Tag Archives: Spain

So Fresh!

16 Mar

It is currently 18 degrees Celsius in London (that’s 65 degrees for you Neanderthals using Fahrenheit). In March. The winter is over! Hurray! But rather than concentrating here and now, this weather makes me think of a trip to Spain T and I took nearly three years ago, a big tour of Spain from Barcelona to Madrid and down to Andalucia to visit Cordoba, Granada, and Seville. 

We both loved Spain. The weather was gloriously hot, the people were friendly but not overwhelmingly gregarious, and the scenery was just stunning. We were having pleasant fantasies of a pied-à-terre in Madrid, where we could go to museums whenever we wanted and have long afternoon strolls in the Retiro…

But there had been been one lingering issue through our trip – the food. And specifically, the vegetables. I could eat my body-weight in seafood if you let me, and the Spanish do lovely things with potatoes and lamb. But after several days of meat-and-carb indulgence T and I were feeling distinctly unwell. So, being sensible, we tried to eat more fruit and veg. But the dishes served in restaurants bore about as much resemblance to plants as a mackerel does to a Goldfish cracker. It seemed the Spanish had never met a vegetable they couldn’t cook to mush and garnish with slivers of ham. Salads were mounds of iceberg lettuce served with corn, cheap tuna, and hard-boiled eggs. They were dishes from decades, before scientists learned that vitamins existed. 

But towards the end of our trip, after a visit to the Alhambra, we decided to forget about Spanish food and went to a pizzeria for lunch instead. And there it was on the menu: ensalada de tomate y aguacate. We couldn’t believe our luck, and were still shaking our heads when it arrived at our table: wedges of tomato tossed with chunks of avocado and whole basil leaves, dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper. It was refreshing and intensely vegetal and exactly what we needed. Pizzas forgotten, we demolished the entire bowl. 

Ensalada de Granada

I’ve tinkered slightly with the original concept, giving it more zest with lemon juice, extra herbs, and a generous sprinkling of spring onion. I understand that there are people that can’t stand raw allium of any kind, but I really, really like the piquancy in salads. 

Serves 2 for lunch

3-4 big tomatoes/1-2 punnets cherry tomatoes, cut into chunks or in half

2-3 spring onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced (you can sub in chopped shallots or red onion, just soak them in iced water for 10 minutes to take away the sulfur burn before draining and adding to the salad)

1 big handful chopped soft herbs (I really love mint and coriander, but you could also play with tarragon, basil, chervil…)

1 Hass avocado (UK readers: DO NOT buy the green-skinned ones from your local supermarket! They are watery and unripenable and generally a crime against the name of avocado. Go to a greengrocer or farmer’s market and look for big plump specimens with black skins. They will be more expensive but they are a sign that God loves us and wants us to be happy.)

1 quarter of a lemon/splash of red wine vinegar

1 big slug of the best olive oil you can get

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Optional but tasty: protein of some variety (I’ve had this with really good Ortiz tinned tuna and hot smoked salmon. But you could also add shredded cooked chicken, or fresh mozzarella for a veggie option, or even just good canned chickpeas if you’re vegan, though I’d season more generously with the chickpeas because they’re quite earthy.)

Put the tomatoes, spring onion and herbs in a salad bowl. Add your protein of choice Cut the avocado into fat chunks and put it in too. Add your acid, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Mix, check for seasoning, serve!