Publication Day

Ignoring Gravity by Sandra DanbyThe day is here at last, my novel Ignoring Gravity is published today as an e-book. Click here to buy now at Amazon

To find out what it’s about, click here to watch the book trailer.
To hear me talk about how I wrote the book, click here.

Coming soon… the Ignoring Gravity paperback. To keep up-to-date with news about my books, sign-up here to receive my e-newsletter [published 1-2 times a year]

There’s brown, and there’s brown

I am never bored by looking at the countryside here, it changes every day, every week. At the moment the fields have been ploughed after the tidying of autumn crops, awaiting that faint green shimmer as the new growth of winter crops appear. brown earth 10-10-14From brown to cream to speckled golden with the remains of the straw stubble, the colours vary not just from hill to hill and field to field, but within fields. Wet and dry, shade and sun, level or sloping, the slightest difference seems to affect the colour of the soil.

5 to remember
aburrido/a – bored
apenas visible – faint
el brillo – the shimmer
salpicada/o – speckled
el rastrojo – the stubble [agricultural]

Walnuts: from tree to cake

We are so lucky here to have so many walnut trees that, in a good year, they produce more nuts than we can eat. That said, last year we got none. I get a kick each time I make a dish using our own walnuts, knowing they went from tree… walnut tree 21-5-14… to baby walnut… baby walnut 8-5-14… to nuts… 15 walnuts… to kernels which I can cook with. walnut - close-up 21-5-14This walnut teabread is another reliable cake recipe from Mary Berry. It keeps well, it freezes well, and it eats well! cake - cut into 21-5-14100g granulated sugar
175g golden syrup [I accidently used a maple-flavoured version, which I didn’t realise I’d bought, but it tasted just as good]
200ml milk
50g sultanas
225g self-raising flour [in our case, a valuable drum of Homepride bought from Iceland on the coast, what a treat!]
1 tsp baking powder
50 walnuts, roughly chopped
1 egg, beaten [I used two of Pablo’s small eggs]

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Lightly grease, then base line a 2lb [900g] loaf tin with greased greaseproof paper or baking parchment. cake tin - lined 21-5-14Measure the sugar, syrup, milk and sultanas into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool. milk in jug 21-5-14in pan - syrup, sugar & sultanas 21-5-14in pan - milk, syrup, sugar & sultanas 21-5-14Measure the flour and baking powder into a bowl. flour drum 21-5-14a teaspoon of baking powder 21-5-14add flour to baking powder 21-5-14Roughly chop the walnuts, I used a mezaluna which I find very easy to use. Add the nuts to the flour. mezaluna 21-5-14add walnuts to flour 21-5-14Add the cooled syrup mixture to the dry ingredients with the beaten egg, and stir well until the mixture is smooth. eggs in bowl 21-5-14add syrup mix and eggs to flour 21-5-14Pour into the prepared loaf tin. cake tin - ready to go into oven 21-5-14Bake in the pre-heated oven for 50-60 minutes or until firm to the touch. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean. After 30 minutes, cover the top loosely with foil if the cake is becoming too brown.

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Serve buttered. This is a dense, sticky cake, best with rich unsalted butter. plateful 21-5-145 to remember
confiable – reliable
el jarabe – the syrup
de arce - of maple
un pincho – a skewer
el papel de aluminio – the baking foil

mary berry's ultimate cake book 20-1-14


‘Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book’ by Mary Berry

Pre-order ‘Ignoring Gravity’ now

Reserve your copy of my novel Ignoring Gravity by pre-ordering at Amazon. Simply click here to pre-order and the e-book will be sent to your Kindle on the day of publication: November 21, 2014. IG's pre-order button on Amazon 11-11-14To find out what it’s about, click here to watch the book trailer.
To hear me talk about how I wrote the book, click here.
Coming soon… the Ignoring Gravity paperback.

Coming soon… the Ignoring Gravity paperback. To keep up-to-date with news about my books, sign-up here to receive my e-newsletter [published 1-2 times a year]
Ignoring Gravity by Sandra Danby


‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press]

