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La Parranda Restuarant, Murcia

16 Mar

If you follow my blog, you will know we had a trip up to Murcia a couple of Saturdays ago.  We crammed some shopping in, but more important than shopping is of course, eating and drinking!  Murcia for us is pretty much undiscovered, and as Spain’s 10th largest city, there is quite a lot to discover both culturally and cuisine wise.  As we were in one of the familiar parts to us, i.e. around the Cathedral and old town, we went for the third time to our favourite restaurant, La Parranda.

La Parranda restaurant frontage

We first discovered it about 5 years ago when we stayed overnight on our way to Valencia for a little city break.  We could see La Parranda from our hotel bedroom window in the Plaza San Juan amongst several other rather marvellous looking places.

 

The are about 4 or 5 and I would be happy to go into any one of them – they have tables outside with patio heaters in the winter time and fabulous displays of trugs or glass vases containing  vast amounts of tomatoes or aubergines – they are quite stunning.

Outside eating area - beautiful in Spring and Summer

Anyhow, the thing about La Parranda is that when you order your first drink, you are treated to a bowl of big fat olives along with the biggest potato crisps you have ever seen in your life, and we loved this gem of extravagant bar snacks that we just feel the need to go there on every trip.  I think La Parranda comes from the verb Parrandearse, to go out on the town but I could be wrong!  Cheap it is not, but sophisticated it is, and we are not talking London prices either.

Olives and big crisps

We decided to stay at the bar, on high stools and around tall round tables, and order from the tapas and racion menu (Racion is a more substantial portion than a tapa, and often enough for two or three of you to share).  We had boquerones (anchovies) on toast, peppers stuffed with salt cod, morcilla (black pudding), grilled pork loin in tiny baguettes, meltingly tender, a huge salad of the most delicious green tomatoes that you get here, with hearts of palm – I can’t remember whether we had anything else to eat, but the menu is pretty vast just in the bar area.

One of the tempting salads

With a few drinks the bill came to 50 euros with a tip for three of us – I imagine it would be double the price in London. Each time I eat really authentic and posh Spanish food, it inspires me to get out my Spanish cook books and be a bit more inventive rather than sticking to the things I know and am confident cooking.

 

Next time we are in this area of Murcia, though, I think we have to have a drink and a snack in each of the other restaurants in Plaza Juan – they all look worthy of a peak inside.

La Parranda telephone number: 968 220 675

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pancake Day

8 Mar

We are going out tonight for dinner and so we won’t be having our normal Shrove Tuesday pancakes, so I thought, well why not have them for breakfast?  Apparently only one in 10 of us know how to make them (which I find very hard to believe!) so in case any of you feel like giving them a try when you get home tonight, I have written out a simple recipe for you.  There is one essential ‘ingredient’ though – you must have the right size frying pan – if it is too big you simply won’t be able to manage the flipping part and they will just shred and you will be all hot and bothered with nothing to show for it!  So, get yourself a good solid little frying pan – the one I use is 19 cm (7and a half inches) and is perfect.  So, here goes

Enough for 4 people

4 oz plain flour

2 Eggs

7 fl oz milk mixed with 3 fl oz cold water

pinch of salt

A couple of tablespoons of melted butter

To serve

Lemons and caster sugar

or

Maple Syrup

Everything you'll need

Sieve the flour and salt into a mixing bowl with a hand whisk (or use a fork if that is all you have) break in the eggs and mix in and then gradually add the liquid – you want to end up with a consistency of thin cream.   Then add a tablespoon of the melted butter.   Make sure it is all nice and smooth before you start cooking.

Perfect batter

Take your pan and put it on the heat and put a little melted butter in the pan.  Swill it around and then tip the residue back into your melted butter bowl.

Now, you must have the pan very hot – normally I throw my first pancake away (I think everyone does) as you need one to start off with and to get used to the quantity of batter that you pour in for each one.  I find half a ladle spoon full is fine for this size of pan, maybe even a little less; it just needs to cover the bottom of the pan without being translucent.   As soon as the batter hits the pan, swirl it around to coat the bottom completely – don’t worry if it is thicker than you would like, practice makes perfect and it will still taste good.

Golden brown

Then with a round ended knife after about a minute or so, just go around the edge of the pancake and loosen it all the way – if it is a little sticky in the middle underneath, just gently prod with the knife and shake the pan – then you can have a go at flipping it over – if you can’t then just carefully lift it over with your knife and cook the underneath for another minute or two.  Slide onto a warmed plate and let everyone squeeze their own lemon wedge and sugar or simply drizzle with maple syrup.  Add a little more butter to the pan and tip out again for each pancake.  You will become more proficient with each one.  Have fun and enjoy!

