Monday, 30 June 2008

Cranberry Sauce??

I can remember, as a kid, not particularly liking the stuff and, always, I ignored it at the Christmas Table so I'm amused to hear that you were forever feeding me with it on the quiet, disguised somewhat! Today my tastes are different of course and your variation on a Mint Sauce will definitely be given a go in the not too distant future.

Today is Beryl's last day and I think that I may stop-on tonight just in case things get busy for her and a helping hand is needed. She hates fuss but, well, tonight is special for her and her regulars so, without saying a word, I'll just stay "on hand." As for tomorrow and the future I am quite happy with the way things are panning out; a work contract, here in Spain, is not easy to come by due to the implications for employers at termination so I'm lucky in that respect.

July is going to be quite an eventful month because, apart from the job....

1. Katia visits. Hopefully for a few weeks because I so enjoy it when "we" are "three" so to speak, oh, and I forgot to tell you that over the meal the other day Larisa asked "Cómo está tu Madre" and passed on her regards. Actually there is nothing unusual in that (everytime we meet, she asks) but it leads me on to....
2. There is a chance that you two can finally meet, in September/October, because it may be possible for you to visit me here without too many problems regarding mobility presenting themselves. More on that later though, first I have a few things to sort out.
3. Erica returns from America later in the month to rejoin her partner Harry (who is already here) and via recent email, has promised to give me a great big hug.

So. Things to look forward to, including a fatter pay cheque. Can't be bad.

Sunday, 29 June 2008


Judging by the racket outside anybody would think that we, Spain, have just won Euro2008 which of course we just did!! And a well deserved trophy too. Bread, wine, fish, seafood, pickles and lettuce out on the terrace in the cool of the evening I think by way of celebration. But the noise though................

Actually I'm not going to be long going to bed because now, as I write, it is 1130pm with 25C outside and the AirCon is in the bedroom, making that the place to be.

Sunday Treat

Today I'm going to do a little something special for dinner....Rinones a la casera / "homemade Kidneys" and have just been out to get a potato and some white wine with which to create it and on my way to the shop, at the bottom of the steps, I bumped into Ole-Erik, my neighbour, literally just arriving from Norway. It's sort of comforting to know that immediate neighbours are about again because, at the moment, I do not have any for a block or more in either direction.

The dish is typically Spanish, which I am going to serve with Patatas Pobre, and it is very cheap...kidneys (and liver come to that) are not frequently used in Spanish cuisine. In fact the meat cost me almost nothing. Richard fulfilled a request a few weeks ago to get me some Kidneys on one of his regular visits to Malaga market. Deed done, he said that they cost "next to nothing", took a beer in exchange, and I was able to freeze 3 whole kidneys for future use.

Ann S gave me a lesson some while ago on how to core a kidney but can I remember the detail? No! So, I'll be going in with a sharp knife and praying that I don't do too much damage, and the potato I am not going to peel, just wash, because I like the flavour enhancement the skin gives to any potato dish, but pick a flawless potato because eyes'n'stuff will mean that you will throw slices in the bin (as I have just done, having sliced mine ready!) I am watching Michel Roux on the TV and he has just said that "people who don't cook with Butter are sad people". Mightily irresponsible - I'll be using Olive Oil thankyou very much!! Lamb or Veal kidneys are deemed to be the best so I'm told but mine are from the Pig so let's find out if they are just as good.......

Kidney in White Wine (Yes, I changed the name to reflect my "touches".)
1 4oz (125gm) Kidney
1 glass (5 fl ozs) Dry White Wine
1 tblspn Flour
2 tblspns Red Wine Vinegar
Black Pepper
Olive Oil

Trim and de-core then thinly slice the kidney and marinade in a little water and the vinegar for 45 minutes. Rinse well, pat dry, then season with salt and pepper.
Mix (whisk) the flour into the White Wine.

Fry the seasoned Kidney in a dash of Olive oil for a few minutes then add the white wine mix and some black pepper and cook until the Kidney is tender. Dish, garnished with parsley, with some rice or, as I did, with "chips".

Tonight of course is the EuroCup 2008 final and all indications are that there will not be a lot of room in the bar for paying customers. If that is the case, something drastic needs to be done!! Quite what, I don't know, but I'll be glad that Russia is not involved.

more will follow.............

Friday, 27 June 2008

Lentejas Estofado con Verduras

Earlier this morning I found a vegetable stewpack getting very distressed in the bottom of my Shopping Trolley. It contains Carrot, Celery, a little piece of a leek and a few Nabos (Spanish White Turnip) and should have been put away, in the chill, when I bought it a few days ago. It is now part 'n' parcel of a Lentil Stew, which, while I'm waiting for to cook I will describe.............

Lentil & Veg Stew (Makes quite a lot)
Olive Oil
1 decent knob unsalted Butter
500g Green/Brown Lentils
3 biggish onions
3 Carrots
1 whole celery stick
3 cloves garlic
3 smallish Nabos (or Potatoes)
1 Chicken Stock Cube
1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1 teaspoon Hot (Spanish Smoked) Paprika
1 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
5 heaped teaspoons concentrated Tomato puree (bought in small tins here) See notes.
2 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
Salt (optional)

Soak the Lentils for 10 minutes or so.
Dice, fine, mince or crush the garlic (I used minced out of a jar 'cos I had some)
Dice, small, the (peeled) Onion, carrot and (de-stringed) celery
Peel then dice, large, the Nabos/Potatoes
Dissolve the stock cube in some hot water

In a large frypan heat a glug of Olive Oil with a knob of butter then throw in the Onion, Carrot and Celery and fry until going golden then reduce the heat a little and add the Garlic, Cumin, Paprika and Pepper and, while turning everything over, fry for a minute or so more. Empty the Frypan into a huge casserole pot. Deglaze the frypan with the stock and add that liquor to the pot along with the drained soaked Lentils, Nabos/Potatoes, Tomato Puree, the Vinegar and more water to cover. Put a lid on the pot and stew at a gentle simmer until all is nicely tender, checking every now and then the water level and topping up if necessary. Check for seasoning then serve in a deep plate with a Wine Vinegar condiment and some crusty bread.

