WARNING: Malaga’s Atarazanas market will EXPLODE your sensory perception

 Fruit and veg in Atarazanas market, Malaga

I’m a HUGE fan of food markets.  They are something I seek out, wherever I am in the world – from Barcelona’s Boqueria and Melbourne’s Queen Victoria to local street-markets in Cambodia and Thailand, I’ve visited them all.  So, a trip around Malaga’s Mercado Central de Atarazanas is always a pleasure, every time I’m in Malaga city, as well as featuring high on the list of places to take visitors to.

The Moorish arched entrance blends seamlessly with 19th century industrial design and the huge, colourful stained-glass window, to create not only a beautiful back drop but also to tell the history of the origins of this bustling market-place.


Stained glass window of Atarazanas market, Malaga

Set near the heart of the city, Atarazanas has undergone many transformations since it was originally built in the 14th century as a shipyard, when the waves of the Mediterranean Sea lapped at its entrance.  Over the years, changes have seen the building used as a convent, military arsenal, hospital and medical school before finally being demolished in 1868 and re-built using the current iron structure, as the city food market, in 1879.  Further renovation took place from 2008 to 2010, when Málaga’s Atarazanas market was once again restored to its former glory.

Wild mushrooms for sale in Atarazanas market, Malaga

You might not expect to be given a warning when you visit a city food market, but as you walk through the main entrance, which is the only remaining marble archway of what was once a seven-arched shipyard, I can guarantee your senses will explode!

Taste, sight, smell, hearing and touch – the clean interior of Mercado Central de Atarazanas has it all, from pig’s ears to pink Himalayan salt!

The market is structured into three navesfish, meat and fruit and vegetables, and with more than 250 stalls there is surely something to tickle your tastebuds.

Fresh fish for sale in Atarazanas market

As you wander around, take in the dazzling displays of freshly-caught fish with their scarlet gills and scales glistening under the spotlights.   Marvel at the kaleidoscope of colours in the artistically displayed fresh fruit and vegetables that smell like they’ve been picked only that morning.  And savour the counters of aromatic cheeses, spices, bread, olives, dried fruits, nuts, sausages and hams, where the stall-holders are usually happy to let you taste before you buy.

Fresh seafood for sale in Atarazanas market

A cacophony of sound fills the market, as the competing stall-holders call out to prospective customers and in turn are interrogated by discerning shoppers, eager to discover where the produce is from and how it should be prepared.

I love to watch the locals, who are not only trying to buy the freshest seasonal produce but also socializing with their neighbours as they block the aisles with their roller-trollies, discussing the latest gossip.

Shopping is a much more personal experience in Atarazanas market and, with so many stalls to choose from, cheaper than most supermarkets, too.

Tapas of skewered tuna and prawns

If you have time and are ready for some lunch after feasting your senses on all the wonderful produce, then make your way to one of the tapas bars at either end of the market, El Yerno or Cafe-Bar Atarazanas – they are both equally good.  Stand near to the bar and you will soon be noticed by one of the staff who will make a space for you.  It’s standing room only and always crowded, but well worth it to taste the freshly-cooked, mouth-watering pinchos de gambas, atun o cerdo (skewered prawns, tuna or seasoned pork), boquerones al limón (deep-fried whitebait with lemon) or frito de verduras (tempura-battered vegetables), which you can wash down with a caña (small beer) or vino tinto (red wine).

Tapas of freshly cooked mushrooms

Whether you are a foodie visiting Málaga or a local living nearby,  you won’t want to miss a visit to this authentic food market.

Where is YOUR favourite food market?

 

Mercado Central de Atarazanas
Calle Atarazanas 10
Malaga

Open: Monday to Saturday, 8am – 2pm.

 

 

Following the tapas route around Torre del Mar

Ruta de la Tapa, Torre del Mar

From 1st May until 1st June, Torre del Mar is hosting the third “La Ruta de la Tapa” (Tapas route) around the town.  With 24 establishments taking part, and a drink plus tapa for only 2 euros, it’s a great way of trying out some new places to eat.

Here’s how to join in the fun!

  • Choose one of the bars and restaurants taking part, and when you go in mention that you are taking part in La Ruta de la Tapa.  You will be served with a specially prepared, gourmet tapa and offered a choice of drink.
  • Ask for a Tapas Route Passport and have them stamp it.
  • Each establishment is numbered and shown on the map on the back of the Passport.   Follow the route around Torre del Mar.
  • Make sure to get a stamp in your Tapas passport for each new place you visit and eat one of the special tapa.
  • When you’ve visited all 24 establishments, hand in your completed and stamped passport for a chance to win 300 euros!

Here are some of the tasty (and not so tasty) tapas I’ve enjoyed so far this month:

Vintash - Ruta de la Tapa, Torre del Mar

This is “Bacalao en tres textures con muselina de alioli”  which is a cod-fish tapa from Vintash, Avda. Andalucia esquina con C/Bateria (and one of my favourites, so far!)

