In time past I've been a privileged part of the Almeria de Tapas foodie community, which was first set up by my dear friend Nacho Ortiz....having parted with the group which now has new owners, Nacho, the team and I have sort of gone our separate ways, but a fortuitous conversation on social media allowed us to get together to catch up on where things presently stand in what is still a difficult economic time in Almeria Province. Ok, I admit it I gatecrashed the lunch - sort of.....but that's another story!
Manchego cheese and Jamon
It was a fun and comfortable day, with plenty of food, and we recalled the old days of Almeria de Tapas and caught up on more recent events. Of course everything revolves around food, and as expected this was a generous and delightful fill, and so typical of a Spanish household party. My 'evil twin' Antonio Maqueda was head chef, in charge of the paella (and what a fabulous job he made of that! I wish you'd been there to try it....), and the ladies chipped in with salad and jamon, cheese preparation etc.
Our lunchtime salad with Tomate Raf
This isn't untypical of what I would expect in a Spanish household and the combination of sharing plates of food is so typical Spanish. Nothing fancy, just good healthy produce, mostly local, and a great combinations of tastes, from the seafood paella using locally caught seafood produce, fresh salad consisting of the fabulous Tomate Raf amongst other things, to the Manchego cheese, local jamon, locally grown fresh figs and melons, and topped with chocolate petit-fours made locally in the town.
Mussels & prawns that made up some of the ingredients of the Seafood Paella
Of course some of the best seafood is caught locally and Almeria has a fabulous fish market which buzzes during the weekday.
We even had Swordfish
The finished product
This is a work of art - check out the shape of the pan and scroll down to learn more.
You really should have been there to taste this.....
On to desserts - fresh melons
You shouldn't go the season without trying the fresh figs!
There's nothing better than to visit the local market and buy the figs fresh from the small-holders. Often they have been picked the night before or early that morning and you can just taste the freshness.
And if that wasn't enough we had a gateaux and a selection of petit-fours
Lunchtime with friends
If you are interested to see how Antonio made the paella then here is a short sequence of the event. You will see that he's not using a flat paella pan - I'm told that's usually the preferred pan of Valencia and that these pans (I referred to as half woks) are actually, confusingly called 'la paella' - it wasn't the name of the dish of food....but the name 'paella' slowly took over. This pan (as used by Antonio) is a preferred pan of many households due to the fact that it can hold more food in a smaller space on the cooker - the more well-known Valencian paella pans are much wider and hence would take up much more room in what is often a confined area....plus they often require a bigger burner to cook evenly throughout. The conventional half wok pans are also much more versatile as they can be used for all manner of dishes whereas the Valencian pans are pretty much restricted to making paellas only.