Author Archives: sandradan1

About sandradan1

Novelist. I blog about writing, reading and everything to do with books and writing them at http://www.sandradanby.com/. Come and visit me!

Adios y Gracias

It is time to say adios for the final time. This week we handed over the keys to the new owners and left our beloved house and olive grove in their care. The Spanish Valley is a special place and we know the new owners fell in love with at first sight, as we did all those years ago. So this is a farewell message from me, the last post you will receive from ‘Notes on a Spanish Valley’. Thank you for following me, many of you since my first post ‘A Gift of Lemons’ published on February 27, 2013. I’ve enjoyed sharing the ups and downs, the twists and turns, of our Spanish adventure. We have left our Spanish Valley with heavy hearts and many tears. On the final morning as we drove away from the house, the sun was rising and the sky in the east was the most perfect pink. In our last week, as we packed boxes and said farewell to friends, the spring visitors started to arrive: cuckoos calling down by the river, a lone peregrine falcon circled overhead and a russet-red kestrel sat on a branch. It has been a wrench to leave, but life moves on and so begins a new chapter both for us and in the life of the Spanish Valley.

Please keep in touch
If you don’t already subscribe to my free blog about books, sign-up here [enter your email address into the box ’Subscribe to Blog via Email’ in the right hand column] and receive each post as an email as soon as it is published. The blog features book reviews, articles about writing, interviews with novelists and news about my own writing. Or you can keep in touch with me via Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
You never know, a memoir of ‘Notes on a Spanish Valley’ may follow! It is also inevitable that we will visit Spain again and that future novels will be set in Andalucía. I already have an outline for the ‘Casa Melodía’ series of stories about the adventures of Melody who inherits a rundown house in the Spanish countryside in the 1960s.

Special Offer
Now I will settle down to write ‘Sweet Joy’, third in the ‘Identity Detective’ series. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for something new to read at Easter, the ebook of Ignoring Gravity is reduced to 99¢/99p at Amazon from April 11 – April 18 … which is quite a #KindleCountdown bargain when you think the paperback costs £9.99. If you like the novels of Maggie O’Farrell, Lucinda Riley, Jodi Picoult and Anita Shreve, try it. A mystery with a touch of romantic suspense and a contemporary storyline.
DOES YOUR FAMILY HAVE SECRETS? REALLY? ARE YOU SURE?
IGNORING GRAVITY, the debut novel by Yorkshire author Sandra Danby, is a compelling story about an ordinary family with a secret. Rose is adopted and doesn’t know it. The day she finds her mother’s hidden diary is the day she starts to search for who she really is.

A story about identity, adoption, family mystery and ultimately of love, IGNORING GRAVITY connects two pairs of sisters separated by a generation of secrets. As Rose untangles the truth from the lies, she begins to understand why she has always felt so different from her sister Lily.

★★★★★ Here’s what readers are saying about IGNORING GRAVITY:
“It took me a little bit to get into the book, but once I did, I could not put it down. I loved that this book brought some often-difficult issues: infertility, adoption, family relationship, and identity to light. An overall delightful read”

“I really enjoyed all of the twists and turns that accompanied the characters in this book. Just when I thought I had everything figured out, and knew who Rose’s parents were, the plot would take a sharp detour. I really felt as though I was with Rose on this journey of self-discovery, and when she finally unravels the secrets that have been decades in the making, I was as shocked as she was”

“I devoured the book in one go, unable to put it down despite the tirade of emotions it brought to the surface”
Amazon UK
Amazon USA
Sandra Danby

Already read Ignoring Gravity? Then try Connectedness, second in the ‘Identity Detective’ series?
Amazon UK
Amazon USA

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
IGNORING GRAVITY ebook only 99¢ & 99p #bargain #KindleCountdown https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2AA via @Spanish_Valley

Bird song: Peregrine

One of the larger falcons, the Peregrine is similar to others of its kind in that the females are considerably larger than the males. Their call when sitting on the nest is a raucous ‘haak-haak-haak’ or a whining ‘kee-keee-eeee’. The best place to find a Peregrine nest is on the broad ledge or earthy scrape on a cliff, sometimes a quarry, rarely on flat ground. Watching a Peregrine pursue its prey – birds ranging in size from a Thrush to a Pigeon or Grouse, sometimes larger – is exhilarating as it attempts to catch its prey from above, below and level flight. Don’t take your eye off it.

Its markings make it easier to identify than some other birds, including a yellow eye-ring, yellow bill-base, white cheek patch, white breast and barred white underside. Seen flying, however, they look dark against the sky. If you get a close view, look for the black, white and yellow markings.

Listen to the song of the Peregrine at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
un halcon peregrino – a peregrine falcon
estridente – raucous
gimoteo – whining
una cantera – a quarry
estimulante – exhilarating

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Nightjar 
Willow Warbler
Swallow

 

Our most used bird book? ‘Collins Bird Guide: The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe’
Amazon UK

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
How does the Peregrine sing? #Birds in #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2xO via @Spanish_Valley

Very Sticky Brownies #baking #vegan

This recipe has been marked in the cookbook for ages as one to try, but I didn’t and I don’t know why! Perhaps it’s the name, it’s a recipe by Ella Mills which she calls ‘Raw Brownies’ which does not do them justice. Simple to make, no baking involved, and impossible to stop nibbling. They are very rich, so perhaps mark out portions slightly smaller than your usual brownies!

