And then it rained…

 We left England a day or two before Easter to head to Spain for a couple of months. It was raining but hey, we were going to stop in France for a little break.

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Biscarosse on the west coast of France just South of Bordeaux. Oysters, Europe’s biggest sand dune and stunning beaches.

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A little pit stop in one of our favourites, Burgos (yes, it rained!). A beautiful cathedral and some gorgeous bronze sculptures.

 

Chilly weather stayed with us, snow accompanied us north of Madrid.

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Home in our little Cortijo it felt like Spring had arrived, and then it rained…. and it rained, and rained and rained. We’re getting towards the end of May and it’s still raining!

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The springs are full of water, and the trees are blooming.

 

We’re over run with oranges and lemons,  which is a lovely problem to have. Marmalade has been made, naturally and much orange juice has been drunk.

 

 

 

We’ve fiesta-ed and partied in the country and down by the lake when the sun has made a few brief appearances. We’ve eaten an enormous tortilla and cake (citrus, of course).

 

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We’ve braved the snow of the Sierra Nevada…a first for me.

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Then Big Man celebrated a birthday so we headed up to Las Alpujarras (more snow but plenty of fun) then a final fiesta with poppies and even some sunshine.

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We’re still dealing with stormy weather but last week we finally had our internet reconnected (not for want of trying) and then here we are…a few months down the line but back up our mountain.

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It’s been a long time, and this has been a whistlestop catch up. It’s good to be back with you all!

 

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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!

Berenjenas y Limones 007

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.

Familia Zorilla 009 Familia Zorilla 010 Familia Zorilla 011 Familia Zorilla 012 Familia Zorilla 014

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!

 

 

 

Lemon and Chilli Mussels with Langoustines

Oh it’s so easy to slip comfortably back into our Spanish life. Friends and family keep asking us “which is better, Spain or England?”. We answer, absolutely sincerely, “we love them both, they’re different, you can’t compare, we make the most of each country and enjoy all the good things they each have to offer”.

Mejillones y Langostinos a la Cazuela 003

Fish Man seems to have disappeared from our route, but the supermarkets here have an amazing choice at good prices. Mostly fresh and local (or at least, from Spain) too. The other day I bought a kilo of mussels which came from near Pontevedra in the North of Spain. It’s famous for the mussel beds and we ate plenty on our trip there a few years back.

We ate SO many...the trays full of steamed mussels just kept coming!
We ate SO many…the trays full of steamed mussels just kept coming!

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I also bought some fresh langoustines but forgot to ask where they came from. Peppers, tomatoes and onions grown down on the coast and a rosé wine from Rueda were pretty much all the ingredients I needed to make this simple but delicious lunch dish. Oh yes, a lemon from our tree…

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Ingredients (for 2 people)

  • 1kg cleaned mussels
  • 8 langoustines
  • Half a small red and green pepper, finely diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 medium tomato, finely chopped
  • A small glass of wine (whatever colour you like!)
  • Half a lemon cut into small chunks (and I also added half a teaspoon of my lemon myrtle)
  • Half a teaspoon of hot pimentón or chilli powder (or to taste)
  • Olive oil

I used a lidded cazuela to make this dish but a deep frying pan with a lid or a saucepan would also work.

On a low heat, warm the olive oil and add the garlic and peppers. Cover and sweat until soft. Add the tomato, wine and spices and cook for a few minutes. You can now turn this off if you’re not ready to eat and then just warm the sauce up a few minutes beforehand to finish the dish off, or continue to the last stage.

Add the mussels, prawns and fresh lemon, stir and cover. Cook for a few minutes until all the mussels are open. Don’t eat any that won’t open!

Mussels & Prawns (2)

Garnish with some freshly chopped parsley. Unless of course, Big Man has been gardening all morning and cleared all your herbs thinking they were weeds. Oh my, kitchen unexpectedness, I laugh in your face. Pour a glass of wine, and enjoy your lovely lunch with plenty of bread to mop up the juices and perhaps (as we did) a salad of tomatoes, olives, garlic and onion. No herbs though, obviously.

Broad Beans with Griddled Pork Belly

Reading a beautiful recipe over at Cooking in Sens which involved broad beans stimulated a craving for those little green beauties. Back home in Andalucía right now I would normally just pop out into our veggie garden and pick me a basket full.  I haven’t seen any here in England yet but they do have excellent frozen broad bean pods.

