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IAN & SPAIN

WELCOME TO MY BLOG. HAVING LIVED IN SPAIN FOR OVER TWENTY YEARS I HAVE TRULY MANAGED TO IMMERSE MYSELF IN THE LOCAL CULTURE AND FEEL TOTALLY INTEGRATED. I WILL BE WRITING ABOUT MY PASSION FOR SPANISH FOOD AND DRINK AS WELL AS ITS CULTURE, PEOPLE AND PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO LEAVE A COMMENT.

Priego de Cordoba and its treasured asset...
30 July 2019

 

 

            

 

In the south of the province of Cordoba lies the National Park Sierras Subbéticas. The steeply sloping terrain rises up above beautiful narrow valleys and looking over the valleys is the idyllic Andalucian town called Priego de Cordoba. Nowadays Priego de Cordoba could easily be considered “The Mecca” of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The proportion of premium olive oil producers working in this region is unlike any other in the world, so much so that it is renowned worldwide for it’s quality.

 

“D.O Priego de Cordoba” is a “Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO) that guarantees top quality olive oil and prides itself in producing exceptional oils and maintaining very strict levels of control. The protected region spans 29,600 hectares encompassing four municipalities Almedinilla, Carcabuey, Fuente Tójar y Priego de Córdoba. The certified D.O Priego de Cordoba extra virgin olive oils from this region have amassed over 400 prizes across the globe. In recent years the oils from Priego de Cordoba have been in all the top ten lists, awards and competitions worldwide and not surprisingly the town hosts “ The World Congress for Olive Oil Sensory Analysis” where you will find the finest olive oil experts from around the world, amongst them my friend Juan Ramon Izquierdo, head of the Tasting Panel for the Ministry of Agriculture here in Spain, an authentic “guru” and leader in his field.

 

The town is slightly off the beaten track but it is easily reached, as it is just a one-hour drive from Granada, Cordoba, Malaga or Jaen. So for those of you that live in Andalucia I highly recommend a trip there to do some Olive Oil tourism and stock up with some of the finest olive oil Spain has to offer, it’s on your doorstep! Many of the Almazaras (mills) offer guided tours and tasting sessions for groups so if you can get a group together I would waste any more time! Three of my favourite producers from the region are Manuel Montes Marin who produces the brand “Portico de la Villa” which is exceptional, Mueloliva which I discovered after they produced an outstanding oil in the harvest of 2011/12 under their brand "Venta del Baron" which I have written about on many occasions (available in Carrefour) and lastly but not least, by any means, Almazaras Subbética which produce “Rincon de la Subbética” declared the best extra virgin olive oil in the world 2011-12 due to the vast amounts of accolades it accumulated over that season. However, all three oils have continued to win prizes and produce great harvests year in and year out.

 

Portico de Villa                                              Venta del Baron                                         Rincon de la Subbetica

 

 

To be honest you will be hard fetched to find a “normal” olive oil in this region. If it carries this logo on the back of the bottle :

 

 

You can be sure it will be a great olive oil. The Protected Designation of Origin (P.D.O.) of Priego de Cordoba exclusively covers extra virgin olive oils made with the Hojiblanca, Picudo and Picual varieties. These oils have multiple culinary uses as they are high in polyphenols and thus have a longer shelf life, meaning their flavour (organoleptic qualities) will also last much longer, so if you are buying olive oil from the previous seasons harvest, which is what you will still find in the supermarkets, I would suggest these varieties, as opposed to Arbequina for example, which will have lost most of it’s “notes” after maybe eight months of being bottled. These varieties are especially indicated for dressing salads, fried food, roasts, baking and confectionary, pretty much anything apart from sauces, as they are particularly fruity and herbaceous in flavour.

 

The rugged and mountainous terrain of the Sierras Subbéticas national park enjoys a unique microclimate between 700m and 1000m above sea level, characterised by high rainfall and large temperature variations. It is in this setting that, through a combination of natural selection and traditional methods, the legendary olive trees have developed a peculiar hardiness and resistance to icy temperatures enabling them to withstand the passage of time and bear quality fruits year in and year out.

 

          

 

     

 

 

The unique setting of rolling hills and olive tree mountains gives the town of Priego de Cordoba a very special feel and is quite simply a charming tourist destination. Priego de Córdoba has an abundance of monuments and sights: exploring its hidden corners you will be seduced by the charm and delight of this wonderful Andalusian town, the cradle of Spanish baroque in forms of fountains, churches and palaces. As well as an Arabic fortress Priego de Cordoba is home to one of the most idyllic historic towns in all of Andalucía, el “Barrio de la Villa” which was given the official title of Historic Centre of Priego in 1972. Its roots go back directly to medieval and Moorish times, and it is part of the “family” of the most typically Andalucian “barrios” which include the Albaicín in Granada or the Judería in Córdoba.