In the list of ingredients, the syrup is included as optional. However I found my mixture was crumbly so added 1½ tbsp of agave syrup until it became sticky. This probably depends on your dates, be sure to use dates from the fresh fruit section rather than the longlife dried version found in the baking aisle which are not sticky enough.

Makes 10-15 normal sized brownies
140g pecans
400g Medjool dates, pitted
3 tbsp raw cacao powder
2 tbsp maple syrup, honey or agave syrup [optional]

Place the nuts in your food processor and pulse until they become gritty.

Add the pitted dates, cacao and blend. Now decide if you want to add syrup, or need to add syrup if the mixture is a little crumbly. Pulse until the mixture sticks to the back of a spoon and gathers into a large ball.

Spread the mixture on a clean baking tray, no need to grease it first. Spread it out evenly, I found this quantity used less than half the space of the baking tray. Place the tray [above right] in the freezer for one hour. Remove the tray from the freezer [above], cut into bars, and place in an airtight plastic box. Store this in the fridge.

What I will do differently next time:
Add a few drops of vanilla essence
Substitute almonds for the pecans
Use maple syrup instead of agave syrup
Mark out the portions before the tray goes into the freezer

If you like this,try:-
Gluten-free cherry cake 
A sweet and sour cranberry cake
Peanut butter biscuits 

5 to remember
el polvo de cacao crudo – the raw cacao powder
los dátiles Medjool – the Medjool dates
deshuesado – pitted
imposible dejar de mordisquear – impossible to stop nibbling
hermético – airtight

 

This recipe is from ‘Deliciously Ella’ by Ella Mills
Amazon

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Very sticky brownies #Recipe by @DeliciouslyElla #baking #vegan https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2A8 via @Spanish_Valley 

Rib-sticking lentil and sausage casserole

Practically made in total with store cupboard/fridge/freezer ingredients, this casserole is brilliant for chilly days when you are cold and starving hungry. Eat it from a deep bowl with a spoon. It is very satisfying and, made in one saucepan, is quick and easy.

Serves 4
3 tbsp olive oil
8 vegetarian sausages [we used Quorn]
2 onions, chopped
25g fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp paprika [we used half and half pimentón dulce and pimentón dulce]
2 tsp tomato puree [we used more]
tin of chopped tomatoes
100g cooked chestnuts [we used vacuum-packed], roughly chopped
250g Puy or brown lentils
650ml vegetable stock
salt
pepper
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan, then add the sausages and cook until browned all over. Remove from the pan, and set aside.

Add the remaining oil to the same pan, add the onion and cook until lightly coloured and tender. Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook until the aroma rises. Add the spices [above] and tomato puree and cook for another two minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.

Return the sausages to the pan and add the chestnuts, lentils and stock. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 20-30 minutes until the lentils are tender and the sausages are cooked through. If the mixture gets too dry, add a splash more water. Season to taste and serve. 
Next time I will:-
Throw in a handful of frozen peas.
Add chopped fresh parsley at the end.
Add a little more fresh ginger.

If you like this,try:-
Salmon and New Potato Traybake
Asparagus and horseradish pasta
Sweet potatoes + coconut + ginger

5 to remember
muriendo de hambre – starving
envasado al vacío – vacuum-packed
las castañas – the chestnuts
si la mezcla se seca demasiado – if the mixture gets too dry
añadir un poco más de agua – add a splash more water

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
One for a cold winter night: rib-sticking lentils and sausage casserole #recipe #veggiefood https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2zU via @Spanish_Valley

A quick salad for a sunny day in winter

On one of those winter days that feels like July, when the thought of hot food is overwhelming but the fridge is lacking salad ingredients, I rustled together this Jamie Oliver lunch dish. From the freezer, the cupboard, and the parsley pot on the terrace. I cut out one step from the original recipe to make it quicker: I didn’t roast the red peppers from the jar. It seemed a redundant step to me, as they are already roasted. I also didn’t add brine from the jar to the salad dressing, I made up the quantity with a splash more olive oil and red wine vinegar.

Serves 2
200g fresh podded broad beans, or frozen broad beans
30g whole almonds
1x 480g jar of roasted red peppers in brine
½ bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
30g manchego cheese [or any other hard cheese]
Dressing:-
1½ tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp brine from the pepper jar

Boil the broad beans for three minutes, drain and set aside to cool. If any are large, pinch off the pale green outer skin.

Toast the almonds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until pale golden. Remove and finely slice.

Drain the jar of peppers, open out flat and slice into strips. [At this stage, Jamie roasts the peppers in a griddle pan, without oil. I didn’t].

Sort the parsley and discard the thick stalks. As the parsley is effectively the salad leaf in this dish, I left the leaves whole.

