Friday, September 13, 2013

Granada, Spain: College kids, Tapas, Palaces, and Pomegranates.

La Alhambra de Granada

Granada is a college town. A small city center that you can walk across, dotted with tapas bars so cheap that you would question the quality if it wasn't for the fact that they are all the same price. Beer comes with free food, so you may actually have to politely request NOT to be sent another heaping plate of potatoes if you wish to have a third drink.

Granada is the Spanish word for Pomegranate, and the city is thus named for the seedy fruit's natural abundance. Pomegranates are everywhere; from street signs to sidewalk pylons. Granada to me felt like three different cities, as I stayed in three distinct living situations (through the virtues of during my six day stay.

One phenomenon that I continued to encounter throughout Andalucía is that of the Botellón: a custom where the young people of a town or city gather to drink large amounts of alcohol in public. Presumably, because of the police's inability to completely stop the students of Granada from drinking publicly before a night at the numerous clubs in the city, there is now a "legal" zone for this "pre-game" ritual. A large, vacant lot near the Plaza Neptuno (Huerta del Rasillo), this area is 9,500sq meters and can fit some 20,000 people. On a Friday or Saturday night it is packed. Another botellódromo I encountered was in Cádiz in one level of a city parking structure. These areas are usually far from residential areas and are monitored actively by the local police. Though this isn't technically legal, it is a solution to a problem that many cities of the south have decided upon, with generally successful results.

The "Granadas" of Granada

My first night in Granada was a full immersion into the local tapas scene. Though the tapas may not be light and healthy, they are cheap, delicious, and (sometimes) done right: miniature hamburgers, spicy meatballs, grilled beef in tomato sofritto, curried pork skewers, roast potatoes, baked potatoes, fried eggplant with cane syrup and lime, fried shrimp, steamed clams, sauteed mushrooms, confit pork loin sandwiches, stuffed squid, chickpea stew, and huevos rotos.

Huevos Rotos
If you think your french fries need some dressing up (trust me, they do), then make them into a plate of 'broken eggs' —fried potatoes topped with thin strips of cured ham, an over-easy egg, and anything else that can be eaten with a fork.
To eat: Break the yolk, stir it all together with gusto, and stuff your face. Pairs with the cheapest beer on draft (the local, aptly-named Alhambra beer) and is best served free...

La Alhambra
The main attraction, and the one thing that should not be missed in Granada, is La Alhambra: Three palaces and a fortress compound perched above the city that dates back to the year 889AD. Fully realized in the 14th century, it was the last palace built by the Islamic rulers of Spain before the Spanish Inquisition, or Reconquista in 1492 when the Catholic rulers sought to expel Islam, as well as Judaism, from the Iberian Peninsula.

Between the 16th and 19th century La Alhambra fell into ruin, but thanks to interested scholars and anthropologists, the palaces, gardens, and fortress were restored and are now a UNESCO World Heritage site and some of the most visited sites of antiquity in all of Spain. It is lush with flowing water channels, fountains, and gardens elaborately decorated with carvings, tiles, and sculptures that show with vivid clarity the wealth, power, ingenuity, and elegance of the former Islamic kingdom of Spain. 

Palace of Carlos V. La Alhambra. Granada, Spain 
The Generalife palace. La Alhambra. Granada, Spain

Granada as seen from the Alcazaba

The flags of: The European Union, Andalucía, Spain, and Granada. La Alcazaba

La Alhambra. Granada, Spain

Palacio Nazaríes. La Alhambra. Granada, Spain

Palacio Nazaríes. La Alhambra. Granda, Spain 
Palacio Nazaríes. La Alhambra. Granada, Spain

Fountain of The Lions. Palacio Nazaríes. La Alhambra. Granada, Spain

Palacio Nazaríes. La Alhambra. Granada, Spain

Palacio Nazaríes. La Alhambra. Granada, Spain

Palacio Nazaríes. La Alhambra. Granada, Spain

La Alhambra. Granada, Spain

La Alhambra. Granada, Spain

Cafe terrace. La Alhmabra. Granda, Spain

The site is so popular that tickets must almost always be purchased in advance (either online or, conveniently, at any Caixa ATM). General Admission is €13. Specific times must be selected for entrance to the Nasrid Palace; the most impressive of all the buildings in the expansive compound.

