Food and Drink

Why would you want to visit or live in Spain

There’s sea and sun to entice you……..and all that wonderful wine too. In fact, 15% of the world’s vineyards are in Spain – spread across all of Spain’s autonomous regions. Though the biggest surface area of vineyards is in Castilla-La Mancha, La Rioja boasts the greatest density of planting.

At February 2014, Spain was the world’s third largest exporter of wine, behind France and Italy, and the UK and Germany were the top customers. (Spain thanks all you lady and gentlemen inebriates in the UK). Since Spain produces a lot of sherry and brandy, some 61% of its vineyards grow white grapes. Despite this, thank goodness, the majority of wine production concerns red wine.

The main quality wine regions of Spain are called denominaciones de origen (similar to appellations in France). Particular laws dictate the quality of wine they produce. European Commission regulations require that Spanish wines are placed in a series of categories/sub-categories.

Vino de Pago

These are wine regions that claim the very highest standard within precise geographical rules, often concerning single individual estates with an international reputation. At present there are just 11 regions with this status – 8 in Castilla-La Mancha and 3 in Navarre.

Denominación de Origen Calificada

These are regions with a substantiated record of undeviating quality. Right now, there are only 2 wine regions with this status – Rioja and Priorat.

Denominación de Origen

Currently there are 66 wine regions with this status – regarded as pre-eminent, high quality wine producing areas

Vino de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica

There are only 2 regions at present – a category designed for regions starting to climb the quality ladder.

Vino de La Tierra

These are wines that have no EU recognition, Even so, there are currently 46 Spanish regions producing them. They are allowed to bear a regional name on the label. In 2006, a new Vino de La Tierra "super region” was created and named Viñedos de España, with permission to blend wines from 11 different Spanish regions. However, this has not yet received EU ratification and is facing legal challenge by the regional governments of La Rioja, Castile and León.

Vino de La Mesa

The grapes used are bulk-grown and drawn from a wide variety of regions. As a consequence, there can be no vintage or area designations on the label, apart from "Produce of Spain”. Production of this low-grade wine is falling year by year.

Although just about all wine regions are confined to specific centres of production, some of the top denominacionesare produced in more than one autonomous locality (Cava and Rioja are examples). By contrast, Vinos de Pago have a location yardstick that is very exact, often pinpointing particular plots of land and only allowing wines produced in the immediate vicinity




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Posted by on Friday 25th April 2014

Who is the world’s largest exporter of strawberries

Who is the world’s largest exporter of strawberries? Why, it’s Spain, of course. Some 285 thousand tons of fresh fruit leave these shores annually, bound for European countries and the rest of the world. Some 90% of this production is grown around Huelva, a city in south western Spain, in the autonomous region of Andalusia.

People have lived in the area since 3000BC and Huelva claim’s to host Spain’s oldest football club – Recreativo de Huelva, though it cannot be that old.

The strawberry industry is said to generate in excess of 500000 thousand euros in revenue for the country, and continuing strawberry success despite difficult economic times, has forced many Spaniards to return to strawberry picking for their income. However, they face stiff job competition from low paid immigrant pickers. Last year some 65000 women from eastern Europe and north Africa were hired. All pickers need to beware though, because Japan has developed a strawberry picking robot. Its special cameras detect the colour of ripe fruit, and pick accordingly.

There is a benefit for the women of Huelva though. Apparently the divorce rate climbs at the end of the picking season, when many of their men have become infatuated with attractive immigrant pickers. The men will surely not be as enchanted with the robotic pickers of the future.

So, which countries are the biggest strawberry lovers? Well France is certainly well up the list. It takes around 75000 tons of fresh Spanish strawberries annually. Germany tops the list, buying some 90000 tons each year.

In recent years, production has increased by 18% annually, and this has encouraged Spain to look around for new markets. A toe hold has been established in Asia, but business levels remain relatively small with exports totaling just 6 tons last year. It’s a start anyway. It’s a similar story with Russia and the Eastern Bloc countries. They are starting to show interest in fresh Spanish strawberries, and undoubtedly sales with gradually blossom there too.

