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If you have only experienced small markets like I have in my life, Central Market will seem more like a small city housed in a large building. It is grand, and a not to be missed experience for any food lover visiting Valencia!
Discovering Central Market
I was in Valencia, Spain visiting my long distance partner for about a week when one evening I was musing about my plans for the next day. He mentioned to me that I should go check out Central Market, which is located in Old Town Valencia close to where he lives. Eager to check it out, I set out the next day while Jose was at work to find it. I had my GPS in hand, but honestly it is a bit tricky to find if you are directionally challenged like me, and even if you aren't, because the streets of Old Town Valencia are not laid out on a square grid, they twist and turn which is part of the areas charm. The streets basically all look the same if you aren't familiar with the area, every side street is narrow and covered in graffiti, and the buildings are so tall it is impossible to get your bearings from any landmark. In other words there is a strong likelihood you will get a bit lost. When you do finally land on the steps of Central Market for the first time, you know you are about to walk into something special. It is impossible not to be struck by its grandeur. The Market is large, rectangular and built predominantly of brick. A central dome and four corner towers are focal points. The colourful ceramic tile work is vibrant and incredibly beautiful.
The market was built between 1914 - 1928, and covers more than 8, 000 square meters (86,000 sq ft). It is one of the largest public markets in Europe. and offers a unique, authentic and historical experience for locals and tourists alike and is an integral component of Valencia's food culture.
What can you buy at Central Market Valencia?
The market is organized into different sections, each dedicated to a specific type of product.
The variety of what is offered in this market is incredibly varied. It is home to hundreds of stalls. Of course there is tons of meats, cheeses and seafood if that is your thing. While there aren't any vegan cheese products or things like that, there are an incredible amount of whole foods stalls. Fresh vegetables, fruits, freshly pressed juices, dried fruit, preserves, pickles, condiments, roasted vegetables, dry goods, breads, wines, beers, & sweets. I didn't investigate too much about whether any sweets were vegan friendly other than I was able to buy vegan chocolate and turron, which is an authentic almond based nougat, the vegan option I love is one with just the almond and sugar like a peanut brittle in Canada but SO much better.
Central Market Valencia Hours of operation
The market is open 6 days a week from 7 am until 3pm. They are closed only on Sundays and public holidays. It is an extremely busy place (I was there in December). In addition to the market stalls I noticed there was a restaurant or cafe place where you could sit along a bar and order food and a drink.
I also found the vendors to be really friendly. They are happy to talk a bit about their products and traditions. One woman was helping me pronounce words in Spanish when I was trying to order. (I'm studying spanish), and I chatted for awhile with another woman selling turron, tasting some samples before I made a purchase.
How to locate the Central Market
I used GPS on my phone to navigate my way to the market. It's pretty easy to get turned around in old town Valencia in my experience. Even with GPS I took a few wrong turns because the streets aren't just on a simple square grid. They twist and turn. That is all part of the fun though. I spent a lot of time in this area in the span of a couple of weeks and I discovered new places all of the time. (With GPS in hand to navigate my way out again!!!) Pro tip because I screwed it up and got really lost my first day, make sure your GPS is set to pedestrian mode, not car mode. (You can't really drive in this area unless you are a local business or person living there from what I can tell).
If you are staying in an apartment in Valencia and are able to cook, you could definitely shop here and get a ton of variety of whole foods to prepare. If this isn't an option you can definitely find some things to take home with you where ever you are traveling from. I am bringing back turron and chocolate when I head back to Canada. Even if you don't buy anything, the Central Market in Valencia shouldn't be missed!
Shop Turron Below. My favourite are the caramel sugar & almond varieties!
Recipe Difficulty: Easy
Recipe & Post Tags:
This is a little story about my first trip to Spain, following my heart, finding/not finding vegan food, and at the bottom of the page, a recipe for pan con tomate!
