Archive for October, 2012

And Did You Manage to Find your Own Seven Year Old?

Did you wake this morning, wishing that you knew a seven year old who could change the time on all of your electronic goodies?  Let’s face it, they would be able to do it in only a fraction of the time we adults would take!

 

My watches?  That’s easy, as I’m still on straightforward winders!

My mobile phones?  Who cares what time they say?

The computer?  It does it itself ….. doesn’t it?

I this , i that?  Don’t need them!

Film recorders?  Nope. I don’t watch TV.

 

Well, that’s me sorted.

 

How about you ……?

Over-Riding the Stress of Life as We Know It!!

Leaving behind the stress of full-time work and indulging in the laid-back attitude of a mañana lifestyle in non-tourist Spain may seem to be idyllic yet, after the stress of a lifestyle elsewhere, this may prove hard to stomach. After all, isn’t being fully-organised without doubt the best way to be?

Our lives have trained us that if we order a house call from a builder or service engineer, we expect it to happen at the time agreed. A time of 9.30 a.m. on Monday 19th.  means just that and, when 11.00 a.m. comes and no-one has arrived, an angry phone call is the order of the day.  Not so, in Spain.  Firstly, the worker may have said ‘Monday’ and it is wise to always ask which Monday is meant.  A promise to arrive ‘por la mañana’ may not mean in the morning but could mean even 3 o’clock, if he comes at all.  It is not uncommon to wait months for a job to be carried out. 

Time offers no pressure whatsoever to the natives and a queue-jumper doesn’t truly exist, as those there first chat with others, happily stepping forward later when they feel ready to do so.  In shops, there may be no semblance of a queue and a quick head count is necessary, if you want to laud your own rules over any later customers.  In a supermarket queue, your offering to let the next customer with only two items go before your trolley-load will often be met with a ‘no pasa nada’ laid back attitude, leaving you wondering why you exercised that kindness in the first place. 

If you have occasion to hand in official documents, always give copies and, as an extra safeguard, always obtain a signature or send by recorded delivery.  The waiting time for something that you believe to be very straightforward could have a normal processing time of a year or more, leaving one wondering where the paperwork is for this lengthy period.  This feeling of wonderment is often justified, as phone calls may be received to say that the official body is waiting for a document which you know is already with them. 

Asking for a telephone line to be fitted in your home can be the longest wait of all, in some cases taking as long as two years, during which time you can exercise your anger on many phone calls that seem to be falling on deaf ears.  Depending on the time of year, the promise that ‘someone will visit you within forty eight hours’ can be taken with a pinch of salt for it is true that, other than in the lucrative tourist areas, Spain closes down in August.  Small banks may close for a fortnight, hotels for a long weekend and bars, restaurants and other businesses the same. 

For newcomers to the still natural parts of Spain, ‘be prepared’ is the motto!  Realising that things aren’t going to happen at the click of your fingers forces you to slow down.  Once you have achieved this, life is so much easier and much more stress-free.

Cherry Tomatoes (and what to do with the green ones!)

This year’s crop hasn’t been as wonderful as previous years where, in the months of August and September, I was collecting more than a colander of red cherry tomatoes every day for several weeks.  Indeed, I bought another freezer, solely to house the bags of tomatoes that I had made up, cutting each tomato into quarters, adding something like black pepper or rosemary and then freezing twenty or so tomatoes per bag, for soups and stews throughout the coming year.

 Last year’s frozen tomatoes finished this August, meaning that I had old and new at the same time and it was hard for me to take frozen ones when those beautiful fresh ones were there for the eating. 

Now, well into October, I am getting few reds but have an abundance of greens and I love ripping up the plants and making loads of jars of chutney with those green tomatoes.  I’ve also found a recipe for green tomato cake.  It’s basically the recipe for Victoria sandwich cake but include lots of quartered or smaller pieces of green tomatoes into your mixture, before binding the ingredients together with milk or water.  I also add a few drops of vanilla to enhance the flavour and maybe some sultanas or raisins.  It’s a gorgeous moist cake and must be eaten within two days. Try it!

Also, why not make some green tomato jam?  Add a couple of apples to the boiling pan as well and wow!  I tend to through in some slivers of lemon skin and maybe a little finely-chopped fresh ginger to give that fruity jam a little zing.

The moral of this story is that, if you have lots of green tomatoes, simply get boiling!  Why waste something as good as tomatoes?

Recipe 30 – Cherry Tomato Upside-Down Tarts

Easy Recipes.

Also posted under Savoury.

Cherry Tomato Upside Down Tarts.

A good chance to get the goodness of tomatoes, onions, olive oil and vinegar into you.

Ingredients:-

25 g. butter

1 tbsp. oil

1 tbsp. tomato puree

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

450 g. cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 small onion, cut very finely.

375 g. puff pastry.

 

HARD PART –  nothing hard about this one ( well, that’s if you have bought the already-prepared pastry).

Set the oven to gas mark 6, or 400F / 220C.

How to make it:-

Heat the butter and oil, then add the finely-cut onion, allowing it to cook for only a couple of minutes.

Add the tomato puree and the balsamic vinegar, then add the cherry tomatoes, cooking for a few minutes, until any excess liquid has been reduced.

Cut some greaseproof paper into little squares or rounds to line the individual sockets in a 12-hole cake tray and then add a little of the tomato mixture into each of them, until you have run out of mixture.

 Roll out the pastry and use a cake cutter to cut enough pastry circles for your awaiting mixture.

Place a pastry circle gently on top of the mixture and apply only a small amount of pressure to encourage the circle to sink in the middle.

Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the pastry is nicely browned.

Allow the tarts to cool before trying to remove them, or you may end up with a sticky mess (been there, done it and worn the teeshirt!)

See the photo as proof!

(There was a little pastry left over, so I made a couple of ‘fancies’ for the dog.)

They are so tasty and wonderful for a n’no fuss’ starter to any meal.  Unfortunatley, by the time I had carried the drinks to the table, my husband had eaten them all!

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‘Virtual Grape-Picking in a Galician Valley’.

It’s late September, 9 o’clock in the morning and family, friends and helpers have gathered for the harvesting of the grapesMountains of grapes hang majestically before us and, from a distance, the terraces appear to be organised lines yet, in reality, moving amongst them is like a maze, as one row seems to join into another, making knowing where you have been a little difficult. Clippers-cum-pruners in hand and cubos (big plastic two-handled tubs) at the ready, we climb the rugged yet ancient steps one at a time, to start the picking.

 It seems an age to fill the first cubo and you are then left with wondering what you do with it, when it is full.  On such an uneven landscape, where is the collection point?  The question gives ‘déjalo (leave it)’ as a response so, whether you understand it or not, you leave the cubo where it is and reach for another.  It’s difficult to walk along the terraces as, on the many occasions that the vines have been pruned, the cuttings have been left lying where they fell.  Not so good for walking on, these twigs serve the purpose of protecting the soil, against both the coming winter and later growth of weeds.

 The red grapes are collected first, meaning a second trip along the terraces will be needed, to pinpoint the whites.  As you drag the cubos along such a cluttered ground, you can be forgiven for stumbling, or taking a moment to taste the succulent fruits.  We pass through moments of silence but also excessive periods of electric gabbling, as the native workers talk of anything and nothing.  Some of the grapes have gone mouldy and look like greying deflated balloons.  This is because through their growth period, the long branches were tied up from the ground and the fortnightly sulphate treatment to ward off the dampness didn’t get into those parts. But a small bird , maybe a bluetit or robin, seems to have taken advantage of the situation, as a small nest can be seen, proudly placed over tied branches and the weatherproof willow knot, that holds the vine stem against its support pole.

The once ordinary dogs now seem to be wearing techni-coloured jackets as they pass between the pickers, to make the most of the fallen grapes and also receive a little extra but sticky attention from their individual owners.

 Half past one arrives and it’s ‘down tools’ for everyone.  Though the siesta in Spain doesn’t follow the foreigners’ belief of three hours of sleep, the long break does exist but for the purpose of having a slap-up meal and shouting and recounting tales with one another over the trill of the television, as the Spanish villagers never do anything byhalves.  Trying to speak in any other language is foolhardy, as the ceiling seems to be heaving from the ‘all for one’ and ‘one for all’ babble. The albóndigas (meatballs) and the fried whole pimientos verdes (green peppers) taste good and the moisture-cum-gravy is mopped up with the obligatory chunks of bread. Washed down with last year’s wine and the teeth picked clean with the small toothpicks, we all fall back into our hard chairs and each of us stroke our own contented belly, before the second half of the show starts.

As the day progresses, we once again climb the ancient stone steps, this time looking for the odd whites that nest amongst the already naked red vines. The cubos feel heavier and what to do with them doesn’t seem an issue anymore, as a bird’s eye view would reveal a scattering of black dots amongst the meandering aisles of grapes.

 At seven o’clock, a tractor arrives and two young men jump from the trailer.  They are walking the aisles, throwing the heavy cubos onto their shoulders and loading the trailer, with red, white and the occasional mixture of colours, which will be sorted later.

 Tired, sweaty and our hands sticky, even inside the gloves we are wearing, we head for our neighbours’ house, where they have their bodega (wine cellar) and where the grapes will go through their final process.  Treading grapes is a thing of the past and the contents of the cubos are tossed into the machine, where its Archimedes’ screw separates the fruit from the waste.  The juice passes along the tubes into the giant stainless steel containers and the waste is put to one side.  The droning goes on for quite some time, as the grapes from around four hundred vines bubble into the giant stills.

But, what’s this?  The waste is being collected and placed into a wooden wine barrel, to make a deadly mixture called aguardiente (also known as orujo) which, when ready to drink, will have ten times the kick of any off-the-shelf spirit.

At 10 o’clock, the day is done, leaving only Serrano ham, cheese, loud voices and a good serious drink to bring on sleep.  Until the next day, that is …… .

Vueling Came Up Trumps!

The thing about Spain is that it is so big that travelling by plane to get from one part to another quite often makes sense…. and that’s why Hubby and I were on a Vueling flight from the North-West of Spain to the Costas in the south-east.

The flights were great.  I was suffering from severe vertigo that morning and, even though the two and a half hour journey to the airport tested my stomach, the flight didn’t upset me at all.

Of course, coming back, there was little hiccup.  It seems that our case (and those of three or four other people) didn’t get to the end of the conveyor belt in time to be loaded onto our return flight and so it made its own separate journey.  To Madrid!

At first, this seemed to exacerbate the mix-up but later turned out to be a very good idea.  We arrived at the home airport at 12.30 p.m. lunch time and ours was the only flight that day from Malaga.  Later that same day, Madrid airport were going to have a flight coming into our home airport and yes, our case was going to be on it when it landed at 5.30 p.m..

Did we have to wait?

No.  Vueling arranged for our case to arrive at our house by white van man and our possessions were once again with us at 10.00 p.m..

The pork pies from the Iceland shop were eaten by 10.30 p.m.!