Stripes and lines

Stripes… field after harvest1 1-7-14Lines… line of olive trees1 12-10-13 (2)Parallel… dried-out stalks of giant fennel1 1-7-14Angular… field of drying sunflowers 22-8-13 (2)Rows… field after harvest2 1-7-14Strips…

Whoever said nature was curvy and rounded. Here we see stripes and lines all around us, some totally natural, some imposed by man’s intervention. line of olive trees - up our track 12-10-13 (2)5 to remember
una raya – a stripe
una línea – a line
la paralela – the parallel
angular – angular
una hilera – row

What a way to use up mushrooms

There was a packet of mushrooms in the fridge which were starting to look as if their best days were over. So it was an opportunity to try this Nigella Lawson recipe which I have wanted to try ever since we got her Italian-influenced book Nigellissima. It is a luxurious creamy pasta which makes you feel naughty eating it! mushroom, portobello - close-up 9-4-14marsala - close-up of bottle 9-4-14Nigella’s recipe uses only dried porcini, so I just used a mixture of dried plus the fresh meaty portobello mushrooms languishing in our fridge. recipe page - close-up 9-4-14Serves 2 porcini - dried, close-up 9-4-1415g dried porcini
fresh mushrooms [whatever you have to hand, optional]
60ml marsala marsala - bottle 9-4-1460ml water
125g mascarpone mascarpone - spoonful 9-4-14Freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
Large handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
Your pasta of choice pasta tube - close-up 9-4-1415g unsalted butter
1 small clove of garlic, peeled and minced
Two good handfuls of freshly grated parmesan marsala - bottle top 9-4-14Measure the porcini into a small pan, cover with the marsala and water, and bring to the boil. porcini, marsla & water in pan 9-4-14Turn off the heat and allow it to stand for at least 10 minutes, I actually made it hours in advance which worked too [below]. porcini - in a bowl, marinating 9-4-14Measure the mascarpone into a bowl, adding a good grating of fresh nutmeg and ground black pepper. When the porcini have finished soaking, strain the mushroom liquid into the mascarpone bowl then whisk it together lightly to combine. mascarpone & mushroom water mix 9-4-14Squeeze the porcini out over the bowl to catch all the drips of mushroom liquid. Mix the squeezed porcini with the parsley and chop both together on a board. porcini and parsley, chopped 9-4-14Wipe the fresh mushrooms clean [if using] with a piece of kitchen towel, then slice or chop according to how you like them. I left ours in large slices to contrast nicely with the tiny pieces of porcini.

You can prepare to this stage in advance. When you are ready to eat, put the pasta water onto boil adding a pinch of salt and a dash of oil to the water.

Cook your chosen pasta as usual, meanwhile prepare the sauce.

In a large frying pan or wok, warm the butter and add the garlic, stirring it for 3 seconds. Add the fresh mushrooms and stir until softened [mushrooms notoriously soak up butter, so feel free to add a glug of oil too]. mushrooms x 2 & parsley in pan 9-4-14Next add the chopped porcini and parsley and cook for a couple of minutes. Whisk in the contents of the mascarpone bowl and stir until it starts to bubble. Turn the heat off.

Reserve a small cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and tip into the sauce. Toss to coat, adding a little pasta water to loosen the sauce. add mascarpone sauce to pan 9-4-14Now add the parmesan and toss again. Check the seasoning.

Serve in two warmed bowls, with extra parsley scattered over the top. parsley - close-up of single leaf 9-4-14plateful 9-4-145 to remember
una seta – a mushroom
por adelantado – in advance
la fase – the stage [of development/activity]
exprimir – to squeeze/extract
calentado/a – warmed

Nigellissima - book cover 9-4-14


‘Nigellissima’ by Nigella Lawson

Bird song: Booted Eagle

We are lucky enough to welcome a pair of visiting booted eagles to the valley each summer. They are, according to our bird book, an endangered species. We actually refer to them as ‘bootcut’ eagles, after a malapropism by a friend who was thinking about bootcut jeans at the time!



To listen to a Booted Eagle, click here for a fantastic recording by
Click here to read about the birdwatching walks by blogger Birdwatch Gaucin. Gaucin is an Andalucian village, about two hours drive away from our valley.

