Category Archives: Wine Notes

wine notes

Spanish White Bean Stew with Chorizo

Fabada – A Hearty Spanish Stew fit for the Winter!

I wanted to start the New Year with a dish from one of my favourite gastronomic countries in the world, Spain! I got married in Spain many years ago and been there almost dozen times. During the time I walked the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain last September, many times I was served a white bean stew with chorizo (cured Spanish sausage) called Fabada.  It comes from the province of Austurias next to Galicia where it has the coast line on Bay of Basque. Spain has a rich gastronomic history that dates back centuries ago where people traveled to certain provinces just to taste certain dishes including traveling to Burgos for their blood sausage called Morcilla – made with pork blood, rice and spices that came from Moors influence. After Christopher Columbus traveled to the new world he brought back paprika to Spain. Soon chorizo took on a different take with spices from the new world. Today Spanish chorizo can be purchased in your local supermarkets as the food scene around the world has changed, thanks to food TV shows and internet for spreading the word.


















I’ve seen variations of this dish either made with chorizo or clams. I fell in love with both versions as the stew made with chorizo has a smoky hearty taste due to the paprika and beef stock perfect for cold fall/winter nights sipping medium to full bodied red wines. I prefer the stew with clams for spring/summer made with chicken broth as it has a slight salty taste like the sea, perfect with sipping white wines.   







Chef’s note:  *After soaking the beans cooking them separately  for 5 minutes, drain and using them for the recipe gives less or no gas. **I’ve also added kale to this recipe as some regions incorporates them when they are in season.

Prep time 15 min                              Cooking time 90 min                       Serves 8




4 cups low salt beef stock

3 cups white beans (navy beans) soaked overnight or soaked 8 hours & cooked 5 min & drained

300g sliced chorizo or *(dry cured sausage, you’ll need to add 1 tsp paprika)

3 cups chopped, washed and drained kale

2 cups chopped yellow onions

2 cups chopped carrots

2 cups chopped celery

1 large red pepper, chopped

4 gloves garlic, chopped

1 tsp grape seed oil or extra light olive oil

3 large plum tomatoes, chopped

3 tbsp tomato paste

1 cup red wine

1 tsp chili flakes

1 large cinnamon stick

2 bay leafs

½ tsp saffron threads (optional)

2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme or 1 tbsp dry thyme

1 tsp ground pepper

2 tbsp flour

Salt for tasting


  1. In a small cup add saffron threads and tbsp of water and let it steep (better infusion of saffron)
  2. In a large dutch oven heat oil in medium heat and sauté the chorizo. *If you don’t have chorizo sauté dry cured sausage and add 1 tsp of smoked paprika when sautéing the onion
  3. Add onion, carrots and celery and sauté few minutes and add garlic, red pepper, cinnamon, bay leafs, chili and sauté well and add cup of wine and bring to boil
  4. Add white beans and mix well and add tomatoes, tomato paste and mix well
  5. Add thyme, kale and stock and bring to a boil
  6.  Add saffron threads, ground pepper and bring it low heat
  7. Cover and cook for about 90 minutes until kale and beans are tender
  8. Add flour and mix well as it will help thicken the stew
  9. Serve hot with crusty bread
  10. Optional: * a glass of Rioja or other medium-full bodied red wine

Nutritional Analysis: 1 serving = 2 cups (480 ml): Calories 375; Carb 34 g; Fibre 8 g; Fat 16 g;  Sat. F 6 g; Sugar 7 g; Protein 20 g; Sodium 780mg;  Iron 4 mg, Potassium 1165 mg; Calcium 111 mg; Vitamin C 66 mg; Vitamin A 514

Preparation at Saint Jean Pied de Port

Chapter 8 – Getting things ready for the Camino (Day 0)

When we decided to do the first part of the Camino (until Logrono) we had decided to book our hotels and arrange for a baggage pickup through a British travel company.  Before starting the walk, we were just finishing a business trip/vacation from Europe so it made sense to have our suitcases moved and carry a daypack with necessary things for the day.  Having pre-booked our hotels didn’t mean that we would be driven around; it was our responsibility to get to each stop at the end of the day and check into the accommodation that was set months ago.

At the tourist office

At the tourist office

The maps from the travel company were identical to the main Camino route that every pilgrim undertakes.  Since I was going back to the Camino in late summer this was a trial to see if I could do this all on my own as I was a bit nervous traveling by myself as a person with type1 diabetes. Not that I needed hand holding but for low sugars, emergencies as I was pretty nervous about climbing the Pyrenees alone as I heard it’s pretty hard and so it made sense for me to have my partner with me just in case. He was happy and willing and he also felt that he hadn’t done a walking holiday in many years and he felt it was time to do one together.

Our adventure started together – see Chapter 5 (Getting to Saint Jean Pied de Port). Once we got to Saint Jean Pied de Port (SJPP) the trick was to find out hotel with our massive suitcase dragging through the street as there were taxis.  We asked for our hotel name and we ran into a lady who spoke very good English and pointed to the old town. Perhaps they are used to people with big backpacks not massive suitcases like we were moving into an apartment, it did look funny. The heat in the midday was exhausting but not more than a kilometer in the old part of the town we found our beautiful hotel and our room had an amazing balcony overlooking the village and the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Leaving the luggage in the room we took the opportunity to have lunch in the town as it was closer to 2pm. There were travelers from all over Europe, some walking the Camino and some with family taking few days off to do bit of hike and enjoy the village. We decided to try the Pilgrim menu as most bars, restaurants, alburges along the Camino serve a set course meal with appetizer, main course with dessert and some include a glass of wine or beverage of your choice all under 10 euro. We were recommended to try the Irouleguy rose wine which was produced locally. The wine was light and crisp, refreshing with perfect with our stewed chicken with mushrooms, delicious!







