Wednesday, 30 July 2008


Last night was a busy session in the bar, made all the more pleasurable with the patronization of a group of young Spaniards from Salamanca who engaged Teresa and me in conversational Spanish while they spent an awful lot of money and, after staying for virtually the whole session, managed to walk out of the door in much the same way that they came in despite the drink. Hopefully my spanish will have benefited and Teresa's confidence behind the bar given an almighty boost.

But, I've left my mobile in the bar, Teresa has the keys to open tonight on her own (my night off today) and I feel helpless. If Lary, it doesn't bear thinking about. Teresa has been told by Favio to do it totally on her own tonight but she has quietly pleaded with me to "be around" so to all intents and purposes my night off isn't going to happen anyway because I've promised her that I will be.

I've heard on the grapevine that my Landlady wants this apartment for herself, which is a spin-off from a conversation I had with her a good few days ago about me "downsizing" into the studio below me that she is currently refurbishing. It looks quite nice what with a new floor an'all but the real attraction for me is the fact that there is hot water at the kitchen sink. Absolute bliss. As for the rent?. That'll depend, no doubt, on just how badly she wants the extra roominess that I've got here, my negotiations will be centred around the fact that the studio is exactly half of what I have here. Whilst the space and the terrace are nice, they are not necessary....the boys always invariably come with either family (Austen) or friends (Aaron) and don't need me to put them up on one of the 6 beds I have and there are balconies at all the windows for plants and plancha. Come to that the plants could come indoors anyway at a push. Talking of the boys, Aaron said just yesterday that he's thinking of coming in November "with folk otherwise I'd be pestering you for a bed." Something to look forward too.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Practise, practise

I took an avid interest, as you know, in exactly what I eat when I had my chest/heart/circulatory problem and gave up smoking. One of the things that I took very seriously was the debate about the dangers of transfats and today, I notice, there is a news story from America highlighting again the deadly nature of them. People worry about MSGs and the like which have been used in Chinese cuisine for a millenia with no adverse effects but it seems to me that there are far more serious problems in our diet much closer to home that, generally as yet, are not fully appreciated.

Today Teresa and I are going to cook again in the bar in order to get the logistics of our culinary venture further refined. Just a meal for ourselves to put the newly acquired Microwave oven through its paces and further identify shortcomings in the "kitchen system". It is still early days yet and there is much to sort and learn.

More-or-less straight out of the cookbook that came with the oven, I like the sound of this so here goes:
Chicken Breast in a Spicy Paprika Sauce (4 portions)
4 Chicken Breasts
350g Button Mushrooms
150g cubed (thickcut) Bacon
200ml Double Cream (or Creme Fraiche)
2 tblspns Tomato Purée
Paprika to taste (Hot Spanish Smoked is my choice)

Season the Chicken Breast and place them in a suitable (microwaveable) dish, adding the cleaned and halved Mushrooms. Mix the cream, Tomato Purée, Bacon and Paprika in another dish and cook at 600watt for 5-6 minutes. Pour the sauce over the Chicken and cook at 300watts until the Chicken is done (approx 20mins) before finally "gratinating" the dish under a grill for a couple of minutes but our oven will do both functions in "combi" mode which, in this case is 55% microwave and 45% grilling of the total time required.

Teresa has suggested serving simply with just some that's what we'll do. We have also talked about putting this dish on our menu as a two-parter including a soup starter to cover the 20mins cooking time so I'm going to serve her a bowl of my homemade veg soup first, as a surprise, to prove or disprove that idea. If it works we think that we can get service started within a couple of minutes of the order which cannot be bad! I know that you remember "old boy" Bill in the Bar Jardin. Well, he once explained to me, as an ex restauranteur, how to cost a meal and I reckon that this one, according to his rules, could go out at 7.00€.

And just to set your mind at rest....some weeks ago I told you that, in response to my comment that to do food in the bar would require two behind the bar, Favio "dropped" a name.....'nuff sed!