My Lentils actually sprouted whilst being cooked!!!
I've a sneaky feeling that the tubed tomato concentrate might be stronger than the tinned that I have used here. So, if using that, go carefully so as not to overpower the dish with tomato flavour.
Snapping the celery into pieces will allow you to de-string it. Try it!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

What Reticence?

First things first, the trip to the Accountant´s office has been done and now, at 1145am I have eyes full of salt due to all the perspiration, generated in 31C temperatures, on the walk back down the steps, home.

The plan began to fall in place, we started our evening by going to Lanjáron Nuevo where, with the hugest of all grins on their faces, we were greeted by 3 waiters in unison!!! We haven't been there for a while and I think they were really pleased to see us again. On the walk there by the way she stopped and browsed a newspaper kiosk but didn't buy one and that meant to me that I was to be the "Star Turn". And I don't think that I did too badly throughout either...even (literally) getting a pat on the back from our favourite waiter over my, now unfaltering, learners' grade Spanish while discussing and ordering my selections from the A La Carte choices. Lary opted for an Onion Soup starter, having been told that her first choice of Gazpacho was unavailable, and I have to say that she was disappointed because it turned out to be French onion soup.....not what she would have chosen had the menu been specific, which it wasn't. She made up for it though by having a half-portion of Creamed Spinach on the side. Half my portion which she picked at, directly off my plate, with a spare fork as she saw fit. A touch of the sharing culture, with which she seems more at home with than I am.

I took the opportunity to discuss with her my T&Cs at the bar because she has been employed in similar situations herself in the past and I got a nod of approval which is comforting because I have been wondering whether the pay package on offer was "light". Then Viktor rang to tell her that mutual friends had begun divorce proceedings......and we had a giggle over the fact that the "breaking news" couldn't wait.
"When does Katy arrive?"
July 5th or 6th, I'm not sure"
That's a Saturday or Sunday"
"Sunday! It's the Sunday but before, on the 30th June she is going to St Petersburg first."
"Oh? I had a visitor to my website from there the other day."
This screenshot shows my webstat software reporting that hit on Monday so it seems that La Paparrazi is still "full of" the webcams and passing the address to friends etc., and a knowing smile in response from Lary makes me think that that is exactly the case.

Meal over, bill paid I put Plan A, Part B into place - "let's go down to El Bajondillo and listen to the live music." On the way Irena rang -"where are you? I'm coming into town now, we can find a Bar with TV and watch the match together." Irena is the lift that I mentioned yesterday. Lary and I found a suitable bar, reported, and Irena....more phonecalls later (she can't find a parking space close to where we are waiting) we leave and walk down the street to find Irena parked in the town centre bus-stop surrounded by buses all glaring at her. Un-fazed, she waited while we climbed in, then bulldozed her way out of that situation. After having found a space in Calle Casablanca we all tripped into the nearest suitable bar (actually a Tex-Mex Restaurant, which was - empty...another of Larisa's preferences, remember?) to watch Germany v Turkey. Because Russia has a place in the semis of this 2008 European Cup Larisa (and also her friends) has raised a passionate interest in her teams fate. Today, this evening, they play for a place in the Final. It's a pity that in my bar, right now, the TV isn't working!! And if Russia does get to the final I could fill the bar with the entire Russian population on the Costa I think.

Half-time and...
"How's your Spanish coming along Derek?" (I haven't seen Irena for a while.)
"Leave him alone, he's doing fine, hasn't stopped all evening."
"Oh! Good!, Well done," etc. etc.

Lary and I do not have to worry about getting up early in the morning but Irena does so at 11pm they began their journey home leaving me to go down to El Bajondillo alone.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Hot Stuff

Last night in the bar the conversation was mostly about the heat of the day and the fact that the bar was quiet (which it was) because people had spent the day on the beach and were back in their rooms/apartments "drained" of energy etc. Checking the data for the day on the website weather page I can see that the high was 35C / 95F, achieved at about 1pm, and held (more or less) for approx 5 hours. Don't forget that that is a shade temperature; out in the sun the heat is a lot worse (somebody had a thermometer go "off the scale", beyond 50C, in the full sun.) Luckily, at the same time, the humidity plummeted to around 20% keeping the "feel" comfortable although later it climbed to 80% as the temperature fell to give an evening which felt quite "close". I believe that yesterday was the hottest day so far this year and everything seems set for more of much the same for a few days yet.

Larisa and I are meeting later today (this morning she is busy and I am to call back later) which gives me time to go and get some veg to finish off my stock/soup pot. She asked what I wanted to do and I have absolutely no idea and it's difficult to decide bearing in mind that right now I don't know where, exactly, we are actually going to meet. Time will tell.

1245 and I've just had a call from Beryl, passing on a message from Favio, "can you go to the accountant with.. blah blah blah". We are, of course, in the last week before Beryl formally retires next Monday and now it seems that panic is setting in to get my papers and contract etc in order. At such short notice I can't drop everything (especially getting ready to meet Lary) so Beryl has kindly connived with me to say that I am already in Calahonda and therefore cannot get there until tomorrow. Manana, manana as they say in Spain!

