Saturday, 30 April 2011

How do you like your strawberries?

This is the first proper picking of the year, last week we only had half a dozen at a time, but today I've just picked these....400 grams.

So how do you like your strawberries?  Sliced and sprinkled with sugar?  Sliced in a brown bread sandwich?  Dipped into sugar and cream and eaten whole?  We're trying something new today, using up yesterdays doughnuts.  I don't often buy cakes but saw the doughnuts in the panaderia when I went in,  gave them a gentle squeeze to make sure they were soft doughnuts not hard ones (Spanish cakes can be very dry - nicknamed dustnuts in this house) and bought a bag of 6.

Yes, they were soft but not as doughy as hoped for.  Very sugary and ok dunked into a mug of tea but not amazing.  I was going to keep them till Sunday evening and add jam and custard to them for a pudding but then when I picked the strawberries this morning John said why don't we slice the strawberries over slices of  doughnuts then when the strawberry juice starts to run, it'll soak nicely into the doughnuts and soften them.  Then we can add cream to the top  - just in case there aren't enough calories already! 

I've only done half the strawberries and one doughnut each - if it's scrumptious we can have the rest tomorrow, if not it'll be back to plan A:  add jam and custard to make a sort of hot trifley thing with just the doughnuts and enjoy the strawberries on their own.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Every colour under the sun

So many flowers blooming out on campo at the moment,  every colour imaginable and more opening every day.  This is just a snapshot from this mornings walk, some I can identify and have captioned .....if you know what anything else is please let me know.

 poppies and daisies


wild garlic

? Wood sage ?

gladioli - gladiolus byzantinus (I think)

Salsify, Oyster plant/Tragoponon Porrifolius

Vetch. (?southern vetchling?)

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Boozy hot cross buns

We've been living here for over 7 years now, this is our 8th Easter here and as yet we haven't had any hot cross buns.  Most things we make nowadays because what you may take for granted in England either doesn't make it this far or is way too expensive, however until this year neither of us remember even seeing hot cross buns for sale.  This year we saw some but at 3 euros for a pack of 4, there was a sharp intake of breath from both of us and when we got  home,  I looked in my bread book for a recipe.

We had everything it said, except for the raisins/sultanas.....but if you have dried figs, apples and pears I reckon you can adapt most recipes.  I thought the fruit needed re-hydrating -  normally I'd add water and leave them to soak overnight but being Easter I thought we'd have a treat and so I added a little brandy.  Maybe more than a little, didn't want the fruit to dry out but to swell and be juicy.

At this point I'd love to put up a photo of the hot cross buns - we haven't eaten them all, I made 12 and we've still 6 left  - but they cooked really quickly and the bottoms were done faster than the tops so they have brown bottoms but pale tops.  They taste wonderful though.   Spicy, fruity, maybe a hint of boozyness  but definitely pale.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Hot and dusty.

We've had rather a mucky dusty week, every day different,  but  so glad to get in a long hot shower and wash out the dirt at the end of the day.

Monday we started to finish the new vegetable areas - six years ago when Manolo and his friend Pepe planted there, they spent ages rotavating, digging water channels, making raised beds and planting the tomatoes and aubergines before opening the acequia gate to water everything in.  Unfortunately they hadn't noticed that the land ran slightly uphill away from the acequia so the water didn't do what they wanted.  It took a lot of rearranging  to flow properly and it wasn't easy with the plants in place.
9.30 and the start of the first water channel.

We decided - actually it was John's idea not mine - to make water channels first, get the water flowing well and then do the raised beds inbetween.  He set off with the narrow blades on the machine and I followed, raking out the soft soil.  Then as the water flowed it was easy to make sure it got to the end of the channel.  We left a bigger space for a raised bed and made another channel, another bed, another channel.....finishing off by rotavating up the middle of the wide beds.

By then we'd done 4 hours of work, at first dusty from the dry soil, then muddy as we got the water going.

1.45 and the water is flowing.

Just after lunch Mariano came to see if we'd do a bit of work for him so after a clean up we went up to his cortijo.  These old houses are built from stones and mud, rendered,  then painted and don't have damp-proof courses so need regular repainting.    Mostly wire brushing the loose paint from the bottoms of the walls,  filling cracks, repainting internal and external walls,  replacing a couple of broken floor tiles, "tidying up" the inside of the inglenook fireplace followed by a big clean up.  And before Easter please.

Tuesday, I was dusty from wire brushing loose paint and J from chipping out the cracks before filling them.  Wednesday was pretty much the same for him although I had lots to do here - watering the broad beans, picking and freezing, squeezing oranges for juice, mounding up the raised beds which didn't get finished on Monday, clearing out the acequias which go to the plum and peach trees....  Thursday was a painting and filling cracks day and the start of the clean up and J made a start on the fireplace.  Over the years it's been painted, had cracks filled, painted again over soot and now it needs to be taken back to the original stones and started again.  The only good thing about working in  there is that he can do it standing up whereas I was painting at floor level going along on my hands and knees all day, getting further and further into the depths of the house. And the deeper you go, the cooler it gets.  Outside, lovely bright sunshine but not where I was.

However I made up for the lack of sun on Friday as I had a day here cleaning the pool.  We've emptied it this week, had the water running into the new vegetable patches, round the olives and fruit trees and it needed cleaning before the dirt dried onto the walls.  It wasn't really smelly at the bottom, just green and sludgy, a definite welly boot job!  Six buckets of sludge, umpteen buckets of clean water and a lot of scrubbing later, the pool is now gleaming  in the sunshine.   And I have the most amazing strap marks on my back as once the floor was clean, I worked in shorts and t-shirt to make the most of the sun.

