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……..

Malt Loaf

I first published this recipe back in July – I’ve been ‘playing’ with it and wanted to let you know the outcome…..

This is one of the simplest recipes I know of. I found it on the side of a box of All-Bran about twenty years ago and have been making it ever since. Whilst it will never replace Soreen as my favourite (ever) malt loaf – it comes pretty close.

Ingredients:
1 cup All Bran (or supermarket own brand equivalent)
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Dried fruit (raisins, currants or whatever you have to hand)
1 cup Milk
1 cup Self Raising flour

 

Method:
In a large mixing bowl place the bran, sugar, fruit & milk and mix well. Cover and leave for a few hours (I usually leave it overnight). Mix well and fold in the flour. Line or grease a 1lb loaf tin.

 

 

Place the mixture in the tin and bake in the oven at 180°C (350°F) for about 30 – 45 minutes or until you can put a skewer into the loaf and it comes out dry, or until you can tap the bottom of the loaf and it sounds hollow. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes in the tin. Turn the loaf out of the tin onto a cooling rack, cover with a cloth and leave to cool.

Here’s the update: I have tried various types of dried fruit and my favourite (so far) has been chopped, stoned dates – although I intend trying dried cranberries in the near future, so watch this space. I have also been trying out a few simple flavourings as well – a teaspoon of ground cinnamon or ground ginger (added at the same time as the dried fruit) works very well. I am going to give ground nutmeg a try soon – I’ll let you know if that works or not.

Please let me know – in the comments section, below – if you have tried any variations that work well.

All the World’s a Stage…

“You need to get out more, Sharpie” – is something I hear quite often from friends and fellow bloggers, so I’ve decided to do something about it! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had quite a few little jaunts out and about in my hometown countryside this year and I’ll be telling you all about that a little later in the year. This trip, however, is going to be a little bit different. Here’s the story…

Earlier this year I started following the progress of Anna Kemp from The Open Air Theatre Project in the Alpujarras. The idea of someone developing an open air theatre had me captivated from the start – what a brilliant idea! Because I live close to Mérida and it’s beautifully restored Roman Theatre and have always been a fan of theatre, I have been following the progress of this project with some interest. Anna and I have had quite a few chats/discussions via Twitter and she has become a Twiend (Twitter friend) with whom I enjoy sharing ideas (and gossip, of course!). I was absolutely delighted the other day, when she invited me to a celebration of the new stage. My initial thought, and response, was that it was too far away (550km). After thinking about it for a few days (and a chat with the OH) I changed my mind. After all, it’s a great opportunity to visit a part of Spain to which I’ve never been, and to see the project that I’ve been following (and to meet Anna, in person).

I have decided to make a weekend of it and booked a hotel for two nights – after all, it’s a helluva long way to go for a day trip! I have also Googled my route – or routes – I have three options and haven’t decided which one I should take (yet). The coastal option is currently winning even though it is further in distance than the other two it may give me the opportunity to meet a few more people that I know through Facebook & Twitter. If you are reading this and are on the route (click on the link to see the options) please let me know if you’re going to be free on Friday 2nd or Sunday 4th of August to met up for a (quick) coffee – it’ll help me decide which route I will take.

So, there you have it, Sharpie’s been let loose  on a road trip –  Any readers of my recent post about travelling in Spain can rest assured that I’ll be armed with flapjacks & pasties to sustain me on the trip. I may even buy a new notebook specially for the occasion – I feel a mega-blog could follow this trip – so keep an eye out!

 

No Meat Scotch Egg Recipe

Ingredients :
225g (8oz) split red lentils (dry weight)
breadcrumbs
salt
white pepper
chopped sage & thyme
ground nutmeg
6 hard boiled eggs
1-2 raw eggs

Method:
Start by boiling the lentils and drain well. When the lentils are cool enough to work with, add some breadcrumbs – one handful at a time – until it forms something resembling shortcrust pastry. Add the herbs and seasoning to your own taste. Add an egg (or two) to bind the mixture together.

Take a handful of the mixture and work it into a ball with your hands. Flatten the mix and place a (peeled) hard boiled egg in the centre. Work the mixture around the egg until it is completely covered. Repeat with the other hard boiled eggs. Coat with breadcrumbs and either fry or bake until golden.

