The Best Peach in the World
26 September 2016
Published at 15:40 Comments (2)
I have always loved peaches, but they haven’t really been one of my favourite fruits while living in Spain. I think because most of the peaches I have tried in supermarkets lacked flavour and aroma. I remember as a child eating peaches that were full of flavour, far more than they do today. That was at least, until I tasted the Calanda Peaches.
There are peaches and then there are peaches. These are something special.
In order to guarantee their properties, the genuine Calanda peaches are pampered to an extent that seems almost silly. The producers use what is called a thinning technique to make sure the quality is supreme. This means removing 70% of the existing fruits on the tree in order to leave a distance of 20 cm between each fruit. This means the fruits are better nourished. This original cultivation technique offers us a more bulky and fleshy fruit.
To give you an idea, If you had in your hands is a real Calanda peach, its diameter would be a minimum of 73 mm.
These peaches with Calanda Peach Certificate of Origin (D.O.) have achieved a certain level of prestige in the fruit market, primarily because of its excellent flavour and sweetness and also due to their unusually large size.
Each peach carries a genuine black label, which guarantees a minimum sweetness of 12º Brix. This is the minimum quantity for peaches to give off their attractive odour. Something that is missing from almost all supermarket peaches these days.
What’s more the attention to detail is very important. Every peach of the D.O. Calanda is put in a bag one by one in the tree itself during the last 2 months of growth. Thanks to this step the peach ripens inside a protective bag guaranteeing its pureness, as it doesn’t make contact with any kind of phytosanitary product or external agents.
The cultivation area of “Calanda Peach” is mainly located in Lower Aragon region. This D.O. is located in the southeast of the Ebro river valley, between Teruel and Zaragoza provinces and it is made up of 45 towns. The season for genuine D.O. Calanda peach covers from middle of September to the end of October, depending on the climate. Before this time, you must be wary as it is very unlikely that they will be authentic, always check fro the black sticker. However we are at the end of September, you are in luck, this is the prime of the season!
The tradition of cultivating peaches across the Aragon region goes back hundreds of years. There are documents which reference the production of Calanda Peaches from the Middle Ages and in 1895, the botanist J. Pardo Sastrón gave a detailed description of the production process for this unique fruit. The increase in production didn’t develop until the fifties.
So if you fancy tasting a truly juicy, sweet and aromatic peach, don’t forget the Calanda peach the next time you pass by a fruit market.
What do Tourists rate most highly about Spain?
23 September 2016
Published at 17:15 Comments (3)
Spanish cuisine is what tourists say they like best about the country. In fact, in 2014 alone, more than seven million of the 57 million tourists who visited Spain did so purely to undertake a food-related activity. Despite the universal fame of Spain’s creative and cutting-edge cuisine, tourists who come to the country are attracted by its traditional fare, for example widely-known dishes such as paella, gazpacho, cocido (stew), menestra (vegetable soup) and suckling pig.
This is hardly a surprise, given that less than 100 out of the 250,000 restaurants, bars and eateries in Spain focus directly on the most innovative types of cuisine.
It would be extremely beneficial for all chefs, both traditional and creative, to constantly praise and speak out about the high-quality products they use, raising awareness about them among their national and international clientele, and so achieving greater knowledge of Spanish foods and a wider market for them.
The figures clearly show that food is one of the prime motivations for modern tourists – and that the range of products on offer today is very diverse. Spain is reclaiming its heritage of popular and traditional cuisine, and also the need to preserve the habits and customs of its people and cities, as well as the fine dining served up in restaurants where great artistes of the restaurant world ply their trade.
Good cooking is one the features most frequently sought by tourists of the 21st Century. The country’s culinary offerings to tourists must therefore strike a balance between respect for traditional and popular cooking while also promoting fine dining and auteur cuisine, in order to satisfy curious and unconventional tourists who want an intensely enjoyable experience on every holiday.
