Cookery series. Rick and his camper van head for the land of El Cid and its classic landscape of castles and vast plains. Then it's off to La Mancha, the hot, dry heart of Spain.
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I'm halfway through my scamper around Spain
and, I must say, it gets better every day.
The friendliness of the people, the great food
and the sense of happiness.
Spain is a very easy country to like.
There's a great joy in picking things up quickly.
I mean, I think a lot of eating and drinking
makes you instantly very familiar
with the customs and culture of a country.
So, you start off apprehensive - even nervous -
about the money and what it costs
and whether somebody's going to rip you off,
and then quite soon you start ordering,
you know, ordering tapas, ordering churros, ordering beers,
ordering sherries and you feel, yeah, I like this place,
I LIKE this place.
I started my journey through Spain on the Costa De La Muerte,
the coast of death in Galicia.
I'm using my friend's rather tired camper van.
I was looking for a saucepan - haven't found it -
cos I thought I'd do a bit of cooking on the journey.
But what I did find is that my friend's left all these tins,
presumably when he goes camping, it's what he eats.
Sorry if I'm a bit snobbish but... Obviously, there's baked beans
and, er, baked beans, corned beef, premium steak and kidney.
I don't know about this,
I would just sooner buy locally in the market.
Baked beans, evaporated milk, Irish stew, chilli con carne...
I travelled eastwards through the Picos mountains
and along the north coast, a part known as Green Spain.
A place where it rains a lot.
I remember crossing Rioja and longing for the sun.
But more than that, I didn't realise how important the sea is to me.
In Catalonia, I saw my first glimpse of it and it was like,
"Yes! This is more like it. This is the Spain I fell in love with.
"This is the stuff of good memories."
So, after driving for the best part of three weeks,
I'm here in Catalonia, just north of Barcelona.
This is part of the Costas that has escaped the Benidorm treatment.
OK, the fishing villages have gone
and the buildings are relatively new
and they don't make their money catching fish any more,
it's holiday makers, instead.
But I remember coming here to Caldetes in the early '60s
when I was 18 or so.
Here, I discovered the unbridled joys - or so I thought at the time -
of drinking cava, jugs of sangria
and tucking into chicken roasting on a spit.
This is a really interesting story about how restaurants really start.
About 50 years ago, this was a garage.
I was just looking for any signs of the petrol pumps.
And the guy that was running the garage had a lorry driver come in one night
and he couldn't find anywhere to eat -
I understand that about round here.
And he said, "Is there any chance you could give me something to eat?"
And the guy said, "Well, I could cook you some rice and calamari,
"that's what I'm having."
And he did it and the lorry driver loved it so much that he told all his friends,
told everybody. People kept coming back and saying,
"Can we have some of that rice and calamari?" and he thought,
"Well, if it's so good, I might as well open a restaurant." So he did.
And, 50 years later, it's enormous, it's famous,
it specialises in local Catalonian cooking
and it's actually known all over the world.
This is probably the most famous dish - it's called suquet.
It's really Catalan and the fish is rascasse, or scorpion fish.
Lalita, one of the owners, is basting the sauce
made with amongst other things, almonds, pine nuts,
fried fish liver, potatoes and sea cucumber.
Yeah, sea cucumber - it's very popular here.
I came here this morning to film Kita - one of the two sisters,
they're called Pekita and Lalita - cooking for us
but they absolutely insisted we sat down
and had a Catalan breakfast, first.
We couldn't say no. But not only have we got all this food,
we've got bacalhau, we've got fried potatoes,
we've got lentils with local chorizo.
I think they make the chorizo themselves.
We've got some beautiful beans that are so soft,
and they're called judias blancas del ganxet.
I think that's the right pronunciation and...
..we got this local red wine.
I mean, I wouldn't dream of drinking red wine for breakfast
but these guys over here are knocking it back, so...
when in Catalonia.
Just a water, just to...water it down a bit.
This is the dish that turned a garage into a restaurant.
It's squid and rice and I think there's meat in it too.
It's popular here to mix fish and meat together.
They call it mar y muntanya - the sea and the mountains.
I asked the two sisters, Lalita and Pekita,
how important it was to keep these relatively old Catalan recipes alive.
SHE SPEAKS SPANISH
They told me how crucial it was
for them to carry on their mother's inheritance.
"It's traditional food that we cook," she said,
"but the most important thing is to keep our identity alive
"and food is our identity."
Pekita said, "It's also a good thing to find the very best ingredients.
"The pea season ended today
"but now it's the very first day of the local tomato crop."
Oh, this is a very important moment
cos these are the first Montserrat tomatoes of the season
and they're doing ever so well here because...
this is the most popular dish in the whole restaurant menu -
a salad made with these tomatoes.
Now, I was just looking at them, looking how misshapen they are
and just thinking, would you see those in our supermarkets?
I don't think so!
Well, I might be wrong. Maybe when this is shown
there'll be supermarket shelves groaning with Montserrat tomatoes.
But they do make a wonderful salad.
