Zarzadilla de Totana.

Zarzadilla de Totana is a little village in the south of Spain, in the region of Murcia.

With a population of 500 people, Zarzadilla is a village with a foot in the past. When walking its narrow streets, one can get the feeling of living remote times.

Nowadays, its decreasing population lives fully attached to the land. Almonds and olives trees and vineyards are its main business. In recent years, intensive farming has also arrived.

Its past is linked to French señores, mine exploitations and a vast knowledge of medicinal plants (the village used to get isolated during winter, its people had no access to the doctor, and had no choice but treat themselves).

The surroundings, with some of the highest mountains of the region, are astonishing. Their people most welcoming.

These are just some photos of zarzadilla that hopefully will help you decide visiting us.

Los grifos” , together with the village’s square, the  heart of the village. Water has been coming out of this fountain as far back as it can be remembered. It waters “los huertos” and “El lavadero” where people used to wash by hand. Don’t be fooled by the post “ Agua no potable”. Once I was doubting to drink because of the sign, till an old man appeared and told me“ Ha! I’ve been drinking since I could walk” He was ninety!


El lavadero”, still in use, where people used to do the washing:


The church,


Some photogenic corners:



A couple of photos of the religious parade of San Miguel, happening every year the last week of September:



Carnival and Halloween!! are also special occasions in the village:


The beautiful surroundings,




El Rollo”, the river bed. Water only flows after a big rain fall, but it is a wild jungle of green even in dry season:






You’ll need to walk a bit to reach these great views:




And many more things that we leave for you to discover when you visit Zarzadilla de Totana!

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Kebab with collejas ( Silene vulgaris) and beans.

Following the path into sustainability and getting an even greater chef, I am cooking this time a kebab of collejas ( I could have done a simple omelette, but that is not so fashionable, is it?).

I am saving you this time the apocalyptic speech about food scarce and all that jazz! You got it already when we had the Pakora of wild  chards.

This is the beautiful plant, Silene vulgaris:


The ingredients:

-Silene vulgaris,

-Beans (any would do, pre-cooked),

-flour ( to make the bread),

-Almonds, garlic, black pepper, oil…the horse is just decoration!


Al right, this time I have really done “Haute cuisine”. Let’s see if I can explain it in a way that at least somebody can understand it!

There are two things here, the bread, and the filling. First the bread:

I really use chapatti bread, but I’ve called it Kebak, because I didn’t want to repeat recipe. And they are nearly the same anyway. Ok, just add water to flour to get the dough, them use a roll to make it as thin as possible. Cut a round piece of it, the size of a small plate. Put it in a frying pan till it gets hard ( half-cooked) without oil or butter, them remove it from the pan and put it straight into the fire. Yes! It should fill up like a balloon before getting little burn patches. Just try!

The filling. In one side, put the collejas in a frying pan with a bit of oil for about ten minutes till it reduces, add precooked beans. Leave apart.

The almonds salsa: Crack the almonds. Put the seeds in boiling water for a couple of minutes so that you can remove the brown skin. Toast them in a frying pan with a little bit of oil till they get golden.

In  a mortar put garlic, the roasted almonds and salt. Smack it all with the pestle till your arm fall apart and it gets to a paste consistency ( the almonds and garlic, not your arm!). Add oil to make a salsa. Jokes apart, this salsa is amazing, seriously. Probably it has a name, but I ignore it. If it doesn’t, I baptise it as Quemao Viejo’s salsa!

And finally, get the bread, spread some salsa on it, add filling to taste, and roll it if you can!


Yummy, yummy!

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Pakora of wild chard (Beta maritima).

One of the goals of Quemao Viejo is achieve full sustainability. At least get close enough!

Nowadays food dependency is total. At least in cities. Once I read that only three days without food supply to supermarkets would produce a collapse of society as we know it. Three days!!

Ops! Sorry, what a way to start the post…

I am trying to learn about local edible plants. People used to collect and eat them in the past, but now it is easier to go to the shop, so they grow wild in abundance.

I am starting with this wild chard, and to make it a bit more fashionable, more “haute cuisine”, I am cooking “pakora” with it, following the receipt that my Indian friend Rakesh thought me once in Sheffield. Ha, ha…we spent half evening cooking pakora to take them to the lantern festival, and when we offered them to people, for free!, they were looking at us like if we came from mars!!

