By Claire Sturzaker
Barcelona Cooking – An educational gastronomic delight
Everyone who knows me, knows that I like to eat. A lot. So I was understandably very excited to be invited to Barcelona Cooking to sample their cooking classes in their Rambla kitchen.
I love food; and like to dabble in cookery myself, although I generally find it’s just too much effort, and would much rather be cooked for. What I found here was a happy medium – a bit of prep, a bit of wine, nice company and delicious food.
Our experience for the open evening wasn’t exactly like the normal classes they offer, as we were quite a large group we didn’t follow the recipes step by step as usual, instead we helped in the chopping and presentation, and most of the cooking was done by the talented Chefs at the school. Normally they follow a much more hands on approach to make sure the students remember everything, so be prepared to get your apron on and your hands dirty (after thoroughly washing them before you start of course)!
Barcelona Cooking was co-founded just last year by Head Chef Candido Cid, originally from Galicia, who trained here in Barcelona at the Mey Hoffman culinary school. After working for another cookery school, he decided to open his own school with partner Emma, business partner Tony, and Barcelona Cooking was born.
Perfectly located on La Rambla, just opposite the Boqueria Market, I must have walked past the place a hundred times but never realised it was there. The close proximity to the market means access to the freshest ingredients, and the opportunity for them to host classes that include a tour of the market itself. The school has already expanded in its short existence, now with 2 kitchens in the same building, and as well as cooking classes they also offer tapas tours, wine tasting classes and catering for private events.
The team are all bilingual in English & Spanish, although most of the classes & tours tend to be in English due to school’s popularity with American, Canadian, English and Australian visitors, among others of course. A quick look on Tripadvisor confirms their popularity, placed an impressive 15th out of 333 activities in Barcelona, and the top cooking school.
Another new venture for the school is a partnership with Nicola Poltronieri, an Italian Chef with a show on Canal Cocina, who will be teaching Italian cooking classes, in Spanish. The school mainly caters for tourists, but hope their new offering might tempt more of the local community to visit the school.
The other key market for them seems to be the thousands of English speaking ex-pats who now live in Barcelona, and the challenge is finding ways to tempt them through the doors to taste the delights within. I have to say the experiences aren’t cheap for someone on a Barcelona salary like mine, but for a special occasion or for visitors wanting to make the most of their time in the city and get an authentic culinary experience, these classes and tours are a fantastic option.
So what did we eat? (I mean cook then eat!) First of all I must emphasize that the food was delicious. There was a selection of pica pica to start; which was so nicely presented none of us wanted to be the first to dive in and ruin the display!
Classic offerings of Serrano ham, fuet, Manchego cheese, olives & homemade vegetable crisps went down very nicely, once the first brave person had chosen one we all swiftly followed suit and munched our way through the rest.
While we were nibbling, we had a quick introduction to the school & chefs, then introduced ourselves to the group in turn. Then came the prep. As we were a large group of around 18 we were split into smaller groups to work on the different dishes. I was tasked with chopping & de-seeding the tomatoes, while my co-pupil next to me grated the flesh. Others mixed Mascarpone with chopped pickles & chives, chopped onions a plenty, shelled and de-veined prawns and hollowed out baby new potatoes.
Once we’d all finished the prep the cooking started. We mainly watched Candido work his magic here, although a few of us did get involved with the cooking. Meanwhile we were plating up the mini tostadas with the mascarpone mix, a little cube of 3 types of apple, topped with a slice of anchovy (and not the preserved kind but the fresh fish that he had ‘pickled’ with vinegar in house).
Our grated tomato flesh became the base of a brava sauce for patatas bravas, the next dish on the menu. You could be forgiven for thinking that this is a boring choice, same old, same old, you can get these in any bar or restaurant in Barcelona. Well, yes you can, but they would not be like these. Little balls of deliciousness in the shape of double fried mini new potatoes, hollowed out & filled with an incredible brava sauce and topped with a dash of ailioli, they are made for eating whole, so once inside your mouth the first chew releases an explosion of taste and warmth as the spicy pimentón tingles on your tongue. Quite honestly the best bravas I have eaten, and I have munched my way through a lot of bravas over the last year!
And for the ‘main’ course, something I hadn’t tried before – perfectly cooked broad beans served in a delicious broth infused with the flavour from the prawn shells my classmates had so carefully removed earlier, crowned with a plump juicy prawn and a sprinkling of mint. Utterly delicious. I was trying to come up with a synonym to avoid using delicious too many times but really it was DELICIOUS!
To complement all the flavours (and as a reward for our hard chopping work), wine was also served generously. The ‘house’ wine that accompanies the standard classes are a very tasty Rioja & an Albariño white wine, from the vineyards of Carlos & Emi, who are cousins of the founders. Of course in the wine tasting classes a variety of other tipples are sampled, but we just had the house on this occasion.
I really liked how the school is a very ‘family affair; and it almost felt like you were in someone’s home instead of a school, with Candido & Emma as the proud parents, teaching us, the kids, how to follow in their culinary footsteps.
Overall I was very impressed with Barcelona Cooking and what they have to offer. And they have big plans for the future as well, including opening an online shop where you can purchase your own souvenirs and cooking utensils to carry on your good work once you reach home. I really enjoyed my cooking experience, and I look forward to seeing what else they have in store for us in the years to come. I should also thank them for helping me decide what I want for Christmas – a cookery class from Barcelona Cooking!
More info: www.barcelonacooking.net
This article was written for Porktie by Claire Sturzaker - one of our "Word on the Street" bloggers who specialises in the Barri Gòtic. Check out her personal blog for more Tales of Barcelona.