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Max Abroad : The Best of Spain

Quite simply writing about the best things Spain has to offer and anything that might crop up along the way. Spain is a lot more than just sun, sand and sea...

Bunkers in Barcelona
21 January 2020

If you happen to be visiting Barcelona in the near future don't leave without enjoying this stunning bird's-eye view of the city. Few viewpoints give a better landscape than the hilltop ruins of the Bunkers del Carmel.

Built during the Spanish Civil War as anti-aircraft fortifications in 1938, the bunkers on the hill of Turó de la Rovira were situated so that they could survey the entire width of the city. Large Vickens 105 mm cannons were mounted on the concrete and masonry defences. The objective was to protect the city of Barcelona from the Italian fascist aviation that used a bloody tactic called "carpet bombing" (later this tactic became generalized during World War II).

 

The carpet-bombing caused around 800 dead, more than a thousand wounded and the total destruction of about 50 buildings. The city counted as a single defence a wide network of underground shelters and this system of antiaircraft warfare installed by the Government of the Republic.

 

 

After the war, naturally, the guns were removed and the bunkers were simply abandoned. Yet the view from the site was too lovely to stay neglected for long and eventually the old bunkers became known as a beautiful if a bit remote, place to take in the historic city.

As the popularity of the site grew, the bunkers received a revamp as officials wanted to make it more appealing to tourists as well as celebrate the ancient Iberian settlement that is also nearby. The formerly secret site now regularly sees visitors but is secluded enough that it is often still fairly private. They are free to visit and open 24 hours a day.

 



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Wooden Mushrooms
15 January 2020

When Jürgen Mayer-Hermann designed and began constructing the Metropol Parasol, there was a near-uprising from locals in Sevilla. Erected in the Old Quarter of Sevilla amidst historic and beautiful buildings, a gigantic, modern interpretation of wooden mushrooms didn't quite seem to fit. Despite the initial uproar, citizens and visitors of Sevilla have come to embrace the wooden landmark.

At a staggering size of 150 by 70 metres and 26 metres high, the Parasol dominates the landscape around the city centre. Made entirely out of wood, it is the world's largest wooden structure. Created out of 8,000 timber pieces and connected with steel and glue, the structure is an architectural nightmare that yielded a magnificent and dreamlike result.

The entire complex was finally opened in April 2011 and cost a whopping €123 million USD. Naturally, it was 70% over budget following good Spanish tradition.

Given its size, the Parasol, also referred to as Encarnacion's Mushrooms, serves a variety of purposes. The basement floor houses a museum of ancient Roman and Moorish artefacts and the ground floor hosts a lively Central Market. Along with the pleasures of food and history below the wooden mushrooms, the truly amazing levels of the structure are the terraces high above the ground. The terraced walkways on the 2nd and 3rd levels of the structure offer stunning views of the city and the ability to walk eye-level with the ancient buildings of the Old Quarter. Even though it was a colossal cost, it is quite impressive and well worth a visit.

 



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George Orwell and the Spanish Civil War
08 January 2020

Even though he was an Englishman, famed author George Orwell made it a point to head to Spain during the Spanish Civil War in order to join the fight for democracy, mainly out of idealism. Today, his path through one portion of the war is remembered by a trail of recreated fortifications.

Orwell joined the fighting of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, despite the reasoned advice of fellow author, Henry Miller. Despite being a volunteer, Orwell wanted to head to the front lines of the war, but it was not in the cards. Instead, he was sent, with a regiment to the region of Aragon, where the fighting was rather light. There he didn't see much action, but he did encounter a great deal of hardship among the soldiers, including hunger, terrible living conditions, and lack supplies in general. While his initial visit was uneventful, he would return to Aragon later and be shot in the neck. He survived and managed to escape Spain, and his ordeal would go on to inform his book.

