12/04/2017

All Good Things.......

In June of 2015, having decided that it was no longer practical for me to continue living half way up a mountain, we put the apartment on the market with the intention of returning to the UK. Over the following eighteen months we had a few, very sporadic viewings but no one biting. Talking to people over hare, there seemed to be consensus that the British are not buying, but the Scandinavians are. So at the beginning of March we switched to a Swedish agency with a local office in Nerja. Nothing happened for a couple of weeks but then we had four viewings in  a week, followed by two more in a single day on Monday of last week. On Tuesday we received an offer - less than we would have liked, but realistic; we accepted and today a substantial reservation fee arrived in the agency's bank account and next week we'll fix a meeting to draft a timetable. Assuming nothing goes pear-shaped, we aim to be on our way back to England around the middle of June. Everybody reading this, please immediately cross your fingers that all goes smoothly, and keep them that way until I tell you I've got our air tickets.
What about this blog? Well, I was already struggling to come up with truly fresh content, so I suspect its days are numbered. I'll post occasionally over the next couple of months and then that will be a natural ending.
Will I blog from England as we begin living our next dream? I honestly don't know, but I'll let you know when I know myself. I've enjoyed this past nine years, and I'm delighted that so many people found what I wrote worth reading. Thank you to each and every one of you.

29/03/2017

It's Been A Long, Slow Start To The Year.

Back around the middle of January my back went - badly. The pain then got progressively worse and so I booked an appointment with a physiotherapist who made things worse rather than better, but suggested I see her colleague, a highly respected osteopath of whom I hade heard many very good reports. He examined me and concluded that the degree of tension and inflammation in the muscles of my lower back made his kind of treatment/ He sent me immediately to the walk-in emergency centre where I was x-rayed, given a cocktail of drugs - pain killers and anti-inflammatories - by injection, together with a prescription for a course of six daily injections which were done by the practice nurse. I also saw my own doctor who gave me prescriptions for tramadol and ibuprofen. As I had an appointment the following week with the orthopedic consultant who was monitoring the progress of recovery from the fractured humerus caused by my fall in Germany last May, she wrote a report for me to give to him about my back problems. He put in a request for an MR scan on my lower back and a further appointment for when he had the results. That appointment was last week, when I  finally learned what was behind the pain; two things, the disc between by lowest lumbar vertebra and the sacrum has collapsed, whilst the next vertebra going up has suffered a number of stress fracture cracks. I will be seeing him again in a couple of months with new x-rays to see whether the anatomical situation is stable, or whether there is further deterioration.
In the meantime, I must wear a lumbar support belt to take some of the load off my spine, and instead of my walking stick, which had caused to bend forward and lean a little to one side, I must now use crutches which will encourage me to hold myself erect, and balance the wieight more evenly onto both legs. A week of doing this, and already I have felt a tremendous improvement.
The trouble is that it never rains but it pours, as the saying goes. The pain my back meant it was impossible for me to lie down in a bed, and so for over two months I have been sleeping (not terribly well) propped up in a sitting position on a high-back sofa, with my feet either down on the floor or resting on a couple of cushions in one of our wicker chairs normally used at the table on the balcony. Which is all very well except that the blood is not flowing properly through my feet and lower legs and so they have become sore and inflamed, further restricting my mobility.
the result of all this is that I have become pretty much house-bound except for struggling to medical appointments.
By good fortune, there is an English chiropodist, Sue, who has been visiting at home every six weeks to deal with my toe nails and just keep an eye things generally. - I am al diabetic so foot health is very important. She was here on Monday, examined my feet and legs and went to work on improving my circulation. She gave  me a number of simple exercises to do diligently which will assist the process of pumping the blood up the veins in my legs to improve circulation. I'm doing them as directed and again within just a couple of days I can feel a difference, also for a while she will come every two weeks to work on the circulation, using a combination of massage and reflexology/
So, at last, though slowly, I feel that I have turned the corner to get back to something more resembling a normal life.It has brought home to me, though, the need to find a buyer and move to a less demanding environment halfway up the side of a mountain.
I was going to deal with how to make a proper Spanish omelette, but that will have to wait until next time.

