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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!

Alboraya - Home of Horchata
25 June 2018

For those who are not so familiar with this summer refreshment I thought I would share some of its history and how it is grown in and around Alboraya, next to Valencia. It is made from chufa, which in English would be the tiger nut and as a drink it goes back thousands of years. Old civilizations such as the Egyptians left samples of this healthy product in their tombs and sarcophagi. Also, diverse Persian and Arab authors already mentioned in their writings the digestive benefits of the chufa. But it was in the 13th century when the Arabs introduced their crop in the Mediterranean area. 

Valencia was and continues to be the only area in Europe where chufa is grown. Currently, it is farmed in 16 towns around the area known as L'Horta Nord (or the Northern fertile land), which surrounds Valencia.

Alboraya is the world capital of Horchata an if you ever happen to be passing through Valencia I highly recommend you visit Horchateria Panach on the main road that runs through Alboraya. It is as good as it gets and also at an unbeatable price.

 

 

The chufa is cultivated in sixteen Valencian towns in the L'Horta Nord area, where a few specific climatic requirements combine and make it the only area of Spain where such a unique tuber is cultivated. About 5.3 million kilograms of tiger nut is produced in this area, of which 90% are covered by the Denomination of Origin.

The tiger nut from Valencia (Cyperus esculentus) is a herbaceous plant of around 40 to 50 centimetres in height. It has a rhizome radicular system from which some little roots grow and in the tips of these roots the tiger nut is formed. 

The chufa is sown from March until May, date which is determined by the previous crop. Before the planting begins, a series of preparatory work is carried out, so that the soil remains spongy, loose and well levelled. The planting is carried out in a mechanical fashion, in ridges 20 cm high with 60 cm between them. The depth of the seed is from 4 to 5 cm. The depth of sowing is an important aspect since the yield and the quality of the tuber depend greatly on these measurements. 

 

 

The harvest is carried out from November to January. Once the plant has completely withered and dried, it is burned and the ashes and remains are cleaned up. Then, it is sown again mechanically. A few weeks after the new planting, the tuber germinates. You shouldn't miss the opportunity to see the legendary irrigation ditches of Roman origin, improved and expanded by the Arabs throughout the area, which still remain.

Legend says that a young villager from the fertile area of Valencia known as L'Horta offered King Jaume I a white and sweet drink. The King, very pleased, asked; "Qué es això?" (What is this?), and the young woman answered "Es llet de xufa" (Its tigernut milk). The King, having tasted the drink replied, "Això no es llet, això és OR, XATA" (This is not milk, this is gold (=OR), pretty girl (=XATA).

Legend or reality, the drink became famous throughout the country, adopting the name of Horchata de Chufa. This drink, made from the chufa is a refreshing and essential product in the Mediterranean diet thanks to its innumerable and healthy benefits.

 

 

Known since antiquity as a source of vitamins and nutrients, the horchata is also considered a source of health and energy the world throughout. Along with its delicious and refreshing flavour, several medical studies have accredited its many beneficial properties for the body. Investigations have concluded that the horchata has great digestive properties thanks to its high level of amino acids and starch.

Several prestigious specialists from the University of Valencia have also determined that it is rich in minerals such as phosphorous, magnesium, potassium and iron as well as unsaturated fats and proteins. It is also recommended for all types of people, from the youngest to the oldest. The natural horchata can also be drunk by patients with a declared lack of tolerance to lactose and it is recommended for pregnant women as it includes more iron and potassium than a glass of milk.

It is an energizing and nutritious drink that thanks to its characteristics has become part of the Mediterranean diet. Its cardiovascular properties are similar to those present in olive oil and it helps in reducing cholesterol and triglycerides as it has over 77% of oleic acid. All these characteristics make the Horchata of Chufa of Valencia a very complete and nutritious drink thanks to its macro and micronutrients. However is can also be used in cooking and I thought it would be interesting to share a rather novel recipe with you all.

This recipe is quite different from anything else and I doubt very much that any guests you may have in the future have tried it before, so if you are looking to surprise someone this may be the dish. These are the ingredients you will need for 2 people:

 

½ Chicken.
4 Mushrooms.
3 Sun dried tomatoes.
50g of Pine nut kernels.
2 Spoonfuls of white rice (basmati) with freshly chopped dill.
500 ml of Horchata.
1 Teaspoonful of refined cornflour.
Olive oil.
Salt.
Pepper.

 

 

First, you will need to season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper, put it in a small non-stick baking tray and smear it with olive oil. Roast it in pre-heated oven at 180C degrees for one hour and a half approximately. Baste the chicken every ten minutes with a little horchata. When the chicken is golden, remove it from the oven and cut it up into pieces.

Pour the juice from the chicken and the horchata into a frying pan to reduce it and then thicken it slightly with a little cornflour that needs to be previously diluted in water. Once the sauce is ready, place to one side.

