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It’s no surprise, that for both our mental, and physical health, we need to get back to the primal diets of Mediterranean countries, and I’m not talking about the ‘pseudo Mediterranean diet’ concocted by the many ‘diet gurus’ of the later years.
Let’s get back to the bedrock of the Mediterranean diet, back to the main, and THE basic dish that is so beneficial for us to eat everyday, that super-dish is ‘Sofrito’.
Many would recognise Sofrito as the tomato sauce in pasta dishes, yet it is a base recipe for so many Spanish and Mediterranean dishes. It is so adaptable that it would be deliciously easy to eat the recommended amount of 120 grams per day. Plus to make up a batch of Sofrito is so easy, for storing it in the fridge on a weekly basis. The sauce can also be kept in the freezer for 6 months, which is a great way to store a glut of tomatoes.
Combining tomato, olive oil, garlic and onion in a sofrito increases the amount of polyphenols and carotenoids, making Sofrito a super powerful dish.
Scientists at the University of Barcelona, and the Biomedical Research Centres in Network, have for the first time, identified polyphenols and carotenoids to have healthy antioxidant substances, and show that Sofrito has at least 40 types of polyphenols. Plus other bioactive compounds are carotenoids vitamin C, and beta-carotene.
Various studies have shown that the intake of carotenoids such as lycopene prevents prostate cancer, and the consumption of foods rich in beta-carotene help reduce the incidence of lung cancer. Sofrito can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
8-9 garlic cloves
120 ml extra-virgin oil
600g – 700g onions, finely chopped
1½ teaspoons of oregano
500 g pureed fresh tomatoes or canned tomato puree
1/2 tsp salt
Can also add chopped green or red peppers.
Pulverise the onion and garlic in a blender.
Put a saucepan over medium heat and add the oil.
Fry the onion and garlic mixture until browned.
Lower the heat, add the herbs, then fry, stirring frequently, until the onion has browned.
Add four-fifths of the tomatoes (and pepper) and cook for 30 minutes.
Add the remaining tomato (and pepper), cook for 30 more minutes, then season with salt and pepper.
Add the hot sauce to sterilised ex-Dolmio sauce jars, cover immediately, and store in the fridge when cool. From my experience, the sauce will keep well in the fridge for several weeks, or you could pop batches of the sauce into containers and freeze. Take care though, as the sauce could stain plastic containers.
For lots of sofrito recipes, you can ‘cheekily’ visit Dolmio’s Recipe Collection!
Picking up your fruit and vegetables from the local Algorfa, or Almoradi markets, is so economical, and healthy, that for the supermarket price of a jar of Dolmio Sauce, you could make up several jars of your own home-made bolognaise or lasagne sauce. A sauce that is super-healthy owing to vegetables being grown in one of the healthiest, and most organic area of the world… which of course is the Vega Baja!
Mosquitoes are nasty little beggars, and if you’re unlucky enough to suffer painful effects of their bite, or sting, then you’re entitled to call them something much more derogative.
It’s only the female mozzie that ‘bite’, using their mouth-part called a proboscis. She will use the serrated proboscis to pierce her victim’s skin, locate a blood capillary, then she will draw blood through one of two tubes. While one tube in the proboscis is engaged in drawing blood, the second tube pumps into your skin saliva, containing a mild painkiller, and an anti-coagulant. Many people can have a minor (sometimes major) allergic reaction to the saliva, and it is this that causes the area around the bite to painfully swell, and itch.
Once she’s had her fill of blood, which can be up to three times her weight, the female will rest for a couple of days before laying her eggs. She can lay up to 300 eggs at a time, and throughout her life she can go through this process of laying eggs three times before she dies.
She will lay her eggs in stagnant water, which will hatch out into what are called ‘wigglers’. The wigglers feed on the organic matter in the stagnant water, and will breathe oxygen from the surface of the water.
After 10 days or so, the wrigglers evolve into pupae. Whilst in this pupae state; they don’t eat as they are partially encased in cocoons. It takes just several days for the pupae to change into adult mosquitoes.
Because they are cold-blooded, some mosquitoes die, and other species shutdown, and hibernate when temperatures drop to less than 10C. They thrive when temperatures rise to over 25C. Depending on the species, some adult females find holes where they wait for warmer weather, and that can be a six month wait. Other species lay their eggs in freezing water then die, where the eggs keep until the warmer weather arrives.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) that we exhale when we breath, attracts the females, and this can even be from some 75ft away. CO2 plumes rise into the air, acting as trails for the mosquitoes to follow through receptors on their antennae in their hunt to find their dinner, which just happens to be our ‘life’s blood’.
