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When life gives you lemons…

17 Jan

Well…you just have to go ahead and pick them. Then you share the lemon love with friends and neighbours and make delicious dishes like Lemon Rice, Chicken with Za’atar and Lemon or even Lemon and Chili Mussels.

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We planted our little tree just over 7 years ago, not long after moving into our Cortijo, or home in the country.  Initially we despaired of ever getting a single lemon from it as, despite the fairly temperate climate all year round, we often get strong winds. Our tiny tree grew but the winds stripped the flowers (which were to be our lemons) and even the leaves from it. Getting 2 puppies a year later who loved to dig also added to the stress for our little tree.

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But, all good things come to those who wait. Just look at it now! We’ve been away for 2 months, and at the end of October it was bare of lemons as we’d given some away and picked the rest to take back to England. It seems our “Limonero Lunero” (a lemon tree which flowers every new moon so that you have lemons all year round) thrives on neglect. It’s been a very dry year, we haven’t been around much, and now it’s groaning with lemons.

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There are still plenty to be picked, but I made a start. Maybe we’ll have Lemon Ravioli this week…

Extra Virgin

12 Jan

Any time from November to early March in Andalucia means it’s time to pick and crush olives. The date for this depends on several factors. The weather for a start, and how it has allowed the olives to grow and mature.

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Some people like to pick their olives very early, when they are still smaller and green. This will give a lower yield of olive oil but of a very high quality. Think of those amazing tasting and expensive olive oils you can find in specialist shops. It’s wonderful for eating “raw” – which means in salads or as a dip – but not suitable really for cooking with. It can be hard to find a mill open to deal with the olives so early on on the season, at least it is where we live.

 

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There’s also usually a minimum quantity that you can mill (about 250kg) so it’s not really an option to mill some early and then more later on in the season. At the other end of the calendar you have the folk who pick late when the olives are fat and dark. You’ll get a much higher yield of oil but it will have a much less distinctive taste. A good all rounder but with no particularly distinctive flavour. Fine for eating raw, great for cooking. Much of the oil we all buy in supermarkets will be this type. Round here the olives are sold to the co-operatives and everyone benefits from the profit of the sale of the olives and/or oil.

In the middle are people like us. Many who have enough trees to provide them and their families with oil for the year. The olives are picked when they are green/black. You get a good yield of oil with a wonderful flavour which will become more gentle as the year goes on and whatever is left from the year before becomes your oil for cooking.

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Now, I won’t lie to you and say that Big Man and I participate in the picking. Although Big Man has done in the past. Like many others we come to an arrangement with neighbours who don’t have trees or land of their own. We provide the trees and look after them during the year. They pick the olives. We all take them to be milled and then divide the spoils. Perfect!

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This year from our 30 trees (although sometimes when we count we get to 29 or 31, we can’t seem to agree) a fantastic 1732 kg of olives were collected. Last year was not a good year, and next year will probably not be as good as this one. That’s the way it goes with olives, up and down. That means about 60kg of olives from each tree and am almost 19% yield for any of you who love numbers like me! And no sprays or pesticides. Rain water and chicken poo are all our olives get to see them through the year.

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In the past we’ve headed down to the coast to an old mill which cold stone presses the olives. The old boy who runs it is now winding things down, so unless you’re super organised and have made an appointment weeks in advance, it’s not practical now to use his mill. A shame.

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But, nil desperandum. A neighbour’s son and his wife decided 2 years ago to set up a little mill just a few km from us next to our local village. It’s up a very inconvenient wiggly track but the views are amazing! They mostly bought second hand machinery, which I like the thought of, and the very effective little mill serves the locals like us for a few months a year when we want to mill our own olives and enjoy our own oil.

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Yesterday was the big day, and the whole process took about 5 hours (one of which was spent fixing a little breakdown). Ever prepared for such an emergency, we had bought beers, soft drinks and tapas so no one minded waiting. We ended up with an amazing 320 litres of fantastic oil to be split 2 ways. Mostly it gets put into 25 litre containers but you can also buy smaller 5 litre ones. We made sure we filled some smaller ones to load into the car for when we head back to England in a couple of weeks.