So cut up the tomatoes like so, add salt
and slice a white salad onion. And then, for a touch of sharpness,
a floret or two of pickled cauliflower.
Next for a bit of heat, pickled green chillies.
You can get these in jars at your local supermarket.
And then a splashing of red wine vinegar and some chopped tomato.
The whole lot is drizzled with olive oil
and that along with the scorpion fish
are the choice dishes on the menu today.
That's like the tomatoes one always dreams about in the Mediterranean.
He just said he thinks it needs more salt.
I was just watching all that salt going on and thinking,
OK, salt police, it's not my fault this time!
Just to let you know, when the king comes to Catalonia,
he comes here for Lalita's famous suquet.
I like this part of the Costa Brava.
Here at Roses, everything is still very much on a human scale,
although it was one of the first in a succession of fishing villages
to go helter-skelter into the world of mass tourism.
Norman Lewis - a writer I really admire,
mainly because of his love and understanding of food -
wrote about Spain in his book, Voices Of The Old Sea,
about the time in the '50s
when the first whiff of tourism started floating over the Costas.
"The local property developer goes from strength to strength
"with his plans for the coming of tourists,
"determined to create for them a Spanish dreamland,
"a setting in which the realities of poverty and work
"were tolerated so long as they remained picturesque."
At the time, Norman Lewis asked a fisherman what he thought about
the coming changes and the arrival of tourism
and he says, "How can anyone say? One thing is certain,
"here we have always been and here, whatever happens,
"we shall remain listening to the voices of the old sea."
Further along the coast, is the fishing port of Palamos.
I know about this place because it's in my seafood hall of fame.
This is the eau Medoc of prawn fishing.
They say it's down to the quality of the water,
a cocktail of melted snow from the Pyrenees that runs into the salty Med,
which creates the perfect environment for these sweet prawns
that look as if they've been cooked already.
I know no better way of cooking them
than putting them onto hot sea salt for a couple of minutes.
It keeps them sweet and moist. They fetch a fair old price here,
unlike these tellines, a shellfish caught throughout the Med
and one I'm particularly fond of.
Like all good fresh seafood,
the simplest way of cooking them is the best.
A minute or so on an oiled plancha and wait until they open.
And that's more or less it.
An extra drizzle of oil and a few chopped chives
and that, to me, is perfect holiday food.
I've just watched Montse - short for Montserrat -
cooking these tellines, or called telarinas in Spanish.
And I was just thinking, cooking on a plancha, on a griddle,
is such an easy way of cooking seafood and it is so delicious.
Cos really as these tellines open,
the juices are just cooked so quickly that they then coat the meat
so you get this lovely seafood taste.
It's really the best.
In the resort of Blanes, I've come to meet Antonio Mia.
He was a household name in Spain in the '60s and '70s
because he was the Ringo Starr of a band that used to copy the Beatles.
This is me.
They were called Los Mustangs and they came from Barcelona.
Now he's packed his drum kit away, his passion is food
and he insisted on cooking me lunch, the real food of Catalonia.
Can you get this sort of food in restaurants around here, really?
In restaurant's here, they are special.
If they know you, they say, "Come, come, look, I have this for you."
Something from the sea that they bring in for me.
If you are, say you are like a tourist, they say...
..plato comedero - take some bacon and chips.
So, they have to know you.
It's because they are always keep things in the kitchen.
In the back, you know?
So you have to have friends everywhere.
You love your food, Antonio.
You're making me very hungry. Can we go and cook something at your house?
It was only a minute or so
before a lady shopper recognised him from the old days.
What's she saying?
People know me but I don't know the people.
I know, it's a problem.
They watch TV and then they say, "Hola!"
And I say, "Hola!" And, "Why? I don't know you!"
-Is she talking about the Mustangs?
-The Mustangs, si, si.
It's been a very long time
but he still has a bit of the pop star about him.
-What was that?
-I look pretty.
-Are you going to pay her?
At their house, his partner Rosa prepares something very Catalan.
It's what everybody eats in this part of Spain.
The basic version is toasted bread with tomatoes, salt and olive oil.
But she's using roasted vegetables - sweet red peppers,
onions and aubergines - all softened and skinned.
Then she puts in a couple of anchovies and more olive oil,
and that with a glass of dry sherry makes a very agreeable elevenses.
Antonio though is making something much more substantial for lunch.
A dish from his childhood.
So what's it called, Antonio?
This is called faves a la Catalana - broad beans in Catalan style.
So this is a typical Catalan country recipe, I guess.
Absolutely typical. Typical mainly in the country
because this is product of the farms, you know? Fresh. Even the onion.
You know, we are using fresh onions
because if they're fresh, the flavour is aromatic.
-So you used to be a rock 'n' roll drummer. Why you...
-I used to.
You used to.
Ah...because I don't know, it's a mystery. Passion.
I mean, cooking is an artistic thing.
I cannot paint a nice picture but I can do something here
full of colour. But not only colour - smell, taste, everything.
Everybody must do that, why not?
He bought the new season's garlic from the market that morning
and he uses the green stem as well as the bulb.