POV, You are Vegan and Traveling to Spain
I took my first trip to Spain December 2022. I'm in a long distance relationship, and I hadn't seen my partner, Jose, for 10 months since he visited me in Canada. I had almost missed my overseas flight due to snow in Montreal, landing ten minutes before my next flight was due to leave. I sprinted through the airport wearing far too many layers, carrying my heavy camera gear and definitely wearing the wrong shoes. Finally, I arrived at my gate, a sweaty hot mess, my name being called over the speakers, and every employee from the check in spot until I got to my seat knowing my name. Last one on the plane, but I made it.
Seeing Jose was obviously the main point of my trip to Spain, but as a Chef & blogger I of course was excited to explore the food and culture as much as possible while I was there. I am also vegan, and knew that this would add some layer of interest to me navigating the food scene there. How easy was it to be vegan in Spain? I was about to find out.
When I arrived, I was sleep deprived and exhausted. We had time for one weekend away from Valencia, where Jose lives. To pull off our weekend trip meant leaving directly to our accommodations upon me landing at the airport in Valencia. We had settled on spending a night in Morella, about a three hour drive away.
Where is Morella?
Morella is a municipality in the province of Castellon, in the Valencian Community, Spain. It is located in the Maestrat comarca, in the north of the province, and is known for its castle, which dates back to the 12th century and is considered one of the best preserved medieval castles in Spain.
The town of Morella is situated on a hill at an altitude of 740 meters, and is surrounded by mountains and forests and has a population of around 4,500 people. In addition to its castle, Morella is also known for its historical center, which has been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest, and its annual medieval festival, which takes place in August.
This Road Trip Required ALL of my Grit
En route to Morella, I did my best to keep my eyes open for the scenic drive, I was dead, dehydrated, fighting a massive headache, but the happiest I had been in months. (As you might be able to tell from the above photo.) Our apartment ended up being 15 kilometers away in a lower lying village called Chiva de Morella, which was a surprise to both of us as it wasn't evident in the booking details, but we didn't mind. We arrived around 4:30 pm to realize we couldn't check into the apartment. The door was locked, and check in, according to a local man whom with Jose had a conversation with in Catalan language, was actually at the "pub" across the street. It only opened at 6. I was a barely functioning human at this point and I just wanted a shower and a rest before trying to find food. We ended up driving up to Morella for better cell signal to see what we could figure out, and so Jose and I could check in with our families to say we had arrived. Jose was also able to make a phone call to the pub even though they weren't open yet, and they gave us a pin number so we could get into the apartment lobby before checking in, though they said they weren't sure if our actual room was unlocked yet. I was praying. We drove back down to Chiva de Morella. Pin code worked to get into the lobby, perfect...up a flight of stairs and halleluiah the door to our room was open. We showered and had a rest and decided to go to the pub for food. Jose was preparing me for the lack of vegan options (he is vegetarian so a bit easier), but I said maybe they will have french fries, those are always vegan..I didn't care at this point about being healthy...I literally just needed calories in my body.
When we walked into the pub, I quickly realized that calling it a pub was a massive exaggeration. It was a tiny one room bar with 3 tables. There were milk crates stacked all along the entry way. Four older men sat having beers and playing cards at one table, 4 older ladies chatting with drinks at another. We did our check in, and Jose asked about food. The woman working told him they only prepare food when people call ahead of time to order. Otherwise they don't pick up groceries. It's a small village, and now my understanding of where I was, was becoming crystal clear. I glanced to a wire shelf to the left of the cash, I spotted 4 bags of potato chips. I told Jose I absolutely couldn't go up to Morella again this night to find food, I could barely walk. We were eating potato chips for dinner. Jose ordered 2 beers, we sat at the one other long table which had another couple sitting at it. We ended up making friends, eating potato chips and drinking beer. Perhaps I didn't have high expectations about dining in a small village, but I certainly couldn't have predicted this outcome. The best part of my first night in Spain was, I couldn't have been happier, and it will remain one of my all time favourite memories. Chips, Beer, new friends, a foreign country, but most of all being with the man I love. No word of a lie, when I reflect back on the past 39 years of my life, these first couple of days with Jose, and the subsequent 2 weeks, were the happiest of my entire life.
