MOST ATTRACTIVE FEATURES
Packed with fibre and low in carbs and calories, this green squash is a dieter’s best friend.
WHY WE FELL IN LOVE
1 whole courgette = just 18 calories and is made up of 94% water. Bring on the skinny comfort courgetti!
Worthy of it’s own post, Riad Lolita is one of my favourite Tarifa guesthouses. And I’ve ticked off my fair share of accommodation across multiple visits to Spain’s most southern tip – the mountains in the picture are Africa. My obsession with Tarifa can hardly have gone unnoticed (see Travel Pick: Tarifa, Andalucia). I may even have renovated my own little white washed Tarifa holiday house: La Casita Melo. My penchant for understated luxury may have been hinted at once or twice. Moorish mansion, Riad Lolita is the cherry on the cake. Here’s why:
Built in 1893 for the town mayor, this shrine to nineteenth century luxury retains the granduar and original features of its past: Marble floors and staircases; Moorish courtyards and tiles that prompted me to scramble for my credit card; and light flooding in from every angle through the seemingly endless windows and patio doors.
Converted from a private home last year (the layout remained the same), Danish interior design goddess Pia sourced most of the furnishings from Morocco. Synonymous with chic Tarifa, Pia oversees the creative direction of Tarifa’s more stylish apartments. A celebration of her paired back Scandi style with the architecture of the casco antiguo (old town).
The really good news? Pia believes that to keep people happy, “you need to give them more than they expect.” So, Riad Lolita is incredibly reasonably priced. Incredibly.
The upstairs living room, hallway and Moorish courtyard.
Riad Lolita was full when I travelled but Pia very kindly moved things around so I could spend 5 nights in this little beauty. It didn’t disappoint.
Moroccan suite 2 has two rooms: living area and a bedroom with further seating area and open plan bathroom. As with the rest of the house, large windows are in abundance; a godsend during hot summer months, though all rooms have AC. Both Moroccan suites have the advantage of their own entrances onto the street; ideal for nipping out for your morning cortado.
Pia sourced most of the furniture from Morocco; the headboard is covered in a rug and the carpet, a design The Rug Company would drool over. Needless to say, I’m now planning a Tangier van haul so I can replicate all of the above in my South West London basement bedroom. Minus the extensive windows, light and sunshine. Humph.
North and South rooms have an interconnecting door, should you go with a group. The tiles (and 70 euro p/nt price tag) got me in a heartbeat.
The master bedroom and kids room in the family suite, which comprises of four rooms, to include a living room and bathroom. Rarely are triple rooms this stylish. Take note, long lost travel buddies with babies!
The Penthouse kitchen and master bathroom.
With two bathrooms, two bedrooms (or a double bed and sitting room), a kitchen and terrace, this is incredibly good value at 130 euro per night. As with the entire house, design hasn’t been compromised; mosaic tiles, a mix of antique furniture and comfort are in abundance.
Bang in the centre of el casco antiguo (old town) with views of Morocco. A sangria spit away.
With two sitting rooms, a large kitchen, terrace and even chill out hallways, Riad Lolita has ample living space outside of the bedrooms. This is actually quite unusual for Tarifa and as such, it’s an ideal and very reasonable (500 euros per night for 9 bedrooms / 22 people) option for groups.
For why and when to go: Travel Pick: Tarifa, Andalucia
I’m yet to meet anyone in Tarifa who either, hasn’t been before, or isn’t already planning their return. It really is a very special place.
Last summer I fell in love; I was introduced to Tarifa. A tiny, whitewashed, Andalucian, beach town that miraculously ticks every box my demanding little heart could desire: Yves San Lauren blue skies; a wind to obliterate any sniff of sticky humidity; traditional yet bohemian Spain; and endless supplies of tuna so fresh it could have a pulse.
The real clincher though, is that with wind and sea, comes buff body water sports. Tarifa is awash with chilled, bikini and board-short clad, painfully beautiful, wind and kite surfers and groupies. Of all ages. Gulp.
I confess I’ve been an bit reticent to publicise; Spain’s most southern tip (see the African coast a sangria spit away above) is still relatively unknown to us Brits. Instead Tarifa is popular with Spanish families, Italians, French and of course, those (30 something) kite-surfers of all nationalities. Ever the altruist however, I caved and decided to let you see for yourselves.
Tarifa’s roots can be traced back to 710 when a berber crossing from Morocco established the harbour. It remained Muslim until 1292 when Christian King Sancho IV seized the city and Muslim control has been miraculously resisted ever since. Given Tarifa’s proximity to Africa and the fact Muslims occupied Spain for 800 years (touchy subject, sshhh), it’s little wonder the town could almost be a shrine to the defending Catholic kings.
