Stone Free (A Plum Jam Recipe)

Plum jam. It was the first jam that I made. It was a steep learning curve, too, as Phil’s blog entries at the time suggest:

24 June 2008
That’ll Teach Me…
Hail… to open my big mouth.  Just a couple of hours after the previous post, a savage hailstorm rolled up the valley and back down again. Some of the hailstones were walnut-sized. The noise was incredible. Thankfully the car was in the garage (I often leave it outside but had put it in so it didn’t get too hot!) otherwise I’m sure it would have suffered damage.

The only real damage is to our (and everybody else’s) fruit crops – the plums, figs, cherries, apricots currently in season will have taken a battering, as will the apples, pears and olives still in their younger stages.

26 June 2008
We’re Jammin’
Sue is currently full-time in the kitchen, making jams and preserves from the damaged and fallen fruit. Just to add a final insult, the weather has turned the wick back up, and this afternoon the readout on the farmacia in the village was reading 46C – just the weather to be slaving over a hot stove!

We have actually escaped quite lightly; the biggest loss was our plums, of which Sue has collected about 40lbs to convert.

I forget the exact amount of plum jam that I made that year. I stopped counting after 60 kilos. It also became clear that I had to adapt the recipe that I was using. The original recipe called for the stones from the plums to be ‘removed with a slotted spoon’ at the end of the jam making process. This proved to be a very dangerous process. I could only imagine that it would be like trying to pick out pieces of rock from molten lava (I can only imagine this, having never been that close to an active volcano) and I quickly decided that I had to find a better way – the blisters that I was getting from the scalding jam were too much and I wasn’t getting 100% of the stones out.
I have now (pretty much) perfected the recipe and, as this year’s crop of plums are now ready to pick, I thought I’d share it with you.

What you’ll need:
Two very large saucepans (if you have preserving pans, better)
Scales
Colander
2.7 kg (6 lb) plums – washed
900 ml (1.5 pints) water
2.7 kg (6 lb) sugar
knob of butter (optional)

Put the plums and water in one of the pans and simmer gently for about 30 minutes – until the fruit is really soft and the contents of the pan are well reduced. Stir from time to time to prevent the fruit sticking to the bottom of the pan.

When the fruit is really soft, remove from the heat and leave to stand for a few moments. Pass the contents of the pan through the colander, to remove the stones from the plums, into the second pan (use a wooden spoon to squish it through).
Add the sugar, stirring until it is all dissolved.
Add the knob of butter (if you want).
Return the pan to the heat and bring to the boil.
Boil rapidly for about 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently.
Test for a set* and, when setting point is reached, take the pan off the heat and remove any scum with a slotted spoon.
Leave to stand for 15 minutes before potting and covering. 

Yield: 4.5 kg (10 lb)
* – How to test for a set: at the same time as you begin cooking the fruit, place three or four saucers in the freezing compartment of the fridge. When you have boiled the jam for the given time, remove the pan from the heat and place a teaspoonful of the jam on to one of the chilled saucers. Let it cool back in the fridge, then push it with your finger: if a crinkly skin has formed on the jam, then it has set. It if hasn’t, continue to boil for another 5 minutes, then do another test. – Thanks Delia!

I couldn’t end without posting this, now, could I?


Disclaimer: The content of this blog are the views and observations of the writer and may differ from those of the reader. If you find any of the content to be wrong or inaccurate please advise the writer by posting in the comment section, but remember to be nice! The writer takes no responsibility for your lack of sense of humour. The writer cannot guarantee that your attempts at the recipes will be successful and is not responsible for any culinary-related accidents that you may experience. The content of any external links used which may, at any time, change are not the responsibility of the writer of this blog.

Bursting Bubbles

“So, What happens with the balloons?” – A little teaser I used to finish my previous post.
The short (and correct, in my ever-so-humble opinion) answer is: Throw them in the bin. Here’s why:
After the success of my chocolate cups, I developed an over-inflated air of confidence in my ability to do fiddly things in the kitchen. I had the idea that using balloons to make chocolate bowls, from which I could eat my Bootleg-Baileys ice cream, would be as simple as this:

It isn’t.

