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IAN & SPAIN

WELCOME TO MY BLOG. I WILL BE WRITING ABOUT SPANISH FOOD AND DRINK AND IN PARTICULAR MY OBSESSION FOR OLIVE OIL, ONE OF SPAIN'S MAJOR ASSETS AND GREATLY MISUNDERSTOOD BY THE MAJORITY OF CONSUMERS WORLDWIDE. I WILL ENDEAVOR TO PROVIDE YOU WITH ALL THE INFORMATION YOU NEED TO ENJOY THE WORLD OF OLIVE OIL WITHOUT BEING TAKEN FOR A RIDE! HOPE YOU ENJOY IT AND PLEASE LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS!

9 October - The Day of the Valencian Community
10 October 2017

 

The Day of the Valencian Community (Día de la Comunidad Valenciana) marks the anniversary of King James I of Aragon's re-conquering of the city of Valencia from Moorish forces in 1238. It is also the Day of Saint Dionysius, a traditional festival for lovers, the Valencian “Valentine’s day”.

The custom on this day is to give the  person you love the ‘mocadorà or mocaorà ‘which consists of a knotted silk scarf with miniature marzipan candies in the shapes of fruits and vegetables inside.

The most widespread version of the origin of this tradition is that Jaume I and his wife, Violante of Hungary, on their triumphal entry into the city of Valencia, after defeating the Muslims on October 9, 1238, they were met by their inhabitants with gifts of fruits and vegetables from the local orchard and farms, wrapped in silk handkerchiefs.

 

 

From 1331 this date was established to commemorate the founding of the Kingdom of Valencia, which over time became a celebration of marked festivity in which the worldly pleasures were given free rein.

Unfortunately, with the abolition of the regional code of law by Felipe V in 1707, the celebrations of the 9th of October were also banned.  However, all was not lost, and with the intention of  the 9th October not losing its festive character, the guild of bakers and confectioners of the city of Valencia impelled the celebration of Saint Dionysius (Sant Donís) as the "day of the lovers".

To this day, the Valencian bakeries prepare themselves thoroughly for the 9th October and cook thousands of marzipan miniatures; it is estimated that more than 80,000 kilos of marzipan are used to make about 250,000 "mocadoràs". In addition, the Guild of Bakers and Confectioners of Valencia convenes the Sant Donís Contest, to choose the best "mocadorà" and is the best showcase opportunity fro the bakeries and pastry shops through out the city of Valencia. This year’s winner  of the 36th Edition was El Forn de Latzer. You can see some examples here and perhaps pay it a visit if you are in the area :

 

 



Like 1        Published at 13:47   Comments (1)


Time To Go Mushroom Picking!
04 October 2017

After a classic summer in terms of rainfall, Spain's forests are giving birth to the autumn season of wild mushrooms or Níscalos as they are called here, and they are popping up all over the country.

Any pine forest around the country should have Níscalos, but at least two intense rainfalls within a maximum period of 40 days is necessary to bring them to the surface and get them growing. The wild mushrooms need around 21 days to grow to a reasonable size so you will need to watch the weather.

Mushrooms will normally pop up in open sunny areas if they have received abundant rainfall, but if they haven’t they will be more likely to appear in the shaded damp areas of the forests. However I strongly recommend if you go out one day to collect these wild mushrooms, you do it with someone who understands what is what and which ones are still edible and which ones aren’t as there are poisonous Níscalos too which are similar in shape and colour. I also recommned you check for local restrictions, as there are regional bylaws  sometimes which limit the amount, and when, you are allowed to collect mushrooms.

Mushroom picking can be dangerous if you do not know what you are doing. I for one have been fortunate enough to go Níscalo  (called Rebollónes here in Valencia) picking in Valencia, Castellon and the Sierra of Madrid accompanied by experimented “mushroom hunters” as they humourously refered to themselves as “Cazadores de Setas”! There is a skill in identifying where these mushrooms hide, as they are not always visible to the eye at first and it is necessary to separate the loose pine needles and grass on the forest floor to discover them and then dig them out. If you have the chance to go I highly recommend it as it is a great day out to get some fresh air and at the end of the end of the day you will have a wonderfully tasty reward.

