The problem is that the food here is just too scrumptious. The fruit, especially in summer, is so yummy that it is almost impossible not to meet the five-a-day target. Cherries the size of walnuts – I can eat half a kilo in a day. Paraguayos, or doughnut peaches, figs, nectarines, apricots, creamy custard-apples or chirimoyas, great juicy plums in a choice of colours - purple, red or yellow. Little orange fruit called nisperos, that taste like a slightly orange-flavoured peach, and which I have never found an English name for though I think they are related to medlars. Tiny bite-sized pears, sweet and firm, which the greengrocer hands round to the customers like sweets. Giant watermelons, fruity little bananas from the Canaries - totally different from the big woolly Caribbean ones we get in the UK, apples the size of grapefruit.
|NISPEROS - YOU CAN´T EAT JUST ONE|
|CHIRIMOYAS OR CUSTARD APPLES - |
TASTE BETTER THAN THEY LOOK!
All of this is grown in Spain so there is absolutely no food-mile guilt to spoil the flavour. All sun-ripened and bursting with sugar. No chemically-induced delays to the ripening process. You buy it ripe and you eat it straight away – three days later it goes mouldy. That takes some getting used to. Or you can just zap it all into a giant Smoothie.
|ALCALA FRUIT MARKET - AS FRESH AS IT GETS|
Chorizo, which everybody has heard of (it's pronounced “choreetho” by the way, despite Delia Smith's insistence in calling it “choritzo”), is given its distinctive colour from pimentón, or dried smoked red pepper. Chorizo comes in many forms: thick or thin, lean or fatty, spicy or mild, long or short. They are strung up and left to mature, and are eaten in many different ways: added to stews, sliced thinly and eaten in bocadillos or chunky sandwiches, fried with scrambled egg, or braised in red wine to make the world's most delicious tapas. Other forms of sausage include salchichón, seasoned with black pepper instead of pimentón; morcilla or black pudding; salchichas, similar to English bangers but not padded out with cereal; lomo embuchado or smoked loin, eaten thinly sliced. All of this is still produced in Alcalá, though these days it is made in Embutidos Gazules, a little factory on the industrial estate rather than in people's back yards. Strings of chorizos hang in loops in every butcher's shop and general store, and many bars too.
|CHORIZOS AND PATAS DE JAMÓN|
We can't move on from the pig without mentioning chicharrones. If you like pork scratchings these are to die for. They are basically deep-fried chunks of pig skin but with some of the meat still attached. A hundred calories a bite!
Alcalá is famous for its goat's cheese. There are huge herds of goats all round the edge of the town, which makes me wonder what they do with all the little boy goats – presumably they are sold to restaurants in the big cities, as you don't see them in the butchers' shops here. Quesos el Gazul, next to the sausage factory, produces 5,000 kg of certified organic cheese a year – cured, semi-cured or “fresco”- creamy and mild and delicious sliced with quince jam, or cubed and tossed into a salad.
|DELICIOUS LOCAL GOAT'S CHEESE - |
NO FOOD MILES HERE!
Being married to a diabetic I have no problem resisting all the delicious cakes and pastries that the Alcalainos adore, especially the churros – strings of fried dough dipped into thick drinking chocolate. Just as well, or I would be even more “well-padded”. But the bread is another matter. We eat three types of bread at home, again all produced in the town: barras gallegas, or Galician baguettes, shorter and stubbier than conventional baguettes and with more flavour; pan de campo, or pan moreno, traditional country bread, chewy with a hard crust – I call it “the bread that fights back”; and molletes, big soft floury baps flavoured with fennel seed made at the splendid Horno de Luna bakery. They are usually toasted and coated with olive oil and chopped tomato, but they also make great mini-pizza bases.
|MOLLETE WITH OLIVE OIL|