Here’s a little story about how not to be creative in the kitchen – Don’t worry, it does have a happy ending.
On the same day that I made the Bootleg Baileys Chocolate Shots, I thought I’d have a go at making ice cream with the Bootleg Baileys and cute little chocolate bowls that I could use to serve the ice cream. I was under the illusion that I could simply freeze the Bootleg Baileys and that it would make a creamy and delicious ice cream – it didn’t. I should mention, at this point, that we do not own a freezer, all we have is the ice box in the fridge.
Having made the Bootleg Baileys for the chocolate shot glasses, I poured some of the mixture into a silicone mould, placed the mould on a tin tray and put the tray in the ice box of the fridge
NB: Have you ever tried lifting one of those super bendy moulds and not lose the contents down your sleeve?
You haven’t?
It must just be me that always ends up with messy sleeves, then!

A quick reminder of how to melt the chocolate:
Break the cooking chocolate into chunks and place in the mixing bowl.
Place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water (a bain marie) and allow the chocolate to melt, stirring occasionally. (Alternatively melt the chocolate in a microwave oven, follow the instructions on the bar of chocolate).
Inflate each balloon to approximately 15cm (6 inches).
Dip each balloon in the chocolate.
Hint: Do not let the balloon touch the hot bowl – Yup, as I found out, an exploding balloon will splatter molten chocolate over everything within a metre of the bowl.
Place the balloon on a sheet of grease-proof paper/silicone sheet/baking paper.
Put to one side to allow the chocolate to set (or in the fridge, if there is room).

All going great, isn’t it?
Wrong!
At this stage, I had visions of the ice cream freezing and the chocolate setting in sufficient time for us to have as a dessert that evening.
The ice cream didn’t freeze – it may have been my fault. You may remember the part of the Bootleg Baileys recipe that stated “1 – 2 wine glasses Irish whisky” – well – when I was making it, there was a teeny-weeny bit of whisky left in the bottle (OK – about 100ml) which I decided to throw into the mixture. Anyone remember that bit in the science lab back in school about alcohol not freezing? I think you know where this is going.
After three days, the ice cream was still in semi-liquid form and the balloons had deflated; with the chocolate stuck firmly to the balloons.
After checking the ice box every morning for a week – I ate the semi-frozen, mousse-like, mush …………….. for breakfast!
I was not (yet) defeated, however, and decided to make a ‘proper’ ice cream – from a ‘proper’ recipe – forget the alcohol (for the moment) I just wanted to make something that would freeze. I also wanted to get the balloon-thingy right.
Recipe Alert! Coffee Ice Cream
What you will need:
Saucepan.
Measuring jar.
Mixing bowls.
Freezer container.
Set your freezer to ‘maximum’ or ‘fast freeze’ one hour before starting.

Ingredients:
300 ml (half a pint) milk.
150 ml (quarter of a pint) strong, cold coffee (or 2 tspn coffee granules).
3 egg yolks.
50-75 gm sugar (caster is best – but whatever you can get your hands on!).
300 ml (10 fl oz) double cream.

Pour the milk into the saucepan and heat until warm – do not boil.
In the mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until well blended.
Stir the warm milk into the egg mixture.
Cook the custard by placing the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water (a bain marie) and stirring until it thickens slightly.
Do not let the custard boil – it will curdle.
Remove the bowl from the saucepan and leave the custard to cool.
Whisk the coffee (or granules) and cream into the cold custard.

Freeze the ice cream mixture – if you have an ice cream machine, follow the instructions as given with the machine – if not……..
Pour the mixture into a shallow, non-metal,  freezer container.
Cover and freeze for about three hours – until frozen all over (it will have a mushy consistency).
Spoon into a bowl and mash with a fork to break down the ice crystals.
(You’ll need to work quickly – so the ice cream doesn’t melt)
Return the mixture to the container and freeze again for two hours.
Mash the ice cream as before.
Return to the freezer and freeze for about three hours (or until firm).
Transfer to room temperature about 20 – 30 minutes before serving.

Of course, now we have three egg whites left over………. Only one thing for it – Meringues!
What you will need:
Mixing bowl & Whisk (or food processor).
Baking sheets & non-stick baking parchment.
Ingredients:
3 egg whites.
175 gm (6 oz) caster sugar (I used granulated & it worked just fine).