Murcia

6 Mar

It’s Saturday and we have decided to go a bit further afield for a change – it seems the only way to get time off properly here is to leave the house and just let all the usual weekend chores wait.

 

Murcia is only an hour and a half away and is Spain’s 10th largest city.  It is straight up the motorway so very easy to get to and so long as you leave early enough time to get an hour or two’s shopping in before the shops shut at two you don’t have to start out before 10.30 or 11 in the morning.  The other option, of course, is to get there at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, go and have loads of tapas or a proper lunch and then go shopping at 5.30 pm.  Anyhow, we like to go early, mooch around the shops, with a coffee halfway, and then go for a leisurely lunch before leaving in the late afternoon.

Shopping in Murcia

You really need four or five visits to Murcia to really acquaint yourself with the city as with any city, there is a lot to see and do and because it is quite close, rather than tire yourself out with one long exhausting day, it is better to select something in particular to see or do and then have a meal, either lunch or dinner and plan another day out to see something else.   Actually if you are used to London, then Murcia does not seem that large and therefore, is quite undaunting.  If you live where we do, then shopping is quite high on the list of priorities and so I am very happy to wander not down the main shopping street in search of Zara or Corte Ingles but rather seek out the smaller, more exclusive shops in the old town, near the cathedral.  There are a selection of gorgeous designer shops, more for girls than boys it has to be said, all hidden away in narrow little streets, punctuated with coffee shops and bars to sneak in and have drink and maybe a tapa or two knowing that lunch is a couple of hours away.

Real Casino

It is quite chilly today and so the thought of disrobing and trying stuff on is not very appealing, but I look at beautiful dresses  and imagine myself with a tan and plan to come back soon for a big trying on session.

 

Many of the interesting bits of Murcia are set quite close to the river and therefore, with a map, once you park, it is a fairly easy city to navigate.  We really only did the shopping bit, the Cathedral Square, and then headed off for a fantastic lunch of tapas in what I believe is one of the best restaurant squares in Murcia.  But we are already planning our next day out to visit the fabulous concert hall and congress centre amongst other things, situated a bit further up the river, and the botantical gardens to the west, and obviously to search out more fantastic places to eat!

 

 

Osteria Restuarant, Mojacar

2 Mar

Today is Mick’s birthday – and his mum, Sadie’s.  What a birthday present!  Although Sadie always says she couldn’t have wished for a nicer one.  Anyhow, Sadie is with us for a couple of weeks which we planned so that they could spend their birthday’s together which they do every couple of years.  It is lovely, they are very close and it is wonderful to watch them enjoying each other’s company.  So today Mick took a very rare midweek afternoon off so that we could go out for lunch – our friends Mike and Gill came along too.  We have known about Osteria for ages – it is an Italian restaurant on the way up to Mojacar Pueblo and we have heard nothing but good things about it but somehow, we always seem to end up going somewhere else.

 

So we arrived at 1.30 ish and had drinks at the bar.  Immediately, we liked the place – airy, tables not too close to each other and a very bright interior on a sunny day such as today.

Happy Birthday Mum!

The menu was very varied and large but not scarily so.  It does need a bit of concentration though so you need to stop the chit chat and give it a bit of time.  All restaurants here have a menu del dia for around 10 euros for three courses excluding drinks and Osteria is no exception.  There is plenty to choose from and really one could come here a couple of times a week on that basis.  The a la carte is extensive – no pizzas on this menu though, but plenty of fantastic pasta dishes, a huge variety of starters, salads, carpaccio, gnocchi, deep fried goats cheese to name a few.  Then a couple of dozen main courses, mainly veal, steak, chicken or lamb, pasta of course, and today’s fish was a beautifully presented swordfish.  By the time dessert came I was completely full but again, there were plenty of delicious things to choose – profiteroles, tarts, fruit salad – the usual kind of Italian fayre.

 

Today, although a mild high 60’s we ate inside, but in a month or so we will definitely come again and eat on the pretty terrace outside.

 

If you dine a la carte, expect to pay 30 euros per head with wine for two courses, but as said, you could easily get away with 20 per head for the menu del dia three course lunch with drinks and coffee.

 

Absolutely worth a visit.

Osteria telephone number: 950 615 151

 

 

Nijar

11 Feb

On Saturday, we took a drive to the Cabo de Gata to have lunch at our favouite beach, Agua Amarga.  It is under an hour’s drive and a little further afield than one would normally go perhaps, but we love it here so much it is always worth it.  Somehow, it doesn’t seem very Spanish at all – it is a small curved bay, rather than the usual beaches in Spain that stretch for miles and miles – it is a little jewel in this region and one of  Spain’s blue flag beaches.   It was once a tiny fishing village, but it seems now that people from all over europe have holiday homes here to get away from it all.  Remote and sleepy it is and the only month when it is packed is August, but then it is full of life and all the beach restaurants are busy with people in the holiday mood. The film Sexy Beast was filmed here – you can spot the villa on the left hand side as you drive into the village.  I am always tempted to knock on the door and ask if I can have a look around!

