Something I have learned over the years is the art of slow travel, of staying in a place long enough to take in the culture, soak up the vibes and learn about where I actually am instead of just passing through.
So when I came across Barcelona Slow Travel which offers the chance to meet the locals and learn how to cook the food of Spain, I signed up for an evening’s class.
Arriving late after getting completely lost in the streets of Barcelona, I walked into a room of eager-looking tourists all adorned in aprons and sitting on stools, waiting for their lesson.
What I like about Barcelona Slow Travel is that they allow you to get off the beaten path, and have more of an original experience. Spain is known for its tapas and variety of dishes and having eaten plenty of tapas, I was intrigued how to actually cook it, and learning how in a local’s house seemed the perfect ingredients for a Spanish tapas feast.
All the ingredients here are locally sourced by Cristina and Guillermo who spend time hiking to farms in the area and buying their homemade produce.
Our first class was a lesson in how to prepare Pan con Tomate, something that I had tried several times. Initially created to soften dry bread, Pan con Tomate uses salt and a few different spices after rubbing the bread with tomato. We used garlic which had been marinated for 2-3 weeks and smelt delicious. Next was the tasting part of our creations, washed down with some red wine (made in Spain) and a little tipple of Spanish Vermouth, which I was beginning to get a taste of.
My favourite thing on the menu were the calcots, a Catalan delicacy and a cross between a spring onion and a leek. These onions are the reason behind the calcotada, a fiesta held in the winter months.
Grilled over a big fire, the calcots are burned until they are black and then smoked. You let them rest and cool down before removing the external layer with one quick swoop, dipping them into a romesco sauce – which is prepared differently in each place – then dunking them in your mouth (or eating it more politely if you prefer).
Having experienced a calcotada in Benifallet, I was keen to try one in Barcelona. Here we were using an oven and caramelising it instead. Crushing hazelnuts and roasted red peppers (from Murcia) we prepared the romesco sauce (which when we came to eating was beyond delicious).
Being a lover of fish but not one to be able to cook it (unless it’s already filleted), I nearly shrieked when I saw the seafood delicacy – cuttlefish. Growing up near the sea I had seen plenty of cuttlefish bones in the past but had never actually seen the fish, which looks a bit like a squid (just uglier) and is from the same family. Luckily we were accompanied by a Korean Masterchef who confessed to “can’t speak but can cook.” She took on the seafood.
I stuck with the Spanish omelette, known as a tortilla which again I had eaten several times. This was surprisingly easy to make and only needed potatoes, eggs and onion but flipping it over was a different story. I handed this bit back to the experts.
Prepping, chopping and cooking gave us all a chance to get to know each other in a fun, relaxing environment, (helped by the wine and vermouth). Then it was time to eat our culinary delights, a mix of seafood Catalan style, vegetables al dente, and the delicious romesco sauce and calcots.
Of course there were plenty more dishes to cook including a refreshing sorbet to finish our Spanish tapas fiesta, but you’ll just have to come to Barcelona and enjoy the slow travel cooking experience for yourself…
As for me, I realised that maybe cooking isn’t that hard after all. But I think I’ll leave the seafood to a proper chef 🙂
The Tapas Cooking Experience costs 75 Euros per person and lasts for 4 hours starting at 6pm on various evenings. It includes the ingredients, the hands on cooking experience, recipes of what you are cooking, plus mineral water and organic wines to drink throughout the night (as well as actually eating the food of course). They also offer paella cooking classes, wine tours and more. Find out more about Barcelona Slow Travel.
Have you ever cooked tapas?