Behold the best tapas I’ve ever had. Two weeks ago I was in Barcelona, and was lucky enough to be taken to Cuidad Contal. Ciudad Contal is the old name for Barcelona, and also a beautiful and popular tapas bar.
Arriving in the afternoon, we avoided the worst queues and were seated rather rapidly after a quick, ice cold beer in the bar (and very cheap at that). The bar had a beautiful display of some of the cold, prepared tapas, and I fell straight away for a beautiful creature resembling a black egg with pink stuff coming out of it. Once seated, Victor managed to decipher my description and ordered fig with mascarpone and jamon (montadito de higo, mascarpone y jamón ibérico, below).
If it’s possible to pick one favourite from the various tapas dishes, this would be it. The sweet, crispy fig mixed with the velvety and rich mascarpone posed a perfect contrast to the salty jamon. It’s no revolutionary dish or combination, but proof that classics are classics for a reason.
Aside from my personal star of the table, a favourite between the three of us was the black rice (arroz negro con sepia). This was also displayed at the bar, steaming and glittering, and quickly vanishing. Just as the other dishes, it was very simple: rice with squid ink and gently cooked octopus, served with a dollop of allioli. It was also accompanied by small pieces of bread rubbed in tomato, olive oil and salt (pa amb tomaquet), which were perfect for scooping the rice. This staple way of making bread has won my heart over, after a long struggle against indulging in olive oil.
We also ordered in some grilled green peppers, doused in sea salt flakes (pimientos del padrón). The grill made them smoky in a mellow way, which contrased very well to the sweetness of the pepper and the salt.
The deep fried baby squid (calamares a la andaluza) was incredibly tender and juicy, perfect with a little dash of lemon. We finished this very, very quickly. Such a simple dish, yet with the added lemon, one of the most bite-friendly things ever.
The seafood at this place was so tender it’s difficult to compare it to anything. The gambas (gambas a la plancha) were no exception. I would assume these were steamed, then quickly dressed before going onto the table. They were too hot to hold when they arrived. Again, delicious.
Victor’s personal choice was a little entrecote on a stick (montadito de solomillo). It was charred in the edges and oozing red inside, absolutely perfectly cooked. Blissful.
All in all this was a near-perfect meal (I’m not sure what could be changed gastronomically to improve it). If you’re in Barcelona, you should ignore the fact that this magnificent place is placed at the bottom of touristy La Ramblas, as well as the fact that it’s packed nearly all the time. You should just dive in, and gratefully accept a cold beer (or three) while you wait for a precious table. Our meal landed at 17 euros each with was a bargain given the high quality of the food, and I simply cannot recommend it highly enough. 9,5 meatballs out of 10.
In a few weeks, my MESC brother and bästis in Brussels is leaving Europe for Dubai, to start a life hopefully not too void of cheese. This post is dedicated to him and one of his Spanish dishes: a perfect tortilla. Before trying this potato tortilla I never liked Spanish omelette (as we call it in Sweden), but this is so perfectly creamy and simple that you can’t help but help yourself, several times. In this hot weather, it’s also perfect picnic material, not to mention a good destination for various things you find in the fridge. Key for a successful tortilla is a good pan, so that you can flip it easily and it cooks without sticking too much. You can put anything in it, but my favourite is either simply potato or potato and chorizo. The recipe below is for potato and chorizo.
- 6 eggs
- 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into slices
- 1/4 chorizo ring, chopped very coarsely
- Olive oil (Jamie Oliver-amounts)
- 2 medium onions
- Salt and pepper to taste
Start by chopping the onions, and frying them in large amounts of olive oil. Stir often so that you can maintain a high heat. When the onions are frying, chop the chorizo, and add it to the pan once the onion has browned properly. Add some more oil, and fry for a few more minutes. Remove the onion and chorizo from the pan and put to a side. Start frying the potatoes, again in large amounts of olive oil. The potatoes should be cooked when you starting putting together the tortilla, so this part can take up to 25 minutes (alternatively, have two pans going to save time – there’s no reason why the onions and chorizo cool down on the side other than that our messy nine-person house has three broken hoovers but only one decent frying-pan). The potatoes are done when they break easily under the pressure of a wooden spoon or something else blunt.
Whisk together the eggs with some salt and pepper, and add the chorizo and onions, as well as the fried potatoes. Pour this into the pan, again preluded by a splash of olive oil, and cook on a medium heat. Both the heat from the pan and the potatoes will make the eggs cook, so this part is pretty quick. Stir the mixture after about one minute, so that the cooked bits from the bottom are dispersed around the tortilla.
After a few minutes, once the bottom and the sides start setting, it’s time to turn the tortilla. This can be a bit tricky. Take a large plate, put on top of the frying pan, and hold it very firmly against the pan as you turn it upside down so that the chorizo lands on the plate. Slide it from the plate back into the pan onto the uncooked side, and cook it for another few minutes. Here’s it’s crucial to be careful that it’s not cooking for too long – you want it to be creamy inside, and not too brown on the outside. The flipping process should look something like this (although smiling like an idiot is not obligatory):
The tortilla is ready to eat straight away, but it doesn’t suffer from cooling down a bit. If you are taking it to the park it’s important to let it cool before you pack it up, as it can get a bit soggy otherwise. It’s delicious with a good tomato and basil salad.