Las Yuccas, Ruta de la Tapa, Torre del Mar

Next is “Volován con morcilla de Burgos, queso de cabra y piruleta de chocolate blanco con chorizo”,  a black pudding dish with a white chocolate lollipop from Las Yucas, Avda. Andalucia 64, dup. (Yes, another favourite).

Bar Centro - Ruta de la Tapa, Torre del Mar

Café Bar Centro, Calle del Mar 25, offered delicious Spanish ham with “Coca de pan de cristal con Ibérico”.

Brujas - Ruta de la Tapa, Torre del Mar

The tapa at Brujas, Paseo Maritimo, Ed. California IV bajos, is “Redondo de verdura, queso y salsa de arandanos” – delicious vegetables, goat cheese and cranberries  (and yet another of my personal favourites!)

20 de Tapas - Ruta de la Tapa, Torre del Mar

“Delicias de primavera” is Spring-time on a plate at 20 de Tapas at Avda. Toré Toré.

Mi Mundo - Ruta de la Tapa, Torre del Mar

“Mini brochetas de polo braseado con salsa Tikka Masala y patatas artisanas” is a delicious chicken curry dish from Mi Mundo, Avda. Toré Toré 16.

A Lareira - Ruta de la Tapa, Torre del Mar

“Roll relleno de pollo y setas silvestres, con reducción de vino de Málaga y virutas de foie” is another tasty chicken dish from A Lareira, Calle Pasillo Batería, 7.

Casa Andrés - Ruta de la Tapa, Torre del Mar

“Brocheta marinera con verduras en tempura y mahonesa de marisco” , is a delicious fish-skewered tapa from Casa Andrés, Paseo de Larios 36.

El Rincón de Paco - Ruta de la Tapa, Torre del Mar

And last and, in my opinion, very much the least, is “Bacalao Rincón de Paco” offered by El Rincón de Paco (Number 11 on the tapas route) on Paseo Maritimo.  On paper it should have been OK (cod), but it was drizzled in loads of unidentifiable sweet stuff, and what the bright pink and green things were, I don’t know!   I left my glass of red wine (vino tinto)  which tasted like vinegar – so all in all they will be getting 0/5  **Shudder**

 

So, these are the bars and restaurants I have visited so far on La Ruta de la Tapa in Torre del Mar, but I’ve lots more places to visit before June 1st.   Wish me luck!  

Which of these tapas would you like to try?  Or, if you are in La Axarquía and joining in – which is YOUR favourite tapa?

 

FYI … there is a similar Ruta de la Tapa going on in Nerja during May, too.  Click HERE for information :)

 

Let’s Talk About Tapas: Boquerones

Tapas: Boquerones in vinegar

Last month, I started a new feature called Let’s Talk About Tapas, when I gave you a general overview of what to expect if you want to eat tapas in Spain.

Each month I will be telling you about different tapas, and often I will include a recipe so you can make them at home for yourself.

So, what are tapas and how did they originate?

Well, it’s thought that originally in the wine-making regions of Andalucía, a cover in the form of a small plate or lid was placed over glasses of wine to keep fruit flies away.  Titbits of food were later placed on the lid to be eaten with the wine.  Remember too, that the word “tapar” in Spanish means “to cover”, which is where we get the word “tapas” from.

Let’s get started with one of my favourite tapas – Boquerones en vinagre (anchovies in vinegar).

Boquerones whole

You can buy boquerones from fish merchants or any supermarket with a fish counter such as Mercadona, where a kilo costs around €3.

They are not very difficult to prepare and are absolutely delicious!   When we first arrived to live in Spain and rented a house for the first twelve months in Frigiliana, my Spanish next door neighbour showed me how she prepared them.

First you need to head and gut the fish.  Do this by holding each fish using two hands – with the tail in one hand and the head in the other.  Squeeze behind the head and pull it off.  Split open the fish with your fingers and take out the guts, backbone and pull off tail.

Boquerones filleted

Rinse in cold water until the water runs clear and place the filleted fish white-side up into dish.

Boquerones soaked in white vinegar and sprinkled with salt

Sprinkle with salt and cover with white wine vinegar.  Depending on how many fish you have, you can arrange them into layers – making sure you perform this same task with each layer.  The top layer of fish needs to be covered with vinegar.

The boquerones will start to turn white almost immediately as they “cook” in the vinegar.

I usually cover the dish with clingfilm and pop it into the fridge overnight to marinade.

Chopped garlic and flat-leaf parsley

Boquerones in olive oil with garlic and parsley

Next morning, drain the salty vinegar away and cover the boquerones with extra-virgin olive oil, lots of chopped garlic and a little freshly chopped parsley – and by lunchtime they will be ready to eat with freshly baked bread.

