Blog | Spanish farmhouse near Seville | B&B Aracena | Self-catering cottages Andalucia

The blog of Finca Buenvino Bed & Breakfast near Aracena, Seville, Andalucia, Spain in the Sierra de Aracena National Park. Set amongst a chestnut and cork-oak forest we operate as a family B&B and self-catering holiday cottages. We run cookery courses, photography courses, creative writing retreats and fitness retreats. Hiking trails and stunning views.

Porcini Schmorcini

3 more kilos of mushrooms this morning, so after lunch we had to chop and prepare porcini sauce with onions and cream and parsley, so that it can be kept in the deep freeze for use when the mushrooms have stopped coming.

This morning started cold, 11ºC, but by this afternoon the sun was blazing  and we were up once more into the mid twenties.

We now light the fire in the evening, and no longer dine in the patio unless there is a freak heatwave, which is still just possible.

Autumn Photography, the Mushrooms are here!

My goodness, but I've been slack about posting.....forgive me, all two followers (me and my dog). This year has been hectic as we've been working on the Buenvino Cookbook, about 200 pages of life, laughter and deliciousness. It's been hard work, but a blast, as Jeannie and I remembered events from years past. For more images go onto Tim Clinch's photography page and click on the image of the dish of scarlet prawns.

After a heavenly, hot summer, autumn has arrived, with balmy days, cool nights and enough dew in the early mornings to encourage the funghi porcini, or Tentullos as they are known here.  Even as I write there are shrieks of delight, and someone has come in from the forest with another Kilo of them.

Extravagant breakfast:  Slice up a few Boletus mushrooms to the thickness of a 1 Euro coin. Put lots of butter in a pan with a little olive oil, and heat until the butter has melted and is beginning to froth a little with the oil. Add the mushrooms, only so many as will cover the bottom of the pan. They will shrink a little and allow space for further additions as you cook them. Sprinkle with sea salt. Fry on a medium heat until golden on one side, flip, and warm through the other side. 
Now prepare soft poached eggs, two per person. Golden mushrooms on top. A grind of pepper and you are ready to go.

Of course, you could always go completely over the top, like our Milanese guests, Massimo Volta and Rebeca Willig, (who you can see here in Massimo's short film "Muse in Chains") . They insisted on a little jamón de bellota to go with it....¿porque no?

The sudden hot weather has meant that last week's cookery course was agreeably complemented by lunch under the arbour, and dinner under the stars.

The new saltwater filtration system, and solar heating are almost completed, so we are looking forward to chlorine free swims!

Jeannie and I were at the Bruce Springsteen concert in Seville on Sunday night, in the Olympic Stadium. An incredible concert. The man sang for 3 hours solid without a break!

The Struggle for Work at the Rio Tinto Mines

60 miners have been walking from the town of Rio Tinto for the past week; staying in sports halls, being fed by friends and volunteers.
Today, they reach their goal, the Andalusian Parliament in Seville, to protest at the unbelievably slow, foot dragging of the Junta de Andalucia, over the re-opening of the mines.

Miners have been locked into the Corte Atalaya pit for weeks now in protest of the lack of jobs in the traditional mining town.

Emed, the international mining company which has taken over the mines have been allowed to languish in spite of huge investment and a willingness to provide many jobs which would kick the local economy into action and give unemployed families, who are many of them living on an economic cliff edge , an opportunity for life and dignity.

The longer the Junta drags its feet, the longer we wonder what is going on in the background....are there economic interests muddying the issue? Does someone, somewhere want a bigger slice of the action?

Why, when a country is crying out for work opportunities, and there is someone prepared to start an important business, is there no positive action taken?

Today, the protesting miners will be demonstrating outside the parliament buildings at 1pm.

If you are in Seville, show up and give them some support, please

Spring Preparations

Fresh from our travels to the historical wonders of the Highlands of Ethiopia (Lalibela, Gondar, Axum and the painted monasteries of the Zeghe Peninsula in Lake Tana) , we returned home to find Andalucia basking in its fourth dry month of constant sunshine.

What about the orchards? To sow or not to sow? Should we plant the spuds and use sprinklers?

This year we have imported rare heritage potato breeds from Caroll's in Northumberland; Shetland Black, Highland Burgundy Red, Pink Fir Apple, Salad Blue and the wonderfully floury British Queen, which we had only seen before for sale by the road in West Cork, Ireland. We remember it's fluffiness when baked, and slathered in butter. Mmmmm. Not very Andalusian, but we can look forward to having our varieties for sale in the local burgeoning farmer's market this autumn.

