a visit to andalucia

it’s new year’s eve and i’m sitting in front of my laptop with a cocktail (d’s calling it an iced apple cart martini as it’s made with canadian ice cider rather than calvados), having just fed the cat and made crema catalana, which is now chilling before i sprinkle it with sugar and caramelise the top whilst working out what i should cook next.

the crema catalana is going to be our new year’s eve pudding, as part of a spanish meal which will include gordal olives (my absolute favourite), roasted almonds with paprika, papas con boquerones (a comedy tapa of anchovies served draped over salted crisps, as we experienced in valencia earlier this year!) garlic prawns, pan con tomate, carrot and cumin salad plus chorizo and spinach paella.

this is all because we dedicated 2013 to spending our holidays exploring spain – bilbao and san sebastian in january followed by madrid and valencia in april then, finally seville, cadiz and jerez in october.

writing up the last two trips has been a bit of a slow job but i didn’t want 2013 to end without having at least mentioned our autumn trip. i had high hopes for seville, as my mind was full of romantic imagery about a city filled with orange trees (my expectations were set when we were in valencia, surrounded by orange trees which were covered in blossom and made the city smell divine). however a combination of bad food choices (i didn’t have time to do my usual level of research which meant we ended up in some very mediocre places) and far too many tourists soon put paid to that. we did however stay in a wonderful boutique hotel in the city centre – casa no7 – which i thoroughly recommend and which, along with seville’s metropol parasol, might tempt me back to the city!

the foodie places that i do recommend, and would happily visit again are el rinconcillo (one of seville’s oldest tapas bars which makes it a bit of a tourist trap – we saw one group arrive, take photos and then leave without ordering a thing! – but the traditional tapas were good) and for a more modern take on tapas as well as a good range of local wines, then a branch of azotea is well worth a visit. (the pictures above are all of seville, all of those below are from cadiz).

however, my lukewarm feelings were more than made up for by cadiz, a coastal town with a mix of spanish style and rough n ready edges, which i fell in love with. the 32c temperatures were also wonderfully welcoming! a bit more worrying were the cats which spent their days sunbathing on the breakwater rocks below the town walls. it’s quite a small place but nice to explore and a good base if you also want to fit in a trip to nearby jerez, the home of sherry - we enjoyed a tour at gonzalez byass, one of the larger bodegas, which gave us a good understanding of the different types of sherry and ample opportunities for tasting it, some of which we will be drinking later this evening! 

my favourite place to eat in cadiz was the tapas bar associated with el faro, a formal fish and seafood restaurant. we arrived early and spent a very happy evening making our choices from the fresh fish in front of us by pointing and attempting to navigate the spanish menu with no english-speaking help from patrons or staff. regardless of this we had a great meal and one of the nicest vegetarian tapa that we ate - a pureed chickpea dish studded with crisp slices of aubergine, drizzled with honey (two months on i can still remember it very clearly!).

we also really enjoyed el almadraba, a little restaurant/deli which specialised in tuna and had a short but delicious menu and a wonderfully wide range of local wines - one of which we bought home and will be drinking later! the dish i still remember from here was tuna with an asparagus jam, something i've never had elsewhere.

it was a lovely holiday and a lovely way to end our year of spain. i look forward to remembering it through the food we eat this evening and wish all of you a very happy new year!