Old walls

Parcelas, parcels of land or fields, are generally marked here in this rough stony country by a line of stones. The stones will have been cleared over the centuries, thrown along the boundary as impromptu dividing lines.

Parcelas can be square but are most often around here irregularly-shaped given that they follow the countours of the land and skirt around huge boulders. In some places there are old walls, dry stone walls, where perhaps a richer farmer wanted to make a statement of wealth. Many of these old walls remain, standing firm, or tumbled around larger fincas.

5 to remember
la antigua muralla – the old wall
una parcela – a parcel
en general – generally/in general
impromptu – impromtu
una línea divisoria – a dividing line

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
This is rough stony land & the farmers put the stones to good use #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1Pg

Is it a soup? Is it a stew?

It’s pistou. A kind of main meal version of the Italian soup minestrone. The name comes from the sauce, drizzled over the top before eating. Pistou is similar to pesto, but without the pine nuts, and adds a kick of fresh green intensity.

Serve it in a deep bowl and eat with a spoon. Ultimate comfort food. It is very forgiving. Adapt the ingredients according to what is in the cupboard or the fridge. I forgot to buy green beans and courgettes, so added more carrots and frozen peas. Try it with different beans, red kidney beans turns the soup a darker red.

Serves 4
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 leeks, roughly chopped
4 new potatoes, roughly diced
2 carrots, sliced
1.3 litres vegetable stock
3 bay leaves
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tsp tomato puree
2 courgettes, thickly sliced
85g French beans, cut into 1cm pieces
50g frozen peas
1 400g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 400g tin flageolet beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the pistou sauce:-
4 garlic cloves
40g Parmesan, grated
14 fresh Basil leaves Heat half the oil in a large saucepan then add the onions and leeks. Cook over a medium heat for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the potatoes, carrots, stock, bay leaves, tomatoes and tomato puree and stir. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the courgettes, French beans, frozen peas and tinned beans. Return to the boil, cook for a further five minutes. Season to taste.

Meanwhile, make the pistou. With a hand blender, or in a pestle and mortar, blend the garlic, Parmesan and basil with the remaining oil. If it is thick, add a touch of water to loosen into a smooth paste.

Serve, with a small dollop of pistou on top. If you like this, try:-
Salt Cod Fritters
Blue Cheese Coleslaw 
Cauliflower Salad with Spinach Yogurt

5 to remember
una versión de – a version of
es parecido a – is similar to
según – according to
me olvidé de comprar – I forgot to buy
un montón de – a dollop of

 

This recipe is by TV chef Anthony Worrall-Thompson.
‘The Essential Diabetes Cookbook’ by Antony Worrall Thompson [UK: Kyle Books]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Pistou, made in #Spain, a French #recipe by @AntonyWT http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2dm via @Spanish_Valley

Citrus cake

If you have a few sorry-looking satsumas or lemons languishing in the fruit bowl, then this is the cake recipe for you. It can be made with any combination of citrus fruit, the recipe adapts its sweetness according to the type of citrus used. And as it uses ground almonds, and no flour or raising agent, it is naturally gluten-free. About 270g citrus fruit, your choice [2 small oranges; 1 grapefruit; 3 lemons; or 1 orange, 1 lemon, 1 lime]
6 eggs, separated
250-350g depending on your choice of citrus [for an orange, 250g; for a mixture, 300g; for either all lemons, or limes or grapefruit, 350g]
300g ground almonds
a handful of flaked almonds

Put the whole unpeeled fruit into a saucepan and add enough cold water to cover. Put a small sheet of baking parchment on top of the water, pop the lid on, and place the pan over a gentle heat for 1½ to 2 hours until completely soft [the time depends on the size of the fruit]. Leave to cool completely. We did this the night before.

Heat the oven to 160°C/180°C non-fan]. Grease and line a deep 23cm round cake tin.

Drain the cold fruit. Cut off any woody ends, chop the skin and flesh into small pieces. Rub through a sieve/fine-mesh strainer to remove any pips then transfer to a food processor and blitz to a purée. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and mousse-like [you can use the same whisk]. Whisk the fruit pulp and ground almonds into the egg yolk mixture. Next, fold in the egg whites.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin, level the top and scatter with a few flaked almonds.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely before turning the cake out.

