Interesting Facts about Spain -

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Interesting Facts about Spain

February 6, 2018

Spain is one of the world’s oldest cultures with a rich heritage that has influenced entire continents. It is the birthplace of the Spanish language, Miguel Cervantes and Salvador Dalí, and attracts millions of people every year, many of whom end up falling in love with its charm, making it their place of residence.

Spain has tons to offer, from tortilla de patatas and olives, to flamenco dance and Spanish guitar. On that note, let’s look at some known (and some not so known) interesting facts about Spain.

#1 The Puerta del Sol (“Gate of the Sun”) plaza in Madrid is the physical center of the country.

In it, the so-called Kilometre Zero of the country’s radial network has been located since 1950. The square also contains the famous clock whose bells mark the traditional eating of the Twelve Grapes and the beginning of a new year. The New Year’s celebration has been broadcast live on national television since 31 December 1962.

#2 Spain has been through a bunch of different names throughout its history.

The North African inhabitants who first crossed the Straits of Gibraltar called it Iberia, which meant land of rivers (‘Iber’ meant river). When the Greeks discovered the peninsula, they called it Hesperia, meaning “land of the setting sun” (since it was then the westernmost point of the European continent).

When the Carthaginians came to the land around 300 BCE, they called it Ispania, which meant “land of the rabbits”. Later, the Romans took over and Latinized the name to Hispania. Over time, this changed to España. So essentially, Spain is the “land of rabbits”!

#3 Ratoncito Pérez 

There is no tooth fairy in Spain, instead, the Spanish have a legend called ‘Ratoncito Pérez’ who exchanges children’s teeth for money. Normally a coin is given, such as 1 euro for each tooth.

#4 New Year with Twelve lucky Grapes.

As per this custom, Spaniards celebrate the New Year by eating one grape with their family for each bell strike of the clock (for a total of 12 grapes – hence the name). This custom was originally popularized by Spanish vine growers as a way to sell their excess grapes! These grapes are associated with good luck, so you should eat them to have a good year.

#5 Spaniards have two surnames

Traditionally, you have two surnames in Spain – the first surname from your father, and the second from your mother.

For example, if your name is Pablo López Alegre, and your wife’s name is Lidia Sanchez García, your kids’ surname will be López Sanchez.

However, as per a new gender equality law, this tradition is now being changed to favour the mother’s last name, so you can change the order.

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Top five Spanish markets for foodies

February 12, 2018

Top five Spanish markets for foodies

Spain is a country with lots of flavour. One of the best ways to enjoy so is by exploring its food markets around their cities: traditional places where visitors can find fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and fishes or even enjoy prepared food such as tapas or sandwiches with a glass of wine.

Some of the most famous markets include the Boquería in Barcelona, San Miguel in Madrid or the Mercat Central in Valencia.

We would like to approach five Spanish markets in which tradition rules: markets where neighbours do their daily shopping, places where tradition remains and where local gastronomic secrets may be discovered. So ¡vamos!

#1 MERCAT CENTRAL IN VALENCIA

Valencia’s main market is one of the most beautiful and recognizable buildings in the city, and is worth visiting just to marvel at the architecture, which sits in the middle of the city’s Ciutat Vella, or old town. Its iron, glass, and ceramic domes are a good example of early 20th century Valencian architecture. It was opened in 1928, and today has around 1,200 stalls, making it one of Europe’s largest markets. It specializes in fresh food, from meat, fish, fruit, and vegetables, to more local offerings, like olives and cheeses.

Today you can find a lot of stalls with more international offer, so it’s the perfect place to find anything you need to cook.

Also, if you have never feel the experience of enjoying a bocadillo or tapas surrounded by the harmonious bustle of a market, you should try it in Chef Ricard Camarena’s Central Bar. The bar is located in the heart of the Mercat Central. So let yourself be enveloped by its smells, sounds, colours and flavours.

#2 MERCADO DE SAN MIGUEL IN MADRID

Probably Madrid’s most famous market, Mercado de San Miguel is located right in the city centre, just off the Plaza Mayor. Built in 1916, the wrought iron and glass structure was renovated and reopened as a gourmet food market in 2009. This is the place to come for freshly prepared food; try Spanish classics like jamón Ibérico (cured Iberian ham), plump, juicy olives, and vermouth—Madrileños favourite aperitif.

In addition, in certain occasions small concerts or events are held inside, so you can disguise the best of Spanish cuisine in a unique atmosphere!

As a curiosity, there is only one stall remains of what was in the previous stage of the market, specifically, a greengrocer.

