What I’ve been doing during Phase 0 and Phase 1 of this lockdown – Lo que he hecho durante las fases 0 y 1 de este confinamiento

(Buena práctica para mis estudiantes españoles y aquellos que quieren practicar su inglés. Nivel approx. B2 para arriba. Incluye una introducción con algunas palabras y expresiones típicas — en negrita.)

Hi folks! I’m back, but this time I would like to share three things with you that I’ve been up to during phases 0 and 1 of our Covid Confinement. Firstly, my informal, rather laid-back recipe for apricot chutney (applying the motto of ‘make the most of a good thing’ and resulting in the descriptive terms of ‘frugal‘ and ‘yummy’!); secondly, an oil painting that I have just finished; and thirdly, a drama series that I’m enjoying on Netflix with my daughter (now that I have her back home with me because of this confinement).

But before I dive headlong into things, I would just like to include a para of preparatory words for those Spanish or English-learning students, just to make the going easier — (English-speakers, please bear with me one sec!).

VOCAB:

folks — amigos

laid-back — relajado (o relajao en Andaluz!)

to dive headlong into things — lanzarse, precipitarse (en hacer algo)

to make the going easier — hacer algo mas fácil

apricot — albaricoque

embedded (to embed) — encrustado

chutney — salsa (picante) de frutas o verduras y especias

sparrow — gorrión

stonechat — tarabilla

sound condition — buena condición

jiggle — meneo

lbs = pounds — libras de peso (2.2 lbs = 1 kilo)

jam — mermelada (¡NO jamón!)

gallstones — cálculos biliares

lovage — levístico (hierba)

a kick (in flavour) — un sazón, mucho sabor

to be put off — quitar las ganas

redolent — oliente

rigmarole — galimatías

run-of-the-mill — ordinario

stuff — cosas

dribble — gotear

setting — cuajar

a cuppa = a cup of tea — una taza de té

having tea on the hoof — tomar el té de pie o espontáneamente

Swiss chard — acelgas

to prise away — levantar con una palanca

chisel — cincel

to exercise patience — ejercitar la paciencia

ladling (to ladle) — repartir con cucharón

airtight — hermético

roll on…! — ¡que llegue pronto!

to blow it all — echar a perder

waxed disks — circúlos de papel encerado

Hey presto! — ¡abracadabra!

and Bob’s your uncle! — ¡y listo! / ¡y se acabó!

slaving – to slave away — trabajar muy fuerte, duro

trifle — bizcocho borracho con natillas fría, nata, fruta y mermelada

last but not least — por último, pero no por ello menos importante

neck of the woods — por tu /ésta zona

peruse — leer / examinar/ ojear

to get that over and done with — terminar/acabar con algo

I like these two online dictionaries: https://www.collinsdictionary.com/ (English monolingual) and https://diccionario.reverso.net/english-spanish/ (multilingual)

Now we’ve got that over and done with, let’s start…

Take an apricot tree — (‘albaricoque’ in Spanish) — like the one I have in my sunny garden (in the Cordovan countryside)



Collect the fruit — not forgetting those lying on the ground. (Just pick out any of the small stones that might have got themselves embedded in the fruit and blow away any ants!)

Cut away the soft, bruised parts and little holes made by the sparrows and stonechats, of the least-damaged ones and scrape away any freckles — (the recipe really calls for fruit in ‘sound condition‘, but I hate to waste any). Give them a good jiggle in running water, then weigh out about 2 lbs. of the fruit (pounds, because this is the unit on my old weighing scale which was formerly my mother’s and so has great sentimental value for me and I just cannot part with it!). Weigh out the same amount of white sugar. (I used a little less because my weight-conscious daughter is with me — summer and bikinis are just round the corner!)

Slice up about two big onions, whichever type you happen to have — (a happy-go-lucky approach is fine!) — and roughly chop about four fat garlic cloves. Then you’ll need the following ingredients close at hand…

Put the washed, semi-stoned apricots into a heavy pan, cover with water (the water from my well is great, even if it’s rich in calcium — watch out for those gallstones!), then add the onions, garlic, ginger, salt and spices. (If you want even more kick, then you can add a spoon of curry powder too, according to taste.)

