Green shadows

In the height of summer, even the shadows here are green as the light seems to reflect the green of the hills and trees which surround us. The word sombra doesn’t just mean shadow, as in the dark area produced when an object comes between the rays of the sun and a surface. It also means the desired seat at a festival or concert, seats shaded from the full heat of the sun are always the most expensive. In the old bullrings, you will see signs for ‘Sol’ or ‘Sombra’. Here our gardening tasks are punctuated by frequent sojourns seated in the sombra of our big walnut tree, time to catch our breath and eat a slice of watermelon.

5 to remember
la sombra – the shadow/the shade
los rayos del sol – the rays of the sun
el más caro – the most expensive
una tarea – a task
una rebanada de – a slice of

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
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Thin lemon and pistachio biscuits

These biscuits are easy to make on impulse from store cupboard and fridge ingredients. And because the recipe is by Mary Berry, it is easy to do. They are very more-ish and it is easy to four at one sitting as they are quite small. And, despite Mary Berry’s description as shortbread, they did not seem that way to me. Makes 20 biscuits
175g butter, softened
75g caster sugar
175g plain flour plus extra for dusting
75g semolina
finely grated zest of a lemon
25g pistachio nuts, shelled and finely chopped.

Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. However if your oven, like ours, tends to be on the hot side, set the temperature a little lower. Line two baking sheets with baking paper. Measure the softened butter, sugar, flour and semolina into a food processor. Add the lemon zest and whizz until combined. Tip the dough onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth. Split the dough into half and roll each piece into a long sausage shape, about 15cm long. Scatter the chopped pistachios on a plate and roll each dough sausage in the nuts to coat. Cover the plate with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Slice each roll into 10 even-side discs. Arrange on the baking sheets, spaced well apart as they will spread slightly during cooking.

Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until tinged golden and almost firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. If you like this, try these:-
Oh so sticky chocolate flapjack
White chocolate and cranberry flapjack
A silky dense chocolate cake

5 to remember
un bizcocho – a biscuit
enharinado/a – floured
matizado/a – tinged
la masa – the dough
una salchicha – a sausage

This recipe is from Mary Berry’s Everyday cookbook [UK: BBC]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Thin lemon & pistachio #biscuits Recipe by #MaryBerry #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1Yo

A field of sunflowers, growing

Who doesn’t smile at seeing a field of bobbing sunflower smiles turned towards the sun? Looking around the valleys here, it’s difficult to appreciate that the sunflower is not native. It originates in North America and was first cultivated domestically by native Americans in Arizona and New Mexico around 3000BC. They beat the kernels into meal for cakes and bread, and rubbed the oil into their hair. The sunflower plant didn’t come to Europe until 1550 and was originally used as an ornamental flower. Things changed in 1716 when the English patented a method of squeezing oil from the sunflower seeds. But it was Russia’s cultivation which transformed the plant into an agricultural crop, with early sunflower oil production starting in 1769.

The different Native Americans also used sunflowers for a variety of medical treatments. The Cherokees made an infusion of sunflower leaves as a treatment for kidney infections. The Dakota tribe used native sunflower infusions for chest pain and long problems, while the Navajo ate the seeds to stimulate appetite. The Paiutes used it for relief of rheumatism, while the Hopi believed it cured spider bites.

5 to remember
una infusión – an infusion
el dolor en el pecho – the chest pain
una infección renal – a kidney infection
estimular – to stimulate
el apetito – the appetite

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A field of sunflowers, growing #secretvalley #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-22q

Doesn’t this make you smile?

Are poppies the most cheerful of wild flowers? They are one of the first to appear here, and are still nodding to us as we pass by in late summer.

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And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Who doesn’t love poppies? #villaforsale #Andalucia via @Spanish_Valley @HiddenAndalucia http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1Y1

Our summer garden

We don’t have a garden here, not in terms of a ‘front’ garden and ‘back’ garden as we were used to in England. No lawn to mow, no bulbs to plant or perennials to divide in spring. Instead, the valley is our garden. The trees are our framework – walnut, poplar, plum, acacia, almond. So our garden is an easy-care space, with a few nuggets of space which we fill with favourite plants. Lavender, roses, rosemary, oleanders and callistemon all love the heat. And now, everything is approaching its best as spring turns into summer and the thermometer heads for +30°C.

5 to remember
no tenemos – we don’t have
el césped – the lawn
las plantas perennes – the perennial plants
una pepita – a nugget
el termómetro – the thermometer

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
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Clouds gathering

Is there rain up there in those clouds? Will it be the last rainfall until November?

Coming from the UK where in an average year 133 days of the 365 are rainy or snowy and we get a measly 1200-1600 hours of annual sunshine, I longed to move to Spain for the warmth and the sun. Here, where we get a staggering 2500-3000 hours of sunshine a year [see table below] I don’t mind the occasional downpour, the day or two of rain. And the earth, the sponge that it is, soaks it all up.

[Metro Maps]

5 to remember
¿hay? – is there?
viniendo del Reino Unido – coming from the UK
mezquino/a – measly/paltry
ocasional – occasional
un aguacero – a downpour

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Clouds gathering, but I don’t care #secretvalley #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-226

Smoky spring onions and asparagus with lime

I love the smoky flavour you get when grilling or griddling vegetables. It works best with slim English-style spring onions but if you are in Spain and can only get the fat continental style ones, simply slice them lengthways; not so pretty but just as tasty.

Quantities are per person with an ordinary appetite, so if you are starving double-up the quantities. If you make too much, use later in a salad. This is nice for breakfast, or lunch with crusty bread and butter.

4 fat spring onions or very thin baby leeks
4 asparagus spears, trimmed
olive or sunflower oil
wedges of lime
coarse sea salt

Turn the grill on high. Brush the spring onions and asparagus with oil, and grill.

Do not leave, keep turning until evenly browned. Serve drizzled with lime juice and sea salt. That’s it. Simples. If you like this, try:-
Mustardy Salmon Salad
Punchy Leeks on Toast
Roasted Cauliflower Salad

5 to remember
una lima – a lime
ahumado/a – smoky
delgado/a – slim
gordo/a – fat
longitudinalmente – lengthways

 

Recipe from ‘Eat Your Greens’ by Sophie Grigson

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
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