It hasn’t always been the Spanish destination for food, but Malaga in Andalusia has become a gastronomic region in its own right in recent years – from flavour-packed tapas fare to fine dining to rival the rest of the country’s.
Cited as one of 2015’s holiday hotspots in the Guardian, Malaga as a whole is on the up – thanks to their recently recognised culinary reputation, plus hefty arts investment, a buzzing shopping scene and nightlife, and feel-good beach-side location.
Enviably positioned next to the fruitful Mediterranean, the range and freshness of the fish and seafood is unique to the rest of Spain, and its Moorish qualities – found in the sweet-saltiness of some of the food, like the aubergine fries with a dark molasses Berenjenas con miel, which we tried at the Atarazanas Market – adds to this identity.
Having headed to the region at the end of March, here are some spring food trends from Malaga picked up along the journey.
With lard and animal fats being on the up in the UK, as covered in last week’s ‘Trend Spotlight: The Animal Fats Revival’, the colourful and impossible-to-ignore cremas of Malaga really piqued my interest.
Seen at the Atarazanas market and served at the some of the market cafés, including La Recova, this spring food trend from Malaga looks like gelato but is actually made of meat or cheese.
Traditional and artisanal spreadable savouries, cremas are made from local produce like jamon Serrano (a Bellota, which is considered the finest due to the pig’s acorn-only diet), lomo and salchichón salami, fresh and local cured cheeses and pâtés.
Another crema worth noting is the zurrapa, pork loin fried in lard with garlic, oregano, paprika and other spices, a very typical product from the Ronda mountain range area and perfect for a hearty breakfast. With a spreadable consistency similar to pâté, zurrapa is more fibrous than other cremas, due to strands of delicious pulled pork included in the mixture.
Seasonality & 3 Key Ingredients
There is no need to clutter a plate when the produce is this good. Chefs are full of the culinary joys of spring in Malaga, and inventively crafting dishes around the region’s seasonal vegetables like broad beans, wild asparagus and artichoke.
Really looking to their own shores and land for the produce of the moment, the results are impactful and inspiring – like a salt cod dish we tried that was soaked in local blood-orange juice to give it a ceviche effect, and served simply with bread, onion and olive oil.
The tapas discovered on our Food Sherpa Tapas Tour sang with locality and simplicity too, like the fried anchovies, “boquerones”, marinated in zesty lemon, garlic and parsley, regional specialties like the “migas”, fried bread crumbs with blood sausage and bacon, and gorgeous Gordal olives – large, plump and juicy.
No more nasty holiday beer as Malaga picks up on this interesting drinks trend. With “Craft Beer Cafés” Cervecería Arte & Sana, Whybeer and La Botica de la Cerveza located in the heart of town, locals and tourists alike are developing a taste and a culture for beers with a more distinctive flavour.
This local craft beer revolution popped up, seemingly out of nowhere, last year in Malaga, with Spaniards and craft-beer entrepreneurs Javier Leon and Charo Barco of La Domadora y El León leading the trend.
Selling two hundred craft beers in their shop and distributing Spanish craft beers as well as making their own, La Axarca Tropical Pale Ale, the pair attest that the region of Andalusia, with its high temperatures and sunlight, is a place of challenge to make beer, which requires cool temperatures to ferment and to keep.
The result is that all of the ingredients to make their La Axarco are imported from the US, UK, northern Europe and New Zealand, but have been crafted into a fresh-tasting everyday brew that works very well with the local food.
A food trend the world-over, Malaga has its own traditional interpretation of the BBQ trend that is a welcome sight for winter-weary travellers.
A tradition in Malaga since the Pheonician times, after a day’s work in the Mediterranean fishermen would use their boats to help start a little coal-fueled BBQ on-shore, cooking some of their catch for a snack before returning home.
Today, this beach BBQ tradition is still very much alive – with locals barbecuing just-caught sardines and whole fish for an immensely satisfying and fresh result. The fish is mainly skewered, “espetar”, and the dish is mainly sardines, referred to as “espeto”.
Six per skewer and seasoned with a bit of olive oil and salt, espeto is best enjoyed on the beach with an ice-cold beer – one of life’s simple and hugely enjoyable pleasures.