Irouleguy, a local wine – Irouleguy was already being produced in the 14th and 15th centuries by canons in Roncevaux (Roncesvalles). The vineyards extend over 120 hectares and across some twenty communes, producing both reds and roses. This Basque wine obtained “appellation d’origine” status in 1970.







After lunch we went to the tourist office to get our passports. It was hard to explain the feelings inside as I was about to embark on something totally different and my life after this experience would change forever. The tourist office is run by many volunteers who are so happy to see you and their first question was what language we spoke so they could direct us to the right table. A lovely gentleman greeted us so kindly and asked us few questions like where we had come from as it was also for data collection and was happy to see so many Canadians had come through, none that day. We signed our name on the register, explained about two existing paths to get to Roncesvalles and he prepared our passports.

When I started my Camino training in March I decided that I was going to climb the Pyrenees – it was something that I always wanted to do, conquer a summit in my life. And when I heard there were two paths, one through the mountain called Route de Napolean 25.1 km (adjusted for climb 32 km) summit 1450m and another route called Route Valcarlos 24 km (adjusted for climb 29 km) summit 900m there was no question. I’ve heard the scenery is spectacular despite the arduous climb.

I also thought it was automatic that you would get your Camino shell after you register but it’s not a requisite that everyone carries one. It was a personal decision for everyone. So we decided to carry one so we donated some money in a basket and select our own shell. It was quite special for me.








This shell would walk the entire trip with me and share all my burden, happiness, all the beauty along the way. So I just didn’t pick the one on the top but found one that would be my companion.  It was already threaded so I all I had to do was to tie to securely on my pack when I got back to the room.

After our trip to the tourist office we explored the town – see chapter 6 (Camino Santiago Passports, Stamps & Symbols). We also decided go for a walk to familiarize ourselves to see the Camino path and where to pick up Route de Napoleon so that we wouldn’t miss it the next day with all the excitement. It was quite and non descript but the hair on my back still stoop up as I was would be on that path in the next 12 hours and my exciting journey would start.






Went back to the room and got our packs and boots ready for the morning as our plan was to start as early as possible.  After another amazing dinner at our hotel overlooking the mountains we retired to our room setting the alaram for 6am.

Thought of the day: All this preparation, I am on autopilot!

Buen Camino!

Camino Training in Germany

Chapter 3 – My Camino continues in Bodensee …

I’ve been coming to Bodensee for almost 12 years as I started my chef training (practical) here in the Southern part of Germany at the border of Switzerland. The area is called Bodensee (in German) or Lake of Constance in English, where one of the largest lake in Europe is surrounded by Germany, Austria and Switzerland and one of the most picturesque places in the world – Grimm Brothers who lived in the next state (Essen) got lot of their inspiration from this enchanting lake and gingerbread homes that influenced his fairy tales.

If you would know the road ahead, ask someone who has traveled it – Chinese Proverb





History of Singen Hohentwiel

When I visit Bodensee every year I usually stay in a small city called Singen (in the sate of Baden-Wuerttemberg) where most of my friends live including my godchild. It’s an industrial town surrounded by many pretty villages, the Lake of Constance and unique volcanic mountains that were formed 70 million years ago and one of them is called Hohentwiel.

Hohentwiel is unique as it has a large castle on top which was built in 10th century by Duke of Swabia (Stuttgart) Burchard III and in the middle ages many royal families lived here including the family of Von Singen-Tweil and also invaded by Napoleon where he kept his army. Today Hohentwiel is the largest castle ruin in Germany.

Whether you arrive by car or train you won’t miss the sight of Hohentwiel as its huge presence will dominate as it will greet you. There is a restaurant and a winery on the mountain as grape varieties Weissburgunder (White Burgundy) Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) and Grauburgunder (Gray Burgundy) and Müller-Thurgau grows on the mountain. The wines are outstanding and made in small quantity as they are rare and sell out quickly.

3 of the 5 volcanic mountains behind me

3 of the 5 volcanic mountains behind me

Hegau Cross

Hegau Cross









It made only sense that I also train for my Camino here (my 2nd home) before I set sail to Spain. So I found a great hiking path that would combine all 5 volcanic mountains near Singen on a long hike including trekking to the Hegau Cross – large stone cross near one of the volcanic mountain Maegdeberg.

Over looking at wheat fields

Over looking at wheat fields

My friend and I hiked by all 5 mountains (Hoehntwiel, Hohenkraehen, Hohenhwen, Maegdeberg, and Hohenstoffeln) as it was enchanting going through many farms, apple orchards, wild forest sighing deer, rabbits and hawks. I will never forget this day as we sat over the ridge of one of the mountain eating our lunch and looking at the land formed by volcanos and glacier millions of years ago.


Next day I got my first Camino stamp – I am not kidding, I will talk in detail about the Camino stamp, passport and certificate on my next post. Coincidently I was in Konstanz (head of Baden-Wuerttemberg) Cathedral listing to the choir practice and as I walked past the pews I saw a sign that said Camino Stamps – it was a unique rubber stamp printed paper from Konstanz Cathedral that was for the pilgrims to take for the Camino.

Konstanz Camino Stamp

Konstanz Camino Stamp

This looks like a good luck sign to me – not only I did the Camino training walk in Singen for 22 km but I also earned a Camino stamp for my walk the next day in Konstanz all in serendipity for my big trip.

Buen Camino!