A Taste of Coca de Recapte

Spain

Spanish Flatbread

A staple of Mediterranean Spain, the chewy, oblong flatbreads known as coques are the ultimate comfort food for locals and travellers alike. This summery version makes great tapas when cut into small pieces.

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 heaped cup flour

1 level tsp active dry yeast

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing

1/2 cup lukewarm water

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 large sweet onion, sliced thinly

1 pinch chili flakes

1 large sweet red pepper, sliced thinly

2 small zucchini, thinly sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

4 oz cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup olives, optional

1 tbsp oregano, finely chopped

Extra flour or polenta for baking sheet

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400F.

Stir together flour, yeast and salt in bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Add oil and water and mix until dough is smooth—about 5 minutes, or 10 minutes if kneading by hand. Cover bowl with tea towel and allow to rise for about 3 hours at room temperature.

Using your fingertips, lightly stretch dough into an oval shape. Brush both sides with olive oil and place on a baking sheet sprinkled with flour or polenta.

Heat remaining olive oil in a pan, add garlic, onion, chili flakes and peppers and cook until al dente. Stir in zucchini and cook for a few more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange topping over bread and bake for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Sprinkle with oregano and serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves: 4

Use good quality Spanish olive oil if you can find it. It has a distinct flavour compared to oils from other regions.

3 Days in Barcelona

Day 1

MORNING Take in a late breakfast at Bar Lobo then stroll down La Rambla and marvel at the crowds and abundant shopping. Crossing into the city’s oldest neighbourhoods the pace slows, which suits architecture buffs who will enjoy the views of medieval buildings en route to Picasso Museu. With an impressive collection and equally magnificent surroundings you’ll need a minimum of two hours for the experience. The adjoining gift shop is lovely as well.

12 NOON Return to La Rambla and wind your way to Mercat Bouqueria where bustling doesn’t quite describe the market scene; it’s more of a contact sport. Inside, grab a stool at Universal Kiosk and enjoy light tapas that is fresh, fast and reasonably priced.

EVENING It would hardly be a trip to Spain without a little Flamenco dancing, so ask your concierge to recommend a show before dinner.

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Day 2

MORNING Immerse yourself in Gaudí’s Barcelona today. Purchase a Hop On, Hop Off bus pass or hire a knowledgeable, private guide to lead you through the primary sites.

LATE AFTERNOON With a serious dose of culture under your belt, it’s time for some guilt-free shopping on Passeig de Gràcia. There are hundreds of shops to visit and nearly as many tapas and wine bars, so pace yourself.

EVENING No doubt exhausted from the day’s festivities, make time for a siesta so you’ll be awake for a late night dinner at one of our recommendations.

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Day 3

MORNING A light breakfast is all you’ll need this morning and a trip to Caelum’s for coffee and a pastry is sure to satisfy.

MID-MORNING Brush up on your Catalan cooking skills with Cook and Taste. Since you’re in the neighbourhood anyway, don’t forget to visit the nearby Roman ruins.

AFTERNOON There’s more shopping in the Born neighbourhood and no reason to hurry back since dinner is late tonight anyway. Save the rest of the day for aimless exploring.

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Barcelona’s Top 5 Restaurants

“Reset your body clock,” advises Dabble’s principal photographer, Simon Burn. “Locals never eat dinner before 10:00 pm, which leaves plenty of time to enjoy several meals each day.”

Nearly every restaurant in Barcelona suffers from mixed reviews when it comes to service. Frankly, how attentive the wait staff is depends largely on the day. Be patient and go with the flow if you want to have a good time.

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1. In the Barri Gòtic neighbourhood of Barcelona is the city’s oldest (and most delicious according to Simon) restaurant, Can Culleretes. For a set price, diners enjoy a three course meal plus wine in a rich, warm setting. Try the seafood which tastes fresh from the sea or the more hearty roasted duck with prunes.

2. Grab a spot at the bar if you can because the popular Cal Pep only has five tables. The Born neighbourhood haunt is packed with hungry locals who sometimes sneak in the back door. The cuttlefish and garbanzo beans can only be described as perfect.

3. Spanish for skylight, Tragaluz offers moonlight dining to those lucky enough to secure a table on the second floor. A passion for good food continually inspires the owner Rosa Esteva and her son Tomas to create fresh fare for a crowd that returns frequently.

