Potato salad – a Spanish regional speciality? Really?
Ask anyone to rattle off a few Spanish delicacies and the results will be fairly predictable – gazpacho, patatas bravas, tortilla, paella, boquerones and a preponderance of bull’s bits will all rate a mention.
But take a culinary tour of Andalucia, in the country’s rugged extreme south-west, and the biggest surprise is just how ubiquitous this humble concoction of spud-’n’-mayo’ is, whether in its simplest form or jazzed up with all manner of Iberian goodies such as Iberico ham, bonito tuna, hard-boiled egg or tiny shrimp. The mayo’ might be a near-lurid yellow-green, this being Spain’s largest olive-producing region, or almost pure white, thanks to the addition of egg whites. Don’t be shy -just ask for ensaladilla Rusa – they’re all delicious!
Bespoke travel consultancy Toma & Coe, which specialises in tours of the region, offers a new gastronomic tour – “The Taste of Andalucía”. It’s a foodie adventure which delves into this and many other authentic gourmet delights of the area, which is, effectively, the home of Spain’s two greatest passions besides food and wine – Flamenco and bull-fighting. The tours take place from October 15-21 this year and in spring, 2019.
For starters, figuratively and literally, the region is a paradise for lovers of chilled soups, most famously gazpacho, which comes in both the classic pink emulsion of blended tomatoes, cucumbers, onion and green pepper served ice-cold, garnished with chopped hard-boiled egg, and the white version – ajo blanco, a startlingly white chilled soup based on garlic and almonds, traditionally topped with peeled green grapes and a few dots of olive oil.
By now, we are well aware of just how surreal some of modern Spanish cuisine’s offerings can get and this trip’s top prize has to go to the slightly mind-boggling but unctuously-satisfying pairing of marrowbone with prawn tartare served at Malaga’s Cosmopolita.
Andalucia, the most populous and second largest of Spain’s regions, is the only European province with both Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines. And boy, do local chefs take advantage of their vast harvest. You’ll find fish both familiar and not, but it’s the local shellfish which is the real prize – juicy and sweet, as only just-yanked-from-the-briny creatures can taste. If you really want to push the boat out (sorry!), look out for carabineros, the scarlet prawns closer in size to small lobsters, better-tasting and, at around £13.00 each, just as luxurious – but a couple should do you. The most delicious we taste is at Almocabar in Ronda, an intimate gourmet establishment in the shadow of the old city walls.
Taste of Andalucia also takes in the Cadiz coast is regarded as one of the world’s tuna capitals, with fish so fine a large proportion of the bluefin variety is flown to Japan to be used in sushi and sashimi. Similar accolades are regularly handed out to Andalucian olive oils, while sherry, whose home is Jerez, has recently managed to throw off its fusty image and found a younger fan-base. They discover in the region’s tapas bars that there’s simply nothing better to wash down a piled-high plate of mixed fried fishy things, a few artichoke hearts braised in oil or a platter of properly-cut (small shards, not resembling bacon slices, with shiny yellow fat – the best bit!) jamon Iberico, the latter of which tour guests will taste first-hand from a master cutter in the beautiful hilltop town of Ronda.
Whether you’ll want to take home a whole leg of the finest grade will depend on your access to about £700.00!
Other highlights of the tour include an artisan goat’s cheese workshop in a pretty hilltop town outside Malaga and a day’s cooking with Annie from Annie B’s Spanish Kitchen, one of Spain’s top-rated culinary schools, starting with visits to Barbate fish market in Cadiz. Ronda is a gourmet highlight, with a stop to eat at El Muelle de Arriata, an old station house outside the city, as well as Almocibar.
The tour also visits bodegas in Jerez and the Sierra de Ronda, a picturesque area known by aficionados for its excellent boutique wineries – with tastings, naturally – and olive oil mills in the ancient towns of Antequera (where you can actually eat in a bullring) and Archidona, located at the heart of Andalucía, featuring tasting with a professional sommelier and producer of award-winning olive oil in an olive grove on a private Andalucian Cortijo (estate).
Accommodation in Malaga, Vejer de la Frontera, Ronda and Antequera, is in hand-picked boutique hotels, full of character and in beautiful locations.
Tell me more about a Taste of Andalucia
· Taste of Andalucía Tour: 6 nights/7 days. Starts and finishes in Malaga
· Price is from €2,886 per person based on a group of 8 in double occupancy and excluding flights. Single supplement applies.
+34 650 73 31 16