Chasing Pineapples

an English girl tasting her way around the world


August 2012

Boys will be boys… picnic in Morocco!

In Tarifa we met some friends of our very good university friend. When they found out about our food and wine tour and that I was writing a food blog, they apparently decided that they would like to be featured. The result was as follows..

So, we decided that we would like to have an evening picnic in the sunset on the beach. We sent the boys off to surprise us with their choice of feast, with their only criteria being ‘no eggs and no onion.’ The boys being massive jokers, we had no clue what to expect, and when they called us up very excited telling us they had put together an amazing feast, we were rather sceptical, thinking they would turn up with an egg, an onion and nothing else. But no, they really had gone to town and even asked the supermarket attendants which meats to get etc.

When it came down to it, due to Spanish time keeping, the sunset picnic turned out to be a picnic in the dark. However we were all adamant that we wanted to eat on the beach and thus wandered around trying to find a nice spot. Eventually, we went right to the shore where you often receive a text saying ‘welcome to Morocco,’ and used the light coming across the water from the neighbouring continent. So it was practically a picnic in Africa!

Toni-I-ight we are young!


This dinner consisted of a homemade 5 litre bottle of tinto de verano (red wine mixed with lemon and fanta), bread rolls, asparagus, olives and large slabs of cheese and various meats. With the aim of getting proper, good quality meat, the boys decided to skip pre-sliced plastic. A nice idea (it was extremely tasty!), yet not so practical. So, we found ourselves on the shore of the beach, in the dark, with a damp towel to sit on, cutting meat with a pen knife and using bread as a chopping board. It must have been quite the sight to any onlooker, but it was so much fun, a hilarious experience and definitely a story to tell!

Thanks for the effort boys and here’s your feature; we had great fun! 🙂


Paella time: local spontaneity!

Here in Tarifa we have our own little mismatch family surrounding the local surf school Kite Local School.’ Owned by a tarifeño, this colourful shop provides the heart of our experience in this windy little town. As part of the kitesurfing courses the owner, Lara, hosts a weekly paella night in order to welcome newcomers, to get locals involved and as an excuse for a get together.

The night usually involves el baile del mono (the dance of the monkey: the symbol of the school), turning up with a bottle of rum, coke and limes to make Cuba libres, and the main feature paella! This quintessential Spanish dish is cooked up in a special paella pan on the premises, with everybody contributing a little. We usually take the limes: a very important part which not only adds that bit of colour but is the essential ingredient that really brings out the flavours.

Crazy paella fun

I will save featuring a recipe until a couple of weeks time when I will visit the motherland of paella, Valencia, where my mission shall be to snap up a truly authentic paella recipe from the time when the main ingredients were not seafood, but snails and rabbit. This is how paella really should be and the seafood variety has been created to adapt to tourist preferences. Though as Tarifa is a seaside town, it would be a waste not to use local freshly caught produce!

These paella nights really epitomise the importance of food not only due to its taste but also to it’s nature of bringing people together, whether they be friends or family, acquaintance or stranger. The dinners bring a huge diversity in nationalities, age and personality, giving the evenings a spontaneous nature and thus no Kite Local paella night is the same… Here’s to whatever is in store for the next one!

Paella in the making!

A madrileño pot of love!

English: Cocido madrileño, a spanish dish. Por...
English: Cocido madrileño, a spanish dish. Português: Cozido madrileno, um prato espanhol. Español: Cocido madrileño. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every morning I teach English to three extremely cute Spanish children and I was privileged to be invited over for lunch yesterday by the two families. When asked what I would like, my response was ‘algo muy español‘ (something very Spanish). Their response was a cocido (hot pot) which Spanish women everywhere brew up, but is a speciality from Madrid.

There is a Spanish song called Cocidito Madrileño (little stew from Madrid) which goes ‘all the charm and the spice, that a woman’s love puts right, into the cocidito madrileño.’ This song is very fitting as each mother, wife or grandma has their own twist and charm on the classic dish. Even the two mothers who cooked for me yesterday had very different variations, one being from Madrid and one from Seville. Therefore I was lucky enough to have both a madrileño and an Andalucian version of the pot (the more the merrier!)

Every version varies with basic ingredients of chickpeas, carrots and cabbage and a choice of meats. This family chose huge chunks of jamón, pork belly, torcino (veal shin) and chorizo all cooked up in a cocido (big pot). Having been brewed for several hours in the pot, the meat fell apart (except for the chorizo which was cooked separately so as to not over power the flavour). The difference was that the madrileño variation was brewed with the jamón bone whilst the Andalucian version used a white bone from the cow knee. All of this makes a salty and very tasty caldo (broth). The dish was absolutely superb: salty, diverse and very hearty! I had two helpings: one of each variety and I only refrained from having more because I didn’t want to appear like a greedy little English girl!

