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Raiding the cupboard and the freezer
19 March 2020

This current situation calls for drastic measures and of course simple cooking. With limited ingredients available in some supermarkets we might find ourselves raiding the cupboard or the freezer to whip together a meal for the family. I am trying to avoid going to the supermarket at all costs and getting creative with the pantry and the freezer. I pulled out some 'longanizas' - sausages and found a kilo of dehydrated white beans. I always tend to have dehydrated legumes in the house, just in case - chickpeas, lentils, beans etc. So, with my new found ingredients I decided to make a classic - Beans and Sausages. 

During my student days it was one of my all-time favourite meals - on toast - although I must admit it they were the Heinz tinned baked beans 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 then. But now the time has moved on and fortunately I have discovered wonderful dishes in my time here in Spain and one of them was precisely this - Beans and sausage, but with a twist. So I thought I would share it with you today, as you shouldn't have any trouble finding the main ingredients, others can be substituted for what you do have.


Spanish beans and sausages: Ingredients for 4 people:

400 gr. white beans - dehydrated or bottled 
8 fresh sausages -  or frozen, as in my case!
200 gr. pumpkin - can be substituted with carrots or tomatoes
1 large brown onion - finely chopped
1 leek - again substitute spring onions or chives.
3 cloves of garlic - finely chopped
Water - If you have chicken stock or beef stock this will help boost the flavour.

Extra virgin olive oil
Parsley - either fresh, frozen or dried.

The first thing you need to do is add the garlic, leek and onion to a pressure cooker (without the lid on) with a little Extra virgin olive oil and simmer on low heat for about 8-10 minutes. Chop up the pumpkin (or the carrots/tomatoes) and add it to the pot. Season with salt and cook it all together for a further 7- 8 minutes, until they are tender. You may want to add a little water (or chicken stock if you have it) to help soften the carrots if you use them - but make sure all the water has evaporated before blending - Remove the vegetables and place them in a blender, pour in a little water or chicken/beef stock and blend it to a puree.





Pour the puree back into the pressure cooker, add the beans (which should have been in water overnight if they were dried white beans), cover with water or stock 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 very little water/stock 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, if you are lucky enough to get some!! and a glass of red wine!... - can be substituted with beer, whisky, gin, vodka - anything you can find!

Stay safe, stay at home and eat well!

We will all beat this virus together!


Like 1        Published at 12:51   Comments (1)

Cooking Paella For 40 People!
13 March 2020

Fallas has now been cancelled or at least delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak. To be honest, they should have cancelled the events even earlier, they took 11 days to come to their senses. Let's hope they did it in time. That said my Fallas adventure has now come to an end! After over 20 years of living in Spain and Valencia, this year was the one my family and I decided to join a Falla...sod's law! Paying all year, dresses made and fitted and only two weekends to show for it, oh well, there is always next year!

However, I did manage to have a little fun this year as I was roped into making an "Arroz a Banda" last weekend for 40 people. "Arroz a banda" is basically a fish and seafood paella. A Scotsman making paella for so many people had its attraction with the local folk and I was the centre of attention throughout the process. Now, I have made quite a few paellas in my time but never one for 40 people so I had to keep my wits about me. The difficulty rises exponentially the bigger the paella gets. They all knew this and were really worried they would end up going hungry or having to eat a practically inedible every 5 minutes I had someone trying to help me....or distract me, I wasn't quite sure!

I wasn't the only one cooking, there were three others cooking a paella of the same size, lunch was for 160 people and without realising it, it had turned into a competition. When spectator started to realise that I kind of knew what I was doing they started getting a little nervous and tried even harder to distract me or misguide me:

"I think it needs more salt",

"You had better add the rice now or you won't have enough stock", 

"Is it yours that is burning?"...

I just closed my ears and did my thing, hoping everything would come together. Measuring the stock, controlling the heat distribution, spreading the rice evenly around the paella, carefully preparing the "sofrito" [a combination of fried grated tomato, onion, stock reduction and garlic] and a little patience...

Thankfully, it all came together and the result couldn't have been better given the ingredients that were available: Fish and Seafood stock, tomato, onion, garlic, squid and prawns, sweet paprika, salt and saffron.

My fellow "falleros" were quite taken back at the result and full of admiration and respect. My next challenge will be a paella for 80...fingers crossed!



Ingredients used: Quantity will depend on numbers but you can adjust as you wish. 

Fish stock - either homemade or from Mercadona: always 3 parts stock to 1 part rice (by volume, not weight) When you add the stock - always 8 minutes on high heat then drop to low until all stock has evaporated.

Round paella rice - about 100g per person

Onion - 1 medium or every 2 servings

Garlic - pressed - 1 clove for every two servings

Peeled plum tomatoes - grated - 1 per serving

Large Raw Peeled Prawns - 50 grams per serving

Giant Squid (Pota in Spain) - 50 grams per serving

Salt - to taste

Saffron -  a pinch

Sweet paprika - 1 teaspoon per serving

The process is very similar to the Fideua recipe, only once you have finished frying the tomato, onion, garlic, seafood etc you will need to add the rice and fry the rice for 3-4 minutes moving it constantly then add all the stock and distribute the rice evenly throughout the paella pan. Raise the heat and boil for 8 minutes then reduce to medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Watch carefully as you may need to adjust the heat as you go.

Good Luck, if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask!



Like 3        Published at 20:24   Comments (1)

Best Supermarket Red Wines for Under €5
20 February 2020

What are the best red wines we can find in the supermarket for less than 5 euros? With some professional help from the increasingly well-known book ‘The  Superwines 2019: The Supermarket Wine Guide' by Joan C. Martín, I have selected the top 15. The writer and winemaker analyses 150 great wines in the latest edition of his guide, in which all kinds of wines appear: white, pink, champagne and, of course, the best reds. The author also has a curious way to rate the selected wines: from 2 to 5 ‘eyes’, avoiding more complex systems and scores and analyzing each wine in a simple way for the less expert consumer.