#3 MERCADO DE LA BOQUERIA IN BARCELONA

The San José Market, better known as La Boquería” is the most famous market in Barcelona. It has become a top tourist attraction over the years because of its central location on Las Ramblas, so prepare to jostle with selfie-takers and tour groups as you browse the stalls. It is worth a visit, however, for its bustling atmosphere and tempting food stalls, offering a wide array of freshly prepared dishes.

The colourful market is a labyrinth of more than 2,500 square meters along which are located more than 300 stalls offering all kinds of products. Eggs, meat, sausage, sweets, fruit juices … It is difficult to imagine any product that can not be found in La Boqueria.

Some of the stalls offer delicious menus prepared with the freshest products.

The exciting mix of colours and flavours and its lively atmosphere, make it an indispensable place for locals and tourists.

#4 MERCADO DE LA RIBERA IN BILBAO

At 100,000 square feet (10,000m2), Bilbao’s Mercado de la Ribera is the largest indoor market in Europe. Its 1930s Art Deco flourishes make it a beautiful place to explore. Pick up some of the freshest Basque meats, fish, and cheeses, or try some of the market’s produce in La Ribera Bilbao restaurant, which also plays host to live jazz on an evening.

You have plenty of options: the market has three floors and there you can find the best and freshest products of the sea and lands within the Basque Country: meats, fishes, fruits, fresh vegetables, mushrooms, cheeses, wines, flowers, pies, seeds, tinned or pickled food etc. Some of the chefs of one of the best cuisines all over the world -the Basque cuisine- do most of their shopping here.

#5 MERCADO DE ABASTOS IN SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA

The second most visited attraction in Santiago de Compostela after the cathedral, Mercado de Abastos is a great place to explore the city’s incredible seafood. From scallops and prawns, to lobsters and the local specialty of goose barnacles, there is a wide array of fish and seafood on offer. The market bar will cook up your purchases so you can enjoy the freshest food in the bustling atmosphere.

The market is run as a cooperative and some market gardeners still go there to sell the harvest they collect daily from their gardens; so fresh products are more than guaranteed. This traditional market has been updated thanks to the use of online shopping services, vacuum packing to keep your goods fresh till you get home and you can even hire your own personal shopper to get advice.

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3 Spanish Eating Customs you need to know in Spain

February 20, 2018

3 Spanish Eating Customs you need to know in Spain

Eating in Spain, as you can imagine, is steeped in tradition, culture and habit.  This is a list of observations of the Spanish in their natural habitat, enjoying a good meal with friends and family. They are small, mostly completely insignificant details, but if you want to understand and immerse yourself fully in the Spanish culture on your next trip, or you just love to know these little things, keep reading!

1# Bread

A piece of bread is the third cutlery utensil after the knife and fork in Spain. If you want to stop a Spaniard from eating, just don’t put any bread down next to his plate. Spaniards will eat bread with anything and everything, including heavy carbohydrate dishes like pasta and rice. All ‘Menu del Dia’ include bread. Spaniards just don’t eat without bread!

In fact, in each area of Spain there are typical breads from that area, and it is considered one of the main foods in their diet.

If you invite a Spaniard to eat at your house, do not forget to buy some bread, and you will have conquered his heart!

2# Water / Agua del Tiempo

So whilst we’re on the subject of drinking whilst eating, let’s talk about water. The Spanish do not eat without water. In UK, there is some variation family to family on this. Some families do tend to drink water with lunch and dinner, but a large proportion, if not the majority, wash their food down with juice, orange squash, coke, beer etc. These drinks are aperitifs in Spain – they usually don’t appear at the dinner table. The most you will find beyond water is a bottle of wine.

Water is always still, and mostly from the tap too, but it is always, always served – there is no variation across families here. The other little detail about how the Spanish take their water is the issue of temperature. When you order water at a bar in Spain, you’ll be asked “Fría” (cold) or “Del tiempo” (literally ‘of the weather’, actually meaning ‘ambient temperature’). Many Spaniards don’t like their water too cold, so don’t want it straight out of the fridge.

Another point about water, is that on rare occasions you will see people ask for or drink sparkling water, which is very common in other countries. What’s more, if you want sparkling water in a bar or restaurant, you have to specify it, otherwise you will be served still water.

#3 Coffee

Coffee is quite the Spanish phenomenon. Many Spaniards drink several cups of their favourite caffeinated beverage in the course of a single day. Coffee also traditionally follows a Spanish meal and is served after the dessert.