 

   

 

 

 

  

 

 

The narrow winding whitewashed streets offer a perfect blend of peace and beauty; a picture of tranquillity, painted with sunlight, flowers and stone. The town if peppered with beautiful stately homes and buildings. One which particularly stand outs is the Carnicierías Reales (Royal Butchers) which is a renaissance building from the XVI century open to the public. This was the slaughterhouse and meat market in the sixteenth century, designed by Francisco del Castillo. The entrance is built in a Mannerist style with an Italian influence. So what can I say, even if olive oil isn’t up your street, Priego de Cordoba is well worth a visit and who knows if you try the olive oil straight off the press, I’m sure you’ll be hooked for ever.

 

 

 


 

 



Like 2        Published at 17:12   Comments (2)


Jazzing up Salmorejo
23 July 2019

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 versatile 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  tomatoes
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 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!



Like 0        Published at 22:47   Comments (1)


It's Barbecue time! Try something different...
09 July 2019

Summer is here and it's time to start making plans for grilling, cold drinks, and good company. Whether on a terrace in the city centre, in the country or in an authorised picnic area outdoors, a barbecue is an event that always manages to gather people together. I just love the smell of a barbecue!

Today I want to share a recipe, or should I say, a version of a recipe that I first discovered in Madrid and then later rediscovered in Buenos Aires. OK, it’s not a Spanish recipe as such because the honours belong to Argentina, although there is cause to believe that it originated in the Basque country. But anyway who cares? It’s a recipe that is simple and the star of any barbecue.

When I first landed in Spain, I rented an apartment in the centre of Madrid next to Plaza de Isabel II and on the corner was a restaurant called La Vaca Argentina, in those days fat and calories weren’t on my worry list and I would visit the restaurant several times a week to have a glass of cold beer and a tapas of grilled chorizo sausage with chimichurri. I had already fallen in love with chorizo but it was the chimichurri that was amazing. This fresh, tart and tangy concoction of herbs, garlic, oil and vinegar had me totally won over. 

However it wasn’t until I went to Argentina one year that I learnt how to make it, but as is the case with most staple recipes every household has their own variation and depending on what you have available to you. This ‘sauce’ is ideal for grilled meats of all kinds, sausages, pastries, and you can even drizzle it over a margarita pizza giving it a really special touch. It just about jazzes up any meal. The great thing about it is that you can make a decent quantity and it will keep in the fridge for at least a week to 10 days. 

The Spanish connection goes back over a century. In the 19th Century many Basques settled in Argentina and the name of the sauce probably comes from the Basque word ‘tximitxurri’ that loosely translates as "a mixture of several things in no particular order". That is effectively what it is, a concoction of herbs and oil where the order or the recipe doesn’t really matter. However there is one step that will speed up the final result and that is adding the hot water to all the dehydrated ingredients before mixing with everything else. You should let them sit for about 30 minutes until all the water has been absorbed and the dried herbs have totally softened. From that point on you can mix and match as you wish the rest of the ingredients. This is not a purist’s chimichurri recipe but my take on it, and if you don’t mind me saying say so, it is really tasty!

 

You will need the following:

 

 

1 Cup of chopped fresh parsley 

2 Tablespoons of dried oregano                                        

2 Finely Chopped dried Ñora peppers

1 Tablespoon of crushed dried chilli flakes

1 Tablespoon of dried basil

4 or 5 Freshly peeled garlic cloves, finely minced (or put through a garlic press)

¼  Cup of red wine vinegar

½  Freshly squeezed lemon (juice only)

5 Chopped sun dried tomatoes

¼ Cup hot water

½ - ¾   Cup of mild olive oil (add to taste – if vinegar is too strong)

1 Teaspoon black pepper

1 Teaspoon sweet Paprika

 

 

 

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix and then fill a sterilized jam jar with all the mixture and let it macerate in the fridge over night before using it. It is always best after about 6-8 hours. Then just drizzle it over what ever you want! I highly recommend what is called a ‘Choripan’; a grilled chorizo sandwich with chimichurri sauce.

 

 

 

Absolutely incredible! Enjoy!



Like 2        Published at 17:24   Comments (0)


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