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How Coffee & Olive Oil have developed in Spain
Friday, September 22, 2023

Coffee and olive oil in Spain have more in common than you might think and unfortunately not for the right reasons.  Both are wonderful products and play such an important role in the Mediterranean lifestyle or diet: Olive oil for its health properties and culinary value and coffee for its social implications.

However, history and social circumstances have led to a general misunderstanding of what is actually good olive oil and what is good coffee and this lack of knowledge and false belief has led a nation along for generations and only recently are people starting to wake up to this misconception. Who would have thought that when a Spaniard working at an olive mill in his local village gave you a few litres of olive oil from the recent harvest, you would have probably received what is now referred to as just "olive oil" - not extra virgin. Certainly, the elder generations and those in their 40’s grew up with low-grade olive oil at home convinced they were consuming the nectar from the sun-blasted olive groves of their precious homeland. But this is through no fault of their own, technology available then was unable to prevent the contamination of residues left on the millstones and knowledge around the needs of the olive tree was no way near as advanced as they are today. So people all over the Mediterranean got used to what they believed was top-quality olive oil but this is one example where technology has actually helped us obtain the best from nature and traditional methods are in fact detrimental to the quality. Nowadays all olives are blended into a pulp and centrifuged not crushed with millstones and then pressed through mats, or at least they should be.


These classical traditional techniques that some customers find enchanting and some brands use as a marketing pull are actually a warning sign that you should probably stay well clear of them. It is impossible to achieve the same quality in a “traditional mill” when compared to a modern mill. But what this has created is a palate for poor quality. So what tastes "good" because it is all they know is actually bad olive oil. So much so that many producers centre on this palate of tastes to ensure their sales even though they are capable of producing better quality oils and unfortunately still today the majority of olive oils in supermarkets are of poor quality, especially in the UK. Some regions deliberately produce oil from frozen olives, as it is the local taste that they have become used to over the years. Naturally, the taste is awful for those who know good olive oil. So what we end up with is a leading nation in olive oil production that doesn’t really understand what good olive oil is, or better said if given a bad olive oil would almost definitely say it was good, really anyone can appreciate a good olive oil once given the opportunity to taste it, the fruitiness speaks for itself.

I always have top-quality olive oil at home and when friends and family come round for a meal they will always be served it. Once they smell it and taste it they are always blown away; "wow! It smells so good, what’s in it?” they ask, thinking that it carried some fruit additive or infusion and the simple answer is nothing, it should always smell like that…fruit juice. It should not smell like oil, you should instantly know this came from a fruit. So only time will educate the people as to what real olive oil should taste and smell like and that will be no easy task with bulk producers more interested in making the extra penny, but this is where regulations and quality controls should be stricter. So learn more about olive oil and how you can recognise a real extra virgin.



Coffee has a similar story. What is known in Spain and other countries as café torrefacto or Café Torrado is a coffee, which has received special toasting, special because it is different, not because it is better. Back in the 40’s there was a huge shortage in coffee and it was extremely expensive so substitute drinks started to appear in households around the country such as chicory root or cereal seeds toasted with sugar and their consumption became widespread. This same technique of toasting with sugar was applied to coffee too as it was believed that the coffee maintained its freshness for longer as the fine coating of sugar was thought by some to delay the aroma escaping from the bean and the oxygen entering the bean, as modern techniques of preservation were obviously not available. But the fact that sugar was involved in the process helped tremendously with its success after many years of sugared chicory root. 

But what was this process of Torrefacto and what results did it achieve? 

Well, a coffee bean acquires its taste and aroma during the toasting process, with Torrefacto café, sugar is added to the beans. In the past up to 20% of the volume but now it is regulated at a maximum of 15%. This sugar is added in the last stage of the toasting process as the temperature is at its highest, approximately 200ºC, the sugar caramelises and forms a shiny film around the coffee bean. The only thing this achieves is a darker coffee in colour and more bitter in taste. The carbonised sugar masks the majority of the coffee's qualities in terms of taste and aroma thus the technique was only really justified when the coffee bean was of very poor quality as the technique provides a certain uniformity and balance to the taste. However, nowadays its consumption is not recommended and it is considered harmful to one’s health.