Sweat also helps mosquitoes find their victims. When we sweat our skin produces more than 340 chemical odours, including the chemical octenol which excite those hungry females, as does cholesterol, folic acid, certain bacteria, skin lotions, and perfumes.
If you happen to be on a ketogenic diet (akin to the Atkins diet), where you encourage your body to run on ketones instead of carbohydrates, then you have nothing to fear as mozzies hate the smell of ketones. Some sources say that nail varnish remover (which contains acetones) can act as a repellent. [The word ketone derives its name from Aketon, an old German word for acetone.]
Body heat can also be a ‘waving flag’ for mosquitoes to find you, so you’d be wise to wear light coloured clothing as dark clothing can make you feel hot. Plus dark clothing seems to appeal to the mosquito, especially navy blue!
One of the several dreaded diseases passed on by the mosquito, is malaria. This gives the mosquito the disrepute of being the creature that has killed more humans than any other.
Malaria is caused by a parasite that lives in mosquitoes. The parasite gets into mosquito saliva, and is passed on when the insect bites their victim. West Nile and other viruses are passed the same way. Mosquitoes can also carry and pass on canine heartworm, which is a horrendous illness for a dog to suffer. Dogs who sleep overnight in outdoor kennels are especially vulnerable to heartworm.
Mosquitoes have had 210 million years to hone their blood sucking, homicidal, tactics. Even poor Alexander the Great is believed to have died of a mosquito bite, which gave him malaria in 323 B.C.
Fortunately for us, mosquitoes do not transmit HIV. The virus that causes AIDS does not reproduce in mosquitoes as their stomach actually breaks down the virus without it being passed on
History of Malaria in Spain
Malaria was considered the biggest single health risk by the Spanish authorities at the turn of the 20th century. An estimated 800,000 people had malaria in Spain, with some 4,000 dying every year.
This concern in 1918 led to the passing of the ‘Cambó’ Law, giving legal backing to the already strong trend of draining wetlands, which had been practised since the middle 19th century. The law was often ineffective as it allowed for wetlands to be converted into rice fields. Nevertheless, the law was responsible for the destruction of much of Spain’s wetland surface area. In 1964, just in time for the mass tourism to Spain, malaria was officially declared by the Spanish Authorities to be eradicated. The ‘Cambó’ Law was annulled in the early 1980’s.
Along with draining the wetlands, one of the most effective controls of the mosquito was the release in 1921 of a fish called ‘gambusia’ or mosquitofish. Incidentally the fish is now probably the most widespread freshwater fish in the world. This little fish is a voracious devourer of mosquito larva, and it rapidly thrived in Iberian waters. Improvements in housing, public health and sanitation, and a falling rural population all helped to cut back the parasite in Spain.
DEET is considered the ‘gold standard’ of mosquito repellents. It is a solvent, so be careful using it with clothing made from man-made fibres as it could make holes in them. DEET can stain, so protect all clothing.
There have been health concerns concerning DEET, but scientists appear to have come to the conclusion that DEET based repellents can be safely used, as they balance out the dangers of contracting malaria. I guess you have to outweigh the safety of using DEET in Spain, where there is hardly, to no risk, of contracting malaria, (see more on this), though personally I’m reluctant to put anything toxic on my skin, let alone put something that ‘melts’ labels near the skin of a child. In my way of thinking, it’s best to use a ‘safer’ deterrent method – but this depends on assessing how much the risk of contracting malaria would be. For example, if I had the urge to float down the River Amazon, then I’d have a bath in DEET before I set off!
But… in the attempt to stop getting bitten by mosquitoes, just how safe is it to coat yourself in DEET?
“[DEET] has been in use for over 40 years, and has a remarkable safety record. Only few hospitalisations have been reported, and these were mainly due to gross overuse,” says a correspondent on WebMD. The American Academy of Paediatrics states that low concentrations of DEET (10% or less) are safe to use on infants over 2 months old. A product containing 10% DEET can protect you for up to 90 minutes. A product containing 50% DEET is considered to be highly effective.
DEET doesn’t kill the mosquito, nor does it dull the insect’s senses; it is merely a repellent because the insect doesn’t like the smell of DEET.
There are other repellents like picaridin, citronella, lemon-eucalyptus oil (see more below). Talking about ‘citronella’, and as a side note; I’ve often wondered why there are mosquitoes in Algorfa, when you consider we are surrounded by citrus trees!
