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In a country like Spain, where summer temperatures are above 30C for days on end (such as our two recent heatwaves with another to come), trying to keep cool becomes a full-time struggle. I actually have three friends who adore this heat and would like to have the thermometer at around 35C all year long.

Few of us, however, manage to feel less than uncomfortably hot during a Mallorcan summer, except when we are in an air-conditioned room…and some of us don’t like air-conditioning. And most residents don’t have air-conditioning at home.

There are other ways of trying to keep cool, such as cold drinks straight from the fridge and food that is a good deal cooler than room temperature. Keeping cool in the summer was even more of a problem in the past when electricity and refrigeration didn’t exist. But in those days Spanish cooks had ingenious ways of producing cold drinks and food.

It’s a scientific fact that cold drinks and soups such as gazpacho do not cool us down, but there is no doubt they help to make the overpowering heat more bearable. The true importance of cold drinks and soups is that they are an extremely palatable way of taking on board the extra liquids that are essential for replacing those lost through perspiration.

A cold drink most foreign residents and visitors miss out on is horchata, a Spanish beverage on sale in bars and cafes. Spaniards adore it and drink it frequently during the summer. A Mallorcan friend says that one of the great pleasures of the summer is getting up after a siesta and going straight to to the fridge for an ice-cold horchata…or two. Horchata is a drink (and sometimes a sorbet) made from chufas, a word that is both Spanish and English. Chufas are also called earth almonds in Britain and other names are earth nut, tiger nut, pig nut and rush nut.

The chufa is a tuber of the plant Cyperus esculentus, which grows in warm climates. It is native to Mediterranean countries and Portugal, and it figures prominently in the diet of Filipinos and Egyptians. The chufa is related to Cyperus papyrus, from which the ancient Egyptians made an early form of paper. Although chufas have been eaten throughout the Mediterranean for thousands of years, it is in Spain where they are now mainly cultivated and consumed, especially in the form of horchata.

Spanish chufas are mainly associated with Valencia and Alicante. They are grown in 16 Valencian villages, the principal one being Alborada, considered to be the birthplace of horchata.

Chufas are about the size of shelled hazelnut, with a light brown skin and white flesh. There are two types, called largueta and armela in the Valencian language. The largueta is long in shape and the armela is round.

When the chufas are harvested they are cleaned of earth and little bits of hair, washed, and then dried for three months. In that time their humidity is reduced from 50 to 11 percent and they become sweeter. Chufas can be bought at the Mercat d’Olivar and the Santa Catalina market and in supermarkets that sell dried fruits.

Horchata is a very simple drink to make at home and if you want to try it you will need 250 grs of chufas, 750 mls of still mineral water (never tap water) and 100 grs of icing sugar (azúcar glas), or to taste.

Wash the chufas in several waters and leave them to soak in fresh cold water for 24 hours. Give them a final rinse and reduce them to a paste in a blender or a food processor. Stir this paste into the 750 mls of mineral water and let the mixture stand for an hour. Strain the liquid through a very fine sieve and stir in the icing sugar until it is completely dissolved. Strain again and refrigerate until very cold.

This is the basic Valencian recipe and, some people say, the only one. But, as so often happens, you come across variations. In Alicante, for instance, they like to add a bit of cinnamon stick and lemon rind to the finished mixture.

Horchata can be more than a drink: some people add extra icing sugar, freeze it, and turn it into a sorbet to be eaten with a spoon. But that makes it far too sweet for me, so I prefer the 100 grs of icing sugar for a sorbet. In the end, however, it all depends on personal taste.

Most Spaniards think horchata is made exclusively with chufas, but it can be done with the seeds of melon, watermelon and pumpkin.

In Mallorca, where almonds are plentiful, you will come across bars that have horchata de almendras (almond horchata). It is extremely good and you should try it. The taste, of course, is quite different from the horchata made with chufas.

Some bars and ice cream shops in central Palma do horchata, the drink and the sorbet. The Bar Bosch in Plaça Joan Carles I (opposite C&A) does a good horchata drink and the best place for a sorbet is Can Joan de s’Aigo in Calle Barón de Santa María de Sepulcro, off Avda Jaime III at El Corte Inglés.

Mallorcans traditionally eat a cuarto with an horchata sorbet. This is an extremely light rectangular spongecake for which Mallorca is famous. Can Joan de s’Aigo make their own ensaimadas and cuartos and they are among the best on the island.

Two other cooling drinks you will find in Palma are based on milk: leche preparada and leche merengada. These are all-time favourites here and on the mainland, both with children and adults. Leche preparada is popular in many Mallorcan homes where there is always a large jug of it in the fridge during the summer months. It’s an easy-peasy cooler. Bring a litre of milk almost to the boil, take it off the heat, sweeten to taste and add cinnamon stick and lemon rind to taste.

When the milk has cooled, strain it into a suitable jug and refrigerate until very cold. Serve it in a wide glass and sprinkle the surface with powdered cinnamon to taste.

Leche merengada involves whipped egg whites and is a bit more complicated. Make leche preparada as described above, pour it into a suitable and stir in egg whites whipped until they hold stiff peaks. It can be consumed as a drink or frozen until it is a sorbet that can eaten with a spoon. Very few bars or ice cream shops do leche merengada nowadays.

Supermarkets are now full of horchata in bottles and cartons but they are far too sweet for me. If you want to try them, get them at El Corte Inglés and go for the dearest ones. For the extra money you will always get a better horchata. Going back to air-conditioning. When I was in the supermarket of El Corte Inglés on Thursday of last week, the temperature was beautifully cool.

Manager Alfonso told me it was at 25C, which is permissible in places where employees may be lifting heavy objects such as crates of fish, boxes of fruit and veg or cases of tins and jars for restocking the shelves.

In other parts of the store the temperature will be at the government recommended 27C and in about 10 days’ time indicators will show the temperature throughout the store. In situations like this, El Corte Inglés is always the first to comply with laws and regulations. As the head of a department once said to me: “At El Corte Inglés we are more papist than the Pope.”