So, I have thoroughly explored the pages of the guide and chosen 15 of the best red wines for 2019 (with 4 qualifying eyes) that you can buy in the supermarket for less than 5 euros! A gift for your winery ... and your pocket. So in no particular order, here we go:


1. Alaja Cosecha, Bodegas Luzón – DO Jumilla

Score: 4 eyes

Price: 1,99 €

Where to buy? Masymas

Comments: "The best supermarket red - value for money of 2019" - "Its price is a gift" 


2. Torre Oria Crianza – DO Utiel-Requena

Score: 4 eyes

Price: 2 €

Where to buy? Mercadona

Comments: "light, easy to drink with a wonderful aftertaste" - "A gift for the price"


3. Castillo de Liria Bobal Shiraz, Vicente Gandía – DO Valencia

Score: 4 eyes

Price: 2,29 €

Where to buy? Mercadona, Carrefour, Consum, Alcampo, El Corte Inglés…

Comments: "A young fresh wine which is smooth and elegant" - "fruity and delicate"


4. Torre Oria Viñedo Antiguo Roble, Torre Oria – DO Utiel-Requena

Score: 4 eyes

Price: 2,90 €

Where to buy? Mercadona

Comments: "interesting quality red wine" - "brilliant ruby red from Bobal grapes" - "made from XIX century vines"


5. Casa de la Ermita Joven, Casa de la Ermita – DO Jumilla

Score: 4 eyes

Price: 2,95-2,99 €

Where to buy? Consum, El Corte Inglés

Comments: "Young wine made with Monstraell and Syrah grapes" - "Definitely a great red" 

6. Comportillo Crianza, Bodegas Ontañón – DO Rioja

Score: 4 eyes

Price: 2,95 €

Where to buy? Mercadona

Comments: "A great wine to buy now and enjoy but also buy some more bottles and put them away until around October when it will be even better" - " a grand red at a very attractive price" - "some tannins, full of flavour and velvety smooth"


7. Torre Oria Monastrell Joven, Torre Oria

Score: 4 eyes

Precio: 3,25 €

¿Dónde? Mercadona

Comments: "flavour echoes mature fruit, dates and figs" - "an absolute gift at this price" 

8. Solar Viejo Tempranillo, Bodegas Solar Viejo – DO Rioja

Score: 4 eyes

Price: 4,40 €

where to buy? El Corte Inglés

Comments: "delicate and quite frankly very good!" - "It makes you want to preserve it but also drink it"

9. Sabatacha Monastrell Joven, Bodegas San Isidro – DO Jumilla

Score: 4 eyes

Price: 2,95 €

Where to buy? Carrefour

Comments: "Goes really well with manchego cheese and Tetilla cheese" - "ideal for an aperitif" - "spices, red fruits and figs"

10. Estola Reserva, Bodegas Ayuso – DO La Mancha

Score: 4 eyes

Price: 3,70–4,35 €

Where to buy? El Corte Inglés, Carrefour, Alcampo, Mercadona, Eroski, Caprabo, Consum, E-Leclerc, Froiz, Gadis…

Comments: "a real classic on the supermarket shelves" - "A Reserva for €3,70! Exquisite"

11. Tesoro de Bullas Monastrell, Bodegas del Rosario – DO Bullas

Score: 4 eyes

Price: 4,45 €

Where to buy? Carrefour, Consum

Comments: "A fresh aroma, fruity, reminiscent of dates, spices and almond sponge" - "a brilliant red"

12. Clot d’encís, Sant Josep Vins – DO Tierra Alta

Score: 4 eyes

Price: 3,75-4,35 €

Where to buy?  VinoPremier, El Corte Inglés

Comments: "very aromatic and fruity, but delicate in the mouth" - "perhaps the best Spanish red for less than €4"


13. Hoya de Cadenas Reserva Tempranillo, Vicente Gandía – DO Utiel-Requena 

Score: 4 eyes

Price: 3,99 €

Where to buy? El Corte Inglés, Carrefour, Alcampo, Consum, Hipercor

Comments: "One of the most rounded wines in this guide" - "wonderfully accomplished - a fantastic red" - "it will make you happy!"

14. Primitivo Quiles Tinto Roble, Bodegas Primitivo Quiles – DO Alicante

Score: 4 eyes

Price: 4,56 €

Where to buy? Hipercor

Comments: "simple, great-tasting - six months in barrel" - "flavour reminds of spice, figs, dates and red fruit confiture, a long-lasting aftertaste but elegant at the same time"


15. Ramón Roqueta Cabernet Sauvignon Tina 25, Ramón Roqueta – DO Catalunya

Score: 4 eyes

Price: 4,75 €

Where to buy? Carrefour

Comments: " A great fruity red at a great price" - "really high quality"


Like 1        Published at 17:06   Comments (12)

El Mercado Central - Valencia
14 February 2020

 It’s not often I manage to get down to the “local market” but fate had it that today I was to pass right by its front door. What a market! If only all local markets were the same. I have to say that Valencia’s central market is really something special, not only from a culinary point of view but also from a tourist’s point of view. Every time I walk through its doors two wishes come into my head: 1. That I lived closer to it and 2. I could afford to buy there every day! It is not cheap by Spanish standards but then again the delicacies on sale here aren’t normally on your daily menú. When I say delicacies I mean a wonderful array of fresh seafood brought in direct from the Lonja auction and one of the most established stands is Pepa Puerto which offered some spectacular Scampi (cigalas), Caribineros (Scarlet Prawns) and Striped prawns from Denia, a delight for any rice dish or just on their own cooked over a griddle, you can even pick up some live eels which are very typical in this region for the famous dish All i Pebre. Unfortunately this time none came away with me. 

Local organic vegetable, fruits, hams, cheeses, chocolates, desserts, natural fruit juices, meat, local sausages, you name it, you’ll find it and all of the highest quality. This is what singles out Valencia’s market from others, its quality is outstanding and the choice on offer is unending. It is sheer heaven for any food lover and a must if you ever decide to visit Valencia. Surrounding the market building there are plenty of places to eat and enjoy some of the local food on offer from the market.





