Fluffy white plum blossom

The blossom on our plum trees at the moment is wonderful, and can rival any explosion of hawthorn blossom in England. It actually looks like balls of cotton wool, fluffs, teased out with a haircomb. plum blossom2 16-4-13There is a succession of flowering trees throughout the spring, flowering one after the other so at any point there is always blossom somewhere. Now, is the time of the plum. plum blossom1 16-4-13 plum blossom1 18-4-135 to remember
una explosión - an explosion
el espino – the hawthorn
el algodón – the cotton wool
esponjoso/a – fluffy
un peine- a haircomb

Trees, bark and timber

Bark is effectively the skin of the tree and it overlays the wood. crackly bark1 26-3-13The bark itself has inner and outer layers, in older stems the inner bark is living tissue while the outer bark is dead tissue. Knowing this has made me look at trees a little more closely. olive wood and vinca 15-3-13I have always loved bark. It’s not just the visual appearance of texture, but there is something so tactile about it which makes me want to touch it even though it is usually rough and scratchy. Perhaps the needing to touch thing is connected to the skin thing: the need to touch the skin of your partner, your relative, your friend, is a way of giving and receiving comfort.

Like skin, bark can reheal itself but often with a scar or callus growth over the injured site. So no matter what nature throws at trees – frost, sun, snow, flood – they can recover.  tree stump beside river2 26-3-13cut tree and ivy1 26-3-135 to remember
la corteza – the bark [of tree]
eficazmente – effectively
interior – inner
exterior – outer
el tallo – the stem

A cookie or a biscuit?

I don’t generally use the word ‘cookie’, I don’t see what’s wrong with calling a biscuit a biscuit. But these biscuits are called cookies by Mary Berry: Mega Chocolate Chip Cookies. Whatever, they do taste good. As with all cake and biscuit cooking, the bowl is scraped clean. bowl scraped clean 15-2-14Chewy more than crisp, I’ve successfully frozen these and refreshed them briefly in a warm oven. Biscuits are one of those things where I long for biscuits from home, Spanish biscuits just don’t cut it; so I like to make a couple of batches and stash them in the freezer. pile of biscuits 15-2-14Makes 12-24 depending on how big you want them to be

6oz soft margarine
8oz sugar
2 eggs [I used three as mine were very small]
12oz self-raising flour
4oz chocolate chips or chopped chocolate beaten egg in bowl 15-2-14chocolate chips in bowl 15-2-14Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Lightly oil three baking trays [I find the cooked biscuits easier to remove from the hot baking tray if I lightly oil it with sunflower oil, than grease it with margarine]. all ingredients in mixing bowl 15-2-14Put all the measured ingredients into a large bowl and mix until the biscuit dough is smooth. mixed dough in bowl 15-2-14Place large spoonfuls [I used a dessert spoon] of the mixture onto a baking tray [I put six on each tray] then flatten each slightly with the back of the spoon. uncooked biscuit - close-up 15-2-14ready to go into oven 15-2-14aBake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, mine were done after 15, or until golden brown and just firm to the touch. Cool on a wire rack, and store in an airtight container. biscuits cooling on rack 15-2-145 to remember
equivocado/a – wrong
una galleta - a biscuit
se llama – it is called
enorme – mega
el tazón - the bowl

Writing, walking and thinking

As a writer, I value my thinking time. And here in the valley there is nothing better to do than go for a walk. my feet 11-3-14We are spoiled for choice. It never fails to clear my brain of excess thought, and leaves me refreshed. So instead of lots of words, here are photos from my walk. an old tree1 11-3-14looking down the track 11-3-14at the gate 11-3-14leaves & oak gall 11-3-14looking up the track 11-3-14my foot on track 11-3-14only gorse flowering - +romero + vinca 11-3-14farmer busy chopping back olive trees 11-3-14tractor tracks in the dried track - who has been here before 11-3-14weeds in the olive grove 11-3-14an old tree2 11-3-145 to remember
escribiendo – writing
andando – walking
pensando – thinking
un exceso – an excess
refrescado/a – refreshed

1080 bonito, tomato & onion stew

Thanks to the big bonito we bought, click here to see how it was filleted, we are exploring recipes in our lovely Spanish cookbook, 1080 Recipes.

bonito - a very big fish 6-3-14The first in the Bonito section – just to clarify, bonito is a similar fish to tuna and can be used in the same way – is ‘Bonito with onion and tomato’. Like all the recipes in this lovely book, the titles are factual rather than imaginative and don’t really do the finished dish justice. This really is comfort food.

Serves 6
6 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 tsp plain flour
750g ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded & chopped
175ml white wine
Pinch of dried mixed herbs or 2 bay leaves or 1 sprig fresh thyme
1.2kg thick bonito fillets
Salt bonito fillets on large dish 6-3-14Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and cook over a low heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent.

Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for two minutes. tomato sauce - cooking 6-3-14Add the tomato and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomato flesh with the side of the spoon, for five minutes. Pour in the wine, add the herbs, season with salt, and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the bonito, cover and cook over a low heat for another 10 minutes. plateful 6-3-14Serve immediately.

5 to remember
el bonito – the bonito/tuna
un filete – a fillet
explorando/a – exploring
para aclarar – to clarify
el título – the title

tortilla con atun - cover 1080 12-7-13

‘1080 Recipes’ by Simone and Inés Ortega

Blue sky and baby figs

I love watching for the first figs, the first hint of fruit that starts as big as a pinhead. The size of the baby figs at the moment varies from tree to tree, something to do with how much sun it gets I guess. Mid-April is a time when we are still thankful each morning to see the blue sky and the spring greening of the valley. The trees are not fully in leaf yet, so the easier it
is to see the fruit.fig - baby fruit 17-4-13fig tree & blue sky- baby fruit 17-4-13A sign that winter is truly behind us. A promise of summer, and figs, to come.  fig tree - sun through2 25-4-13

Fig jam. Fig ice cream. Vanilla-poached figs. Fig cake. Fig and melon salad. Roasted figs with ricotta. Fig… fig in april 14-4-105 to remember
una pista – a hint/clue
la cabeza de alfiler – pinhead
cúanto - how much
agredecido/a – thankful
una señal - a sign

How green is our valley

The valley really is greening up now, at last the leaf buds on the tips of the fig branches are opening like outstretched fingers. fig tree - buds2 24-3-13On the way to Ronda this morning, I spotted spears of cultivated asparagus poking through in the fields, and the car loads of farm labourers gathering on Mint Boy’s corner at Alcalá del Valle. We call it Mint Boy’s corner, because when we first moved here, the young boy at the garage there picked a bunch of wild mint and presented it to me as he filled the car with diesel.

[photo: insects-morphology.blogspot.com]

[photo: insects-morphology.blogspot.com]

The leaves on the walnuts are breaking through too, just like the walnut they open at the very end of each branch, these like a single green arrow tip. We sat on the terrace, drinking our morning cafelitos, and watched a swallowtail butterfly fly towards us from the plum tree and straight into the wall. It fell stunned to the floor. D picked it up and re-launched it, and it flew away fine. Beautiful markings. It lost one of its two tails but that didn’t stop it flying. Its upper wings are yellow with a network of black veins, around the edges of the wings are tiny blue spots. They are quite common here, but are so exotic-looking that they never fail to make us stop and watch them.

5 to remember
la mariposa – butterfly
el garaje – garage
el espárrago – asparagus
la hierbabuena – mint
la macaón – swallowtail butterfly