Barcelona Eats: Part 3

My favourite part of the trip took place in La Boqueria. This place was food heaven for me. There are a variety of market stalls there from meat, seafood, vegetables and fruit. Lots of fruit.

I went to La Boqueria on two occasions. On the first day, I tried the fresh fruits, fruit juice and some dried fruits. I came across a stall with many dried fruits, such as apples, mangoes, strawberries, pineapples, bananas. I can honestly say that I dried pineapples are my new favourite snack. No added sugar, but they retain a lot of sweetness. You’d think you’re eating candy to be honest.

The fruit stalls are vast and the pricing is cheap compared to London. You can get a fresh cup of fruit juice for a little as €1.50 if you search hard enough. The same goes for bowls with chunks of fruit such as pineapples, dragonfruit, kiwi, mangoes, strawberries and more. Search hard and you’ll find a bargain.

There are also hot food stalls where you can have anything from paella and empanadas, to churros and pancakes. The options are endless.

And then they have spices from all over the world. But one thing I had to get my hands on was the king of all spices. Saffron. And Spain was the perfect place to buy it from.

The second day at the market was for tackling some savouries. I tried a spinach and cheese empanada which was great; spinach and cheese being one of my favourite combinations. I had some tasty vegetable croquetas as well – it was actually my first time trying these and I wasn’t disappointed at all.

The meal of the day however, was the paella from Ramblero de la Boqueria. Again, this was my first time trying this dish. It came with prawns, squid and mussels (my favourite trinity in terms of seafood), all cooked perfectly. I can’t fault this meal and La Boqueria in general.

I’ve booked a cheeky weekend away back to Barcelona, so I’ll be enjoying the food again quite soon!


Barcelona Eats: Part 1

The trip to Barcelona was an eventful one, to say the least. It was originally planned for 4 days, but my best friend and I faced a cancellation five hours before our scheduled departure. The next available flight was in a further two days. I was annoyed at first, but then I realised there’s nothing we can do, so we may as well enjoy the extra two days!

This meant more opportunities to taste the great food of this beautiful city.

After landing early in the afternoon, we decided to go for lunch. We took a short walk to the beach and went along the strip of restaurants on Moll de Gregal. We were stopped by a greeter of one of these restaurants and was convinced to give it a try. I usually read reviews before I try a restaurant, but this time, I was feeling very lax.

Vitaminas Burger & Beach Bar

I ordered the patatas bravas, calamares and a pineapple, apple and ginger smoothie.

Patatas Bravas

It’s hard to go wrong with patatas bravas, so I wasn’t disappointed in what I received. The portion was a good size, and the fried potatoes were served with cheese, paprika and were piping hot. Very crispy and enjoyable, although a tomato/spicy sauce with it would have taken it to the next level.

Rating: 3.5/5

Calamares

As soon as I saw the calamari, I knew never to order it in Barcelona again. Don’t get me wrong, the seafood is fresh, but where was the seasoning on these calamari? The calamari was fried in a batter similar to the ones you get at your local chippy, but the salt wasn’t anywhere to be found. A bland disappointment.

Rating: 1/5

Pineapple, Apple & Ginger Smoothie

On a brighter note, the pineapple, apple and ginger smoothie was amazing. It was so refreshing and definitely saved my meal overall. Since being back in the UK, I’ve been making myself similar smoothies as it was just so tasty.

Rating: 5/5

To summarise: would I return here for food? Probably not. Would I come here for a great smoothie? Definitely.

Overall Rating: 3/5

We’re off to a mediocre start, but I promise, it gets way better! Stay tuned for more posts on my eats through Barcelona!


Vegetable Noodle Soup

A warming, light noodle soup packed with a variety of crunchy and soft vegetables, topped off with a soft-boiled egg.

This dish is definitely a new favourite of mine and is very simple to make. The first time I made it was during winter; evenings were cold and coursework deadlines were nearing fast. After a long day of work, this meal kept the cold away and gave me a much needed boost of energy.