Friday, 25 July 2008

Here We Go Again

I lugged my portable kitchen to the bar Wednesday evening in order to cook "on the spot" the meal for Teresa and myself. Having pre-cooked the pasta here in the apartment all I had left to do was just to make the sauce and assemble the dish. I cant remember how or why but I decided to wait until 1am, after checking with Teresa that she wouldn't die of starvation in the interim, before dishing-up in order to allow Ana-Mary to sample a freshly prepared portion. As it turned out I'd cooked far more pasta than was necessary for two or three portions and ended up giving the rest away to those in the bar; one of whom was Ward, from The Ship, a qualified cook who was deliberately "targeted" with a taster to get his comment. It seems that for a beginner I did a good job! Teresa eventually got to enjoy her meal as well. Ana-Mary then told me that "tomorrow we go to find a Microwave for you" and, lo and behold, yesterday at 9pm they pulled up outside, summoned me to the boot of their car and presented me with a combi job (microwave and oven combined.) They still have to find a hotplate for me though but I don't think that that will be long in arriving, so now all that I have to do is build a repertoire of dishes for the menu. Interesting times. BTW, oft mentioned of late, meet Teresa, from Ireland. We now work together.

A phone-call yesterday afternoon, from Harry's number turned out to be Erica. "I'm uptown in Maria's Bar and want to say "Hi". She'd arrived a day late after missing her connection with the flight from Boston to Dublin and having to stay overnight at her own cost despite an airlines failure to keep to its timetable. Safe and sound, she's back and still wearing that damned baseball cap. Next move is to get married to Harry.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Nightmare Scenario

Late last night I was asked if I fancy going over to Calahonda today for another barbecue or paella. Still in the midst of training Teresa who wants me on hand tonight I could only suggest a quick visit in the afternoon, which, at first, was acceptable. Then a further note saying she was busy at midday so another day was probably more convenient. The nightmare scenario is that my less than satisfactory reply also coincides with Erica's arrival from America to join Harry. She was due to land yesterday and so far I haven't heard whether she did or not, but, I told Larisa that Erica was returning, and when, some weeks ago and she asked again about that last time we met. I just hope that Erica's impending arrival is not causing concern for her bearing in mind that she doesn't actually know that Teresa (or anybody else for that matter) is working with me now under supervision (including my day off) and may think that I'm actually meeting with Erica and Harry to get the "Hi theres" said.

I decided to cook "Shell's Seafood Pasta" today for myself by way of compensation, and having mentioned to Teresa last night that that was my intention she said, after being told the dish's recipe, that she hoped that I would take a portion in for her. So, I'm cooking for two anyway, a lovely big pot of vegetable soup is on the boil as I write and I've just been told that the works downstairs will finish tomorrow. Day's a good'un.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Major Problem

The website has had to be temporarily moved. Please, click here and re-bookmark the new address. Whilst the original site has been viewable these last few days I cannot administer it, nor upload cam images to it, due to an, as yet, unidentified problem. Thanks go to those who have contacted me about the problem and all that I can say is that, hopefully, everything is temporarily "back to normal".

Teresa started work in the bar on Thursday. We are doubling up between 10pm and closing through the summer months and hopefully the rest of the year(s) as well if our joint efforts to increase trade work. Last night we put on a bowl of soup (Leek & Potato) as the first ever real offering of a bar snack. Sprinkled with fresh parsley and served with a couple of slices of brown baguette it looked quite attractive. Long day for me though what with bottling up, going to the bank for change and then having to cook but, at the end of the day, worth it!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Server Failure

The website ( suffered a 7 hour server failure this morning between approx 6am and 1pm so apologies to all who have been trying to access the cams etc. but I have no control over such matters. Also the builders have required access to my apartment this morning which necessitated the removal of the Steps Cam from its fixture. It will be restored ASAP.

What a lot of Bottle
This morning while waiting for phonecalls to tell me that deliveries are waiting at the Bar door I've been bottling the last of the chutney. Of various sizes, totally I have managed to make 7 jars. The last batch I pureed to a smoother texture with my hand blender and during the bottling process I formed the impression that it might be just a little too runny for my taste. But, never mind, I've bought worse in the shops and maybe it might "tighten-up" a little once chilled in the fridge.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

High Season Blues

The last of the Cherry Tomatoes have been harvested and added to those in the picture to make yet another batch of Chutney. Paco sent me these two, fresh from his garden, via Anna and they really are HUGE (that's a smallish dinner plate under). I've also snipped a few leafy vines from the plants to add to the flavour infusion. Anna and Paco have both fallen for my concoction big time so they are getting some more when they come back from Sweden in a couple of weeks time.

Late last night Ana-Mary left her friends and family at their table and came and sat with me at the bar. "How are things Derek?" started a conversation off, virtually all in Spanish, about this and that.
"Has Favio told you about the Dinner we are having?"
"We have put it back until after Anna returns because she is invited."
"Dare I ask what is on your menu Ana-Mary?"
"I am not cooking, we are going to go out to a restaurant."
Blah blah blah etc etc etc. It turns out that because her day off is a Sunday it will be difficult to find a restaurant open that will be suitable.
"Can't you just take a day off?"
"No, not this time of year because it is High Season and not allowed."
Then I told her that I had been invited to go away for a few days soon by my friend and had declined for much the same reason ie not expecting to get the time off. Funnily enough, though, November, which is when Beryl took her holiday, was busier than it is now! In Bar Ana at least. Anna told me the other day that July was always "bad", even in her day and Ana-Mary agreed with that, saying she'll be glad when August arrives and things start to pick up. We carried on talking....she's going to bring me in a recipe she likes for Lomo de Cerdo (Pork Loin), I said that I was disappointed not to be sampling her cooking which I'm told is extremely good. "Another day" was the reply and so on and so on. Last week she said to me that I try too hard to be perfect in my Spanish.."just let it come out Derek, if it's wrong it wont matter, you will be understood most of the time so stop worrying about getting it right." And I think that that is why she sat down with me last make me practise, and I did quite well. I think.

All will help with talking to Larisa of course although these last two times I have seen her Viktor has been there and this last Wednesday we engaged in a little private "man-talk" (at his instigation) which has given me a much appreciated insight into her and her feelings towards me. He is becoming a very important person in both our lives I think. Roll on more Wednesdays!!

Friday, 11 July 2008

We are the Only Ones

Wednesday morning was unexpectedly cool and somewhat cloudy. even misty. The "feel" left me in some doubt that any washing would dry by the afternoon but I pressed on anyway with a visit up to the roof terrace, only to find the washing machine disconnected. "It is being moved" said Christina (my landlady who lives below me now on the 1st floor) "but it needs 3 men." "I have a date this afternoon, a very important date" I replied which galvanised her into chasing the builders up. 15 mins later I watched my last measure of washing powder go straight down the drain "because the program is out of sequence, due to the move" said one of the builders. "I´ve got some powder downstairs" panicked Christina, realising that I am really not seeing any joke at all. A little while later I walked away from it all, went back downstairs, closed my frontdoor and screamed. ARGHHHH!!!! Plan B. There wasn't one. Well there had to be now.

Of course, by the time I was ready to leave it was red hot, sunshine everywhere, and by the time I had climbed the steps, trailing the trusty trolley, I was melting. ETA was 4pm by the way so the 2-45 train suited me well, followed by the 3-20(ish) 220 from Fuengirola to Calahonda.
"¿Dónde estás?" - Where are you (it was 25 past 4 because the 3-20(ish) turned up at 3-52 exactish making me wonder whether said 220 and the washing machine were in the same union!!) "Andando arriba" - walking up I answered while wondering how many would be in the firing squad. Viktor was on look-out duty in the corner of the terrace ("at last you are here, she has been like a cat on a hot tin roof!" he explained in fluent sign language with a smattering of Double Dutch) and the frontdoor was open, waiting for me.

"¡Quitas!" - Take that lot off!!
"¿Tienes tu corte de baños? - do you have your swimming trunks?
"Vale, vas a la piscina, Katia espera para ti alli" - OK, go to the pool, Katia is waiting there for you. And so she was. As beautiful as ever.

Half-an-hour later we were back on the terrace.
"Try this" said Larisa passing a shirt my way.
"It´s OK" said I.
"Right, then these two will also fit because they are the same size, now try these" she said, passing a pair of trousers. Same result. Then I was told that the clothes did not fit Viktor anymore and that I could have them. Well, fit Viktor they never have because he has never worn them. They are new, someone's been shopping.

