Creative Food Course
The Los Gázquez creative cooking courses are unique in their exploration of ‘food culture’ and ‘provenance’. We explore the landscape and environment of the Mediterranean basin, particularly the alpine desert of our region, and discover wonderful and often unheard of dishes, some only known to particular families. For those with a passion for real food this is the creative course for you. Combining all your enthusiasms in one place, sunshine, aroma and flavour you can have a fascinating and fun time sipping a glass of cava in a most congenial and happy atmosphere.
Your host and guide Simon will be waiting for your arrival at the airport. Once everyone is assembled we set off for Cortijada Los Gázquez across the ‘alto plano’, the high plains between the sierras. We arrive for lunch followed by an introduction to Los Gázquez and the unique way of life lived ‘off-grid’ in this cool ‘new vernacular’ retreat. That evening we have the first of many delicious meals whilst getting to know each other.
Los Gázquez is in the Parque Natural Sierra María – Los Vélez so today we see ourselves visiting one of the four villages that make up the region, María. At 1300m (4265 ft) it is famous for the production of Jamón Serrano and embutidos (cured sausages). We will visit an artisan ‘secadero’ and ‘curing house’, and the wonderful people who so proudly create these products. For lunch we visit the restaurant of family friends to sample the simple local fare from the ‘cocina pobre’ or peasant kitchen, to see how and what people produced from these dry mountains. Afterwards we return to Los Gázquez for a rest before beginning to make a traditional ‘cocido’. This is a chickpea (garbanzo) based stew, cooked on the open fire to enjoy as our evening meal.
This morning sees us visiting one of the other ‘pueblos’ of the area, Vélez Rubio, and being guided around the busy market sampling some of the local fare and looking at the fresh produce from the region. Lunch will be a short trip out of town to the dramatic Moorish Castillo Xijena. After a short walk and look at the countryside and it’s ancient irrigation systems we enjoy an ‘al fresco’ lunch. On returning to Los Gázquez we prepare a North African evening meal (so closely associated with Andalucían cuisine) including preserved lemons and aromatic flat breads. Before supper this evening we have a classical guitar recital that is always very popular and never fails to leave a dry eye in the house.
Today we stay at Los Gázquez where we are joined by a local friend. She is an environmentalist and keen forager as well as having a vast knowledge of local food culture. She will take us all on a short walk in the area looking for wild foods growing naturally in the hills. After a delicious lunch we will be learning how to preserve and flavour olives with a multitude of local recipes and techniques. Today, Simon will introduce you to petanque. He believes one needs a bit of exercise and competition to build an appetite for supper, which Donna has made from the foods which you foraged earlier in the morning.
The day starts with Simon giving you a practical class in making some of Los Gázquez’s favourite ‘chilled’ soups, ‘salmorejo’ and ‘ajo blanco’. These are two very regional and unusual dishes. Donna will also be giving a cheese making class, the results of which we will discover later in the week. Again, after a delicious lunch and a short break, we commence making some of the traditional cuisine of the eastern Mediterranean. Los Gázquez’s ‘mezze’ class is fun and improvisational, aided with a glass or two of local cava, maybe another game of petanque, and will slide seamlessly into supper.
Our penultimate day and a great fun one too. In the morning we visit the local museum for a guided tour by friend of Los Gázquez and director Encarna. She will introduce you to the history of food production in the area via the techniques they used to grow, harvest and process local produce. She will show you the customs and feast days and the food they made to celebrate each and every event. For lunch we have a dramatic drive over the Sierra María to an ‘open air’ restaurant, very popular far and wide in the region. Here we will taste our favourite ‘chuletas de cordero segureño’, mountain lamb and regional speciality, cooked in the open on the embers of oak. This is eaten along with ‘patatas a lo pobre’, a simply divine and simple potato dish. Local food doesn’t get better than this especially with a glass or two of local wine. After lunch we return to Los Gázquez for a rest or a game of petanque. Early evening Simon will give you a demonstration of his favourite local paella dish. Don’t be mistaken, paella is not just a yellow concoction of rice with chicken and seafood, it is much more as you will see. The paella will be our last dinner at los Gázquez and a celebration of everything we have done and learned in the week, as well as a celebration of new friendships, guaranteed.
After breakfast, we journey to Granada where we have the opportunity to visit the Nazarid palace of the Alhambra, the Generalife, the Albaicín and a short tapas tour of the city before being returned to the airport or your next destination.