1600 Actually we've just arranged to meet at 7o'clock in Torre town centre. The builders swept their muck up while I was out at the shops but I'm still not going to consider inviting her back here. Everywhere needs a good mopping still and I can now hear more banging which means more rubble and dust that may well be left where it lies, on the stairs, because it is nearly knocking-off time. And I'm pretty confident that she'll go home tonight anyway in order not to risk missing Russia play football tomorrow (on Russian TV), which I believe is against Spain but I'm no expert on such matters. Still no idea what to do while we are together tonight though. El Bajondillo to watch Ana-Mary sing?? We'll see. Now here's a plan; quick bite to eat in Lanjaron Nuevo, down to El Bajondillo for 9pm or so and let her organise the usual lift home as suits. But then, I don't wear the trousers!! And to top it all: the Chicken Soup (Chicken, Leek and Potato to be precise) is the best yet, seasoned with plenty of smoked paprika. Hot stuff indeed!

1700 Beryl has just rung to confirm that manana is perfectly OK for the outstanding business with the Gestoria and that sometime after 10am will be fine. Having had to wash my shirt twice today because, the first time, out on the line near the tomato plants, it acquired the most luminescent green stain, I have completed all the ironing needing to be done and my rumbling tum is reminding me that I haven't eaten yet today either so, if we do eat out I'll surely enjoy the meal as well as her company.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Fulfilling a Promise

Last week as I was leaving Larisa she took my hand for a few moments and said a few things which I didn't grasp because she spoke quietly (and I never, ever, ask her to repeat.) Thinking back I just hope that what she said was nothing too serious!! In answer I just smiled and asked if I could call her "next Wednesday" to which I do remember her saying "yes, of course". I promised that I would do so and, in fact, I am going to do it later today in order to give us both a chance to get something planned, if possible. One fact is that I cannot invite her here because I am still inundated with brick dust etc. because the builders are still knocking hell out of walls in the studio below me and the stairs up to my apartment are filthy with builders boot-marks imprinted in a half-inch of muck etc. She'd turn a blind eye, naturally, but even so I'm not going to suggest that she comes here unless I get a "I want to come to Torre" type reply in which case I'll have a bash at telling her what's going on (I might even CALL her, properly, by voice!!) and see what she says.

Talking about this'n'that in the bar yesterday evening I was told that a shopping trip to Gib was only 7€ by an organised Coach Trip. Now that would make a change to eats in Mesón Salamanca and cheaper too...their menu is 9€ ;-) And crumpets to boot!! Would she need special documents at the border? I don't know, but if she does then it's about time that the world grew up in this age of globalisation.

One load of washing is already done this morning and out on the line, including stuff that I have decided to wear tomorrow should we two end up spending some time together. And, wait for it! The Chicken stock is on the brew!! Tonight I work through to the very end and I am planning a Spaghetti Chicken dish to give me a full belly to work off during the long shift. I might even "indianfy" it somehow with some of my latest batch of homemade Curry Paste (a jar of which I gave to Anna on Sunday) made with some of that excess curry powder languishing in my cupboard. Unfortunately I don't think that my plan to make some Tomato Chutney with homegrown Toms is going to hold up......they are already ripening and there is not the quantity (due to the "cherry" size) to work with yet. So. Cheat. I'm going to make a batch using the greenest toms that I can find in the greengrocer and augment them with some of my own; but, I have to be quick, as I said, mine are ripening, witness the photo. By hook or by crook though, Lisa will get a thank-you jar for setting me off on my Chutney Crusade. I promised.

Monday, 23 June 2008

St John the Baptist Day

Tomorrow is Dia de Fiesta San Juan and all the shops etc. will be shut. It kicks off at midnight tonight, though, when everybody heads for the beach and a "cleansing" bathe to wash evil spirits away. Sounds good. I remember walking the paseo last year to see plenty of folk eating , drinking and being merry around barbecues and, or, fires lit on the beach but nobody actually cleansing themselves in the sea. Unless you are involved in a group there is not much for a single person to do (except, perhaps, go for a lonely dip) on their own. Last night Teresa came in to see me and stayed for an hour or more, chatting. The folk around the place where she works are having a beach party tonight in keeping with the aforementioned tradition and, somehow or another, I've got myself invited by her to go and join in. So, provided she drops by this evening to let me know where to go on the beach (it's quite big), I've got something to do well into the small hours. All I need do is take a bottle and a bite to eat as a contribution. When did I say that the shops shut??

She called into the bar earlier to say that she was having to work this evening, and as I have said above the beach tonight is not the place for a single, uninvolved, person. It's just gone midnight and the noise coming up from the beach is gaining in decibels.

Friday, 20 June 2008

On Parade, again.

I met her in her local supermarket, took charge of a few carrier-bags of goodies at the checkout and outside was left waiting in the glaring sun while she went to another shop for some, as it turned out, cigarettes. "¿Estás fumando ahora?" I asked to which, after a jokey "yes" reply, she explained that the owner of the apartment is here for a few days from Moscow and they are his. At first Viktor was quite shy towards me, even calling me Sir when talking to me, but I soon stopped that. Then, taking pity on my hot and bothered self (after the uphill struggle in the heat laden with full carrier-bags) he disappeared upstairs to return a minute or so later with a towel and a pair of shorts and, using sign language, beckoned me out to the pool for a refreshing dip. He's a Russian businessman with, by all accounts, apartments here, there and everywhere and Larisa is "house sitting" this one in Spain for him. Nice work when you can get it - rent free!! Now I know why. Why she hasn't bothered to find a job since she moved into it. Why she moved so far away from here, etc. After I'd had a swim he and I were posed, by her, out on the terrace in a photoshoot with my camera and I grabbed one of them both a little later. A nice man and, despite his lack of Spanish or English, we got on well together, as you are going to read. Poor Larisa was kept hard at it translating both ways for our benefit.

