Tag Archives: travel

Green shadows

In the height of summer, even the shadows here are green as the light seems to reflect the green of the hills and trees which surround us. The word sombra doesn’t just mean shadow, as in the dark area produced when an object comes between the rays of the sun and a surface. It also means the desired seat at a festival or concert, seats shaded from the full heat of the sun are always the most expensive. In the old bullrings, you will see signs for ‘Sol’ or ‘Sombra’. Here our gardening tasks are punctuated by frequent sojourns seated in the sombra of our big walnut tree, time to catch our breath and eat a slice of watermelon.

5 to remember
la sombra – the shadow/the shade
los rayos del sol – the rays of the sun
el más caro – the most expensive
una tarea – a task
una rebanada de – a slice of

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Green shadows: summer in the #hiddenvalley #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-22x

Thin lemon and pistachio biscuits

These biscuits are easy to make on impulse from store cupboard and fridge ingredients. And because the recipe is by Mary Berry, it is easy to do. They are very more-ish and it is easy to four at one sitting as they are quite small. And, despite Mary Berry’s description as shortbread, they did not seem that way to me. Makes 20 biscuits
175g butter, softened
75g caster sugar
175g plain flour plus extra for dusting
75g semolina
finely grated zest of a lemon
25g pistachio nuts, shelled and finely chopped.

Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. However if your oven, like ours, tends to be on the hot side, set the temperature a little lower. Line two baking sheets with baking paper. Measure the softened butter, sugar, flour and semolina into a food processor. Add the lemon zest and whizz until combined. Tip the dough onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth. Split the dough into half and roll each piece into a long sausage shape, about 15cm long. Scatter the chopped pistachios on a plate and roll each dough sausage in the nuts to coat. Cover the plate with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Slice each roll into 10 even-side discs. Arrange on the baking sheets, spaced well apart as they will spread slightly during cooking.

Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until tinged golden and almost firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. If you like this, try these:-
Oh so sticky chocolate flapjack
White chocolate and cranberry flapjack
A silky dense chocolate cake

5 to remember
un bizcocho – a biscuit
enharinado/a – floured
matizado/a – tinged
la masa – the dough
una salchicha – a sausage

This recipe is from Mary Berry’s Everyday cookbook [UK: BBC]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Thin lemon & pistachio #biscuits Recipe by #MaryBerry #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1Yo

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

Sunset stripes

Sunrise and sunset: can you tell the difference? I’m not sure I can. I used to think the colours of sunset more brilliant than those early in the morning, until I realized my perception was based on the simple fact that I see more sunsets than sunrises. However I suspect that if I took a sleeping pill and awoke not knowing what day or time it was, I would not be able to correctly identify sunrise or sunset. So, do we know which is which based on our perception of the hours before? Below are three sunset photos taken within two minutes of each other.

5 to remember
la diferencia – the difference
mi percepcion – my perception
el simple hecho de que – the simple fact that
sospecho que – I suspect that
una píldora para dormer – a sleeping pill

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Stripes in the sky: winter sunset in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1TA

Winter on the Thyme Track

The character of the Thyme Track is different from the house-side of the valley which we see every day. The Thyme Track runs around the edge of the valley where it takes a sharp turn, like an elbow.

There are pine trees on the opposite hillside, wild herbs [including the eponymous thyme] line the track used by the occasional farmer reaching his remotest olives, and nesting holes stand empty until spring. In this tranquil wilderness, birds flourish. Resident blackbirds greet my approach and there are flocks of small brown birds which fly in flurries and move so fast they challenge my identification skills.

5 to remember
el carácter de – the character of
un giro brusco – a sharp turn
un codo – an elbow
epónimo/a – eponymous
la más remota – the remotest

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Winter: wild herbs, berries, shadows & a flurry of small brown birds via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1BK

Winter sunrise

I never cease to be amazed at the colours here. Even in winter – which I associate with grey, bleached, pale, grimy colours – there is a vibrancy which never ceases to make me stop and look again. That’s what happened with this sunrise, bleary-eyed I was waiting for the kettle to boil for the first cup of tea of the day, when I looked out of the window and saw this. Bonita! 

5 to remember
estar asombrado – to be amazed
mugriento/a – grimy
una vitalidad – a vibrancy
el amanecer – the sunrise
con la vista nublada – bleary-eyed

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Vibrant pink: a winter sunrise in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1AT

December in the valley

Really things never stop growing here. In winter it is rare for it to be cold enough to stop the hardiest plants from growing and the bursts of searing heat from the winter sun help too. So in corners in the wintering valley are bursts of colour, new flowers, olives ready for the harvest, alongside dried autumnal fruits fit for nothing but lunch for the birds.

5 to remember
los más fuertes – the hardiest
lo suficientemente frío – cold enough
calor abrasador – searing heat
una ráfaga – a burst
junto a – alongside

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Fruit & leaves hang on: December in the #hidden valley #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1B3