Seared tuna with parsley pesto

Posted in: DF, LF, S, SF, Uncategorized

Located between the Mediterranean and Atlantic, Tarifa, and indeed the Cadiz coast, is famous for its Atun Almadraba. Fished between April and June using the same method as the Phoenicians and later the Romans, it´s considered respectful of the species. A la plancha (seared), tartare or in a bun (The Reason for Bread), you’d be hard pressed to find a substandard tuna steak here. This recipe was inspired by my favourite Tarifa restaurant Bar El Frances; for me, the herb pesto addition raises the bar on the town´s ubiquitous tuna perfection. I´ve added minutes for a (hopefully) foolproof tuna steak en casa. Vegan’s, veggies, anti-fish people: I keep a jar of the dressing in the fridge to mash into avocado or stir through salad. Trust me.

Tuna-backup-shot

Feeds 2

INGREDIENTS

2 tuna steaks
30g / bunch parsley
30g / bunch basil or your choice
1 tbsp cashew nuts
1 clove garlic
200ml olive oil
Tsp sea or Himalayan pink salt
Tsp grind black pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp Kema Kulo or sub for 1/2 green chilli – optional

METHOD

Start by making the dressing. Blitz all ingredients in a Magimix, Vitamix or blender until herbs finely chopped. You’ll need to stop to scrape down the sides midway, potentially more if using anything other than a Magimix.

Parsley-&-coriander-salsa

Transfer to a jar or sealed container and set aside. Make half quantities if you just want enough for the fish; you should still have a little left over.

To make the tuna: set a frying pan to heat on full power. When very hot, add a drizzle of olive oil, followed by the steaks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

I like mine poco hecho (virtually raw), so 30 seconds on each side is perfect.

Tuna-30secs-each-side

For ‘en su punto’ (‘just right’ a little raw in the centre), fry for 1 min on the first side and 30 secs on the reverse.

Tuna-1min

Well done needs a minute on each side. Any more and it will turn chewy.

Transfer to a plate, drizzle with the pesto and serve with spring´s new potatoes crushed with salt and olive oil, or with salad. Aproveche!

Tuna-bun

For seriously delicious ‘El Frances Montaditos’, sandwich a piece of your tuna in a bun with a slice of tomato, a little lettuce and red onion and un poquito of herb dressing. Incredible.

Tuna-montadito

 

Travel Pick: Riad Lolita, Tarifa

Worthy of it’s own post, Riad Lolita is one of my favourite Tarifa guesthouses. And I’ve ticked off my fair share of accommodation across multiple visits to Spain’s most southern tip – the mountains in the picture are Africa. My obsession with Tarifa can hardly have gone unnoticed (see Travel Pick: Tarifa, Andalucia). I may even have renovated my own little white washed Tarifa holiday house: La Casita Melo. My penchant for understated luxury may have been hinted at once or twice. Moorish mansion, Riad Lolita is the cherry on the cake. Here’s why:

Tarifa-skyline

Built in 1893 for the town mayor, this shrine to nineteenth century luxury retains the granduar and original features of its past: Marble floors and staircases; Moorish courtyards and tiles that prompted me to scramble for my credit card; and light flooding in from every angle through the seemingly endless windows and patio doors.

Converted from a private home last year (the layout remained the same), Danish interior design goddess Pia sourced most of the furnishings from Morocco. Synonymous with chic Tarifa, Pia oversees the creative direction of Tarifa’s more stylish apartments. A celebration of her paired back Scandi style with the architecture of the casco antiguo (old town).

The really good news? Pia believes that to keep people happy, “you need to give them more than they expect.” So, Riad Lolita is incredibly reasonably priced. Incredibly.

Riad-Lolita,-upstairs-sitting-room

Riad-Lolita,-courtyard

Riad-Lolita,-hallway

The upstairs living room, hallway and Moorish courtyard.

Moroccan suite

Riad Lolita was full when I travelled but Pia very kindly moved things around so I could spend 5 nights in this little beauty. It didn’t disappoint.