Firstly because it is much harder for the digestive system to cope with and thus people with ulcers or stomach problems will have difficulty consuming this coffee but more importantly it has been banned in many countries around the world, as it is believed to be carcinogenic. This technique is only known or used in Spain, Argentina, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Mexico, France and Portugal. In the rest of the world, it is unheard of.

Although its use and consumption were perfectly understandable in those days it became a habit and the norm within Spanish society and continued even when economic conditions had improved.  When the coffee sector was opened up in 1980, controlled up to then only by the state, laws changed and a new market was made available for large companies to tap into. Although they were unaware in those days, they took advantage of the widespread torrefacto coffee, which was approved by the state, cheap, balanced and well accepted by the Spanish consumers and started to mass-produce it. This not only convinced the public that coffee should be strong and bitter but it also promoted the habit of adding more milk to the coffee to make it more acceptable and logically limited the size of the servings.

Slowly but surely 100% natural coffee started to make its way in but initially only by means of blends, at first 80% torrefacto -20% natural. As time moved on these percentages started to change but there is still a long road ahead before the Spanish really start to appreciate 100% natural coffee. Today we can still see manufacturers offering especially to bars and restaurants 50/50 blends. However, in the north of Spain it is now far more common to find 100% natural coffee and the further north we go less torrefacto you will find. On the other hand in Andalucía you will find 60/40 (natural/torrefacto) and 50/50 and even in some villages you can still find 100% torrefacto, which is quite incredible nowadays and shouldn’t be allowed quite frankly.

 So, in conclusion, please make sure your olive oil is fruity and your coffee is 100% natural, your body and your palate will thank you for it.


Like 0        Published at 8:21 PM   Comments (1)

Zarangollo - Welcome to Murcia
Friday, September 15, 2023

It may not look very photogenic, but "Zarangollo" is one of those dishes that makes any Murcian's mouth water. Simple, popular and of humble origin, Zarangollo shares characteristics with so many other recipes from Spanish gastronomy, but it has 'something' that makes it a very special dish.

As is the case with many recipes in Spain, being so simple, every household has it's own particular version as well as accepted variants with different ingredients throughout the Region. It is a typical dish during the Spring Festivities and the September Feria, with close ties to Murcia's tradition of vegetable growing.

The three basic ingredients for Zarangollo are onion, courgette and egg, and it can also include potatoes. The most traditional preparation consists of frying the spring onions ó sweet onions with the vegetables.

Ideally, prepare twice the weight of courgettes to onions. Here the star is the courgette. It is also best to choose medium-sized specimens, which you can either peel or not. Personally, I don peel them. Use a small amount of oil to avoid soaking up too much fat, the only real trick is to let the vegetables cook slowly in their own juices until they are very tender. Don't rush it. Eggs, if possible, should be free-range. They are always thrown in without beating, stirring very gently so that the mixture is smooth. Fancy giving it a go? This is what you'll need for 4 people:


1-2 Large sweet brown onions or large spring onions

3-4 medium-sized courgettes / about 1kg

3 Large Free range eggs (add more if they are small)

Extra virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Black Pepper

Steps to take:

Peel the onion and wash the courgettes. Cut the first one into a fine julienne. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan and fry the onion with a pinch of salt. Lower the heat and fry until very tender and they start to caramelize a little.

While the onion is cooking, wash and peel the courgette if you wish to do so, I don't peel it though. If you do, be careful not to remove too much flesh. Slice the courgette into thin discs.

Add the courgette to the onion, season lightly and stir well. First cook over high heat stirring constantly, so that the water is released. If all the ingredients don't fit at once, wait until it reduces a little to make room for the rest. It will reduce in size considerably.

When the courgette is slightly cooked, lower the heat and let it cook slowly. This will create a concentrated flavour and also a very smooth texture. Stir from time to time and keep cooking until very tender, about 40-50 minutes.