The next morning
The next morning I was ravenous and desperate for coffee. Our room was beautiful, but while they had a nespresso machine, we would have had to bring our own coffee. We packed up and drove to Morella to find caffeine and sustenance.
Finding Breakfast in Morella
The center of the town was full market stalls with lots of fruits and vegetables. Jose and I grabbed a few oranges at one of the stalls while we strolled to look for somewhere to sit down and eat. If you are staying somewhere where you can prepare food, then you would have no problem as a vegan as whole foods are widely available. However meat, fish and dairy are also a large part of the food culture here, and we found that while vegetarian options were available to a degree at local restaurants and cafes, vegan options not so much. We didn't scour the entire village, but I don't think there would have been a point in doing so. We stopped in at Restaurante Pere, which was in the main center of the village. We wanted to sit outside but went in to check things out. They had a display case full of typical Spanish pinxtos. Anchovies skewered with olives for example. I noticed Spanish Tortilla de Patatas, and lots of other fish and meat dishes. Vegetarian things, yes, vegan. no.
They had espresso (I didn't even ask about plant based milk for a cappuccino because I knew it wouldn't be a thing), but Jose asked them if they could prepare "Pan Con Tomate, or in the Catalan language "Pa Amb Tomaquet") Our request thankfully was granted. We sat outside, sipped our espressos, and waited.
Out came a large piece of toasty bread with tomato, and did it ever hit the spot. After only having potato chips and beer and not much else while I was flying to Spain, this simple, humble breakfast was exquisite. Pan Con Tomate is a staple dish in Spanish cuisine, and making it at home couldn't be easier. See below for the recipe!
My First Spanish Pan Con Tomate. Delish!
Tips for traveling as a vegan in rural parts of Spain.
In the future (since our hope is for me to eventually move to Spain) and we definitely plan on touring around, I think he and I would probably bring food with us depending where we were headed. If it were a day trip I would consider packing a picnic with some snacks or sandwiches just in case. Definitely prepare yourself for being able to say "I am vegan" in Spanish. "Soy vegana" but don't assume everyone will know what that actually means. (I had a young man ask if I could eat tomato in Valencia at one restaurant lol). If you don't speak Spanish I would definitely prepare using my translator a few sentences to describe what I don't eat to clarify if necessary.
Recipe: Pan Con Tomate
Quantity: Make as much as you want. 2 tomatoes is enough for 6 slices of bread.
There are a couple ways to make pan con tomate, some recipes simply rub the cut tomato onto the toasted bread, others grate the tomato and then spoon on the pulp. Both are great, the one we had in Morella seemed like maybe it was rubbed with the tomato, whereas I had it in Valencia with a lot more pulp on top, so was probably grated tomato.
Whipped Feta Board with Carrot "Smoked Salmon"
Recipe Difficulty : Easy
Whipped Feta Board
Vegan Smoked Salmon
What is whipped Feta?
Whipped Feta is creamy, spreadable and delicious way to enjoy vegan feta cheese. I make mine in a food processor, blending the ingredients together until smooth and creamy.
You can use it as I do in this recipe, or in wraps, sandwiches or get creative and use as a base for another dip adding whatever you'd like! The variety of feta I use has a good amount of acidity, other brands I use don't necessarily have the same level of brightness, so if you were trying to use something else, I would just make sure to give it a taste, and if it needs an extra squeeze of lemon or splash of vinegar, you can add it in.
Whipped Feta Board Trend
This whipped feta board is a spin on one of the most popular trends happening right now that I have noticed. If you haven't heard of a "butter board", you might be a bit late to the game but that's ok. It's not a complicated thing at all, butter is spread onto a board, and topped with anything you'd like. Often fruit, nuts, spices, herbs etc. Honestly I'm not a huge butter fan. I use vegan butter occasionally when it makes sense, in baking or for a treat spread onto a biscuit or something. I definitely am not interested in eating gobs of it on bread or crackers. Kinda gross to my mind, but that is just me! But a Whipped Feta Board using one of my favourite vegan cheese? That is right up my ally. It is definitely healthier too if you are using a feta alternative like Fresh Start Fauxmage which is almond based. I'm all about using whole foods and natural ingredients as much as possible. I don't think you have to sacrifice taste to nourish your body and enjoy food over the holidays or any time of year.
