First up, a few pintxos.
A pincho or pintxo (coming from the verb 'pinchar', meaning to pierce) is a small snack, typically eaten in bars in Northern Spain and especially popular in the Basque country. Traditionally pierced with a cocktail stick, to attach it to the piece of bread that they invariably come attached to.
One of my favourites is the most simple - griddled and charred bread, a ciabatta works well, rubbed with a cut garlic clove and then a cherry tomato or tomato pulp, add a generous drizzle of olive oil. Delicious!
On top of this, you can add a thin slice of manchego and some serrano ham, piercing with your cocktail stick to keep it all in place.
Alternatively, stick a slice of goats cheese on the bread and grill for a few minutes with some halved figs, topping the cheese with the figs and a drizzle of oil and balsamic.
Vary the toppings, fish works well, particularly grilled sardines and prawns. Or try quince, ham and blue cheese, or pork with apple and bean puree.
I also like to serve up a selection of cured meats; here we have jamon iberico, serrano and salchichon sausage dressed with roasted red peppers and rocket.
Gambas pil pil - juicy shell on king prawns with garlic, chilli and paprika. These are divine and I'd happily scoff a whole bowl to myself with just a hunk of bread to mop up the juices.
And so to the main event - I love a mixed paella, I often say I'll try and vary it one time, maybe just shellfish, maybe vegetables and chorizo, but why when you can have the whole caboodle!? This version has chicken thighs (more traditionally rabbit but not so easy to get hold of here); chorizo which oozes its spicy juices in to the oil; prawns, the larger and juicier the better; mussels, again, shell on is preferred; squid, freshly prepared and sliced (including heads of course). Finally, to that is added roasted red peppers, french beans or broad beans.
What's not to absolutely love?
Now, I'm not going to finish there, you have to leave room for dessert of course!
My absolute favourite is a crema catalana, Spain's answer to the French Creme Brulee. The cream is infused with vanilla, cinnamon and (my choice) orange peel, but you can use lemon also. Cornflour is used to thicken then it's left to set in the fridge. Before serving, sprinkle sugar on the top and torch it (or grill if you don't have a cook's blowtorch).
Another choice is this gorgeous tarta de santiago. It is an almond cake originating from Galicia, flavoured with orange and lemon. Wonderfully light and moist, perfect with a cafe con leche!
Dinner's at 8... see you later.