While we were in Valencia we stayed in an apartment just 50 metres from the mercat central, the main market hall for the city. It was a fantastic place to wander around and to buy food.
Some of the stalls where I couldn’t resist buying included this wonderful one selling olives and pickled vegetables.
Notice the almagro aubergines just right of centre above? There’ll be more about these at the end of this post. There were huge sacks of paprika from Murcia:
beautiful tomatoes (we saved some seeds from this variety so we hope to grow them next year)
There were snails – I didn’t buy any of these.
and a few cured hams:
A lot of pumpkins, raw and already roasted – more about these in a later post.
We bought a lot of ready made charcuterie, olives and pickled vegetables to take back to our apartment for supper (on the nights when we weren’t going out to some of the many tapas bars nearby), but I only actually cooked one dish while we were there and that was with almagro aubergines. I’d seen them at the pickled vegetable stall but then a few minutes later saw a stall holder arranging fresh ones from a sack to display on her stall. I just had to buy some – they looked so beautiful.
I invented a dish based on what I’d seen on the stall and a quick internet search, leaving the aubergines with their stalks as they are here, cutting a slit in the ‘fat’ end and putting half a clove of garlic and a piece of red pepper into it. I then laid them all on a bed of sliced tomato in an oven-proof dish, added salt and pepper and poured a lot of olive oil over them. I put them in a slow oven for about an hour and a half while we went out for drinks in a nearby bar. I had Agua de Valencia, a mix of fresh orange juice, Cava and vodka – tasty and quite potent!
When we came back the aubergines were cooked and they were ready to eat. The ones we didn’t eat straight away tasted even better cold the next day.
Last night we returned home from a wonderful holiday in Valencia, Xativa and Barcelona. We had so many delicious food experiences, too many for a quick post on my return, so for now I’ll just give a taste of Barcelona where we stayed for our last couple of nights and went with friends to one of their favourite local restaurants – not a tourist place at all, just somewhere people who live there eat because we were lucky to have local guides. What I didn’t photograph but will remember for a long time was the best veal I have ever tasted, a piece of fillet lightly griddled and served simply with fried potatoes – it was wonderful. To start the meal all four of us shared this plate of embutidos y queso, mixed charcuterie and cheese, and a huge pile of toasted pan amb tomaquet, toasted bread rubbed with tomato.
And dessert was the Catalan speciality mel i mato, fresh cheese with honey. There are many different versions of this dish, some of which we have here in the Languedoc as we’re next door to Catalunya. This is the individual style of presentation of the restaurant we went to that night, with very dark honey.
Next morning, just before we had to leave to catch the train home, we went to the local market hall – mercat in Catalan – filled with tempting fish, meat, cheese, vegetable and charcuterie stalls.
We were tempted to have one (or more) of everything, but we wouldn’t have been able to carry it all, so we restricted ourselves to some cured sausages and these colourful olives. They are green Sevillenca olives, stained red by the paprika added during the curing process. They’re very tasty, slightly peppery along with the flavour of the olives.
The green ones in the background here were a free extra given to us by the friendly woman on the stall who asked if we had olives at home and was interested when I said in my very broken Spanish that we had olive trees in our garden.
I’ll be posting more very soon about the amazing market in Valencia and some of the other delicacies we found while we were there.