5 to remember
tenemos la suerte – we are lucky enough
cada verano – each summer
un error cometido al confudir un vocabulo con otro similar – a malapropism
los vaqueros – a pair of [denim] jeans
una grabación – a recording

Not just your everyday pudding

I grew up with bread and butter pudding; the wartime kind, odd bits of bread slathered with margarine, sprinkled with sultanas and currants and covered with Mum’s milky custard. I still love eating every version of bread and butter pudding I find, today they are richer, thicker, creamier than my Mum’s version. This recipe is not just your everyday pudding although it does use leftover ingredients, it just happens that the leftovers have to be pain-au-chocolat. plateful 17-4-14Serves 6

3-4 stale pains au chocolat
500ml milk
500ml double cream [if you prefer, instead of the milk/double cream combination you can instead use 1 litre single cream]
3 tbsp caster sugar
1 large egg egg - close-up in box 17-4-144 large egg yolks
½ tsp vanilla extract pain au chocolat - sliced 17-4-14Preheat the oven to 160C/gas 3.

Butter an ovenproof dish [with the capacity of 1½ litres].

Cut up the pains au chocolat, rough slices about 1 cm thick and arrange them in the dish. Squash them all in.

Put the milk and cream into a pan and bring slowly to almost boiling point. cream in the pan 17-4-14While you are waiting, whisk the egg, the yolks and sugar in a large wide-mouthed measuring jug. whisking 17-4-14When the milk and cream are nearly boiling, pour it over the eggs and sugar, and whisk continuously.

Add the vanilla to the custard then pour over the slices of pain au chocolat. pouring custard into the dish 17-4-14Leave it to rest for at least 10 minutes, to allow the custard to soak in. ready to go into the oven 17-4-14Place in the pre-heated oven for about 45 minutes or until the pudding is softly set. just out of the oven 17-4-145 to remember
durante la guerra – wartime
la margarina – the margarine
cotidiano/a – everyday
gordo/a – thicker
continuamente – continuously

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


Recipe from ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’ by Nigella Lawson

Smoky grilled aubergines with a kick

This is a wonderful lunch on a hot day with a bowl of olives and some breadsticks. If you have one, use a ridged grill pan to cook the aubergines so you get a pretty striped effect. The combination of silky smoky aubergine, the slight sweetness of honey and the kick of the chilli is quite unusual. This is the sort of chilli which leaves your lips zinging, if you don’t like zinging lips then add less chilli. plateful – close-up 9-8-14aubergine slice – close-up1 9-8-14Serves 6
3 large round aubergines
Extra virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
3 dried red chillies, crumbled [or 1 tsp dried chilli flakes]
2 tbsp dried wild oregano
2 x 800g tins peeled plum tomatoes [drain the juice and keep]
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Herb vinegar [tarragon, thyme or similar]
3 tbsp fresh parsley

First, make the tomato-chilli sauce. Put 2 tbsp of oil into a thick-bottomed saucepan, and put on a medium heat. Add the garlic, cook gently until golden. Add the chilli and the dried oregano. Add the drained tomatoes and mash them into the garlic with a spoon. Stir and cook this pulp over a low heat for a least 45 minutes. Stir occasionally. pan of sauce 9-8-14The tomatoes will thicken and become almost dry. If the tomatoes begin to stick, add a little of the reserved tomato juice. The colour will be an intense red and the texture sticky. Season with salt and pepper and some olive oil. Spread over a flat plate and allow to dry out a little.

Cut the aubergines into 5mm thick slices. stack of aubergine slices  9-8-14Using a preheated, very hot griddle pan, grill the aubergines on both sides. Press to test if they are cooked.