The Mercado Central itself is a spectacular piece of architecture and one of the most attractive and visited buildings in Valencia. Built between 1914 and 1928, Its architecture matches the aesthetics of the square and blends perfectly with two other important monuments: La Lonja de la Seda (the silk exchange) and the Church of Los Santos Juanes. It is undoubtedly the most representative building of early 20th century Valencia, a city which was advancing towards technological and commercial progress and felt proud of the agricultural potential of its farmland. The iron, glass and ceramic domes (the central one is 30 metres high) and the two weather vanes on top of them (in the shape of a parrot and a fish) blend into a typically Valencian skyline of towers and bell towers.




The market has always been renowned for the quality, variety and freshness of its products as well as the helpful, personalised service provided by traders that work there, all terribly proud of what they sell.
This impressive market is the largest and one of the oldest markets still running in Europe today and covers exactly 8,160 square metres divided into two areas or zones. The first one is an irregular shape with a surface area of nearly 7000 square metres and the other, which is octagonal and covers 1,400 square metres, houses the fish market. The basement, which has just under 8000 square metres, was previously a fish auction and is now used as a car park. The heritage behind this market goes back centuries as a market has been held here in the very same place since the early thirteenth century.



The market brings together almost 400 small traders and 1,500 people are involved in its daily activity. No other centre in Europe specialising in fresh products matches it in size. Additionally, it was the first market in the world to rise to the challenge of computerising sales and offering home delivery. Nowadays, the Mercado Central is an important economic focal point of Valencia, not only because of the traders but also because of the large number of tourists it receives, often it is the first port of call for all Cruise liner passengers when they reach Valencia. 

So if you ever happen to pass through Valencia, I highly recommend you pop in and savour the culinary wonders that Valencia has to offer.



Like 3        Published at 20:14   Comments (4)

This is one beach you need to visit...
06 February 2020

Playa de Gulpiyuri is one of the most amazing beaches in the world and also one of the most unusual and unique beaches you will find. This beach is certainly on my agenda for my next visit to Asturias. Recommended by a friend, this beach is a jewel and I thought I would share it with you all in case you plan to pass through Asturias one day.

It is located near the coastal town of Llanes, on the coast of Asturias, Gulpiyuri Beach is unlike anything I have ever seen, or even imagined existed outside of Dali painting or a fantasy film. Imagine walking through the country and stumbling over an idyllic beach right in the middle of a green meadow and 100m from a cliff face. However, while you may find other beaches completely hidden from the open sea, around the world, this one is actually fully tidal and even has waves bathing the small strip of golden sand.

So how on earth did this beach come about? It appears the salt waters of the Cantabrian Sea bored through the cliffs, creating a series of underground tunnels and caves that constantly feed water to Gulpiyuri Beach. The beach originally was a cave that collapsed, creating an inland exit for the seawater which also carried sand with it and over time this gem was created. The water from the nearby Bay of Biscay comes in through the underground tunnel network and washes upon Gulpiyuri in gentle waves adding to the charm of this magical beach. The crystal clear water of this beach is irresistible, but you may find it a little cold, because the water tends to remain underground for a while, before washing up on the Beach. Because it’s only 50 meters in length it isn't very big, but it's big enough to enjoy it and small enough to be secluded and hard to find. If you don't have a GPS you'll need help from the locals to get there.




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Like 2        Published at 16:21   Comments (4)

In February for the Master...
28 January 2020

The Calçot season has arrived (pronounced calsot) and those who don’t know what I’m talking about are in for a mouth-watering and extremely fun surprise! Calçots are a typical dish from the Catalonia region of Tarragona, specifically from the town of Valls however their popularity is spreading all over Spain and is also common in the Valencia rural region. If you have never experienced a “Calçotada”, the name given to the entire lunch ceremony you will now have a new excuse for inviting your friends over, as this is a dish that should be enjoyed in numbers as it can get very messy and first-timers beware, Calçots leave their ‘mark’ in every sense of the word! There is a saying in Catalan that clearly defines the best time to eat Calçots:

“ In January for the peasant farmers, In February for the Master and in March for the servants” so we are clearly entering the right month for trying this fantastic dish.

So what exactly am I talking about? Calçots are a type of onion, something between a spring onion and a leeK, with no bulb. The origin of the variety is disputed, but the most commonly accepted version of its history is that they were developed by Xat de Benaiges, a peasant farmer from Valls at the turn of the 20th century. He is said to have been the first to plant the sprouts of garden onions, covering them with earth so a longer portion of the stems remained white and edible. This technique is known Catalan as calçar, a Catalan agricultural term which means to cover the trunk of a plant or vegetable with soil. As the plant grows, soil is continuously added and replanted until it reaches a certain length, hence the name calçot. 

The Calçots are chargrilled on an open wood fire or a barbecue with a high flame. You can also cook them in the oven but the result is not the same. So I highly recommend this dish as a starter for a barbecue. It may not be ideal weather back home for a barbecue but in Spain, the weather right now isn’t too bad! ( At least in!) In Catalunya, this is a massive family event and many villages celebrate the season’s harvest by organising street barbecues for the inhabitants.


It symbolises the renewal of friendships as the entire event is carried out around a bonfire making for a long day of eating and talking. However, the most important part of this dish is the thick sauce that you dip the Calçots in called Salvitxada.

Traditionally Calçots are served on a clay roof tile to keep them warm and are eaten standing up, once the Calçots are ready their outer skin will have hardened and turned black, totally charred. You hold the Calçot by the green leaves and remove with the other hand the charred outer skin, and the tender sweet white onion is revealed. This is dipped in the sauce and then raised up, leaning your head back, you lower the Calçot into your mouth.


It can get very messy as the sauce drips and your hands will go black, so be very careful not to scratch your nose! The first time I ended up pushing my hair out of my eyes, rubbing my eyes due to the smoke and I can assure you I wasn’t a pretty sight. I looked as if I had been down a mine all day! It is customary to wear a bib when eating Calçots, yes a bib, even the adults. If you ever go to a restaurant to eat Calçots you will automatically be given a bib and the day you try it you will almost certainly appreciate it!

