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Still Discovering Spain...

Here for over 25 years and I still discover new things every day...

The Exuberant Battle of Wine in Haro, La Rioja
Saturday, June 15, 2024

In the verdant region of La Rioja, Spain, a unique tradition draws visitors from across the globe. It's the Battle of Wine ("La Batalla del Vino"), a spirited festivity that transforms the historic town of Haro into a vibrant sea of purple hues and joyous celebration.



When is the Battle of Wine?
The Battle of Wine is a firmly set annual event, commemorated on June 29. The next few editions are scheduled for:

  • Saturday, June 29, 2024

  • Sunday, June 29, 2025

  • Monday, June 29, 2026

The event is not just another reason for merrymaking; it is steeped in history and cultural significance. Recognised as a Tourist Festival of National Interest in 2011, the Battle of Wine has deep roots within the local patron saint festivities of Haro, which run from June 24 to June 29. Haro nestles between Logroño and Miranda de Ebro and is famed as a capital for wine aficionados.



Its origin dates back to the sixth century with San Felices de Bilibio, a hermit and spiritual guide to San Millán. Upon his death, San Felices was buried in a cave on a site known as "Los Riscos de Bilibio," which mark the beginning of the Obarenes Mountains next to the Ebro River's entry point, at a spot dubbed "Las Conchas de Haro."

A cofradía - a brotherhood dedicated to San Felices, founded in 1655, parades the relics of both San Felices and San Millán in a procession every year on June 25.


Legend tells that a territorial conflict over "Los Riscos de Bilibio" between Miranda de Ebro and Haro gave birth to the wine battle. The Jarreros, or locals from Haro, armed with jugs or any wine-filled container, must be present at the celebration. If they fail to do so in any year, it's said that Haro would cede control of the coveted Riscos de Bilibio to Miranda de Ebro.

Celebrating the Wine Battle
The main event unfolds on the morning of June 29, to honor San Felices de Bilibio, Haro's patron saint. Following a ceremonial mass, celebrants known as Jarreros make their way towards "Los Riscos de Bilibio," approximately six kilometres from Haro. At around 8 AM, the town's Regidor, or leader, plants the flag of Haro upon the cliffs, declaring the land as Haro's strategic point.

Complying with a set of jovial yet simple rules, an exuberant battle ensues where participants aim to douse each other with wine. Participants are required to:

  • Dress in white, donning the traditional red scarf,

  • Drench their neighbours with wine as thoroughly and quickly as possible,

  • Only use approved 'weapons' like boots, bottles, jugs, sprayers, water pistols, but glass containers are strictly prohibited,

  • Maintain laughter and song throughout the Battle, with local musicians playing non-stop until the wine runs dry.

As the battle concludes, the aroma of snails and grilled chops fills the air, indicating the time for a communal meal to regain strength.



A Festival of Epic Proportions
This festival attracts around 10,000 participants annually, who gleefully use roughly 130,000 litres of wine in their epic battle for territorial pride and festivity. It's a sight to behold and an experience to treasure, epitomizing the joy and culture of the region. The Battle of Wine is a call to the world to partake in this unique celebration — a testament to tradition, community, and the universal language of joy found in a shared glass of wine.

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Discovering Spain's Three-Key Hotels: A Tour of Luxury and Design
Saturday, June 1, 2024

In the luxurious realm of hospitality marked by the prestigious MICHELIN Guide's new distinction – the MICHELIN Keys – only a select few properties boast the top tier Three-Key status in Spain. With MICHELIN Guide freshly unveiling their 2024 roster, the spotlight warmly grazes upon these exemplary establishments that showcase unparalleled hospitality, stunning architecture, and deeply ingrained cultures of comfort and elegance. The five properties awarded this accolade are paradigms of hospitality, straddling the vast and vibrant landscapes of Spain, from the historic streets of Madrid to the rolling vineyards and serene mountainsides of rural Spain.

A Beacon of Heritage: Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid

Madrid's Mandarin Oriental Ritz stands as a monument not only to luxury but also to historic preservation. Originally founded by the legendary hotelier César Ritz over a century ago and favoured by King Alfonso XIII, this Belle Époque palace continues to be a cornerstone of Madrid's high society and luxury tourism. The hotel underwent a sweeping renovation in 2021, infusing contemporary comforts into its regally designed suites and rooms. Each space whispers tales of the past while delivering state-of-the-art modernity, ensuring a distinctly plush yet homely feel. Nestled in the heart of Spain's capital, the Mandarin Oriental Ritz exemplifies how tradition and modernity can coexist beautifully, creating an ambience that is both evocative and refreshing.