The cultural and gastronomic inheritance of Spain makes its naturally-based diet a leading export which is recommended around the world. The Mediterranean Diet so characteristic of Spain was listed on the UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2010.
The Mediterranean Diet, one of our country’s own, goes way beyond being a mere nutritional plan. It is a lifestyle that combines a way of eating which links traditional cooking to fresh products and a way of sharing meals and traditions, a moderate amount of daily exercise and a pleasant climate. The result is an excellent model for a healthy life that has gained international recognition.
In fact, in 2010 UNESCO registered the Mediterranean Diet on its Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
The Mediterranean Diet is the result of an invaluable cultural inheritance, which through simplicity and variety, has resulted in a balanced and complete diet, based on fresh, local and seasonal products, insofar as it is possible.
It is characterised by an abundance of vegetable produce, such as bread, pasta, rice, vegetables, legumes, fruit and dried fruit and nuts. Olive oil is another essential ingredient, along with moderate consumption of fish, seafood, free range pultry, lactose products (yoghurts, cheeses) and eggs. A moderate intake of wine and red meats is also included in the diet.
The benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, especially those related to health and the prevention of chronic illnesses is a scientific fact. The majority of the guidelines that the World Health Organization offers are in line with the Mediterranean Diet: an abundance of fruits and vegetables, moderation in salt and sugar, low levels of fat consumption and the use of fresh products.
Cadiz Tuna Tartare
13 September 2016
Published at 09:04 Comments (2)
The other day, while I was reading an article about Cadiz and its red tuna industry, I must admit my mouth started to water thinking of a fantastic red tuna tatare I ate in Valencia. It was absolutely spectacular and not at all “fishy” in flavour. I am not a great fish eater and I am very picky with fish, I don’t like the strong characteristic “fishy” taste that some fish have when you can actually taste the sea in the meat, so it is something that tends to make me choose meat or seafood and stick to a very small selection of mild fish such as cod, tuna or swordfish which I find meatier and also more filling. However I do consider myself gastronomically adventurous and I will try everything several times over, but in different places, just in case I find a recipe that changes my mind on a certain product. And this dish did exactly that. I was never a fan of raw fish before and I am still not, really, every time I go to a Japanese Restaurant I end up ordering Beef Teriyaki, Seafood and maybe some prawn and avocado Maki just for the wasabi, which I just love. But when I tasted this red tuna tartar I was absolutely taken by it and another speciality dish was added to my list of favourites.
I thought I would share this very simple and very elegant recipe with you all, as it is a real stunner of a dish at any dinner party or just as a light lunch. It is so simple to make, so full of flavour and of course, uses olive oil. So, for this recipe as all ingredients are raw make sure you use a good quality extra virgin olive oil, it will make all the difference and one that is not bitter, such as an Arbequina or a Serrana de Espadán both have a very low pungency. The bitterness will overpower the dressing and the flavour of the avocado and the tuna. So taste the oil before you mix it in.
Ingredients (2 servings):
300 g of Red Tuna loin (or sushi-grade tuna)
120g of Avocado
20g of Shallots
20g of Chives
30g of Peeled Tomatoes
10g Sesame Seeds
(If the tuna is ‘fresh’ from the market it is recommended to freeze it, just in case, for 48 hours to kill any parasites such as Anisakis)
All of these ingredients should be diced and the shallots should be very finely chopped. The chives should be chopped coarsely. Place all the ingredients together in a bowl, finely grate a small amount of lime peel over the ingredients and mix them up. I have never weighed the lime peel so I have no idea how much it is, I just do it by sight as if I was seasoning with salt. So it is just a little amount to give the flavour a little kick! Reserve a little of the sesame seeds and the chives to decorate the dish at the end. (You can mix the diced tuna, sesame seeds, tomato, chives and shallots and then layer the avocado seperately if you prefer for presentation purposes.)
