The Chippy Restaurant – Vera

30 Dec

Although we get the most amazing fish here, both at the supermarket and in restaurants, what you don’t find very often is really good English style Fish and Chips!  That was until the Millers opened the Chippy, a fantastic, authentic fish and chip shop in Vera, opposite Iceland.

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It is a family run business and Graham, Mandy and their two lovely girls, Daisy and Rosie are always there with a smile and very friendly service.  The choice of fish is as good as any chippy you will find in the UK, always really fresh and beautifully cooked; as well as fish and chips, they do great pies, doner kebabs, battered sausages and also, specialities such as Graham’s hand made sheek kebabs, with mint and yoghurt sauce – just delicious.  If you have something you particularly like, they will do their best to get it in for you – you can call ahead and order, or order personally, and go and do a bit of shopping, or as we do, pop in to the Irish bar for a pint!

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Having a great fish and chip shop locally is a funny kind of luxury – sometimes you just fancy it, or like me, you enjoy a night off cooking now and again but don’t always want to go out for a formal meal.  The fish and chips here are excellent value and a lot cheaper than you would find in the UK!   Incidentally, for those of you who know the Chippy already, they now have tables and chairs inside if you prefer to eat in, great for those of you who live a little further afield.

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Every time you pop into the chippy, don’t forget to give Mandy your email address or telephone number and you will automatically be entered into their monthly prize draw.  Each month somebody wins a free meal for two – it’s just a bit of fun, and anything that is free these days can’t be bad!

They have their own website too, so go to www.thechippyvera.com  for full details of their menu and prices too.  Give them a go, you won’t be disappointed.

The Chippy, Vera telephone number is 667 33 33 61.

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Mediterraneo Restaurant – Mojacar Playa

23 Dec

Ok, this is without question, one of the best restaurants in this region for a menu del dia!  It is situated overlooking the beach, and near the Irish Rover.

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We were taken here a few weeks ago by some friends, and we were so impressed wanted to go again and so we in turn, invited some other friends to join us for lunch.

The restaurant is bright and airy, has a formal restaurant with large windows overlooking the sparkling blue sea – it was a sensational day yesterday, which made it only the better!  On the pavement side, is an enclosed, less formal dining area where you can have drinks, or eat as well.

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The menu del dia offered here resembles a top quality a la carte menu in other restaurants – there is an endless choice of starters, main courses and desserts – all for 10 euros per person at lunchtime and 12 in the evening.  Drinks are all on top as you would expect from this standard of menu.  Alternatively there is a vast choice of rice dishes or perhaps pizza for the younger members of your party!

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Yesterday we chose crunchy prawns (little filo parcels deep fried and served with a honey dressing), fois gras with a fig dressing, and a prawn cocktail which had crab sticks and pineapple pieces on a bed of iceberg lettuce.  All were fantastic.  Sue and I had chuleta de buey to follow – (on the bone steak, utterly divine), our friend, Gordon, had leg of lamb (actually, I have to say this looked a little disappointing, just two medallions which probably was not enough for most men,   so I would recommend the shoulder if you want lamb, as it comes on the bone and is a bit more “gala”!  Mick had an entrecote, cooked medium with a roquefort sauce.

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There is a fantastic choice of fish as well – probably 8 kinds– next time I will have hake.  There are about 10 choices of meat dishes and as said paella etc for those not wanting a three course lunch.

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All main dishes are served with hand cut chips and a small order of perfectly cooked fresh vegetables.  Digby and Kevin, the mutts, had the benefit of the steak bones later!

The desserts are very varied – I am not particularly crazy about puds, so had a gorgeous piece of fresh pineapple;  the others had chocolate brownies, blueberry panecotta and warm apple tart – all were good, even though maybe not homemade.

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With a bottle of house red, three glasses of white and a few soft drinks the bill came to 80 euros with a decent tip – unbelievable value and really good service too.

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If you want to give this lovely eatery a try, do book as both times we have been the interior restaurant has been packed, and the café part pretty busy.

