Yecla – Gastronomy

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Gastronomy, Yecla, SpainOne of the best experiences a traveller can have when visiting a new culture is exploring their food. Spain is renowned across the world for its dishes and it is a joy to discover them. Personally, I think one of the greater joys comes in discovering the regional variations of these dishes.

Yecla had numerous variations and a few unique dishes that really enhanced our appreciation for the region.

To start with, it’s a wine producing area with the primary variety being Monastrell (Mourvèdre), a red wine, and the results are highly variable. We tried over a dozen of Monastrell’s while in the region and while no two were alike aside from being red and having an earthy flavour to them, some were highly enjoyable whilst others tasted terrible, and a few fell into the ‘drinkable’ category. The most interesting thing about this range is that they were all in the €3-7 price range in the supermarket. Check out for more information on the areas wines.

If you are going to drink the wine you should probably eat a few dishes along the way and Yecla has some great variations.

One such dish is Yeclano Gazpachos. Traditionally Gazpacho is a cold tomato soup served in Andalusia, in Yecla however it was stewed meat (rabbit & quail or chicken) and vegetables served over a fried tortilla. First you eat the stew then eat the tortilla with either honey or anchovies. It was delicious.

Gachasmigas, Yecla, SpainAnother is Gachasmigas. Migas is a highly variable dish and it all depends on where you are as to what you get, although for the most part the primary ingredient is bread. In Yecla it is a pancake made from oil, flour, water and garlic cooked over an open fire. It takes more than an hour to make and the final product is a grey doughy mass that you eat by scooping it out of the pan with bread! A very interesting meal.

And then comes the world famous dish Paella. According to Paella is ‘a Spanish dish prepared by simmering together chicken, seafood, rice, vegetables, and saffron and other seasonings.’ Paella originated in Valencia and is usually eaten at lunch. We have been told that to get the true Paella, you have to go a Valencian home and have it made by a local, everything else is rice with meat and vegetables. We tried three paellas when we were in Yecla – a vegetable, a chicken and rabbit, and a squid ink. For the vegetable paella, some of the ingredients were par cooked separately, then the rice was cooked with cold stock and the vegetables added later. The chicken and rabbit was again multi staged with the vegetables cooked first then set aside, followed by browning the meat before putting the vegetables back in. Then water is added to the combined ingredients and once boiling, rice was added until the meal was ready. The squid ink we only saw the finish of when they added the ink once everything had been combined. Each of these dishes was wonderful to eat and cannot be compared with the other as the flavours were quite different and highlighted the regional variations.

Paella, Yecla, SpainPaella, Yecla, SpainPaella, Yecla, Spain

A unique food we found in Yecla was Libricos. Libricos are a wafer biscuit with either a honey or chocolate filling made to a secret family recipe that is passed to the first born male of each generation. They are a delightful snack that are much better than the ingredients imply. If you find yourself in Yecla these are a must have. Visit for more information.

Yecla is a wonderful gastronomic destination, with a passion for food and life. Whether having Tortas Fritas for breakfast, Paella for lunch, or Gazpachos for Dinner followed by Libricos, there are some wonderful ways to eat your way through a day.

Yecla, Spain

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Yecla - Our month living in Spain

Spain FlagClick Here for Spanish Language Version

Yec 001After a month on the road exploring Morocco & relaxing in Granada, we travelled by bus to Murcia then on to Yecla. Yecla is a town of 30,000 in the North of Murcia close to the border with Alicante and Valencia, and was the location we were going to spend the rest of March.

Yec 002To understand how we came to visit Yecla, a place I’m sure most people won’t know, we have to go back a year to when Rina and I went on a Conservation Volunteers Australia Wombat Weekend. On this trip we met a Spanish couple, who lived in Adelaide, and their sister, who was visiting from Spain. We became friends over the course of the weekend and met for dinner a few times throughout the year. At one of these dinners we described our intention to visit Spain and work for an Organic Farm and hopefully experience a little of Spanish life. Martin told us that he and his brother were part of an organic collective in Yecla and said that he would see if it was possible for us to work with them. He did, and now we were travelling to a town we knew very little, of to meet people we didn’t know, let alone what they looked like.

