A celebration of onions

Our small veggie patch produces enough onions to last us through the winter. Our first attempts at storing them were disastrous, we mistakenly assumed that they should be kept in the dark and they spoiled, sprouting beyond practical use. No… oddly they store better in the light though they will still sprout a small amount. But there is one rule you must follow… they must be dry, the skins papery, with all earth knocked off. This is about judging the right time to lift them from the ground: on a dry day, we lay them out on a table on the terrace and leave them in the autumn sunshine.

Now we store them in a basket in the pantry. Pablo stores his in an enormous heap in his root cellar beneath his house, next to the even larger heap of potatoes.

5 to remember
suficiente – enough
desastroso/a – disastrous
por error – mistakenly
como de papel – papery
satisfecho/a – satisfying

Poplars through the seasons

Through the year, I think my favourite tree of the valley is the poplar. It pays to be patient, as spring arrives and the bare branches of winter burst into life with the purest green of leaves, that type of green that says ‘new life’. 8 August bark - tennis court tree 27-8-13The bark is so wonderfully crusty it makes me want to touch it. And then, after a summer set to the soundtrack of wind swishing through the poplar leaves, comes Autumn Showtime.

Here is the photographic story of our poplar year.

March, in sun and cloud…

3 March poplars in valley bottom1 26-3-133 March poplars in valley bottom2 26-3-133 March poplars1 15-3-13April, and the fluffy seeds disperse… 4 April chopo seeds in april 28-4-114 April chopo seeds in april2 28-4-114 April poplars in the valley 28-4-11May, saplings are planted… 5 May poplars saplings planted on bottom terrace - 2nd spring 1-5-13July…7 poplars 8-7-14August… 8 poplars 24-8-14November… 11 Nov poplars in nov - photo David 15-11-095 to remember
el preferido/la preferida – the favourite
paciente - patient
lo más puro – purest
crujiente – crusty
la banda sonora – the soundtrack

Crunchy lemony cake

We have a bowlful of lemons at the moment so have been making lots of lemony things: lemon curd, using lemon juice in salad dressing in place of the vinegar etc. So here is a cake which is a combination of lemony sharpness and sugary sweetness. plateful 26-5-14lemon - close-up 26-5-14100g soft margarine
175g caster sugar
175g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 extra large eggs
4 tablespoons milk
Finely grated rind of a lemon
For the crunchy topping:-
Juice of a lemon
100g caster of granulated sugar

Pre- heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Lightly grease and base line a 7in [18cm] deep round cake tin with greased greaseproof paper. tin - lining the tin scissors 26-5-14Measure all the ingredients for the cake into a large bowl and beat well for about two minutes until smooth and well blended. in the bowl - eggs, sugar, butter 26-5-14in the bowl - mixing the batter 26-5-14Turn the mixture into the prepared cake tin and level the surface. tin - ready to go into the oven 26-5-14Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake has shrunk slightly away from the sides of the tin, and springs back when lightly pressed with a finger.

While the cake is baking, prepare the topping. Measure the lemon juice and sugar into a bowl and stir until blended [below]. lemon syrup - mixing 26-5-14When the cake comes out of the oven, spread the lemon paste over the top while the cake is still hot. Leave in the tin until cold, then turn out and remove the paper. drizzling the syrup on the cake 26-5-14cake - leaving the syrup to set 26-5-14cake on cooling rack - close-up 26-5-145 to remember
en vez de – in place of/instead of
el vinagre – the vinegar
el aliño – the salad dressing
hondo/a – deep [dish]
supremo/a – ultimate

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


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

The drainage solution

June, 2006. Summer. And then a storm came, followed by a flood. We didn’t live here then, so we are thankful to our predecessors who had to deal with mud in the house and the pool. Their remedial actions meant we have never faced a flood like it, and their cautionary story taught us to never forgo drainage maintenance. Summer, and winter, storms in Spain can be fierce!

The morning after the rain, this was the scene. At the house, looking from our car park down towards the Almond Track [below].