Mediterraneo Restaurant Telephone 950 47 22 68

Biscotti with Almonds and Figs

21 Nov

We love these little festive biscuits with an espresso or coffee morning – they always seem to be a treat to buy from an Italian deli in London, as they seem expensive – but when you look at the ingredients, I suppose they are not really. But I found this recipe somewhere ages ago and have made them for us and our friends ever since and now would just never buy them.  Don’t be afraid of the way the “logs” look when you take them out after the first baking – they look pretty dreadful – but once they are sliced diagonally and then baked again, they look like the ones you buy in the shops (you may say a pointless exercise then, but it is fun to make them –and very easy!)

 

Makes 24-28

 

50 g butter

225g plain flour

150 g caster sugar (I just use granulated!)

pinch of salt

Half teaspoon baking powder

75 g whole almonds with skin (or you can use pistachios) chopped

100 g dried figs, or cranberries would be nice for Christmas, or apricots or cherries work well too, chopped – just use what you like

Zest of half lemon (I use the zest of a whole lemon)

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Pre-heat the ovento 180 c,350 f, Gas mark 4

 

Melt the butter and set aside to cool.  Sieve the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into roomy mixing bowl.  Add the fruit and nuts and lemon zest,  whatever you are using – don’t be tempted to add more than the recipe – it may break up the dough, which is already a little crumbly so stick to the quantities above.  Mix in well together.  Take the melted butter, egg yolk and whole egg, vanilla extract and give it a good old whisk with a fork.  Make a well in the middle of the bowl and add the egg mixture to it.  Stir firmly but take your time, until the mixture comes together in a ball.  I find flour varies and so if it is a little too crumbly, just add the smallish splash of milk until you have something that will come together in a ball – divide the mixture in two.

 

Cover a baking sheet with baking parchment (or brown parcel paper will do if you haven’t got any parchment).  Lightly flour a smooth surface and place one of your biscotti balls on top and then just lightly roll into a 10 cm log, you can just pat each end every couple of rolls to keep it nice and firm, but don’t overdo it or it will fall apart – you don’t want a skinny roll!  Place on the baking tray and then make the other log.  Place them side by side on the tray, leaving plenty of space between them (about 5 cms should do it) as they spread a little.  Bake on the middle shelf for about 35minutes, until golden (but not brown) and firm to the touch.   As said before, these kind of look like flat, gone wrong rock cakes at this point, but trust me on this, you will end up with the real thing!   Just leave to cool on the baking tray and go and do something else for an hour or so!  Turn the oven off.

 

When you come back pre heat the oven to 170c, 325f, Gas Mark 3 and cover 2 baking trays with baking parchment.

 

Using a sharp knife slice the biscotti on the diagonal into slices no thicker than 1 cm each.  Arrange these on the baking tray in a single layer.  Just be gentle and they should slice easily without breaking.  Bake on the middle shelf for around 20 minutes until crisp and  dark golden – keep an eye on them as oven vary and you don’t want them too dark.  You may like to swap the trays around halfway through cooking to ensure an even colour.  Cool and store, or if you are giving away as presents, put into cellophane bags and tie with ribbon.  They do need to be stored in an airtight container and best eaten within a week (this won’t be a problem!).

 

If your attempt fails the first time, stick with it as I promise you, you will have fun making these, they are just great to take to friends with a bottle of wine for after dinner, to have in a tin at home for when people drop by for coffee, or they make lovely tree presents at Christmas time if you package them beautifully,  and they are really easy to make without having a load of ingredients in your cupboard which you will only use once.

Do not be tempted to use self raising flour, or omit the baking powder, small amount though it is!  People forget the cooking is a science and unless you are prepared to experiment 6 times before achieving a good result, my advice is always stick to the recipe where baking is concerned.  Do experiment with the fruit and nuts though.