Rustic Elegance Redefined: Terra Dominicata – Hotel & Winery, Escaladei

In the scenic embrace of Montsant National Park, Terra Dominicata – Hotel & Winery offers a stark contrast to Madrid's urban splendour. Originally a monastery from the 12th century, this establishment has morphed into a luxurious retreat, preserving its historical essence while embracing modern luxury. The hotel's design elegantly incorporates elements of the old world—beamed ceilings, hardwood floors, and stone walls—that coalesce with contemporary aesthetics to create a sophisticated, rustic charm. It stands today not only as a hotel but as a hallmark of the region's rich winemaking heritage, inviting guests to immerse themselves in the tranquil beauty of its surroundings and the exquisite flavours of its vineyards.


Sustainable Sophistication: Torre del Marques, Teruel

Halfway between Barcelona and Valencia, tucked away in the Matarraña region, the Torre del Marques is the epitome of sustainable luxury. This 18th-century tower has been thoughtfully transformed into an 18-room boutique hotel that blends environmental consciousness with uncompromised luxury. With an emphasis on zero-kilometer cooking and eco-friendly practices, the hotel offers a serene escape amongst olive groves and vineyards. The interiors showcase a minimalist design that highlights natural materials and textures, promoting a sense of calm and connection with the natural world.


A Blend of History and Innovation: Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine, Valladolid

Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine is a masterful conversion of a 12th-century abbey into a high-end contemporary hotel, nestled on a sprawling estate famous for its vineyards in Valladolid. Renowned architect Marco Serra has skilfully preserved the historical architecture, integrating it with modern luxurious facilities. The hotel's Michelin-starred restaurant, Refectorio, offers a gastronomic experience that complements the rich wine selection curated from its own vineyards. Guests can enjoy a holistic spa experience and bespoke tours, ensuring a stay that is as indulgent as it is culturally enriching.


Contemporary Art and Hospitality: Atrio Restaurante Hotel, Cáceres

In the ancient walled city of Cáceres in Extremadura, the Atrio Restaurante Hotel presents a unique fusion of contemporary art and avant-garde design set against a backdrop of historic architecture. The hotel is as much a destination for art enthusiasts as it is for those seeking a luxurious stay, with original artworks by Andy Warhol and Georg Baselitz adorning the premises. The minimalist design, accentuated by a monochrome palette and sleek modern furnishings, offers a canvas allowing the art pieces to take centre stage, enhancing the overall aesthetic and experience of hospitality.

The unveiling of Spain's Three-Key hotels by the MICHELIN Guide 2024 not only highlights these establishments' supreme standard of excellence in hospitality but also spotlights the diverse cultural and geographical tapestries of Spain. Each hotel, unique in its architectural and interior expressions, crafts a bespoke experience that goes beyond mere accommodation. These hotels invite guests to immerse in narratives of history, indulge in local flavours, and revel in designs that bridge time. 

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Ensaimada de Mallorca
Friday, May 24, 2024

For those yet unacquainted with the sensory pleasure that is the Ensaimada de Mallorca, you're in for a treat that goes beyond the ordinary. This traditional recipe from the Balearic gastronomy, famed not just for its sobrasada but for this exquisite pastry too, is poised to take your taste buds on a journey. For the uninitiated, the ensaimada is an emblematic pastry from Mallorca, an island known for its culinary riches. The name 'ensaimada' itself hints at its indulgence, deriving from "saïm" meaning lard, a key ingredient that promises a taste of extravagance in each spiral.



Committing time to its preparation, especially the necessary proofing period, guarantees a confection that's as rewarding to make as it is to savour. For those embarking on this culinary venture, the advice is to let the dough proof overnight and bake it in the morning, making for a breakfast so delightful, it'll become an unforgettable part of your repertoire.


The journey begins with gathering your ingredients, a crucial step to ensure the ensaimada's authentic taste and texture:

  • Strong white bread flour: 400 g

  • Fresh yeast: 15 g

  • A medium egg

  • Water: 150 g

  • Sugar: 120 g

  • A pinch of salt

  • Lard for greasing

  • Icing sugar for dusting

Method: Crafting Your Ensaimada

The Preparatory Phase

  1. Begin by slightly warming the water—this should not be too hot, just pleasantly warm to the touch. This is crucial for dissolving the yeast. In a bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water, ensuring it's fully integrated.

