Okay my people, if you are in Toronto, you are in for a treat this month. I am going to make big, family style meal for 20 at The Kingston Social that is inspired by my recent trip to Barcelona. As always, Tanya will be on hand to whip up her amazing cocktails with a lovely wine and beer list available as well.
Come and join us for a night of fun, delicious food and drink and if you are really lucky, some table top flamenco dancing by yours truly
Reserve your spot by buying a ticket here
I don't know about you, but the first thing I do when I get to a new country is visit a grocery store or outdoor market because I truly feel that our first connection to other cultures and their people is through food.
It follows that the next thing I try to make happen is a cooking class. It’s a great toe dip into the food you will be eating for the remainder of your trip and if you are wise, you will suck up to the instructor and hit them up for restaurant recommendations, their favourite markets and shops that sell spices etc.
Choosing a class to take in Barcelona took me a day or two of research because there are quite a number of highly rated schools as well as popular, private instructors who will make paella for you on their rooftop patio while you get lit on Vermouth. On my next trip, I will try one of those rooftop classes but for my first trip, I wanted to make more than one dish and ultimately, I chose Cook and Taste Barcelona.
|some lovely oranges in the market|
Their shop is a stone’s throw from the famous Boqueria Market so I sprung for the optional morning market tour to precede the actual class. Pretty much all of the cooking schools offer very similar menus, prices and class options but Cook and Taste not only gets great reviews but they don’t require you to pay for your class upfront online when you book. You reserve your spot and all they ask is that you give them some notice if you decide to cancel. Since I like to keep my travel itinerary fluid, this was a very appealing option for me.
I get heart palpitations booking advance tickets to visit tourist sites because I just keep thinking
WHAT IF I DON’T FEEL LIKE VISITING THE SAGRADA FAMILIA ON TUESDAY???
WHAT IF I AM DOING SOMETHING ELSE IN THE MORNING AND DON’T WANT TO CUT THAT ACTIVITY SHORT JUST BECAUSE I BOOKED THESE STUPID SKIP THE LINE TICKETS A MONTH AGO??
On the day, I managed to show up their lovely kitchen space on time, despite my iPhone’s GPS which would cease to navigate every time I ventured into the winding, narrow streets of the Barri Gotic. It's not difficult to find, it's just that my phone is a jerk.
I was the only singleton in a group of couples from Iceland, the USA, England and Scotland. Let me just say, that everyone seemed very perplexed by the fact that I was there on my own, despite the fact that I was in Barcelona with my husband and grown son. Everyone asked me, at some point, if I was travelling in Spain alone and I had to explain that, no, I am here with my family but they are off doing things that I don’t want to do while I am do something that they don’t really want to do. We are very happy, enjoy one another’s company but we love each other so much, that we don’t inflict 5 hour civil war tours and hours of shoe shopping on one another.
I cannot advocate strongly enough for people to split up for at least one day when on holiday so everyone can indulge in activities that would cause the others to risk permanent damage from excessive eye rolling and heavy sighing.
|Carlos, our instructor and both kitchen spaces|
|I'm sure he is more delicious than he looks|
Our group took the short walk to the market where our guide and cooking instructor, Carlos de Avilés, led us through the market and purchased seafood, ham and produce for our lesson. I had already been through the market and might skip that part the next time but the others were enthralled by the guided shopping tour, so it is certainly popular and well worth the extra 13€.
Back in the kitchen, we were given our aprons, instructed to wash up and after perusing the recipes, we were all assigned prep tasks. The Icelandic gentleman had worked in the fishing industry so he was assigned seafood cleaning duty while the lovely Scottish woman was appointed the wine steward and who is directly responsible for getting me completely day drunk. Thank you, lovely Scottish lady.
We worked our way through oven roasted vegetables with romesco sauce, thyme soup with a poached egg and a cheese tuile, seafood paella and pears poached in spiced wine as well as the Catalan staple, Pa amb tomàquet, toasted bread rubbed with tomato, salt and olive oil.
|note the glass of wine in hand while stirring.....|
Carlos somehow managed to keep this rowdy group under control and focused (remember, we had the lovely Scottish wine steward) and after spending the early afternoon sipping, simmering, scraping, stirring and poaching, we ended the class with lunch, MORE WINE while everyone shared stories, tips and travel recommendations.
The kitchen offers these hands on cooking classes daily at 11am and 5pm, as well as hosting private events, team building activities for companies and also offers a foodie tour private classes that can be custom designed upon request.
