A ‘chuck it all in’ pasta

This is as unsophisticated as pasta gets. Mushrooms, check. Blue cheese, check. Walnuts, check. Garlic, check. Basically, chop them all up and put them in a pan. That’s it. Mix with pasta. Eat. This recipe is not by a chef, it’s a ‘Notes on a Spanish Valley: what are we going to eat?’ recipe. mushroom - close-up 17-6-14Assorted mushrooms
2-3 cloves of garlic
Packet of blue cheese, any kind [or plain cream cheese, if you don’t like blue]
Walnuts, chopped
Pasta, your choice

Prepare the mushrooms by removing the skin if necessary, otherwise simply wipe gently with a piece of dry kitchen towel [never rinse a mushroom, it absorbs water like a sponge and consequently tastes like one too]. Chop the mushrooms and set aside. Peel the garlic and slice thinly. walnut, toasted 17-6-14Warm a small frying pan on medium heat, then toast your chopped walnuts briefly until coloured. Set aside to cool. blue cheese - chopped 17-6-14Prepare the blue cheese by breaking or cutting the cheese into chunks.

Warm a slug of good olive oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic, fry gently to flavour the oil, do not allow the garlic to brown. garlic - close-up 17-6-14Now add the mushrooms and cook until browned.

Meanwhile, cook your chosen pasta according to the packet instructions. When the pasta is done, drain but reserve a little of the pasta water.

Stir the cheese through the mushrooms until melted and blended together. Add the walnuts. Now tip the pasta and pasta water into the frying pan [the little drop of water helps the sauce cling to the pasta]. Mix pasta and sauce together. Eso es! That’s it! plateful 17-6-14This is a very brown dish, so it looks prettier with a sprinkling of chopped parsley. Sorry about the brown photo, I forgot the parsley. But please be reassured this is very tasty, the meatier the type of mushroom the better.

5 to remember
sencillo/a – unsophisticated
fundamentalmente – basically
un paquete – a packet
moreno/a – brown
unas gotas – a sprinkling [literally, ‘some drops']

The mother of invention

This recipe was born of necessity. As necessity is the mother of invention… it did, of course, turn out rather wonderful. Picture it, a cold winter weekend, we should have gone out to the supermarket but instead we hunkered down in front of the fire. But then we got hungry, very hungry, and so this dish was cobbled together from a vague memory of watching a television chef. cider - bottle 12-1-14We assembled it as follows:-
From the store cupboard: an old [very old, out of date] bottle of Asturian cider [above], and a small carton of longlife nata para cocinar [cream for cooking].
From the freezer: salmon fillets.
From the pantry: Pablo’s potatoes, which we are never without.
From the fridge: a jar of mustard. mustard - jar 12-1-14cider - glass 12-1-14First, we pan-fried the fish in a little oil in a frying pan. Once the fish was part-cooked, we set it aside. The fish will continue to cook off the heat, so it is important to remove it from the pan early.

To the same pan used for the fish, add a couple of teaspoons of whatever mustard you have [ours was grain] and a good swig of cider. I should add here that this is a ‘glug and a dash’ sort of recipe, no measurements, just add and stir until it tastes right. add cider & mustard to fish pan 12-1-14Add the cream, stir to combine. add cream to cider sauce 12-1-14Put salmon back into the pan and re-heat gently. frying potatoes 12-1-14If, like us, you want to eat this with fried potatoes, you need to start cooking the potatoes first. Peel and cut into cubes, then par-boil them until softening. Drain water from the pan, put on the lid and shake them so the edges are softened. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil and add the potatoes. Fry gently, turning, until golden brown. If your timing is a little misplaced, fried potatoes are forgiving: they keep warm very well in a dish in the oven. We always think we have peeled too many potatoes, and we always eat the lot! plateful 12-1-145 to remember
la necesidad – the necessity
vago/a – vague
la memoria – the memory
el jefe de cocina – chef
la mostaza – the mustard