Finally, crack the eggs directly on top, season them and stir gently, mixing them into the vegetables and breaking the yolks. The idea is that they cook little by little, staying very juicy or almost liquidy, without transforming into scrambled eggs or an omelette.

Cook for a few more minutes over very low heat until the texture is right, they should juicy but not a liquid. Until you give this a go many not know exactly what I am trying to describe! Remove from the heat and let them rest for about 5 minutes and then serve immediately or refrigerate when cool. It can hold very well for several hours in the fridge, so you can make it ahead of time if you need to.



Zarangollo can be accompanied by salad and, of course, bread to dip. However it doesn't have to be the main meal, you can combine it with almost anything from Pisto to chips or even meat and fish.

So, there you go. Enjoy!

Like 3        Published at 10:11 PM   Comments (1)

'Arroz con Costra' - Baked rice with a twist
Thursday, September 7, 2023

Arroz con Costra is yet another great Spanish rice dish that is relatively simple to make and tastes delicious. Claimed to be from the Southern-Alicante/Murcia region of Spain, this rice dish is a perfect example of how different cooking techniques are blended between regions.



Alicante is one of Spain's best regions for rice dishes, after Valencia where the ever-famous paella originated. However this dish is an unusual blend between a casserole and a paella, and when including an egg crust, it makes for a very unique but traditional dish.

The name of the dish, 'Arroz con costra' derives from this 'egg topping' - 'costra' means ‘crust’ in Spanish when used with food. This is because when the egg is baked on the top of the rice casserole, it turns into a tasty crust that compliments the meal exquisitely.

In this recipe, it is customary to include a typical Spanish sausage called 'butifarra blanca'. This is a white sausage and is typical of Murcia and the Valencian Community. The sausage is white as it is only made from pork meat. However, if you can't find Butifarra blanca you can replace it with a similar white sausage. 

Similarly, chicken is used in this recipe but many traditional versions of the dish use rabbit so you can choose whichever you prefer.

The largest dish of 'Crusty rice' ever to be cooked was made using 1,500 eggs, 100 kilograms of rice and 120 kilograms of rabbit. The dish, which provided 1,500 servings, made it into the Guinness Book of World Records, helping immortalise the dish forever.



This is what you will need for 6 servings -  Crusty Rice with Spare Ribs and Chicken


• ½ cup Olive oil

• ½ lb spare ribs, chopped

• 2 butifarras blancas, cut into 2cm thick slices (optional)

• ½ lb pork loin, cut into large cubes

• 6 chicken legs

• 1½ tsps salt

• 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped 

• 4 cups chicken stock

• 1 tsp sweet paprika

• 2 cups Spanish round rice

• 6 eggs, beaten



• Preheat the oven to 230ºC (450ºF).

• Heat the olive oil over a medium-high heat in a large (around 30 centimetres in diameter), deep casserole dish. Add the spareribs, sausage slices, pork and chicken and cook, turning as necessary, for around 10 minutes or until the meat is nicely golden brown all over, turning to a slight crisp.

• Add the salt and the tomatoes to the pan and mix well.

• In a saucepan, bring the chicken stock to the boil and then turn down the heat, but keep it at a slight simmer. It needs to be hot when you add it to the rest of the dish.

• Add the paprika to the casserole dish containing the meat and tomato mixture and mix briskly to mix the flavour in. Then add the stock to the mixture and turn up the heat to high, bringing it all to the boil quickly

• Add the rice and stir the mixture to blend it with the rest of the ingredients, and make sure that it is evenly distributed throughout.

• Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for 3 minutes without stirring.

Next, place the casserole dish in the oven and bake it for 10 minutes or until the rice has become soft and absorbed most of the stock. Pour the beaten eggs evenly over the surface of the rice and bake for a further 5 minutes or until the eggs forms a crust on the top of the dish.

• Remove from the oven and serve immediately.



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La Cordá de Paterna: Total Insanity
Wednesday, August 16, 2023

If you have been to Valencia in Fallas you may think that you have seen the ultimate pyrotechnic spectacle but I can assure you, you haven’t. Some call it madness, some call it stupidity but the locals call it good fun!

