Author Archives: sandradan1

About sandradan1

Writer and journalist. I blog about our life in a secret Andalucían valley at http://www.notesonaspanishvalley.com/ and about writing, reading and everything to do with books at http://www.sandradanby.com/. Come and visit me!

Crunchy tahini green salad

If you have a selection of green vegetables and a jar of tahini in the fridge, then make this salad. It is greater than the sum of its parts. It works in winter, slightly warm, or in summer, chilled. And it’s a great way of packing in your servings of healthy green vegetables. This time I included a few sorrel leaves from the garden. It can be a served as a side to a main dish. Or, if like us, you want to eat vegetarian, simply add a pack of lentil seeds. We like to include three types of vegetables, crinkly ones such as cavolo nero and broccoli work well as they hold the dressing well.

Serves 4
For the greens:-
4 tbsp seeds, such as pumpkin or sunflower
4 tbsp nuts, such as pistachios
1 tbsp maple syrup [optional]
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g mixed seasonal green vegetables [see below for suggested combinations]
For the dressing:-
2 tbsp tahini
juice of 1 lemon
2 tsps maple syrup
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Suggested vegetable combinations:-
Winter – purple sprouting broccoli, kale, cavolo nero
Spring – purple sprouting broccoli, asparagus, sugar snaps
Summer – green beans, broccoli, peas
Autumn – shredded Brussels sprouts, winter greens

First, prepare the seeds. We prefer to toast them lightly in a dry frying pan, this gives the taste but saves on sugar. If you prefer the maple syrup seeds, first preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Put the seeds and nuts on a baking tray, pour over the maple syrup and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss so everything is coated in syrup, then roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Take out of the oven and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, make the dressing by combining the ingredients with a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.

Next, prepare the greens for blanching in hot water. As a general rule, purple sprouting broccoli [40 seconds], kale [30 seconds], asparagus [60 seconds], green beans [40 seconds], broccoli [40 seconds], shredded sprouts [30 seconds], winter greens [30 seconds]. The aim is for the vegetables to be al dente. Blanch each vegetable in turn by plunging into boiling water. 

Once the greens are blanched, drain and place in a serving dish. Pour over the dressing lentil seeds and toss so everything is coated. Top with the roasted seeds and nuts, and, if using, the lentil seeds. 5 to remember
una selección de – a selection of
un tarro de tahini – a jar of tahini
una pizca de – a pinch of
al dente – al dente
blanqueado – blanched

This recipe is from ‘A Modern Way to Eat’ by Anna Jones [UK: Fourth Estate]

If you feel hungry, try these recipes:-
Asparagus and lemon risotto
Sweet carrot salad
Roasted cauliflower salad

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Crunchy tahini green salad #Spain#Recipe by Anna Jones@we_are_food https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2kF via @Spanish_Valley

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Oleanders, joyous and life-affirming

Vincent van Gogh famously painted sunflowers during his time at Arles in France. But he also painted oleanders. He reportedly found them ‘joyous’ and ‘life-affirming’ because of their inexhaustible blooms and vigour. I know what he means

Oleanders by Vincent Van Gogh [photo: Wikipedia]

Our oleanders continue to flower from spring through autumn, in a mixture of red, pink and white. Now taller than me, oleanders can grow up to 6m tall. On our terraces, they mix with climbing roses, ivy and tall grasses. No sooner have the petals started to shrivel on one plant, than buds form on another. Even the dead flower bracts have appeal.

Oleander is a famously toxic garden plant, though huge quantities have to be consumed. Birds are thought to be immune; a fact that our sparrows and blackbirds can confirm as they regularly seek the shade of the oleanders on summer days.

5 to remember
jubiloso – joyous
marchitarse – to shrivel
una bráctea de flores– a flower bract
tóxico – toxic
un hecho que– a fact that

 

If you’d like to read more about Vincent van Gogh in Arles, the sunflowers and the oleanders, read ‘The Yellow House’ by Martin Gayford [UK: Penguin]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Oleanders, always flowering, always a new season in #Spain #gardening https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2pu via @Spanish_Valley 

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Bird song: Crested Lark

There are six types of Lark in Spain, according to my bird book. Five are residents: the Skylark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Woodlark and Calandra Lark. The Short-Toed Lark is a summer visitor. I am confident in identifying only one, the Crested Lark, because of the crest on its head which looks like a teenage boy with a quiff sticking up. Admittedly, the Thekla Lark has a crest too, but not quite as prominent. As a rule of thumb, if it is perching on a bush it is a Thekla Lark.

Its call is rich and fluting, often ending on an up note. ‘Vee-vee-teu’ and ‘tree-loo-ee’.
Listen to the song of the Crested Lark at You Tube.

5 to remember
la alondra con cresta – the Crested Lark
los residentes – the residents
estoy confiado/a – I am confident
un adolescente – a teenage boy
un quiff – a quiff

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Blackbird
Jay
Black Redstart

 

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

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

Light and fresh tabbouleh

This is a simple recipe for a very hot day when you’re not sure if you’re hungry but know you should eat something. Made with quinoa [which is gluten-free] this easy salad is a version of tabbouleh, traditionally made with bulgur wheat. If you like rice salads or couscous salads, try this. It is light and fresh and, depending on what you add, can be a cooling bland side dish to eat with a vibrant-flavoured barbecue, or a meal-in-a-bowl to eat with a spoon. I found the quinoa incredibly easy to cook, though I am still uncertain about the pronunciation. Is it ‘quin-oh-a’, or ‘keen-wa’? It is meant to be served cold but if you add the oil and tahini when the quinoa is still warm, it soaks up the flavours intensely.

