I visited Ronda last year, however this year was a visit with a Jamie Oliver inspired twist. When collecting information together for the food and wine tour, I stumbled upon ‘Jamie Oliver does… Andalucia’ on the TV and I religiously jotted down everything he said and everywhere he went. Here is the result…

On arrival, after a beautiful drive through the Andalucian hills with my Yorkshire friends Charlie and Izzy, we headed straight for the Iglesia de la Merced to buy pasteles hand made by the resident nuns. We stepped up to the ‘counter’ which consisted of an old school wooden turn table. I rang the bell, just as Jamie did, and waited for the response asking for my order. The door span around and my order of tortas de la virgen appeared, which I took and replaced with some coins, span back around and was blessed by the nun. What an exciting alternative to buying cakes! Charlie misunderstood when I said ‘they can’t see us’ (due to the little window turntable), as the nuns being blind. The idea of being served ‘virgin cakes’ by blind nuns absolutely delighted him! Although a minor detail of this expectation was not quite correct, it was still a very surreal experience and I left with a huge beam spread across my face.

The secret cake cubby hole!

Back on the Jamie trail, we continued up the street in search of La Casa Del Jamón. Half expecting the establishment to have been tarnished by the tourism from flocks of Jamie Oliver followers, I was pleasantly surprised to find the owner slicing away solo in a small shop, surrounded by hundreds of hanging legs of ham. His skill of ham slicing was a true art, and he was the 7-time champion of several national ham cutting competitions. Not only was he extremely talented, but even more passionate about his art. He chatted away about his Iberian pigs, alias pata negra (black leg), and how well they are looked after: raised en el aire libre (freely) with each pig consuming 8 to 10 kilos of bellotas (acorns) every day, you can only imagine how chubby they get, providing that beautifully soft fat with a nutty taste that quite literally melts in your mouth.

Leo the jamón-cutting Don!

He went on to give us a detailed description of each ham that he had displayed on the work surface. We decided that as we were there, we had to go for the best of the best, which was made with vegetable oil and the pig had a diet of purely acorns, rather than the other varieties which also consumed a mixture of other seeds. The ham was perfect, so soft, with the contrasting textures from the fat and lean providing a wonderful taste. Whilst preparing the package for us to take away, Leo enthusiastically chatted away about Jamie Oliver’s visit, singing his praises as a very talented chef but also ‘muy humano‘ (a real, humble human being!) Our visit concluded with him presenting me with a food magazine about Ronda featuring his piggies, and signing it to take with me on my food trail. What a wonderful experience and an interesting chap!

A brief guide of how to cut ham from Mr Jamón himself:

– use an appropriate support, which holds the ham firmly, as only the jamonero does

– when cutting, the non-cutting hand must always be behind the knife and it’s edge

– the cutting must be done slowly, without any excess of force nor unnatural movement

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