The Spanish Way

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Tapa of Stuffed Squids in Sevilla

This year, amongst other things, is one of many travels. And unforgettable human connections.

Three months after traveling to Sicily, I flew to Madrid in Spain to meet Marta. Marta and I had met in France the year before. We became friends rapidly, sharing ideas and dreams together. Organizing a workshop in Spain was one of them.

We exchanged emails and thoughts. A year almost passed, and then we were proud to announce our plan.

It was happening.

So in June, Marta and I traveled together to the beautiful region of Andalusia. I remember her telling me You’ll see, this is really the heart of Spain, when we brainstormed ideas about where to hold our workshop.

I had never visited the south of Spain before but always wanted to. I wanted to find out about the land of flamenco and bullfighting, tapas and sherry, and of siestas and fiestas.

Little did I know then that our trip was going to exceed my expectations. In Gerena, where we stayed, we found a beautiful estate to host the twelve women who had flown from far away and from so many different parts of the world (oh hello Australia, Turkey, Sweden, Germany, Spain, Canada, United States, and India) to meet us.

We had four days to live the dream. And make it a memorable Spanish experience for our group.

With my pictures of our trip, I want to tell the story of the journey we took to celebrate the foods and culture of Spain.

Enjoy…

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We made Cortijo El Esparragal our home for the week.

Located close to Gerena, a small town nested twenty five kilometers near Sevilla, this hacienda is a wonderfully kept Spanish secret. Remember it if you ever venture in the area….

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Every wall and corner, every arch and stone were the quintessences of authentic Spanish flair.

Red and pink flowers were arranged in baskets neatly hung on the white-painted walls; heavy entry doors were painted in deep ocean blue like those from Case Vecchie. When Marta and I pulled in front of the main house, I remember noticing the terra cotta color of the soil, which immediately reminded me of a trip I took to the Grand Canyon many years before. Its warmth enveloped us.

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El Esparragal Hotel

This has real Spanish character, Marta told me as we walked to our room to prepare for the arrival of our group the next day. From the impeccably kept garden–with a swimming pool–surrounding the house to the rooms: each was unique and tastefully decorated with antique furniture indicating a strong stamp of the past. I couldn’t help but let my mind wander. I imagined the faces of those who lived on the hacienda before. Where did they come from? I wondered.

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At El Esparragal Hotel

We followed a simple routine: we cooked, styled, and photographed Spanish food. We visited Sevilla and a vineyard. We ate tapas, made paella, and drank sangria.

Looking for a Spanish experience.

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To introduce basic camera and styling tips and techniques, we started with a first exercise where students were asked to style tartines. This one, obviously not Spanish, but undeniably connected to my French roots.

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In Sevilla, we visited Metropol Parasol food market. After wandering through the narrow streets of the city, we indulged in Andalusian fried fish (typical of the area), tapas style, for lunch. I instantly fell under the charm of Sevilla and its every day scene: from an old man sitting with his head buried behind a newspaper to the café’s barista; from flamboyant flamenco dresses to colorful Moroccan-inspired mosaics.

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Man reading in a café in Sevilla

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fish

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Images of a day in Sevilla

One day, we told the story of a Spanish picnic and then we prepared paella. Another day, we chose fish, before concluding with Spanish desserts. Watching how each person’s unique culture and sensibility came through in their interpretation of each assignment was truly uplifting.

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Bahar and Stephanie Styling Fish

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During our picnic session, a display of jamón Ibérico and Serrano, chorizo, artisan sheep-milk cheese, gazpacho, tortilla de patatas, limonada, cured olives, tartlets, vegetables and fruit resulted in a colorful tableau that spoke like a beautiful summer day.

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Sabrina shooting her gazpacho set

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Styling a Spanish Picnic — Gazpacho

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Arroz con leche (rice pudding) styled by Alexandra

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Spanish Sweets

When we took a carriage ride at sunset to explore the grounds surrounding the property, we encountered bulls. We saw sunlit sunburnt wildflowers and long rows of tidily aligned olive trees.

We were wrapped in a blanket of warm orange and golden yellow.

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Carriage ride through the property

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By the Olive Trees

The light was stunning.

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Styling Fish

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Fish styled by Michelle

Seafood was essential.

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Paella was a must.

I could not imagine coming to Spain without the taste of one. Using traditional bomba rice, saffron, clams, fish, tomatoes, razor clams, beans, our group styled and cooked two variants of this heartwarming dish, typical of the region of Valencia.

