Bird song: Short-Toed Eagle

This is a rare Eagle and we feel privileged to see them in our valley during the summer. The Short-Toed Eagle is large and will spend hours flying, searching for prey. It eats snakes and its common name is actually the ‘Short-Toed Snake Eagle’. Pretty much always seen in flight, we only see its feathers from below. It has very pale underwings with dark bars and dots, with a dark head. If you see it hovering, wait for it to dive, at a great height and with great speed… pity the poor snake or lizard beneath.

[photo: Wikipedia]

[photo: Wikipedia]

It is generally silent, but does have a whistling call in flight. Listen to the song of the Short-Toed Eagle and read more about it at the Xeno-Canto website.

5 to remember
raro/a – rare
la presa – the prey
una serpiente – a snake
un lagarto – a lizard
casi siempre – pretty much always

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Privileged to see a short-toed eagle in the #secretvalley in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley

The leaves hang on

When you are accustomed to bare trees in a Northern European winter, glimpsing the bare trunks and branches of deciduous trees bereft of their summer green is a bit disorientating. Here in the valley, the leaves hang on and hang on… golden, bronze, plain brown, delicate filigree and wrinkled like old shoe leather. Figs, grape, kaki, plum, pomegranate, almond, walnut and quince, hanging on to autumn even though December has arrived.

5 to remember
estar acostumbrado a [algo] – to be accustomed to [something]
Norte de Europa – Northern European
caduco/a – deciduous
ser despojada – to be bereft
delicado/a – delicate

A squashy lasagne

The smell of this baking is wonderful, it’s the cheese as it browns on top. Our stockpile of butternut squash means I pounce on any new recipe featuring the golden squash. This is a healthy version, I had to adapt it slightly as some things I either didn’t have or are unable to buy here [I’ve made a note so you can amend as you prefer]. just out of the ovenparmesan, wedgeIt seems a long time since our butternut squash plants first took hold in the huerta last June [below]. And we are still eating them, months later! butternut squash - the huerta in JuneServes 6
Olive oil
1 large butternut squash, approx. 1.5kg
1 level tsp ground coriander
4 cloves garlic
1 fresh red chilli [I used one tsp of Lazy Chilli from a jar]
2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes
200g spinach
60g Parmesan, grated
6 pasta sheets [I used half this amount, using gluten-free pasta sheets which I boiled for 5 minutes first]
400g fat-free cottage cheese [can’t buy here, so I used a soft goat cheese]
100ml semi-skimmed milk [I used skimmed]
1 tbsp sunflower seeds [I substituted pumpkin seeds]
1 sprig of fresh rosemary lasagne sheets, rawPreheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Rub two baking sheets with a little oil. squash, ready to be roastedPrepare the squash by halving and de-seeding. Leave the skin on. Slice into 1cm half-moon shapes, and lay in a single layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with the ground coriander, plus a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for 50 minutes, or until soft and lightly golden. squash, roastedMeanwhile, peel and slice the garlic. If using fresh chilli, de-seed and finely slice. Put a large pan on a medium heat with a tbsp. of oil, add the garlic and chilli. Cook for three minutes or until lightly golden. garlic & chilli, fryingadd tomatoes & vinegar to garlicAdd the vinegar and tinned tomatoes, break them up roughly in the pan, plus water from one tomato tin. Simmer on a medium heat for 15-20 minutes until slightly thickened. I simmered mine for half an hour and it didn’t want to thicken so I mixed one tsp of cornflour in a splash of water, and added this to the pan. This did the trick.

Prepare the cottage cheese, tip into a bowl and break up with a fork. Add the milk to loosen the curds, and lightly season with pepper. goat cheese, spoonfulWhen all the elements are prepared, you can start layering the lasagne. Jamie specified a 25 x 30cm baking dish, when I cook this again I will use an old-fashioned deep casserole dish. First, spread a layer of tomato sauce, followed by a layer of raw spinach leaves, a layer of roasted squash, a fine grating of Parmesan, and a layer of lasagne sheets. Repeat this until you run out of ingredients [reserve some Parmesan for the topping], finishing with a layer of lasagne sheets. layering the lasagneAdd the toppings, first spoon over the cottage cheese. Sprinkle with the seeds and the remaining Parmesan. Rub the rosemary sprig in a little oil, then strip off the leaves and scatter over the top of the lasagne. ready to go into the ovenBake at the bottom of the oven for 45 minutes or until golden and bubbling. plateful

Jamie Oliver

This recipe is from Everyday Super Food by Jamie Oliver

5 to remember
blanco y algo líquido – squashy
nuestras reservas – our stockpile
parece – it seems
hace tiempo que – a long time since
libre de grasas – fat-free

If you are feeling hungry, try these recipes:-
A tea of Salmon Traybake
Poor Man’s Potatoes for tea
A vegetable stew from Granada

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Butternut squash lasagne #Spain #recipe via @Spanish_Valley

Don’t know what to make with peanut butter?