Serrano Ham with pickles started us off, followed by Pork Chops, Kebabs, Chorizo sausage and Baked Potatoes from the barbecue with a salad bowl and a fruit bowl in accompaniment. Difficult to see in the picture but the chops and kebabs on the barbie are pasted with a mayonnaise mixed with some onion and black pepper. Unusual. And all washed down with lots of Vino Collapso although Viktor preferred a brandy or two. In fact, there was so much wine flowing that I began to worry about getting home later. "You will stay here" he said, "there is plenty of room." So I did, and after much more wine, a midnight dip and plenty of conversation went to bed a happy chappie who didn't see the light of day until 1130 the following morning!!

He took great interest in mine and Lary's friendship, wanting to know when, where and how we met etc., and Lary seemed very pleased that I am able to recall the day, date and time that we did, what we spoke about and even what she bought to drink while she waited for Katia to join her there in El Bar Jardin and the fact that I gave up my seat beside her to Katia when she arrived and moved along the bar leaving those two to natter together. I now have invitations to use his membership facilities at a Club that he belongs to somewhere here on the Costa del Sol (including my Family) and should I ever go to Moscow I can use an apartment of his there for free. All it would take is a few days notice via Lary. He also said something about buying a bar here, making it into a Russian Bar, and having me and Larisa run it. I might follow that one up next time I see her.

Katia is expected on or about the 6th July and I'm to cook a Paella pretty soon after. Hopefully we can arrange it for a Wednesday assuming that that is still my day off and Lary has said that she will buy a big Paellera because she wants to invite others as well. I said that I will do things slightly different this time and shop for the stuff down the road on my way up but she says that Mercadona is a better supermarket so I will still have some lugging to do. There again there is a car in Viktors garage and I've been told that I can use it if I want (it was at my disposal yesterday to get me home but I declined to use it so soon after drinking wine.) How long Katia can stay is not known but it sure will be nice to see her again...La Paparrazi!!!

Last nights session at work was undertaken with me in a rather tired state and still slightly feeling the effect of all the wine. I'd left them to get back here just in time to open the bar at 6pm after a long and lazy afternoon spent over an extended lunch of Ravioli and soup. All in all, a good do.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Cue a Barbie

True to her word, "Hola Mr Derek" tells me Larisa is back in town and the rest of a message that I received yesterday evening enquired whether I was free today, with an invitation to a barbecue at her place this evening. Well at least I get a rest from the kitchen, she hasn't opted for my paella. Last night the bar was relatively quiet (usual for this time of year apparently) but I did exceedingly well in the tips department so, later, I'm going to treat myself to a new pair of slacks and T shirt for the occasion; and I'm wondering if Katia is here because a barbie smacks, somewhat, of a party atmosphere.

Ann was chatting with me when I received the txt and, having seen the pair of us in company together at her Dinner Party the other week, proffered the advice "it's obvious that she likes you so don't be so reticent." Hmmm. Difficult when you feel inadequate due to language problems. And then there is the open-mouthed awesomeness that I always feel in her presence. Don't get me wrong though, she is very much aware of my feelings for her, and always has been. But, now I know what others perceive, I'll take a deep breath and.................

Monday, 16 June 2008

Well, That Went Down Well.

My Roast Lamb dinner yesterday was so good that I fell asleep here on my sofa after it and was consequently late for work!! Luckily for me it was Sunday, a slow day early in the evening businesswise so, as far as I know, I wasn't missed. This morning Beryl went with me to Favio's accountant to help me get some loose ends tied up with regard to my impending work contract at the bar, due to start 1st July.

Last night Anna asked me if she could have some more of my Curry Paste (I made her some a few weeks ago, remember?) Well I don't think that that will be a problem, I believe that I have got some curry powder left in a tin in a cupboard somewhere. Repeat orders are the best orders of course and I will be glad to rustle up another jar by next Sunday as I have now promised (and hand tweaked with a little bit more heat especially for her!)

Needless to say it is Shepherd's Pie time again and I have had total success this time. Ann suggested, yesterday, to use one of the blades in the Kenwood's repertoire of accessories, which is exactly what I have done; luckily, I seem to have picked the correct one for the job first time because I managed to get some minced Lamb into a bowl that actually looked the part. Added to a fry of grated onion, carrot and garlic, dosed with a splodge of Worcestershire Sauce, tomato purée, and a little stock with a sprinkle of Oregano then topped with Mash, grated cheese, a knob of "butter" and a pinch of sweet paprika and pie ready for browning in the oven, except that Spanish 5inch cazuelas do not have the perfect depth for this type of dish but beggars can't be choosers. I must get some more of those Alifoil dishes in.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Celebrations all Round

It was your birthday yesterday and I decided to mark the event today, on my own, with a Roast Leg of Lamb. But, lo and behold, today there is even more reason to celebrate :- Aaron has just txt'd to wish me a happy Father's Day. I didn't realise the date (it`s different here in Spain) so I've popped out, got a bottle of plonk and now I'm planning to eat at about 4:15pm.