 

 

Despite a general agreement among many in Spain to let the events of the civil war remain in the past, many of the trenches and fortifications where Orwell spent time have been methodically recreated today. The trenches and bunkers along what is now called the George Orwell Route look as though they have never even been touched by time, much less war. Visitors can now walk the same hilltop path that was not only visited by Orwell, but by countless soldiers who took part in the tragic war. 

The Spanish Civil War may not be a popular subject among many, but thanks to Orwell's high-profile visit, this battlefield will not be forgotten any time soon. 

 

              

Ruta Orwell



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Discover the Gooseneck Barnacle
02 January 2020

This Christmas and New Year gooseneck barnacles were one of the prized dishes on the dinner table. Known as Percebes in Spanish, they are so called because of their resemblance to a goose’s neck and head but could easily be mistaken for alien beings. This barnacle forms dense colonies in crevices on rocky shores with strong waves. Barnacles anchor themselves to rocks by a tough, flexible stalk (peduncle), which also contains the ovaries. This is actually their “head” end.

 

Once the gooseneck barnacle has attached itself to an object, it secretes a series of pale plates at the end of its stalk, forming a shell around its featherlike legs, which comb through the water for food. The legs face away from the sea, enabling the barnacle to feed by filtering out particles of detritus from returning tidal water as it funnels past them through cracks in the rocks. Gooseneck barnacles become sexually mature at about five years of age and may live for up to 20 years. The larval stage is free-living but depends on sea currents for its transport and survival. Colonies of gooseneck barnacles are susceptible to the damaging effects of oil pollution and they recover only slowly from disturbance.


On northern Spain’s "Coast of Death" local men (percebeiros) risk their lives searching the jagged cliffs for gooseneck barnacles, a rare delicacy for which consumers will shell out hundreds of euros. It is here, where the roaring surf crashes wildly on to the rocks where the largest and fattest examples – the ones that bring in the most money – grow.

Galicia is a relatively poor region of Spain: there are few jobs and none that pay well. The shipbuilding industry, once the pride of Galicia, is in ruins, and the sea is overfished. Hunting for gooseneck barnacles is one of the few ways in which to earn money. Gourmets pay a high price for the rare stalked crustaceans: in a restaurant a plateful can cost €100. On the eve of important festivities, fishermen can make up to €300 per kilo at auction – with luck they can earn €1,000 in a day. But the stakes they play for are high; this is a dangerous way to make a living.

The Costa de la Muerte, the Coast of Death, is the region between the fishing village of Malpica in the north and Cape Finisterre, so called because of tricky northwesterlies and barely concealed rocks, which have often proved fatal for fishermen and seafarers. One of the worst tragedies occurred in 1595, when 25 ships of the Spanish Armada were hit by a storm and 1,705 sailors died. In the past five centuries more than 500 ships have capsized and thousands of seamen drowned. Many of these were ‘percebeiros’. On average, five fishermen die every year.

Conditions must be perfect to harvest gooseneck barnacles: good weather, a quiet sea and the right point in the lunar cycle. Spring tides and a particularly low ebb happen every two weeks, with a full and a new moon; at all other times the long-necked barnacles are underwater. The lower the sea level, the better, as the barnacles usually live below the waterline, where they are safe from predators.

Barnacles are a genus of primitive invertebrates that have populated the oceans for 500 million years. Unlike other crustaceans, they cannot move. The larvae stick themselves firmly to rocks with their cement glands, and use the tentacles in their mouthparts to collect the plankton that is whipped up by the surf. In the mid-19th century Charles Darwin devoted eight years to studying a total of 10,000 specimens, which he arranged and classified in species and subspecies. This work helped him to develop his theory of evolution.

Firmly anchored on the rock face, gooseneck barnacles often live near mussels. But unlike these shellfish, they have resisted all attempts to breed them. Scientists suspect that they need the tides to survive, and it has proved impossible to recreate these conditions in a laboratory. They thrive in intertidal zones where there is particularly strong surf, so it is at these points that the best specimens, which fetch the highest prices at auction, can be found. Those that are easiest to reach, on the upper edge of the rocks, stay dry for too long during the ebb tide, and are as thin, mushy and tasteless as Moroccan gooseneck barnacles, which lack the mineral-rich Galician granite on which to flourish.

