Catalan Food

Posting this from Bilbao but need to get it out before I forget it all.

We had a fantastic food experience in Barcelona. Lots of tasty tapas stuff, but the place that really shined was off the beaten track and we discovered only late at night. We had some excellent sardines, a first for Holly, and spicy potatoes. It was so good we went back for more.

The second night, we went for the daily special, which turned out to be a meat mountain. Chops, morcilla which is black pudding, ribs, sausages, roasted peppers. Incredible. There should be a picture in our photos, which I would link to except this keyboard has none of the keys in the place marked and no way of changing keyboard layout to something sane.

One of the great things they do is Catalan bread. Toasted bread is served with a garlic clove and tomatoes. You slive the garlic and tomato in half and rub the bread in garlic. Then you smear the tomato over the top. Beatiful!

Finally uploaded some photos

We caught the overnight train from Barcelona to San Sebastian last night. Slept in our six-berth sleeper, which was quite pleasant.

We've finally found an Internet cafe we can upload photos from. They're still going up but you can see them here

Business at the back, party at the front

Geo: 41.38788,2.20392
Business at the back, party at the front

We've been in Barcelona since Monday night and in our first twenty-four hours, we spotted at least forty Iberimullets. It's certainly a popular haircut around these parts.

I haven't got my phone connected to the net just yet, so the attached photo is from Wikipedia and the location is approximate.

Barcelona is a beautiful city and the weather is fantastic! 20-22 degrees every day so far, with clear skies.

The most impressive site so far has been Antoni Gaudi's under-construction Sagrada Familia modernist church. The amazing thing about this church is the way the disparate elements of the design work together so perfectly. The guy was definitely a genius!

Tomorrow we're heading out of town to the mountain monastery of Montserrat, accessible by train then cable car. In the evening we catch an overnight train to San Sebastian in the Basque country.

Staying at Pyrland

Geo: 51.550611,-000.087570
Staying at Pyrland

We're spending the week at Scott and Katie's place in North London.

This is my shiny new moblog thingy. You'll notice I've got a link at the top of the post where you can see the location of the blog post. Groovy eh? This is via a little Python app on my mobile that talks to my gps and a little Perl hackery with my blog.

I'll be blogging this way while we're travelling around for the next eight months. Starting next Monday. Can't wait!

Finally, in-ear headphones that don't suck!

I just bought a pair of these Sennheiser in-ear headphones. They're one of these deep ear canal designs, with various sizes of soft rubber insert. Instead of sitting in the outer ear, they go right into the ear canal.

I've had many of the crappy ear buds before, but they always either hurt after a while or fall out -- often one side hurting, the other side constantly falling out. So these are quite a revelation.

The soft rubber is very comfortable and blocks out quite a bit of the ambient noise around you. The sound is nothing short of brilliant, particularly the bass. Very clear and punchy. Goes very nicely with my shiny new mp3 player on our travels.

Well that's it for work

Today was my last real work day. Tomorrow is my last official day but we're having our end-of-project day, which means going to the National Gallery then boozy lunch and more drinks. Nice that work are paying for my farewell!

That means no more work until, well, next year really! We're off travelling on 10th April, and won't be back in Oz until December. Can't wait!

Quick and easy fish

Holly has recently discovered she likes smoked mackerel. I've been eating it for years because it has many advantages: cheap, not endangered, tasty and being an oily fish it's got lots of the good stuff in it. So anyway, she's been getting me to cook it a lot recently.

Here's a really quick and easy meal I whipped up last Friday night. Dead easy, tasty and interesting both for flavours and textures.

The sweet potato is a bit of new ingredient for the Brits, and I've had people confused about what they are. Our local market sells two very different varieties interchangeably, often in the same basket. What you want are the yellow/orange-fleshed "kumara" type (though nobody here will know it by that name) not the white-fleshed yam type. Externally they look identical, but pick one up and scrape a tiny section of skin off with your thumbnail. If it's white, put it back. You want a deep orange/yellow colour. This picture shows you what you're looking for.

The sweet potato in this recipe works very well with the fish, adding a little sweetness and bulk to the dish. I also felt it was a bit lacking in starch, so I added a couple of sliced of oven roasted toast to bulk it up and soak up the garlic butter. By toasting it inthe oven you get a nice crunchiness, kind of like fried bread but without all that extra oil.


  • 4 smoked mackerel fillets
  • 2 sliced multigrain bread
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • a shake of dried thyme
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • a short glug of oil

Pre-heat the oven to about 180°C.

Peel the sweet potato and slice it along its length in about 1cm slices. Then slice those into long, 1cm by 1cm chips.

Put a tiny amount of oil on a baking sheet and spread it around. Put the sweet potato on, with plenty of space around each. Cook for 20 minutes, then turn and cook another 20 minutes. You want them to start going golden brown.

While this is cooking, finely dice the garlic and heat it up with the butter. Throw in ashort shake of dried thyme, which adds a little warmth to the garlic butter.

When the sweet potato is cooked, leaving it in but bunching it up on the baking tray a bit, place the mackerel fillets on the tray, skin-side-down.

Arrange the slices of bread somewhere in the oven where they get heat from all sides. You want it to get nice and crispy, but not completely desiccated. You could do it in the toaster but you probably want it a bit dryer than you can get from that.

After ten minutes, the mackerel will be hot enough and the toast done. Take it all out of the oven and arrange like this:
Toast, sweet potato chips, mackerel, garlic butter.

Serve with some lightly steamed curly kale, which also benefits from a little garlic butter. Delicious!