Scotch Egg Recipe

Ingredients :
450g Minced pork
salt
white pepper
chopped sage & thyme
ground nutmeg
6 hard boiled eggs
1-2 raw eggs
Method:
Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
Take a handful of the mixture and work it into a ball with your hands. Flatten the mix and place a (peeled) hard boiled egg in the centre. Work the mixture around the egg until it is completely covered. Repeat with the other hard boiled eggs. Beat 1-2 eggs in another bowl and dip each of the scotch eggs in the beaten egg. Coat with breadcrumbs and either fry or bake until golden.

Cheese & Onion Pasty Recipe

Ingredients:
For the pastry:
225g (8oz) Plain flour
100g (4oz) Butter (diced)
Salt
Chilled water
For the filling:
450g (1lb) Cheese (grated)
1-2 Onions (finely chopped)

Method:
Start by making the pastry. Rub the fat into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add a little water to the mixture and stir until the mixture starts to stick together in large lumps. Collect the dough mixture to form a ball and knead for a minute on a floured surface. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in fridge for 30 minutes.
Remove the dough/pastry from the fridge and cut into eight pieces. Roll each piece, on a floured surface, until it is the size and shape of you hand (extended, not clenched!). Place a few onion pieces in the centre of the rolled pastry.Take a pinch of cheese and place on top of the onion. Taking one end of the pastry, fold it over the filling onto the other end and press the edges down firmly with your fingertips. Cut off any excess pastry and put to one side. Repeat the process with the remaining seven pieces of pastry. You should have sufficient cut-offs to make a ‘bonus pasty’. Brush the pasties with the beaten egg and bake in the oven at 180°C (350°F) for about half an hour – or until the pastry turns golden in colour.

No Meat Pasty Recipe

Ingredients:
For the pastry:
225g (8oz) Plain flour
100g (4oz) Butter (diced)
Salt
Chilled water
For The Filling(s):
225g (8oz) Split red lentils (dry weight)
450g (1lb) Jar of Mixed Vegetables (drained)
1 Egg (beaten)

Method:
Start by boiling the lentils and drain well.
While the lentils are cooling, make the pastry. Rub the fat into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add a little water to the mixture and stir until the mixture starts to stick together in large lumps. Collect the dough mixture to form a ball and knead for a minute on a floured surface. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in fridge for 30 minutes.
When the lentils are cool enough to work with add the jar of mixed vegetables and mix together.
Remove the dough/pastry from the fridge and cut into eight pieces. Roll each piece, on a floured surface, until it is the size and shape of you hand (extended, not clenched!). Take handful of the lentil/veg mixture and work it into a ball with your hands and place in the centre of the rolled pastry. Taking one end of the pastry, fold it over the lentil mixture onto the other end and press the edges down firmly with your fingertips. Cut off any excess pastry and put to one side. Repeat the process with the remaining seven pieces of pastry. You should have sufficient cut-offs to make a ‘bonus pasty’. Brush the pasties with the beaten egg and bake in the oven at 180°C (350°F) for about half an hour – or until the pastry turns golden in colour.

Pasty Recipe

Ingredients:
For the pastry:
225g (8oz) Plain flour
50g (2oz) Butter (diced)
50g (2oz) Lard (diced)
Salt
Chilled water
For The Filling(s):
450g (1lb) Minced Beef
Dash of oil
Onion
Oxo cube
Dash of Lea & Perrins
450g (1lb) Jar of Mixed Vegetables (drained)
1 Egg (beaten)

Method:
Chop the onion and fry with a little oil in a large frying pan. Add the minced beef and fry until brown. Add the Oxo cube, Lea & Perrins and vegetables. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain though a sieve and leave to cool.
While that’s cooling, make the pastry. Rub the fat into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add a little water to the mixture and stir until the mixture starts to stick together in large lumps. Collect the dough mixture to form a ball and knead for a minute on a floured surface. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in fridge for 30 minutes.
Remove the dough/pastry from the fridge and cut into eight pieces. Roll each piece, on a floured surface, until it is the size and shape of you hand (extended, not clenched!). Take a handful of the mince mixture and place in the centre of the rolled pastry. Taking one end of the pastry, fold it over the to the other end and press the edges down firmly with your fingertips. Cut off any excess pastry and put to one side. Repeat the process with the remaining seven pieces of pastry. You should have sufficient cut-offs to make a ‘bonus pasty’. Brush the pasties with the beaten egg and bake in the oven at 180°C (350°F) for about half an hour – or until the pastry turns golden in colour.

