Sunday, 30 September 2007

The Red Lion Closes

The end of an era. 32 years the bar has been part of the lives of many ex-pats and tourists alike. And those tourists come from all corners of the globe. The website is humming with activity already this morning and I can now say that interest in Barry & Tinas' last day is worldwide; there have been hits from Perth in Australia and Los Angeles in the USA. All that's needed now is someone from Sydney to log on and then it really would be from one side of the planet to the other.

I got a reply

Yes, she did reply about an hour later to the effect that she wasn't sure whether she would be able to come or not because she has had headaches all week and still has. She will see how she is tomorrow (which is today now as I type). I'm worried. There is something wrong with her health that seems to be fairly serious. She mentioned something about persistent headaches the other week in the cafe while we were drinking the cokes and before we went to the Eroski Centre.

I sent back that she was beginning to worry me, that prolonged headaches were not a good sign of anything but that I really hoped she would be able to make it to the party.

I didn't tell her this because there is not enough room on SMSs to go into detail but I now want her to come to the party not for the party's sake but for my sake. I have to see her. I have to find out, somehow, exactly what's wrong with her. I just have to know. So in her words..."vamos a ver mañana" (let us see what tomorrow brings).

Saturday, 29 September 2007

A sad day looms

Tomorrow (Sunday) the Red lion is going to close, forever. It's destiny lies in the hands of a Demolition squad and Developers. Who knows what the future holds. Presently though the local community is concerned about where they will be able to socialize as comfortably as they could in Tina & Barry's company. Time will tell.

I'm waiting for a Chicken Curry to cook for my evening meal which means that I've had time to send an SMS to Lary inviting her to attend the party tomorrow (from 2pm) that Tina & Barry are throwing to mark their retirement from (and the closure of) the bar. I have been daft enough to tell her not to bother to reply, just to surprise me by arriving but now, I am beginning to bemoan the fact that I won't hear from her in response. Which to date, I haven't and I won't. I hate one way conversations with her! But this my fault. An 'alert' about an SMS message having arrived on my mobile provides an excitement that is impossible to describe but I've told her not to bother. The curry will be no compensation I can tell you. But if she does turn up tomorrow I will know that Heaven does exist. For sure.

The curry is beginning to smell good by the way. Might be that the ever diminishing bottle of Red Wine has a hand in that impression! No! It does smell good....honest.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Paella para ella

Scroll down for the Recipe
Paella. The national dish of Spain. Awesome in its simplicity, awesome in its complexity. This particular version, my 'Signature Dish' if you like, has evolved over 3 years taking into account the comments of insiders (Spaniards) and outsiders (foreigners) alike until one person alone nodded satisfaction and so to her I am going to dedicate it. I first produced this according to a recipe aired on English TV by "celebrity chef" Ainsley Harriet and that result was shared between myself, an American customer of mine, a neighbour who ran a Spanish bar, and her spanish clientele. I can't remember the neighbour's name just now but she came from Denmark and wasn't making any profit from the bar and had no other means to support herself. We had already become neighbourly friends and she would often come over to me in despair of her business but this particular evening she came over obviously hungry and in tears (her bar was empty as was her belly and her purse) so I said "give me an hour, I will cook, then you will eat." Which is what happened. What I didn't know at the time was that the meal (my paella a la Ainsley Harriet) that she took back to her bar was shared between herself and two spanish customers who just happened to arrive as she returned and who, when I went over to get the cutlery and crockery back a while later gave me a standing ovation, literally. But the credit wasn't really mine - it was Ainsley Harriet's because I'd written the recipe down blow for blow on a piece of scrap paper as he produced it in a TV studio. Then the inevitable happened, I lost the piece of paper, and, woe is me, the recipe hasn't been published on the Internet. In a book yes but here in Spain that book is not easy to acquire. Memory had a major part to play now and, as it happened, did me more-or-less proud but also causing me to develop a passion for all things 'paella'. Like everybody else in this world I love good food and I just happen to have a friend who is also passionate about a good paella. So here we have a common ground, good food, and, in particular, a good paella. The fact that we can't discuss our food in intimate detail because we are both from different foreign lands is immaterial, there are other ways to express appreciation and we both grab every opportunity to do just that. Together we have sampled paellas all over the local coastal area and I have listened to, noted and acted upon the best comments/impressions until my version received a 'wow' factor of 10 from somebody who's opinion in the matter I have come to trust. Do I need to introduce you?
I don't think so.

Paella para Ella or Paella Lary
(Based on a recipe by Ainsley Harriet)
There are no quantities...I prefer Floyd's technique of "chuck in what looks right". Everything is optional except the rice and turmeric/saffron!!

Olive oil
Green/Red/Yellow Peppers
Chorizo Sausage skinned and sliced
Chicken breast bitesize dice
Mussels..................(not used in original)
Clams (cockles?)....(not used in original)
A few Langostinos (large prawns for Garnish)
Short grain rice
Stock (Fish is best, chicken will do, beef will not.)
Tomatoes (skinned, seeded, chopped) (tinned? I've used'em)
Peas - frozen are good

Throw the Chorizo into the paellera with a glug of Olive oil for a few
minutes then add sliced onion, peppers and garlic, fry til softening. Add
chicken to brown. Chuck in some tumeric (for colour) and some Paprika (for flavour) and stir through. Add rice (TIP - just cover the contents of the pan with a layer of rice. That will give you the correct amount for that pan) and turn over in the pan to coat with oil. Add stock, tomatoes and peas then cook until rice is tender adding more stock as needed (upwards of a litre or more may be required in a 12inch/31cms pan). At an appropriate time add the seafood to cook or heat through. Stand for a few minutes covered with foil when finished.

