Tag Archives: Spanish countryside

Bird song: Great Tit

Can you tell the difference between a Great Tit and a Blue Tit? No? Before we came to live here, I was hazy about them too. Sometimes it is still a bit hit and miss, but basically the Great Tit is larger and looks as if he is wearing a yellow waistcoat over a black shirt. Or alternatively, a black tie with a yellow shirt. The Blue has a plain yellow breast. Not very technical ‘birding’ language, but I hope you know what I mean. Although both types of Tit are resident here, we see mostly Greats. Its colouring is slightly stronger than the Blue, though in flight to be honest they whizz by in a flash of yellow and blue.

Found across Europe, there are thirty different races of Great Tit and there are just as many variations of Great Tit song as there are of the bird. In the spring, if you hear a bird song you can’t identify there’s a good chance there’s a Great Tit nearby. Particularly familiar is the two-tone ‘teach-er teach-er’.

Listen to the song of the Great Tit at Xeno-Canto.

5 to remember
un poco impredecible – a bit hit and miss
parece como si – looks as if
un chaleco amarillo – a yellow waistcoat
una corbata negra – a black tie
espero que sepas lo que quiero decir – I hope you know what I mean

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Grey Wagtail
Sparrowhawk
Jay

 

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

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Do you recognize the song of the Great Tit? #Birds in #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2xH via @Spanish_Valley

Fifty Shades of Gold #42

Touch it at your peril. Dried Common Thistle. July 26, 2013 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Dried thistle, golden in the summer #Plants in #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2yS via @Spanish_Valley 

Bird song: Black Wheatear

If we want to find a Black Wheatear here, we look around rough, stony ground and quite often spot one at the base of sheer cliffs. This mostly black bird is often hidden in the shade of boulders and scree slopes, but is resident here and we regularly see one in the valley. Its song is a beautiful whistling ‘pewp’ and harder ‘tet-tet’, but in flight it becomes a pleasant twittering sound.

The Black Wheatear seems to prefer the ground where it leaps and hops, foraging for insects. It even nests on the ground in a grassy cup in a hole in the ground, in a vacant rabbit burrow, in a stone wall or beneath rocks on a slope. It appears mostly black, but when in flight it is possible to glimpse its large white rump and tail.

Although the Wheatear has struggled in Northern Europe, here in Spain the Black Wheatear is listed as ‘Least Concern’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018.
Listen to the song of the Black Wheatear at Xeno-Canto.

5 to remember
a la sombra de las rocas – in the shade of boulders
una madriguera de conejo vacante – a vacant rabbit burrow
es posible vislumbrar – it is possible to glimpse
menor preocupación – least concern
especies amenazadas – threatened species

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Blackcap
Cetti’s Warbler
Robin

 

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

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Do you recognize the song of the Black Wheater? #Birds in #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2xA via @Spanish_Valley

Bird song: Goshawk

The Goshawk is a large hawk which can reach the size of a Buzzard. Up close – I’m taking the word of the RSPB here – it is intimidating with a fierce expression, bright red eyes and white eyebrow. It catches its prey in flight and hunts at speed, its broad wings allowing it to manoeuvre between trees. It can catch anything from Thrush-sized birds to Crows, gamebirds and other birds of prey, though it also eats rabbits. Usually it eats its prey where it catches it, or takes it to a regular perch.

Its song can be confused with that of a Woodpecker, though the Goshawk only sings during courtship and the nesting season. It makes a nasal ‘gek-gek-gek’ and ‘pi-aah’.

Listen to the Goshawk sing at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
el azor – the goshawk
una canción – a song
se puede confundir con – can be confused with
una ardilla – a squirrel
nasal – gangoso

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Cetti’s Warbler
Crested Lark
Greenfinch

 

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:
Do you know how the Goshawk sings? #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2aC

Baked pesto and tomato pasta

We ate this recipe for the first time on a chilly Spring day when a salad just wouldn’t cut it. This is a recipe by Anna Jones who describes it as a vegan version of Macaroni Cheese, which she calls ‘Mac and Greens’; but I don’t think that does it justice. It is a pasta bake with multi-layered flavours – tomato, basil, broccoli, plus the silky texture of butternut squash – that just happens not to be made with cheese sauce.

Serves 6 not so hungry people, or 4 hungry ones
1 large bunch of fresh basil
50g rolled oats
a head of broccoli
olive oil
300g cherry tomatoes
150g toasted blanched almonds
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
300g pasta of your choice [we used gluten-free which worked well]
one 400g piece of squash, deseeded and cut into thin slices [we used a butternut]

Preheat the oven to 200°C / fan 180°C / gas 6. Put a large saucepan of salted water on to boil.

Put half the basil, oats, broccoli, a good glug of olive oil and the seasoning into a food processor. Pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. It will be a bit damp, but that’s okay. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Rinse the food processor and add the tomatoes, almonds, remaining basil and 2 tbsp olive oil. Whizz to a nearly smooth paste, season and whizz again. Set aside. When the water is boiling, add your chosen pasta and sliced squash. Cook together for half the time this type of pasta usually takes, it should be fairly undercooked. Drain and reserve a mug of the pasta water.

Return the pasta to the saucepan, add the tomato mixture and stir. Add a little of the reserved pasta water at a time, stirring, until the sauce becomes the consistency of double cream. It needs to be a bit runny as the pasta will soak up the sauce during baking.

Transfer this mixture to a large baking dish or casserole. Sprinkle the green crumbs across the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is crunchy and golden. 

Remove from the oven and wait 10 minutes before serving.