A Recipe for Flapjacks

This simple and quick recipe is my alternative to breakfast bars:

Ingredients:
75 g (3oz) butter
50 g (2oz) soft brown sugar
30 ml (2 level tbsp) golden syrup
175 g (6oz) rolled oats
If you can’t get your hands on golden syrup – I have used honey in the past and they’ve tuned out fine. I have also been known to throw in a few raisins or cranberries – just for variation!

Method:
Grease a shallow 18 cm (7 inch) cake tin.
Melt the butter with the sugar and syrup in a saucepan over a low heat, then pour it onto the rolled oats.
Mix well and turn the mixture into the prepared tin and press down well.

Bake in the oven at 180°C (350°F) for about 20 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and cool slightly in the tin. Then mark into sections with a sharp knife and loosen around the edges.
When firm, remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack and break into fingers when cool enough.

 

They say that these will last a week in an airtight container – Mine never make it past day two!

Road Trippin’

Here, as promised, is the follow up piece to my series on our trip back to the UK earlier this year. I hope that you will find some, if not all, of the following information useful.

A wee bit of history. When I was a child, we used to make the family pilgrimage from southern England back to our home town in the borders of Scotland a couple of times a year (a bit like the Spanish returning to the pueblo every summer). My mother would always make up a picnic (for want of a better word) to sustain us on the journey. The whole travel experience was different back then; there was no M25, the M1 didn’t start until beyond the Watford Gap and the M6 was still quite new. Motorway travel certainly wasn’t as it is now, and the service stations were both expensive and offered no more than a canteen style, self-service, school-dinner-resembling selection of food. Even though we would leave in the dead of night to avoid as much traffic as we could, the journey would still take most of the day to complete so our comfort stops would be a short as possible and involve such delights as hard-boiled eggs, meat paste sandwiches and (incredibly naff) coffee from a thermos flask.

My, how things have changed! While Spain still hasn’t reached the stage where there is an American Burger/Chicken franchise at every service station; the major auto-routes have plenty of places where the traveller can find a meal at any time of day – I mentioned a few in the first post in the series. I realise that for many people reading this post that stopping for a nice long, leisurely lunch is all part of the holiday and should be encouraged to support local businesses blah-de-blah-de-blah but I’m all for saving a few €uritos wherever I can – and I like to know where my food comes from these days.

With this in mind, I would like to share with you a few of the recipes I use for our travels, as well as a list of what I consider to be essentials for a long road trip:
Flapjacks
Malt Loaf
Pasties
No Meat Pasties
Cheese & Onion Pasties
Scotch Eggs
No Meat Scotch Eggs

The pasties and scotch eggs are best kept in plastic containers in a cool box for the journey along with some sliced cheese (or Babybels), Cola-Cao drinks and fruit juice cartons. The flapjacks and malt loaf travel in plastic containers in the ‘dry-goods’ bag with the crackers (TUC), crisps (Pringles), peanuts, sweets (Haribo), biscuits (Hob-Nobs & Kit-Kats) and fruit (apples and bananas). Water is also an important part of our journey. We travel with at least 8-10 bottles. The lids of the plastic containers act as great crumb catchers.

Maps: I know that in the modern times everyone seems to have an satellite navigation device (Tom-Tom or iThingy). I do not – I still use maps. I know exactly where I am (or should be) with a map and cannot abide the thought of some voice (even if that voice is that of Stephen Fry) telling me how to drive! I would suggest that even if you use these confounded devices that you keep a proper map in the car as well. I also research my route(s) before I travel using Google Maps – the directions given are quite often the best (even if the journey times are a little of the mark). The Street View facility I find particularly useful to familiarise myself with specific landmarks (castles, road signs, etc) to use as a guide.

Public Toilets (Aseos/Servicios/Lavabos): Not a pleasant topic at the best of times but worthy of note. In general, the state of public toilets is relatively good. However they do tend to be lacking toilet paper on occasion, which is why I always have a packet of tissues in my handbag. I also carry a tube of hand sanitiser for those times when water is not available to wash your hands.

I do hope that my rambling have been of some use to you. Please feel free to comment/question below if you do something similar or have any other travel tips to share.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog are the views and observations of the writer and may differ from those of the reader. The writer of this blog is not a travel writer and does not pretend to be one. 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.