-Now, this is the ham bone.
When you finish it in the Iberican ham, we put this.
This to me is very important because this reforms the flavour
and gives you the old fashioned flavour, like granny used to do.
I remember when I was child, I give this special taste, put a ham bone.
Now, fresh broad beans, this is the centre piece of his dish.
At the start of the season they're highly revered
and quite rightly, I just love them and they go so well with ham
and fatty bacon and some fresh mint.
-So what's that, is that going in now?
-The secret, the secret.
-And what is it?
-Er, this is Aniseed.
That's a new one on me. And now chicken stock.
-How long are you going to cook it for then?
-Er, 25, 30 minutes.
-I need to put pieces of paper on top.
And this and leave it on minimum, minimum fire - chup, chup, chup -
for 25 minutes. 10 minutes before, we put the sausage, then finished.
Chup, chup, chup.
Antonio, while we weren't looking,
puts in a couple of thin slices of belly pork
and now the black pudding - the morcilla -
and he cooks it for a further 10 minutes.
Finally it's time, thank goodness, for lunch.
-Do you miss the band, the Mustangs?
-Sincerely, not very much.
-Because being 40 years.
I had enough. We over-did it a little bit.
So, no chance of a revival, going back on the road with the boys?
Er, no, not really and also we are too old. And if we come back,
I'm sure they will make us travel around Spain to play.
Everybody want to hear the old songs, you know.
And also, which kind of fans we have now? 60-year-old like this,
"Oh, I remember when I was young! I meet my husband with your songs."
-You won't get any younger ones?
The Rolling Stones still get younger ones.
-Si, si, I know, I know, but...
-Oh, that looks good.
Now let's see.
-And if you eat it with a little piece of this black thing.
-Oh, I will.
Oh, that's so good! Superb, Antonio, absolutely superb.
< Are you just saying that?
No, I'm not just saying that. It's really good.
Nice, tasty and natural.
Very natural. I mean, this is a star dish. Love it.
MUSIC: "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" by The Beatles
Well, as the song says, life goes on
and Antonio can invite me for lunch anytime he wants.
He's such good news.
One of the many delights of this trip,
was cooking here in a converted farmhouse in Andalucia,
surrounded by olive groves with the plumpest olives I've ever seen.
And here, I'll be cooking dishes I've discovered on my travels
in various restaurants and bars along the way.
This is a great Catalan dish.
Meatballs in a rich sauce with cuttlefish and prawns.
I'm making the meatballs, mixing in onion, garlic, parsley,
a touch of nutmeg, and seasoning it with salt and pepper.
To bind it, I'm going to use some bread soaked in milk.
So this is one of the dishes that the Catalonians call mar y muntanya,
which just means sea and mountains, and it's just a mixture of meat -
in this case, veal and pork meatballs -
and cuttlefish and prawns.
I sometimes wonder if that, to me rather coarse, term
surf and turf originated in something like this.
I remember the rather satisfying business of making meatballs
even before I became a chef because in the '60s
they used to be the obvious thing to have
with spaghetti and tomato sauce.
And this is quite an important process in this dish
because I'm colouring them. They'll look better.
I could just drop them into the sauce nearer the end
but giving them a bit of a caramelisation
makes the dish look much better and also I like tossing the meatballs.
As I'm in Spain, I'm finishing this off in a cazuela,
an earthenware dish to be found, I would guess,
in every Spanish kitchen.
I think earthenware imparts a certain something
to the final flavour. Now the prawns and cuttlefish.
I've chopped the cuttlefish into rough chunks
and they just need to be tossed very quickly in hot oil.
You don't want to cook them through. Season them like so.
I think this type of dish must have originated
simply by what people happen to have on that day.
A little bit of fish, some meat and hey presto, put it all in one pot.
I never thought the day would come but, actually, this is, er...
this is a bought-in tomato sauce.
It's actually made with just simply olive oil, garlic and onions.
Normally, I like to make everything but it's quite a complicated dish
and sometimes I think it's probably worth doing something like that
just so that you will make the dish.
If you've got to make everything from scratch
you just say, "Oh, I don't think so."
Now, a sprinkling of peas.
It would be really good to say it's the first day of the new season
but, alas, these are frozen. Nothing wrong with frozen, though.
Stir that around.
Next, chicken stock. Let that simmer while I make this.
It's something that will thicken the sauce
and give it a real Catalan flavour.
So in a mortar - again extremely common in a Spanish kitchen -
I start with a handful of toasted almonds.
Toasted because they give out more flavour.
And then garlic and oil to turn it into a paste.
Croutons come next, crisp and golden with olive oil.
What I'm making here is called a picada
and you add it at the end of a lot of savoury dishes
and, basically, it thickens up the sauce.
But it just gives it a real explosion of flavour
because we've got in here almonds, garlic,
parsley, lots of olive oil, which just goes in at the last minute,
as I said, thickens it and just tastes really good.
So, now a fist full of parsley.
I've noticed over here they often grate a tomato right at the end.