Dress the pan with lemon wedges and whole Langostinos, unshelled cooked seafood, whatever. Serve at the table (preferably with everyone communually eating straight from the pan!).

Paella is always allowed to "stick" (but not burn) in the final few minutes
of cooking. Spaniards will fight for a portion of the caramelised crustiness (known as socarrat) from the bottom of the pan. But of course todays nonstick pans are putting an end to that classical way.

The ideal rice for Paella is the Spanish "Bomba" rice but, unfortunately, it is more-or-less unheard of outside Spain.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Hasta la Pasta

The inspiration (if that's what it is) for this dish has come from something I saw Rick Stein do with some posh ingredients like Crayfish Tails, Sea Salt and Fresh Herbs in one of his TV programmes. Me? I've modified it slightly with frozen this, dried that and "own brand" (cheap) the other which all means that only Mr Stein's idea remains, whatever it was! He's my favourite chef this side of the known universe so don't get me wrong but I generally have to work with what I feel is affordable, because it keeps the costs down, and change things to accomodate that constraint. He had fresh crayfish, I've got frozen prawn, he had some pasta, so have I!!! So let's go put a pan or two on....BTW, my result is NOTHING LIKE Mr Stein's creation, his just inspired my idea...that's all, but I will try his version if ever I win a lottery.

Pasta con gambas a la crema (makes a meal for one)
75g Frozen Prawns (thawed)
1/2 an onion
2 cloves of garlic
Olive Oil
1 Portion of Frozen spinach.
1 portion of pasta (I used 3/4 cup of 'coloured' twists)
Approx 150ml of creme fraiche (see method notes)
1 tspn Dried Basil
Salt & Pepper
Grated parmesan garnish
Watercress (Berros) for garnish

Finely dice the onion
crush & chop the garlic
Put a pan of water on to boil.

For the sauce: Using a frypan barely soften the onion and garlic, seasoned with some black pepper, in a glug of Olive Oil then add the frozen spinach plus a pinch of salt and sauté gently according to the Spinach pack instructions (probably about 5 mins or so, frequently stirring to break the frozen spinach down), then add enough creme fraiche to make things 'saucy' enough for you, the prawns and the tspn of Basil. Heat through. Keep warm.

For the Pasta: When the pan of water is boiling add some salt and your pasta and cook until done to taste.

To complete: Add the (reheated if necessary) prawn sauce to the drained pasta and turn all over to coat well. Serve dressed with grated Parmesan cheese and watercress.

Leftovers? Half used packets? Stick 'em back in the fridge, quick. Waste not want not. We are cooking for one here in the main and the aim is not to throw anything away....planning ahead helps, so think about it. Soon I will publish a starter based on two ingredients that were (probably) left over from this recipe.

La Romeria

Today is the Torremolinos Romeria and Ann and I are going to go and watch the procession and then join in the festivities after. It's a religious festival involving many colourful floats processing around the town. I believe that everything kicks off at about 10am but I'm having to wait until Ann contacts to let me know exactly what we are going to do. I know that she hasn't forgotten because she mentioned about it in Ana's bar the other night so I'm told.

I still haven't progressed the crumpet quest. Yesterday I received an unexpected txt message that turned my day upside down and today I don't think that much will get done in the kitchen either because I'll probably be out until about teatime.

It was lunchtime and I was in the middle of making a batch of Lentejas when my phone received a txt; unexpected because it was from Larisa and we haven't seen or contacted each other for almost 3 weeks, no, not quite true, I sent a "best wishes" txt just before her tests appointment to which she replied "thanks, I'll call you after." But she didn't. It seems though that any fears I have that our friendship is coming to an end are unfounded because here she is again, out of the blue, with: "Hello, how are you? What plans do you have for today? Please answer." Please answer??? Is she as worried about "us" as I am? I wonder. Anyway our 'conversation' went on with:
"None. I don't have any plans for today."
"I want to come into Torremolinos, I'll call you later."
"OK, I'll wait for you to call."
Which made me think that I might be out by about 5ish. My plans for more crumpet experiments went out of the window in favour of a dust round the apartment, doing a basket load of washing (because that's where the shirt I wanted was) and generally getting ready to meet with Lary. Since her return from Russia back in June I've realized that "I want to come to Torremolinos", or however she puts it, really means "I want to see you" but she never actually says that!