Bring the whole lot to the boil, then reduce the heat a little and add the vinegar (the one I had in the store cupboard was cider vinegar, so that’s what I used. Generally white vinegars are less tart so they don’t alter the taste of the fruit, but I think in this case any vinegar would be fine given the strength, aroma and flavour of the ingredients used!).

Cook on a fairly lively fire (otherwise you’ll be at it for ages and we multi-tasking mothers don’t have that much time on our hands, and also you might be put off by the chutney or jam-making process if too lengthy) til the liquid has reduced by about half, by which time your kitchen will be very redolent — you might want to open the windows, and if you were suffering from sinusitis, you should have noticed an improvement by now…

When the liquid has reduced to about half (or when you are beginning to lose patience), then fish out any of the fruit’s stones that are floating about in the thickening ‘soup’ and add all the sugar. (Preserving sugar is the best, but I can’t find that in my local village of Posadas and probably not in Córdoba either — though Corte Ingles does vow to get you anything you order — but then again, I can’t say that I would bother going to all that rigmarole: it’s easier to just use what I’ve got — and I’ve always had good results from this ordinary, run-of-the-mill stuff!)

Turn the heat up to maximum and let it boil away vigorously. Be prepared with a cold saucer close at hand for the ‘setting test’. Do stir now and then so that it doesn’t stick and caramelise at the bottom of the pan. (Caution: Watch out when you are stirring because as the jam gets thicker, it might spit back at you like thick, viscous acid lava erupting from a volcano — I used to be a geologist in London — and it is really hot!)

To check if the chutney is reaching the setting point, pull pan away from the fire, dribble a few drops of the mix onto a cool plate, let it cool, then gently trace your finger over the surface of the chutney: if it wrinkles, then it’s ready so you should turn the fire off. If not, continue (and it’s a good time to make yourself a well-earned cuppa while you wait). An easier way to check the setting point is to just simply use a suitable cooking thermometer (which I still don’t have despite my approx. forty years of cooking. Guess I should be going to Corte Ingles after all…).

Note: Once you are convinced that your chutney has reached the setting point (it should still be fairly moveable — don’t forget it will thicken as it cools and you’ll want to be able to get it out of the jar with a spoon and not have to prise it away with the chisel), then do wait ten minutes before filling your warm jars so that the heavier elements in the chutney don’t sink to the bottom of the jars, but rather, hang in sticky suspension. (After all, you’ve come this far in exercising patience — you wouldn’t want to blow it all now, would you?).

Meanwhile, whilst all’s boiling away and you’re having tea on the hoof, you should also sterilise your jars or bottles by boiling them in water for a few minutes.

After the ten minutes wait has elapsed, then start ladling away! I find it easier to first ladle the chutney into a measuring jug and then pour the runny/sticky mix into the jars. The chutney should go into warm jars. To ensure a fairly airtight seal, once you have filled them with and topped the chutney with waxed disks (which I didn’t do because I didn’t have any waxed disks or paper — roll on Corte Ingles), you should stand the filled jars back in the pan of simmering water (placed on a metal plate or cloth on the base of the pan so that the heat doesn’t crack the glass) and keep them there for about ten minutes before removing them. Then lift them out carefully. And hey prestoBob’s your uncle!

The finished product, I did make a second batch the following day and these turned out a little darker in colour, but just as delicious. Note the Swiss chard from my vegetable patch in the background!

I hope you have enjoyed my recipe for chutney. I also make lots of apricot jam (I love it on toast with butter, or in cakes, trifles, puddings etc.). The recipe is the same, but just omit the vinegar, onion, garlic and spices (the ginger can give it a nice flavour though, so I do add that).

Apart from slaving in the kitchen, I have also been painting. Here’s an example of one I have just finished (oil on canvas). (My paintings are for sale, by the way….) Oh — and I would have put more photos of the painting process, but I can’t seem to find them (must have been multi-tasking again!)… But as you will see, I am never alone when I paint!