You’ll have to do your own assessment of what does or doesn’t work. Below are only suggestions for you to try. You might have your own family preference.
From my experience, zappers appear to be useless! But then I’ve never been lucky enough to have an industrial sized zapper.
In the Garden:
Watering garden plants, and leaving water to stagnate in plant pot drip trays to stagnate, creates an ideal mosquito breeding ground. Automatic water irrigation in your garden can cause these problems when you are not in residence.
Cutting vegetation around the edges of any water would help avoid a mosquito breeding environment.
Drill holes in any outside receptacle like a dustbin to drain out any rainwater that can accumulate.
Should you spot a wriggler in a water feature, sterilise the area with normal household bleach. Keeping the water in a water feature moving, and aerated, should deter the female from laying her eggs in the water.
If you do have a water-feature in your garden; and if you can keep them safe from cats, then get a couple of goldfish. They just love mosquitoes and wrigglers. Mosquitofish would work of course too, but they are ferocious eaters, and would eat dragonflies (and their larvae), which are of course mosquito predators.
After a heavy rain, take a look around your property for puddles that could stagnate through not draining away. In my experience, even damp areas topped with dead vegetation can breed little nasties.
Clean out bird baths every couple of days, and don’t forget to refresh the dog’s outside water bowl everyday.
Mosquito Repellent Light Bulb
We’ve had good (nay brilliant!) results from using special electric light bulbs [available in E27] which work on a frequency that deters mosquitoes within some 12m2. Having one of these bulbs at the entrance or porch to external doors (and open windows) helps to keep your home mozzie free at night. If the external doors are open in the evening, we flick the light switch on, even though there’s an hour or two of daylight left in the day. They work like a dream. AKI in the ‘Habaneras Centre’ (Torrevieja), sell them for about 12 euros. Presently they can be found on the racking behind the cash tills.
If you happen to be a handy DIY type, or just like to
mess experiment, there is a home-made mozzie trap you can make.
Placed near mosquito breeding grounds, these traps have been known to knock the mozzie population back.
The YouTube presenter states this trap could work for about 2 weeks.
Caution: Keep away from small children and animals.
I’ve seen a ‘pretty’ finca where the occupant had spent hours, over time, arranging coils of lemon and orange peel around his garden. The citrus were peeled spirally into corkscrews. Whether or not it worked, I’ve no idea; but it did look attractive.
Try rubbing orange or lemon peel on your skin – at a pinch, this could make a good substitute if you find yourself outside in the ‘big-outdoors’ without any repellent to hand.
Mozzies can bite through clothing, so take care when wearing loose weaved fabrics.
Try not to wear dark clothing in the evening as they tend to be warmer; mosquitoes are attracted to heat. It’s believed they are particularly drawn to navy blue.
Studies show that people who’ve had a few beers, score the most mosquito bites at the barbecue. Snack on some Limburger cheese while enjoying a beer, and you will open yourself up to an all out assault. Limburger cheese is made with the same bacteria that makes your feet stink.
Body odour is a big draw to mozzies – if your al fresco for the evening, then you might find it worthwhile to change your socks.
Take care when exercising during dusk; catching your breath after exercise is all well and good, but remember not to kick off your trainers while you are still outside.
Around the Home:
Keep gutters clean and maintained.
Keep swimming pools clean and chlorinated.
Make life hard for the mosquito, they don’t like air conditioning, or fans.
Repelling and Attracting:
Avon do a range of products, called ‘Skin So Soft‘ – Reviews state that ‘Skin So Soft’ works very well, almost as good as DEET.
You can buy chemically impregnated plastic wrist, or ankle bands that help deter the mozzies. These bands are easy to wear at night, although they appear to shrink when you get warm (or is it that my feet or hands get swollen in the evening?). I once wore one of these bands in bed, and awoke to a blinding headache. The problem was that I had the band on my wrist, and while asleep my wrist, with the band, was tucked just under my nose. That sort of put me off from wearing them. Local ‘Consum’ supermarkets sell these bands.
Oil of eucalyptus products, even better; use oil of lemon eucalyptus. Dab a little around your pulse points.
In the last few years, non chemical repellents worn as skin patches and containingthiamine (vitamin B1) can be found on sale. The science behind this repellent comes from a study done in the 1960s. It showed that thiamine (B1) produces a skin odour that female mosquitoes don’t like. But no other studies have confirmed that thiamine is effective as a ‘commercial’ mosquito repellent when worn on the skin.