The grill or the BBQ are the perfect pieces of equipment for cooking mushrooms. Because mushrooms contain a high percentage of water they remain moist under high, direct heat. As they lose moisture the flavour of the mushroom (and anything you've put on them) is intensified. Purists will tell you that you shouldn’t wash your mushrooms in water. Mushrooms should be gently brushed of any remaining dirt or debris, washing should be a last resort as it will affect the final flavour. If you do wash them make sure you dry them straight away with kitchen towel and wash them quickly. A small paint brush or even a toothbrush are ideal for cleaning them, but admittedly it can be time consuming.

No matter where I have picked Níscalos I have pretty much always ended up eating them the same way. Grilled on the barbecue with a dressing made from fresh parsley, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. This is very easy, dice up a few garlic cloves making sure you remove the heart (root) of the garlic and then chop up some fresh parsley. Next. mix them in a bowl with extra virgin olive oil, a fruity Picual is ideal. Blend it all together to make the dressing. You can also blend this in a blender if you don’t want any bits but I prefer it slightly more rustic. Place the mushrooms on the barbecue upside down and with a teaspoon just pour the dressing over the mushrooms, season with a little salt and cook until they are ready. There is no need to turn them over. Once ready just eat them and they are divine!

 

 

Another variant is to bake and grill them. Place all the mushrooms upside down on the baking tray sprinkle chopped parsley and chopped garlic over the mushrooms and them sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top of each mushroom. Finally drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the top, season with a little salt and put them in a pre-heated oven (top and bottom) at around 200ºC for about 20-30 min (depending on the size of the mushrooms) until the breadcrumbs have gone golden and the mushrooms are cooked. Remove them and squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over the mushrooms and serve.  

If you can’t find them in the wild they will soon be available in the shops so there is no excuse for not trying this wonderful seasonal appetiser. Which ever way you prepare them I am sure you will get hooked on them. Enjoy!



Like 1        Published at 15:28   Comments (3)


Spanish....Baked Beans & Sausages!
20 September 2017


During my student days one of my all time favourite meals was beans and sausages on toast, although I must admit it they were the Heinz tinned baked beams and sausages, God I loved those sausages, absolutely no goodness to them, but I just loved them all the same. To be honest, healthiness never even crossed my mind. But now time has moved on and fortunately I have discovered wonderful dishes in my time here in Spain. But you have no idea how pleased I was when I discovered a natural and flavoursome Spanish version of my all time student favourite! So I thought I would share it with you today, as it is this time of year that something warm and hearty should be on the dinner table for all to enjoy.  It really is quite a simple recipe so you must give it a go!

 

Spanish beans and sausages: Ingredients for 4 people:

400 gr. white beans
8 fresh sausages
200 gr. pumpkin
1 spring onion (Spanish style, or a small onion)
1 leek
2 cloves of garlic
Water
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Parsley


The first thing you need to do is peel the garlic, leek and chives and let them simmer in a pressure cooker (without the lid on) with a little extra virgin olive oil. Chop up the pumpkin and add it in too. Season with salt and cook it all together for about 7- 8 minutes. Remove the vegetables and place them in a blender, pour in a little water and blend it to a puree.

   

 

 

 

Pour the puree back into the pressure cooker, add the beans (which should have been in water over night if they were dried white beans), cover with water and add a pinch of salt. 

 

 

Close the pressure cooker and cook for 10-12 minutes. If you don’t have a pressure cooker you can still cook them but they will take a little longer (45 minutes) to cook, but keep an eye on the water so they don’t dry out too much.  

Another option is if you are in a rush is to buy the beans that are already cooked in a glass jar. If you do this, you only need to add a very little water and cook them on a slow heat for about 8-10 minutes. 

 

Now for the sausages… Brown the sausages on a griddle with a little extra virgin olive oil. Cut them in half and add them to the pot. Stir in on low heat for a couple of minutes and sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley over the top and mix in well. 