To serve, arrange the aubergine slices on a serving plate, drizzle with the herb vinegar and olive oil to taste. Spread the slices with the tomato-chilli paste. Scatter with the fresh marjoram or parsley leaves. plateful 9-8-14grilled aubergines with tomato-chilli paste - recipe page 7-6-135 to remember
sedoso/a – silky
ahumado/a – smoky
la combinación – combination
una patada – a kick
el oregano – oregano
River Cafe Cook Book Two - cover 7-6-13


‘River Café Cook Book Two’ by Rose Gray and Ruth Rodgers

Triple cheese courgette tart

This is a wonderful cheesy tart: cheese in the pastry, cheese in the egg mix and cheese on top. It’s a combination of two separate recipes by Delia Smith and is excellent for lunch on a hot summer day. flan tin - close-up 28-7-14baby courgette 28-7-14For the cheese pastry [enough for a 20cm flan tin with fluted edges and removable base]:-
50g SR flour
50g wholemeal flour
A pinch of salt
½ tsp mustard powder
50g butter, cold
40g grated Cheddar, or other hard cheese
Cold water, to mix
For the filling:-
225g courgettes
50g strong cheese, grated. Preferably Gruyère [we used a mixture of Parmesan and Manchego]
1 small onion, finely chopped
25g butter
2 large eggs plus 1 yolk [set aside a little of this for sealing the pastry case]
275mg single or double cream [or half cream/half yogurt]
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F/180°C/Gas 4, with a baking sheet placed on the centre shelf.

Lightly-grease your flan tin.

First, make the pastry as it needs to be set aside in the fridge to chill. cubing the butter 28-7-14Sift the flours, salt and mustard powder into a mixing bowl, then rub in the fat until the mixture becomes crumbly. Then stir in the grated cheese, and add enough cold water [out of the fridge] to make a dough that leaves the dough clean [we needed 1 tsp]. making pastry 28-7-14pastry in cling film 28-7-14Wrap the dough in cling film and leave it to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

While it is chilling, make the filling [nice rhyme!]. Slice the courgettes fairly thinly. Soften the onion in the butter in a frying pan for five minutes. Add the courgettes and brown them a little, turning them frequently. courgettes and onions in pan 28-7-14At this stage, finish the pastry case. Roll out the pastry to line the flan tin, we find the easiest way to do this is to lay the lump of pastry on one layer of cling film and put another on top. This pastry/cling film sandwich idea comes from cook Rachel Allen, and it really works! rolling pastry 28-7-14pastry in the tin 28-7-14Prick the base with a fork, place it on the pre-heated baking sheet and bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes. Remove it from the oven, brush the inside of the pastry case with a little beaten egg [from the filling]. Return to the oven for five minutes, then remove from the oven.

Transfer the onion mixture to the pastry case. Sprinkle over the grated Gruyère. tart - add egg mix 28-7-14tart - put cheese on top 28-7-14Beat the eggs thoroughly, then whisk in the cream. Season with salt and pepper. Pour this mixture over the onion filling, and sprinkle the grated Parmesan on top.

Put the flan tin onto the baking sheet [in case of spillage in the oven] and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the centre is set and the filling is golden and puffy. Serve straight from the oven if possible [though it does reheat rather well the next day]. tart - just out of the oven 28-7-14plateful 28-7-145 to remember
triple – triple
la masa – the pastry
separado/a – separate
ondulado/a – fluted
desmontable – removable

fennel gratin - delia smiths' complete cookery course 18-8-13


‘Delia’s Complete Cookery Course’ by Delia Smith [BBC Books]

The growth cycle of a quince

There’s something odd which takes place in the growing cycle of a quince. baby quince1 8-5-14They start off as the most charming, nubbly fruit. Quite cute, as fruit go, fuzzy, with their green fringe, like something out of a Polly Pocket house. baby quince2 8-5-14baby quince3 8-5-14baby quince4 8-5-14By mid-June [below], the impersonation of Fuzzy Felt is in full swing. The cuteness is still there, the shape is beginning to look a little squashy, a hint of what is to come. quince in june1 27-6-14quince in june2 27-6-14quince in june3 27-6-14quince in june4 27-6-14Finally, the transformation… into knobbly, wrinkly, concrete hard fruit that it is difficult to cut with a cleaver. quince 17-8-13 (2)Every year we are disappointed with the full-grown warty adult. Perhaps we should pick them earlier? Does anyone else have experience with this?

5 to remember
algo raro – something odd
el ciclo del crecimiento – growth cycle
el membrillo – the quince [fruit]
encantador – charming
el flequillo - the fringe [of hair]