Things are slowing down, the gardens at Picton Castle are starting to turn and glow and we are still welcoming visitors to the restaurant.

Our new winter menu, with warming soups, Spanish stews and tapas dishes is proving to be a great hit. Our current favourite winter-warmer is Espinacas con Garbanzos: Spanish Chickpea Stew, a delicious combination of tomatoes, chickpeas…

“Always use the ones in a jar, they are better.”

…chickpeas (from a jar), ground almonds and spinach. Delicious, warming and satisfying, HERE’S THE RECIPE.

And now it’s time to start planning! This year we’re hoping for a proper Christmas celebration season here At Maria’s (fingers crossed).

M: “We need to plan. Let’s talk about wine!”

It’s 9.30 in the morning – we talk wine for an hour, full-bodied reds, crisp whites and sparkling Cavas. It’s thirsty work but Maria is happy, the wine tasting event is taking shape: the evening will start with a glass of Vermut before guests sample three special Spanish reds including the full-bodied Wrongo Dongo then three Spanish white wines.

M: “But don’t forget – in Spain we eat to drink, and drink to eat! So each wine will be accompanied by a delicious pinxos!”

H: “Pinxos?”

M: “Pinxos. They’re popular in Spain, we eat them in bars as a snack. Pinxos are a great excuse for a get together. They’re a great excuse to socialize – a Pinxos crawl! Friends go from one bar to another, ordering a glass of wine or beer and eating Pinxos.”

A Pinxos is a small slice of bread with a mixture of ingredients on top, held in placed with a toothpick – this gives the snack its name: "pincho", meaning "spike" in Spanish. Almost anything can be put on the bread, most common ingredients include fish such as cod or anchovies, tortilla de patatas and stuffed peppers. The main difference between Pinxos and tapa are Pinxos are 'spiked' with a skewer to a piece of bread, then served in individual portions, quite often diners keep hold of the skewers so that the waiter can count these to calculate their bill.

M: “The most popular Pinxos, I think, is jamon Serrano with tomato. This is delicious, it is so simple. Here I’ll show you.”

Other popular Pinxos include:

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