Tag Archives: Nerja

What food is typically Spanish? What makes Andalusian food Andalusian?

18 Jul

The easy answer from me is “I don’t know”. Earlier today I was down in Nerja, a lovely resort town on the Costa Del Sol. It’s about 25km from my house and a million kilometers away from the western side the Malaga coast. I was there to collect the Spanish registration plates for our 9 year old UK registered BMW and walking from the car park behind Carabeo to my lawyers office I took a look at the dozens of bars and restaurants in between. Pizza, pasta, full English Breakfasts, and international dishes that you can find on almost every resort street between the Turkish coast in the east (of Europe that is … I don’t think Spain has annexed Turkey overnight; the BBC news doesn’t mention it) to Portugal in the west. 

I think we all accept the jet-age has shrunk the world and that along with the positive impacts of migration has helped us all enjoy foods that our grandparents would never have tasted. 

So, being in Nerja for La Merienda, the Spanish tradition of elevenses, I thought I’d sit down at a cafe and see whether I could get something I viewed as “Spanish”. I stopped at one of the 3 star hotels on the Balcon De Europa and scanned a menu. Full English, Eggs on Toast, Croissant, Pan au Chocolat …. whilst probably enjoyed by Spaniards none struck me as immediately “typical Spanish”. So, I ask for a pitufo (small bread roll) with sobrasada. “No we don’t have it”. So I asked if they add anything Spanish. “Tostada con marmalade o miel”. Toast with jam or honey. That’s something I could have anywhere in the world so I declined. I asked if I could have the Pitufo with tomato and olive oil. The way is which he said “Si, es posible” was with a shrug of the shoulders. Almost saying, “yes but why …. ?”. That’s what I had and you know what? It was delicious … fresh ripe tomatoes cooked down with garlic and onions into a spreadable pulp served in a little dish with extra virgin olive oil on the side … and only 1.50 euro. A coffee, water, and my pitufo con tomate y aceite was just 5 euros. However, the tomate y aceite was not on the menu. 

Up in Competa, the village we live just outside of, things are not quite so touristy but the restaurants still lend themselves to “international” (on the whole). The food is usually very good and certainly nothing to complain about … but I think I’d struggle to be able to eat in a traditional Andalusian way. That got me thinking about the foods I’d like to discover. It’s one thing to find a recipe in a cook book (and I have dozens of those), but I think its always better to taste the real thing cooked by someone who knows their local cooking and then go home and try and recreate it. I thank my friend Oscar (of Taberna De Oscar) for a wonderful Moroccan Lamb cooked with red peppers, tomatoes, chickpeas and a bunch of wonderful spices that typify Moroccan food. After eating it there and believing it was one of the most delicious dishes I’ve tasted I went home and recreated it pretty well and it’s now in my repertoire. Liz inevitably takes notes to try and learn herself because I rarely cook the same thing the same way twice. I rely on continual tasting rather than exact measures. A trick I learned from my maternal grandmother who made the most wonderful (usually Irish) food using nothing else but a tea cup to measure things with. 

Back to the point of this blog, if there’s such a thing as a point to a blog. I’ll try and search out typical dishes and ask some of the local people what they cook, how they cook it, or even better find out what their grandmother cooked and how she cooked it. That may mean I’ll be having a go at Tripe (Callos) which Cafe Bar David used to serve up on a Sunday. I hope it’s better than the tripe and vinegar both my grandads used to love. 

What did I have for lunch today …. it was probably more Greek than Spanish. I bought a lovely piece of Solomillo de Cerdo (pork tenderloin) the other day for 3 euros. I made a marinade of olive oil. lemon juice, grated onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and oregano. I skewered up the meat after several hours of marinading and cooked it on the barbecue. It was outrageously tender & moist and bursting with summer flavour. However, I don’t think Souvlaki is a Spanish dish. Guilty as charged! I hang my head in shame.