I think this is a good idea because you get this fresh acidity,
whereas tinned tomatoes tend to be a bit sweet.
Also, while I'm at it, I think the mortar and pestle
gets you much closer to the basics of cooking.
By the very process, you really feel you've achieved something special.
So all you need to do now is to stir that in with the meatballs,
cuttlefish and prawns, and cook for another 10 minutes or so
until the sauce is thick and the meatballs are cooked through.
Over here, it's a dish offered in a tapas bar, a transport cafe
or, indeed, a very posh restaurant.
And that's Spain in a cazuela.
I heard in that the market in Mataro was well worth a visit,
especially if you like fish.
These places are really cool inside, keeping everything fresh
and the displays, like this fish counter,
kick-start any cook's imagination.
What I could do with those hake steaks.
But I'm really looking for things...
I want to cook in my little camper van, I just want something...
I want to do a la plancha cooking, where you get a really hot griddle.
But I'm thinking of getting a really hot frying pan
and just throwing something onto it, tossing it over,
a bit of olive oil, some herbs maybe
and that's all because that's all the Spanish do.
The thing that, I suppose, really interests me here
are the gambas and the langoustine.
Oh, gosh, I don't know, look, there's some weever fish there.
They've cut out the spines cos they're really, really poisonous.
Red bream, tiny little shrimps there.
I think I'm going to go for these little langoustines.
They're landed as small as this in the UK
but they just turn them into breaded scampi.
Teresa, how would you cook these little langostinos?
SHE SPEAKS SPANISH
So, the simple way is just in a la plancha with salt and pepper
and just turn them over and dress them with a bit of olive oil.
But she also likes to cook them exactly the same way
but with a bit of Cognac as well.
Personally, I'll leave the Cognac out because I know these are going to be so sweet,
I don't want them tasting of anything else.
And a kilo...por favor.
I see they come from the mar Mediterranean
so, they're local. She says they're really sweet.
So, now it's time to cook.
A perfect evening for cooking outside.
I must say campie's really come into her own, this evening.
Her own? His own? I'm not quite sure.
Bit like an oyster, really, campie - sometimes he, sometimes she.
I think she's a she tonight, cooking these langoustines,
because when I went into the market today and saw them
I just thought, "Yes! Now I can cook things."
Cos I do stay in hotels. I'm not staying in campie, no way!
But I like to cook things and I just got a frying pan
and made a plancha with it. I've got the pan really hot,
poured a tiny bit of oil in, not a lot,
and then threw in the langoustines, stirred them around a bit.
Just cook them enough to just cook them
and just sprinkle them with a bit of sea salt, some black pepper.
Took them out. Sprinkle of chopped parsley
which Teresa gave me in the market this morning.
A little bit of oil and here we go.
I can tell you just by the smell of them,
I wouldn't say they're the best langoustines I've ever eaten
cos, of course, they'd be in my restaurant but...
Oh! I wish you were here.
If you've been in Spain for some time
you're bound to have seen the festival of the Moors and the Christians.
This is in Lleida.
I think this sums up what the Spanish are about.
They love being in big groups with all their friends and neighbours.
They love celebration and they love showing off.
These costumes are not old curtains sewn up by your mum
but proper tailored jobs that cost a fortune.
The whole event is based on the re-conquest of Spain from the Moors.
Even though that happened 700 years ago,
it's just a mere blip in the minds of the Spanish.
There's a word I've heard over and over again while I've been here
and that is casticismo. It means the essence of being Spanish.
I love those lavish medieval processions, which is just as well,
as I'm going to the region of Valencia, the country of El Cid.
And, unlike Don Quixote, he really did exist.
Every castle has a story to tell, including this one in Morella.
I was on my way to a paella festival further south
but I couldn't resist stopping off.
But actually it's a bit of schoolboy escape, I suppose,
because, in the 1960s, there was this fabulous film called El Cid
and having just seen Ben-Hur,
Charlton Heston was the star in my firmament,
and El Cid was the next one.
They don't make films like El Cid anymore.
The epics, we used to call them. So, I had to come here to Morella
because El Cid sacked this castle up here.
He's seen as the Christian knight who began the process
which kicked the Moors out of Spain.
Nothing could be further from the truth, of course.
Most of his time he was a mercenary, a knight errant, I suppose,
looking back on it,
and he spent a lot of his time working for the Moors
and, in fact, I think when he sacked Morella, here,
he was working for the Moors. He then went on and took Valencia.
Open the gates!
They don't make them like that any more.
And to me, this beach near Valencia -
Peniscola - could never be an ordinary beach.
In my mind, it will always ring to the thunder of hooves
and the swoosh of arrows in glorious Technicolor.
But getting back to food, the point of my journey,
while I was here, I came across this simple refreshing salad
made with the famous Valencia oranges.
Something the Moors made great use of.
This is a combination of oranges and salt cod.
I'm making the dressing using fresh orange juice, sherry vinegar,
extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
Always like to taste my dressings and what I'm looking for here,
is it sweet enough with all that orange juice?
