Saturday, January 31, 2015

Meet the Tile Master and Cooking School

We met Ivan, Ryan and Angela at Casa de las Sirenas.  It was once a palace, beautiful building, then abandoned, turned into a house for “ladies of the evening” and then the City took it over and it has an amazing amount of cultural programs running. 

I just liked this...
Walked to Ceramica Lastrucci, multi-generational tile master’s studio, owned and operated by Antonio.

He truly is master of his art, showed us a commissioned work in progress for a Bodega called San Lorenzo for it’s hundred year anniversary, located just around the corner from where we live. 
Small bit of detail
Has already taken him two months, perhaps another to complete. He showed me the technique, small brush strokes, his hand guided, protected and supported by a wooden moveable bar suspended vertically along the top while painting the tile.  
Detail of one of the many angels that adorn his works
He’s a very welcoming and warm hearted gentleman who really enjoys his vocation.
Sevilla from across the river scene.

 Now it’s about the food and Ivan’s cooking class here at the flat. Went to the market,  Ivan had wanted to go to a real market but it was getting late in the day and we settled on  a mercado (grocery store).  He sent us off to buy vegetables which we had to weigh and put stickers on while he purchased the meat for the soup.

Back to our flat and Ivan starts, Angela chops the vegetables, I start peeling potatoes and the meal gets done in about an hour. 

Pictured is what we would call Ratetouille – vegetable of onion, red and green pepper, egg plant, zuccini cooked and mixed together in order of doneness. 

As always with olive oil and a bit of salt as a side, this was my favourite really.

Soup – restorative soup, recipes below, but includes salted beef, pork, bacon, vegetable in raw form, i.e not cut up so makes a broth, chick peas, don’t know why they are important but seem to be.

Tortilla - fried potatoes in a pot with, of course olive oil, limp but not crispy, mix with egg mashed with the potato, to meld together. Fry until done on the bottom, now the trick, turn it over onto a  lid covered in oil so it slides, and flip back into the pan for a bit more cooking. This is easier said than done! The chance of getting the concoction all over the kitchen is huge for a novice. Ivan says it is his specialty and even using utensils we had that were non-conventional he did a wonderful job.

Yes, that's our Chef Ivan holding the results.

 Ivan was masterful at using limited resources, Ryan went to their apartment twice to get a pressure cooker, which halved the cooking time, cutting boards etc, and the special gizmo that made the pressure cooker actually work. A spigot that releases steam, much needed, so learned about that too.

In truth, it was an unscripted experience, again, fraught with obstacle but turned out extremely well. It was scripted in terms of the menu and what to purchase to achieve but cooking in the galley style kitchen with five people took a bit of juggling for space to chop and prepare. Made it more fun I think.

Recipes sent to us by Ivan

PUCHERO – Restorative Soup, Ivan’s Mom’s

Ingredients: huesos espinazo (spine bones), tocino (bacon) fresco, tocino salado (salted), 1 chicken leg and a piece of beef called JARRETE here.
1. clean the bones and tocino in really hot water
2. put them in a big pot covered with water. ( the more water, the more and softer soup you get. BOIL 15 MINUTES ON PRESSURE OR 1 HOUR IN REGULAR POT.
3. Open the pot and add celery, leek, 1 potato in big pieces, chickpeas already watered, carrot and pumpkin if you like (we didn’t). BOIL 15 MINUTES ON PRESSURE OR 1 HOUR IN REGULAR POT.
4. put the meat and the bones aside if you are going to eat it, or leave in the pot for keeping giving flavour to the soup in case of left-overs.

1. half fry the potatoes.
2. melt or whisk the eggs
3. smash the potatoes in the eggs and add salt to your taste.
4. heat olive oil in an appropriate size saucepan, just cover the botton.
5. put inside once the oil is hot mixing the cooked parts at the begining to make it thick enough to turn it up. 
6. add some oil to the top of saucepan (if you dont have, use a plate), heat it up a bit.
7. turn it up (flip the entire thing!) letting the uncooked part slide into the pan again, then wait for it to get cooked and... VOILÁ! (easier said than done!)

PISTO – what I called ratetouille
1. dice the vegetables: ovegine (eggplant), zukini, onion, red and green peppers.
2. fry natural, canned, tomato in a separate saucepan or pot. adding half coffe spoon of salt and another of sugar. (20 minutes boiling softly)
3. fry the vegetables in order of priority: peppers, onion and rest.
4. mix everything till it gets melted smashing it and moving it with the wooden spoon.
Combine it with fries, fried eggs, tortilla, fried fish, or... "pasta" jejeje! Spanish for hehehe!


