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!

Fifty Shades of Gold #42

Touch it at your peril. Dried Common Thistle. July 26, 2013 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Dried thistle, golden in the summer #Plants in #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2yS via @Spanish_Valley 

Baked eggs in magical mushrooms

I love these one dish baked suppers. This one can be prepared in advance and cooked later and is made of mostly store cupboard ingredients. It also performs a magic trick on cheap supermarket mushrooms by serving them in a dense rich tomato sauce. I added some additional spices to add flavour, rather than heat, and a jar of chickpeas for protein. Eat with a spoon and bread to mop up the sauce and yolk. This is great to make ahead and keep in the fridge, then put in the oven when you are ready to eat. If you make this early to cook later, remember to allow a little more time in the oven. Always taste and test before serving, and check in the centre to ensure it is full heated through.

Serves 4, or two very hungry people
3 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed [I didn’t have seeds so I used 1 tsp ground coriander]
2 tsp tomato paste
½ tsp thyme leaves [I used dried]
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp olive oil
25g sultanas
20g pine nuts [I used chopped almonds]
Juice of ½ lemon
250g button mushrooms, quartered
4 eggs [I used two]
1 tbsp 0% fat Greek yogurt
I added:-
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tsp pimenton dulce
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
In a saucepan place the tomatoes, coriander, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaf, oil and additional spices [if using]. Season with black pepper. Add 150ml water and simmer gently for 8 minutes. Increase the heat then add the sultanas, pine nuts, lemon juice, mushrooms and chickpeas [if using]. Cook for a further 5 minutes. If you are cooking later, halt the process here.

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 5. Spoon the mushroom mixture into individual ramekins [if using, or into a wide baking dish]. Make a well in the mixture for each egg.

Break an egg into each hole, then top each egg with a spoonful of yogurt. Bake for 9 minutes if the mixture is hot, or 12 minutes if cold. I baked mine straight away and it was happy in the oven for almost 30 minutes, though the sauce did bubble over so I was glad I had put the baking dish on a baking tray. Next time I will:-
Leave out the fresh tomatoes and just use tinned chopped tomatoes
Use finely chopped fresh thyme
Serve with toasted sourdough bread rubbed with fresh garlic

If you like this, try:-
Moorish rice with saffron braised carrots
Herby baked halloumi with tapenade
Baked pesto and tomato pasta

5 to remember
un truco de magia  – a magic trick
una cucharada de yogurt – a spoonful of yogurt
un ramekin – a ramekin
si vas a cocinar mas tarde – if you are cooking later
a la próxima, lo hare – next time I will

 

This recipe is by TV chef Anthony Worrall-Thompson Amazon

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Baked eggs in magic mushrooms #Recipe by @AntonyWT #veggiefood https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2wK via @Spanish_Valley

Bird song: Black Wheatear

If we want to find a Black Wheatear here, we look around rough, stony ground and quite often spot one at the base of sheer cliffs. This mostly black bird is often hidden in the shade of boulders and scree slopes, but is resident here and we regularly see one in the valley. Its song is a beautiful whistling ‘pewp’ and harder ‘tet-tet’, but in flight it becomes a pleasant twittering sound.

The Black Wheatear seems to prefer the ground where it leaps and hops, foraging for insects. It even nests on the ground in a grassy cup in a hole in the ground, in a vacant rabbit burrow, in a stone wall or beneath rocks on a slope. It appears mostly black, but when in flight it is possible to glimpse its large white rump and tail.

Although the Wheatear has struggled in Northern Europe, here in Spain the Black Wheatear is listed as ‘Least Concern’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018.
Listen to the song of the Black Wheatear at Xeno-Canto.

5 to remember
a la sombra de las rocas – in the shade of boulders
una madriguera de conejo vacante – a vacant rabbit burrow
es posible vislumbrar – it is possible to glimpse
menor preocupación – least concern
especies amenazadas – threatened species

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Blackcap
Cetti’s Warbler
Robin

 

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 Black Wheater? #Birds in #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2xA via @Spanish_Valley

Fifty Shades of Green #23

A fresh green wildflower growing amongst stones. A Euphorbia. March 16, 2013

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Euphorbia: a fresh green wildflower growing amongst stones #garden #Andalucia via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2c6

Fill your #Kindle with ebooks – why not try the Identity Detective series

No exciting books under the Christmas tree? Are you bored already? Fill your #Kindle with new ebooks by authors new to you. Or start that book you’ve been meaning to read and haven’t got around to buying? Or try the Identity Detective series.Identity DetectiveSo what’s my ‘Identity Detective’ series all about?
Rose Haldane, journalist and identity detective, reunites the people lost through adoption. The stories you don’t see on television shows. The difficult cases. The people who cannot be found, who are thought lost forever. And each new challenge makes Rose re-live her own adoption story, each birth mother and father, adopted child, and adoptive parent she talks to, reminds her of her own birth mother Kate. Each book in the ‘Identity Detective’ series considers the viewpoint of one person trapped in this horrible dilemma. In the first book of the series, Ignoring Gravity, it is Rose’s experience we follow as an adult discovering she was adopted as a baby. Connectedness is the story of a birth mother, her hopes and anxieties, her guilt and fear, and her longing to see her baby again.