Can do with a tiny bit of sugar in there
just to reinforce the sweetness of those Valencia oranges.
It's a very popular salad from Valencia
but also popular in Andalucia.
What I like about it is the contrast of the orange segments
and the salt cod and the bitterness of the black olives.
Salt cod has a certain sweetness.
It's funny how something that was designed
purely as a way of preserving fish, centuries ago,
has imparted a flavour the Spanish can't live without.
Now it's red onions, black, slightly bitter olives,
parsley and segments of boiled egg.
Finally, the all important citrus dressing.
This is summer food and, although it's simple,
it's so sophisticated and, to my mind, is a real taste of Valencia.
And here's another one much more famous.
And the origins of it - of course, I'm talking about paella -
start in the rice fields surrounding Valencia.
They were another legacy of the Moors.
This is the first time I've ever stood in a field of rice ready for harvesting.
In fact, I've never tasted rice on the ear before
but I'm just noticing how fecund everything is. Looking around here,
there's crayfish, there's little tiny fish fry,
there's crabs over there.
You sort of begin to instantly understand what paella is all about.
It was poor people's food
and they added to the rice anything they could get hold of.
Judias beans, green beans, anything they can get out of the rice fields,
rabbits, chickens, that sort of thing.
It instantly becomes poor people's food
and all the more romantic for it, I think.
Up till the beginning of the last century
the rich people didn't eat rice,
because all these rice fields were associated with malaria, of course.
They were all swamp areas. So it was sort of looked down on
as poor people's... Not the sort of thing you ate.
They had bean stews like fabada from northern Spain.
But now, of course, to the people of Valencia, rice is everything.
Indeed, they say it's a way of understanding life.
And paella, well, it's not only the most famous dish around here
and in all of Spain but also it's the way the rest of the world identifies Spanish cooking.
This is the town of Sueca, not far from Valencia.
It's a centre of rice in the region, and all this dancing is the overture
for its annual paella competition -
something taken very seriously indeed.
I thought I knew what to expect.
I thought they'd be cooking lots of different paellas,
some with fish and seafood, some with sausage,
maybe some with game. But not a bit of it.
-..and vegetables from Valencia.
HE SPEAKS SPANISH
So, what they're saying is that
they're all cooking with the same ingredients,
all 40 of the chefs here.
It has to be this way because it is, after all, a competition
and all have to cook over orange wood.
We think that Valencian paella is the most internationalised Spanish dish.
The products are produced in Valencia, mainly -
rice, vegetables, chicken meat, rabbit meat -
so it's part of our culture, part of us.
What I didn't realise was the point of cooking over wood fire,
not only because of the gentle uniform heat,
but also because the flavour of the wood gets into the paella.
I mean, that, to me, says it all.
So, when they're all cooked to utter perfection,
they go off to the judging tent.
What they do there is beyond me. 40 paellas all the same?
How do they arrive at a decision? But arrive they do.
The secret of what they're looking for, I'm told,
lies mostly in the flavour and, indeed, the colour of the rice.
But also the caramelized crust at the bottom of the pan.
This should be slightly crunchy and full of flavour.
I think that one might be on its way to a rosette.
And now for the moment of truth. This is big news here.
This is amazingly exciting, like the Oscars for paella.
I don't know anything like it back in the UK just for one dish.
Pasties? Cornish pasties? Nah!
It's time for the number one prize, the ultimato.
And it goes to a very popular duo - local boys from Sueca.
I bet their profit margin goes through the roof for the next few months.
But it all goes to show that pride in local food is a good thing
and it just makes me want to cook one.
Do you know, it's ages since I've cooked outdoors,
The last time I can remember was summer in Cornwall
on a windy promontory somewhere, where everything blew off the table.
I think that was the last day. We just thought "never again".
But, obviously, this is a bit different and paellas
or rice dishes like paella are designed to be cooked outdoors.
And this one - very simple, rice dish, resembling a paella
but my take on it.
Just with monkfish, a bit of saffron and some red peppers.
First of all, I'm going to cook the monkfish to colour it up.
I'm not using orange wood
because, knowing me, I'd probably set fire to the whole valley.
But the Spanish use these special portable paella cookers
and they work a treat.
Monkfish is great for this dish,
because, as the Spanish say, it's duro - hard or firm.
I've sprinkled them with pimenton -
great for colour, even better for flavour.
I'm just going to sear them on both sides and in just a minute or so
they turn a saffron-y gold. Very appetising.
That's the moment I take them out
and start to cook the real point of this dish and that's rice.
But first chopped shallots and garlic.
I was going to make a paella
but after seeing all those experts making the true paella of Valencia,
I thought of this.
I add some more pimenton
and also some chilli flakes for just a bit of heat.
I'm taking my time over doing this little phase
because I'm trying to get a bit of a crust on the bottom.
It's called socarrat and it's a sign of a good paella.
This isn't a paella, it's a sort of paella without the fancy bits.
But what I really like in a paella is the rice and the pimenton
and the saffron so it's really all about that
with a little bit of monkfish and a few roasted red peppers.