If you have a jar of peanut butter in the fridge that you don’t know what to do with, then try these biscuits. They are the old-fashioned sort, crunchy rather than the chewy style of cookies. Two bites, and they’re gone. I guess it will work with cashew butter too… we have a jar of that in the fridge too. mouthfulMakes 24 small biscuits
150g peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
100g light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 whole medium egg
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp whole milk
Pinch of salt
250g plain flour, sifted [plus extra for dusting]
75g cocoa powder, sifted

Pre-heat the oven to 170C/Gas 3 and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper. vanilla bean pastein the mixerCream together the peanut butter and sugar in a food mixer or using an electric whisk. Cream till the mixture is pale and light. Add the vanilla bean paste and mix through. Add the whole egg, egg yolk, milk and a pinch of salt. cocoa powder, addedMix until it is well combined, then add the sifted flour and cocoa powder and mix through by hand until the dough comes together. Flatten the dough out and wrap in cling film and chill for 1 hour. dough in cling filmDust your worksurface with flour and roll out the pastry to 3mm thick. Cut out 24 biscuits using a 4cm straight-edged cutter. Place on the prepared tins, spacing 2cm apart. Prick the tops of the biscuits with a fork and bake for 10-12 minutes or until they are lightly golden around the edges. just out of the ovenTake out of the oven and leave on the tray for 10 minutes. Then transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Find more of Nadya Hussain’s recipes here.

5 to remember
la manteca de cacahuete – peanut butter
la nevera – the fridge
un bizcocho – a biscuit
los bordes – the edges
un tenedor – a fork

Want to bake? Try these recipes:-
An Italian cake of Spanish apples
Sticky clementine cake
Canela apple cake

nadiya's kitchen by nadiya hussain


Recipe from ‘Nadiya’s Kitchen’ by Nadiya Hussain [UK: Michael Joseph]


And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Peanut butter biscuits… very crispy #recipe by  @BegumNadiya via @Spanish_Valley

A winter treat

This is comfort eating at its healthiest, but I challenge you not to want second helpings. It’s a vegetarian take on lasagne, layers of veggies and tomato sauce, but without pasta. Though if you are feeding a hungry horde it would work with a couple of layers of pasta sheets. Unlike lasagne, you don’t have to make a cheese sauce; instead there is a creamy sauce whizzed up in the blender. dishing upThe recipe is by Anna Jones, a chef who first worked at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant. This background explains why her recipes all have an Italian-feel.

Serves 6
For the bake:-
4 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1cm rounds
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
rosemary leaves, picked from a couple of sprigs
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 red onions, peeled and roughly sliced
a small bunch of fresh thyme
400g spinach, washed
200g ricotta
100g Parmesan
For the creamy sauce:-
1 x 400g tin butter beans
grated zest and juice of a lemon
3 tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 240° C/ fan 220° C/ gas 9. parmesan, gratingLightly grease two baking trays. Arrange the sweet potato discs in one layer on the trays, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, until just cooked and browning around the edges. sweet potatoes - ready to go into the ovenWhile the potatoes are cooking, make the tomato sauce. Fry the sliced garlic in a little olive oil, over a medium heat, until it begins to brown around the edges. Add the rosemary, stir. Add the tinned tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and leave for 10 minutes, simmering lightly, until the sauce becomes thicker and sweeter. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside. tomato sauce in the panIn a separate frying pan, soften the onions in a little olive oil with the thyme, over a medium heat, until soft and sweet. This will take about 10 minutes. spinach, added to the onionsspinach, wiltedThen add the spinach, a little at a time, and let it wilt. sweet potatoes - just out of the ovenWhen the sweet potatoes are ready, take them out of the oven. Turn the oven down to 220° C/ fan 200° C/ gas 7.