 

 

 

 About 400,000kg of barnacles, valued at €10 million, are handled annually. Gooseneck barnacles taste so intensely of the sea that the secret of their preparation is extremely simple: you put them in boiling water, ideally sea water, for a couple of minutes, without any other seasoning. Purists say you should be able to taste the waves of the surf and the plankton on which the crustacean has fed. You break open the shell – using the thumbnail of one hand, at the point between the stalk and the end that looks like a hoof – and twist the barnacle apart, then suck the flesh from the black shaft, a ¾in-1½in, orange-brown rod that tastes like a combination of crab, shrimp and oyster. You can also eat the barnacles raw. 

This video will give you an idea of what they go through to get these prized barnacles :

 



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Spanish superstitions to keep in mind for the coming year...
27 December 2019

Nothing worse than being superstitious and working in a mirror factory, an umbrella shop ... Now we are just about to enter 2020, everyone wants a fresh start for the coming year. Experts agree that in today's Spain, superstitions are on the rise. So I thought I would detail, along with their origins, some of the most popular superstitions in Spain (even though many are common in other countries) to stand you all in good stead for 2020. 
 
Tuesday and the Number 13
BAD LUCK: The Curse of the number thirteen is rooted in the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the twelve Apostles when he was betrayed. It is believed that if thirteen people sit down to eat at the same table, one of them will die within a year.
The day of the week varies: in Spain, Mexico and Greece it is Tuesday and thirteen, In the UK and other countries, it is Friday the thirteenth because Jesus was crucified on a Friday.
 
Starting the day on your left foot
BAD LUCK: Petronius in the 'Satyricon' alluded that “misfortune” entered a room or a place with its left foot. In Spain, it may have originated from a  Celtic tradition and the solar motion, which always moved towards the right. To counter-act it one must do the sign of the cross three times.
 
Throwing rice at a wedding 
GOOD LUCK: Before, everyone threw pieces of sweets at the bride and groom, symbolizing happiness and fertility. But in lean times they threw wheat or rice, as it was much cheaper, to this day in Spain, they throw rice.
 
Feeling a buzz in your ear
GOOD LUCK: When you hear or feel a buzz in your ear ask someone to give you a number. The letter of the alphabet that corresponds to that number will be the first letter of the name of the person you expect to marry. "The Left ear is for love and right for spite." If you pinch the right ear immediately when you hear the whistle, the person who is criticizing you will bite their tongue!
 
Somebody casts an “evil eye” (spell - mal de ojo)
BAD LUCK: It is traditionally believed that if we are completely reflected in the pupil of an eye, we could be trapped by it. Therefore, from ancient Rome to the Middle Ages, those who had cataracts or other visual defects were often sacrificed at the stake. In Greece, Turkey and Egypt are widely believed that there are people with evil powers in their eyes, even unconsciously, one with these powers could cause harm just by casting their eyes over something. For protection, one needs to carry garlic, gold and silver, blue glass eyes and horseshoes.
 
Spilling salt
BAD LUCK: Its origin dates back to 3500 B.C. Then, they believed that salt was incorruptible, which is why it became a symbol of friendship. Hence the belief that if you spill it, the friendship would break. To counteract this effect, one would take a pinch of the spilt salt and throw it over one’s left shoulder.
 
Saying "Jesus" or "bless you" when someone sneezes
GOOD LUCK: It was because sneezing was the beginning of many different diseases and so one asked God to drive away the danger of infection. It is also said that it was to keep the devil from entering through the mouth.
 
Spilling wine
BAD LUCK: When you spill wine on the table, you should immediately put a little of it on your forehead for good luck and if it was champagne then you have to touch it with the tip of your fingers and put it on the earlobe to achieve eternal happiness. The origin of this belief is thought to be related to the fetus as it begins life with the earlobe. For this reason, when you soak it in champagne you’re wishing that your life will be surrounded by all kinds of happiness and joy. 
 