Broad beans with pork belly (3)

I decided to make a little dish with echoes of home as a pretty substantial tapas which we enjoyed with some lovely crusty bread from my dad’s Italian baker pal, wine from a recent jaunt over the channel to France, juice from some of our lemons that Big Man bought back recently and locally reared pork. You can’t say we don’t embrace all that is available to us!

Ingredients as a main course for one or starters for two

  • 1 cup of broad beans cooked until tender and drained
  • 2 thin slices of pork belly cooked on the griddle until browned and cut into small pieces (or use bacon or lardons, or mushrooms for a vegetarian version)
  • 1 avocado cut into small chunks
  • Olive oil
  • The grated rind of one lemon and the juice of half
  • Sweet pimentón
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Chopped parsley to finish (I didn’t have any but I think it would be perfect)

Mix together the still warm beans, pork and avocado. Add the lemon rind, about 2 tablespoons of olive oil (more if necessary) and the lemon juice. Season with the pimentón, salt and pepper and mix again. That’s it. Tricky wasn’t it?!

Orange Marmalade

February is traditionally marmalade making month.  I´m a little behind this year, and hope this recipe doesn´t reach those of you, who want to give it a try, too late.

First of all though, I´d like to say a big thank you to two fellow bloggers who very kindly nominated me for awards.  Waterfalls and Caribous chronicles the adventures of a young couple travelling the world.  They´re currently in South Korea, and if, like me, you have never been to a Love Motel (it´s not rude, I promise!), click here. Thanks guys for the Versatile Blogger Award, and here´s my previous post on that if you want to check it out.

The lovely Alli over at Pease Pudding very kindly awarded me the Liebster Blog Award. If you haven´t visited this great blog yet, do pop over, it´s written by a lass from Northern England now living in beautiful New Zealand. Thanks Alli, and if you missed it, here´s where I share the love.

Last year I posted a more traditional way of making it, this year I´m using a slightly quicker method (no hand chopping and a quicker set), although marmalade making from scratch is a fairly lengthy, but rewarding process.

For the other method, click here.

Ingredients

  • For every kilo (or just over) of oranges, two kilos of sugar and 1.25 litres of water and one lemon
  • The biggest, heavy based, saucepan you have
  • A wooden spoon
  • A couple of large jugs or bowls and a fine sieve
  • About 6 regular sized jams jars and lids per kilo of oranges

Start by washing and drying the oranges, and lemons and putting them in the biggest saucepan you have and covering them with water.  You will now bring to the boil and cook gently until softened.  Unless they are tightly packed they will probably float, so just turn them around in the water every so often. This will take about an hour and they are ready when you can easily pierce them with a skewer.

Remove the oranges from the liquid (don´t discard it) and when they are cool enough to handle, cut them in half and scoop out the flesh, pips and pith and place into the reserved liquid.  You will also probably need to cuts the skins into quarters and with a knife or spoon, scrape off as much of the white pith which still clings to it.  This is important as it will give you that precious pectin which will make your jam set. Put the two halves of each lemon in with the pulp.

Now bring the liquid with all the pulp and pith to a boil and using a potato masher, press down on the pulp as it boils. Leave it boiling gently for about 10 minutes and press the pulp a couple of times during this period.

As this is boiling you can process the skin – either by hand into fine shreds, or in a food processor into tiny chunks.

Now strain the liquid from the pulp and keep pressing as you pass it through the sieve to get any last drops of pectin out.

Put the liquid back into the pot, add the sugar and the chopped orange skin and cook gently until the sugar has dissolved.  Now bring up to a quicker boil until it reaches setting point.  You´ll find this happens quite quickly with this method, and if you like a thicker set marmalade, cook for a few minutes longer.  Personally I like a softer texture – the choice is yours.

Once it is ready, leave to cool slightly for about 10-15 minutes and to allow the shreds to settle, then pour into sterilised jars, seal and wait for them to cool before labeling (if you do this). Now enjoy the wonderful smells of oranges which will still fill your house and cut yourself a lovely slice of bread to enjoy the fruits of your labours.

Spree has also made the most of the lovely oranges around at this time of year. Check out her beautiful rhubarb and orange jam.

In the Garden – February 2012

It´s been such a long time since I talked about the garden or the vegetable patch. Naturally, it´s still winter, the soil is resting.

But not quite. It´s been an exceptionally mild winter, and while things could still change, there are signs of life.

My cyclamen, bought before Christmas, continues to stun us with its beauty.  I am doubly shocked as I generally manage to kill pot plants within a few days.  What do I do next with it? It currently sits inside our sun room, with the door open all day and sun in the afternoon. It seems very happy.

