One of the things that interests me the most about visiting any new place is it’s food and over time, I have found myself gravitating away from fast food chains and leaning more and more towards local cafes, food tours and cooking classes. I love these experiences and come back home excited to try out recipes and relive my travels through them.
I was in Madrid last year on a work trip, part of a large team organizing our flagship European event. This was an event for which we pulled out all the stops, and while work was intense, it also gave me the chance to experience local culture, food and historic sights in a grand way. Three things had got me really excited – Spanish food, Flamenco and Espadrilles. So, on the lone free day after the event was done, I decided to try these before I headed back home. (Sadly, The Flamenco performance didn’t work out, but I guess there is always another time.)
My heart was set on trying a local cooking class and I researched online for a good one that I could join end minute. I wrote to quite a few, only to be turned down by all except one, which was Cooking Point in central Madrid and walking distance from where I was staying. Frankly, I wasn’t thrilled as this was not on the top of my list – while the reviews were spectacular (#1 on TripAdvisor), it looked more commercial and I was hoping to try something more intimate and local. But time was running out, and when they emailed me that they had 1 spot left, I decided to go for it.
Located in Calle de Moratín, I reached the studio and met our guide and chef for the day, made the payment after which I was told to wait for the others. People began trickling in and everyone seemed friendly and eager to get started.
The first step was a visit to the legendry food market Anton Martin, to pick local produce of meat and vegetables. This was an amazing experience for me, as I anyway love picking groceries and Anton Martin had over 60 shops selling everything from meats, to seafood, to olives to all sorts of wonderful vegetables. We smelled great produce, understood how to pick vegetables and meats and after 45 minutes well spent, we walked back to the studio.
Once back at the studio, we were divided into groups of 2. I was the only one trying the class solo, but I got a partner from a wonderful trio of ladies. Each group was given one gas stove, chopping boards, knives and all cooking utensils needed for the class.
We first began prepping for the Sangria.
- We began by pouring a bottle of wine into a glass jug. You don’t really need an expensive wine.
- Add 2 tbsp sugar and a pinch of cinnamon
- Add 100 ml orange juice and 50ml vermouth (you can add brandy as well)
- Add some fruit – we added sliced limes, apples and oranges
- Refrigerate for at least 4 hours
- Add 100ml soda before serving
Next, we started preparing Gazpacho (this is a simple and healthy dish and also quite perfect for the scorching India summers)
- Roughly chop 250gm tomatoes, 50 gm green pepper, 50 gm cucumber, 1 onion, small piece of bread, 1 garlic clove, 1 tbsp vinegar and churn in a blender
- Pass through a fine mesh and return to blender. Add some salt, pepper and cumin.
- Add 50 ml extra virgin olive oil and blend again to emulsify the oil
- Chill in the refrigerator and top with diced cucumber, croutons and a dash of oil if you like
And now for the final (and my favourite dish), Paella
- In a Paella pan (or any plat bottomed pan), add olive oil and fry about 250 gms of chicken for 3 minutes. Set aside
- In the same pan, add a few cloves of garlic. Once brown, add diced green and red peppers (half each)
- Once soft, add 200 gms of diced calamari and fry till it gets white.
- Meanwhile, grate 1 tomato. Add to the cooked calamari along with 1 tsp sweet paprika. Add the fried chicken as well. Cook the mixture till dry
- Add 150gm of Paella rice and mix everything well
- Add 500 ml boiling fish stock (add saffron to the stock while it is boiling). Cover the rice and don’t mix further. Lower heat and let it simmer for 5-6 minutes.
- Arrange mussels on the rice and lower heat further. Let it simmer for 5-6 min.
- Add prawns to the dish and let it cook for 5 min.
- If stock remains, increase the heat so that the stock evaporates within a minute or two
- Take off the heat, cover with a clean lightly wet cloth and let it stand for 10 min
- Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the dish and it is ready to be served
After everything was made, we all displayed our food and laughed and ate together. It was a wonderful experience with some lovely people and great home style food. Post lunch, the group clicked some photos and shared further travel plans. We were handed over a recipe booklet by cooking point and we said our byes.
The experience doesn’t come cheap at a cost of 70 euros per person and typically takes 4 hours. But I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. While it was more on the popular, commercial side of things, still there was something cozy and comforting about the way the class was conducted by Cooking Point, and the Sangria helps of course 😀 .
If food floats your boat and you enjoy meeting new people, you will definitely walk away feeling satisfied.
This experience was self-funded and not in collaboration with Cooking Point. All reviews are entirely my own.