Now about clothing – Last year we stumbled on a small shop in the Macarena District, an area we are not familiar with. A woman named Petra designs and sews her own linen products. You may remember, I liked her and her product so wanted to find her again. We did and she had a half price sale on, I quite significantly reduced her stock and bought two hand painted scarves as well, after all, a woman can never have too many scarves can she? Petra was very pleased, I was very pleased. 

We ran into Steve, our neighbour from last year and he’s living in an artist coop where they have suites and studios in the same building, great idea I think.

Aside:  maps of Sevilla are not always accurate and street names change on what seems to be a whim… no wonder tourists stand on the corners of streets, maps in hand, looking puzzled. We have a good handle on navigating this City now, may not always get there the most direct route but do get there.

All for now, Cheers, Bx2 and Lexi Cat

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ceramics Museum and True Flamenco!

Beautiful and hauntingly emotional
More on the Flamenco further on in this post...

Day with Ivan back in Triana, went to the Ceramics Museum, where they produced all the tile for Sevilla. 

Entry to the Museum

Most business signs were done in tile as seen here.

Each stall in the Triana Market has the owner’s signs done in tile. 

Gigantic holes in the ground to stoke the fire with straw into ovens used as kilns to cure the tile on top. It was fascinating! A shorter woman than I, rare, came through with us, she talked to herself and Ivan. Her husband had worked at the tile factory and when it was disbanded he took some tile home to decorate their home. I’d bet she would be a fountain of information and perhaps we should have used the opportunity to mine her for the ins and outs of factory goings on.

Didn’t know how much better an already good day was going to become…
By chance we met Ivan’s mom and friend outside the market. They  were headed to their club’s Flamenco show and invited us along! 

We strolled the market and had lunch at  Bruce had his oysters he’s been wanting – all very fresh. Bruce explained the oysters are so different to what he gets in Canada and discovered the real meal of an oyster, he waxed on about it for a bit.

Then we went to the show – a true, amateur flamenco show. This is the last performance in this building, second floor (first here) is the club house, main floor held vintage collections of comics, LP’s or vinyl, yes some of us remember those, and Ivan says he still has a turntable to play them on, that would be vintage as well in Canada.

Ivan and I just about cried, gave Bruce goosebumps, it was so moving and wonderful. We caught the second set which started out by two men singing or wailing really to honour those they had lost over the last year at the club. The entire show, music was provided by a single guitarist who was extremely skilled. 

Ivan took videos with his cell phone and pictures which I will cut and paste into the updated blog email you will get. Attempts to put them into this blog post failed due to my lack of expertise. Sorry Ivan!

Then came the dancer, relatively young but so passionate, feet moving so fast to the clapping, singing of the men, and guitarist. 

Her expressions and body movements in response to the men singing to her were impressive, told a story really of love, unrequited love and anger, at least that’s what I deduced.

Blurry but she was in action!

Then two young ladies with long flowing hair in jeans and t-shirts danced with the lead and they were excellent.

Another fellow came up and danced, the teacher came up and danced. A family affair really with only the lead dancer in costume.

Bruce’s version greatest days in his life, oysters, flamenco, what more could you ask for? 

A saying on the wall translated: Pride and Pain of Living. “Before you die don’t lose your life”

The women sit together and men together, as it is done in that age group, most likely over 50 (I fit right in) and some much older or younger. The women were warm and kind to me, one spoke some English and she was effusive about how I was going to see “the real flamenco” not for tourists, and it certainly was! Just to be able to experience this was wonderful, an authentic flamenco that was not professional, not scripted, exhibited true passion for the dance genre and music.

Bruce and I saw a professional flamenco show on my first trip to Sevilla, it is considered the best one but for tourists. I sat so close to the stage the women’s skirts brushed my elbow, which I didn’t leave on the stage after that, afraid of getting tromped on. It was very good and we hadn’t meant to go to another because we didn’t want to “water down” the experience. The show we saw today was so very different in the community spirit, standing ovations, the warmness of friends gathering together for a drink, tapas and good entertainment. There are not enough (or I don’t know enough) superlatives to describe this experience, it was a jewel we won’t ever forget!

Toreador statue framing the Giralda part of the Cathedral, Ivan told me to take.
Absolutely perfect day, Thank you Ivan and family!

