Tag Archives: living abroad

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

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

Walnuts, almost ready

The walnuts are almost ready, the husks are splitting and the nut is visible inside. They haven’t fallen from the trees yet though, so perhaps there is another week to wait.

Harvesting is simple: just pick them from the ground where they have fallen. To check for ripeness, open a nut: if the tissue between the kernel and the shell is brown, they’re ripe. If a good few have fallen, the rest may fall too if you give the tree a shake [do it the Spanish way and spread an old blanket or sheet on the ground first].

The next step is to remove the husks. Wear gloves to do this, as the tannins will stain your hands brown. Once the husks are removed, wash the shells with a high-pressure hose. Inspect the nuts and discard any with discoloured or cracked shells. Lay them in the sunshine to dry. Before storing, open a few to test for dryness. If you can open the shell easily with a nutcracker, and the nut inside can be broken in two, they are ready to eat.

Walnuts will keep in their shells for several months. If storing the shelled nuts, keep them in an airtight container.

For recipes including walnuts, try:-
Lighter Brownies
Walnut Teabread
Roasted Cauliflower Salad

5 to remember
las cáscaras – the husks
visible – visible
la madurez de – the ripeness of
el núcleo – the kernel
los taninos – the tannins

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
The #walnuts are almost ready to harvest #nature http://wp.me/p3dYp6-256 via @Spanish_Valley

Cauliflower salad with spinach yogurt

I have discovered a new favourite vegetable: roasted cauliflower. And not just in winter, but in summer salads. This is a warm salad with gentle Indian spices and a cooling spinach yogurt.

Serves 4-6
2 heads of cauliflower, broken into florets
1 tbsp ground cumin
3-5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
300g puy lentils, rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
15g fresh coriander leaves, chopped [I used parsley]
15g mint leaves
3 tbsp flaked almonds, toasted
Sea salt
Black pepper
For the spinach yogurt:-
1 tsp capers, rinsed and finely chopped
375g natural Greek yogurt
15g mint leaves, finely sliced
100ml extra virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
Sea salt
Black pepper
100g baby spinach leaves, washed and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas 6.

Place the cauliflower florets on a large baking tray and sprinkle over the cumin. Drizzle over 1-2 tbsp oil and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 25-30 minutes until golden.  Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Add the lentils and bay leaf. Cook for 20-25 minutes until the lentils are just tender. Drain.

Make the spinach yogurt: whizz together the spinach, capers, yogurt, mint and olive oil in a food processor. Squeeze over the lemon juice, season well with salt and pepper.

Fry the lentils: Heat 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic, chopped coriander, paprika and cooked lentils. Season well with salt and sauté over a medium-high heat, shaking the pan to move the lentils around. Fry until the lentils are slightly crispy. To serve: spread the spinach yogurt onto a serving platter. Combine the roasted cauliflower with the fried lentils and herbs, drizzle with olive oil, season again to taste. Spoon the cauliflower mixture over the yogurt, and top with the toasted flaked almonds. If you like this, try:-
Mustardy Salmon Salad
Linguine with Broad Beans
Roasted Cauliflower Salad

5 to remember
suave – gentle
indio – Indian
las especias – the spices
una llovizna de – a drizzle of
servir – to serve

 

This recipe is from Neighbourhood: Salads, Sweets and Stories from Home and Abroad by Hetty McKinnon [UK: Shambhala]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Cauliflower & spinach: a warm spicy salad #Spain #Recipe by @hettymckinnon via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-25j

A chocolate and salt combination

Home-made biscuits can often be an anti-climax. Too small, too thin, too few. Not this biscuit. The combination of high % cocoa chocolate and sea salt is so sublime you wonder why we have only recently been eating it. They are so moreish that we ate half the biscuits while they were still warm.

If you are on a diet, beware. Makes 8 large cookies
120g unsalted butter
50g soft brown sugar
60g granulated sugar
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
120g plain flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp baking powder
75g dark chocolate, 64-71% cocoa, roughly chopped into medium pieces
1 tbsp golden granulated sugar, for sprinkling
½ tsp sea salt

Heat the oven 170C/190C non-fan. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper, and set aside.

