Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Happiness is a bar in Segovia

By: Mr Robot

Actually that's a bit of a fib, since I'm not aware of anywhere called "Happiness" in Segovia, but if you pop into any of the bars in the city's old quarter, there's a good chance Happiness will show up, along with his good friends Oh My God and Oh My Tummy.

Segovia is just north of Madrid, about half an hour on the train, and is the city in which Queen Isabella was born and raised. She's the one who pawned her jewels to fund Columbus's Big Adventure but is more justly remembered, along with her husband Ferdinand, for booting the Moors out of Spain and thereby triggering centuries of forced conversion, bigotry and intolerance.

The Alcazar is where Isabella grew up, and the church in which she was crowned Queen of Castille is on the main square - it's the one that isn't the cathedral.

We're taking our 18yr-old American goddaughter on a tour of medieval Spain, so Segovia has been her introduction to Spain generally, and Tapas in particular. The perfect starting point not only for the history, but also because this is the land of outstanding free snacks

Bar Fogon, just behind the cathedral, is a great example. It's attached to a Sephardic restaurant and with inevitable irony has some of the best ham and shellfish in the city. Among numerous delights we were given was an anchovy and cream cheese affair that was more delicious than it had any right to be, and fantastic prawns cooked the best way possible - simply boiled in salt water, with a bit more salt on the shells.

Bar Infanta Isabella is a lovely place with deco-ish styling and served up little works of art, not least tiny canapés of liver parfait, along with humbler but no less tasty tortilla, tiny filo parcels of I-don't-know-what tastiness and battered chorizo lollipops.

Across the Plaza Mayor, with a name that escapes me, was a corner bar showing ludicrous game shows (great for the language skills!) and handing out ham and vegetable croquettes and some of the best fried chorizo you could hope for.

Down a little alley near the (staggeringly impressive) Roman aqueduct is Bar Duque which is a great place for the adventurous. Previously we've had pigs ears here (a mixed blessing) but this time got a pork and tripe dish that left both Mrs Robot and the adoptive Junior Robot cold, but which I snaffled quite merrily.

Segovia is a much overlooked city, generally considered as a day-trip from Madrid (if at all). It's a lovely, relaxing place to be and while it's true the sights can be "done" fairly quickly, the food never will.

Go there, stay there, eat there. Happiness will find you.

All images (c) PP Gettins

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Retro recipe: Pork in Cider

By: Mrs Robot

Traditional cookery. It's rarely pretty, but it can be very tasty, and this pork in cider is no exception.

I've never seen any food bloggers refer to Susan Campbell's book English Cookery New and Old online. I love old cookery books, and this is from 1981, but looking back for traditional recipes. Campbell wrote several cookbooks in the 1970s but seems to have been largely forgotten as a cookery writer - though she's now the country's leading expert on walled kitchen gardens, so she hasn't lost her love of British food history. This book is divided into menus. Many recipes are preceded by a little paragraph explaining their origins or, if a recipe is 'new' rather than 'old', why it's being included in a book of English cookery.

The recipe that really caught my eye in this book was 'Grassy Corner', a pudding served at Cambridge May Weeks just after the Great War. It's a strange cross between a trifle and a charlotte, and as I love trifle and between-the-wars history, it appeals doubly to me. However as that serves 12 it'll have to wait until we've got plenty of guests coming. Instead, Pork in Cider was what I made. Layers of pork slices, separated by a mixture of onions and mushrooms, splashed with cider then topped with a layer of cooking applees and cooked for a couple of hours before being topped with a mix of Double Gloucester cheese and breadcrumbs and baked to crisp, it's far from the most attractiive thing I've ever made. Oh, but it is good. The juices from the meat, apples, onions and mushrooms combine with the cider to make a delicious sauce that will go perfectly with mash and green veg. I'll definitely make it again.