Not generally two words uttered together, in my case. I have been known, or accused of giving numerous people food poisoning at Christmas once. In fact, in the end the number run into double figures and some hadn’t even been in attendance at my Christmas soiree! Nibbles in my world generally run to a packet of stale crisps, so Karen and kitchen, or more appropriately cooking haven’t in the past generally been twinned. But I have got better, and now in general most friends and family don’t frantically make up quick fire excuses when we ask them to dinner at ours. Oddly, cooking in a motorhome seems to suit my skills better for some reason, maybe for the simple fact it is generally the two of us, so no pressure on the entertaining front. That was not true when we were in Turkey, where I was surrounded by supercooks, professional to boot as well, and the ever general cry of “Karen, what are you making for the family dinner” filled me with dread.
Before we left home, we would try and copy any firm favourites into an app called Paprika, where you can not only put in the recipes, but also categorise them and make notes i.e marinade required, motorhome friendly etc. For us, or me especially I have always aired on the spice side, and in fact many people would say that my parents took the wrong baby home from the hospital, (would have been quite a mix up, as I was born at home, so unless the midwife had another baby in her pocket!). However, spice here in Spain is quite hard to get and, in many countries, we have sometimes found fresh herbs hard to come by as well, thus making some of our favourite Thai and Indian foods quite hard to do. Thankfully, our close friends Pat and John gave us a supply of Blue Dragon Thai pastes which have kept our Thai cravings at bay. Of course, the general perception is that we eat out all the time, which on our last trip in Spain, might well have been true, but this trip given the dreaded C word, we have not been able to a lot of the time, but of course we still do enjoy our lunchtime tapa whenever we can.
As we have of course said, a few of the villages around us have had to shut due to high Covid numbers and so with those closures, have gone a few of the bars and restaurants we especially liked as well. Unfortunately, one of the most famed restaurants around here is Califa, a Moroccan style restaurant in Vejer, which decided to give up the ghost before Christmas due to the various new rules etc. We did however, manage one meal there and it was a delight. Most people who visit this area will go there and it was one of our first topics of conversation when we meet fellow motorhomers Lesley, Geoff, and their young son Jackson, who made a splendid impression in the restaurant in 2016 (A Change in the Aire). We are hoping it might re-open before we leave for the UK, and with borders remaining closed in many places, that might well be likely, so a hooray on that front, if none other!. Some restaurants in this area are of course closed simply because they are summer restaurants, and at the moment as we walk around Barbate and the beach areas, we can see work going on in many of these places, with the general hope that life might be normal again by summer.
Therefore, our choices on eating out have been limited, but of course as we know and appreciate not as limited as for many, but the flip side of that is there’s not much to say or photograph for a travel blog and that’s why I am rambling on about my cooking skills this week. So, let me tell you about our food this week- Monday we started with a breakfast out. Here for breakkie, tostada is the name of the game, served with fresh tomato (hopefully), oil and garlic and you can add to that delight perhaps some jamon or queso, served with the ubiquitous café con leche. This breakfast in Las Dunas (Canos de Mecca) is particular nice, as you get a garlic clove to rub on your toast, as well as proper fresh tomato and now of course due to Covid, a very sweet small sealed virgin olive oil bottle. Unfortunately something did get lost in translation last Monday, as we ended up with not a ham and cheese addition, but a ham and another tostada with just butter and jam- but of course being true Brits we just shared the two, whilst I berated David on his lack of Spanish skills!
Monday was laundry day, and this time we had to brave the main road with our weekly wash strapped to David’s back to Barbate, as we can no longer go to Vejer. Tuesday became shopping day as the laundry was beginning to pong a bit. I had on previous cycles, walks, drives into Barbate spied a bar that caught my eye as interesting on the main road, and so on Tuesday, as we made the more scenic cycle in (it passing the bar in question) I put it to David, that in the name of research we should stop there and give a review. We had for some reason made a bit of a late start and so it was a reasonable hour for a sherry/beer stop -after 12 anyway!. We tethered our bikes up outside El Bodegon del Mar, or rather dumped them on a yellow zigzag right outside said bar and ventured in – the barman and locals (two) were friendly and there on the bar, which immediately caught David’s eye was a pot of very tasty looking stew. Immediately, murmurings were made by David about it, to of course the appreciative bar person and so with our sherry and beer we had a tapa serving of the pork stew. This was delightfully served with tiny, but perfectly cooked mini roast potatoes. It really was a yum and aided our shopping no end.
When in Barbate, we usually end up or begin, if we are doing the big walk in a small bar on the seafront. The food is mainly fish, but also has a nice selection of tapa, but also the bar, if there is any trace or hope of sun is in a favourable position to get some warmth. This week we made three visits to the bar and now have one of their loyalty cards. David’s favourite tapa here is the tortillas de camarones, which vary in price per bar from €1 to €2. I have to agree and say they are delightful morsels that suit a drink so very well. As far as we can tell, they are a batter like mixture containing small shrimp that are then deep fried, so the outer edge is crispy but there is also a small element of lovely moist almost chewy like shrimp mixture inside, so much better than crisps or nuts as an accompaniment.
Our evening meals saw us have the amazing tuna that was featured as a photo last week. It was so meaty that I was almost unsure that I could cook it through properly or that indeed we would actually like it in comparison to the usual supermarket pre-packaged (but very acceptable) tuna. Served with a lovely coriander, caper vinaigrette, asparagus and small pots, we both agreed it was wonderful and truly superior. We also had very thin lamb fillets, sort of chops but not, again done as a mini roast with my beloved mint sauce, a small taste of home. However, the piece de resistance goes this week to a Bill Grainger recipe, recommended by our friend Phil in Turkey and it was lemon risotto with spicy prawns. We had this dish on Friday after my second visit to the dentist, and after three quarters of an hour in the chair, the soft but flavoursome dish suited my aching, but one filling repaired, another to follow jaw.
For those of you who have just finished dry January, well done, we haven’t nor did we attempt! We are after all on the edge of sherry world, where you can go into any bar, and providing they understand you get a variety of sherries by the glass, and not be looked at as if you are a hundred, or get a long-ago opened bottle that is now rank. Whilst I appreciate that sherry is now a near popular cocktail ingredient in the trendy bars of London, it still has a long way yet to go, especially as those bars are now closed and those long-ago opened bottles of sherry are also going very much downhill ,unfortunately.
Tonight, as I write this blog, we failed in getting a paella at our picnic spot restaurant, after a lovely long (cold) walk through the pine forest, as it was closed. This time we stood firm and I am now cooking a favourite standby of chorizo and rice, whilst waiting for David to return from the bar with our neighbours, Judy, hubbie Alan and Helena, our Swedish neighbour, who did thankfully recover from the walk we took her on to Barbate and has now in fact done the 24k walk three times with us.
We hope for the weather to pick up here later this week, as we watch the numbers for Covid jungle around us and we hope that we can eventually get Buster back on the road and see a bit more of Spain before we head home, but you can rest assured that with good, cheap produce available here in Spain we won’t go hungry, or indeed dry!