On Sunday 27th August in Paterna the annual celebration of 'La Cordá' will take place. This unusual celebration takes pyrotechnic spectacles to another level.


This crazy “fiesta” happened by accident just as the Tomatina in Buñol did. In 1898 a group of friends were having dinner in the street and this pleasant summer evening ended up in a battle of gunpowder rockets. Paterna in those days was famous for its development of the Valencian “Traca” a long length of rockets tied together which once lit would produce a chain reaction of explosions. This battle developed into an annual event until it became what it is known today as, La Cordá.


For those who have no idea what I am talking about, every year in Paterna near Valencia, a cage, which is 125m long and 8m wide is built along the Calle Mayor in the village. This cage is designed to hold approximately 200 experienced “rocket throwers”. The rocket throwers are each given their position inside the cage and allocated their series of rockets to set off. Following the commands of the Master Rocket thrower, a symphony of explosions and fire start to fill the cage around the 200 participants held inside it. The act lasts for about 20 - 25 minutes and a minimum of 50,000 rockets are released at a rate of 2000 rockets a minute!




Last year they set off 55,000 rockets in about 20 minutes! What looks like complete anarchy is actually planned and programmed to the second. There are three types of rockets used in the cage, one that is designed to fly along the ground rebounding off the walls and the participants, others that are designed to jump into mid-air and rebound off the bodies and walls and others that are designed to fly up over their heads and fill the air with trails of fire and sparks, all are capable of taking you hand clean off!



It is an extremely dangerous event, even though the locals don’t seem to be too worried about the dangers. Imagine 55,000 rockets being let off in a cage rebounding off the walls, the ground and the ceiling and you in the middle of it! That is The Cordá! Naturally, all participants aren’t suicidal and take same precautions wearing protective clothing and facemasks that are similar to fencing helmets to avoid major injuries but every year there are injuries and last year there were “only” 21 and not serious according to the local press, no one needed to be taken to hospital.

So if you happen to be near Valencia on the last Sunday of August this year, pass by Paterna and take a look at this insane spectacle!



Like 1        Published at 9:02 PM   Comments (0)

Seafood Popcorn!
Saturday, August 5, 2023

One of my favourite starters is a Mediterranean classic and one that always gets ordered whenever we have a paella away from home: ‘Puntilla de Calamar’, unbelievably tasty, moreish and easy to prepare. I like to refer to them as "seafood popcorn". The reason we love it so much is not just because of its taste but also because it is a light starter that doesn't kill your appetite before a paella, which can often be quite a heavy meal.

‘Puntillas de Calamar’ are effectively ‘baby squid’ and are eaten all over Spain as a starter but mainly on the coast and normally they accompany rice dishes, as they are light and flavoursome. They are effectively like seafood popcorn and I just can’t put them down when I get going! With or without a little squeezed lemon, they are just fantastic. 


You will need for 4 people :

800gr Young Squid – “Puntilla de Calamar” (they reduce in size by around 50% when cooked)
Wheat flour - Tempura 
Bread crumbs (optional) 
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

They are extremely easy to prepare and a few details need to be addressed to achieve the best results. Firstly you will need to clean and prepare the ‘puntilla’. This means removing the eyes, which we will then dispose of, and removing the transparent tough membrane that goes along the inner body, effectively like a backbone and it just slides out when you pull on it. Then we thoroughly wash and dry the puntilla.  This is the first of the key points that need to be addressed. If the puntilla are not dry the flour with go all stodgy and cause a real mess. So before we flour the squid, make sure it is completely dry.  

Now to flour the squid: You can use a sieve or a plastic bag, whichever you find easier. So place the squid in a bag or a sieve, salt them lightly and cover with flour and shake repeatedly, ‘tempura flour’ is best but any wheat flour will work. Here comes another trick, although it is not always done and using just flour will work just fine, a good trick to get a nice and crunchy squid is to blend the flour with bread crumbs in a 50/50 mix. This will give them that crunchy edge which I love. Notice we are not adding egg here, we don’t want a batter, of any sort. Once the squid is completely covered with the flour mix we need to deep fry.

