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Archive for December, 2016

As I said in a previous post, this is my birthday month.

Sharon’s ‘surprise’ gift to me was a Food, wine and history walking tour of Malaga (seeing as we’re down here for Christmas anyway). It was a surprise inasmuch as I only knew that on a particular day we had to catch a particular train from Torreblanca, to be able to present ourselves in the Plaza de la Constitución at 10:30am prompt.  31467462750_82c0fe75d0_n

We were met by Susanne, our guide and were joined by Mike from Manchester.

So just the three of us on the tour – which made it so much better than it might have been with lots more people. Sharon had booked with a company called Devour Spain – they also do tours of Madrid, Seville and Barcelona.

The trip starts with a short history of Malaga’s varying population from the ancient Phoenicians through Romans, Moors and the current Christian occupation. This was then used to pin the different dishes and tastes we went through during our 3½ – 4-hour tour.

We started with (slightly late for me) breakfast at Café Central, just on the corner of the square.

coffee-cupWe were told about the owner’s history and how he came to serve 10 (ten!) different sizes and styles of coffee. We had Pitufo con tomate and churros with our coffee. I had largo. All the coffees come in cups or glasses marked with a percentage – to show that you have been served exactly what you ordered.

Following breakfast we took a stroll to Malaga’s main market: Mercado de Atarazanas where we visited two stalls for extended tastings and more history. Our first tasting stop was the Cristóbal Rios olive stall (stand 241-248).  We tasted three types of olive (but I cannot remember their names – sorry), all varying in strength and taste, along with fried  marcona almonds and locally dried moscatel raisins. These were all delicious.

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Our next stop was at El Niño, still inside the market (stand 187-189). Here we were given a taste of sweet Malaga muscatel wine and a plate of cold cutsJ  There was a tasty, hard goats cheese, Iberian ham, Serrano ham, chorizo and salchichón. It was great to actually have both hams on the same plate, so I could see and taste the difference – and THERE IS a difference! Serrano ham is a much milder flavour and has much less fat than the prized Iberian product. Iberian ham is much fattier, tastier and deeper in flavour – as it should be given the way the pigs are bred. Often known as pata negra, these hams can be seen as different from serrano simply by having black feet. The two sausages were ok, but tend to be much nicer  when cooked.

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Having had our fill of market produce we took a fairly good stroll to the other side of town to Mainake, a specialist wine merchant. Here we tasted three local Andalusian wines that were unusually dry (rather than the more normal sweet Malaga wines). One white was to Sharon’s taste but too Retsina-ish for me, and then two very young red wines which were, once again, not to my taste.

Lunch was taken at Mesón Mariano in the city centre. We were presented with an amuse bouche of sorts, which was then followed by four entirely different tapas and a single sweet. The restaurant specialises in artichoke dishes and so we started with an artichoke dish: Alcachofas en salsa (it actually had a different name, but looked like this), then we had Boquerones simply coated in seasoned flour and fried. Boquerones are a small white anchovy local to Malaga. Someone from Malaga might be known as a Boquerón.

We then had a tuna dish that was delicious, but what it was called and what the sauce was made of is now beyond me as I was too engrossed with the previous two dishes. Our final tapa was a plate of Albondigas in a local almond sauce.  I like the sauce, but the meatballs were too big and the texture too doughy for my taste.  Our postres (dessert) was a local speciality: Leche frito. This is condensed milk that is friend and topped with a nougat (turrón) ice cream. That was DIFFERENT.

That was it – our tour was over, but it had been a delight. Excellently led by Susanne.

We stayed over in Malaga and had breakfast once again at Café Central. This time we were able to order our own food and coffee (and agua del grifo – tap water J)

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I was sixty-five this month.

To celebrate a lifetime of learning and working, I invited six of my closest chums to join Sharon and me for dinner at The Watermill in Slaithwaite. John R, I met during my first week at secondary school (I met his wife Sandy, when they married). John T, I met when playing rugby and after my family had moved from Sheepridge to Deighton. I met Carol later in life when we all met up again a few years later. Tony and I met in mid-life, when we attended teacher training college. We followed that up by working together in a catering business/franchise, which is when I met Gill, his wife.  We have all done all sorts of things, together and apart.  We had a great meal, followed by dessert at home (Sharon had made cake and Carol had made us tub of her bombe 🙂 ).

img_7450Prior to this, we held open house on the Saturday before my birthday.  Almost forty friends from various parts of my life (and life line) came along to this and we all had a great time chatting and reminiscing.

I had decided to provide a selection of Spanish dishes, tapas size, with beer and cava brought back from Spain in October. Sharon decorated the house in a pseudo Spanish style with a big flag, an inflatable beer island, an inflatable cactus and lots of streamers.

I prepared:

  • EMPANADILLAs, made from potatoes, swede, cheese and onion (baked not fried).
  • I sliced some Spanish Sheep (oveja) cheese. We’d probably call it MANCHEGO.
  • I cooked TORTILLA. Each filled with six eggs, potato and onion. 12 portions each.
  • PATATAS BRAVAS – roast potatoes with spicy tomato sauce.
  • ALBONDIGAS – mixed pork and beef meatballs in a tomato sauce.
  • I also made my version of the Spanish SALAD RUSSE with lots of potato and vegetables (and a little tuna in some).
  • and .. Sharon made a wonderful BEETROOT HUMOUS

I had also made my own focaccia bread to go with all this. As it didn’t turn out quite right, I toasted small pieces of this in the oven – which made it perfect. People pretty much helped themselves while I sliced the main act, SERRANO HAM, off the bone as required.  Thank you for this Aldi!

Emma and family had not been able to make the open house as it was Amy’s birthday, but they came around the following week for a meal. I invited my mum and dad to this too as I wouldn’t see them for the best part of two months afterwards.

So, I’ve had a great birthday month. I’m in Spain now and will receive my birthday gift from Sharon on Tuesday when she takes me on a surprise ‘something’ in Malaga. I’m looking forward to that.

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