I've poured in some fish stock there.
I made it with the bones and the head of the monkfish.
Now for the rice and this is the most popular one.
It goes by the name of bomba.
The grains swell up and really hold the flavour of the stock
without going creamy and breaking up like a risotto rice.
I've just added saffron powder there.
I think saffron powder's a mixture of saffron and natural food colour
and I've picked up this tip that you don't use complete saffron
because it's too strong. You don't want to use all saffron
because it gets medicinal in its flavour.
So a bit of yellow colour is fine.
Now slices of roasted and skinned red peppers.
They're really sweet and you can get them in tins.
It's funny but everything I seem to cook over here
is the colours of the Spanish flag.
You've got yellow everywhere in saffron,
you've got red of pimenton and you've got red of peppers,
you've got red of tomatoes. Yellow and red everywhere.
But it seems to match, don't you think?
This is the moment the rice starts to work its magic and swell up.
A Spanish lady once said to me
that when the rice has had a good drink he needs to sleep in the oven
and only then should he come out to the table.
Well, this rice is nearly ready
and it's time for the fish to go back in
while there's still a bit more of the stock left
for the rice to drink.
Interestingly, and I think this is really important,
the Spanish say you never eat paella at night.
And, for me, it's not an evening dish. It's too filling.
It's something you really look forward to at lunch time
with maybe a glass of COLD red wine.
So, it's just about there now.
I'm just going to turn the heat off and cover it for about five minutes,
just to make sure that rice is really nice and dry.
So there we are, the moment of truth.
I know it's going to be good
because I can hear the sticky sound of the rice
coming from the bottom of the pan.
I've never cooked it before but I'll definitely be cooking it again.
I add a bit of creamy and very garlicky aioli
which goes so well with the rice. Yeah! This will be in my top ten.
I'm still in the region of Valencia near Morella
and I've been invited to go partridge shooting.
Well, not exactly. They didn't offer me a gun!
Actually, I'm not a bad shot but I don't blame them.
Partridge, above any other game, is incredibly popular over here
and it's a food eaten, it seems, by everyone.
I've even seen it on the menu at truck stops.
This is my host, Jose Luis, who lives for shooting.
So these are red-legged partridges, we have grey in the UK.
These are bigger but great flavour.
They'll taste wonderful with all the mountain herbs.
I wish we could get more of them back home.
How important are partridges to the area, Jose Luis?
It's very important because it's their, er, economic...
economic for the lands, for hunting.
He says it's very important for the area
cos they have all these fincas, these little farms.
I guess that's what they were originally.
Like hunting lodges. So, it's a really important industry here.
But the great thing is that they're wild, they haven't been planted
like happens a lot in the UK.
So, they will taste fantastic and they're so beautiful, I mean...
You may disapprove of hunting but these are wild birds
and they're shot for the table.
I mean, I can't see anything wrong with that at all.
This is really exciting cos they're coming really fast and low
and they're shooting into the sun too. He's a crack shot.
He's really good.
Right in the sun. Very, very good. Wow! Fantastic.
HE SPEAKS SPANISH
I can understand this. He likes cooking them with beans
but also he likes them on escabeche, which is with olive oil
and vinegar and that sounds really good. And so do the beans.
HE SPEAKS SPANISH
The thing about escabeche is it's a way of preserving the partridges,
because of the vinegar.
And they'll keep for up to a year just on escabeche.
It's an old fashioned way of preserving.
We had salting and smoking, they used olive oil and vinegar.
We've got lunch, that's good!
So, looking forward to it, I must say.
They got 56 today. Shot 56. The first day of the season.
-It's a bit...
-No, it's all right, they can carry on.
He's a bit apologetic but it seems an awful lot to me.
He says the wind was in the wrong direction
and, again being a bit apologetic, saying the dogs are a bit frisky.
In four or five days, they'll have settled down
and be just going straight for those thickets
where all the partridges are.
This is what Jose was talking about.
This is how they preserve the partridge.
And that's probably the reason why I've seen it on so many menus in Spain.
They're all, I wouldn't mind betting, coming out of a jar.
So they're put in jars with bay leaves, a couple of garlic cloves,
a few whole black peppercorns,
then a small wine glass of vinegar
and then topped up with good olive oil.
Finally, they're sealed and boiled for around an hour.
This means you can have partridge anytime you want.
Christina is going to cook lunch for the shooting party.
Well, this part of the dish is called judias con perdiz.
I just found that out.
And that means butter beans, those lovely tasty beans, with partridge.
And Christina's first of all made the escabeche and then cooked it
and about two or three days later she takes them and flakes the meat.
And then takes some olive oil and fries off some onions, red peppers
and green peppers and seasons that a little bit.
And then she's going to add tomatoes which she's skinned
but not deseeded. Whizzed up, so it's like a sort of passata.
And cooked that together for about five minutes
and then adds the partridge.
Ah, I've forgotten one important ingredient.
