Saturday, 28 June 2014

Making mayonnaise.

Mayonnaise - love it or hate it?  I'm a lover of mayo,  dolloped on chips,  on a jacket potato with a slice of blue cheese too,  mixed with mustard,  in sandwiches instead of butter,  it's wonderful stuff.  Well, some of it is.  My first choice is Hellmans usually bought when the supermarket has it on offer as they do now as a buy 1 get the 2nd 50% off.  That's when we stock up.  Second choice comes from a shop further away in Berja,  Mercadona's own brand comes in a plastic square jar which is brilliant for storing herbs and spices in afterwards.  

Then there are some truly dreadful jars that are labelled mayo but don't bear any resemblance to the ones we like,  they have pale colour and a strange whipped texture.  So over the years I have  thought about making mayo but every time I think about it and look for a recipe,  there seems to be too many  drawbacks such as 'take care, do it slowly or it'll separate'   'don't worry if it separates just start with another egg yolk and add your split mix into the next egg....' 

What are you supposed to do with all these egg whites?  Egg white omelettes?  Make meringues?  Surely that's then making something you don't need in order to use up something that's left over - easier to buy a jar of the stuff. 

Until this week!  Friends were here last Saturday and mentioned that they make mayo and use the whole egg so nothing left to use up.  The usual list of ingredients,  sunflower oil as it's not too strongly flavoured,  pinch of salt and pepper,  lemon juice and a pinch of mustard powder.  And everything at room temperature.

Monday after lunch saw us in the kitchen,  John drizzling the oil oh so slowly into the mixing bowl as I whisked and whisked,  and whisked some more.  We added the cup of oil as per recipe,  and tasted.  Quite disappointing actually.  Nothing like Hellmans or any of the shop bought stuff.  But we hadn't added mustard as we only had made mustard not powder.  Could have been the reason for the lack of flavour.

Onto google for ideas,  can I use made mustard or will it cause the mayo to separate?  Yes made mustard is ok,  if no lemon juice add vinegar - red wine or white wine or cider vinegar - any are ok.  So in went the mustard, more whisking and a much better flavour.    

But then.....

......I found the most wonderful quick mayo recipe of all time!  I watched the video in disbelief, watched it again,  took the ipad upstairs to show John and then went to make it this way.  It takes less than 2 minutes.  Really.  Now we've made the second batch and tweaked the taste,  I looked at the ingredients on a jar,  and read the comments from other people who have also made the 2 minute version,  I added a little sugar,  less lemon juice,  and more mustard. 

The recipe is I used is here  - magically fast and easy homemade mayonnaise - do watch the video as it's as quick and easy as shown. 

The original recipe came from here - 2 minute mayonnaise - but this one uses an egg yolk and water whereas the first link is a tweaked version and uses the whole egg.  This link explains also how it works. 

The only things that you need to make sure of are - everything at room temperature (although our lemon juice and mustard came straight from the fridge)  -  and  that the jar you use to mix in is straight sided and only slightly wider than your hand held beater.  Here it's called a batidora,  in some places I think a stick whisk?  But it's clear to see on the video of the first link.

So watch it and try it,  that is if you like mayo as much as I do.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

All is not lost!

Despite the enormous dark clouds looming to the north west of us this morning - Granada way - and rain streaked clouds to the west - Malaga way - the forecast had us as being a bit cloudy but dry.  As it's Sunday I decided to have a quick water of the vegetable beds.  Although it's the weekend in between watering weekends,  the ground is very dry and yesterday the runner beans looked floppy in the late afternoon sun.  I took a box for the beans as they have made enough to pick for dinner tonight.  And the second planting is beginning to flower,  and the third lot that went in on Monday are already popping up out of the ground.

So glad to see something producing well,  we also had our first potatoes in the week,  they were just some that had decided to sprout before we'd eaten very many so I cut them up and planted the lot in 3 different places.  They have all grown really well,  I only dug out 1 plant to start with just to see how big the potatoes had grown,  big bite sized is the best description, so out came a row.  Actually some were much bigger and those we've kept to cook and dice for a potato salad - red skinned spuds will look pretty in a salad.

Picked some mint and parsley too,  chopped finely and sprinkled over the potatoes with melted butter - yummy.   Added to that were peas from the freezer from a month or so ago and  a good chunky pork steak pan-fried in butter and olive oil.

More of the potatoes for dinner tonight along with the beans...

Back to the watering....

The rain that wasn't forecast  came as a quick burst while I was outside....

The thunder that wasn't forecast rumbled around for an hour or so.....

But now the blue is back down south although large clouds to the north. 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Every year is different.

"Every year is different"   That should be one of the first things you learn to say living here,  it doesn't matter how well things are growing,  there always seems to be something that doesn't do well and when you talk to the many Pacos that work their land here in Montenegro,   you can pretty much guarantee  that's what they'll say.    There has either been too much rain or not enough,  too hot too early or too cold for too long,  or because of the wind that came in the night/during the day/last week/last month......delete as appropriate. 

We have decided that whatever we can grow is a bonus,  not to get too miffed when the wind blows the peas over,  when blackfly cover your broad beans,  when a wild boar runs through the strawberry beds,  when someones cat tries to dig up the potatoes and use the ground as their litter tray,  when somebodies dog/cat has run through the just about grown kohlrabi and squashed them,  when - as has happened this year - certain plants have just stopped growing completely!   Last years chillis are flowering and making chillis whereas this years  seeds took ages to germinate and when they eventually got big enough to repot, then stopped growing and even now are only a few inches high.  The peppers aren't much better but at least they are bigger and don't fruit till September time so fingers crossed for them.  The pak choi which are just big enough to start picking leaves from for salads have now decided to flower and will probably bolt upwards rapidly, except that I'm hoping to have stopped that from happening by pinching out the buds. 

