Málaga: Jamon for breakfast and exploring the Alcazaba

IMG_0329.JPG

Holiday for me is all about relaxing and not waking up from alarms, but, being a night owl, that means missing breakfast at the hotel every day. So instead I’d get ready and venture outside for breakfast.

IMG_0327.JPG

Luckily I had a nice café near my hotel, it’s a chain of cafés in fact, offering everything from sandwiches to cooked food, pastries to cakes and even a delicatessen with cheese and charkuterie.

This ciabatta filled with a general helping of Jamon Iberico was a perfect start to the day and set me up for my day of sightseeing.

IMG_0352.JPG

I’m quite choosy on what I spend my time on, but for the the Alcazabar was an absolute must!

IMG_0476.JPG

This impressive citadel, overlooking the city and its harbour is very well preserved and an absolute dream to discover.

IMG_0466.JPG

It was built in the 1000s and is still standing firm offering incredible views as well as beautiful gardens and amazing architecture.

IMG_0380.JPG

IMG_0383.JPG

I mean, look at this view – incredible isn’t it?!

IMG_0384.JPG

IMG_0394.JPG

And the details to the building. Especially dating back that far is rather incredible.

IMG_0395.JPG

IMG_0396.JPG

But my favourite part was the gardens. So beautiful and serene I could’ve spent all day here.

IMG_0416.JPG

 

IMG_0461.JPG

But I didn’t, as I had more things to explore.

IMG_0486.JPG

Like the ruins of a Roman theatre just below the Alcazaba. It’s been around since the first century BC and is still part of the city landscape. At night it’s lit up beautifully and during the day one can just walk in, sit down and take a break.

IMG_0509.JPGIMG_0482.JPG

Surrounded by the hustle of bustle of modern life, I find it amazing how this old ruin is a part of modern day Malaga (and not closed off).

Alcazaba of Málaga, Calle Alcazabilla, 2, 29012 Málaga, Spain

Advertisements

Seville: amazing Plaza de España, and more tapas

IMG_0254.JPG

I had seen photos of Plaza de España before I went to Seville myself, but was still taken aback by its beauty when I went there to see it for myself. Wow, is all I can say. Wow!

IMG_0169.JPG

If you, like me, have a penchant for blue and white tiles, beautiful buildings and pretty fountains, you simply must visit. It’s breathtaking. And so much larger than I expected.

IMG_0182.JPG

And if you come here during twilight it’s just magical.

 

IMG_0215.JPG

It’s so pretty I found myself walking around spell-bound for well over an hour. Plaza de España, which was built for a world fair in 1929, isn’t particular old in the grand scheme of things but still has an almost majestic quality.

IMG_0224.JPG

IMG_0234.JPG

And as it’s such a large open space you can just walk around here and take in the beauty whatever time you like, instead of keeping track of opening hours. Which I learned the hard way when I tried to visit the Real Alcazar. Since when do things close early in Spain?! Oh well, next time.

IMG_0247.JPG

All this walking of course made me hungry, so I walked to a restaurant nearby that I had read about; La Azotea. It’s actually a chain with several restaurants around the city, but it doesn’t feel very chain-like at all. In fact, the Santa Cruz location I went to felt like a neighbourhood restaurant. The waiters knew many of the customers which created a lovely atmosphere.

IMG_0300.JPG

I had Jamon Iberico. Because, why not?! It’s delicious and I could easily eat it every day.

IMG_0309.JPG

I also had an amazing gazpacho, apparently the cold vegetable soup originates in Seville. It was very refreshing after walking around Plaza de España.

sev25.jpg

I also had can con tomate which here was served in bite-size pieces. So yummy!

IMG_0323.JPG

And last I had some lomo; cured Iberico tenderloin. So delicious!!

Plaza de España, Av de Isabel la Católica, 41004 Sevilla, Spain

La Azotea, Calle Mateos Gago, 8, 41004 Sevilla, Spain

 

 

All the food; both home cooking and eating out!

IMG_5626.jpg

Last week was rather full on, but in the best possible way! Monday I mainly prepped for the day after when I had my friends Gaby and Ro over for dinner after work. For once I wasn’t rushed and it was such a nice feeling. We started with nibbles; obviously Jamon Iberico and saucisson from Spain, nice olives and my homemade dill hummus with pitta chips.

IMG_5643.jpg

IMG_5655.jpg

Then I served trout fillets with dilly new potatoes and a lovely sauce for fish and finished the dinner off with dulce de leche pannacotta. Gaby also brought a selection of canelés from Babelle that were amazing!

IMG_5717.jpg

IMG_5726.jpg

My childhood friend Therése arrived from Sweden on Thursday evening and we had dinner together at mine while chatting away. I made a selection of tapas including the Jamon Iberico and saucisson, Nocellara olives (our favourite!), Manchego and Ossau Iraty cheese, padron peppers, calamari and my asparagus with wild garlic mayonnaise.

IMG_5785.jpg

IMG_5797.jpg

On Friday we met after work and had a speedy but delicious dinner at Barrafina Drury Lane before going to the theatre around the corner to see 42nd Street.

IMG_5905.jpg

Saturday was lovely and sunny, so we put our sunglasses on and went shopping in Chelsea where we also had lunch. A pit stop at home to change and we were off to dinner. We had amazing sushi that I will tell you all about later and finished the evening with champagne at Kettner’s Townhouse.

IMG_5948.jpg

Therése’s last full day here we went back to an old favourite for lunch; La Fromagerie in Marylebone. The food, the cheese and the ambience is just a winning combination.

