Waves, Woods and Walks

New recipes are few and far between right now, we’re just enjoying old favourites. As we move from what was really not a bad British summer into a typical autumn (hot and sunny one day, grey and drizzly the next) we’re enjoying lots of walks around Bexhill.

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Time to share some of the walks we enjoy. First of all, the beach at Bexhill. We live just a few minutes walk from the main “prom” or promenade. During certain times of the year, dogs have to be kept on lead so we head off westwards to and area called South Cliff where they can  run off lead. It’s always full of dog walkers and at weekends families with young children, cyclists, older folk and everyone in between who enjoy this car free paved walk. If you keep walking,  you reach a little local landmark, a sculpture made from driftwood by a local artist of “Salty Sam and Seawater Sally”.

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Sadly, it has been vandalised in the past, but now people seem to like to stop and leave pebbles with messages written on them. It’s always changing,  a living sculpture.

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If we head Eastwards, we go towards and gentle slope and grassy area by the beach called Galley Hill. We can enjoy views in one direction towards Eastbourne and Beachy Head and in the other direction Hastings.

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A Peace Pole was erected near the top of the hill earlier this year and links Bexhill-on-Sea with every other place on earth that has participated in the project.

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If we keep walking east, we can follow a coastal path all the way to Hastings, but the dogs are always more interested in exploring than covering great distances!

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When the wind  is howling, or it’s a hot, hot day, it’s fun to head off into the woods. Within driving distance we have large areas of woodlands, but just on the edge of town we have Collington Woods, a small woodland area, beautifully preserved and maintained. Great for sheltering from the wind or heat.

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Of course, once we get home, we generally need feeding and a slow cooked Chilli con Carne hits the spot on a chilly autumn day…

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Bonfires, Building, Beach Huts, Ballet and a Very Big Wind

Well, there was cooking too, but that doesn’t begin with “B”, although I could have added “Baking”, I suppose.

A recipe coming up soon, but a quick tour of the last 10 days in Bexhill. Oh, there you go, anther “B”.

Meetings with previously unmet, long distant cousins from New Zealand, gave us some happy meals together and a night out in Hastings to celebrate their annual Bonfire Festival (which has nothing to do with Firework Night, or Guy Fawkes Night).

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Lots of loud noises, an enormous bonfire, spectacular fireworks and a very good evening with mulled wine.

Walks on the beach with the pups past the very typical seaside beach huts.

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Building works continue with wallpaper stripping being my current job.

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Time too for a little fun, and also some culture. Last night we went to watch the Moscow Ballet perform Swan Lake at the De La Warr Pavilion. It was Big Man’s first time at the ballet, so I was excited for him to see something spectacular, to have his breath taken away. Alas, it was not to be. A rather lacklustre performance with some seriously out of time ballet.

Some of the swans looked suspiciously duck-like with their thick thighs and broad shoulders and the White Swan and Black Swan were so very different I felt like yelling out to the Prince “Oi Mate, you need to get to Specsavers…she’s The Wrong Bird”.

All the way through I was distracted with thoughts of a very funny sketch by two female comedians French & Saunders and the world famous ballet dancer, Darcey Bussell…or Barcey Dussell as they call her. If you have 15 minutes to spare, pour yourself a glass of wine or make a cup of coffee and have a giggle with me.

And then over the weekend, the forecast of great winds in the south of England. Time to batten down the hatches and prepare. An enormous tree in a neighbour’s garden has been slowly pushing down our back garden wall.

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Finally the local council gave permission for it to come down and fortunately the tree surgeons saw how dangerous it was and came round to start work before the “Great Storm” hit.

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So, it’s been a busy time for us. We have been cooking up some good food too, and I promise you a lovely recipe of Chicken Cacciatore (sort of) next.

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What I am sure of though, is that Ballerinas don’t eat food like this and that Builders like Big Man and Chica (whilst unlikely to ever sport tights with a cod piece or a sticky out tutu) need hearty dishes to see them through the hard work and the gale force winds.

Aubergine and Vegetable Sauce – for people who don’t like aubergine

We’re on a countdown to our next mammoth England trip. If all goes well this week, we’ll leave on Friday in the early hours and get there on Saturday night. This time we won’t pretend to ourselves that we’re going to be there for three weeks and end up staying for nearly ten months! Oh no…this time we are going to do even more of the renovation work ourselves and will take it slowly. We’re planning on three or four months, so we’ll be enjoying the Rye Bay Scallop Season, Bonfires and Fireworks and Christmas too…along with plenty of hard work.

Preparation for the trip, apart from sorting out our house and garden here for the winter, means buying plenty of Spanish goodies to enjoy and share, booking the vet to sort out the paperwork for the pups and digging out our winter and work clothes. Last year we left with mixed emotions, this year it has not been a great summer for us in Spain due to family illness and loss…it’s going to be good for us to have a change of scene and the distraction of hard work.

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One of the things we’re also doing is eating as much of our lovely garden produce as possible and eating what we have put buy in the fridge and freezer without buying too much food before we go. Big Man planted aubergines for me, an act of true love which ranks almost as highly as his first ever gift to me of a cauliflower. The man knows how to “woo” me. He’s not crazy about aubergines but will eat them as he knows I adore them. I finally figured out that the skin and the texture of aubergines are what put some people off. Personally, for an aubergine lover, I feel it’s probably a great part of the attraction. Time to figure out how to get round that issue so everyone is happy. Bring on the aubergine and vegetable sauce…

Aubergine Sauce (3)

For a portion to serve four people

  • 4 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 large aubergine
  • 1 large green or red pepper (sliced)
  • 2-3 cups of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of tomato purée (concentrate)
  • 1 small glass of red wine
  • A level teaspoon of sweet or smoked pimentón (paprika)
  • Salt and pepper
  • A pinch of sugar (optional)
  • Olive oil for frying

This is pretty much a traditional tomato sauce, apart from the way you deal with the aubergine. Start by cutting the top off the aubergine and slice it lengthways into quarters. Placing the white flesh against a grater, keep grating until you get to the skin and then stop. Repeat with the remaining quarters. You could also do this in a food processor, but you’d need to peel the aubergine first, and it’ so quick to do it’s hardly worth bothering. Discard the purple skin or feed it to some friendly local chickens.

Slowly braise the garlic in a little oil until soft, then add the aubergine and peppers and cook slowly (covered) until the vegetables are softened (about 10 minutes). Now add the tomato, the concentrate, the wine and the pimentón and season lightly. Bring to a bubble and then reduce the heat and cook very slowly (covered) for about an hour. Stir every so often and you may need to add a splash of water if it’s getting too thick. The aubergine melts into the sauce and gives it a slightly meaty texture.

I think you'll find I look great from any angle...
I think you’ll find I look great from any angle…

Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary (I didn’t need to add sugar as I used mature tomatoes from the veggie garden, but sometimes you need just a little pinch). Cook for a few minutes uncovered and enjoy with pasta, pizza, over meat or fish or as a bruschetta topping. If you don’t tell an aubergine hater what’s in there, they probably wouldn’t even know as the seeds look like tomato seeds when cooked and the taste is a wonderful mixture of slow cooked vegetables.

Luna starts her acclimatisation training for the colder English weather...
Luna starts her acclimatisation training for the colder English weather…

And because tomato sauce is not desperately exciting to look at, I’ve also given you a few gratuitous Alfi and Luna photos…