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Ten delicious Spanish dishes you must try before you die

If you thought Spanish food was all paella and pinchos then think again. Get ready as The Local Spain takes you on a mouth-watering tour of some of the country's lesser known but equally fabulous culinary highlights.

Ten delicious Spanish dishes you must try before you die
Photo: Edu1971/Depositphotos
 
Percebes 
 

Photo: Fotero/Flickr 
 
Barnacle collectors in Galicia brave the crashing waves of the Atlantic in winter months and risk their lives to pick these alien-looking crustaceans from the rocks. They’re hard to harvest, outrageously expensive (sometimes almost €300 ($374) per kilo), incredibly ugly… and unbelievably delicious.
 
Calçots
 

Photo: Joan Grifols/Flickr
 
Eating onions may not sound exotic but the Catalan calçotada feast is a unique food experience. The sweet onions are first grilled over flames, stripped of their charred outer layers and dipped into salbitxada, a rich variety of romesco sauce with nuts, peppers, garlic and tomatoes. You’ll need a plastic bib and a big appetite to get through this messy, unmissable meal.
 
 
 
Coques de llardons (Pork and sugar flatbreads) 
 

Photo: Slastic/Wikimedia  
Meat and sugar? This unlikely combination is a traditional favourite in Catalonia and once you try it you’ll be a believer too. Crispy flatbreads are topped with pine nuts and fried cubes of pork fat or crackling then sprinkled with sugar to make a high-calorie but mouth-watering combination.
 
Cochinillo
 

Photo: LWYang/Flickr   
The sight of dead baby pigs (from two – to six -weeks old) in market stalls or rotating on spits in Castille-Leon has turned more than one person to vegetarianism but the taste of the finished dish is a meaty treat of tender flesh and perfect, crispy skin flavoured with smoke from traditional wood-fired ovens.
 
Bacalao (Salt cod) 
 

Photo: Mover el Bigote/Flickr   
Salt cod is not, despite its name, salty. Preserving the fish in salt gives it a meat-like texture but the taste is (or should be) washed out in the preparation process. Basques are masters of salt-cod cooking: try the classic bacalao al pil pil, served with a garlic and olive oil emulsion.
 
 
Cocido (Stewed meat and vegetables) 
 

Photo: Salvatore G2/Flickr   
Different regions of Spain put their own stamp on this staple by varying the included meats. The Catalan escudella y carn d’olla adds chicken and a type of meatball to the standard pigs’ trotters, ears, belly pork, blood sausages and beef, often served over two courses. It sounds unappealing but there are few better belly-busting dishes to get you through a cold winter’s day.
 
Pimientos de Piquillo 
 

Photo: Juan Mejuto/Wikimedia   
The farmers of Navarre are perhaps the most green-fingered in Spain and the region is well-known for its excellent vegetable dishes. Sweet red piquillo peppers from Lodosa even have D.O (Denominación de Origen) status and are commonly served stuffed with a creamy salt-cod brandade.
 
Polbo á Feira 
 

Photo: Olonnais/Wikimedia  
Sometimes seen on menus in Spanish as polbo a feira, this Galician dish of sliced tentacles does not always appeal to the unwary. You’d be a sucker not to try it though: despite its rubbery reputation, well-cooked Galician octopus sprinkled with paprika and sea salt is tender and delicious.
 
Callos a la Madrileña (Madrid-style tripe) 

Photo: Javier Lastras/Flickr   
Many tourists retch at the thought of eating tripe but in-the-know locals happily tuck into this spicy delicacy, which combines the unctuous softness of the offal with paprika, tender beef cheek and chorizo.
 
Mojama
 

Photo: Santa Pola/Flickr   
Andalusians have continued the Arab tradition of curing fresh tuna in the hot, dry air of Spain’s southwest coast for generations. The result, mojama, may look like a dog chew from a pet shop but is actually wonderful when sliced very thinly and marinated in olive oil. Try some with almonds and a glass of manzanilla sherry.
 
By Steve Tallantyre 

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LIFE IN SPAIN

What childcare options are available over the summer in Spain?

Kids in Spain get around three months of holiday over the summer, but finding childcare options during this time can be challenging for parents, especially if they have to work. So what is available?

What childcare options are available over the summer in Spain?

Kids in Spain get to enjoy a ten to 12-week summer vacation, starting towards the end of June and lasting until around the second week in September. This is one of the longest summer holidays in Europe.

In the UK, kids get around half of this time with around five or six weeks, while in France they get around eight weeks and in Germany around six weeks.

Unless you are a teacher or are self-employed, most salaried workers in Spain, according to the Workers’ Statue, can only take up to two-weeks vacation at a time, meaning that parents are often stuck with what to do with the kids for the rest of the summer.

If you’re in this situation, what are your options for summer childcare and how affordable is it?

Summer school camps

Most regular schools in Spain offer campamentos de verano or summer camps. This means that your kids can carry on going to their normal school, even after the term ends. But instead of doing their lessons, they’ll get to do fun daily activities, crafts and games, as well as a variety of day trips.

If your children’s school doesn’t offer this option, then there’s always the possibility of signing up to a campamento at another nearby school.

Remember, you’ll need to enrol your kids in advance to make sure they’re able to get a spot.

The price for these is around €70 to €100 per week if your child is going all day, and this typically includes lunch. Be aware that these school summer camps are usually not available during the whole of the summer, so you may need to still organise childcare for the month of August or a couple of weeks in August, if you’re taking your vacation then too.

The advantage of these is that your kids will often get to be with their friends and will know the surroundings already, however it may not really feel like much of a holiday or a break from school for them, if they’re in the same environment. 

Specialised or themed summer camps

Another option, rather than going to a summer camp at a school, is a themed summer camp, based on your kids’ hobbies or the activities they love. There are many different summer camps across the country, focused on everything from sports and languages to music or even theatre.

For example, in Barcelona, the city zoo offers a summer camp, as does FC Barcelona, where kids can learn football from the pros all day.

In Valencia, the Bioparc offers a summer camp, as do a couple of the local outdoor swimming pools.

Try searching online for campamento de verano (summer camp) plus the name of the town or city where you will be, there are options across almost all of Spain.

As these are private companies, not sponsored by the state schools, they typically cost considerably more than the school summer camps.

Expect to pay anywhere upwards from €200 per week, and double this for popular summer camps. The general rule is that the better the facilities, staff and transport, the more expensive it will be. 

Temporary nanny or Au-pair

If summer camps or schools are not an option, or you’d prefer for your kids to get more attention or be around the house, hiring a summer nanny or au-pair is also a good choice.

There are many young people who want summer jobs in order to earn a bit of extra money and many career nannies who may be stuck without a job with their regular family in the summer.

This could be a good chance for your kids to learn another language, by hiring a native speaker from a different country. Many Spanish families hire native English speakers to look after their kids in the summer, so you could hire a Spanish nanny if your kids need to brush up on their language skills or even a French or Italian nanny, if you want them to learn new language skills.

According to Au-Pair agency Au-Pairs.com, the salary of an Au Pair in Spain is €70 per week if you live in the countryside, and €80 per week if you live in the city, which means between €280 and €320 euros per month, if they live in and more if they live out.  In cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, expect to pay a nanny around €10 per hour.

Ask family members for help

Many Spaniards will rely on family members such as grandparents to help look after their kids during the summer holidays.

If you don’t have family members in Spain then during the summer, you may be able to entice some family members to come over and help look after your kids or your children might enjoy a holiday back in your home country, if family members are able to take them in.

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