Last week I discovered the Poniente Granadino. The area west of Granada which has towns and villages such as Loja, Montefrio, RioFrio and Huétor Tajar just to name a few. I live in Granada and have done for years. However I am surprised to find areas of the province that I haven´t visited.
This area is a rural area with vast expanses of olive trees along the hills and roads.
This was historically the most westerly point and border of the Kingdom of Al Andalus.
The area boasts wonderful food and local produce. A great area for rural tourism, homely welcoming cottages and open spaces.
I tasted delicious Asparagus from Huetor Tajar. In the Cortijo de Tájar Restaurante we ate a Chilled asparagus soup topped with egg and local cured ham. Great for the hot June weather.
The asparagus from Huetor Tajar are a variety only from this area. No one else in the world produces this plant. With a slightly purple hue to them, they have a different, more distinctive taste that the normal variety. Currently 52% of the product grown in Huetor is exported. The agricultural sector is important in this area of Poniente Granadino
I cannot possible continue without mentioning the Spanish ham and the wonderful Salchichón. If you are vegetarian sorry about the next few sentences….
Sierra de Parapanda is well known for it´s delicacies such as Cured Iberian ham, chorizo and other cold cuts. I tried salchichon and Jamon Serrano (Iberian Ham) which are my own personal favourites.They were very tasty and the flavour seemed to ´pop´ as they had blended the black pepper and spices well to balance the rustic taste of there products.
I´m not really a big fan of chorizo but everything I tried had a artisan and fresh flavour to it. These guys have been producing since 1990 and certainly have it down to an art. The pigs are fed acorns and olives. Each ham takes 3 years to get to 100% flavour. This time of course explains the cost of ham production.
In Riofrio the only certified producer of Organic Caviar is based. We visited the Caviar factory to see the huge sturgeons in the long pools there. This ancient variety of fish used for Caviar production here in Riofrio and the majority of the product is exported internationally.
The female fish are used for Caviar and the males are used for the actual fish product Sturgeon which is a local delicacy in this area. I was amazed to hear that these fish occasionally break their backs and are capable of regenerating the cartilage themselves. Caviar de RioFrio are on twitter @riofriocaviar in case you want more information about them.
All this talk of food! Are you hungry yet? In the town Loja, the most famous dish is dessert. Roscos of Loja are well known in Andalusia and were delicious. LojaThe actual highlight was popping into the delightful Santa Teresa just off the main square. It felt like walking onto the set of the film ´Chocolat´ the shop is running since 1840 and you can feel the tradition as you walk in.
Roscos of Loja
The shop had lots of local pottery in the traditional blue and green colours filled with artisan merengues and chunky biscuits. They sell traditional pastries, crusty bread loaves and a variety of cakes. The traditional Roscos of Loja are round with a hole in the centre. Covered in white icing (frosting). In the centre have a custard cream type filling. A recipe influenced from Moorish times.
There is also another kind of Rosco de Loja and that´s the savoury kind. A bread made in a circular shape. Some smaller ones and some larger. These lovely individual Roscos were served for breakfast in Loja with coffee. Filled with Spanish ham or boiled ham. Hmmm.
I´ve talked about all the lovely food in the area and I didn´t get to try the wonderful Montefrio cheese. I´m keep that in mind for my next trip out that way. It´s made in a traditional way and some producers are even organic. If you want to feel like you are in the real Spain, I think that this area is a great option for exploring tradition and history. It seems to be an area that remains unaffected by globalization and holds it´s traditions close to it heart.
Rural Holiday Home
I stayed in a wonderful rural cottage not far from Huetor Tajar. Casería El Pozo property had some lovely details, the wooden beams and latches on the windows. The crisp white towels caught my eye. Hand Embroidered by the owners mother.
No hotel chain can compete with that…
If you are looking to get away from crowded beaches but you want a swimming pool and good food. This is a great place to do just that. Nearby you can visit the towns of Loja, Montefrio which have a lot to offer as culture, historic and archaeological ruins go. Not to mention their charm and character. The Poniente Granadino has a lot to offer for those looking for off the beaten track
In Loja we saw the fountain with 25 spouts, a cool and shady place to have a break from the hot sun and the unique circular church of the Encarnacion with it´s cool and airy interior.
Washington Irving Route
We visited the old granary, ¨Posito¨ right in the centre of the town, in the basement of this building they often host art exhibitions. In Loja, notice the cobbled streets with designs in the stonework. The Easter celebrations in Loja are well known. The Incense Bearers or Incensarios. These figues wear a black and unusual costume dating back to medieval times.
Loja is one of the towns on the Route of Washington Irving than many literary and historical fans choose to retrace when visiting Andalusia.
Las Peñas de los Gitanos
In picturesque Montefrio we visited the breathtaking Las Peñas de los Gitanos boasting 103 neolitic tombs. Apart from the prehistoric ruins in the area the countryside was refreshing. Large expanses of green, trees and flowers. Views of the Sierra de Parapanda and lots of olive trees dotted along the hillsides.
In Montefrio itself the church on top of the rock jutting over the village has lots of information about the town and it´s history. If the height isn´t enough for you, then you can climb up the bell tower and get even better photos from the top!
In the evening we headed to the Convento de San Antonio in Montefrio to have dinner. The gentleman running the place was extremely friendly and cheerful. The perfect host. The food as always was wonderful. I particularly enjoyed the eggs and ham and the fresh tasting rosé wine. To end the day a spectalar sunset of the Church of La Villa.
It seems that the more places I visit around Granada the more there is too see.
All of this is within a half an hour drive from the Alhambra palace.
have you been to the Poniente Granadino yet?