This time last week I was in Spain - a short visit combining work and pleasure, but it was so lovely to catch up with people face to face, and to see old friends as well as make new contacts, and it was utter heaven to feel winter sunshine. Somehow sunshine at this time of year is even better than sunshine in the summer.
The blue sky was incredible, and as a visitor it looked fantastic. In reality it is a very different story for the poor farmers as there has been no rain for months. Unlike here where we have had more than our fair share, they are desperate - without rain life in the "campo" becomes even harder than normal, and if there is no change it will be pretty disasterous for the crops next year. Fingers crossed some rain will come their way. Despite that they gave me a warm welcome - here I am at the cooperativa in Casarabonela with Margarita, Paco and Rafael, all of whom are a crucial part of the Fino operation - I am so grateful for all they do for me out in Spain.
On Friday I had organised to meet with Fransisco, who is an organic olive oil producer. He is passionate about organic farming, and clearly tends his olive trees with great love and care. He was incredibly knowledgable, and was very keen to share all that he knew which was great for my Spanish, but quite exhausting too as I had to concentrate so hard to understand! After a stroll around the finca I was able to have a taste of his delicious Organic Piqual Olive Oil. Harvested just before christmas, it is a strong and peppery oil, with an intense olivey smell, so if you like a very "green" flavour you will love it. The great news is that I am going to be selling it but it is still in Spain at the moment - I hope to take delivery in the next month and it will be available on the website as soon as I receive it so do keep an eye open, or by all means email me if you would like to pre order and I will be in touch once it arrives. All in all it was a really interesting and successful trip.
Rupert came and joined me on Friday night and we had the most blissful weekend in Malaga city, wandering around the beautiful Centro Historico, ambling around the Mercado Central with all the amazing local produce, visiting the ancient Alcazaba, we ate lunch on the beach, we watched the sun set from a rooftop bar overlooking the beautiful cathedral, we ate delicious tapas - it was heaven (here are a few pics) and then we came back home to more rain but I am not going to complain!
I have to finish with a quick recipe - a "Susie" take on FISH TAGINE - another one pot dish, and as always it's very quick and simple.
FISH TAGINE - serves 4
4 white fish fillets, 1 red onion, 1 clove garlic, 1 tin chopped tomatoes, 600ml veg stock, 1 tin chickpeas, 4-6 small preserved lemons quartered, 250g kale, olive oil, salt and pepper
Chop the red onion and garlic and place into a casserole dish with a glug of olive oil, and allow to cook for 5 mins over a gentle heat. Then add the tomatoes, stock and chickpeas and bring to the boil before adding the preserved lemons, and kale - stir, season and continue to boil gently for a couple of mins. If the tomato mixture seems thick add a little more water. Then place the fish fillets on top of the tomato mixture, pushing down slightly so they are part covered, cover with a lid and place in the oven at 180C for about 10-15 mins or until the fish is cooked through.
Finally do take advantage of a 10% discount for this weekend only (excludes tins) - head to www.finooliveoil.co.uk and enter HAPPYNEWYEAR at the checkout.
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!