Saturday, 20 August 2011

Ajo Blanco- chilled almond and garlic soup

Ajo Blanco is a traditional Andalusian dish that dates back to the time of the Moorish occupation of the region. Its beautiful delicate flavour makes it a favorite in the hot summer months, which at the moment with temperatures soaring means its well worth the effort. It's actually a decidedly simple recipe, that makes use of ingredients grown in abundance in the area. Almonds are harvested mostly at the end of June and into the months of July, the garlic aswell. A good quality olive oil is a must so choose an organic variety or if you live here in Spain a Verdial- fruity and sweet that compliments the sharpness of the garlic. This is a soup that can be served with strips of fine cut Jamon Serrano, cubes of cold rock melon or the traditional Moscatel grape thats coming into season right about now.


100gms almonds in their skins
150gms dense white bread or pan de pueblo
2 cloves of garlic
100 mils extra virgin olive oil
30 mils white wine vinegar
1 litre of cold spring water

Firstly soak the bread in water until softened squeeze out the excess water and set aside.

Put a pan of water on to boil, and pass the almonds for a few minutes in the water, let them cool and then pop them out of their skins.

In a pestle and mortar or in a blender mix the almonds and garlic with a little salt and then add the softened bread until you get a smooth paste.

Slowly add the olive oil, and then the vinegar, finally add the cold water. Adjust the seasoning to taste and put in the fridge to chill fully.

Apart from serving the soup with the aforementioned garnishes you can also top with a little peppermint or drizzle some extra olive oil over the top.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Book Sale- any book 1 euro

Ok everyone, am doing a clearout of all my books, so theres around 200 books available at the reasonable price of 1 euro each at my shop in Ronda, Calle Sevilla 23. So next time you come up this way come and have a look theres more than likely something you havent read yet! The titles range from Vikram Seth to Rudyard Kipling, Isaac Asimov to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Biographies, to reference books, some poetry and quirky modern fiction.

Like alot of people out there I tend to horde books and cant bear to give them away, but with over 1000 books Ive decided to be a little ruthless and cull the ever growing mountain.

So they are all available for perusal, during opening hours- and the proceeds will be going to a good cause!

Andalucia Soap Company Calle Sevilla 23 Ronda 29400 Tel:952 87 22 42 for more information.

Thanks, Sara

Thursday, 11 August 2011

London riots - surprising? not really.

Like most people Ive been following the coverage of the riots in London, with mixed feelings of shock and a sad sense of inevitability . Originally from London myself, and knowing some of the affected areas well, it sadly doesnt really come as much surprise. It's clear to most people that we live in a society that promotes above all consumerism, it's what our society thrives on and were all taught to want, and want with abandon.

We all know that corruption in the government, police force and media is rampant, and we're expected to accept that they will mostly get away with it. The divide in our society between those that have and those that most definately don't widens with the wealth and privelege destined for an ever increasing smaller minority. It's difficult to see how the have-nots in our society can be expected to behave in a law abiding way when our leaders, banks, and media show us its perfectly acceptable to behave in another. It's not that surprising then to see people taking when the opportunity arises. Reading the coverage of the recent riots, it seems that alot of the looters, are just taking advantage of a situation- if you passed an open, defenceless shop loaded with goods would you be able to resist taking something away with you-especially if theres no comeback? Honestly?

The economic situation that's been going on now since 2008 has squeezed everyone to the point where there's literally no room to manoevre, here in Spain it's no different. We all know that the initial incident of the shooting of Mark Duggan isnt the reason why theres mass rioting all over the Uk and the underlying causes are the same here and in most of Europe. However here the people decided to confront the system in a different way. They occupied the town squares all over Spain, demanding an end to the corruption, and solutions to the economic inequality that leaves many living below the poverty line. They set up discussion groups to talk about the way theyd like the society to be, how the government should tackle the economy, social problems etc etc and these proposals have been formed into a political manifesto. As in the Uk they also used social networking sites to organise themselves around the country. They camped in the Squares for months, peacefully protesting and gaining support from the general public. In England the unemployment rate is 8% but here it's over 20% and higher in certain areas, with the young badly affected. There's a real sense of desperation and helplessness, and very little and in many cases no government assistence, but there's no looting, violence or disorder,as yet.

When the trouble dies down, England will be saddled with a huge clean-up, countless millions of damages, both to private and public property and worse a sense of distrust between neighbours, and a badly damaged reputation abroad. Fear will probably end up being the prevailing emotion of most ordinary citizens. We rely on a sense of order and mutual respect inorder to live in large cities or anywhere for that matter, and its clear that the police cant control large numbers of incidents all over the country- where does that leave the ordinary person? England will have to rethink its view of itself, and changes will have to be made. Unfortunately, the violence and destruction doesnt draw sympathy to the symptoms that caused the outbreak, and hopefully they wont be overlooked in the aftermath as a result. Comparing the situation with what went on over here, peaceful protest might be slower to take effect but you only have to look at what Ghandi achieved to see that its more productive in the long run.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Ronda - Ayuntamiento in the red to the tune of 30 million euros

Ronda residents are waking up today to the stark facts that have been laid bare in a letter from the new Mayor,Mari Paz Fernandez that itemises the details of the nearly 30 million euro debt that the new leaders of the Ayuntamiento ( town council) have inherited from their predecessors. It makes sober reading and lays out various measures that will be put in place to minimize future expenses and try to pull Ronda out of the mire.

This is the itemised list of the debt owing:

Banks 15.320.946,61
Providers 10.767.927,91
Social Security 569.158,68
Junta Andalucia 328.391,77
Private Business 1.920.000,00
Unpaid Bills 593.898,18

Total 29.500.323,15

As a result various providers are refusing to supply materials to the council, such as cleaning equipment, office materials, maintenance work, as there are still bills owed from as far back as 2009.

