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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.

Whatever you call them...they're GREAT!
20 August 2019

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, where we call them 'tellinas'.

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!

 

Ingredients:

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
½ lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt
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 it's 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. 

Enjoy!



Like 1        Published at 17:32   Comments (1)


Pyrotechnic Madness
13 August 2019

If you have been to Valencia in Fallas you may think that you have seen the ultimate pyrotechnic spectacle but I can assure you, you haven’t. Some call it madness, some call it stupidity but the locals call it good fun!

On Sunday 25th August in Paterna the annual celebration of 'La Cordá' will take place. This unusual celebration takes pyrotechnic spectacles to another level.

 

This crazy “fiesta” happened by accident just as the Tomatina in Buñol did. In 1898 a group of friends were having dinner in the street and this pleasant summer evening ended up in a battle of gunpowder rockets. Paterna in those days was famous for its development of the Valencian “Traca” a long length of rockets tied together which once lit would produce a chain reaction of explosions. This battle developed into an annual event until it became what it is known today as, La Cordá.

 

For those who have no idea what I am talking about, every year in Paterna near Valencia, a cage, which is 125m long and 8m wide is built along the Calle Mayor in the village. This cage is designed to hold approximately 200 experienced “rocket throwers”. The rocket throwers are each given their position inside the cage and allocated their series of rockets to set off. Following the commands of the Master Rocket thrower, a symphony of explosions and fire start to fill the cage around the 200 participants held inside it. The act lasts for about 20 - 25 minutes and a minimum of 50,000 rockets are released at a rate of 2000 rockets a minute!

 

 

 

Last year they set off 55,000 rockets in about 20 minutes! What looks like complete anarchy is actually planned and programmed to the second. There are three types of rockets used in the cage, one that is designed to fly along the ground rebounding off the walls and the participants, others that are designed to jump into mid-air and rebound off the bodies and walls and others that are designed to fly up over their heads and fill the air with trails of fire and sparks, all are capable of taking you hand clean off!

 

 

It is an extremely dangerous event, even though the locals don’t seem to be too worried about the dangers. Imagine 55,000 rockets being let off in a cage rebounding off the walls, the ground and the ceiling and you in the middle of it! That is The Cordá! Naturally, all participants aren’t suicidal and take same precautions wearing protective clothing and facemasks that are similar to fencing helmets to avoid major injuries but every year there are injuries and last year there were “only” 21 and not serious according to the local press, no one needed to be taken to hospital. So if you happen to be near Valencia on the last Sunday of August this year, pass by Paterna and take a look at this insane spectacle!

 

 



Like 1        Published at 21:54   Comments (2)


La Tomatina is nearly here...
07 August 2019

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

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

The following year, the young people picked a fight by their own decision but this time brought the tomatoes from home. Although the police broke up the early tradition in the following years, the young boys had made history without being conscious of it. La Tomatina was banned in the early 50s, which was not a problem for the participants, even those that were arrested. But the people spoke out in defence of the Tomatina and the festivity was again allowed with more participants and a more frenetic atmosphere than ever.

The festivity was again cancelled till 1957 when, as a sign of protest, the “tomato burial” was held. It was a demonstration in which the residents carried a coffin with a huge tomato inside. A band that played funeral marches accompanied the parade and it was incredibly successful. La Tomatina Festival was finally allowed and became an official festivity. As a result of the report by Javier Basilio, broadcasted on Spanish Television Program Informe Semanal, the festivity started to become known in the rest of Spain and consequently the rest of the world, as it is probably one of the most insane festivities you will ever come across.

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

 

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

 

 

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

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



Like 0        Published at 15:02   Comments (4)


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