Visitors to the Hay Literature Festival this May will be treated to a taste of Spanish flavours, thanks to a pop-up stand, Tapas España, by the popular chef José Pizarro.
Built of Welsh potato crates the stand, supported by the Spanish tourist board, will be used for live cooking demonstrations in which José will combine the flavours of Spain with the distinctive ingredients of Wales, a country with which he has a strong connection.
"My partner comes from Cardiff, and so I have been going to Wales frequently for the last 14 years, and the ingredients there are amazing," he says. Delights such as seabass, which is farmed in Wales, cockles, laverbread (a type of seaweed that is commonly fried and eaten as part of a Welsh breakfast with bacon and cockles), and Welsh cider in which chorizo will be cooked, are amongst the local produce he will use.
But to make authentic Spanish tapas, there are of course some ingredients that must still come from Spain. "Pimenton (paprika) has to be from Spain," says José, who also brings wine, sherry, cheese and olive oil from Spain.
In fact he estimates that around 50 per cent of the products he uses daily at his restaurants are imported from different parts of Spain. "Spain is like 17 different countries – each region has something different to offer, and they all still have very good markets," he says.
We are having lunch in Pizarro, his new restaurant in Bermondsey that opened just 18 months ago just minutes from his successful tapas restaurant José, the clientele of which is mostly Spanish and which evokes perfectly the atmosphere of a traditional tapas bar in Spain.
We eat chicory salad with blue cheese, walnuts and honey, mackerel escabeche, chicken livers with gherkin cooked in fino sherry, aubergine milhojas and Ibérico pork meatballs, and a couple of glasses of Ensamblaje Palacio Quemado, an Extremaduran wine from Ribera del Guadiana.
José is keen to promote the produce of his native Extremadura, where he trained in Cáceres, coming to London 14 years ago when he started Brindisa, opening a series of Brindisa restaurants across London.
Now he is doing his own thing successfully continuing to broaden the popularity of authentic Spanish food in London. "People are getting more experimental when they eat at Pizarro. They try the liver, they eat tripe, and sherry is very popular, especially in José, even for our younger customers," he says. He has 1,600 patrons in José every week and around 20 per cent of his drinks sales are sherry.
I'm a recent convert to sherry and he pours me a glass of Oloroso Antique Fernando de Castilla. The Hay festival coincides with World Sherry Day – Sunday 26th May – so the liquor is sure to feature prominently on José's menu, and rightly so.
Added by Louise Parkin | 12.09pm
by Lucy Williams
Spain, the leading producer of olive oil in Europe, has experienced one of its worst harvests in years. According to the Olive Oil Times, this has resulted in a 50 per cent wholesale price increase for UK consumers of both own label and branded olive oils.
But why was Spain’s harvest so bad? During the key 2012 growing season, severe drought plagued the country, meaning the forecast for 2013 – which now stands at 700,000 tonnes – is 60 per cent down on last year’s figure. According to the Olive Oil Agency (AAO), this is the reason why pressing plants are charging 50 per cent more for oil today than back in July 2012.
Other oil-producing countries such as Italy, Greece, Turkey and Tunisia would typically be called upon to make up Spain’s losses, but further droughts in these countries has left them unable to compensate for the shortfalls of Spain, a country which makes up 60 per cent of olive oil production in the Mediterranean.
With price increases too great to be boosted by the brands themselves, price increases for consumers are inevitable, although the question remains of whether these increases will be in proportion to the 50 per cent increase in wholesale olive oil prices.
Walter Zanré, nanaging director of the UK’s leading olive oil brand, Filippo Berio UK, weighs in on the issue by stating that as a company, they have no control over the consumer price of the product, which will certainly be affected both in the UK and in Europe as a result of the wide-spread drought, with both branded and own-label olive oils undergoing increases.
Being a natural product which relies heavily on the environment, the olive oil trade, like the wine trade, is one that is unfortunately at the mercy of variations in supply, and there is nothing to be done about weather-related price increases, but to hope that this year’s season brings a better forecast for the future.
Added by Louise Parkin | 11.11am
by Lucy Williams
A new Seville-based company, The Tapas Shop, has recently opened offering 125 different organic, all-natural products, which are both high quality and competitively priced. In Spain today, jarred products are seen as handy, fashionable and healthy, and with such a wide range of goods on offer at The Tapas Shop, it’s not hard to see why.