Yec 003When we arrived in the early evening we were greeted warmly by Pepi, Paco and Elie (Martin’s family) and soon found ourselves a little out of our depth. We had undertaken a small amount of study in Spanish the previous year but were not at all confident in speaking it, and for the most part people in Yecla did not speak English. Thankfully we had the foresight to download Google Translate to assist us with our vocabulary. For the first few days Google Translate was essentially how we spoke but gradually we began to understand the language and even to speak a little without the aid of a translator.

The month went by in a blur and what started as being a study of Spanish life became a deeply personal experience. We met many wonderful people who we know count as friends and as part of our extended family. To attempt to tell the entire experience would take volumes (which I may one day publish), so I will tell a little of everything and if you want more then catch me up sometime and buy me a drink.

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The Yeclanos we met were a mix of various backgrounds, joined by family, friendship and geography. They were some of warmest and generous people I have ever met, and gave us a home away from home. Each of them told us their stories and we told them ours as we shared our time. I do not think I have ever felt love for people as quickly as I did here.

Yec 009Yecla has many unique aspects to its culture which includes their dialect. Learning to understand Spanish here was interesting because of the unique words of Yecla as well as their pronunciation of words we already knew. It was common for them to drop the ‘s’ at the end of words and the ‘d’ from others (especially from the middle of a word). I’m sure that many people thought we were a bit soft in the head when we stared blankly, attempting to translate, as they spoke.

Yecla has a love of food, with a great variety of restaurants to be found throughout the city. It also has some great variations on Spanish dishes. While in Yecla we were introduced to an annual event – Ruta del Vino & La Tapa. The Ruta is an excellent collaboration between 18 restaurants and 4 vineyards. The challenge is that the Restaurant has to provide a dish and a glass of wine for €2.50. We completed the Ruta in 4 days and tasted some excellent tapa. Part of the Ruta is also to vote on which is the best. The top 5 for us were: Tapeo, Pachamama, Delturco, Los Chispos, El Olivio De Jaén.


Our friend Juan also took us to Jumilla to meet with some of his friends for a wine tasting lunch. We tasted some excellent local wines and ate some wonderful food. The passion for food and drink is throughout the region.

See also my article: Yecla - Gastronomy

Yec 010Aside from the people and food, we discovered that Yecla has been continuously inhabited for over 9000 years. There are archaeological sites throughout the area covering prehistoric cave paintings and early human settlements, Roman and Iberian ruins, a Medina (called Yakka) from early mediaeval times and ruins from when Yecla was the border between the kingdoms of Aragon and Castillo. Yecla also has a small but excellent museum, Museo Arqueológico Municipal de Yecla (MaYe). The museum is home to an excellent display of artefacts from the region with notes detailing their discovery and history. There are audio visual displays as well as physical displays. Throughout the city are plaques containing quotes from Azorin, a poet who adopted Yecla as his muse. Discovering all of this it made me wonder why I had never heard of it before.

50 kilometres east of Yecla is the town of Bocairent, a beautiful medieval city upon a hill with a Moorish cave settlement in the hill below. We took a day trip here with a friend who grew up there before the city expanded. It is a wonderful looking city but seems incredibly impractical in today’s world, with electrical conduits scarring the view and cars scrapping the corners of buildings and stone stairs.

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Yecla is an incredibly culturally rich place filled with incredible people that I have trouble reconciling the touristic anonymity of the city.

I would like to thank all the people who were our friends and guides throughout our time in Yecla. Martin and Sabela for making this all possible; Pepi and Paco; Elie and Amanda; Amadeo, Isabella and Alba; Jesús; Juan, Carolina and Valentina; Jose Carlos and Pasquelita; Jose and Isabel; Maria Rosa and Mario; Juanjo; Carmen and everyone from Bulebar. To all of you, I say: Gracias por la experiencia incredíble.

Yec 013

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A Hike to Ben Lomond, Scotland

On Friday night our group piled into the car for a weekend near Loch Lomond in the West of Scotland. There was Rina and myself, Marie (a friend I met in South America) and her housemates Neil and Jon. We arrived to our hostel around 10pm and quickly settled in to our very well appointed dorm room.

