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WINTER

Spain’s top ten heartiest tapas to enjoy when it’s cold outside

One of the best things about the weather turning cold in Spain is that it's a perfect excuse to enjoy winter warming dishes.

Spain's top ten heartiest tapas to enjoy when it's cold outside
Callos Madrileña is the perfect winter warmer. Photo: Shootfirsteatlater / Flickr
 
The Local asked foodie experts Devour Tours for the top ten perfect tapas to warm yourselves up on a chilly day.
 
Spain is said to have more bars per square foot than any other country. Of course, we couldn’t be happier about this! There is something comforting about a tiny Spanish bar with its tall wooden stools, impossibly narrow entryway and more often than not, standing room only.
 
Everyone inside is laughing and shouting with a drink in their hand. And of course, you’ll also need something to nibble on as you toast with your glass of Rioja or caña of beer. Enter the tapa; that quintessentially Spanish great little bite of food that has become synonymous with Spanish culture.
 
We’ve put together a list of our favourite cold weather Spanish tapas. 
 
 
1. Champiñones rellenos (stuffed mushrooms)
 

Photo: Spanish Sabores  
There are entire bars devoted to the perfect stuffed mushroom tapa. The technique is pretty easy. Take button mushroom tops, fill them to the brim with olive oil, garlic and bits of Iberian ham and wait for them to cook on the grill. This is a cold weather tapa that you can’t miss! 
 
 
2. Albóndigas (meatballs)
 

Photo: Krista / Flickr
 
These delicious Spanish meatballs are usually served in a small clay dish with a little cracker called a pico on the side. You might get one or two meatballs as a tapa and they will be smothered in the most delicious sauce (usually homemade by the cook!) Especially delicious are the meatballs with almond sauce. They’re rich and satisfying on a cold winter night.
 
 
 
3. Dátiles con beicon (dates wrapped in bacon)
 

Photo: Spanish Sabores.  
You don’t need us to tell you that salty and sweet are a match made in heaven! We also probably don’t need to spend much time explaining that bacon can improve almost any recipe. This tapa is just what it sounds like: a date wrapped in a bit of bacon and then cooked on the grill until the bacon is crispy. Possibly the perfect cold weather tapa.
 
 
4. Morcilla de Burgos (Burgos blood pudding)
 

Photo: Leslie / Flickr
 
 
Okay, we know that the idea of eating blood pudding might not be on the top of your list. However, if you are so inclined, we highly recommend this tapa. Generally served with a little slice of bread, the sausage is rich and savory in the best kind of way. 
 
 
5. Croquetas (Spanish croquettes)
 

Photo: Spanish Sabores  
 
Croquettes, when they are homemade, are easily one of our favorite cold weather tapas. When you bite into the fried croquette, you’ll find a perfect creamy mix of béchamel sauce and bits of chicken, ham, mushroom, spinach (or whatever is on hand in the kitchen). Some say that croquettes are Spain’s answer to leftovers. If that’s the case, then this little tapa is the best use of leftovers we’ve ever seen!
 
6. Pincho moruno (seasoned pork skewer)

Photo; underthemoonjp/Flickr
 
The pincho moruno is a very simple concept. The meat is coated in spices that were originally of Arab influence. This is how the skewer gets its name: “moruno” comes from the Spanish for “Moorish.” The mix of spices is a lovely blend that is not at all spicy, just very flavorful in what that really enhances the flavor of the pork. A cold weather tapa that pairs perfectly with a good local beer. 
 
7. Callos a la Madrileña (Madrid style tripe)

Photo: Spanish Sabores  
Again, we’re going to ask you to refrain from judging this tapa by the name and your preconceived notions of tripe. In Madrid this dish is cooked slowly in a spicy sauce along with lovely chickpeas and makes for a perfect little stew to enjoy on a chilly night. We are sure that if you try this tapa, you’ll be soaking up the sauce with your bit of bread after you’ve finished!
 
8. Chorizo a la sidra (chorizo cooked in cider)
 
Photo; Chispita_666 / Flickr
 
If you’ve ever tried Spanish chorizo sausage, you will know that this tapa has to be good! Here, the classic Spanish sausage is simmered in cider until tender and cooked through. The result is a rich and savory tapa typical of the region of Asturias.
 
9. Buñuelos de bacalao (salt cod fritters)

Photo: Amaya Rodrigo / Flickr
 
Salt cod is one of the most common fish used in Spanish cooking, and the main ingredient in this cold weather tapa. The fritters are generally served with a bit of garlic mayonnaise, which complements the saltiness of the cod perfectly. We also like to enjoy this tapa with a local beer. 
 
10. Patatas revolconas (paprika mashed potatoes)
 
Photo: JoaquinMarquezCorrea / flickr
 
This tapa is typical in the regions of Extremadura, Ávila and Salamanca and it couldn’t be simpler. Homemade mashed potatoes are mixed with sweet red paprika to give them an orangey color and a smokey flavor. There are also typically bits of ham or bacon, or fried pork rinds called torreznos. It’s a hearty tapa, and perfect for a cold evening! 
 
Devour Tours was founded by Spanish food lovers as a way to connect hungry travellers with the local, family run businesses that make amazing food. Since the start of the coronavirus crisis when they stopped their tours they have been offering online food and drink experiences. Follow them on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter for Spanish food news, tips and recipes.

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MONEY

Rampant branch closures and job cuts help Spain’s banks post huge earnings

Spain’s biggest banks this week reported huge profits in 2021 and cheered their return to recovery post-Covid, but ruthless cost-cutting in the form of thousands of layoffs, hundreds of branch closures and the removal of many ATMs have left customers in Spain suffering, in this latest example of ‘Capitalismo 2.0’. 