Before heading to La Alhambra, walk up the other side of the valley to the Mirador de San Nicolas for a stunning view of the palace, the Sierra Nevada mountain's snowy peak, and to hear local gypsies playing flamenco guitar in its rawest form.

Mirador de San Nicolas. Granada, Spain

La Alhambra as seen from the Mirador de San Nicolas. Granada, Spain

"Accordian Player". Carrera de la Virgen. Granada, Spain

Basilica de Nuestra Señora de las Angustias. Carrera de la Virgen

Artisan Market. Granada, Spain

If you enjoy street art like I do, keep on the lookout for murals and public pieces by Raúl Ruiz, or as he is known in the world of graffiti, El Niño de las Pinturas (The child of the paintings). He is by and large permitted to practice his "graffiti" in Granada as he is known for meaningful, enriching public art.

Work by famous Granada street artist El Niño

Work by famous Granada street artist El Niño

Plaza de la Fuente de las Batallas

Hookah bar on the famous Cuesta de Marañas

Public game tables. Plaza de la Fuente de las Batallas

Recycled, Giant Chess. Plaza de la Fuente de las Batallas
Olives outside of San Agustín market

Ripe Brevas outside of the San Agustín Market

Plaza de Toros. Bullfighting Ring. Granada, Spain

Paseo de los Basilios. Granada, Spain

The Albaicín. Old-City, Granada

Cathedral of Granada

Now it's time for dessert....
Want to try something sweet? It has to be Piononos! A quintessential Andaluz dessert (mainly in Granada, and specifically in the village of Santa Fe where they are said to have originated), Piononos are bite-sized pastry rolls soaked in a honey and liquor syrup (the complete recipe is a well-guarded secret among competing locals), piped full of pastry cream, and topped with cinnamon. A link to the Moorish past of Granada, Piononos' dominant honey-cinnamon flavor owes a lot to the North African roots that are still prevalent in the culture and cuisine of southern Spain.

Piononos at the famous Rey Fernando cafe. Granada, Spain
Piononos de Granada
Equipment: Whisk, 2 mixing bowls, flour sifter or fine strainer, rubber spatula, 
rectangular cake pan, parchment paper

For the Pastry Cream
1/4 liter of milk,
2 eggs
40 grams of cake flour
200 grams of sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest 
1 stick cinnamon

For the sponge cake
3 egg yolks
5 egg whites, whipped to soft peaks
60 grams of sugar
80 grams cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold milk
1 glass of rum
2 Tbsp honey
Cinnamon powder and fine sugar for dusting

Pastry Cream Preparation
-Make the cream by boiling milk, sugar, cinnamon and zest together. 
-Whisk the eggs with the flour until fully combined
-When the milk is at a simmer, add a few tablespoon to the egg (to temper), then add the eggs and flour back into the hot milk. 
-Stir continuously, simmering for 3 minutes or until thick.
-Pour into a dish and allow to cool to room temperature

Sponge Cake Preparation
-Beat the three yolks until creamy, then add the sugar and 2 tablespoons milk. Continue to beat until doubled in volume
-In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites to soft peaks
-Once ready, fold the beaten yolks into the whites with a rubber spatula, making sure not to over mix.
-Next, fold the flour and cornstarch (sifted to introduce more air into the cake) into the yolk/white mixture. Don’t over mix!
-Pour the batter into a paper lined baking mold so that it sits in a 1/2cm layer.
-Bake in the oven at 350F (180c) for about 10-20 minutes (use a cake tester or fork to check once the cake begins to set. It should come out clean when stuck into the cake) 
-Make a syrup with the rum, honey, and a splash of water whisked together until combined
-Brush the cake generously (while warm) with the syrup 
-Cut the cake into long, 1.5”x6” strips (once slightly cooled) and roll into tubes
-Top with a dollop of the pastry cream and a dusting of sugar. Brown with a torch or under a broiler
-Dust with cinnamon and serve

Avenida de la Constitución with a view of the Sierra Nevada and La Alhambra

1 comment:

  1. Hey its Chris Brown from Italy, for cheap tickets visit euroafricatravel..!!