Holy week was mostly a washout, although some of the processions could go out, noteably La Madrugada, the solemn night-and-dawn procession through Aracena, which starts around 5 am. We took our clients, and it was a cold, starry night. We punctuated our street-side wanderings with visits to bars for carajillos (coffee and coñac to warm the blood), and as dawn came up and the first birds were singing we brought home Aracena's unique potato churros, to serve to our guests with our fresh farm eggs for breakfast. (Our Violet Andalucians are beginning to lay well)

Now at last we are going through a period of April showers and sunshine, and things are beginning to grow. Soon the Spanish chestnuts will be in leaf. The goats are producing a lot of milk and I am making yoghourt, hard cheese and flavoured cream cheeses. These are delicious with our own sourdough breads.

We start ploughing on the top of the far hill next week, to clear the flatter ground of cistus ladanifera and pink heather and to try to re establish some pasture under the oaks. (The wild shrubs, though beautiful, are a fire hazard and can grow 1.6 metres in height over a period of 3 or 4 years.)

Kind neighbours have lent us their ram for a week and he is covering the ewes....doing his duty, so we hope to have some lambs in the autumn, in time for the winter pasture.

On June 9th, the village Hermandad de la Virgen de Gracia, is coming to Finca Buenvino to cut down a poplar tree. The men of the village then carry it back on their shoulders, stopping every 20 metres or so to refresh themselves from a barrel of punch. Later the tree will be erected in the village plaza, with much heave-hohing,the Spanish flag fluttering from its tip. This is an annual springtime rite and we're honoured to have the tree selected from our farm this year.

Los Marines' Romeria is on the last Sunday of the month of May, Sunday 27th. We still have room for two couples if anyone is interested in coming for the weekend.

Our new solar heating panels and saltwater installation are being fitted to the swimming pool even now, so we will soon have lovely chlorine-free water, and an extended swimming season!

On the 18th June we are running a 6 night cookery course. The total cost, for tuition, meet and greet and drop-off in Sevilla, excursions to Jerez wineries, restaurant outings and all food and drink and lodging is €1200 per person+8%VAT. We only have a few vacancies (max cooks 8 if sharing rooms, or 4 if all want singles) Single supplement €50 per night.

If anyone is interested, drop me a line at

Mia Dabrowski and Laurence Creamer have just left for their honeymoon at Caños de Meca after a fabulous wedding weekend.

The weather was perfect; after a hot day the air cooled as the sun sank into the pink horizon, over densely forested misty blue hills.

Guitar music played as Daniel Dabrowski walked his daughter down the steps to the mown meadow where the wedding guests were waiting to hear Mia and Laurence take their vows. Melissa Marshall read "A Vow" by Wendy Cope and Hannah Roberts read "I Carry Your Heart" by EE Cummings.

After a romantic ceremony, bride and groom were joined by friends and relations for tapas and pink Castell de Vilarnau Cava on the terrace, before sitting down to hear the speeches from groom and best men Gregory Cooke and Robert Osbourn, before tucking into dinner (see my facebook page for the full menu details!)

At last we have started working on the Finca Buenvino book, which will have a mixture of recipes, anecdotes and fabulous photographs by Tim Clinch (, who will be running this year's food photography courses at the finca. Courses are filling, but we have a space or two left on our September course. To find out more got to

Autumn Activities; harvesting, cooking, eating and drinking!

October was an interesting month; beautiful Indian summer weather punctuated with days of rain, made it the perfect time to start sowing the winter vegetable garden. Leeks, broccoli, broad beans, peas, and winter salads have gone in and are flourishing.

We were kindly invited to dine at Sally Clarke's restaurant in London, by our good friend Johnny Grey, the famous kitchen designer. The occasion was not only the celebration of 30 year's work in the Kitchen design field, but the launching of a new book of Elizabeth David recipes, At Elizabeth David's Table: Her Very Best Everyday Recipes, published by Jill Norman, in order to bring her recipes to a newer, younger audience.

After dinner, pheasant with apples, pears in red wine and spices, perfect madeleines and chocolate truffles, Jill Norman spoke of her friendship and years working with Elizabeth David, and I spoke, perhaps more flippantly about the early days, when Johnny and I met in that deeply mystical rural idyll which were the South Downs on the Hampshire/West Sussex border in those days of the early 70's.

