Posts Tagged ‘Boquería’
For those of us who like whipping up an airy sponge cake, a comforting, rich tea loaf, gingery biscuits, an elaborate birthday gateaux, gooey brownies or any number of other sweet baked treats, finding baking ingredients in this city can be somewhat of a chore. The variety of sugars, flours, syrups and decorations which are standard stock in even the smallest UK store take a little tracking down here. Home baking, experiencing a revival in Britain in recent years, may be more engrained in our culture and have been practised by many more people than we think. Here, with a patisserie on every block it seems creating something at home may be something of a rarity as these items are like trying to find gold dust.
With this in mind, Moonraker Morsels this week shines the spotlight on the first of two shops which are a godsend for those of us who prefer our goodies out of the oven rather than out of the packet. One of these is Parami, a wholesaler of a wide selection of ingredients to enliven many a cake or biscuit.
Whilst you won’t find the self-raising flour (for this try Chinese supermarkets where I’ve found it at reasonable prices) or the soft, dark brown sugars you may seek here, they stock a range of flavoured sugars, syrups, gelatine and additivies such as xanthan gum. After taking these photographs I left with a small bag of cream of tartar which has eluded me up to now.
As a wholesaler you won’t find any 100g bags here, however, the larger quantities (usually 500g or 1kg bags of nuts for example) work out at much better value than the smaller quantities found in the supermarket, especially if you bake a lot. Just make sure you seal the bags tightly and they’ll stay fresh. I can think of few recipes that couldn’t be achieved after a stop here.
Parami, C/Jerusalen 30 (Boqueria) and C/Diputació 202-204 (Universitat)
Markets in foreign countries can be dazzling, awe inspiring, wonderous and equally bewildering, especially when you’re not familiar or fluent with the language. Since I’ve lived here I’ve familiarised myself with the Spanish and Catalan names for fish, learnt to identify species by sight and laboriously gone through my cookbooks annotating them with translations.
Rewind about a year and my knowledge was not what it is now. After a busy day and mistakenly on a Monday (don’t buy fresh fish on a Monday, no-one goes fishing on a Sunday so it’ll either be frozen or older than you’d like), I called at the market and picked up a fillet of panga. I cooked the fillet of white fish, was unimpressed, disliked the bland taste but thought I’d ‘Google’ for a translation. Recent house guests of mine who were also lured by the shiny, boneless fillets and ease of purchase (in that you don’t have to explain in broken Spanish how you want it prepared as it’s always sold already filleted) did their ‘Google’ before cooking. What appears is shocking. Horror stories of it originating from a highly polluted Mekong river, containing high level poisons, being frozen in contaminated river water and injected with hormones derived from urine. So there it was, a ranting, ‘don’t even go there’ article in the making, a nauseus feeling from the thought of what I’d eaten, and most recently, uneaten fillets in the garbage.
However, things may not be quite what they seem. Of the many, many pages of stomach turning warnings, it would appear that they are from three original sources: a documentary from French television and a couple of blogs, which have then whizzed their way round various other websites, forums and the like. Rather than jump in feet first and berate this new arrival to the fishmongers I felt it wise to take a more balanced and less reactionary view.
What’s undeniable is that Panga is everywhere. All the supermarkets proudly display their offers for it and at the markets it nestles innocuously amongst the hake, monkfish, tuna, salmon steaks and dorade. During a wander around the Boquería I counted a third of the stalls in the central, astonishing fish section stocking it. It is also bargain basement cheap, prices ranged from around 6€ a kilo to as little as 2.99€ a kilo on one stall. You might also find it in called ‘Basa’, ‘Pangas’, ‘River Cobbler’ or any of these names with ‘Catfish’ added on the end. Some UK fish and chip shops have been replacing depleted cod with it, a number having faced the wrath from trading standards when they have masqueraded it as cod with it’s related price tag. Here in Spain it is replacing other fish in menu del dias and regularly appears in school dinners. It is also quite likely to comprise the ‘white fish’ listed in ready made fishcakes or fish pies in many countries.
Panga is a native fish from the Mekong Basin in Vietnam and is now heavily farmed there and in other parts of the Far East for export to countries in the West. There are conflicting reports about the cleanliness of the water in this polluted and industrialised area and also how well regulated the farms are, sources from EU Parliament sites assert that they are regularly inspected to meet their standards. Even if we are to take an optimistic view of the farming methods, this is fish that is being flown half way round the globe for our plates, although it must be said that there are plenty other varieties sitting on the market stalls which have been flown from the North Atlantic, South America and other far flung destinations, not all the traders clearly labelling this.
The UK food standards agency classifies it as safe to eat and stresses that it meets EU import standards, these same standards would obviously apply to Spain. However, only this week Spanish CNN ran a story about it being withdrawn from school food in the Basque Country after experts have continually found high levels of certain toxic chemicals in this seafood. They didn’t quote their sources so I’ve been unable to find anything further about this but again the web is full of conflicting information about chemical levels and testing.
Whatever the truth about this fish being bred and farmed in murky, polluted waters it’s reputation and facts about it are far from crystal clear. For me, primarily it doesn’t taste good and it’s being flown thousands of miles to us, neither of those things being point scoring qualities, its shady background further confirms that I won’t be eating it again. I’ll leave you to make up your own mind.
