Workshop "Cook your kitchen garden"
The field fills up Valdezarza
50 kilos of vegetables, more than 60 people of all ages, two kitchens, a few pots and a lot of desire to learn, narrate and cook. This is how the day began on Saturday 15th September in Valdezarza, where the neighbours went down to the now known Plaza Lugar Poetas, dressed in their aprons and loaded with anecdotes and stories about their relationship with the orchards, the countryside and crops in general.
In addition to personal stories from the neighborhood, we have several producers from orchards in Madrid or near the community. Remi was there, who as well as telling us about his vegetable garden in Polán (Toledo), provided us with the seasonal vegetables with which we prepared part of the daily menu: chard, peppers, cucumbers, courgettes and some spectacular tomatoes (the kind that taste like real tomatoes). Barbara also came from Las Morras farm, located very close to the Remi orchard, with whom they often exchange produce; Javi, from the La Morera de Ofelia orchard in Tetuan, and from the popular and sustainable horticultural project Los Esquimos, which is based on the popular wisdom of the people who live in the village of Perales de Tajuña; and Caroline, from blueyellow, who grows rare aromatics and whose orchard is in the Rivas Vaciamadrid area. In addition, many of those attending shared their horticultural experiences in projects such as the BAH (Bajo el Asfalto está la Huerta), Madrid Agroecológico or the Huerto Zuloaga, and there were those who told us about their family gardens or what they are trying to grow on their balconies, and also those who confessed to having no idea about gardens, but to having a lot of love for the land.
As in the previous workshop, we have a large representation of the Asociación Familias Enlazadas, which hosts the project La Colmena que dice Sí de La Dehesa de la Villa, focused on supporting local consumption and proximity. Fran, from La Colmena, explained to us what these consumption groups consist of, in which we can buy everything from fruit and vegetables to elaborated products such as cheese, bread or oil. Right now, they also distribute Sierra, a brand of craft beer made by several residents of Valdezarza.
Several members of ASPA, a programme of the Town Hall that helps young people and adolescents in situations of risk or social exclusion, which was recently launched in the district of Fuencarral, also participated in the workshop. The project, they told us, has a small vegetable garden, which they are learning to make the most of. The young people of the Pauta Association, from the neighbouring district of Tetuan, who work with people with autism and associated disorders, also wanted to take part in the workshop. They have an orchard in Torre Arias, which belongs to the Network of Community Orchards of the Community of Madrid, and have even given it a name: La Raíz Cuadrada (The Square Root).
Once the presentations were done, we set to work with the menu of the day: lentil salad -aligned with a vinaigrette in which we use some of the products that blueyellow makes with its aromatics, such as English lavender salt or Santa Maria herb vinegar-, potatoes stuffed with vegetables, rice balls, fruit skewers and ginger lemonade. As one of the maxims of these workshops is culinary improvisation, we were also able to enjoy a delicious recipe of cabbage with grated carrot and a lot of sautéed garlic prepared by Isa, a neighbour of Valdezarza, and the incredible baba ganoush of Anwar, a Lebanese neighbour of the Tetuan neighbourhood, who surprised everyone with the taste he got from the aubergines of La Morera de Ofelia.
While everyone was busy cutting vegetables, squeezing lemons, cooking potatoes or stirring sofritos, the fantabulous Mico team kept the little ones in the square very entertained. Together they erected a wooden structure, which represented a greenhouse in which to play and experiment using various materials. Once they had the greenhouses ready, they drew the products usually found in them or in the orchards, while they counted which ones they usually ate and thought about the tools needed to maintain them. As a souvenir of the workshop, each child took their own pot with a planted seed, but not before reminding them of the necessary care that the plants require.
At about half past one, we were able to enjoy a concert of dulzaina by Javi and his colleagues from the La Morera garden, a real sound luxury to whet our appetites. Shortly after sitting down to the table – to the voice of the now iconic ‘Valdezarza, a la mesaaa!’ – several members of the Asociación Vecinal La Flor also came, who had been meeting all morning in the Centro Comunitario Guatemala, where our beloved kitchens are now housed. Since they were unable to be present during the workshop, they brought some things to eat, including a delicious apple pie.
As always, Óscar de La Máquina de Fotos was in charge of documenting the day in images and the boys from La Mina recorded it on video. It was a beautiful day, one of our most popular workshops and without doubt one of the most fun.
I brought some seasonal vegetables, which are the ones I have right now in the field. As it’s summertime, I have tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, courgettes, aubergines, chards… My field is in Toledo, in the village of Polán.
Fran (La Colmena que Dice Sí):
La Colmena is a consumer group where orders are placed through a website, where there are local products of all kinds: fruit and vegetables, but also processed products such as cheese, bread, oil or beer. The beer is called Sierra and is made by producers in the Valdezarza district itself.