 

 

Now serve with a nice piece of crusty bread and a glass of red wine!

 Enjoy.



Like 1        Published at 15:39   Comments (6)


Jazzing Up Salmorejo
14 September 2017

Believe it or not but ‘Salmorjeo from Cordoba’ has its own culinary guild which aims to make this traditional recipe become the ambassador of the city, its culture and cuisine, so each year they organise an event to promote this wonderfully cersatile dish. For two days, lectures, panel discussions, cooking demonstrations, tastings are conducted in the city in order to help disseminate the authentic salmorejo recipe to the rest of the world.

The guild is conducting an initiative that aims to turn this star dish into a Universal Salmorejo so standardizing the recipe and ingredients as it has many variations. They want to spread a traditional protected recipe, which will become an emblem. A panel of expert tasters approved the recipe after researching the most common proportions between ingredients and rounding them off to a standard.  So I thought I would share this recipe with you all and I hope you do the same.


Ingredients:
1 kg of ripe  tomates
200 gr.  Telera Cordobesa Bread (this is a bread with a thick, heavy dough. Better if it is a day old too)
100 gr. de Extra Virgen Olive Oil
1 ‘Montalban garlic’ clove from Cordoba
10 gr. de Sal

    

 

Version Nº 1  - Traditional Preparation:

Wash, scald in boiling water and then place in cold water to separate the skin from the flesh of the tomato. Peel the tomatoes and blend them in a food blender, pass the liquidised tomato through a sieve to remove the seeds then pour it back into the blender and start blending again, while at the same time adding the bread, olive oil, garlic and salt until you have a homogenous mixture which is thicker much thicker than gazpacho. Finally sprinkle chopped boiled egg and finely diced Serrano ham over the top and serve.


Version Nº 2 -  With Tuna tartar and Mango


Here is an alternative to jazz up this dish and create a bit of variety during the hot weather. All you need to do is reduce 50gr of bread and replace the boiled egg and Serrano ham with a fresh tuna tartar. It is fantastic and a lovely light alternative and it is so easy to make.

For the Salmorejo follow the instruction above, only remove 50gr of bread, this will make it slightly lighter and not as thick.  You will need:


300 gr of raw red tuna steak
100gr of diced Mango
A few sprigs of diced chives
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Arbequina)
A pinch of wasabi (optional)


Quite simply dice it all up and mix it well in a bowl and leave it in the fridge for 45min before serving. Serve the Salmorejo with a healthy serving of tartar in the centre.


Version Nº 3 -  Buffalo Mozzarella  and Crispy ham 

This version is a real winner with everyone and another fun way to give salmorejo a fresh twist. All you will need apart from the Salmorejo (this time with the original recipe, not reducing the bread) are 4 buffalo mozzarella balls, 4 slices of Serrano ham, a few sprigs of fresh basil and of course extra virgin olive oil. To prepare quite simple finely chop up the Serrano ham and crisp it in the microwave for a minute or so.  Then place the mozzarella ball in the centre of the Salmorejo with the crispy Serrano ham sprinkled over the top with the fresh basil leaves.  Salt and Drizzle some Picual olive oil over it all and serve immediately.

 

ENJOY!



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Taking Pyrotechnics to Another Level
06 September 2017

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 fun! Just two weeks ago on Sunday 27th August in Paterna the annual celebration of 'La Cordá' took 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  rate of 2000 rockets a minute!

 

 

 

This 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 type of rockets used in the cage, one that are 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 this 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 next year, pass by Paterna and take a look at this insane spectacle!

 

 



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Artichokes, not to be missed this season
31 August 2017

 

Artichokes will be coming into season very shortly, at the beginning of October, and they are by far one of my favourite vegetables, however I am rather fussy. I am a sucker for the artichoke hearts and try to avoid the leaves at all cost. There are some who love to suck and chew on them in a stew and squeeze them of their very last ounce of goodness but I much say I prefer the tender and flavoursome centres, less effort and more flavour.

