Thursday, 29 January 2009

5 O'Clock Club

Welcome to my 5 O'Clock Club! A (probably lighthearted) look at what I do for dinner.

TODAY: Spag Bol

Olive Oil
Beef Mince
Chopped Tomatoes
Red OXO cube
Red Wine
Dried Oregano
Dried Basil
Black Pepper

Defrost 200g or so of Mince out of the freezer.
Uncork the wine making sure that you leave at least a glassful for this dish.
Dice an Onion.
Open a tin (400g) of chopped Toms
Grated Parmasan Cheese.

Into a glug of hot oil throw the onion and fry, over a medium heat, until translucent at least then push them into a ring towards the outside of the pan and chuck into the centre the mince to brown. Work the mince with a spatula or something to break any lumps at the same time as crumbling the OXO cube in. Once happy that the mince is browned and separated add a glass of wine to deglaze (that's a pan is non-stick) and allow it to boil off as near as damn it while combining the mince and onion. Add the tomatoes, some Oregano and some Basil and a good pinch of Pepper and cook until "done". Some advocate cooking mince for at least an hour so. Up to you but keep an eye, adding a little more water if necessary. To serve STIR THE SAUCE THROUGH a portion of cooked Spaghetti (that's the Italian way. Apparantly they never dump the sauce on top!). And I always cook my Spaghetti just beyond the Al Dente stage otherwise the pasta is still looking for liquor to absorb and away goes most, if not all, of your base liquid leaving a dry "sauce". Sprinkle Parmasan over at the table.

PS...I didn't have any Garlic!! (or couldn't find it)

A Waiting Game

On Tuesday Favio presented to me, for signing, a document written in Spanish Gobbledegook. It was something to do with his Accountant and a sum of 80odd Euros that required paying. I presumed, as I signed, that I owed the money to the accountant for "services rendered" during my contract period (which was not beyond the bounds of possibility) but when I handed his copy back to him 80odd euros came across the bar to me! A windfall. And a nice one at that. He asked about the situation with the Social Security problem and all that I could tell him was that I was waiting for a decision from them. I know that I gripe and groan about him at times but I have to give him his due...he's been making his own enquiries on my behalf unbeknown to me and it seems that my case remains pending. I am happier with my lot though because he also said that he cannot renew the work contract until at least there is an "amnistia" (amnesty) granted by them in respect of the block on my Bank Account because he has to pay directly into such an account in order to keep the authorities happy. Anti Black Market rules I guess because Bank Accounts are totally transparent to all who need to know here in Spain. Ann was in at the time and helped me talk to him about the matter, my Spanish being stretched beyond my capabilities, and through her he suggested going directly to the SocSec office with all my papers and asking about an "amnistia" etc. but then decided that that was probably not such a good idea because no-one there would be able to speak English in all probability and I wouldn't have sufficient Spanish to cope. As for the time being taken; he suggested that the current economic crisis and the extra workload that would be giving them is keeping my case low down on their agenda.

The windfall has been used to take advantage of those Laptop offers up in town and on Friday I collect a tiny, weeny 7" screen Netbook with Windows XP, WiFi, and a networking connection. I was lucky though. When I walked into the shop I noticed the ads had been crossed "sold out" but the chap made a phonecall and managed to find what I wanted (no contract with vodaphone or anyone else) in another branch, so now I can get my Skype-phone back online at long last. Having said that, yesterday my broadband connection was very unstable through the day and this morning I've noticed it's dropping on a regular basis again. Through the night it's fine so I don't quite know what's going on with it. I'm not taking any chances with the connection though, I've written this offline rather than directly here but now, of course, I've got to upload it so where's the "select all" and then "copy" commands in this Linux version of Notepad? Ah, yes, here goes nothing............

Live now! Y'know, this old HP Omnibook Laptop that Austen gave me years ago soldiers on. It's got a processor slower than a hand-whisk, minimal ram, a key missing (in the top row, f12, not important) and a Hard Drive with more bad sectors than good'uns but runs a LiveCD version of the OpenSUSE Linux distro as if it's childsplay.

Seems we are in for a wet weekend. Yesterday Cristina had the communal areas thoroughly cleaned, ridding them at last of all the builders muck so I'm hoping life can get back to normal noise and grimewise. Today, a good mop and dusting through here and stuff all the rugs, and my slippers, in the washing machine to wash and dry before the heavens open.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Well, Skype me!