Mix the dressing ingredients together in a jar and give a good shake. In a serving bowl, toss together the peppers, parsley and broad beans with the dressing. Season to taste.

To serve, using a potato peeler, shave the cheese over the top of the salad. Add the almonds and an extra drizzle of 1 tsp olive oil. Served with a side of roasted sweet potatoes. 5 to remember
si alguna– if any
realmente– effectively/really/truly
los tallos gruesos– the thick stalks
un pelador de patatas– a potato peeler
sobre la parte superior de – over the top of

If you feel hungry, try these recipes:-
A gooey creamy salad
Light and fresh tabbouleh
Crunchy tahini green salad 

 

‘5 Ingredients’ by Jamie Oliver [UK: Michael Joseph]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A quick #salad for a sunny day in winter #Spain #recipe by @jamieoliver https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2st via @Spanish_Valley

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Bird song: Great Tit

Can you tell the difference between a Great Tit and a Blue Tit? No? Before we came to live here, I was hazy about them too. Sometimes it is still a bit hit and miss, but basically the Great Tit is larger and looks as if he is wearing a yellow waistcoat over a black shirt. Or alternatively, a black tie with a yellow shirt. The Blue has a plain yellow breast. Not very technical ‘birding’ language, but I hope you know what I mean. Although both types of Tit are resident here, we see mostly Greats. Its colouring is slightly stronger than the Blue, though in flight to be honest they whizz by in a flash of yellow and blue.

Found across Europe, there are thirty different races of Great Tit and there are just as many variations of Great Tit song as there are of the bird. In the spring, if you hear a bird song you can’t identify there’s a good chance there’s a Great Tit nearby. Particularly familiar is the two-tone ‘teach-er teach-er’.

Listen to the song of the Great Tit at Xeno-Canto.

5 to remember
un poco impredecible – a bit hit and miss
parece como si – looks as if
un chaleco amarillo – a yellow waistcoat
una corbata negra – a black tie
espero que sepas lo que quiero decir – I hope you know what I mean

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Grey Wagtail
Sparrowhawk
Jay

 

Our most used bird book? ‘Collins Bird Guide: The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe’
Amazon UK

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Do you recognize the song of the Great Tit? #Birds in #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2xH via @Spanish_Valley

Salsa roasted beets

These are the best lentils I have ever eaten, teamed with sweet beetroot and a tangy herb salsa. A fine supper for a winter evening. There are three elements to combine, all simple. Serves 4
For the beetroots:-
8 medium firm beetroots, peeled and quartered
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
For the lentils:-
400g Puy or brown lentils, rinsed
4 whole cloves of garlic
1 small tomato, whole
1 bay leaf
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 litre vegetable stock
For the salsa verde:-
2 tbsp capers
2 tbsp cornichons or gherkins
bunch of fresh mint
bunch of fresh parsley
bunch of fresh basil
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of ½ lemon

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 6. 
Put the quartered beetroots onto a baking tray. If your beetroots are large, cut them into smaller wedges as they can take a long time to roast. Add the vinegar, a good glug of olive oil and a splash of water. Season with salt and pepper, toss everything to coat. Cover the tray with foil and roast in the oven for 1 hour, until the beetroots are cooked through and the juices are neon pink.

Meanwhile, cook the lentils. Put the lentils into a saucepan with the unpeeled garlic, whole tomato and herbs. Just cover with the vegetable stock. Put on a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20-25 minutes until they are cooked and the water evaporated [if they are cooked and spare water remains, simply drain it away]. If they are a little dry and not quite cooked, add a splash of boiling water.
To make the salsa, finely chop the capers and cornichons. Add the herbs and chop again. Put into a bowl and add the olive oil and lemon juice. Season to taste, add more oil or lemon until you are happy. Set aside. Once the lentils are cooked and all the water has evaporated, scoop out the tomato, bay leaf and garlic. Set the flavourings aside in a bowl to cool. When you can handle them, remove the garlic skin and tomato skin, mash the flesh and add back into the lentils. Mix, season to taste, and add a final glug of olive oil and red wine vinegar [be sparing with the latter, add a little and taste until you are happy].
When the beetroots are cooked, you are ready to serve. Pile the lentils onto plates, top with the roasted beets and drizzle over the roasting juices. Drizzle over the salsa to finish.
If you have some salsa left over, it will keep in the fridge in a sealed jar for 2-3 days.

What would I do differently next time:-
To make the leftovers go further, we added a pile of roasted broccoli, roasted carrots and onions.
Drizzle thick natural yogurt over the top
Substitute balsamic vinegar for the red wine vinegar

5 to remember
los tres elementos – the three elements
evaporado – evaporated
si estan un poco secos – if they are a little dry
se mantendrá – it will keep
un frasco sellado – a sealed jar

This recipe is from ‘A Modern Way to Eat’ by Anna Jones
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If you feel hungry, try these recipes:-
Green Shakshuka
Light and Fresh Tabbouleh
Golden Drops of Salt Cod

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Salsa roasted beets #vegetarianfood #Recipe by Anna Jones @we_are_food https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2zJ via @Spanish_Valley