My leg is marinading in a rub of chopped Rosemary and Mint blended in some Olive Oil with some ground Black Pepper and a pinch of salt. Note the deep scoring allowing the rub to penetrate into the joint. It probably should be in the fridge but there is no room so it`s sitting at room temperature, ready for the oven surrounded by a coarsely cut onion, a whole garlic bulb cut in half and the stalks from the fresh herbs I picked earlier to use. Yes, I know that the pan is too small but at least the meat will roast properly due to the air space underneath.
I plan to serve with Roast Potatoes, some veg and an Onion Gravy made from the (hopefully) caramalised roasted onion and Red Wine. And that's not forgetting the homemade Mint Sauce! Food fit for a Dad!! Salud.

Roast Potatoes
When I was in the Garden Bar I used to , on a Sunday, do some "roasties" to put on the bar, and they used to go down well. Today I am producing them again for my own benefit and I'm going to tell you how I go about doing them.

1. Wash your chosen potatoes (Maris Piper are the roasters by the way.)
2. Peel and cut up the spuds into equal pieces (save the peelings!!)
3. Boil in salted water the spuds and peelings until the spuds are soft at the edges.
4. Drain and discard peelings. They added flavour!!
5. Add a little olive oil and shake the pan gently to break up the soft edges.
6. Roast for an hour or so, alongside your meat, until browned and crisped etc.

The photo shows my one-man portion ready for the oven (yes, they broke up a little but that's all extra crunch!!)

1540 It´s all in the oven now and has been for about 40 mins and, by crikey, it smells nice!! But my Mint Sauce? I'm not happy. Following traditional methods of steeping the fresh mint in boiling water does not produce a finish that I am after so I'm cooking the mint to tenderness, just as if it was a vegetable, before I add the vinegar and sugar to complete. Will it come out like the professionals produce it? I don't know, we`ll see.

25mins to go and the mint sauce is still "bitty" so I've added some more water to continue trying to get the mint to admit defeat and tenderize. Trouble is, of course, that I am having to keep a close eye on things to make sure nothing boils dry and I might run out of Red Wine before the gravy gets made!!

I'm going to be late! Actually no, I'm not, I forgot to allow for the meat resting for 10mins or so, but I might be late for work! And can I get the mint to soften?? So far, no! Sprouts are in now which means that in 15mins and it is dishing up time, no matter what.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Happy Birthday!

I hope that Wisley is in fine display! And it was nice to hear from Andrew. Good news is that I've had another go at solving my Skype problem and I've done it; so I'll be calling later. XX

Friday, 13 June 2008

What a Sauce

It was Beryl's birthday yesterday but she doesn't want a fuss made so I wont mention it! Ana-Mary and Favio came by in the evening to drop off a gift for her and I thought that perhaps, just after 1am, there might just be a teeny-weeny bit of a party. So I made plans for a late-ish night, telling Beryl when she took over that I was going to go home, have my meal and then, later, go to El Bajondillo to kill time listening to the singing and return to the bar at about 1am in time to see her open her present in front of Ana-Mary etc., and that I did. My arrival at El Bajondillo coincided with Ana-Mary handing the Mike over to Phil after which there was some furtive activity at the bar between her and the barstaff then, a few minutes later, when Philip had finished his first number she took the mike again to announce that it was, just (it's now a minute or two after midnight), his birthday, his 61st as he proudly confirmed. A cake with a candle and a bottle of Champers appeared from behind the bar and a small private celebration was held in front of the piano by performers, staff and their boss. Normality resumed, Ana-Mary came and sat with me for the duration of the rest of her break. She's got a piece of Pork Loin and doesn't know what to do with it. She does now! I'm English so there's only one way to cook it....with Apples.

Back at the bar Beryl had already opened her present so there was no party as such but there was some impromptu entertainment at my expense due to the fact that Favio unveiled a liquidiser that was supposed to also break up Ice. It didn't work well enough though and will be returned to the shop as unsuitable. But that is all beside the point; somehow gazpacho came into the conversation (I think that Ana-Mary suggested, tongue-in-cheekily, that I should make some with it) and I was daft enough to admit to heating some I was given to try early on in my time here in Spain. Well, I didn't know it should be cold!! Even the people who gave it to me fell about laughing when I told them that I had heated it up too much and had to wait for it to cool down a little. Not understanding any Spanish whatsoever in those days, it took me somewhile to realize what the joke was. Now, though, I make the most awesome Ajo Blanco. I'll show them all how one day.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Chicken and Rice

The Chicken Breast that I bought yesterday turned out to be "corte fino" or, in other words, sliced thinly lengthways and I've yet to work out why they are sold like that at all because I have not come across a recipe that uses a breast in that way. It has been suggested that the slices are usually battered and fried. I've never seen that either, but there ya'go. Anyway, what to do. Many moons ago Carolina showed me how to make a rice dish - not a paella, just simply "Arroz con...." and in her case it was Gambas (prawns). I can't remember her whole recipe but I can recall a couple of salient points :- Garlic, and plenty of it (I can remember having to peel it all!), was coarsely sliced (into 2 or 3) lengthways and the rice to water ratio was carefully measured. According to her rules then I am making Arroz con Pollo y espárragos (Chicken Rice with Asparragos) for dinner today, al fresco, on my terrace and if it works for me I'll describe the recipe I have made up later. In the meantime, tonight I am invited to a party at The Red Parrot bar up in town. Val and her husband recently took it over and I nonchalantly remarked a couple of weeks ago, when they were in Anas with me, that they should have an opening "Do". Scheduled on a Wednesday (to accommodate me!) it is tonight at 8pm.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Strike a Light!

