Friday, 29 August 2008

There's a world of foodies out there!

Absolutely overcome by the number of food blogs online! I could spend *hours* reading them all, so reckoned that the best way to read a few is to put links to some of the best. The great thing is there's actual search engines dedicated to finding posts. Food Blog Wow!

Cake Wrecks is a gem, especially this post.. I mean who is cruel or tacky enough to think that a cake like that is a good idea?!

Anyhow, enough of reading everyone else's posts - it's about time that I start adding more of my own stuff..

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Do we really know what we are eating?

Just watching Jamie Oliver's documentary, Fowl Dinners which looks at the debate over battery-reared vs. free-range eggs and chickens..
Not a new issue but an interesting (and somewhat shocking) approach to make the commoner see the differences..
Do we really think about where the food on our plate is coming from? I think Spain seems to have a slightly tighter control on some areas - especially when it comes to DO foodstuffs, but these only represent a fraction of the total industry..
As a consumer is there any way that we can really know what we are getting? For me, these days I seem to tend more to use smaller shops like Bon Area when shopping for meat, chicken etc. Yes, it probably works out a bit more expensive but at least you know it's coming directly from the producer itself.. The supermarkets here don't always have the best produce - limp looking lettuce, dodgy steaks etc.. better to buy from somewhere that at least knows what they are selling.
After seeing this documentary, I know I'll be check for 0 or 1 marked eggs (free-range or open barn eggs).
Edited: 29th August 2008
These days, after seeing the documentary I've been more conscious about really looking at the labels to see what they contain, the source etc... And to be honest, I think the Irish and UK market is a lot more conscious to give details about the source etc. I know it's a EU requirement but Spain really sucks on giving additional information to the consumer. Started browsing some webpages of the meat product producers based here in Spain, and to be honest they talk about the processes and the machinery used, but nothing about the quality of their product nor the conditions used in obtaining that product.
Went to my usual co-op store to buy meat the other day and realised their labelling gives little or no information, just the basic requirements - indicates it's Spanish beef giving the reference (as required) but nothing given on the chicken. I mean their eggs to my shock and horror also are battery like hundreds of other producers, so I guess there's no difference between buying from the producer or the supermarket, except the prices. Not good.. :-/

Monday, 25 August 2008

Green miracle ingredient!

Today I'm quite pleased with myself.. Somehow I've managed to grow three amazing Basil plants without killing them off! I'm not known for my green fingers, usually forgetting to water plants after a few days, but with Basil it's different as I keep thinking of the great end results! Didn't have as much luck with the mint and parsley I'd planted - the seedlings dried out even before they started to grow.. It's back to buying established plants!

So it looks like Pesto tonight.. Love it, goes on anything just like Jamie Oliver says; toast with sun-dried tomatoes, mingled in pasta.. or maybe I'll be lucky and E will bring home some office-grown tomatoes (yep, I did type right, his office has their own vegetable plot and take turns in watering the tomato plants! Definitely a new executive de-stress plan!)

My pesto is the same as the basic, but I use Arbequino olive oil from Tortosa as it has a much stronger olivy taste meaning that it can stand up to the strong taste of basil and garlic, and I tend not to toast the pinenuts as I find it create a much creamier end result..

handful of basil leafs
a clove of garlic
Arbequino olive oil
Chuck it all into a mortar and grind for your life! ;-)

Saturday, 23 August 2008

La Fageda - Catalunya's best yoghurt with a heart

E has taken a liking to these yoghurts these days.. and with reason..
Only recently discovered this product, curiously through a documentary that was on TVC here in Catalonia. What makes it different to other yogurts is the work force behind it..

As the La Fageda web site says "... it's a non-profit social iniciative which aims to integrate handicapped individuals from the Garrotxa into the workforce." With a 210-strong work force, the whole production is carried out by people with Down's, autism and other mental disorders. Like a workshop scheme but the workers can actually see an end result that is actually used.. Not only that, but with tangible results, their turnover in 2006 was €7,264,000. Not bad for a small inititative! What's more, the yogurt is really good, using only natural products coming from the livestock on the farm, taking a really good base product and adding only natural flavours.. They even have a range of yogurts; skimmed, bio, yogurt drinks, custards.. Gone are the days of Superquinn chocolate yogurts, with their synthetic taste and unnatural greyish colour.. Who would of though lemon yogurts would taste soo good?

Friday, 22 August 2008

Sí España!

I guess you're wondering what an Irish girl is doing in Spain... It's reasonable enough question, one I often ask myself, only to conclude that it was my love of food that brought me back here and that keeps me here (no offence E!)..

I guess it all started when I was only 18, on my post-Leaving Cert trip to Port de la Selva with Saoirse. I don't know what it was, but somehow that seaside village got under my skin, the Mediterranean saltwater in my blood that made me destined to return..

My first of experience of food here in Spain was not what you'd imagine - for the two weeks we spent between Port de la Selva and Barcelona, we lived on Chinese instant noodles, Lay's crisps (plain salted crisps were unheard of in Tayto-loving Ireland at the time), watermelon and ice creams - not what you'd call culinary delights. But I guess there was something there that fascinated me as I walked through La Boquería just off Las Ramblas..

Everything about it enthralled me, the people, bustle of people, the colours and vast variety of fruits and vegetables that I couldn't name in English, let alone in Spanish..

Just watching the old ladies was an experience in itself- the way the lady behind the counter would examine each individual tomato, testing for ripeness while endlessly babbling on in what was a stream of incomprehensible words to me at the time. How could it take so long just to buy a few tomatoes?

It wasn't until later, returning two years later on an Erasmus year as part of my university studies, that I really started to comprehend that the Spanish don't eat for necessity, rather for the love of it. Food and shopping was not a chore to them, mindlessly wandering up and down through the aisles, randomly picking off stuff off the shelves.. rather a hunt to find 'the ripest tomatoes', 'the freshest fish', 'the most succulent steak'.. They actually think twice about what they are putting into their mouth. They're passionate about it. I just have to look at my husband E to see him get enthusiastic about the great mackerel he found, and the hours that we spend just wandering around supermarkets wherever we go...

It's not that I'm criticising my hometown; there's really great Irish food too - but I guess our (the Irish as a culture) whole attitude to food at the time (although it's not the case now) was completely different, eating out of routine rather than anything else.
My background, I guess, was a little more special - my folks being fairly adventurous food-wise. Dad is a keen fisherman which meant there was always fresh trout on the table and we wouldn't blink twice to see him gutting fish at the kitchen sink, so it's not surprising to hear that reared a child whose favourite food when she was 6 was mussels..
Not at all typical in Ireland where the most foreign fish that you'd see then was haddock or something similar.. They're still one of my favourite dishes, simply steamed with loads of garlic and fresh crusty bread to mop all the juice.. It's like having the sea there in a bowl - just wonderful.. I guess afterall it's not so surprising that I'm living here with the quantity of fresh Mediterranean seafood available, maybe it's always been there but it took going to Spain to make me realise it.. Still, I do miss those Irish mussels..

So there you go.. it started out of curiosity and ended up being love, literally.. My family never cease to be surprised about the new foods and dishes E and I find for them to try, some to their liking (Rice with duck and snails is actually quite good!) and others not (still haven't convinced them to try callos)

So why this blog? Partly boredom - should have been working a translation project but somehow stumbled across a load of great food blogs done by people that have the same passion as me (Wow, I'm not alone in the world!!) and partly curiosity to see if anyone is actually interested what I write, to share my love for food and to stop boring all my other friends with my in-depth, blow by blow account of what we ate, where we ate it and how we'd do it better.
Well there you are...
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