Line the baking sheets with the non-stick baking parchment.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff (the egg whites, that is, not until your arm goes stiff).
Gradually whisk in half of the sugar – whisk well after each addition.
Fold in the remaining sugar with a metal spoon.
The recipe at this stage instructs that one spoons the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a large nozzle and pipe small rounds on to the prepared baking sheets

I don’t have a piping bag – so I dolloped the mixture, by the spoonful, onto the baking sheet
Bake in the oven at 110°C (225°F) for two and a half to three hours until firm and crisp, but still white.
If they begin to brown, prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
NB: My oven has no thermostat – I baked my meringues for about two hours, during most of which the door was propped open with a wooden spoon.

While the ice cream was freezing, and the meringues were cooking, I made a multifrontal assault on the chocolate balloon/bowl situation.
I tried dusting the balloons with (a) flour (b) cocoa powder and (c) icing sugar to try and form a barrier between the chocolate and the balloon – result: fail!
I tried using (a) olive oil and (b) sunflower oil to try and create a thin film between the chocolate and the balloon – result: fail!
I tried tying off the balloon with a twist-tie instead of a knot to try and deflate the balloon gently, whilst easing the chocolate away from the balloon – result: fail!
I tried putting a funnel in the open end of the balloon and adding a few droplets of tepid water, in the hope of melting it just enough to release the balloon from the chocolate – result: fail!
I gave up.
I was left with a container of broken chocolate pieces, meringues, coffee ice cream and a depleted bottle of thick bootleg baileys.
I had an idea.
I had heard of a popular dessert that is served in England that goes by the name of Eton Mess – which, I have concluded, was conceived by someone attempting to make a Pavlova and having as much success as I was, trying to make f’ing chocolate bowls with balloons. I, therefore, present my own take on this summertime dessert. Ladies & gentlemen, boys and girls, I present: One Hell of a Mess:
What you will need:
All of the chocolate from your culinary cock-ups attempts at making chocolate bowls with balloons
Coffee ice cream (because the Baileys wouldn’t freeze).
Meringues (because you had left over egg whites).
Bootleg Baileys (I’m as surprised as you, that there is any left by now).
What you need to do:
Place a scoop of coffee ice cream in a bowl.
Break the meringues into pieces and scatter over the ice cream.
Break the chocolate into pieces and throw over the ice cream & meringue.
Cover with Bootleg Baileys.
Eat.
So, you see, what could (and probably should) have been an experience that deflated my ego confidence, turned out alright in the end. (I told you it had a happy ending)

Disclaimer: The content of this blog are the views and observations of the writer and may differ from those of the reader. If you find any of the content to be wrong or inaccurate please advise the writer by posting in the comment section, but remember to be nice! The writer takes no responsibility for your lack of sense of humour. The writer cannot guarantee that your attempts at the recipes will be successful and is not responsible for any culinary-related accidents that you may experience. The content of any external links used which may, at any time, change are not the responsibility of the writer of this blog.

 

 

 

Bootleg Baileys Chocolate Shots

A few weeks ago I posted this to my Facebook timeline:

I didn’t really know what was going to happen, but I knew it was going to be a lot of fun! Last year, I shared with you my recipe for Bootleg Baileys – Here is a variation on that recipe – and a novel serving suggestion:
What you will need:
A Whisk (or food mixer would be better)
Mixing bowl (heatproof)
Saucepan
Disposable plastic cups
Ingredients:
For the Baileys –
2 teaspoons instant coffee
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 tin sweet condensed milk
A few drops of vanilla essence
400 ml double or whipping cream
1 – 2 wine glasses Irish whisky
For the chocolate cups –
1 bar of cooking chocolate (250 gm)

Break the cooking chocolate into chunks and place in the mixing bowl.
Place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water (a bain marie) and allow the chocolate to melt, stirring occasionally. (Alternatively melt the chocolate in a microwave oven, follow the instructions on the bar of chocolate).
Using a spoon, coat the inside of the plastic cups with the melted chocolate – make sure that it is well covered.
Put to one side to allow the chocolate to set – If you have room in the fridge, put them in there.

Whilst the chocolate cups are setting – make the Baileys mixture.
Put the coffee powder, cocoa and vanilla essence into the mixing bowl and mix until the powder has dissolved.
Add the whipping cream and mix until firm.
Add the condensed milk and whisky.
Mix thoroughly (beat the hell out of it)   until the mixture is thick and creamy.
Transfer the mixture to a jug (or bottle) and refrigerate.