A headline an hour or so ago mentioning the fact that the Supermarkets are already running out of stock due to the Transport Strike that started yesterday prompted me to go shopping. I've just got back and, yes, the shelves are bare of fresh meat, veg and the like. I managed to get the last pack of Chicken Breast (there were no whole Chickens) some rice, a sack of potatoes, some burgers and meatballs. With what's in the cupboard, freezer and fridge it'll be interesting to see how I fare bearing in mind that the strike is open-ended. Tomorrow (it's too late now for me) I'll go into town to see how the small boys are coping with deliveries - the Greengrocer, the Butcher etc. Hopefully they are a little more independent of the mainstream transport industry.

At Peace with my Lily

Thanks go to the person who, on the strength of my recent photo of a Lily Bloom sent me a comment "the real name for this plant is Peace Lily - Spathiphyllum". That information has enabled me to further identify my specimen as Spathiphyllum Cochlearispathum. I now know that it is a Houseplant that prefers lowish levels of light and takes water slowly. Well, mine is in full sunlight and drinks like a fish. There are 7 blooms this time, the second blooming this year so I am assuming that it is actually quite happy with its lot, but I might move it to a shadier locale to see if that stops the browning of the leaf tips, that you can just see in the photo, now that I have these "horticultural tips" to bear in mind, and while I'm in green-finger mode I'll also add a picture of my developing tomato fruits for you to drool over. My two plants appear to be setting fruit quite profusely. It'll soon be chutney time and I'm beginning to hope that I'll get quite a few jars made! Towards that end I made up a load of my favourite Curry Powder blend yesterday, ready, only I misread the measurements (despite having used the recipe for years and years and years) and ended up with 4 times as much as I normally do. Luckily I had a big enough tin to store it all in and I believe that it will keep for 18 months or so in a dark and cool place so no worries there.

I'm beginning to notice that my trousers are getting tighter around the waist; a phenomenom that I am attributing to eating too late in the day ie not long before I go to bed. And that despite plenty of Fish, Chicken (low fat?) and veg!! So. Change of plans. Get into the habit of cooking and eating my main meal before I go to work and no "Carbs" after 2130. Great, might work. What happened last night? Ana-Mary brought a bloody great big fresh cream cake into the bar for me and Beryl to share between us!! I'll (re)start the diet today. Chicken Curry anyone??

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Supremely Supreme Chicken Supreme

According to Larousse Gastronomique (1938) a traditional, classic "Sauce Supreme" is based on a Veloute Sauce which has been reduced, and has added cream or Creme Fraiche. For a Chicken Supreme the Veloute sauce is made with a chicken stock to which it is usual to add the flavour and texture of some lightly sauteed mushrooms and a drop of lemon juice. I'm going to follow Mrs Beeton's ideas about all this almost to the letter except that she uses an egg yolk as a thickener, reference to which I can't find anywhere else so I'm going to leave that out, and I'll use Lime instead of Lemon because I just happen to have one half-used already and simply don't want to waste it.

Chicken Supreme
2oz unsalted butter
6 button mushroom caps
12 black peppercorns
Some Parsley stalks
2oz flour
1pt chicken stock
Salt & Pepper
Lemon Juice
Some double cream
1oz butter (additional)
Nutmeg to taste
Lemon Juice (additional)

1 whole, cooked, chicken breast

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the Mushrooms, Peppercorns and Parsley and gently fry for 10 minutes then add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes more then slowly incorporate the stock and finally cover and cook for an hour at a SLOW simmer.
NOTE. Keep a watchful eye, don't let anything, at any stage, brown or catch. Another name for this concoction is "French Fawn Sauce": there is nothing brown about it!! So it may be best to complete the cooking in a double boiler if you can (I've improvised, my saucepan set just happens to stack in a way that I can build a double boiler. The photo shows the idea.)
At the end of the cooking time pass the sauce through a sieve and recover the mushroom. Add some lemon juice to the strained sauce plus the rinsed recovered mushroom and reheat gently. When almost at a boil add the cream and stir through to complete. Check seasoning, adding ground white pepper if necessary (keeps the colour theme going!) And there we have it: a Chicken Veloute. Next stage...turn it into a Chicken Supreme (I told you it was complex!) But that is going to have to wait - it's siesta time and I feel some Roy Orbison and a glass of Irn-Bru WKD coming on.

OK, on I go....bring the veloute slowly up to boiling point adding some nutmeg to taste, some more cream with a knob of butter and a little more lemon juice as it warms. Place your whole chicken breast in the sauce to heat through and also (optionally) add a few whole mushroom caps to cook through for use as a garnish, stirring ever so gently to prevent sticking until the mushrooms are "Al Dente" at least. Job done. Serve the Chicken Breast over boiled rice and dress copiously with the sauce and garnish with the Mushrooms. For myself I also included a few pan-fried Asparagus tips on the side.

I opted to leave an egg yolk out of the sauce but didn't compensate for that omission. Too late now but next time I'll cut back the stock to 900mls or so, or put a beaten egg yolk after the nutmeg, extra cream etc (and when the mushrooms are nearly "done".) But then the sauce won't keep, it has to be used immediately the yolk has thickened it but not set it, and I hope that you can understand what I'm trying to say.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Plan Change

The outcome of the disaster that I had with my Chicken Stock the other day was that I ended up with the most delicious cauldron of Cream of Mushroom Soup. How? Well, I remade a stock using a Turkey carcass that I specially bought (for 55cents) and added a load of Mushrooms from my fridge that were very near the end of their shelflife and blitzed it all together with a whole unopened tub of Creme Fraiche that was a good couple of weeks out-of-date! Everything was fine and I'm still alive!! Use-by dates??? Somewhat of a con I think. It's all gone now, having been devoured two bowls or more at a time but it has set me thinking. Creamed Mushroom is an exquisite flavour; one that is used as the basis of a very famous dish called Chicken Supreme and there's a whole Chicken Breast still on the bone in my fridge. My research into its history has been somewhat disappointing: everybody now "cheats" by using canned Mushroom Soup and I hadn't even managed to find out where the dish originated. Then I turned to Mrs Beeton, here on my bookshelf; a revelation. Probably French, and not a can of soup in sight! Unfortunately, though, quite a complex recipe but I'm going to have a go at it for tomorrow's Sunday Lunch (starting tonight after work).

