Words/photographs/illustrations© 2019 Helen  Lewis

Updated: 2 days ago


Maria and I hope you are all keeping well. We send our love to friends and family in Spain. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

These are strange times. At Maria's has temporarily closed it's doors following government guidelines and the team is now dispersed across Pembrokeshire at home with their families. Maria and are battling the fabulous Welsh rural broadband, I understand almost every other word!

We will see you soon. Take care of yourselves

We both thought it might help, over the next couple of weeks, to pass on some 'store-cupboard' recipes, things that you can rustle up using tins, jars, frozen or dried ingredients.

M: I am thinking back to when I was a girl growing up in Alberic, my mother had many recipes for what she called 'no-money-day' meals – traditional, simple recipes like Berenjenas Fritasa la miel (aubergine frittas with honey), Puchero (Spanish stew) or Oranges with honey and cinnamon. She made food with what she had left in the cupboard.

Ah, but I remember my mother's Puchero, I have a story to tell you about that...

My mother, they called her Maria-Three-Forks in the village, because she always made a mark with a fork three times in her bread dough. My mother,she didn't have an oven, in those days, no one did. The women prepared their food and then they took it to the village baker and he cooked everyones food together in his big ovens.

One day my mother sent me to collect our dinner from the bakers. She'd made a Puchero - a stew with meats and vegetables. I went to the bakers, he said here this is your mothers stew and I took it home. We sat down to eat. The stew was on the table. We help ourselves. And my mother, well she was an excellent cook. But on this day, the stew it was awful, too salty! We could not eat. Then there was shouting in the street below.

"Hey Maria! Maria-Three-Forks, you took the wrong Puchero!"

My mother cried, Maria, this is not my Puchero! I had brought home the wrong one. I had brought home Señora García's Puchero. My mother went down and swapped over the Puchero and hers was just right, delicious. My father said

"Poor Señor García, eating like that everyday`! No wonder he's so thirsty at the bar!"

This is My Mother, Maria Delores, Maria-Three-Forks

Here's an idea for an evening meal or lunch, any of the fresh ingredients mentioned can be swapped for frozen alternatives. But fresh, if you can get it, is best.

Vegetarian store-cupboard chickpea stew.
If you can, get chickpeas in a jar, I think they taste better. You can get these from Ultracomida on-line. click here.

Let us know how you get on. send us pictures of your paella. You can follow us on instagram and facebook, we need to keep in touch!

Here in Wales, like the rest Britain, we’ve been celebrating Shrove Tuesday with Pancakes, which are traditionally eaten on the day before Ash Wednesday. Pancakes are made with a batter that uses up eggs, milk, and sugar before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent.

H: Do you have pancake day in Spain Maria?

M: No, I don’t know why, but the first day of Lent, it is Carnival day.

H: Ash Wednesday?

M: Uh ha, Carnival Day, that was the celebration before you get into Lent or Cuaressma, we call it. We have processions and parades, people throw confetti and paper streamers at one another.

And then, during Lent, there were things we did not eat, we did not used to eat meat. So in Spain on Carnival day, and in some places, Fat Thursday – called that because this is when we use all the meat fat, we use up all the ingredients – like making pancakes on your Tuesday.

We make Buñuelos de viento, which means frittas –donuts and Viento, like the wind, so quick, it comes then it’s gone. They were my mother’s favourite. They are so easy to make, with ingredients you have in the house, you don’t need to do shopping.

“But the Buñuelos de viento, they are absolutely so easy to make!”

“With ingredients you have in the house, you don’t need to go and do the shopping.”

It’s grey, the wind 's howling, rain is lashing down – winter, not my favourite.

M: No, not me too. It is like the storm in Valencia, the wind, the lightening, and the water, you remember the water, and the snow! That was the first snow Vallada had in ten years, I am telling you – ten years!

H: And, it had to choose the weekend we came to visit!

M: And then there was no power, and I thought, we’ll never get home!

H: And me. And, I nearly didn’t!

Maria is right, the weather was just like this, when we visited Vallada, the town where she first met her husband and later returned to live with her family for six years. It was a wonderful place to visit, even during Storm Gloria! We ate paella at an amazing restaurant in the hills above the town, our lunch, even in torrential rain, was cooked over open fires.

We stayed the night with close friends of Maria, Manola and Peter. Just before the snow wiped out the power, Manola served us all with a delicious cake, and of course, freshly squeezed orange juice. The cake, a perfect chocolate one for a stormy afternoon tea was as light as a feather – delicious.

It took some translating, but below is Manola's recipe, via Maria and storm Gloria.