Now make the butter bean sauce. Put the tinned butter beans and the liquid from the tin into a blender, add the lemon juice, zest, olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. butter bean sauce, in processorBlitz it so the sauce is smooth and loose enough to spread . If it is too thick, add a couple of tablespoons of water and blitz again.

Once the separate elements are ready, you can begin layering in a large ovenproof dish. Put a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom, then a layer of spinach, then dot over half the ricotta and a thick layer of grated parmesan. If you are using pasta, add a layer of lasagne sheets here. Next, add a layer of sweet potatoes, then some of the butter bean sauce. Keep layering, finishing with a layer of butter bean sauce. Grate Parmesan over the top, plus a drizzle of olive oil and a few more thyme leaves. ready to go into ovenBake in the oven for 30 minutes until golden brown on top. platefulDon’t worry if you cook too many sweet potatoes. We did, so the leftovers were thrown into a potato mash mixture with cooked sprouts and fried onions, and made into potato cakes. We eat these for breakfast with a fried egg on top.

5 to remember
una horda hambrienta – a hungry horde
las alubias grande – the butter beans
los elementos separados – the separate elements
una capa – a layer
no se preocupe – don’t worry

Still hungry? Try these puddings:-
Not just your everyday pudding… pain au chocolat bread-and-butter pudding
Rice pudding with almonds
The best-ever plum clafoutis?

a modern way to eat by anna jones 8-6-15

This recipe is from Anna Jones’ book, A Modern Way to Eat. Find more of her recipes at her website.

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A winter treat… sweet potato lasagne #recipe by Anna Jones @we_are_food via @Spanish_Valley

An English cake in Spain

This wonderful lemony cake is not Spanish at all, I was given the recipe by an English cake-baking friend and had to try it with our Spanish lemon curd. The fact that it combines two of my favourite things – lemon curd, and almonds – makes it a regular in our house when friends visit. It does look rather indulgent and as it is best kept in the fridge, it gets eaten very quickly. I used our own lemon curd, but shop-bought will do the job just as well. piece-of-cakelemon-zestFor the cake:-
225g butter
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
½ tsp almond extract [or vanilla extract]
Finely grated rind of 1 ½ lemons
75g plain flour [we used gluten-free]
150g ground almonds
1½ tsp baking powder [we used gluten-free]
For the icing:-
200g mascarpone
100ml whipping cream [we used nata para montar]
2 tbsp icing sugar
2 tbsp lemon curd [plus more for spreading]
Handful of lightly toasted flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 170F. Lightly butter two round 8 inch cake tins. pablos-eggsmixing
First, prepare the wet ingredients. Beat the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, almond extract, and lemon rind.
Next, prepare the dry ingredients. Into a separate bowl, sift the flour. Stir in the ground almonds and baking powder until thoroughly combined. adding-eggs-to-dry-mixtureNow add the dry ingredients to the wet, folding in.
Spoon the mixture equally into the two tins, and level the tops. ready-to-go-into-the-ovenBake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden, and just coming away from the sides of the tins. just-out-of-the-ovenLeave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then remove from the tins and leave to cool on a cooling rack.
To make the icing, simply beat together all the icing ingredients. icing-close-upSpread the top of one cake with lemon curd, and half the icing. Place the second cake on top, and spread the rest of the icing on top. Swirl a little more lemon curd through the icing. Sprinkle the top with lightly toasted flaked almonds. almonds-on-top

If you want to bake another cake, try one of these:-
A cake to make on a cool afternoon… cherry cake
A sweet and sour cranberry cake
Oh so sticky… chocolate flapjack

5 to remember
la receta – the recipe
indulgente – indulgent
como bien – just as well
el extraco de almendra – almond extract
un tazón – a bowl

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
An indulgent English cake in #Spain #recipe via @Spanish_Valley

A giant’s sigh

Early one morning, the valley was veiled in a cap of mist so dense we couldn’t see the hilltops. It was like a giant had breathed out, they way you can see your breath on a frosty winter’s day. Except this was in April and warm, below the mist the green of the leaves was clearly visible. Two hours later came the first touch of breeze and the mist started to drift away, revealing one-by-one the outlines of individual trees. The sky became its usual springtime blue again.

5 to remember
un gigante – a giant
un suspiro – a sigh
velado/a – veiled
una tapa – a cap
tan densa – so dense

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A giant’s sigh: morning mist in the #secretvalley in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley