Through Airbnb we booked a lovely country-side villa near Reus with a big old garden, chickens, rabbits and two cats. One of which gave birth to 5 kittens during our stay.
Salva and Eva have an organic garden and decided to host a 3-course Calçotada barbeque for 15€ per person and invited people over the internet.
Calçots are a member of the onion family that are basically charred on a grid over a fire. A calçotada is a messy business and the participants usually wear bibs and traditionally swill wine. The calcots are served with a typical sauce, that should be made well in advance:
1 mature tomato per person. 100 grams of toasted almonds for each 3 people 1 entire bulb of garlic for each 2 people. 1 “nyora”(type of dried pepper) for each 2 people. 1 litre of olive oil for each 10 people. A little parsley, vinegar, salt, a small chili (optional)
Blacken the tomatoes and garlic over the flames (not embers), make sure that the flame isn’t too “live” as they need to be cooked. Scald the “nyoras”in boiling water . Crush or blend the almonds with the parsley and the chili (if you want a spicy sauce). Then mix in the peeled tomatoes and garlic and the pulp of the nyoras (discarding the seeds). The sauce is made by slowly stirring in the olive oil. Add salt and vinegar to taste.
So our first Sunday was spend feasting in the garden and getting tipsy.
Nigel could not be kept away from helping in the garden, cleaning up the driveway of weeds. So after watching this going on, I thought we might profit from this hyperactivity and decided to sign us up for woofing with http://www.ruralvolunteers.org.
This would give us so many advantages: free meals, free accommodation, experiencing new and to us as yet unknown ways of farming in the Mediterranean climate, learning and practicing Spanish and exploring places off-the beaten track. For that we only have to work 5-6 hours a day.
Unfortunately the busy period was over, as the orange, wine and olive harvests were all completed in the early winter and pruning had been done, so only places with vegetable gardens would need help. I succeeded in getting 2 positive replies back from the 5 places I applied to.
When we told them we had our first paella in St. Sebastian, they were rather taken aback, as Northern Spain is not the place for typical paella.
So Eva set about to cook us a most delicious paella from scratch, and I could follow all steps and all authentic fresh ingredients. This was also a thank you for our help around the house and garden.
We also experienced the cat giving birth to 5 kittens on the sitting room couch. She was a very young and brave and very affectionate mother, only 9 months old herself. This would be her first and last pregnancy our hosts assured us. Cats are hard to find homes for, whereas the young rabbits could be sold for €10 each!
We took the bikes down for some local cycles around the back roads and orange groves. The lovely old couple that cultivated the big field beside Salva and Eva with all sorts of vegetables were so generous and gave us herbs, artichokes, tomatoes, oranges, chard, onions and more than we could carry. They were simply proud of their produce that we admired and wanted to share it.
We had such a nice time there, that we didn’t go anywhere much, our hosts probably thought we would permanently lodge with them. But they had another couple already booked for the weekend, so we moved on to Salou.