Lactic acid, which our bodies produce naturally, is a big draw for mosquitoes. It just so happens that many skin care products contain lactic acid too, and so might help boost your chemistry in attracting these blood-seeking insects. Lotions and creams labelled “alpha hydroxy,” provide the most lactic acid.
Nail varnish remover, as mentioned above, is a big turn-off to a mozzie. They don’t care much for acetone.
Use mint on your cats and dogs to keep biting insects off of them.
Crush a few mint leaves between your hands to release the oils. Rub the substance off your hands and onto your cat or dog’s fur before he goes outside. Mint is an effective and safe insect repellent.
Aloe Vera: The plant ‘aloe vera’ has anti-inflammatory properties, and it is known to help the itch. For even better relief, store your aloe vera gel in the fridge as the cold will also help with the itchiness. If you have aloe vera plant in the garden, break off a leaf, and rub the juice or flesh from inside the leaf onto the area of the sting.
Antihistamine: For those who have a severe reaction to the bites, and look as if they’ve caught measles, apply an antihistamine cream, lotion, or take antihistamine medicine. Always keep an antihistamine cream, stick or tablet ready, and don’t hesitate to seek medical advice (or a Farmacia if more convenient) – a bad reaction could prove fatal. If you are prone to severe reactions, consider taking an antihistamine tablet before being exposed to possible bites, such as attending an evening bbq. An antihistamine tablet won’t stop you from being bitten, but will help enormously if you are. Algorfa Farmacia sells a good antihistamine tablet called ‘Citirizina Cinfa 10g’.
Antiseptic Wash: Washing with an antiseptic will often relieve initial pain from an insect bite.
Aspirin: Use a crushed aspirin mixed with a tiny bit of water to make a paste. Dab the paste on the bite. It takes the sting right away. Even a wet aspirin would work. Aspirin contains acetylsalicylic acid, which is anti-inflammatory. Don’t try this if you are allergic to aspirin of course!
Baking Soda: A strong alkaline solution will often ease mosquito bite itching. Two forms of homemade pastes with baking soda are known to be especially effective at this:
1. Mix baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) and warm water: One tablespoon to one pint of water is a good ratio to use. Gently apply to the affected area. Use clean fingers, a cotton swab, or a cotton bud to apply. Leave on for a few minutes, then wash off with warm water.
2. Mix baking soda and household cleaner: Mix a few drops of household cleaning ammonia with baking soda to form a paste. Apply gently to the affected area and allow to dry. This should relieve the itching. Remove with warm water. Note that household ammonia can also be dabbed onto the bites by itself.
Banana Skin: Rub the inside of a banana skin onto the bite.
Clean Sting Area: As soon as as you can, aim to reduce the potential for severe itching by treating the sting areas. Clean the area with rubbing alcohol, alcohol wipes, or plain water.
Distilled Witch-hazel and Calamine Lotion: Mix together as an effective pain relief and itch soother.
Egg: Inside the cracked shell of an egg you will find a flexible membrane. Cover the bite with this membrane and let dry. As it contracts, it will draw out some of the toxin.
Green Tea Bag: Put a used green tea bag that has been refrigerated on the bite. Oh the bliss…
Hand Sanitisers: Hand sanitisers with alcohol will soon take the edge off the pain. It stings at first, especially if the skin is damaged, but it soon passes.
Hair-dryer: Blow hot air over the bite. This is the easiest way to disperse the histamines; it will stop itching for hours!
Infections: If an infection develops from the bite, or from scratching them, seek medical help promptly
Keep Fingernails Clean: Try not to scratch bites as infections are easily caught through ‘dirty’ fingernails. Sometimes we scratch to calm an itch when we are asleep, make sure fingernails are scrubbed before going to bed.
Lemon, Orange, or Lime: Cut up lemon, orange or lime into small pieces, and dab gently over the bite, or just squirt a bit of juice on it. Citric acid has some itch-relieving properties.
Meat Tenderiser: Add a little meat tenderizer to the bite area. Mix it with a little water first before applying.
Method ‘X': Granny’s tip was to put an ‘X’ in the middle of the bite [with your fingernails]. This disperses the protein and stops the itch for a while.
Nail Polish (preferably clear): Providing the bite is not raw from scratching, apply a coat of nail polish over the area. Not only will this keep the bite from scratching, it acts as a seal to protect it.
