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!

Heavy with flowers

The things I knew about olives, before we lived in Spain, could be counted on five fingers. Olives with stones or without. Olives stuffed with anchovies. Olives stuffed with almonds. Green olives. Black olives. So here are some facts I’ve learned over the years that I’d like to share with you.

  1. To grow flowers and fruit, olive trees need a two month period of cold weather with temperatures dropping below 10°C or 50°F; and also a fluctuation between day and night time temperatures.
  2. There is such a thing as too hot and too dry which inhibit flowering, even though the tree itself is able to tolerate these conditions.
  3. There is also the problem of too much rain, although olives need rain in the autumn in order to fatten up.
  4. Olive trees are wind-pollinated. The flowers grow in late spring; there are two types. Perfect [containing both male and female parts] which are capable of developing into the olive fruits; and Male, containing only the pollen-producing parts.
  5. Fruit setting is often erratic and in some areas, especially where irrigation and fertilization are not practiced, bearing in alternate years is the rule. The trees may set a heavy crop one year and not even bloom the next. This happens around us.
  6. Not all buds will turn into blossom and subsequently into fruit. Some will become first shoots and then branches which, in turn, will generate new buds. And so the olive cycle is guaranteed.
  7. Fruit is produced at the tips of the previous year’s growth; so excessive pruning will prevent fruiting though thinning of the crop is recommended.
  8. The Spanish cure their olives in brine and eat them with a pinch of salt; our neighbours were perplexed by my jars of olives cured and bottled with rosemary, lemon, thyme and chilli.

5 to remember
para que – in order to
polinizado por el viento – wind-pollinated
después – subsequently/afterwards
errático – erratic
perplejo – perplexed

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A few facts about olives #secretvalley in #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2gL via @Spanish_Valley

Lentil and thyme casserole

We’ve become fans of these big pot stews, casseroles, call them what you will. They are hearty, tasty, filling, and they last more than one meal so are great when you have a busy day later in the week. Just store in the fridge in a bowl with a lid, and either reheat gently in a saucepan or gently in the microwave with the lid loosely on top. When reheating it may help to add a splash of water, to loosen up the sauce.

This casserole features fresh thyme, which we always have loads of, and my favourite earthy lentils. Eat with a spoon.

Serves 4
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tsp smoked pimenton
½ tsp cumin
1 tbsp dried thyme
3 medium carrots, sliced [about 200g]
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
250ml vegetable stock
2 courgettes, thickly sliced [about 300g]
2 sprigs fresh thyme
250g cooked lentils, green or brown, not split [if you are using dried and are cooking your own, we work on the basis that dried lentils are approximately half the weight of cooked]

First cook your lentils, if you are cooking your own rather than using a tin.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Add the onions and cook gently for 5-10 minutes until softened.

Add the garlic, spices, dried thyme, carrots, peppers and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the tinned tomatoes, stock, courgettes and fresh thyme and cook for 20-25 minutes. Take out the thyme sprigs, stir in the cooked lentils. Bring back to a simmer for a few minutes so the lentils are heated through. Serve in a bowl.

If you like this, try these:-
Asparagus and horseradish pasta 
Very cheesy pie
Golden drops of salt cod

5 to remember
la mitad del peso de – half the weight of
sin semillas – deseeded
hasta que se suavice – until softened
el tomillo seco – the dried thyme
calentado a través – heated through

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Eat this with a spoon: lentil & thyme casserole #food #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2iE via @Spanish_Valley

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A bat, asleep

When I found this bat, behind a tall plant pot in the pool house beside the pool, I feared he was dead. I took two photos and decided to wait and see.

The next morning he was gone. Perhaps he had fallen and was stunned. I’m fairly sure he was a Pipistrelle because his body was small, usually they are 3.5 to 5.2 cm, his rounded muzzle and reddish-brown fur. 

[photo Wikipedia]

The Pipistrelle [above] is fairly common here and across Europe. It forages along woodland edges, looking for flies, caddisflies, lacewings and mayflies. It considers mosquitoes, midges and gnats as particular delicacies.

 

‘Wild Animals’ [RSPB Pocket Nature]

5 to remember
el murciélago– the bat
estoy bastante seguro– I’m fairly sure
el hocico redondeado– the rounded muzzle
el pelaje marrón rojizo– the reddish-brown fur
bastante común – fairly common

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A Pipistrelle bat, asleep #Nature in #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2jm via @Spanish_Valley 

Bird song: Serin

A short-tailed yellowish member of the finch family, I’m guessing you’ve probably seen a Serin but not recognised it. Its upper parts are streaked greyish green with a yellow rump, the yellow breast and white belly are also heavily streaked. The male is brighter than the female, with a yellow face and breast, yellow wing bars and yellow tail sides. So if you see a small bird fly by in a blur of yellow, it will be a Serin. Its song is a buzzing trill, a common sound around our valley. It sounds like ‘zirr-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r’. a very quick, sharp sound a bit like breaking glass. Males sing while in flight, or when sitting at the top of trees. One of the most common finches around the Mediterranean, it likes olive groves and we see them fly in yellow flocks above our olive trees.