Here's a short exerpt to give you a flavour of the place then.....there was something akin to a Withnail and I atmosphere to the cottage:

"In late 1970, I was lucky enough to be allowed to rent for a peppercorn, a knapped flint cottage which was hidden away in a secret fold of the Downs, near South Harting.

Except for a few alarming and boozy dinners with an angry cousin of Samuel Beckett who lived on the next hill, and carried with him a miasma of Soho drinking dens, it was very quiet on my side of the hill.

On spring days there was the silence of the bluebell woods and on winter nights the wind whispered it’s sinister Cold Comfort Farm type message through the kale fields which rose darkly to the horizon.

There was also a ghost apparently; a baby which cried in the cupboard from time to time, but it could only be heard by women so I wasn’t bothered.

After a quiet month or two I began to wonder where the action was. In spite of importing guests from London every few weeks, writers, photographers, art students and debutantes who veered towards hippiness, silence reigned supreme for 90% of the time. I could almost hear the weeds growing.

Over the busier weekends, my cooking skills improved; road-kill venison, arrived in the back of the police van and was butchered in the bathtub by the village bobby; it was cooked with cream and coffee and apple jelly; to be followed by wild plums stewed with vanilla, the juice thickened with egg yolks,and the whites beaten to a meringue with sugar, the whole, baked in the oven. Thick yellow raw Jersey cream came from a mad hatter of a woman down the road towards Nywood.

She took to bringing me cream and staying for a cocktail, her muddy boots leaving good clods of heavy clay down the passage to the living room. Undoubtedly these hills were filled with loons and strange passions."

So much for 1970-71 in an ancient cottage in West Sussex, now back to the Sierra de Aracena 2010.

This month is the month when HelpX saves our lives. We have the chestnut harvest to cope with, hills to clear of scrub, and now that the first rains have fallen we are allowed to have bonfires to get rid of the heaps of Cistus, Gorse, and Broom which have been uprooted from the damp earth. If allowed to run riot, these plants can take over the hillsides, grow to a height of almost two meters and become a dangerous fire hazard. Today we let out the sheep onto the cleared hillside, so that they can benefit from the chestnuts overlooked by the gatherers.

First arrivals were three graduates of Sewanee, the University of the South. Patrick, Matt and John were with us for a couple of weeks and worked hard on picking chestnuts during the early stage of the harvest, when the first nuts fell to the ground. Then came Mark and Melanie Slagle from Buffalo New York, both with great restaurant experience and an easy manner.IThey got down into the stream to find some of the biggest and roundest nuts, and are surely responsible for improving the overall quality of the pick! In Early November, the Dunphy family, Ed, Brenda, Jacob and Rebecca arrived from Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island they pretty much finished up the harvest, bringing the total to about 2 metric tonnes. Now we have Daniel and Adam, from Birmingham, Alabama, taking huge pride in the beautiful clear chestnut forest. This morning the smoke of their fires was wafting down the valley.

The chestnut trees have turned from yellow to red, and leaves are falling rapidly. The poplars along the stream bed are now bare of leaves. Nights are getting cold, and soon frost will put an end to what has been one of our best wild mushroom seasons. Boletus Edulis (Porcini), Caesar's Mushroom (Amanita Caesaria) and Saffron Milkcaps (Lactarius deliciosus) have been plentiful, and if the frost keeps away over the next two weeks, we should start finding chanterelles.

In early November we hosted a five day cookery holiday with Sue Clark and Joanie Ott from Denver, and Judy Lozier from St. Louis.
We were joined by Emma and Clive Gilbert from Sintra and we worked intently in the kitchen, but also had time to go down to Sanlucar de Barrameda and visit Javier Hidalgo's charming Bodega, and sample some of his fine La Gitana Manzanilla Sherry and his Napoleon Amontillado and Wellington VOS Palo Cortado.
The weather was wet and windy, and the swollen River Guadalquivir ran greyish brown with silt,where it emerges into the Atlantic Ocean.

Still we had a bright moment and were able to take some snaps in front of Restaurante Poma, where we had an excellent fish lunch. Gambas Blancas de Huelva, Sepia en su Tinto, Salmonetes a la Parilla, Puntillitas, all washed down with that fresh Cadiz white wine, Tierra Blanca, in which the Palomino grape is blended with Riesling, to give it a helping hand.

We also had a morning visit to Juan Mateos Arizón at Sanchez Romero Carvajal, in Jabugo. Here is a picture of him checking over the Jamón in the cellars.

25th-28th November 2010 we are expecting the arrival of London Chef and food and travel writer, Nick Balfe who is bringing a group of cooks for a long weekend of Spanish cooking using amongst other things, the local Jamón Iberico de Bellota.

