Sunday, 20 July 2014

Viva Espana y Viva Tapa!

It's been a few days since my last blog. We have been without an internet connection. It's tantamount to being without water! But given all the horrific events that are taking place in our world at the moment, this sounds really quite pathetic. I feel quite ashamed that I have allowed a minor inconvenience (in the grand scale of things) to irritate me so much. If I could do something to help, I really really would; but even those close to or affected directly by these appalling atrocities  have been rendered helpless. So I will keep them in my prayers and blog on . . . . .

If you are stumbling across my blog for the first time, I live in Portugal. This is relevant because I can write to you about the wonderful weather, fabulous fish and marvellous markets etc., etc., and conversely the not-so technologically advanced communication systems! Although we are not so far from the developed coastal regions of the Algarve (where they are privy to more sophisticated technology), we are far enough inland for the signals to be more temperamental. It was my choice to live away from the madding crowds and be part of the 'real' Portugal, so I must bear the consequences. I'll remind myself of that next time I feel a technology tantrum erupting! I'll also remind myself that my cross is much lighter to bear than that of countless others in this world today.

So, on with the intended subject ....... tantalisingly tasty 'tapas'! 
We are very fortunate to live not too far from the border with Spain, so impromptu trips are fun and drip feed my passion to roam. I love Spain - more precisely, I love the 'real' Spain - not the Spain of the Costas with over crowded beaches, lager lout bars, ugly purposes built hotel resorts and restaurants selling the very worst of British cuisine. The 'real' Spain is vibrant and we relish the prospect of a quick trip into Andalusia. The Spanish, I find, are quite different to other Europeans. They have a joie de vivre that I have not commonly experienced outside Spain. They love to promenade in the evenings with friends and family and they eat late. At first, I was thrown by the irregular hours they keep - afternoon siestas when most of the shops close and restaurants that don't open until 2100 hours. Now I just adapt and go with the flow! As my son would say - just chill Mum! And, I do!

It's difficult to see, but the tapa dish served with our drink here,
was delicious - prawns served with chopped tomatoes and olives in
olive oil and herbs.

And one of the things that I like most when we are in Spain is the copious selection of tapas dishes. Wandering from one restaurant or pavement café to another, sitting with a chilled glass of wine (or in the region of Jerez, a chilled glass of Sherry), watching the locals promenade and the world go by, while sampling small dishes of heavenly fayre. Mostly prepared from very simple ingredients, combining natural flavours indigenous to the region, the results are mouthwateringly scrumptious.

Tapas originated in Andalusia - the word means 'cover'. Sometimes it is given free and is served as small taster dishes. King Alfonso X, know as the wise king, decreed that no wine was to be served in any of the inns of Castile, unless accompanied by something to eat. This was a precaution  to counteract the adverse effects of alcohol on an empty stomach.

Jamon Serrano from the region of Andalucia

I would probably not be exaggerating to say that Jonathan has developed an addiction to the cured hams of Spain and is becoming quite discerning. In his company, we cannot order a meal without a plate of this very delicious cured ham which is produced from the Iberian black pig reared in the mountain villages. The Pata Negra (so called because of the pigs' black hooves) is the finest and most expensive and is produced from pigs that have had a diet exclusively of acorns. A plate of this very finely carved ham, accompanied by a selection of tapas dishes, and olives with crusty white bread, is a social way to share food and provides a truly delectable feast.