The Tapas Shop offers everything from fish and seafood tapas, breadsticks, olives and vinegars, to seasoning and sauces, cheese, chorizo and jamón iberico, cured for 24-48 months. The shop already boasts 23 gold stars in the incredibly sought-after Great Taste Awards, meaning it has won more prizes than any shop in the UK.
The food, most of which can be stored for at least a year, is fuss-free and nutritious. Delivery charges are £6.99 on orders over £50, and delivery is free for customers who spend over £100.
The products, which include extra-virgin olive oil, seafood stuffed peppers and tuna loin with mushrooms, are made by local Eastern Andalucían suppliers, who keep the authenticity of Spanish cooking through their traditional, home-made methods. And just in case you’re worried about what’s in your tapas, the website allows you to see exactly where the product is from, and just how it was made.
Added by Louise Parkin | 12.06pm
Added by Louise Parkin | 2.09pm
Spain has reclaimed its property crown, according to a leading TV survey. The latest Top of the Props report from TheMoveChannel.com shows that Spain has regained top spot following America’s unexpected victory in November.
US property fell in popularity last month, dropping three places in the overseas portal’s chart as Spain, Portugal and France charged up the table, pushing America down to fourth. In total, the top three countries accounted for just over a third of all enquiries on the site in December.
While US enquiries fell by 7.32 per cent, Spain’s popularity dropped by only 0.18 per cent. This steady level of attention, driven by low prices and the country’s reduction in VAT during 2011, reflects the continuing demand for Spanish property.
Investors returned to old favourites France and Portugal too. France’s enquiries increased by 1.05 per cent to hold third place, proving that holiday home demand can still buck the Eurozone’s downward trend if the prices are right.
Italy’s enquiries increased in December as well, but its smaller monthly rise of 0.65 per cent was still not enough to compete with November’s victor.
Added by Louise Parkin | 2.08pm
The Spanish Tourist Board has joined forces with the Basque Country to run a month-long promotion at Harrods, running during January. The campaign will highlight the many flavours of the Basque Country and, for the first time in London, will exhibit the original Frank Gehry design model for the impressive Marques de Riscal wine complex, previously housed in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
As well as the world renowned Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, also designed by Gehry, the Basque Country enjoys a reputation for being one of the best cuisines in the world, ranging from excellent traditional cookery to innovative signature cuisine. The San Sebastián area has the highest number of Michelin stars per habitant in the world and the entire Basque Country offers a vast array of opportunities to delight the palate.
As well as fine cuisine, the Basque Country offers a fabulous array of wines and visitors to Harrods this season can choose from over sixteen Basque labels ranging from Baigorri de Garage (2005) to Marqués de Riscal, Riscal 150th Anniversary Gran Reserva and Marqués de Riscal, Riscal Baron de Chirel Reserva.
For 2012, the capital of the Basque Country, Vitoria, has been named European Green Capital and the Basque city of San Sebastián, known for its shell-shaped bay and annual film festival, has been selected as European Capital of Culture for 2016, earning the region further acclaim on a global scale.
The month-long promotion at Harrods will see the store’s iconic windows displays reflecting a cooler and more contemporary side to Spain, together with posters, plasma screens and adverts. As well as exhibiting the original Frank Gehry design model for the impressive Marques de Riscal wine complex, the promotion will also display a remarkable recreation of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, a real feast for lovers of modern art and ground-breaking architecture.
The Spanish Tourist Board is delighted to be celebrating the wonders of the Basque Country with such a prestigious London store and hopes that the promotion will unveil a range of inspiring holiday ideas for customers and passers-by.
Added by Louise Parkin | 1.59pm
Consumer Focus has issued a super-complaint to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) concerning the amount consumers pay for their holiday money. In 2009, UK travellers spent around £27 billion while holidaying abroad, according to a report from The Office of National Statistics.
A combination of complex charges and poor or misleading information when buying foreign money or using cards overseas, are to blame for consumers paying too much, says the watchdog.
Charges for UK customers equate to around £1billion a year, although the the consumer group will not be drawn on how much of this is unwarranted. Foreign exchange specialist Moneycorp claims that figure is around £300 million a year.
Added by Louise Parkin | 1.58pm
Buying new property in Spain is about to get cheaper, thanks to a decision by the Spanish government to reduce IVA (VAT) from eight per cent down to four per cent until December 2011. This effectively knocks €8,000 off a €200,000 property.
Nick Stuart of Spanish Hot Properties, a developer on the Costa del Sol, claimed that this action would stop some agents going out of business. He said, "A reduction in VAT will hopefully spark some movement in the market as new build properties become more affordable."