Now cut the mushrooms in julienne and cook them on a low heat in a frying pan with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste. Lower the heat, add the pine nut kernels and toast them slightly. Once golden in colour add the chopped-up sun-dried tomatoes and toss them all together in the pan for a minute

Serve the chicken and place the mushrooms, tomatoes and pine nut kernels garnish on top, next pour over the horchata sauce. Accompany the dish with basmati rice mixed with finely chopped fresh dill. Finally, decorate with a sprig of parsley.

Enjoy!



Like 1        Published at 18:10   Comments (6)


The Mediterranean Mussel - Clochinas Valencianas
08 June 2018

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

Enjoy!



Like 3        Published at 22:26   Comments (2)


8 'Super-wines' for under 2 Euros!
01 June 2018

The oenologist and writer Joan C. MartÌn has been tasting wines for years, bought at supermarkets. His work, as the author of 'Los Supervinos 2018', consists of capturing aromas and analysing labels. He study each bottle and, once proven its origin and its price, among other factors, it is given a score on a scale of 10 points (or five 'Eyes').


The eight wines reviewed in this article are the only ones that, without going over two euro mark, this year have deserved a score that ranges between 9.5 and 9.9 (equivalent to four eyes). Wines that clearly gather more virtues than would appear at first sight. Wines that are worth more than they cost. Wines that are available to any consumer with any budget, and in the eyes of an expert, stand out from among the hundreds of references competing to get into your shopping trolley.

Los Supervinos is the most sold wine guide in Spain because it includes a selection of 110 superwines that cost less than 7 euros and another 40 that do not exceed 15. Extremely interesting and above all informative for those who know little about wines. These superwines bring unrivalled value for money to everyone's dinner table enabling wine to be a daily enjoyment, although always in moderation of course! Here are the stars of the show this year, I can vouch for Comportillo Rosé, a wine I have often enjoyed in Summer. Naturally you will not find many red's in this list beacue of the cost involved in producing reds, in fact, I was amazed to see even one and a 'crianza' at that! Torre Oria is a red wine I have often seen in Mercadona and always shied away from because of the price - foolish me! I will definitely be trying it this weekend. As for the others I will work my way through them shortly! If you have any feedback on any of these wines please post a comment.

 

 

 

Blancauvas - White (1,65)

A young white "fresh, fruity and acidic" that alludes to the story on the label and of which Joan C. MartÌn highlights "a very favorable quality-price ratio". It does not accept any Denomination of Origin, but we do know that Torre Oria makes it with Sauvignon Blanc and Viura grapes. It can only be purchased at Mercadona.

 

Viñas Altas - White (1,94)

A wine from the Condado de Huelva made with zulema grapes, a very old variety in which, according to the author, there is "magic and mystery". With a greenish yellow color and a white fruit aroma, Martín believes that "the supermarket has scraped the limits to have a great product at a low price". Available in El Corte Inglés and Hipercor.

Pluvium - Rosé  (1,36)

A mixture of Bobal and Garnacha grapes -something rare in the Mediterranean, with which Vicente Gandía has obtained a wine that "tastes great!". The screw cap, in addition, works perfectly, because it is a wine "that is not going to mature with age". For sale in Carrefour, Consum, Masymas and Vidal.

Los Molinos - Rosé (1,65)

Joan C. Martín says that Felix Solis is one of the wineries that, despite managing industrial dimensions, better transmits its personality to wine. Elaborated in Valdepeñas, the author also highlights that "the rosés from central Spain do not usually achieve the intensity of color of the Mediterranean rosés", but points out that this wine is an "impressive" exception. "A luxury pink at popular prices" which can also be purchased at many establishments: Alcampo, Alimerla, Caprabo, Cash Diplo, Consum, Condis, Dia, Dinosol, Eroski, Gadisa, Hiber, Hyperusera, Masymas, Simply, Supersol, Unide. ..

Gran Castillo -  Rosé (1,75)

Another rosé from the Utiel-Requena area, where "the tradition of making rosés with bobal is very well established", but in this case Murviedro winery. According to Joan C. MartÌn, an "exquisite and well-made" wine. Available in Consum.

Comportillo - Rosé (1,89)
The only Rioja on the list has many virtues. According to the description of the guide, "a magnificent and superactive pink, bright red" that belongs to a brand that produces exclusively for Mercadona.

Castillo de Lliria - Rosé -  Bobal (1,89)

Joan C. Martín sees in this DO Valencia wine "traces of finesse and elegance typical of a more expensive rosé", which also combine perfectly with the Mediterranean gastronomy. The price, according to the author, "supposes a gift". It can be found in Carrefour, Consum, Lidl, Masymas, Mercadona and Vidal.

Torre Orias - Red - Crianza (2.00)

The only red wine with four eyes and that does not exceed two euros is made in the Utiel-Requena area with Tempranillo grapes. An "easy to drink, friendly and light" wine from the 2013 vintage. For sale only at Mercadona.

 

So there you have it! Why not go out and give them a go!



Like 2        Published at 20:00   Comments (12)


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