I lived in Paris for 4 years and never went to the top of the Eiffel tower, 13 years in London- I never saw the changing of the guard. Because you don’t, do you? I live in Paella land now but it’s so much a part of daily life here that it’s already been relegated to familiar and uninteresting without me knowing anything about it. So it’s surprising to find myself really caring about the origins of Paella and snorting out loud at the comedy act that is our teacher chef Javier Morón Uceda at Barcelona Cooking. “If the rice does not sing, if it does not do this…” claps his hands and cheers enthusiastically “when the liquid hits the pan, stop the paella, start stirring and you will make an excellent risotto – instead of a mediocre paella.” Javier is full of these one liners. About ham he advises us not to go for the most expensive one and assume it’s the best because “like everything in this life, the best is the one you like.”
If you take the morning class at Barcelona Cooking, it starts off with a trip to the Boqueria to buy the ingredients for the day. Javier excitedly points out the 3 essential dried peppers to Catalan food (Pebrot “Choricero”, Nyores & Guindilla Picant). He recounts, as we gather round the salted cod stand, how his great grandmother used to give him a piece of salted cod (with the salt flakes very much still on) and an orange for his merenda every day, “I would take a bite of one and then the other.” he rolls his eyes heavenward with pleasure at the memory. He tells us how if you cook cocochas (hake chin) at 80ºC and swirl it around ever so gently, you release the gelatin and are left with a dish that has a velvety mouthfeel.
Javier is indefatigable, funny and enthusiastic but he is also a chef with twenty years of experience having worked at Michelin starred Miramar, Escriba and in any free time he has had, learned to make bread from Anna Bellsolá of Baluard. Barcelona Cooking is one of the highest rated cooking courses on Tripadvisor and is most popular with Americans and Australians. My experience with similar “get to know about the local food way” cooking courses is they are watered down to a level that it’s not worth attending.
Barcelona Cooking steers clear of this short-sighted strategy. Started by three Galician friends, Emma, Candido and Tony, in 2012 in an apartment overlooking the Rambla – by 2013, demand was such that they installed a second kitchen. Candido is also one of the teachers and is joined by 3 other chefs during the week; Javier (who I want on speed dial), Kindra and Svetlana (who sometimes teaches in Russian). The wine we drink on the course comes from Emma’s family vineyard; Rias Baixas. The olive oil is almost sweet, coming from 100 year old Arbequina trees grown on the Trenca wild life reserve. (I buy both the wine €15 and the olive oil €12).
The 6 other people on the course are all American. They come from California, Texas & Tennessee. They are visiting Barcelona for less than a week but they have made time and allocated part of their budget for this course. I live here, I assumed I had absorbed my knowledge of (certain) Catalan food through osmosis or the Catalan chapter in Culinaria Spain. 6 hours have taught me that I know little, that this region’s recipes and traditions are multifaceted and complex with plenty of anecdotes to accompany every ingredient and recipe. And that I want to know more – this was a good place to start.
La Rambla, 58, pral 2 (2nd floor)
Morning Classes including a visit to La Boqueria: €78
Evening Classes (18:00 – 21:00): €65
Pumpkin and Pear soup with Roncari blue cheese and edible flowers
Calçots with Romesco sauce
Red & White wine from
***I was invited to attend this cooking course by Barcelona Cooking. I bought my wine and olive oil to take home.***