Over a low heat, melt the butter in a medium-sized pan. Set aside to cool a little. Next, stir the soft brown and granulated sugars into the butter, then the egg yolk. Sift over the plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder, and combine into a soft dough.

Fold ½ tsp sea salt and the chopped chocolate pieces into the dough.

Use an ice-cream scoop or a big spoon to make eight balls. Press them lightly onto the baking tray, spaced well apart as the mixture spreads during baking. Over the top of each cookie sprinkle a little golden granulated sugar.

Bake in the hot oven for 15-18 minutes or until the cookies are lightly golden with crisp edges, and the chocolate is melted.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly on the tray before transferring to a cooling rack.

If you like this, try these:-
A gluten-free iced lemon cake
Cheesy scone bake
Thin lemon and pistachio biscuits

This recipe is by Florence Knight and was first featured in ‘The Sunday Times Magazine’.

5 to remember
un anticlinal – an anti-climax
demasiado/a delgado/a – too thin
demasiado/a pequeño/a – too small
muy pocos – too few
derretido/a – melted

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Biscuits: a chocolate & salt combination #Recipe by @FlorenceKnight #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1YN

The feather of …?

Found on our terrace. One feather.

The feather is 22cm long, barred, cream and brown. My current guess is that it belongs to a male buzzard, although the white at the base of the feather could suggest a sparrowhawk. I used Raptors: a field guide for surveys and monitoring at Eurapmon, the body which researches and monitors raptors in Europe. I was surprised by the wealth of feather identification guides online, it is not something I have researched before.

Do you know which bird this feather belongs to?

Read about the song of the Sparrowhawks, here in our valley.

5 to remember
una pluma – a feather
listado/a – barred/striped
mi conjetura actual – my current guess
me sorprendió – I was surprised by
conectado/on-line – online

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
What type of bird does this feather belong to? #Birds in #Spain http://wp.me/p3dYp6-24U via @Spanish_Valley

A salad, involving melons

This is one of those salads that sounds so simple that you wonder ‘what’s the point?’


The point is to use the very freshest ingredients, in season: melon, tomato, cucumber. The cucumber is important. If you can, use Spanish pepinos, the short fat warty-skinned variety which put English cucumbers into the shade. This is a Rick Stein recipe which he made in France. Spanish ingredients do the job just as well.
The only change I made was to add handfuls of fresh baby mint leaves, and use sherry vinegar for the dressing.

Serves lunch for 2 hungry people, with crusty bread and butter
½ ripe piel de sapo melon
pepino or ½ English cucumber
225g tomatoes, skinned
100g firm, crumbly goat’s cheese
Handful of fresh mint, rinsed
For the dressing:-
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Jerez sherry vinegar
Pinch of caster sugar
Sea salt flakes, and coarsely ground black pepper

Make the dressing first by combining the ingredients with a whisk. Set aside.

Cut the melon into four wedges, scooped out the seeds with a spoon. Slice the flesh away from the skin and cut each wedge into long thin slices. pepino, slicedPeel the cucumber and slice on the diagonal into 3mm-thick slices. Slice the tomatoes. Arrange the melon on the base of a large serving plate, cover with the cucumber and tomato slices.


Crumble the cheese in small pieces on top, then scatter with the mint. Spoon over the dressing and serve straight away with bread and butter. crusty bread & butterFor more about Rick Stein, visit his website.

Three more salads to try:-
Hot hot chickpea salad
A gooey creamy salad
Spanish tuna and tomato salad

5 to remember
incluso – involving/including
la más frescos – the very freshest
en estación – in season
la diagonal – the diagonal
esparcir – to scatter

French Odyssey by Rick Stein

 

‘French Odyssey’ by Rick Stein [UK: BBC Books]

 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A French salad made with Spanish melons #recipe by @Rick_Stein via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1Nb