"Sí, por favor, gracias"
Whole sardines are very nice coated in flour and fried. You eat the bit between the head and the tail, which prove to be handy points to hold the things while doing so and accompanied by sliced octopus as another finger'lickin goody are a perfect prelude to Paella.

"¡Joder! No hay chorizo, he olvidado" - Oh dear! there is no Chorizo, I have forgotten. "¿Vale, no importa, dónde está circuma y pimentón?" - It doesn't matter, where's the Turmeric and Paprika? I then found out that I had been told to bring spices. Hmm. I must check my Spanish because I am sure that "solo una sarten grande" means just that - only a big fryingpan. I'd spied some curry powder so I began to sprinkle some of it over the frying onion and garlic and while she was stirring it in (we are, as always, producing a committee job) Katia was called, given a shopping list and despatched to the supermarket down the road. Everything was put on hold. What she brought back was not what she was sent for but was, nevertheless, pressed into service, as was more curry powder - paella was about to be reborn. Eventually garnished with huge pink Langostinos, which were grey before we started, the dish was subsequently completely devoured by the four of us alongside more glasshes of shangria (hic!) "Nos vamos al bar" - let's go to the bar" she suggested. "Here's a pair of shoes for you Derek". God knows what was wrong with mine but, now, my wardrobe was complete. Her favourite local has lots of pool tables where, without any of us spilling our vodkas, brandies or coke she and Viktor managed to just beat Katy and me. Three times. Or was it four? Good fun though, teaching Viktor the difference between red and white! He learned quite quickly. Back at the apartment the cards came out and we played Russian Pontoon (21s?) over much more vino collapsho. I never did work the rules out but I don't think you needed 21 to win, more like 22 it seemed to me. Conversationwise - Viktor is going to buy a restaurant here for me and her, he is taking them both to Andorra and on to Paris for few days next week (part of Katy's holiday treat)..."please come Derek" Lary asked, but of course I can't because of the job and our ultimate destiny appears to be centered in town called Simferopol in The Crimea, where he has a place. I´ve no idea what time we decided to call it a night, which I spent downstairs in the cellar on a camp bed breaking my back. 1-30pm the following morning (sic) and breakfast was on the table. Cake, melon and wine. More wine. "You can drive us all to Torre Derek, in the car". "Hic!, you must, hic!, be, hic! joking, hic!"

We went for the bus at about 4 o'clock and whilst waiting Katy got her iPod out and stuffed an earpiece in my right one. That's how we waited, for 45 mins or so because it seems that the 220 doesn't understand what an every 20mins timetable actually is, listening to music via a shared pair of earphones with Lary just out of my self-portrait to Katy's right. One of the first tracks that Katy deliberately searched out turned out to be entitled "We Are The Only Ones". And with the three of us sat sitting there on the bus-stop bench it just seemed kind of appropriate.

While we were on the bus I quizzed Lary about Viktor's grandiose plans. "He comes to Spain, gets drunk, stays drunk and comes up with all sorts of ideas. His wife will decide for him when he returns home". She explained. So. Vamos a ver - we will see.

Monday, 7 July 2008

A Dream Come True

I got away more or less on time tonight (2am) with Favio's "blessing" as he was the one who began to close the bar. A good evening fizzled out at about midnight then Ana-Mary and Favio came in just after one which gave me a chance to discuss all things Tortilla with her. I now know what I did wrong and tomorrow I'm going to have another bash at it to see what happens. Ana-Mary said that it was a shame that there wasn't the time otherwise I'd be invited to her kitchen to learn. I'm not sure what she meant about the time element but maybe some time in the future I'll get a lesson from the boss about how to make a Tortilla, properly.