Here’s what some readers said about ‘Ignoring Gravity’ 5* “Ignoring Gravity is a very enjoyable read from beginning to end. The warm story will tear at your heart strings one moment, and make you smile the next.”
5* “I gave Ignoring Gravity 5 stars out of 5 for being a thought-provoking read on a sensitive and sometimes difficult subject. Knowing who you are and where you came from is important whether you are adopted or not.”
5* “This book genuinely surprised me. Reading the first couple of pages I almost put it down but I am really glad I didn’t make that mistake because as it drew me in I found it increasingly difficult to stop reading. I love books about secrets and this was no exception.”
Amazon UK 
Amazon USA

 … and about ‘Connectedness’ Sandra Danby5* “This is a novel that I found hard to put down as it swept me along on a roller-coaster of an emotional ride. I had to pull myself together not to burst into tears. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy a very well-written story about a family saga.”
4* “This novel is deftly plotted with vivid characters and a mesmerizing story. I truly loved the way Justine’s past was woven into her present, reminding us that we are all, like her art, collages made from the memories and experiences we pick up on our travels and via the people we meet.”
5* “A beautiful book on so many levels. The title and the stunning cover drew me in and the prologue took my breath away. I had to read on to know why, what, who. I felt for Justine – her ache, angst, grief, her quest for answers – all so realistic, so sensitively portrayed.”
Amazon UK
Amazon USA 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Fill your #Kindle with ebooks – why not try the Identity Detective #saga series https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2xq via @Spanish_Valley

Fifty Shades of Blue #29

Wild borage is flowering at every corner of the valley. May 17, 2014 

I use this book to help identify wildflowers in the secret valley… Common Wildflowers of Spain by Austen Colwell. Amazon UK

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Wild borage = everywhere in May #Wildflowers #Andalucia https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2xv via @Spanish_Valley 

Mushroom and butternut lasagne

This recipe is the result of not shopping properly. I thought I had bought everything needed to make this vegetable lasagne recipe from the Cranks recipe book, but it turned out I was missing a couple of key things. Sheets of lasagne. Crème fraiche. So I improvised and added a couple of extra things I happened to have. This is the result. It demonstrates that being flexible can often be a nice surprise. Whatever you change, always include the roasted butternut squash slices in pesto, that’s lovely!As with a lot of ‘vegetarian’ recipes, I find them sadly lacking in protein. So I added a tin of haricot beans which I had in the cupboard. It would work with any type of tinned bean.

Serves 4
900g butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded, and cut into long thin slices
olive oil
1 tbsp basil pesto [I used about 4 tbsp]
600g mushrooms, any combination, wiped with dry kitchen towel
6 lasagne sheets [I used gluten-free penne instead]
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp tamari/soy sauce
8 tbsp crème fraiche [I used fat free natural yogurt]
600g spinach
30g Parmesan, grated
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
60 Gruyere or other hard cheese, grated [I used more Parmesan]
tin haricot beans, drained [optional]
packet fresh basil [optional]

The separate elements for the lasagne can be prepared in advance, and assembled just before eating. Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas 8. Place the slices of butternut squash in a bowl and toss with 2 tbsp olive oil, season to taste. Spread in a single layer on two baking trays and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes until soft when checked with a knife, and going brown around the edges. Put into a bowl to cool slightly, add the basil pesto and set aside. Meanwhile, cook the lasagne sheets or your own preferred pasta. Drain and set aside. Slice the cleaned mushrooms. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil, two chopped garlic cloves and the tamari in a wide frying pan. Add the mushrooms and cook gently until they begin to release their juices. Add 1 tbsp crème fraiche, turn the heat down and simmer until the juices begin to reduce. Set aside.

Put the spinach, and fresh basil if using, into a saucepan with a splash of water. Cook with the lid on over a gentle heat so the leaves wilt. Drain in a sieve and press out the excess liquid using the back of a large spoon. Chop on a board then put into a bowl. Add 30g grated Parmesan, 1 clove chopped garlic, nutmeg, salt, pepper and 4 tbsp crème fraiche. Set aside. If cooking straight away:-
Turn the oven down to 190°C/375°F/gas 5.

Layer the vegetables and pasta in a large ovenproof casserole dish, finishing with a creamy spinach layer and the remaining crème fraiche. Sprinkle the top with the grated Gruyere or hard cheese.

Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden. If cooking later:-
Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5. Assemble the dish as above.

Bake in the oven with a lid on the casserole, or cover with a layer of foil, for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to bake for a further 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden. Test with a fork to make sure the vegetables at the bottom of the dish are hot. What would I do differently next time?
Add more yogurt
Stir the haricot beans into the spinach and yogurt sauce
Substitute courgette for the spinach, sliced thinly and fried lightly in a little olive oil If you like this, try:-
Mushrooms + wine + butternut
Cheesy nutty herby mushrooms
A cassoulet of aubergines

5 to remember
un par de cosas clave – a couple of key things
la nuez moscada – the nutmeg
la cazuela – the casserole dish
prueba con un tenedor – test with a fork
las alubias – the haricot beans

 

This recipe is from ‘The Cranks Bible’ by Nadine Abensur [Weidenfeld & Nicolson]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Mushroom and butternut lasagne #Spain #vegetarianfood https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2vD via @Spanish_Valley