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4. Placed in tandem (Fishop at the front and Beefshop at the back) are sister restaurants—though these relatives look nothing alike. Fish and sushi are served raw at tables with industrial seating, while the beef menu is served in cozy armchairs near a stone fireplace.

Dabble Savvy: On the last Monday of the month there’s a 35€ all you can eat menu that includes wine.

5. Food show fans drool at the mere mention of molecular gastronomy. Since elBulli is temporarily closed it’s high season for Comerç, 24. Dining in this fashion is a unique experience. The food items, served in seven courses, are complex creations. Sit near the kitchen and watch the culinary ballet as several chefs work together on each dish. Dinner for one with two glasses of wine came to 105€.

Barcelona’s Top 5 Travel Experiences

Armed with sunscreen and blister bandages, fashionista Christine DaCosta tackles Barcelona’s best travel moments while wearing her finest footwear.

“Always look your glamourous best in sexy Barcelona,” says Christine, “after all, you never know when you’ll be asked to tango.” In addition, well-dressed tourists are often treated more favourably than their more casual counterparts.

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1. Once you can get past the big lambs’ heads with their eyeballs intact (eww!), marvel at the order and peace at Market Santa Catarina. Unlike its larger, more well-known cousin, the Mercat de Sant Josep or La Boqueria, this one is easier to explore and more civilized. There are lovely restaurants inside too.

2. Housed in five adjoining medieval palaces, Museu Picasso focuses on the artist’s early years of formal training, exposing his classical skill and culminating in a collection from his well-documented Blue Period. Born in Andalusia, young Picasso moved to Barcelona when his father took a job teaching at the Escola de Belles Artes de la Llotja. The adult artist claimed he learned everything during his time in Barcelona.

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3. All that shopping does some damage to your mani pedi so stop in at Pink Peony for a little overhaul. It’s a North American style salon set on the second floor above the Passeig de Gràcia. The gracious living room setting features a balcony overlooking the busy street.

4. A warm welcome and second helpings await those who sign up for a cooking class at Cook and Taste. The Australians who were cooking on the day I visited were quite happy making paella having shopped at the market earlier in the day. Book in advance.

Dabble Savvy: The location is just steps from the Roman Ruins so ask for directions.

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5. Some people love Hop On, Hop Off bus tours and Barcelona has two main operators. A 24 hour ticket gets you a ride to all the city’s attractions, which are difficult to get to without a car.

 

Barcelona’s Top 4 Quick Bites

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1. For tapas, wrangle a barstool at Cerveceria Catalana. Dine on oysters and beer and take in the infectious party atmosphere. Sample the bacon, Roquefort, jam sandwich and the fried padrón peppers which look like small poblanos. The huevos cabreaos, a fried egg on top of thin French fries, are a local favourite.

2. Cobalt blue water bottles cast a watery tinge onto crisp white tablecloths in the contemporary setting of Matamala. Asking the waiter for a recommendation yields what can only be described as fish donuts. Sounds weird, but the bite-sized fried cod balls are drizzled in honey and taste like heaven with the accompanying cold beer. A small, wellstocked grocery selection includes fun gift ideas such as the pa amb tomàquet (Catalan bread with tomato spread) kit.

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3. The sign at Caelum on Carrer de la Palla 8 translates to: every delicious treat or product for your skin has been produced in monasteries and nunneries throughout Spain. Point to one of the tempting pastries in the window or ask for the holy honey cake which is divine.

4. The juicer is humming at Bar Lobo on Pinto Fortuny, a few steps from La Rambla. Teak tables and mismatched chairs surround a central kitchen in the paper lantern lit space. Order the Don Quixote and enjoy toast, cured sausage and manchego cheese.

Dabble Savvy: Tapas and cocktails often come with potato chips. Restaurants often bill for bread or olives, so ask before you eat if your budget is tight.

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Barcelona’s Top 5 Design Shops

“To make the most of a day exploring the design scene,” says Kimberley, “begin midmorning with a café con leche and canya (pastry with cream). There’s still plenty of time for lingering at famous sights and still more hours for shopping, since stores typically stay open until 8:00 pm.“

Shop attendants are not always immediately friendly upon your entry, but a smile and a Buenos Tardes usually wins them over.

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ABOVE: An impressive selection of industrial and rustic furnishings is stock in trade at Azul Tierra.

