I usually have always loved vegetables and before moving to Spain my diet was in fact primarily vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, and fish so the vegetable dish called pisto manchego has always looked scrumptious to me. This dish stems from the region of La Mancha but it is found all over Spain. It is very similar to the French dish ratatouille so even outside of Spain you could easily find this or even make it yourself at home!
El Rastro, which means the trail, is easily Madrid’s most famous open air markets. It’s held every Sunday and public holiday from 10am-2pm in the La Latina district just south of the metro station. I don’t know exactly where the name El Rastro came from but one story that a local told me is kind of gloomy but it goes like this. Basically a long time ago there was a slaughterhouse nearby where El Rastro stands today and from that slaughterhouse the workers would take the hides from the cattle and walk them up to the tannery which would leave a trail of blood, hence the name. Gory story? Yes. Should you still check it out at least once? Yes!
I feel very lucky to be able to say that I live across from El Parque del Buen Retiro (El Retiro for short). It’s about 125 hectares and holds about 15,000 trees one of which is Madrid’s oldest tree, a cyprus, that is believed to be 400 years old! The park also contains many different types of gardens like the Jardín de Vivaces, the Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez (classical gardens of an Andalusian style which are incredible), the Jardines del Arquitecto Herrero Palacios, the Rose Garden, and the Parterre Francés.
I’m obsessed with chocolate but what girl isn’t? So when I heard that Spain has a special treat called chocolate con churros I was so game to try it. Now I eat usually pretty healthy so to think that some people have this for breakfast most days a week really surprised me. I definitely could not do it as often as some Spaniards but on a Saturday or Sunday morning (or late late Saturday night) the grease and rich chocolate are definitely worth it.
Bull’s tail…sounds just scrumptious doesn’t it? Well even though the name might throw you off, wait until you try it before making that “who would ever eat something like that” face. Rabo de toro is a classic dish of Spain and it takes hours to make but it’s so worth it in the end. If cooked properly it’s fork tender and you don’t even need your knife. And honestly if you took out the bones you wouldn’t even recognize it as anything different than a cut of meat that you’re used to like brisket.
American stuffing is one of the first things that I load my dinner plate with on Thanksgiving. Something about crusty bread with sausage and garlic really gets me going so when I heard about the dish called migas I was excited to try it. Migas is basically stuffing on crack. It’s a mixture of olive oil, garlic, chorizo and pancetta, and bread. Shepherds and wanderers of this region utilized this dish a lot since it was easy to carry/whip up on the country side. “Pan y vino para caminar el camino” is a phrase that Castilla la Mancha native chef Javier Muñoz uses to describe the use of this amazing dish.
After visiting the village of Sigüenza, my host family and I decided to take a tour of another small village in the Guadalajara province recommended to us by our tour guide in Sigüenza. The city of Atienza, about a 15 minute drive northwest of Sigüenza, is a smaller village of about 480 people. It is dominated by a castle which thrived in the Middle Ages. Today, while it is merely a ruin, it played a big part in the defensive side for the Moorish kingdom that dominated Spain during the Middle Ages. It was dubbed a national monument in 1931 but you can not go inside since it is in poor condition.
This past weekend was spent in rural villages about an hour outside Madrid. Don’t get me wrong I love Madrid but all the people, the honking of the cars, and touristy hot spots can get a little too overwhelming sometimes so it’s nice to break away from the concrete jungle.
We drove about an hour and a half north of Madrid to visit a village called Sigüenza. It is located in the region of Castilla La Mancha and in the province of Guadalajara. This city fell under Roman, Visigothic, Moorish, and Catholic rule and you can see it all in the art and architecture.
If there are two food items that Spain is known for it’s la tortilla and jamón both I’ve had just about everyday since I arrived. I like food…okay? So this beautiful masterpiece of food is like Italian prosciutto’s bad ass cousin.
jamón vs prosciutto showdown:
I love seafood so this dish was on the top of my list of Spanish food to try. This Galician snack is available at most bars and restaurants in Madrid and it certainly takes some cojones to try. I’ve seen how this one is prepared by watching “Spain on the Road Again” by Mario Batali. All you do is boil a huge pot of water and when boiling you dunk the octopus making sure you dip it in the water three times. Now I’m not sure why but all of the recipes I’ve seen calls for this step. Maybe it helps with tenderizing or maybe it’s some weird voodoo but I’m not one to mess with old time Spainish traditions so three dunks it is. Let this cook for 40-50 minutes depending on the size of the octopus then letting it rest for about 15 after.