A Barcelona food blog
Now I’ve never had delusions of being an amazing cook but I can turn out a decent meal. What I struggle with is making it look good on the plate. Maybe it’s my no-nonsense Yorkshire roots which still hold firm, that it all goes down the same hole so just get it eaten. One of my fascinations with good cooks and chefs is not just that they manage to make fantastic tasting food but that they can make it look pretty as a picture and totally inviting.
With an uncanny resemblance to Elvis with his sweeping quiff, Carles Abellan graced the platform in the aula gastronòmica to present some nifty and simple tapas served in cans. Unlike in the UK, good quality canned fish is considered a delicacy here and many tapas bars will offer a selection on their menus.
Snr Abellan is the head chef at the highly successful Comerç 24 which he opened after spending almost a decade working with Ferran Adrià and now has four other establishments in the city. Those elusive and secretive judges from Michelin awarded them a star in 2007, making them the first tapas restaurant in the city to hold one, which they have retained ever since.
Here Abellan demonstrated 5 dishes, each of which was served in a can manufactured in Galicia, where coincidentally most of the tinned seafood is produced.
The first dish was cubes of raw tuna steak marinated in sesame oil and soy sauce which were then placed in the can with space between the cubes as he stressed air should circulate round the chunks. On top of each cube a small amount of minced ginger was added along with a sprinkling of roasted white and black sesame seeds before a small heap of very finely chopped seaweed to finish. A cocktail stick was placed into each cube so they could be eaten easily from the can.
Once again mar i muntanya made an appearance, this time using oysters and ultra thin and fatty pancetta slices. Removed from their shells the oysters were wrapped in the pancetta slice and grilled for about 3 minutes. To serve the can was filled with salt to support the oyster shell sat on top of it, the now grilled oyster was placed back in the shell and some grated white truffle and a pipette of truffle oil dripped on top.
For the third dish fillets of raw sardine had been marinating for 20 minutes in a ceviche of the sardine bones, red onion, ají groc (yellow something, I cannot find a translation anywhere but think it may be a fruit), coriander, lime juice and water. The ingredients had been infusing together for 6 hours and strained before the sardine fillets were added. The sardines were then laid in the can and garnishes of peach, the pulp of fingerlime, finely sliced red onion and some further untranslatable ingredients of goa baby leaves, pels de bitxo and more of the ají groc. Unfortunately Catalan-English dictionaries are not as comprehensive as one might like.
Moving away briefly from fish, the next dish was seasonal salted mushrooms. Chanterelles and other varieties were lightly sautéed in oil and sprinkled with salt before being placed in the can, more white truffle was then shaved on top. This was so simple but must taste like mushroomy heaven.
The final can was salt cod and tomatoes. Neat cubes of salt cod were topped with cherry tomatoes with the seeds and juice removed, followed by some caviar and incredibly fine slices of what I thought was basil but that Abellan kindly corrected me on after the presentation. These were the green stems from ceba tendre, the fresh onions whose skins have not been dried out. A drizzle of olive oil and a ‘stem’ for each finished the plate.
If your budget will stretch to the refined and pricey ingredients these were simple and very achieveable dishes to be done at home and the cans could easily be replaced with small dishes or even well cleaned, re-used cans. Maybe food does all go down the same way, but laid out like this inspires me to try a little bit harder on the plate before getting stuck in.