Saturday, 30 March 2013

This week....

It seems a long time since I was here writing anything but we've been busy with stuff.  Nothing really to do with living here but we have been engrossed in building our family tree as a record for the new generation and before memories fade and scraps of paper with notes from the past get lost.  It is alternately exciting and frustrating,   just when you think you're on the right track  you find that you've created a family member with far too many brothers and sisters,  so back to square one and start that search again.  So we've had lots of  'what if we look here'  moments,  and  'did we eliminate him or not',  and  'can you read that,  does it say silk winder?'   and  'weren't they on the last census?'  and suddenly you realise it's 1am and you should really be tucked up in bed.

Unfortunately dogs don't allow for our late nights so it's up and about at the usual time.  We've had some lovely clear sunny days,  although the winds have been a bit blustery at times,  usually in the late afternoon.   Low cloud the other morning - I don't mean the sky was cloudy though,  the clouds were lower than us drifting along the valley from Ugijar to Yator.

Friends came up for dinner last night  - John cooked a wonderful meal - too much even for the 5 of us so we are finishing it off tonight.  2 evenings of no cooking and not having to think of something different to eat!   Some days I really am lacking in inspiration  - I open the freezer and there's loads of meat and fish but I just don't have a  'oh yes lets cook this' moment.

This morning I have been planting out lettuces.   I put in the remainder of last years 'Iceberg' seeds a while back, and transplanted about 24 of them a few weeks ago,  covered with fleece as the blackbird kept pecking around them and uprooting them,  and today planted out the rest.  154!!  A lettuce every day till the end of summer.  Some are big enough to pick baby leaves from now,  the majority need to get much bigger.

The first broad beans  are  big enough to start picking,  the first peas also ready and the next planting are in flower. More of each following on behind,  just need to keep an eye on the peas and add extra string for them to cling onto as they grow.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Spaceship clouds

Almost exactly 12 hours apart,    these spaceship clouds were  hovering around here. 

This one as the sun rose at 7.25am  - or should that be these three -

and this one as the  sun set at  7.21pm

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Sunshine and flowers

There is only one problem with this time of the year and it's that the weather is so varied.    Yesterday and today have been back to the blue sky and sunshine of a few days ago.  The forecast was predicting 13° sun and cloud for today,  well, if I'd seen a cloud I'd have taken a photo of it.    None to be seen.   We had breakfast outside,  elevenses outside,  lunch outside and have only just come in as there is now a thin layer of cloud and the sun is vanishing fast.  The shade temperature  reached 16°  but the sun was hot,  and strong enough to leave me with strap marks from my t-shirt.

A lovely morning walk to Yegen - no coat needed - not even a fleece - and this afternoon we went up to the fuente and back.   Lots more wild flowers in bloom now but unfortunately I have no idea what most of them are.  Our plant book doesn't have everything in it but if anyone knows what these are, please add a comment....

 These are covering most of  the ground around the olive terraces of a neighbour,  I think they are Field Marigold,  a  wild version of the cultivated garden one.

 These have suddenly appeared at the fuente, never seen them before,  and can't find them in the plant book.  They are a much stronger pink than it seems from the photo, the sun was shining directly on them and has bleached out the colour.   Any ideas??

And these pinky-purple  flowers seem to clamber up the bankings,  lots of tiny flowers on each stalk,  almost bell like.  Again,  any ideas??

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Dramatic sunrise.

A different sunrise this morning,  it's really struggling to get through the clouds today.  Dramatic, but definitely not a blue sky.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Springtime - again.

Early signs of Spring had a bit of a blip over the weekend,   it was cloudy and drizzley and  definitely not sunny or warm.   We had the wood burner alight all day yesterday as it was so damp and miserable outside.

So back to spring sunshine today,  we went for our early morning walk up to Yegen, I didn't even need my fleece on as the sun was so warm even at 8am,   there is some snow visible in the distance maybe from the weekend rain, 

I saw either swallows or house martins flying around this craggy section of rocks,   but too fast for me to catch on camera, 

These agaves are about to tip over I think,  once they have flowered and the seed pods opened,  then the stalk dries up and eventually  falls over.  Sometimes the whole plant turns turtle.  El Golco is just visible between the olive trees.

Unfortunately the forecast for tomorrow says showers late morning,  at least we'll be able to get a good walk in before that happens,  assuming of course that the forecast is correct ..... it isn't always!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

New beginnings..

