Monday 11 March 2013

A load of bull

 Local Catalan fisherman's food at its most traditional is tuna tripe. Salted and sun-dried in the style of salt cod it can been seen swinging in the breeze outside restaurants, as much to continue the drying as to advertise that fish tripe is on the menu. Like other foodstuffs once eaten only by fishermen tuna tripe, known as 'bull' in Catalan has become fashionable—at least in Catalonia—and now costs around 60 euros per kilo, if you can find it at the market.

The town of Torrdembarra considers itself the capital of 'bull' cusine and once a year holds a tasting day in which a pair of chefs cook various tapas which, for three euros per tapa (wine included), can be tried by the hungry public. For quite a few years I've queued up for my yearly dose of 'bull'.  

 This year the cooks involved were Oriol Castro of the Bulli foundation, Alex Segù from nearby restaurant Mulsum and, star of the show Iris Figuerola, fisherman's wife and renowned expert on all things 'bull' who demonstrated her 'bull al romesco', a stew made on a thick paste of almonds, dried peppers, garlic and fried bread, stock, tripe and potatoes.

 In go the spuds

Stomach or offal of any sort and of any animal tends to be an aquired taste and hard to err, stomach by the unconverted and 'bull' is no different. One woman I spoke to, who hasn't eaten it since she first tried it many years ago, said it tasted of urine. My opinion is a bit more generous. 'Bull' tastes vaguely of tuna with a more general and pervading fishy flavour underneath. What makes it more unusual, apart from its provenance, is its pleasantly spongy texture. But for me what heightens the pleasure of eating this offbeat foodstuff is its history. Knowing that this was the hard tack that sustained men on the sea makes all the difference. 

A foodstuff that hasn't yet become fashionable and which is usually discarded or kept back for personal consumption by the fishmonger is monkfish liver. As there is no demand for monkfish liver I can pick up this tasty and nourishing food for free, which means I can afford a few 'gambas' to go with it.

  1. Monkfish liver, prawns, fried garlic and Malden salt.


Anonymous said...

Bon dia, Ben. I always enjoy your posts, just as I enjoyed a number of trips to Catalunya a decade or so ago. The food in this post reminds me of eating at the Can Majo on Carrer l'Almirall Aixada, just east of the Barcelona harbor, and then walking across the road onto the beach after dining. Stay healthy and keep posting!


Joan said...

"Del rap el fetge i de la dona l'en..."
Could you traslate that in English to show all readers all around the world how the monkfish liver is apreciated in Catalonia and in Balearic islands too?


Ben said...

Michael, that area of Barcelona, the Barceloneta, is well renowned for it's restaurants and tapas bars but 10 years on from your visit I think you'd have problems finding a table.

Ben said...

Hola Joan,
I don't know that phrase, how does it end?


Joan said...

The ending word is "escletxa". I guess the translation could be slit in English.
Sometimes sailors are not very polite.
Thanks for your blog, it's always a pleasure read your posts


Ben said...

Sailors may not be polite they're certainly clear. In this case the meaning is vivid but I think beyond my translating abilities.