Ant neighbours

Our nearest neighbours in our quiet valley are the ants, various types, various sizes: we leave them alone, and they leave us alone. Tiny ones, huge ones, medium-sized ones. tiny ants2 25-8-14large ant2 25-8-14We have been entertained during many a morning cafelito by the sight of an ant facing up to a large piece of food, be it a piece of bread or a dead wasp. There is the initial discovery of the food, as the single ant assesses its food value and size. Then the fellow workers arrive and as a group they assess the logistics of moving the food to their nest, many of which are accessed through tiny holes between terrace tiles. Next comes the serious work, the dissection and removal, piece by piece. It is a logical process: items too large to fit through hole of nest have to be cut into smaller pieces. Sometimes, an ant will attempt to squeeze in a breadcrumb too large for the access hole; the breadcrumb will sit there for a while, being nibbled at until it falls through the available space. Their ability to work as a team, to shift huge objects is admirable. access to nest1 25-8-14access to nest2 25-8-14Ant colonies can consist from a dozen to several million individuals, but those we most commonly see are the sterile, wingless, female worker ants. They protect themselves by biting, stinging, or spraying with formic acid. We can point to evidence of the biting, the bites of the tiniest ants are worst. One type of small ant has taken to laying its eggs inside plant pots, climbing in through the hole in the bottom of the terracotta pot. This means that when the pot is moved, the eggs scatter and the ants spring into action, carrying one white egg [the size of a pinhead] at a time to a new location. heading off into the ivy 25-8-14a line of tiny ants1 25-8-14tiny ants1 25-8-14There are 9000 species of ant, so I am not about to identify our ant neighbours from two pages in our Insects book. But they are our friends. large ant1 25-8-14large ant3 25-8-145 to remember
una hormiga – an ant
la especie – the species
inicial – initial
el tamaño – the size
el comportamiento – the behaviour

Fragrant pineapple cake

I don’t think I have ever put pineapple in a cake. I have eaten pineapple upside-down cake a couple of times, but long ago. sticky spoon 1-6-14This cake is a triumph, made when the pineapple in the fruit bowl was smelling over-ripe and we didn’t have enough time to eat it. So it seemed obvious to put the fruit into a cake, using a Nigel Slater recipe. cake - close-up1 1-6-14pineapple - piece of 1-6-14150g butter
150g sugar
A whole pineapple
3 large eggs [or 4 of Pablo’s]
75g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
50g shelled walnuts or almonds, chopped roughly walnuts - chopped 1-6-14Set the oven at 180°C. Grease and line a square 20cm cake tin, about 6cm deep, with parchment paper. cake tin - lined 1-6-14To prepare the pineapple, take a large sharp knife and cut off the top and bottom. Sit the pineapple on its end on the cutting board, and from the top take off a slice of skin, curving the knife at the bottom. Don’t go too deep as you don’t want to lose flesh. Once you have gone around the fruit, turn it upside down and take off any remaining bits of skin, and also nick out the remaining bits of stalk one at a time with the tip of your knife. The centre of a pineapple is tough, so cut thick slices from the core and throw the core away. Then chop the remaining slices into chunks.

Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, I always mix my cakes by hand as it seems easier. Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat gently, then add bit by bit to the butter mixture. cake mix - add flour 1-6-14Sift the flour and baking powder into a separate bowl, stirring to mix, fold them gently into the butter mixture. cake mix - add ground almonds 1-6-14cake mix - add walnuts 1-6-14Fold in the ground almonds, then the nuts.

Scrape the mixture into the cake tin, give the tin a firm tap on the counter to help the mixture settle and get rid of air bubbles. Place the pieces of pineapple evenly into the cake mixture, they will sink during cooking so this is not an artistic process. cake tin - ready to go into oven 1-6-14Bake for 40-45 minutes, test with a skewer, if the skewer comes out clean the cake is done.

Remove the cake from the oven and set the tin on a cooling rack. Once the cake is cold, remove from the tin and peel off the paper. As it contains fruit, this cake is best kept in the fridge in a plastic box. cake tin - just out of oven 1-6-14cake - close-up2 1-6-145 to remember
fragrante – fragrant
una piña – a pineapple
el corazón – the core
un rabillo – a stalk [of fruit]
la punta del cuchillo – the tip of the knife

fig cake - cover The Kitchen Diaries 12-7-13


‘The Kitchen Diaries’ by Nigel Slater

Signs of man

Driving along Spanish country roads, it feels as if each field has its own sign. Plastic, new metal, rusted metal. Some so old the writing has long been illegible. old sign1 10-10-14sociedad de cazedores - sign 10-10-14coto privado de caza - sign5 10-10-14Most of these are to do with hunting. Shooting game [partridge, rabbits, boar] for the pot is a regular country activity around here. Some fields sport the welcoming notices coto deportivo de caza or coto privado de caza [hunting reserve], some parts of the campo belong to specific hunting clubs, una sociedad de cazadores. coto privado de caza - sign3 10-10-14coto deportivo de caza - sign2 10-10-14coto privado de caza - sign2 10-10-14Others seek privacy, prohibido el paso means ‘entry forbidden’, propiedad privada is ‘private property’. prohibido el paso - sign 10-10-14old sign3 10-10-14coto privado de caza - sign6 10-10-14coto privado de caza - sign7 10-10-14This road sign makes me chuckle. road sign - cow or bull 10-10-14It is a rare sight to see a cow in a field around here, it is just too hot for dairy cows [and the cow on this sign definitely has an udder]. At this time of year it is common enough to see bulls and young bullocks in the oak groves. coto deportivo de caza - sign1 10-10-14old sign2 10-10-14coto privado de caza - sign1 10-10-14coto privado de caza - sign4 10-10-145 to remember
un letrero – a sign/notice
ilegible – illegible
el coto – reserve [game/fishing]
un toro – a bull
un novillo – a bullock