Fifty Shades of White #6

Plum blossom. April 5, 2015

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
The fruit is coming… plum blossom in the #secretvalley in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley

Wild rosehips

I grew up thinking hips and haws were different things, hips belonged to roses, haws to hawthorns. So I thought. Now I realize they are different names for the same thing. A rosehip, or haw, or hep, is the red or orange fruit of the rose. They begin to form after pollination in the spring or early summer and ripen in late summer and autumn. Here, they hang onto the wild rose bushes all winter. If the birds don’t spot them.

Rosehips are high in vitamin C and, knowing this, I really should pick some and have a go at making something. Tea, jam, syrup. They can also, apparently, be eaten raw; if you avoid eating the hairs inside the fruit. I’ve never done this and I do not recommend eating anything picked wild unless you are 100% sure what it is: if in doubt, take it to your local farmacia.

5 to remember
un arrecife – a rosehip
la polinización – the pollination
tener una ida – to have a go
no lo recomiendo – I do not recommend
la farmacia – the pharmacy

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Hips, haws & heps: wild roses in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley #garden

Brazil nut pesto pasta

If you are trying to increase your daily intake of vegetables, then try this pasta dish that includes a minimum of four, and could be more depending on what you add. The base is a dairy-free pesto, the creaminess of regular pesto is provided by the combination of avocados and Brazil nuts. We made the quantity below and found it sufficient for three meals for two people – so one pot went into the fridge and the third into the freezer.

Next time we make it, I will stir fresh mint leaves into the pasta at the end, and even more lemon juice.

Serves 4
For the pesto:-
120g Brazil nuts
50g pine nuts
1½ avocados
50g rocket [I used a bag]
large handful of fresh basil leaves [I used a bag]
juice of 1½ lemons
8 tbsp olive oil
For the pasta:-
500g your choice of pasta
2 courgettes, chopped into thin slices
1 head of broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces
225g peas [I used frozen]
salt and pepper

First, make the pesto. Place the Brazil nuts and pine nuts into a food processor and whiz for a minute until they are completely crushed. Add the avocado flesh, basil leaves, lemon juice, rocket, olive oil, 8 tbsp water, salt and pepper. Blend again until you have a creamy sauce, as smooth or chunky as you prefer.

Next, cook the pasta. Heat a large frying pan with a little olive oil. Add the courgettes and broccoli, salt and pepper, and fry lightly for 5-7 minutes until they are cooked and lightly golden. While these are cooking, prepare your peas: if you are using fresh, cook them lightly in a saucepan; if frozen, zap them in a bowl for a couple of minutes in the microwave. Drain and add to the frying pan.

Once the pasta is ready, drain and add to the frying pan. Toss. Add a spoonful or two of pesto.If you like this, try:-
Sweet potatoes + coconut + ginger
A walnut sauce for pasta
Little squash cakes with a kick

5 to remember
una nuez de Brasil – a Brazil nut
un mínimo de – a minimum of
el tercero – the third
la próxima vez – the next time
aún más – even more


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:
Pesto for pasta: Brazil nuts & rocket #Spain #Recipe by @DeliciouslyElla via @Spanish_Valley

Through the year: the walnut tree

For a year I have taken photographs of the big walnut tree closest to the house, watching its transition through the seasons. Each month brings something different, something to enjoy about the way nature reminds us life is cyclical. Heat, rain, sun, frost, drought, hail, wind, whatever is thrown at this tree it follows its seasonal progress. And I find that reassuring.

Bare limbs, yellow and green shadows, silvered bark, smashed walnuts trodden underfoot…

April -May
New life, green leaves, baby walnuts, blue sky, a flash of orange pomegranate flowers…

Dappled shade, woodpeckers drumming, walnuts fattening…

Summer’s end, autumn heralded, green leaves powdered with August dust, walnut shells hardening…

Leaves yellowing, drying and falling, walnuts gathered, shells broken underfoot. The annual cycle begins again.

‘Guide to Trees of Britain and Europe’ [UK: Hamlyn]

5 to remember
proclamar – to herald/proclaim/announce
moteado – dappled/mottled/speckled
en polvo con – powdered with
anual – annual
el ciclo – the cycle

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Through the year: the big walnut #tree #Spain via @Spanish_Valley

Very cheesy pie

This pie is just what you need in that odd time between Christmas and New Year. It is comfortable food, filling, cheesy, makes the kitchen smells divine, and takes a while to put together. So, it’s ideal to make when time stretches ahead of you and it’s cold outside. 

You can make the cheesiness stronger or subtler by varying the type of cheese you use.

Serves 6
5 large white cabbage leaves, stems removed and leaves halved [I used a Savoy cabbage]
2 potatoes [450g], peeled and thinly sliced
1 white onion, thinly sliced
small handful of tarragon leaves
300g mozzarella, thinly sliced [I used French mild goats cheese]
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6.

