Zaragoza is at the centre of a motorway hub with major roads heading south towards Madrid, north-west towards Bilbao and the Cantabrian Coast, east towards Barcelona and the Costa Brava and south-east towards Valencia and on to Alicante. In spite of this, most people from Zaragoza tend to travel to the Pyrenees or to Salou depending upon whether they want mountains or beaches for their holiday break. The same is true for many of the villages around the city.
Although we live in a village relatively close to Zaragoza, living as we do to the south-east, we and most of the people from this area tend to take the nearby motorway towards Valencia and Alicante. We like the food to be found between Valencia and Alicante, especially the paellas and, with the exception of few over-exploited beaches, we find many of the towns are small and still retaining much of their original charm. One such town is Oliva.
We ended up there on a whim, spending a most enjoyable weekend at a rural hotel called “El Sequer”.
Before I talk more about the weekend there, I just want to say thank you to Pablo and Berta from the hotel. They took the time and trouble of explaining to me the recipe I will be sharing today. I would also like to apologise to them for the time it has taken to write this article for the blog. One of my mantras is to only use in-season products. The first delay therefore was me waiting to be able to pick walnuts from the local trees. The second delay was me finding and purchasing an old-fashioned nut grater. As always I like to cook traditional recipes in a traditional way.
I also had a failed first attempt at baking the coca that again delayed the publishing of this article yet again. My first coca did not rise at all……Being rather perplexed I reviewed the coca ingredients again, to no avail. It wasn’t until I went to the website of the Gaseosas manufacturer that I saw where I had erred! I had never used Gaseosas before and hadn’t realised that there weren’t 16 sachets in the box but rather 8 pairs of sachets. One half of each pair is the baking soda to make the cakes rise, the other half is in fact flavourings. I had used just the flavouring packet and therefore the coca had not risen at all.
The hotel itself is a jewel, tucked away amongst palm trees and orange groves. The hotel and rooms are beautifully decorated with antique furniture and fittings. There are comfortable rooms to relax in within the hotel, but better still are the outdoor seating areas within the gardens or beside the pool.
More importantly perhaps is that we were treated to a very friendly welcome upon our arrival and indeed throughout our stay. Nothing was too much trouble for them.
Breakfast was served in the gardens of the hotel, with a view across the gardens, pool and orange groves. It was here, amongst a selection of other local delicacies that I first tried the Coca en Llanda. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and told them so. The following day I was welcomed to the breakfast table with a new, freshly made one.
That was back in September, and here we are approaching Christmas…… how time flies.
If you were to follow our lead and visit the hotel yourself, I would also wholeheartedly recommend you avail yourself of one of Pablo’s barbecue dinners. We had an amazing meal, sat out in the cool of the evening sampling the local cuisine and sipping the odd glass of wine. A real pleasure.
They were in fact good enough to give us their own recipe for the Coca. So here, better late than never, is their recipe.
The Coca en Llanda is typical from Valencia. Coca is the local word for cake whilst Llanda is the metal tray in which this cake is baked. The Coca is normally rectangular in shape and should be around a couple of inches, five centimetres tall.
Coca en Llanda
Serves 12 people
2 Packets of Gaseosa (El Tigre – See below for more information)
85ml Olive oil
1 tbsp Sugar
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
Line and grease a 21cm by 18cm rectangular tin.
Grate the nuts.
Mix together the dry ingredients, including both halves of the Gaseosas sachets.
Separate the yolks and whites of the eggs.
Beat the egg yolks together with the other wet ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
With a wooden spoon beat the milk mixture into the flour mixture.
Beat the egg whites until stiff.
Fold into the cake batter then pour into the prepared tin.
Sprinkle the grated nuts on top, followed by the sugar and cinnamon.
Bake for about 45 minutes or until firm and set in the centre.
The recipe uses baking soda. I decided to use a local product called Gaseosas Tigre, which are made in Valencia:
As I mentioned above, these Gaseosas come in paired sachets, one half is the raising agent and the other half contains flavouring, mainly artificial sugars and citric acid. If you can’t find this local product just use half a teaspoon of baking soda for each sachet of the recipe, i.e. one teaspoon in total. You could also add a little more grated lemon rind to mitigate the lack of citric acid.
As I mentioned at the start I purchased an old-fashioned nut grater. These have several advantages over the more modern electric food processors. Firstly the texture is much better being far lighter and fluffier. Modern machines tend to create hard chippings instead. Modern machines also tend to release the natural oils, which is fine if you are making a nut butter but not what I wanted for this cake. The hand-powered nut grater I bought also uses far less electricity!
Lastly, but perhaps importantly, this cake freezes really well, so well in fact that it was hard to discern that it has been frozen at all!
If you like walnuts, whey not try my Fig (or Date) and Walnut Loaf cake. Just click here.
And, as we are approaching Christmas let me remind you of some excellent German Christmas biscuits, Vanillekipferl. Just click here.
tsp – Teaspoon – 5ml
tbsp – Tablespoon – 15ml
Imperial to Metric Measurement:
1 oz – 28g
1 lb – 16 oz – 454g
1 gill – ¼ pint – 142ml
2016 Lincoln W. Betteridge