When researching Barcelona, a partner at my company recommended taking a cooking course. Because we were traveling with my sister, who loves to cook, as well as little, who is always up for helping in the kitchen, this idea made perfect sense. What a truly unique way to experience culture – a food and market tour followed by a cooking class.
Honestly, there are so many highly rated classes the only reason we chose Barcelona Cooking School (BCS) was the fact that they charged half price for kids. At about $75-$100 a lesson per person, it was a significant savings.
The class started with us meeting in the BCS offices right on La Ramba, where we were introduced to Chef Lalo and we headed to the famous La Boqueria market. La Boqueria is on the site where there was a monastery at one time with the market being on the boulevard of La Ramblas, but it all moved indoors to the current space in the 1800s. Our chef admitted that most avid foodies, chefs and locals do not shop there, as it is expensive compared to other local markets. But the location is great and many folks that live in the immediate area do frequent it for quick shopping.
We started with the market tour, where Lalo brought us along to pick peppers, fresh eggs, herbs, jamon (ham), and seafood – we bought mussels, prawns, cuttlefish and baby clams. He pointed out how to determine the best and most fresh fish and how to ask for origin labels to ensure shellfish was coming from the Mediterranean or fish from the north sea. We took mental notes of where the peppers and Spanish saffron was the least expensive so we could pick some up after class.
One beautiful thing about the market is the fresh fruit. Gorgeous fresh juices lined stalls for only a euro or two while cups of berries, dragon fruit and mangos sat in ice. Little picked mango and kiwi juice and watermelon juice. Chef explained to us that much of the fruit was greenhouse or out of season, except the mangos. He also showed us the foraged fruit area – tiny fresh berries – as well as the wild meat section, with rabbit, pheasant and grouse hanging. He showed us the difference in the color of meat when something is fed with grain, corn, free range and wild, which comes into play with Iberian ham, which is free range pork fed on acorns. This wasn’t for the weak of heart; there were many tongues, testicles, and lamb heads in the cases.
Once in class, we were given our tasks and instruction. Little was put on duty for dessert and Chef taught him to make Crème Catalan, a kind of crème brulee. We worked on a soup while others in the class cleaned seafood for the Paella and prepped ingredients for a Spanish omlette. BCS did a wonderful job with little; he was given real responsibilities – crack eggs and extract yolks, mix, use the torch to caramelize – all under the instruction of a professional but treated like a real contributor.
When we were done with our cooking, the 8 attendees and chef sat down to enjoy the meal together. It was delicious. Little tried many new things as kids often do when they are the ones cooking and he recognized a lot of what we grow in our own garden. He’s ready to return home and make some of the courses himself – including his new favorite, Pan con Tomate. Here’s how you make it:
· Bread (toasted, sourdough)
· Tomatoes from the vine, halfed
· Olive Oil
Toast the bread lightly. Rub your tomato half on the bread, skin side up, until only the skin is left. Drizzle olive oil over the tomato and then add a sprinkle/pinch of flaky sea salt.
The above is the traditional Catalan breakfast and side for most meals that we enjoyed many times in Barcelona, sometimes with a simple slice of Manchego over it. Little swears he is going to make this every day when our tomatoes ripen this summer and the way he devoured it daily, I won’t be surprised. Enjoy!