Monday, April 26, 2010

Drug time, Hubble Bubble Toil and Trouble.

Started the day here in the Alpujarras with a visit to a favourite client, who is out here on holiday. We usually help to look after his lovely property, but it's always nice to see him socially too.  Today he gave me a gift of a book I have been wanting for ages, as I follow the TV series with relish, not a cookery programme but Grow Your Own Drugs featuring the fabulous James Wong. Turns out he lives a couple of doors away from our friend in London. 

So this afternoon saw us traipsing around for dandelion leaves and plantain leaves, we found both and also lots of delicious wild garlic, sorrel and spent some time showing another holiday-ing neighbour an ancient windmill which we had recently discovered. (Or rather had pointed out to us by another neighbour from Madrid, but that's another story involving a hair raising trek....another time!)

The sun was out, the air balmy in it's warmth, and strolling through the campo admiring the narcissi, orchids, and abundant wild flowers, I realise I actually must run on solar power, and why I love living here so much.  Can't wait until we have summer visitors to our newly restored Moroccan styled retreat, and to share this beautiful unspoilt part of Andalucia with them.

So tomorrow I'll dig out the old cauldron and set to work brewing up a few herbal recipes for cures and ailments...!  The insect repellants have to be worth a go for the zillion flies that take up residence soon, I'll let you know how I get on!

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Following from the last post here is the delicious recipe for Boston Baked Beans.  As anyone who lives in Europe knows, that 57 variety brand is hellishly expensive to buy as an imported item, and if you make your own you can control your salt intake, and adapt the recipe to suit.
These really are moreish, not so much as a side dish, but on a chilly evening with friends and a soda bread to dip, they make a wonderful Tapa with an American twist!




  Don't be like me, every time I stir I pick a bit, usually there's nothing left!  It's sweet, sticky and fabulous!  Apologies if you find my recipes a bit slap bang wallop, that's how I cook - they usually turn out just fine.
Another easy recipe from me here in Andalucia, if you try it and like it then please let me know!


During the time we have lived here we have made some lovely Spanish friends, and find  them warm hearted and generous, always ready to share what they have, and that they rarely ask for anything in return.  So it's nice to ocassionally do them a favour, this morning sees Stan and Steve off with our neighbour and best mate to pick up a roll of plastic too large to fit in his car, a little favour that goes a small way to repay the endless supply of wine, food and company that he and his wife are always dishing out to us.
The same neighbour spotted some dried cannellini beans in my kitchen one night, and explained he had lots of habituela to pick, would I like some more?

We realise he is usually snowed under with work as he grows Habas on a small commercial scale, so volunteered to help. The offer was accepted and we were told to be ready the next day at 9am.  Next day we followed him to his land on a track near the village, and were immediately put to work gathering the dried pods , inside lurks the dried bean.

We laboured and sweated for about 4 hours filling sacks, then were instructed to shake the sack, the beans drop to the bottom, and you discard the empty papery pods at the top.

Having originally planned to help out for an hour or two we were getting really tired at this stage, it was hot relentless work, not to mention backbreaking and there seemed to be no end to it.  Finally we plucked up the courage to ask if we had done enough, the crop was pitifully small in size but we were exhausted not to mention crippled.

" Well, he said, it's not much, but I suppose if you have enough for your larder........."

The whole lot was for us, without realizing it, we were picking for ourselves, not helping him out at all, and now I have the largest stock of dried pulses in the Alpujarras.

Boston Baked Bean recipe anyone?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bargains galore!!

Visit our online shop! Lots of things to collect brought to you from here in Las Alpujarras, Andalucia, Spain.       Also, look to the right for the NEW slideshow of antique postcards, a fantastic way to discover the history of Spain, it's customs and culture, start a collection today!       All for sale here in          All Things Spain


Great site, no substitute for the real thing, but have a could have a 'Wilde' day!
free books 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Taken this lovely recipe for walnut alcoholic beverage from an email sent from Mr Declan Mc Grath! As yet untried by me, next years crop of walnuts should see us suitably sloshed.

I write because I happened across my "Vin de Noix" recipe in a travel
> note book from April 2004.  We were introduced to this in a small B+B
> in Audrehem, Pas de Calais Nord run by Mons. Lamarliere, who made the
> "vin", and his wife Therese.  Quite an elderly couple, he said the
> recipe was passed down from his father before WW II.

> We have made it here once since and it was quite successful.  The end
> product is a bit like a port,  and the Lamarlieres served it as an
> aperitif,  but I reckon it could just as easily be a digestif,  or
> just a drink for no dietary reason at all !


> 15 x  litres of vin ordinaire.  There's no need for anything very
> delicate! Maybe "costa" ?
>  3 x   kgs caster/granulated sugar
>  2 x   oranges chopped into small pieces
> 1.5 x litres of alcohol.  Any strong spirit will do: they may distill
> something in Murtas using wine remnants?
> 25  x green walnuts.  These are picked in France by early July.  The
> whole nut and husk is used and must
>         be harvested early enough to be able slice right through them
> with a knife.  (i.e. the hard shell has not formed).
>         They should be halved, or quartered. Given the heat where you
> are I'd suspect your walnuts are much
>         earlier than northern  France
>  1 x tablespoonful of honey.