  2. Take a large mixing bowl and place the flour within. To this, add the yeast mixture, the beaten egg, sugar, and a pinch of salt. This marks the beginning of your dough's journey.

  3. Dedicate about fifteen minutes to kneading. This process isn't just about mixing; it's about infusing the dough with elasticity and smoothness. Continue until you achieve a silky-smooth texture.

  4. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a bowl lightly greased with oil. Now, it's time for the dough to rest and double in volume. This takes a minimum of an hour but is vital for the texture.

The Shaping

  1. Once proofed and airy, punch down the dough to release excess air, then divide it into six equal parts. It's from these parts that each unique ensaimada will begin to take shape.

  2. Roll out each portion with a rolling pin extensively. The aim is to get them as thin as possible without tearing. This is when you generously coat each rolled-out dough with lard, laying the foundation for its unique flavour.

  3. Carefully roll each sheet into a tight log. Allow it to rest; this relaxes the gluten, making it easier to shape. Stretch each log gently, then coil it into a spiral on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, ensuring there's space between the spirals to allow for expansion.

The Second Proof: An Overnight Affair

  1. Place the trays in an oven with a cup of water (the oven should be off) and leave them to proof overnight or for about ten hours. This slow fermentation is the secret behind the ensaimada's texture and depth of flavour.

  2. Preheat your oven to 200°C, and bake the ensaimadas for 10-12 minutes, or until golden. When ready, let them cool before dusting generously with icing sugar.



Serving Your Ensaimada

The true joy of ensaimada lies in its versatility—the pleasure of consuming it in its pure, unadulterated form or delighting in variants filled with 'cabello de ángel' (angel hair, a sweet pumpkin jam) before rolling, offering another layer of taste. Pairing it with a thick Spanish hot chocolate elevates the experience, creating a combination that's hard to surpass.

In conclusion, the Ensaimada de Mallorca is not just a recipe; it's a testament to the rich culinary tradition of the Balearic Islands, a celebration of simple ingredients transformed into an extraordinary delight. Whether for a special breakfast, an afternoon snack, or to celebrate a significant occasion, the ensaimada promises a moment of joy in every spiral. Its preparation, a process that involves patience and care, not only brings the flavours of Mallorca to your table but also the island's tradition of taking time to create something truly wonderful. So, why wait? Embark on this culinary adventure and let the ensaimada be a delicious testament to your baking prowess!

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Inland beaches & Pools - Spain
Saturday, May 18, 2024

With these high temperatures that we are experiencing in recent days, a quick dip is the best solution. But Inland Spain, lacking coasts, has its charms, which are boundless, but it also has idyllic and essential places to soak oneself and cope with this “inhumane” heat in the best possible way.

I invite you to get to discover those places, sometimes unknown, that deserve to be visited to freshen up, some of them located in strategic natural settings. These are lakes, lagoons, river beaches, natural pools or pools that can be found in Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Aragón, Extremadura, La Rioja, or Navarra. They are of Cours many many more, but this is a good start...

Sanabria and river beaches in Zamora

Our journey starts in Castilla y León, specifically in the province of Zamora, which has a wide range of places to swim, with the Sanabria Lake. But also in Puebla de Sanabria we find the area of ​​"La Chopera" or in Trefacio "La Corneira".



Two river beaches sheltered by reservoirs are found in Cional and Villadeciervos, and the Ricobayo river beach in Zamora is also worth mentioning, or in the capital itself, the “Los Pelambres” recreational area, on the banks of the Duero River.


More in Castile and Leon

If we go through the provinces and start with Ávila, the Charco del Risquillo natural pool deserves to be included, in the heart of the Tiétar Valley, without forgetting the Navaluenga Natural Pools. In León, we are also left with another natural pool, that of Vega de Espinaredasta, one of the largest in the Bierzo region. But we cannot forget the beaches of Balboa or La Ribera de Folgoso or other natural pools in Cacabelos, Llamas de la Ribera or Villafranca del Bierzo. While in Palencia, the Ruesga reservoir is well worth a good swim. On to Segovia, it is worth visiting the Fuente de la Salud in Sepúlveda while in Soria the Pita Beach is the bathing area par excellence in the province.



The Rioja

In the middle of the González Lacasa reservoir, the Club Náutico El Rasillo awaits us, the only place authorized to bathe in Riojan lands. But there are also natural pools, such as the Iregua Park, where you can enjoy the crystal clear and cold waters of the river.