At this point, we need to fry the floured baby squid ‘puntilla’. Lastly, it is very important to make sure the olive oil is very hot, but not smoking. You can test the temperature with a small piece of bread, if it browns fairly quickly, it's ready. The oil needs to be hot so the squid doesn’t soak up any oil and the flour crisps properly, so if you are doing a large batch be careful how many you put in the pan or the fryer as the temperature will drop if you place too many in at once so do them smaller batches and make sure you have abundant olive oil in the pan, so they can float. Once they are golden in colour, remove them and place them on kitchen towel. Dry them and serve immediately with a few lemon quarters.



So there you are an extremely easy starter. Now, this same technique can be used for many types of seafood such as Large squid rings – Calamari (as I explained in a previous blog post) or even large prawns for dipping.


Like 1        Published at 11:59 AM   Comments (4)

Summer Shellfish - Spectacular Clams!
Tuesday, August 1, 2023


Clams in 'Salsa Verde' (green sauce) are traditionally eaten as a special dish up north in Galicia, and are a wonderful starter to share with friends and family. This dish makes for a fantastic light summer meal so why not give it a go this August. As is the case with most traditional recipes the quality of the ingredients is the key to a fantastic result. 

This is a quick and easy dish to make and will take no more than  20 minutes to prepare if your clams are already clean and free of sand. The ingredients are easy to find but it is essential to use fresh parsley, a good dry and fruity white wine and of course fresh clams not frozen. If you are able to find them Galician clams are the best. I highly recommend using an Albariño white wine or a Ribeiro, both work wonderfully with this dish.

Ingredients to make Clams in Salsa Verde ( 2 people) :  

500 grams of clean clams

125 ml  of white wine (Albariño Rias Baixes ó Ribeiro, preferably)

2 cloves garlic large

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon of wheat flour

3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 lemon

Salt and pepper

(some like to add 1 small crushed dried chilli – optional)

Before you begin, make sure the clams are clean and have no sand in them. If you bought them already cleaned, great, but if not you will have to clean them. There is nothing worse than chewing on a gritty clam!

So you will need to let them soak in water with salt for 2 hours, changing the water two or three times during that time. Once the clams are clean we can start with the recipe. Peel two cloves of garlic, mince and remove the heart of the garlic. Put them in a frying pan with 4 tablespoons of olive oil and bay leaf. Before they have browned add a tablespoon of flour and stir well. Let the flour brown a little but not burn.

 Now add the wine, clams, a pinch of salt (half dessert spoon), a little pepper and sprinkle with two tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley. Cover the pan and leave on medium heat for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes remove the lid and see which clams have opened and remove them from the pan. Once they have all opened and been removed, check if the green sauce needs salt.

Now let the sauce simmer a little more without the lid and the clams, we want to reduce the sauce so it becomes slightly thicker.

We must ensure that the sauce is well blended, so don't remove it from the heat until the sauce is nice and thick, we also want to make sure all the alcohol has evaporated. When the sauce is ready put the clams back in and mix well with the sauce. This will heat the clams up again and then serve immediately. Serve in a bowl and sprinkle with the remaining parsley and accompany it with a wedge of lemon. Some prefer that acidic touch to the sauce that the lemon gives, but I prefer it just as it is. What I will do from time to time is add a dried chili or two depending on the number of clams. This gives it a wonderful kick! You can add the chilli right at the beginning with the garlic, that way it will flavour the olive oil directly.



The last thing you must remember is to have plenty of crusty bread because once you have finished the clams there will be loads of delicious sauce to soak up!!