25/02/2017

Why Chorizo?

First of all an apology for another lengthy delay in following up my last posting. A string of medical appointments with which I shan't bore you, kept me from my keyboard.
Why do I begin a food focus with a recipe for making your own chorizo? After all, there's no shortage of places to buy it at a reasonable price. Apart from allowing you to choose the amount of spiciness that suits you, though, it has much to teach us about the history of 'typical' Spanish food.
Spain until the death of Franco in 1975 was a country with an economic chasm between rich and poor.  Especially in the south there was the system referred to as 'latifundia', which is to say that the rich - mainly absentee - landowners possessed vast estates relying on day labourers to do the work. The work such as it was, was was seasonal, casual and poorly paid. Families lived in cramped properties on a small plot of land which had to supply everything they needed. Maybe a few olive trees, a vegetable garden providing potatoes, onions, garlic, root vegetables, maybe tomatoes, peppers and beans - eaten green in the summer or dried for eating over the winter. Meat was either by chicken or by a pig. The chickens also provided eggs, but the most important meat was pork, and every family had its pig, bought young in the spring, fattened by whatever it found and by kitchen scraps. Then in November came La Matanza, the slaughter. The animal was slaughtered at home and the hard work began; the throat was slit and the blood drained into a large cooking pot where it was mixed with some form of cereal and then boiled to be spiced and packed into gut and made into black pudding to be dried and eaten through the winter. The loin was for early eating while still fresh. The belly provided bacon. The hind quarters were packed in salt, then hung in a cold, dry atmosphere to produce what we now refer to as Serrano ham. Just about every part was preserved so that it could be used as necessary right through the winter.
That then left the bits and pieces which couldn't be used in any of these ways. Some could go into stews with vegetables and pulses to be eaten pretty much straight away. Then there were the remains bits. They were ground down along with garlic, smoked paprika, maybe chilli, and packed into intestines. And there you have chorizo!
In Britain sausage is sausage; you can eat it with mashed potato, with a batter for toad in the hole, or with flaky pastry as sausage rolls, and that's about it. 
Chorizo, on the other hand can be used in a huge variety of stews and casseroles - peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, chickpeas; it is not so much a product in its own right so much as a preserved ingredient providing a source of protein in the winter diet. When you live on or below the poverty line such sources of protein are vital to survival; chorizo serves a much wider and more fundamental purpose than today's British banger.

