Summer loaded potato skins

If you’re anything like us, you eat baked potatoes regularly throughout the year. So next time, put a few more potatoes in the oven and you can make this recipe! It’s great for a light summer lunch outside in the sun with a beer in hand, or just as good cosy inside on a winter night with a mug of tea. plateful 22-3-14The original recipe is torn from an old copy of Grazia magazine, but I have ‘made it our own’ as the original featured bacon. Feel free to adapt your toppings as creatively as you wish. I used smoked salmon and spring onions, but you could choose sun-dried tomatoes, tuna, pine nuts, a sprinkle of smoked paprika. potato - close-up of cooked half 22-3-14Serves 4
6 large potatoes
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil smoked salmon - close-up 22-3-144 large slices smoked salmon, sliced
4 spring onions, chopped
100g parmesan [or cheddar, manchego, whatever hard cheese you have] parmesan - grated 22-3-14150ml sour cream
1 small garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp fresh chives, snipped with scissors

Preheat the oven to Gas 7/220°C/180°C fan. potatoes - just gone into the oven 22-3-14Rub the potatoes all over with a little oil, place directly onto the oven shelf, and back for 1- 1¼ hours or until tender. Remove from the oven, set aside to cool. potato - just out of the oven 22-3-14Meanwhile prepare your toppings. potatoes - cooled & quartered 22-3-14Cut the cooled potatoes into quarters, and scoop out most of the flesh leaving a ½cm layer [reserve the flesh in a dish to use later for something else]. Place the quarters, cut side down, onto two baking trays. Brush with a little oil and bake for 8-10 minutes. potatoes - quarters on the baking tray 22-3-14Turn the skins over, and top half with the cheese, smoked salmon and salad onions. Return to the oven for another 8-10 minutes [keep an eye on them though, as mine only needed 5 minutes]. potato - quarters loaded going into oven 22-3-14Combine the sour cream, garlic and chives in a bowl. Arrange the potato skins on a plate and drizzle with the sour cream. sour cream, garlic & chives - on a teaspoon 22-3-145 to remember
regularmente – regularly
la próxima vez – the next time
el tocino – the bacon
tan bueno como – just as good
un cuarto – a quarter

Book review: The Ignorance of Blood

the ignorance of blood by robert wilson 7-7-14 (2)A car accident. Millions of euros. A Russian gangster drinking champagne in the middle of nowhere. The opening scene of this, the fourth in the quartet of books featuring Seville detective Javier Falcón, does not disappoint. Robert Wilson’s intricate plotting is spot-on. I read this book voraciously as Falcón struggles to get to the whole truth, admiring the way the author weaves together the story strands from the preceding three books so that at the end you understand though you did not guess.

I did not get the ending right, I expected something different. There are moments when you wonder if Javier can continue, will he step over to the dark side, will his emotional strength desert him? This is the most international of the four books, with Javier travelling to London and Morocco but Seville retains its hot sultry presence. I can smell the dusty heat of the evening where the detectives seem to exist on coffee and cruelty lays just out of sight.

I’m sorry this is a short review, I can’t write more without giving away the plot. There were moments when I wanted to shout ‘don’t do it’ and others when I thought with sad acceptance ‘yes, that’s the only thing you can do’. At the end, I wanted to start reading the series all over again. Well done Robert Wilson [below]. robert wilson - photo 7-7-14 (2)To read my reviews of the preceding three Javier Falcón books, click here.
The Blind Man of Seville
The Silent and the Damned
The Hidden Assassins
To hear Robert Wilson talk about The Ignorance of Blood, click here.