Her call came at 17:30 and this one I'll quote and translate otherwise I'll lose context "A las 21:00 yo te espero el centro, tienda eroski. Poka." Here we go again....9'clock, just a couple of hours together, hardly worth the effort (maybe it's the way that Russians do their courting? I don't know), but I digress. Despite some bad Spanish (not a criticism, she is as foreign to the language as I am) it translates to 'at 9 o'clock I will be waiting for you in the centre (of town) by the Eroski shop. Poka'. Poka is not in my Spanish dictionary so I got 'lost' on that word and assumed it was the name of a shop within the Eroski centre (a shopping mall) so I decided to go early and do a recce to find it then hide in a dark corner until nine. There was no shop called Poka so I waited outside the entrance to Eroski's and at about 10 past she arrived, walking from the wrong end of town. A bus from Malaga had not long since gone through, I'd happened to note it, and here she was 10 minutes or so later walking up to me from the bus station direction. Hmmmm. Anyway, I have to say that she looked gorgeous. She's lost those few ounces I've mentioned that she'd put on in the short space of time since I last saw her, and she was dressed to impress which she certainly did. Whilst going down into the shopping centre she told me that the job she was chasing for me was not available yet because they haven't got their license to trade yet. Typical Spain, Mañana, mañana. I already knew that it hadn't opened yet because I'd checked whether it was called 'Poka' (it's actually 'Quido') on my recce round the centre but she took me round to it because I think that she thought that somebody might be there working and she was disappointed to find that that was not the case, but it gave me the opportunity to show her her message and ask what 'poka' meant. "Poka? That's Russian for cheerio!!" My very first lesson in Russian - she has never used Russian in her SMSs to me before so she knew I wouldn't understand. She knew I would ask!

Back out in broad nightlight she said that we were going to go and eat, at El Lanjaron. And here I got into slight trouble. "I'm not hungry" I said . "You've eaten already?" she asked. "yes" I said. "Derek I've invited you." "OK, I'll have some soup but next time tell me when you call if you intend to eat, you know my English way is to eat early." We actually had a great time over the meal, my spanish even allowed me to crack some funnies that made her laugh and that pleases me, (one was that I told her I was going to pay for this because it's nice and cheap, she can pay for the next meal together, in the Moscow Hilton or Waldorf perhaps, where I'll be on Caviar and champagne. "Very clever Mr Derek Field, very clever!" She loves to say my full name like that and her accent really gives it that something extra!!). She received a txt from Katy and responded by calling her back and announcing that she had asked me out and I was sat opposite (in Spanish so that I would hear and understand!). I've absolutely no idea what was in Katy's txt but I think I must have been figuring in it somewhere. The waiters there recognise us together now and pay good attention to us which is nice. Last night if either of us so much as glanced a waiters way he (or another) was there in the next instant. That's not to say that other clients aren't treated the same way of course, but it does mean we are among the respected regulars (even although we aren't that regular) and that's nice.

"Let's go somewhere for a drink" She suggested. "OK, where?" I replied. "I don't know, we'll walk" she answered. Torremolinos was alive with outdoor noisy entertainment to do with the romeria and we ended up in the main plaza (square) where there are lots of bars but also a temporary stage which was blaring out loud music from a portable disco thingy. "Which bar?" "Somewhere quiet and comfortable" she requested so I took her round to Maria's Bar where we sat on the terrace amongst people I knew, all quiet and comfortable. My new haircut has not been seen by all those that I know yet and a couple of the ladies present came over to check that it was me, give the customary kisses and pass comment about how much 'younger' it makes me look etc. etc.; she did it again, demonstrated (an almost imperceptible) slight uneasiness about others grabbing my attention, I know her well enough now to see the signs. I've given this some thought and realized that it could be due to the fact that she does not understand the conversation that passes, as it's obviously all in English, rather than possessiveness but on the other hand when I'm introduced to her male friends (Jesus for example) she sometimes goes to great lengths to make sure that I understand that they are just that, friends. I remember once in the bar she brought a mixed gang of friends in (custom for me) and then began to really worry that I would be getting the wrong impression. The strange thing is that we do not seem to be anything other than good friends together either so I don't know why she does that. BTW she "fished" about America again while we were eating. Very subtely. If the bull has got horns perhaps one of us needs to grab them.

All too soon these few hours came to an end and we were back at the bus Malaga, I was right. She has girlfriends there that she's probably staying with for company, now that Katy has left, while she gets through this medical trauma. She admitted to me last night that she has been suffering many headaches lately but I still don't know what is actually wrong. The fact that she is not very well may be why 3 weeks have passed since we last saw each other, the operation that she is due to undergo is scheduled in November. The bus was already in when we got there so she was straight on after saying that she would call me. And something about her 'air' as she said that made me think that she didn't really want to be leaving. Through the window I asked how long before the bus goes. About 4 minutes she replied so I said OK I'm going to go, blew a kiss, which she blew back, and took my leave.

UPDATE - Ann and I didn't go to the Romeria, she is suffering a bad back.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Another one!

I'm awake again. It's 04:30 and the sky is alive with yet another Thunderstorm. A corker. Not much rain about though. Yet.

06:00 It is now! Chucking it down in bursts. The lightning is more-or-less continuous and the storm seems to extend all the way round from the west, through the south and into the east. Quite a big bugger. Time to play in the kitchen I think, I won't be going anywhere else today methinks.

Thanks to Paddington Bear I've had this idea.....Marmite Benedict, but first I need to make some crumpets - not easy.

06:50 The crumpet batter is made and sat in a warm place to let the yeast activate. If it works I'll publish - this is the second attempt!! The first one, whilst edible, wasn't "right"; too stodgy. The storm is wandering off, the rumbles are getting quieter but there is still plenty of rain about.

08:00 Crumpet No2 is a better success than crumpet No1 was. Still too stodgy though as the photo shows......there aren't that many holes showing where they should be. So, No3 is in the making - different batter mix. Once it's right it'll be Marmite Benedicts all round! Of course, another thing about all this is that my photography is getting isn't easy taking photos of plates of food!

10:00 The thunder and lightning is still with us. A stormy morning is forecast but I've a sneaky feeling that this critter's got other ideas. Looks very set in its ways for some time to come.

11:00 Nope! I was wrong. The sky is clearing and the sun is already out and Ann has just rung to ask if I will give her a hand with another shopping trip. Crumpets are on the back burner for a little while.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Secreto de Cerdo

A strange piece of meat, this.....Secreto de Cerdo or "Pork secret" as the label on the pack is titled and then underneath it says "containing a piece of 'fin' of pork loin/chine (chuletero). Apparantly, here in Spain in days gone by the Butcher used to keep this particular cut for himself, a "secret" from the customers!! Well I can see the affinity to a fin in the shape but exactly where on the beast the meat comes from is hard to tell because the Spanish butcher quite differently to the English. Up on the shoulder, behind the fat is as close as I can get in translations of the word "Chuletero". One more thing to mention, my piece weighs .204kg/6.5ozs and cost 1.19euros so it's very cheap and will probably do me two meals if it doesn't shrink too much. I was talking to Ann in the Red Lion about how to translate the name and, one thing leading to another, we came up with a joint idea about how to cook it and it's that which follows.

It's quite thin but I'm going to bash it flat a little more then roll it with some stuff and roast it. Here goes.......

Roulade de Secreto de Cerdo
6-8oz Aleta de Cerdo Chuletero (or a butterflied Pork Tenderloin)
1/2 an apple
1/2 a small onion
1/4 cup of sultanas
Lemon juice
1 tspn Anis seeds
1 tspn ground allspice / ground nutmeg
1 tblspn Brown Sugar
Some Honey to drizzle
A little Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 180C/400F
Between clingfilm sheets pound the meat to about 1/4inch/6mm thickness and trim to a rectangular shape if necessary.
Dice the Apple, place in a bowl and drizzle some Lemon juice over.
Dice the onion.

Add the onion, Sultanas, spices and brown sugar to the apple and mix. Brush one side of the meat with some Olive Oil and quickly sear in a very hot frying pan, while brushing the top side with oil. Turn over and sear the other side. Remove from pan and rest on a board. Take half of the Apple mixture and mash it/blend it/pound it to a course pulp then paste the meat with the pulp and roll up like a Swiss Roll using kitchen string or cocktail sticks to secure. Toss the remaining apple mixture in a little Olive Oil and place in the centre of a roasting dish. Place the Roulade on top ,drizzle with some Honey and season with a little Salt and Pepper. Place low in the oven and roast for 1/2-an-hour.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Twist on a Tagine

Chicken Tagine, a lovely dish, comes from Morroco but this variation comes from my larder in Torremolinos and involves Spanish Albondigas (Pork Meatballs) rather than Chicken. Albondigas are usually served with a 'Tomata Salsa' here in Spain and very often accompanied by pasta, a technique that lends itself to a modification towards a Morrocan style of tagine. And just to preserve a little degree of authenticity I produce mine in an earthenware Spanish Cazuela. Served over Couscous fragranced with mint and lemon I know it's a winner. So here goes:

1 Onion
4 plump Garlic cloves
Grated fresh ginger (about 1inch/2.5cms)
1 tspn cinnamon
2 tblspns Coriander seeds
1 tblspn Cumin seeds
1 tin Chopped tomatoes
2 tblspns Honey
1 Apple
1 cup water
12 Albondigas, Pork Meatballs (available in Spain in chill cabinets).

Lemon Juice

10inch Cazuela/Frypan/skillet
Pestle & Mortar
Cooks Knife
American Cup Measures
Spoon measures
Chopping Board

In the Interim

I know I said a few posts ago that I was going to start publishing some of my recipes on the website, and that since then all I have done (it seems) is post some of my cooking adventures here. The problem is that the HTML is not complete yet for the site but here I just log in and type away, effectively getting my stuff saved for posterity (yes it's a poor excuse but I've got no floppies!). So, for the time being, and in between other stuff, I'll be posting recipes and you'll never guess what.......

Traditionally in England Lentil Soup was always made using the stock from a Boiled Bacon or Gammon Joint and I remember my Mother doing just that. It was gorgeous and the appreciation of her creation has since turned into a passion for the things. Spain also loves her Lentejas but she cooks them in a slightly different way and my problem is that both ways are divine in their own right so, over the last 3 years I've tried, for myself, to combine the English and Spanish styles into one. I think I've finally succeeded and I hope that you will agree (but if you can't I still hope that you like what follows). NOTE that I have optioned Bacon for Chorizo but I do believe that Chorizo links (for frying) are available more-or-less worldwide these days.

Olive Oil
1 Chorizo sausage (about 5inch/12cm length) OR 100g streaky bacon
1 onion
4 fat garlic cloves
1 large Carrot
1.5 sticks celery
2 tspns Cumin Seed
2 tspns Coriander Seed
USING BACON? ...... 1 tspn Tumeric
1 large Bay Leaf
1 Chicken Bouillon Cube
4 cups water
1/2 cup Brown/Green Lentils
4-5 sprigs Fresh Parsley
1 tspn Ground Black Pepper
3 pinches Salt
1 tblspn Tomato concentrate
White wine Vinegar

Largish Saucepan
Frying Pan
American Cup measures
Spoon Measures
Pestle & Mortar
Cooks Knife
Chopping Board
Hand Blender

Finely slice the chorizo / finely dice bacon rashers
Chop onion
Dice carrot
Dice celery
Roughly chop Parsley
Dry roast then grind the Cumin & Coriander seeds