The best laid plans.....whilst I'm home on time more or less I'm not going to be starting my Chicken dish tonight because I have to eat first and then finish off another Mushroom Soup batch that I started earlier. There was quite a bit of meat recovered from another Turkey Stock pack that I bought earlier today for the princely sum of 56cents so the finished soup is comprised of the strained stock, a glass of White Wine, recovered Turkey Meat, reserved carrot (from the stock) and, I guess, about 250grams of washed Button Mushrooms, including the stalks, all cooked gently until the mushrooms stop shrinking, then blitzed to a puree before adding a good dose (300mls or so) of Double Cream to finish about 3 pints of the stuff. Checked for seasoning, I cooked for a few minutes more to draw the flavour of some additional Ground Black Pepper.

Troupers Galore

It is the weekend again and yesterday evening I went across to El Bajondillo after I'd finished work. I wouldn't normally tell you this because, in a way, I'm repeating myself...weekend, Bajondillo, singing, dancing etc. etc., but last night Jimmy and Pat were out on their Final Fling before going home to Ireland; they'd come into the bar earlier to meet with David and then gone for a meal and I was half hoping that they would come back bringing their full bellies with them, but they didn't. So, I went looking and found them in the Cafeteria Bar along with Ann & Bill. The usual party atmosphere prevailed as always it does when Jimmy is around and, thankfully, I wasn't too late to hear Ana-Mary invite Jimmy to the microphone followed by David and then Doreen. My photo, and I'm sorry for the flare and poor quality, is of Doreen and Ana-Mary which I took expressly to show Doreen looking very glamorous in a dress......the metal surgical splint has been removed at long last. It is Doreen's birthday soon and she was beginning celebrations with a (not so private) family party. She fired up the audience with a few numbers which then allowed Ana-Mary to involve all in some party dances, one of which she beckoned me up on the floor for but I gave up trying to follow the steps beside her on the crowded dancefloor and pretty quickly sat down again, out of the way. I'll get her to show me the steps one evening in Ana's when it is quiet.

On the way home I was accosted at The Ship by Hilde and her friends Esther and Yvonne who are Waitress and Owner of La Placita. I promised to do lunch there today and told Esther that the meal that I have should be Dutch in it's entirety and entirely her choice and recommendation because a) I don't know Dutch cuisine and b) I can't read the Dutch Menu. Something to look forward to a little later today after my trip to the shops.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Chilling Out

There seems to be a pleasant day in the offing; plenty of Sun, hopefully with a lowish humidity and next to nothing in the way of a breeze, just the way the beach freaks like it! Never mind the beach though, I've been out in the garden this morning to do a little tidying up of dead leaves and other such debris and to check that things are OK. Water is needed of course but right now I'm watching the TV Chef Rick Stein cook Gumbo in South Carolina so the watering is having to wait. Gumbo is a nice dish (I've had it once or twice in South Carolina myself) but I can't get Okra here so I can't make it. Things are not totally OK though in the garden: I think that I have lost my Sage plant due to over-watering so some TLC is being applied in the hope that it will revive, but the Toms are doing well; except that there is a minor infestation of whitefly, I've even remembered to pinch out all the side shoots etc!! and my support system is the bees knees! The Lily (Arum Lily?) is blooming again and I've just noticed that one of the six flowers is quite beautifully back-lit by the Sun so maybe a photo will work.... I think it did, I quite like my new camera!

1130 and it is such a nice day so I've got some brunch on the go on the plancha out on the terrace, after which I'm going shopping for Kitchen Roll and Rubbish Bags. In the meantime: Favio, in our discussion the other week about the bar asked me to give some thought to the idea of doing some food. That I have been doing but I am not confident that the "kitchen" he may put in will afford me much functionality. Until he defines whatever I am keeping food ideas quite simplistic and having a dabble with a dish or two here at home that I feel might work for me without too much hassle. Here is the first idea that I think is just about ready to go. It is a Chilli con Carne which I would offer over a Jacket Potato or as Nachos. To do rice would mean two pots, making it, technically, more awkward. Anyway, have a go at this and tell me what you think :-

Chili con Carne
INGREDIENTS (Makes 3 - 4 portions)
Olive Oil
400 grams Minced (Ground) Beef.
1 glass of Red Wine.
1 Beef Stock Cube.
1/2 can of chopped Tomatoes.
1 tblspn Tomato Concentrate.
2 tblspns Tomato Ketchup.
4 Button Mushrooms.
1 tblspn Worcestershire Sauce.
200grams Red Kidney Beans (Tinned or Jarred will do.)
Cheddar Cheese.
Sour Cream.

1 Smallish Onion
1 small stick Celery
1/4 cup Green Pepper
1/4 cup Red Pepper
2 Red Chili Peppers
3 cloves Garlic

Chili Seasoning:-
2 Tblsp red chili powder
1 teaspoon Hot Spanish Smoked Paprika.
1 Tblsp ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
3-4 Tbsp water

Chop/slice quite finely all the sofrito ingredients.
Grind the coriander seeds along with the dried oregano and thyme then combine all seasoning ingredients and mix to a paste.
Chop the mushrooms.
Rinse the Kidney Beans if using Tinned.
Grate some cheese for garnish.