Why are strawberries so popular? First they taste truly wonderful, and they signal that summer’s on the way. Then, they are very good for your body. Just one handful of strawberries (around 9 or 10) provide less than 30 calories; 0.1g fat and no cholesterol; less than 10g carbohydrates; oodles of vitamin C; 20% of the daily recommended intake of folic acid; lots and lots of fibre; along with high antioxidant levels. 

A highlight of a trip to the local market is to see stallholders set out their strawberry stocks, plied high on plastic trays. Then with a small plastic spade, they fill a bag with the quantity of fruit that you want to buy. Driving home with the strawberry smell impregnating the car is the highlight of the morning, giving those taste buds an intense work out.

If you have not read our blog regarding Spanish Cherries this is also worth a read! Spanish Cherries

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Posted by on Saturday 8th March 2014

Spanish Cherries

Spain is the world’s 7th largest producer of cherries, and is the second largest producer in Europe. Some 60% of Spain’s cherry crop is exported with Germany and the UK taking a large proportion.

In fact, UKs imports of Spanish cherries peaked in 2011, when 10 million punnets (2500 tonnes) were shipped in during the five week season. The Brits obviously liked them.

The bulk of the cherries are produced in the 40 mile long Jerte Valley, near Caceres. It lies in Spain’s Extremadura region, south-west of Madrid, and close to the border with Portugal. Originally the area was the main centre of chestnut 
production, but when blight ruined those trees in the early 20th century – they were replaced by cherries which are now planted on terraces. These terraces rise from 1100 feet at the valley floor to 3600 feet at the top. In 2013 there were 3737 growers, farming nearly 10000 hectares of terraces.

Picota (meaning peaked, and referring to the slight oval shape, or peak at the end) is the name given to the four protected varieties of Spanish cherries. They are protected because a Denomination of Origin Certificate has been granted.
The four varieties are Pico Limon Negro; Pico Negro; Pico Colorado and Ambrunes. Ambrunes is dark red in colour with firm, crisp and juicy flesh. It’s very sweet, as it matures on the trees longer.

All are unusual in that they are separated from the stalks when picked. Hence they are referred to as "stemless” or "stalkless”. It’s claimed this is an indication of perfect ripeness.

If you are ever near Jerte Valley a visit should most definitely be on your itinerary. There are many cultural; and gastronomic celebrations and fiestas around harvest time. There are tours of co-operatives and walks through the cherry trees. 

Without doubt there will be the chance to taste the fruit and the liqueur into which it can be made. 

Last but not least, throughout July, there are competitions held to decide the best dish made with cherries. If you look at Gordon Ramsay’s book "Just Desserts”, you’ll see a recipe called Cherry and Almond Clafoutis. Though it cannot be guaranteed to win one of those competitions, it is a fantastic pudding, especially if you use Spanish cherries.

The ingredients are –

·       50gground almonds

·       15g strong plain four .

·       good pinch of sea salt

·       100g caster sugar

·       2 large free range eggs

·       3 large free range egg yolks 

·       250 ml double cream

·       300g fresh ripe cherries

·       softened unsalted butter, to grease the pan

·       icing sugar, sifted, to dust

The cooking method is as follows–

·       Put the ground almonds, flour, salt and sugar into a food processor and whizz for a few seconds to blend.. Add the eggs, egg yolks and cream and blend to a smooth batter. Tip into a large bowl or jug, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

·       In the meantime, stone the cherries and pat them dry, if they’re especially juicy. Rub the inside of a large oven-proof sauté pan or gratin dish with the softened butter.

·       Scatter the cherries over the base of the pan or dish. Stir the batter in the jug and pour over the cherries. Bake for about 20mins in an oven, preheated to 190 degrees centigrade, until risen and golden brown.

·       The middle may be slightly flatter than the surrounding batter, but it should be set. If not, then bake for a little longer.

·       Dust with iing sugar and serve at once.

All Gordon’s desserts will cause you to salivate, especially the half dozen or so relating to cherries.