Recipe Notes about my Whipped Feta Board
I had a lot of fun creating this recipe for my friends over at Fresh Start Fauxmage, in collaboration with Save da Sea Plant Based Smoked Salmon! If you have been following me for awhile you know I love Fauxmage. Using this plant based smoked salmon product was a first for me. I really enjoy it, love it in this recipe and am looking forward to working with it in the future. They've done a great job creating a product reminiscent of smoked salmon, but made from carrot.
This whipped feta and plant based smoked salmon board is perfect holiday fare to share with your family and friends. Serve it up on your brunch table or with evening munchies and drinks. The greek style feta is whipped with a bit of cream cheese, olive oil, lemon zest, & cracked pepper, then spread onto a serving board and topped with fresh dill, thinly sliced red onion, carrot smoked salmon, & capers. Serve with your favourite bagels, toasted with olive oil and cut into bite sized pieces.
Plant Based Product Features
Greek Style Fauxmage Feta
Save Da Sea Plant Based Smoked Salmon
Recipe: Whipped Feta Board with Carrot "Smoked Salmon"
Shop for Teak Wood Boards Below!
Serves : 2 as a main event with perhaps a salad, 4 - 6 if having other nibbles.
Yield: 16 “bites”
Method: Whipped Feta Board
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Recipe Difficulty: Easy, but requires some prep. (It's worth it)
This delicious vibrant soup is inspired by Borscht, but I made it without any intention of trying to be authentic. I just wanted to create something delicious and full of good for you ingredients. I love that this recipe is made using whole foods (except a bit of olive oil). The result is a meal that is humble, but it's so good I would serve it to anyone. (as long as they like beets, and dill!) With that being said I didn't have some Ukranian folks comment that it was like the Borscht they have had so I like to read up on what is authentic. Mine technically is pretty similar I think.
Borscht has a long and rich history dating back to at least the 16th century. It is thought to have originated in Ukraine, where it was made with fermented beet broth. Over time, the recipe for borscht has evolved and today it can be made with either fresh or fermented beets. Other ingredients often include potatoes, carrots, onions, beans, and a variety of meats such as beef or pork. It can be made vegan or vegetarian by omitting the meat and using vegetable broth instead. The soup is typically served with a dollop of sour cream and or a slice of rye bread on top. (I use cashew cream in my recipe to add some richness that meat would otherwise give).
Borscht became popular in other Eastern European countries, such as Russia, Poland, and Belarus, and it is now a staple in their cuisines. It is often served as a hearty and flavourful soup during the colder months, and it is also a popular dish at festive occasions such as holidays and weddings.
My Soup Recipe Notes:
This soup has beets, red cabbage, potato, carrot, white beans, homemade veg stock, onion, garlic, cashew cream, fresh dill, apple cider vinegar and a few ingredients to give it a bit of complexity. Marmite is something I like to add, as well as a bit of Braggs or soy sauce. It doesn't take a lot.
The flavour of this soup is sweet, in a lovely way, from the beets, and it has the perfect amount of acidity from the apple cider vinegar. The cashew cream brings balance to the sweet/tart and of course, creaminess. You have to plan ahead a bit when making cashew cream, the raw cashews need several hours to soak. With olive oil grilled multigrain bread for dunking alongside, I find this whole situation to be irresistibly good.
This soup makes a big batch...probably about double the amount of many of the other soups I have on my blog. I use my big stock pot to make it. If you wanted a smaller batch go ahead and halve the recipe. It isn't one I have tried to freeze...I don't find potatoes freeze the best...but perhaps I will try that sometime.
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