Into a hot, large frypan drizzle a little Olive Oil and brown the meat then remove the meat from the pan and set aside. If necessary add a little more Olive Oil and then gently fry the sofrito ingredients. When softened add the glass of wine, along with the crushed stock cube, and deglaze the pan, allowing the wine to reduce somewhat. Then add the seasoning paste and cook for a minute or so before adding back the Meat and the Worcestershire Sauce, Tomatoes, Tomato Concentrate, Ketchup, Beans and Mushrooms. Add a cup of water and cook for an hour or so, stirring frequently, adding more water as necessary to prevent sticking. At the end of the cooking time allow the sauce to thicken slightly.

Serve spooned over a Jacket Potato garnished with grated cheese and a Dollop of Sour Cream OR spooned over a layer of Tortilla Chips garnished with Cheese and Sour Cream

Monday, 2 June 2008

Burned Out

I kind of got waylaid last night, way beyond my expected return home of about 2215 due to popping into The Ship for a drink and then hearing a "hello" in my left ear only to see Teresa taking the barstool next to me. A little later we decided to adjourn to Ana's, which was busy so we moved on to Sheerin's, having met up with Bill, David and Crystal. Needless to say I was late home. Too late to save the Stock I'd left simmering on was well boiled dry. A bin job. Mercadona sell chicken carcasses for stockmaking as a shelf item at just a few cents a Kg so I thought that I would get one today after having gone in to Fuengirola this morning to act as a witness at a Consulate. Of course, when you want something it's never there and I had to come away with a Turkey one instead, and right now we are back at a simmering stage while I write this. The weekend has been hectic one way and another and I also had a bad night's sleep on Saturday due to being plagued by Mosquitos all night long; a problem now resolved with the purchase of an electric vapour thingy that, last night, seemed to work well. Early night tonight, relatively speaking, for me though, once I'm happy that the replacement stock is OK.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Proof of the Pudding

Today is one of the days I enjoy most in the week: the day I get to make the Chicken Stock from "this weeks" Chicken Carcass and then turn that into a cauldron of soup, for many a bowl, later on. No big deal? It is when you consider the job of choosing flavours to use throughout the process. People here have said that I must be mad to go to all this trouble with a few bones and I think that some think that I am talking out of the top of my head when I discuss what I do. So, first, a photo. Proof that stock-making is going on right now as I type and it's a shame that you can't smell the aroma. There is nothing unusual about this, the bones, a few veg and herbs (both dried and fresh), and salt and pepper. 2 points to note though:
1) I have included all the fat and scrapings from the roasting dish which the bird was left in while being used up. Later, when strained, the stock will be chilled and then the (set) fat will be scraped off the top.
2) This week the homemade Sage & Onion stuffing (what's left of it) has been reserved to be used later in the souping process as a thickener/flavourer.

This last week, it seems, was National Barbecue Week in the UK. I found out just yesterday and, always looking for an excuse to cook, last night I carved the one remaining Breast from my Chicken then rummaged through the cupboard, looking for flavours in keeping with a "barbie" theme :

Hocked Chicken in Barbecue Sauce (For 2 but I ate the lot!)
Olive Oil
A little unsalted Butter
1 whole cooked Chicken Breast.
Some Sage & Onion Stuffing (I took mine from inside the bird.)
1 Onion
3 Cloves of Garlic
1 Fennel Bulb
1 stick of Celery (see notes)
Green Pepper
1 Red Chilli Pepper
1 glass German White Wine (Hock)
Barbecue Sauce ( Thanks go to Helen in Florida. Oh! and Jack Daniels.)
1 Little Gem Lettuce

Coarsely cut up the Chicken Breast.
If necessary, chunkily dice the stuffing.
Top, tail, "peel" and coarsely chop the Fennel Bulb.
Dice the peeled onion.
Finely chop (or crush) the peeled Garlic.
Finely slice the de-stringed Celery Stick (see note)
Deseed and remove the pithy membranes then coarsely chop the Green Pepper.
Chop the Chilli Pepper (seeds an'all if you dare!) See note
Break up the Lettuce into leaves and tear or chop each in .half or so.

Add to a frypan a sliver of butter and a glug of Olive Oil then throw in the Onion, Celery, Fennel, Green Pepper, Chilli Pepper and Garlic and sweat over medium heat for a few minutes. Add the glass of wine and the Chicken pieces and Stuffing then raise the heat a little and allow the wine to reduce right down almost to nothing before adding the Barbecue Sauce (to taste and gently stirred through) and then the Lettuce. Cover and gently heat until the Lettuce is wilting (turning over GENTLY occasionally without breaking up the chicken pieces too much) and then turn out onto a plate or two. And if you ARE cooking for two....expect an appreciative kiss!!

If you snap the Celery into pieces you will find that you will be able to de-string it easily, before slicing, and that makes for a more tender inclusion to the dish. Easier tried than described....have a go!

Here in Spain there is a particular type of Green Pepper sold in profusion and a lot cheaper than the Bell variety. This photo shows exactly what I buy and in this recipe I used about half of what you see (plate and teaspoon provided for scale). Also you get a peek at the type of Red Chilli I use.

Завтра я полагаю, что Вы собираетесь идти в Россию. Когда Вы возвращаетесь к Испании, пожалуйста назовите меня, потому что мы имеем дату Завтрака вместе, которая была отложена, и я не собираюсь забывать это.