Until 25 years ago, Tarifa was largely a fishing village but since the arrival of windsurfers, tourism has become the main source of income; the town’s 16,000 population effectively doubles July to August. Go in September or October!
Since my first trip with family this time last year, I’ve returned twice with friends. Only my brother is the wave and wind chaser, so Tarifa’s in no way exclusive to surf junkies. With history, beach and a culture drenched in food and wine, there’s something for everyone.
Daytime Tarifa centres around the beaches and Chiringuitos [cheer-een-gee-tos] extending west of the port. In fact, said beach shacks don’t open before midday – sleepy Spanish towns are ideal for bagging a lounger. Bien Star (below) is at it’s busiest for lunch and from 4pm when Tarifeños flock in for post work sun downers and beach volleyball. Every. Single. Day.
As you’d expect with any laid back surf beach, yoga is available. If battling with a gargantuan kite in what could effectively be termed a tornado isn’t your thing. Try: Tarifa Eco Centre or Hurricane Hotel.
Valdevaqueros beach is wind and kite surf central, and party HQ it seems. For lessons and / or kit hire, try Club Mistral. With buff body water sports and chiringuitos (beach bars) comes followers: Valdevaqeros is also ideal for sunbathing and, when the wind drops, stand up paddle boarding.
There are a number of kitesurf schools along the out of town beaches. I’m told the following are good: Rebels Tarifa and Dragon Tarifa. I was the epitome of Tantrum Kitesurf when I tried. My tip for beginners: Take semi-private lessons, ideally with one friend and request two kites – one each. That way you won’t haemorrhage the morning on kite swaps (multiple line changes is a lengthy process. In a wetsuit. In 30 degree heat) and waiting for 4 other people to have their turn.
Spaniards are famed for their love of the night and no where more so than Andalucía; the restaurants are at their busiest around 10pm and the bars, well after midnight. Think of the sun loungers.
Head for Vaca Loca (Crazy Cow) for Argentinian steak and Rioja, and the heart of the bar scene. Taco (all class here) next door churns out endless supplies of expertly mixed mojitos.
El Almedina (next to Los Melli restaurant) is a lively, though less full on bar and has highly recommended live Flamenco every Thursday night.
Perhaps the only activity to be found pre 11am is in the town’s churreria, which opens at 5am to supply post partiers with a Spanish doughnut (kind of) breakfast. Most of the town will flock in for take-away throughout the morning. My Andalúz Dad used to make churros for us as kids; this is Spain for me.
You can buy churros (the mini ones in the picture) or porras, a larger, though greasier version. For clarity: porras are not to be confused with porros, unless you’re in search of Señora Mari-Juana. And let’s face it, a churros shop probably isn’t her standard hang out. You’ll entertain the owner and his punters no end if you make this mistake, however. I have first hand experience.
For the record, churros are made solely of flour, water and salt and fried at such super hot temperatures (100C+) that less oil is absorbed. We have a fear of frying in the UK, I think; I’ve witnessed several friends self righteously sniff at my churros kick, then inhale the Easyjet triple (fake) cheese and ham panini on the late flight home.
Even the cake shop only opens 5pm to post midnight. As does the ice cream parlour. Take a slice of Orange & almond cake to have with a café con leche (strong latté) in Café Central – the best coffee in Tarifa, in my opinion. Note: the wind element is sometimes cause for a jumper at night, potentially thermals outside of summer. The above shot was taken early May.
Entirely Spanish, the not so aptly named Bar El Francés (French bar) is well worth the almost constant queue. It’s open most of the day so an ideal lunch or pre plane option. For the record, Bien Star chiringuito offers a decent menu you can eat in your bikini.
Star dishes: Octopus with saffron (above), Gambas and my favourite, Chipirones a la plancha (grilled squid). Meat’s on the menu but the fish is particularly good here.
Another hugely popular restaurant where queues are inevitable 8pm onwards. Pork’s a must here in Los Melli. The tuna’s also a winner, although it’s pretty much a safe bet anywhere in Tarifa. Gin and spirit measures across Spain are as they should be. Count to 10 when pouring apparently.
Star dishes: Anything with chorizitos (mini chorizo sausages). Amazing. Especially with egg and chips. Don’t knock it!
Possibly the best pork you’ll ever eat. Spaniards love their acorn chomping pigs. Even the jamon, Manchego and Rioja combo is on a level I’ve never known before. Queues are unavoidable from the moment this meat shrine opens it’s doors in the evening.