Some of the oil from making the escabeche - about 60ml, I suppose -
she's going to add that, put in the beans,
cook it for about 10 minutes and done. And then we can have lunch.
I'd rather hoped we were going to have roast partridge but, no,
the escabeche and beans is what they do here.
There's something very convivial about the Spanish.
I'm tempted to say it appears completely classless,
especially when you get clusters of men like this.
They made me really welcome.
Thank you for the morning's shooting, which was fabulous,
and have a great season. Salut!
It's time to drive into the very centre of Spain.
I'm here in La Mancha and most of the people I know that know Spain well
just said to me, "Keep going when you get to La Mancha."
It's just somewhere, unless you have to stop, just keep going.
But I rather like it because it's just these vast plains
and I think there's something rather magisterial
about being in open spaces.
And also, I think it's something that one has to experience
if one's really to take on board the real Spain.
Mainly because of Don Quixote,
because, of course, this is where the book was written about.
And what I like is, everywhere you go in La Mancha,
there's reference to Don Quixote as if he was a real character.
But to me it makes it live
because I've read the book and it is an essential part of Spain to me.
But, also, I'm quite impressed. I've only been here a day or so
but I've tried the wines and they're really good.
And when I arrived in La Mancha,
I kept seeing what look like giant water bottles lying everywhere
and I just thought that they were, you know, for irrigating the land.
But then I discovered that they were the old way of making wine.
Big, concrete vessels.
And it was always cooked
but now they've learnt to make the wines using refrigeration.
They're really good.
For years, La Mancha produced largely cooked wines
in those stone vats that overheated in the sun.
So, it tasted almost stewed.
Virtually all the grapes were tempranillo for red
and airen for white.
But now they're growing other varieties like cabernet sauvignon
which goes really well with tempranillo.
We're not talking about high-priced wines here
but good wines, worthy of anyone's consideration.
I've come to meet up at the Campo De Criptana vineyards
with someone who knows about these wines, Hymie,
who's a wine writer from Madrid.
Right now, being the largest vineyard in the world as it is,
it was about time that some curious people or people with passion,
say, "No, I'm going to make good wine here."
And here they have something that is unique.
We have all the sun that you can get.
You can achieve that and this has been like this for 400 years,
the main producer in Spain
It's the core of Castilla, the core of Spain
and the core of the Spanish wine.
You speak really passionately about La Mancha
and you obviously not only care about your wine-making
but also this country where you live. What does it mean to you?
La Mancha is dry, it's flat.
La Mancha's a place that is very far from the mountains,
very far from the sea
but very close to the sky. And you see we have the sky all over.
We have the sky and the sun and this flatness
and with that possibility,
the only thing you have to do here as a winemaker
is to tame the sun and this has been like this for 400 years.
Hymie talks about taming the sun.
By that he means the pickers start at five in the morning
and finish before the sun reaches its height.
Then they'll start again when the grapes are cooler.
So, if you're going into a supermarket back at home
and you want a good deal,
you want something that's really good value - La Mancha every time.
La Mancha and Castilla.
One of the main problems is the drive back to the winery,
hoping the grapes joggling about in the trailer
don't start fermenting on the way.
Next to wine, the most important thing here is garlic.
This is Las Pedroneras, the centre of the garlic trade.
I love this statue of the little boy watching his mother plaiting the garlic,
an art that's dying out now, except for the Ramirez family,
who've been doing this for generations.
Agustina, their daughter,
is carrying on with the family tradition.
You need really strong hands to wrap the bulbs
into the tough reeds that form the plait.
Agustina's just been saying...
We asked her whether she thought
this sort of quite manual activity would last,
because you can see evidence of such things dying out everywhere, really.
She said she didn't know. She does it herself
because she so admires her father who's worked so hard
for so many years doing it.
It's almost she feels a sense of duty as a daughter to carry on.
But she said, "I don't know whether my son will."
But it's a shame, really, because actually, as I was looking at these
I was just thinking I've got to buy a string of that and take it home.
They reap the garlic in July and sew it in September.
This garlic is special. They call it ajo morado - purple garlic.
There's a bit in Don Quixote when he says to his servant, Sancho Panza,
"Eat neither garlic nor onion
"for thy smell will display the peasant in you."
And people have long had this idea
of the Spanish being, you know, massive garlic eaters.
Indeed, they do eat about 1.5kg of garlic a year.
But...we all love garlic these days
and we all love big cloves of garlic.
When I'm cooking or when my chefs are cooking,
if you get those tiny little cloves of garlic you just think,
"Oh, I can't be bothered with these."
And apparently, China is exporting ever more garlic.
But this is the sort of garlic we want.
This lovely sort of blush pink garlic,
produced by people like Jesus here.
It's Spanish garlic and it smells right
and it's got big cloves and I love it to bits.
So, Jesus, what does garlic mean to this part of La Mancha?
HE SPEAKS SPANISH
'Well, he's saying garlic is everything round here
'and it's been that way always.
'I don't think you really need me to translate this bit,
'he's so passionate, he transcends words.'