There are many ways to reap the amazing health benefits of artichokes. Unfortunately for me it is the leaves that contain many of the artichoke's powerful health benefits. There are ways to cook an artichoke, such as steaming or braising, so that the entire bulb, stem and all, can be consumed. However, even eating just the heart of the artichoke will provide benefits.

Ingredients in artichokes have been shown to reduce cholesterol by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase (enzyme). They raise good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad cholesterol (LDL). One large artichoke contains a quarter of the recommended daily intake of fibre. To give you an idea a medium artichoke has more fibre than a cup of prunes.

A study done by the USDA found that artichokes have more antioxidants than any other vegetable and they ranked seventh in a study of the antioxidant levels of 1,000 different foods. Some of the powerful antioxidants in artichokes are quercertin, rutin, anthocyanins, cynarin, luteolin, and silymarin. The pulp of artichoke leaves contains a polyphenol antioxidant called cynarin which increases bile flow.

They are good for the liver thanks to the cynarin and another antioxidant, silymarin. Studies have found they may even regenerate liver tissue. Artichokes have long been used in folk and alternative medicine as a treatment for liver ailments and the scientific studies are now proving them to be correct. So really they share many health properties with extra virgin olive oil, and should become a staple vegetable in our diet.

Additionally artichokes help the digestive system. They are a natural diuretic and they aid digestion, improve gallbladder function. Thanks to their positive effects on the liver, many people swear by artichokes as a hangover treatment! So I am going to show you a fantastic hangover recipe!

The dish I am going to share with you is fairly simple but can be a bit tedious if you don’t like peeling fresh artichokes, especially removing the hearts, which are what we want. However if you find this a pain and too time consuming you can buy artichoke hearts already peeled in jars in most supermarkets across Spain, but as they have been preserved in liquid they do maintain a slight aftertaste. So if you want the authentic experience get fresh artichokes from the market. When buying artichokes there are a few things to take into consideration. If the artichokes are fresh they will be completely closed and the leaves will be packed tight and the artichoke will be firm and feel heavier than its size would lead to believe. The tips of the leaves should also be comfortable to touch, if they are spikey and piercing the artichoke is no longer fresh. So take this into consideration when purchasing, the fresher they are the more flavour they have, simple.  Today’s recipe is a Spanish classic and is often on menus around the country as a starter or a garnish for main dishes. I on many occasions just enjoy this as a main meal with a glass of wine and some bread; flavoursome, light and extremely healthy.

The ingredients we will need for 4 servings are the following:

12 medium artichokes

300g mushrooms with the stems removed.

150 - 200 gr of Iberian ham thickly cut (Serrano will work too but it is a bit saltier)

2 lemons

2 eggs

3 cloves of garlic

1 small dried chilli

2 tbsp. of freshly chopped parsley

2 whole stems of parsley

Salt and pepper

1 large freezer bag

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, of course!

 

The first step is to remove the hearts from the artichokes and this can be a bit fiddly if you haven’t done it before and very lengthy to explain so I found a video which demonstrates two techniques extremely well, it is in Spanish but just from watching it you will clearly get the idea of what you have to do.

 

 

Artichokes discolour very quickly, within a minute they are turning brown so to avoid this we need a bowl of water with lemon juice, to place the hearts in while we are still preparing the rest of the ingredients. The lemons in the ingredients list are only for this purpose. It is also a good idea to wipe your cutting knife with a lemon to avoid further discolouring.

Once the hearts are ready we need to cook the hearts in boiling water with a large pinch of salt for approximately 20-25minutes until they are tender. Place a few stems of parsley with their leaves in the water to avoid further discolouring. Once they are ready drain the artichoke hearts in a sieve and let them cool down, drying them with kitchen towel to remove any excess water.

While they are cooling down we need to remove the fat from the Iberian ham and then chop up the ham into small chunks. It is best that the slices of ham are thickly cut this way the ham will not overcook when we fry it. This is especially the case if you use Serrano ham, as the thinner it is the saltier it will get when you cook it in the pan and we don’t want it too salty. This is partly why I prefer to use Iberian ham as it is firstly, better for you and also it is not a salty ham. However both will taste great! Slice up the garlic cloves, do not chop them, they need to be in slices or they will dominate the dish.

