Looking forward to Spring

It’s been a full and busy February, the time seems to have flown by. We’ve had crazy weather in the UK with gloriously sunny days, biting winds and now a little snow with more predicted.

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Days have been filled with beautiful beach walks, even on the windiest of days…everything looks so much more dramatic and exciting.

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I took delivery of a wonderful new book, Artisan Sourdough Made Simple, written by a fellow blogger, Emilie Rafa who blogs over at The Clever Carrot. I’ve loved reading it and beginning to experiment with her wonderful recipes, starting with a brioche loaf which we loved and a fabulous sourdough focaccia .

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I’ve also been making my regular sourdough loaf which is our “daily bread”. For my mum I bake a rye and caraway loaf which she enjoys and Big Man is in charge of thinly slicing it for her once it has cooled.

Food has been comforting and warming with old favourites making regular appearances with a few new dishes being tried too. I made a sweet potato and kale curry…it was ok, but rather too sweet and not quite spicy enough for us. More work needed on that one!

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One particularly spectacular day Big Man and I hopped on a train heading West along the coast for an hour and spent the day in Brighton. We went on the i360, an enormous pod which holds about 200 people which rises up a 162m tower to give incredible views at a height of 138m across the channel, the city of Brighton and across the South Downs…and of course the panorama is a 360° one.  Absolutely fantastic and we had a cheeky glass of champagne to make the experience extra special.

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Today the cold weather is moving in, people are panic buying (ridiculous) in the supermarkets and I’m getting ready for Big Man to come back from a couple of weeks in Spain. In our house, this means making food…warming chicken and chickpea soup, pork and beans and maybe even a fish pie. Well…he says he’s missed my cooking!

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Despite the cold, there are little signs that spring is on its way with the bravest of bulbs pushing up through the ground,  defying the cold and reminding us that after the dark days of winter there is always sunshine and new life to look forward to.

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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.

Orange, Mint and Broad Bean Salad

Mouthwateringly Minty!

The end of the orange season and the start of a spring glut of broad beans and mint means that it´s time here for a refreshing, light and easy salad. 

Most people here have at least a few citrus trees in the gardens, some have tens or hundreds of them.  After three years our lemon tree is now producing more than we can cope with, but we only planted our orange last autumn, so still rely on the good will of friends and neighbours for our supply.  Fortunately, we have very obliging friends and neighbours who keep us in oranges.

When I still went out to buy them, in the early years, I was surprised to be asked in the little local shop “if I wanted oranges for eating?”.  Well, of course I did, what the heck did they think I was going to do with them?  Of course, now that I am a wise old country biddy, I know that oranges are sold for eating (slightly more bitter) and for drinking (i.e. for juicing).  The later are softer, juicier (naturally) and incredibly sweet.  The difference is noticeable and as we eat a lot of salads made with oranges here, it´s worth looking out for the right ones.

This salad can be varied depending on the time of year.  In the autumn, with the next crop of oranges, I substitute the broad beans for pomegranate pips.  Either way, the colours and combinations of tastes are stunning.  This salad goes particularly well with oily fish like sardines or mackerel or with fatty meat like lamb or goat.  As a starter it´s delicious with a plate of salty jamon and another of a salty cured sheep´s or goat´s cheese.  A cold glass of iced dry sherry finishes things off perfectly.

For two people you need:

  • Two or three bitter oranges, skin and pith removed and cut into small chunks
  • About half a cup of fresh broad beans (raw)
  • About 10 mint leaves shredded
  • Olive oil
  • Salt (flakes or coarse sea salt) and freshly ground pepper

Place the oranges on a plate, pouring over any juice that you have collected when peeling them.  Sprinkle over the beans and mint, season and drizzle over the olive oil.  Make the salad about half an hour before eating and keep chilled before serving. 

It´s an unusual mixture of tastes, but it works for me.  Do hope you enjoy it!

Plum Blossom

It´s that time of year again.  Spring has sprung, or at least it´s starting to spring and our plum tree which sits quietly in our little olive grove has exploded into blossom.  Couldn´t resist taking a few snaps.

A Very Happy Plum Tree

The olives are showing their first very tiny flower buds which will start to open up very soon.  This, alas, I´m not looking forward to as I am hideously allergic to olive pollen and have suffered terribly for the last few years.  Fingers crossed that the 3 year programme of medication I´m signed up to with Malaga hospital does its thing.  Have been taking drops daily since October, so it will be interesting to see if I suffer any less this year than last….!