If an egg isn’t for you, try this recipe using a protein of your choice such as chicken or beef.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 200g dry udon noodles
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 700ml vegetable stock (or two vegetable stock cubes dissolved in 700ml of boiling hot water)
  • 50ml mirin
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • Salt to taste
  • 80g spring greens, sliced
  • 120g shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 1 large bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 3 spring onions, chopped
  • 2 large free range eggs (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed chillies (optional)

Method

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Fry the minced garlic and ginger for thirty seconds to one minute. Add the onions and mushrooms, stir and cook for two minutes.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium, then add the mirin and soy sauce. Cook for another minute.
  3. Add the vegetable stock and the spring greens into the pot. Stir and leave to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust salt/seasoning if necessary.
  4. In a smaller pot, boil water and place in the eggs. Boil the eggs for six to seven minutes to achieve a soft yolk. Once cooked, place in cold water to stop the cooking process. Once cooled, peel off the egg shell.
  5. In another pot, cook your noodles according to the packet’s instructions (the brand I used needed only three minutes).
  6. To serve, place the noodles in a bowl, pour over the vegetable soup along with the mushrooms, onions and spring greens. Top with the boiled egg sliced in half, the chopped spring onions and the sliced bell peppers. Sprinkle over some crushed chillies and enjoy!

Spinach & Artichoke Pasta Bake

After watching numerous videos on ‘spinach artichoke dip’ or ‘spinach artichoke bread’, I jumped on the bandwagon and decided to make a spinach and artichoke pasta bake.

Cheese and spinach I love, so that wasn’t a problem. However, I had never tried artichokes until having this dish. I was a little bit hesitant, but after giving this new veg a taste, it made a great addition. I can understand why everyone loves the spinach and artichoke combination now!

This dish is really simple to make and lends from my Turkey and Bacon Pasta recipe. I added vegetable stock, cream cheese, cheddar, and parmesan to make a flavourful and creamy cheese sauce.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 250g pasta of your choice (I used wholewheat fusilli)
  • 150g baby spinach
  • 1 can (400g) artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • 250ml milk
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 vegetable stock cube (I prefer Knorr)
  • 30g grated parmesan
  • 2 tbsp light cream cheese (I used Philadephia Light)
  • 100g grated mature cheddar (use 40g for topping)
  • 1 tsp season-all
  • 1 tsp ground garlic
  • 1/2 tsp paprika (for topping)
  • 1 tsp black pepper (1/2 tsp for topping)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan)/ gas mark 4.
  2. Boil the pasta according to packet instructions, but remove from the heat 2 minutes before the suggested time.
  3. On a low heat, melt the butter in the pan and then add the flour. Stir for 2 minutes until the mixture becomes a smooth consistency.
  4. Pour in a quarter of the milk at a time, then the stock cube, and stir until the mixture blends smoothly.
  5. Add in the cream cheese, grated parmesan and cheddar, and stir until the cheeses melt into a smooth mixture.
  6. Add the spinach, artichokes, season-all, ground garlic, paprika and black pepper into the pan. Stir into the sauce until the spinach wilts. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  7. By now, the pasta should be cooked. Drain and add the pasta to the sauce, stirring until the pasta is covered evenly.
  8. Pour the pasta into an oven dish, top with the cheddar, paprika, and black pepper, and bake for 15 minutes.
  9. Enjoy!
Spinach Artichoke (1)

Tip: If your sauce is too thick, add some milk. If it’s too thin, add more flour and cheese.


Meat-free: Week 16

I’ve made it to week 16!

These last few months have been very interesting. I’ve tried foods that I would have never usually have before: some good, some bad. I’ve also noticed myself leaning towards one particular type of cuisine.

Weeks 5 – 8 saw myself going for a variety of seeds/grains/pasta such as:

  • Bulgur
  • Brown rice
  • Couscous
  • Quinoa
  • Wholewheat pasta
  • Wild rice

Bulgur or couscous would be used in a stir-fry along with soy sauce, and vegetables such as peppers, onions and mushrooms.

I’d cook quinoa and mix in vegetables similar to the above, but top with feta or halloumi, and a squeeze of lemon or lime for some freshness.

Brown rice with a stew or curry was one of my go-to’s. Otherwise, I’d have a mix of brown rice and wild rice with stewed or roasted vegetables.

Wholewheat pasta was used to make delicious pasta bakes, topped with cheese of course.

I was also trying to find a vegetarian burger at this point – not the burgers that only have a portobello mushroom as the ‘patty’. I’ve tried the falafel type burgers – one from a restaurant, and one at home – and surprisingly, they were heavy. Flavour was there, but it was a mission trying to finish them.

