Best Friends and Favourite Foods

I am truly blessed when it comes to friends. I have some extra special best girlfriends who have been there for me through the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, the youth and the wrinkles. Ria and I met at school, a wonderful convent in South London, and have been best friends ever since.

We laughed through our school days, she sent me stamps to write to her when I went to University as I was poor and she was earning. She also gave me a sewing box as a going away gift and still, to this day, gets me to adjust her clothes and sew on buttons. We even worked at the same company for a few years and mopped up the tears through tough endings to relationships in later years.

She invited me to a weekend with friends in Scotland without telling me we would be walking part of the West Highland Way. She knew I would have refused, but we had fun and I forgave her, eventually.  Then I told her she was doing a run to raise money for Charity and she didn´t complain once.

Hot, sweaty but very happy with what we achieved!

We know and love each other´s families like our own, and also know our way around each other´s kitchens. Very important indeed.

When we both hit 40 within a month of each other (not soooo long ago), we threw a massive party then went off on a Round the World Trip.  I have a lovely photo of us on our last day before we headed back to London. It was taken in Hong Kong on the Kowloon ferry. We don´t look glamorous, or made up. In fact we look exhausted, a little chilly, but happy. We had spent about 3 months in each other´s company 24/7 and not a cross word or row, just fun, laughter and quite a few adventures.

I moved to Spain permanently six years ago, and we had to find a new way to make things work across the miles.  E-mails, phone calls and of course, visits.

So, when your best buddy comes to visit you don´t want to spend too much time in the kitchen as there is talking, laughing, dog walking and wine drinking to be done.

We barbecued squid which we enjoyed in the sunshine.

We ate what we jokingly called a “deconstructed chicken salad sharing platter for friends” – cold cooked chicken, spiced cauliflower, a platter full of delicious vegetables and topped with blanched then grilled asparagus with a lemon dressing and mayonnaise. Perfect for sharing.

And of course, my best friend knows how much I adore curry, so several happy hours were spent in the kitchen cooking up a storm, or the “Cortijo Curry” as we called it. Goat curry, tarka dhal, spinach and tomato curry, poppadums and roti.

I´ll share the recipes with you soon, but now I´m tired, happy and sad, and rather full up, so I´ll leave you with a photo of the perfect dessert for friends who don´t have time to make dessert.

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Food Bloggers Unplugged

Well, who´da thunk it?! The lovely Betsy from Bits & Breadcrumbs passed this fabulous award on to me. In true Blogging style I have to answer a few questions and pass the baton on. Thanks Betsy, I´d be honoured!

1.   What, or who inspired you to start a blog?
It was two things.  First of all my lovely crafty friend Florence over at Florence and Freddie started blogging on WordPress and encouraged me to go for it.  Secondly, I had just finished writing City Slicka to Spanish Chica and wanted to try it out on a wider audience.  Still unpublished, but oh what fun to write.  And now I can say I have written a book, so I´m quite proud of that even though it needs a good edit.  Anyone know any editors….?

2.   Who is your foodie inspiration?
Lots of people, but I guess it started at home.  My beloved grandmother was the queen of cakes and taught me how to bake.  My mum was a 19 year old English girl who married an Italian and had to learn pretty damn quick.  My parents still laugh that the first meal she made him when he visited his future in laws was severely over cooked Spaghetti with tomato ketchup on it.  Fortunately she´s an amazing cook now and even ran her own catering company for many years.  Chef wise I love Rick Stein, Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and finally I am now inspired daily by my fellow food bloggers.

My beautiful grandmother aged 26

3.   Your greasiest, batter – splattered food/drink book is?
It´s not a book, it´s a folder filled with recipes torn out of magazines, scribbled notes, print outs of recipes. I love it, but maybe I should get myself a new folder (ideally wipe clean) as it´s falling apart.

4.   Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?
Oh, that´s hard, I´ve travelled a lot and eaten some amazing (and some revolting) meals. Freshly grilled fish on the beach in Bali, a papaya for breakfast in the Cook Islands, an amazing Seafood Feast in Watson´s Bay Australia, my auntie´s pasta in Calabria, an incredible Japanese meal at Nobu in Paris, fresh bread out of the village oven in Morocco….sorry, can´t make my mind up on that one.

Beautiful Bali

5.   Another food bloggers table you’d like to eat at is?
Can I go to a few please? How about something amazing and vegetarian with Natalie over at Cook Eat Live Vegetarian, of course, cocktails with Greg & Katherine at Rufus Food & Spirits Guide, a long night of pasta and cards with Chgo John From the Bartolini Kitchens, tea, scones and a walk round the Farmy with Celi from the Kitchens Garden, a visit to pick supper from Claire´s allotment over at Promenade Plantings and shopping at Mad Dog´s butcher followed by dinner.  Oh dear, I seem to have taken myself off round the world again!

