Pez Ballesta

Another trip out this week was along the coast in the other direction to the town of Almuñécar. Some friends were particularly keen to visit the covered market, which boasts a large selection of fish, greengrocery, bakery and meat stalls, but they weren’t sure where it was so we took them along. It was a good opportunity to buy some bread from a wood-fired oven, and two large pork chops, which we shall eat this evening. If the weather holds, I will celebrate the clock change by firing up the barbecue; fingers crossed! The highlight of the shopping though was to see an unfamiliar but interesting looking fish on one of the stalls, so I asked the stallholder what it was and how it should be cooked. In Spanish its name is pez ballesta, but in Britain (where it is rarely seen) it goes by the name of trigger fish. I was told it could be grilled, roasted in the oven or even cut up and used with other fish in a zarzuela, or soupy fish stew. The fish weighed just under three pounds and put up a real fight. The main problem was the skin, or perhaps that should be ‘hide’. None of my sharpest knives would do more than make a feeble line across the base of the tail where I hoped to loosen the skin and then tear it off. Finally, I found a weak spot down on the belly and worked methodically along each side in turn until I had two skinless fillets. The other major feature was the size of the skeleton; to some extent the fish resembles a John Dory, so that the bone to flesh ratio is high. Even so, it produced two generous portions of fine, firm, white fish, which we enjoyed with a beurre noisette sauce, a few capers and some plain boiled potatoes. If you have a fishmonger nearby and you ever see a fish like the one in the photo, I can thoroughly recommend giving it a try - and if you’re careful removing the skin, you might get someone to make a lady’s evening bag out of it!


Monday of last week we spent the day in Málaga, forgetting that in Spain Monday is the day when all museums, galleries and other interesting buildings stay closed. The Picasso Museum was amongst them, but the Casa Natal de Picasso, the house where Picasso was born, was open and so we headed over in that direction. Quite apart from the current exhibition in the house, we were delighted by another discovery. In my Rough Guide to Spain the only reference to the Plaza de Merced, is as the street address of the Casa Natal. This was something that did not surprise me when we visited the house some years ago. The plaza is in a less salubrious quarter of Málaga, down at heel with a few dilapidated benches, mainly occupied by equally dilapidated men and women, each armed with a supply of cans or bottles to see them through the day; not a place to hang around for too long! Or, at least, that is how it used to be. Since our last visit the plaza has had a complete restoration. Trees have been cut back, the space has been opened out, the surrounding buildings have had their crumbling stucco renewed and a bright coat of paint, and there is a cluster of attractive bars and restaurants surrounding the central square - plus a large number of bright, clean concrete benches. Plaza del Merced has become a place to come and spend time. And that is at it should be because it is also home to a monument to General José María Torrijos and 48 companions who were executed for their rebellion against the totalitarian King Ferdinand VII in 1831; their bodies are buried beneath the monument, and they are considered to be martyrs. If you can read Spanish, you will find more information at http://www.malagahistoria.com/malagahistoria/decimononico.htm. The photo at the head of this post is taken from this site.


The Thin End Of The Wedge?

Oh dear. Frigiliana is a pueblo blanco, a white village. The rules are simple. All external walls will be painted white, so that the village presents a unified appearance to those who see it. This is its charm, and also its beauty. So what have we here? Someone, it appears, who knows better. In their garden they want a bit of colour to set off the planting, so they ignore the rule and paint the walls bright green. It’s bound to be an ex-pat as no Spanish resident would even consider anything other than white. Worse still, it’s in a part of the village where it is especially obtrusive. It’s an eyesore. Hopefully, it will quickly catch the eye of the authorities and the perpetrator will be required to return the walls to white.


Don't Count Your Chickens...

Out last night for an anniversary meal. Romántica, our favourite village restaurant because of the quality of Brent’s cooking, not because it’s only 200 metres from our front door. Mind you, that proved to be useful last night. Half way through our meal we became aware of a strange sound - rain hammering onto the roof above us. And it kept on raining all night, although it had stopped by the time we woke this morning. Then there was another spell of rain this evening. The sierra behind us rises up to just over 2,000 metres, so I wasn’t reallt surprised to see snow-covered peaks when I took the bus down to Nerja this morning.


Time Flies

Yesterday marked the fourth anniversary of our arrival to live permanently in Frigiliana in 2008. We began life here with a couple of weeks in a holiday apartment whilst we looked around for somewhere to rent until we could find the property we wanted to buy. Everything progressed very quickly really; we soon found just the place, although it needed quite a lot of work doing to make it the way we wanted it. We signed the necessary papers and handed over the money at the notary’s office on the 31st July, only to discover that nothing - and I do mean, nothing - happens in Andalucía during August, so we had a whole month to wander around our new home undisturbed by building work. September changed all that, however, work set off at a furious pace and by early November our new home was ready for us to move into. Shortly afterwards, being now connected to the internet, I began this blog.
Four years have passed remarkably quickly, but today our old life in the UK seems more remote than ever. We have encountered and assimilated, overcome or accepted the Spanish way of doing things and are totally settled in as ex-pat residents. A couple of weeks ago I was out on the Plaza de las Tres Culturas with local Partido Andalucista activists gathering signatures on a petition to the government in Madrid demanding a priority programme to address the horrendous level of unemployment in Andalucía, especially among young people. At the moment I am in the throes of preparing, with three friends, for a forthcoming exhibition of our paintings in the cultural centre in the village. It is my first exhibition, and so an exciting prospect.
Regrets? None that I can think of.


Spring Again.

The chill has gone out of the air. Now you can feel comfortable in the shade as well as in the sun. The sun itself is getting stronger. There are buds opening into leaf on my vines, and my chili seeds are beginning to germinate. And today I went out for a walk, something I have been telling myself I should do for a while now - I won’t be more specific. Up through the old part of the village and out into the country, then around in a largish circle to bring me back to the centre of the village from the ridge across the valley. Only about six kilometres, and it took me an hour and three quarters; on the other hand it did involve a total ascent (the route goes up and down a lot) of 200 metres. Sometimes, living in this village, you forget that everything goes up and down quite steeply. I was reminded yesterday by an acquaintance who was at the same lunch as we were. He had got off the bus a stop early and staggered through the door gasping for breath.
So winter is over. That’s good news for those working in the tourism sector, but not for those in agriculture as it means that the chances of any significant rainfall still to come are remote. Andalucía has just suffered its driest winter for seventy years. That, on top of all the economic problems, is going to create real problems.