fanta) I’m not sure why we don’t have it in North America. It is the perfect soft drink. For me it’s the taste of childhood – I always preferred it to the ‘Naranja’ or orange variety and there is nothing finer for quenching thirst on a hot summer’s day. And did I mention that it is 37 C today in Madrid.

Lavinia

9 Jul

When I was in Madrid in October, my sister took me to Lavinia. I loved it. So after a fabulous morning at the Prado enjoying all the European Masters, we strolled along the Calle Alfonso XII to the chic shopping area of Salamanca and to Calle Jose Ortega Y Gasset where Lavinia lies. Continue reading

Madrid – Casa Lucas

9 Jul

The main roads in Spain are all measured from the Puerta del Sol in Madrid so we have literally arrived at the epicentre. 440kms from Galicia and we are here! Continue reading

Segovia

8 Jul

When I was in about grade eight, we had a social studies text book and on the cover was a picture of the aqueduct in Segovia. For some reason, I always imagined it to be out in the country somewhere but the reality is that it sits right inside and is part of the fabric of the city Continue reading

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