In a glug of hot Olive Oil start to fry the Chorizo / bacon. After a minute or so add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery and continue (regularly stirring) the fry until the veg just starts to brown . Add the spices/pepper/salt and stir them in. Add 4 cups of water, the crushed boullion cube, Bay Leaf, Parsley, tomato concentrate and lentils. Stir and cook over a low heat until all is tender. Remove the Bay Leaf and blitz with a Hand Blender until roughly pureed and then stir in 2 tspns of white wine vinegar. Serve with crusty bread. Here in Spain it is essential that at the table more White Wine Vinegar is available as a condiment.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Taking Stock

Well, that's blown a bad nights sleep! I was awakened just over an hour ago by a noisy thunderstorm and its attendant rain. Unusual for this time of year in this neck of the woods. The Met service here in Spain are pretty good; if they say it'll rain tomorrow it usually does and this current storm was actually being forecast 2 days ago. It is supposed to become showery later so we'll see if they are right all the way down the line.

The Lentil Sprouts :- some have made an inch in length, they are very fine, not as fat and juicy as the Alfalfa sprouts (aka 'beansprouts') sold in the supermarkets but very tasty, still with a sweetness not unlike that of a freshly shucked, tender, garden pea. Now there's a word you don't see or hear used often these days; brings back childhood memories of Sunday mornings sat on the lawn in the back garden with a big bowlfull of freshly picked peapods to deal with ready for the Sunday Dinner. Anyway, the experiment is over, they are in the fridge and now I'm working out something soupy using some of them, that leeky, chickeny drop of leftover stock and whatever else comes to mind.

06:45 - The thunderstorm itself has finally moved away, I can just about hear the louder bangs but we still have some soft rain falling.

10:00 - Daylight Wokery
Forget the soup. This is where my habit of bagging unused bits & bobs into the fridge or freezer pays off because I've had a rummage round the fridge, freezer and cupboards and found a bit of onion, a couple of tichy garlic cloves , a half-empty bottle of Oyster sauce, a frozen chicken breast fillet (the little bit loosely attached to a breast which I often remove and bag-up into the freezer for just such an occasion as this), some Leek tops!! and the last portion of a pack of quick-cook noodles (the type where you get 4 'cakes' in the pack), to all of which will be added the leftover stock from yesterday and some Lentil Sprouts plus, no doubt, some other stuff from the store cupboard. I'm going to dust my Wok off.

13:00 and lunch is a'looming so let's go stir things up a little!
Chicken Ha Ha Ho (makes a light lunch for 1)
Quantities? - Up to you and how big you want your lunch

Chicken breast fillet (I can actually see 2 in the photo, I'll use both)
A little onion
A little Garlic
Some Leek tops (use the tender yellowgreen innermost bits)(optional)
Chicken stock (I had 1/2 cup, 110mls, available)
Lentil sprouts (or a small, tender pea, 'Guisante fino' here in Spain)
Sesame oil
Oyster Sauce

Small saucepan
Wok with lid
Cooks Knife
Chopping board

Start a saucepan of hot water according to noodle packet instruction
Cut the chicken into fine 1 inch/2.5cms strips
Dice onion to a pea size
Finely chop garlic
Finely chop the green tops if using
Have ready a good handful of the sprouts (or peas)
Have to hand the stock, oil and sauce, all ready for immediate use.

Begin cooking the noodles. Bring the stock to a boil in the wok, add the sprouts and leek tops, cover and cook until tender (watch the liquor level, add water if necessary). Drain and transfer to a dish. Discard any remaining liquor and wipe the wok. Add a little sesame oil, heat it then add the onion and garlic and stirfry for a few seconds. Add the chicken and continue stirfrying until browned. Return the sprouts and leek tops to the wok and add enough Oyster Sauce to coat well . Allow all to heat through while waiting for the noodles to finish. Serve.

18:30 - Getting back to the forecast it has been a very grey day but the afternoon showers didn't materialize, rather the thunderstorm (with a heavy, sustained, downpour) returned at 4pm and has not long since died away leaving, again, some soft rain in its wake.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

An Official Leek

This morning I inspected and tasted the Lentil Sprouts. They are about 1/4inch long already and have a flavour akin to a very sweet garden pea. Quite delicious. All I've got to do now is work out what to do with them! But first, they can grow on a little more because I'm interested to see just how long they can get and if, with a little age and maturity so to speak, their flavour changes. Probably all been done before but it's passing the time in a slightly different way to the norm of just twiddling fingers all day long.

It's official!! The UK is NOT required to metricate by the EU. So now I can talk about how big it is in inches, real inches. 15 and I'm going to braise it, plaster it in cheese sauce and then brown it under a grill, serve it with some Spanish streaky and chase it down with a cheap white. Why? Because I've got some cheese in the fridge that's going dry and it'll use it up. Actually I'm glad I've got stuff to play with in the kitchen because it is dull, wet and downright miserable right now here on the Costa Del Sol. Let's go do the Salsa!

Leek con Salsa Queso (Making 4 tapas/starters).