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Our group making paella

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Seema Cooking Paella

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Kumud Cooking Paella

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From top to bottom: Teki, Peta and Stephanie

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From left to right: Kumud, Ratna, Marta, Stephanie, Peta, Alexandra, Teki

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Photo credit: Teki Akuetteh

Another highlight of our trip was the visit of Bodega Tio Pepe in Jerez, a vineyard renowned worldwide for their production of sherry wine.

The light filtering through the pergolas is unforgettable.

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Visit of Bodega Tio Pepe

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Rice Pudding Recipe with Vanilla and Cinnamon

We had made it.

And I returned home feeling inspired.

Ready for more of the experience.

Because I discovered a beautiful part of Spain. Made new friends.

Ladies, once again, thanks so much for making the journey to be with Marta and me in Spain.

It’s unforgettable.

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Needless to say that during my stay in Spain, I made sure to enjoy gazpacho a number of times. I’m thinking that you’d have loved it as much as I did.

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Marta shared her recipe with me, and I am also including the recipe I wrote for the Boston Globe last summer.

Not forgetting rice pudding.

I mean, how could I not fall in love with a country with a heartfelt attachment to rice pudding?

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Summer Gazpacho Recipe

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Gazpacho Recipe

For the soup:

  • Generous 2 pounds red or yellow tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, corred, seeded, and diced
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

Steps:

  • In a blender, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, shallot, and garlic. Work the mixture until it forms a puree.
  • Transfer to a large bowl. Add the hot sauce, vinegar, olive oil, salt and black pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 1 day.

For the garnish:

  • 1/4 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 pint red or yellow cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 small cooked shrimp, coarsely chopped
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 4 ice cubes, crushed
  • Olive oil (for sprinkling)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • Black pepper, to taste

Steps:

  • In a bowl, combine the cucumber, cherry tomatoes, shrimp, and scallions. Toss gently.
  • Ladle the soup into 4 bowls. Into each, stir in the equivalent of 1 crushed ice cube. Top each with some garnish, sprinkle with olive oil, chives, and black pepper.
Marta’s Gazpacho Recipe

You need:

  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 clave garlic
  • 1/2 red pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 green pepper, seeded and diced
  • Half cucumber, diced
  • 2 pounds 3 ounces (1 kilo) red tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • Sea salt and pepper

Steps:

  • Place all ingredients in a food processor and purée finely.
  • Ladle in bowls and top with diced cucumber, diced fried pieces of bread, diced red pepper, diced green pepper, and diced onion.
Every Day Rice Pudding Recipe

For 6 people

You need:

  • 2/3 cup Arborio or pudding rice
  • 4 cups milk (2% or whole)
  • 2 vanilla beans, split open lengthwise and seeds scraped out
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons heaped crème fraiche
  • Ground cinnamon, to serve
  • About 1/2 cup blond cane sugar (to taste)
  • Ground cinnamon, to serve (optional)

Steps:

  • Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the rice and cook for 4 minutes. Strain.
  • Heat the milk with the vanilla beans and seeds, and cinnamon stick. When it reaches boiling point, add the rice.
  • Simmer the rice uncovered until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is soft–between 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Discard the vanilla beans and cinnamon stick, and stir in the sugar.
  • Stir in the crème fraiche. Serve lukewarm, and decorate with ground cinnamon, if you like.

59 comments

  1. I adore, adore, adore this post.

    I wandered Andalucia for a few weeks alone last fall, and it still seems like a dream. <3

  2. I love the post. We really had an amazing time. What an incredible group of people! I enjoyed it very much. Lets do it again!!!!! Besos

  3. Me hubiera encantado poder venir!
    .. però no me puedo permitir este lujo por ahora.. quien sabe la proxima vez!
    : )

  4. Love the way you experienced that week, it was such a lovely time! Hope I can repeat another workshop with you, in Spain or anywhere!
    Kisses
    Anna

  5. Dear Bèa,
    amazing pictures, I loved them all!!! I followed you since a couple of years and it is a real joy to do that.
    Thanks for the wonderful post!
    Big hugs from Buenos Aires!! come to visit us…
    Marisa

  6. Aaaah de si belles images de l’Espagne, de si bon matin… je pense que je ne m’en lasserai jamais! Et Séville est une ville “preciosa” comme on dit là-bas, une ville de Cocagne, la vie est si douce là-bas… ça y est ça me donne envie de prendre l’avion pour m’y rendre !

