Following on from last week’s blog about siestas and tapas, I thought I would share with you some experiences that have helped me adapt to shopping for food here in Almeria.
If you are from a Northern Europe, or a large city elsewhere, you could probably choose any cuisine to cook or dine out on with ease. One of the attractions of of Almeria Province is that it is not commercialised or built up. As a result, the shops tend to reflect the needs of the locals – often including ex-pats.
It is also worth remembering that whilst Mexico and Spain share a language, they do not share a spice palate. The Spanish generally do not eat ‘spicy’ food. I have found it difficult to find fresh chilies, or hot paprika in a jar, for example. Fresh basil and coriander are also quite rare.
To solve this issue, when you see fresh chills or coriander – wash, chop into the required size and freeze ready for use in a salsa or chilli. Basil is not so easy to store whole – just enjoy it the day you see it with sliced tomatoes, mozzarella – with a little olive oil.
The Spanish are said to have a Mediterranean diet, and a lot of people look forward to eating this way when they move here. But the Mediterranean is a large sea with Spain at one end and Israel at the other. Italy is somewhere in the Middle; opposite Tunisia, hence the term ‘Mediterranean can be a little misleading.
Make the most of the seasonal fruits and vegetables, and base your cooking around these. Tomatoes will always be available, as will sweet peppers and courgettes. Obviously Spanish Onions are a great staple too. In Almeria there are many date palms – making this a popular snack or dessert base.
You won’t see many cows this far south, though, due to a lack of grass, so dairy produce is generally cured, hard cheeses (Curado) or goats cheese (hard or soft). ‘Beef only’ minced meat is available – but often it is mixed with pork and called ‘hamburger meat’.
Pulses (Pintas) such as kidney beans, brown beans or chick peas come in jars rather than cans here. As you begin to adapt to eating more vegetables, and of course fish, try swapping pulses for meat. For me, a three-been chilli is a great alternative to the traditional meat version.
Start or finish with dates stuffed with goats cheese – and you have a quick, economical meal you can serve serve to friends on any fiesta.