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I wish I could share the flavour and the incredible smell with you, but alas the technology doesn’t exist…yet!

What’s my favourite way to use our oil – very simple, the best breakfast in the world (well, apart from a Full English)!

Pan Con Tomate y Aceite

Pan Con Tomate y Aceite

If you’d like to see how we crushed the oil the “old” way, take a look at this post from a few years back.

 

Rendang Style Beef and time to catch up with myself…

30 Nov

It’s been quiet on the blog for a while. Spain was hectic and by the time we got back to England just over four weeks ago we made a conscious decision to take things a little more slowly for a while. Old favourites were made in the kitchen, lots of comforting chickpea stews and delicious bowls of Spanish style lentils.

There was time for me to relax a little finishing off my summer quilt. It will have to wait to be used until next year as it’s enormous but thin. Not warm enough for the cold winter weather that has moved in here on the English South Coast.

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Totally hand made, Every. Single. Stitch. And I loved making it!

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Then I moved on to making my first proper socks for Big Man to keep cosy in. Thanks to Evie at Pendle Stitches for sending me this great pattern.

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I know the heel looks a bit odd, but it is a proper one, I promise! It’s just a dodgy photo.

And now, as we are one day away from December (some of my pals on the other side of the world are already into December!), I am allowing myself to tentatively think about Christmas menus. But we also have another very important celebration on 27th December. Best pal Ria’s birthday, and I have the honour of cooking a meal for a group of us. Nothing remotely Christmassy, so we’ve chosen a curry menu. A mix of different curries, some old favourites like Monkfish and Prawn curry. And a new one. A Rendang Style Beef Curry.

I say Rendang Style and not Beef Rendang as I don’t think the method of cooking it is entirely authentic. I’ve also been told that if the curry is saucy, it’s not a Rendang. So, a curry cooked differently, with plenty of sauce –  but well worth the time it takes to prepare and the longish list of ingredients. I had a trial run with it and (she says humbly) it was amazing! Fantastic flavours, meat that melted in your mouth, second and third helpings and clean plates all round.  I’ll post some of the other recipes in the coming week. Lemon and Cashew nut rice, potato and spinach curry and Keralan parathas to follow soon.

Beef Rendang

Ingredients (Recipe from Sainsbury’s Oct 2015 Magazine) Serves 6

  • 1 piece of brisket or silverside about 1.7kg cut into bite sized cubes
  • 1 tbsp vegetable or coconut oil
  • 8 green cardamom pods, crushed
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, ground coriander, hot chili powder
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 1 400ml tin of coconut milk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of palm sugar or soft brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 2 tablespoons of Thai fish sauce
  • 8-10 kaffir lime leaves
  • 4 stalks of lemongrass, lightly “bashed”
  • juice of 2 limes
  • Chopped coriander, toasted dessicated coconut and red chili slivers to garnish (optional)

 

For the Spice Paste

  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeld
  • 20g root ginger peeled and finely chopped
  • 20g galangal peeled and finely chopped (or use paste)
  • up to 6 birds eye chilis, stalks removed (I used a couple of my super hot, Bexhill grown chilis)
  • 3 tablespoons lemongrass paste
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

Make the paste by blending all the ingredients in a food processor with about 50ml water to make it smooth. Add to the beef and marinate overnight in the fridge.

I used a slow cooker but this can also be done in the oven which you will need to preheat to 160C, (fan 140c) or gas 3. Otherwise preheat your slow cooker.

Heat the coconut or vegetable oil in a large pan or your casserole dish if it can go on the stove top. Add the cardamom, star anise, bay leaf, cinnamon sticks, cloves and ground spices and stir fry until fragrant.