The pears - photo recently put on here -  have all rotted this week!  One by one,  they've gone completely brown and squidgy and we had to pick them off for the compost.  We didn't want them dropping on the ground as Pip would most likely have eaten them  and then been ill.   Probably insects in them,  didn't look too closely,  but we never have a problem with the pear tree.    Our neighbours pear tree,  a different variety,  more like a Conference pear,  is usually heavily laden and we start to pick them in August,  but this year I can only see about a dozen pears on there.

The apple trees which flowered beautifully this spring haven't got any fruit at all.  Nor has our neighbours apple tree.  Strange.

But not everything is like that.  The cardoons - which we grow for their wonderful flowers but the locals grow for the fleshy base of the leaves - that's the bit you eat but they don't look very appetising to us - they are blooming beautifully now, even the buds before they open are colourful.

The mimosa - sorry, yes again! - is amazing.  And growing underneath this one are oleanders whose flowers are so heavy that the heads are bowing under the weight.  They have a wonderful rich almondy smell almost like marzipan as you walk past.

Talking of the scent of flowers,  the other morning as I took the dogs out I opened the gate and thought there was a faint smell of something familiar,  maybe soap,  remember coaltar soap?  Strange thing to smell up here or anywhere really.  Then again the next morning same thing but also a buzzing from close by.  No,  I'm not hearing things or going mad!  But the palm tree next to the gate is in flower and the buzzing was the bees, the smell was the flower.

There is a bee just approaching from the left......see it against the branch?  Also bees were in the flowers but they're not visible. 

Unfortunately we can't eat most of the stuff that is growing so well but we can enjoy the colour and scent of it all. 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Time flies by

And another week gone,   still busy although with different things now,  the strawberries are thankfully having a rest at the moment but the pears are ready to eat.  Pip gets the windfalls,  Monty isn't so fussed but will eat a bit sometimes.  Last year we had over 30 kilos I think,  this year is much easier to cope with - more in the region of 50 or so pears.   Enough to go and pick one when you want.  Not so many that you wonder what on earth to do with them.

The pomegranates have been  in full flower for a couple of weeks and now the fruit is taking shape.  Such a strong vibrant colour,  the leaves are bright yellowy green  and set against the blue sky,   well take a look at these.....

Our mimosa trees have been in bloom too for a week or so,  clouds of pinky-yellow blossom,  the first blooms starting to drop off now but lots and lots of buds so many flowers still to come.  It flowers for most of the summer....

 This tree is in the side garden and I took the picture from the pool area,  looking down towards it,  whereas this other tree is in the front garden and although planted at the same time is not as big yet.  Looking up through the arch you can see it's feathery leaves well against the sky.

Another dog arrived in Montenegro a few weeks ago,  don't know what type - probably a mixed variety,  but she's got big paws!   She's not a stray, but belongs to one of the Paco's.
Another mouth to feed along with the dog and  3 cats that he already has.  Can't count the chickens, rabbits or goats as they are food!

And lastly an early morning worker,  toiling away in his field...we went past at 7.45 and he was already working,  a basket of seeds by his feet.  I wonder what he's planting? 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

A bit of a beef.

We don't go out often, we do try and alternate the cars though when we go,  enough to keep them both running as we are quite isolated and  occasionally we have found that a battery goes flat but then use the other car.  Yesterday we went for a shopping stock-up trip and when we stopped to fill the car at the petrol station,  John found a wasps nest - tiny triangular shaped made of mud thing - behind the flap when he opened it to access the cap!  Now maybe Mr and Mrs Wasp had only just recently made the nest but then again we hadn't filled that car since the middle of February.  The nest is now history,  luckily there wasn't an angry Mr Wasp in there when he found it!

About shopping....over the last year maybe more, we've noticed that some supermarkets have changed their ingredients of some meats,  surely meat should be meat not need a list of ingredients!   Specifically we've noticed it on minced beef.  It used to be 100% beef,  maybe 98% with some salt and preservative added,  but now we are finding labels that say 87% or even 80%!  If we wanted to buy water or soya protein or cereals we would,  but not in our meat thank you.  Anyway our water is free and we don't eat many cereals,  they are for breakfast not in our minced beef.   Our answer to this is to buy lean stewing steak and mince it ourselves as we have an old fashioned fit it on the table type of mincer which does a wonderful job.

Then there is the mark-up on things like from ketchup to chilli ketchup.  Maybe double the price?   We both like spicy foods so now just buy ketchup,  empty it into a bowl,  add our own ground up dried home grown chillis and pour it into a squirty refillable bottle.  Same with garlic mayo,  spicy bbq sauce,  flavoured oils......all so easy to do yourself. 

This morning I spent a bit of time in the kitchen doing all of the above plus starting a batch of lime pickle - for those who like Indian food and buy lime pickle it's easy and quickish.  Day 1 chop the limes and add salt.  Day 4 add ground spices.  Day 8 bottle.  Basically that's it but the real recipe is here  along with a few other easy to do  chutney ideas.

And that's it,  rant over.  Sorry for that.

But the sun is out - or was earlier - the sky is/was blue,  the water was lovely and warm once I'd escaped from the kitchen and went for a much needed swim and as far as I can see the forecast is good.  

Off now for a much needed very large glass of wine.  Plus to stop Pip barking,  there are Scops owls out  in the hills hooting and she is barking back at them.