Bringing a used broom to a new house
BAD LUCK: You mustn’t take a used broom with you when you move house, as doing so, will bring bad luck and all the misfortune from the previous home.
 
Breaking a mirror
BAD LUCK:It is said to curse you with seven years bad luck. The mirror was a magical element of divination, so if it broke, it was so that it couldn’t show the frightening future ahead. Seven years is due to the belief that the body renews itself every seven years.
 
Placing bread upside down on the table or dropping it on the ground
BAD LUCK: Bread is a staple food. Therefore there have been several superstitions that have arisen related to making it, cutting it, eating it and offering it to others. Placing it upside down is supposed to bring bad luck because it's treated as an insult to the body of Christ, also, when it falls to the ground it is custom to kiss it and do the sign of the cross three times to ward off misfortune.
 
Parsley
GOOD LUCK: In Ancient Greece parsley was considered a sacred plant that symbolised triumph and resurrection. Driven by this belief, the Greeks adorned graves with wreaths of parsley.
 
Putting a hat on the bed
BAD LUCK: Putting a hat on the bed is an omen, in Spain and Italy, that means something bad will happen. This superstition has another meaning: that your mind will go blank. This belief probably comes from the symbolism of the hat, which represents the head and thoughts and is a symbol of identity.
 
An off-centred picture hanging on the wall or falling from the wall where it was hung.
BAD LUCK: This idea has its origins in ancient Greece, where it was believed that if the portrait of a monarch or a celebrity fell to the ground suffering serious damage it meant that they would soon die.
 
Putting a cactus on the windowsill
GOOD LUCK: A popular belief says that this plant wards away the evil of the house. It’s great ability to absorb moisture from the atmosphere makes it a powerful protector against evil spirits, that need moisture to grow. The custom of placing a cactus by doors and windows, observed in all the Mediterranean comes from the belief that if spirits find water along the way, they could drown crossing it and be trapped there forever.
 
Sweeping the feet of a single woman or a widow
BAD LUCK: This meant that they would never marry. Related to witches.
 
A falling eyelash
GOOD LUCK: The Devil collects eyelashes and, according to tradition, losing one meant running all kinds of dangers. So if one falls, put it on the back of your hand and throw it over your shoulder or place it on the tip of your nose, blow it upwards and make a wish.
 
Throwing coins into a well or fountain
GOOD LUCK: It comes from ancient divination, the ritual of throwing stones or hairpins down a well, in order to know whether a fact would be fulfilled or not. If bubbles rose to the water surface it meant that they would be fulfilled.
 
A black cat walking towards you or which crosses your path 
BAD LUCK: Although in Egypt it was believed that the cats were the reincarnation of the gods, centuries later, the Catholic Church regarded them as the reincarnation of the devil, so they were burned. Black was identified with the devil being the colour of night. In most of Europe and North America it is believed that a black cat brings bad luck if it moves away from you, but good luck if it walks towards you. In Spain it pretty much in any direction, but its always bad luck!
 

 



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The Flour Festival is just around the corner!
17 December 2019

No festival in Spain is complete without a bizarre tradition like throwing tomatoes or running in front of bulls or jumping over babies or setting off tons of gunpowder...

The annual festival of Els Enfarinats is celebrated with the mother of all food fights; flour and eggs. Els Enfarinats takes place in the town of Ibi in Alicante on December 28 as part of celebrations related to the Day of the Innocents. During the day-long festival, participants dressed in mock military dress stage a mock coup pretending to take over the town. Dressed in a slovenly manner, they enter banks and shops stirring up trouble in a good-humoured way, imposing fines on shopkeepers and bankers, mocking local dignitaries and reading humorous speeches. Those who oppose are assaulted with flour cakes and eggs.

