The Juan Sebastián de Elcano sails into Sanlúcar de Barrameda as part of the V Centenary celebrations commemorating the first voyage around the world. (Photo La Voz de Cádiz)

One September day, 500 years ago, a single ship, the Nao Victoria, arrived in Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Cádiz) with 18 of the original crew that set out to sail west to the Spice Islands.

The voyage began in 1519, when five Spanish ships with 247 men on board under the command of explorer Fernando de Magallanes (aka Magellan) left Sanlúcar. Like Columbus before him, Magallanes envisioned finding a route to Asia and the East Indies by sailing west from Europe.

Magallanes never made it back. (He was killed by natives in the Philippine Islands.) Juan Sebastián Elcano, a Basque, commanded the Victoria, the only remaining ship, from the Asian ocean (named “Pacific” by the explorers), around Africa and home to Sanlúcar, arriving September 1522. The Elcano, named in his honor, is a training ship of the Spanish navy. 

Sanlúcar harbor was the setting for the 500th anniversary celebrations. The ship Elcano, under the command of reigning King Felipe VI, in white dress uniform, arrived under full sail at Sanlúcar, along with a replica of the Victoria, naval vessels and helicopters for the commemoration of the circumnavigation of the globe. 

In celebratory mode, Sanlúcar, where globalization began, was named the Capital Gastronómica de España 2022. An occasion to celebrate the food and drink of this city situated where the Guadalquivir River flows into the Atlantic Ocean. 

Sanlúcar is famous for its seafood—in particular, the langostinos de Sanlúcar, tiger shrimp; for its Manzanilla (Sherry), and for its potatoes.(See below for more recipes typical of Sanlúcar.) 

Langostinos are in short supply this season, as, apparently, global warming has affected the catch. Instead, I am celebrating Sanlúcar with a favorite Sanlúcar tapa bar specialty, tortillitas de camarones, crispy shrimp fritters.

Tortillitas de camarones are fritters made with a kind of tiny shrimp found in waters around Sanlúcar de Barrameda. 

Make the tortillitas big or small.

Manzanilla from Sanlúcar is the perfect accompaniment to these fritters. Although, a cold beer goes nicely too.

Crisp, lacy edges of the fritters.

Shrimp Fritters

Tortillitas de Camarones

Camarones are tiny shrimp, unpeeled.

Camarones are not baby shrimp, but a diminutive variety of shellfish that thrive in the estuaries around Sanlúcar. In the markets of Cádiz, you’ll find them in baskets, still jumping around like grasshoppers. They go into the batter, shells and all, giving an extra crunch to the fritters. (Camarones are also “harvested” by aquaculture.) 

The secret to these fritters is getting the batter thin enough so that it can be spread to a lacy pancake in the frying pan. Some cooks use agua con gas (seltzer) instead of water to make the fritters lacy. Chickpea flour adds flavor and texture but can be substituted for all wheat flour, if preferred. 

Olive oil for frying is essential. It needs to be about 1/2-inch deep in the skillet so the fritters can float on the oil.

If these tiny shrimp are not available, make the fritters with peeled shrimp that have been coarsely chopped. Optional additions to the fritter batter: chopped seaweed, corn kernels, red pepper flakes. 

Makes 10-12 (6-inch) fritters.

6 ounces camarones (tiny shrimp)

1 cup flour

1 cup chickpea flour

1 ¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½+ cups ice water

¼ cup finely chopped parsley

1/3 cup finely chopped scallions or onion

½ ounce seaweed such as wakame or sea spaghetti (optional)

Red pepper flakes (optional)

Olive oil for frying the fritters

Place the camarones in a bowl and add cold water to cover. Sluice them around and pick out and discard any bits such as detached heads, antenna or other debris. Drain very well.

Thin the batter with ice water.

In a mixing bowl combine the two kinds of flour and salt. Add 1 cup of the ice water and whisk to blend into a smooth batter. Add the parsley, scallions and camarones. If using the seaweed, soak it for 10 minutes in water, then drain and chop. Add to the batter. Fold all of the ingredients into the batter. Cover and refrigerate the batter 30 minutes.

When ready to fry the fritters, thin the batter with additional ice water. Place oil in a skillet to the depth of ½ inch. Heat the oil until shimmering, but not smoking. 

Scoop up batter with a small ladle or large spoon. Make the fritters any size desired. Drop the batter into the oil and immediately use the back of the spoon to spread it as thinly as possible. Fry the fritter until golden-brown, turn and fry the reverse side. 

Remove the fritters as they are fried and drain on paper towels. Serve them recently fried (or reheat in a skillet with no additional oil).

Market in Sanlúcar. The famous langostinos are at the top.

More recipes from Sanlúcar de Barrameda

Source link