Listen to the Serin’s song at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
una serina – a serin
rayado – streaked
es más brillante que – is brighter than
zumbido – buzzing
una mancha – a blur

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Booted Eagle
Cetti’s Warbler
Golden Oriole

 

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 Serin sing? #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2a3

¡Aquí está! ‘Connectedness’ is here

Here it is, my new novel Connectedness is published today. And for my readers based in Spain, it features a lot of familiar things. Read it and see what you recognise!

Art✔
Romance✔
Picasso✔
Love and Loss ✔
Tapas✔
But most important of all, is Málaga ✔

Here’s what some of the early reviewers have said:
5* “Although this is a follow-on novel from the first, Ignoring Gravity,  it could equally be read as a standalone. Danby does not rely just on the story of the search carried out by her identity detective, Rose Haldane, but builds up a detailed and believable picture of the life of her main character Justine. Well written with realistic characters and the setting out of the story in a carefully and balanced way, I would highly recommend this novel.”

4* “There are deep thoughts on life and surroundings that are recognizable to all of us. Eventually all comes together in a heartfelt ending. Connectedness  is a gripping story of love, loss and the human struggle to be your one true self. An amazing read.”

To celebrate the arrival of ConnectednessIgnoring Gravity  is free to download here. TODAY only.

So what’s ‘Connectedness’ about?
TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD, ARTIST JUSTINE TREE HAS IT ALL… BUT SHE ALSO HAS A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY EVERYTHING
Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.

Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art? And what will she do if her daughter hates her?

If you like the novels of Maggie O’Farrell, Lucinda Riley, Tracy Rees and Rachel Hore, this might be for you. Click here to read an extract.
Sandra Danby

‘Connectedness’ by Sandra Danby, [#2 Identity Detective series] [Beulah Press]

5 to remember
aquí está – here it is
una novela – a novel
un seguimiento – a follow-on
gratis para descargar – free to download
una lectura increíble – an amazing read

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
CONNECTEDNESS by Sandra Danby  #Kindle #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2k9 via @Spanish_Valley

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Sticky tomato & onion bake

What a discovery this is. It sounds so simple it can’t be delicious, right? Wrong. Combine ordinary looking onions, cherry tomatoes and salad potatoes and roast. The magic of the oven turns this combination into a moreish sticky sweet feast.Sticky tomato & onion bake | Notes on a Spanish Valley blog… Living in rural Andalucía | food | recipesThis quantity is supposed to serve four, we ate two-thirds of it and could have polished it off. Nice with a side salad of rocket tossed with olive oil and lemon juice.

Serves 4
500g baby onions [we used ordinary white onions]
750g large cherry tomatoes
750g new potatoes, washed and halved
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
one 400g tin cannellini beans, drained
a small bunch of fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 210°C / fan 190° / gas 7.

If using baby onions, put them into a bowl and cover with boiling water. Use a slotted spoon to fish them out and peel back the skins which should be loosened by the hot water. Cut any large ones in half. If using ordinary onions, peel and cut into quarters or eighths. Sticky tomato & onion bake | Notes on a Spanish Valley blog… Living in rural Andalucía | food | recipesPut the onions into a big roasting tin. Add the tomatoes and halved potatoes. The tin may be full but squash everything in; the potatoes will be cooked in the juice of the tomatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper and pour over a little olive oil. Toss so everything is coated in oil.

Roast in the oven for one hour, tossing everything every 15 minutes. Sticky tomato & onion bake | Notes on a Spanish Valley blog… Living in rural Andalucía | food | recipesAfter an hour, remove the tray from the oven. At this stage, the onions should be soft and slightly browned in places, the tomatoes blistered. Add the drained beans and basil, stirring the beans into the vegetables [we didn’t and the beans on top were a little dry]. Put back into the oven for another 15 minutes. Sticky tomato & onion bake | Notes on a Spanish Valley blog… Living in rural Andalucía | food | recipesSticky tomato & onion bake | Notes on a Spanish Valley blog… Living in rural Andalucía | food | recipesServe with a lemon-dressed green salad.

5 to remember
un descubrimiento– a discovery
frijoles cannellini – cannellini beans
en este punto – at this stage
ligeramente dorado – slightly browned
ampollado – blistered

Notes on a Spanish Valley blog… Living in rural Andalucía | food | recipesThis recipe is from ‘A Modern Way to Eat’ by Anna Jones [UK: Fourth Estate]

If you feel hungry, try these recipes:-
A cassoulet of aubergines
Sweet potato and butter bean lasagne
A rosemary risotto

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Sticky tomato & onion bake #Spain #Recipe by Anna Jones @we_are_food https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2kn via @Spanish_Valley

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