This is the plant, growing wild and ready for collection:


The ingredients: Chard, oil, eggs, and flour. Probably the proper receipt has more things, but I can’t remember…Smile Obviously, without “curry” spices it would be just buttered chards, so spice it up!



Dead easy…put the chards in a pot with a bit of oil. Steam them till they reduce ( Like spinaches) Keep in mind that what looks like lots of them after five minutes get reduces to nearly nothing. After that, dust the reduced chards in a boll with abundant flour. Them whisk the eggs and pour them into the boll till it gets to a disgusting sticky consistency ( how difficult to be a great chief!). Make little balls with the paste and deep fry them in very hot oil till they get a gold colour:


I know, I know…they look like fried bats!! But delicious, I promise!


Ciao now.

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About Quemao Viejo

Quemao Viejo is the name of a 9 acres plot of land in south Spain. In the region of Murcia. In the past, it has been used to grow almonds trees. Now, and fully respecting everything on it, we are trying to start a project of sustainability. Using just renewable energy, water recovered from rain, natural agriculture/permaculture…

The idea is to try to escape this rat race we’ve got ourselves into. By trying to put a roof over our heads in cheaper ways that spending half of our life paying just interest to the bank; consume in different ways; produce more of our own food, better ways of transport, making rural life more appealing…

Always trying to pass it on, and make others benefit and learn as well, so everybody can have a better life and enjoy more quality time.

The main goal would be to build a veterinary practice to treat animals with medicinal plants, as a way to preserve the vast knowledge about natural remedies in the area. The building will be made using locally available materials: earth, stone and wood.

As a mean to fund the practice, Quemao Viejo is planning many projects, like an off-the-grid camping that could look like this:


Another project is to set up the first Cave & Breakfast in the world!, by working in the little cave already in place, built a hundred years ago by a shepherd for shelter in the rainy days. This is “ Princesa” posing in front of the cave, where two people would be able to sleep and have a cosy night in front of the fire place. Some spaces will be set as well for off-the-grid camping in front of the cave:


Another project is to build in the trees, something like this foldable hammock:


What to do if you decide to visit Quemao Viejo? That’s really up to you! You may decide to do nothing, and just enjoy a book in a hammock listening to the birds with this views:


Or you may dare trying climbing Peñarrubia :


Or you may decide to go for a walk and enjoy views like this:


Quemao Viejo is also at a bike ride distance to places of great natural and cultural interest, like “ El salto del Usero”:


or the medieval city of Aledo:


or you can book a day out on horseback:


If you visit  Quemao Viejo by car, you may decide to visit Murcia for a night out enjoying Tapas :


or enjoy the seaside at Mazarron:


Anyway, Quemao Viejo is a place to step back in time and enjoy nature. Hopefully you’ll want to learn about bio-building, natural farming, permaculture…without forgetting that we are a walking distance form the tiny village of Zarzadilla de Totana, where one can enjoy a well deserved beer or the locally produced wine:


Quemao Viejo is just a humble project. We try to post every Friday in this blog little histories about the place. Following the blog and writing comments is a great support ( so we know there is somebody out there!).

We hope you decide to visit, even if it is just to stand there and do nothing but stare at the views:


See you at Quemao Viejo soon!

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All about Niscalos.

It’s been the rumour around in the streets of the village for two weeks. And is still going! “niscalos this, niscalos that…!”

Are the niscalos out already” would say a woman when getting off of the tiny shop;

We are going to get niscalos even in the kitchen!” would joke a man in the bar, making allusions to the amount of rain fell during the last two weeks.

Have you being looking for niscalos already?” “ Yes. Went out two days ago, but nothing yet

And so on. Everybody speaking about niscalos!

Niscalo is the local name for the wild mushroom Lactarius deliciosus that grows in some pine tree forests on autumn. They are considered a delicatessen, quite pricy when bought fresh in the shops.

So, during autumn, one of the favourite themes for discussion and sport is going out to the forest looking for niscalos. The problem is that they don’t grow everywhere in the forest, but only in very specific and “secret” places, and they tend to be hidden below the dead pine leaves in the floor…not easy to find, that’s to say!

This morning I went out to find them for the second time this week…and nothing!  I started to believe that it was a myth or a joke from the locals. But, we manage to get the help from Miguel, the man in the bar “El Rincon”, who took us to a patch in the forest, and in less than ten minutes we had half a dozen in the bag…nice!