The star of this recipe is the sauce - Romesco - so I am going to share with you the traditional recipe. As with many Spanish recipes, there are slight changes depending on the region and then every family adds their special touch. The same thing happens with the Paella and Gazpacho and a number of other well-known dishes. However, this is the standard recipe the majority work with. Once again it is greatly dependant on olive oil and local Mediterranean ingredients, so it is very healthy and finger-licking delicious.

If you are a knife and fork person and a prisoner to creature comforts, this dish is not for you!


 For the Claçot sauce this is what you will need:

·         150ml Aceite de Olive Extra virgin – Arbequina variety if possible

·         1 whole head of garlic unpeeled

·         100g of peeled almonds

·         100g of peeled hazelnuts

·         4 slices of one-day-old baguette bread

·         1 Ñora pepper or Choricero pepper

·         3 ripe tomatoes

·         Wine vinegar

·         Salt

·         Pepper

·         Paprika


If you made the Ali Oli the other day you can go and get out your pestle and mortar again! However, if you are in a rush you can use your blender with this recipe.

The first step is to soak the Ñora pepper in lukewarm water for at least 12 hours. So do this the night before, as they are sold sun-dried. The Ñora pepper is like a cherry red pepper in size and it is not hot but has a very distinct flavour.

They are not easy to find in the UK as they are typically from the Murcia region in Spain. If you can’t find one use a normal red pepper or a choricero pepper.  Once the Ñora had swollen with the water remove it and scrape away the pulp from the skin and keep to one side. We only want to use the pulp, at first sight you might think that there is hardly anything there and that it hasn't really rehydrated but it has, you'll be surprised how much pulp you manage to scrape off the tough skin. Make sure you discard the seeds.

If you are using a barbecue place the 4 tomatoes and the head of garlic on the barbecue covered in tin foil until they are cooked, the last 10 minutes leave them open so they can char slightly. The garlic will take slightly longer. The cloves will be soft inside when they are ready. You should slice the bottom of the head of garlic so the heat can penetrate more quickly and so you can also control when the cloves are ready. When ready remove them from the grill and peel the tomatoes and the garlic cloves and place to one side. If you are not using a barbecue you can grill them or use a hot plate grill to char them. The next step is to brown the almonds and the hazelnuts in a pan with a dash of olive oil, you can buy them already toasted. If you do, you can skip this stage. We don’t want them dark brown, just slightly golden. Remove the nuts from the pan and add a little more olive oil, place the stale bread slices in the pan and toast them slightly until they are golden brown too and then put them to one side. Now we have all our ingredients ready, we can start blending.

 Initially, we will grind the nuts in the pestle and mortar, you can use a blender but we don’t want a powder so be careful not to blend them too finely. They need to be small but not so small as we can’t see them in the sauce. This will help give consistency to the sauce and help it stick to the Calçot. Then we add the peeled tomatoes and at least 3 cloves of grilled garlic along with a healthy dash of extra virgin olive oil. Blend slowly or manually using the pestle and mortar. The next step is to add the Ñora pulp and the fried bread. Break the bread up into little pieces and put it into the blender/mortar. Season the mixture with salt and black pepper, a dash of wine vinegar (white or red) and a small teaspoon of paprika. At this point you can add more cloves of garlic if you feel you would like it to be stronger in flavour, this is a personal question of taste, some like it very strong and even chuck in a raw clove of garlic to spice it up a little, I don’t think it is necessary. Finally, blend it all together in the blender or the mortar and slowly add extra virgin olive oil and extra vinegar if necessary to the mixture until you reach a thick consistency, taste and adjust, as you feel necessary. You may find you want a little more vinegar or little more salt, practice will make perfect. It should have a tangy, nutty flavour to it.

If you don’t have a barbecue you can char the Calçots over a gas flame until they turn black using a grill rack, then quickly wrap them totally in tinfoil and place them in the oven at 200ºC for about 10-15 minutes in an earthenware dish. If you weren’t able to barbecue the tomatoes or the garlic, grill them slightly until they have charred slightly and then place them in the oven until they soften along with Calçots.

Now you are ready to eat your Calçots, just slide off the outer skin, it comes away without any problems then dip the Calçot in the sauce and eat! No knives and forks here! It’s time to get messy! Don’t forget your bib!

If you don't manage to find any Calcots and still want to try this dish it also works well with grilled Bimba broccoli - on a griddle with a little salt and olive oil -  you might want to steam them a little first to soften them up slightly.

If you have decided to use a barbecue then the ceremony doesn’t end here, traditionally the meal would continue with chargrilled sausages and meats all washed down with Cava!




Enjoy your next Calçotada!


Like 1        Published at 18:44   Comments (2)

San Pere - El Puig - 29 January
24 January 2020

‘L’arròs amb fesols i naps’ is a well-known Valencian dish also known as “Caldera”, ‘Olla de San Antón’ ò “Olla Pobre” (poor man’s pot). Whichever way you call it, it is a fantastic dish, which is ever so easy to make. Commonly made all around the Valencian Community during village festivities it is on a par with Paella when it comes to feeding large crowds. Traditionally made in tall cauldron pots, it can be just as easily made at home in a large casserole pot.



In the Valencian village of El Puig de Santa Maria, cooking this rice dish in the town square has become a yearly tradition as it marks one of the highlights of their patron saint festivities - feeding the village. San Pere is a rather unusual festivities with numerous spectacles - apart from enjoying a hot plate of hearty rustic food - they also have the rather unusual tradition of throwing rats around the town square, yes! Rats! Fortunately, it is not on the same day so there is no chance of a stray rodent flying into the cooking pots!

Usually cooked over a log fire made with orange tree wood, it is custom to prepare this on the day of the villages’ patron saint and a plate handed out to anyone who wants one. It is not unusual to see Falleros preparing it during the Fallas festivities too.