The fish markets are open every week day morning and are worth a visit. Every restaurant offers tuna cooked to perfection though. La Pescaderia and Lola are a must. Make sure you have local speciality Atún Rojo de Almadraba (red tuna).
Pepe’s cornucopia of Spanish eating is perfect for a beach picnic, or if you want something other than bread for breakfast before the town wakes up. Pepe will give you tasters of jamon and Manchego. He also stocks the increasingly unbiquitous London coffee shop staple, Ines Rosales Tortas de Aceite. Yes, that is his actual height. Tiny Spanish man.
If you have a car, and a large suitcase, stock up on Spanish supplies in the local supermarket, Mercadona. Two tuna steaks tasting better than anything you get in Waitrose cost 1.35 Euro and a perfect jamon 45 Euro. On one trip I brought back 10 frozen steaks (again, better than Waitrose), 3kg of anchovies in vinegar and a leg of ham for Papa. Staff kindly sawed off the hoof to fit said carcass in my hold luggage.
Tarifa can effectively be split in two: whitewashed, winding streets of the Casco Antiguo (old town) and the beach, extending west of the harbour. I like staying in the town; that’s where the restaurants and bars are, the beach is only a 5 minute walk and you can easily drive to the surf beaches.
Given Spanish life is in the cafes and restaurants, most accommodation is comprised of rooms or apartments within houses (which you can also rent as a whole), as opposed to a hotel setup. Prices almost double July and August but quite honestly, it’s way too busy; the months either side are ideal.
If you’re after a pool (you’ll only get this with La Residencia in the town), there are one or two hotels out by the surf beaches and lots of minimalist, white washed villas. I haven’t tried the hotels but 5 star All Inc. they are not. But then, if that’s what you’re after, Tarifa’s possibly not for you.
Gibraltar airport is 40 mins away in a car or taxi. Booking a hire car in advance is the easiest option in my opinion. Alternatively, four buses run each day, taking an hour. You’ll need to cross the boarder (2 minute walk) to La Linea for all transport links and car hire.
Malaga airport runs frequent flights and is a 1 1/2 hour drive on the same coastal road. Buses are available via La Linea. I often fly in through Gibraltar and out from Malaga due to flight times, taking a car. Note: it’s best to book in
Now. Hence this post. Tarifa’s mobbed July to August, September’s my favourite time for temperature, crowd and fiestas – the month of Catholic festivals and end of summer parties in the chiringuitos.
End May and mid October would be my cut off. Beyond that the wind chill is up at night and weather slightly unpredictable. I’m told the wind drops in winter months and temperatures are still in the balmy 20’s… Bars are busy as you get surfers pretty much all year, but the atmosphere doesn’t compare to summer.
For a taste of Spain in London, try Morito, blogged when I was in search of a Spanish food hit post a Tarifa trip last year.
Granted it’s potentially a little late in the day to be dishing out festive goodwill, allow me to explain. This Christmas and New Year were spent much like any other, eating, yet this time with the not insignificant addition of sunshine. The Garcia, Woodroffe, MacGillivray and Spurrier clans united to take over a vast, light flooded Cape Town house made for family cooking and entertaining. The bottom line: I’ve been busy ‘researching’ as opposed to reporting. Here’s what we got up to.
And that was just Christmas and New Year. Here are some other things we did, (inevitably) revolving around food. Cape Town eating is exceptionally good; just about anything is available, ingredients and eating out. Not to mention cheap.
We breakfasted on (and fought over) Almond, orange & cranberry granola. Then climbed and marvelled at mountains, while my sibling surfed and kite surfed his way round the coast.
We learned the importance of teaching gender equality in townships. And were blown away by the welcome from the kids and their mentors.
We buzzed on Paranga’s espresso martinis. #yesweusedafilter #80shues
We shopped in the expertly curated and designed Watershed Market, a mecca of African start up food and craft concepts. Then ate some more. If visiting Cape Town, hover over the images for a list of my Must Do guide; click to be connected to the site:
Healthy living is pretty much endemic to Cape Town. Raw, vegan and allergy friendly options are standard, even the local (Woolworth’s affiliated) petrol station showcases coconut oil, rice milk and gluten free abundance at the till. A far cry from our Mars and sugar shrines. Given health insurance companies incentivise customers with cash back and 30% off airfares for tick list shopping trolley items and gym memberships, it’s hardly surprising.
We watched polo from an ostrich farm, where we ate prego rolls (steak sandwich on crack – it’s in the sauce) and ostrich kebabs washed down with sauvignon blanc from one of the player’s vineyards.