Ever since I started work at the bar I have quietly hoped that Larisa would, one day, come and see me, unannounced, as a surprise. Tonight she did, announcing her arrival with "vamos al Bar de Derek" - we have come to Derek's Bar. I nearly died on the spot. Here she was, as large as life (naturally, what a silly thing to write!) with Viktor at her side. I'd sent a message earlier asking that as soon as Katy arrives today she's told "Hola de Derek". I didn't get a reply which is not unusual (I've said before that our SMSs are short and sweet but never unnecessary) which left me confident that all would be done. Now usually Katy's route is via Madrid and a car drive down to Malaga; not this time though, she's flying directly into Malaga and Lary is on her way to meet her with Viktor, who is staying for a few more weeks, driving the car.
"Will you call back in later so that I can say hello?"
"Probably not, Katia will be tired but on Wednesday you are to cook Paella for us all. Bring your Paellera only, you need nothing else."
"OK but I'll be bringing my favourite rice as well, I don't cook without it"
So, this Wednesday is organised - 3pm trip down to the beach at Calahonda followed by Paella para Ella on the Terrace. Heaven.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Tortilla, or not Tortilla.

First, to the person who said "hello" yesterday....Hello. Somehow or other I missed it.

4am finish this morning due to Favio and Ana-Mary bringing family members in for a drink. Ana-Mary introduced me to Favio's Sister, a cousin and her Husband and a friend. Ana-Mary then told me that they think that the Barman is very handsome!! Aw shucks folk!! Sat sitting here though, bare chested, on camera, it's a different story! On the way in, though, I was able to give Lisa a jar of Chutney and am now waiting for a verdict. Anna surprised me last night by dropping by with Paco, her partner, which, here, reminds me to say that I think that I may have one fruit starting to develop on the pepper plant(s) that she gave me. She is going to be given a jar of chutney today and Paco has promised to send in a Green Tomato, grown in their garden, which will be as big as a human head!! I must try Gordons Gin sometime! So, more Chutney seems to be on the cards and I have a few more Cherry Vines available now as well.

I'm contemplating resurrecting the Sunday Afternoon "tapas" that I used to do in the Garden Bar and I've a hankering to start by knocking up a Tortilla today , a bigish one, and taking it in. But I don't is not Sunday afternoon, people have eaten, or are eating, and any food I produce might just sit there. But then again it might prompt Favio to begin following through the idea about some cooking facilities in the bar - that's if he comes in because, very often on Sundays he doesn't. Funnily enough Ana-Mary told me the other day (all in Spanish and I understood everything) that she followed a recipe that I gave her for Pork and Apple a week or so ago and that she was well pleased with the result, thus indicating that she was still well-aware of my interest in anything culinary despite the fact that I haven't done anything in the bar since when? Burn's Night? The cock-a-leekie soup? Maybe she needs to prompt Favio as well.

Tortilla, or not Tortilla; that is THE question.

1500hrs Decision taken! I'm going to make one. And I just love my microwave...sterilizing jamjars for re-use is a cinch with a drop of water and two minutes.

Erm...forget the tortilla (for tonight at least) fell to bits.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Under Contract

Last night Favio brought in, and I signed, the Contract of Employment for an initial 6 months. That's fair enough: it gives us both an opportunity to re-assess within a realistic timescale. So, I'll see the coming Christmas in the bar at least.

I'm having to make a second pot of Chutney because there is just not enough to hand out as promised in the first batch. The recipe is slightly altered to include a couple of garlic cloves, thus creating a perfect symphony in Umami, and this time I weighed the Toms to find that this batch (including just one available vine from my plants) is using 1.6kgs of fruit, which I'm cooking out on the terrace on my plancha. Last night when I got home at about 0230 it was still 29C / 83F having peaked during the afternoon at 35C / 95F. The AirCon in my bedroom certainly was appreciated. Today it is slightly cooler, currently a measely 28C / 82F but the dewpoint and humidity are highish making it feel heavy, muggy or close or however you prefer to describe such a condition. Right now though I'm going to pop over to my other Laptop and design a label for my jars of Chutney in my favourite DTP program (Serif 8).

Simple, clean and effective, making full use of the KISS philosophy, and if your jar is not labeled with the worlds most infamous brand name then it isn't genuine, probably made in China and just won't taste right. Right? OK!

What a pratt...I can't find the Pritt!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

A Cook-In

Left-Hand pot is another Lentil Stew which, this time will include some Broccoli. BTW lentils, broccoli and olive oil has, just today in fact, been heralded as THE most healthy diet but I digress.....Right-Hand pot is my Green Tomato Chutney (which I am making up as I go along because I can't find the beloved recipe I used before back in the good old days) and in the oven is this week's Chicken. Talk about slaving over a hot stove!! For my own good I've decided to record the Chutney recipe I'm making up right here and now so that, if it's any good at the end of the day, I'll know what I did.............