Next week we need to sand down any loose patches of paint, re-paint and then it can be filled for the summer.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Spiced pickled almonds

Regular readers will know that Pip - although she is now 2 years old - hasn't learnt that the vegetables we grow are for us not her.  We have fenced off the kitchen garden and she hasn't made any attempt to get in there, instead she's turned her attention to an almond tree.  Or rather an almond bush.

It used to be a very tall, straggly tree.  Very sad looking, never had many almonds so about 4 years ago we cut it down to the base and since then it has grown into a very healthy bush, absolutely laden with almonds.  But Pip has taken a fancy to the almonds, she can't bite through them when they have hard shells but presumably likes the taste so eats the small soft early ones.    It wouldn't be too bad if she ate them but she just chews them up and spits them out.

We've watched this for a few days, then I thought that if we can pickle walnuts before the shell  has formed about May or early June, why not almonds?   So after a quick look out there in the big wide world of the internet, I found a recipe for spiced green almonds.  I only had to change one thing - not enough honey only miel de caña,  but hopefully they will be just as tasty.

You need enough small green almonds to fill your jar/s.  I used some large wide-necked ones that I think will be easy to get them out of.  Prick the almonds all over with a skewer,  if the skewer won't go through, the almond has made a shell and it's too late to pickle.  Pack them in the jars and for each jar add

1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
1   stick of cinnamon
1  bay leaf
1  dried chilli, cut in half

Make a brine solution of 3 cups of white wine vinegar together with 1 teaspoon of cloves, 1 cup of honey and 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Taste and add more sugar if needed - I used 4 spoonfuls.  Simmer for a couple of minutes and pour it hot over the almonds.  Seal the jars, store for 4 weeks before eating, turning upside down occasionally to mix the ingredients.  Apparently it keeps for more than a year.


Saturday, 9 April 2011

Anyone know what it's called?

They look like French Lavender flowers but have the leaves of an orchid....... 

I  found these two plants growing on a bank under a fig tree near the house yesterday while watching the water go round the vegetable patch.  Never seen them before, any one know what they are?  They may be something really obvious like a Lavender Orchid but whatever they are called, they aren't in my plants of Southern Spain book.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Prints on show

We've been in to Cadiar this morning to put some of our prints on display at a couple of local bars/restaurants:

More details are available here.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Spring greens.

The broad bean plantation seems to be getting taller and taller, with more and more flowers every day.  Yesterday I spent most of the day watering - should have done it on Sunday as that was our acequia day but first thing in the morning it was grey and threatening rain, although we only got a few splodges  - then when it did brighten up some friends came to visit for the afternoon.

So I had  Sunday yesterday and spent 6 hours watering and weeding in the sunshine.   The acequias had lots of weeds and grass growing in them but it's easier to get that out when the water is running and the soil becomes soft.  As I waited for the water to make it's way round and to soak into the  beds,  I started to pick our first beans of the year.  Nice and small, like a french bean to look at and that's what they taste like too.  Just need topping and tailing, a couple of minutes in boiling water and served with a drizzle of oil,  or - as we did - a knob of garlic butter and diced chorizo.

The first 400 grams of baby beans.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

More of a beep....

Not much to look at here,  in fact totally dark as there wasn't a moon last night, but this is what we are listening to as we fall asleep.

More of a beep than a too-whit  too-whoo!

When we first came here and heard this, we thought it was one of our mobiles needing to be charged up but having consulted the bird book, we think it's a Scops owl as it's call is described as  "monotonous and repeated"  usually heard at night.  Last night there was at least 1 other owl calling back and having listened to this again,  you can just about hear the other one in between our louder owl's beeps.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Seeds and plants.

"Preparing for planting"  was a good name for the last post about the vegetable garden....Tuesday I took some seeds down to the new kitchen garden - the one we got ready last weekend - and put in a tray each of aubergines, peppers and 2 trays of 4 different types of chilli.  The trays are some that I recycled from the recycling centre a couple of years ago, they each hold 45 plants and are much bigger than the ones you buy plug plants in.  Yes, that's a lot of plants - especially chillis - but not everything germinates and it's better to have too many plants and  vegetables than not enough.

I have half-sunk the trays into the ground and filled them - hopefully they'll keep warm and moist  till germination and then when they are big enough to be moved, they won't have far to go to be planted out.   I also put in the first courgettes, cucumbers, spinach and another row of radishes.

Thursday morning - back up to the original vegetable terraces where I put in seeds of  beetroot, carrots, kohlrabi, parsnip, swede, turnip, celeriac, kale and leeks.  Some are new this year, celeriac and kale we have never tried so I'm keeping my fingers crossed....if this first planting comes up I've  got time to put in some more.   Little and often seems best.  Same with the carrots and beetroot, we plant every few weeks to get a continuous crop.

And then in the afternoon in went basil, coriander, cumin, chives, marjoram, mustard.  Lots of everything as most of the seeds are self collected from last year although I do an extra row of packet seed - just in case.

Today I had to go into Cadiar and saw that - amongst other plug plants - there were tomatoes and cauliflowers for sale.  Last year we bought cauliflower plugs from the market....but they turned out to be white cabbage!!   so today I bought 20 labelled plug plants for 3 euros.  Last time I bought a cauliflower it was 1.50 so I've got 10 plugs for the price of 1 full grown one.

Last year we bought a variety of tomato called Trés Cantos which were excellent.  Almost like a beef tomato, full of flavour but needed a bit of staking as they grew to 1.5 metres.  Today I bought 30 of them plus a variety called Simona which (should!) only grow to 80cm so no need to go and cut more caña for support.  Today's plants I have put into half-bottles on a shady terrace to get bigger as we don't usually plant them out for a few weeks......   cut a pop bottle in half,  punch holes in the base and use as a plant pot, you can see the roots developing and more importantly see when the soil is dry.

All being well, we should see lots of growth soon.