We even got engaged! Not me. Little brother, Nick and the lovely Sally. Who returned to Franschhoek (post sealing the deal), family in toe, on the promise of La Petite Ferme’s painfully good wine and food. It didn’t disappoint.
We’re all now so in love (with Cape Town), we’re plotting emigration, or at the very least, another 2015 trip.
This is one of my favourite fridge staples; it tastes amazing and goes with just about just about anything. In theory you should hull broad beans. Every. Single. One. I did this once, turning grey in the process. According to several guinea pig friends, though, this tastes so good it’s worth the effort. Unfortunately, I don’t have the patience of Ghandi so threw caution to the wind and tested with skins on. The result: zesty, clean, creamy, bang on summer and ready in 10 minutes. A delicious alkaline and raw dip with this week’s Sticky sweet potato wedges, or unbeatable with courgette spaghetti. Alternatively, dollop on salads, rye, fritters or pasta.
1/2 cup cashew nuts
1 1/2 cups broad beans or soya beans, steamed – I like 50/50.
1 dsp tahini
pinch sea salt
2 limes, juice of
1 tbsp cottage cheese or yoghurt – optional
50ml water or olive oil
Blitz the cashew nuts in a Magimix or blender for 20 secs or until you get a breadcrumb texture. Chuck in your chosen beans and whiz briefly.
Add in the remaining ingredients, following with the water. You should have a hummus-like consistency.
Decant to jars in the fridge, eating within 3 days.
I love this with a tablespoon of cottage cheese or yoghurt whizzed through at the end – more protein and a bolder, tangier flavour. In the interests of vegan / dairy free / paleo friendly options, I’ve omitted from the above.
Coconut oil seems to be the key that sets this recipe apart from the now ubiquitous orange wedge. It works much better than olive oil, resulting in a sticky, sweet and salty flavour. The good news: coconut oil’s so ridiculously healthy, fitness gurus are eating it by the desert spoon for breakfast. Literally. What’s more, sweet potatoes are low GI, packed with anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals and the recipe takes all of 5 mins to prep.
3 sweet potatoes
1 dsp coconut oil
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric – for gut health
1 tsp sea salt
Good grind black pepper
Pre-heat oven to 220C / 375F. Scrub sweet potatoes, removing any particularly scraggly bits, and retaining the skins. Cut lengthways into wedges approx. 8 per potato.
Transfer the wedges to a baking tray, skin side down is ideal as you want them to char and blacken. Dot the coconut oil around the tray and sprinkle with spices and salt.
Bake for 35 mins, or until soft in the middle and charred on the outside. Turn the wedges half way through cooking to coat your wedges with the coconut oil and spices.
Serve with Broad bean & cashew pesto or hummus. I almost always have a tub in the fridge to chop into salads or to tide me through a yoga class.
Even after two weeks of relentless (really) carnival caipirinhas in Brazil a few months back, this remains my favourite cocktail. Admittedly, I wimped out of cachaça, switching for vodka by day five. Thanks to Brazilian friend Beta, we have a visual guide to help us cheer on Brazil in the World Cup, or to see us through churrascos (BBQ’s) in the sunshine. Needless to say, measures were on the large and non specific side so feel free to adjust to your taste. Bikini optional.
3 large limes or lemons – I prefer limes for their sweetness.
5 teaspoons sugar – you might want to up this, or swap for agave.
150ml cachaça or vodka – you might want to reduce this… in line with UK measures…
1 tray ice
A cocktail shaker is ideal for caipirinhas but you can also use a big jug and wooden spoon. I’ve included ingredients for the classic recipe but you can also add passion fruit (although you’ll need 5 of our supermarket versions for every 1 Brazilian fruit), strawberries, mint and / or ginger to the above. Passion fruit works particularly well.
Squish the limes and roll them around with the back of your hand to release the juices. Cut into quarters and transfer to your shaker or jug.
Add sugar or agave and bash with a wooden spoon for a a couple of minutes.
Half fill the shaker with ice and bash around some more, or shake with the top on.
Add cachaça or vodka, top with more ice and taste for sugar and acidity. Then shake some more…
Grande beijo e graças ao Beta… and her passion fruit.
I’m not a really a ketchup eater, so the fact I went to the lengths of making this recipe, and am now blogging it, I think testifies to the flavour. With smokey chilli and tangy apple and tamarind, this straddles between a sophisticated Tommy K and HP. There are various incarnations on the web, chipotle peppers generally causing some sourcing issues; this is mine.