Like 1        Published at 3:38 PM   Comments (1)

Prawn and Avocado Gazpacho
Saturday, July 22, 2023

This week I would like to share with you another gazpacho recipe as temperatures are soaring, a refreshing dish is ideal for any meal.  Yes, I love avocados and I am always trying new ways to enjoy them! My last gazpacho recipe was based mainly on courgettes but combined with avocados and today's recipe also involves avocado but with a different approach. It is slightly lighter than the previous recipe but also wonderfully refreshing and delicate in flavour. Ideal as a starter for any meal, be it fish, meat or rice and if you prefer a more filling dish just add more prawns and accompany with some bread! Avocados are readily available right now too so no better time to give it a go!



This is what you will need for 4 servings:

For the gazpacho:

2 avocados
1 green bell pepper
1 cucumber
1 spring onion
½ clove of garlic
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar
1 lemon

For the garnish:

12 peeled king prawns
Some baby leaves - mixed salad
2 pear tomatoes
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar cream
Olive oil

For the aromatic oil:

10 basil leaves
Extra Virgin olive oil

  • Peel the cucumber, wash it and chop it up. Squeeze the lemon. Wash the pepper, clean it and chop it. Peel the avocados cut them in half, remove the stones, take out the pulp and drizzle it with the lemon juice to prevent it from oxidizing.


  • Clean the spring onions, removing the roots and the green stalks, and wash them. Peel the garlic. Chop both, and place them in the blender, with the avocado, cucumber and pepper. Add the oil and vinegar. Add Salt and pepper then add a glass of water and blend until you get a homogeneous cream. Put the cream in the fridge, in a covered container.


  • Now prepare the aromatic oil: wash the basil leaves, dry them with kitchen paper and chop them up. Grind them with the oil until you get an emulsified mixture. Wash the tomatoes, cut a cross into each end of the tomatoes, and scald them in a saucepan with boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Drain them, cool them in cold water and peel them - where you cut the cross you will see that the skin has started to peel away. Cut them into medium-sized segments and remove the seeds.


  • Wash the king prawns(peeled) and pat them dry. Heat a few drops of oil in a nonstick skillet; add and sauté for 1 minute, just until they change colour. Remove and season.


  • Wash the salad leaves, pat dry and chop lightly. When ready to serve, divide the gazpacho into 4 bowls or deep plates and arrange the tomatoes, shrimp and salad leaves on top. Water with a few drops of balsamic vinegar cream and a string of the basil oil which you previously prepared. 


Like 2        Published at 2:34 AM   Comments (2)

Summery Avocado Soup - Gazpacho de Aguacate
Friday, July 7, 2023




This week I thought I would share with you a summer recipe as temperatures are soaring, and a refreshing starter is ideal for any meal. Although most cold soups in Spain are based around the tomato such as Gazpacho Andaluz or Salmorejo, this one is based primarily on avocados. It is wonderfully refreshing and delicate in flavour. Ideal as a starter for any meal, be it fish, meat or rice. Avocados are readily available right now too.

The avocado is a product originally from the American continent, where the Aztecs believed it had aphrodisiac properties. Since pre-Columbian times it has been cultivated in Mexico and the rest of Central America under the name "ahuacatl".

In the seventeenth century the Spaniards, who named it the Indian Pear because of its similarity to the national pear, was taken by them to the West Indies, while the Portuguese took it to Brazil.

In the eighteenth century, the Spanish adventurers introduced it into the Canary Islands via the Botanical Garden of Orotava, where it jumped to the Peninsula.  Now it is generally cultivated in the Mediterranean area, from Murcia down to Andalucía.

It is such a simple recipe to make and healthy at the same time, so I hope you enjoy it.

The Ingredients you will need for 4-6 people are the following:

4 large ripe avocados - make sure they are ripe and not hard.
2 large chicken carcasses for stock ( or ready-made chicken stock, enough for 4-6 servings)
1 cup evaporated milk (approx. 200ml)
1 sweet potato
1 lemon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (preferably a good Picual – eg. Oro Bailén)
Salt, Pepper



Put the chicken carcasses in a pressure cooker with water (covering the carcasses), two sprigs of parsley and a pinch of salt. Close the cooker and cook on mark 2 for 5 minutes once the safety valve has risen. Once cooked, sieve and let it cool down.