07/02/2017

A Long Look Back


It's hard to believe that more than thirty years have passed since I first set foot in Frigiliana and was immediately entranced. It was one of those actions to which the word 'serendipity' may be genuinely applied. I was forty two years old and apart from going to an unsuccessful job interview in Dublin, had never travelled outside the United Kingdom. Moreover the packages offered in the travel brochures had never tempted me; high-rise hotels accommodating hundreds of guests were for me the stuff of nightmares. But we had a pair of very good friends, running a bar/restaurant in the fishing village of Portpatrick. They decided to buy themselves a holiday home in southern Spain for use when the Scottish season ended each year. A house was recommended to them which they were happy to buy unseen. The vendor, however, was insistent that they should inspect it and make sure it was what they wanted, so Judy and their youngest daughter went to look. Once they got there it became clear that it was they who were being vetted as suitable buyers!on
Anyway, we were invited to come and stay with them and to this day I am delighted that we accepted.
It was a very different place back in the early eighties. For a start it was much more isolated.It was many years before the motorway would be built, so from the airport you drove through the centre of Málaga before setting off along the N340 coast road through a succession of small towns, consisting typically of single storey homes strung out along the main road. When finally you arrived on the outskirts of Nerja, you turned onto a narrow, potholed road with crumbling edges to drive the final 5km up the mountain to the village, praying all the while that you would not meet the bus  or a truck coming in the opposite direction. Indeed, many of the visitors we got into conversation with down on the beach at Burriana, had set off for Frigilana, but their nerve failed and they turned round and retreated to Nerja..
Foreign residents in the village amounted to a mere handful of middle class professionals who used their village property as a holiday home to be visited as and when they had time. No tour operators brought holiday makers up to the village, so if you lacked the courage to drive you had to rely on the local bus - which ran to exactly the same timetable as it does today.
So this was a much smaller, wholly Spanish village, which brings me to the food! Typically Andalucian, home cooking which catered entirely to Spanish tastes. In the intervening years, as the number of foreign residents and visitors has expanded exponentially, so the dishes have changed into blander, less challenging offerings, one of the main changes being the humble chorizo that classic pork sausage rich in garlic and smoked paprika. My favourite was chorizo al infierno - sausage from hell. it threatened to blow the top of your head off!
Fortunately Judy had a wonderful cook book ("The Food And Wines Of Spain", by Penelope Casas an American writer married to a Spaniard) I devoured it at the time and it was the first Spanish cook bookI bought when I got back to England.  I's Old and falling apart nowadays but there are still half a dozen recipes that I return to; one of which is for chorizo. In the beginning this meant hand grinding the meat in a Spong mincer and the somehow stuffing it into casings ordered from my local butcher. Nowadays it is much simpler. I buy packs of collagen casings online from Lakeland, and I have a food processor which lets me produce the texture I want easily. Also online, I tracked down a delightfully simple sausage stuffer from the United States.  The website is and their sausage maker accommodates about 1kg of meat which is basically pushed cleanly into the casings making cleaning up afterwards simplicity itself. Depending on your skill, you either form links every four inches, or use butchers' twine to tie them off every four inches; I'll be honest, I'm a twine man.
Which brings us to the recipe.
INGREDIENTS
1.5kg lean pork loin
50gm diced pork fat
50gm minced pork fat
2tbs smoked mild paprika (I much prefer Chinata brand if you can get, but the main thing is that it must be smoked paprika)
1tsp smoked hot paprika - this is one of your key 'to taste' ingredients; add as much as suits your palate.
2 tsp coarse sea salt
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 cloves of garlic, crushed. this can also be adjusted to suit your tastes.

METHOD
put everything into the food processor and blitz it down to a fairly coarse paste
transfer to a bowl and seal with cling film, then pu it into the fridge overnight.
the following day stuff the casings twisting or tying every four inches.
hang it up somewhere cool and dry to firm up, the wrap in greaseproof paper ans store in thr fridge to use as required.

Well that's the recipe I got from Penelope Casas's book. The next question is how to use it. This post is quite long enough already, so that will be the subject of my next post.

31/01/2017

Change of Tack? Change of Topic?

There  is a structure to the year in Frigiliana. A yearly cycle which repeats itself in a predictable fashion. Each year the same festivals and fiestas come and go, and are each celebrated in its customary manner. Of course, other things happen too. A bar closes or changes hands, a new restaurant opens, usually nowadays more up market than hitherto, so that the village more and more becomes a 'foodie' destination. Babies are born; older people die and are given a respectful send-off.
But the very predictably creates its own problems for the blogger. It becomes more and more difficult to think  of something new. I love my blog, and I love the act of writing it, but I wonder if perhaps we have reached a natural end. I had hoped, as many of you know, that by now we would have said our  goodbyes and moved back to England from where I could find a new lease of blogging life telling of a new dream to live. So far that hasn't happened.
So I turn to you my readers for your thoughts. A growing passion over the past forty odd years has been developing and honing my love of cooking. I have amassed an impressive collection of cook books covering a wide range of cuisines, and I thought that if anyone were interested I could begin to share favourites, old and new - fully crediting the sources of course, so that you might find ideas for your own planning. Looking back, it's amazing to see how fashions have changed. Who now remembers a classic starter from the late sixties, half a grapefruit generously dredged with Demerara sugar and caramelised under the grill, for instance? And who, in all honesty would dream of dishing it up now?
Anyway, I ask a favour. Please let me know what you think about this idea to hold the fort until I can start to regale you with tales of life on the Isle of Wight.