1. Just off Passeig de Gràcia is Kimberley’s favourite design shop, Azul Tierra. To be fair, Azul Tierra might be anywhere in the world—the large-scale industrial vibe is currently all the rage. She cautions, “The stunning jewelry and accessories may cause your wallet to leap from your bag.”

2. Be prepared to peruse the store’s crowded inventory at least twice to take in the variety at Little House and Cottage. It’s a jumble of goodies from vintage to modern.

3. Foosball games, cardboard stools, Pantone chairs and kitchen accessories are part of the eclectic selection of contemporary goods at Galerias Vinçon S.L. Look for a cooking class or gelato making session in the zona de demostracionas.

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ABOVE: The famous, Barcelona Chair, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

4. Catchy graphics adorn every kitchen accessory imaginable at Avet—from glasses to aprons to lunch boxes.

5. Enthusiastic antique shoppers will flock to the 73 shops inside Bulevard Rosa. Fine period furnishings, turn of the century collectibles and original artwork are abundant. Negotiating is allowed. It’s always a good policy to make friends with the owner by complimenting the selection before attempting a purchase. Save time to visit Mary’s Market, the gourmet food store on the main floor.

Barcelona’s Top 5 Gaudi Sites

Antoni Gaudí i Cornet (1852–1926), is the Spanish architect heralded as the father of Catalan Modernism. His work is highly stylized, featuring organic shapes and few straight lines. Gaudí integrated crafts such as ceramics, stained glass and wrought iron work into his buildings, often using materials in an unusual manner.

His architectural legacy contains seven World Heritage Sites, including his unfinished masterpiece Sagrada Familia.

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1. Like everything Gaudí designed, Casa Batlló makes a lasting impression. Tour Casa Batlló with an audio guide and marvel at the twisted chimney stacks and dragon’s back undulations.

2. Often referred to as his unfinished symphony, Sagrada Família is one the most visited monuments in Spain. Though construction commenced in 1882, at the time of Gaudí’s death in 1926 less than a quarter of the project was complete.

3. Casa Milà, better known as La Pedrera or “the Quarry” for its rock faced façade, looks like a set out of the Flintstones. Take a guided tour through the restored interiors featuring art nouveau furniture. Look for jazz concerts or other opportunities to visit La Pedrera at night. It’s a beautiful way to absorb the authentic beauty.

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ABOVE: Dubbed “the Quarry”, La Pedrera proved controversial to neighbours when it was built.

4. Park Güell is considered a garden complex but the brightly coloured, undulating architectural elements make it difficult to focus on horticulture. High above the city, make sure to bring sunscreen and linger in the unusual setting.

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ABOVE: Casa Batlló.

5. Casa Vicens was constructed with rough red brick, befitting the home’s owner, the proprietor of a brick and tile factory. One of Gaudi’s earlier works, it is remarkable for its Moorish influences and assymetrical plan.

The Best Beaches in Europe

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Travel journalist and adventure junkie, Nellie Huang of WildJunket.com, slows down to enjoy a more relaxing travel experience that the beaches of Europe have to offer.

Whether it’s a secluded bay with emerald surfs slamming on sandstone cliffs, or wide stretches of golden sand glimmering with turquoise waters, Europe has a constellation of beaches that makes summer alone worth living.

Here are 3 of the 8 beaches Nellie believes are the best in Europe.

Navagio Beach, Zakynthos, Greece

Also known as Shipwreck bay, this cove is the trademark of the island and one of the most famous in Greece. Huge vertical cliffs surrounding the white sand creates a paradisical stretch of islet. It can only be reached by boat (leaving hourly), from Porto Vromi. Greece is one of Europe’s most popular summer playground, so avoid the crowd by hitting the beach in April or end of September.

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Las Islas Cies, Galicia, Spain

Voted by the Guardian as one of the best beaches in the world, the island 92 s main stretch of powdery white sand is as calm as a lake. The wild and stunning island of Islas Cies is protected by the goverment as a national park, restricting the number of visiting tourists. There is only camping available on the island, so this keeps any form of intervention minimal. This is one of my personal favourites.

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Patara, Turquoise Coast, Turkey

Dunes, dunes and more dunes. This rare stretch of beach is backed by the golden dunes and the Taurus mountains. Due to the strict conservation efforts, there are no buildings around, keeping the beach in unspoiled conditions. The beach is one of the few remaining beaches in the world, where the Loggerhead turtles still come to lay their eggs between May and October.

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Discover the other 5 of Nellie’s 8 of the Best Beaches in Europe.