Cut 3 avocados in half and scoop out the flesh into to a bowl. Add the juice of half a lemon. Blend with and electric mixer. Pour part of the chicken broth and continue blending, it should have a light consistency. Add the evaporated milk and continue blending. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

Peel the sweet potato and cut into very thin strips “Julienne” style, effectively we want potato straws, so nice and thin. Fry in a pan with hot olive oil. Remove to a plate with some kitchen towel in order to remove excess fat.

Peel the last avocado, scoop out the flesh and dice it up into bite-size cubes and place to one side. 

Serve the soup in bowl and place in the centre a little chopped avocado and fried sweet potato on top. Garnish with a sprig of parsley and you’re ready to go.

You may want to accompany this starter with some toasted bread topped with Iberian ham and olive oil, it accompanies the avocado really well.

The sweet potato is a potato-like tropical tuber. They differ in that this potato has a thicker skin and a more elongated shape, but more so in the flavour, which is sweet thus adding a wonderful touch to the dish.

This dish is highly recommended for all children, youth, adults, athletes, pregnant women, nursing mothers and the elderly.

It high contribution of antioxidants and monounsaturated fats makes it a recommended dish especially for those with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Monounsaturated fats have the property of reducing the rates of total blood cholesterol because they elevate the so-called "good cholesterol".

As for the vitamin content of this recipe, there are three that deserve more attention for their antioxidant capabilities: vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin E.

Furthermore, due to its richness in magnesium and potassium, and its low sodium level, this recipe is highly recommended for those who suffer from hypertension or heart conditions.












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Valencian Mussels - The Best Mussel in the World
Thursday, June 22, 2023



The Valencian 'clochina' is considered the finest mussel in Spain.... so what do we know about this mollusc? What sets it apart from the other varieties? Are Valencian Clóchinas better than traditional mussels from Galicia, Cataluña, Scotland or even any other part of the Northern hemisphere? 



Three difficult questions to answer but let's concentrate on the latter of them. Are they better?


The Valencian clóchina is a true delicacy, superior in taste and organoleptic qualities to its Galician, Catalan or even Scottish cousins. ​ That said they are extremely scarce and highly localised in both region and season. The main difference in flavour is due to the breeding ground being in the Mediterranean sea which is saltier than other harvesting regions such as Galicia or Scotland. Quality control and technique also plays an important role. Modern cultivation of the Clóchina dates from the late nineteenth century and it all began on two mussel rafts positioned in the very same port of Valencia as we see today. The rafts in those days collected about 35,000 kilos during the season but the popularity of the Clóchina with Valencian families meant mussel ​​rafts were increased until they reached the twenty-two they are today. The inexorable growth of the port forced them to move to the outer harbour, finding even better waters with a calm current that kept the breeding ground clean while at the same time did not disturb the mussels. For farming Clóchinas they have always used old barges, these were the basic supports from which structures were built to hang the special breeding ropes, a technique that has been passed from father to son for over a hundred years.




The Clochina farmers share a similarity with normal crop farmers, so much so that their work shares similar terminology to that used in the field; they 'plant the seeds (when they tie the baby molluscs to the breading rope with netting) and 'harvest the barge' (when they pull in the fully grown mussels). However, it is the lunar calendar that governs the whole process which is from the full moon of April all through to the waning moon of August.


Its production or harvesting is limited to the period from May through to August (The Clóchina farmers always make reference to their season as the months without an 'R'), so any other product that is offered at different times of the year will be Galician mussel, French or Catalan, but never Valencian Clóchina. Luckily we have just entered the season for Clóchinas and now would be an ideal opportunity to try them if you have the chance, I highly recommend them. They are wonderful as a starter for almost any meal and so simple to prepare. Not only are they far superior in taste but their texture and colour are also different to other mussels. The Clóchina is slightly paler in colour and much more tender than normal mussels, so you need to be careful as they are fairly easy to overcook.




