We had Spanish movie night the other week, and as this coincided with Facebook reminding me it’s been two years since I was actually there, drinking Sangria and trying to get the hang of Tapas, I figure that’s as good excuse as any to write about Spain.
I loved Spain, in a way that completely took me by surprise. When deciding on my itinerary it was a very close call between Spain and Switzerland. I’d never really given Spain much thought. I have always been more Monet than Picasso, Don Quixote had been sitting on my shelf unread for years, and while I loved Pan’s Labyrinth it was not a film that inspired a love of place, or a fascination with history.
Shortly before takeoff I watched Woody Allen’s amazing Vicky Christina Barcelona, and got genuinely excited, but that was the first time I had heard of, let alone seen Gaudi. And in a way, I suspect that was part of the joy. Spain lacked the pressure of expectation that so burdened my time in Paris. And I was actually in the country when I discovered all the marvellous cultural outputs I loved it for. In particular for me Spain is architecture, just fantastic architecture. Whether in the Moorish influences pre-Crusades in Granada; the grand palaces of Madrid; or the still exciting work Gaudi was doing in Barcelona at the turn of the last century –I loved with the buildings almost everywhere I went. Spain was also modern Art, the Reina Sofia is far and away my favourite modern art museum, I adored it; I particularly loved post cubist landscapes. And Dali. While I had been so so about Dali in isolation, the Salvador Dali museum provided a saturation of concepts that just amazed me. The museum is worth the trip out to his home town Figueres. Especially if you’re into deconstructions and self-referential-ity the way I am.
And Spain was food. Kinda. I have a confession. I don’t remember much of the food in Spain. Worse! I didn’t eat much in Spain. Sadly I was still a vegetarian at this point, still converting currency in my head – and completely intimidated by my lack of language. Despite all these self imposed roadblocks I still ate some amazing food and drank fantastic drinks. Oh Sangria, how I loved you, how I’ve missed you. And Mojitos. Somehow neither of these drinks are the same in Australia, though I’m willing to admit that maybe it’s just not the same when not drinking in 40 degree heat next to the Mediterranean.
Sadly I don't have a picture of the jug of Sangria we were drinking. But it was good!
It may have been that it was August and we were sweltering, but Spain fundamentally shifted my relationship with ice-cream. I liked it previously, but could easily live without it. In Spain ice-cream became a food group.
I have a vivid memory, one of the moments of my trip I return to time and again, of having just walked down the hill from the Alhambra in Granada to pause for sustenance at this amazing ice-cream shop. The range of flavours on offer were overwhelming, more so given they were all in Spanish. But the elderly man behind the counter looked at us, and then presented each with a taster of the flavour he thought best for them. Everyone loved what he gave to them, though I still have no clue what the flavour he gave to me was. Almond, I think, but with something else.
So back tour film night. It ended up being a small turn out, but the selection of frittata, paella, cured meats and olives was fantastic. Though, I don’t think kangaroo prosciutto is authentic, it sure is yummy.
We watched Volver, staring Penelope Cruz. Very very good. I won’t ruin the plot, but I’m sure all chefs can share her frustrations with a lack of freezer space. It wasn’t a film that made me want to return to Spain, but it did remind me of Spain.
I made chickpeas with chorizo –everyone was very impressed with. I’ve already repeated the recipe. Though the second time I was careful not to get distracted and boil the pan dry!
Luckily I caught the kitchen disaster it as it was happening. So instead of completely ruining my chickpeas – I immediately removed them from heat and drained the pan, just taking those chickpeas that fell off of their own accord, leaving the others stuck to the pan. I lost half the chickpeas but according to all, the completed dish with salvaged chickpeas still tasted fantastic.
As long as you don’t get too relaxed while the chickpeas are cooking, this recipe is very easy, though it requires planning so you can soak the chickpeas.
Those in attendance requested the recipe – So I’ll share it with you too.
Chickpeas with Chorizo
165g dried chickpeas
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
750ml chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
Pinch of dried thyme
370g chorizo, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
Put chickpeas in a large bowl, cover with water and soak overnight. Drain well. Place in a large saucepan with bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon stick and stock. Cover completely with water, bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, or until tender. There should be just a little water left in the saucepan – do not boil dry. Drain and remove the bay leaf, cloves and cinnamon stick.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the onion and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium high, add the chorizo and cook for 3 minutes.
Add the chickpeas to the frying pan, mix well, then stirring over medium heat for about 4 minutes or until they are heated through. Remove from the heat and mix in the parsley. Taste before seasoning with freshly ground black pepper.
Can be served hot or at room temperature.