6.   What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?
Well, Christmas is long gone but ready for December 2012  I´d like to ask for something quite simple….an immersion blender. I have a knack of breaking things and this is probably one of the gadgets I use most in my kitchen. I´ve been in Spain 6 years and I think this is blender number 7 or 8 and is held together with Big Man´s electrical tape.  Mind you, we now don´t have a handle on the fridge door and the oven doesn´t work well and I´ve always fancied a wine fridge….

7.   Who taught you how to cook?
I´d love to say my mum and grandmother, and I suppose they did teach me the basics, but I am very much self taught. As soon as I left home I was off and experimenting (my poor friends) but I had great fun and built up my confidence to a point that I even taught a cookery class for a while.

My mum teaching Big Man how to cook a suckling pig...

8.   I’m coming to you for dinner what’s your signature dish?
Oh, that´s tough too. I guess it would depend on what time of year you came as I´d try to use as much of our own produce from the vegetable garden, our own eggs, perhaps our own chickens. Ok, as we´re in Spain I´ll do a lovely seafood platter to start, a chicken paella cooked outdoors, you can digest, take a walk or a dip then we´ll have whatever fresh fruit is in season with honey and almond ice cream, little cups of coffee and some of my cantuccini biscuits.

9.   What is your guilty food pleasure?
Now that one is easy.  Walkers Cheese & Onion Crisps.  And no, if you buy me some, I won´t share!

10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?
I´m a trained and practising Psychometric Profiler as well as a (sort of ex) Human Resources Consultant. I think I used to scare people off (especially potential suitors) as they thought I was analyzing their every word or gesture.  And I probably was a lot of the time!
Finally…tag 5 other food bloggers with these questions…like a hot baked potato…pass it on.
I think many of the people I have already mentioned have already been tagged, but I´d like to mention a few new (to me) discoveries, the lovely blogs over at Ang Sarap, IamSimplyTia, FrugalFeeding, PeasePudding and SimpleSpeedySnacks.  They should all feel free to join in or not….but I do enjoy reading their blogs and hopefully you will too.

Bali and Beautiful Batik

Like a dream come true

One of the little extras you get from having visitors is that they often come bearing gifts.  Sometimes it´s stuff that you´ve asked for like Wasabi Paste or spices you can´t find in Andalucía and sometimes it´s little surprises.

This summer I have been very lucky to receive two batches of fabric for my dressmaking.  One batch came from Singapore and the other from Bali…via the UK and my friends.

These fabrics are very beautiful and unusual but do tend to come in quite strange lengths.  Not the usual dressmaking widths.  I expect that are probably just the right measurement to make some wonderful typical Balinese or Singaporean outfits, but because I am rather more robustly built  than the ladies from these beautiful places, I had to give a little thought as to how I would make the most of the fabrics.

Fabulous Fabrics

I decided to go “off pattern” and just sort of drape them around my dressform, Marilyn the Mannequin.  Who incidentally, after forking out a great deal of cash and waiting ages for her to arrive from the UK, is not really all that useful.  I was so focused on buying an adjustable dress form that I could “expand” to my curvy chest measurements that I didn´t look at how big her bottom was.  Poor old Marilyn has got a much bigger bottom and hips than me, even when she is at her smallest setting.  Normally looking at another woman´s bottom and deciding that it was larger than mine would give me some small sense of satisfaction (I know, I´m horrible…but you´ve got to boost your self esteem when you can).  In this case, she´s useless for making fitted skirts, dresses or trousers, as they won´t go round her and I have to just pin them to the front!

Anyway, after much pinning, trying on, adjusting, re tacking and finally sewing I made a pencil skirt with a zip and waistband.  I use the word pencil loosely as I am probably closer to the shape of a magic marker. 

Pencil-ish Skirt

Flushed with the success of this effort I went on to make a simple v-neck top with the rest of the scraps from the same length of material.  Please note that I will not be wearing the skirt and top together or I may be mistaken for an escaped Batik Wall Hanging from a museum of ethnic art.

Voluptuous Top Half Needed To Fill This Top

Finally, I made a sort of A-Line skirt with a drawstring waist.  Very forgiving on days when I feel like my bottom matches Marilyn´s.

Hurrah for drawstring waists!

And as a little thank you for getting this far into my post if you were expecting a tasty recipe (sorry, not today), and for thinking that the black spots on Marilyn were dirt on the camera lens and not a horrible plague of flies that decided to join me while I was taking photos…..here are a few snaps from when I visited Bali as part of my Round the World Trip in 2005.  Far too long ago…