When the chocolate has set, carefully remove the plastic cup – I make four cuts in the top of the cup and ‘peel’ it away from the chocolate.
Pour some of the Baileys mixture into each cup.
Serve.

I used slightly less cream in this recipe to make the Baileys mixture a little thicker – making it more of a dessert than a drink. Please feel free to play with adapt this recipe to suit your own tastes.
“So, What happens with the balloons?” I hear you ask – I’ll tell you about them in my next post……


Disclaimer: The content of this blog are the views and observations of the writer and may differ from those of the reader. If you find any of the content to be wrong or inaccurate please advise the writer by posting in the comment section, but remember to be nice! The writer takes no responsibility for your lack of sense of humour. The writer cannot guarantee that your attempts at the recipes will be successful and is not responsible for any culinary-related accidents that you may experience. The content of any external links used which may, at any time, change are not the responsibility of the writer of this blog.

 

Beasties

Ah, Summer! At last it’s arrived – as I sit watching the rain battering against the windows.
The long, warm, evenings (after the rain has gone) spent sitting on the terrace can, however, be quite uncomfortable – and I’m not just talking about the high temperatures we get here. Mosquitoes. Mozzies/flying teeth/bichos – call them what you will, they can be a real nuisance. There are many insect repellents available, but I have yet to find one that doesn’t smell awful and, once applied, doesn’t leave a foul taste in your mouth (let’s face it, once you’ve applied it, you’re still going to end up with it on your fingers and, therefore, on everything that you eat). It is also the contents of such products that trouble me. Whilst I appreciate that insects are annoying and can leave nasty bites, I don’t think that poisoning them is the best option. They have many natural predators: bats, birds and geckos – to name but a few. Is it right that we are polluting their food? A couple of years ago I found a recipe for a ‘natural’ repellent on the internet that is both easy to make, and not as damaging to the environment as many products that you can buy.
What you’ll need:
12 cloves
100 ml alcohol (the kind you buy in the chemist – not gin!!)
200 ml baby oil
a plastic pot
a spray bottle (I keep & recycle such items)

What you need to do:
Place the cloves in the plastic pot, add the alcohol and cover. Shake/agitate the pot 2-3 times a day for a week, then remove and discard the cloves and put the alcohol solution in the spray bottle. Pour the baby oil into the bottle and shake.
I have been using this for quite some time with good results. It may not deter all the bug-life, but it has substantially reduced the amount of bites that I get. It also doesn’t smell or taste as foul as the shop-bought products.
Things to bear in mind:
It contains oil – Please take care when applying, especially on tiled floors.
It may not work for you.
Do not use if you think you may be allergic to any of the ingredients used.
I do still suffer the occasional bite. When I do, I apply some neat alcohol with a paper towel to the bite. Yes, it stings, but it stops the bite from itching and leaves less of a mark.
Do you have any home remedies? Let me know about them in the comments section.

This post was inspired by a Facebook status from a fellow expat, also living in Extremadura, who was suffering from mozzie bites. You can follow Tanya’s adventures on her new blog: Life in the Extreme – pop over & say “Hi” – tell her I sent you!

CSI: Extremadura

That’s Cherry Spatter Indicator, by the way, nothing to do with crime scenes; although you must admit, the photos would seem to indicate the latter. Cherry season is in full swing all over Spain and although I adore all varieties of this delicious fruit, I’m always going to ‘big-up’ anything that is local to this region – especially the Picota Cherry. I’ve already posted one or two recipes using these cherries – here’s another:
Cherry Jam
What you’ll definitely need:
A very large saucepan (if you have a preserving pan, better)
Scales
1.8 kg (4 lb) cherries – washed, halved and stoned (I was using Picotas)
juice of 3 lemons
1.4 kg (3 lb) sugar
knob of butter (optional)
What I recommend you’ll need: coveralls, latex gloves, eye protection.
What you’ll probably also need: bleach, white paint.