Cheers, Bx2 and Lexi Cat

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Foodie tour of Aljarafe Area

The Three King’s parade and Epiphany Tuesday, January 6th is when the children get their gifts. As mentioned previously we saw a barrio parade and have seen another, but the city one is on the evening of the 5th and has crowds of people to watch it. Candy is thrown to the children which hits hard but now they’ve replaced much of it with the soft stuff. I’m not talking about small amounts, the kings heave armloads of it! Here’s an amusing account from an expat.

Guess the adage “all fun and games until someone gets loses an eye” from Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh, I think, wrong, but you get the idea. In any case having looked it up I did find some enchanting sayings from the book here.

Okay, way, way off topic, but couldn’t resist…

We bought the Sherlock Holmes mystery series for our evening entertainment here. Yes, I know we should be out seeing the sights and tapa hopping as people do but in the evening we are both home bodies. The point to this is that it came in a box which we temporarily put on the dining table and Lexi climbed in. Her head rested on the flap of the box but she fit, and the packing bubble made a good pillow, cat comfy.

As mentioned, there are Chinese, or Oriental shops all over, one on every block and very handy for small things and emergency supplies. Well on Epiphany Day I decided to get a few little things needed for the flat. Visits to about five showed me how various are the offerings are in each.  I asked Ivan if there was any reason behind what each store carries and he said, whatever the neighbourhood asks for and buys. If you ask for, say milk, they'll bring it in for you the next day even though you needed right now, reasoning is if you asked for it someone else will tomorrow. Rather bizarre way of stocking a store, no wonder it's such an eclectic mix.

Ivan took us to Umbrete a town in the Aljarafe area North of Sevilla.  Driving through small towns we saw white washed buildings and churches with wonderfully tiled Moorish spires with round domes, perhaps not Moorish, anyway beautiful.

We tried for an olive factory tour which wasn't available that day. Did get an understanding of the whole process from the proprietor and saw a selection of what they sell to retailers. We bought a couple of jars of olives, two different recipes of the dozens available. So many barrels for the oil! (picture didn't turn out) Olives and oil are big business here. Olives are served with beer, the oil is used in almost every recipe. We are working on getting a cooking class together so I'm sure I'll have more to post about olives.

Next on to a bodega, F. Salado founded in 1810. Beautiful property, huge storage area with casks of wine.

They do a tour of their vineyards through the Aljarafe area which we didn't take, the bodega itself is a wonder. 

Naranja is orange, it's a sherry like wine made in the area

I bought some Mostum wine, a white young table wine.

One of several wells on the property
One of several statues on the property with Bruce sitting in the car behind her.
Ivan's picture of the wine barrels
Seeing an olive factory and wine bodega we saw a LOT of barrels that day!

Lunch at a restaurant specializing in fish and seafood called Casa Rufino. (you can do a translate on it.)

The restaurant owners bring in the freshest seafood from Huelva about half an hour drive from there and cook it up with skill. We had delicious large prawns served whole that I should have taken a picture of. The walls were covered with many pictures and sculptures of the Virgin. 

It was a lovely foodie focused day in the countryside!

Aside, many bloggers take pictures of food, I always forget, I remember when it’s half eaten and that wouldn’t do justice to the presentation.

Another aside, Bruce typically looks up former students and has found another who has become a success. That makes him feel that his “kids” have found a home and are happy, very satisfying to him.

Further aside and last one, We bought three fry pans the other day, because that’s just what “you do”. Explanation, if we find worn out or are missing something in the kitchen, we buy it and leave it for the next people to use. It’s all part of travelling slowly, living in a flat with kitchen. I know of a couple who travel with small kitchen items they need, another is super organized and has a list of kitchen things they typically cook with. We aren't that organized and just go and get what we need when needed.

Next post is about a spectacular event (hint flamenco) we were lucky to see, stay tuned.

Cheers, Bx2 and Lexi Cat

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Roman Ruins and Tapa Hopping

What a wonderful day with Ivan! You’ve heard that many times before, and will again, but he really provides us with great experiences. We visited the Roman ruins under the Metropol Parasol, nicknamed the Mushrooms, or Setas in Spanish. Read more about it here

The current display is Puertas de Sevilla, Ayer Y Hoy, Doors of Sevilla, Yesterday and Today. They have meticulously drawn pictures, photographs and made models of the ancient walled City of Sevilla. There were 22 doors or gateways marked mostly in the direction they were headed i.e. Cordoba; Malaga – well you get the idea. There was a 3-D video to watch although none of us found the glasses worked all that well but did give one an impression of how extensive the walls were and gates magnificent! Not much is left of them today, they were all torn down around 60 years ago, (Ivan feel free to correct me on this) to allow the city to grow into the suburbs for buses and cars to fit. Ivan, a true Sevillian regrets this decision, destroying history is abhorrent to him.