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Add the beef and marinade, fry for a few minutes but you don’t need to brown. Then add the crumbled stock cube, coconut milk, tamarind paste, Thai fish sauce, lime leaves and lemongrass and bring to the boil.

Cover and transfer to the preheated oven for about 3 hours – I cooked mine in the slow cooker on low for about 8 hours.  Return to the hob and simmer, uncovered until the sauce has thickened and reduced. When you are ready to serve, stir in the lime juice and garnish.

I made mine ahead and found that when it has chilled there was a layer of oil from the cooking which solidified and was easy to remove. Of course, you don’t need to do this!

Curry Night (9)

We drank this with a delicious sauvignon blanc, but I think an ice cold beer would be great too.

A short walk around Burguillos del Cerro

17 Oct

It’s been a wee while since I posted. Some of you may even have picked up on the fact that we were due to go away for a few days with some pals to a HUGE livestock fair (the biggest in Europe I believe) in a town called Zafra. Well, we did get there and all went well. But the photos of the event….bleugh. Funnily enough, the only ones that came out half decent were of a huge barbecue affair (called a Parillada) they had there which, of course, we indulged in. Trust me to focus more on the food than the livestock.

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We stayed near a very lovely little town called Burguillos del Cerro – very close to the frontier with Portugal.

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It’s pretty ancient and dates back to the times of the Reconquista – way back in the 700s.

House of Garlandi. 17th Century. Constructed with Roman materials reused from the Temple of Saint Coronado.

House of Garlandi. 17th Century. Constructed with Roman materials reused from the Temple of Saint Coronado.

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The weather wasn’t great the evening we took a walk around and the light was fading, but it was very atmospheric and lovely to walk around at twilight appreciating the castle way off in the distance and the old centre with buildings that are being very sympathetically restored.

Of course, then it was time to decide where to go for dinner. Priorities, priorities!

 

Up The Mountain Sunset

7 Oct

Puesta del sol esta tarde, ha llegado la hora del aperitivo!

Sun set this evening…time for a sun downer then!

Puesta del Sol

There’s (almost) no such thing as a free lunch….

25 Sep

So, here we are, back in Spain. The sun is shining, the horrible hot wind we get in southern Spain (El Terral) has finally died down and we’ve caught our breath from the long drive.  We’re very lucky to have two lovely homes, but when you get back to a house that has been shut up for a few months, you find that the dust monsters have been to visit. We managed avoidance tactics for a few days with a combination of going out to catch up with people, and staying in feeling grumpy and full of cold (me)/Man Flu (Big Man) germs.

Finally the day came when we couldn’t ignore The Big Clean Up any more and today we made a start. Mrs and Mrs Mop began a vaguely systematic attack on the house and garden and, while there is still plenty more to be done, we felt satisfied that we deserved a nice lunch in the garden. Spring and autumn are perfect for outdoor lunchtime dining. Sometimes you get a lovely warm day in winter or a cool summer day which also permit al fresco lunches…but you definitely make the most of those perfect days.

In Spanish terms, it was almost dangerously vegetarian (well, apart from the seafood and salami). We didn’t worry, the village fiesta is upon us and we know we’ll be eating our own body weight in grilled meat and pinchitos (little kebabs) over the next few days. What did make us smile was the fact that pretty much everything we were eating had been gifted to us by kindly friends and family, or recycled from another meal. It’s good to be a frugal houseperson when the food is this good!

Lunch included:

Salmorejo (my very favourite cold soup) made from stale bread and tomatoes given to us by kindly brother-in-law. These are the ripe and ugly tomatoes which are used for soups and sauces

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Garnished with hard boiled eggs from kindly neighbour who adopted our chickens and jamon (bought from local butcher)

Salad made with leftover prawns and squid which had been barbecued the night before and avocados from kindly neighbour who also keeps us supplied with oranges later in the year to make marmalade.

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Tomato, mint and onion salad made with “tomates para picar” (tomatoes for chopping up!), again from kindly brother-in-law and mint from our garden.