> Mix all the ingredients together.  Place them in a suitable sealable
> container.  (I used a large plastic carboy with screw cap).

> Allow to marinate for 4 months - giving the whole shebang a fairly
> vigorous agitation at least every couple of weeks or so.
> I'd imagine a dark cool spot will give the best results and ensure you
> don't lose too much through evaporation. We used
> our garage - but the heat was nothing like yours.

> As the oranges and walnuts have turned into a type of sludge by now,
> you'll need to filter the finished vin as you bottle it
> to avoid having too much sediment in each bottle.

> The ingredients are exactly as given,  but I imagine precision is not
> required and you could be reasonably flexible.

> If you do try it,  I look forward to hearing how successful it is and
> if there's any still around we'd fancy a sip when we next visit
> Murtas!

> Salaams,   Declan.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Just sharing with you the acrid taste in my mouth this morning......  Recently visited with a ' web designer' to obtain a quote for a site dedicated to Sale and Rental properites in this area, the Alpujarras, Andalucia  region, whereby the owners would advertise for free, a traffic driving exercise which would hopefully earn me advertising revenue, and maybe an agreed commission on sales and rentals in the future.
The original quotation was reasonable, but soon doubled, hey ho.  I explained that I would wait a couple of months to save the cash needed, and advised to go ahead and purchase the domain name. 
Yesterday said expert announces he has had a great idea and proceeds to advertise a website, with, well, you've guessed the rest of course......

Now, what do do? Grind teeth? Get mad?  No!

I realise that with the FANTASTIC success of this site, and the huge amount of traffic it generates, I shall continue to build this and the rentals site myself, -what a fun learning exercise it has been -, together with social networking and the reputation we have built in this area, I will succeed.
We have compiled, and are are still adding to, a list of quality researched and visited properties to suit all requirements in the Alpujarra region of southern Spain. 

Meanwhile consider spleen vented and cortisone levels  readjusted!!

Now where did I put those sour grapes, they suddenly seem rather sweet!!!

Monday, April 12, 2010


That's me! Some of the more elusive Indian spices are difficult to find here in Andalucia, but I cannot cook without my spice collection, and this week saw Steve of Alpujarra Direct (mobile 666 818 941 - he also repairs washing machines!!)  deliver a huge amount to refill my shelves, I bought a load back in Bristol at Christmas and left it there for him to pick up on his last trip. 
I spent a couple of delicious hours storing and labelling, epicurean heaven!

Anyway, I thought you might like a quick vegetarian dish, and Spinach is always available in the freezer sections, but do try and use fresh if you can.

Spinach Bhajee

450g of Popeyes favourite!
1 dessertspoon oil, use veg as olive gets too hot and burns.
1 onion cut in long thin slices
1 clove garlic chopped
knob of ghee, or just butter
half teaspoon cumin seeds
half teaspoon garam masala

Wash the spinach if fresh, chop and steam until tender.
Heat the oil fry the Cumin seeds for 2 mins.
add the onion and garlic and fry until golden, no more.
add the garam masala, stir well in and fry for 5 mins.
add the drained spinach ghee salt to taste and fry off for another 5 mins.

That's it!!  Really quick and easy and this dish is a great snack with flatbreads and a dollop of Yoghurt, substitute the Spinach for cauliflower or white cabbage if you like.  I've linked a lovely book to this, from the Author of Indian restaurant cookbook, one of my absolute favourites.

  If anyone local has any trouble finding the spices I am happy to supply them, let me know!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


No not a typo error, oso is Spanish for Bear, and we were horrified to find one on Friday, chained and miserable, scraping the dust and rubbish in a bored depressed fashion. Where were we? No, not in the wilds  - but slap bang in the middle of what passes for town, Cadiar, Las Alpujarras.

Yep, you've guessed it, the Circus has come to town, and brought with it all those poor animals that in this day and age, in Europe of all places, should be liberated.

So for a few nights these creatures will perform in front of a crowd and then move elsewhere to continue their miserable existence. I guess as long as children are uneducated in the protection of species, and allowed to continue the mindset that it's okay to gawp and be 'entertained'.

Nothing wrong with a circus per se, the smell of greasepaint and the roar of the crowd should invoke memories of laughter at the clowns, the dizzy heights climbed by the trapeze artist and the skill of the acrobat, shouldn't that be enough?

Have a look at this website:

Thursday, April 8, 2010


It's a widely held concept here that the Spanish hold a fairly cavalier attitude towards their animals, and use them for work, or keeping the rats away, or eat them.  Well, the expat community is just as bad here in Andalucia, and I suspect around the world. They will leave here at the drop of a hat, and walk away from the extended members of their family without a care.