Now we need to make the marinade for we will need the following ingredients:
10ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
20ml Soy Sauce
2ml Sesame Oil
10ml Jerez ‘Sherry’ Vinegar (If possible from the variety Pedro Ximenez, it is sweeter)
2 Teaspoons Wholegrain Mustard or a 1 teaspoon of Wasabi. (This should be added according to taste preference, whichever you prefer. If you don’t like either, this ingredient can be removed and it will still be fantastic)
Pour all the ingredients into a bowl to make the marinade and whisk it all together.
Use a tablespoon to pour some of the marinade over the diced ingredients. Mix the marinade through the ingredients adding little by little until it is all well covered. Taste and season with salt if necessary. Let it stand to marinate for about half an hour and then serve. A great way of serving this dish is as a 'timbale'. If you have a ring mold great but if you don’t you can use a section cut out from a plastic water bottle to serve as a mold, I didn’t and this solution worked just fine!
Take the mold fill it with the marinated mixture and pour a couple of teaspoons of the marinade over the mixture in the mold (if you are layering the avocado place the cubes at the bottom). Carefully remove the mold and sprinkle the remaining sesame seeds and chives over the top and Listo! Ready to eat! If you want slightly more sauce just pour a couple of spoons into the base of the bowl.
I hope you enjoy it, I certainly did!
Summer Starters from Spain - Tellinas
02 September 2016
Published at 14:13 Comments (3)
Tellinas or Coquinas, depending on where you live, are commonly known as beach wedge clams and very popular in Spain. They are a species of bivalve mollusc, similar to a clam only smaller, that can be found on the coasts of western Europe and north-western Africa. It usually inhabits the shallowest two meters of coastline and is commercially harvested for food. It is a suspension feeder, which means that it is a consumer feeding on suspended particles in seawater. The shell can be found in colours ranging from olive, through chestnut, to yellow-white and is normally up to an inch wide. In Spain they are harvested especially in the area of Cadiz and Huelva, but also in some cities along the Mediterranean coast such as Valencia.
This shellfish is simple and quick to prepare and I am yet to find somebody that doesn’t like them, they are fun to eat and my wife refers to them as ‘pipas del mar’ (sunflower seeds from the sea) because they are so moreish like the ever popular ‘pipas’ en Spain. Once you start eating, it’s difficult to stop. Fortunately they are very easy to prepare so they are ideal as a starter especially if you are going to have a heavy second course, such as paella. There are many ways to prepare ‘Tellinas’ but I prefer the simplest way with garlic and lemon.
You will need to calculate half a kilo for say 3-4 people. That should give you a decent starter. But if you do more I wouldn’t worry, they’ll be eaten!
500 gr of fresh Tellinas - wedge clams - (frozen are terrible, so please don't use them)
5 cloves of garlic
1 sprig of fresh parsley
Extra virgin olive oil
Plenty of water
Dash of vinegar
To make sure they are clean and rid of any grit or sand, leave the Tellinas in a bowl of water with a little salt and a dash of vinegar. You will need to keep them in the water for at least 2 hours, changing the water every 30 minutes or so, this will remove any impurities. If you jump this stage or cut it short, you will end up chewing on sand rather than a succulent tasty mollusc and I can assure you its not very nice.
Peel and chop the garlic cloves and brown them in a pan with olive oil at medium heat. When the garlic begins to turn brown add the lemon, which should be chopped into small wedges, stir a few times and then add the tellinas and raise the heat to maximum and they will open as a result of heat. To help them open, stir them occasionally letting them knock against each other. This should take no more than two minutes, if they haven’t opened before that time, they won’t and should be discarded. Careful, they cook very quickly and hence dry out very quickly. The secret is in the timing. That is it. Sprinkle the chopped parsley into the pan, shake the pan a couple of times and serve immediately. One final piece of advice is to make sure that the tellinas have plenty of space in the pan to move around and open. Make sure your pan isn’t too small or do them in two batches.
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