Monday, 18 April 2011

Round trip walk Barrio Sanfranscisco- Virgen de la Cabeza- Barrio San franscisco

Its been a while since I did a walk, but yesterday it was another beautiful sunny day here, and since we had visitors we decided to take them on a longish ( 2 hour) walk just outside Ronda, taking in the Hermita de la Virgen de la Cabeza and the fertile valley that lies infront of the gorge itself. With wonderful views of Ronda from below, the surrounding hillsides and ancient olive groves its a gentle walk that is mostly off road.

The walk starts at the Barrio Sanfranscisco; if you have the city walls behind you and the square infront, take the right hand road that leads out of town. Keep on this road for about 500 meters and then at the second mini roundabout theres a sign indicating right for the Virgen de la Cabeza. Keep right and follow this gravel track through ancient olive groves that are dotted with a myriad of wild flowers for about 2 kms. The views of Ronda to the right and the surrounding mountains are really spectacular. Once you get to the head of the track that leads down on the right to the Virgen de la Cabeza itself, there is a clearing on the left and a large gate. Just to the left of the gate is a small opening in the fence go through and follow the path that leads downwards, there is a stone wall to the right which you follow all the way down heading into woodland. Once at the bottom it levels out and there is a little clearing, where you need to turn right down a smaller path that leads you through ancient Encina forests (evergreen oaks), the forest floor was full of cistroses in pale pink and white. This path continues for about 500 meters until you reach a gate, go through the gate and follow the path through two fincas on either side. After about another 500 meters you will come to a wider track, here you have to turn right and keep following this track back up the hill through the fertile valley infront of the gorge, which is on your left. The views of Ronda from here are really spectacular and the sides of the path were full of wild flowers, wild gladioli, daisies, periwinkle, and poppies. Eventually you will come back up to the old walls of the city, turn right up hill at the horse riding stables and continue up for about 200 meters until you come back to where you started from.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Grazalema's historic flour mill is back in business.

Grazalema is known for being one of the wettest areas in Spain, and one of the most popular walking destinations here in Andalucia. Frequented by Spaniards and foreigners alike the picturesque village is the gateway to a Pinsapo reserve, a Spanish Fir, that has survived evolutionary changes since the tertiary period.

Since the 17th century Grazalema became famous for its textiles, making blankets and woolen clothing. Below the village the valley known as “La Ribera” was an area with many water powered mills processing wool for the textile industry. There were also other water powered mills that ground wheat and the other main crop of the area Olives for Olive oil. However since the onset of the industrial revolution many of these mills were abandoned and left in ruins. The good news is that one of these mills has been lovingly restored and installed in the Tourist Information Centre of Grazalema and is now back at work milling wheat that is now being used by the local bakers to produce a true stoneground, wholewheat bread. The flour can also be bought directly from the Tourist Centre and makes great bread. Clive and Sue Muir, an English couple that run the centre and are responsible for getting the project off the ground believe wholeheartedly that local is best, and aim to produce flour for the entire surrounding area, using locally grown wheat, cutting down on transport costs and therefore making the whole process more sustainable. So if you are interested in seeing how a traditional mill works you can actually see it in action at the Tourist Centre, and go home with a bag of wonderful stoneground flour for only 1.25euros a kilo.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Rose Geranium and Grapefruit soap

Well Spring is really here now-the temperatures are soaring and it feels more like the beginning of Summer than the start of Spring. Here in Ronda, which is a little later to warm up than the coastal areas, the gardens are beginning to bloom and the heady scents of Jasmine perfume the warm night air. The roses have their first big blooms of Spring and I felt it was time to create a new soap that combines the floral scents of roses with the sharper tang of grapefruit. Using the locally pressed fresh olive oil I added a touch of rosehip oil and scattered the mix with ground rosehips. A generous amount of rose geranium oil, and a hint of grapefruit gives this soap a wonderful flowery, quite heady aroma toned alittle by a gentle sharpness from the grapefruit. Geranium oil is a staple in the cosmetic world being a fantastic skin care oil, particularly for more mature skin types. Its regenerative and moisturising properties are well documented and it also has an uplifting effect on the psyche making it an effective aid against many of the hormonal effects of menopause and also depression in general. Topped with deep pink rose petals it looks and smells gorgeous- so if youre looking for a pick me up this is the handmade soap for you.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Recipe - Andalucian Lemon Meringue Pie


200gms flour
100gms butter
3 lemons
3 eggs
200gms sugar
60gms butter
300mils water
40gms cornflower.

Lemon meringue pie has always been one of my favorite desserts- the combination of the tangy lemon pudding with the sweet airiness of meringue and the crunchy pastry is just sublime.

At the moment there's an abundance of eggs - well its Springtime after all, and there's still a glut of lemons, so I thought that this pie was a great way to turn them into something mouthwateringly delicious.

It looks a bit daunting at first, but actually its quite easy to make. First make the pastry- sift the flour and add a pinch of salt, cut the butter into small cubes and add to the pastry, lightly crumb the butter into the flour and once its all been incorporated add two tablespoons of cold water, mixing lightly to create a homogenous pastry. Line the tin with the pastry and bake blind for about 15 minutes at 200 degrees celcius.

Once the pastry comes out of the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 180 degrees celcius and start to make the lemon filling. To do this put the juice and grated lemon rind of 3 lemons into a double boiler, add 40gms cornflower and whisk until it makes a smooth paste. Then add 300 mil water to this mixing well all the time, bring to the boil and it will thicken slowly. Once thick add 60gms butter, 80gms sugar and the yolks of 3 eggs mix thoroughly and then fill the pie base with it.

Next take the 3 egg whites and whisk till they form stiff peaks, gently fold in 120gms of sugar and top the pie with it. Bake in the oven till its golden brown. Leave to cool and then eat with some single cream or just on its own.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Best Churros in Ronda

Churros are one of the things that alongside the ubiquitous Paella seems to stick in ones mind about eating out in Spain. Now they are to be found all over the world, even at Glastonbury festival, but its Spain where they're done to perfection. It wasnt till I went to Granada one weekend that I realised that churros are actually made differently in each town. In Ronda they're made extra light and airey and fried in big rings, but in Granada I was severely dissappointed as they were considerably doughier and not at all like the crispy delights I was used to. So where is the best place to get ones churros in Ronda?- well Rondenans favorite is definately, La Ponderosa which is infront of the bus station and has a large patio outside. In the mornings, but particularly on weekends you will see hordes of young Rondenos after a heavy night out soaking up their alcohol indulgence at this very churreria. The churros are 1.20 euros per person - unfortunately I have had some feedback from a couple of tourists that read this piece and then went to La Ponderosa for their recommended churros, only to be charged 2 euros a person. When I could I went up to La Ponderosa to check this with a Dutch friend and sure enough they charged him 2 euros per churros per person. Unfortunately the real price is 1.20 but as so often and sadly is the case here in Ronda tourists are charged more. So although these are the best churros in Ronda by far youll probably have to pay extra for the privelege. I have to say that I wont be going there again as its a practise I despise but unfortunately it occurs even in high street shops. The staff are incredibly quick, so within a few minutes you're served with a big round of churros and chocolate, the traditional drink - which is more like a pudding-into which to dip the churros. If you like them extra sweet they can also be generously dusted with sugar. They really do do the trick if youre feeling a little worse for wear! For many from the surrounding pueblos this is a must have when they get to Ronda, getting into town before the shops open at ten, means breakfast is something of a tradition and many choose churros over toast as its often not available in the small white villages that dot the serrania. So if youre looking for great churros - head up to the bus station, only a 5 minute walk from the main shopping street and you wont be dissappointed.