Oatmeal: Oatmeal is renowned for its anti-itching properties. Make a paste with some oatmeal, and apply to the bite area. Allow to dry, then wash off.
Oils and Cream: Rubbing alcohol, witch hazel, basil, lavender oil, and tea tree oil have antiseptic properties, so they could help prevent bites from getting infected, plus their stinging sensation helps distract you from the itch. Tea tree oil, not only repels mosquitoes and other insects, but it does stop the itch if you do get bitten. Basil oil also has an anti-inflammatory.
Onion: Rub onion juice over the bite.
Penny or Copper Coin: Hold a copper coin against the bites. Copper often makes the skin feel better after a mosquito bite.
Preparation H (hemorrhoidal cream): Sounds strange, but hemorrhoidal creams can shrink swellings. Using Preparation H hemorrhoid cream on insect bites is well founded because one of its ingredients, pramoxine, is a painkiller.
Perfume: Try perfume on the bites. It might sting a bit, but it is better after a couple of minutes. However, perfume can also attract more mosquitoes, so don’t use this if you’re still in the area of the mosquitoes.
Regular Listerine Mouthwash: Listerine has menthol, which cools the skin to help relieve itching.
Soap: Rub a bar of dry or wet soap over the itchy area
Spoon (Warm): Let a metal spoon sit in steaming hot water for a minute. Remove the spoon from the water, let it cool for about five or so seconds, then press the bowl of the spoon over the mosquito bite. Hold it there for ten to thirty seconds. Repeat a few times while the water is still hot. Do this several times daily until your bite is healed.
Tiger Balm: Clean the area carefully with alcohol. Rub a small amount vigorously on and just around the bite. This will alleviate the itching. Use white Tiger Balm if possible, as it appears to work better than the red. Don’t rub Tiger Balm on delicate areas, particularly around the eyes.
Toothpaste: Regular flavoured toothpaste is the best choice for this method, or use any non-gel toothpaste. Gel toothpaste is not suitable for this method. Rub the paste into your bite, leaving a blob on the top. Wash off in the morning with cold water and mild soap. The toothpaste will dry the bite out, removing any irritation.
Tums Indigestion Tablets: Mix several Tums with water to create a paste. This can be very effective in relieving the itch.
Underarm Deodorant: Rub deodorant on the bite area. Try to use a non-scented deodorant if possible.
Use Your Own Spit: This might sting for about a minute, but it nearly always takes the itch away. Failing that, salting a bite also stings, but does remove the itch!
Vicks VapoRub: Vick can take away the itch in seconds, and it never comes back. For areas where movement wipes it off, put a bandaid over it. Works like a charm!
Vinegar Paste: Make a thick paste of cornflour and apple cider vinegar. Gently apply the paste to the affected area. Allow to dry. It will alleviate the itching by the time it has dried. Wash off using warm water. You could also place tape or a bandage over this to leave it on longer. Any type of vinegar can be used. Vinegar stops the itching, and helps the swelling to go down.
Water: Whether it’s ice cold or piping hot, using water may help alleviate the pain of the sting. The method you choose probably depends most on which temperature you like best applied to your skin!
1. Take a warm bath with two tablespoons of cider vinegar added can help to alleviate itching.
2. Put a wet sponge in the freezer, and so when you get itchy, you can put the sponge on the bite. Make sure that the sponge is clean.
Warning: Insect bites COULD be life threatening after an adult, child, or even a pet gets stung. See Anaphylactic Shock. The paragraphs above are only suggestions that I have discovered, and they are not a replacement for professional medical advice.
With a build area of 85m2, plus an additional huge under build storage area, this 3 bedroom 2 bathroom home located on plot size of 300m2 represents a genuine opportunity to invest in a real value for money property.
Viewing is highly recommended.
This property boasts beautiful views over the extensive tiled garden terraces, one of these terraces incorporates a private Jacuzzi hot tub with a pergola over, providing summer shade.
A further large attractive outdoor dining area complements the superb mature gardens that surround this property.
Outside stairway gives access to the rooftop solarium. The solarium area is not overlooked, and provides secluded sunbathing space with stunning views over the Vega Baja area, and to the mountain ranges beyond. An ideal place to watch the sunset, and to entertain.
There is a communal pool in this small select development, which completes what is a stunning private property.
For more information, please see ‘Property For Sale’ page on A1Spain.com.
Situated within the Urbanisation Castillo de Montemar, this property boasts 3 double bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, large separate kitchen, and is well maintained throughout.
This unique property is full of character and charm with some excellent features such as wooden beams, stunning terraces, and two off-road driveways.