In English we would call it ‘Rice with beans and swede’ although it does have some meat in it as well. The basic ingredients include pork (ear, snout, trotters, nowadays some lean pork is included and sometimes bacon), white sausage, onion morcillas, white beans, swedes (also known as yellow turnip), and edible cardoon, round Valencian rice, paprika and salt. As with many dishes born out of poverty, this one is no different, nowadays it isn’t unusual to find versions which substitute some of the cheaper cuts of pork for beef or lamb which also reduces the fat content and calorie count! Additionally, other areas such as L’Horta near the camp de Turia will substitute the white beans for garrafón, the large flat bean used in paellas. However, in all cases the essential ingredient that always characterises the flavour of this dish is swede, which gives a lovely sweet touch to the broth.

This rice broth or ‘arroz caldoso’ as we would call it is without a doubt the most widely established dish in the Valencian Community especially this time of year. It is, after the paella, probably the most popular rice dish for the locals and still greatly unknown by foreigners but the ritual behind this recipe does stir up a lot of curiosity. It is enjoyed througout the L'Horta Nord (northern region of Valencia famous for its vegetable fields)

In Vinalesa, a village in L’horta Nord they prepare their version of this dish on the 13 and 14 of October during their annual festivities. It is a recipe that is traditionally cooked by men, as with paella, in fact in Spain, men normally prepare any recipe that involves firewood. It’s sort of like the caveman syndrome. If it needs fire it’s a man’s job if it needs sweat, it for the women, that’s why the women the day before have to peel all the vegetables and are known as the ‘peladores’ or ‘the peelers’ while the men cut up the meat and prepare the wood. It’s kind of like a barbecue back home; it’s a man’s thing isn’t it? Nonetheless, all are happy and a huge quantity of food is prepared and given out to all the village.

In Godella, the Clavarios de San Antonio prepare this rice dish, en Masalfasar they also make this dish for the day of San Anton which has just past and they call it Poorman’s Pot: ‘Olla Pobre’. In Almàssera they call it ‘Caldera’, en Estivella they prepare it for the day of San Blas, en Alaquas they celebrate ‘El Porrat’ en honour of San Francisco de Paula on the 23rd of March and hand out this dish to anyone who happens to pass by. In Foios, Villarmarxante, Olocao and practically every other village in the community will have a special day for preparing this rice broth. It is unique and well worth trying. After the paella, it doesn’t get much more Valencian.

Here is the basic recipe for 6 people : 

300g Round Rice from Valencia
300g White Beans (soaked in water overnight)
300g Pork pieces (ears & snout)
300g Lean Beef in 3 large pieces
1 Pig’s tail cut into pieces
3 Pigs trotters cut into pieces
200g Pork Pancetta / un-smoked bacon
2 Onion Morcilla
1 Large White sausage – Blanquet
3 Medium-sized swedes
2 sticks of edible cardoon
3 medium-sized Potatoes
2 tsp. Paprika (de la Vera)


The process is really very simple. Fill a large deep stew pot with 3 litres of water. It should fill the pot to about ¾’s of its maximum volume. Start to heat up the water on a medium heat with a large pinch of salt.

Once the water is hot, add all the meat to the water, cut it up previous into manageable pieces, but not too small so they are easy to remove afterwards if you don’t want to eat them. I am not a great fan of ears, snout or trotters, so I just use them for flavour and separate them afterwards. I prefer the beef and pancetta with the morcillas and the white sausage. It is important to remember to create a cross on either end of the morcillas with toothpicks otherwise they will disintegrate in the broth. Once all the meat is in, let it cook for an hour or so. 

Now you will need to add the swedes and the cardoon. Don’t chop the swedes up too small; they should be in medium-sized chunks/pieces. Let it cook on low heat for another hour. 

Now we will add a pinch of saffron and the paprika. Remember we should always cook the paprika before adding it to any dish, so get a small frying pan and add a little extra virgin olive oil, heat up the oil and add the paprika, stir it and fry it for a few seconds and then add a ladle of stock to the pan from the pot, stir around and pour it all back into the stew pot and mix in. 

Now we need to add the potatoes and the beans. Cut the potatoes into medium-sized chunks. After 10 minutes we will need to add the rice but check for salt before doing so. Once the rice has been added stir in and cook(simmer) for a further 15 minutes and then remove from the heat. If the rice is still a little tough it will continue cooking in the stock so don’t worry.

That’s it. Serve up in a bowl or deep plate with a mixed salad and fresh crusty bread with a glass of red wine. It is also customary to eat this with raw sweet onion cut into pieces and sprinkled onto the plate. Then again if you find this too complicated and happen to be within driving distance of El Puig, why not pop along this Sunday and get a plate from the specialists!




Like 1        Published at 09:17   Comments (0)

10 Great Spanish Cheeses
16 January 2020

Of the more than 100 different cheeses produced in Spain, 27 are protected by the "Denominación de Origen Protegida" (D.O.P.) label. In English the most widely used expression which means the same is the description "P.D.O" - Protected Designation of Origin. Several others are still waiting for this status to be granted to them by the Ministry of Agriculture. 

In Spain all varieties of cheeses are made: from fresh to extra cured; coagulated with the help of enzymes, lactic acid or a mixture of both; of diverse sizes and shapes; with rinds of various colours, engraved with splendid designs and patterns, covered with mould, smoked, spiced or rubbed with oil. It really is a world of scent and flavour.

Spanish cheese-makers use three types of milk: from sheep, cows and goats. Blends of these kinds of milk are also used to produce their cheeses. This great variety of cheese comes as a result of climatic and geographical differences and from farming customs steeped in age-old traditions. You will find in this pages all of the most important characteristics of all D.O.P. cheeses, as well as those of the most representative cheeses of each category: sheep's milk cheese, cow's milk cheese and goat's milk cheese in addition to various blends and blue cheese, in a sampling of our enormous cheese heritage, which is a reserve of our culture and traditions and places us among the most important cheese-producing countries in the world. Here are the top 10:


Queso Manchego


The Manchego is produced in the La Mancha region of Spain, which is also home to Don Quixote. It is made from unpasteurized sheep's milk. It is one of the popular cheeses from Spain, made from sheep's milk. It also comes under the PDO guidelines.

