I’m back from a wonderful short holiday in the countryside of Catalunya. I flew into Barcelona last Wednesday evening where I was met by Blai and his family and we drove directly to their village in the Alt Penedès. What a beautiful village it is too! It’s small but beautifully situated. See?
Each day involved sleeping in and activities were always planned around meals (and such spectacular meals they were too!). There were trips to Vilafranca del Penedès for its famous Festa Major. Trips to the beach in Sant Salvador. A short trek to Can Pascol, a 1000 year old tower and house. Watching grapes be harvested for cava. And there was plenty of lazing around and visiting Blai’s grandparents and teasing their dog.
Breakfast each day was a light meal of whatever you chose – sweet jams with toast or savoury cured meats or cheeses with pa amb tomàquet, the Catalan basic of bread rubbed with tomatoes and then drizzled with olive oil. I’m a savoury girl myself and almost always opted for the latter option. Mmm…I’m still think of the pernil (ham) and fuet (a dry, cured sausage)…
Lunch is the main meal of the day and always consisted of one or two large main courses followed by dessert and coffee. This is regardless of whether the meal is taken at home or in a restaurant – it’s always this way, this glorious way! On the first day, Blai’s mother made a delicious estofat de vedella, a traditional Catalan beef stew. And the next day, after a morning trip to Olèrdola, we had lunch at a local restaurant where I had xató (a salad of escarole and bacalao topped with a romesco-like sauce) and to follow, conill amb all (stewed rabbit with garlic), both specialties of the region.
The day after that, there were lamb chops and lamb ribs barbequed over a wood fire and the wood was dried vines from Blai’s uncle’s vineyard. I’d never had lamb prepared this way and it’s amazingly finger-licking delicious! The meat is tender and the fat is golden and crispy and the woodsmoke gives the most wonderful flavour. We ate them with boiled cigrons (chickpeas) and pa amb tomàquet.
On another day, Blai’s father, who is Valencian, made this huge paella.
Isn’t it gorgeous?! And so delicious. There’s rabbit and cuttlefish and prawns in amongst the rice and the vegetables (artichokes, green beans, peas, large white beans, red pepper for flavour only).
Dinner is similar to breakfast in that it’s light and you eat what you please. Leftovers from lunch were common. I love to eat cold leftover cigrons, chickpeas. They just plain boiled but they’re always so much creamier here than anything you get in the UK. Olive oil poured over and lots of black pepper sprinkled on top make for a scrumptious dinner. And pa amb tomàquet, of course – always pa amb tomàquet.
Of course, a huge thank you to Blai’s parents for once again welcoming me to their home! Further posts on the yummy food I encountered are forthcoming. All my photos from this trip can be found in this Flickr set.