It was a pleasure to be asked by my friend, Stuart Holliday, to write a guest post for Moonraker Morsels. Stuart has a keen interest in Spain having himself lived in Barcelona for several months in the past and his parents live further south of here in Alicante. Not to be put off after a very eventful journey across the country earlier in 2010 when the Icelandic ash cloud scuppered a friend and his trip home from Morroco, Stuart returned to the peninsula at the latter end of the year, so to kick off 2011 here he shares with us his Andalucian cycling and eating adventures:
“Back in early November, I took myself to the Ronda in Andalucia to start altitude training to help my marathon running for London in April 2011. After a busy couple of months in England, I needed to get some fresh air and stretch the legs and took a route along a triangle from Seville, to Ronda, to Cordoba and back to Seville. I clocked 500 kilometres in 10 days, doing some hard climbs and seeing some stunning scenery.
Where my holiday relates to Moonraker Morsels is the fuel I needed to help me with this mission and to allow myself some pleasure in what I ate along the way. I love Spain and Spanish food and having not spent much time in Andalucia I was looking forward to eating both seasonal and regional food in the South of the country.
After breakfasts of fruit and muesli with stiff coffees, sustinance on my ride of energy gels, some dried fruit or Spanish Opal fruits and occasional lunches of sandwiches I would often stop into a tapas bar for a little re-fuelling. The finest of which was in the town of Setenil, perched high atop a sheer rock face, with beautiful narrow cobbled streets and some fine bars carved into the hard stone. In the Bar Rodriguez I had a dish of pork cooked in a rich red wine sauce that fell apart as you touched it with a knife. With a little bread and a cold coca cola, it immediately replenished me on the second day when I was 75 kilometres into a 100 KM ride.
The next day I only rode for 30 KM to visit the beautiful Grazalema where I tried the Andalucian delicacy of fried courgette in honey. Rather like tempura, this was a dish I kept finding on menus wherever I stopped off. I intended to eat as little meat as possible on the trip, which in Spain is not always possible. This is a country who eat the most amount of pork per head in Europe and if you say you’re a vegetarian, you still may be served meat in a ‘vegetarian’ dish.
However, I found Andalucia to be better than most other parts of Spain for veggie options. This was the case in Carmona, 30 KM east of Seville, where I had the most amazing chickpea and spinach tapa.
Though the photo doesn’t look so appetising, I can tell you this was only €2 and possibly the tastiest thing I had on the trip. Again, I’d had 100 kilometres in the saddle and I managed a further 3 tapa dishes, one of tuna and onions, a slice of potato omelette and a plate of local olives that kept me of sound mind for the night.
I have to guide you to Bar Alfalfa in Seville if you go to this beautiful city.
As the name suggests, they are veggie friendly, and my friends and I ate an amazing selection of mainly vegetarian dishes. Stunning aubergine marinated in balsamic vinegar, Manchego cheese in a separate dish, goat’s cheese served with pesto.
All of which were cheap at €3 to €4 and as delicious as the photos allude. It was possible to get typical Spanish hams in Alfalfa. The infamous bellota being the pick of the bunch, from pigs fed on a diet of acorns.
Finally, being November, all of the major towns had locals selling roasted chestnuts, presented to you in rolled up paper cones.
Cooked in sea salt they were hot and deliciously sweet when opened. This picture was taken in Seville, but chestnuts abound in this part of Spain.”
Bar Rodriguez, C/ Giner de Los Ríos, 7, Setenil
Bar Alfalfa, C/ Candilejo, 1, Seville