I didn't quite get all that but, I have to say, the way he was speaking
with such passion and picking up the ground, it means everything to him.
Do you know, on the way to see the garlic fields near Las Pedroneras,
I saw this roadside restaurant, Los Angeles.
I thought, "I bet they make fabulous garlic soup there."
And, lo and behold, that turned out to be the very place
that Jesus suggested we had lunch.
Angela is the owner and cook here
and sure enough her reputation for garlic soup in the region
is second to none.
She takes virtually a whole bulb of garlic
and roughly slices the cloves and starts to fry them in olive oil.
It's only a few seconds before she adds pimenton dulce,
the sweet one, for that tiny bit of fire and smokiness.
She also puts in pimenton picante for extra heat.
Many people in La Mancha look upon this soup
as an elixir for a healthy, long life.
I saw a documentary on it on Spanish TV in the hotel,
with lots of very fit-looking octogenarians
swearing it's the garlic soup that keeps them young and fit.
She ladles in water and chicken stock, 50/50,
and then drops in a couple of bay leaves that've been soaked in water.
Next, bread, once again using up stale bread
which slowly goes soft and silky in the soup.
And finally, she cracks in an egg, breaks it up and stirs that around,
so you get those lovely trails of poached egg in the soup,
rather like the Chinese do.
And to finish off,
a clove of ajo morado just to remind you you're in La Mancha.
A sprig of rosemary. Perfecto.
And as I thought
there is nothing more that needs to be said about that.
Another symbol of La Mancha, these fabulous fields of croci.
A sight for sore eyes.
I often wonder about the ingenuity of mankind when it comes to food.
Who'd of thought that the stamens of this little flower
could enrich the dishes of the world.
They call it the red gold of La Mancha
and the harvest takes place in October.
Usually, it's carved up by family groups.
Sometimes there'll be three generations
and each family would hope to get something like eight pounds of pure saffron a season.
That's worth its weight in gold. More, in fact.
The stamens are dried very gently over an ordinary domestic heater
and then they're ready to use in such classic dishes as fabada.
And where would paella be without saffron?
Another culinary icon of La Mancha
is manchego cheese, made from ewe's milk.
Traditionally, the cheese was eaten by the shepherds to sustain them.
The thing about manchego, is that it's amazingly tasty
and keeps for a long time.
Anyone from La Mancha distains elaborate accompaniments
with their prize cheese.
Only membrillo, a jelly made with quince.
I couldn't resist asking the chef about growing up in La Mancha
and what he ate as a child.
HE SPEAKS SPANISH
Basically, he said in the morning
they'd have slices of potatoes fried in olive oil.
Then, at night, it would be beans cooked with chorizo and bacon.
This would be on the stove gently cooking all day
while they were out with the sheep.
Oh, and wine.
So, to those friends who told me to give La Mancha a miss
and head straight down to the coast, I say unto thee,
I think you've got it wrong.
This place is utterly magical
and it fits the Spanish love of myths and legends.
With half-closed eyes, you can see why the courageous
but slightly mad Don Quixote thought these were giants.
Of course they're giants! What do you think they are? Windmills?
I can't think of a fictional character more important to a nation,
so loved and cherished and understood by all,
that at the very mention of his name over here,
a knowing, almost loving, smile appears on the face
of whoever you may be talking to at the time.
I like this.
This is what first greets you when you come into the inn.
"The sun began to usher in the morn,
"when Don Quixote sallied out of the inn,
"so well pleased, so gay and so overjoyed to find himself knighted,
"that he enthused the same satisfaction into his horse
"who seemed ready to burst his girths for joy."
In the book, it was the landlord of this tavern
who knighted Don Quixote while he was very, very drunk.
But the famous novel is peppered with culinary anecdotes
because food played an important part in the conversations
between the knight and his fat squire.
Quixote said, "while I'm eating, I know nothing,
"but when I've finished eating, I begin to understand."
One of the most famous dishes mentioned in the book
is pisto manchego, a dish of fried vegetables in a sauce
topped with a couple of fried eggs.
I really don't think La Mancha would be La Mancha without Don Quixote,
without Cervantes' enormous imagination.
I mean, I feel we all feel very personal about Spain.
I was just watching these Japanese tourists going through here.
Do they know that it was a work of fiction?
Do they know that this inn was only a fictional idea
of where Don Quixote received his knighthood?
They probably don't. I don't know. Does it matter?
Because, I think Spain to me - my Spain -
is the same sort of place as Don Quixote's Spain.
It's a sort of lost world of idealistic people, of innocence.
I mean, Don Quixote himself was gentle, was idealistic,
was altruistic and he was lost.
I mean he was mad and he was deluded
but somehow that has enormous strength to us all, really.
I think we yearn for a world where those values existed
and sadly it's vanishing from Spain today.
Next time, I follow the sun to Extremadura
and into the golden light of Andalucia.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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Rick and his old but trusty camper van head for the land of El Cid, with its classic landscape of castles and vast plains.
Then it's off to La Mancha, the hot, dry heart of Spain, famous for its rustic dishes and wine.