In October I went on a trip to the Costa Brava with my husband, 17 year-old daughter and 12 year-old son. The Costa Brava is in the North of Spain on the Mediterranean coast, right up near the French border, and is a beautiful area. I’ve already written about our zip-wire adventure and about the amazing castells (human towers) rehearsal that we went to while we were there. This post is about a fabulous foodie experience – the evening that we spent learning about fish in the historic port of Palamós.
Palamós is the Costa Brava’s main fishing port, and is famous for the red prawns which its fisherman catch. We arrive at the town’s Museu de Pesca (fishing museum) by the harbour for a Fish Tour late on a Monday afternoon. The fishing museum sounds like a very interesting place to visit but it’s closed on Mondays, so we can’t go inside. We meet our guide, Maria-Angel, outside the museum and walk along the harbour with her to see the fishing boats arriving with their catches.
We watch as some boxes of fish are carefully unloaded from a boat onto a trolley. We follow behind as the trolley is wheeled to the fish auction house nearby. At the auction house, Maria-Angel leads us up some stairs to a viewing gallery so that we can watch the fish auction. We see boxes of fish moving along a conveyor belt in the centre of the auction room, while buyers sit either side placing electronic bids for the boxes.
From the auction room the fish are either loaded on to waiting lorries to be delivered to shops and restaurants, or taken straight through to the fish market next door. Maria-Angel takes us to the fish market, which is bustling with customers. My foodie husband says: ‘If we lived here I’d come here all the time’.
Espai del Peix
From the fish market we go back upstairs to meet friendly local chef Joan Cuadrat at Espai del Peix. Espai del Peix literally means ‘Fish Space’, and it’s a huge room with great views of the harbour. There’s a galley kitchen with video screens above it, and the room is filled with tables and chairs for guests.
Joan is very calm and patient, and he runs ‘Show Cooking’ sessions at Espai del Peix for groups throughout the year. Joan invites us to watch a 10-minute video about the fishing industry. The video promotes the consumption of different kinds of fish – not just the well-known ones. After the video, it’s time to cook. We help Joan to make his versions of some traditional Catalan dishes. I’m allergic to shellfish and Joan has adapted the menu to accommodate me. Joan is very engaging and is great at getting us all involved in the cooking process. When everything’s ready we sit down and eat. Each of the dishes is absolutely delicious, in spite of my involvement (I was taking photos for much of the time, so that probably helped).
We start off with tomato bread with anchovies. Tomato bread is very popular in this area and we even saw some guests at our hotel making it for breakfast. Basically it’s bread, toasted and then rubbed with garlic and grated tomato. Joan puts anchovies on top of the ones that we eat. Next we have fisherman’s stew, as made by local fisherman when they’re out at sea (the recipe is below), followed by vermicelli with fish and garlic (this is fantastic), then fish pickle. Dessert is baked apples filled with catalan cream.
It was fascinating to learn about the fishing industry in this way. I’d definitely recommend this whole experience, especially the ‘Show cooking’ at Espai del Peix. The food that we made with Joan was fantastic. I’d love to go back to Palamós to visit the museum and to explore the town.
My husband says: ‘I found this whole experience really interesting. You could see the fish coming in and follow it right through to the plate. I learnt a lot about sustainability and how you can cook different types of fish.’
My daughter says: ‘That was some of the best food that we had on the trip’.
My son says: ‘It was good, I liked the cooking’.
Guided tours of the fish auction cost 1,50 euros and are offered every Friday (and daily from Monday to Friday in July and August) at 16.30, 17.00 and 17.30. The tours last 30 minutes.
The ‘Show Cooking‘ sessions cost 20,00 euros for adults and 10,00 euros for kids. Sessions run every Friday and Saturday at 20.00 and they take 2.5 hours.
Family cooking workshops cost 10,00 euros per child (or 2,50 euros for younger children, accompanied by an adult). These sessions run every Saturday at 10.30am and last 1.5 hours.
To book any of these activities you need to contact the Museu de Pesca on 00 34 972 60112 44 or email info email@example.com.
Disclosure: We were guests of the Costa Brava Tourist Board on this trip. All opinions and images are our own – the recipe below belongs to Joan Cuadrat, who kindly gave me permission to share it here.
More about the area
If you want to know more about the Costa Brava region then go to the official Costa Brava Tourism website, or check out the Costa Brava Marco Polo Travel Guide or the Lonely Planet Spain (Travel Guide).
Would you like to go to the Costa Brava?
If you’d like help arranging a trip to the Costa Brava, please contact independent travel agent Julia Onslow-Cole on 0333 011 3388. Julia can help with flights, accommodation, car hire and anything else that you need for your trip.
Joan explained that this is a traditional Catalan fisherman’s recipe which is cooked on board fishing boats when they’re out at sea.
800g white fish, 4 cloves garlic, 2 sprigs parsley, 50g hazelnuts, 200g tomatoes (grated), 2 slices of bread, 200g potatoes (peeled and chopped), water or fish stock.
Fry the bread in olive oil.
Crush the garlic, parsley, hazelnuts, and fried bread using a pestle and mortar.
Fry the resulting mixture in a pan with olive oil for two minutes.
Add the potatoes and then the tomatoes.
Add the water or fish stock and cook for 15 minutes.
Add the fish and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Serve with an allioli (garlic and olive oil) sauce.