According to Jose Blanco, Minister of Development, the measure aims to "revive the construction sector" and "contribute to creating employment in the sector most affected" by the recession.
Added by Louise Parkin | 1.58pm
The BBC’s tried and tested Quickstart method to learning Spanish is now available as an app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Breaking down key language into manageable chunks, the app uses interactive activities and quizzes, exploring how the language works rather than focusing on single words and phrases.
The course follows three friends as they travel round Barcelona for 24 hours, broken down into 14 episodes. A recordable phrase book allows you to repeat and record certain phrases – so you can experience just how dreadful your pronunciation is! The app costs £5.99 from the iTunes App Store.
Added by Louise Parkin | 1.57pm
Having a holiday home abroad is a dream shared by many, and if you can make a little income from it, that’s even better. How do you know though that you are protecting your tenants and, ultimately, yourself?
A new guide from British Insurance could provide all the advice you need to ensure that your legal and health and safety obligations are fulfilled. The Guide draws attention to issues such as electricity, gas, water, appliances, furniture/furnishings and fire regulations, and covers health and safety issues including windows, open fires, bathrooms, nursery and play equipment, bunk beds, stairways, balconies, gardens and swimming pools.
Owners of overseas property have a responsibility, says the guidebook, to familiarise themselves with local laws and regulations – especially in Spain where laws often vary from one Autonomous Region to the next – and should ensure that adequate insurance is in place.
Added by Louise Parkin | 1.56pm
New research conducted by overseas property portal TheMoveChannel.com
found that Spain remains one of the top three worldwide countries in which to purchase property. Along with America and France, Spain shared a third of all of the website’s overseas property searches.
While people cite the laid-back lifestyle, tasty tapas and fantastic weather, it is cost that remains one of the biggest factors to entice potential buyers. Dan Johnson, director of the web-based portal, points out that, due to financial difficulties the country has faced, Spanish banks are eager and “keener than ever to divest the reposed stock from their balance sheets.” Johnson says that affordable property is in plentiful supply thanks to the competitive prices the Spanish banks are advertising in order to “continue to try and shift property cheaply.”
With Johnson predicting that these competitive deals are unlikely to change any time soon, there will be a consistency of good deals and appealing prices in the foreseeable future. Although America does boast favourable exchange rates, established legal codes and quite literally a larger area of choice, the Spanish property market currently appears to offer the more competitive deals in the tough property market.
Added by Louise Parkin | 1.53pm
The London Spanish Film Festival returns for its seventh year this autumn, showing a selection of some of the most exciting Spanish made films from a broad range of genres.
Some of these films are to be later released in the UK, but for the vast majority of them, this provides the only chance for audiences here to see them.
Many of the films are presented by their director or actors, and special guests this year include Paco Cabezas, who will introduce his latest film as a director, Neon Flesh, as well as Bon Appetit! which he co-wrote. Oscar Aibar will present his successful El Gran Vázquez and the Galician Olivier Laxe his Cannes-awarded Todos Vós Sodes Capitáns.
As in previous years, there will be a Catalan Window with a selection of films that allows a glimpse into the cinema from Catalonia, including Ramon Térmens’ Catalunya Uber Alles! and Legend of the Soldier, in Catalonia known as Bruc, the name of the legendary Catalan drummer boy.
Barcelona filmmaker Ventura Pons will present his latest work, Mil Cretins, and Nora Navas will introduce to us Agustí Villaronga’s multi-Goya-awarded Pà Negre, for which she herself received the Best Actress Goya Award.
Basque cinema will be represented – namely the romantic Bon Appetit – and Balada Trist de Trompeta which won Alex de la Iglesia the Venice Silver Lion for best director.
This year’s Special Feature is dedicated to a US-born actress with an international career that includes an extensive list of films in Spain starting in the mid-60s, when she became Carlos Saura’s muse. Geraldine Chaplin (above) is considered in Spain to be amongst the most outstanding actresses without whom Spanish cinematography could not be fully understood.
The festival will also pay a small homage to the late Luis García Berlanga, one of Spain’s most iconic independent filmmakers.
Most of the screenings and events will take place at Ciné lumière in South Kensington.
There will be further screenings at Shortwave, Rich Mix and International House. For full programme listings visit www.londonspanishfilmfestival.com.
