Torrijas para Semana Santa

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After doing a class survey of my ninth graders a few weeks ago, tortilla came out on top as the class’ favourite Spanish dish (I have yet to make the ‘Spanish omelette’, but it’s on my list!). The second favourite item appeared to be ‘torrijas’, which I hadn’t heard of until that day.

20130322-005126.jpgSemana Santa, Holy Week, is a big huge deal in Spain (or at least in Andalucía!). I’m going to be in Turkey for the week so will unfortunately be missing the big event, but I’ve seen the buildup. People prepare all year round for this. It is taken very seriously and every parish has their own processions to prepare — some of which, my students tell me, can wind through the town for up to 11 hours. It seems to be a more solemn time than the Easter I know from home; I haven’t see any Easter bunnies here, it’s all about Jesus.

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On the Road — Mañana

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I read On the Road in high school, but I don’t think I really got into it, and I had picked it up mostly because my favourite English teacher always raved about it and didn’t we all “dig the beat generation?!”. So when I saw a cheap paperback copy of it at home before I left for Spain I figured it was a perfect read for a my year abroad. And this quote…man. I love it. I know Kerouac wasn’t writing about Spain, but that’s what it will always make me think of — seems like one of the most fitting quotes for Andalucia, anyway.

“It was always mañana . For the next week that was all I heard– mañana , a lovely word and one that probably means heaven.”

-Jack Kerouac, On the Road (1957)

20130320-021257.jpgAs for my mañana…I’m off to meet my parents in Turkey for the Easter Break! I’m recovering from a bout of conjunctivitis (ew– don’t worry, no eye pictures!), but am so happy to be on the road.

Powder Puffs [Olive Oil Polvorones]

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Feliz día de Andalucía! I’m in Amsterdam today (taking advantage of the long weekend) instead of Andalucía, but to celebrate I will leave you with this recipe for a traditional Spanish treat!

20130227-020200.jpgThese sweet, crumbly cookies, known as polvorones or galletas fritas, are traditionally made with lard, but this recipe uses olive oil (so you can feel kind of healthy while you eat them?)! I didn’t have anise extract, so I used some vanilla, and I didn’t have a rolling pin so I used beer bottle. This is how things go in my Huelva kitchen.

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Although a few of my galletas were just a bit too crumbly, these were a lot easier to make than I originally thought they might be, and it’s another item crossed off my Spanish Cooking Bucket List!

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Fresas en Febrero [Strawberry Mint Salad]

20130227-010601.jpgStrawberry season in Andalucía seems to have started in January and the friendly vendor at the market told me that the season lasts until May/June– I am a happy Canuck.

20130227-011257.jpgYesterday I went to the market for just a few things, and ended up coming back with two kilograms of strawberries (it was only €1/kg, I couldn’t help myself!).

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Strawberry Mint Salad

¡Carnaval de Cádiz!

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I arrived in Cádiz tired from the work week and thinking maybe all this Carnaval business was a little overhyped…

20130224-212252.jpgMadre mia, was I wrong. Cádiz woke me up and showed me an amazing time. A crazy, ridiculous, unforgettable time.

20130224-213149.jpgYes, it is basically just a huge street party and yes, the streets are soaked by everyone’s pee (disgusting, I know. But one of Carnaval’s unique charms?), but it is so much more than just a street party (am I making sense?). Everyone is in costume. There is music everywhere; choirs being driven through the streets on wagons, and chirigotas (ensembles of singers) performing at every street corner, plaza, and on church steps. Everybody comes out to play. And I mean everybody: children, grandparents, families, students, belligerent young people– people from Cádiz, from all over Spain, and from all over the world. The sheer amount of people is impressive, but what struck me the most was just the joy in the streets. Everyone is out to have a good time and you’re bound to make new friends by the end of the night.

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20130225-004237.jpgIt doesn’t hurt that Cádiz is a beautiful sea side city…see you there for Carnaval 2014?

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Aracena [Everything With Ham On It]

20130201-015305.jpgThe last weekend of January saw us take a lovely little road trip up the Sierra de Aracena; a little mountain town just north of Huelva. After a few scary moments as our intrepid driver got used to our standard rental car, we were off for a short drive through beautiful scenery up to the pueblo.

20130201-015258.jpgFamous for their ham and mushrooms, the food did not disappoint and we tried a lot of it in great, cozy restaurants. The sunny January weekend was perfect for exploring. Las Grutas de la Maravillas, the ham museum (where I bought a little cookbook…we’ll see if I can recreate any of the mountain specialties!), hiking up to an old castle, and wandering around the white washed town– it was all a lovely change from the city.

20130205-154227.jpgDespite an incredible amount of fog, we stopped to look in awe at the Rio Tinto mines on our drive back to Huelva. (This is where NASA is doing research on what life would be like on Mars!)

20130205-153948.jpg Thanks to my mum and dad for suggesting this gem, and to lovely Emma for the picture of me (you can see her fabulous photography here!). If you’re in the mood for some fresh air and the best ham in Spain, Aracena might just be your town!