We look after holiday homes here in the Alpujarras region of southern Spain, usually up for rent because the owners have not found it to be viable to live here on a permanent basis, and occasionally come across an abondoned pet, usually less thought of than the DVD  collection they packed with care. 

So, we are now parents to MARCO, village kickabout dog now fully paid up policeman of the village, and a man of means. (own football)
TRIXIE, beautiful with a face only a mother could love, and a heavy snore. FLUFFY the fate described above was hers, a stunning white persian with crossed eyes. And CLEO, abandoned in Wales, our ever angry, grumpy, tortoiseshell cat. 

Today an addition, a greyish black bag of bones masquerading as a dog on the way home from the coast, long fur matted and a willing nature, is now after 3 shampoos and a set, a white mini Dulux dog languishing happily with a full belly by my feet as I type.  

By the way, it's BARNEY, say hello!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Chatting to a neighbour and friend in the Bar last night, Annick is originally from Belgium and had been reading this Blog with interest,so she has decided that she would also like to Blog about her love of herbs and their uses.  I think it's a great idea, and would showcase the different varieties of herbs we have growing here in the Alpujarra region of Andalucia.  Because the air is thinner at this altitude, our village is 1114m above sea level, the plants are more concentrated and herbs in particular are extremely fragrant and potency levels are higher.

Now that Spring is here, the flora and fauna are showing everywhere, such a short season but worth it for the Orchids, Lavender, Thyme and wild Fennel. Also sorrell is abundant at the moment, great in salads, soup, and with fish for it's lemony tang.  Next will be the flowers on the caper bush, the edible buds can be preserved for the rest of the year in oil or dried in salt.
One could live quite happily from the land here for free, and I wish I was brave enough to choose the fungi!

Of course the trick with produce here is to make the most of  a 'glut' and preserving is very important.  You don't need any canning apparatus, just some sterilized jars, and a supply of oil, salt and sugar usually means we have a well stocked larder.  Last year I pickled some cucumbers with vinegar, turmeric,  sugar and dill seed, they were crunchy and tasty, everyone wanted them so I lost my supply to gifts - never mind - I am a fan of the barter system! 

So, off to prune vines today, and I shall have a good look and see what free food I can bring home with me, the only bit I hate about todays job are the rather large spiders!

Here is the pickle recipe:
Aplogies as it's a bit long winded but worth it, you can do it while  doing something else, much of it is time spent waiting.

3.2kg cucumbers, trimmed and sliced
125 ml sea salt
mix of celery seeds, dill seeds, allspice, a cinnamon stick
bag of sugar
1.5 l vinegar (white is best but I use red wine vinegar as it's all I can get)
half teaspoon turmeric

Place all the cucumbers in a glass bowl.
In a large stainless steel pan put half the salt, and 6L water, boil it up to dissolve the salt and ladle it over the cucumbers. Cover and leave to stand for 8 hours.

You can repeat this stage  but it's not necessary.

drain, discard brine, prick the cucumbers with a toothpick and place them back in the bowl.

add three cups of the sugar, the seeds, 750ml of the vinegar turmeric and cinnamon.
Bring it to a boil to dissolve the sugar then ladle over the cucumbers and weigh it down.

Drain reserving the liquid this time, boil up the liquid with the rest of the vinegar and sugar, and pour over the cucumbers in clean sterilized jars, put them on a wooden board to stop them cracking, fasten lids loosely and when just warm tighten them up.  Leave for a day or two if you can resist! 

Saturday, April 3, 2010


So for me it was once all about the eggs and the end of lent, new clothes, a yellow ribbon in my hair, mass and family dinner. Halycon days indeed, now celebrated here in Spain, the Santa Semana processions that have taken place all week will culminate tomorrow amidst bell ringing, clear Spanish skies, and the church elite wearing their finest will parade even this little backwater carrying the cross.

One of several religious processions we see every year Easter surpasses even our Village saints day and other fiestas.   Brought up a Catholic in Ireland, I never thought to question our belief, and probably assumed that one holy apostolic church meant just that, even bringing in our pennies for the 'black babies' held no racist or uncomfortable thoughts. An education that began with the Presentation Sisters of No Mercy seemed quite normal in my green eyes!!

These days I'm the worst sort of Catholic, 2 children unbaptized, still making the occasional foray to the largest church in the Alpujarras for fiesta days because our daughter will be Reina or Dama again this year, and falling back on a word with God in times of need. 
So watching the local Canal Sur news clips this week from all around Andalucia and the heirarchy dressed amusingly in their KKK get-up, I wonder how the Irish  are feeling this weekend, how they marry the idea of a life in faith and the recent child abuse scandal within their Church? 
All we ask in life is to be able to keep our kids safe, and hope for a happy childhood for them along the way, that they respect other human and animal life, and are treated accordingly.
Lots of questions remain to be asked of Rome, the big one is how the hell did this treachery remain unspoken of for so long?  Whom exactly kept the blind eye focused on remaining so, for so long?

Will heads roll? 
I doubt it.

Peace be with you indeed.