Most of the spatter takes place when the cherries are being stoned. If you want to reduce the amount of mess created, you can always use a cherry stoner or a sharp knife to half the fruit and remove the stones. I (naturally) cause the maximum amount of mess and chaos by halving the cherries and removing the stones with my thumb nail.
Put the cherries and lemon juice in the pan and simmer, very gently, for about 45 minutes – until the fruit is really soft. Stir from time to time to prevent the fruit sticking to the bottom of the pan. 45 minutes is ample time to wipe the walls with bleach and apply a first coat of paint.

When the fruit is really soft, remove from the heat and add the sugar, stirring until it is all dissolved. Add the knob of butter (if you want). Return the pan to the heat and bring to the boil. Boil rapidly for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. 30 minutes? Time for a second coat of paint, if you ask me!

Test for a set* and, when setting point is reached, take the pan off the heat and remove any scum with a slotted spoon. Leave to stand for 15 minutes before potting and covering. 15 minutes should be plenty of time to get a final coat of paint on the wall – thus removing all evidence of CSI.
Yield: 2.3 kg (5 lb) – Cherries are low in pectin which means that this jam will only have a light set.


I have, so far, adapted this recipe to include either:
(1) 25 g (1 oz) grated root ginger added at the start – because ginger is good with everything, right?
or
(2)  2 bird-eye chilies, finely chopped (with seeds), at the start – tastes as good as it sounds
or
(3) 75 ml (5 tbsp) cherry brandy stirred in just before potting gives it a little extra bite.
Any other suggestions are, as always, gratefully received in the comments section.

* – How to test for a set: at the same time as you begin cooking the fruit, place three or four saucers in the freezing compartment of the fridge. When you have boiled the jam for the given time, remove the pan from the heat and place a teaspoonful of the jam on to one of the chilled saucers. Let it cool back in the fridge, then push it with your finger: if a crinkly skin has formed on the jam, then it has set. It if hasn’t, continue to boil for another 5 minutes, then do another test. – Thanks Delia!

Apricot Jam

We’ve had our apricot tree for about four years, now. It blossoms every year, but this is the first year that we’ve had enough fruit from it for me to make apricot jam:

What you’ll need:
a very large saucepan (if you have a preserving pan, better)
scales
a nutcracker
1.8 Kg (4 lb) fresh apricots – washed, halved and stoned
450 ml (3/4 pint) water
juice of 1 lemon
1.8 kg (4 lb) sugar
knob of butter (optional)

Crack a few of the apricot stones with a nutcracker (or a weight, or hammer). If you don’t want pieces of apricot shell flying all over the kitchen, I suggest you do as I do and wrap the nutcracker with a tea towel when doing this.
Take out the kernels and blanch in boiling water for one minute.

Place the apricots, water, lemon juice and kernels in a preserving pan and simmer for about 15 minutes until they are soft and the contents of the pan are well reduced.
Remove from the heat.
At this stage you can decide whether your jam will ‘have bits in’ or be smooth.
For a smooth jam, use a hand blender to remove all the lumps.

Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved, then add the knob of butter (if you want)
Return to the heat.
Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 15 minutes – or until a temperature of between 96°-104°C (205°-220°F) is reached – stirring frequently.

Test for a set* and, when setting point is reached, take the pan off the heat and remove any scum that may have accumulated on the surface with a slotted spoon.
Leave to stand for 15 minutes.
Pot and cover.
Yield: 3 Kg (6 1/2 lb) approx.

* – How to test for a set: at the same time as you begin cooking the fruit, place three or four saucers in the freezing compartment of the fridge. When you have boiled the jam for the given time, remove the pan from the heat and place a teaspoonful of the jam on to one of the chilled saucers. Let it cool back in the fridge, then push it with your finger: if a crinkly skin has formed on the jam, then it has set. It if hasn’t, continue to boil for another 5 minutes, then do another test. – Thanks Delia!

 

Best foot forward

It’s Paul’s fault. Phil’s nephew. He posted on Facebook the other day that he was wearing shorts, socks and sandals, as it was a nice day. It reminded me, instantly, of an article that I wrote last year for an expat magazine. I was going to copy the link (as I would usually do) to the magazine archive onto the thread on Facebook. However, when I typed in the URL, I found that the domain hadn’t been renewed; so the article wasn’t accessible. Not wanting to deprive you all of this tongue-in-cheek look at summer footwear, I have adapted my original piece:

We’ve all seen them – and probably winced – but just why do some people insist on wearing socks with their sandals? It’s difficult to find any real reason why people have come to adopt this way of dressing. Type ‘shoe’ or ‘sandal’ into an internet search engine and you will get plenty of information about the history of both types of footwear, but not the point in time when they joined forces to become the butt of many an expat joke. Of course, when you put the two words together, the majority of search results are of sites like this one – http://www.sandalandsoxer.co.uk/home.htm – which is a collection of photos of serial sock/sandal offenders – including some very famous celebrities.

