Neven Maguire returns to Spain, and this time the popular chef is in Andalusia, a region in the south west of Spain that is larger than the island of Ireland, and very popular with Irish people. As befits such a large and diverse area, the food varies greatly within Andalusia, from the ‘Tropical Coast’ to the cities of Granada, Cordoba and Seville and the wooded and mountainous Huelva region. In this brand new six part series, Neven tries a huge range of local produce, from grilled sardines, molasses and churros, to tuna heart, sherry, Iberico ham, Seville orange marmalade and Cordoba’s famous tomato soup. Neven also cooks a dish every week, inspired by the food he has discovered in each location.
Neven’s brand new six part series starts in Malaga, traditionally the gateway to the Costa Del Sol but now a tourist destination in its own right, with an emphasis on museums and food: the city is proud of the fact that Pablo Picasso was born here, and it has one of only three museums in the world dedicated to his art.
Beside the Roman amphitheatre is El Pimpi where Neven is served the restaurant’s famous fish soup before visiting the Alcazaba, a Moorish citadel.
In Frigiliana, a white-washed village in the hills to the east of Malaga (and featured in Christy Moore’s song Lisdoonvarna), Neven tries waffles made with local molasses and deep fried aubergines. Grilled sardines, or espetos are another regional speciality, cooked on the beach on skewers.
Neven ends his day in the city’s oldest wine bar, El Pimpi, where the wine is served straight from the barrels and the bill is chalked up on the counter. Neven’s recipe in this programme is a Pecan Pie, using molasses from Frigiliana.
Neven visits Granada and starts the day the traditional way with Churros – deep fried batter served with thick hot chocolate. Most visitors go to the Alhambra but Neven visits the tombs of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, the monarchs who united Spain and ended Moorish rule in Granada. Cold filtered coffee, cakes dedicated to a Pope, and a tapas tour of the city are all on the menu. Every Spanish city claims to have its own unique form of tapas, and Granada’s claim is that it serves free tapas – a claim which turns out to be true.
This week Neven makes delicious Marinaded Rump of Lamb with Cinnamon and Spices.
Priego de Cordoba is a town strategically positioned on top of a hill, surrounded by hundreds of square kilometres of olive trees. Neven learns about the different types of olives used to make the town’s award-winning olive oil, and tastes a cold almond soup – a dish that has been served in this part of Spain for much longer than gazpacho, as tomatoes were only introduced to Spain 500 years ago, whereas almonds have been grown for thousands of years.
The city of Cordoba is known for its own version of chilled tomato soup called Salmorejo – a purée of tomato, bread, garlic and olive oil, and very different to the better known gazpacho. Neven is invited to join the Brotherhood of Salmorejo, a group dedicated to ensuring that the soup is made properly.
Finally, Neven visits a bodega in Montilla to learn about Fino (which means “refined” in Spanish), the driest and palest of the fortified wines of the region. Neven ends this week’s programme cooking Vegetable Risotto using sherry vinegar.
Seville is the capital of Andalusia, and this week Neven discovers many of the things that makethe city famous. Just outside the city, Neven visits an organic farm which produces Seville oranges, and he makes marmalade for the first time.
The Triana district of Seville is the edgier part of the city, well known for producing bullfighters and flamenco dancers and Neven meets Christina Heeren, an American woman who set up a school for flamenco dancers, guitarists and singers.
Seville’s bullring is the most prestigious in Spain, and is where the bullfighting season starts each year on Easter Sunday. The meat from the bulls killed in the bullring is sought after by local restaurants. Neven is shown how to make a traditional Sevillian dish, Oxtail Stew by the head chef in the Escuela de Hosteleria de Sevilla, a restaurant and hotel school located close to the bullring.
[The meat used in this dish did not come from the bullring – the series was shot before Easter.]
Neven finishes this week’s programme by creating a seafood stew flavoured with Seville oranges.
The Sierra de Aracena is in the north-western corner of Andalusia and is one of the least explored parts of the region. Small, white-washed towns like Aracena nestle between mountains, forests and oak meadows known as “dehesas”. This is where the black Iberian pigs are farmed, and these pigs produce one of the area’s finest delicacies, “Jamon Iberico”. Neven visits Cinquo Jotas, known throughout Spain as one of the best producers of this regional speciality.
Aracena’s “Grotto of Wonders” brings many visitors to the area. Discovered at the end of the 19th century, the caves were opened to the public in 1914 – the first tourist caves in Spain. After seeing the caves, Neven discovers a bakery which is 175 years old and learns how the local speciality is made: thin strips of dough which are deep fried and formed into a block with cinnamon and honey.
In Jerez, Neven joins Michelin-starred chef Juan Luiz Fernandez in his brand new, Alice in Wonderland-themed restaurant for some of the most modern and imaginative cooking he’s enjoyed on this trip. Neven’s own dish reflects the rural nature of the region – Rabbit Stew with Chorizo.
Neven ends his travels around Andalusia in Cadiz, reputed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe, dating back 3000 years.
When the Spanish went to America they left from Cadiz, and the foods they brought back, such as corn, tomatoes, potatoes and tobacco came back to Europe via the city. Situated on the Atlantic, Cadiz has a different character to those located on the shores of the Mediterranean.
Neven visits the city’s fish market, looking for things that are never sold in Ireland – such as cuttlefish eggs. Sherry in Spain is very different to the sherry that’s sold in Ireland and the UK as it is very dry, and, as Neven discovers when he visits a small sherry bodega (Bodegas Rey Fernando De Castilla), an excellent accompaniment to a variety of food.
Before cooking his final recipe of Prawns in Garlic, Neven meets chef Julio Vazquez who specialises in cooking tuna which in this part of Spain is taken very seriously indeed.