Autumn Days and Autumn Nights – Apple and Blackberry Pudding

The days are getting shorter, the sun still shines most of the time but not with the intensity of summer. The air smells different, fresher, more invigorating. It’s time to finish off doing things you meant to do in summer and plan for the next few months.

Time to enjoy autumn fruits like prickly pears…

Chumbos (2)

Big Man and I haven’t had the great summer we had hoped for in Spain this year. That’s the way life goes sometimes. You just have to accept it and move on.  We hadn’t had a single chance to go to the beach, so at the end of last week we made it happen. Granted, we didn’t get down there until lunch time, but luck was on our side and a beachfront table at one of our favourite Chiringuitos (beach restaurants) became available as we arrived.

Beach 12 Sep (8)

Perfect, time to relax with a bottle of chilled white wine, a mix of deep fried fish and some peppers and a plate of little pieces of grilled monkfish.

Beach 12 Sep (5)

After a reviving coffee it was time for a gentle snooze down by the sea, listening to the waves and the distant sounds of murmered conversations.

What a difference a day makes, the next day Up the Mountain was grey and misty with low clouds lurking around the house.

VIstas 13 Sep (10)

A day that made me wish the blackberries here were still going strong, as they had been in England. A little bag of about 2 cups of blackberries had been picked on a seaside walk in England Down by the Sea and turned into a delicious autumn pudding.

Blackberry & Apple Pudding (3)

Apple and Blackberry Pudding

  • 2 cups of blackberries (approx.) washed, two small apples peeled and thinly sliced and both fruits mixed together and sprinkled with about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of self raising flour, a pinch of salt and quarter of a cup of sugar mixed together in one bowl
  • 1 large egg, a teaspoon of vanilla essence, a quarter of a cup of oil and a quarter of a cup of natural yogurt beaten together until well mixed.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well, if the mixture is very stiff, add a tablespoon full of milk.

Mix the cake mix into the fruit and pour into an ovenproof dish. Bake at 180º for about 30 minutes or until a skewer poked into the centre of the pudding comes out clean and the top is slightly browned.

Blackberry & Apple Pudding (1)

Serve with cream and/or ice cream whilst making sure your dog does not sneak up on you and pinch a mouthful.

It´s Chumbo time – Prickly Pears are here!

 

For anyone not in the know about prickly pears, or chumbos as they are called here, check out my chapter Swimming Pools and Prickly Pears…you´ll be enlightened.

We love prickly pears, such a delicious fruit with a super short season of about 6 weeks. Collecting them probably classifies as a dangerous sport, and the old men seem to be the experts as this.  Finding the ideal patch of prickly pears can be as closely guarded a secret as where to find truffles.

I guess they are an acquired taste, but if you do ever find them (ready prepared or not) I can highly recommend them.

Big Man and I count the days until the first sighting of prickly pears which are turning from green to a blush pink.  An early morning start is recommended, as the prickles are less “prickly” having been softened in the cool of the night.

A good brush in the dirt first with a plant that grows near the chumberos, called altabaca, then a hose down and another roughing up with a broom…and you´re ready to peel. 

Speedy peeling

Two people are needed for this part.  One to peel and the other to lift the chumbos off the skin and put them into a container.

Mind the prickles

What a relief when you get to the end of the bucket of chumbos as you can put the fruit in the fridge to chill nicely and then get your tweezers out to remove those pesky little spines which, inevitably, will have found their way into your fingers.

Nearly done...

Then you can either just gorge on them straight from the fridge or have a little tapas session with some jamon, cheese and cold melon….oh, and wine of course!

Swimming Pools and Prickly Pears

The morning dawned bright and sunny.  Nothing new there then.  Paco’s head popped up over the fence with a cheery Hola and a Buenos Dias to me.  Dressed in his customary straw hat, adorned with the Festival of San Isidro ribbon he told me that he had been out since quite early that morning collecting things.  However, he was a little concerned as I had been up very late last night but very quiet.  Was everything all right?  Yes, of course it was, I had just been watching a TV programme I had become addicted to.  Oh, of course, he said, the Spanish dancing.  Erm, no, it was an American series, which had been dubbed very badly into Spanish.