Eat your boquerones with a glass of chilled white wine or manzanilla (dry fino sherry).

What are your favourite tapas?

 

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Let’s talk about tapas, shall we?

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Let’s talk about tapas, shall we?

Well stocked tapas bar in Spain

I’m going to be starting a new feature all about tapas soon, so let’s start by finding about what they are.

It’s thought that originally in the wine-making regions of Andalucia, a cover in the form of a small plate or lid was placed over glasses of wine to keep fruit flies away.  Titbits of food were later placed on the lid to be eaten with the wine.

The word “tapar” in Spanish means “to cover”, which is where we get the word “tapas” from.

How wonderful that Spaniards thought it unacceptable that a fly ends up in your drink, but it´s fine if it lands on the accompanying snack!

Other stories suggest that tapas were invented by a bar owner in Seville, who decided to put a cover (tapa) over his guests´ glasses of wine, using a slice of bread to keep out flies.  He later put a piece of ham or cheese on top, so that his customers could have a bite to eat with their drink.

Rioja and scrummy tapas!

Either way, the idea spread, so that nowadays the types of food served as tapas are limitless.  Most Spaniards don´t drink alcohol without a tapa and many bars, especially in southern Andalucia, provide them free of charge.

The original Spanish “fast food” is usually displayed in refrigerated glass cabinets on the bar and served in small terracotta glazed dishes. Some examples of the type of tapas normally available include gambas (whole cooked prawns in their shells), boquerones (fresh anchovies in olive oil, vinegar and garlic), chorizo (spicy Spanish sausage), albondigas (meatball…often in a creamy almond sauce), queso (cheese…often manchego), habas con jamon (broad beans with ham), ensalada rusa (Russian salad) or just a few olives.

Delicious tapas

Your choice of tapas is usually accompanied by a small piece of crusty bread which helps to counteract the adverse effects of the alcohol through drinking on an empty stomach.

What a sensible idea!

In many establishments, if you stand at the bar along with the locals you will be given one tapa free with each drink you buy.  

That’s right …. free food!

Tapas in Spain

Should you choose to sit away from the bar, you can pay for a tapas or two (usually about one euro in this part of Spain), or opt for a larger serving known as a ración (ration) or medio ración (half ration). This is a great way to eat a variety of dishes, and a pretty sociable activity as groups generally tend to share their dishes.

The food is generally very good, even in remote villages around the Axarquia.

Where is your favourite tapas bar?   Which tapa do you choose, time and time again?

 

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Venturing further afield: San Sebastián in the heart of Basque country

We love to travel not only locally, but throughout Spain, so I will also include information, from time to time, about where we have visited.  Usually these places can either be driven to within a few hours of our home, east of Málaga, or we will have flown there from Málaga (AGP) airport.

Overlooking La Concha Bay, San Sebastian, Spain

You might remember, a while ago, I told you about a trip we had taken to Santander, on the northern coast of Spain.  In that post, I promised to tell you more about the rest of our journey, so here it is!

After a great overnight stay at a little gem of a hotel (the Jardin Secreto in Santander), we hired a car and travelled along the northern coast of Spain to San Sebastián, only 20 kilometres from the French border.

On the way to San Sebastian, Spain

There is much more rainfall here than where we live on the south coast of Spain, making the landscape generally much greener.

San Sebastián, also known as Donostia, lies along a white, sandy bay in the heart of Basque Country.   It’s easy to fall in love with San Sebastián as the streets unfold to overlook La Concha Bay, with Monte Igeldo offering a wonderful vantage point for enjoying views over the city, as you can see in the first photograph.

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

There is a lovely promenade with elegant railings and street lamps, as well as wonderful bridges crossing the Rio Urumea as it meanders along to the Bay of Biscay.

San Sebastián is a cosmopolitan city with a strong Basque character, which is as evident in cultural events as well as in cuisine.      The city is renowned for its Basque cuisine with a trio of 3-starred Michelin restaurants to be found nearby – compare that to only four be found in the whole of the UK!

Tapas in a San Sebastian bar, Spain

The city is the epicentre of Basque gastronomy, where food makes a major contribution to the social life of the Basque people.  To share and to enjoy it with them is a truly unique experience.  Just take a look at all the tapas set out on the counter in the photograph, and this was just a little bar down a side street!

Funicular railway, San Sebastian, Spain

We caught the funicular railway to the peak of Monte Igeldo for magnificent views across the city and the scallop-shaped bay complete with golden sand and sparkling turquoise water.

In June of last year, San Sebastián was chosen to be the European Capital of Culture in 2016, so maybe I will get another chance to continue my love affair with this beautiful city, which has more than a whiff of Monaco about it.

Do you know of an area renowned for it’s fabulous cuisine?  Why not share it below, so we can all come and visit!

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