Monday Morning

20130205-004140.jpgJane and I took advantage of our day off and enjoyed a sunny winter’s day at the beautiful beach in Punta Umbria. The few people who walked by were dressed in layers, but the Canuck in me couldn’t resist fully enjoying a February beach day, bikini and all. Hopefully this becomes a Monday morning routine — not sure if there is a better place for a sun salutation.

Donde fueres, haz lo que vieres [Tarta de Santiago]

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Trying to keep up my amateur food blogging in my piso has its little difficulties: lack of equipment (building muscle and making me better at eyeballing!), unfamiliar grocery stores (you’ve gotta work with what you’ve got!), and lack of natural light in the apartment for my semi-decent photos/lack of time spent in said piso during daylight hours (you’ve got to make hay while the sun shines!)…but I think my quest to be more like an española in the kitchen got off to a good start.

Tarta de Santiago, “Cake of Saint-James”, has been eaten since the middle ages in Galicia and is traditionally decorated with the cross of Saint-James. I opted to dust mine with icing sugar and top it with sweet Andalucian strawberries that are just starting to be seen at the market.

This cake was much like the Andalucian Orange Almond Torte that I made last fall, minus the orange– only three main ingredients in this one, so it doesn’t get much easier! To practice my Spanish, I followed this recipe, but have copied it below in English for you.

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Tarta de Santiago
250 grams of ground almonds
250 grams of granulated sugar
5 large eggs
Zest of half a lemon (I used the zest of a whole lemon!)!’
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of icing sugar (for dusting)
butter for greasing the pan (I used sunflower oil)
one 22-cm diameter springform pan

Mix together the almonds, sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon. Mix in the eggs until well combined but don’t beat the eggs. Once the batter is smooth, pour into the greased pan and bake at 350F for 50 minutes or until the top is golden (if it starts to brown too much just cover the top with tin foil). To decorate the cake traditionally, you can print off the cross template from the Spanish re pie website; place your cross on the cake and top with icing sugar around it. Or, top with icing sugar and fruit; easy and delicious! Buen provecho!

La Comida Casera [Spanish Cooking Bucketlist]

I’ll admit that having to trek through the city to three different grocery stores to find one ingredient makes for good exercise (and a decent way to learn my way around!). But when “one quick grocery shop” turned into the marathon of all errands last semester, I decided that this semester I had to stop wasting my time perusing all the aisles of Huelva’s grocery stores and cook more like a Spaniard. So, here is my little bucket list of things I’d like to accomplish in la cocina– suggestions are more than welcome, and I’ll keep the list updated as we go. Hasta pronto!

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Comida Casera– My Spanish Cooking Bucketlist

•Salmorejo
•Ajo blanco
•Gazpacho
•Tortilla (Spanish omelette)
•Paella
•Espinacas con garbanzos
•Flan
•Tarta de Santiago
•Polvorónes

That’s all for now…vamos a ver cómo va!

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Sautéed Garlic: The Cure for Homesickness?

garlictomatoAfter five days, I think I’ve shaken off the jetlag (I’ve been unlucky with my flights — delays and missed connections made for a tiring 28 hour trip from Ottawa to Huelva), and am getting back in to the swing of things in Spain (ie. getting back to my salsa classes!).

I’m not going to lie: after such a nice holiday at home I was having a hard time getting excited about coming back to Huelva. I kept a positive attitude on my way back, but upon arriving at my empty apartment on Saturday night I immediately felt incredibly homesick. (This may or may not have included a call home and a good cry…)

Sunny winter day in Christopher Columbus' Huelva.

Sunny winter day in Christopher Columbus’ Huelva.

I know I’m a homebody (and have probably written it too many times now, on this blog — you will all think that I am faking my love of travel! Damnit.), but I was surprised and kind of embarrassed by how homesick I felt the first few days I was here. I figured coming back would be way easier than when I first arrived in September, but I guess I still needed a few days to adjust after enjoying the cozy familiarity of being at home.

Industrial Huelva.

Industrial Huelva.

All the shops were closed when I arrived in Huelva on a holiday weekend but I had pasta, canned tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil on hand. I didn’t much feel like cooking (a sure sign that I am down in the dumps) — but the smell of sautéed garlic? Probably one of the best in the world. It’s a smell that carries the promise of something tasty and comforting on the way. Food has that magical way of evoking memories of times, places, and people. This tomato and garlic sauce is a way simplified version of the pasta sauce my parents always make at home. The smell of garlic on the stove with tomatoes will forever make me think of my Dad; this is the pasta he’d whip up for us when we would get back from a long day of sightseeing during our family travels. All you need is a can of tomatoes, a tablespoon of olive oil, a few cloves of garlic, and some pasta (I’d recommend some kind of cheese as well, herbs, olives, and any other veggies you like to throw in your sauce, but the results will be delicious even if your fridge is empty!).

Despite feeling a little rocky at the start, I know I have a lot to look forward to here and am looking forward to sticking with my resolution for 2013! I hope the year has gotten off to a great start for all of you! xo

Following my Dad's advice for a little bout of homesickness: cook and read a book.

Following my Dad’s advice for a little bout of homesickness: cook and read a book.

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