The traditional use of grass moulds leaves a distinctive, characteristic zigzag pattern on the Manchego cheese. Authentic Manchego is only made from the Manchego sheep's milk. Manchego cheese is made from both pasteurized and unpasteurized milk. The farmhouse version is produced from unpasteurized milk while the industrial version is made from pasteurized milk.

The rind is inedible with a distinctive, traditional herringbone basket weave pattern, pressed on it. A typical ear wheat pattern is pressed onto the top and bottom wheels of the cheese. There are specific differences in Manchego cheeses, depending on their ageing period.

Semi Curado - Young Manchego cheese is aged around 3 months are supple and moist. The flavour is fruity, grass, hay with a tangy note.

Curado - Manchego cheese aged for 6 months acquires a caramel and nutty flavour. It has a distinct acidity.

Viejo - Manchego cheese aged for a year becomes crumbly in texture while the interior of the cheese acquires a butterscotch colour. It has a sweet, lingering taste.

Manchego cheeses are best paired with a sherry. Cheeses similar to Manchego are called 'Manchego like cheeses', but the producers cannot legally name the cheese as Manchego.


Queso Cabrales


Cabrales, also known as Queso Cabrales, Queso de Cabrales or Cabraliego, is a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) awarded, Spanish semi-hard, fatty blue cheese, prepared within the administrative region of Cabrales Council and some towns in the Upper Peñamerella region. Both these areas are located at the foot of the Picos de Europa Mountains in Asturias.

The cheese is a mixture of raw cows, goats and sheep's milk aged for between two and four months in naturally formed limestone caves. Chilly and humid conditions in the caves facilitate the growth of bluish-green penicillium mould on this highly prized cheese. Unlike other blue cheeses injected with penicillium, Cabrales cures from the outside of the cheese to the inward.
A finished Cabrales can be characterized by its strong, penetrating aroma and sharp, acidic, slightly salty taste. It pairs well with red wine, fresh figs, salami, sweet sherry and dry sausages. The cheese is treasured as a base for sauces, for melting over grilled or roasted meats and goes well along with baguette slices, crackers, or fruit.

Earlier, a traditional Cabrales was sold wrapped in moist leaves of Acer pseudoplatanus. But today regulation requires the cheese be sold in a dark-green-coloured aluminium foil with the stamp of the PDO Queso de Cabrales. Careful because when you leave the cheese for too long you get small white worms coming out of it, but this doesn't stop some eating it!


Queso Torta del Casar

Torta del Casar PDO is a Spanish cheese made from raw sheep’s milk in the Extremadura region, near the Portuguese border. Named after Casar de Cáceres, its city of origin, the shepherds who made the cheese used to call it ‘atortao’ because it was shaped like a cake or ‘torta’. Torta del Casar is a very rare cheese since it is made from milk of Merino and Entrefina sheep that yield very low milk and it takes a herd of sheep to make 1 kg of the cheese.

Torta del Casar is a vegetarian product coagulated with cardoon, a wild thistle which adds a slightly bitter note to the rich and slightly salty tasting cheese. The cheese is aged for at least 60 days upon which it develops a semi-hard, yellow to ochre crust and a soft, spreadable, creamy, almost runnier paste. Its insides are yellowish in colour and the aroma very unique. Torta del Casar should be enjoyed as an appetizer or a dessert, spread on bread with a glass of dry, red wine.


Queso de Valdeón

Valdeon is a Spanish blue cheese produced in Valdeon Valley of Castile-Leon region of northwestern Spain. Made all year round with cow or goat’s milk or a mixture of both, the cheese has very dense blue veining and comes wrapped in maple or chestnut leaves. Since leaf wrapping is no more allowed these days, it comes wrapped in leaf printed aluminium foil. Queso di Valdeon has been awarded a status of Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) to regulate the production, processing and preparation of the cheese. In 2005, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food granted the cheese an award for best Blue Veined Spanish Cheese.

A bold and salty cheese, Valdeon uniqueness lies in its manufacturing process, which includes long and traditional maturing in the cold, damp cellars until the cheese reaches a mature or medium mature age. The pate of Valdeon has a soft, granular texture and pale yellow colour and is full of small cavities filled with blue moulds. Covered by a coarse, inconsistent rind in dark grey shades with little red marks, Valdeon is very strong and spicy in taste similar to Roquefort. A powerful smelling cheese, Valendon's greasy, buttery paste is perfect for preparing any kind of blue cheese sauce. The rich smell of the cheese makes a good companion for fresh fruit and strong red wine or sherry.


Queso Gamoneu

Gamoneu or Gamonedo is a Spanish PDO cheese produced from a blend of cows, sheep's and goat's milk. Originating in the high altitude areas of Asturias, there are two varieties of the cheese depending on the location where it is made and seasonal production. Gamoneu made from June to September in the cabins of Los Picos de Europa and Cangas de Onis is called Gamonéu del Puerto. On the other hand, Gamonéu del Valle is made in small dairies in the lower areas of both these councils all year long.

Gamonéu is a fatty cheese with a yellowish-whitish pate and greenish-bluish Penicilliun outcrops on the edges. Its thin rind is a distinctive sienna colour acquired during the smoking process. Texturally, Gamonéu is hard or semi-hard, firm and friable with small, irregular eyes scattered spread throughout the pate. The taste is slightly spicy and smoky with a buttery, nutty persistent aftertaste. Its aroma is clean with soft hints of smoke that intensify with maturation.


Queso Idiazábal - smoked 

Idiazabal is a traditional, farmhouse, hard cheese made from raw milk of Latxa or Carranza sheep in the Basque and Navarra regions of northern Spain. Named after the village of Idiazabal, the cheese received Spanish D.O. (Denominacion de Origen) in 1987.