Riad-Lolita,-Moroccan-suite

Moroccan-suite,-bedroom2

Riad-Lolita,-Moroccan-suite,-sitting

Moroccan suite 2 has two rooms: living area and a bedroom with further seating area and open plan bathroom. As with the rest of the house, large windows are in abundance; a godsend during hot summer months, though all rooms have AC. Both Moroccan suites have the advantage of their own entrances onto the street; ideal for nipping out for your morning cortado.

Pia sourced most of the furniture from Morocco; the headboard is covered in a rug and the carpet, a design The Rug Company would drool over. Needless to say, I’m now planning a Tangier van haul so I can replicate all of the above in my South West London basement bedroom. Minus the extensive windows, light and sunshine. Humph.

A double room

Riad-Lolita,-South-Room

North and South rooms have an interconnecting door, should you go with a group. The tiles (and 70 euro p/nt price tag) got me in a heartbeat.

The family suite

Riad-Lolita,-Family-room Riad-Lolita,-family-suite

The master bedroom and kids room in the family suite, which comprises of four rooms, to include a living room and bathroom. Rarely are triple rooms this stylish. Take note, long lost travel buddies with babies!

The Penthouse

Riad-Lolita,-Penthouse

The Penthouse kitchen and master bathroom.

With two bathrooms, two bedrooms (or a double bed and sitting room), a kitchen and terrace, this is incredibly good value at 130 euro per night. As with the entire house, design hasn’t been compromised; mosaic tiles, a mix of antique furniture and comfort are in abundance.

The terrace

Riad-Lolita,-terrace

Bang in the centre of el casco antiguo (old town) with views of Morocco. A sangria spit away.

Shared spaces

Riad-Lolita,-kitchen

Riad-Lolita,-shared-living

Riad-Lolita,-courtyard-sitting

With two sitting rooms, a large kitchen, terrace and even chill out hallways, Riad Lolita has ample living space outside of the bedrooms. This is actually quite unusual for Tarifa and  as such, it’s an ideal and very reasonable (500 euros per night for 9 bedrooms / 22 people) option for groups.

For prices and how to book, contact: Riad Lolita or Tarifa Beach House.

For why and when to go: Travel Pick: Tarifa, Andalucia

Reasons to visit Tarifa (other than for Riad Lolita):

Bar-El-Frances-tapas

Valdevaqueros-beach,-Candy-Kites Los-Lances-beach-sunset

I’m yet to meet anyone in Tarifa who either, hasn’t been before, or isn’t already planning their return. It really is a very special place.

Travel Pick: Tarifa, Andalucia

 

Travel pick: Tarifa, Spain.

Posted in: Featured, Travel

Last summer I fell in love; I was introduced to Tarifa. A tiny, whitewashed, Andalucian, beach town that miraculously ticks every box my demanding little heart could desire: Yves San Lauren blue skies; a wind to obliterate any sniff of sticky humidity; traditional yet bohemian Spain; and endless supplies of tuna so fresh it could have a pulse.

tarifa-kites

The real clincher though, is that with wind and sea, comes buff body water sports. Tarifa is awash with chilled, bikini and board-short clad, painfully beautiful, wind and kite surfers and groupies. Of all ages. Gulp.

I confess I’ve been an bit reticent to publicise; Spain’s most southern tip (see the African coast a sangria spit away above) is still relatively unknown to us Brits. Instead Tarifa is popular with Spanish families, Italians, French and of course, those (30 something) kite-surfers of all nationalities. Ever the altruist however, I caved and decided to let you see for yourselves.

A brief history

tarifa-streets,-spain

Tarifa’s roots can be traced back to 710 when a berber crossing from Morocco established the harbour. It remained Muslim until 1292 when Christian King Sancho IV seized the city and Muslim control has been miraculously resisted ever since. Given Tarifa’s proximity to Africa and the fact Muslims occupied Spain for 800 years (touchy subject, sshhh), it’s little wonder the town could almost be a shrine to the defending Catholic kings.

Isabela-la-catolica

Until 25 years ago, Tarifa was largely a fishing village but since the arrival of windsurfers, tourism has become the main source of income; the town’s 16,000 population effectively doubles July to August. Go in September or October!

