She lives in Utrecht with her husband, Javier, and together they have planned an "inter-regional" Spanish meal. Elena is from Barcelona and will make the famous Catalan Pa amb Tomàquet, and Javier will prepare a potato stew from his region, Rioja. Most people will know of it through it's famous wines...usually Rioja is the only wine people know from Spain. They must have a good PR department! Although cava, from Catalonia, is becoming quite well known by now too. Though by now, I have visited quite a lot of Catalonia, in the beginning it was a big surprise to find out it was such a separate region, with it's own culture and language (Pa amb Tomàquet would be Pan con Tomate in Castillian Spanish).
Some foreign students who come to Barcelona on exchange make this same mistake, thinking that speaking Spanish should be enough to follow courses in Spain.
Though Elena and Javier do love their country, they seem to have adapted to Holland amazingly well. They even are okay with just buying a sandwich for lunch and eating it while walking to the next appointment! While in Spain, lunch usually is the meal of the day with three courses and a glass of wine...
They praise the Dutch custom of students moving out of the parental house when they start studying. "It makes you independent earlier on in life," says Elena. Many young people in Spain only move out when they get married. Partly it's a "cultural thing", partly the rent is just too high, especially in Barcelona.
The Pa amb Tomàquet is fun to prepare; rubbing on garlic cloves and tomato halves till only the skin is left, then drizzling on olive oil and sprinkling on some salt. Here at left you see me rubbing on the tomato. The added flavours make the bread infinitely superior to just plain old bread and taste great with Spanish ham like Serrano or Manchego cheese.
The potato stew Javier prepares is an old favorite, you won't find it at a fashionable tapas restaurant...but the chorizo sausage gives it a spicy twist. It's definitely not hard to make, so if you can get chorizo, you should give it a try:
Patatas a la Riojana (recipe)
Pa amb Tomàquet (recipe)
(The original post about this meal is from July 10, 2006)