Yesterday, when I came indoors I was intending to write about new things and spring time because the last 2 days were beautifully clear and blue and surprisingly warm,   to the point that I was weeding the vegetable plot in a summer t-shirt.  Still cold overnight and needing the wood burner alight but definite signs of warm weather.

John saw the first hoopoo in the mulberry tree on Thursday morning and we have had swallows zooming around the house for a few days now.  It's still a bit unnerving when they fly from one end of the terrace to the other,   especially if you're sitting there,  still makes me duck my head - just in case.

The hills are beginning to turn yellow as the broom bursts into flower,   the pear tree is budding and raring to go too,   the peach blooms are just finishing so fingers crossed that we don't get any cold nights which will stop the fruit setting.

But last night I got sidetracked with e-mails and today spring has deserted us,  hopefully not for long though.  Grey, cloudy and now drizzly.

And the emails that side tracked me were because of  our own new beginnings -  that's a very roundabout way of introducing our first grand child!   For those of you who have been reading for a while,  you'll remember the weddings of last  April (Japan)   and May  (Paris)   and now Elliott has arrived safely.  3.555kgs  or 7lb 13oz  for us older people.   :)

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Tapas bars.

We were in Granada on Monday and instead of coming home late afternoon, decided to stay over and have some time out.  Normally when we do this we find a nice restaurant for dinner but if we go for a drink or two beforehand,  don't always need a big meal because of the size of the tapas that come with the drinks.  So this  time we decided just to do a tapas night.    The first bar was just opposite the hotel,  along with our drinks we were each given an oval roll  filled with a spicy slice of meat,  tasted like lamb as it's cooked for kebabs.  And only  3.15 in total.    Second bar,  a glass of delicious wine  for me,  small beer for him and a plate of prawns in a creamy dill sauce with artichokes.   More expensive....a bill of 4.50.

If you are worried about the alcohol intake, stop reading now.......but remember it was a night out,  no rush to get home.

The third bar was totally empty when we got there, apart from a very friendly barman who was busy making mini-burgers to put in the freezer for the  weekend coming up.   2 glasses of red wine,  a tapas each of freshly cut bread,  juicy panceta with a crispy rind straight from the woodburning grill,  freshly ground salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.  Delicious.  

2 more wines,  this time the slices of bread were topped with a slice of pork from a leg that was slow roasting on a spit,  again the salt, pepper and olive oil drizzle.

Next up, the bread was again topped with pork straight from the grill but  the pork was thicker cut than the panceta and we think a cut called ajuga - possibly shoulder steak in England.   And 2 more glasses of wine of course.

And last of all an extra tapas - to help soak up the wine? -  patatas al pobre - poor man's potatoes,  slow cooked slices of potato with garlic, peppers and onions.  And lots of olive oil.  But no more wine.  

The question is - not how we got home - bus to the hotel for 2.20 each - but how can the bars make any money when they serve such lovely food?    And not small portions either.  The last bar we paid 2.70 for each drink including food.   Delicious oaky wine,  in a lovely warm friendly place.  

And we also got to chat a lot about the area  we live in and life over here,  while we ate and drank and he made his burgers. When we left he was on the second batch of 100 with a target of 400.   Should be finished by now!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Dog bugs.

Pip's had a bad week,  she isn't the biggest or fattest dog in the world and has been  unlucky enough to have picked up a bug from somewhere and been unwell and off her food since Tuesday.    Monty hasn't been as bad,  just off his food since Wednesday,  whether he's got what she's got, we just don't know.  Neither of them go wandering out and about on their own, always for walks with us,  so we know what they've eaten.

Online vet info says to offer rice and chicken and gradually add the normal dog biscuits, and that's all they've eaten for the last few days.  Even then Pip's only managed 1 spoonful of rice at a time,  this the dog who can eat as much as Monty normally.  It also means neither of them is very energetic,  usually the sight of doorkeys, or a fleece, or a pair of trainers brings leaps and bounds and a rush for the gate.  But not this week.   3 or 4 times she hasn't even wanted to come out with us and twice she has sat down and refused to go any further.

But today a bit of a breakthrough,  both ate some biscuits at lunchtime and we set off for a walk up to Yegen this afternoon,  not really expecting to get that far,  but we did.  Both dogs are now flat out asleep in the sunshine. 