Since my first trip with family this time last year, I’ve returned twice with friends. Only my brother is the wave and wind chaser, so Tarifa’s in no way exclusive to surf junkies. With history, beach and a culture drenched in food and wine, there’s something for everyone.

Beach life

Daytime Tarifa centres around the beaches and Chiringuitos [cheer-een-gee-tos] extending west of the port. In fact, said beach shacks don’t open before midday – sleepy Spanish towns are ideal for bagging a lounger. Bien Star (below) is at it’s busiest for lunch and from 4pm when Tarifeños flock in for post work sun downers and beach volleyball. Every. Single. Day.

Tarifa,-Beach

tarifachiringuitos

Tarifa-beach-volleyball

Tarifa-beach

Yoga

As you’d expect with any laid back surf beach, yoga is available. If battling with a gargantuan kite in what could effectively be termed a tornado isn’t your thing. Try: Tarifa Eco Centre or Hurricane Hotel.

Windsurfing & kitesurfing

Valdevaqueros beach is wind and kite surf central, and party HQ it seems. For lessons and / or kit hire, try Club Mistral. With buff body water sports and chiringuitos (beach bars) comes followers: Valdevaqeros is also ideal for sunbathing and, when the wind drops, stand up paddle boarding.

Wave-Bandits

There are a number of kitesurf schools along the out of town beaches. I’m told the following are good: Rebels Tarifa and Dragon Tarifa. I was the epitome of Tantrum Kitesurf when I tried. My tip for beginners: Take semi-private lessons, ideally with one friend and request two kites – one each. That way you won’t haemorrhage the morning on kite swaps (multiple line changes is a lengthy process. In a wetsuit. In 30 degree heat) and waiting for 4 other people to have their turn.

Eating & drinking

Spaniards are famed for their love of the night and no where more so than Andalucía; the restaurants are at their busiest around 10pm and the bars, well after midnight. Think of the sun loungers.

Tarifa-Mojitos

Head for Vaca Loca (Crazy Cow) for Argentinian steak and Rioja, and the heart of the bar scene. Taco (all class here) next door churns out endless supplies of expertly mixed mojitos.

El Almedina (next to Los Melli restaurant) is a lively, though less full on bar and has highly recommended live Flamenco every Thursday night.

Breakfast: Churros y chocolate

Perhaps the only activity to be found pre 11am is in the town’s churreria, which opens at 5am to supply post partiers with a Spanish doughnut (kind of) breakfast. Most of the town will flock in for take-away throughout the morning. My Andalúz Dad used to make churros for us as kids; this is Spain for me.

You can buy churros (the mini ones in the picture) or porras, a larger, though greasier version. For clarity: porras are not to be confused with porros, unless you’re in search of Señora Mari-Juana. And let’s face it, a churros shop probably isn’t her standard hang out. You’ll entertain the owner and his punters no end if you make this mistake, however. I have first hand experience.

Tarifa-churros

Chocolate-con-churros

For the record, churros are made solely of flour, water and salt and fried at such super hot temperatures (100C+) that less oil is absorbed. We have a fear of frying in the UK, I think; I’ve witnessed several friends self righteously sniff at my churros kick, then inhale the Easyjet triple (fake) cheese and ham panini on the late flight home.

Breakfast: Café Central

Pan-con-tomate,-Spanish-breakfast

Laid-back-Andalucia

Even the cake shop only opens 5pm to post midnight. As does the ice cream parlour. Take a slice of Orange & almond cake to have with a café con leche (strong latté) in Café Central – the best coffee in Tarifa, in my opinion. Note: the wind element is sometimes cause for a jumper at night, potentially thermals outside of summer. The above shot was taken early May.

Bar El Francés

Polpo,-Cafe-Frances,-Tarifa

Entirely Spanish, the not so aptly named Bar El Francés (French bar) is well worth the almost constant queue. It’s open most of the day so an ideal lunch or pre plane option. For the record, Bien Star chiringuito offers a decent menu you can eat in your bikini.

Star dishes: Octopus with saffron (above), Gambas and my favourite, Chipirones a la plancha (grilled squid). Meat’s on the menu but the fish is particularly good here.