Beat the two eggs on a plate, as if it were for an omelette.  The next step is to grab the large transparent freezer bag, pour inside enough flour to comfortably coat the artichoke hearts, 4 tbsp. should be enough. Place the artichokes inside the bag and seal of the top leaving air inside so the artichokes can freely move. Shake the bag so the artichokes are well covered and empty out the artichokes onto a plate.  Start heating up the frying pan, and cover the pan evenly with extra virgin olive oil so we can shallow fry them. Make sure the oil is hot otherwise it will soak up the oil and not crisp properly. (To test the heat of the oil drop a small piece of bread in, if it sizzles and browns straight away it is ready, the oil should not smoke) Pass the floured hearts through the egg and place them in the oil until they are golden and crisp, turning them frequently. Then place them on a plate with kitchen towel to soak up any extra oil. This is olive oil so don’t be scared of the fat, it is good for you!

 

 ** If you would rather not batter them you can jump this stage and move directly to the final stir-fry adding the artichokes as they are after boiling.**

Remove the excess oil from the pan, leaving just a little for the mushrooms, ham and garlic. Heat the pan and add the garlic and the chili, make sure it is not too hot or you will burn the garlic, on medium to low heat is best. Add the fat that you cut off the ham to the oil and simmer for a minute or so and then remove it along with the chili. Next add the small cured ham chunks, fry for a couple of minutes and add the mushrooms, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. The mushrooms you can put in whole or cut in half, but we want them in large pieces, not chopped. Add salt and pepper to taste and once the mushrooms are cooked, which shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes add the battered artichokes and the freshly chopped parsley, stir-fry it all together for a few minutes, serve immediately and prepare yourself for an amazingly tasty meal!

 

ENJOY!

 

 



Like 1        Published at 21:33   Comments (2)


Inland Galicia - Quite Beautiful!
23 August 2017

   The Ribeira Sacra is an area in inland Galicia that is home to spectacular natural features such as the canyon of the Sil River, this region’s most emblematic landmark and a wide array of valuable artistic heritage. Referred to as the land of monasteries, it is graced with over a dozen demonstrating the huge importance of this region during the Middle Ages. It is a genuine journey back in time. However in recent history, the Ribeira Sacra region had lost a significant amount of importance but over the past few years, its international success in wine producing and rural tourism is putting it back on the map.

The Sil River which identifies the region, forms a natural boundary between the provinces of Ourense and Lugo, in the heart of Galicia in northern Spain. You'll be breath-taken by its rugged landscapes, dominated by vineyards, mountains and ravines. The Ribeira Sacra region, follows almost 200km of river, a region which is peppered with historical architecture such as churches and shrines, mostly in the Romanesque style, as well as palaces and monasteries. Home to Spain's oldest Christian parishes, the Ribeira Sacra was the starting point for Christianity on the Iberian Peninsula.

 

 

1,500 years ago, congregations of monks and hermits settled here, and for centuries devoted themselves to meditation and reflection. This peace and harmony lives on to this very day in the region's villages and medieval monasteries. Unfortunately some are now abandoned, but are still well worth visiting as their walls have been witnesses to the passing of time and the damp, moss and vegetation impart an uncanny air of mystery.

They are reached by means of forest tracks and country roads running through lush green forests. One of the most important is the monastery  San Esteban de Ribas de Sil, located to the north of Nogueira de Ramuín. Besides being the largest in the Ribeira Sacra, it is now a luxurious Parador Hotel, a place I would very much like to spend an evening or two.