To prepare Clóchinas all you need to do is to clean them by removing any debris hanging from the shell, scrub and rinse with cold water, so they are nice and clean. The traditional way is to place some extra virgin olive oil in a deep frying pan with a couple of rosemary leaves a teaspoon of peppercorns then pop in the mussels. Heat them on high heat and cover them with the lid of the pan until all the mussels have opened, shaking the pan from time to time, then serve with a slice of lemon. Alternatively, you can pop in a squeezed lemon quarter with the rosemary so the mussels cook in the lemon juice, although this sometimes overpowers the flavour if you use too much, so be careful. Other alternatives are to add two crushed garlic cloves, a  little chopped parsley and a tablespoon of dry white wine, absolutely fantastic.


Valencian Clochina mussels release an intense salty stock that is bursting with flavour and impossible not to soak up with some lovely crusty bread.





Like 3        Published at 10:28 PM   Comments (2)

Pica Pica
Friday, June 16, 2023

Ponche Caballero is unique, a genuine Spanish liqueur made from a secret recipe over 180 years old. Amber and bright in colour. Aromas of orange and vanilla, with hints of spice and almond notes. A sweet and intense flavour… makes Ponche Caballero a unique and delightful liquor.

It was one of the first drinks I discovered when I landed in Spain. At the time the local craze was to mix 70% Ponche Caballero with 30% lime cordial in a  shot glass, and I must admit they went down very well. The wonderful blend of sweet and bitter with spices and sour lime created an explosion of flavour which was quite addictive. They used to call it ‘Pica-Pica’. It went down very well after dinner!

Ponche Caballero is made with natural products imported traditionally through El Puerto de Santa María from all over the world. Ingredients from Andalusia to Mexico, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Madagascar combine to make up the key botanicals that form the secret recipe of this iconic Spanish drink:

Orange peel
The peel of the best Andalusian oranges gives us the perfect combination of sweetness and refreshing acidity.

Collected in Sri Lanka, its sweet and heady fragrance made it as esteemed as gold in ancient China.

Arriving from Mexico since the beginning of the sixteenth century when discovered by the Spanish conquerors, vanilla offers a subtle flavour and an unmistakable aroma.

Original from Madagascar, cloves contribute to a pleasant aroma and slightly spicy flavour.

This spicy and aphrodisiac fruit is imported from the Moluccas Islands (Indonesia), adding a sweet and mild flavour.


Ponche, which is the Spanish word for Punch, is original from ancient Persia, where a similar drink was elaborated. It was called “panj” – meaning five – in reference to the number of ingredients used: brandy, sugar, lemon, water and tea.

Through India, the Punch then got into the hands of the East India Company, who introduced it to the British colonies in the early seventeenth century.



During the eighteenth century, Punch consumption spread throughout the Western world and its recipe was adjusted to local tastes in each country, varying the type of alcohol and spices used in its elaboration. Punch quickly established itself as a drink for celebrations and special occasions.

In 1830 Ponche Caballero was born. José Caballero, coming from Galicia, started to blend the traditional northern “queimadas” (a homemade liqueur using maceration of botanicals) with liquors from southern Spain in El Puerto de Santa María, developing the secret recipe that is maintained until today.

In 1917 the punch of the Caballero family was becoming well known, despite that, in the beginning, it was only conceived for family and friends. They soon started to bottle small quantities to meet local demand.

From 1943 Ponche Caballero started to spread throughout the Spanish geography. The bottles are wrapped manually in silver paper, as a tribute to the traditional silver punch bowls, the reason why the bottle is still silver to this day.



In 1969 Ponche Caballero introduced the first metallic spirit bottle in the world, a technological and industrial process that was never seen before and that has been imitated since by many others. The Ponche Caballero silver bottle has become an icon in Spain.

By 1990 Ponche Caballero had become the best-selling liqueur in Spain and ranked amongst the Top 10 worldwide. Today Ponche Caballero is enjoyed in over 30 countries 

On the rocks with a slice of orange, combined with soft drinks or in the form of sophisticated cocktails, there are so many combinations to choose from. Why not discover yours…? Whatever you do, you can always start with a  Pica Pica…

Like 2        Published at 9:17 PM   Comments (0)

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