Treasured Slices

Olive oil, I love this fruity golden elixir. Drizzled over my salads, as a condiment , to cook flavourful dishes with… there’s no escaping olive oil in my everyday life. One of my guilty pleasures is to simply pour a good glug of oil into a bowl & plunge in large chunks of fresh crusty bread. More a staple in the Mediterranean diet than a Welsh one, but I’ve slowly developed a great appreciation of a good olive oil owing to travel in Europe over the years (I’ve even perfected the art of packing olive oil bottles in my suitcase, it’s an underrated skill).

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Most recently, I enjoyed a magnificent adventure to Barcelona with my partner in crime (the first of many this year I’m sure), soaking in the sights, colours, smells, sunshine & most importantly…  the flavours! A very eclectic (& huge!) city, Barcelona is both beautiful & fascinating with a mix of old ornate gothic structures, colourful ceramics & modern architecture fused together with a fantastic blend of both city & coastal life. I believe that each of these elements has a part to play in its food. With a fusion of traditional Catalan dishes, hearty dishes, small tapas plates, street food & fine dining it’s a feast for all of the senses.

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One highlight for me & one that truly showcases all that Barcelona has to offer in the world of food was visiting Mercat De La Boqueria, a large covered market located right off La Rambla. A bustling hive for both food lovers & the hungry eyed, I absolutely adore it! During our stay in Barcelona, we visited the market every single day to stuff our faces with as many different foods as we possibly could (we walked the majority of it off).

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One of the greatest colour, sound & smell sensations I’ve ever visited, it was difficult to know exactly where to start… do you follow your eyes, nose or stomach?! With stall holders selling everything from colourful fresh fruits, the widest array of dried fruits & nuts (I’m pretty sure I bought most of these stalls to bring home), beautiful delicate little chocolates (my partner in crime brought most of these home too), flavour-packed cured meats & freshly caught, behemoth seafood. Throw into the mix a few fantastic tapas bars, serving everything from seafood, offal, paella, empanadas & croquettes to crema catalana, mel i mato or beer for breakfast (why not?)… a true foodie heaven!

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Between La Boqueria & some fabulous evening tapas (I would highly recommend El 54 & Vinitus to anyone visiting Barcelona), needless to say we ate very well.  But it wouldn’t be a worthy adventure (or even acceptable) if I didn’t make it my mission to find some good pastisserias. Luckily we were staying in Clot, a small neighbourhood in the Sant Marti district. Not only were we a short walk from Poblenou, a beautiful area with plenty of places for tapas & ice cream, plus it’s right next to the beach, but Clot itself has it’s very own market, beautiful parks, with several bakeries & coffee shops. Tucked away from the main bustle of the city centre, its full of locals & has plenty of good coffee & pocket friendly pastries.

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Some of my favourite baked treats during our visit (this was a tough decision) would have to be:

Pastissets de cabell, an olive oil pastry, encasing a sweet pumpkin jam called ‘angel hair’ jam due to the long, golden fibers of the pumpkin (admittedly, my Spanish isn’t very good so in true tourist style, I took a photograph on my phone of these, which caught my eye in the bakery window, & then proceeded to point at the photograph with the store assistant). 

Coca forner – A sweet flatbread, baked & topped with pine nuts & an aniseed sugar syrup.

Pa de Sant Jordi – A small striped bread baked during April to celebrate Saint George’s slaying of a dragon to save a princess, having become the equivalent of a Spanish Valentines day. The bread is baked in the colours of the catalan flag, with the red striped dough deriving its colour & flavour from paprika & the yellow with Emmental cheese. I simply bought this out of curiosity having no idea what it was & it accompanied a cooling beer rather well!

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In the midst of post-holiday blues, I decided to try & recreate something to spark memories of our trip. After all memories of food are more vivid & sensory than others… the mere smell or taste of a meal or a pastry is capable of painting a much richer picture in your mind than any holiday snapshots. Choosing some of the more prominent flavours of our trip, along with some of our favourites I opted for:

  • Star anise, a subtle but key ingredient in our favourite pastissets
  • Olive oil, something consumed in abundance in various tapas dishes & one of Spain’s specialities
  • Citrus fruits – just like the ones we saw, smelled & tasted at La Boqueria, again another of Spain’s great produce

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The result is a simple, light, fruity cake that evokes thoughts of summer sunshine & our trip to Barcelona. Really simple to make, with very few ingredients, I think this sweet little bundt pays a good homage to Spain.


CITRUS OLIVE OIL CAKE
(makes one 22cm bundt)

Ingredients:

  • 300g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 150 ml olive oil
  • 100 ml milk
  • zest x2 oranges
  • zest x2 lemons
  • zest x2 grapefruit
  • 250g plain flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 4 3/4 tsp baking powder

For the syrup:

  • Juice of 1 grapefruit
  • 1 star anise
  • 70g caster sugar

Method:

  • Grease an 18cm bundt tin
  • In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar & zest
  • Add the eggs, oil & milk to the mixture & whisk again
  • Sift over the flour, ground almonds & baking powder
  • Fold the dry ingredients through the mixture until fully incorporated
  • Pour into the cake tin & bake at 180°c for 1 hour
  • Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes in its tin before removing & placing on a cooling rack to fully cool
  • Whilst the cake is cooling, make the syrup
  • Place all of the ingredients into a small saucepan & warm over a low heat until all of the sugar had dissolved
  • Once dissolved, bring the mixture to the boil for approximately 5 minutes until the mixture thickens & becomes syrupy
  • Remove the cake from its tin & use a skewer to poke some holes in the top before spooning the syrup over the cake whilst it’s still warm
  • Leave to set & decorate with some chopped candied lemon peel or a drizzle of sharp lemon icing

 

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