It hasn’t been a recent evolutionary process, either, as this extract from Wikipedia on the history of socks explains:
The Ancient Egyptian style of sock is a blend between modern Western socks and Japanese tabi, both of which it predates. Egyptian socks have one compartment for the big toe and another for the rest, permitting their use with sandals.

So, it looks like the Japanese  are comfortable wearing socks & sandals although it does, however, give a whole new meaning to ‘Walk like an Egyptian’ – don’t you think?
In fact, it looks like it’s been quite a common trend throughout history. The Dreary Torygraph ran an article in 2010 stating that remains found on an archaeological dig in Yorkshire (UK) proved that the Romans wore socks with their sandals – so maybe it’s another thing that should go on the ‘What Have The Romans Ever done for us’ list?

Delve deep enough into an internet search and you can find discussion groups both for and against. Here are some of the (best) reasons men give for looking like a dork wearing socks:
1) They prevent my sandals from rubbing my feet (Poor baby!)
2) They keep my feet clean (yes, but the sweat? Really?)
3) They hide my hairy big toes (Yuk!)
4) They stop mosquitoes from biting my ankles (they’ve got a point, there, I think!)
5) I don’t feel properly dressed without my socks on (You are kidding, right?)
6) I feel unsafe because my feet sweat so much that they slip around inside my sandals (I could have lived the rest of my life not knowing that, thanks)
7) My feet don’t get cold in the evening when it’s cooler (probably because you cooked them during the day, Sweetie!)
And the women:
1) They show off my Barbie pink flip-flops better (yes, someone actually said that – I know – the shame…)
When it comes to the reasons why people don’t wear socks, the answer was unanimous from both camps:
1) I don’t want to look like a dork

I was very surprised to discover that it’s not only the north Europeans who have been affected by this phenomenon.  Many of the discussion groups were in Canada and the USA who were a little more – how should I put this – forward with their thoughts on the subject:
When asked the question “Who should wear socks with sandals?” one guy responded:
“There are only three types of people who should wear socks with sandals…. (1) Men who are insecure about their feet. – (2) Real life Ninjas or wannabee Ninjas and (3) Samurais.”

Another responded with this; when asked how they felt about the concept of wearing socks with sandals:
“That’s sorta like having your rubber on long before ever having sex, right??”

When asked if there was ever a circumstance when it would be permissible for anyone to wear socks with sandals, one response was:
“Nope, none whatsoever….though usually it’s old men doing it…………the same guys with their pants pulled up dang near to their armpits”

It’s big business too. During my on-line research, I found at least a dozen specialized sock companies selling sandal and flip-flop socks. Bizarrely, one of the best-selling patterns/designs is of cartoon ninjas (maybe that guy had a point with the ninja thing?).

I could have spent the rest of my lunch hour researching this more deeply and still not reached a conclusive answer. I think it should best be left that we, as a species, are just plain old weird! What one person may find aesthetically pleasing, is another’s worst fashion nightmare.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Are you a sock wearer? What are your motives? – Seriously, I’d like to know.
Personally I would never contemplate the notion. For one thing, I would think that they just give you the most bizarre tan lines. I mean, it must look as though you’re wearing wellies when you’re naked. I’ll leave you with that thought……..

The Proverbial

“Hasta el 40 de mayo no te quites el sayo” is the saying here in Spain (until the 40th of may, don’t take your coat off) – it is the equivalent of the English “Ne’er cast a clout till May be out”. I find it reassuring that the Spanish are as obsessed with the weather (and complaining about it) as are the British. This proverb has been affirmed, yet again, this week as temperatures ‘plummeted’ from sun-filled daytime temperatures in excess of 30°C, at the beginning of the month, to windswept, rainy days where the thermometers barely registered 16°C. The fleeces & socks that had been put away for the summer months were hurriedly brought back through necessity – the shorts & flip-flops cast aside. The rain, however, was much needed. Not just to dampen down the sneeze-inducing pollen from the olive trees surrounding us, but to assist the growth of the young fruit and veg.
In between downpours, I took the camera for a wander around the garden:

The loquats are now ready – let the Jam-making season commence!

