My fellow foodies, I guess you all can’t wait to eat at your favorite restaurant again. I know I do. Moreover, I am positive that restaurant owners are counting the days for us to go back to normal, or something similar to normal, to keep their businesses alive.
In some places, the lockdown-easing measures allow for terraces to be open to the public. As much as I am all about small business support, I personally think it’s still too soon to sit down nonchalantly with friends and have a beer, with all the uncertainty about the confinement de-escalation and its repercussions. I honestly believe I wouldn’t be able to enjoy myself knowing that there is even the slightest chance that I’m contributing to the spread of this virus, therefore making it even harder for the already exhausted people working at the ICUs, which are understaffed due to contagions of the professionals who put themselves at risk to save strangers’ lives. So yes, I think I can hold my tapas craving for a little longer.
However, as I said, I am well aware that restaurant owners are looking forward to opening their doors and feed their families by feeding you all, and I fully understand. So this is my humble “I’m sorry I will not contribute for a while” and my little call for help: 5 restaurants in 5 cities that, if they survive this crisis, will need for you all to come to visit when it’s safe enough. The places in my selection are serving typical Spanish food, I’ve personally tried them all once or several times, and are not sponsoring this post in any way whatsoever.
Okay, I can almost hear you complaining: “But we cannot travel yet, Iris!” I know, so to give you a taste of what awaits when gastronomic destinations are back on the table (pun intended), I will also give you my recipe adaptation of one of the many dishes you can find in each of those restaurants.
In this short series, I will talk for the next few weeks about my top choices in Cartagena (my hometown) and its michirones, Murcia (where I did my undergrad) and its zarangollo, Barcelona (where I lived for almost five years) and its frincandó, Valencia (the last Spanish city I lived in) and its arròs negre, and Madrid (which I’ve visited more times than I can count) and its sopas de ajo. Ready? Of course you are.
5 restaurants in Cartagena, Spain
Granted, I needed to start with my hometown. Even though it is a destination a little under the radar, there are tons of things to see and do, from Roman ruins to Modernist architecture, from civil war bunkers to Punic remains.
Despite having lived here for most of my life, I must confess I was not very familiar with its gastronomic scene until quite recently, having mom’s cooking to relish, and there are still many places I need to try. On the other hand, I’m vouching for typical dishes from the area, but there are also amazing locations offering more “exotic” cuisines. Without further ado, here’s my selection:
- La Bodega Nicolás. A staple in town since the 30s. Here you can try local tapas such as michirones (see below), patatas al ajo cabañil (potatoes in garlic sauce), pulpo a la cartagenera (roasted octopus with lemon), and caracoles (snails in a tomato sauce).
- Posada Jamaica. Here they have a daily fixed menu consisting of a starter, a main dish, and a dessert. We’re talking comfort food here, nothing fancy but surely rich and tasty and authentic. I would recommend dishes like berenjenas a la miel (honey eggplant), rabo de toro (oxtail, although these two are more typical from our bordering region, Andalucía), and pan de Calatrava (sweet bread pudding).
- El Trovador. A little outside of town, this is another tapas place that is inexpensive and delicious. I’m in love with their sepia en salsa verde, croquetas, carrillada ibérica (pork jowl), and pastel de puerros (leek pudding).
- El Paquebote. This one is located by the beach, half an hour away from town, on the strip of land separating the Mediterranean Sea from the Mar Menor salty lagoon. The specialty here is caldero, a seafood thick rice ambrosia.
- El Soldadito de Plomo. This place is not a restaurant, but a quaint little cafe where you have to try another of Cartagena’s musts: café asiático, a sweet coffee concoction with our one and only Licor 43 and condensed milk.
Hungry yet? Let’s dive into the richness of my next recipe, then.
I must confess I wasn’t convinced about posting this particular casserole, since I’m not sure whether you will be able to easily find its ingredients wherever you are. But it was one of my grandpa’s signature dishes, so the idea of sharing it with you was very appealing. And then I realize, if you like cooking, you’ll are a creative bunch and will be able to adapt it to your available resources. I trust you! The key, basically, is big beans, smoked paprika, and loads of pork meat.
- Dried fava beans, soaked for at least 12 hours
- 6 baby potatoes, not peeled
- 125 g of chorizo, diced
- 125 g of bacon steak, diced
- 1 ham bone
- 150 g of pork ear or snout (I don’t like them, so I put jowl instead), diced
- 50 g of sobrasada (a Majorcan sausage made from raw, cured minced pork and loads of paprika), diced
- 1/2 head of garlic
- 1 hot chili pepper (I skipped it because we are quite mild in this house)
- 1 tsp of smoked paprika
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 dried bell peppers
- 1 l of vegetable stock (homemade is always better)
I know, I know. So many ingredients! It can seem overwhelming, but the recipe itself is actually insultingly easy:
In the cold stock, put all the ingredients except for the potatoes. Bring to boil and then simmer for an hour or an hour and a half, when you see the beans are already tender. Then add the potatoes until fully made. Seriously, that’s it.
Just don’t be like me and make sure the stock is always covering all the ingredients; don’t be afraid of adding more cold water when needed and rectify with salt. When serving, remove the pork bone, the chili, and the bay leaves, that’s pretty much all the hassle.
What do you say? Have I convinced you to come to my hometown and enjoy, not only the views, but the varied and earthy, yet delectable gastronomy?
62 Comments Add yours
This recipe looks really yummy. My family would love this for sure. Will definitely give this a try.
