Featured writer: Rachel
Everyone loves tapas, me included and I’ve prepared a few myself over the sixteen years of living in rural Spain. But my sampling of tapas has been far more extensive than my preparation of them!
It was time to re-address that, so my other half, Nick, and I headed down to the lovely lakeside town of Iznajar for an overnight stay and Tapas Class with professional chef Clive Ridout and his wife Maki at their rambling country B&B, Finca Los Encinas.
We drove south from our home in Jaén through the sprawling town of Prigo de Cordoba snapping some good wooden doors (a passion of mine) along the way. Apart from the town there wasn´t a moment when olive trees didn´t accompany us throughout the quiet hour and a half, picturesque country drive.
Driving in inland Spain is enjoyable. The roads often empty, as they were this Easter week. A time that, when living in England, we hibernated not ventured out onto the roads.
Driving on an Empty Road, Andalucia
Finca Las Encinas is just minutes drive from the lakeside town of Iznajar in the Sierra Subetticas, south of Cordoba province. The 200 year-old white-painted, red roof tiled, finca restored by Clive, who is English, and Maki, who is Japanese, now offers four B&B rooms and, if wanted, wonderful Fine Dining preparations by Clive.
For those who love to cook, courses are also on offer, so not only can you be Fine-dined but you can prepare it yourself with a hands-on three course meal or tapas preparation class.
Nick and I chose the tapas course so after being shown to our cosy room with dark wooden roof beams, under-floor heating and en-suite shower room we had an hour to pop down to the reservoir, have a beer and return ready to cook. Iznajar town sits almost surrounded but not quite an island with its Moorish castle standing on guard.
Iznajar Town and Reservoir, Andalucia
Finca Las Encinas is just a short drive from Iznajar on the edge of the typical white village of Los Juncares. If you´re looking for a touch of rural Spain with a learning or Fine Dining experience you´ll find it here.
This great spot to relax, take in the views, dine in Andalusian style on the sunny terrace and explore inland Cordoba, Jaen and Granada. Children will love the outside space, cooling off in the pool, feeding the chickens, playing with the dogs and Cei the Ridout´s young son is always on hand for a game of football.
Finca Las Encinas B&B, Andalucia
Our cooking session with Clive was really enjoyable. He´d chosen authentic Moorish recipes for us to tackle so with a necessary cold beer and under his expert and patient guidance we prepared several different tapas, learnt some new techniques and generally felt very pleased with ourselves and confident we could replicate them again at home (armed with the recipes and instructions Clive issued us with).
Even more enjoyable was the sampling afterwards. A range of tapas different from ones that I´d have chosen and one I thought I wouldn´t like but a different note is put on things when you´ve been part of the preparation.
Students Looking On
We made and ate –
Almejas con Jamon – Clams with cured Ham
Berenjenas con Miel y Cilantro – Aubergines with Honey and Coriander seeds
Cogollos con Ajos Fritos – Little Gem Lettuce with Garlic chips
Gambas al Ajillo – Garlic Prawns
Patatas Bravas – Spicy Potatoes
Pimientos de Piquillo rellenos con Bacalao – Red Peppers stuffed with Salt Cod
All now feature in our tapas repertoire, neither of us could single out a favourite tapas or moment, we definately hope to return to Finca Las Encinas.