I was rewarded this morning, the blessed cool start to another baking hot August day, when I took my first cup of tea of the day out onto the terrace.
The ‘ki-ki-ki’ of a booted eagle, which rested in a tree on the horizon opposite. From underneath he is almost completely pale, with dark flight feathers. The head, neck and tail feathers are darker than the body.
The ‘craaaw’ of a female golden oriole in the plum tree, pale green, speckled breast, perhaps more beautiful than her flamboyant partner. Then he flew right to left in front of the terrace, along the line of the valley. A flash of bright yellow and black as he flew, undulating, as if blown by a non-existent breeze.
A silent, almost continuous presence: the buitres roosting on the hill opposite, waiting for the morning heat to rise so they too can rise into the sky. We can see the vultures with the naked eye, practised at recognising their shape on the horizon, knowing which are their favoured trees.
And the ever-present sparrows, chattering like teenage girls at a bus-stop.
5 to remember
inexistente – non-existent
la forma – the shape
el horizonte -horizon
las niñas adolescentes – the teenage girls
la parada de autobus – the bus stop
Now you have to bear with me on this one.
This is a wasp, but not an ordinary wasp. It is not the least bit interested in humans, a gentle giant and solitary by nature. This is a female, about 4.5cm long with a yellow head. The male is slightly smaller with a black head. It actually looks like a larger, longer bumble bee. It is fluffy, and glossy black with two yellow bands across its back. It is the Mammoth Wasp, Scolia Flavifrons. It feeds on flower nectar and the larvae of Rhinoceros Beetles, which is good with me. Owing to its latter chosen food stuff, it is most often found around rotten tree stumps.
This one sat on the wall beside the pool, without moving, for an hour, before flying into the water, paddling around, then crawling out again. We haven’t seen her since, presumably she is in a rotten tree stump somewhere.
5 to remember
gigantesco/a – mammoth
las larvas – the larvae
un gigante gentil – a gentle giant
un abejorro – a bumble bee
el néctar – the nectar
With daily temperatures in the mid-30s now [Centigrade], the valley around us is changing rapidly. Wildflowers are no more, their colourful blooms have done their job and are turning into seedheads which bob in the heavy summer breeze. This [above] is Wild Carrot, Daucus Carota. Its plate-sized white flowers line the roadside verges here until mid-summer when the seedheads appear [below], like goblets lifted to the sun. The umbel [flowerheads which open out rather like umbrellas] are flat or slightly concave, and similarly the seedheads also incurve conspicuously.
5 to remember
agitarse – to bob
al borde de carretera – the roadside verge
una copa – a goblet
un paraguas – an umbrella
conspicuamente – conspicuously
I identified this plant using Common Wildflowers of Spain [Santana Books]
I think this is the stickiest, gooiest salad I have ever eaten. Strictly, it is not a salad, more a warm veggie dish. I spotted the recipe in a magazine article and knew it would work as a salad. So I amended it. It ticks quite a few food groups [if you worry about them] and is gorgeously sticky with Gorgonzola [if you love cheese]. What did I change? I toasted the pine nuts and added some halved cherry tomatoes as a flavour-match with the basil. Next time I will try it with fresh rocket. This is going to be a regular in our household, where we always have a butternut squash glut. Serves 2 as a main course
One butternut squash
Loads of fresh basil leaves
A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
100g pine nuts, toasted
Zest and juice of a large lemon
500g Gorgonzola, broken into pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Prepare the squash. Scrub the skin, you only need to peel it if the skin is really thick. Halve, scoop out the seeds, and cut into large chunks. Tip the squash into a large roasting tin, drizzle with a glug of olive oil, add salt and pepper. Mix to combine. Roast the squash for 20 minutes or until tender when tested with a knife. If you like your squash a bit crusty around the edges, leave it in for another 5 minutes or so. Check often, and be sure to scrape all the crunchy bits out of the tin. Remove the squash from the oven and tip into a large bowl. Add the tomatoes, basil, pine nuts, lemon zest and juice. Mix gently, taking care not to break-up the squash chunks. Tip onto a large serving platter. Add the chunks of Gorgonzola to the top and allow them to gently melt. 5 to remember
la más pegajoso/a – the stickiest
el gooiest – the gooiest
estrictamente – strictly
magníficamente – gorgeously
un habitual – a regular
This recipe is adapted from ‘Terry and George – Feeding Friends’ by Terry Edwards and George Craig [UK: Hodder and Stoughton]
Hot as in spicy, not hot as in heat. This summer salad is so easy to make. The thing that elevates it above average is the quantity of fresh herbs served on top, the herbs function as salad leaves as well as flavouring. Serves 2 [hungry vegetarians for main course including crusty bread and butter]
2 red onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp harissa [out of a jar, or homemade]
Zest and juice of two lemons
2 tins chickpeas, drained
200g feta, crumbled
1 large handful chopped fresh herbs [we used mostly mint, with a little parsley and basil] For the harissa sauce:-
110ml extra virgin olive oil
1 rounded tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 heaped tbsp tomato paste
4 tbsp lime juice
First, make the dressing. Whisk the ingredients in a bowl, then pour into a serving jug. I always keep a batch of this in the fridge, in a plastic jar with screw lid. For the salad, sweat the onions in the olive oil in a frying pan over a low heat for about 10 minutes. They should be sweetened and soft, not brown. Add harissa, stir, cook for one minute. Add lemon zest and juice, and chickpeas. Turn up the heat until it bubbles. Take it off the heat, stir through half the cheese. Leave to cool.
When you are ready to serve, top with the remaining feta, and sprinkle with fresh herbs. 5 to remember
la salsa harissa – the harissa sauce
los garbanzos – the chickpeas
picante – hot/spicy
caliente – hot/heat
encima de la media – above average
Salad recipe by Tony Turnbull for the Sunday Times Magazine.
Harissa recipe by Delia Smith from Delia’s Summer Collection. This keeps in the fridge, one batch will cover a couple of meals.
Everyone knows the Cuckoo, or do we? Have you actually seen one, or just heard it? First, it is surprisingly large: about the size of a Dove. Second, in flight its long tail feathers make it look like a Sparrowhawk. Three, the bit about murder is true. A brood parasite, the female Cuckoo lays her single egg in the nest of a Meadow Pipit, Dunnock or Reed Warbler but more than 100 host species have been recorded.
A summer visitor here, the Common Cuckoo over-winters in Africa and returns here in the spring. The female lays between one and 25 eggs per season, each one in an individual nest. She waits for the right moment, flies down to the chosen nest, pushes out any resident egg and lays her own: the process takes 10 seconds. One female bird may visit up to 50 nests during one breeding season.
Notoriously difficult to see, Cuckoos perch low down in or on the edge of trees. The few times we spot them here, they are flying.
Listen to the song of the Cuckoo and read more about it at the RSPB website.
5 to remember
todos – everyone
actualmente – actually
asombrosamente – surprisingly
un cuco – a Cuckoo
notoriamente – notoriously
The veggie patch is a runaway success, it is so much easier growing things here where the sun is a constant. Our only problem is keeping up with output, every year we say we will plant less and then get carried away by the thought of new things to eat. This year we have green beans and pepino, which we haven’t grown before. Pepino is a short cucumber with a rough ridged skin [above], and far tastier than the usual long greenhouse cucumber.
5 to remember
escapador – runaway
un suceso – a success
una constante – a constant
la salida – the output
un invernadero – a greenhouse