In summer, the sheep migrate to higher pastures to graze on the blossoming, new grass. During this time, the artisanal cheesemakers milk the sheep, make the cheese and leave it in the rafters to mature. At the end of summer when the cheesemakers return back to the lowlands with their sheep, the cheese has ripened and is ready for sale.

Idiazabal is produced in the shape of a cylinder, with a smooth and hard natural rind that is pale yellow to amber in colour. The cheese has a compact texture, with a few pinprick holes. It is dry, but not crumbly, and feels pleasantly oily in the mouth. The rind carries the marks of the wooden moulds in which it was drained. The characteristic, smoky flavour is the result of the cheeses having been stored near the fireplaces. There were no chimneys in the simple mountain huts, so the cheeses absorbed the sweet, aromatic smoke. The taste of the cheese is reminiscent of burnt caramel and bacon. It pairs well with red wine and cider.


Queso Tetilla

Tetilla is a typical Galician cheese made from the herd of Friesians, Alpine Browns and Rubia Gallega cows. Since 1992, it has been one of the four kinds of cheese that received DOP recognition. The name Tetilla is Galician for “small breast”, which describes the shape of the cheese – a pear-shaped cone topped by a nipple.

This cheese has a pale yellow, thin, natural rind or sometimes no rind can be seen at all. Its texture is soft, thick and smooth with scatterings of air pockets. Yellowish ivory in colour Tetilla has a creamy mouthfeel with buttery, slightly bitter and tangy flavours surrounding the palate. The maturing, which takes place between 10 and 30 days, happens in the hot and humid climate of Galicia.

Try Tetilla with a dry full-bodied wine, sherry, young whites, manzanilla and especially the Galician whites - albariño or Ribeiro. Spanish love their cheese with quince paste, fruit, crackers, baked dishes and bread.

Queso de La Peral

La Peral is a gently blued pasteurized cow and sheep milk cheese from Asturias in northern Spain. This rare and delicious cheese has been produced for a little over a century. The sheep milk component gives this firm cheese a little olive oil flavour and a pleasantly pungent aroma. Also known as Queso Azul Asturiano, La Peral is made by the Lopez Leon family. The wheels are aged for sixty days just to the point that the blue begins to develop. La Peral resembles an Italian Gorgonzola. It has a slightly crumbly texture that leads to a refreshing finish on the palate. Along with other bigger wines, we recommend that you try pairing this outstanding blue cheese with Tempranillos, Cabernet Sauvignons, Gamays, Ports or Spanish dessert wines.

Queso de Los Beyos


Los Beyos is one of our speciality cheeses from Asturias, aged for 2 months and made from pasteurized cow`s milk. Los Beyos is truly an artisanal beauty produced in the mountains of Amieva. It takes its name from "el desfiladero de los Beyos". This place is a beautiful but extremely narrow and curvy mountainous area in Asturias that follows through into Castilla-Leon. There is a constant debate as to which specific area in Asturias is where this cheese originated. Dense and compact. Rustic and artisan. We hope you find the texture and flavour as interesting and as much as a rollercoaster ride as we do. The cheese itself is drier and flakier but still retains a cured and rich flavour with a sharpness that does not linger for very long. And good news! Los Beyos pairs just as nicely with a Martini as it will with Chardonnay and Tempranillo.


Queso Zamorano

Zamorano is a famous Spanish sheep’s milk cheese made in the region of Castile-Leon, Zamora. This hard cheese takes almost 6 months to mature fully. It has a pale-yellow colour with a crumbly texture and contains 45% fat.

Zamorano has a buttery and nutty taste, which is served as a table cheese with White, Red as well as Zinfandel wine. It gets characteristic flavour because of the breed of sheep – the small, scruffy Churra and the Castilian sheep.

Due to a distinctive zigzag pattern and cylindrical shape, Zamorano appears similar to Castellano or Manchego.


There you have it, 10 fantastic cheeses from Spain that must be savoured if you are a cheese fanatic!

Like 1        Published at 17:01   Comments (3)

If you haven't tried this cheese, you must!
31 December 2019

Spain is one of the countries in the world where better quality cheese is produced. The World Cheese Awards last year were held in Bergen (Norway) and more than 3,400 cheeses from 41 different countries participated with Spain managing to place two cheeses among the Top 15 in the world. If I am not mistaken this year they have had similar results.

However, You may think that this wasn't that special but I want to bring to light 13th place which was taken by a new contender and one of the great surprises of the contest since it is an extremely accessible product that is marketed exclusively in Spain through one of the most popular supermarket chains, Mercadona.

A wedge of 390 grams of this cheese, which in Mercadona can be found as "Entrepinares Viejo Tostado", can be purchased for around 3.98 euros. The kilo comes in at 10.20 euros. Unfortunately, when you go to the cheese section you will often find it empty since it literally flies off the shelf as soon as it is restocked. Whenever I see some I always grab a few as I know I may not see it for a few weeks because supply is rather limited due to its extended ripening period - I guess I am not the only one doing this!

This cheese, classified as "old toasted", has been made from the mixture of pasteurized cow, sheep and goat's milk. So, what characteristics does a cheese have to meet to be labelled as "old" (viejo)?

The cheeses that we usually find in the supermarket can be classified in many different ways: by the type of milk used (cow, sheep, goat or mixture), by its fat content (fatty, semi-fat, skimmed, etc.), by the milk treatment (raw, microfiltered, heated ...) and even by the producer who makes them. However, the most common is to find the cheese classified according to the ripening time. The six most common categories are fresh, tender, semi-cured, cured, old and aged. The old toasted Mercadona cheese, according to its name, is a cheese that goes a little further than the cured cheese and has been matured for more than seven months. The ripening time of this cheese, together with the mixture of different kinds of milk, influences its flavour in a decisive way and makes it much more intense. Its water content is also much lower than that of a semi-cured cheese or a tender cheese resulting in a surface that is harder. I was told that the ripening time was a minimum of 10 months.