The cocido is very charming and fun as every individual has their own way of consuming it in different stages. I ate with two couples and each person had their own special ritual. Nuria separated the chickpeas, the veg and the meats from the caldo in various dishes. Her husband ate the soup first with chickpeas in, then took a bit of the other meats and ate this separately with bread. On the other hand Raquel had the caldo with bits of meat and potatoes followed by a plate of chickpeas topped with olive oil and vinegar. Nuria took a bit of everything and put it all in to the caldo together to make a broth. Being madrileña herself, I decided to copy her way.

I left feeling very full of food, charm and love, just as the song suggests, and consequently passed out for two hours! (Adapting to Spanish siesta culture!)

It’s Pastry Time!

If I had to say one thing about Spanish taste, I think I would comment on their sweet tooth! In every town the pasteleria always seems to be the establishment with the longest queue, frequently spilling out in to the streets. The Spanish certainly love to cook, however their sweet tooth is usually satisfied by a trip to the local pasteleria, leaving this intricate art form to the experts!

Here in Tarifa, this establishment is on the main street in the old town and is called La Tarifena. Always full of locals and tourists alike, I love to listen in on the people ordering in front of me. Whether it be a child dawdling at the sheer enormity of the decision between the mass of colour and sugary treats before them, a group of girls ordering a selection for a dinner party, or just a passer-by choosing an afternoon pick-me-up; there’s something for everyone.

They may look like Chinese starters, but they are Spanish pastries!

Gala and I have a job handing out flyers for a local Kitesurfing School. We stand at the Puerta de Jerez and every other person passing by seems to have a handful of the trademark brown and white paper packaging, always making my mouth water. More often than not my shift ends (or is split up) with giving in to this temptress of a shop. My favourite is trenza de chocolate. Similar to a pain au chocolat, but with more greasy golden pastry and with a thick layer of chocolate on top, this takes the form of a plaited pile of heaven.
Almost all pastelerias, on top of their typical Spanish treats such as dulce de leche torts, tortas de aceite (flaky olive oil biscuits) and artisan almond treats, have a counter stuffed with Moroccan treats made with aromatic seeds and disguising themselves almost as Chinese foods such as spring rolls, but with a sugary golden glaze.
So, any visit to a Spanish town must not come to an end without a trip to try the local delicacies!

Pollo a la Libertad (Libertad’s yummy Chicken)

Gala’s Spanish Mama is staying with us at the moment which, amongst other episodes such as flamenco outbursts on the beach, has provided opportunity to experience authentic Spanish cooking en casa (at home). Last night Libertad (translated as freedom, which perfectly captures her free spirit) cooked us her pollo en salsa (chicken in sauce) with ginger and carrots. She recounted that as far as she is concerned, this is the only way to cook chicken, learnt from her abuelos (Spanish grandparents) so it is really one of those recipes passed down through the generations, therefore you are privileged to have it to try.

Recipe (recounted verbally in Spanish free style, hence lack of strict measurements, but hey that’s what cooking should really be about, a bit of experimenting) :

Lots of garlic (a whole bulb) and lots of ginger (as I said, not very precise amounts!) crush the ginger, smash the garlic and mash all together. (crush, smash and mash, how eloquent!) Add paprika and salt to the mixture and then add to chicken generously and in the words of Libertad ‘caress it’. After adding a bit of olive oil, marinade over night. Take out of the fridge half an hour before sealing the chicken on the stove on a low heat. then add loosely chopped onions and carrots and sauté. Once the onions are white and the chicken is mostly cooked, add a few cups of water and a splash of white wine. Bring to the boil then turn heat down low to simmer for half hour or until the chicken begins to fall off the bone. Y ya esta (there we go), ready to serve with crispy potatoes or rice.

Chicken Brewing


It was extremely rico (tasty), the ginger being subtle but still giving the dish a bit of a kick, and the secret being the whole crushed garlic thrown in. I will definitely pass it on to my grandma and my family to put their own twist on…

A Brief (yet insightful) Encounter!

Dulce de leche in a plate
Dulce de leche in a plate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the early hours of this morning I found myself in the most bizarre situation imaginable to be given cookery advice. I was walking back from a club in Tarifa at 7am with my friend’s Spanish Mama, and we came across a wandering Argentinian who just so happened to be a cook at one of the local chiringuitos (beach bar). Mama Polanco took this opportunity to ask how to make real Dulce de Leche the Argentinian way. From his strong Argentinian accent (very different from Spanish) what I understood was the following:

1 kilo of sugar, 4 litres of milk, a table-spoon of baking soda

Bring the milk to the boil, add the other ingredients and whisk until sugar dissolves, then put on low heat and cook for 4/5 hours, constantly stirring!! Obviously this is quite impossible unless you have this length of time to stand over a pan, but stirring every half an hour for a few minutes will suffice I would say.

The mixture will eventually turn in to a yummy caramelised sticky sauce, thick enough so it does not run off the spoon. And there we go: it may be time-consuming, but it is very easy!

