About

The Story of A La Taula

Pronounced “a la towel-a”, it means “to the table” or “time to eat!”. That is what I always remember my mother saying when it was time for my family to sit down and eat. And it captures what I love about Catalan food and the Catalan culture – delicious, homestyle food that is shared together.

My mother is an amazing cook and prepares everything from scratch, so I was eating delicious homestyle food every day. But we also spent much of our time as a family traveling around Catalonia to try different restaurants – and in our family, it was first pick a restaurant we wanted to try, and then (and only then) find out what else you can do in the area where it was located.

 

When I grew up I moved to New York City where I worked for 15 years as a graphic designer in the fashion industry. But as I started cooking more and more on my own, I decided that what I really wanted to do was cook. I decided to complete culinary school at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York, where I received a health-supportive culinary education. After some time working at Gramercy Tavern, and then as a personal chef business, and finally as a cooking instructor, I decided I wanted to teach the food from my home region of Catalonia.

 

My family and I moved to Barcelona, we built a big teaching kitchen in our apartment, and I worked with my mother and other family chefs to learn those delicious meals that I ate growing up.  I also wanted to bring my nutrition-based culinary training to these dishes. So I have adapted those recipes to people with gluten and dairy sensitivity, without compromising the flavor and authenticity. And I have also developed a delicious vegetarian Catalan class.

 

Now I want to share with you my favorite dishes. They are dishes from my mother and my grandmother and from other grandmothers in Catalonia, and from friends and from restaurants, fishmongers. So please join me and let’s all cook these delicious meals together  – a la taula!

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My name is Núria and I grew up in a family that has a passion for good Catalan food.

The Kitchen

Not only do I teach “homestyle” food, I actually teach the classes in my home. When we arrived back in Barcelona we renovated our apartment in a 19th century building in the center of Barcelona.  The original details of this typical L’Eixample building have been preserved, including the original mosaic tile floors and the beautiful high-vaulted ceilings seen throughout Catalonia. As part of that renovation we built a fully-equipped teaching kitchen that accommodates 6-8 students. And that number of students reflects the type of classes that I provide – small with lots of personal attention .

The kitchen is fully-equipped for classes and to enjoy the food. When the food is ready, we can dig in at our rustic wood “taula” and then head outside on the sunny terrace for a desert.

We are centrally located in the L’Eixample neighborhood, a 15- minute walk minute walk from Las Ramblas and the old city.

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Catalan Cuisine

Wikipedia does a good job of defining Catalan Cuisine in English.

I define traditional catalan food, first, as dishes that come from mothers and grandmothers, and from farmers and fishermen.

Catalan dishes also vary across the region: in the mediterranean coast you get delighted with fresh seafood meals. In the inland region, you get dishes with both seafood and meat. In the mountain the meat predominate.

For me the main characteristics of traditional catalan cooking are:

  • Cuisine that often combines fish and meat in the same dish. As we call it mar i muntanya
  • It often combines sweet and savory flavors in the same dish
  • It uses sofregits* as a building block for nearly every dish
  • It also often uses picada** to thicken sauces
  • It often uses slow-cooking methods, or xup-xup as well call it, to produce rich flavors
  • it incorporates high-quality local ingredients from the region. Farm-to-table and buying from the local area are popular these days around the world. But here in Catalonia we have always had a strong connection to local agriculture and that continues to this day.

Typical sauces in Catalan cuisine include alli i olli, romesco, and samfaina. Herbs that we often use include parsley, cinnamon, nutmeg, saffron, cloves, pepper and red pepper, thyme, savory, bay leaves.

*sofregits: slow cooked onion + tomato until it gets caramelized (+ pepper, garlic, parsley)
**picada: it’s a paste made of garlic + spices + nuts + liver + chocolate… used to thickened sauces.