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The Jumilla Wine Fiesta -La Vendimia de Vino

The small inland town of Jumilla is an important focal point for the major wine producing industry in the area and this annual event where hundreds of litres of free wine is given away is a thank you from all the bodegas and commercial vineyards.

Last nights fiesta has to be one of the craziest yet. This has been our third visit to the wine fiesta at Jumilla and once again we were not disappointed.

As hundreds of people line the street, the first float passed by throwing out whistles and the noise level went up a few notches! The bands began to play and soon the crowds were chanting and dancing in the street in anticipation of the night to come. Smiles of pleasure and satisfaction were all around as the floats arrived and the waiters started pouring the wine down eager throats.

Before long there was a sea of purple as the crowd was squirted with wine and everyone’s T-shirts began to turn purple as the wine was poured all over our hair and body.

Small bocadillos were thrown to the crowd to help soak up the wine as the waiters and waitresses continued their pursuit of soaking the crowds.

Beth, our niece on her first visit to the fiesta was soon drowned with wine and dragged into the dancing crowds, happily blowing her whistle. No-one escaped, old or young, male or female and soon the streets were a river of wine. Groups of crazy Spaniards sat in the road and sang the ‘rowing boat’ song whilst waiters and waitresses poured wine over them. Others were jumping up and down in the puddles of wine and splashing everyone in sight. Later as the final floats were passing by, the crowds began ripping off their soaking T-shirts them and threw them over the electricity cables that crossed the street. Groups of people began congregating under the apartments that lined the street as the occupants turned on hosepipes or threw buckets of water over the crowd.

Walking back to the car to change out of our sodden clothes we saw a group of Spanish using the car wash to shower themselves off and decided to join them.

Once changed and feeling clean again we set off back into town to eat and it looked like a bomb had hit it! But as always the Spaniards are well prepared and the road sweeper was already on his way.

Arriving in the main square, we ate a delicious spit roasted chicken at one of the open air restaurants whilst we waited for the turning on of the fountains.Yes, you have to believe it, they had turned off the water to the all fountains in town and replaced it with wine! The bands began to play in the early hours of the morning and crowds settled in for an all night party but we decided to wearily head off back home.

Make a date in your diary, its definitely a fiesta to take part in.

The Vendimia normally takes place around the third week of August

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How to make Chicken and Rabbit Paella

The original paella valenciana probably dates to the early 1800s and the earliest kinds of paella were products of purely available local ingredients. Today paella is made in every region of Spain, using just about any kind of ingredient that goes well with rice. In our area of inland Costa Blanca, the most widely accepted Paella consists of rice with rabbit, peppers and chicken, and of course snails!

There is an old story of how the Moorish kings’ servants created rice dishes by mixing the left-overs from royal banquets in large pots to take home. These stories are romantic and may be true, but it was not until the mid-nineteenth century that the paella as we know it was created in an area around Albufera (a fresh water lagoon near the city of Valencia). At lunch time, workers in the fields would make the rice dish in a flat pan over a fire. They mixed in whatever they could find – such as snails and vegetables. For special occasions, rabbit and later chicken were added.

How to Make Paella

Paella is best prepared over an open fire using a paellera, a large, flat, open round steel pan with handles. The reason for this is so that the heat is evenly distributed and because the heat should gradually decrease as you are cooking it.

For best results, use the bomba variety of rice, which is an almost round rice grain from Levante (the eastern coast of Spain). If bomba rice is not available, use a medium-grain rather than a long grain rice as it readily absorbs the liquid. For a paella, you throw the rice on to the boiling liquid, lower the heat, and cook without stirring.

Ingredients for the perfect Paella

12oz short-grain rice, Bomba or  Calasparra Rice

3 pints chicken stock

1 chicken, cut into pieces

1 rabbit, cut into pieces

16 cleaned snails

2 tablespoons (100 ml) olive oil

1 red pepper, deseeded and cut lengthways onto thin strips

4oz tomatoes, deseeded and finely chopped or a tin of chopped tomatoes

a pinch of saffron strands, 1 tablespoon paprika,  or ready bought paella spices

A good dose of salt

a sprig of rosemary

METHOD

Trim the chicken and rabbit, leaving the bones on the flesh.

Heat the oil in the paella pan with a pinch of salt. When hot, add the red pepper and fry for 5 minutes, then remove and keep to one side

Add the chicken and rabbit and fry until golden brown on all sides.

Add the chicken stock, saffron, paprika, and tomatoes, then throw in the rice

Place the snails and peppers and the rosemary sprig on top of the rice, check the seasoning and bring the stock to the boil

Turn the heat down and simmer without stirring for 25-30 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice begins to stick to the pan.

Turn off the heat and cover with foil, letting the paella rest for 10 minutes

Serve with crusty bread and wedges of lemon