El Batel Auditorium in Cartagena – Patti Smith

18 Nov

On Friday, five of us went to see Patti Smith at the Congress centre by the harbour in Cartagena.   We love this city, about and hour and a half away from Vera, Almeria and although quite a drive for a night out, it was well worth the effort.  The auditorium itself is quite spectacular, designed by Jose Selgas and Lucia Cano of the Selgas Cano studio of Madrid, and completed only last March, it provides a surprisingly intimate venue within the 18,500 sq m structure.  It is like a vast corrugated warehouse in design, but at night turns iridescent with LED’s from within.  Quite spectacular and beautiful by the water.

 

We went early and our friend, Nevenka kindly drove us as she knew we would like wine with our tapas!  There was a great place right next door to eat which Nevenka had been to before.   We parked outside the restaurant, 100 yards from the venue and tucked into calamari, potatoes with morcilla (black pudding) and chorizo, pork in tomato sauce, baked potatoes stuffed with seafood among other things.  We took full advantage of the fact we didn’t have to drive and had a good few glasses of vino!

We walked over to the concert hall at 9 ish – John and Heidi had booked online so there was no hanging about – our tickets, unbelievably, were 30 euros each – another advantage of being able to see a legend in a smallish Spanish city!  Patti Smith  was just fantastic, yes legendary –and exceeded our expectations – she is, after all, 66 next month, but the voice was still there and the appreciate, mainly Spanish, crowd certainly got their money’s worth.

 

We would thoroughly recommend taking a look on what’s on in Cartegena, as often there are big names playing (Chick Corea being one of them in a couple of weeks – we are tempted to go again).

 

It is well worth staying overnight in the ancient city of Cartagena, check into a reasonable hotel (at this time of year 50 euros will get you a good double room), go for something to eat, see a concert.  Next morning, having done your research as to what you would like to do, visit the recently restored Roman Theatre, the Maritime museum (Cartagena was one of the most important defensive ports in the western Mediterranean), to name just a couple.  You really need to spend half an hour on the internet to get the best out of your visit.  But it is also a great place to just wander around, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the ancient and modern architecture.

It just reminds us of the many fabulous cities that really, are on our doorstep, and sometimes life gets in the way of visiting them!   I urge you to put a date in the diary and go, if only for the day.

 

Padron Peppers with Garlic

17 Sep

If you see these tiny green peppers in the supermarket in the UK, (I know you can buy them in Waitrose), you may think, err, what do I do with these and pass them by.  So next time you see them, put a bag in your basket.  We see them so often here in restaurants and bars, and I cook them at home myself – they are a lovely accompaniment to many dishes, or just on the side with other tapas.

 

They take no time to prepare and are absolutely delicious.  A funny thing though, one in a few dozen is like a chilli pepper so take care!  The rest are mild and tangy when cooked – or you can chop them into salads.

 

Take one bag for 2-4 people

Four or five cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

Sea salt

 

Heat some good olive oil in a frying pan – the Spanish deep fry them, but I just move them around in a small amount of oil, so have a go at whatever you prefer.

 

Throw in the chopped garlic and cook for a minute

Then simply empty the bag of Padron peppers in too, and cook gently for 4 or 5 minutes.

Tip onto a serving plate and sprinkle some good sea salt over

 

Serve with a lovely chilled glass of dry sherry – absolutely gorgeous!

Antas Fiesta

10 Sep

Friday night was the first night of the annual fiesta in the next village to us, Antas.  It is our favourite fiesta as Antas is normally the sleepiest little village, and a place we go to for its little pizza place, but it comes alive during this week and you wonder where all the hundreds of people come from.

 

Everyone is out to have a good time, there are numerous rides for children, and even the operators really look like they are enjoying themselves too (remember this is a country that love children!), dodgems and a couple of scary rides for older kids and generally just loads going on.

 

Being Spain, Fiesta’s don’t really get going until pretty late  – we arrived at 10 pm with children ranging from a year up to 5 years old – they, of course, were delighted at being allowed to go out at this hour and go on all the rides, get balloons and generally have a brilliant time.