What would I do differently next time:-
add a tablespoon of tomato puree to the tomato mixture
add one crushed garlic clove to the basil mixture

5 to remember
la textura sedosa – the silky texture
cuando el agua está hirviendo – when the water is boiling
la consistencia de – the consistency of
tiene que ser un poco chorreante – it needs to be a bit runny
machado – crushed

This recipe is from ‘A Modern Way to Eat’ by Anna Jones [UK: Fourth Estate]

If you feel hungry, try these recipes:-
Lentil and thyme casserole
A creamy coconut stew
A sweet creamy frittata

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Baked pesto and tomato pasta #Spain#Recipe by Anna Jones@we_are_food https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2lh via @Spanish_Valley

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Bird song: Crested Lark

There are six types of Lark in Spain, according to my bird book. Five are residents: the Skylark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Woodlark and Calandra Lark. The Short-Toed Lark is a summer visitor. I am confident in identifying only one, the Crested Lark, because of the crest on its head which looks like a teenage boy with a quiff sticking up. Admittedly, the Thekla Lark has a crest too, but not quite as prominent. As a rule of thumb, if it is perching on a bush it is a Thekla Lark.

Its call is rich and fluting, often ending on an up note. ‘Vee-vee-teu’ and ‘tree-loo-ee’.
Listen to the song of the Crested Lark at You Tube.

5 to remember
la alondra con cresta – the Crested Lark
los residentes – the residents
estoy confiado/a – I am confident
un adolescente – a teenage boy
un quiff – a quiff

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Blackbird
Jay
Black Redstart

 

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:
How does the Crested Lark sing? #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2al

A courgette and halloumi feast

This is a vegetarian meal worthy of guests, a feast, a celebration. It explodes with flavours and textures. Nothing is shy. Mint. Garlic. Basil. Beetroot. Lemon. If I was served this in a vegetarian restaurant, I would be delighted. There are four separate elements to the meal, which alone means it is probably best served as a celebration dinner rather than a mid-week meal. My favourite element? I’m hard-pressed to choose between the courgette and halloumi mixture, and the hazelnut pesto. Sadly I can’t tell you the cook responsible for the recipe, other than that it was featured in The Times Magazine. I plucked it from a pile of torn-out recipes because I fancied making something with halloumi.

Serves 8
For the courgettes and halloumi:-
5 tbsp olive oil
juice and zest of 4 lemons
3 garlic cloves, peeled
8 courgettes, cut into 5mm slices
1.2kg halloumi, cut into 5mm slices
a bunch of mint, leaves roughly chopped at the last minute
freshly ground black pepper
For the beetroot:-
16 small raw beetroots, unpeeled, washed and leaves trimmed to 3cm [1.6kg total weight]
olive oil, for brushing
freshly ground black pepper
Leaves from 4 sprigs of thyme
For the hazelnut pesto:-
200 whole hazelnuts
100g basil leaves
100g parmesan, roughly grated
zest and juice of 2 lemons
400ml extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
For the chickpeas:-
4 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 tbsp olive oil, for roasting
4 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves, plus extra for sprinkling
2 tsp garlic powder [optional, I did not use]
2 tbsp soft brown sugar [optional, I did not use]

Preheat the oven to 200°C / Gas 6. First, put the whole beetroots into a large roasting tin. Brush or roll them in olive oil so they are well covered. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves. Bake in the oven for 1 hour or until they are soft and cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Once they are cooled, remove the skins using a sharp knife and fork. It is better not to touch them as beetroot juice can stain anything it touches. Cut away the root and stalks, then chop the beets into 5cm chunks. Set aside until ready to serve. This can be prepared the day before.

Reduce the oven temperature to 190°C / gas 5.

If you prefer to eat your nuts with skins, omit this next stage. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 7-10 minutes until the skins have darkened and the nuts are golden underneath. Rub the nuts between clean tea towels to loosen the skins.

To assemble the pesto, put the nuts and other pesto ingredients into a food processor. Blitz to your preferred texture, I like some crunchiness. Put into a storage box and set aside until serving. This can be prepared the day before.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then dry between two layers of kitchen towel. Put them into a bowl and toss with olive oil. Add the remaining ingredients and stir so everything is coated. Tip the chickpeas onto a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes or until just starting to turn golden and crispy. Sprinkle with extra chopped rosemary, and set aside. This can be prepared the day before.

Prepare the flavoured oil for griddling the courgettes and halloumi. Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat, add the lemon zest and garlic. Bring to a simmer then remove from the heat and set aside so the flavours infuse into the oil.

When you are ready to griddle, remove the garlic and zest from the oil, add the lemon juice.

Preheat a griddle pan until really hot. Now griddle the slices of courgette and halloumi, brushing each first with the lemony oil. Do not put the oil into the griddle pan. Resist the temptation to move things around in the pan, otherwise the pieces will not gain the distinctive brown stripes. Each piece will need cooking for only about 2-3 minutes, until charred and tender. Sprinkle with fresh mint.

Serve the courgette and halloumi salad with the chickpeas, roasted beetroot and hazelnut pesto. What would I do differently next time:-
Griddle the courgettes and halloumi using plain olive oil, to save time
Add a squeeze of lemon juice to the griddled courgettes
Serve with a large amount of fresh mint leaves
Don’t worry about the size of the beetroots you use, large ones work just as well

Note: I have omitted sea salt from the ingredient lists as I find halloumi contributes enough salt to the overall combination of flavours.

5 to remember
una celebración– a celebration
explota – it explodes
carbonizado y tierno – charred and tender
para ganar tiempo – to save time
la combinación general de sabores – the overall combination of flavours

If you feel hungry, try these recipes:-
A fresh cherry cake
Harissa salmon salad
Sweet potatoes + coconut + ginger

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A courgette & halloumi feast #Spain #recipe https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2lw via @Spanish_Valley

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