We love to visit Seville and this time was no exception. However, as we have now visited the city several times we were able to take our time and not rush around the key tourist spots, which were as busy as ever. This time our visit included a trip to a Spanish cooking experience, Taller Andaluz de Cocina, which is based at Triana Market.
The experience began with a short tour around the market, where we learned the differences in the hams that are on sale, and now understand why some is so expensive to buy. The traditional Iberian ham comes from free range black pigs who eat a diet primarily based on acorns, before being cured for approximately 3 years. This is different to the ‘white ham’ which is taken from farm bred pigs, fed a diet of animal feed and the hams are cured for 18 months to two years. I’m not sure that we can taste the difference between the two, if I am totally honest!
We also learned that the market is built on top of what was a castle, the Castillo de St Jorge. This was the home of the Inquisition during the reign of the Catholic Kings and so really isn’t the most enjoyable of experiences. Whilst I love a castle, and I love the history of the Catholic Kings, knowing that this was primarily a castle of torture was a little bit difficult. The tour around the castle is free and was brilliantly done, and I do recommend a visit, but you can’t help but be affected by what happened there.
But the day was mostly about learning how to cook traditional Spanish food. We started by making a salmorejo, a cold tomoto based soup, which is quite possibly my favourite tapas dish, so I was thrilled to learn how to make my own. This was followed by chickpeas in spinach. I have tried this previously in restaurants and it’s not my favourite. I loved making it, the smells in particular were very appetising, but at the end it still didn’t excite me in the way many other dishes have in the past. I’d certainly make it again, to share with friends, but just a few mouth fulls is more than enough for me.
Then on to the paella, they key dish of the morning. We discovered that paella does not include fish, of any kind, nor does it include chorizo and especially not frozen peas. Traditional paella includes just a few key ingredients: chicken, butter beans, runner beans, artichoke, garlic, chicken stock, a little passatta, spanish saffron and spanish smoked sweet paprika. That’s it – besides the rice, obviously. Any other dishes that include ingredients other than those listed above are just ‘ingredients in rice’. Of those ingredients listed, if they are not in season, they don’t get used, so the paella we made didn’t include the butter beans – because they are not currently in season. This is one aspect of cooking and eating in Portugal and Spain, they still eat seasonal foods, they don’t expect strawberries in winter, because they don’t grow and I’m not too sure where in Britain we became so obsessed with having year round foods.
Making the paella was equally interesting. There was no recipe to speak of. There is just a pan. The rivets in the handles are there to help with the measuring. Basically you cook enough chicken to form a ring around the outside of the pan. Then you cook enough of the artichokes and beans to form a second smaller ring inside the chicken. Then you add the passatta, saffron and paprika to the small circle that is left in the centre of the pan. Sort of an advanced version of ‘put what you think’. And then you add the stock and the rice.
And then you add the stock and rice; enough stock to cover the rivets, simmered until its below the rivets; followed by the rice. The rice needs to be as wide as the rivets, and as high as the rivets. Once you have put that much rice into the pan, you mix it all in and leave to cook for precisely 18 minutes. It all seems very straightforward. We bought a small pan and are going to give it a go, but are anticipating a couple of botched attempts on the journey to perfect paella.
As an aside, it is seemingly impossible to make paella in the quantities that you need in restaurants. Evidently there is one company in particular in Spain that makes a good level of profit selling frozen paella to restaurants across Europe. In the majority of restaurants that sell paella, it will be this frozen mix that is served. Some might transfer it into a paella pan for presentation, but it is unlikely it will have been cooked in the pan. Any paella that arrives to your table with peas included has more than likely come from this factory.
Our meal was topped off with a dessert made from lemon sorbet, mint and cava all whizzed together. Very refreshing and a very enjoyable finish to a superb meal.
The cooking experience was definitely the highlight of our visit this time, however, as the weather whilst we were there was fantastic, we were also able to take the opportunity to walk around parts of the city that we have not visited before. The scents from the orange blossom on the trees filled every street with a beautiful smell. We spent a lovely morning walking around the city streets, walked through Parque de Maria Luisa with the stunning Plaza de Espana, along a part of the river side that we have not seen before and ended our walk with a coffee in Lonja del Barranco market. If you visit Seville, this is well worth a visit. Unlike traditional markets, this one sells a huge range of tapas dishes. Each stall cooks and sells a different range of dishes and the choices can be overwhelming at times. Usually very busy, right on the river side with great views and a brilliant spot to sit and watch the world go by.
This time we stayed at Sevilla Central Suites at Fabiola. It was a brilliant location. Quite close to all that we wanted to see and do, however, well out of the main hustle and bustle of the city which meant it was also very quiet. A big advantage was that most of the restaurants we visited were primarily filled with local Spanish people and fewer tourists than we have encountered in restaurants in the past.