 

By 11 pm, we were all hungry (we had given the children their dinner at 7 but we had not eaten) so we managed to bag a table in one of the outside makeshift restaurants – dozens of tables and chairs, crammed in the square, with their grills, outside kitchens and fryers, and ordered fantastic roast chicken and chips, Calamari and drinks along with hundreds of other people.  It is just lovely to see tables full of families, but also lots of the older generation all out for a good old gossip and a good time completely unaware of the time or the noise!

Noise seems to be key at fiesta’s in Spain – not least the, err, singers who appear on the stage which has been put up for the occasion.  I really am not sure whether the locals think they are good (they aren’t) but everyone has a laugh anyway, and waits for the first couple to get up and dance.

After we had had our chaotic, but fun dinner the children wanted to go on more rides.

I had other ideas so whilst they went off to the giant teacup, I headed for the Churros van!  I have blogged about Churros before, sticks of hot doughnut type things, with hot chocolate.  It is only the 4th time I have eaten them though – too scarily bad for you and so very special when you do have them.

 

By this time, it was almost half past midnight and things were in full swing.  However, we were all a bit shattered and so decided to call it a night – we are such amateurs when it comes to staying out late – the Spanish are so used to it, and it is their way of life.  We love joining in though and really living in their world, even if we do have to go to bed early!

 

 

Casa Perela Restaurant & Bar, Murcia

8 Aug

It seems a long time since I last posted something – and it is – but at this time of year there do not seem to be enough hours in the day!  The weather is sensational and it is an outdoor life from July until September!

 

Just before the start of the busy season, early in July, we went with some friends to Murcia for the weekend – we really love to visit, and now know it quite well having been around a dozen times – it amazes me the amount of people who either live here, or visit regularly, who never venture into the city- it is only an hour and a quarter away from us, and I must say we tend to go for the shopping, but even more so for the tapas bars and fantastic restaurants.

 

We did more research for our most recent trip, and in addition to going to our favourite restaurant upon arrival, sought out the best area for the best tapas bars too.  They are all pretty much centred around the old town, near the cathedral, which is great if you are not keen on driving in large Spanish cities as you can find a car park by the river, and just spend all your time walking everywhere with no need to collect the car until you leave!  All the little boutiques and shoe shops are here too (although if you want the bigger shops like Zara, you can still make a ten minute walk to the main shopping street from the Cathedral).

 

On one of our evenings, we decided to have a real tapas evening and go from place to place (having looked up the best ones!).  They really are all concentrated in one area off the Gran Via so it is made all the easier.  Some are really quite sophisticated and, therefore, a bit more pricey (but you do get sprayed with a fine mist of water overhead at regular intervals electronically!  We are a bit behind the times down in Almeria!

 

One of places we went to was one of the older bars in a tiny street with several other more traditional places called Casa Perela in Calle Ruiperez.  It was just fantastic.  There is usually a proper menu too, so you can pick and choose what you want.

 

This one was famous for its wild mushrooms and delicious they were – we had all kinds of little bites, prawns in batter, cheese, jamon and then ended up having two steaks between the four of us – our chef did a little routine of throwing sea salt into the air to season the dish – it was simply divine – great food and a great atmosphere and not expensive.  If you take 120 euros out with you for four – you will be well fed and er, well drunk, if you know what I mean.  Do take the time, or get up the courage to drive to this city – you won’t be disappointed.

Casa Perela Restaurant telephone no.968 935 198

Murcia Food Market

13 Jul

We love Murcia and take every opportunity to go there.  Last week some friends were over from Perth (Australia, not Scotland!) and so we thought we would do a city break with them as they have visited us 3 times already in Almeria.

 

Di, my friend, booked the Rincon del Pepe in the old town, from Oz as she had a bit more time than I – it is one we have been to before (not to stay in, but for their great tapas bar), and Di said it looked the best from a central point of view.