2 large leeks.
1 tbspn Olive Oil
2 tbspn Flour
125ml Milk
Chicken bouillon
100g Grated Cheddar Cheese
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese + some extra (see Prep notes)
Pinch of grated mace or nutmeg
4 rashers streaky bacon
Fresh parsley

Trim, wash and cut Leeks to make four 3-4inch pieces
(remove and keep useable green tops)
Dice bacon
Grate cheddar and Parmesan (or use pre-pack)
Extra Parmesan for garnish
Dissolve Chicken Bouillon cube in 200mls hot water
Make up a rounded teaspoon of mustard powder with water and a drip of vinegar. Yes, OK, you can use ready-prepared, sigh.
Chop some Parsley for Garnish

Pre-heat oven to 190C/370F
Place the Leek pieces into a suitably sized ovenproof dish and pour in the hot stock to come about 1/2 way up the leeks. Season the leeks with some black pepper then cover, place in the centre of the oven, and braise for about 45minutes. Meanwhile.......
Fry bacon until JUST crisping and use a slotted spoon to remove.
Place together in a small saucepan 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil and 2 tablespoons of Flour and over a low heat create a roux. Then slowly add the milk to make a white sauce, finishing with the teaspoon of made mustard stirred in. Then add the bacon, spice and the grated cheeses and keep over a low heat stirring continuously while the cheeses melt in.

Place one leek piece into a suitable serving dish (4inch Spanish Cazuela?) and dress with the cheese sauce. Spinkle some extra Parmesan on top and brown under a hot grill. Garnish with parsley and serve with a glass of your favourite fancy.

Some grated Provolone or similar 'gooey when melted' cheese might make an interesting alternative to the cheddar.
50/50 Chicken stock/white wine

The very next time that you saute some onion for whatever, chop up and chuck in with the onion those saved green tops from this recipe. But do it soon before the greens wilt etc.
And an idea not tested as I write.....the remaining chicken stock and some lentil sprouts could be the beginnings of a tasty bowl of soup.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Keeping a finger on a pulse

I just love Lentils. Today I'm knocking up a quick pan of soup using available veg (ie what's in my cupboard) and a stock made with an Indian style bouillon cube. And I've just found some info on sprouting Lentils for salad use etc., so I'm trying a 1/2 cup experiment :-

1. Wash and then soak 1/2 cup brown/green lentils for 8 - 12 hrs.
2. Line a colander with a linen towel (tea towel?) and place the drained Lentils in it, then cover them over with the towel and run some water through to dampen all.
3. Repeat the dampening process twice a day.
4. After 2 or 3 days you will have Sprouting Lentils, very tasty.
5. Transfer to a lidded container and refrigerate.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Now who's worrying!!

Yesterday I feel that I managed to perfect my version of 'Lentejas' (pronounced Lentechas with the CH as in Loch), Lentil Soup. So, very soon I'm going to start doing what some have suggested that I should do and begin publishing my recipes for stuff I make for myself, probably on the website. And, as I am implying, the first will be my 'Lentejas'.

No news yet about that job Larisa was enquiring about. But she did txt me at 11pm on Wednesday to ask how I was, that she was just "regular" and had I found the keys. I didn't mention in my last that when the time came for us to leave for the train station I couldn't find the keys. Not a major problem, obviously they were here somewhere because I'd let us in the night before and there is a spare set to deal with the present situation. But we spent some time scrabbling around for them, to no avail.

"Estoy regular" means that she is 'so, so' in English and yesterday morning I over-reacted somewhat by sending back that she must come here where I can look after her and she can rest. "Thanks but I am fine now, it was just the drink I had". That figures, I was not at my best on Wednesday either. In fact I realized while in HiperSol, the supermarket, with Ann that I really didn't want to be there due to my belly being a bit queezy. That's what happens when Wine (with the meal) and Spirits (at the bar) are "mixed" in the same evening. We know that we shouldn't do it but we always do (we being a generalization.)

I found the keys on the floor under the Dining Table while making that second cup of tea after getting back from the station.

Some of my babies need some TLC. I've got a few weeds to deal with. It must be the birds leaving seed behind while foraging for nesting material as they do but it's funny how not every pot on my terrace has aquired some weeds. Anyway, a little gardening is in order today I think. Lunch is some soup, dinner is Salad (including some Russian Salad I made yesterday with the classic Oil, vinegar and mustard dressing, and beetroot I pickled Wednesday evening). The weather is cooler and very conducive to an afternoon's picnic and potter in the 'garden', barechested.
Nice, the weather that is :-) Mind you, the current 5 day isn't too good. Plenty of cloudiness and some rain is forecast.

1600hrs and I've just got back from the shops. I needed to buy some more ingredients so that I can redo the Lentejas, this time recording the quantities etc. and guess what, I've got a new flavour to try. Coriander, Cilantro, Dhania, Chinese (or Mexican) parsley, call it what you will, I've always wanted to try it in this recipe but every time I've needed it it's not been available. Now I've got some, so, while there is still some soup of the last batch left which was made using fresh parsley I'm going to make some more using fresh Coriander instead then taste and compare and finally decide which to publish. Trouble is I've also bought some cooking sherry and I'm making sure that it really is full-bodied (as claimed) as I write....................

Tell you what, wash your hands and follow along with me, then post a comment about the flavour etc. using the comments link at the bottom of this post. History in the making, and you read about it here first! Let's go make some Lentejas.

