Tag Archives: travel

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

Bird song: Short-Toed Eagle

This is a rare Eagle and we feel privileged to see them in our valley during the summer. The Short-Toed Eagle is large and will spend hours flying, searching for prey. It eats snakes and its common name is actually the ‘Short-Toed Snake Eagle’. Pretty much always seen in flight, we only see its feathers from below. It has very pale underwings with dark bars and dots, with a dark head. If you see it hovering, wait for it to dive, at a great height and with great speed… pity the poor snake or lizard beneath.

[photo: Wikipedia]

[photo: Wikipedia]

It is generally silent, but does have a whistling call in flight. Listen to the song of the Short-Toed Eagle and read more about it at the Xeno-Canto website.

5 to remember
raro/a – rare
la presa – the prey
una serpiente – a snake
un lagarto – a lizard
casi siempre – pretty much always

[photo: EagleDirectory.org]

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Red-Legged Partridge
Wren
Jay

 

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:
Privileged to see a short-toed eagle in the #secretvalley in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1IA

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The leaves hang on

When you are accustomed to bare trees in a Northern European winter, glimpsing the bare trunks and branches of deciduous trees bereft of their summer green is a bit disorientating. Here in the valley, the leaves hang on and hang on… golden, bronze, plain brown, delicate filigree and wrinkled like old shoe leather. Figs, grape, kaki, plum, pomegranate, almond, walnut and quince, hanging on to autumn even though December has arrived.

5 to remember
estar acostumbrado a [algo] – to be accustomed to [something]
Norte de Europa – Northern European
caduco/a – deciduous
ser despojada – to be bereft
delicado/a – delicate

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

A winter treat

This is comfort eating at its healthiest, but I challenge you not to want second helpings. It’s a vegetarian take on lasagne, layers of veggies and tomato sauce, but without pasta. Though if you are feeding a hungry horde it would work with a couple of layers of pasta sheets. Unlike lasagne, you don’t have to make a cheese sauce; instead there is a creamy sauce whizzed up in the blender. dishing upThe recipe is by Anna Jones, a chef who first worked at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant. This background explains why her recipes all have an Italian-feel.

Serves 6
For the bake:-
4 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1cm rounds
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
rosemary leaves, picked from a couple of sprigs
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 red onions, peeled and roughly sliced
a small bunch of fresh thyme
400g spinach, washed
200g ricotta
100g Parmesan
For the creamy sauce:-
1 x 400g tin butter beans
grated zest and juice of a lemon
3 tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 240° C/ fan 220° C/ gas 9. parmesan, gratingLightly grease two baking trays. Arrange the sweet potato discs in one layer on the trays, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, until just cooked and browning around the edges. sweet potatoes - ready to go into the ovenWhile the potatoes are cooking, make the tomato sauce. Fry the sliced garlic in a little olive oil, over a medium heat, until it begins to brown around the edges. Add the rosemary, stir. Add the tinned tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and leave for 10 minutes, simmering lightly, until the sauce becomes thicker and sweeter. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside. tomato sauce in the panIn a separate frying pan, soften the onions in a little olive oil with the thyme, over a medium heat, until soft and sweet. This will take about 10 minutes. spinach, added to the onionsspinach, wiltedThen add the spinach, a little at a time, and let it wilt. sweet potatoes - just out of the ovenWhen the sweet potatoes are ready, take them out of the oven. Turn the oven down to 220° C/ fan 200° C/ gas 7.

Now make the butter bean sauce. Put the tinned butter beans and the liquid from the tin into a blender, add the lemon juice, zest, olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. butter bean sauce, in processorBlitz it so the sauce is smooth and loose enough to spread . If it is too thick, add a couple of tablespoons of water and blitz again.

Once the separate elements are ready, you can begin layering in a large ovenproof dish. Put a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom, then a layer of spinach, then dot over half the ricotta and a thick layer of grated parmesan. If you are using pasta, add a layer of lasagne sheets here. Next, add a layer of sweet potatoes, then some of the butter bean sauce. Keep layering, finishing with a layer of butter bean sauce. Grate Parmesan over the top, plus a drizzle of olive oil and a few more thyme leaves. ready to go into ovenBake in the oven for 30 minutes until golden brown on top. platefulDon’t worry if you cook too many sweet potatoes. We did, so the leftovers were thrown into a potato mash mixture with cooked sprouts and fried onions, and made into potato cakes. We eat these for breakfast with a fried egg on top.

5 to remember
una horda hambrienta – a hungry horde
las alubias grande – the butter beans
los elementos separados – the separate elements
una capa – a layer
no se preocupe – don’t worry

Still hungry? Try these puddings:-
Not just your everyday pudding… pain au chocolat bread-and-butter pudding
Rice pudding with almonds
The best-ever plum clafoutis?

a modern way to eat by anna jones 8-6-15

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

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A winter treat… sweet potato lasagne #recipe by Anna Jones @we_are_food via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1Hb

Bird song: Wren

That loud, trilling bird song which seems to dominate everything else, fast ringing notes, which must be coming from a bird the size of a Pigeon? That’ll be a Wren, one of Europe’s smallest birds measuring up to 4cm long. Ours hides in the bushes at the edge of the terrace, a rustle of leaves, the hint of a bright eye, is all that gives him away.

[photo: birdswrenmiketoms]

[photo: birdswrenmiketoms]

A resident here, the Wren is surprisingly beautiful in flight: warm chestnut brown in colour, with softly barred wing tips. The Wren is most easily identified by a) his size, and by his uplifted tail which gives him a jaunty, cocksure air.