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Salads dressed with our own olive oil and juice from our lemons

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Cheese and salchichon (salami). Salchichon given to us by kindly local bar owner as a welcome home present.

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Dessert was figs from our tree and apple sorbet made with apples from kindly cousin. Inspired by Rosemary’s ice cream making, I dug out my own ice-cream maker. To serve 2 people – 500g apples (peeled and cored), cooked with 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice then blended, cooled and churned in my machine. Maybe I should make more Apple Roses – I certainly have enough fruit!

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I drank a glass (or two) of Spanish wine, but Big Man was clearly feeling a bit nostalgic for England and opened a bottle of English beer.

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I thought we’d bought those beers with us as gifts for kindly friends and family. Ooops!

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PS. You know we hate waste here….the prawn shells are now bubbling away to make stock…maybe we’ll have an “arroz caldoso” in the next few days…

Summer Runner Beans With Tomatoes

14 Aug

I’m a person who thinks that most vegetables, especially those which have just been picked from the garden, don’t need too much messing around with. There are few vegetables that don’t respond well to blanching or steaming, a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemons. But let’s be honest, sometimes we fancy a change.

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Any of you who grow your own vegetables will be faced at some point with a glut. While we are in England we are only managing to grow a few things. The tomatoes are STILL green and with only 3 runner bean plants, we’re not exactly dealing with kilos of them.

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However, lovely fresh and sweet tomatoes from the next door county of Kent are being devoured daily and I decided to make a quick and fresh summer vegetable dish. Delicious as a side dish, or serve it at room temperature with some cheese and salamis, plenty of crusty bread and (of course) a chilled glass of wine.

Ingredients

  • About 200g runner beans, shredded or cut into chunks and blanched in salted, boiling water for about 3 minutes
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped or crushed
  • A few generous glugs of olive oil
  • About 4 ripe tomatoes (peeled or not, you decide), finely chopped, puréed or grated
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Half a teaspoon of smoked pimentón
  • A sprig of fresh rosemary (optional)

Slowly warm your olive oil in a small deep pan (if you have an earthenware cazuela, even better) into which you have put the chopped garlic. Once the garlic has softened, but not browned, and your kitchen is filled with wonderful warm garlicky smells, add the tomato, a little seasoning, the rosemary and the pimentón.

Continue to cook gently for two or three minutes until it all starts to come together, then add the blanched beans. Cook for a further couple of minutes to allow the beans to soften a little more, but not lose their colour.

Leave to cool down slightly, best served at room temperature.

And now a cloud shot from the other day – I just thought it was so weird and beautiful. I’m sure there is a special name for this kind of cloud formation, please do enlighten me if you know!

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If you enjoy runner beans, why not try runner beans with garlic and bacon or perhaps with prawns and potatoes?

Summer Breeze

21 Jul

This summer finds us at our home in Bexhill on Sea. Which according to our family in Spain, is a good thing. They are all decidedly fed up of the 40 degree plus temperatures that are the norm there right now, rather than the exception. We are getting used to four seasons in one day. Loving the sunshine when we have it and racing outside to enjoy it. Joining in the with locals when it rains saying “oh well, it’s good for the garden”!

I haven’t managed to grow basil outdoors in England yet, so am sticking with my pot on the kitchen window sill.

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Outside in our little garden though, we’re making the most of every tiny bit of space and growing a few vegetables for the pleasure of seeing them grow. Green beans are happy climbing up against the wall and the first teeny tiny beans are starting to appear. Big Man is very entertained by the fact that the flowers in England are red. In Spain they’re white and he never believed me until this year that they are different. Oh he of little faith.

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We planted tomatoes which are starting to produce strange shaped fruit – we can’t remember what we planted – so we’re just waiting to see if they’ll turn red or we’ll be eating a lot of tomato chutney or fried green tomatoes this year.

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Various chilli plants also went in, but the little sticks telling us which were which were “reorganised” by the dogs at the time of planting so we have no idea what we’re going to end up with. We do have a very beautiful black chilli which is ready to be picked, so fingers crossed it’s a hot one!