 

Anyhow, I always like to check out the food markets in whichever Spanish city I am in (Valencia’s of course, being the most amazing).  But the one at Murcia offered some very decent looking meat, fish and the usual array of vegetables and fruit – it is one of the things I love about Spain – the availability of lovely fresh produce that has not seen polystyrene packaging or cellophane – you choose exactly what you want, the biggest freshest fish, the juiciest rib of beef (always so much cheaper bought on the bone) and the plumpest peaches and tomatoes.  As we were staying another night and day, I didn’t buy much, just some lovely “doughnut” peaches fromParaguay.

It is all so temptingly laid out in a way that just doesn’t really happen in the UK unless you take a trip to Borough Market in the city of London – but you will find the same kind of food markets in every Spanish village, town and city – they seem to take a real pride in presenting their food and also it is an opportunity to meet with neighbours and friends for coffee, drinks or tapas and make it into a social occasion too!

Moors and Christians Festival, Mojacar

28 Jun

The fantastic Moors and Christians festival in June is not to be missed and certainly helped to put the town of Mojacar on the map.

It’s a noisy, colourful fiesta and celebration where during the processional part of the event seven different armies march through the town.

It starts late in the afternoon and carries on until they have all marched from the top of the pueblo right down to the bottom. Be prepared for lots of bands (great drumming), amazing costumes, horses and this year, camels.

It’s a great opportunity to literally watch the world go by whilst enjoying food and drink from many of the temporary bars and stalls.

The Moors and Christians event celebrates the story of Mojacar’s defeat in 1488 and how the two sides managed to turn the battle into a companionable ‘draw’.

The Christian Kings, as they are known in Spain, were camped on the doorstep of the fortified town.

They had broken through the Moorish lines and sacked the next door town of Vera.

There are activities on the beach part of Mojacar, but the main action, including a medieval market in the main square, is in the village where the fun continues over the weekend with fireworks, live bands, thunder-flashes and musketry.

The final incredible parade takes place on the Sunday evening. Well worth making a note in your diary for mid-June to take this all in. It’s very Spanish and great fun.

Los Angeles Restaurant and Bar, Villaricos

13 Jun

My family are here at the moment and so there is a lot more planning for meals to be done – normally we eat late in the evening either here or at one of our favourite restaurants nearby.  But in the heat, sometimes it is nice to lunch out properly and then know that I can throw a mezze together in the evening.

So, yesterday was such a day.  I gave everyone the choice of going and sitting at a beach side restaurant, or letting me take them to a place that all of us here like to go to from time to time for the menu del dia.  Los Angeles is situated on the road to Villaricos from Puerto Rey direction (go over the roundabout, passed the Repsol Garage on the right and carry on for a minute or two, you will see the little building on the right, with cars usually parked outside.

Los Angeles cool bar terrace

True, there is no view either from the cool terrace where you can happily have a drink, or the cool, immaculate restaurant inside.  However, anyone who goes there will know not to be put off by this fact; the food is exceptional value for money, tasty, good quality and always served with a smile.  The owners are charming and nothing is too much trouble.

There is always lots of choice on the menu del dia, always including a great fish dish, stew of the day, or pasta dish among other things,  and for 10  for three courses (pudding OR coffee) including half a bottle of wine, a beer or any other kind of drink included you simply can’t go wrong.  For an additional few euros you can choose rack of pork ribs falling off the bone, or tiny delicious lamb chops – still amazing value for money.  There is an extensive a la carte menu, also good value and a special priced set menu for evenings and Sundays – I think at a cost of 12 euros per head.  Our bill for four came to 48 euros, which included a beer, water and freshly squeezed orange juice (plus the two bottles of wine!) – my father left a hefty tip!

Los Angelesis a great place to go in winter, cosy inside, with robust stews of the day and other warming goodies offered, and beautifully cool inside in the summer.  They clearly have the bums on seats theory but with the quality element uncompromised.

With times being a bit on the tough side for everyone, gone are the days of thinking nothing about spending 30 or more euros a head for a meal without it being a special occasion.  If this describes you, I urge you to try this little gem of a place.  You will not be disappointed.

Los Angeles Bar and Restaurant telephone number: 699 010 705