The property is on three levels, and has 1 double bedroom on the ground floor; along with a spacious lounge / dining room; a large fully fitted kitchen; WC with a shower; covered porch / terrace area at the front of the property; and fantastic terraces with a garden water feature at the rear of the property.
On the 1st floor there are 2 double bedrooms; a further WC with shower, and a large balcony.
This property also has a 2nd floor where you will find an office area, and very private rooftop solarium with glorious stunning views over the Vega Baja countryside, mountain ranges, and across to La Finca Golf & Spa Resort.
to La Finca Golf & Spa Resort.
For more information, please see ‘Property For Sale’ page on A1Spain.com.
Spot a Spanish Cazuela!
You’ll find one in just about every traditional Spanish restaurant! The Secret to Real Mediterranean Flavour!
Not many visitors coming to Spain from other countries will realise just how versatile, and useful, the ‘Spanish Cazuela’ can be.
Go into any Spanish restaurant and order a dish of garlic mushrooms or prawns, and more likely than not, your food will be served piping hot in a Cazuela. See tapas on display in most Spanish bars, and you’ll not be able to miss a Cazuela. But do you really give a thought about the Cazuela, apart from thinking it would be useful under a house plant!
1 tbsp olive oil
12 large raw prawns
2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
small handful parsley, chopped
In a Cazuela, heat oil and butter;
Add the prawns and garlic and stir well;
Stir fry until the prawns are pink (about 4-5 minutes);
Season with salt, and freshly ground black pepper;
Scatter the chopped parsley over.
Pondering the name, ‘Cazuela’, it’s clear to see where the English word ‘Casserole’ comes from. Officially, translation of the Spanish Cazuelas means ‘Spanish cooking pot’, or ‘Spanish casserole’.
When early man discovered fire, and started cooking his food, the first vessel he used was a clay pot, and he’s been using terracotta ever since. Therefore, it would be correct to say; that no one appears to know precisely when the first Cazuela was fired. Throughout millennia we’ve been using versions of the Cazuela to healthily cook our food. It’s suffice to say that all Spanish Cazuelas made today, are of course more refined than the early primitive kind, now they are built for durability, and for modern cooking practices.
The Cazuela, used in many kitchens throughout Spain, became known as ‘cocina pobre’, or ‘poor cooking’. Such was the common cooking style throughout the 19th and 20th centuries in Spain after a series of wars and turbulent political changes left the nation in economic turmoil. For centuries, provincial cooking techniques remained largely the same for countryside people who were used to living frugally, eating whatever they had on hand. Their diets appeared very healthy as they dined on bread, olive oil, regional vegetables, and local small game. It’s fair to say cooking with a Spanish Cazuela is simple, unpretentious, and delicious when used with fresh seasonal ingredients. The Cazuela is as robust as any cookware you could purchase, it fits easily into a modern kitchen, with the added bonus of being very cheap to buy.
First off, after you have purchased your new Cazuela, you will need to ‘Season’ or ‘Cure’ it:
Your new Cazuela would have been delivered to the Cazuela shop direct from the Spanish Factory. It will probably be relatively light in weight, and it will possibly be fragile! Therefore, it is important to ‘Season’, or ‘Cure’ the pot before using. Seasoned pots are much stronger than unseasoned ones. Don’t worry though, this process couldn’t be simpler.
The main thing you need to do, is to soak your pot, fully submerged in water overnight, or between 4 to 12 hours. The thickness of the terracotta has to be considered, the thicker the terracotta the more soaking time is needed. Water has the ability to ‘cure’ terracotta. Although Cazuelas, and other terracotta cookware are fired at quite high temperatures, they have to be soaked to toughen them.
Once it’s been soaked you’ll notice your pot is much heavier. Dry your pot normally with a tea-towel.
Traditionalists say to rub the bottom of the pot with a garlic clove. We say; “Why argue with tradition!” Traditionalists believe that the garlic kills bacteria, and hardens the unglazed areas of the pot. For over a thousand years, Spanish cooks have been rubbing the base of their Cazuelas with garlic.
Your pot is now ready for the next stage, which is to apply heat. Choose one of the two methods below:
Method One – Fill the pot with water to within half an inch from the rim. One school of thought says to add half a cup of vinegar to the water, while others say it’s not necessary – we say; “Why not!” Heat the pot slowly, subjecting the pot to minimum thermal shock.