This recipe is from Too Good to Waste by Victoria Class [UK: Nourish]

If you like this, try these:-
A Silky, Dense Chocolate Cake
A Sweet and Sour Cranberry Cake
Cupboard Cake

5 to remember
los cítricos – the citrus fruit
una toronja – a grapefruit
la pulpa – the pulp
la yema de huevo – the egg yolk
la clara de huevo – the egg white

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Cake: start with a whole orange & a whole lime #Recipe by @victoria_glass #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-21k

Fifty Shades of Blue #24

Blue sky & orange sunset. March 19, 2016

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Blue sky & orange sunset in the #secretvalley in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2b0

October in the valley

From the palest Lemon Yellow through creamy Transparent Gold Ochre to the bright Cadmium Scarlet and Cadmium Orange, the look of the valley is changing daily and looks like something out of my watercolour paintbox. Some trees remain defiantly green – the evergreen Holm Oaks and Pinus – and deciduous Poplars. But for other deciduous trees, autumn is here. Green leaves change colour in the autumn when trees have taken all the food, the chlorophyll, from the leaves. Chlorophyll is the biomolecule which absorbs energy from sunlight and gives leaves their green colour. So at this time of year when sunlight weakens, the leaves stop making food and this green pigment is broken down into colourless compounds. It is then that the yellow pigments are revealed, and other chemical changes can cause red colouration. Today the #secretvalley is a #yellowvalley.

5 to remember
mi acuarela paintbox – my watercolour paintbox
la clorofila – the chlorophyll
la biomolécula – the biomolecule
absorbe la energía de la luz solar – it absorbs energy from sunlight
debilita – it weakens

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Going yellow: October in the #secretvalley #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-28J

A cassoulet of aubergines

The first day of October rain is welcomed with relief by the olive farmers around here. It has been a dry summer and spring, and the olive trees need rain for the last couple of months of the year so they fatten up. So, cozy inside while the autumnal rain does its stuff, we wanted something warming to eat. So we made good use of the bag of aubergines brought by our neighbour. This is a vegetarian Spanish-y version of the traditional French dish cassoulet. The recipe is by Nigel Slater. It is the sort of dish to eat with a fork, serve yourself a generous helping.

Serves 4-6
2 aubergines
Olive oil
2 onions, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
250g fresh tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
A little tomato puree
2 400g tins haricot beans, drained and rinsed
250ml vegetable stock
For the crust:-
120g white bread
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/Gas6. aubergines-browning-in-panFirst prepare the aubergines. Discard the stems, slice in half lengthways, and then in half again. Warm 3-4 tbsp of oil in a deep, heavy-based casserole dish. Fry the aubergines in the oil until they are soft and nicely golden on the cut sides. Remove from the casserole, and set aside. aubergines-browned-set-asideadd-herbs-to-panAdd the onions to the same pan, add a little more oil if necessary. Cook gently for 10-15 minutes until soft and pale honey-coloured. Stir in the sliced garlic.To the casserole dish, now add the tomatoes, bay leaves, whole sprigs of thyme and rosemary, and tomato puree. Stir and cook for 5 minutes. haricot-beans-drainedadd-beans-to-panAdd the haricot beans, aubergines, a seasoning of salt and black pepper, and vegetable stock. Partially cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare the crust. Turn the slices of crusty bread into breadcrumbs in a food processor, then stir in the thyme leaves. spoonful-of-toppingready-to-go-into-the-ovenWhen the casserole is ready to go into the oven to bake, scatter the breadcrumb mixture over the top, and drizzle over a little olive oil. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the crust is crisp and the cassoulet is bubbling around the edges. just-out-of-the-ovenThis is delicious and has quickly become a favourite in our house.

5 to remember
engordar – to fatten up
el puré – the puree
claro/a – pale
alrededor de los bordes – around the edges
la corteza – the crust

If you feel hungry, try these recipes:-
Cheesy scone bake
A sweet creamy frittata
A non-classic tortilla

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A cassoulet of aubergines #recipe by @NigelSlater via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1So

Caqui, on and off the tree

The calix is the most distinctive part of the caqui/persimmon/sharon fruit, staying attached to the fruit after harvesting and remaining on the ground after the rest of the fruit has been eaten or decayed. In botanical terms, the fruit is actually a berry [as is the tomato] and has a high glucose content. Some fruits are more astringent than others, containing a high level of tannins, but it is these fruits, unpalatable when under-ripe, which are the sweetest when fully-ripe. If you can lift the calix away easily, the fruit is ready for eating. If you want to speed up the ripening process, try wrapping the fruit in paper and putting in the sun for several days.

5 to remember
el calix – the calix
adjunto/a – attached
más distintivo/a – most distinctive
un alto contenido de glucosa – a high glucose content
astringente – astringent

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Caqui, on & off the tree: persimmon #trees in the #secretvalley in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1R3