The tradition's origins are unclear, but it is believed to have grown from the ancient Feast of Fools, or Fiesta de Los Locos, once part of the old Roman festival of Saturnalia. The tradition is over 200 years old.

 



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It's Christmas Lottery time again!
11 December 2019

Spain's Christmas lottery has been running for over 200 years. I have no idea how long other lotteries have been working but in Spain the Christmas lottery is a tradition, an institution, and plays a major role in boosting the Christmas Spirit.

 

I must admit when I first came to Spain I found it quite confusing; “series”, “billetes”,  “decimos”, “participaciones” etc. and then the prizes which seem endless, when the results are published the following day in the paper it takes up pages and pages. To give you an idea of how important this is for the Spanish and their festive spirit, this year there is an expected average spend per inhabitant of in the Valencian community of €75, slightly more than last year.  This year there is an expected turnover of more than 3,6 Billion Euros of which 70% will go to back out in prize money. Not quite sure what happens to the other 30%, which is a fair whack!

 

Originally in 1812, it was an idea created by a Minister called Diriaco Gonzalez to increase the government income without penalising the people via additional tax. As it goes there are over 15,000 prizes given out. . 

 

 

 

 

In total 180 million “decimos” (tenths) are put on sale in the month of July at €20 a ticket.  A decimo is a tenth of a “billete”- Note. So obviously if you want all of the decimos of a particular number you need to buy the entire “Billete” at €200.

 

Each number assigned to a “Billete” is printed up 180 times into what they call “Series” – serial numbers, basically, so each run of decimos has a different serial number. So if you chose for example 12,345 as your preferred number (always five digits) to buy all of the tickets that carry this number in the country you would have to buy 180 “Billetes” (all the serial numbers) meaning you would have to cash out €36,000.

 

Finally you have "participaciones" which are shares of "decimos" normally divided in to 10 parts aswell, so 1/10th of a "decimo"- 2 euros. This is normally done by groups of people who can't afford to buy so many tickets at €20 and prefer to buy more "shares" in other numbers and hedge their bets for a budget. This is very common in bars and schools, small companies and groups of friends etc. It is also very common for companies to give lottery to their employees as a Christmas gift.

 

As far as the prize money goes, the main prize is the 1st Prize which they call “El Gordo de Navidad” and pays out €4,000,000 per Serial number, which is €400,000 per Decimo. The 2nd prize pays out €1,250,000 per serial number, the third prize €500,000 per serial number and then there are other prizes of €200,000 - €60,000 - €20,000 euros and so on.

 

This lottery, as opposed to other lotteries, does not make any one person stinking rich, mainly because of the price of the tickets. It is designed to share the wealth amongst the people. As the Serial numbers and the Billetes tend to be bought up together without being divided, it is very common for entire villages or neighbourhoods to end up having bought the same number or very similar numbers that also gain prize money, meaning when it hits in a small village the chances are most of the village wins. 

 

On occasions, several “serial numbers” can hit in the same place. When you think that there is a prize of €4,000,000 for each of the 180 “Series” it’s quite a substantial sum that is being distributed just with the 1st prize - €720m. This is why it is so popular because there is a slightly better chance of winning something even though the probability of winning the 1st prize is only 1 in 100,000. Still much better odds than the EuroMillions.

 

However, there is a 1 in 10 chance of getting your money back and coming out evens and a 15,3% chance of actually winning something. If the last number of your ticket coincides with the last number of the 1st prize in your series you get your €20 back. So the thinking is I’ve got a “good chance of winning something” even though it might not be entirely true. Most people wouldn’t invest in anything if it had a 10% chance of breaking even! But this is Christmas and it’s all part of the festive tradition, not even the Spanish Civil war was capable of stopping the lottery. During that period each side stopped and did their Christmas lottery, so it doubled up!

