Andorra may be wedged between France and Spain with the most dramatic scenery in all of the Pyrenees but this micro-nation draws in tourists for its skiing and duty-free shopping. There seems to be a price to pay for an economy based on tourism: heavy traffic and a country that resembles, well, a huge outlet mall. And I can give the Andorran tourism industry something to boast about, their delicious cuisine.
Andorran cuisine is mostly Catalan with French influences. Lamb and pork are very popular and Andorrans love their pasta and vegetables. The most common vegetables are potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage and celery. Since the country has a sea opening they also enjoy eating fish.
Our Andorran dinner was darn right yummy! We had Carpaccio of Andorran Veal, Catalan Spinach Salad, and Trinxat, which is a cabbage and potato cake. I whizzed around the kitchen preparing all three dishes at once. I mashed potatoes and cabbage, coated the veal, and blanched spinach.
Carpaccio of Andorran Veal is a traditional Andorran recipe of thinly sliced veal filled with mushrooms, coated in honey, and covered with grated Parmesan cheese.
Trinxat is another traditional Andorran recipe of fried potato and cabbage cake served with bacon. I boiled the potatoes and cabbage, mashed them, cooked the bacon, then took half of the potato mixture and added it to the bacon grease and flatten it like a pancake. Here’s where it got tricky: when the one side was brown I had to flip this huge pile of mush onto a plate and then flip it back again into the pan to cook the other side. This was not an easy thing to do, especially when one side was stuck to the pan and the other side was raw mush. But I managed to flip it without it all coming apart and dropping on the floor. When it was done I was supposed to neatly cut it in thirds and cover each slice with bacon. Yeah, well, I tried that, but it didn’t look pretty.
Lastly, I made the Catalan Spinach Salad that was quite easy to do and the end result was fantastic. The kids weren’t crazy about the spinach but my daughter, Julia, loved the Trinxat – she practically ate the whole plate, and everyone enjoyed the veal.
Being that Christmas is almost upon us, I wonder what Andorra is like over the holiday season. Rampant consumerism comes to mind. Pomp and show. Glitter and glam. Snow, shopping, old churches and everyone in close proximity to family and friends. I bet it’s one place where there’s no ignoring Christmas.
The best and worst about the holiday season – and tourism – all wrapped up neatly in one small country.
1 large cabbage
4 russet potatoes, peeled
12 bacon slices with the fat (you’ll want to thinly slice the fat to add later)
1 garlic clove
salt and pepper
Bring two pots of water to a boil one for the cabbage and one for the potatoes. Return to boil, then reduce heat of the cabbage to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes or until done. Drain the potatoes, return to pot and toss over low heat to dry, then transfer to a large bowl. When cabbage is done, drain, then cool.
Take out core of the cabbage, drain again, then squeeze to extract any more water. (I cored and cut the cabbage before I boiled it). Add chopped cabbage to the potatoes. Mash potatoes and cabbage, then season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a large frying pan, fry bacon until done, drain and set aside. Add half of the bacon fat to the an and then cook until the fat is rendered. Add half the potato mixture (I found it easier to make smaller batches) and flatten into a pancake. Cook on high heat until base forms a nice crust. Place a large plate over the pan and turn the pan so the trinxat falls on the plate. Now slide it back into the pan to cook the other side. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture. Serve with bacon slices on top.
Carpaccio of Andorran Veal
6 thin slices of veal
250g ceps, finely sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/2 cup honey
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
salt and white pepper
1 TBSP basil leaves, shredded
Place the thin slices of veal in a bowl and add lemon juice, basil leaves, 3 TBSP of olive oil, garlic, salt and white pepper. Set aside for 2 minutes to marinate. Heat 4 TBSP of oil in a pan, remove the veal from the marinade and spread with honey. Fry the meat in the oil for about 2 seconds per side and remove. Arrange the ceps over the veal then roll the slices and tie with a string ensuring the ends are closed. Brush with olive oil then cook on a griddle pan just long enough to mark the outside.
Remove the string, brush the meat with remaining honey, then dip in the grated parmesan to coat.
Catalan Spinach Salad
2 bunches spinach, shredded and blanched
2 TBSP olive oil
1 garlic clove
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup pine nuts
Gently fry the garlic with oil until the garlic turns golden, then add the raisins and pine nuts. Cook stirring frequently until the raisins plump up and the pine nuts begin to color. Place the blanched spinach in a warm serving bowl and top with the raisin and pin nut mixture.