Cook & Taste Barcelona
carrer del Paradis, 3, 08003 Barcelona (next to Placa Sant Jaume)
telephone +34 93 302 12 20
I lived in Madrid a million years ago when I was in my twenties and I admit it - I was a tortilla addict. I ate tortilla in the morning. I ate tortilla mid morning. I ate tortilla at lunch, at dinner and again in the evening as a tapa.
I also gained an alarming amount of weight which only made sense AFTER I watched somebody making it. Potatoes cooking away in a big pan of simmering oil was all I needed to see to understand why my steady diet of tortilla and beer was also responsible for my waist white wall tire.
After I got home, I could never get the hang of making it myself, almost always resorting to just popping it in the oven to cook the top instead of flipping it because it constantly fell apart. I understand that this was also probably because I was constantly trying to lighten it up, make it a bit less fattening and leaner so I could eat more of it, more often.
I have now given up on that and I am making it properly - poaching the potatoes in plenty of olive oil, adding onions if you are down with that ( and depending on where you are from in Spain, that is a HOTLY contested issue), then lightly draining the hot potatoes and onion and throwing them in a bowl of unmixed, whole eggs before you mix the whole mess together with some salt and pepper.
You let that rest for at least 15 minutes.
Keep an eye out for some fancy pants variations that will be coming in the coming weeks and months but, for now, I give you the basic recipe for a Tortilla de Patatas
I love this pan and it works perfectly for tortilla - I use it to poach the potato/onion in the oil, drain the oil (i keep the tortilla oil in a labeled jar to use over and over), wipe out any solids and use it for the actual tortilla. Nothing sticks, easy peasy.
Tortilla de Patatas
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Tortilla de Patatas
2 large or 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in half ( i like Yukon Gold, others prefer a waxy potato)
1 onion, peeled and halved OR 1 leek, cleaned, halved lengthwise )
a good pinch of kosher salt and black pepper
500 ml olive oil
cut each potato into thin slices so you have half circle slices. Cut the onion the same way or if you use leeks, cut them a bit thicker - about 1/4"
Heat the oil over medium high heat in your deep frying pan and add the onion. When the onions start to sizzle add the sliced potatoes and cook them for about 10-15 minutes, stirring from time to time with a wooden spoon. When you can easily break a potato slice with your spoon, they are done.
Meanwhile, crack 8 eggs into a deep bowl, add the good sized pinch of kosher salt (about 2/4 tsp) and a few grinds of black pepper
Use a slotted spoon and remove the onion and potato from the pan and dump into the bowl with the eggs. Mix it all together with a few turns - don't overmix- and leave to rest for at least 15 minutes or up to one hour.
If using the same frying pan, give it a light wipe to get rid of any potato or onion bits and heat it up again over medium high heat. If using a new pan, add a drizzle of olive oil and when the pan is nice and hot, pour in the egg/potato mixture.
I let it cook for a minute and then turn the heat down to medium and then cook it for another 2 or 3 minutes. You want to able to run a spatula around the outside of the omelette with the outer ring looking solid with a softer interior and runny top.
Now, take a plate that is larger than the frying pan, cover the pan with it, placing your hand on the underside of the plate and flip the pan over on to the plate.
Put the pan back on the burner and very carefully slide the tortilla back into the pan, well done side up this time - don't worry that there will be some wet egg residue on the plate. Cook it for another couple of minutes - it will feel very firm to the touch.
Some people like it creamy in the centre and others like it very solid and well done. I have seen people do the plate/pan flip a second time and give it an extra minute or two before flipping it out onto the plate so you can serve it.
I like to serve it the first time, warm with a softer centre and then the leftovers will set up after sitting and the next day, I take it out of the fridge and it is completely solid and I can cut it up in cubes.
|brightly coloured facades of the houses overlooking the Onyar River|
If you are in Barcelona more than a few days, you are missing out if you don't plan at least one day trip, depending on your interests.
It would be an understatement to say that we probably ate some of the best food in recent memory while we were in Barcelona. Unlike Paris, where I found that between the fabulous sandwiches that we would grab from any old boulangerie and some bazillion dollar 2 Michelin star restaurant, the food was inconsistent and often not very good although always expensive. Sorry people, you can send me all the hate mail you like, but all three of us agree on that point - the restaurant food was expensive and disappointing more often than not.
I've gotta be honest, I have not loved my attempts at making Thai beef curries in my pressure cooker up until now. It just always felt like the sauce was a little too thin and it lacked body but I didn't want to add more coconut milk and then dilute the red curry flavour.
What to do?