Place the cabbage pieces, in four batches, into a large saucepan of salted boiling water, and cook for two minutes. Drain, refresh in iced water and set aside on kitchen towel to drain well.

Add the potatoes to the pan, cook for two minutes. Drain, refresh in iced water and set aside on kitchen towel to drain well.

Use six of the largest cabbage leaves to line the base and sides of a lightly greased 22cm round cake tin. Leave approx. 8cm of leaves hanging over the side of the tin. Depending on the size of the cabbage leaves, you may need to cook more – I did.

Into the tin, place a layer of potatoes, slightly overlapping the slices. Next add a layer of onion, tarragon and cheese. Repeat this twice to create three more layers, until your ingredients run out. Fold over the overhanging cabbage leaves and press well to enclose.

Place the tin into a large deep-sided roasting tray, and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the tin. Cover the whole thing with kitchen foil. Cook for 60-70 minutes, or until the pie is tender when tested with a skewer.

Remove the foil, brush the top of the pie with the olive oil, and cook for a further 15-20 minutes or until the top is golden and crispy.

Remove the tin from the water bath, cut into wedges and serve.

This recipe is by Donna Hay, check her website for more recipes.

5 to remember
una tarta – a pie
el estragón – the tarragon
dependiendo de – depending on
pendiente – overhanging
profundo lado – deep-sided

If you feel hungry, try these recipes:-
Yogurt and Roasted Butternut Salad
Linguine with Broad Beans
Habas a la Granadina

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Very cheesy pie = comfort food #Spain #Recipe by @donnahay via @Spanish_Valley

Bird song: Blue Tit

We all know the Blue Tit, or think we do. Blue cap. Yellow breast. White cheeks with a Zorro-like black mask around his face. But do you know what he sounds like? Notice some cheerful singing, close to the house? Quite likely it is a Blue Tit. Its quick ‘tsee-tsee-tsee’ gets a little harder when stressed, ‘tsee-see-sit’. They sing throughout the year, mostly to defend territory or attract a mate, and call to other Blue Tits. Their favourite food is caterpillars, and the yellowness of the male’s breast indicates how many yellow-green caterpillars he has eaten.

Resident here all year round, the Blue Tit’s main rival – for nests, and food – is the Great Tit: a much bigger bird. The Blue Tit is 11.5cm long and weighs 9-12g, compared with the Great Tit at 14cm long and 16-21g. So when you hear the Blue Tit’s scolding ‘churrrrr’ perhaps a Great Tit is near, or a Buzzard, or Sparrowhawk.

Listen to the Blue Tit’s song at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
el herrerillo – the blue tit
la máscara negra – the black mask
alrededor de su cara – around his face
el amarillo – the yellowness
las orugas – the caterpillars

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Mistle Thrush


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:
You see him every day but do you know the song of the Blue Tit? #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley

Sweet potatoes + coconut + ginger

Once made, this dish will quickly become a favourite. Either as a vegetable side dish or, with added protein, a vegetarian supper dish. It includes three of my favourite ingredients: sweet potatoes, coconut and ginger. It smells divine while cooking and is a pretty golden colour when baked. Try it! Oh, and you haven’t misread the amount of fresh ginger. It is a lot, but essential to the overall flavour.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish, or 2 hungry people as a main course
4-5 small to medium sweet potatoes, about 1.5kg
100g piece of fresh root ginger
1 red chilli, deseeded
3 garlic cloves, crushed
400ml tin coconut milk
grated zest and juice of 2 limes [I used lemons]
2 tbsp of maple syrup or clear honey [optional]
300g tin haricot beans or chick peas

Heat the oven to 180°C/200°C non-fan].

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1cm slices. Put into a large casserole dish, about 21×28 cm with a tight-fitting lid [if you don’t have a lid, use foil]. If using haricot beans or chick peas, add them to the casserole.

Next, prepare the sauce. Peel the ginger, garlic and de-seed the chill. Chop them roughly then put into a bowl and whizz with a hand blender [I used the food processor, then switched to the hand blender halfway through cooking and found it easier]. Add the coconut milk, lime or lemon zest and juice, and maple syrup if using, and whizz again with the hand blender. Pour the sauce over the sweet potatoes and mix thoroughly so the pieces are completely coated. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the casserole with the lid, and bake in the oven for 1 hour until the potatoes are tender. Remove the lid and bake for another 15-20 minutes until the top is browned. Serve with a side of lightly steamed spinach. 5 to remember
la leche de coco – the coconut milk
una batidora de mano – a hand blender
ajustado/a – tightly-fitting
la tapa – the lid
divino/a – divine

This recipe is by Sarah Raven. Read her gardening advice here.

If you feel hungry, try these recipes:-
Smoky spring onions and asparagus with lime
A super green salad
Cauliflower salad with spinach yogurt

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Sweet potatoes + coconut + ginger: what’s not to love? #Spain #recipe via @Spanish_Valley