Monday, 31 January 2011

Andalusian Cooking School


We have been spending the last few weeks searching for a winter retreat for our cooking school and this may well fit the bill. It is an old water tower built to look like a gothic castle. It has wonderful views of the Med as well as snow capped mountains and comes with an enormous amount of space! We may well need to open a brewery or enter the Guinness book of records for having the largest private wine cellar on earth! Either way we came a step closer today to finding our new place in the sunshine! It is a ruin at the moment but one which could be transformed into a beautiful cooking school one day!
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Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Tapas in Cadiz

We set off yesterday on a round tour of western Andalusia heading down through Marbella, Algeciras (bypassing Gibraltar), over even more mountain roads (Los Barrios) and up the coast arriving in Cadiz just in time for lunch. Cadiz is an amazing old city port, one of the oldest cities in Europe actually, resting at the edge of a thin peninsular with a lot of character and very friendly locals. Cadizians, if you can call them that, descend from an amazing mixture of previous folk including the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Visigoths, the Romans, the Moors as well as the current Andalusian Spanish. The city may be old but it is also very clean unlike some new cities I have visited recently!! We were blown away by the old harbour walls built in the 15th century. The cut stones contained fossils of a previous era which were truly amazing.

We had lunch at La Cepa Gallega, one of the most famous tapas wine bars in Cadiz if not the modern world! It has been labeled a wine museum and a ship's stores but one thing is certain, Félix Fernández Verdejo and his son give you a right warm welcome on arrival and recommend some great wines, hams, fishes and cheeses to the hungry and curious visitor. We settled for the Coto de Imaz 2007 which was delightful particularly with the Manchego Cheese served simply on paper. There are no pretension here simply great food and wine served simply and with pleasure! Lunch for two was only 12 euros! Sadly we had to take our leave after lunch but we both agreed we would be back in Cadiz soon to explore this beautiful city in much more detail. We headed off up the coast towards Jerez de la Frontera (the home of sherry - another visit pending) and on to Rhonda (another amazing historical city built on top of a mountain ridge!) and finally over snow clad mountains (Sierra de la Nieves) and home to Fuengirola for a cold pint!!!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Almond trees blossom in Andalusia

With the cooking school closed until the spring we find ourselves exploring the beautiful countryside and mountain villages of Andalusia again. The almond trees are already in blossom which proves that this year has started off much warmer than last year. Today we took a trip deep into the hinterland behind Marbella through the Rio Grande valley and up to the ruins of a 6th century Arab castle at Cartama. From the top of the castle mount you can see why the Moors chose this spot to monitor and control all movement north and south of their empire.

Today the plains are white with almond blossoms against a green carpet of lush rich grass and tiny rustic fincas. Flocks of parrots and herds of red goats are to be seen but otherwise the locals are all enjoying their siestas. We came across a simple bar earlier in the day though which was lively enough to attract our attention. The tapas on offer included a delicious Jamón serrano (literally mountain ham; a type of jamón (dry-cured Spanish ham), which is generally served raw in thin slices with fresh baked bread and olives and goes very well with a nice glass of rioja.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

January - time to detox

January is the time when we review our health and try to reduce the intake of sugar, coffee, fats, alcohol and toxins. It is also a time to review exercise routines and diets. Being mid winter it is not a good time to restrict essential warm foods or to starve the body. However most people in the west eat far too much so I do recommend a review and if you have been guilty of over indulgence over the festive season here is a simple detox diet for an average healthy person to follow for three days:

Upon rising

• 1/2 lemon squeezed into a glass of warm water

• 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds in a glass of water


• breakfast smoothie made with pear, rice milk and rice protein powder


• apple juice diluted with water

• water

• vegetable broth

• celery sticks and hummus


• chunky vegetable soup made with vegetable stock and your choice of vegetables

• steamed broccoli with sesame seeds and beets sprinkled with lemon juice on brown rice

• apple sauce


• carrot sticks with hummus dip

• water


• curried lentils on quinoa

• salad with mixed greens, red peppers, artichokes and sprouts drizzled with salad dressing of garlic, lemon juice and olive oil

• vegetable broth

Before bed

• 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds in a glass of water

Don't forget to drink at least 2 litres of water and enjoy 30 minutes of active exercise every day!