Tapa of the Week #12 – Morcilla de Burgos

Morcilla de Burgos

Since black pudding or blood sausage doesn’t sound appetizing to some people I usually don’t tell them what kind of sausage “morcilla” is until they have already discovered they love it. There are several types of morcilla in Spain and one of the most popular styles is the Morcilla from Burgos. You can see from the picture that the sausage is filled also with cooked rice. In the past it was a way of bulking up the sausage to make it more cheaply. Once again history wins and, in my opinion, actually improves it. Morcilla is made soon after the animal is butchered with pig’s blood and fat, rice, paprika, onion and salt. It’s a popular “racion” which is a plate to share, rather than a tapa. You can find morcilla at most traditional tapas bars in Madrid and around.

Morcilla is an important ingredient of Fabada, which is a stew from Austurias. And is often present in Madrid’s famous Cocido Madrileño.

If you are in Spain and have the opportunity to cook, you could buy a morcilla de burgos at the market (or even better, in the area around Burgos) Tienda.com also sells morcilla which is made in the US from a Spanish recipe.
To cook: Cut the morcilla into slices about 2 cm/1 inch thick, dip the sides in a bit of flour to help it hold together and fry in abundant very hot olive oil (about 1cm deep or so) on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Serve with bread and enjoy!

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Pintxos in Bilbao

Pintxos in Bilbao

A few weeks ago when visiting Bilbao we headed down to the Plaza Nueva, an enclosed plaza with terraces, and lots of tapas bars. Here they are called pinchos, or the preferred basque-ish spelling, pintxos. What a difference from the straightforward tapas found in Madrid’s traditional bars. Pintxos are a work of art. They are not free and you must ask for the one(s) you would like.

Bar Bilbao, Bilbao

Our stop in the Plaza Nueva included Cafe Bar Bilbao, a historic pintxo bar and cafe almost 100 years old, we were a group of about eight people all standing around the bar with our drinks and sometimes ordering a few pintxos. A couple Americans came in (since I am one, for me they are easy to pick out) and somehow were able to get one of the 6 or so tables. It was about 8pm, still two hours short of dinner time but the bar was full of Bilbainos having an aperitif. The two women proceeded to order, first they were served a bottle of wine and I thought to myself, they are obviously tourists, they are not going about this pintxo thing the right way. They should stand at the bar like us, have some pintxos and move on to discover other places. Then their order came, a plate full of the colors of delicious looking pintxos, too much for just a bite, and seemingly too much for two people! It looked like the typical situation when you are in a foreign country and you order something and it ends up to be enough food for double the amount of people you are. But the women seemed happy with their dinner and my Basque friends had by now taken notice of these two and their huge plate and were enviously remarking at how those ladies really had a great idea! Now why didn’t we think of that!?

Pintxos Variados

This was my plate of pintxos. I loved the one at the bottom of the photo. Its mixed fresh cheeses rolled into a ball covered with walnuts and balsamic reduction. The salmon and the fried squid were also wonderful.

Café Bar Bilbao is located at Plaza Nueva 6. (Metro Casco Viejo) in Bilbao

Website: www.bilbao-cafebar.com

Bar Bilbao on YouTube

An interesting website dedicated to pintxos, the tapas of the Basque Country, is Todopintxos.com. They even have recipies and list some great tapas/pintxo bars in San Sebastian.

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Tapa of the Week #11 – Pimientos de Padron

Fresh Pimientos de Padron

One of my favorite tapas is the flavorful and simple peppers found at many bars throughout Spain. They originate in Padron, a small town in Galicia and are extremely popular here in Madrid as well, especially since there are alot of Galician bars and restaurants here. The fun thing about them is that some are hot and some are not. In the language of Galicia (Gallego) this would be: “Os pimientos de padrón uns pican e outros non” A lot of people say every 5th one is spicy which sometimes is about right. They are a bit more expensive than a regular pepper as they must be picked at an early stage to avoid getting too hot. Once they are on your plate its a gamble as to which will be spicy. Its like they try to catch you off guard, you timidly try one, its not spicy so you eat the whole thing, its great! So you take another, and another, you begin talking to your friends and without thinking you eat another pepper and ZING! It got you!

They are easy to make at home if you can get them. Fortunately for those of you not in Spain there are some farmers in the US and UK who grow them and they can be bought online.


To prepare, just wash them, pat dry and fry them in a metal frying pan in a bit of olive oil (a few tablespoons). You need to fry them for a few minutes until they start getting soft. When they are done, transfer to a plate, sprinkle with some fine rock salt and enjoy!!

Pimientos de Padron

There are many bars and restaurants in Madrid where you can find Pimientos de Padron. If its from Galicia for sure they will have them. Also many places in and around Plaza Mayor, and near Plaza Santa ana. Some examples are Maceiras restaurant on Huertas. El Rey del Pimiento and El Madroño next to it. Both are in the Plaza Puerta Cerrada just down Calle Cuchilleros from the Plaza Mayor.

El Rey del Pimiento

El Madroño

Although you dont have to go to only these places, I would say its as easy to a place that serves Pimientos de Padron as it is to find the spicy peppers. Every 5th bar or so will have them. 🙂 Enjoy!

