Though it was a little bit of a splurge given the student budget I was travelling on, my day at Cook & Taste Barcelona was well worth it in my books. My friend Jane and I got up early to grab our cafes con leche on the way, and then arrived at Cook & Taste’s lovely space in the heart of Barcelona’s gothic quarter. (SO lovely. I wanted to stay and live in their kitchen.)We started with a little exploring through La Boqueria. I had walked through Barcelona’s famous market a few times before, but it was great to go with our guide/teacher/food-guru for the day, María José, as we stopped to speak to each of the vendors while buying our ingredients. Jane had to jet off to Italy, so I was on my own for the cooking part of the day but my “classmates” were all super fun and friendly. I made friends with a lovely Dutch couple as we prepared mussels for the paella, and seemed to mistify a couple of nice older men from Scandinavia as to why on earth I was traveling by myself, chatted with a fellow Canuck about a certain crack smoking mayor that was making headlines at the time, and bonded with the two Aussie sisters who were charged with making sure everyone had full wine glasses. Everyone was kept busy with tasks in the kitchen and the day went by quickly. Though I had made a couple of the dishes on our menu before, it was great to follow along with a professional. We spent a couple hours getting everything ready, and then enjoyed our delicious little feast starting with tortilla de patatas con pan con tomate, salsa romesco with seasonal vegetables, the showstopping giant pan of paella de marisco, and finishing with these beatuiful burgundy pears.María José was wonderful; I had signed up for the class at the last minute, and since I didn’t know if there would be room left in the English session, I had written that I would love to practice my Spanish and so wouldn’t mind being in a Spanish group if that was more convenient. They managed to squeeze me in to the English group, but Majo made sure I got to practice my Spanish, too. I was a happy camper. So, I spent most of my last day in Barcelona in the kitchen, chatting with a friendly group of international gourmands, sipping Spanish wine. Not sure if it gets better than that.
Peras al vino especiado (Poached pears in spiced red wine)
From Cook & Taste Barcelona
Ingredients (serves 5)
350 mL of cooking red wine
100 mL of water
200g of sugar
One star anise
One cinnamon stick
One vanilla pod
Zest of one orange
A few black peppercorns
A few jamaican peppercorns (don’t worry if you don’t have these)
Peal the whole pear and cut it in half, scooping out the harder core. Soak them in water with a few slices of lemon.
In a pot, mix the wine, sugar, water, lemon, orange zest and the spices. Place the pot over medium-high heat and add the pears. Let them simmer until the liquid is reduced by half and the pears are tender.
Remove the pears and let them sit until they are cool. Keep reducing the liquid until it has a silky caramel texture.
Serve the poached pears and bathe them with a little of the wine caramel. ¡Que aproveches!