Spain – Costa del Sol – Mijas and Sugared Almonds
The Costa del Sol consists of several towns built from the beach to the hilltops above. There is hardly a break between towns and you can drive from one to the next without really noticing you left one and entered another. It’s a major tourists destination and there are probably hundreds of thousands of hotel rooms in the various resorts as well as apartments and homes as far as the eye can see.
One interesting town was Mijas, located at the very hilltop of a steep hill above the Mediterranean. Mijas caters to tourists as evident by the knickknack shops that line several of the narrow streets as well as donkey “taxis” (yes) called el burro taxi, pulling carriages catering to tourists year round. I felt terrible for the poor animals tied up to the ropes and dragging overweight tourists along the steep hills. No carriage ride for me.
Mijas however is very charming, the houses are all painted in white and they just glisten in the sun. Blue planters are hung everywhere in a themed visual that makes everything so very charming and beautiful. On the streets vendors sell candied almonds, peanuts and sunflower seeds from street carts. This seems to be the typical street food of Mijas. They can become addictive very quickly. I bought four of the 2 Euros containers while we were there and they barely lasted the day trip. The almonds were so large, I have never seen them that size. The cart has a boiling pot of caramel on the side and the just caramelized nuts are sold as fresh as can be.
Mijas is definitely a place to visit again as a day outing from Marbella. It’s only 15 minutes away. If you go there don’t bother looking for parking, you won’t find any. Follow the P signs for parking and park in the parkade just below city square. You then climb the several steps and find yourself right in the center. Don’t limit your visit to just that square though. Keep following the narrow streets and it will lead you to many wonderful plazas and view points from which you can admire the breathtaking views of the Mediterranean coastline.
If you are interested, here is a recipe for candied nuts that is easy and useful. Sometimes I make them and sometimes I buy them ready made, but I usually keep candied nuts in the freezer and pull them out as I need them for salads etc. I don’t know if mine are as good as the giant almonds we bought from the street vendors in Mija but still, it’s a good recipe to have.
Caramelized almonds (or other nuts)
2 cups almonds
1 cup sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter, melted
If needed: a tablespoon of water or just enough to moisten the sugar
If you are comfortable with caramelizing sugar then place all ingredients in a skillet and cook on medium high heat until the sugar caramelizes and the almonds are toasted.
Alternatively mix all the ingredients in a bowl, adding a little water if it seems too dry, then spread on a baking sheet lined with parchamnet.
Bake at 375℉ until the almonds are golden and the the sugar caramelizes.
Remove to a clean sheet of parchment and separate with a fork the best you can.
Let cool, then store in an air tight container.
These are good crunched over a salad, legume salads and some soups. also good served with cheese and fruits.