River pool of Uztárroz

There are also no beaches in this Autonomous Community, but there are several river areas where you can cool off. One of them is the Urederra River, as it passes through Zudaire and Artavia. Some small pools with cold water. Another point of interest is found in the Alloz reservoir, a privileged place for both fishing and water sports. In Beriáin we come across the Morea raft. And one last recommendation: the Uztárroz river pool, with fresh waters that do not exceed 17 degrees in temperature.



Castilla la Mancha

The Castilian La Mancha community has more than thirty authorized bathing areas, exactly 35. There are several options for bathing here, from the Alarcón Reservoir, passing through the Bolarque Lake in Almonacid de Zorita in Guadalajara, which is joined by the La Toba reservoir (Cuenca) or the Entrepeñas reservoir. But the most famous is found in the Lagunas de Ruidera, especially the pool in Laguna Colgada better known as "Plaza Toros", without forgetting the natural pool of Las Chorreras.





The natural spaces in the Aragonese community are varied, starting with the Pyrenees of Huesca, which gives the visitor unexpected dreamlike landscapes. And if they also allow a refreshing dip, what more could you ask for? We begin our journey through Huesca, through one of the most popular areas, Salto de Bierge, located in the Sierra y Cañones de Guara Natural Park. Another option is the Búbal Reservoir, over which a zip line, not suitable for the faint of heart, flies over.



In Zaragoza we find two well pools in Los Chorros in Belchite and El Pígalo in Luesa. Another natural pool is that of Peña del Cuervo, near the capital. And in Teruel, there are three ideal places, the Bergantes river pool, the Valbona reservoir and the Pesquera pools in Beceite.



The Community of Extremadura does not have a coast either, but it does have idyllic places to get lost and river beaches and pools of ten. One of them is found in the Valle del Jerte, in the so-called Garganta de Los Infiernos, with numerous pools. Other nearby places are the Natural Pool of Carreciá in Acebo or those of La Codosera. If we want a beach, Entrerríos between the Zújar and Guadiana rivers has a beach to spend a great day with the family.


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How to Make Homemade Churros: A Step-by-Step Guide
Saturday, May 4, 2024

Churros have become a cultural icon across Spain, a sweet treat savoured from north to south, perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack, served with hot chocolate or coffee. This delightful and simple dish, rooted in Spain and dating back to the Morisco era, is not only easy to make but is deeply ingrained in Spanish gastronomy. The recipe itself is straightforward, relying on a dough made from flour, water, and salt, fried to perfection and often sprinkled with sugar just before serving. The beauty of churros lies not only in their taste but in the cultural significance and the warmth they bring to the table.


While the recipe has remained largely unchanged over time, regional variations abound, from the shapes to the fillings like chocolate ganache, custard, or dulce de leche. In this guide, we'll reveal how to create this delightful snack at home.

Ingredients for Making Churros:

  • 250g all-purpose flour (bread flour can also be used)

  • 250g water

  • 1 teaspoon of salt (roughly 8 grams)

  • Sugar to sprinkle

  • Mild olive oil or sunflower oil for frying

  • Kitchen paper towel

  • A manual churrera or a piping bag with a fine nozzle

Step 1: Preparing the Churro Dough



Firstly, place the flour into a large mixing bowl. Next, heat water with salt in a saucepan. Once the water begins to boil, pour it directly and quickly onto the flour. Using a wooden spoon, integrate the water with the flour until you obtain a very sticky and fairly compact dough.

A vital step in the churro-making process is transferring this dough into a churrera or a piping bag. This is crucial for a successful outcome, as it helps compact the dough and eliminate air, which is key to preventing the churros from bursting during frying.

If you don't have a churrera, a piping bag with a star-shaped nozzle will suffice, though the results may vary slightly. Disposable plastic piping bags can typically be found in speciality bakeware shops or online.


Step 2: Moulding and Resting the Raw Churros

Portion out the churro dough on a clean kitchen towel or baking paper laid out on your counter. This cooling period allows the dough to become manageable and reduces the likelihood of splitting or explosions when frying.

Step 3: Frying the Churros to Perfection

Heat a generous amount of mild olive or sunflower oil in a frying pan. The oil temperature should ideally measure between 195°C and 200°C for churros (or 230°C for 'porras', a thicker variant of churros) before introducing the dough for frying.

Cook over medium heat to ensure that the churros are thoroughly cooked inside without burning on the outside. If using a piping bag, exercise extra caution to avoid splattering since the dough might be more prone to form air bubbles than with a churrera.