          Prickly Little Critters

“But don’t worry,” I told him, it had been the final episode of the series the night before (although I was still none the wiser with regard to the plot) therefore I was unlikely to have any more late nights which did not involve me either being outside on my patio, and therefore where he could be sure I was alright, or out dancing at a Fiesta.  Good, all ok then with regard to my health and well being.

“So, what have you been collecting then?”

  The answer involved much gesticulating and waving of a long prodded instrument, rather like a pair of giant tweezers, and a sturdy pair of gloves. 

Churros,” I said “are you sure?” 

“No, not churros, but chumbos.” 

Please note the first is a deep fried doughnut, which does not grow in abundance around here on trees, the second is a prickly pear.  Aha!  I was enlightened.  Now of course I had to go next door with a tub – not a plate or a bowl, but something sturdy please, made of plastic – for the peeling and collecting of the chumbos.  I decided that a bikini and a sarong was probably not appropriate attire for the task and put some clothes on.

Two rickety chairs had been set out, to make the whole experience more comfortable I was told, and we sat under a fig tree.  “Crikey, how long is this going to take?” I wondered as I looked into the giant chumbo bucket.  There was a procedure to be followed, and no messing around as chumbos can be deadly things if anyone inexperienced tries to tackle them.  They had apparently been picked very early that morning.  Well, 7.30 which is very early around here.  It would seem, I was soon told, that the spines which cover them are less “aggressive” at this time.  This task can also, I was additionally informed, be carried out when the heat of the day has died down.  I was on no account to attempt the dangerous picking of the chumbos on my own as no good would come to me.  Ok, I had been warned.

Next, the tasting of the first chumbo, which was pronounced by Paco to be perfect and off we went.  Paco was in charge of peeling and I was responsible for lifting them off the skin into the plastic tubs.  Delicate, ladies work. In between we talked about country things like animals and crops.  As you can imagine, I had little of interest to add to the conversation but Paco seemed most pleased with our chat.  I learned that figs are called Brevas before the feast of San Juan (which is I think around 23rd June) and Higos after this date (didn’t I know anything?!).  I was advised too that the pomegranates would be ripe after the feast of Santa Teresa (October some time?).  Note to self, check my mother’s calendar of the Saints.

After this gentle activity Paco decided that it was time for pool cleaning.  The word for clean here is Limpio, the verb is Limpiar.  There is an awful lot of limpiar-ing going on generally much of the time. Mostly it involves waving a hose around and “refreshing” things such as the patio or your own feet.  Anyway, pool limpiar-ing is a much more serious business so I decided to switch back to the bikini and sarong.  Paco seemed to think this was a good idea too.

The first stage in the procedure is to scoop off any dead flies, wasps, olive leaves etc which have landed in the pool overnight.  Easy.  Paco got the big boy’s net and I got the little one which looked as though I was about to go winkling round Morecambe Bay.

Paco then got onto his stomach and started trapping the poor suckers who had succumbed to a watery end in the deep end of the pool.  As my net had broken in half the week before – I pleaded Not Guilty – I could not even reach the bottom of the shallow end so jumped in and wandered around for 15 minutes or so fishing out spiders. I have to confess that I dragged this out for a bit as it was extremely hot and I was keeping cool.

Next came the fixing of the hose to the attachment, the letting in of air to the pipes and the starting of the motor.  Easy, yes, seen this done before.  No, there was to be no sitting around for me whilst Paco “hoovered” the pool.  I was sent to collect the special plastic broom (don’t even ask) and as I was the only one out of the two of us who could swim, I was sent down to the deep end to sweep.  Yes, you heard it right.  The next half hour was spent with me trying not to fall out of my top – as you can imagine, the Lycra has to work pretty hard for its living – and stay at the bottom of the pool whilst manoeuvring a plastic broom.  Being a particularly buoyant girl this was no easy task but Paco seemed to find it all very entertaining.

Finally, the pool cleaning session was over. Paco took to his sofa for the next five hours or so. I collapsed onto a sun lounger wondering if I could make a new career as a Cabana girl.