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

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.

Waving Goodbye for a While…

Tomorrow Big Man and I move home in Bexhill on Sea. We go from a little Edwardian flat to a little (but bigger) Victorian house. It’s not quite such a disaster zone as the projects we usually take on so we’ll be able to live in it and do it up and restore it slowly.

Because we seem to thrive on doing more than one thing at once, we’re heading back to Spain 5 days later by car for a short visit to the family and then heading back to England to finish off a current project before taking a breather, helping my parents move into their new home in Bexhill and then starting work on ours. And hopefully another longer trip back to Spain to enjoy some time Up the Mountain.

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Just to complicate matters further we found out today that we’re going to be without an internet connection for a few weeks so I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will have to have a little break from the world of blogging for a short while. Don’t go away though…I’ll be back!

So…please excuse me if I can’t pop by and say hello very often this month. I’ll miss you all…

Flamenco, Friends…and a Bucket of Beer

Port of Malaga - Old Port Authority Building

Although we love our life Up the Mountain, sometimes it´s good to get out.  Last night a new friend organised tickets for a group of us to go the theatre in Malaga to see a show at the Instituto Andaluz de Flamenco.  As you´d expect from the name of the venue, it was an evening of dance – Flamenco fused at times with ballet.  Very lovely, and certainly nothing like some of the dreadful “shows” some venues put on to keep the tourists happy. I´m sorry I can´t show you any photos as some of the costumes were spectacular.

Málaga Cathedral known as "La Manquita" or One Armed Woman because of the unfinished tower on the left

After the show we were not quite ready to go home, you may recall that the Spaniards believe the night is for fun and partying, so we headed over to a the development, recently opened at Málaga port, where many of the large cruise ships stop.

It reminded me a little of Sydney Harbour with lots of shops, bars and restaurants and I hope that as the warmer weather comes and more people learn about it, it will be a huge success.

Would you care for a beer?

We went to a Cervecería, a beer “tavern” where they serve buckets of beer…

3€ for a bucket of beer - can´t be bad!

And tapas…

And then a final stroll back to the car, giving us the opportunity to enjoy views of the Cathedral and the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro – a Moorish fortification overlooking the city.

The lights of the Alcazaba (l) and Gibralfaro (r) behind my personal collection of yachts

Wearily we made our way home, only to find out this morning that an earth tremor had been felt at 4am in the next village.  Clearly the beers had done their work and we had slept through the whole thing!

Big Man´s Raisins

Now, this is not a cheeky post, so don´t go thinking I´m talking about anything remotely naughty. We´re talking dried grapes, White Muscat to be precise.

So, what is the difference between a Raisin, a Sultana and a Currant?  This question came up after a recent post for Banana Bread. I had absolutely no idea so off I went to check.  It seems Raisins are dried, seeded white grapes, usually Muscat.  However, the definition I found says that they are oven dried, but more of that later. Sultanas are dried seedless yellow grapes and Currants are dried, tiny, black seedless grapes.

Having mentioned that raisins are oven dried, I´m going to contradict myself.   Malaga is famous for its raisins which are sun dried.  In fact, close to where I live you can walk around some of the fields and still see the old style drying beds for the Uvas Pasas de Malaga – which is what this famous local product is called here.

They are used to make the sweet Malaga wine, in delicious rum and raisin ice cream, in sauces made with the Malaga wine for savoury pork dishes, and are particularly sought after over Christmas when they are eaten with almonds, walnuts, cheese and typical sweet local pastries.

So, when you´ve got a couple of vines dripping with more grapes than you can ever eat, what do you do?  Big Man decided that if I could sun dry tomatoes, then he could do the same with the grapes.

No, no…he didn´t need any help setting up the drying process – thank you very much.  And anyway, the table I use in the garden for my tomatoes was being used for its preordained purpose. 

No problem, a spare bathroom ceiling tile from some recent DIY was propped on top of my paella burner, and together with a couple of blocks of wood, an olive net (to protect them from the flies) and some washing pegs (to stop the net blowing away) a makeshift drying table was fashioned.  Who needs sophisticated drying nets when you´ve got top grade equipment like that?!

And guess what? It worked! Six days of hot sunshine later and we have our first batch of Uvas Pasas.  Not sure we´ll be able to hang onto them until Christmas, so as long as the sun shines, we´re planning on making a few more batches.

Big Man is justifiably proud of his raisins, but “shhh” – don´t tell anyone or they´ll all be wanting some.

PS. For another wacky way of drying fruit, check out this amazing post over at And Then Make Soup – it goes to show that where there´s a will there is always a way.

And a final PS.which is a big Thank You to Cecilia over at The Kitchens Garden and to Tandy at Lavender and Lime for passing on the Seven Links Challenge to me.  To see how I responded and to check out some of my previous posts, take a look at a post I did a few days ago…I was lucky enough to also be nominated earlier by Karen from Back Road Journal.

Speedy Apricot Jam

Ready to enjoy!

A visit to Málaga a few days ago to sort out some paperwork also led us through the backstreets to the old market, which has been beautifully restored.  Sadly, I didn´t have my camera with me to show you the stalls beautifully laid out with fruit, vegetables, fish and meat.

Sadly too, some of the fruit, when we got home, was not as lovely as it had promised to be.  I think the best stuff was “up front” and the bags of non regular shoppers were filled with the less than top quality produce from the back.

Hey ho, squashed and not so fruity tasting fruit lends itself to jam making, and making it in small quantities is also fun.  It´s quick, you don´t feel obliged to give away most of what you made to friends and family, and you get to have a wide selection of different flavoured jams in the despensa (that´s the larder to you and me)!

After tasting a few apricots and deciding that they weren´t up to that much, I stoned the rest and chopped them roughly and was left with 500g of fruit in weight.  I added 300g of sugar and the juice of one lemon and put into a deep pan.

Start the jam off at a low temperature until the sugar has dissolved.  The turn the heat up and get it bubbling, but making sure that it doesn´t boil over.  Cleaning cold, set jam off your cooker is no fun at all. 

Bubbling Away

Keep it bubbling away for about 10 minutes.  Don´t get distracted or walk away!  If you have a jam thermometer, do use it, it saves having to reboil the jam later if it doesn´t set.  Otherwise you can drop a spoonful of jam onto a saucer which you have previously placed in the freezer.  When the jam cools on the saucer you push it slightly – if it wrinkles, it´s at setting point.  If not, boil a little longer then repeat.

Sometimes you can just go with instinct, and even if it doesn´t set, runny jam tastes just as good.

Now you need to leave the jam to cool down a little for 5-10 minutes so that when you pour it into still warm, sterilized jars (I run mine through the dishwasher to do this), the fruit will not float to the top.

Seal the jars while they are still hot and this will keep (although I doubt you´ll be able to resist!) for at least a year.  Now, where´s that loaf of bread?