I am from the neighbourhood but I am also a citizen of the world. As I am already retired, I spend some time here and some time in Levante and Sigüenza. There in Sigüenza I have an orchard with aromatic and fruit trees; I make blackberry, Claudia plum, fig and cherry jam… And we also use wild asparagus and thistles. My father, who was from Valencia, was a farmer and I must have it in my genes, because I love the land.
> Isa’s rice recipe: Soak the brown rice for a couple of hours, without salt or anything. In an express pot, put oil, garlic, mushrooms and plenty of onion in julienne. Stir-fry everything and add some turmeric. You stir it and when everything is well fried, add the drained rice, stir it so that it takes all the flavours and add the broth (chicken or vegetable), in a proportion of three broths to one rice. Cover it and leave it in the pot for 15 minutes. It must not be too dry or too brothy, what must be left is very tasty.
> Recipe of cabbage with carrot and garlic (what she cooked in the workshop): In a slightly deep frying pan, you put oil, a lot of chopped garlic and sliced mushrooms (at home I add a little bacon too). When everything is sautéed, you add the cabbage, which you have previously cut into julienne. Stir it and cover it. Leave it for two or three minutes, uncover it and shake it again. The cabbage itself will release water. When you see that the cooking is more or less halfway done, add the grated carrot, and continue stirring. The good thing is that, as the cabbage is not previously cooked, it releases all the flavour in the steam.
We have an orchard called La Raíz Cuadrada (The Square Root) in Torre Arias. It is a community garden, which forms part of the Network of Community Urban Gardens in Madrid and is managed by the people who form part of the association. We grow tomatoes, peppers, corn, potatoes, beans, aromatic plants, we have a quince tree, a fig tree.
Javier (Los Esquimos)
I’m from next to here, in the Tetuan neighbourhood, and I’ve been working in horticulture for three years on the BAH project (Bajo el Asfalto está la Huerta). For some time now, I have created another popular and sustainable horticulture project, called Los Esquimos. This project is based very much on the popular wisdom of the people who remain in the village where we are, which is Perales de Tajuña, especially the people over 75. In addition to the production side, we also have a school, which basically works in summer, so that people can come and learn directly with the hoe in hand and by bending the back.
I have an aromatic crop in Rivas Vaciamadrid, where I share farms with some producers who have traditional crops. I only grow aromatic plants and here I brought some culinary varieties, which are not the traditional ones we know. With the plants I grow I make preserves such as oils, vinegars, salts, sugars, syrups or chillies. All the products are numbered and totally seasonal, as it depends on the harvesting cycles of the plants themselves. To the workshop I brought an English lavender salt, a Santa Maria herb vinegar and a celery leaf syrup.
- English lavender salt goes very well with chocolate, fruit or yoghurt and I love to put it on the cakes, at the end of it all, so that it melts with the heat of the surface. I also use it a lot for baked chicken: just before taking it out, I add the salt on top and it looks divine. The flavour of the lavender, with a little heat, is soaring.
- Santa Maria herb vinegar has touches of eucalyptus and apple. This is a very powerful herb, formerly used a lot to regulate menstruation and it also has abortive properties.
- The syrup is made from celery leaves and I use it a lot for sparkling water, cocktails, champagne or white wine. It can also be put in ice cream.
Salome and the recipe for the vinaigrette
First we put olive oil, then we crushed mustard seeds from India that Martha brought from her house, and we added St. Mary’s herb vinegar from Blueyellow, oregano, salt with herbs and common salt, a mixture of spices from Lebanon, a little pepper and lemon. Then we have to mix all the ingredients well until we have a consistent sauce.
José Ángel (Orchard La Morera de Ofelia):
The Huerto de La Morera project is located very close by, at 49 Ofelia Nieto Street, and consists of a neighbourhood vegetable garden that has been in operation for a year and a half on a site that has been abandoned for 30 or 40 years. We have brought you a sample of what we have right now in the garden, where we grow everything in the traditional way, using horse and sheep manure.
Anwar and the recipe for baba ganoush
I was born in Lebanon, in the city of Baalbek, which borders Syria. In my house in Lebanon I never entered the kitchen, but when I came to Spain I spent about two years alone and learned. I work with Javier in the Perales de Tajuña garden and also in the La Morera garden.
Baba ganoush is a very tasty and healthy food, which is taken as an aperitif; in my house, for example, it is never missing. We take a kilo of fat aubergines and roast them in the oven until they are very tender. We take them out, peel them and crush them in a mortar (no machinery, because with a mixer they lose a lot of flavour). In a bowl we mash a garlic or two – this is in the taste, for me the more the better -, we add the aubergine and mash it all together. When it has the texture of a cream, add five spoonfuls of tahini, a pinch of salt and the juice of a lemon. Mix everything well and add three spoonfuls of olive oil. And it’s ready to serve. The best thing is to eat it with pita bread, but it is worth any bread, and you can add a splash of oil on top when serving it. It can also be served with a tomato or a chopped cucumber.