Tag Archives: Sandra Danby

Bird song: Grey Wagtail

This is a misleading name for a pretty bird which flies past with a flash of yellow. The Grey Wagtail is the slimmest of the wagtail family and is resident here all year round. The male is generally more yellow than the female, though is less obviously yellow throughout the winter months. I wonder if that is partly a natural reaction to camouflage: in the summer, yellow is an effective disguise amongst the bright green leaves but in winter a yellow bird would be easy to spot amongst the bare branches. It is a shy bird with a large voice: its call is a sharp and explosive ‘tchik’, ‘zi’ or ‘zi zi’. Its breeding season is April to July and it nests alongside fast-running streams or rivers, or on an embankment between stones and roots.

Listen to the call of the Grey Wagtail at the RSPB website.

 

Our most used bird book?
Collins Bird Guide: The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe [UK: Collins]

5 to remember
una cigüeña gris – a grey wagtail
engañoso – misleading
el más delgado  – the slimmest
explosivo – explosive
el camuflaje – the camouflage

 

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Roller
Blackcap
Booted Eagle

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Do you recognize the song of the Grey Wagtail? #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-29a

A walnut sauce for pasta

We love walnuts, just as well as we have about 20 trees. There are many versions of walnut sauce and we have tried a lot of them, this recipe is from the River Café Cook Book Two. We always eat sauce for four and pasta for two, but if this is too much sauce for you it keeps well for a few days in a sealed pot in the fridge. I also threw in huge quantities of parsley and basil, because I had them, which proves this recipe is elastic in terms of quantities!

2kg walnuts, shelled and bitter skins removed
Breadcrumbs, from any type of stale loaf
3 garlic cloves, peeled
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
150ml olive oil
100g parmesan, freshly grated
4 tbsp fresh basil, roughly chopped Soak the breadcrumbs in 150ml milk.

Set aside a few walnuts for serving. The recipe says to pound the rest of the walnuts with the garlic in a mortar, I used a food processor. Add a little salt, then the parsley, and pound some more.

Squeeze most of the milk from the breadcrumbs, keep the milk. Add half of the breadcrumbs to the mortar and mix. Add the olive oil gradually, plus a little milk to loosen the paste. Stir continuously so the sauce is well mixed. Finally add half the parmesan and basil, Season. The finished sauce should be thick and green.

Cook your preferred pasta, drain and return to the saucepan. To serve, add the rest of the basil, parmesan and a few pieces of uncrushed walnut. I also stirred wilted spinach into the finished pasta.

5 to remember
el pan rallado – the breadcrumbs
la leche – the milk
la albahaca – the basil
una pasta – a paste
la mitad – the half

 

Recipe from ‘River Café Cook Book Two’ by Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray [UK: Ebury Press]

If you feel hungry, try these recipes:-
Courgette & Chick Pea Stew
Cheesy Scone Bake
Ricotta Cheese & Pine Nut Chilli 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Lashings of herbs & nuts: walnut pesto #Spain #Recipe by @RiverCafeLondon http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2ec via @Spanish_Valley

Yogurt & roasted butternut salad

This dish is guaranteed to fill your kitchen with the scent of spices, as the butternut squash roasts in the oven. This is creamy comfort food which can be eaten from a bowl with a spoon. Serves 4
1 tsp ground fennel [I used seeds instead]
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried mint
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
1 butternut squash, peeled, halved & cut into wedges
Spray olive oil
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Juice of 1 lemon
6 tbsp 0% fat natural Greek yogurt
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 x 400g tin cannellini beans [I used a tin of flageolet beans]
2 tbsp pinenuts, dry-toasted
1 tbsp fresh chives, snipped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.

Mix together the fennel seeds, ground coriander, dried mint and chilli flakes.

Put the prepared butternut squash into a roasting tin, spray lightly with olive oil then dust with the herb mixture. Lightly sprinkle with cinnamon. Take a sheet of baking parchment, spray with oil on one side and place the sheet oil-side down on top of the butternut. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, remove the baking parchment and roast for a further 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

To make the dressing: combine the lemon juice, yogurt and mustard.

Fold the dressing into the beans and pinenuts. Gently mix the butternut into the bean mixture, taking care not to break-up the squash. Season to taste and garnish with chives. If you like this, try:-
Harissa Salmon Salad
Cauliflower Salad with Spinach Yogurt
Punchy Leeks on Toast

5 to remember
garantizado – guaranteed
el olor de – the scent of
adornar – to garnish
tijereteado – snipped
el libro de cocina – the cookbook

 

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:
Yogurt & roasted butternut salad #Recipe by @AntonyWT via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-27X

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

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

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