Once fried, transfer the churros onto kitchen paper to drain the excess oil. Serve them warm, sprinkled with granulated or powdered sugar, and indulge in this classic Spanish delight.

Tips for Exquisite Churros

  • Churros should be crispy yet not oily.

  • Involving the family, especially children, in making churros adds to the enjoyment, and they taste great with hot chocolate.

  • If you have leftovers, freeze the uncooked churros as you would with croquettes. Lay them out separately on a tray to prevent sticking. Once frozen solid, they can be stored in bags and fried straight from the freezer.

  • Porras differ in that they may contain yeast and are rested before frying.

Churro Expert Advice:

Expert churro makers advise using strong bread flour (harina de fuerza) and emphasise the importance of a good quality churrera. The mouthpiece of the churrera should create well-defined grooves in the dough, as those from lower-quality churreras may not produce the ideal texture and may affect the frying process.

Whipping up homemade churros is both an art and a tradition. With this step-by-step guide and some personal touches, you can bring the joy of this beloved Spanish treat into your home to share with family and friends. Whether for a leisurely Sunday brunch, a festive gathering, or just because, homemade churros promise to be a crowd-pleaser that brings a taste of Spain to your table!

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Exploring the Delightful Differences: Spanish Morcilla vs Scottish Black Pudding
Friday, April 19, 2024

During a recent gastronomic trip in Scotland, as I savoured each bite of a full Scottish breakfast complete with crispy tattie scones, haggis and rich, flavoursome black pudding, my mind travelled back to the warm, fragrant kitchens of Spain where morcilla – another variety of blood pudding – is a staple in many regional cuisines. Each, with its unique preparation and ingredients, offers a glimpse into the culinary traditions that have been cherished and nurtured through centuries.



The Origins and Cultural Significance

Scottish Black Pudding

To uncover the heritage of Scottish black pudding, one must venture to the rugged landscapes of Scotland where this dish holds a place of pride. Thought to have been made by the Celts, this traditional food was a pragmatic way of utilizing every part of the butchered animal. The Scots, known for their thrifty use of ingredients, found that mixing blood with oats and fat could result in a nourishing food source that helped them through the harsh winters.

Not just a breakfast component, in places like Stornoway, black pudding has achieved Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status, affirming its cultural and historical importance to its place of origin.


Spanish Morcilla

Across the seas in Spain, morcilla speaks volumes about the diversity of Spanish cuisine. Dating back to the times when the Moors occupied Spain, the variations found across the regions – from Burgos to Andalucía and beyond – underscore the local adaptations and the influence of various cultural dominances over time. In Spain, blood sausages like morcilla were also an ingenious solution to the same problem – using all parts of butchered animals. Morcilla, typically seasoned with onions, rice, or sweet spices, varies not just in flavour but in the philosophy of preparation from region to region.


Ingredients and Preparation

Crafting Scottish Black Pudding

The primary components of Scottish black pudding are pig's blood, oatmeal, and fat, seasoned with spices such as salt and pepper. The mixture is often stuffed into a casing – traditionally the cleaned intestines of an animal, though nowadays synthetic options are common – and then boiled until it solidifies. The inclusion of oatmeal, a staple in Scotland due to its robustness in the cool, damp Scottish climate, not only thickens the pudding but provides a distinctive texture that is heartier compared to its European cousins.


Creating Spanish Morcilla

Spanish morcilla might also begin with pork blood, but its secondary ingredients provide the regional flavours that define each type. In Burgos, for example, it is customary to add rice, onions, and sometimes sweet spices like cinnamon or clove, creating a different texture and flavour profile from its Scottish counterpart. Other variations might include almonds, pine nuts, or even orange zest, each contributing to a unique tasting experience. The meticulous preparation and regional ingredient choices such as the use of local onions or specific rice types, cooked in a style befitting its area, highlight the diverse culinary landscape of Spain.

Culinary Uses

From Breakfast to Supper: Scottish Black Pudding

In Scotland, black pudding is traditionally served as part of a hearty breakfast. However, its uses in modern Scottish cuisine have expanded. Chefs are now incorporating black pudding into everything from sophisticated starters to main dishes. It can be crumbled over salads, baked into pies, or even served alongside scallops, demonstrating its versatility.

A Spanish Staple: Morcilla

In Spain, morcilla is similarly versatile. It can be found in stews and casseroles, adding depth and flavour. It is often served fried or grilled as a tapa, with pieces of it cooked until crispy on the outside but still tender inside. In some regions, it's even used as a stuffing in other meats, blending seamlessly with local ingredients to create dishes that are hearty yet distinctively Spanish.