Some of our geranium cuttings are already producing little flowers.

Daffodil and narcissus bulbs planted last year (bought back from the UK) are flowering.

My parsley survived the winter outside, this is the first year this has happened.

Broad beans and onions in their little winter shelter.  We open the door and let the sun in during the day and we´ll be eating beans again in a few weeks.

Plenty of garlic for the year ahead. I thought it was only a month away from being ready, but wise old Big Man tells me I need to be much more patient. In the background one of our lemons and our artichoke plants which are already producing baby artichokes.

Our other lemon took a battering in the recent high winds, but still has plenty of lemons and produces new flowers with each new moon.

We don´t tend to grow our produce from seeds as many of Big Man´s family do this on a large scale for a living. We are going to risk some early planting. Nothing to lose, we think. Basil, thyme, chard, spinach, frying peppers, bell peppers, some more lettuce and some salad tomatoes.

Winter has been kind to us this year. Fingers crossed it won´t take us by surprise in the next few weeks.

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.

Merluza A La Barbacoa y Ensalada Arcoiris – Barbecued Hake & A Rainbow Salad

Dressed For Dinner

Fish Man came up trumps the other day with a whole hake in the back of his little van. It was rather large, too much for just Big Man and me, so as it was fresh it went into the freezer.

A few days later friends were coming over for lunch, and the sun promised to shine, so I decided to barbecue it.  A quick visit to the garden to gather mint and lemons, and out into the olive grove for the tops of the wild fennel which is everywhere, and I was set.

I had to gut and clean the fish, but if you´re buying from a fishmonger, I´m sure it will be cleaned for you.  It´s not that tricky (wear kitchen gloves though, or you´ll smell like a hake for the rest of the day!) but not for the squeamish.

Pat the fish dry with kitchen paper and salt the inside slightly.  Stuff it with bunches of herbs and thin slices of lemons, then sprinkle the outside with coarse sea salt.  No oil needed, but the salt will protect the fish and you´ll end up with lovely charred skin which I personally love to eat, but I know some people don´t.

Then it´s on to the barbecue for your hake.  We cooked it on a low heat and the lid on for about 15 minutes in total.  If you do use hake, but you could do this with pretty much any fish, it´s firm, so easy to turn when it´s half done.  Check it´s cooked by peeking inside – the flesh will be white when it´s ready.

Ready to eat!

I served this with a delicious salad which was so beautifully coloured, it didn´t matter that the sun went in and a big cloud hovered over us all through lunch!  I used chopped new boiled potatoes, cooked beetroot, oranges, thin slices of raw carrot and chopped chives. I made a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, mustard powder, a clove of garlic, salt and pepper.

With so much colour, it can´t not be good for you...

Food for a sunny, or not so sunny day!

The Vegetable Garden – El Huerto – A Late Start

5 Days Ago...the story starts

It´s the end of May and we only got round to planting out all those little plant plugs on 21st May, shame on us.  We´re usually at least a few weeks earlier, but never mind.  The weather seems to be turning to summer, and I took a little look around this morning to see how things were doing.  Five days on, and I couldn´t believe my eyes.  Fortunately things catch up quickly here and I know, at least if the weather stays fine, we´ll be eating most of what we´re growing now into November.

The runner beans seem to be growing a few cm each day.  Luckily we have plenty of canes for them. We had to put down some slug pellets, not really in keeping with our organic aims, but there seems to be a plague of slugs and snails this year.

Jack and The Beanstalk...

The broad beans are still in full production, the freezer is also well stocked for when they do die off in a few weeks.

Beans, beans are good for you...!

We´re very excited about our potatoes as we´ve never grown them before. Big Man was reluctant as they do take up a fair amount of space.  However, they´re drying out now and will be ready to dig up soon, then once we´ve dug over the soil and given it whatever (organic) feed it needs, we´re going to put other things in.  I have seeds for dwarf runner beans (including some very funky yellow ones, which I´m quite excited about).  We´ll definitely put some radishes in as they grow so quickly, and then some lettuces as choices here in the shops locally are mainly limited to lettuce hearts or iceberg.

Tired Potato Plants - which is good!

Last year a neighbour gave us some little cucumber plants which he had grown from seeds of his previous year´s crop.  They went crazy and we had loads of delicious little cucumbers all summer long.  We took his advice and saved the seeds from one cucumber which we let grow fat and sad looking.  We planted them 5 days ago, and despite Big Man being convinced that nothing would come of them, this morning we found lots of little sprouts…we´re so proud!