It is almost dinner time here in Australia, and oh boy your recipe is making me hungry. Look delicious!
Hahaha, I hope you had a nice dinner!
This sounds like such a yummy recipe, I can’t wait to try it 🙂
AMazing recipe, I might try this at home once I have all ingredients.
As a chef in the cruise ship, we are familiar on these so I know that this article is worth reading, thanks for the share
Thank you so much, Kenneth. This means so much to me, I appreciate your feedback.
This recipe look great, I can’t wait to go out and start tasting new foods from different locations.
I have never heard of Michirones. They sound delicious. I am definitely going to try this.
wow, this recipe looks amazing, I need to try to make this 🙂
These are some cool restaurants to visit especially in cartegena Spain!
This is an interesting dish, never heard of it before reading this. My husband would love it!
WOW! This is beautiful! First your website is outstanding! Secondly, love this post!
Aw, you’re so kind! I really appreciate it 🙂
Wow! I haven’t tried those yet. Looking forward to try those after the pandemic.
It was really interested to learn about 5 restaurants in Cartagena, Spain but also about michirones.
Wish I could have a chance to pay a visit in Spain and come by to one of these restaurants, I seemingly guess it’s tasty.
Very nice to learn new things from Spain. It is one of my dream destinations and with this post, Im really looking forward to my visit..
Way to many ingredients but Oh my my.. it looks heavenly. I’d love to try it.
Hehe, I know, but I’m sure you could figure out a lighter version with fewer ingredients. I think the important thing is to add the beans, loads of paprika, and some meaty thing with a strong flavor 🙂
Sharing the recipes sounds fun! I’ll have to share this with my girlfriend ASAP. Thank a lot for this.
OMG this looks soooo good. Thanks for the recipe. Cant wait to try this next weekend
Let me know what you think when you do 🙂
I never heard of this but after reading this awesome post, I would love to eat them once in my life.
I have never heard of Michirones. They sound delicious.
If you like rich flavorful dishes, they surely are. But some people find them too heavy.
All I’m craving for us sushi
Hahaha, I totally feel you, Trish. I make a pretty decent one, but at home I’m the only one who likes it, and it’s too much of a hassle to make it only for me.
This lockdown is making us try so much! It’s great..and really nice fo you try out new things., Especially cooking.
This is totally new to me. It looks delicious though!!!
Ah yes, eggs, I do eat. 🙂
I have never heard of Michirones. These look so delicious. Now, I am adding them to my must try list.
If only they were vegetarian, they look yummy though.
Nothing vegetarian about michirones, I’m afraid! But, if you eat eggs, my next recipe from the area might interest you 🙂
Ah yes, eggs, I do eat. 🙂
I haven’t tried this before but it seems to have a great taste.
Telling me about the amazing food in a place is the fastest way to get me to plan a trip, yum!
Love the Michirones recipe. Kind of reminds me of southern Red Beans and Rice – we just ate it tonight. I make it with red beans, sausage, and onion cooked in chicken broth. Would love to try this recipe of your grandfathers, but I do think some of the exact ingredients would be difficult to find.
I’ve been experimenting a lot since the lockdown and I’ve been searching youtube and google for new recipes to try. I would love to try Michirones one of these days. The recipe looks easy to follow!
Wow!!! Those look delicious. How O wish I could try one of those
I am pretty sure my boyfriend would be thrilled to follow your recipe. I will forward this to him so that he can cook it for us (he is the cook at home!).
Even though I don’t eat meat, it surely looks delicious. And yes Spain is on my list of places to visit. I will ensure to go to Cartagena as well.
Thank you! If you eat eggs, next week’s recipe from the area does not include any meat 🙂
This looks really delicious. I have to try it soon!
This is the first time I’ve heard of these. Looks delicious!
Great post, take me back to Colombia please!
Oh, I’m not talking about Cartagena, Colombia, but about Cartagena, Spain 🙂
Spain is on of the places I need to visit on my Bucket List! It’s a very interesting country, I want to know more about their culture and values.
This is a detailed recipe. Thank you for sharing
I love Spanish food, thanks for the recipe!!
Thank goodness i am eating right now because those meals look so amazing that I would go nuts.
You have definitely convinced me! This looks so yummy and can’t wait to try this. 🙂
I wish I could visit, but thank you so much for the little recipe I will give making my own a go! I look forward to being able to travel again and visit the smaller run cafe’ and restaurants that will need our support.
I was salivating while reading this post.
Can’t wait to go out and try some new dishes after this pandemic ends
Sounds delicious. Not sure I could get pigs snout in Denmark. But I am sure there would be something I could substitute it with. Take me back to Cartagena, it’s a wonderful city.
Oh my this looks so delicious! Thank you for this michirones recipe. Will try this on saturday????
I love Spanish food!! The recipe sounds delicious. Some of the ingredients (like the sausage) can maybe be substituted with things locally available.
wow. your hometown seems like it has a lot to offer! I love how you present this recipe. It looks delectable really. thank you for sharing!
True, most of the restaurant owners are waiting for the crowds to flock back to their establishments. Cartegena definitely seems to be a place to visit the 5 places mentioned by you emanate the vibes of being warm friendly and a gastronomic delight indeed. I think the caldero at El Paquebote (what does it mean ? ) does excite me to try it out
This is really creative. Thank you for sharing this recipe!
Looks tasty! Would you mind cooking for me when I get to travel there in Spain?
Your recipe adaptation of of the many dishes you can find in the restaurants, is quite creative and practical.