Tag Archives: Sandra Danby

May in the valley

Early morning: chilly, pull on a pair of jeans and t-shirt.
Mid-morning: jeans off, shorts on.
Early-afternoon: too hot, into pool, out of pool in 30 seconds. The thermometer [which says the water is 23° must be lying].
Late-afternoon: skin pink.
Early evening: forget bug spray, get bitten.
Evening: jeans on.

Blackbirds nesting.
Pair of cuckoos fly in formation, cuckoo-ing to each other.
Three bee-eaters choose a branch of the big walnut tree in front of our terrace as their summer roosting spot.
All the artichokes explode at once, overnight they go from the size of a golf ball to a child’s football.
The wild asparagus has gone to seed.

5 to remember
frío – chilly
un par de vaqueros – a pair of jeans
el termómetro – the thermometer
en linea – in formation
el uno al otro – to each other

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Jeans on, jeans off, shorts on: welcome to May in the #secretvalley #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1Pl

A silky, dense chocolate cake

An admission. The photos of this cake are actually of two cakes made on different days. Why? Because the first time we used a too-small cake tin and the contents oozed [that’s the only word] over the baking tray. So two lessons learned: use the right size cake tin, and don’t forget the baking tray. Incidentally, the cake looked messy but tasted brilliant for pudding with strawberries and Greek yogurt!

225g soft unsalted butter
375g dark muscovado sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g best chocolate, gently melted and allowed to cool slightly
200g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
250ml boiling water

Pre-heat the oven to 190°/Gas 5 and put in a baking sheet.

Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin, 23x13x7cm. Line the tin fully, or you will never be able to remove this sticky cake in one piece.

Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla. Beat well.

Now add the slightly cooled, melted chocolate. Take care to blend it well, but do not overbeat. The ingredients should be combined, you don’t want a mass of bubbles.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda. Now, alternating, add two spoonfuls of flour to the chocolate mix followed by two spoonfuls of water. Be sure to mix in each spoonful before adding the next, otherwise the mixture will be lumpy. At the end, you will have a smooth, fairly liquid batter.

Pour the batter into the lined loaf tin and place the tin in the oven on top of the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 170°/Gas 3 and continue to bake for another 15 minutes. The cake will still be squidgy inside, so a skewer will not come out completely clean.

Remove from the oven and place the tin on a rack. Leave until completely cold before turning out of the tin. It is a dense, dark cake and so may sink slightly in the middle.

Our cake is a gluten-free version of this recipe so instead of the self-raising flour and plain flour, we substituted 200g gluten-free plain flour. There is no need for baking powder in this recipe as the bicarbonate of soda acts as the raising agent.

If you like this, try:-
Chocolate flapjack
Peanut butter biscuits
An Italian cake of Spanish apples 5 to remember
sedoso/a – silky
denso/a – dense [texture]
squidgy – squidgy
en el medio – in the middle
hundirse – to sink

 

This recipe is from How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson [UK: Chatto & Windus]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Chocolate cake: dense, silky, chocolatey #Spain #recipe by @Nigella_Lawson via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1Y6

Harvesting in May

Barley and wheat are major grain crops in Spain and the latter crop is grown all around us here, principally because it is favoured by our warm dry climate. In wetter parts of the country, or where irrigation is used, wheat is crowded out by corn/maize. According to the ‘Grain Market Report’ from the International Grains Council [IGC], 6.2m tonnes of Spain’s 18.5 million tonnes total grain production in 2015 was wheat. Maize accounted for 4m tonnes, barley 6.7m tonnes. If the prayers of farmers in spring are answered, there will be abundant quantities of both rain and sunshine. Around us, some farmers have started the wheat harvest. After showers at the weekend, now we see full sun forecast for every day ahead.

5 to remember
el trigo – the wheat
el campo de trigo – the wheatfield
la cebada – the barley
una tonelada – a tonne
principalmente – principally

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Harvesting in May #secretvalley #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-21U

Best when the broad beans are babies

This is best made when the broad beans are ripe and there is a glut to deal with. Any small space on our freezer shelves are crammed with small bags of habas, they are a delight to eat in winter added to a dish of gambas al ajillo. But this pasta dish demands tiny broad beans as big as my little fingernail, just popped from the pod. If we eat it with bigger broad beans, we par-cook them first and slip them out of their skins before adding them to the onion mixture. This makes enough sauce for 2 hungry people, served with the pasta of your choice.