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Posted by on Saturday 15th February 2014

Eating Out in the Moraira area

People are always asking for my restaurant recommendations, and that’s very difficult advice to give since there are so many options available. To my mind, it all depends on the purpose of the restaurant visit. Is it merely to satisfy hunger without changing into posh garb. or is it a business lunch. Perhaps it’s to relax with friends and chat while eating good food in a pleasant atmosphere Equally, if the visit is to celebrate some special occasion, then that will be a factor in the restaurant decision too. You’ll want somewhere with a buzz.

Relaxing with friends and/or celebrating are surely the most pleasant eating occasions, so here are some location suggestions (naturally they are high on my favourites list too)

Ca Pepe

The restaurant is located in Calle Haya, just outside of the main Moraira town, but that provides the bonus of easy parking, even in high season. Ca Pepe is family owned and run, and their success is due to the strategy of using seasonal local produce, and to the care they take to ensure the high standards they set are met by all staff. Just look at the referrals they are able to present on their website. The menu del dia here is priced at 16.95 euros and includes a ½ bottle of wine


The position of the restaurant is ideal – in the corner of Plaza La Sort, in Moraira town. You can eat outside, or at one of the elegant internal dining tables. Either way, the food is presented in an artistic manner that makes the mouth water. The menu del dia is priced at 15 euros and on my last visit, the starter of salmon and the sea bass main course were superb.

El Caserio

This is on the main road out of Moraira, towards Teulada/Benitachell. The style of cuisine is best described as International/Spanish, but whatever the label that most accurately fits, everything is presented in a stylish fashion that adds to the pleasure of the meal. An evening set menu is offered at 21.50 euros, but that provides you with a choice of starter, main course and dessert, and they surprise you with a couple of extra tidbits during the meal. If I say more there’ll be no surprises for you, so no more clues. A whole host of a la carte options are available too, but whatever you choose we’re certain you’ll be licking your lips all the way through the evening.

La Masena

This is a beautifully converted, but still rustic, finca – on the outskirts of Javea. It’s actually on the Carretera Benitachell (the road running towards Javea from Benitachell). It’s open every day, except Tuesday, from 12.30 to 1600 hours and from 19.30 to 2300 hours. You can eat inside the stylish air conditioned dining room, with its beams and chandeliers, or you may decide to dine "al fresco” on the relaxing outside terrace. There is no doubt that this is a venue to celebrate a special occasion, and the house specialities endorse this view; Carpaccio of pear confit with shavings of foie gras; marinated quail salad with mango; scallops "au gratin” and suckling pig with oranges and fried bananas – these will give you some idea about the gorgeous food they serve. The a la carte menu is not cheap, but if you go for the menu del dia at lunchtime, the cost is 17 euros per head, and there is no reduction in quality. Indeed, I visited today and chicken cordon bleu and beef stroganoff were menu del dia possibilities and both were divine


Again, this is a town centre location. The restaurant has a host of highly complimentary  reviews on the Internet, comments confirmed by my own experience. There is no menu del dia on offer, but  you can choose 2 courses from a set menu for 20 euros and for an extra 5 euros you can enjoy an additional course


This is a genuine Italian restaurant, and although it’s a Moraira town centre location there’s a large free car park to the rear. All food is cooked and prepared under the supervision/instruction of the half Italian/German owner, Rodolfo. The pasta in particular is made to order and tastes fabulous – not surprising since he is a Member of the Federation of Italian Professional Chefs. He says his aim each day is to treat customers to the delights of Italian cuisine, with the subtle combination of flavours, colours and aromas. There is no doubt he succeeds.

Vall de Cavall

Located just off the Teulada road outside of Gata de Gorgos – food aside, the setting of the dining area is wonderful. You look across open countyside and dine beneath the gaze of the elephant shaped mountain called Montgo. The menu del dia will cost 17.50 euros per person and all the tasty courses will be beautifully presented, by friendly and enthusiastic staff.

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Posted by on Monday 30th September 2013
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