I mentioned over the Christmas period about a Lady from Germany who was visiting. We made friends, even inviting each other to a home-cooked meal in our respective apartments (none of your expensive restaurants for us), and exchanged details etc. Hailing from Kiel, Natalie went home at the end of December, put herself on Broadband Internet, downloaded Skpye and today my machine received her first call. Now, normally, I ignore skype calls because I haven't been able to get a micophone to work in Windows Vista but today I quickly plugged my headset in and, hey presto, it worked! Clear as a bell Skype to Skype with a strong connection according to the program. Do I now need an XP machine? Well it would be nice to be able to use my expensive Skype-enabled telephone but as the offers up in town finish at the end of this week, well before payday, that idea is going out the window. Natalie has reiterated an invitation she gave me while she was here to go and stay with her in Kiel for a week or two in June. Whether I can depends on being able to get time off in that month (most unlikely) and, even then, only if I can afford it (again, most unlikely) but who knows? I've never been to Germany..............

Cristina (usually I spell her name wrongly, this time I've remembered) is still having work done in the apartments opposite and above me and today, for half-an-hour, she had the electrics turned off. Just like that! Good job I wasn't making Souffles or she'll have gone over my knees!!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

This is no Qwicky

Yesterday I made my chicken stock (leaving out the veg stock cubes) as usual and today I've turned it into soup after letting it chill overnight in order to skim as much of the fat off as I can. This is the second time I've made this particular brew; it's good so here it is

3-4pints Chicken Stock
Whites of 6 big Leeks
200g Canned Chickpeas
Good pinch Paprika
Salt & Pepper

Skim and strain the stock.
Trim, clean and finely slice the Leeks
Wash the Chickpeas of their preserving liqour.

Throw the Leeks and Chickpeas into the stock and boil until well tender. Blend smooth and season to taste. Serve each bowl with a swirl of cream.

I dare you not to like it.

In between sneezes (I got the cold that I expected to get) I'm going to go a little farther and show you what I did with a ladle full of said soup.....used it as a gravy for my Sunday Roast Dinner today. Chicken , Brussels and Roast Potatoes wih Bread Sauce to boot. Talking about the cold I've been having some horrendous headaches this last week or so. Right behind my right eye. So much pain that that eye has actually been trying to close and even though things are more-or-less back to normal now (still some twinges) it still looks "tired" with a droopy lid and continues to water in protest.

And to top it second best friend has let me down good 'n proper. Thermal JimJams from now on because laying on a cold (ex)electric blanket is not my idea of fun these cold nights. Another job for next month's pay packet.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Oranges no Lemons

I've been out and bought a trout. When we left for Malaga Airport Larisa gave me some bags full of foodstuffs she didn't want to leave in the fridge. Amongst which there was (is) a nearly full 3kg sack of Oranges. They are keeping well in the present cold climate here but I want to use them up before they eventually go bad so Trout with Orange has been on the menu today. Using other stuff from my cupboard (the brandy is from the miniature that I bought for a Sangria when you were here but never used) I have just done, and eaten this...............

Trucha con Naranja
1 whole Trout, gutted and cleaned.
2 Oranges.
2tblsp Brandy.
1tblsp Olive Oil.
1tspn Paprika
Salt & Pepper

Zest both Oranges then slice one and juice the other into a small bowl.
To the juice add the Brandy, Olive Oil and Paprika and mix well.
Score the fish skin 3 or 4 times both sides, rubbing in the Tarragon and seasoning.

Brush the fish cavity with the juice mix and then place a couple of halved Orange slices inside followed by a sprinkle of zest.
Place a layer of Orange slices in the base of a suitable roasting pan and place the stuffed fish on top. Brush the top with juice mix and sprinkle zest over. Pour remaining juice mix into the pan and bake in the oven at 190C/325F for about 25mins until the skin crisps.

I served mine with Creamed Spinach and Game Chips.

A Good Sign

The beer order came even earlier today; I was woken up by the call from the lads on the lorry at 1030 this morning. Which means that life is very quiet for the brewery also, bearing in mind that Bar Ana is the last delivery on the round and that, in the high season, I usually have to wait until 1700 hrs or so. On leaving the apartment I bumped into someone wielding a paintbrush....Christina is having the communal staircase painted so maybe, just maybe, all the noise, grief and grime within this apartment block is finally coming to an end; a whole year of stressful living conditions may be over. The downside is that the smell of the paint will cause me to develop a cold for sure despite running all the extractor fans that I have (2) in an effort to stop the fumes from getting to my nose. Small price to pay for peace and quiet though, the day that I've been dreaming of for a good long while may have just dawned!