Listen to the song of the Wren and read more about it at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
un wren – a Wren
la talla de – the size of
una paloma – a Pigeon
un crujido – a rustle
una pista – a hint

[photo: RSPB]

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Mistle Thrush
Booted Eagle
Green Woodpecker

‘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:
A song much bigger than his size: the mighty wren #Spain #birds via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1Iw

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Bird song: Swallow

The Swallow is a bird so familiar that we stop looking at it, and if we do that we cease to see its beauty.

[photo: ar15.com]

[photo: ar15.com]

It is a brilliantly-coloured bird – a deep red chin, dark blue/black glossy backs – and long streamers leading from its tail. If it stays still long enough, you can admire the iridescence of its feathers. But this is a Swallow we are talking about and, in our valley, they are the most joyful birds in summer, swooping over the swimming pool to catch a drink. They absolutely love flying, they fly around the terrace, performing aerial manoeuvres fit for an air display, and all the time they are chirruping and twittering away. One of my favourite birds, and here in Andalucia they are resident all year.

Listen to the song of the Swallow and read more about it at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
una golondrina – a Swallow
tan familiar – so familiar
la barbilla – the chin
jubiloso/a – joyful
una maniobra aérea – an aerial manoeuvre

[photo: Birdforum.net]

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Sparrowhawk
Cuckoo
Great Spotted Woodpecker

 

‘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:
Is the Swallow the most joyful bird ever? #Birds in #Spain http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1It via @Spanish_Valley

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September in the valley

What does September mean to me? A crisp bite of apple, blue sky every day, golden weeds blowing in the warm breeze, more tomatoes than we know what to do with, hot sun and deep shadows, new growth sprouting from the most improbable places. In England, September brings the first breath of autumn. Here in the valley, September is my favourite month… still green, still verdant, sunshine warm on my skin, and tomato salad.

5 to remember
¿qué? – what?
aquí – here
improbable – improbable/unlikely
todavía – still/yet/as yet
verdeante – verdant

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
What does September mean to me: a crisp bite of apple, blue sky every day #Spain http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1HY via @Spanish_Valley

A gooey creamy salad

I think this is the stickiest, gooiest salad I have ever eaten. Strictly, it is not a salad, more a warm veggie dish. I spotted the recipe in a magazine article and knew it would work as a salad. So I amended it. It ticks quite a few food groups [if you worry about them] and is gorgeously sticky with Gorgonzola [if you love cheese]. bowlfulWhat did I change? I toasted the pine nuts and added some halved cherry tomatoes as a flavour-match with the basil. Next time I will try it with fresh rocket. This is going to be a regular in our household, where we always have a butternut squash glut. basil leaf, purplegorgonzolaServes 2 as a main course
One butternut squash
Olive oil
Loads of fresh basil leaves
A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
100g pine nuts, toasted
Zest and juice of a large lemon
500g Gorgonzola, broken into pieces
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Prepare the squash. Scrub the skin, you only need to peel it if the skin is really thick. Halve, scoop out the seeds, and cut into large chunks. Tip the squash into a large roasting tin, drizzle with a glug of olive oil, add salt and pepper. Mix to combine. butternut, ready to go into ovenRoast the squash for 20 minutes or until tender when tested with a knife. If you like your squash a bit crusty around the edges, leave it in for another 5 minutes or so. Check often, and be sure to scrape all the crunchy bits out of the tin. butternut, just out of ovenRemove the squash from the oven and tip into a large bowl. Add the tomatoes, basil, pine nuts, lemon zest and juice. Mix gently, taking care not to break-up the squash chunks. lemon zestpinenuts, toastedTip onto a large serving platter. Add the chunks of Gorgonzola to the top and allow them to gently melt. plateful5 to remember
la más pegajoso/a – the stickiest
el gooiest – the gooiest
estrictamente – strictly
magníficamente – gorgeously
un habitual – a regular

Terry and George - Feeding Friends by Terry Edwards & George Craig

 

This recipe is adapted from ‘Terry and George – Feeding Friends’ by Terry Edwards and George Craig [UK: Hodder and Stoughton]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
I think this is the stickiest, gooiest salad I have ever eaten #veggiefood #Spain http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1Mu via @Spanish_Valley 

Bird song: Cuckoo

Everyone knows the Cuckoo, or do we? Have you actually seen one, or just heard it? First, it is surprisingly large: about the size of a Dove. Second, in flight its long tail feathers make it look like a Sparrowhawk. Three, the bit about murder is true. A brood parasite, the female Cuckoo lays her single egg in the nest of a Meadow Pipit, Dunnock or Reed Warbler but more than 100 host species have been recorded.

[photo: Wikipedia]

[photo: Wikipedia]

A summer visitor here, the Common Cuckoo over-winters in Africa and returns here in the spring. The female lays between one and 25 eggs per season, each one in an individual nest. She waits for the right moment, flies down to the chosen nest, pushes out any resident egg and lays her own: the process takes 10 seconds. One female bird may visit up to 50 nests during one breeding season.

Notoriously difficult to see, Cuckoos perch low down in or on the edge of trees. The few times we spot them here, they are flying.

Listen to the song of the Cuckoo and read more about it at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
todos – everyone
actualmente – actually
asombrosamente – surprisingly
un cuco – a Cuckoo
notoriamente – notoriously

[photo: National Audubon Society]

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Jay
Golden Oriole
Booted Eagle

 

RSPB Complete Birds of Britain and Europe’ [UK: Dorling Kindersley]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Cuckoos: easy to hear, difficult to see #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1Im