Blai went to Barcelona a week earlier than I did and I had to spend that entire week hearing about how fabulous fartons were and how well they went with orxata and how I absolutely had to try them. (Go ahead and giggle at the name like a five year old – we did!)
As I was still in London, yes, it was a very frustrating week.
I made to Barcelona eventually where I got to fill up on these treats. We drank orxata out of wine glasses – ha! Actually, we didn’t want to dirty more glasses and so reused those from lunch.
We’ll start first with the orxata (that’s in Catalan. Horchata in Spanish). This milky looking drink originated in Valencia (mostly associated with the town of Alboraia) and is made from xufes (in Catalan but also spelled xufles, or chufas in Castilian), or tiger nuts, a little tuber about the size of a large chickpea. It’s a drink said to date back to the Moorish presence in Valencia (8th to 13th centuries). It’s sweetened and creamy yet refreshing and slightly grainy and if you want a drink to compare it to, I’ll say it’s not far off from soy bean milk. Mexican horchata is another beast altogether – that’s made from rice and cinnamon. It’s a very refreshing drink and can be bought all over Barcelona in the summer (along with granissats – icy slushy drinks not unlike Slurpees).
This is where Blai’s family purchase their orxata – Sirvent in Gràcia. You can drink it there or buy a bottle home. When you do the latter, the bottle is filled on the spot for you, by hand, using a ladle. This was the 2 litre bottle we bought.
This year, Sirvent started selling fartons, which were invented in Alboraia. A fartó is a long pastry that was designed to be dipped into orxata and originated in the Polo bakery 50 years ago. They’ve got a good chew and a spongy texture and it’s the combination of the two that allows it to soak up copious amounts of orxata without breaking. There’s a thin sugar glaze on the surface.
When you eat them all orxata soaked, they’re deceptively light. You bite and squish and bite and swallow and bite and slurp and chew and all the while exclaiming how light they are! and the next thing you know you’ve consumed two of the great big things and your tummy is starting to ache with all the food sloshing around in there (mainly because we had this after a big meal already). Whatever. They are delicious.
In the summer, Sirvent also sells a wide range of homemade ice creams (Blai recommends the very Catalan flavours of llet merengada and turró). In the winter, they sell turró (and that’ll be a whole other post come December!).
c/ Escorial 100
By the by, does anyone know of a place that sells fresh orxata in London?