Up in town one of the phone shops is selling a little tiny laptop computer for 49euros. What's exciting about that is that it comes with XP as the OS which means that I could bring my Skypephone back into use (and quickly get the investment back in saved call charges). I will certainly be checking it out after next payday.....there has to be a "catch" and I suspect that it may be a compulsory contract with vodaphone for a mobile internet connection. If there isn't, and it sports a networking plug'ole, I may just treat myself to an early birthday present.

The demise of the Steps Cam - it got wet and died a death in addition to the neighbourly complaints - has enabled me to bring this Linux machine back into use and work from the comfort of my sofa having cabled all around the apartment from the router with the cable I used for the Cam. Unluckily, for the moment, I am out of shot with the 2 existing apartment cams despite being in just about all day long until 7-45pm most days.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

More Changes

Last Friday Favio came in just after I'd opened and, with faltering English, told me that all had to change again; I was to work through until close on my own, open for the rest of January at 8pm, on my own, then through February at 9pm, on my own and closing all the while when things go quiet after about 1am. I was then given the unpleasant task of passing that news on.

Assuming that I am to be paid more for the extra hours I am now doing I have put my plan to cancel the telephone line etc. on a back-burner for now. Trouble is that with Favio one never knows. He could come in tonight or tomorrow, whenever, and change everything again because the Global Economic Downturn is affecting even him and the bar and any hope (of mine) of persistent employment is becoming risky. Anyway, nothing ventured, nothing gained, I'll hang on to the phone, this blog, website and email for as long as I dare.

Talking of email, I have had more-or-less constant contact with Larisa through the festive season and now have a very slight inkling that she just might be coming "home" earlier than March. Probably just me dreaming though, we'll see.

Friday, 2 January 2009

¿Londres? Niet!

You were right, or rather Dan was. Three times Larisa and I have tried to talk on the phone and three times the connection has failed after a few minutes or so. Anyway, not to worry, at least I managed to wish her a Happy Birthday yesterday and to hear her say that she has been sending messages to which I haven't replied. I need to receive them first of course. And there is more talk of restaurants.....I have now "picked-up" the fact that Viktor's Son is the proprietor of (at least) one. Where I don't know although I probably have been told but my point is that it is a line of conversation that is not going away. Maybe she has been taken to meet the son on a business footing in order to bring Viktor's dream that I have mentioned before to fruition. Who knows? I don't, yet, but I do know that during my 3 day stay in Calahonda last month, surrounded by the Russian language (including TV) she made a smiling point that I will soon be speaking Russian! And that might be true because I managed to say "привет" (hello) to whoever answered the phone yesterday (probably Viktor's wife) without a second thought. On a slightly different note; you may remember me telling you a few years ago about that night in El Bar Jardin when her friend Victoria was told to stop being silly, well, other events in Calahonda last month lead me to believe that Victoria had actually been primed and I am becoming convinced now that if I do pop the question I am not going to be disappointed and Viktor and his family have become key players in that outcome. If I do?? No. More like just plain when! Exciting days ahead maybe. Favio may have done us both a favour with the changes in the bar.....she is not going to allow me to scuttle back home to the UK; that message has been underlying our conversations since my troubles started at the bank let alone the more recent ones with my employment!

Boiled Egg and Soldiers. I know I'll get indigestion but I just luv'em. I've got time on my hands again......home early, bed early, up early (5am this morning) all adds up to a new lifestyle. To the shops later for some yeast for breadmaking and....wait for it....CRUMPETS. I'm going back to my quest for the perfect homemade crumpet ever. Yep. Back to slaving over a hot stove for fun. And why not? I've now decided that next week I'll be cancelling the phone for a while with the consequent loss of this internet connection which, by the way, has been a pain these last few weeks...the ADSL has been dropping its connection regularly (3 times while I've been writing here) and I forgot to tell you yesterday that the email address you have for me will change when Telefonica are told to cancel the account but I'll give you another soon. There is a public WiFi Hotspot nearby so I'll keep in touch via that as I told you but whether I'll write here again soon is another problem.

Done & Dusted.