Nutritional Content and Health Considerations

While both black puddings are rich in iron and protein, thanks to their blood content, they are also high in fat and cholesterol. However, the Scottish version, with its significant oat content, offers the added benefit of fibre, which helps in digestion and sustained energy release – essential for the physically demanding lifestyles of its original consumers.

A Tale of Two Puddings

Whether it's the oat-laden, hearty Scottish black pudding or the richly diverse Spanish morcilla, each tells a story of survival, culinary ingenuity, and cultural significance. Tasting them not only offers an insight into the gastronomic histories of Scotland and Spain but also showcases how regional ingredients and traditional methods can craft products that, while similar in concept, are distinctly unique in experience.

My reminiscing about morcilla while eating black pudding in Scotland was more than just a culinary comparison – it was a reflection on how food brings us closer to our roots while letting us appreciate the wider world's flavours. And perhaps, that's the most delicious discovery of all.

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The House of Mercy
Friday, March 29, 2024

Hiding inconspicuously in the heart of El Raval (Barcelona) is a small wooden inlet that was once attached to the House of Mercy. Although it looks like ornamentation, or a small shrine of sorts, the inlet was in fact a rotating wooden, turntable used to anonymously drop off donations for the church, including unwanted infants.



Originally founded in the late 16th century, the building at 17 Ramelleres became an orphanage in the 19th century. Like many other orphanages and convents at the time, a main feature of the building was its wooden turntable, which allowed the destitute to place their babies on it and anonymously spin them into the arms of a staff member inside the home.

Active from 1853-1931, the turntable saw hundreds of babies come through its portal into the orphanage. Other donations were occasionally dropped off including money and groceries, but mostly, babies were left by parents that did not or could not take care of them. Today, a small wooden inlet is the only remnant of Barcelona's walk-up orphanage and baby drop-off. 


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Spain's Most Dangerous Spider : A Closer Look
Friday, March 15, 2024

While beautiful and richly diverse, Spain's fauna presents some urgent warnings to the unassuming tourist and luscious nature lover. Among them, the dizzying world of arachnids, specifically a dwelling danger lurking in the form of Spain's most dangerous spider. We delve into the life of the Mediterranean Black Widow spider, known scientifically as Latrodectus Tredecimguttatus. Let's take a look at the spider's habitat and its identifying characteristics, venom potency and the criticality of an antidote.


Habitat – The Mediterranean Underworld

The Mediterranean Black Widow is predominantly found in the Mediterranean Region of Spain, naturally. Their fondness for warm climates leads them to inhabit vineyards, forests, and rural dwellings such as barns, sheds, and stone walls. Wherever you are, always remember to approach unfamiliar areas with caution!

These spiders are not keen on confrontation and prefer to stay hidden, keeping to the shadowy nooks and crevices. However, their elusive nature doesn't undermine their potential threat. So, let's delve into how to recognise this silent predator.

Recognising the Danger

Identifying the Mediterranean Black Widow can be unnerving, but it’s essential for your safety. Typically, these spiders embody a glossy, black exterior adorned with thirteen red or occasionally yellow spots on the dorsal side of the abdomen, hence the name "Tredecimguttatus" (Latin for thirteen-spotted).

Female spiders are significantly larger than males, reaching sizes up to 1.5cm while males stand smaller at 0.5cm. The females' size is not just to assert dominance, but it also houses a more potent venom. However, both genders pose critical risks to humans, especially children, the elderly, and those with allergies.

An additional identifier is their web. Characteristically messy and unstructured, the web serves as a functional trap rather than a display of arachnid artistry. So, if you stumble upon such a web, keep your distance, and be vigilant!

Potency of Venom 

It isn't their menacing appearance that awards these spiders their dangerous reputation, but rather the potency of their venom.

A Mediterranean Black Widow’s venom is fifteen times more potent than a rattlesnake's, gramme for gramme. This deadly cocktail is a neurotoxic toxin, causing severe muscle pain, cramps, abdominal pain, tachycardia, and, in rare cases, seizures. The venom is quite dangerous because, rather ironically, it is a painless bite, often leaving victims unaware until the symptoms start showing up—a silent bullet, if you will.

The persistent pain and discomfort, known as Latrodectism, can last from a few days to weeks. This lethargic aftermath often results in hospital stays. However, contrary to popular belief, the spiders aren’t aggressively venomous; they only bite in self-defence when provoked or threatened.