Added by Louise Parkin | 1.53pm
Two new greens dedicated to short game golf have been introduced at La Sella golf resort in Denia on the Costa Blanca. Designed for practicing putting and chipping techniques, each green is more than 600m2. The first has two bunkers and different types of grass cuts to practice shots that arise on the main golf courses, while the second green is wider, designed for putting, with multiple steps and various flag positions, allowing large groups to practice at the same time.
Surrounded by the Natural Park of Montgó, a Mediterranean forest, the courses are maintained with organic products, and wend their way through pine forests with views over the natural park and the sea. This resort is a peaceful, natural place to play.
La Sella has three nine-hole courses; Llebeig, named after the warm wind from the Sahara, a difficult course; Gregal, a flat course featuring an abundance of water; and Mestral, which has wider fairways and large greens as well as some elevated holes that provide spectacular sea views.
The courses were designed by José María Olazábal in 1991. The five-star Denia Marriott La Sella Golf Resort and Spa hotel is 30 metres from the first hole and has a swimming pool with a pool bar, a spa and gym.
Added by Louise Parkin | 1.52pm
The presence of a pool – and the weather hot enough to use it regularly – is high on the list for expats searching for a new property in Spain. Safety is an issue though, and although solid pool covers are available, there is a new product recently launched in Spain that can cover the pool in five minutes, and be removed in around three.
Called the Aqua-Net, it is made of synthetic strands radiating out from a central float, which rises with the water level and ensures that the net is always supported above the pool.
Its high tensile strength and small gaps mean that once a child falls onto it, they cannot crawl further into the centre, nor can they fall through – the gaps are designed to prevent even the smallest head fitting through.
Manufacturers claim that it is in fact safer than a solid pool cover, as puddles cannot form on its surface, which could be deep enough to cause drowning, especially as these covers are easier for children to access.
Currently based on the island of Menorca, the team at Aqua-Net fits nets onto pools all over Spain, with installation on an average pool costing from around €800 (£700).
Each strand is strong enough to withstand 160kg, attaching to a small clip that lies flush with the floor.
Although it's new to Spain, the Aqua-Net has been available in other parts of the world since 1972 with a 100 per cent success rate.
Added by Louise Parkin | 1.50pm
The Living Spain offices have been surprisingly quiet over the last few weeks, partly due to our latest addiction to this new app for the iPhone.
ArtPad is a digital art app allowing even the least creative people to unleash their inner artist. It draws on an impressive art pack library, importing pre-existing graphics onto the artboard, including illustrations, shapes and fonts, building up the layers to create quirky characters and montages that can be also be uploaded to Facebook, sent as picture text messages or installed as wallpaper on the iPhone itself.
It's a great way to keep the kids quiet on the plane – my eight-year-old niece is a natural – and an ideal way to while away the hours at the airport or by the pool. It's so engrossing though, the only danger is you might miss your plane.
ArtPad can be downloaded from the Appstore or through www.itunes.co.uk for just 59p. www.artpadapp.com
Added by Louise Parkin | 1.44pm
It's never been easier to find the hottest venue in the coolest of cities, thanks to Wallpaper's Barcelona city guide app for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
This updated app now features over 60 Retina quality images and authoritative advice for the cultured, discerning traveller. The appealing menu system means you can bookmark your favourites, and create itineraries.
It helps you find the perfect hotel, or gives you the low down on those little-known corners of the city, thanks to up-to-the-minute information.
With a single touch, you are able to tap through to Landmarks, Hotels, 24 Hours, Urban Life (bars and restaurants), Architour (featuring the city’s best architecture), Shopping, Sports and Spas and Escapes. In addition, each guide features a local resident recommending their own favourite places to visit and sharing their insider knowledge. Where maps and aerial photography appear in the print edition, the app links directly to embedded maps. The guides can also be used offline to avoid international roaming charges.
It's a steal at just £1.79. Available from the iPhone App Store.
Added by Louise Parkin | 1.32pm
We Brits spend so much on our annual summer holiday, that millions of us are already saving up for our break next year, according to travel website Holidayextras.com.
In a recent survey, 42 per cent of those questioned said they would spend £1,000 or more per person on this years' summer holiday, with nine per cent preparing to fork out £2,000. Just 24 per cent had a budget of less than £500 per person.
It also revealed that 45 per cent said they were saving for this years' holiday – and incredibly, 10 per cent were already saving for next years'. A fortunate 41 per cent said they did not need to save at all – a surprisingly high figure, given the amounts being spent.
Women were more focused on saving than men, with 50 per cent of them saving for this years' holiday, compared with 40 per cent of men.
Added by Louise Parkin | 12.44pm