The tradition has survived the massive landing of Starbucks and similar franchises. You can still find acceptable coffee for one euro or just over one euro in a bar, cafeteria or restaurant, although you have to know where and what types of coffee are suitable at every moment of the day.

First of all, explain that there may be local differences depending on the city of the country where you order coffee, we will talk about those that are more widespread:

1. Cofé Solo: The equivalent of Italian espresso, coffee and water under pressure in an express machine, it takes 25 seconds to make, and a good waiter will deliver it in a minute. The best thing early in the morning.

2. Café Cortado: A cortado, as requested in Spanish bars, is a coffee with a little milk.

 

3. Café con leche: It is prepared with the same amount of milk as coffee and is served in a larger cup or glass than the previous two, which is served in small cups. The king of breakfasts in the Spanish cafeterias.

These are the 3 types of coffee most common in bars, although there are others like bombón, cortado served with condensed milk instead of coffee, coffee with ice (a delight in summer) or a tocado, coffee served with a trickle of some liquor.

There are many other customs, but we leave that for another day…

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Olives in haute cuisine

February 26, 2018

The table olive is not only a delicious snack for any appetizer, it also has many culinary uses. So much so, that many of the great chefs of the planet have introduced it into their recipes or even become the centre of them.

Olives acquired in any establishment can be mixed with a wide range of ingredients that allows obtaining surprising dishes and novel flavours.

In addition, the nutritional composition of olives is another of the reasons that make them great allies of chefs, since they have fibre and up to 77% oleic acid, are source of Vitamin E and its caloric content is low (100 gr of olives represent only 150 kcal, compared to 550 kcal of other substitute snacks).

Recently twenty leading chefs of Spanish gastronomy set out to give a new image to the typical dish of anchovy-stuffed olives. Why not dress them with basil, honey, mustard, red vermouth, pine nuts or salmon?

The Aceituning, as it was called this recipe book of olives, pretended to present new flavours of the Spanish olives.

It has 60 recipes in which they play with the flavours and texture of all the olive varieties (green, black, Gordal, pitted) with the ingredients that complete the seasoning.

Sergio Fernández proposed green and black olives in mojito; Darío Bueno green olives with lime, chili and smoked salmon; or Antonio Arrabal who opted for the black variety with vinaigrette of basil, pine nuts and fresh cheese. Pure originality!

For the chef and ambassador of Aceituning, Sergio Fernández, “the olive has glamor and potential”. This simple guide contains dressings for “table olives that can be found in any supermarket. You just have to dare to try.

Other chefs such as José Pizarro, Omar Allibhoy or Ben Tish, have introduced Spanish olives in many of their delicious recipes. Marinated Lamband Escalivada, Braised chicken in Spanish Olive sauce or Roast Lamb Rackwith Squashes. The possibilities and the versatility of the olives make them a fantastic ingredient for the haute and low cuisine. Let’s cook!

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 8 incredible Spanish Villages for an Escape

March 5, 2018

Spain is well known for its endless beaches, crystal water islands or city breaks. But the country has almost 20,000 villages diverse in architecture, traditions and culture.

Do we know the real Spain? Here below you are going to discover the deep and charming Spain, unexploited.

An insider’s guide into the top places and villages to visit in Spain, across the admiring and lesser-known hamlets. If you want to chill and relax, you are reading the right post.

From north to south,from west to east here we go:

COMBARRO, Galicia

With one of the most beautiful and typical pictures of Galicia, Combarro is located in between the sea and the land, with its fishing port, its unique old town and above all its stilt granaries on the edge of the estuary, an example of popular architecture .

Do not miss, the landscape during the low tide and the comings and goings of the fishing boats.

CUDILLERO, Asturias.

The legend says it was founded by Vikings. The picture of this Asturian coastal town facing the sea on the side of the mountain is hard to forget. The main attraction are the town’s colorful houses, stretching out in a semi-circle around the bay, with a backdrop of deep green hills. Its lighthouse sits on the cliff’s edge from where you can see the town of Cudillero and the impressive Atlantic Green Coast.

Never mind, whatever you do, you always end up in the harbor just by dropping down its steep streets.

Do not miss: Any of the restaurants in the Plaza de la Marina.

 GETARIA, País Vasco.

A beautiful fishing village of Gipuzkoa with medieval features overlooking the sea accompanied by the txacolí, a young and light wine ideal to combine with fish, its vineyards and wineries are one of its main tourist attractions.

Do not miss, its mouse shaped mountain and the Balenciaga Haute Couture Museum.