Damp almond and lemon cake

I know the name of this cake is a bit odd – its Nigella Lawson’s cake not mine – but please try it. I am an almond fan, just as well with all the almond trees we have here, we’ve never been short of an almond or two. baking tin - cake removed 20-5-14cake - cut into 21-5-14The combination of creamy almond and sharp lemon works well. The word ‘damp’ in the title comes from the fact that there is hardly any flour in the cake, so it is moist. In fact when I went to the cupboard there was so little flour in the flour box that I thought I would have to postpone my plans, but 50g really is just a couple of spoonfuls. plateful 21-5-14225g soft unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
4 large eggs
50g plain flour
225g ground almonds
½ tsp almond essence [which I didn’t have, so I substituted vanilla essence]
Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons lemon - juiced 20-5-14lemon - zest grated 20-5-14Grease a 21-23cm Springform cake tin [I used an old butter paper] and line the bottom. baking tin - grease with butter paper 20-5-14parchment paper - red ring 20-5-14Roll out your baking parchment, take the loose bottom of the tin and place it on the paper. Draw a ring around the tin, and cut out.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.

Cream together the butter and sugar until almost white [below]. add the sugar to the butter 20-5-14cream the butter & sugar 20-5-14Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a quarter of the flour after each addition [below]. egg shells 20-5-14add the eggs and flour 20-5-14When all the eggs and flour are thoroughly combined, gently stir in the ground almonds followed by the essence, zest and juice [below]. add the zest, juice & essence 20-5-14This makes a pretty sloppy mixture [below], so don’t worry! sloppy mixture 20-5-14Pour the mixture into the cake tin [below], give it a tap to eliminate bubbles, and bake in the oven for 1 hour. Nigella says this timing is approximate though and warns that she has made the cakes in different ovens when it is ready anything from 50 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes. She advises covering the cake with foil, after 30 minutes in the oven, so the top doesn’t burn. tin - ready to go into oven 20-5-14The cake is ready when the top is firm and a skewer, inserted, comes out cleanish. You want a little dampness, but not goo.

Take the cake out of the oven and let it stand in the tin for five minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack and leave until cool. tin - just out of oven 20-5-14cake cooling on rack 20-5-14Nigella says it is best stored by wrapping in foil, and leaving for a couple of days [if you can!]. Serve sprinkled with a dusting of icing sugar and some fresh berries, raspberries, strawberries or other fresh fruit.

5 to remember
una hincha de [algo] – a fan of [something]
húmedo/a – damp/moist
una frambuesa – raspberry
una fresa – a strawberry
guardar – to store something

How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson 17-4-14


‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’ by Nigella Lawson

A celebration of onions

Our small veggie patch produces enough onions to last us through the winter. Our first attempts at storing them were disastrous, we mistakenly assumed that they should be kept in the dark and they spoiled, sprouting beyond practical use. No… oddly they store better in the light though they will still sprout a small amount. But there is one rule you must follow… they must be dry, the skins papery, with all earth knocked off. This is about judging the right time to lift them from the ground: on a dry day, we lay them out on a table on the terrace and leave them in the autumn sunshine.

Now we store them in a basket in the pantry. Pablo stores his in an enormous heap in his root cellar beneath his house, next to the even larger heap of potatoes.

5 to remember
suficiente – enough
desastroso/a – disastrous
por error – mistakenly
como de papel – papery
satisfecho/a – satisfying

Poplars through the seasons

Through the year, I think my favourite tree of the valley is the poplar. It pays to be patient, as spring arrives and the bare branches of winter burst into life with the purest green of leaves, that type of green that says ‘new life’. 8 August bark - tennis court tree 27-8-13The bark is so wonderfully crusty it makes me want to touch it. And then, after a summer set to the soundtrack of wind swishing through the poplar leaves, comes Autumn Showtime.

Here is the photographic story of our poplar year.

March, in sun and cloud…

3 March poplars in valley bottom1 26-3-133 March poplars in valley bottom2 26-3-133 March poplars1 15-3-13April, and the fluffy seeds disperse… 4 April chopo seeds in april 28-4-114 April chopo seeds in april2 28-4-114 April poplars in the valley 28-4-11May, saplings are planted… 5 May poplars saplings planted on bottom terrace - 2nd spring 1-5-13July…7 poplars 8-7-14August… 8 poplars 24-8-14November… 11 Nov poplars in nov - photo David 15-11-095 to remember
el preferido/la preferida – the favourite
paciente - patient
lo más puro – purest
crujiente – crusty
la banda sonora – the soundtrack