Posted in Fast food / street food, Raval, Vegetarian morsels, tagged aubergine, Boquería, Burequitos, cheese, fruit, goats cheese, leek, mushrooms, potato, sandwiches, spinach, tartes, tomato on November 11, 2010 | 1 Comment »
To continue the theme of salvation for vegetarians on the go in the city, I’d also like to give praise to ‘Burequitos’. Only 8 months since it’s inception, stallholder Shani begins baking sweet and savoury tartes and rustling up sandwiches at 6.30am every morning. How she manages this is in such a tiny space and trying to do everything before she opens two hours later is a wonder in itself.The first treats to catch my eye were the gorgeously appetising sweet tartes topped with raspberries, strawberries, currently abundant figs and the ‘peach crisp pie’. Shani assured me that everything is made without any preservatives or anything artificial. She only uses fresh ingredients which, with the exception of flour and fresh yeast, she procures from the stallholders that sit on the perifery of the Boquería market. These vendors sell their own produce grown around the Barcelona metropolitan area rather than those inside the cities markets which generally visit the wholesale Mercabarna market for their stock. To relieve our slightly sore heads and sustain us for the short walk back to my flat my visitor and I sampled a spinach, cheese and pine nut tart and one filled with broccoli and blue cheese. The pastry was still crisp after being reheated, my blue cheese was punchy but not overpowering to the broccoli. Pastry and formatge, what better pick me up for the morning after the night before?For such a small stall there is quite a selection: Apple and walnuts; leek, goat’s cheese and apple; aubergine, red pepper and mozzarella; tomato and feta; potato and onion; mushrooms; mushroom and parmesan; mixed vegetable and emmental; spinach and cheese, the latter three also offered inside puff pastry. Decisions, decisions. If you want to avoid the pastry and those calorific sins then never fear as there are also a range of these fillings available in sandwiches. Those fresh ingredients determine the price here, fluctuating between 1.50 – 2.50€ for tartes and 3.50€ for generously sized sandwiches. Shani and her young business shine, I urge you to pass by and help her nurture it.
Burequitos, stall 134 at La Boquería, Barri Gotic.
Posted in Catalan food, Markets / food fairs, tagged autumn, bolets, Boquería, ceps, fungi, mushrooms, Oleaurum, olive oil, oyster mushrooms, parsley, saffron milk cap on October 14, 2010 | 4 Comments »
Along with cloudier skies, the nip in the evening air, the blustery wind and recent, at times torrential rain, the other way of knowing that autumn has arrived in Barcelona is the arrival of the bolets. Bolets is Catalan for ‘mushrooms’ and the markets are overflowing with wonderous varieties. I wandered round the Boquería as the stall holders were setting up for the day, crate upon crate of fungi were stacked up, some of them to be painstakingly trimmed and neatly laid out on display.
The selection is vast and to eyes that are so accustomed to seeing bland, button mushrooms shrink wrapped in a plastic tray, their arrival and the opportunity to sample them is an exciting prospect. Mushrooms are very important to Catalonia. The region’s location, northern and coastal yet also mountainous and forestal, provides the perfect environment for wild growth and cultivation and the area generally consumes more of them than other areas on the peninsula. It is a long standing tradition, which appears to be alive and well according to my students, for locals to go foraging for their own at weekends throughout the season which runs through until the new year.
The Saffron Milk Cap is the most popular variety and whole stalls are devoted to them, the care of the display seduces and entices you.
Enormous Queen Boletes, a type of cep lay quartered in the crate, even in pieces they are huge and how to cook these hunks is definitely something to research.
There are delicate chanterelles and their relation the yellow stemmed chanterelles . Again I want to research some recipes that do them justice and with all this choice some cooking is going to have to wait. Luckily I have a few months ahead of me for planning and salivating expectance.
I’d love to write about the earthy, woody smells being emitted from the stalls, that wafts of forest were stimulating my olfactory bulb. Unfortunately, despite the Boquería being possibly my favourite place in the city, it’s odour of disinfectant, jamons, fish and nearby drains is sometimes a bit of an assault on the nose. All said, you forget the aroma when there are marvellous, smooth, milky stemmed specimens of oyster mushrooms catching your attention.
I brought home some of the Saffron Milk Caps with another variety called St George’s mushroom (moixernó (cat), seta de primavera (cast)), which are very similar in appearance to the milk caps but without the blueish – green tinge. Slightly toasted bread, drizzled with a little olive oil, a brand called Oleaurum which is so moreish it takes a lot of restraint to stop pouring it on nearly everything I eat, and thick slices of some of each mushroom sautéd in some butter and a dribble of bog standard olive oil to stop the butter burning. I also threw in a whole garlic clove so it had a hint of the flavour but without overpowering the fungi but whipped it out before serving, seasoned with salt and pepper and then sprinkled some chopped parsley in at the end. Perfect, delicious quick food for someone like me who arrives home from work late and generally famished.Whilst the market doesn’t have the woodland aroma, the mushrooms certainly did. Wiping them with kitchen towel removed more dirt than pre-packed button mushrooms and there was a definite whiff of pine coming off them. Also unlike ‘regular’ mushrooms they didn’t ooze water during cooking so would’ve benefitted from being sliced a little thinner before going in the pan. Nevertheless, they were a juicy, ‘meaty’, substantial supper and an introduction to my forays into fungi.