8 inch saucepan
American cup measures
spoon measures
Cooks knife
chopping board
Veg peeler
Colander / sieve
Pestle & mortar

INGREDIENTS (makes about 4 portions)
I've been unusually precise about my quantities (believe me).
3 cups / 675ml Water
1 dspn White wine vinegar. (Dessert Spoon)
1 tblsp Olive Oil ("Sabor Intenso, strong flavour" if you can find it).
100g Cintas de Bacon (Diced thick-cut bacon/ham)
1 smallish onion (about 2inch / 5cms dia) finely diced
1 celery stick finely diced (+ if handy, some green leaf top of celery, chopped)
3 carrots (4inch / 10cms or so each) finely diced
Fresh leaf Coriander (Strip 4 stalks) chopped
1/2 cup washed Lentils (Green or Brown). I use 'no soak'.
3/4 tspn salt
2 large cloves garlic
1 dspn cumin seed (Dessert Spoon)
1 tspn Celery Seed
1.5 tspn ground black pepper

Dice / chop bacon, veg and green herb (Here in Spain we can buy cintas de bacon, diced bacon!)
Wash the lentils in a colander or sieve to remove dust etc.
Mash together the garlic and salt with a pestle and mortar then add the cumin seed and create a paste of the three.

Add everything to the saucepan, bring to a boil and, on a very low heat, allow to simmer for at least the length of time your chosen Lentils require. After ensuring that everything is tender remove two (2) ladlefulls and blitz them to a puree. Return that puree to the pan, stirring it in to thicken and either immediately serve or portion and cool for longterm keeping in the fridge/freezer.

What do you think? It's good huh?

Now I can publish. Coriander wins. Must be the carrot, which proves that carrot and coriander are a combination made in heaven as are Lentils and Cumin. Perfecto.

Tomorrows planned meal has gone out the window...there is no Cooking sherry left, can't think why.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Would you Adam 'n' Eve it

The call came at 12:50 - "I'll be at the Torre Centro bus stop within 1/2 an hour" and, sure enough, she was. "Derek, Derek, Derek" she said, as she stepped off the bus, with a sort of drawn-out sigh running through the phrase. I just shrugged my shoulders slowly in a kind of 'I know, I'm stupid' sort of way as I moved in and gave her a peck on the cheek. Everything was fine. "Vale, quiero una coca-cola, tengo calor" - Ok, I want a coke, I'm hot. In a nearby cafe she asked, again, why I thought that she was going back to Russia so I showed her the message where she says that. "Where's the other one in which I told you that Katy goes back soon?" So I showed her that one as well. "There! That's what I said!" Erm....oh never mind. I've misunderstood, you know my Spanish isn't as good as yours. I asked if she was going to work later and she said no, I've packed the job in, I'm ill. Then she explained why she hadn't said what she said about returning home to Russia. "In October I have to have an operation. I am not very well. And on September 17th I have to go in for tests and stuff in preparation for the op." She didn't tell me what the problem is and I didn't ask because it's obviously a 'private' thing for her else she would've told me more. I sat there very quietly for an age and a day just looking into her eyes. So much so that she began to squirm under my gaze, which brought me back into the real world. "I'd very much like to go with you (for company)." "Thanks, but I prefer to be on my own." She's worried. I could see it. I asked her and "yes, I'm frightened." I will be asking again to be allowed to accompany her.

"Come with me" caused me to go and pay the 3 euro bill and next minute we were crossing the main road to Malaga and going down into the bowels of the earth (via an escalator) and the 'Centro Commercial Eroski'. I thought that she was heading for a nearby loo but sensing me hanging back she beckoned me forward and waited while I caught up. Rounding a bend in the wide corridor of the shopping mall she made towards a shop that was being fitted out for a not-too-distant opening. "These are friends of mine. They are Russian and tomorrow I have arranged to talk with them about a job." "Oh, that's nice, I hope they pay you well!" "No, not for me, for you!! You still want a job don't you?" "Yes." "Well, tomorrow I will be speaking with them." So, despite my moaning about things between us and thinking that I must have consequently upset her beyond redemption, she has a) been worrying about her health and b) running around behind the scenes trying to secure me a job. No wonder she told me that she thought I was loco. She did, she let me sizzle and just waited.

We spent the rest of the afternoon here in my apartment. She amused herself on the Internet and made a couple of calls to friends around the world via my Skype setup while I busied myself with some housework. In the evening we did the 30min walk along the 'prom' to Monte Mar and our favourite Chinese. After the meal I took her into the Garden Bar (Bar Jardin, my old bar) because I'd heard on the grapevine that there are new owners in situ who are Welsh, and I've always said that after the people who bought it from me left I'd start to use it. It's a nice bar, I like it. There is a pool table out on the terrace now so we played pool all evening while supping vodkas and tonic. I eventually told them who I was...."So you are Derek!!!! We've heard so much....." etc etc. Didn't get a freebie though. Back home here by taxi and she beat me to the bed. Again. She woke me at about 8 this morning, "I have to go." OK, do you want a cup of tea? "No" (she'd raided the fridge for a glass of lemonade) so I made myself a cup which she then promptly split into two with another cup!! I made another after I got back in from seeing her off on the train to Fuengirola. I always give her the two pecks on the cheeks Spanish style and this morning as we said goodbye at the barrier she put an arm round my neck while accepting them. Sometimes it pays to have moan. (Or could it be the new hairdo??)

Did I scare myself today? Read on. I helped Ann do a major shop earlier after her return from visiting her friend Bill (Erica's Dad) in the States. She asked me to. I did a little as well because the supermarket that we went to stocks a wide choice of foreign stuff including English and I took advantage of the fact that we'd driven in her car. No heavy plastic bags to carry too far!! She couldn't find her ID to present against her Bank Card (although the shop still accepted it despite that) and all the way home she fretted about it. When I got back indoors I realized that I'd left my wallet at the checkout complete with 100euros, all my cards (ID, Bank, Medical) and a couple of photos I carry (Austen, Aaron and Lary)!!!! I had to walk all the way back, (all uphill by the way) in the heat of the late afternoon when the day is invariably at it's hottest, worrying all the time that it would not be there. Thankfully it was, exactly where I'd put it down. No-one had noticed it. Phew!!