Serves 4
390g quinoa
200g fresh coriander [I used parsley as I hate coriander, and I used a huge handful which made the flavour incredibly fresh]
8 large vine tomatoes
100g pine nuts [or substitute whatever nuts you have, if they are large then chop after toasting]
2 tbsp tahini
4 tbsp olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
salt and pepper

First, the quinoa. Put it in a sieve and rinse under running water until the water runs clear. Place into a saucepan with 900ml boiling water. Bring to the boil for two minutes, then cover and turn down to a simmer for a further 10-15 minutes. Check after ten minutes. It is cooked when the water has evaporated and the quinoa is fluffy, not mushy. Set aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, finely chop the herbs. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces, about the size used in a salsa. Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan.

Put the quinoa into a serving bowl and add the herbs, tomato, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and pine nuts. Check the seasoning, add salt and pepper to taste.

This keeps well in a sealed box in the fridge, and is excellent in picnics and packed lunches.

Options to try:-
Double the amount of lemon juice
Double the amount of tahini
Replace the coriander with other fresh herbs, either a single herb or a mixture
Add a tin of drained, rinsed chickpeas
Add chopped cucumber
Add chopped melon, preferably piel de sapo
Add a jar of drained tuna

If you like this,try:-
Sweet Carrot Salad
Trempó: a salad from Mallorca
A salad involving melons

5 to remember
la quinua – the quinoa
dependiendo de– depending on
enfriamiento – cooling
templado – bland
la pronunciación– the pronunciation

 

This recipe is from ‘Deliciously Ella’ by Ella Mills [UK: Yellow Kite]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Light and fresh tabbouleh #Recipe by @DeliciouslyElla #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2o7 via  @Spanish_Valley

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Fifty Shades of Blue #27

Red buds of adelfa or oleander, against a pure blue sky. April 20, 2015

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Red buds against a pure blue sky #Gardening in #Andalucia via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2bL

Mint, lime & lentil salad

This is one of those salads which is more than the sum of its parts. Trust me and try it. Season with a heavy hand and if, like us, you like a refreshing citrus flavour in your salads, feel free to increase the amount of lime or lemon juice you use. It looks very pretty with the courgette strips which only take a couple of moments to do. A large bowl of this salad is filling but when we are especially hungry we serve it with a side of roasted sweet potatoes. This is a recipe by Ella Mills who suggests adding various optional extras including roasted cashews, pomegranate seeds, bean sprouts or thinly sliced mushrooms.

Serves 4
100g green lentils
3 medium courgettes
2 handfuls fresh mint
2 avocados
4 tbsp olive oil
juice of 4 limes or 2 lemons
large handful sunflower seeds, toasted
cashew nuts, toasted [optional]
For the roasted sweet potatoes:-
4 sweet potatoes
2 sprigs fresh rosemary If you are eating this with roasted sweet potatoes, prepare these first. Preheat the oven to 200°C /fan 180°C. Peel the potatoes and cut into slivers and wedges, put onto a baking tray. Drizzle over with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Chop the rosemary roughly and add to the potatoes, then toss so each potato is covered with oil. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, checking them and turning. Remove when they are tender when tested with a sharp knife.

To prepare the salad, first place the lentils in a saucepan with boiling water. Allow to boil for 10 minutes then turn down the heat and simmer for another 20-30 minutes until they are soft, not mushy. Drain, allow the lentils to cool.

Peel the courgettes into strips using a potato peeler. Pull the mint leaves off the stems and chop roughly. Slice the avocado into bite-sized chunks. When you are ready to serve, place the lentils, courgette, avocado and mint into a serving bowl. Add the seeds and nuts if using, and toss gently taking care not to break up the avocado. Drizzle over the oil and lime juice, and serve with the roasted sweet potatoes. If you like this,try:-
Potato, Tarragon and Cabbage Pie 
Brazil nut pesto pasta
Sticky tomato & onion bake

5 to remember
créeme – trust me
se ve muy bonito – it looks very pretty
extras opcionales – optional extras
asado – roasted
trozos del tamaño de un bocado – bite-sized chunks

 

‘Deliciously Ella’ by Ella Mills [UK: Yellow Kite]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Mint, lime & lentil salad #Recipe by @DeliciouslyElla #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2kX via @Spanish_Valley

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Petals on the steps

Our house stands on a hillside. Beneath us is a terrace of three levels, filled with multi-coloured oleanders, roses, ivy, honeysuckle, tall grasses, iris, pyracantha, rosemary and lavender. Mid-way down the hill, a path of stepping stones leads along a ridge to the top of a flight of steps. These rustic steps lead down to the river, with wild hillside on the left and the fruit orchard on the right. Shade is provided by tall oleander bushes and wild pomegranate trees. At the bottom is a picnic bench where we sit to chill out with an early morning mug of tea or an evening glass of wine, listen to the waterfall, admire the valley, and check on the progress of the wild figs. Are they ready to pick? Will we eat them fresh with some soft local goats cheese, or poached in syrup with a vanilla pod?

5 to remember
una ladera– a hillside
de tres niveles– of three levels
multicolor – multi-coloured
los escalones– the stepping stones
salvaje – wild

 

I use ‘Mediterranean Garden Plants’ by Lorraine Cavanagh [UK: Santana]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Petals on the steps #Spain #gardening https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2pK via @Spanish_Valley 

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