In time past I've been a privileged part of the Almeria de Tapas foodie community, which was first set up by my dear friend Nacho Ortiz....having parted with the group which now has new owners, Nacho, the team and I have sort of gone our separate ways, but a fortuitous conversation on social media allowed us to get together to catch up on where things presently stand in what is still a difficult economic time in Almeria Province. Ok, I admit it I gatecrashed the lunch - sort of.....but that's another story!
Manchego cheese and Jamon
It was a fun and comfortable day, with plenty of food, and we recalled the old days of Almeria de Tapas and caught up on more recent events. Of course everything revolves around food, and as expected this was a generous and delightful fill, and so typical of a Spanish household party. My 'evil twin' Antonio Maqueda was head chef, in charge of the paella (and what a fabulous job he made of that! I wish you'd been there to try it....), and the ladies chipped in with salad and jamon, cheese preparation etc.
Our lunchtime salad with Tomate Raf
This isn't untypical of what I would expect in a Spanish household and the combination of sharing plates of food is so typical Spanish. Nothing fancy, just good healthy produce, mostly local, and a great combinations of tastes, from the seafood paella using locally caught seafood produce, fresh salad consisting of the fabulous Tomate Raf amongst other things, to the Manchego cheese, local jamon, locally grown fresh figs and melons, and topped with chocolate petit-fours made locally in the town.
Mussels & prawns that made up some of the ingredients of the Seafood Paella
Of course some of the best seafood is caught locally and Almeria has a fabulous fish market which buzzes during the weekday.
We even had Swordfish
The finished product
This is a work of art - check out the shape of the pan and scroll down to learn more.
You really should have been there to taste this.....
On to desserts - fresh melons
You shouldn't go the season without trying the fresh figs!
There's nothing better than to visit the local market and buy the figs fresh from the small-holders. Often they have been picked the night before or early that morning and you can just taste the freshness.
And if that wasn't enough we had a gateaux and a selection of petit-fours
Lunchtime with friends
If you are interested to see how Antonio made the paella then here is a short sequence of the event. You will see that he's not using a flat paella pan - I'm told that's usually the preferred pan of Valencia and that these pans (I referred to as half woks) are actually, confusingly called 'la paella' - it wasn't the name of the dish of food....but the name 'paella' slowly took over. This pan (as used by Antonio) is a preferred pan of many households due to the fact that it can hold more food in a smaller space on the cooker - the more well-known Valencian paella pans are much wider and hence would take up much more room in what is often a confined area....plus they often require a bigger burner to cook evenly throughout. The conventional half wok pans are also much more versatile as they can be used for all manner of dishes whereas the Valencian pans are pretty much restricted to making paellas only.
I was introduced to The Bible of Barbecue by Tramontina about two years ago by Luc van Brand, a student from Holland working on internship in Spain. I was so amazed with this concept that I sort of wanted to keep it to myself, but now I believe it is high time to share it with my readers/viewers (as it's a video). Of course I realise that Tramontina is a Brazilian company and not from these parts of Spain, but none the less the creativity and awesomeness of this concept (I don't use the word awesome lightly) must be shared, and besides we carnivores all love a good barbecue...
Some of my clients and good friends specialise in barbecues and this book, The Bible of Barbecue is dedicated to you. Do enjoy and feel free to post a comment on here or on my Facebook page.
As you'd expect there are literally hundreds of thousands if not millions of Olive Trees dotted around Europe. In particular there are many in France, Italy, Tunisia and Spain which generally dominate olive oil production, with Spain the largest olive oil producer and, in 2014, Tunisia in second spot. Poor weather took its toll on production in Spain, Italy and France in 2014, whilst Tunisia's output quadrupled. Italy is the largest import/exporter of olive oil and yes, curiously enough it imports olive oil from Spain....yes, it's true. I don't ask exactly what they do with it when it gets there....especially in terms of labelling!
So what does this have to do with Almeria you ask? Well apart from being home to one of the biggest exporters of olive oil in Castillo de Tabernas, Almeria proudly boasts that the 3rd best organic olive oil in the world comes from Almeria province, via producer Oro del Desierto, again in Tabernas. Not surprisingly Spain took more accolades at the New York International Olive Oil Awards than any other country. But that's not the whole story. All around Spain are small holdings of olive oil producers who make just enough for home consumption, or perhaps selling locally in a street market. Enter Angela De Fouw. Angela, a great friend of mine, is a Brit living in Almeria Province with her equally great Dutch husband Willem. As smallholders Angela and Willem grow their own olives for local production and consumption - they have 2,000 trees with more being planted. But untypically Spanish, Angela is also a successful and resourceful entrepreneur and she has cleverly established an excellent additional way to export her product and build her brand; by offering foodies all over the world the opportunity to own a little part of Spain through 'adopting an Olive Tree'. The brand name is QUERENCIA. (editor's note: and whilst the Spanish continue to demolish homes here in Spain they won't demolish the olive groves!)
Let me add at this point that the olive oil Angela produces, under the brand of Querencia, has been awarded a standard of approval by the local authorities as a quality 'Extra Virgin Olive Oil' - that means 'it's extremely good quality and not your run of the mill stuff generally used for cooking!'
How do you go about adopting an Olive Tree via Querencia?
Adopting an olive tree is easy..and we have provided a link to Querencia directly below. But first, let me tell you what you get for your small outlay.....
As can be seen in the next image, the 'adopter' i.e. you (or your friends or family if you have given it as a gift), will receive a beautifully packaged showcase of
The Querencia Adopt an Olive Tree pack costs a mere £45.00 incl postage and packaging. (Don't worry, Querencia have a stock of packs already in the UK for swift delivery, so not all are being dispatched from Spain) Apart from allowing yourself to adopt a little bit of Spain the pack makes for a great gift for friends and/or family, and especially as a really unusual but practical Christmas gift. Who could resist? Click here to place your order and we'll ship one out to you within a day or so....
Tins are considered to be the best way to preserve oil and the second best is in dark glass, used normally for the table. The best preservation of olive oil is by keeping it in a dark place and not in direct sunlight, so you'll find all over the world that the serious oils are sold in tins and dark glass bottles. The plastic bottle oils that you find in super-markets are really for quick consumption normally through cooking.
Querencia Olive Oil is perfect for salads and pouring as a dressing....it's distinctive taste lends itself perfectly to complimenting the fabulous Mediterranean vegetables that are grown in abundance in this area of southern Spain. Spaniards often just eat bread dipped in oil as an accompaniment to a meal such are the health benefits of real olive oil.
The natural deep yellow colour is indicative of good olive oil....and later we will give you some wonderful recipe ideas typical of how the local Spaniards use the olive oil here in Almeria. - Simplistic but delicious.
Place your order here - don't forget to tell Angela how many trees you want to adopt. Note: You can exchange emails regarding settlement of payment - as we deliberately do not have a payment service for this service on this website, and we'd prefer you to arrange directly with Querencia. Thanks.
And.....finally, should you want to know more or perhaps attend an Olive Oil Tour, visiting a local factory and museum culminating in a tasting followed by a typical lunch using the oil products, then please contact Steve Homer of Sabor de Almeria.