For 2011 we are planning a new series of week-long workshops on food photography and styling. The courses will be run in spring and Autumn under the title Natural Light, Natural Food, and will be an extension to the courses already run in Gascony, France by well-known photographer Tim Clinch
at Kate Hill's Gascony farmhouse the centre for working with La Cuisine du Sud Ouest. This is the region for Agen Prunes, wonderful orchard fruits, Classic sweet wines such as Monbazillac, and pork and duck rillettes, various duck and goose products, such as foie gras, and confit....Heaven!

Our Natural Food, Natural Light courses will concentrate on the products of Andalucia and Southern Extremadura, which is very close to Finca Buenvino.

Dates for these courses and four our own cookery weeks or long weekends, will be published in this blog and our website shortly

Skye Wedding

Early October, and we flew up to Skye for Jack Elles' and Amy Russell's wedding. The weather was perfect; Skye was a dream; all golden mountains floating in a blue sky, the water of the sea inlets like a mirror. Jack and Amy run their own catering company, The Laughing Stock, and have a fleet of mobile catering vans. They attend Glastonbury, and the Edinburgh festival, where they did all the food at the Udderbelly venue.

Jeannie's Birthday

The day started with a delicious breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled egg, coffee and Buck'sFizz on the terrace with the kids and Sophie Bligh from Australia, who was staying.

Then Surprise birthday barbecue up at the poolhouse, with 14 for lunch.

Oberesque Luggage!

Just had to put in this photograph to show how Stephanie Oberoi , owner of the Bombay Duck special gifts website, travels en famille! Vikram, her husband , meanwhile roared around the Iberian Peninsula on his fab scarlet Ducati. It was a wet, wet week so not the best biking weather, so perhaps driving the family bus was a better option after all .

The Organic Garden

At last the soil has dried out sufficiently for us to put a couple of mules into the orchards to turn over the soil. Francisco is one of the few young muleteers still working in the sierra. The soil will be allowed to lie roots to the sun for a few days, then we will start to rotovate to obtain a fine tilth, and start planting the potatoes.

Seedlings of tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, garlic, onions and peppers are growing in the greenhouse and will be planted out before the end of April.

The villages of the Sierra de Aracena

I thought it would be a good idea to provide a link to a local website which gives a description (in Spanish) of all the local villages and their history. Finca Buenvino lies between the villages of Los Marines and Fuenteheridos.

To learn more visit:

Danza de la Lanza
From the 1st to the 3rd of May there's an opportunity to see the curious Danza de la Lanza in the church of Hinojales, (click below to get an idea of what it is like to see 100 men or so dancing with castañets inside a church.) The seven leading dancers, all young men from the village, are dressed in starched 17th century petticoats, and blue plus fours.

We are running four short (4 night stay) cookery courses in June this year, if anyone is interested please get in touch. The cost is 800 Euros, including all food, drink, excursions and collection from airport.

You can find more details on our website. (Http:// In June, you can mix the cooking experience with a lazy alternative: lying by the pool every afternoon. Courses are for 4-8 people only. Bring a group, and the leader goes free!

Splendour and Squalor

Marcus Scriven is here, recovering from the final polishing of his brilliantly narrated book, Splendour and Squalor, which is to be launched in late November, early December.

We're all a bit worried about Mrs. Slocumbe on the cover, who seems to be disporting herself with the village butcher....but then tits do sell.

Marcus needs a new image. (We've had frayed shirts, sole-flapping shoes and starved author wardrobe for 7 years now - Come on Marcus! It's time to invest in a lightweight Prince of Wales check for your visits to the sun!)

Please click on the link above to order the book from Amazon and subsidise a new wardrobe.

A visit from Pri and Rhea

This is Jeannie and I with Pri, scrubbed-up for the city, and rid of the mud from potato-lifting!

It already feels like a different world to the one in which, in lashing rain, we waded across the street to meet the bus in Aracena, to collect our two delightful volunteers from India; Priyanka Shewakramani and Rhea Batliboi.

The girls have made a radical change from office life in New York and did a fantastic job for us in the orchards, gathering the last of the tomatoes, the peppers and the aubergines, and digging up the last rows of potatoes in thick mud on the first few mornings after the rain. Now they've left us to continue their travels through Spain and South America, and we sorely miss them and evening laughter over the mosto bottle.

We've put the sheep in to finish clearing the ground and in a couple of weeks we hope to sow our winter crops; broad beans, brassica and leaks. Then winter salads in the greenhouse.

