As some one who loves bread and everything about it I’m disappointed to discover that there’s no great traditional bread of the Alpujarras for me to seek out, taste and report back on. Of course bread is ubiquitous, appearing at every meal and with every tapas, but it’s almost always a simple, not especially exciting, crusty white baguette.
With much of the cooking we’ve experienced here innovation and creativity are alien concepts to be treated with suspicion and mistrust. Traditional dishes cooked with great care but without frills, frippery or flair are the only dishes likely to meet with approval. At Las Chimeneas we have been enjoying some delicious cooking with moorish touches but I doubt our cooks Conchi and Sole take these radical ideas home with them.
I imagine a young Alpujarran girl daring to add a touch of some exotic spice (let’s say coriander) to a dish with the hope of adding a modicum of individuality to her cooking. This outrageous heresy is met with a chorus of air sucking, tongue clicking and head shaking by mother, aunts, sisters and cousins. Our young adventuress returns to her kitchen cowed and crestfallen; never again will she dare to stray beyond the accepted norms of the Alpujarran cuisine of here forbears.
Similarly the young apprentice baker who, having heard tell of a wonderful loaf in Granada made with herbs and sun-dried tomatoes, stays late one afternoon to experiment. On learning of this dangerous break with custom the lad is soundly chastised by his master who warns him that regulars will assume the bakery has become possessed by some demon and refuse to buy from them ever again.
Having said all that there’s a lot to be said for tradition and a visit to the local town of Ugijar (Oo-ghee-haa?) provided two of the best examples of bready deliciousness one could ever wish for. Neither of these is especially Alpujarran being found all over Spain but they are as firmly on the menu here as elsewhere.
Churros: A simple paste of flour, water and salt with a pinch of raising agent is piped into hot oil.
Here it expands in seconds into a light puff of crispness which is then sprinkled with sugar or dipped into a thick chocolate dip. Churrerías (usually a van) can be found in most towns on market days.
Back at home in the UK churros are now a pretty trendy street food item enjoyed by hipsters and children. Here they are a fixture of daily life and you are just as likely to see an OAP enjoying one with a cup of coffee as you are a child. Churros are sometimes ridged which is good for holding more sugar or chocolate sauce. In Ugijar they were served thick and round and much lighter than some others I have had.
Tostada com Tomate: That’s toast with tomato to you but it really is so much more that toast with tomato. This breakfast dish is so simple and yet, when eaten in the Spanish sunshine for breakfast, so fresh and delicious.
Slice in half a long bread role and lightly toast it. Meanwhile use a grater to pulp a ripe tomato. When the toast is ready rub it’s cut side generously with the face of a cut clove of garlic. Spread the tomato on top (not too much) and serve with salt and olive oil. The tomato must be ripe and good quality and make sure to use good olive oil. Seemingly the bread can be pretty crap (see above) but I think using good bread would take it up another notch again.
The baking here may not be ground breaking but when the traditional dishes are done so well who’s complaining? Not me!