 

 

       

 

 

The prize draw is a major event on TV, many kids take the day off school to stay home and watch the draw, even though they shouldn’t! It lasts for at least 3 hours until all the prizes have been given out. The system used is a traditional one that hasn’t changed much since 1812. It entails two wire spheres that rotate until one wooden ball falls down the shoot. One sphere is for the ticket number and the other is for the prize that corresponds.

 

Every year children from the San Idelfonso School sing out the numbers and the prizes in a very characteristic way, adding to the occasion. So if you are feeling lucky go out and buy a “decimo” who knows?!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 


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This Village is an Architectural Treasure...
06 December 2019

 

Located on the Bay of Biscay, among steep cliffs, Comillas is half fishing village, half architectural treasure. With a noble, stately air, it is one Cantabria’s most celebrated towns and one that attracts most visitors. Besides the unrivalled natural backdrop, the town boasts some of the masterpieces of Spanish modernism. And if that isn’t enough, the village has a charming fishermen’s quarter where you can savour the best freshly caught fish and of course the famous cocido montañés, a bean stew with cabbage, potatoes, and pork products. This tierruca, as Cantabrians lovingly call their land, charms us at every step.

 


Although significant, emblematic buildings from the 18th century are still preserved, such as the Plaza Vieja and the Iglesia Parroquial, monumental Comillas was born thanks to the efforts of Antonio López, the first Marquis of Comillas, who arrived here after coming back from America and founding major shipping and tobacco companies in Barcelona. It was he who was behind the major projects in the town. His personal effort to modernise Comillas succeeded in getting King Alfonso XII himself to spend his summers here, and the town can boast of being the cradle of inspiration for the best modernist masters, key players in its personal and beautiful aesthetic character. Most of these emblematic buildings were built in the late 19th and early 20th century, the era which witnessed the town’s greatest economic and social splendour. Without a doubt the best way to get to know the place is simply by walking around it and discovering the surprises that await at every charming turn. 

 

          Catholic University Comillas

 

           Palace Sobrellano

            Gaudi's Summer House

 

One of the most impressive and representative buildings in Comillas was built towards the end of the 19th century. Designed by Antonio Gaudí, it is a summer residence that resembles a doll's house, with its fantastical towers and characteristic tile work with textured sunflowers. This latest stroke of aesthetic genius took its inspiration from the groundbreaking sustainable heating system developed by Gaudí for the palace.

 



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The Spider Caves - Valencia
28 November 2019

This ancient rock painting is the oldest evidence of humans’ love affair with honey. The taste of honey has entranced humans as long as we’ve walked upright—it is the second sweetest thing found in nature after dates. Until relatively recently, bees were the primary source of both sweetness, as honey, and light, in the form of beeswax candles. But before we domesticated them, getting hold of the sugary treat was a risky business.

Thousands of years ago, our prehistoric ancestors would teeter on rickety ladders to swipe honeycomb from wild bees nesting in cliff faces. In this Gastropod episode listen to author Gene Kritsky introduce us to the cave painting in the Cuevas de la Araña (“Spider Caves”) in Bicorp, Spain that is the oldest evidence of humans’ love affair with honey.

 

 

You can view the honey hunting rock painting in Cuevas de la Araña, or Spider Caves, in Bicorp, near Valencia, Spain. 

For more details visit their museum website: http://www.ecomuseodebicorp.com/

 

 

 



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The saffron harvest
18 November 2019

Saffron is a tradition that is re-emerging. One of the most expensive products in the world, it is making a comeback in modern cuisine. Pepper, cloves, cayenne... names that invoke flavours and smells that stimulate the senses, that form a part of Spain’s most traditional cuisine and play an essential role in the healthy Mediterranean diet. 

Towards the end of October, at dawn in the fields of La Mancha in Spain, one can start to see a surprising carpet of violet-blue. It is the first sign of the ephemeral saffron harvest, the plant Crocus Sativus, that for a period of fifteen days will yield a crop appreciated as much as gold. The flowers are picked manually between dawn and midday around this time of year - beginning of November - with fast twists of the thumb and index finger. Later, specialist workers remove the three fine red filaments at breathtaking speed. Each worker can manipulate between 10,000 and 12,000 flowers per day.