‘The Ignorance of Blood’ by Robert Wilson

The sun arrives

A July morning. 7am. sunrise in july1 9-7-14Our valley is still in the shade, but the sun is up and creeps around, highlighting hillsides and peaks like a spotlight. sunrise in july2 9-7-14And as soon as the sun’s direct light hits the ground, the summer heat arrives. sunrise in july3 9-7-14 5 to remember
todavía – still
se arrastra -it creeps
los toques de luz – highlights
la luz direccional – the spotlight
directo/a – direct

July in the valley

Predominantly gold, with touches of green. For the farmers, some crops are finished and others are still growing. No rain for more than a month, higher temperatures than normal for July but with the odd grey humid day. Here’s a snapshot of what we see around us. dried thistle - Canete la Real to Almargen 26-7-13 (2)green tomato in july 24-7-11 (2)lavender against olive grove 8-7-14plums in july 6-7-11 (2)pomegranate 24-7-11 (2)pomegranate in july - pink 24-7-11 (2)sage flower - close-up 8-7-14the big walnut tree 8-7-14plums in july2 6-7-11 (2)tomatoes in july 24-7-11 (2)pomegranate in july 24-7-11 (2)valley1 8-7-145 to remember
predominantemente – predominantly
toques de – touches of
terminado/a – finished
its very humid today – hay mucha humedad
la foto instantánea – snapshot

A ‘just lovely’ leek and cheese tart

Sometimes we see a recipe on a TV programme and just have to make it. We saw this on a River Cottage repeat, and made it the next day. The description is plain but it is such a creamy tart, we ate it with a spinach salad with quite a sharp dressing: to cut through the creaminess! pastry case - just out of the oven1 2-4-14Serves 4 as a main meal with salad
Shortcrust pastry
2 large or 3 medium leeks
Knob of unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g Dorset Vinny or other good blue cheese [it also works with cheddar] cheese, crumbled - close-up 2-4-142 medium eggs
2 medium egg yoks
350ml double cream

Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/Gas Mark 3.

Trim the tough green leaves of the leeks, rinse and slice into 1cm rounds. Put the leeks into a saucepan with 100ml water, knob of butter and salt and pepper. Simmer gently until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserve the cooking liquid, set the leeks aside. leeks - buttered & drained 2-4-14Meanwhile, line a 25cm loose-bottomed tart tin with the pastry, letting the excess pastry hang over the edges. Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper, fill with baking beans, and bake blind for 20 minutes. Remove the tart out of the oven, take out the paper and beans and lightly prick the base with a fork. Bake for another five minutes until the base is dry but not too brown. Set the flan aside, trim the excess pastry with a small, sharp knife. pastry case - just out of the oven2 2-4-14Turn the oven temperature up to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Spread the cooked leeks in the tart case and cover with the grated cheese.

Whisk the eggs and egg yolks, cream and leek liquor in a bowl and beat until smooth. Season. Pour the custard over the cheese and leeks. flan - ready to go into oven 2-4-14Bake the tart for about 30 minutes – the custard should be just set when you gently shake the tin.

We served ours ‘just warm’ and it was ‘just lovely’. flan - just out of the oven 2-4-145 to remember
precioso/a – lovely
una tarta – a tart
un puerro – a leek
el líquido – the liquid
el tenedor – the fork

The mountain that gives our village its name

Looking over the gathering of houses which makes up our local village is a mountain… a small mountain, or a large hill. Jagged grey limestone, weathered by centuries of sun, wind and frost. la atalaya - the watchtower 29-7-13 (2)Atalaya translates as ‘watchtower’ and Pablo confirms that the mountain was indeed a Moorish outlook centuries ago. A quick check in the back of my road atlas confirms that there are 17 towns or villages called some version of Atalaya around Spain. This is ours. We are very fond of our mountain, when we are driving home from a long journey we know we are almost home once we spot it on the horizon. It changes shape as we drive around it, and as the sun moves through the sky.

At sunrise… the mountain at sunrise 8-8-13 (2)At midday… the mountain watchtower 7-8-13At sunset… the watchtower at sunset 7-10-13 (2)5 to remember
la atalaya – the watchtower
el torre – tower
morisco/a – Moorish
la vista – the outlook
el horizonte – the horizon