Text & photos © Sue Sharpe 2014

 

“Life is just a bowl of cherries”

I finally gave in this morning. I bought my first punnet (this season) of Picota Cherries from the fruteria in the village. They were still hellish expensive (nearly €3 a kilo), but I could no longer resist my favourite fruit. The only problem I have right now is this: Do I sit here & eat the lot? Or do I go & make something with them, so I can take photos & share a recipe?
Decisions……………
………………..Time passes……………………….
OK! You win! Here is a recipe that you may want to try:
Brandied Cherries
What you will need:
Medium-sized saucepan
Measuring Jar
Small (preserving) jar(s)
Needle (or small skewer)
Bowl(s)
Ingredients:
450g (1lb) cherries (washed)
225g (8oz) sugar
1 cinnamon stick
150ml (1/4 pint) brandy (approx)

Prick the cherries all over with a needle (or small skewer)
Make a light syrup by dissolving 100g (4oz) of the sugar in 300ml (1/2 pint) water
Add the cherries & cinnamon stick and poach gently for 4 to 5 minutes
Remove the pan from the heat and drain the cherries – reserving the syrup in a bowl – remove the cinnamon stick
Wait for the fruit to cool – then arrange in small jars
Return  the reserved syrup to the pan
Add the remaining sugar and dissolve it slowly
Bring to the boil and boil to 110°C (230°F), then allow to cool
Measure the syrup and add an equal quantity of brandy
Pour over the cherries
Seal the jar(s)
Serve as an accompaniment to any dessert – I, personally, like popping a couple on top of a cherry cheesecake.
Bonus Bi-product: Cherry brandy to accompany your dessert.
If you would like to improve your Spanish, you can get some more cherry recipes by clicking here.

Where There’s A Will…… (or an internet connection!)

Those who have been following this blog for a while will know that over the past couple of years we’ve had some, shall we say, interesting adventures with both our internet connectivity and our satellite television. For those who have not been following (shame on you!) I shall summarise – with appropriate links to the original posts underlined (when you hover your cursor/finger over them) & in blue.
In November 2012 we lost many of our UK television channels. Thankfully, we got many (& more) of them back in January 2013. I also suffered a bit of an IT failure, which culminated in the death of a laptop in February 2013.
Neither of us like to see anything go to waste and, after pronouncing the laptop devoid of life, Phil decided to see if he could get it to do something. After poking and prodding it with numerous bits of technology (and maybe just a wee bit of swearing), Phil managed to breath life into the machine. We (and by ‘we’, I mean ‘he’) loaded a Linux operating system onto a USB pen-drive which, when we (he) booted up the laptop, would run Linux. While this was not the perfect solution (sometimes the pen-drive would fail), it did mean that the laptop was still usable.
Fast-forward – OK, this is Spain – Slowly amble towards and into 2014. At the start of February 2014 a new satellite was activated, providing the UK with a stronger signal for free-to-air TV channels. Unfortunately, this meant that many people who had been able to receive these channels – like us and many others in Spain – lost them all. Whilst many expats (over)reacted badly to this news, we silently shrugged and went about our daily routines – happy to have had a good run on a service that we were never supposed to have received in the first place.

The internet can, in general, be a very useful resource for information and there’s nothing like a bunch of panicking expats to find a solution to a problem. We (I) found out, by interacting on Facebook groups, that we could receive a number of UK television channels via a free (legality to be determined) website. With the help of a VGA cable (robbed from another ‘dead’ computer) and a couple of speakers, we have been able to cobble together a system that enables us to watch some of our favourite programmes. It is by no means a perfect, or long term, solution. But for now, it suits us just fine.
The speed with which modern technology advances still amazes me. Only a few years ago I would never have thought that it would ever be possible to use a Wifi connection, a ‘broken’ laptop and a TV to watch programmes on the BBC – It’s as if, somewhere down the line, the two technological worlds have collided…..