This was one of the New Year’s messages in Catalunya, where I was for the past week, that plays with the double meaning of vuit (eight) and nou (nine), the former sounding like the word for empty and the latter also being the word for new. Anyway, we saw in the new year in Barcelona with plenty of fabulous food, some of it new to me.
Blai’s family and I had a fabulous feast on New Year’s Eve, laced with plenty of wine and champagne. The first course was a veritable spread in itself: octopus with paprika, foie gras pate, prawns cooked on a planxa, and salt cod croquetes. The octopus was beautifully tender, the prawns so red and flavourful and the croquetes, oh, the croquetes! Those were chock a block full of shredded salt cod and bechamel and fried beautifully – crunchy and crumbly on the outside and smooth on the inside.
The second course (not photographed) were beef filets cooked to a pinky medium, served with a pepper sauce with brandy and mushrooms. Yummy! And finally, for dessert, plenty of turro (Spanish almond candy usually served at Christmas time) and polvorons (a crumbly flour and almond sweet), and the usual coffees to finish. When the clock struck twelve, we each tried to down twelve grapes, one with each chime of the clock. Unfortunately, a laughing fit struck each of us in turn and I found myself spraying more grape than swallowing.
More feasting was to come the next day when we visited Blai’s extended family in the Alt Penedès, who then proceeded to fill us to bursting again.
To start (not photographed as I was trying to be polite – but then Blai told them all about the blogging and photographing and I was told to take photos!), xato, a very Catalan salad involving frisee and romesco sauce. Salt cod again on the side as well as a slice of a white bean truita (tortilla). There were also olives, delicious home cured anchovies and platters of exceptional escalivada (grilled aubergines and red peppers – you can just see the plate of them in the last photo below).
To follow was a lovely stew of wild boar (they hunted it themselves!) and potatoes. It was my first time having boar, I think, and I would definitely have it again. Stewing it made the meat fork tender and with prunes and toasted pinenuts too, it was altogether gorgeous.
And afterwards, there were two braços de gitano (the politically incorrect Gypsy’s Arm) from a Barcelona pastisseria – one filled with plain nata (cream) and the other with nata with turro. They are rolled cakes (roulades, if you will) filled with plenty of cream and are both light and rich at the same time. Modern ones come filled with ice cream!
Everything I was fed was excellent and I do believe Blai’s family is filled with talented cooks! However, it took me an entire day to recover from all this eating and festivities – my stomach just refused to take in very much the next day and I spent most of it dozing. Luckily, this was just for one day…