400g podded broad beans
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 small bunch fresh parsley, chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
250ml hot water
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g parmesan, freshly grated
pasta of your choice

In a large heavy saucepan, cook the onion, garlic and parsley slowly in the oil for 5 minutes or until very soft. Add the broad beans and stir for several minutes. Add the water and cook until the beans are tender. Add salt and pepper. Put half of the beans in a food processor and pulse-chop to a coarse puree. Return to the saucepan and mix with the whole beans.

Cook your preferred pasta. Drain, then add to the sauce and stir. Check seasoning, and serve with the parmesan. 5 to remember
la haba – the broad bean
el perejil – the parsley
el robot de cocina – the food processor
preferido/a – preferred
el condimento – the seasoning

This is our adaption of a River Café recipe, reliable as always.
‘River Café Cook Book Two’ by Rose Gray and Ruth Rodgers [UK: Ebury Press]

If you feel hungry, try these recipes:-
Carrot, Olive and Orange Salad
Cheesy Nutty Herby Mushrooms
Courgette Flower Frittata

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Best when the broad beans are babies #Spain #Recipe by @RiverCafeLondon via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-20x

Roasted asparagus

This is a recipe by American cook, Ina Garten. It is so unbelievably easy a child could do it. Eat it hot as a side, or cold as a tapas. It’s also great as part of a buffet supper.

Serves 8
2 lb asparagus
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C.

Break off the tough ends of the asparagus. If the stalks are thick, peel them. Place the asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Using your fingers, toss the asparagus so each piece is evenly coated with oil.

Spread the asparagus in a single layer on the baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast for 25 minutes, until tender but crisp.

That’s it. Couldn’t be easier.

Try these other asparagus recipes:-
A heavenly soup for asparagus season
Asparagus and lemon risotto
Wild asparagus and scrambled eggs for lunch

5 to remember
increíblemente – unbelievably
un niño – a child
parte de – part of
duro/a – tough
eso es – that’s it

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Roasted asparagus, the easy way #food #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1UC

Bird song: Green Woodpecker

If you don’t like bugs, Green Woodpeckers are your best friend as they eat all types of insects and love ants. You probably hear a Green Woodpecker every day, we do, but don’t particularly recognize its call. It doesn’t ‘drum’ like other woodpeckers, and spends most of its time on the ground. Its green [on top] and yellow [beneath] colouring means it is often mistaken in flight for a female Golden Oriole. Its loud call is called ‘yaffling’ and gave its name to the wooden bookend Professor Yaffle in the children’s television series Bagpuss.

Listen to the Green Woodpecker’s song here at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
se confunde a menudo con – is often mistaken for
el colorante – the colouring
el profesor – the professor
en vuelo – in flight
el pupitre – the bookend

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

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Do you recognize the song of the Green Woodpecker? #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1ZE

Cupboard cake

I think of this as my cupboard cake as the afternoon I first made it, my sole motivation was cake. I didn’t want to go out to buy ingredients, which discounted fruit cake as I had run out of sultanas and raisins. I spent a pleasurable half an hour leafing through various cookbooks before I found this Mary Berry recipe. She calls it her ‘Cherry and Almond Traybake’. But in our house, my name has stuck.

225g glacé cherries
275g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
225g soft margarine
225g caster sugar
finely grated rind of 2 lemons
75g ground almonds
5 eggs
25g flaked almonds Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Grease and base line a 30x23cm roasting tin with greased greaseproof paper.

Cut each cherry into quarters, put into a sieve and rinse under running water to remove the sticky goo. Drain well and dry thoroughly on kitchen paper. If you skip this step, your cherries will sink in the baked cake.

Measure all the remaining ingredients [excluding cherries and flaked almonds] into a large bowl and beat well for one minute to mix thoroughly.

Lightly fold in the cherries. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin, level the top, and sprinkle with the flaked almonds. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 40 minutes or until well-risen, golden brown. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out. Remove the paper and finish cooling on a wire rack.

My cake is a gluten-free version of this recipe so instead of the self-raising flour, I substituted 275g gluten-free self-raising flour and 2 tsp of gluten-free baking powder.

If you like this, try:-
A cake to make on a cool afternoon
An apple and cinnamon cake
White chocolate and cranberry flapjack

5 to remember
las cerezas glacé – the glacé cherries
agradable – pleasurable
media hora – half an hour
en el centro – into the centre
la motivacion – the motivation

 

 

This recipe is from Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book [UK: BBC]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Cupboard cake: easy, quick & very tasty #Spain #Recipe by #MaryBerry via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1Zh