The saffron filaments, or stigmas, are subsequently "toasted" and dried over fire thus accentuating the aroma. They are now ready to be used. The figures concerning the saffron harvest are astonishing: five pounds (2.3 kg) of flowers are needed to obtain five ounces (143 gr) of finished product. In other words, 37 kg of flowers (approximately 70,000 flowers) yield half a kilo of this first class spice. It is not surprising that the farmers can charge €1800 a kilogram for their saffron and this can rise to €3000 on the open market. Without doubt one of the most expensive food products in the world - purple gold.

 

In their search for spices, men such as Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus set forth in the discovery of new worlds, and in the Middle Ages the so called "Spice Road" was of major economic importance to Old Europe.

Spices are a universe in themselves, and like all universes there is a King, Saffron. Saffron is a product that requires careful elaboration and intensive manual labour, extracting from the heart of the saffron flower (Crocus Sativus Linnaeus) this filament that later, when dried, gives such a delicate flavour.

Saffron is one of the most traditional and natural spices that one can find in Spanish cuisine, and to substitute it for chemical colourings that may be harmful to one's health is a crime, especially as they do not have the flavour and quality of authentic saffron. Amongst the immense variety of spices, saffron is the finest and most delicate. Its singular magic, sensual and inciting, gives unequalled aroma and colour to all gastronomic dishes where it is used. Revered since time immemorial, today saffron is the symbol of the best quality. To bring out the best of the saffron in stews, it should first and foremost be perfectly dry. Then the filaments should be ground in a mortar releasing the full aroma and giving a light red powder

Once ground, add a little stock or liquid from the stew to the mortar and stir. Once well diluted add the saffron to the stew for the latter stages of its preparation. Saffron enriches a wide variety of dishes, adding an appetizing colour and a sumptuous aroma and thus guarantees excellent results. 

Saffron in its filament form is the best guarantee of purity. A small quantity of strong clean filaments subsequently ground, add a delicious taste and colour to the widest range of dishes: paellas, stews, soups, pastas, baked fish, potato stews, pasta paellas, oxtail stews, rice dishes, yellow bean stews, prawns, sauces, fish soups - the list is endless.

Saffron is known to both give a healthy appetite and also help with digestion. It has also been attributed with helping to strengthen the heart, the liver and the respiratory tracts. In some parts of Spain saffron is still taken in small doses as an infusion or tea for its medicinal values. It is also used to rub the gums of teething babies to help calm the pains.

The famous Spanish doctor, Andrés Laguna, who worked considerably with saffron filaments, was convinced that taking regular small quantities of the spice lightened the heart. The frequent use of saffron filaments in cooking is due, in part, to the aroma but more importantly the colour it gives to dishes. In so many recipes of the Spanish cuisine it is essential to add a few saffron filaments ground in a mortar.

It is also frequently used in French and Italian dishes and extensively in oriental food. Saffron works so well with fish, meat, pasta and rice, and is used to colour cheeses. As a spice it is found on the market in filament form or ground as a powder. In the form of Filaments ensures that the saffron has not been tampered with. Grind with a little salt in a mortar to release a maximum aroma and colour in the food preparation.

Historically saffron has been considered as a luxury product. For this reason it has been the spice that has incited adventure, journeys by sea and by land to the Orient. Many ancient civilizations made perfumes from saffron that were used in religious ceremonies and other occasions. The Romans perfumed their baths with saffron. Its presence signified opulence and refinement and when Nero made his triumphal entrance in Rome as Prince of the Empire, the streets of the city were carpeted with saffron. It was the highest homage that could be paid.

When the Arabs settled in the Spanish Peninsular they introduced the cultivation of saffron, which rapidly became the most abundant spice in Europe.

 

     

 

Saffron harvesting in Castilla, Spain from Mary Adeline Royal



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