Tiny Cucumber Sprout - Future Gazpacho Ingredient

Our artichokes continue to flourish, but we will put some new plants in this year as the current ones are now three years old and getting tired.

Artichoke leaves, a perfect snack for slugs

Our tomatoes, peppers and aubergines have taken root well. 

Pepper or Pimiento

Big Man hates aubergines (or eggplants) with a passion. I, on the other hand, adore them. Sometimes I sneak them into dishes without telling him and he cant always tell.  I love Melanzane Alla Parmigiana, and make this as a treat all to myself so we have planted a little row of them to keep me happy.

Aubergines. Love ´em or hate ´em?

And our lovely little lemon tree seems to have found its pace and keeps us supplied with juicy fruit for squeezing over grilled meats, making dressings and slicing into our “sun downers”.

Ice and a slice anyone?

And just to prove that it´s not all about veggies, here´s a gratuitous shot of one of our roses…

Roses are red...

Happy growing!!!

Braised Salt Cod with Potatoes and Broad Beans/Bacalao con Papas y Habas

"Poor Man´s" Bacalao

Many years ago, in most Mediterranean countries, salt cod (or Bacalao as it´s called here) was poor man´s food.  Whole cod was salted, then dried in the sun to be stored and used when fresh fish was scarce.  Nowadays, it´s become rather a luxury item, in the same way that offal and bizarre cuts of meat have become trendy around the world.

Fortunately for us, Portugal is only about 4 hours´ drive away, so we get to have a few breaks there every so often throughout the year.  Also fortunate for us is the fact that the Portuguese consume huge amounts of Bacalao and sell it at greatly reduced prices.  The supermarkets there will sell you anything from small flakes of cod to flavour soups and stews, to entire cod which they can chop up into portions with special electric saws.  Before it´s rehydrated, the salt cod is tough but bendy, and it would be virtually impossible to cut it up at home. 

On our last visit we stocked up, as it can be frozen, and have enjoyed many meals with our “Souvenir of Portugal”.  Sadly we´re coming to the end of the supply, but on the plus side, this means we´ll have to plan another little break over there.

When you´re anticipating eating salt cod, you have to plan ahead.  De salting it can take anything from 2 to 5 days, depending on the thickness of the fillets you have.  Of course, you can also use fresh cod, in which case you can just go straight ahead and cook.

Put your fillets in a container which will allow them to be completely covered in water.  If it´s hot, put the container in the fridge, but it´s not necessary if the weather is cooler.  Try to change the water at least 3 times a day and test the cod by holding it up to your lips.  Then lick your lips!  You´ll know when it´s ready when it has lost that strong salty taste, although it will always retain a small trace of it. Just be warned, dried salt cod doesn´t smell too great.  Overcome any revulsion you may feel, the finished dish won´t taste anything like it smells right now!

There are many, many ways of preparing salt cod – deep friend in batter, roasted, grilled, poached in sauce.  This is a simple recipe which, once the cod has been desalted, is relatively quick and easy to prepare.

For 2 people you´ll need

  • 2 large salt cod fillets, desalted
  • 2 large potatoes roughly chopped and boiled for 5 minutes
  • A cup of broad beans (use the pods too if they´re  tender) chopped and blanched for a minute or two
  • An onion finely sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely sliced
  • About 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • A lemon

If you´re lucky enough to have a terracotta cooking pot, do use this as it seems to add something to the flavour.  If not, don´t worry, a deep frying pan will work just as well.

Put the oil, garlic, onions, potatoes and beans into the frying pan on a very low heat.  You will now slowly braise these in the olive oil until all the vegetables are tender.  You don´t want to brown them, so keep the heat low and half cover with a lid or some foil.  Stir occasionally to get them all covered in your lovely olive oil. Incidentally, this style of cooking potatoes is known in Spain as “a lo pobre” or poor man´s style. Usually they´re done with strips of green peppers though, and not broad beans.

Once the vegetables are ready, lay your cod fillets on top, skin side up.  Cook them gently for about 3 or 4 minutes (without moving or prodding them) or until the underside is no longer opaque.

Flip the fillets over, they´ll now only need a minute or two to finish cooking.

Remove from the heat and serve with plenty of lemon to squeeze over.  I also like an extra drizzle of “raw” olive oil, but if you´re watching the waistline (as I really should be doing) then leave this out.  You probably won´t need to add any salt, but taste it first and decide for yourself. ¡Buen Provecho!