Nevertheless, should you ever be bitten, it is essential to seek medical attention promptly due to the venom's potency.

The Antidote – A Race Against Time

Addressing the bite immediately is critical, especially if severe symptoms start to manifest. Most Mediterranean Black Widow bites are manageable with general pain relief and muscle relaxants. These are mainly to control the pain and cramping caused by venomous toxins.

However, for high-risk individuals or severe bites, an antivenom is available for use, known as the Black Widow Spider Antivenin. This antivenin can nullify the effects of the venom, leading to a rapid improvement of symptoms.

Yet, acquiring the antivenom can be challenging due to its limited manufacturing following adverse reactions reported in rare instances. Therefore, the use of antivenom is generally reserved for severe and life-threatening cases. Hydration and rest, accompanied by medications, usually carry the patient through the worst of it.




While the Mediterranean Black Widow keeps to itself, it surely isn't a spider to be taken lightly. Understanding its habitat, identifying the spider securely, recognising the threat of its venom and knowing the importance of prompt action with the antidote - all work towards securing your safety in your next Spanish venture.

Let’s remember, all creatures, dangerous or not, have as much right to live as we do. Practice caution, enjoy the astounding beauty of Spain, and remember, a spider is more afraid of you than you are of it! So, let's respect their space and stay safe.

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Savouring the Delights of Spanish Empanadas
Thursday, February 29, 2024

Venturing into the world of Spanish cuisine brings us face to face with its tapestry of flavours, textures, and colours that speak volumes of its rich cultural heritage. Among the plethora of Spanish delicacies, the empanada stands out as a dish that captures the essence of Spanish culinary tradition with its simplicity, versatility, and sheer deliciousness. The empanada, with its origins going as far back as the Egyptians and Greeks 1600 BC, is essentially a stuffed bread or pastry baked or fried, with a plethora of fillings ranging from meats to vegetables, and even sweet concoctions for those with a penchant for desserts. The word "empanada" stems from the Spanish verb "empanar", meaning to wrap or coat in bread, which eloquently hints at the preparation process of these delightful turnovers.



The Ingredients 

Creating Spanish empanadas can be a therapeutic process, allowing for personal creativity within the bounds of traditional recipes. Here, we share a classic recipe which serves as a foundation upon which you can build and modify to cater to your palate.

Ingredients for the Dough:

  • 500g plain flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 120ml water (you might need a bit more, depending on the flour)

  • 120ml olive oil or melted butter for a richer dough

  • 1 egg, for the egg wash

Ingredients for a Traditional Tuna Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

  • 1 red bell pepper, diced

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 tomato, peeled and diced

  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika

  • 200g canned tuna, drained

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Chopped parsley, a handful for freshness

Feel free to adjust the quantity of the filling based on your preference or to explore other fillings.

Preparation Instructions:

  1. Making the Dough:

    • In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt.

    • Gradually add the water and olive oil/butter, mixing until a soft dough forms. If the dough seems dry, add a little more water.

    • Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth. Let it rest covered for about 30 minutes.

  2. Preparing the Filling:

    • Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Sauté the onions and red bell pepper until soft.

    • Add the garlic, stirring until fragrant, then incorporate the diced tomato and paprika. Cook until the tomato breaks down.

    • Stir in the tuna, and hard-boiled eggs, season with salt, pepper, and add the parsley. Combine well and set aside to cool.

  3. Assembling the Empanadas:

    • Preheat your oven to 200°C.

    • Roll out the dough to about 2mm thick on a floured surface. Using a round cutter or a small bowl, cut out circles.

    • Place a spoonful of the filling in the centre of each dough circle.

    • Fold the dough over the filling to create a half-moon shape, pressing the edges together. Use a fork to crimp and seal the edges.

    • Place the empanadas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush them with a beaten egg for a golden finish.

  4. Baking:

    • Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden and crisp.

Let them cool slightly before serving. These empanadas are delicious warm or at room temperature, making them perfect for gatherings or a tapas-style meal.



Popular Fillings:

While the tuna filling is traditional and widely enjoyed, empanadas are celebrated for their versatility. Here are some popular variations:

  • Pork and Pepper: Pork mince cooked with a mix of spices and bell peppers, offering a succulent filling with a bit of a kick.

  • Chicken and Chorizo: A hearty combination where the smoky flavour of chorizo complements the tender chicken pieces.