Method Two – Rub the inside of the base (and lid if your pot has one) with olive oil, put into a cold oven, then set to heat at 150 degrees C (300 degrees F, Gas 29) for one and half hours. When finished ‘cooking’, turn off the heat and let the oven cool.
Either of the above methods will strengthen your Cazuela, though you still have to keep in mind that terracotta expands and contracts with temperature.
If you haven’t used your Cazuela for a while, it would be advisable to re-season it before using it again..
Cleaning Spanish Cazuelas
Cazuelas are dishwasher safe. Though for hard baked on food, soak the pot in soapy water, scrape off the food as it softens, then wash as normal. Try not to use too much soap, or any for that matter, as Cazuelas pick up flavours, and some flavours like ‘soap’ are not nice!
Take Care When Cooking With Your Cazuela
Cazuelas, not only were man’s first cooking implement, they were the first ‘oven to table’ wear. Be careful though, while Cazuelas take quite a while getting up to temperature, they can get very hot, and can take some time to cool down. This means your food will remain hot for longer than maybe expected. Since it’s made from earth, terracotta actually absorbs and radiates heat naturally and healthily.
Introducing cold food to a heated Cazuela could cause it to crack through a thermal shock. It’s not a good idea to heat up your Cazuela, then toss in some frozen food!
Be careful that you don’t place your hot Cazuela onto a cold surface. Again this could cause the dreaded thermal shock.
Terracotta cookware can withstand hot temperatures on the BBQ, on an open fire, a clay oven, or gas hob; providing the pot is not subject to adverse temperatures. A word of caution for cooks who use electric or ceramic hobs, you must use a defuser on a low heat as a buffer for the first few minutes, then the heat can be raised to medium.
Freezing Food With Your Cazuela
A Cazuela that is well seasoned can handle being frozen brilliantly. Make your dish; a fish pie, meat pie, or a casserole for instance, be sure to let it cool, then freeze. To heat the food, make sure the pot and food is thawed, then pop the Cazuela into a cool oven, heating the oven slowly after 20 to 30 minutes to the required temperature.
Sizes of Cazuelas
Cazuelas come in various sizes, from 6cm to lovely big cooking vessels of up to 46cm. The smaller ones are generally used for tapas, while the bigger ones can amply cook a leg of lamb, including a mountain of ingredients for roasting at the same time.
Besides Spain’s sunny climate, it’s the healthy Spanish lifestyle that’s driven millions of British citizens to the shores of this fantastic Mediterranean country. Spain is the world’s largest producer of Olive Oil, and it’s the best olive oil in the world!
This is the story of the ‘Amazing Liquid Gold and the Healthy Mediterranean Diet!’
Recipe For Ali Oli
- Grind a peeled garlic head with salt until a paste.
- Put a small amount of milk, or 2 egg yolks into blender, and slowly add olive oil until mixture becomes thick. Keep adding the oil until it is the consistency you require.
- Add garlic paste, lemon juice, and seasoning to taste.
The real name is “All i Oli“, from the Catalan for Garlic and Oil.”
Anyone used to shopping in British supermarkets will notice that in Spanish supermarkets there are rows of shelves displaying a vast array of olive oil brands; the shelves are akin to the range of wines on display. Yet, there is something more to notice; in the Spanish supermarkets you will find only small shelf space for biscuits and sweets. No wonder the Spanish, and Mediterranean way of eating is considered so healthy.
Spanish Olive Oil Is The Best!
Of course, to all those who love Spain, Spanish oil is consider the very best. With a wide range of aromas and tastes, who can cast doubt! Some Spanish olive oil tastes sweet and smooth, whereas other types are more full-bodied with varying intensities of character, pleasant bitterness or more pungency. In particular, Spanish olive oils usually have an intense fruity aroma.
Experiment, as you would do with wine, and choose from the numerous flavours, those that your suit your tastes.
Factoid! Of all the oils produced for human consumption, olive oil is the only oil that is extracted from fresh fruit.
Italy may have a claim to having the best Olive Oil, but in reality they are the biggest importer of Spanish oil, expertly blending this fantastic oil, enabling Italy to be the world’s largest exporter.
History of Olive Oil Cultivation in Spain
Factoid! The Spanish language term for ‘oil’ is “aceite”, deriving from the Arab word for olive, al zaytun. “Oliva” in Spanish means only the olive tree, not the oil itself.
Oil cultivation in Spain began over 3,000 years ago when the Phoenicians and the Greeks introduced the olive tree (Olea Europea) into Spain around 1100 years BC.
