I spent Easter in Spain this year to spend time with the family. It wasn't a holiday as such, as in a family business we are all working all of the time but those 'pockets' of the day spent running out for coffee, or to the market or for a bit of tapas are my favourite. My Dad hasn't been well this year and seems to be in and out of hospital all the time. He's a 'do-er' and gets restless resting so it can be a hard task to get him to slow down. I'm so happy he is where he is. I sometimes feel really aware that I'm only home when I close the front door of my flat in a city like London but in the Spanish countryside there's a feeling that you are part of the mountains, the streams, the vast space around you and it's uplifting.
I really like this picture, a pearly white, freshly laid egg,the very meaning of Easter in its symbol of new life. I love my Mum's hands and the way she writes, how she cooks, how she types. I love my Dad's hands too, they tell a story. I took this picture at breakfast in our village. Yes, he walks from the field to the car and into a bar with his hands covered in earth.
You can do that in the bars here, you're on your break, a quick coffee and back to work. For me, breakfast is Café con leche and Pan con tomate y ajo. It's the same every time. The coffee always so hot, served in a glass. The simple ritual of rubbing garlic on the toasted pitufo, followed by a stream of olive oil, then fresh tomato and salt. It would be my last meal.
My memories of breakfast here will always be of the drawings and plans we made on the paper tablecloths, the sounds from the TV in corner, the scrunched up paper napkins on the floor of the bar (never left on the bar itself) the workers in their florescent jackets sitting alongside the suits and the retired men who order their first beer with breakfast.
What made this Easter really special for me was spending some time with our neighbour Joaquin. Since we were kids, we used to climb up the ladder over the wall and into his garden and look at all his animals, everything from rabbits to chicks. Now I'm more interested in his wonderful garden that he looks after so well. So generous with his produce, I was lucky enough to cook with his beans, lettuce, spring onions, leeks, blood oranges, chamomile and nuts that week. Such a happy and vibrant man, who honestly hasn't aged in the 25 years I have known him. He has been through so much personal pain, he is an inspiration. My happiest moment this week was when my mum sent me a picture of him eating my blood orange sorbet I made with his fruit a week after I had come home.
One of Joaquin's chickens lunching on blood orange and lettuce!
So, as I was saying, I made blood orange sorbet (which turned out a little like a granita without an ice cream machine)I used a David Lebovitz recipe which you can find hereIt was wonderful and we had guests staying for bed and breakfast (and dinner) so I thought I would bake something traditionally Spanish for the Easter period - Santiago Tart. I have made this before and been pleased with it until I had one at José Pizarro's restaurant and it was in another league. How? When the ingredients are the same, how can it be so different? Well, very sweetly he sent me the recipe which was a no frills but perfect recipe for this cake. I made a little stencil cut out of a cereal box for the sword of St James.
I can't put my finger on what José has done to make his restaurant feel so 'at home' but the food is fantastic and so with it brings the hustle and bustle of a Spanish eaterie. He's obviously proud of where he is from, proud of his upbringing and family. His presence is also so important, he takes pleasure in meeting his customers and pride in what he offers, this is typically Spanish and so warming. From the tiles to the wooden panels it feels authentic, I just wish I lived a little closer! What a kind man to send me a recipe before I bought his book, the first thing I did when I got home was to do so and I made his recipe for croquetas which were without a doubt the most wonderful I have ever tasted. I had chorizo so I substituted it for the jamon but it worked, it's a great book.
If anyone reading this hasn't been to Pizarro, I will be there faster than you can say 'Olé' to meet you and share some tapas and sherry.
I am so fortunate to have grown up in (and be able to work between) London and Spain and so lucky to have family and neighbours and chefs like José to feed my appetite for the food that means so much to me.