Loch Lomond, Scotland

Hiking Ben Lomond, ScotlandOn the Saturday morning after a hearty breakfast, we made our way out for our hike of the Ben Lomond circuit, directly behind the hostel, taking the Ptarmigan track up. The weather was nice but overcast as we started. The trail head is located just at the rear of a nearby cottage and we missed it on the first pass and had to double back. On the way back we encountered a group of tourists walking the loch northward to the next village who informed us of the trail head which is unmarked save for heavily trod mud.

The trail begins in light woodland filled with bluebells, birdsong and the gorgeous rhythm of flowing water. The variety of green in these woods always surprises me as the South Australian landscape I am used to doesn’t seem to have this range of green. We pass a small creek that flows over a rock ledge to create a small waterfall. The entire area is entrancing.

We emerge from the woodland and see the hill rising and stretching into the distance while behind us the loch stretches south bordered by hills, their crowns shrouded by low cloud, that seem to roll together. The trail, rarely wider than one person and a mixture of dirt track and stone stairs, zig zags up the hill easing our ascent, which averages a grade of 25% over the first kilometre. It doesn’t seem nearly as severe an ascent as others of the same grade, but maybe that is because of the view.

Hiking Ben Lomond, ScotlandHiking Ben Lomond, Scotland

The following kilometre eases out the climb a little with longer stretches of low incline and following the natural contour (for the most part) but still has some short steep sections, but there is always the view and it’s not so bad that we can’t speak. This is also the first section where we think we can see the peak, not too far in the distance, lightly shrouded by cloud. As we make our way along it became harder to tell if we gaining altitude rapidly or the cloud was lowering – It turns out it was the latter – and soon we are completely engulfed in it and visibility lowers to around 50 metres.

Hiking Ben Lomond, ScotlandWe leave the hillside and make our way along the rocky merging of two hills (one of which was what we thought was the peak) and see the outline of the peak through the clouds, much further on than we thought. It is here that the acid begins to build in our knees and the hiking burn sets in. We put on our rain coats not so much because it is raining but more because we are walking in the condensate swaying in the breeze. Onwards and upwards we trek, alternating between rock, dirt and grassy tracks until we are on the rear on Ben Lomond, two thirds of the way to the peak, with visibility fluctuating between 20 and 40 metres.

We pass a mountain pool that would look amazing if we could see the other side. The final kilometre ascent to the peak is hard, an average incline of 30%, up through dark wet rock, the top always out of view either by a rocky outcrop or the whiteout of the clouds. Visibility here has dropped to 10 to 20 metres, varied by the shifting mass of clouds, and just as well because what we can see shows a few steep plunges that could bring on vertigo. We pause briefly for a snack around 50 metres from the peak then push on. As we turned the corner to the peak the wind picked up and we knew we were no longer protected by the mountain. The peak marked the end of the first leg, 5 kilometres over almost 2 hours.

Beginning our 7 kilometre decent the wind began to whip past us, hurling water droplets horizontally, and bringing a stiff chill. If we weren’t already drenched before the peak, it was only minutes into the downhill that the job was complete. It wasn’t far until we encountered our first group of hikers on their way up, so we told them they weren’t too far off and informed them of the small shelter we had found on the other side. They, in turn, told us there was an ice pack along the eastern edge of the trail which I was not expecting so late in the season.

Hiking Ben Lomond, ScotlandHiking Ben Lomond, Scotland

Hiking Ben Lomond, ScotlandThe downhill went very smoothly taking only 1 ½ hours, on a trail wide enough for 2 or 3 abreast, half of which was in the cloud. Surprisingly, on our way up we encountered 3 others on the trail heading down, but on the back leg we came across around 30 people on their way up and another 20 we overtook on the way down, it was hard to believe that the trail was so busy especially given the weather. After 30 minutes descending, we emerged from the cloud into a richly coloured world overlooking the loch. The rain fell lightly and the temperature rose sharply, and after another 30 minutes we were back in the woodland.

Ben Lomond was a great hike, and I can only imagine how much better it could have been if the cloud were higher. I would heartily recommend this trail to anyone keen on hiking. The area is also part of the famous West Highland Way for those wanting a greater challenge. I also recommend staying at the Rowardennan hostel. It has excellent facilities and is one of the best hostels I’ve stayed at. The staff are also great and go the extra distance to ensure you have a great stay.

Ben Lomond Hike

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