A flock of goats way down  in the valley.

Wild rocket at the side of the road.

Although it's also been a wet and windy week,  and is still blustery today,  it's not cold.  I set off with a sweatshirt over my t-shirt but soon  took it off and  carried it.   (the sweatshirt, not t-shirt)   Lovely blue skies with clouds hurtling along at high speed,  the sort of blustery wind that wraps the sheets around the washing line,  pings the pegs off,  drops the bath towel onto the grass - luckily dry grass and by then a dry towel -  and tangles the straps of t-shirts up around the pegs.  Still, 2 loads of washing done and dry by lunchtime.  And out of all of it there are only pillow cases to be ironed :)   Not my favourite thing, ironing.  Maybe once every few weeks if really necessary.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Ideas for foodies

In my wanderings around the internet and through reading other peoples blogs,  I find myself on all sorts of blogs and often can't remember how I got there.  If they're interesting - cookery ones, or local,  then I bookmark them for checking every now and then.

One such site is this,  My Kitchen in Spain,  Janet is an American who has lived here for many years and writes about Spanish food.   Sometimes I think  'oh yes,  I could make that,' or  'that sounds tasty and a bit different'  so it's a blog that I go back to a couple of times a week.  Monday of last week she was writing about Ibérico pork and although we didn't have the same cut of meat the 'stuffing' that she used sounded so tasty that Sunday we used it in our joint of lomo (boneless loin).   If you read the article it's not stuffing as we know it,  not sage and onion, although I did make a bowl of that as well,  it's actually called larding.  And you make slits in the pork and put the mixture into the little pockets.

1 clove
10 peppercorns
1 teaspoon coarse salt
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Sprigs of fresh thyme
2 teaspoons olive oil 

First grind the clove and peppercorns, then chop the garlic  and mix everything together.  I only used 1 garlic as they were very large and I didn't want the garlic flavour to overpower the meat.  And I took the leaves off the thyme stalks first before mixing.  Also used more oil than that......Then I put the mix into the slits in the meat and roasted as normal.  Not quite how she cooked hers,  but  we had a different joint.  And it was wonderfully tasty,  the oil and flavours seeped out and basted the meat as it cooked.

Today, as we didn't eat all the pork on Sunday,  I've sliced the rest very thinly and layered it in the slow cooker with thinly sliced and partly cooked potatoes,  sauteed onions,  and cheese.  We had ends of cheeses that needed finishing off,  Gouda with chilli,  Roquefort,  Alpujarran goats cheese and  cream cheese.  Each layer has a bit of each cheese,  sounds a bit mixed up but after an afternoon on low heat it all melts and melds together.  Topped off with a layer of cheese sauce and put under the grill to brown and bubble just before serving, it's a good and tasty way of using up ends and leftovers.

The next  thing to try is the recipe she wrote the week before that,  stuffed apples baked in sweet Málaga wine,  we just happen to have a bottle in the wine rack,  all that is lacking are the apples  :( 

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Free fresh herbs.

The snow didn't last much past the afternoon down here although there are still signs of it over on the Contraviesa and in the firebreaks of the woods above Mecina and Valor. 

Friday morning we went for a shorter but muddy walk around the fuente - definitely a welly boot walk.  Friends came on Friday and stayed overnight,  so a short and muddy walk again on Saturday morning before breakfast  but  today was back to normal. 

Cool and cloudy but a pleasant walk up to Yegen,   there are a lot of herbs growing at the side of the track and more appearing now it's Spring time.  Always see rosemary and thyme,  now the wild rocket is in bloom  too.  There is also a wild sage,  Jerusalem sage,  which looks similar to our garden variety but doesn't have the flavour.  The leaves of the wild garlic are appearing too,  as is the fennel.  So always plenty of fresh herbs to pick and enough to gather seeds from.....I thought we had rocket seeds but seem to have run out,  luckily it has self seeded in the garden from last year  and I'm going to keep an eye on the wild rocket and collect seeds from that.  It is a much smaller plant,  with smaller leaves and a stronger flavour too.  

Only a couple of months more till the capers start to grow and produce these beautiful flowers.  Of course,  before the flowers come the buds and tiny ones are picked and brined for salads,  pizzas,   or for when we are making tartare sauce.   After the flower has opened,  the end of the central stalk swells and is picked and brined for  tapas.

Free food,  wonderful  :)