Monday, 3 September 2007

I'm not going to count my chickens, but...

I dared to make contact with Lary again today, and I'm going to quote everything because I know that there are people out there who might, just might, be able to put me right regarding my understanding of the spanish that passes between us if I'm getting it horrendously wrong. Bear with us, she's Russian, spells phonetically and maybe translates as badly as I do from my English thoughts. Today's 'conversation' follows exactly as sent and received by SMS.

¿dónde estás? ¿Todavía en España o has vuelto a Rusia?

Where are you? Still in Spain or have you returned to Russia?

Estoy en España. Katia a salido. Que tal tu?

I am in Spain. Katy has left. How are you?

Ahora mismo, no importo. Yo había adivinado que Katia ha dejado Rusia. Pero te echo de menos mucho y antes de que vayas a Rusia me gustaría verte otra vez. Por favor. Nunca sabrás sólo como lamentable que soy que te he trastornado tanto.

Right now, I do not matter. I guessed that Katy has returned to Russia. But I miss you and before you go to Russia I would like to see you again. Please. You will never know how sorry I am that I have upset you so much

Que pasa? No entiendo nado. Pourque tu piensas que me voy en rusia?

What's wrong. I understand nothing. Why do you think that I am going to Russia?

Porque deciás "espero que vuelvo pronto" el miercoles pasado.

Because you said [quote] I hope that I return soon [unquote] last Wednesday.

Eso no es asi. Yo te dicho que vuelve pronto Katia

That is not so. I said to you that Katy goes back soon

Vale. ¿Asi puedo llamarte más tarde esta semana, el domingo?

**OK. So I can call you later this week, on Sunday?

Mañana me voy en tor-nos a las 1400. yo te llamo.

Tomorrow I am going to Torremolinos at 2 o'clock. You I call.

Vale, espero me llamas

OK, I wait for you to call me

Now, I know about spelling mistakes etc but to those that my understanding of what she has said, and what I have tried to say, close to the mark?

**I'm not going to argue with her but my quote is straight off my mobile and, in context, implied exactly that she was hoping to go back to Russia soon.

I'm glad that it now seems that that is not the case and I'm hoping that her trip into Torre tomorrow is especially for us to get together and thrash our situation out. Maybe she is as eager as I am to get back on track because, in the big scheme of things, 2 o'clock tomorrow is like...right now!! But, no, I'm not counting chickens yet.

Sunday, 2 September 2007


Yesterday, last night, I cooked extra potatoes and cabbage with the sole intention of doing bubble and squeak this morning to accompany a fried egg for breakfast and that is exactly what is going on now. I was late up this morning for a change so I'm a bit behind but never mind. That is what happens when the mornings are chilly (it was just 66F / 19C), I prefer to stay nice and snug under the bedsheet!

I guessed wrongly, nobody turned up today. So maybe I have screwed things up. Maybe there was a little facetiousness in her comment about coming for paella. Mi culpa.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Good Morning September!

It's early, it's too warm to sleep, my morning cuppa is tasting good and here I am, but I don't really know why. The bedroom is air-conditioned so there really is no excuse for being up so early. Anticipation. Let's put it down to that. I've been telling myself that I am nowhere near as excited about this weekend as I was about the one two weeks ago but I think I'm lying (to myself). Getting ready for a visit by Lary always gives me a strange kind of pleasure, which tends to exclude any ability to sleep.

I really did not expect the closure of the Red Lion to generate so much interest, but the website is receiving hits from all over the world, literally. Yesterday, Thailand!! Straight to the party page. People must be talking amonst themselves and passing the address on because it has not been advertised in a manner that makes any sense of these hits. I'm beginning to worry about bandwidth issues on the day. I might step up the quota allowed just in case. Talking to Barry the other day he says that things will kick off about 2pm. I'll add that snippet to the 'Bajondillo Bulletin' I think, right now.

It's great, this. I've just had a shower, quick wipe over the head with a towel dried my new haircut and no need to comb (or even better, worry about those damn double crowns). I've thrown the comb away!

Shopping is done, just in case. I haven't heard anything so far but that does not mean to say that tomorrow is a dead duck. I've bought tinned and vacuum packed stuff so that if it isn't used tomorrow it won't matter too much. It is 2110hrs right now and my dinner is "on"..mince, potato and cabbage. I'm hungry and looking forward to it.

I like Paella. It's a lovely meal and I spend a lot of time reading about it's history etc. Today I came across the idea that the word is derived from the Spanish "para ella" (for her). Whilst, apparantly, linguists don't really aspire to the theory I have to say that it does have a 'ring' to it bearing in mind that normally with this particular dish it was the job of the man of the house, on a Sunday, to cook it for his wife, and, it seems, I am inadvertantly keeping the tradition alive albeit without the wedding ring!!

And to top my day off, Barry and Tina have given me their recipe for curry sauce! No longer a "chef's secret", I can't wait to follow it to the letter over some prawns or chicken, it's absolutely awesome. Tomorrow I'm hoping to get their Chilli recipe which is even awesomer (yes I know but it sounds 'right'!)