Los Melli

LosMelli,-Tarifa

Los-Melli,-Tarifa

Another hugely popular restaurant where queues are inevitable 8pm onwards. Pork’s a must here in Los Melli. The tuna’s also a winner, although it’s pretty much a safe bet anywhere in Tarifa. Gin and spirit measures across Spain are as they should be. Count to 10 when pouring apparently.

Star dishes: Anything with chorizitos (mini chorizo sausages). Amazing. Especially with egg and chips. Don’t knock it!

Anca Curro

Anca-Curro

Possibly the best pork you’ll ever eat. Spaniards love their acorn chomping pigs. Even the jamon, Manchego and Rioja combo is on a level I’ve never known before. Queues are unavoidable from the moment this meat shrine opens it’s doors in the evening.

Food shopping

fishmarket,tarifa

The fish markets are open every week day morning and are worth a visit. Every restaurant offers tuna cooked to perfection though. La Pescaderia and Lola are a must. Make sure you have local speciality Atún Rojo de Almadraba (red tuna).

Tarifa-shopping,-Pete

Pepe’s cornucopia of Spanish eating is perfect for a beach picnic, or if you want something other than bread for breakfast before the town wakes up. Pepe will give you tasters of jamon and Manchego. He also stocks the increasingly unbiquitous London coffee shop staple, Ines Rosales Tortas de Aceite. Yes, that is his actual height. Tiny Spanish man.

ines-rosales

If you have a car, and a large suitcase, stock up on Spanish supplies in the local supermarket, Mercadona. Two tuna steaks tasting better than anything you get in Waitrose cost 1.35 Euro and a perfect jamon 45 Euro. On one trip I brought back 10 frozen steaks (again, better than Waitrose), 3kg of anchovies in vinegar and a leg of ham for Papa. Staff kindly sawed off the hoof to fit said carcass in my hold luggage.

jamon,-mercandona

Where to stay

Tarifa can effectively be split in two: whitewashed, winding streets of the Casco Antiguo (old town) and the beach, extending west of the harbour. I like staying in the town; that’s where the restaurants and bars are, the beach is only a 5 minute walk and you can easily drive to the surf beaches.

Given Spanish life is in the cafes and restaurants, most accommodation is comprised of rooms or apartments within houses (which you can also rent as a whole), as opposed to a hotel setup. Prices almost double July and August but quite honestly, it’s way too busy; the months either side are ideal.

Pick of the best

Try: Riad Lolita, such a favourite I’ve blogged it here: Travel Pick: Riad Lolita. Or my failsafe, Tarifa Beach House, lists Cat’s edit of Tarifa’s best properties, including Riad Lolita. Of course.

Other options

Apartamentos CaravaneCasa San Rosendo (room 5 or the entire house as a group), La Residencia or hotel, La Sacrista

If you’re after a pool (you’ll only get this with La Residencia in the town), there are one or two hotels out by the surf beaches and lots of minimalist, white washed villas. I haven’t tried the hotels but 5 star All Inc. they are not. But then, if that’s what you’re after, Tarifa’s possibly not for you.

How to get there

Gibraltar-airport

Gibraltar airport is 40 mins away in a car or taxi. Booking a hire car in advance is the easiest option in my opinion. Alternatively, four buses run each day, taking an hour. You’ll need to cross the boarder (2 minute walk) to La Linea for all transport links and car hire.

Malaga airport runs frequent flights and is a 1 1/2 hour drive on the same coastal road. Buses are available via La Linea. I often fly in through Gibraltar and out from Malaga due to  flight times, taking a car. Note: it’s best to book in

When to go

Now. Hence this post. Tarifa’s mobbed July to August, September’s my favourite time for temperature, crowd and fiestas – the month of Catholic festivals and end of summer parties in the chiringuitos.

End May and mid October would be my cut off. Beyond that the wind chill is up at night and weather slightly unpredictable. I’m told the wind drops in winter months and temperatures are still in the balmy 20’s… Bars are busy as you get surfers pretty much all year, but the atmosphere doesn’t compare to summer.

For a taste of Spain in London, try Morito, blogged when I was in search of a Spanish food hit post a Tarifa trip last year.