FOOD & HISTORY
The Taste Explosion
Misty Barker, Explorer & Foodie
I love a good story when it comes to food. As I told you before, there’s nothing more enjoyable than food that was created because of an event or reason. Whether that be love or war – fun or mischief. I call them the food tales. And Bomba Barcelona is one of those dishes that has such a rooted past in our beautiful city’s history.
It is no wonder the Bomba Barcelona gained the notoriety that it has as one of the city’s most famous tapa dishes. The best part? It was created right here in the streets of Barceloneta, in a restaurant that is still there today.
On my Food Tours, my guests always at their final venue have a Bomba. In my mind, it is the perfect way to finish a tour that teaches everyone all about the colourful history of El Born. After spending some hours meeting locals, getting to know third generation families and reeling feeling like a local wandering through our ‘Barrio’ it is the perfect time to appreciate one of the tastiest tapas that has one of the best tales that shows the true Catalan spirit to go with it. It is one of those Great Food Tales that no guest ever forgets.
Barcelona City has seen some hard times in the past. Catalonian people have had to fight for their rights to keep their culture, language and traditions alive and it hasn’t been always as harmonious here as it is now. During the lead up to the years of the Spanish Civil war the city saw a lot of upset. The Franco rule later condemned anything which encouraged the Catalan Culture to flourish. The language was banned from being spoken publically, the schools were under huge restrictions in what they could teach, even Catalan Food production & dishes were under significant criticism.
Bomba Barcelona in all its glory!
Artesans Restaurant Barcelona
It was a time of deep rooted fear and intimidation. One which the Republicans viewed as an attempt to destroy on links to their roots and history. But as with most countries in history under the same strain as the Catalonians – they found a way to bound together and to find strength in the harsh times they found themselves in.
Football & The Barcelona spirit thrived. The water fountains in street squares that they were made drink from when water fresh running water was cut off in the homes of Catalans as a form of punishment by Franco – became a meeting place for friends & families. To this day the fountains are still maintained and provide a central spot to meet before football games or events.
Aside from the Franco dictatorship – the Republicans had their own inside inside troubles during the 1920s & 30s. In a very famous novel by George Orwell, ‘Homage to Catalonia’ he describes the bitter street fights he witnessed on the streets of Barcelona between the communist, socialist, and anarchist factions of the Republican army, because of this constant pressure and unsettledness between the group – it is widely believed it was this which ultimately led to the Republicans never being able to wage a successful war against the Spanish State.
“Food is our common ground – a universal experience” – James Beard
But as with all things in life – and as I have quoted many times in other blogs – food is our common ground – something which brings us all together. And on the tiled floor of a dusty bar in Barceloneta which is still in business today – an amazing woman with a feisty zest for life and a humorous approach to the troubles she was surrounded with at that time – created a dish that lifted spirits and filled stomachs. Nowadays, you can see this famous dish gracing almost every menu in the City. It is an amazing piece of the city’s culinary history which shows how food has been used over the ages to show that life cannot be taken too seriously and that one brave woman’s mischievous side could poke some fun and minimalize the fears that many people faced daily.
Maria Pla, the woman behind this fascinating bite from Catalan history. At the time when she had the idea to create The Bomba, a very popular tapa was the croquette (as it still is today) and the anarchist’s weapon of choice was a rounded iron ball which was filled with explosives and lit by a string fuse. (Think old school kids cartoons and you’ll get the picture I am trying to paint here) While making her normal croquette recipe – she began to shape it instead like this rounded ball & in the centre she stuffed it with minced sausage meat (the explosives). When the croquette was cooked it was then smothered with their delicious signature Brava & Aioli sauces. (Which was of course the color of an explosion.
As you can image this feast for the eyes was an instant hit & still continues to be loved to this day. On each and every tour I take the guests love this tale of strife & strength in equal measures.
Enjoying the ‘Bomba Legend’
Tour Group at Artesans Barcelona
Marie Pla’s family still runs the restaurant where it all began – and it still has the same old charm now as it did then. Cova Fumada (Carrer del Baluart, 56, 08003 Barcelona) is the epiphany of a typical tapas bar, the way it should be and specializes in all sorts of beautiful Catalan dishes. My favourite time to go is at 18.00-19.00 on a summer’s evening and sample some of the freshest Gambas around – along with some chilled vermouth and maybe even a Bomba to finish!
On each of the Toro Food Tours in El Born, Barcelona we stop at Artesans on Carrer Esparteria 10, 08003 Barcelona, Spain, which is a beautiful restaurant located just behind Passeig Del Born and has just as interesting a history as The Bomba. Check back in a soon for their review & some great facts about the restaurant & its origins. This is one you won’t want to miss trust us!
If you reckon you would like to give this mini taste explosion a go yourself here’s a recipe from a great foodie blog that I like to check out from time to time so you can give it a try… don’t forget I want pictures please!! (Food envy)
La Bomba Barcelona (makes 4 plum-sized bombas)
- 2 large floury potatoes (Idaho/Maris Piper type), skinned and cut into large dice
- 2 cups breadcrumbs
- 2 whole eggs, beaten
- regular olive oil for frying (about 6oz)
- 2oz prosciutto or jamon serrano shavings
- 4oz sour cream/ creme fraiche
- 2oz tomato paste
- 2oz good ketchup
- 1tsp hot pimenton/paprika
- 1/2 tsp tabasco
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup good, store-bought mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup plain flour
- salt and black pepper to taste
- Boil potatoes until fully cooked in salted water (about 20 minutes)
- With a masher or a food mill, make mashed potatoes
- Mix in 1 beaten egg, sour cream/creme fraiche, prosciutto shavings, flour, half the breadcrumbs and season mashed potatoes to taste.
- Allow potato mixture to cool
- In a small saucepan, combine ketchup, tomato paste, pimenton and tabasco, adding a little water if it gets too gloopy, though mixture should be about the same thickness as ketchup
- Taste and correct seasoning. Reserve.
- Using a stick blender, or a mortar and pestle if you fancy a work out, combine minced garlic with mayonnaise
- Reserve aiolli and heat oven to 200F or 90C
- In a large frying pan, heat regular olive oil to medium heat (test with some breadcrumbs to see if it sizzles)
- Lay out breadcrumbs in a flat tray.
- Take cooled mashed potatoes and roll into a plum-sized ball in your hand before quickly coating ball in breadcrumbs until completely coated.
- Fry ball (bomba) in oil until golden brown all over.
- Place bomba on plate or a tray and place in oven to keep warm and crispy, and repeat two previous steps until all mashed potato is turned into bombas!
- On a clean plate, lay out bomba, garlic mayonnaise and red sauce to cunningly resemble an early 20th century terrorist’s weapon of choice.
- Enjoy with red wine, other tapas, and gratitude that we live in more politically stable times.
Happy eating & drinking, Salut!
Love & Gambas,
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