  7. Wow, truly amazing photographs, Glad you had such a fantastic time. Really enjoying your blog. Thanks so much for sharing,

  8. Such beautiful photos, you’ve really captured the feel of Andalusia! I almost feel like I just visited myself.

  9. the most beautiful post ever! sounds so beautiful and the light magical. Your students styled beautifully.

    dream like!

  10. the most beautiful post ever! sounds so lovelyl and the light magical. Your students styled beautifully.

    dream like!

  11. I hope that you will come to Seattle one day and host a cooking/styling event here! You are my true inspiration in both fashion AND food styling :) xoxo ♥

  12. Waouh! Merci pour ce très long et bel article avec de superbes photos, comme d’hab'; j’adore ton style. Les deux petites demoiselles sont ravissantes. Merci pour ce partage, recettes incluses! Je ne connais pas l’Espagne, à part un peu les Baléares (ce qui est déjà pas mal, une chouette cuisine également!). A bientôt. :)

  13. beautiful trip for my land, Andalusia.
    I would love to go and learn a lot of you, I hope that on another occasion will be.

    xoxo

  14. Beautiful! I almost want to cry, those pictures show the things I have grown seen everyday. I miss Andalucia. In my opinion, the best place is the world. I coudnt attend the workshop this time but I hope to if you come back to Spain.
    Adios!

  15. I’ve been to Spain but my husband hasn’t. We are tinkering with the idea of renting a car and driving all over. These photos make me so excited for the possibilities!

  16. Beautiful and inspiring post! It’s my dream to attend one of your overseas workshops when my last baby is a bit bigger!

  17. Beautiful and inspiring post! It’s my dream to attend one of your overseas workshops when my last baby is a bit bigger! Please don’t stop! 😜

  18. I could frame every one of these photos. They’re brilliant. What a fabulous experience.

  19. Beautiful pictures as always!
    I was wondering what is the name of the orange cheese with a white crust? (It looks like goat-like?)

  20. Can you recommend a great Paella pan that is available for sale in the USA?

    Beautiful post! Would love your recipe for stuffed squid tapas!!

  21. Hi Bea! I must sea that this post is amazing. I almost want to cry. I´m from Andalucia and seeing all those beautiful pictures made me remember the place that I miss so much. Impressive colors. I miss wearing my flamenco dresses and using a fan as one accessory more. And the light, what a beautiful light…

  22. Absolutely gorgeous photography! No wonder you returned home inspired, how can you not after your trip!? :)
    Greetings from North Wales (UK)
    Babs B

  23. The Moorish/Arab architecture is so beautiful, I love arched doorways.

  24. What an exquisite post Béa!! So rich in culture and color…beautiful pictures and stories…thank you for taking all of us on this scenic trip through Spain with you… Lovely!

  25. What an exquisite post Béa! So rich in culture and color…Thank you for taking us all on this beautiful, scenic journey through Spain ~ lovely job!

  26. Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful and inspiring pictures of your days in Spain. Can’t wait to make the rice pudding. So comforting in these colder getting days.

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  28. I adore this part of Spain and you have captured it so poetically. Beautiful, beautiful photographs.

  29. What a beautiful adventure. I hope to be able to attend one of your workshops in the future and experience a place this lovely firsthand.

  30. Breathtaking. Your picturess are amazing! The people, the lessons, Spain, you an d Martha…this trip was amazing beautiful and unforgettable! Thanks for sharing your beautiful way to take pictures

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  32. What a wonderful journey, what a wonderful post and pics.
    In a future trip you are wellcome to another part of Spain. Castilla y Leon maybe? ;-)
    I love your work and love Marta’s photos.

  33. Absolutely love this post! I’m from the area and even have family in Gerena and have never seen this hacienda. I go often home, but this post makes me wish I lived there! Thank you for sharing the beauty of the region, the people and the food. I hope one day to be able to take a course with you and Marta.

  34. A friend of mine told me about your blog and also “Cooking With Mr. C.” on Facebook. I look forward to looking at both of your blogs. Denise

  35. Dear Bea, I look at your blog everyday. I’m Italian (Calabria), and your photos from the other corner of the world are inspiring and warming (yes, warming even if you write and take photos mostly from New England). I just wanted to say thank you.
    Raffaella

  36. J’adore ! tu as fait des photos sublimes de mon pays ! Je suis espagnole mais j’habite à Bordeaux.
    Très très jolies photos!! merci

  37. Wonderful photos! I lived in Sevilla for the past two years and you did a beautiful job of capturing its magic. X

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  40. I spend a few months a year in Spain and think these photos are stunningly gorgeous. Couldn’t stop looking at them :)

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