Mark Kurlansky once said, “food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture.” While spending last week in Barcelona, one of the biggest gastronomic cities in the world, I knew my trip wouldn’t be complete without exploring the food scene. And what better way to learn than to do. A few months prior to my trip, I looked into taking a cooking class with my mom and came across Cook and Taste Barcelona. Touting a “unique epicurean experience” and a 5-star TripAdvisor rating, we signed up for the half day cooking class and market tour!
Together we had a wonderful time exploring La Boqueria, preparing ingredients, cooking paella, learning about Catalan cooking, and more. Keep reading more to check out my full experience and review of Cook and Taste Barcelona!
Cook and Taste Barcelona
FTC Disclosure: Thank you to Cook and Taste Barcelona for having me as a guest in their class. As always, all opinions (and calories consumed!) are honest and entirely my own.
A little before the 9:40am start, we met with our lovely instructor Rosa and the rest of our class (6 other Americans this time around). Right from the start I sensed Rosa’s passion for cooking and the culinary field! Before heading to La Boqueria for the market portion of the tour, the group introduced themselves and chatted a bit. Then we took about a 5-10 minute walk through some charming Spanish streets to the market.
Exploring La Boqueria
La Boqueria is widely considered one of the best marketplaces in Europe, if not the world. Dating back to the 13th century, one can find everything from fresh juices to Iberian ham to endless piles of nuts, and so much more. The market is organized where different categories of food (fish, fruit, etc.) are grouped together.
Although I later went back and explored with my family, I loved going through it with Rosa and the group. Rosa knew all the best vendors and went through some of the stalls explaining the history behind the food. Plus we got to see the ingredients we would later be using chopped freshly before us.
Cooking Class Time!
After we returned from La Boqueria it was time to get cooking! Each person received a packet detailing the recipes, an apron, and sits around the demonstration area in a C-shape. The class occurred in a small group setting, taught in English, and the ticket included everything, from the aprons and recipes to the ingredients and delicious snacks of ham and Spanish wine between.
As we went, Rosa led and explained each step and each person volunteered for a different task; most of the group worked simultaneously on different parts of each recipe. Thus, one person would beat eggs, another chop vegetables, another tend to the paella, etc. We kept busy most of the class but at a comfortable pace where we could chat and sip wine in between! (For easier writing purposes, I divided up my photos and description into each step of the process).
For our appetizers, we cooked up a delicious Romesco sauce paired with fresh veggies and Coco Con Escalivada, roasted vegetables on flatbread. To get started, we prepared the vegetables in a variety of ways:
For the Romesco sauce, we scraped out the soft body of the roasted vegetables using a spoon for the peppers and our hands for the garlic. These combined in a 4 to 1 ratio (4 peppers to 1 bulb of garlic) created the body of the sauce, which we would later dip in fresh veggies such as asparagus and zucchini.
Second, for the bread we sliced the peppers, eggplant, and garlic into vertical strips and laid them flat. Rosa made the dough beforehand to move the process along. This dough included a higher ratio of flour to yeast than a typical one might have. We kneaded out the flatbread which reminded me of the times when my mom and I would bake pies!
In between our cooking adventures, we had the time to snack on Spanish delicacies. Remember about the Serrano vs. Iberica ham? To the left (on the white plate below) is Serrano, to the right the Iberica. The Iberica ham is more thinly sliced and you can see how that thin layer of fat almost melts onto the plate. So delicious! Not sure if American ham will ever match up.
Our next stop with Cook and Taste Barcelona…seafood paella! Paella is often seen as the national Spanish dish and adapted over the years by region and with time. Rosa told us the dish actually started out as more of a “peasant’s fare” but has since become an upscale cuisine. We first started preparing the ingredients by mincing the vegetables, chopping the cuttlefish, and washing the mussels.
Next came a really fun part–cooking the paella. Rosa brought out the giant pan and set it up with olive oil on the burner. First, we seared the prawns, lightly browning them on each side for just a few minutes. Then we took turns cooking the vegetables, continuously pushing them with a wooden paddle to prevent burning.
Of course this wouldn’t be paella without rice. Third, we coated the pan with one thin layer of special short-grain rounded Spanish rice. Note: we learned it’s critical to sear the rice using the bottom of a spoon, but not stir it. Stirring forces out the rice’s starch and affects both taste and texture.
Lastly, for dessert we whipped up Crema Catalana one of the most famous desserts of the region! (As I noted before, we did some dessert preparation while cooking other dishes, but for blogging purposes I’m writing in a linear fashion.) Crema Catalana is made with egg yolks, sugar, lemon, sugar, cinnamon, and milk. First, the boiled milk with lemon peels and spices were combined with the sugar and egg whites. This mixture was continually, and firmly, hand-stirred for a few minutes till we got a thick yellow batter.
And no dessert or cooking class would be complete without a blowtorch. I’ve seen them used on the Food Network, but up until Saturday never used one myself. Rosa turned them on and demonstrated how to use them, so dealing with the fire aspect wasn’t too too scary. We sprinkled the top of each dish with a thin layer of sugar. Then, at an 85 degree arm angle, we traced the layer two times with the blowtorch and watched the sugar crystals reach a bubbling, crispy brown finish.
Taking the class is a wonderful way, for both beginners and experienced foodies alike, to learn more about Barcelona’s incredible food scene in a hands on fashion. Additionally, with a native and experienced chef guiding us we gained great insight into Spanish and Catalan cuisine. This is definitely a fun and creative way to spend an afternoon experiencing the famous Barcelona culinary scene. In conclusion, if you’re in the city, I recommend checking Cook and Taste Barcelona out and spending a day having fun and learning to cook paella and more!
There are two options- the cooking class and the cooking class + the market tour. As you can see, I chose the latter, as did most of the class, and later we all discussed how worth it we felt it was. It’s a special experience to walk through La Boqueria with a knowledgeable guide and watch the fresh ingredients chopped and purchased right before they hit the pan. Thus, I highly recommend adding on the market portion for just 13 additional euros.
Book your Cook and Taste Barcelona Class here!
How to Get There:
In Saint Jaume square, look for “Conesa bar de bocatas” in one corner. Make a left on that corner. Next, take a right and you will see the “Cook and Taste Barcelona” school directly on your left!
Address & Contact:
- Carrer del Paradís, 3 – 08003 Barcelona (Next to Plaça Sant Jaume)
- +34 93 302 13 20 (Phone) // firstname.lastname@example.org (E-mail)
- Metro: L1 (Red Line) – Liceu // L4 (Yellow Line) – Jaume I
- Bus: 45, V17, V15