1kg ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 cooking apple, cored and chopped
2 red peppers, chopped
2 small red onions or 1 large, sliced
3 tsp smoked paprika
4 tsp chipotle – if you can’t get this, treble the paprika.
1 tsp turmeric (because I add it to everything for gut health)
1 tsp sea salt
3 tsp tamarind (I’m following HP’s lead on this)
250ml cider vinegar
1 tbsp agave or 200g muscovado sugar
Put all ingredients except the agave into a pan, bring to the boil and then simmer for 2 hours.
Remove from the heat, chill and whizz with a stick blender till smooth.
Return to the heat, add agave and simmer for a further 30 mins or until thickened slightly. If, like me, you’ve swapped sugar for agave, the sauce will remain runnier. There’s no compromise to flavour.
Decant into sterilised jars and store in the fridge for up to two weeks, according to Pitt Cue Co. I confess I’ve kept mine a lot longer and it tastes just as good… Sorry, I’m lazy and refuse to do smaller batches.
I love this with Mum Garcia’s Netherton Farm Wild Boar sausages and sourdough or Courgette fritters, bacon and avocado. But with summer picnics and BBQ’s on their way *frantically touches wood*, I reckon this is a fridge staple worth having to hand.
A healthy, tangy and creamy curry to help you on your way to summer body. That’s right, curry needn’t be laden with ghee and consumed only in the early hours. In fact, the spices and coconut oil in this recipe are even good for your gut. I’ve used prawns for a potentially wider appeal, but I also make this with any white, sustainable fish as a less extravagant mid week supper.
2″ piece ginger
2 red chillies
4 cloves garlic
6 tsp coriander seed, toasted and ground
1 tin tomatoes or 6 ripe tomatoes
1 tbsp coconut oil
3 tsp tamarind paste
1 dsp Agave syrup
1 x 400ml can coconut milk or coconut powder if you can get it.
1 tsp sea salt
500g raw, shelled, uncooked tiger prawns or white sustainable fish, deboned.
1 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
In a blender, blitz ginger, garlic, chillies, tomatoes and coriander seeds to make rough paste. Depending on how many I’m cooking for, I often leave half aside at this point to make a fresh curry another day. If you’re going the whole hog, however, use the lot.
Heat coconut oil in heavy based pan, chop onions and fry on medium to low heat until they’re translucent.
Add your tomato paste to the onions and cook for 5 mins, stirring intermittently. Follow with tamarind, Agave, coconut milk or powder and sea salt. Cook on a medium heat for 10 mins.
Check for seasoning, put the prawns or fish into the pan, stir and cook gently for 3 – 4 mins, or until meat is cooked through.
Serve with brown rice, roti or wholemeal paratha and chopped coriander. I also like this on it’s own for supper, effectively as a chunky soup… when carb baby needs curbing.
Tip: Tinned coconut milk can vary widely in flavour from the real thing, often altering the curry considerably. Even if fresh coconuts were readily available in the UK, however, I’m not about to start tackling them. So, I was very pleased to come across coconut powder in the world food isle, which somehow tastes far more authentic. You just add to the curry, diluting with water to your taste. Frozen roti and paratha are pretty easy to come by in most supermarkets too.
Tip: Don’t throw away coriander stalks. Instead, keep in the freezer to add a clean, freshness to other curries. See Spring lamb with apricots & chilli for example.
I dreamt up this salsa after 4 months of craving raw, crunchy salads in India. There’s nothing I like more than fish and spice but there comes a point when even the most dedicated curry fans need to macerate. So, said recipe materialised on a Middle East stopover at my bother’s, where aubergines are as integral to the local diet as tatties are to the Irish. Once charred or roasted, few ingredients compare to the flavour and ‘meatiness’ of this super berry . For me, this salad’s at it’s best with steak or at a BBQ. You can also pair with chicken, fish or even toasted sourdough for a light lunch or supper.
2 tbsp olive oil
Black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 red onion
1 bch / tbsp coriander, chopped
1 lime, juice of
Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Slice aubergine into 1 inch rounds, mix with oil, salt & pepper. Lay flat on baking tray and place in oven for 45 mins, or until browned. Turn each slice every 15 mins – you want a mix of soft, charred and crispy slices for flavour and texture.
Dice tomatoes and red onion and mix with chopped coriander and lime juice.
Chop cooled aubergine into approx. 2cm pieces, mix with salsa and serve.
To salt or not to salt? Originally done to remove bitterness, today’s auberignes rarely suffer from the affliction of their ancestors. Salting can help to reduce the amount of oil absorbed during cooking, however. Once cut, sprinkle with sea salt and place in a colander for ½ hr.