So, Christmas is pretty much done and we’re at the start of another year, which means resolutions and new goals for many. I’ve decided that I’m going to write more posts this year – a minimum of three a month – and will also try my hand at cooking food from even more countries and cultures. Oh yes, I’ll also be naming all of my blog posts after song or album titles, something I did last Summer with the ‘In France they kiss on Main Street’ posts about our trip to Southern France. That was a reference to a Joni Mitchell track and this post’s title is culled from the 1960 release of the same name by Miles Davis, which seemed only right and proper.
Last Christmas, we spent the entire holiday period in Spain, something we repeated again this time around. We’ve been visiting Nerja [in Andalucia] for several years and use it as a base from which to visit other towns and cities in this beautiful part of Spain. We had such a great time last year that it was a no-brainer to leave Ireland on December 22nd, safe in the knowledge that even if the weather was bad, it’d be nowhere near as bad as at home. This season was no different and we had 19ºC on Christmas Day, warm enough to stroll out for lunch without needing a jacket.
I’m torn between describing Christmas lunch in detail, or moving straight on to the other amazing meals we had… Christmas lunch was lovely, really lovely, but I’ll write about that in more detail next time, I think.
Córdoba had been recommended to us as a must-see city and we booked two nights at a posada in the old town, starting on December 28th. From Nerja, it’s less than a two hour trip inland on what can only be described as some of the finest roads I’ve ever driven, through some truly spectacular countryside. Be aware though that parking in the city is a nightmare – we were fortunate in that our accommodation provided access to an underground car park [€14.00 per day] – and can lead to frayed tempers due to the roadworks and tricky one-way system.
Our posada was practically next door to the magnificent Mezquita, and as it was lunchtime, we decided to grab a bite at the nearest hostelry, which happened to be directly opposite. A quick flick through the menu confirmed that spontaneity can sometimes be a very good thing indeed. The majority of dishes were Moorish in theme, which suited us perfectly. We ordered a portion of Kufteh [lamb meatballs on skewers, served with spicy tomato sauce and fried potatoes] and Carne con Tomate [literally, meat with tomatoes]. Both were very good, but the combination of slow-braised beef with tomatoes and Moorish spices was the winner of this first round of piggery.
Walking through the old city of Córdoba revealed much more in terms of Roman and medieval architecture than is strictly fair, but it is the largest urban area in the world to be declared as World Heritage, so I suppose I’m okay with that. It’s genuinely astonishing to behold, with a photo around every corner and up every alleyway. One could be forgiven for thinking that it is also the orange growing capital of the world, as practically every street, plaza and avenue is lined with trees bearing fruit which looks ripe for the picking. According to one local with whom we spoke, the fruit has a tendency to be a lot more bitter than that to which we’d be accustomed. Then again, he might have been telling us a fib and I may just mention this fact to the pram-pushing ladies on Moore Street in Dublin’s city centre…
When we mentioned that we’d be spending a couple of days in Córdoba, everyone said that it was pretty much obligatory to try the Rabo de Toro at the 19th Century [although some claim it originated in the 1600s] Taberna Plateros. Directly translated, Rabo de Toro means bull’s tail and this dish was first served in Córdoba, using the tails from bulls recently killed in the Corrida de Toros. As bulls tails are not so easy to source these days, oxtail is used as a substitute. The oxtail is cut into thick pieces and browned in oil, then sliced onions, carrots, leeks and garlic are added, followed by tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf, sweet paprika, beef stock, sherry and brandy. The pot is then covered and left to cook slowly for up to five hours, or until the meat falls off the bones. Traditionally served with creamy, garlicy mashed potato, I’m the first to admit that it looks awful, but this is a dish that really has to be tasted to be appreciated. It was highly flavoured but in no way overpowering, and the meat had a taste similar to that of slowly stewed rump steak, only slightly stronger.
We had several really great meals in this magical city, most of them cooked and served simply. For me, one of the most memorable was the breakfast we took at a little café just outside the recognised tourist area. It consisted of freshly-squeezed orange juice, milky coffee and Tostada con Tomate – toast with tomato. The tomatoes are blended with a little garlic until they reach a creamy consistency, then served with toasted bread, olive oil and salt. Drizzle a little glug of oil onto a slice of toast, ladle on a couple of spoons of the tomato and garlic, then add salt to taste. Brilliance achieved through simplicity.
That’s the end of side one of this record. Side two is in progress and will be along in the very near future.
Until then, ¡Salud, pesetas y amor y tiempo para gozarlos!
And of course, Happy New Year.