Wonderful tile work! Much older than what we saw in Triana.

Walk around the Setas to see where the local market had been that Ivan’s Mom used to shop at, it's a vacant lot now.

Then we did a true Spanish thing, bar and tapas hopping, meaning have a drink and tapa, then move on to the next bar, for another! First stop was at a restaurant where it’s standing room only, many are here – El Rinconcillo with “best” food in the oldest bar in Sevilla established in 1670. The food was extremely good! I do like to sit while eating, but standing is the traditional way of tapas hopping.

Ivan's pic: Painting of the exterior of the bar, but notice the tile work again... tired of tiles yet?

Very very crowded and always is according to Ivan. They got a TripAdvisor rating a few years ago and since it has become nuts for crowding, all day, must have been a good review, here’s the review.

Ivan's pic: Pot may have held beer but more likely wine or sherry I think.
We went to a belen, nativity scene, there were line ups for, the church is not open often and a woman saint is buried there, body whole, covered in wax to preserve. Ivan had met her as a child, she was adorned Sainthood after her death. Working convent with nuns in habits selling sweets as they do in many churches this time of year. The sweets are made with lard, we didn’t try them but there was a line up to purchase those too. The belen itself was large, stretching up to the ceiling with a working waterfall and the entire village, so detailed! Sorry picture didn't work out.

Ivan's pic: These banners are hung over balconies ALL over Sevilla, nice courtyard too

On to another bar/cheese house/kiosk, don’t know how to describe it for half and half dry and sweet sherry and a wonderful selection of cheeses, Pepe, owner, is closing up but provides anyway due to Ivan knowing him for a while. 
Ivan's pic: Mural on the door outside owner Pepe's shop

He closes and shows us his new bodega soon to open. Two bulls heads adorn one wall, with plaques under them, famous bulls, and not my preference for decoration but I would expect they’d be a source of pride for the owner. Gleaming kitchen, small cozy space likely catering to locals, quite a way off the tourist beat.

Another stop for coffee at the Alameda and Mariel joins us. By this time we are both tired, I’d walked the route so walked my little legs off, slowly but still more than I’ve done in a while. Good in all ways because we saw so very much more of the neighbourhoods.

Feeling Naked here, no camera! While we were in the Antiqvarivm de Sevilla the battery ran out on the camera. I carry a spare so plugged it in with a bit of difficulty. Tried the camera and it isn’t working. Figure out the spare was for our old camera – oops and darn it! Yanked the battery out but have damaged the opening to the chamber. Attempts to fix failed so I’m off to the camera store for another one. Darn it again! I like this camera, but the store has a very similar model so hoping it will be as good. Now I can be dressed again. So funny, dumb me! Took it to a camera store and all the clerk did was swap the battery around! Doh! Double Doh! Much head slapping after that! Extremely glad to have it working though. Photo credit to Ivan with Thanks!

Paradise Tree in the yard at a bodega we visited. Read about it next post.
I ordered Salmonettas Frittos, not realy knowing what, that meant but was on the daily menu and I do like salmon. What was served was three small fish, fried in light batter, head and tail on. So proceeded to eat and found them tasty, in fact they are Red Mullet, don’t know that fish and the pickiness of removing bones was tedious, call me lazy.  

Met up with two couples from the US who are bloggers and hadn’t met each other, no real surprise there. Thought it was a good opportunity to introduce some folks who have similar interests as ours, mainly slow travelling. They were Ali and Andy from and and Ryan and Angela from It was a festive lunch, at Bar Antojo located slightly north of the Alameda. 

Great food, great company! The restaurant filled up completely before we left. It is a "sit down" tapas place, quite modern, and the owners have other restaurants in the City that I’m told are equally good.  

Lexi's latest is chasing her tail, she rolls head over heels, not the usual chase round and round. I'll close off for now, have another post almost ready to go so you may hear from me sooner next time.

Cheers, Bx2 and rolling Lexi Cat