A heavenly soup for asparagus season

Something in my Yorkshire upbringing approves of this recipe, as it uses up all the asparagus trimmings, the tough steams, and the bright green asparagus cooking water saved from other recipes. I keep this jealously in the fridge until I can make this soup. It’s a Sophie Grigson recipe which uses sorrel which we can’t get here, but it works just as well with spinach. chives, a handful 11-4-15ladle 11-4-15Serves 2
175g asparagus trimmings
40g butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped [Sophie says one, but that’s not garlicky enough for us]
2 handfuls spinach, rinsed and torn [her recipe uses sorrel which we didn’t have]
1 tbsp plain flour [we used gluten-free]
600ml leftover asparagus cooking water [or topped up to 600ml with plain water or vegetable stock]
freshly ground pepper [we rarely add salt, especially if using a stock cube]
1 tbsp fresh chives, chopped asparagus trimmings 11-4-15Chop the asparagus roughly. butter, melting in pan 11-4-15Melt the butter in the saucepan, gently cook the onion and garlic until tender but without browning. add spinach to the onions 11-4-15Add the shredded spinach and stir until wilted. flour g-f, spoonful 11-4-15Sprinkle in the flour, stir briefly then bit-by-bit add in the asparagus water/stock.  add pepper 11-4-15Add the asparagus trimmings to the pan, season. Simmer for 20 minutes. blend till smooth 11-4-15Process the soup until smooth, if there are stringy bits then pass it through a sieve. Re-heat just before serving. Sprinkle with chives before eating. bowlful 11-4-15It’s like eating a fresh green spring day, in a bowl.
5 to remember
la educación – upbringing
la guarnición – trimmings
liso/a – smooth
un colador – a sieve
fresco/a – fresh
sophie grigson - eat your greens cover 5-6-13

Recipe adapted from Eat Your Greens by Sophie Grigson [UK: BBC Books]

Bird song: Hoopoe

Known as the ‘poop poop poop’ bird in our house, we are lucky enough to see hoopoes in the olive grove. They are very shy, and though so brightly patterned they are difficult to spot. Something to do, I think, with the black and white stripes merging with the shadows on the brown earth.

[photo: thetimes.co.uk]

[photo: thetimes.co.uk]

It is resident here, though we can go weeks in between sightings and never see them near the house. It looks like nothing else.

To listen to a hoopoe’s birdsong, click this link for the RSPB website.
To read more about the hoopoe, click here for Wikipedia.

5 to remember
la abubilla – the hoopoe
[tener] la suerte  – [to be] lucky enough
tímido/a – shy
residente – resident
el sitio web – website

On the radio in Spain

When an e-mail dropped into my Inbox, it was easy to answer the questions:-
Did I fancy a day trip to San Pedro de Alcantara, near Marbella? Yes.
Could I talk about my novel, and about adoption? Yes.
Was it okay to speak in English, not Spanish. Bueno? Absolutely, yes! day of the interview - me @ San Pedro 26-1-15aI was thrilled to be asked to appear on The Book Show, the weekly book discussion programme on Spain’s biggest English language radio station for ex-pats. The Book Show is broadcast every Thursday evening in Spain by Talk Radio Europe to half a million listeners. I really enjoyed chatting with presenter Hannah Murray [below] who explained the personal appeal which Ignoring Gravity has for her, she has two friends who were adopted, with differing experiences: one had a happy childhood, the other experienced a rockier road.

hannahmurraymediumThese friendships gave Hannah a key insight into the adoption storyline of Ignoring Gravity and she asked me some really interesting questions. To listen to my interview, click below.

Ignoring Gravity by Sandra Danby


Buy Ignoring Gravity now at Amazon UK and Amazon US. Available as e-book and paperback.

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April in the valley

Spring is well and truly here, but in some corners of the valley winter still remains. our valley - David photo 20-4-09 (2)We are 500m above sea level here, but the valley is sheltered from the worst of the winter weather. So in the sunny spots, it can be as hot as a summer’s day and the artichokes will soon be ready to eat. valley - spring colour 17-4-13 (2)artichoke - 1st year healthy plant 18-4-13 (2)5 to remember
verdaderamente – truly
una esquina – a corner
el nivel del mar – the sea level
abrigado/a – sheltered [place]
un sitio soleado – a sunny spot

Bumblebees and blue flowers

A few days of sun and warmth and the flowers are out on this marvellous evergreen silver-leaved hedge. And it is a magnet for bees, mostly bumblebees but also honey bees and the jet black rumbling carpenter bees. Throughout the summer there is a rustling from its depths: lizards love it too.  bee1 31-3-15

The hedge is Teucrium Fruticans, the Bush Germander. The Spanish call it Olivilla. It has silver leaves like the olive tree, but that is the only similarity. It loves the sun, is drought tolerant, grows in poor soil and survives to -5°C: so lots of ticks in our gardening book. We’ve trimmed it hard and it has thickened out beautifully to a dense pale, silvery hedge.
5 to remember
un seto – a hedge
el calor – the warmth
un imán – a magnet
un abejorro – a bumblebee
negro azabache – jet black

Talking about books in Cómpeta

I guess 80% of the conversation at the Cómpeta Book Group in Spain earlier this week was about Ignoring Gravity, I was the guest speaker, but I loved talking books with other book lovers. I came away with more books to add to my own To-Read list – A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, and The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway. Most of all, I was impressed with the Group members’ analysis of Ignoring Gravity and their curiosity about how the story evolved. Competa Book group - after dinner 1-4-15As often happens when I talk about Ignoring Gravity and the immensely complex subject that is adoption, I meet more people touched by adoption itself. The conversation about books continued at dinner and one member told me the story of a friend of a friend. This retired lady recently received contact from the daughter she gave up for adoption in the Sixties. She had told no-one about her pregnancy, at the time, or since. Her husband, her children: no-one else knew. What could have been a traumatic reunion turned into a positive family occasion. The similarities between the birth mother and her daughter – both physical likeness and musical ability – were breath-taking to the observers.

I found the experience of that teenage girl in the Sixties very moving: dealing with her dilemma, alone; living through her pregnancy, alone; taking the decision to give her child away, alone; facing every day since giving birth, alone. And I was amazed at the parallels with Ignoring Gravity and with book two in the series which I am currently writing. Connectedness features a teenage art student who, finding herself pregnant, also deals with her situation alone.

Thanks to the members of the Cómpeta Book Group for such a friendly welcome and lively discussion. What a beautiful part of the world to live in. This was the view from our hotel balcony the morning after. Competa Book group - early morning sun2 2-4-15Competa Book group - early morning sun1 2-4-15If your book group would like to feature Ignoring Gravity, click here for a Reading Group Guide suggesting topics for discussion.
If you would like me to visit your Book Group, please use the Contact Form here.

Ignoring Gravity by Sandra DanbyBuy Ignoring Gravity now at Amazon UK and Amazon US. Available as e-book and paperback.