  • Spinach and Cheese: Ideal for vegetarians, this combination of wilted spinach with tangy cheese like feta or goat cheese is both refreshing and satisfying.

  • Ratatouille: A delightful veggie option filled with the goodness of zucchini, eggplant, and capsicum, simmered with tomatoes and herbs.

  • Apple or Peach: Empanadas need not be savoury! A sweet filling of cinnamon-spiced apples or peaches can turn them into a delectable dessert.

Whether you stick to the traditional fillings or embark on a quest to find your unique combination, the process is as rewarding as the taste.

Their versatility makes empanadas a perfect dish for any occasion, from casual get-togethers to festive celebrations. Plus, experimenting with different fillings and dough types (including gluten-free options) can cater to a wide array of dietary preferences, making sure no one misses out on the joy of a freshly baked empanada So, roll up your sleeves and get kneading!

Like 1        Published at 7:06 PM   Comments (1)

Spain's Most Dangerous Snake: A Closer Look
Saturday, February 24, 2024

Spain, with its rich biodiversity and variegated landscapes, is home to a variety of snake species, yet none inspires as much caution and respect as the Seoane's viper (Vipera seoanei). This serpent, albeit not large, packs a significant punch with its potent venom, making it Spain's most dangerous snake. Here, we delve into the characteristics of the Seoane's viper, including size, the speed at which its venom acts, available antidotes, habitats, and identification tips, to better acquaint you with this fascinating yet formidable reptile.



The Seoane's viper, while not the largest snake you might encounter in Spain, has a notable size for a viper. Adults generally reach lengths between 50 and 70 centimetres, with exceptional individuals stretching up to 80 centimetres long. This size enables the viper to prey on a range of animals, including small mammals, birds, and amphibians.

One of the reasons the Seoane's viper is considered so dangerous is the efficacy of its venom. The venom of this snake is haemotoxic, affecting the blood and tissues of the victim. Symptoms of a bite can include immediate pain, swelling, and discolouration at the bite site, followed by nausea, vomiting, and in severe cases, haemorrhaging and necrosis around the wound.

The speed at which the venom acts can vary depending on a number of factors, including the amount of venom injected, the location of the bite, and the victim's size and health. Generally, symptoms can manifest quickly, within minutes of the bite, necessitating prompt medical attention.

Fortunately, fatalities from Seoane's viper bites are rare, thanks partly to the availability of effective antivenoms. It is crucial for anyone bitten by a Seoane's viper to seek immediate medical help. In hospital settings, doctors can administer antivenom to neutralise the effects of the venom. The sooner the antivenom is given, the greater the chances of a full recovery, highlighting the importance of swift action in the event of a bite.



Seoane's vipers are predominantly found in the northern regions of Spain, favouring cool, moist habitats. They are adaptable and can be encountered in a variety of environments, including woodlands, meadows, and even semi-urban areas where their natural habitats intersect with human habitation. Their preference for such areas means that encounters with humans, while still relatively rare, can and do occur, especially in rural locales.

Identifying a Seoane's viper and distinguishing it from other snakes in Spain is vital to avoiding unwelcome encounters. Key characteristics include:

  • Colouring and Pattern: Their colouration varies from grey to reddish-brown, with a distinct zigzag pattern running down the length of their back. This pattern can be useful in distinguishing them from other, non-venomous snakes.

  • Head Shape: Like other vipers, Seoane's vipers have a distinctive triangular head shape, with a short, stubby nose. Their eyes have vertical slit pupils.

  • Size: Considering their moderate size, any large snake encountered is unlikely to be a Seoane's viper.


While the Seoane's viper is indeed Spain's most dangerous snake, encounters leading to bites are uncommon. To minimise risks, it is advisable to:

  • Remain vigilant while walking in their habitats, especially during warmer months when snakes are more active.

  • Avoid reaching into areas where visibility is limited, such as dense underbrush or piles of rocks and leaves.

  • Wear protective clothing, such as long trousers and boots, when moving through areas known for viper presence.

The Seoane's viper, with its distinctive appearance, potent venom, and specific habitat preferences, stands out as Spain's most dangerous snake. Armed with knowledge about this species, including how to identify it, the symptoms of its bite, and the immediate steps to take if bitten, individuals can better navigate Spain's natural landscapes with confidence and safety. Remember, respect for this snake and its environment is key to coexisting peacefully with one of Spain's most remarkable wild inhabitants

Like 2        Published at 9:19 AM   Comments (2)

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