Churros Garcia: I-want festival food

Sunday, April 10, 2011

London is full of amazing food markets and occasional festivals celebrating everything from Italian culture to Real Food. So it was that we found ourselves at South Bank wandering around the familiar contours of the outdoor market there, which, this time, was inhabited  by stalls under the 'Real Food' banner.

It was a smallish market but there were some really nice stalls. They had real meat for sale, real snacks and meals like lamb burgers, vegetable fritters, freshly squeezed (compressed?) apple juice and real fruits and vegetables.

And all of the deliciously organic fruits and vegetables (and fresh apple juice) are delivered in very authentic looking crates:

How very quaint! And Farm-y! And how very convincing for the average Londoner who sees nothing every day but the high-glossed glass panels of Canary Wharf, or the drudgery of Victoria, or even the industrial smokery of the Tate and Lyle factory. 

For me, the highlight of the Real Food Festival was Churros Garcia.  You always, always see their brightly coloured stalls at food markets and festivals in London. With fire engine red and cheerful yellow, how can you miss it? And, you always see people wondering around these markets and festivals in a gleeful food reverie clutching cups filled with beautiful crispy towers covered in sugar. Churros! We investigated the stall and discovered that these two iconic market moments were intrinsically linked and so we abandoned lunch ideas of chicken kebabs on bagettes and opted to explore the culinary exploits offered by the lady-in-a-red-apron.

And here they are. After paying my £4 and waiting patiently while the lady-in-a-red-apron tried to fit in as many of these traditional Spanish treats as possible into the bulging cup, and finally copying everyone else who picked up their cup along with a tiny espresso cup filled with a gloopy brown liquid, we wandered away in a food reverie to a clear space so we could find out what they were, and what they tasted like. 

And they were genuinely amazing. The churros themselves are shaped, deep fried batter tubes which are perfectly crispy on the outside and ever-so-slightly spongy and warm on the inside. They're sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, and the gloopy brown liquid is hot, hot chocolate which you use as a deliciously sweet and warm dip. There was no way we were going to finish all of these and have space for lunch, too. 

G, who is particularly averse to sweet treats (yes, I can't believe it either), knocked the sugar and cinnamon off of his churros, and dipped them in the chocolate which was neither too sweet nor to cocoa-y. I scooped up the extra cinnamon and made a terrible mess all over myself with sugar sprinkles. They were delicious. 

When it was just too much - about three or four churros from the end of the cup - we gave up. There was no more room to even think about chicken kebabs. I was reluctant to let the remaining ones go, but we had to, so we escaped the clutches of the first churros moment and continued on through the rest of the market. I suddenly noticed everyone around me huddled in little groups with their churros cups, kids sipping the warm chocolate out of the espresso cups like it was a delicacy, and families sharing it as a pre-lunch snack. Like pregnant women, they were everywhere. 

If you ever find yourself walking past the gleaming red-and-yellow Churros Garcia stand, do stop in and have a little hello. And, if you find yourself wandering away clutching perfectly crisped yellow-orange churros, be grateful: they're the perfect festival food and the generous portions are certainly big enough to share. 

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