Weeks 9 – 15 I explored Indian food. Before removing meat from my diet, I only had Indian food once in a blue moon. But, if I was to order out on a Friday from an Indian takeaway, I’d go for a Chicken Dhansak.

Now, I’ve had many dishes that include ingredients such as spinach, paneer, potatoes and lentils. Indians really do make vegetarian dishes taste great!

Despite the variety of food, week 16 saw the temptation for meat come in. I’m actually starting to miss it now. I gave in and tried a vegetarian sausage, thinking it would taste nice. It tasted like cardboard. Safe to say I’m never having that again.

I wonder how long this can last because… I could really do with a good burger right now.


Quinoa, Stir-fried Vegetables & Feta Salad

I was in the mood for having ”super grains” after having some from the cafe at work a few weeks ago. It was a quinoa, sultana and almond salad. Of course, I picked out the sultanas (it’s a texture thing), and just had the quinoa and almonds, along with some lettuce, onions and tomatoes. It tasted great.

Sometimes I get bored of having the typical rice, pasta, or potatoes, so quinoa was a good change. Also, my rice cooker broke mid-week, and I can’t be asked to sit in the kitchen to watch over brown rice cooking on the stove after work everyday.

The thought of having to wait for my stainless steel pot to soak in soapy water for at least an hour before being able to wash up, made my head hurt. I really have to do the dishes before eating, or it just feels wrong!

If I could make something in bulk just once, and refrigerate it, I’d be content. Old rice just doesn’t sit well with me, unless I’m stir frying it. I was hoping to find a tasty dish with inexpensive ingredients, so I had a browse on BBC Good Food.

I came across this amazing recipe by Sarah Cook, and gave it my own spin.

Serves 5

Ingredients

  • 250g quinoa
  • 3 large bell peppers, cut into chunks
  • 1 large courgette, sliced into ~ 5mm thick semi circles
  • 1 large red onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 vegetable stock cube (I prefer Knorr)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp season-all
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 150g feta cheese, cubed
  • Parsley, chopped (optional)

Method

  1. Follow the packet instructions for cooking the quinoa, but add in the vegetable stock cube and stir. Drain once cooked and separate the grains using a fork.
  2. In a pan, heat the olive oil over a medium/high heat, then add in the chopped onion, bell peppers, courgettes, paprika, chilli flakes, season-all, and black pepper. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes until the vegetables start to soften.
  3. Once the vegetables are cooked, add them to the quinoa.
  4. Add the lemon juice and feta cheese, and stir until well combined.
  5. Serve into a bowl and top with roughly chopped parsley.
Bulgur veg and feta salad
I tried this meal with bulgur wheat as well, and it tasted just as great!

Baby Potatoes with Roasted Vegetables

It was one of those days where I had to throw something together in a short space of time. I gave myself a pat on the back for not succumbing to getting a takeaway.

Anyway, this quick fix consists of baby potatoes, peppers, onions, courgettes, and cheese. The cheese of choice on this particular day was Gouda as I wanted something mild and mellow. I also kept the vegetables large and chunky.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 500g baby potatoes, halved
  • 50 – 70g Gouda, sliced into small pieces
  • 2 large bell peppers, cut into chunks
  • 1 courgette, sliced
  • 1 large red onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp season-all
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C (180°C fan)/ gas mark 6.
  2. In an oven proof dish/tray, add the bell peppers, courgettes, red onion, olive oil, paprika, garlic powder, season-all, and black pepper. Give it a mix and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Toss half way.
  3. While the vegetables are roasting, cover the potatoes with cold water in a pot and bring to a boil over high heat on your stove. Reduce the heat so the potatoes simmer for 10 – 15 minutes until tender.
  4. Drain the potatoes in a colander, and take out your roasted vegetables from the oven. Add the potatoes to the oven dish/tray and mix with the vegetables. Top with chunks of Gouda (or a cheese of your choice), and place back into the oven for a few more minutes until the cheese has melted.
  5. Enjoy!

Meat-free: Week 4

Four weeks have passed since giving up meat/fish. It has been fun, but I can’t lie, that first week was a struggle. Here are some quick dives into some of my experiences so far.

Fatigue hit hard

The first week as mentioned, was a struggle. Now surprisingly, it wasn’t because I was craving any meat/fish, it was because of the lack of energy I had. When I still had time off work for the Christmas & New Year break, I could easily take an afternoon nap to rejuvenate. As soon as I was back at work however, it was a mission staying awake.

tenor

If I didn’t get up and take walks, I would have knocked out on my desk. That would have been absolutely shambolic.