If you do plan a day out at Agua Amarga, it is a good idea to get up and go early, as on the way is the beautiful pottery town of Nijar and so it makes sense to do the two trips in one.  Go shopping for fabulous (and cheap) pots, cups, bowls, jugs galore.  Wander the length of  the main street for an hour or so and shop, have a coffee and then pile back into the car for the short drive from there to Agua Amarga.  Head up the motorway on the way there, but make sure you come back via the scenic route for some spectacular scenery.

Pita Christmas tree

12 Dec

Well, it is my favourite time of the year (as you may know!) – it is a week until my family come (poor Mick) so it is up with the decorations this weekend.  Christmas trees here are not the same as in the UK – they don’t have that fantastic smell for a start and are hideously expensive.  Outside, there are hundreds of Cacti – one kind is called the Pita – it is like a huge asparagus shooting out of a ginormous blue cactus plant – it is like being in Land of the Giants.  When the plant sends up this shoot, it grows to about 15 feet or more and flowers and is just quite amazing.  However, sadly after this happens and the seeds drop or are carried away by the wind or by birds, the entire thing dies.  Brilliantly, though, they make a beautiful and different kind of Christmas tree.  Entirely green in everything but colour.  Mick chopped one down yesterday and last night having potted it and put it in situ we decorated it.   Two sets of my lights don’t work (why is that?) so will be buying more tomorrow but in the meantime here it is.

 

Have a look and see what you think.

Oh Christmas tree, or is it?

 

Pear and Nutella pie

10 Dec

I’m in a bit of a hurry today – I had to go to Turre to order the Gammon for Christmas and whilst I was there went to one or two other good shops there.  It is half an hour away so I was gone for a couple of hours.  I rushed back to give our carpenter, Graham, lunch with Mick, have a quick tidy up and make supper for Graham’s family who are all joining us tonight.  I felt myself running out of time and so whenever that happens I make a pie for dessert – just always lovely, warming and cosy and dead easy.  Sometimes though I feel the need to make something up and so today have used pears rather than apples which for some reason, always get a bit forgotten in pies.  I just don’t know why though – once you have used them, I guarantee you will use them again – they are just divine, need little sugar and no pre cooking.

 

So here is my recipe for a pie to serve 6 large portions –you will knock it up in no time at all.

 

For the pastry

 

I always use more than recipes state as there never seems to be enough for the top otherwise!

 

12 oz plain flour

6 oz cold butter

Splash of water

Pinch of salt

 

If you have a food processor so much the better –my mum and sister have lovely cool hands – but not me and so a food processor is essential for me!

 

Put the flour, cubed butter and salt in the food processor and whiz it up until it becomes like breadcrumbs – then with the whizzer still going, pour in a little water at a time, not too much, until the mixture comes together to form a dough (about 2 or three tablespoons should be enough).

 

Then chill the dough for 20 minutes.

 

For the filling

 

6-8 pears (I like proper deep filled pies!)

Nutella chocolate spread put in the fridge

Ground Almonds

A bit of Demerara sugar

 

While the pastry is chilling, peel the pears, quarter them, core them and then slice each quarter into 2 or three slices and continue until they are all done.

 

Take a fluted flan tin with loose base, and brush with butter.  Pre heat oven to 220 degrees c, 425 f or gas mark 7.

 

 

Roll out your pastry on a surface dusted with icing sugar (better than flour for puds I think) Line your tin and let the pastry overlap.  Put in your pears and then scoop out some dessert spoons of Nutella from the fridge and blob over the fruit.  Sprinkle over some ground almonds (however much you think) and then scatter a little brown sugar.  Roll out the top, cover and push down around the sides.  Decorate with leaves, brush with milk and a little caster sugar.  Put on a highish shelf for ten minutes and then reduce the heat to 190 c, 375 f, gas mark 5 for around30 mins or until golden.

 

Dust with a little more castor sugar before serving with vanilla or chocolate ice cream.  Yum Yum.

 

Los Pastores Restaurant and bar, Sierra Cabrera

30 Nov

On Sundays, quite often we will arrange a lunch here or meet up with friends and go off for a lovely relaxing afternoon.  This Sunday was a beautiful day – that wonderful blue sky and lots of sunshine that you get here and also in the UK (except that here if the sun is out it is usually T shirt weather, sorry).  Anyhow, we met our friends at the bottom of our track and went off together to Sierra Cabrera, around 25 minutes away.  There are several lovely restaurants there, but the one I like in the winter is the one at the top – Los Pastores, or The Shepherds.  The restaurant occupies part of a Mosque/ church building and there is an adjoining Torreon (tower) which is believed to one of only two examples in Spain (the other tower is in Malaga) and dates back to the11th century.