IMG_5977.jpg

In the evening I made us a nice chicken salad and we had ice cream and chocolate chip cookies for pudding. It was such a lovely weekend and I’m so grateful my friends make the effort to visit me while living abroad!

 

 

Barcelona: Park Güell, La Sagrada Familia and sandwich lunch at Praktik Bakery Baluard

IMG_8770.JPG

Hola!

Just back from a long weekend in Barcelona with my best friend from home, Emma, I’m dying to share it all with you. The restaurants and the sights. So let’s start off where we ourselves started; with Park Güell.

IMG_8619

We both arrived late on the Friday night so didn’t see anything of Barcelona then, but we stayed up talking long into the night. After breakfast on Saturday we took a taxi to Park Güell as it was all across town from our hotel.

IMG_8650.JPG

IMG_8661.JPG

We walked around the huge park for a good hour and a half taking in the different ‘rooms’ and enjoying the magnificent views. It’s a good mix of Gaudí quirkiness and greenery. And it feels very exotic with palm trees, oranges trees and cacti a plenty.

IMG_8643.JPG

There are lots of buildings (and some lived-in houses!) all in very different styles but because the space is so large and different it fits!

IMG_8805.JPG

It’s a real oasis bang in the city and although many people visited when we did it never felt crowded because of the vast green spaces.

IMG_8719.JPG

IMG_8679.JPG

For us, not being all that crazy about Gaudí’s style, this was a great way to explore it in a an accessible way.

IMG_8763.JPG

Although not my style at all, I find these gingerbread houses adorable!

IMG_8689.JPG

And the views – breathtaking!

IMG_8773.JPG

IMG_8782.JPG

Park Güell is free to visit, although one area requires a ticket). We were happy to just walk around the free part of the park. And although it has lots of hills the bigger paths are all wide and accessible (as the daughter to an occupational therapist I notice these things). It’s not the kind of park where you bring a picnic or sit on a lawn but there’s a restaurant and other vendors if you get thirsty or peckish.

Park Güell, 08024 Barcelona, Spain

IMG_8812.JPG

Our next stop was La Sagrada Familia, but we didn’t go in. For us it was enough to view it from the outside. There is such a thing as too much culture. Plus we were hungry and needed a sit down.

IMG_8822.JPG

But it’s pretty incredible.

IMG_8826.JPG

Amazing details.

La Sagrada Familia, Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona, Spain

IMG_8839.JPG

We stopped for sandwiches at a lovely bakery in a hotel for lunch, that we just happened to walk past. I had read about the Barceloneta branch of the bakery so knew it would be nice! And it was.

I had a crusty baguette with jamon and tomato (so good!)  and Emma had one equally nice with manchego and sundried tomatoes. And to finish off the meal we shared a lovely tarlet with strawberries and raspberries (chocolate crust, crème pâtissière and fresh sweet berries) .

bal1.jpg

Everything in the bakery looked super fresh and inviting, and the seating area was light and airy; the perfect place to enjoy a quiet sandwich lunch.

IMG_8845.JPG

Praktik Bakery Baluard, Calle Provença 279, Barcelona, Spain

More tapas: Croquetas de jamon

IMG_6688

I really wanted to make croquetas de jamon (Spanish ham croquettes) when I made the other tapas dishes, but sadly didn’t have time. But that didn’t stop me. Instead I made them the day after when I had more time on my hands and served them appropriately as a starter snack with a nice bottle of cava.

IMG_6694

It was the first time I made croquetas and it wasn’t difficult at all. Much easier than I expected actually, and lots of fun! But it does take a while to make them. About 45 minutes to make the bechamel, three hours to rest and then another 30 minutes to fry them. But it’s completely worth it.

I halved the recipe from the book Tapas Revolution by Omar Allibhoy, making 12 instead of 24 croquetas, but they are quite large so you could easily make 16 from the recipe.

Croquetas de Jamon, makes 12-16

Adapted from Tapas Revolution by Omar Allibhoy.

25 g butter

1/4 onion, finely chopped

35 g cured ham, preferably Spanish Jamon Iberico, chopped

400 ml whole milk

30 plain flour 

grated nutmeg

1 tsp salt

a pinch white pepper

1 egg

breadcrumbs 

500 ml neutral oil for frying

Melt the butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and ham. Cook for a few minutes until the onion turns translucent but not coloured. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, bring the milk almost to the boil and set aside. 

Add the flour to the onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring, until the flour has toasted a bit. Add the hot milk little by little, whisking all the time, to make a thick roux. Keep going until you have added all the milk and you have a smooth and silky bechamel. When it comes to the boil reduce the heat to low and add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Leave to simmer for about 40 minutes, whisking to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. 

Line the bottom of a baking tray with baking parchment and then pour the bechamel into the baking tray. Spread it out and then immediately place a layer of cling film directly on top, making sure the cling is touching the surface of the bechamel as this will stop a skin from forming. Transfer to the fridge and chill completely. 

After three hours the bechamel should be firm enough to handle. Peel off the cling film, turn the bechamel out on to a floured surface and carefully peel away the baking parchment. Sprinkle with more flour and use a knife to cut the bechamel into 12-16 equal squares. Dust hands with flour and roll the squares into balls between your hands.

Beat the egg in a bowl and pour the breadcrumbs out onto a plate. Dip each ball in the egg and then roll in the breadcrumbs.

Heat up the oil in a large deep pan until it reaches 180C. Fry the croquetas in small batches until golden and crisp (takes about 1 1/2 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel before serving.