CADAQUÉS, Catalunya.

Part of the Cap de Creus Natural Park and the mediterranean roacky coast, the town is accessible only through a narrow road, which is probably why its old charm is still intact. Known as the favorite town of Salvador Dalí the famous painter for a reason.

Do not miss: The house-museum of the painter in Portlligat.

ALTEA, Alicante

This Alicante town has become a MUST on the Costa Blanca. An old fishing village with white houses, flowers on its walls and labyrinthine streets.

Do not miss: The fish market where in the evenings the catches of the day are auctioned, great spectacle.

VEJER DE LA FRONTERA, Andalusia

The most spectacular of all Andalusia’s white villages, the Moorish town with cobbled streets housing, flamenco bars and tapas restaurants. Any view is good to enjoy the valley below.

Do not miss, the walls surrounding the whole town and its Castle.

RONDA, Andalusia

Stunningly set above a 120-meter-deep canyon, the town of Ronda, is made up of two parts: the old

Moorish settlement and the 15th-century town. In the 18th century, they were connected by a stone bridge to form Ronda as we know it.

Do not miss: A walk down into the gorge along the Camino and its Goyesca bullfights.

MIJAS, Andalusia

The whitewashed streets of historic quarter, Arab in layout and nestling in the mountain landscape, Mijas an Andalusian town next to Malaga, a long-time favorite of day-trippers village.

Do not miss, its spectacular panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea coast from the Sierra de Mijas, a 400 meters above the sea.

From now on you will not find an excuse to not visit Spain, enjoy yourself.

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 How to pit your Olives for stuffing

March 12, 2018

If you like cooking and like olives at the same time, it’s bound to happen: you have olives, a recipe that calls for olives, and yet the olives still have the pits in them. Luckily, pitting olives at home is pretty easy.

No matter what you marinate or flavor your olives in, pitting and stuffing them is fun and delicious.

 Why to pit your olives?

Whole olives can be amazing as a simple appetizer, but if you want to use them in tapenades, stews, or other dishes, they usually need to be pitted.

 How to pit your olives?

The technique you use to remove the pit usually depends on the type of olive. Some have flesh that sticks to the pit, while other varieties are softer and will yield their pits with less of a struggle.

To properly pit an olive, we suggest using an olive pitter. Just place the olive in the tapered hole, grasp the handle, and squeeze hard so the pit pops out the other end.

If you are more into DIY mode, why not, let’s go for a couple of advises.

First of all is better if you know which kind of olive are you “fighting” against.

The pits of some soft black olives slip right out, just by pinching both ends of the olive between your forefingers and thumbs. When we talk about green olives, are bit more stubborn, meaty and firm,

requiring though a bit more force.

Instructions :

Find a large chef knife. You can also use small frying pan or other heavy flat surface, even the bottom of a mug.

Place the flat surface of the large knife blade on top of the olive and press down, gently but firmly.

You need to use some force. An you will feel the pit inside the olive start to pop out.

The smashing should have essentially released the olive’s hold on its pit. Continue to press down on the olive and gently pull the knife towards you. This will cause the olive to roll and help in squeezing the pit out. The pit should pop right out or, at most, you’ll need to pull it out easily.

Maneuver the pit out of the olive with your fingers if it still hasn’t popped out.

*In any other case, we suggest to “cheat” and take the highway. Buy pitted olives and go straight to Step 2.

 What we do now the olives are already pitted?

Let’s stuff them ! (Step 2)

Have you ever tried olives and blue cheese with slow sips of martini? Believe it, these two ingredients when combined together are unbeatable.

First of all, if you have the choice look for pitted gordal-kind olives, which are large in size, the best option for stuffing.

For stuffing easily, we suggest using an olive stuffer (for softer fillings like cheese). Or just keep the mixture in a pastry bag and fill the olives with it. You can also make a cone of freezer paper and use in

case pastry bag or olives stuffer is not immediately available.

Once you get to the stuffing step you got infinite possibilities. Mango, marcona almond, manchego cheese, serrano ham, goat cheese and honey, roasted garlic and gorgonzola and much more.

Stuffed olives make an easy but elegant appetizer, will make any cocktail or dinner party flavorful and enjoyable.

A funny task to enjoy with family and friends suitable for all audiences, as we did in our last event in the UK with a stuffing station where children and adults learned to pit and stuff olives. Fun and family come together !

Would you like to learn more? Stay tuned, stay olived, a new event will come earlier than you think, practice is better than theory, promise !