Holiday foodsteps: Madrid

Spain, where I had the complete tourist experience - food, flamenco dancing, sights, gorgeous beaches, fantastic music and a trip to the police station. I left Spain 3 days later than scheduled with the usual Hard Rock Cafe pin as well as a nice tan for souvenirs but without my passports, my camera and a few other things. So while I'm still mourning the loss of my camera and my 600-odd photos, I shall revisit my trip to Spain (because despite the drama with which it ended, it was still one fantastic holiday) with the help of Hanad's photos.

With Spain, we really didn't know what to expect as it was pretty much book and go for us. Our first stop was Madrid where we quickly grew accustomed to the Spanish lifestyle - siestas between 2 and 4 pm, rows of tiny tapas bars, dinner at 10pm and the feeling that the city just keeps going way into the night.

Say Madrid and I think:

Tapas bars are quite the thing in Madrid with tapas being smaller portions of food to be shared over drinks. Toast is also a popular feature on these menus, often with a whole list of different toppings.

Galician-style octopus - octopus with boiled potatoes, olive oil and Spanish paprika. We enjoyed a good amount of tapas throughout our stay - fried calamari, empanadillas (which looked like little curry puffs), shrimp and of course, the classic patatas bravas which was surprisingly quite different from the version we had gotten used to in London. Seafood is fresh and the cooking simple and honest, the best kind.

Hanad digging into his delicious baby eel and shrimp toast whose physical attributes belied its taste.

Cava Baja is a good place to start if you're on a hunt for tapas bars - a whole street of tapas bars that come alive after 8pm.

Those delightful fried doughnut sticks dipped in thick, warm chocolate - what's not to love? With a bit of help from Google, we paid San Gines Chocolateria a visit for some chocolate con churros.

The chocolateria had received rave reviews on a host of websites and we weren't disappointed - the chocolate bittersweet, smooth and thick, it was good enough for us to slurp up spoonfuls of it. There's an addictive quality to churros as they're so easy to nibble on as you relax into a conversation over coffee. We sampled some other versions of chocolate con churros as the trip went on but the one served at this little chocolateria tucked away on the corner of a street wins hands down.


Yes, that's a wall of ham you're looking at.
Madrid is big on ham, and by big I mean an almost-obsession. No bar or restaurant seems to be without a leg of ham on display on the counter from which they carve thin slices to be served in anything from bar nibbles to main courses. I have to admit though, that they do know what they're doing when it comes to ham as every variety that I had the chance to sample was delicious - none of the overpowering flavour that certain Italian varieties have. I had absolutely no idea what a big part of the cuisine ham was until I was presented with a platter of different types of ham and sausage at our very first meal in Madrid.

The complimentary ham-chorizo-crisps combo at every tapas bar.

We discovered torrijas at the end of our stint in Madrid and I think it's really something that we would very much have preferred to have discovered earlier so that we could squeeze every bit of torrija out of our trip! Very much like a doughnut, the sweet bread has a crisp, almost shell-like texture on the outside and is extremely soft on the inside. Traditionally only served during Easter, Casa da las Torrijas is one of the rare few places that serve it all year round. In my opinion, all doughnuts should be made this way!

What's a trip to Spain without paella? One of our favourites was the squid ink paella which came very highly recommended. In general, paella in Spain is flavourful and never dry - something that really sets it apart from paella that we've had anywhere else. The rice is given enough time to soak up the wonderful flavours of the ingredients but with the moisture still locked in.

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