On top of this there is no cash flow to pay the salaries of the various workers in the council.

In face of this massive economic fiasco, the new leadership are proposing a list of measures to reduce future spending these include:

1.A reduction in the amount of advisors to the council by half, and a reduction in the remaining advisors salaries.

2.Suspension of the offical car- only to be used on offical business out of town.

3.Reduction of the Mayor's own salary.

4.The revision of the contracts for the local municipal newspaper and television network.

5. A centralized system for the buying of future materials for the council to reduce the problem of expensive and unnecessary expenses.

6.A restructuring of the municipal platform to improve the efficiency of the funcionaries.

7.A promise to pay providers according to the law as quickly as possible.

This seems to me all very well, but what happens about the actual 30 million euro debt? If town services are to be cut back, which seems to me to be the next logical step in the plan of action, as the Ayuntamiento is one of the main employers in the town there will be more and more people out of work, not paying into the social security system etc etc. Unfortunately this sorry situation is being played out across the country, and although Spain is already on the verge of collapse, I fear the worst is probably yet to come.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Horchata de Chufa- a refreshing summer drink.

I've lived in Spain for nearly 20 years, but last year was the first time I tried the drink Horchata de Chufa, mainly because I've never been a milk drinker, so was put off the idea as when I'd seen it served in bars as it looks just like milk. I was quite surprised by the taste- it has a slightly earthy quality to it and it was pretty refreshing aswell, served ice cold on a hot summers day. At the time I didn't know anything about what it was made from or how it was made and was surprised to find out that it was made from Tiger nuts or Chufas as they're known here which aren't actually nuts at all but a small tuber. Spain and more specifically an area of 8 square kilometers known as Alboraia in the province of Valencia is the only place in Europe where the Tiger nuts are grown, as they need a very particular climate for optimum cultivation. Originally from Egypt, (tiger nuts have been found buried with the Pharoes in vases), the Arabs introduced their cultivation to Spain during their occupation of the country from the 8th to the 13th century. In Spain over 50 million litres of Horchata de Chufa is consumed each year during the hot summer months.

The Tiger nut is an extremely healthy and rich food source, being high in minerals, particularly phosphorus and potassium and the vitamins E and C. Its lactose and gulten free and low in sodium so its suitable for special diets and has a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels.

There are several Tigernut products, but the most popular is the drink known as Horchata de chufa. To make this drink the harvested and carefully dried out chufas are soaked in water for 7 hours and then pulped to produce a milk that is then strained. Sugar is then added and sometimes cinnamon. In Valencia there are bars dedicated to serving this drink with a long donut type cake known as a farton that is dipped in the horchata. So if you're wondering about this drink on your trip to Spain, try it. You can buy it in most supermarkets and its similarly priced to milk or Soy milk.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Places to eat around Ronda - Al Lago Zahara de la Sierra

Having a shop here in Ronda, I'm often asked where are the best places to eat, either in town or further afield. The first place that I always recommend if they are on their way towards Sevilla, or dont mind a picturesque drive of around half an hour, is the restaurant by Lake Zahara, Al lago, which in my opinion has the best food in the area. The restaurant is run by American born chef, Stefan Crites, and his wife Mona, and has fantastic views over the lake and the surrounding mountains outside on the cool and shady terrace. The food is mediterranean based, and they pride themselves on using locally produced mainly organic fruit and vegetables, local cheeses, game and fresh fish brought in specially from the coast.

Its also a great choice for non meateaters, as they serve many dishes that are suitable for vegetarians, which is sometimes quite difficult down here. Another rarity is the selection of homemade desserts, especially if you'd like to have something other than the egg custard based desserts that feature so prominently in most Spanish restaurants. There is even a 3 course menu del dia during the week for only 12 euros a head, which is well priced given the standard of the food and the size of the portions. The restaurant is easy to find as it's located next to the lake at the bottom of the village as you come in from the main road that goes from Ronda to Sevilla, and there's usually plenty of parking just opposite.For a full look at the current menu click here. I will be posting more about restaurants around the area that are well worth a visit, so keep checking, or you could see my posts about Ronda tapas bars if you want something in the town itself.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Pomegranate, walnut and cabbage salad- Ronda style.

In the hot summer months, most people here in Andalusia tend to stick to cold dishes during the daytime leaving the main meal for the cool of the evening, often preferring to eat barbeque style outside on the terrace or in the campo enjoying the cooler breezes that come down from the mountains. Unfortunately after a while it gets a little difficult to think of things to do with lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers.

I found this recipe that is different from the usual mixed salad that gets served in most bars and restaurants in a locally published cook book, compiled by residents of Ronda. Its called Ensalada de la Serrania, which translates to Mountain salad.

The base is not lettuce but white cabbage, and it has an interesting salad dressing.


1 kilo white cabbage
1 kilo walnuts in their shells
1 kilo pomegranates
1 dried red pepper
2 cloves of garlic
1 slice of bread
olive oil for frying
paprika,cumin,salt,pepper and vinegar to taste.

Chop and slice the cabbage into fine strips, place it in a bowl of boiling water and leave until the water goes cool, drain and place in a bowl.

Shell the walnuts and chop into pieces.

Peel open the pomegranates and separate into grains.

Soften the dried red pepper in hot water, meanwhile fry the garlic and bread in olive oil, and then in a pestle and mortar grind into a paste with the spices salt and pepper and add vinegar to taste.

Add the pomegranates seeds and walnuts to the cabbage with a little of the oil from the frying, then toss the salad with the rest of the ingredients, adjust the seasoning to taste.

Actually this salad would also be great in the autumn months when summer vegetables are no longer available. I could anyway eat pomegranates at any time of the year so I think Ill be making this one quite a bit over the coming months.