 

 

 In the same village you'll find the monastery of Santa Cristina, where you can stroll around its cloisters and surroundings and soak up the magical atmosphere. Very close by are some of the region's most famous viewing points: the Balcones de Madrid. From this natural terrace you can see the immensity of the Sil River canyon, with gorges up to 500 metres deep. The views are spectacular. Once here you can explore this section of the river (40 navigable kilometres) by catamaran. There are routes of differing durations. The longest, which takes approximately three hours and can be done at any time of year, runs from Abeleda to Os Chancís, 24 kilometres downstream. There are also shorter routes, such as the one departing from the San Esteban pier to Abeleda.

 

 

The Ribeira Sacra offers a whole list of historical sites to visit, such as Montederramo and the Santa María monastery, now a school. One can also visit Tarreirigo, where you'll find San Pedro de Rocas, a chapel carved straight out of the rock, and considered the oldest monastery in Galicia. Another option is to go to Ferreira, home to the convent of Las Madres Bernardas, the only convent in Galicia occupied by nuns since its foundation until the present day. Or else you could even opt to experience all the charm of Monforte de Lemos, an interesting medieval town.

In addition to the landscape and its historical attractions, one of the strengths of the Ribeira Sacra is its cuisine. In the Ribeira Sacra we can find a wide range of quality local products and delicacies, many of them with protected origin, which can be tasted in the restaurants and farmhouses throughout the area. The specialty of the Ribeira Sacra is its high quality pork. The historical importance of the pig slaughter in the region continues to this day and offers a fantastic choice of pork products throughout the year: cured sausages, cured hams, chorizo’s, androllas and the list goes on. In addition to pork, the Ribeira Sacra is also well known for veal, goat, lamb, small game and large game (in season) as its land is extremely fertile. Cherries, chestnuts and honey are also highly valued products in the region but what has been crossing borders and carrying the flag for this region is its wine. The cultivation of wine in this region  dates back over 2,000 years when it was introduced by the Romans and then continuing to  be a key element for monastic communities throughout the Ribeira Sacra. It was really the monks who cultivated and perfected the techniques in the region and are responsible for modelling the extraordinary landscape with terraces we can see today all along the river.

 

    

 

Today wine production is the major driver of economic development within the Ribeira Sacra. The creation of the Denomination of Origin and the Regulatory Council in 1997 was a powerful stimulus to increase not only the quantity but also the quality of the wine produced and I have to say today they are making some fantastic wines throughout the 1,550 hectares dedicated to vineyards in the region. In 2005 they reached 99 winemakers.Undoubtedly the best red wines produced in the Galicia are from the Ribeira Sacra. The reds of the Ribeira Sacra are best served at room temperature and are perfect with all kinds of meats but especially game. 

 

 

 

For wine lovers who just can’t resist visiting wineries, tasting wines and the opportunity to buy “in situ”, the Ribeira Sacra is a wonderful route to take. Every day the number of wineries that can be visited increase and are included within Wine Tourism Programmes and shortly the future Museum of Wine in Monforte de Lemos will be opening its door. One of the finest wines I have tried from the region is  “Via Romana”, a great wine, either red or white, I’m sure you’ll just love them.



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Tomato Madness!
17 August 2017

La Tomatina is just a round the corner and it is one of the Spanish festivities that has still eluded me after so many years and I have it pretty much on my doorstep. However this year I will be rather close by so I think I might just pop by as a spectator! This festivity is relatively recent compared to other Spanish festivities and has become the second most popular festivity outside of Spanish borders and has even been replicated in major cities around the world. Such countries as China, India, Costa Rica, Colombia, United States, Chile and others all hold their annual tomato battle, so it's not the just the Spanish who are a bit crazy, this tomato fever is incredibly contagious. But just how did this unusual festivity come about? I can assure you it has nothing to do with harvests or religious rituals!

It all started on the last Wednesday of August in 1945 when some young people spent the time in the town square to attend the “Giants” and “Big-Heads” figures parade, a traditional festivity in the region. The young boys decided they wanted to take part in the parade with musicians, and the locals dressed up as giants. 
The exaggerated enthusiasm of these young boys caused one of them to be kicked out of the parade. The participant flew into a fit of rage and started to hit everything in his path and the crowd started to get angry. There was a market stall of vegetables nearby that fell victim to the event and people started to pelt each other with tomatoes until the local forces ended the vegetable battle.

