I love nothing more than strong coffee, good Rioja and simple comfort food so Spain and its wares suit me down to the ground. I am a big fan of stews and Northern Spain have some of the tastiest yet simplest of recipes that leave your mouth watering.
One of my favourites is Patatas a La Riojana. This Rioja-Style Potato and Chorizo Sausage Stew when accompanied by a glass of Rioja wine is quite simply bliss, the two together are the happiest of marriages so I wanted to share this simple recipe with you, and if you think you can’t cook, it’s so simple and inexpensive yet exquisite to taste that you will be able to impress even if you could burn a pan of water.
Olive oil (I use extra virgin for a richer taste)
1 large Spanish onion, finely chopped
2 Spanish chorizo sausages (about 3 ounces each), cut into 1/4-inch dice
5 good variety potatoes that can hold their own in a stew, peeled and cut into coarse 1-inch chunks
1 tablespoon hot paprika
A bay leaf
Ground Sea Salt
1. Heat the olive oil in the pan you will be making the stew in, this really is just a one pot recipe. Add the onion, stirring until translucent. Next add the chorizo and stir for about 1 minute. Add the potatoes, paprika and season with the salt. Next add 4 cups of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and add the bay leaf, cover the pot partially and simmer on a low heat for about 30 minutes. The potatoes need to be fully cooked and the stew needs to have thickened.
2. Take off the lid and bring the pot back to the boil on a high heat, stirring occasionally. If the stew hasn’t thickened enough at this point crush some of the potatoes against the side of the pot and stir into the stew to thicken. Season with extra salt if needed and you are good to go. Serve immediately.
It really is as simple as that. And don’t forget to accompany it with a glass (or two!!) of your favourite Rioja and a few chunks of crusty bread and you have a dream supper…
Of course when we think of La Rioja Province it stands to reason we are going to first of all think about what I believe to be the greatest of all wines. That full bodied red that tempts every red wine drinkers palette, however when we team this virtue that the region has with all of its other delights where better a place to either stumble on or plan a visit.
Its difficult to know where to start a blog about this region as there is so much to say so I think the best place to begin would be with the capital Logroño....
'Illo gronio' is the celtic - latin word for that ford hence the city was named Logroño due to the river Ebro that runs throught the city. Logroño started off as a small medieval settlement and has retained much of its tradtions from this bygone era. Logroño is on the route of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela and is one of the most important towns along the way. There is no escaping the history of the city that is inextricably linked to this religious journey and neither is there a desire to do so. The pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostel or the Way of St. James is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the tomb of St. James in the city of Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.
There are two bridges that cross the river Ebro in the city that connect Logroño with the towns of Navarre and Álava. The Puente de Piedra, the stone bridge, was once a fortified structure and is crossed by pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela.
The city also has many monuments and buildings with historical significance in abundance. There is the Cathedral of Santa María la Redonda in the market sqauare with carvings of Gregorio Fernández and a representation of the way of the cross by the amazing Michelangelo.
In the palace of Espartero you will find the Museum of La Rioja where you will discover collections from prehistoric times to the present day and when you want a well earned rest the atmospheric winding streets of the old town will lead you to many squares including the Paseo del Espolón, a beautiful garden with an impressive avenue that is lined with pollarded plane trees which leads to a statue dedicated to General Espartero, who lived in this city after his return from his London exile until his death in 1879.
Logroño is also quickly gaining a culinary reputation and there are numerous restaurants and tapas bars serving local dishes that will delight the tastebuds, washed down very well with a glass or two of the famous wine of the region.
The city is the centre of the Rioja wine trade and an ideal place to start a Rioja Wine tour. On September 17th 2016 a week of festivities begins by the name of the Rioja Wine Festival with fireworks, dancing in the streets, traditional costumes, tapas and of course glasses of Rioja are plentiful, it really is a fiesta not to be missed. And if you have ever wanted to crush grapes with your feet then at this fiesta you will most definitely have your chance!!