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Madrid Tapas Bar – Almacen de Vinos

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Also called Taberna Gerardo this historical bar in La Latina has huge vats at the back, and the smaller ones (above) which used to hold wine that would be poured into casks and sold to the locals. Thus the name, which translated into English is “storehouse of wines.” Now it serves great tapas and a nice variety of Spanish wines. I made the mistake of going on a Sunday afternoon at 3:30 which is already pretty late and it was packed full when we arrived. Weekday evenings afford better service and a more relaxed setting. For tapas they offer a variety of Tostas, which are toasted bread with toppings, (like Canapes) and also some raciones. (but for those you have to go earlier than 3:30 on Sundays.) I was impressed with the selection of wines, and happy that they had a Txacoli, a young white from the Basque Country. Below you can see a list of some of their white and rosés offered by the glass.

 

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 The only thing is that there is not a good air conditioning system (a fan in the window) and the bottles are all stored upright in the hottest part of the bar, so if you are a purist for those things you can make the trip down here to one of the oldest neighborhoods in Madrid, a neighborhood which hasn’t changed much in the last 70 years, enjoy a wine and some tapas in an authentic atmosphere, and complain about it.

 

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The Almacen de Vinos is on Calle Calatrava, 21 in Madrid. Metro Stop: La Latina.

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Tapa of the Week #10 – Your average tapa

After a busy month I’ve finally found some time to write, and to share some recent pictures! A couple weeks ago, remembering to take along my camera, I joined some friends after work at a little hole in the wall bar just off Fuencarral, not far from Gran Via. We hastily ordered pimientos de padron which disappeared before I could remember to take a picture. This is the real challenge of TapasTalk. To actually get pictures before the food is devoured by my friends. Ok, ok, I am guilty too! Along with the first “cañas” that we ordered, we were served this little plate, a salad kind of tapa. Its got some boiled ham chunks, cucumber, onion, tomato, olives, potato and its doused with white wine vinagre and olive oil. To get served this kind of tapa, go to a place which has those refrigerated glass covered cases on the bar full of food of all sorts. It should be a neighborhood type bar, not one of those cool-looking ones in La Latina. No, go to the side streets, or an area that is not touristy, the bar will probably have some gambling and machines, tacky decorations and napkins strewn on the floor. Think of all that as a tourist deterrent and a way for you to experience typical, everyday life in Spain.

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At the same bar we ordered Patatas Bravas, (with some extra spicy sauce) mmM!

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For anyone wanting to venture in, the bar is on Calle S. Onofre, just between Calle Fuencarral and Valverde near the Gran Via Metro stop in Madrid.

Que aproveche!

Janelle

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Tapa of the Week #9 – Croquetas de Bacalao

Another tapa with cod for this week! Katie over at España Profunda has posted her favorite croquetas in Madrid so to continue the theme, I’m posting mine. Which is better is yet to be tested!

For my favorite croquettes, I go to Casa Labra which is located in the heart of the commercial district in Puerta del Sol. Its a charming little corner of history nestled on a side street in the shadows of the Corte Inglés. One of the historical bars in Madrid, this was the place in 1879 where the Spanish Socialist political party was founded. But if you are like everyone else you are there to have the fantastic “croquetas de bacalao” which are well-known by every Madrileño. At busy times of day, just before lunch and dinner the crowd spills out onto the street. But the lines are fast moving and the staff very attentive and make sure everyone is served quickly.

I was fortunate to remember to snap this picture of the last half of a croqueta before it was too late!

Casa Labra does offer other tapas but most popular are of course the freshly made croquetas and pieces of fried cod. Order them as you enter then after paying for the tapas order your drinks at the bar. The typical drink here is either a caña of beer or vermouth “vermut” which they have on tap. For a non-alcoholic drink order a bottle of Mosto which is white grape juice and is very refreshing for the summer.

Qué aproveche!

Casa Labra is on Calle Tetuan, 12 just next to the Corte Inglés in Puerta del Sol.

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Tapa of the Week #8 – Bacalao Ahumado

Salt cod is found anywhere and everywhere in Spain. And its not even a fish that is found in Spanish waters, but more than any other fish, this one is probably has the most deep rooted traditions attached to it.  Cod in Spanish cuisine arrived back in medieval times, possibly discovered when Basque fisherman went to northern waters to hunt for whales. Basque legends claim they discovered Newfoundland centuries before Colombus set sail and discovered a “New World.” Today the bacalao in Spain comes mostly from fisherman from Scotland and Norway. Once a food for the poor, now bacalao is one of the luxury foods of Spain. And smoked cod is quite the delicacy. The texture is a bit grainier than smoked salmon and the mild, sweet saltiness of the cod seems to melt in your mouth. It has a flavor of the sea but not fishy.

So on your quest for bacalao ahumado you could try one of my favorite little wine bars on Cava Baja in Madrid, La Concha. They serve interesting Spanish wines by the glass and tapas that are pleasing both to the eye and palate. Below is their Canapé de Bacalao Ahumado with small (delicious) fruit for decoration, a balsamic reduction design on the plate, olive oil and paprika sprinkled over the top. A flavorful work of art!

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La Concha

Address: Cava Baja, 7

Tel. 91 365 0551

Click here for a map including other bars in the area

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