The following year, the young people picked a fight by their own decision but this time brought the tomatoes from home. Although the police broke up the early tradition in the following years, the young boys had made history without being conscious of it. La Tomatina was banned in the early 50s, which was not a problem for the participants, even those that were arrested. But the people spoke out in defence of the Tomatina and the festivity was again allowed with more participants and a more frenetic atmosphere than ever.
The festivity was again cancelled till 1957 when, as a sign of protest, the “tomato burial” was held. It was a demonstration in which the residents carried a coffin with a huge tomato inside. A band that played funeral marches accompanied the parade and it was incredibly successful. La Tomatina Festival was finally allowed and became an official festivity. As a result of the report by Javier Basilio, broadcasted on Spanish Television Program Informe Semanal, the festivity started to become known in the rest of Spain and consequently the rest of the world, as it is probably one of the most insane festivities you will ever come across.

The actual festivity kicks off at around 10 AM on the last Wednesday of August with the first event of the Tomatina: The "Palo Jabón". This is basically a tall pole that has been smothered in grease. The goal is to climb to the top of the greased pole and recover a Spanish Leg of Ham which is hanging from the top. As this happens, the crowd work into a frenzy of singing and dancing while being showered with water by hoses. Once someone has managed to recover the ham from the pole, the start signal for the tomato fight is given by firing a large water shot in the air and trucks full of tomatoes make their entry. 

 

Several trucks empty 1000’s of kilos of tomatoes in the middle of the village Plaza. The tomatoes actually come from Extremadura, where they are much cheaper and are grown specifically for the festivity, being of inferior quality and taste. The tomatoes must be crushed before being thrown so as to reduce the risk of injury and participants are recommended to use of goggles and gloves. The estimated number of tomatoes used are around 150,000kg. After exactly one hour, the fight ends with the firing of the second shot, announcing the end. 

 

 

In a question of 60 minutes the whole town square is coloured red and rivers of tomato juice flow deep through the streets. Fire Trucks hose down the streets and participants use hoses that locals provide to remove the tomato paste from their bodies and their front doors!. It is popular for participants go to the pool of “los peñones” to wash off. After the cleaning, the village cobblestone streets are pristine clean due to the acidity of the tomato disinfecting and thoroughly cleaning the surfaces.

Town Hall of Buñol decided on limiting the fight to 20,000 participants, broken down as follows: 5,000 for locals of the town of Buñol and 15,000 for foreigners and there will be an entry fee for participants of 10€ per person. Booking must be made online at their site and you must print a "budget airline" style ticket and take it to Buñol with your passport on the morning to exchange it for a wristband. So if you’re up for it, might see you there!! (30th August 2017)



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Pica-Pica por favor!
11 August 2017

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’. 

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.


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


Vanilla
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.

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


Nutmeg
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 12:52   Comments (4)


One of Spain's finest wineries
31 July 2017

In 1927,  the love a group of local vine growers felt for the land achieved the union of their best efforts, creating a winery, now a symbol of the Ribera region. A project that has continously grown and multiplies year by year, taking its name proudly to the highest international levels. Protos, which comes from the Greek word for "FIRST" is without a doubt one of the great wines from what is now known as 'Ribera del Duero'. The 30s represented its definite settlement at the international level. The 1929 World Exposition in Barcelona gave a particularly strong impulse, awarding Gold Medals to its red wines and establishing it as a benchmark for the region.

The company's rapid growth brought about the problem of lack of space for the first time and the winery began its expansion throughout the region. The construction of a wine-aging cellar began in the heart of the mountain, literally beneath the Castle of Peñafiel.

 

The quality and prestige this winery acquired in the eighties led a highly recognised vine-growing area to take on its own name, Ribera del Duero, to identify the D.O. Control Board that watches over the quality of area wines. In 1995, the wine-aging cellar was enlarged and the winery succeeded in the international winemaking panorama.

