Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Barcelona Supper Club

Our Indian Summer may have fizzled out, but before it did, I got the chance to indulge in an evening of Barcelona-themed food and drink, courtesy of the Codorniu Supper Club.

Over the course of a single evening, I genned up on Codorniu's range of Cavas, cooked some authentic Catalan food and - the highlight - learned how to carve that Spanish delicacy, Jamon Iberico.

I wouldn't say that I'm now an expert and ready to be let loose on my own whole ham, worth around 400-500 Euros.  However, I made a fair fist of producing some wafer-thin slices under the watchful eye of Master Carver Chuse Valvor.  The best part, of course, is that you get to eat the ham.
The Master Carver at work

Looking and learning
Iberico is a style of cured ham produced by the pata negra or black pig, which grazes in the cork oak forests which populate just four provinces in west and southwest Spain.  Over the winter the pigs snaffle all the acorns which the trees produce and this part of their diet seems to be key in producing the sweet nuttiness of the final ham.  Once slaughtered, the hams are cured in sea salt for up to four years, losing over half their original moisture content.
Putting it into practice

Of course you don't need to know all this in order to enjoy the melting, sweet-savouriness of Jamon Iberico.  But it does help to give an understanding of why it is so expensive.

Over the course of the evening, our three groups each helped to cook and then serve one course of our Catalan meal.  We started with a delicious fresh wild mushroom broth and moved onto a main course of duck breast with pears and spinach cooked with sultanas and pinenuts.  My small contribution was towards the dessert of walnut custard cream dessert, which was described by Rachel McCormack, of Catalan Cooking, as rice pudding using ground walnuts instead of rice.  You'll have to be the judge of how delicious that sounds, as I had to head home before it was served so that I could catch the last train home.

It wasn't just the food and drink that was Catalan, the timing of the evening meant that we didn't sit down to our first course until around 10pm, in true Spanish style.   

If you fancy a go yourself, Codorniu are running a Supper Club open to all at L'Atelier des Chefs on 16th November.  For details visit the Codorniu website on www.codorniu.co.uk or go to the facebook page:  www.facebook.com/TheBarcelonaClubByCodorniu.

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