This time, after it was done the initial pressure cook, I threw in some potato and sweet potato and when it was done, much of the sweet potato had kind of broken down and melted into the sauce, thickening it up nicely without diluting the intensity of the red curry paste. I also really like the sweetness it adds - it really balances out the heat of the red curry beautifully and kind of mellows it slightly without diluting the flavour, which is exactly what it was missing.
Another recipe finally converted to work in the Instant Pot (you can make it in any brand of electric pressure cooker, of course). This curry usually simmers for at least two hours on the stove top so cutting that time by about 60% is a pretty nice bonus too. Feel free to leave out the broccoli and substitute some green beans or frozen peas if you don't have any broccoli, just make sure that you add those delicate vegetables after the pressure cooking is over and let them cook gently in the residual heat of the curry for a few minutes with the lid on before you serve it.
Pressure Cooker Thai Red Curry Beef
1 tbls of vegetable oil
2 small or 1 large onion, cut in rough wedges
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2" piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into coins
1 piece lemongrass, smashed and cut into 3" pieces
2 kaffir lime leaves
1 can of coconut milk (don't shake as you will use the cream from the top of the can)
4 tbls of red curry paste
1 tbls fish sauce
1 tbls soy sauce
1 kg (2 lbs) stewing beef
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 or 4 small waxy potatoes, cut in large bite size pieces
1/2 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into large bite sized pieces
2 tbls lime juice
about half a head of broccoli cut into flowerets
cilantro, lime wedges, rice
Salt the stew beef and set aside.
Heat the pot using the saute button until it says hot before you add in the oil and cook the onion, garlic and ginger for a few minutes, until starting to get a bit of colour.
Push the onions to the side, scrape the solid cream off the top of the can of coconut milk and add that to the pot. Stir in the red curry paste and fry in the coconut cream for about 5 minutes, slowly incorporating the onions into it and keep cooking until it starts to turn a much darker brownish red.
Add in the lemongrass, lime leaves, coconut milk, chicken broth, fish sauce, soy sauce and the beef and stir until everything is well coated.
Lock the lid on and either hit the meat/stew button or cook on manual HP for 35 minutes.
When the time is up, do a quick release, add in the potato and sweet potato, lock the lid back on and cook for 3 minutes at HP.
Do another quick release, throw in the lime juice and the broccoli, put the lid back on and let it sit for five minutes while you get the bowls, rice and garnishes together so the broccoli can cook in the residual heat.
Serve over rice, garnished with chopped cilantro and serve with a lime wedge or two.
I am back from a ten day trip to Barcelona and man, am I fired up! I just spent 10 days eating and drinking and exploring, I lugged home three sizes of paella pans, cazuelas, spices, dried peppers, black sea salt and a brain overloaded with ideas.
Keep your eyes peeled for my upcoming posts about my trip, about what we ate, what we saw and where we went, but, for now, here is what is happening in the upcoming month:
For our March Supper Club, I am going to do a bit of a Mexican/Greek mash up. There will be tasty cocktails, great food and great dining companions, as always, so go reserve your seat now
Get your tickets for our March 18 Supper Club Opaaa!
Upcoming Cooking Classes for March
For the cheap and cheerful crowd, I have two What's For Dinner Classes at the Musgrave Loblaws in March. You pay $15 and get a $15 dollar gift card for your trouble.
Also, my next series of Instant Pot classes this month will be taking place at The Depanneur. Workshops are $60 each and start at 6:30pm
March 25 will be another Intro to Instant Pot Class
If that sells out, as they often do, I will be repeating the class on March 26
On March 27 I will be teaching an Instant Pot Pasta hands on workshop
This class is a new one for those of you who have taken the intro class OR are getting comfortable with your wizard pot and want to start branching out from beans, soup and hard boiled eggs
Okay, Toronto Peeps, it's a new year and we are starting up our monthly Supper Clubs at The Kingston Social House, in Toronto's East East End.
The first dinner of the year, this Sunday, January 21, will feature one of my favourite meals to cook and eat - my Peruvian Flavah dinner. We start with Aguadito de Pollo, a hearty chicken soup that is full of cilantro, white rice as well as black rice, chicken, aji amarillo all topped off with crispy chicken skin.
You may have noticed that I am not keeping up with my regular pace on the blog. For the last 8 years, I've tried to add at least 1 or 2 recipes a week but my own cooking gigs have kept me out of my own kitchen since the fall.
I get it, I don't always feel like cooking some huge holiday meal either. I find, as my son gets older, we do less and less Christmasy stuff and spend the time off hanging out together. We go to movies, we play inappropriate games like Cards Against Humanity and visit friends because nobody has time to get together apart from Christmas.
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