The project continues growing: In the town of Anguix (Burgos), Protos has acquired a winery that has the latest cutting-edge technology. It can produce up to three million kilos of grapes, of which 1.5 million kilos go through the sorting table.

It is in Peñafiel, a Valladolid town held together by the Duero River, where this gift of the land is born. Protos has the privilege of having been engendered in the heart of one of the most important fortresses in the area – Peñafiel Castle –. This castle is a landmark for the Castilla y León region since the wine museum is housed in it.

The new winery  is an architectural jewel that has already become a symbol of the Ribera del Duero D.O.- and the area's interesting culture and gastronomy have placed Protos at the centre of a new trend known as "Wine-Related Tourism".

 

Tradition and vanguard were combined in the designing of the new winery where guided visits and special events can also be arranged. Only few can resist the temptation to discover the Duero's Heart, an incredibly beautiful place.

 The new Protos winery facility is located at an interesting historical crossroads: the extension of the Camino de las Eras and the San Pedro sheep drove road, an ancient Roman road. It is on the edge of a low-lying area that, in the past, was partially covered by a small pond fed by waters from the nearby Botijas stream. It is also located quite near the existing winery facilities, connected to them via an underground link, and buried into the Peñafiel Castle hill.

The project was conceived as a contemporary reinterpretation of traditional wine cellar construction in the region. On the one hand, the base of the building is excavated into the land, reminiscent of wine cellar construction methods that have been used since time immemorial in the Peñafiel Castle hillside. With this reference in mind, and for practical reasons that are commonplace to vernacular architecture in relation to making the best use of the lower temperatures underground, most of the facilities used in the preparation and aging of wine are buried underground.

On the other hand, the aboveground structure, technically known as the “light structure”, is a reinterpretation of vault-shaped winery construction methods. This structure is made of parabolic arches of laminated wood. The shape and materials were chosen because they are structurally efficient and appropriate for the production process, as traditional winery construction has shown.

The roof is the most noteworthy visual feature of the outside of the winery. This is the result of the exceptional location of the winery at the foot of the castle. In the project concept, the roof was considered as yet another façade, to be viewed from the privileged position afforded by the castle.

Therefore, it was designed with the five vaulted bays oriented towards the Castle. In the treatment of the roof materials and construction, using large format terracotta pieces, it represents a contemporary reinterpretation of typical vernacular roofs. In effect, seen from the Castle, Peñafiel offers muted red tones that range from orange to brown, typical of traditional tile roofs. This is the colour that is also used for the winery.

Protos allows you to visit its two wineries: the oldest that extends through the interior of the mountain, and the new one that was designed by the architect Richard Rogers. All visits include a tour of the two wineries and a wine tasting at the end of the tour which is higly recommended. Visits must be arranged in advance by calling +34 659 843 463 or by sending an e-mail to: enoturismo@bodegasprotos.com.

Visits are 1.5 hours long on average, including a tasting of one Verdejo white wine and one crianza red wine. Please note that our tours are available upon demand for individuals or groups and visits require a minimum of 8 people.

Protos does not produce any bad wines at all. They are all fantastic so it will be your budget that determines which wines you will want to try. They are all great but I will stick my neck out for the Protos Crianza a wonderfully velvety smoot red which is not too oaky. It is great with meats and cheeses alike and should cost more than €13. 

PROTOS CRIANZA:

GRAPE VARIETY : Tempranillo 100 %

VINEYARDS : More than 25 years old.

FEATURES : Hand-picking harvest in 20 kg crates. Sorting table. Skin contact maceration and fermentation for 21 days at 28 ºC.

AGEING : 14 months in French (2/3) and American (1/3) oak barrels and 12 months in bottle.

COLOUR : cherry colour with garnet rim, bright and intense.

NOSE : red fruit expression, powerful, elegant, dry stone, coca bean, creamy oak, hints of spices.

TASTE : Powerful, flavourful, fruity, good acidity, smoky aftertaste, toasty, long finish.

SERVING TEMPERATURE 15 - 18 ºC.



Like 1        Published at 13:37   Comments (2)


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