First, though....I have had to cheat because my 2 plants are not yielding enough fruit so I've bought some extra fruit in BUT there is a bonus..... my little cherries are on a vine, where all the flavour is, so the cut vines complete are going to go in the pot.

Green Tomato Chutney
4 big (and I do mean BIG) Green Tomatoes
5 or 6 Vines of Cherry Tomatoes, green of course. (Not all mine were completely "set"....still with flowers at the outer end.)
3 inch piece of fresh ginger
1 cup water
1 cup white wine vinegar
7 tablespoons brown (demerara I used) sugar
1 tablespoon curry powder (a fairly potent one.)
1 teaspoon salt

Roughly cut up the big tomatoes
Cut complete Cherry Tomato vines from the plants.
Trim the ginger and finely chop without peeling.

Basically, chuck everything into a pot, cover, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, and hope!!

Believe me! this is Live! go in with a potato masher once things have begun to really soften (after an hour or so??) and give them a helping hand, but don't go too mad - texture is a pleasure as well!!

Things are well mushy? A couple of hours have passed? OK, remove the lid and start to reduce to a thick consistency - how thick? Up to you!! Love a good stir? Now is your chance - let nothing stick!!

Happy? You are in charge of your pot, no-one else! OK. Cool things down, remove the de-nuded vines before bottling into sterilized jars and sending one to Lisa c/o Torremolinos!! (but don't mention my name for chris'sakes!)

Flippancy aside, my tastings tell me it`s not bad (and quite close to what I remember) so repeat with a kilo or so of green toms when you need to, or even here if you don't have the infamous cherry vines on hand. BTW - The E-number count? Zilch! Nada! None! I feel happy, oh so happy- can`t remember the rest!!!

Lisa? Gracias para todo, te quiero!

The "First" Night

My shift last night was just like any other Tuesday - a lead into my day off etc., except that Favio decided to change the DVD player and do stuff to the TV and Music System while the bar was open. Not a good idea. Especially when he decides to loudly play his choice of music. Needless to say that I took the brunt of the many complaints about the music and, after me having a word in his ear, he reluctantly conceded having watched customers attracting my attention with a word or two.

My day off actually isn't anymore: as chief cook and bottle washer I have to go in every day and bottle-up, stockcheck, place orders and generally get the bar ready for opening which, this morning (including going to the bank to get change) has taken a couple of hours out of my day. Next week, Tuesday, I'm going to prep the bar before I leave it so that my Wednesday off is just that: a day off. Right now I'm waiting for Harry to come, as arranged, and collect the gear of his and Erica's that I have had in store and once that has happened (which I think will need him doing more than one trip) I can set about doing things for myself in what is left of the day. Forethought about all this made me decide not to call Larisa today. Next week though will be a different story, I'll be more organised, hopefully.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

A New Day

Last night went without a hitch. I came home for a bite to eat before nipping back at about 1130pm to find Beryl inundated with an order for cocktails and Irish Coffees etc., with others waiting for service so, at her behest (you are just in time Derek), I got stuck-in for a while. Later, sat outside passing the time of night with Harry I heard my name called and, looking up in the general direction of the sound, saw Teresa trying to attract my attention from her window. She agreed to come down for a drink and we spent an hour or so putting the world to rest while Beryl admirably coped with the bar's comings and goings. All in all a pleasant evening, topped for Beryl with Favio & Ana-Mary cracking a bottle or two of Champers in her honour.

Today I open at the new time of 7pm and in sole charge of course, and while I'm waiting I've reshaped some Meatballs into "patties", tossed them in a sprinkle of Smoked Paprika, browned them in hot oil and chucked them in a cazuela with the last of my Lentil Stew to cook through. I can't wait, but I have to, pink meat I do NOT like.

The Landlady has just knocked, catching me hairy-chested in nothing more than shorts & slippers, asking if she can check something in the bathroom. There is a big gap appearing at the toilet-door threshold, no doubt due to the incessant works going on below!! Maybe I might get a free month. But then again maybe not, there's a pig seemingly sprouting wings out on my terrace.