I haven’t found one single niscalo myself yet, but now I know who they look like, and how to find them…I think!

That’s how they look like, freshly collected from the forest…


and five minutes later, fried with olive oil and a pitch of salt… IMG_0207_1

Exactly like their Latin name, Delicious! They are very “meaty” with a subtle taste…plus, the flavour of something harvested directly from the forest…ok, ok too sentimental perhaps!!

I’ll try to find some more in the coming days. It is fun, actually, just being out under the sun, between the trees, looking at the floor, trying to find this tasty treasure. It reminds me Sheffield,  when trying to find a different sort of mushrooms…

Hasta longo.

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Katharina and Lukasz’s visit to Quemao Viejo.

I had the pleasure to share a day with  Katharina and Lukasz, who paid a visit to Quemao Viejo during their trip to South Spain.

We parked the car by the road, and went walking to Quemao Viejo. Katharina took a distant first approach to the place, but after ten minutes she was asking me “ What do you want me to do? Is there anything I can do for the project?”. I wasn’t ready for such a willing person! Never thought really about “giving” work to visitors! So, I suggested Katharina  to cut the branches of some almonds trees, broken by the snow fallen last winter. And there she went, armed with the handsaw ready for action. Lukasz joined  her happily:


After the bit of work, Katarina decided to pick some almonds left in the trees:


Minutes later, Lukasz had a fight with the wet wood, showing his survival skills trying to start a fire in the cave:


He managed!


I took the chance to try to explain the project Quemao Viejo, and ended up explaining about the cave’s door, which is dragging all my energy at the moment!!


Later we had a picnic in front of the cave, enjoying local almonds,  cheese and wine “palo seco”  from Andalucía, and a rosemary tea for desert:


Then we walked the way up to Peñarrubia,

quemao Viejo_Mayo 2012 111

where we enjoyed the views,


while the vultures flied  a few meters above our heads,


In our way back we tried to find niscalos, a kind of edible mushrooms, considered a local delicatessen. We found many mushrooms, but not niscalos ( do not despair, wait for the post next Friday!)


It was a gorgeous day out, that showed me that life is so much fun when shared!!

Thanks guys for the visit and for being so positive. Hope you come back again!


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Michelle conquers Quemao Viejo on Horseback.

Jose Miguel, an entrepreneur friend of mine, and funder of the Fundacion Miguel Caballero ( promoting mountain sports in Lorca), invited me for a day out on horseback.

Jose Miguel , among other businesses, owns two mares, “Princesa” y “Petra”, and that day, Jose Miguel and Michelle ( Jose Miguel’s son) and myself made a trip on horseback that started inZarzadilla de Totana, and finished in Quemao Viejo’s cave.

It was a beautiful November morning . It has been raining a lot recently, so the soil has a green blanket of grass that together with the shining pine trees, the last leaves of the almond trees ready to fall before winter, the olive trees packed with olives nearly ready for picking, the mountains,  the slow pace of the horses, the winter sun that warms you up…so peaceful…like stepping back in time…so peaceful and calm, that Michelle, the kid, was sleeping on the horseback ten minutes after we set off! It was so funny looking at the kid sleeping in top of the horse!

Later on we had time for a little galloping and all! My horse tried to get rid of me a couple of times, jumping like crazy…I don’t remember being so scared in my life! Jose Miguel told me that the horse noticed that I was not an experienced rider and was trying to get rid of the “load”. But I grabbed the “silla”, held the breath for five minutes…and finally the horse understood who was in charge! Jose Miguel also thinks that after this experience I am nearly a cowboy. Yeah! What a cowboy!

When we arrived to Quemao Viejo’s cave, we started a fire and had a well deserved barbecue. What a fantastic day!

These are Jose Miguel and Michelle ( five minutes before falling sleep on top of the horse).


This is Princesa in front of Quemao viejo’s cave.


Ah! There he goes, Michelle, after his nap on horseback, wearing my jumper and fully decided to take possession of his new domains! “ I am going to have fun here” he was probably thinking!


Michelle is a little evil with the shape of a kid. He is not three years old yet. When he sets his mind into something…well, you have two choices, enjoy the show or get ready for a everlasting fight of persuasion! ( He reminds me of somebody here!)

Is there anything that attracts kids more than fire? Trying to keep Michelle away from the fireplace was like trying to empty the sea with a spoon. So here he is, rediscovering the secrets of fire!



Have fun!

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