Los Pastores entrance

The view is exceptional and in winter time you get that kind of alpine air feeling (it is several degrees cooler up here than at our house!).  Today we are wearing jumpers and so can enjoy a drink on the terrace with the spectacular view.  I have booked a table inside, but there are lots of visitors (you can tell as they are all sleeveless!!) who are happily lunching outside in the sunshine.

Beautiful views

The menu here is pretty extensive, delicious and good value.  My friend Gill and I share a starter of tempura aubergine and courgette with a chilli jam dipping sauce.  Mick has his favourite of salt cod fritters (they are fantastic – I make them at home) and Mike has smoked salmon.  Then two of us have roasted shoulder of lamb which falls off the bone, Gill has chicken in white wine, and Mick has a wood oven pizza which looks fantastic!  I am trying to diet so have a bite of Gill’s apple pie which is delicious.  The boys have coffee and cognac and I have an espresso as I am driving us down the mountain!

The bill comes to a reasonable 32 euros including a tip with a bottle of wine, pre lunch drinks beforehand and a glass of white wine for me.

Los Pastores restaurant interior

We are coming here for our Christmas day lunch – just for a change and I must say it will be lovely to have breakfast on Christmas morning, presents and then have Mick drive my parents, Kim and Stuart (my sis and her husband to lunch in our friend Cannon Bennett’s people carrier (he has gone to New Zealand!)  – and then just leave!!!  I will still be cooking a turkey on Christmas Eve of course to have over the rest of the holidays – it wouldn’t be Christmas would it?

Los Pastores Resaurant and bar telephone no : 950 982 585

 

 

 


 

 

 

Rincon del Puerto Restuarant & bar, Garrucha

13 Nov

This is probably our favourite restaurant in Garrucha.  It is fantastic in the summer particularly at night, as you sit right on the water and have the benefit of the sea breeze.  The menu is great – loads of fresh fish as you would expect, big salads, and a great selection of all kinds of shellfish.  They do an all year round trade here, both because of the food but also the superb location.  Sunday lunch in a crowd here is hard to beat – endless platters of food to share over several hours, sitting in the fresh air and not being ripped off!  You can pretty much come here at any time of day – coffee in the morning, lunch, drinks in the afternoon or before or after dinner, or dine up until midnight if you want to.

Great for tapas

If you come and eat at 8 pm you will probably have the place to yourselves – the Spanish in seaside towns don’t tend to do the after work drinks thing as they do in the cities, and as we do in the UK.  Those who work in offices will be at home until 8 ish and then start to go out – have a walk along the promenade with their families and then eat late – no-one really starts work here until 10 am and children are frequently kept out late (even though they have school at 8.30 am!).  All through the winter you can enjoy sitting outside at lunchtime on many days as it is nearly always warm enough as long as the breeze isn’t too strong.  At night time, there is a bar and very smart restaurant inside in which to have dinner – whatever the time of year you decide to visit,  you will be guaranteed a good time.

 

 

Garrucha market

12 Nov

It’s Friday morning and it is the most beautiful day.  I need to get a few things, including a new harness for Digby, our jack russell cross, who has decided to eat his present one.  As it is so glorious I decide to go down to Garrucha as it is market day and there is a pet shop on the way.  The market at Garrucha is probably my favourite because it is right on the street behind the seafront and I love mooching about, buying my fruit and vegetables and flowers, and then meandering down to one of the cafe’s overlooking the sea.

Spices at Garrucha market

The market here is fantastic, and has all kinds of things in the food line – dried cod (bacalao) and smoked mackerel, stalls with dozens of spices, nuts, dried fruit, pulses, gigantic sacks of snacks which you purchase by the kilo and then wonderful fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables.  I always just buy what looks good and then look up a recipe when I get home.  I bought a whole bag of red and yellow peppers today for a euro which usually means they need to be eaten within a couple of days.  No problem as I will make stuffed peppers with the red ones, and then use the yellow to put in some carrot and coriander soup.  I also bought some beautiful little vine tomatoes which I will roast tonight to go with a lovely rib eye steak and some paprika roasted potatoes.

Fish stall at Garrucha market

Everyone looks like they are enjoying themselves in the warm autumn sunshine, although actually it is more like a perfect English summer’s day to tell the truth.  Those of us who live here have our jeans on though-you can spot visitors a mile off as they are amazed that they can wear shorts and T-shirts in the middle of November – and why shouldn’t they?  We are acclimatized and with the sweltering summer gone, 23 degrees feels cool enough for trousers and long sleeved T-shirts!  Shopping done, off I go down towards the port for a well earned break and a cup of coffee!