Cook, taste Catalonia

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Barcelona

Barcelona is one of those amazing cities that can easily whisk you off your feet, enthrall you and before you know it, you’re on your way home, breathless and consumed by a whirlwind of impressions and vague memories. There’s so much to see and do in the city that you’ll soon find yourself zooming from one highlight to another without getting a real sense of the local culture or discovering what makes the city tick. One of my favourite remedies is to find a café in a quiet street or square and plant myself there for a few hours and simply observe the world passing by. Strolling around a market or participating in a cooking course are two activities that also help me to travel slow and immerse myself in the local scene. In Barcelona, Cook and Taste, a small cooking school offers just that: a stroll around the splendid La Boqueria market, followed by a cooking course that introduces guests to Catalan cuisine.

A cooking course in Barcelona

Cook and Taste is located a short distance from La Rambla, Barcelona’s most famous boulevard. It’s a cosy place with a long counter along the length of the studio and an exposed, ancient-looking stone wall at the far end. My visit to the cooking school turned out to be one of my favourite experiences in Barcelona (along with the Segway tour). The chef first took us on a tour around the La Boqueria market on La Rambla. It was a fascinating tour as the chef took her time to show us many types of vegetables, meats and seafood and how each are typically prepared in Catalan cuisine.

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La Boqueria

A stroll around La Boquria is a mouthwatering experience. The seafood looked incredibly fresh and the hams, sausages and mushrooms were more than sufficient to get my juices flowing within minutes.

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Fresh seafood at La Boqueria

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Hams and sausages

We spent what seemed like ages exploring the market, picking up some groceries along the way before we were led to the cooking studio. Once there, we washed our hands and donned aprons. I couldn’t wait for the fun to begin. The chef explained the day’s menu: Crema de Calazabo (pumpkin cream soup), fideuá (noodle paella) and Crema Catalana (Catalan flan). YUM!

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The Cook and Taste cooking studio

I was quick to raise my hand when she asked for volunteers to prepare the soup – I love pumpkin soup. :-) She explained how the pumpkin should be peeled and chopped and what to do next whilst the others in the group looked on. She then turned her attention to the others and explained the first steps of preparing the noodle paella. She kept a close eye on us as we chopped, blended and stirred all sorts of different concoctions, and explained the origins of the dishes and the specific use of certain ingredients in Catalonia. I loved the way she mixed the cooking instructions with stories about her grandparents and anecdotes about the dishes we were preparing.

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Nellie stirring the noodles in the paella pan

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Toasted bread with tomato, garlic and olive oil

I chopped the pumpkin, onions and potatoes and dumped them into a pot of water and left them to boil. I then fried the leek before turning my attention to the others. It was good fun having a peek at what the others were up to. After about 30 minutes, I put the boiled vegetables into a blender and watched it churn into a porridge-like soup. A sprinkling of salt and pepper and I was done!

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Pumpking soup anyone? :-)

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My yummy pumpkin soup! :-)

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The noodle paella simmering in the paella pan

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Rich firing up the Crema Catalana

My pumpkin soup was a big success! Phew! I’ve since tried this recipe a few times at home and it’s delicious every time. Another simple recipe I picked up at Cook & Taste was how to make toast with tomato and garlic. It’s so simple yet absolutely delicious and perfect for a Sunday morning. The fideuá and the Crema Catalana were done really well – Rich did a fantastic job with the burner to create a thin sugary layer with a lightly burnt colour.

We had a fun afternoon and I came home with some great memories, insights into Catalan cuisine and new recipes. If you’re thinking of taking it slow to immerse yourself in Barcelona’s vibe, I recommend staying in an apartment (click here to find out more about renting an apartment in Barcelona) and enrolling for a cooking course at Cook & Taste. After the course, you can get your groceries at a local market and try out new recipes in your apartment while you’re still on holiday!

Note: this post was brought to you in partnership with Oh-Barcelona.

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One Response to “Cook, taste Catalonia”

  1. Corinne 30/03/2013 7:05 pm
    #

    Everything looks yummy. I’ll be in Barcelona in a few weeks….hmmmm.

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