A man withdraws cash from a Santander branch in Madrid.
More than 3,500 Santander workers lost their jobs in Spain in 2021 and a further 2,000 more employees working for Santander across Europe were also laid off. Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Spanish banking giant Santander on Wednesday said it has bounced back from the pandemic as it returned to profit last year, beating analyst expectations and exceeding its pre-COVID earnings.

Likewise, Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA said on Thursday that it saw a strong rebound in 2021 following the Covid crisis, tripling its net profits thanks to a recovery in business activity.

It’s a similar story for Unicaja (€137 million profit in 2021), Caixabank (€5.2 billion profit thanks to merge with Bankia), Sabadell (€530 million profit last year), Abanca (€323 million profit) and all of Spain’s other main banks.

This may be promising news for Spain’s banking sector, but their profits have come at a cost for many of their employees and customers. 

In 2021, 19,000 bank employees lost their jobs, almost all through state-approved ERE layoffs, meant for companies struggling financially.

BBVA employees protest against layoffs in May 2021 in Madrid. Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, in a move denounced by unions as “scandalous”. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Around 11 percent of bank branches in Spain have also been closed down in 2021 as part of Spanish banks’ attempts to cut costs, even though they’ve agreed to pay just under €5 billion in compensation.

Rampant branch closures have in turn resulted in 2,200 ATMs being removed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even though the use of cajeros automáticos went up by 20 percent in 2021.

There are now 48,300 ATMs in Spain, levels not seen since 2001.

READ MORE:

Apart from losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Spain’s financial institutions have justified the lay-offs, branch closures and ATM removals under the premise that there was already a shift to online banking taking place among customers. 

But the problem has been around for longer in a country with stark population differences between the cities and so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with rural communities and elderly people bearing the brunt of it. 

 

Caixabank laid off almost 6,500 workers in the first sixth months of 2021. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

Just this month, a 78-year-old Valencian man has than collected 400,000+ signatures in an online petition calling for Spanish banks to offer face-to-face customer service that’s “humane” to elderly people, spurring the Bank of Spain and even Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to publicly say they would address the problem.

READ MORE: ‘I’m old, not stupid’ – How one Spanish senior is demanding face-to-face bank service

It’s worth noting that between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and bank job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent.

Below is more detailed information on how Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks, have reported their huge profits in 2021.

Santander

Driven by a strong performance in the United States and Britain, the bank booked a net profit of €8.1 billion in 2021, close to a 12-year high. 

It was a huge improvement from 2020 when the pandemic hit and the bank suffered a net loss of €8.7 billion after it was forced to write down the value of several of its branches, particularly in the UK. It was also higher than 2019, when the bank posted a net profit of €6.5 billion.

Analysts from FactSet were expecting profits of €7.9 billion. 

“Our 2021 results demonstrate once again the value of our scale and presence across both developed and developing markets, with attributable profit 25 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019,” said chief executive Ana Botin in a statement.

Net banking income, the equivalent to turnover, also increased, reaching €33.4 billion, compared to €31.9 billion in 2020. This dynamic was made possible by a strong increase in customer numbers, with the group now counting almost 153 million customers worldwide. 

“We have added five million new customers in the last 12 months alone,” said Botin.

Santander performed particularly well in Europe and North America, with profits doubling in constant euros compared to 2020. In the UK, where Santander has a strong presence, current profit even “quadrupled” over the same period to €1.6 billion.

Last year’s net loss was the first in Banco Santander’s history, after having to revise downwards the value of several of its subsidiaries, notably in the UK, because of COVID.

The banking giant, which cut nearly 3,500 jobs at the end of 2020, in September announced an interim shareholder payout of €1.7 billion for its 2021 results. “In the coming weeks, we will announce additional compensation linked to the 2021 results,” it said.

BBVA

The group, which mainly operates in Spain but also in Latin America, Mexico and Turkey, posted profits of €4.65 billion ($5.25 billion), up from €1.3 billion a year earlier.

The result, which followed a solid fourth quarter with profits of €1.34 billion, was higher than expected, with FactSet analysts expecting a figure of €4.32 billion .

Excluding non-recurring items, such as the outcome of a restructuring plan launched last year, it generated profits of 5.07 billion euros in what was the highest figure “in 10 years”, the bank said in a statement.

In 2020, the Spanish bank saw its net profit tumble 63 percent as a result of asset depreciation and provisions taken against an increase in bad loans due to the economic fallout of the virus crisis.

“The economic recovery over the past year has brought with it a marked upturn in banking activity, mainly in the loan portfolio,” the bank explained, pointing to a reduction of the provisions put in place because of Covid.

In 2021, BBVA added a “record” 8.7 million new customers, largely due to the growth of its online activities. It now has 81.7 million customers worldwide.

The group’s net interest margins also rose 6.1 percent year-on-year to €14.7 billion, said the bank, which is undergoing a cost-cutting drive.

So far, it has axed 2,935 jobs and closed down 480 branches as the banking sector undergoes increasing digitalisation and fewer and fewer transactions are carried out over the counter.

At the end of 2020, BBVA sold its US unit to PNC Financial Services for nearly 10 billion euros and decided to reinvest some of the funds in the Turkish market.

In November, it launched a bid to take full control of its Turkish lending subsidiary Garanti, offering €2.25 billion ($2.6 billion) to buy the 50.15 percent stake it does not yet own.

The deal should be finalised in the first quarter of 2022.

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