Similarly, the longer the ripening time of a cheese, the greater its fat content. As you can read on the label, it is a product that provides 39 grams of fat per 100 grams (27 grams are saturated fat), 26 grams of protein and just a few grams of carbohydrates. Like other dairy products, this cheese is also rich in calcium, potassium and vitamin D. While it is true that it is an exquisite snack, try and reserve it for special occasions or your calorie count will go through the roof!

That said, it is a must and if you haven't tried this cheese before, you really must go out and buy it. Coupled with some red wine, serrano ham, bread and olives and you really can't go wrong!

Like 4        Published at 12:14   Comments (5)

A little extra luck this New Year...
27 December 2019

At this time of year, there is nothing more warming and hearty than a hot plate of lentils with chorizo. In Italy, on New Year's Eve, it is a traditional meal with pigs trotters where they consider it to bring good luck and prosperity for the coming year. So if that isn't a good enough reason to try this dish I don't know what is! Even if you aren't in Italy, luck is luck and prosperity is prosperity!

This is one of my favourite winter dishes accompanied with some crusty bread and butter (that’s the British influence in me) and it is much easier to make than you might think. If you make a little extra it will last in the fridge for a few days, however, they don’t freeze well so it is always best to make them fresh.

‘Lentejas con Chorizo’ is a traditional dish which has spanned the Iberian peninsula, it is a dish that allows for some flexibility when it comes to ingredients as recipes vary slightly from region to region where different vegetables are added but chorizo is always the reigning ingredient for flavour. Rich in proteins, minerals and carbohydrates, lentils have been a part of the Mediterranean diet for thousands of years. 

This legume fuelled roman legions and it’s not surprising given that about 30% of their calories come from proteins. Lentils have the third-highest level of protein, by weight, of any legume or nut, after soybeans and hemp. They also contain dietary fibre, folate, vitamin B1, and minerals. The low levels of Readily Digestible Starch (RDS) 5%, and high levels of Slowly Digested Starch (SDS) 30%, make lentils of great food for people with diabetes but more so they are a good source of iron, having over half of a person's daily iron allowance in a 100g serving.            

To make this dish we will need the following ingredients for 6 people :

500gr Pardina Lentils “Extra” (a Spanish variety but readily available)
1 Green pepper - diced
4 large carrots – chopped into slices (not too thin)
2 large cloves of garlic – finely chopped
2 large onions - diced
2 bay leaves
1 Tsp. Paprika
Salt & Pepper – to taste
4 Tbsp.  Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 large mature tomatoes – peeled and diced

3/4 chorizos – approx. 250g 
180g of diced Serrano ham (optional)
1 morcilla (optional)
1 piece of Serrano ham bone (optional)
1 piece of beef marrow bone(optional)






If you include all the ingredients you are in for a feast but you may not have all those ingredients readily available so if you can only get chorizo that will be sufficient to get a good result, the rest of the meat ingredients are optional. If you can’t find ham or bones, you could substitute them for 200g of Pancetta (unsmoked bacon) cut into large thick pieces, which is more readily available in the UK and actually more traditional than the chopped ham, it's just, I find that the pancetta adds, even more, fat to the dish whereas the ham doesn't. 

The first thing you need to take into consideration is the class of lentil. Pardina lentils are used for this recipe and it is best to use the ones classed as “extra” as they don’t need to be soaked in water before cooking them. However, if you can’t find these you will need to soak the lentils in water for about 6-8 hours, so best to do it before going to bed and in the morning they’ll be perfect. You can, however, soak the “extra” lentils too and it will reduce the cooking by 30 minutes. That is up to you. I normally do it anyway and in the morning you will see that some lentils are floating on top of the water, these need to be scooped up and thrown away as they are not suitable for cooking. Whatever you decide, the lentils must be washed before using to remove any impurities. Once we have our lentils ready, put them aside until we need them. This recipe contemplates the lentils being soaked.

 Get a stew pot and add the extra virgin olive oil and heat it up. Then add the onions and garlic and fry for about 10 minutes. Then add the green pepper, tomatoes, carrots and bay leaves and fry for a further 3 minutes.

Add the bones to the pot and a generous teaspoon of paprika. Quickly stir the paprika and then add the lentils and the Serrano ham. Be careful not to burn the paprika, this will make the dish go bitter, a few seconds is sufficient before adding the lentils. Stir in the lentils and the ham so all the ingredients are well mixed in and then add the cold water straight away. For 500g of lentils, you will need 1,5L of water approx. The water should comfortably cover all the ingredients, as there are still ingredients to add. Depending on how you prefer your lentils you can adjust the water to have more stock or less stock at the end. If you see your lentils are running out of water before they are ready you can add more boiling water during the cooking process if necessary but it must be boiling so not to interrupt the cooking process. Slowly bring to the boil, when it is boiling some foam will appear on the surface of the water, scoop it off. These are impurities from the bones and we don’t want it in the stock. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes and taste for salt and pepper. You may not need to add any as the ham does add salt to the stock.

Now add the chorizo, you can either add it whole or chopped up into large pieces, I prefer it chopped up as it releases more flavour.  You can now also add the whole morcilla if you have decided to use it (don’t chop it up otherwise it will disintegrate). Reduce to a medium heat for another 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. Now you can remove the bones. For another 15-30 minutes cook on a low heat checking the texture of the lentils until they are perfectly cooked. Be careful not to cook them for too long or get distracted otherwise they will turn to mush. Once ready, remove from the heat and serve in a bowl with a side of crusty bread and butter. A little trick to jazz them up and give them a little kick from time to time is to dress the bowl with a couple of Basque chillis in vinegar, alternatively if you don't like chilli a little squirt of white wine vinegar gives it a great aftertaste, this was my father in law's favourite way of eating lentils.

If you are in a rush you can always use a pressure cooker, which will reduce the cooking time to about 25 minutes depending on your cooker. If you are looking for a slightly healthier version of this dish you can remove the meat ingredients and add potatoes and leeks to the stock resulting in a fantastic vegetarian dish. 

I really hope you give this a go, it well works the effort and to be honest once you have chopped up all the ingredients it cooks on its own. 




Like 2        Published at 18:33   Comments (0)

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