[photo: Europa Alpacas]

[photo: Europa Alpacas]

Up the track, away from the house, the floodwater cut the earth away from underneath a concrete section of track [below].

[photo: Europa Alpacas]

[photo: Europa Alpacas]

The water ran from here, downhill, around another bend…

[photo: Europa Alpacas]

[photo: Europa Alpacas]

… and down our driveway, slashing its way through the downhill olives [below].

[photo: Europa Alpacas]

[photo: Europa Alpacas]

nigel's pic - vegetation washed away 16-6-06Water takes the shortest route, short cuts you don’t necessarily want it to take. Now, our deep drainage ditches are regularly tended, cleared of debris and re-cut. This is how the track looks now [below]. now1 10-10-14now2 10-10-145 to remember
agradecido/a – thankful
los predecesores – predecessors
los actos de saneamiento – remedial action
las advertencias – cautionary story
feroz – fierce

The biennial ‘spring’ clean

Every other year there is a wet muddy job to be done. Our water comes from our own spring, rather than the mains supply. Yes, it really does spring up out of the ground, or rather into a ‘sink’ at the back of house. From there it is piped into the storage tank. Every other year, we clean out the sink and cut back the vegetation.

This is before… roses and ivy 8-5-14And this is after… spring - after1 26-7-14And this is the job to get it from ‘that’ to ‘this. First, remove the pot plants and cut back the rose to reveal the sink… first, cutting back the rose 26-7-14… a look inside the sink, full and muddy… inside the spring2 – before draining 26-7-14… fix a tube to the outlet pipe to divert the running water coming from the spring… inside the spring1 - tube to drain the water 26-7-14… shift the water in the spring the old-fashioned way, with a jug, into trugs… trugs of muddy water and gravel 26-7-14… admire the clean, empty, spring… inside the spring3 – empty 26-7-14In the process, we cut back the red rose bush and discovered a wall we didn’t know was there. Not to mention the rose trunk, as big as a man’s forearm! the rose’s trunk 26-7-14wall we didn't know was there 26-7-14Click here to read more about our life, living without mains water.

5 to remember
casi todo/a – Every other year
un lavabo – a sink
la vegetación – the vegetation
un cubo de jardinería – a trug
old-anticuado/a – fashioned

The best-ever plum clafoutis?

A gift from Pablo, a shopping bag full of red plums. His plum trees were absolutely laden, he and his sons simply could not eat enough plums. What a hardship for us. So, our minds raced away… jam, plum cake, poached plums… or clafoutis. Once we had thought that last word, there was no other choice. clafoutis - cut into1 18-7-14This is our version of an Australian recipe, found online [see the link below]. Ours took longer to cook than the stated 15 minutes. We put it back in and set the timer for another three minutes, twice. But that’s just our oven. It’s not done until the custard is set. When it came out of the oven it was not as magnificently puffy as other clafoutis we have made, but trust me, the taste is wonderful: the eggy batter, not-too-sweet almost sour plums, and the mascarpone. basket of plums 18-7-14Serves 4-6
12 plums, halved, stones removed
½ cup caster sugar
300ml cream
3 eggs
2/3 cup plain flour
1 tsp vanilla essence

Pre-heat the oven to 190C/170F fan. Grease an ovenproof dish and lay the plum halves in a flat layer, cut side down. plums - in dish, close-up 18-7-14Sprinkle a little sugar over the plums. plums - in dish, sugar 18-7-14To make the batter, place the cream, eggs, flour, vanilla essence and remaining sugar in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour over plums, taking care not to disturb the fruit. plum - in batter 18-7-14Bake for 15 minutes, until puffy and golden. We served it with a spoonful of mascarpone, let down with a little cream. just out of the oven 18-7-14For a different plum clafoutis recipe, made with our yellow plums, click here.

This recipe was selected online, at random, from the search results for ‘plum clafoutis’. It is by Australian supermarket Coles. Click here for loads more Coles recipes. plateful 18-7-145 to remember
un regalo – a gift
una bolsa – a shopping bag
lleno/a – full
muchas dificultades - hardship
la mente – the mind