Once your batch is prepared, store to bring out for pancake fillings, a delicious ice cream topping (Haagen Daz do an extremely  good one!) or just to dip into occasionally with a spoon (the best way!)

So, there we go, post night out cookery advice from an authentic Argentinian!

9 Green Peppers Standing on the Wall…

We went to pay our amigo a visit the other day to be greeted by a carpet of huge green peppers!  When inquiring as to what on earth was going on we discovered that two of our friends have an allotment up in the hills surrounding Tarifa. They were dividing the peppers in to bags for all the local friends, which apparently included us! Lucky guirris!
After intently watching the process and chatting a while, we were about to leave and thanked them, very satisfied with our bag of peppers. ‘pero no‘, they said, ‘hay mas!‘ (there’s more) pulling out another huge sack which they emptied on to the already large pile, adding all sorts of colours to the green mass. Tomatoes, courgettes, more peppers and best of all aubergines. We eat a lot of aubergines here in Spain, where they are much more tasty and larger. However these home grown ones were something else! A vibrant purple colour, much lighter than others and when we fried them up later the freshness and difference in the intensity of flavour was amazing. I would try to describe, but saying just very auberginey doesn’t quite do them justice!

Spanish aubergine as fresh as can be

So we all parted ways with our sacks of vegetables in hand: no need for our supermarket trip, or at least for vegetables. So, any ideas for recipes with green peppers?! We have 9!

Freshly dividing from the allotment
Carpet of green peppers

Breakfast time in Tarifa!

One of my favourite things to do when abroad is to pop out for a late morning breakfast or coffee accompanied by friends, a newspaper or a book. I am not a huge fan of your everyday breakfast regulars at home, but I do love the experience of getting the cogs turning amongst others who are preparing for their day ahead

Here in Tarifa, with the kite surfing culture taking up the afternoon agenda, the thing to do seems to be desayunar (literally: to breakfast!). The buzzing European traveller-town’s white Moorish buildings host countless cafes, each with their own charm. Whether they be chic and trendy or a local rustic back street bar, they all have their quirks and specialities. Gala and I have decided to take ourselves on a weekly breakfast outing to experience the variety first hand

My absolute favourite so far is the Andalucian Cafe Azul, serving desayunos con encanto (charming breakfasts) all day to a healthy mixture of tourists, travellers and locals of all nationalities. Although it is very popular, it has not been tarnished by the tourist influx, and it has managed to maintain an authentic local ambiance, as has Tarifa itself. The last time we went we were sat next to a group of Spanish girls out for a Sex and the City style get together over some blueberry pancakes and exotic fruit bowls; yet in the corner was an Italian family whose little boy we played with. Very relaxed, very enjoyable and extremely charismatic!

Breakfasts Galore!
Buzzing breakfast haunt cafe azul

With a colourful menu of English, American, Catalan, campesino (countryman), Andalucian and even Icelandic breakfasts; we decided to have a very typical Spanish choice of pan con tomate y aceite de oliva (toasted bread with a pot of tomato, garlic and olive oil paste and your own watering can of olive oil to pour freely) washed down with fresh orange juice and cafe con leche(the owners are Italian, so perfectly created!) We will be a little more adventurous next time, but this combination is so yummy and evokes memories of my year living abroad.

When we all inevitably end up in London, our eight housemates from university are going to continue this breakfast gathering ritual, trying a different haunt in a different borough every month! Any recommendations??

La Vida Tranquila

My half Spanish friend Gala and I spent the summer of 2011 in Tarifa, the windiest town in Europe. We were fortunate enough to form amistades (friendships) with the local tarifenos and decided to pay them a visit this January. In true Spanish style, we were very warmly welcomed into the house of a friend of a friend… of a friend, a Chikum teacher whom they call ‘the hippy’. Not only did he make us feel como en casa (at home) in his tranquil setting, but he made us a delicious organic dinner of sweet potato soup with toasted seeds. Being an avid meat eater, the vegetarian life has always baffled me, however this vida tranquila I could definitely get used to!

The highlight of this super healthy lifestyle was without a doubt the morning pick-me-up of freshly squeezed orange juice. Juan owns a campo de naranjas (orange field) in Málaga. Gala and I very kindly helped him dispose of his oranges (in to our tummies) to make way for the crate loads he was intending to bring back the following weekend- just doing our bit to help…

You couldn’t get anything more fresh and sweet if you tried. We hand-squeezed them, added no sugar, no flavour, nada (nothing) and it was without a doubt the best orange juice I have tasted. So I guess the lesson learned is home-grown is always the best! Gracias Juan! 

We were very keen to go with Juan to pick his oranges whilst here in Tarifa again this summer, so we could experience the whole process ourselves. However, unfortunately it is not orange picking season here in Spain, so I guess we’ll have to wait for Sevilla’s famous oranges when we visit in September and for now make do with our lemon tree on the terrace!

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