Sunshine, Flowers and Beans

The English summer is unpredictable. Some beautiful days with perfect heat and a gentle seaside breeze. Then days of rain, wind and the thought that maybe, just maybe, we need to turn the central heating on.

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Then we hear from family in Spain that it’s in the forties and it’s too hot to even think, so we feel blessed and happy to be Down by the Sea with our English weather.

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Our runner beans are loving days of sun followed by heavy rain. Another positive for us and we’re enjoying the fruits (and flowers) of our little garden. I do miss our vegetable garden though…oh those tomatoes!

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Dinner the other night was a simple salmon en croute.  Roasted vegetables were cooled then placed on top of a tail fillet, wrapped in puff pastry, brushed with beaten egg and roasted for about 25 minutes.  Perfect with those beautiful beans.

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Happy summer to my northern hemisphere friends and happy winter to those in the south!

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Summer Breeze

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

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.

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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!

 

 

 

A Juicy Pear

After the doom and gloom of our dismal cooking arrangements, I wanted to reassure you that all is not quite so bad Chez Chica and Big Man.

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We have inherited a beautiful pear tree in our new home. Well, it’s in the garden of course, not growing in the middle of the sitting room. Which would make day to day life a little awkward.

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It’s a tiny Victorian back garden but we still have the original wall and it’s south west facing, so it’s warm and sunny.

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Obviously, being without an oven, pies and crumbles have been out of the question but we’ve enjoyed sharing them, eating them with cheese, cooked and served with thick cream and some have been cooked and frozen for a rainy day. It’s raining today, I think we might be eating pears…

(For those of you with proper kitchens, pop over to Roger’s blog and be inspired by this beautiful recipe.)

Can You See What I See?

Yes, it´s my mountain!

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We drove from England to Spain and arrived home late last night after a fairly slow journey through a cold, sleety and snowy France. Brrrr!

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We´re a bit “Up in the Air” (and it´s not just because we´re back Up Our Mountain). We don´t know where we´re going to be for Christmas.

Maybe Spain, or maybe back to the UK to finish off House Number 2 and possibly take on some more work or help my parents out with various jobs.

No matter. We´re here right now. The sun is shining, the garden and the veggie plot have been tidied and prepared for winter.

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The dogs are happy.

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The day started with good coffee, a walk around the garden snapping these quick shots and we´re off out for lunch! We are a happy Chica and Big Man. Well, we´re pretty much happy most of the time, but today we´re extra happy.

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More news as soon as we know ourselves what is happening, and time this week to catch up with some blogging, recipes and nesting back into our Mountain Home. Have a great Sunday everyone.

Gardens and Puff Pastry with a Side Order of Steak and Chips

Bushy Garden Oct 2011

It´s that time of year here when you need to “put the garden to bed”.  Before you tuck it in for the winter, you can hack back the summer growth and give it a little room to breathe.

The interent and phone were down most of Sunday and all day Monday.  Frustrating but being “incomunicado” forces you to get up off your nether region and do something!  Gardening was the answer.

After a morning of hard work in the garden, we needed something to reward ourselves with – what better than steak and chips?  Steak is a rare treat for us, so we tend not to mess around with it too much.  A little massage with olive oil and seasoning, and onto the grill pan.  Chunky potatoes cooked in olive oil, and a little English mustard mixed with mayonnaise do it for me.

I had some leftovers from making my Chicken, Mushroom and Bacon Pie (recipe to follow another day) , so decided to make an easy dish to go with the steak and chips.

I cut what remained of the puff pastry into two rectangles and lightly cut (but not all the way through) another rectangle about one cm inside the outer edges of the pastry.  I brushed the pastry with milk and baked at 200ºC for about 15 minutes until puffed up and golden. When the pastry had cooled down I pushed in the middle section of the rectangle to leave a hollow space.

Save on the washing up and have a starter and main on the same plate

With very little oil I fried 4 thinly sliced mushrooms with 2 crushed cloves of garlic until soft then added 2 heaped tablespoons of chopped bacon.  I then added 1 heaped tablespoon of plan flour and stirred until it was cooked through.  I gradually added splashes of milk (about 5 or 6 in total), stirring all the time until I had a thick sauce and then filled the pastry cases with this.  I put them back into the oven on a low heat until I was ready to dish up the rest of the meal.

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A lovely glass of El Coto Rioja went down well with this and we sat outside for 15 minutes in the last of the afternoon´s sunshine admiring out work and drinking a good strong coffee.  It was a good day.

It´s Getting Chilli in the Garden

Well, they say there´s no rest for the wicked, and no sooner was I back home than I was out digging up chilli plants and other sad looking vegetables.  It´s been a fantastic year for the chillies, I have grown five varieties, although I don´t know really what they´re called.  Long chillies, medium chillies in red and yellow, round chillies and tiny ones which are probably cayenne. Anyway, it´s a lot of chillies.

This is about two thirds of the crop, the rest have already been pickled, frozen, dried or made into sweet chilli dipping sauce.  Check out this amazing recipe from Natalie at Cook Eat Live Vegetarian.  I´m also going to try Fati´s recipe here later this week.

I spent a happy couple of hours putting my sewing skills to use in rather a different way.  Using strong cotton thread and my own special patented (!) stitch, I strung a couple of hundred chillies up to dry in the sun.  If the weather turns bad, I´ll hang them up in the shed where it´s nice and dry.

When we moved to the house three and a half years ago we planted our lemon three which this year finally took off and started producing lemons.  It´s gone a little mad now but we´ve been advised not to prune it until May.

Fortunately we now have lemons which have very kindly decided to turn yellow.

And new flowers every new moon.

Then, just to take us by surprise, although I think it knew its days were numbered, our Bougainvillea finally decided to stop looking like a dead twig and make our garden look Mediterranean.

So the roses decided to join in.

The garden seems to think it´s spring, so “shhhh” don´t say a word and for goodness sake don´t tell it it´s really autumn.