I got into a serious veggie session, making hot green tomato and chilli chutney, imam bayeldi, roasted pepper salads, and tomatoes roasted in yoghourt and crême fraiche. Yum, no wonder we eat too much here.

A Never Ending Summer!

Joanna Saville joined us
for a week of cooking,
swimming walking,
sightseeing....and eating.

Kirsty Pilcher came with Jean Arnot and Janie to join the first day's hands-on session.

Autumn has been extraordinary this year. After a long blazing summer we have started to benefit from the soft warm golden days which come after the first rainfall. It's just heaven for walking now, with the leaves changing colour, chestnuts falling to the ground, and the smell of quinces ripening in the orchards.

There have been fewer mushrooms than usual, since it has not rained much, but we have found Caesar's mushrooms (Oronge fr. Ovoli it. Kaiserpilz ger.) and Penny Buns (Ceps fr. Porcini it. Tentullo local.) and some delicious shaggy ink-caps/lawer's wigs which went into a risotto.

We escaped for a couple of nights to Ronda, then back for a cookery week with Jo Brown in which Jeannie taught breadmaking, salmorejo, romesco, rabbit with cream and mustard, mussels in saffron cream with spinach, zarzuela de pescado, solomillo of Iberian pork with peppers, and of course rosemary and chocolate cream with fino sherry, and lavender panna cotta.

Polly and Jesus's Wedding

In mid July we had 80 guests for the Anglo-Spanish wedding of Polly Wibberley and Jesus Revaliente.

Jago and Trent built a gazebo of poplar poles and then lined it with ruched voile supplied by the bride. Their stints at Greenfield Marquees stood them in good stead, and it looked rustic but professional!

The bride wanted a country look, and tables were decorated with small zinc buckets and cans of lavender and herbs and white roses. As it was a nighttime wedding feast, the tables were lit with old fashioned paraffin lamps.

The marriage took place at sundown on the lower field (I shan't say lawn; there are too many moleholes and summers are too hot for perfection!)

Afterwards, guests came up for Cava, rebujitos or manzanilla, and miniature hamburgers of iberian pork, home cured jamón, fried quail's eggs, hot feta and pastry puffs, sea bream pancakes, quail drumsticks, and foie gras mousse.

Dinner was served well after 11 pm and we sat down to purple figs and jamón with a honey vinaigrette and fresh mint, roast lamb with gratiné potatoes and green haricots. The puddings were ginger roulade, chocolate profiteroles, berry fruits in syrup, and there was a selection of cheese both British and Spanish. We served a soft and fruity mencia varietal red, from the Bierzo, from the Agribergidum Bodega, and our white was a magnificent sauvignon blance from Victoria Pariente's bodega which is named for her father Jose Pariente.

After dinner, coffee and petits fours, the soul band struck up with a very small singer belting out Aretha Franklin numbers and keeping us going until 8 in the morning!!

Carin King's Cookery Club

We had a fun weekend with Carin King's group, who came to cook and sunbathe by the pool! We did get some cooking done, including this delicious shellfish paella; but we also made breads, learned how to carve jamón, and how to make panna cotta infused with cardamom.

Tim Clinch's visit

In the last week of June, photographer Tim Clinch came to take pictures of the house and the pool at dawn. He also photographed the redecorated bedrooms, and took some images of the countryside, orchards and self-catering cottages. To view the whole thing go to, and then click on Finca Buenvino.

Emily Fortune was our intrepid early morning model. Thanks Ems!

Martin Randall Travel walking group.

It's rather late to be catching up with the year, but now that autumn is here, there is a chance to sit down and struggle with the internet, which in these remote parts is very slow at times, and drives me to distraction!

Gaby McPhedran and Adam Hopkins brought a group of walkers and seekers of Spanish knowledge to the finca for lunch on Easter day. They had been visiting the processions of Holy Week in Carmona, a more intimate affair than that in Seville, and they were on their way to the Extremadura, to stay in Zafra for a couple of nights.

Finca Buenvino is almost midway between the two, and proved a perfect place to explore villages, walk the trails, attend Easter Mass, or visit the caves of Aracena.

We gave them tapas; Our home-cured jamón, fried quails' eggs, pimientos del padrón, blanched almonds fried in olive oil, and olives, then everyone sat down to a lunch of grilled goat's cheese, with salads from our greenhouse, and roast Sierra de Aracena lamb, followed by lavender panna cotta and fruit coulis.