Snacking increased

For these first four weeks, some of my meals felt incomplete. The cravings for savoury snacks were something else. Plantain crisps were definitely my go-to (shout out to Asiko). A couple of changes to some meals have gradually curbed these cravings.

Lunch got a lot more interesting

Before 2018, my lunches for work weren’t very inspiring. It would either be some sort of sandwich or a boring salad. Now the challenge of having no meat forces me to be more creative with food, so that I can get the right amount of nutrients.

Pulses are key

So I don’t like many types of beans, let’s get that clear. But lentils and peas? Love them. Before scrapping meat/fish, I’d never actually tried lentils. Not only are pulses an alternative to regular ol’ rice, but they are great sources of protein, iron, and fibre.

Speaking of fibre…

I noticed that the number of bathroom breaks went up.

Need I say more?

tenor (1)

Overall, this challenge has started off quite well, despite the initial hurdles. I haven’t missed the taste of meat (yet), but we’ll see how long that lasts.

Now to conquer February.


Roasted Chicken & Vegetables

Give your leftover vegetables some love with this flavoursome oven dish that won’t break the bank. Carrots, bell peppers, and onions are items that I always have lying around, which form the bulk of this meal. I will be trying this recipe with other vegetables such as sweet potatoes, parsnips, mushrooms, courgettes… The list goes on!

Serves 4

320 kcal per serving

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken quarters
  • 1 large red onion, cut into chunks
  • 3 bell peppers, cut into chunks
  • 8 carrots, cut into chunks
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp season-all
  • 1 tsp ground garlic
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground ginger

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 220°C (200°C fan)/ gas mark 7.
  2. In a large oven proof dish, place in the chicken quarters. Season with the season-all, garlic, paprika, ginger, soy sauce and chilli flakes.
  3. Add in the carrots and bell peppers. Spread evenly in the pan in between the chicken.
  4. Squeeze the juice of 1 lime over the chicken and vegetables, and add 2 tbsp of hoisin sauce as well.
  5. Place in the oven for 20 minutes.
  6. After the 20 minutes, take out the oven dish and turn the chicken. Add the red onion into the dish.
  7. Squeeze the juice of the remaining lime over the chicken and vegetables, and add the rest of the hoisin sauce. Adjust seasoning where necessary, then cook for a further 20 minutes.
  8. The food should now be ready to cook. Eat the chicken and vegetables on its own, or have it with a bit of rice or cous cous for an extra filling meal.

Turkey & Bacon Pasta

This meal has become quite the go-to. All made in one pan/pot, and is super easy – just be ready to chop up some meat and veg. I have tried this meal with various combinations of turkey, chicken, bacon, and pancetta – they all work great. If you want an extra punch in the cheese sauce, add some grated mature cheddar. The recipe below focuses on the natural sweet and nutty flavour of parmesan, which I love.

Serves 4

460 kcal per serving

Ingredients

  • 250g pasta of your choice (I use penne, or fusilli)
  • 300-350g turkey breast steaks, sliced or diced
  • 150g diced bacon
  • 250ml milk
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • 1 large red bell pepper, sliced or diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 large handful of spinach
  • 1 tbsp season-all
  • 1 tsp ground garlic
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Method

  1. Boil the pasta according to packet instructions.
  2. Heat 2 tbsp of oil into a large pan on a medium-high heat.
  3. Add the pieces of turkey breast steaks, bacon, bell pepper, season-all, paprika, ground garlic, and black pepper to the pan, and fry for 6-8 minutes. Once cooked, remove the turkey and bacon, but keep the juices in the pan.
  4. On a low heat, melt the butter in the pan and then add the flour. Stir for 2 minutes until the mixture becomes a smooth consistency.
  5. Pour in a quarter of the milk at a time, and stir until the mixture blends smoothly.
  6. Add in the grated parmesan and stir until the cheese melts and the mixture is smooth.
  7. Add the diced tomato, spinach, bell pepper, turkey, and bacon back into the pan. Stir into the sauce until the spinach wilts. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  8. By now, the pasta should be cooked. Drain and add the pasta to the mixture.
  9. Serve your turkey and bacon pasta with a sprinkling of black pepper, and a few extra shaves of parmesan.