During the Roman occupation of Spain, olive oil production expanded and improved with new recovery techniques.
Archaeological evidence: starting in the 1st century BC, and covering a 260 year period, shows some 6.5 billion litres of oil was imported into the Roman Empire, and 85% of this was grown in Andalucia. Further historical evidence, taken from the ancient book ‘De Bello Hispanico’, describes how Julius Caesar’s cavalry planted many olive trees close to Sevilla.
Olive, and olive oil production continued to grow in Spain during the occupation of the Moors, with most of the trees surviving, and laying witness to many terrible Spanish wars.
Today, it is estimated there are some 215 million olive trees in Spain, covering over 3 million acres, meaning that over 43.8% of the world’s olive production is grown in Spain, with an annual production of over 600,000 metric tons of olive oil.
Olive oil IS Mediterranean cooking, it is the crux of Mediterranean life; a spice, a herb, a condiment, a salve, an offering, a philosophy, a trophy, and a great source of healthy energy.
History Of The Olive Tree And Its Oil
For as long as legends have been a part of history, Olives, together with its oil have been steeped in symbolic values of popular beliefs and religions. We mustn’t forget that long-ago, olive oil was not just a food and medical source, it was also used to light lamps, and to cook. Therefore, because it was so essential, olive oil became known as liquid gold.
Olive trees have been known, and now verified through carbon dating, to survive thousands of years – bearing witness to long forgotten times and legends. This could be the reason why the olive tree is regarded as a symbol of patience. Furthermore, the olive tree is also the symbol of immortality. It’s said, that planting an olive tree on your land, is the best legacy you could provide for your grandchildren!
Many a king, queen, and priests have been anointed with olive oil.
Oil traders in Ancient Rome dedicated a temple and a statue to Hercules Olivarius.
The quote from Pliny the Roman author, say it all; ‘Sip the wine and splash the oil!’
Ancient Pomeiani wouldn’t wash their hair with anything other than olive oil – could this have been the forerunner of the ‘Brylcreem’ brand?
Since the first Olympic Games 776 BC, to honour Zeus, athletes were massaged with olive oil in the belief that the wisdom, power and strength of Athena would be bestowed upon them. (In Part 2 we will explain the evidence on how and why this was such good practice.) Winners in the games were awarded olive leaf crowns and olive oil.
The olive harvesting of the ancients was incredibly advanced for its time, aided by astronomy which was said to predict poor harvests. Thales of Miletus used his astronomical observations to predict an abundant harvest for 596 BC. He immediately built new oil-presses, making many Greeks rich in a year.
Olive oil had many uses in ancient Greece, although social status was a factor. Poor people for instance, could not afford to consume olive oil. While the rich were able to use olive oil in cooking, for cleaning their bodies, and for lighting.
Hippocrates mentions 60 different conditions which could be treated with olive oil, such as skin conditions, wounds and burns, gynaecological ailments, ear infections, just to mention a few. (Watch out for Part II!)
When medicine was not enough to save the patient, olive oil was used in laying out the dead. Women washed the body, and finally they used olive oil to anoint. Olive oil, as well as wine, honey, and other products were offered to the dead at the graveside.
The legend still exists, that if you should come upon a statue of Zeus, you should polish it with olive oil, whereby the spirit of Zeus would be so honoured by your reverence to him, that he would grant you a long and happy life. (Warning! It is highly doubtful that the Archaeological Museum in Athens would understand your quest.)
In periods of war, couriers of peace were sent holding a symbolic olive branch in their hand. Irena the goddess of peace, the daughter of Zeus, was depicted with an olive branch in her hand, and an owl, the symbol of wisdom (see image above).
Factoid! Olive boughs have crowned heroes, as well as Olympic champions.
In Greek legend, the goddess Athena gave the olive tree to the people, and anyone who dared damage them were punished by law. This therefore raises the question; would careful pruning of the trees be allowed?
And, but not least; a well groomed ancient Greek would smear olive oil over his body, hence the term a ‘Greek god’ (probably!).
Olive Trees, and the Bible
We read in the Bible that the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed, and was arrested by Roman soldiers, was according to His disciples, an olive grove.
Psalm 52:8 – English Standard Version: “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.”
There are many instances of the olive tree being mentioned in the Bible and in the Koran.
A Turkish travel guide mentioned the legend; there was a time when olive trees stood straight and tall, but that was until an olive tree was cut down to crucify Jesus, and since then the olive tree’s wood has been twisted in its agony of shame.