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The parsley and rosemary are doing well, and the chives are happy doing their own thing.

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We also bought some mint roots from Spain (it seems to have a more delicate leaf than the plant we bought in England and is lovely in salads and infusions). The plants (grown in a recycled strawberry planter) are just starting to really get going.

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Of course, there’s room for flowers too, most of which were already here, I love the strong colours we’ve got. The white geraniums were grown from cuttings from a plant we had in a small pot.

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The pears continue to grow, hopefully we’ll get a lovely crop in the early autumn.

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And the dogs, naturally, are always on hand to offer advice, help with the digging and showing us the sunniest spots when we need to take a little breather.

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Sorry about the picture overload but the light was so lovely today…it made me happy to think how much you can do with just a little outdoor space.

 

Lunch, Lemons and a Patio – Un Almuerzo, Unos Limones y Un Patio

6 Jun

Our time in Spain is drawing to a close and it’s time to head back to our other life and home in England. It’s been an eventful few weeks running around, sorting out paperwork, bills and bank accounts, we’ve had 2 funerals, 1 first communion, family lunches and dinners, get togethers with friends, gardening, house painting, rubbish clearing and pool cleaning. Although we haven’t had a dip yet…far too cold for us “out of towners”! I’m also going to try and write a little in Spanish as our family and friends here complain that they can’t enjoy my posts properly. It will be appalling, but I’ll give it a go.

Nuestro tiempo en España ya está acabando. Ha llegado la hora de prepararnos para volver a nuestra otra vida, nuestro otro hogar en Inglaterra. Han sido unas semanas llenas – arreglando papeles, pagando facturas y hablando con el banco. Hemos tenido dos entierros y una primera comunión. Comidas con familia y amigos, jardinería, pintando la casa, tirando basura y limpiando la piscina.¡ Aunque estos “forasteros” todavía no se han bañados!

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We picked the lemons off our tree, despite them being still green. They are keeping cool in the garage, but we were also gifted some gorgeous lemons from a friend. If you want some amazing ideas of what to do with a lemon glut, Margot over at Gather and Graze will inspire you. I’ll hopefully be posting some recipes in the weeks to come.

Hemos cogidos los limones de nuestro limonero, aunque están todavía verdes. Están en la cochera, a la sombra. Menos mal que un buen amigo nos ha regalado una bolsa de limones para comer ahora. Si quieres ser inspirada con unas recetas increíbles, vete a ver el blog de Margot aquí. Espero que dentro de unas semanas yo también voy a poner unas recetas usando nuestros limones.

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A recent family get together was held in the garden of one of Big Man’s cousins. It’s an old and beautiful town house in a Pueblo Blanco, behind a huge front door is a stunning house with beams, stone floors, thick walls and an enchanting walled patio garden which is like a little piece of paradise tucked away from the hustle and bustle.

Una reunión reciente con familia tuvo lugar en la casa de un primo de mi “Gran Hombre” y su pareja. La casa está situada en un Pueblo Blanco, y es increíblemente bonito e histórico. Por detrás de la casa hay un patio, casi escondido, como un pequeño y secreto trocito del paraíso.

Chivo

Chivo

Of course, there was good food and wine too – well….what else did you expect?!

Por supuesto, había también comida y vino bueno….¡pues, como siempre!

 

 

 

Some days you just never know who will be at the door…

29 May

Well, we certainly don’t get visitors like this in Bexhill on Sea!

Hay dias cuando nunca se sabe quien va a tocar a la puerta!

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I took these photos just a few minutes ago (15:30) and seeing how dry and washed out the colours of the “campo” already look confirm that it’s going to be a long hot summer here in Andalucia.

The track that runs past our house is the GR7, a long distance footpath that runs from Southern Spain through to Alsace in France. Fortunately for the goats, they were only going a little way to graze under some nearby olive trees.

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