And last but not least — I have also discovered a family drama series on Netflix that I enjoy with my daughter every night, When Calls the Heart — simple and slow-moving but with a nice story line centred on the principal characters of a small mining village in the early 1900s. I like the strong feeling of community spirit and solidarity and also the morals of each story.

And if you would like to know more about me and my life here in this neck of the woods (Posadas, Córdoba) then you could take a look at my fully-illustrated, humorous and factual book, An English Lady in Cordova – the Alternative Guide (available directly from me or from Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/es/shop/GillysWork?ref=search_shop_redirect, where I will also be putting up more of my work). For an overview (with photos), you could peruse my first blog: https://anenglishladyincordova.home.blog/2019/12/17/my-experiences-in-cordova/

Well, that’s all for now folks! I hope you have enjoyed this blog — and I am always open to any comments (polite!), suggestions, questions and advice. Additionally, if you need any professional translation work from Spanish to English, don’t hesitate to contact me, I will happily provide examples of my work along with my CV. Thank you.

I do hope this finds you in good health and spirits. ¡Hasta luego! — bye for now…

Gillian (or Julia as they call me here!)

What I’ve been up to these days of ‘Stay at home!’…

Hello again to all of you. I hope this blog finds you well — and hopeful too (we must always strive to stay hopeful, especially in these worrying times)…

Anyway, I haven’t been out much, save for the permitted one hour of exercise which has to be performed during 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., or in the evening between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., (although the timetable has become freer from last Monday as we leave Phase 0 and enter Phase 1). I have been at home a lot, painting, tending (unprofessionally) to my garden and vegetable patch — as the photos below will show. In the last few days I have also been out walking along the foothills of the local Sierrezuela that form part of the vast Natural Park of Hornachuelos (see my blogs: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/anenglishladyincordova.home.blog/484; https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/anenglishladyincordova.home.blog/548; and https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/anenglishladyincordova.home.blog/605 for photos and a brief history of this area).

It was really an excuse to take my 22-year-old daughter out a bit, as she is missing her usual student life in Córdoba, her friends and also more importantly, her lovely boyfriend. Although Córdoba is just a bus and train ride away and it is permitted to travel (clad in masks and observing the safety rules), we think it is a bit premature to go rushing headlong into things — better to be patient, go slowly but to get there safely, rather than being impatient and perhaps undoing what has been achieved over these weeks of confinement.

Anyway, enough of the waffle for now, and here are those promised photos…

As you can see my vegetable patch is very ecological — no herbicides nor pesticides, just pure elbow grease and some lovely weeds growing complementary to the veg. Here you can see peppers on the right, then potatoes and courgettes working leftways. The potatoes are flowering — wonder when I should pull them out…
The first plum tomatoes are making their appearance… Many of these plants I rescued as seedlings that were growing up from last year’s compost heap (that is, what remains of it after the wild boars have had their fill!)
The first green pepper… Italian I think — great for peperonata! (Do look at my future blogs which will include unprofessional and natural photos of some of my homely recipes…)
You can’t quite appreciate the size of these white courgettes, but they are growing rather monstruous! I made a courgette bake with a cheesey bechemel/souffle topping yesterday in my new oven — great for my son who’s a vegetarian. My maternal grandmother who was from north Italy (Alessandria province in the Piedmont region) used to stuff the yellow flowers, then roll them in egg and breadcrumbs before frying them. (No, I won’t be showing you any photos of me attempting this!)
Here they are again. Although the soil quality has a tendency to be poor (we are on top of a hill so all the topsoil has washed down, leaving the schisty rock exposed), I have heaped on loads of horse manure that one of our friends kindly gave us. (There’s nothing like manure, or seeds or cuttings or paintbrushes or oil paints or canvas that makes an ideal present for me!)
The potatoes are flowering. I’m waiting for the growing potatoes to start showing above the earth before I can then heap up more earth over them, just as I have seen in a gardening programme on television. I hope the slugs won’t get them, but I am collectiong egg shells to crush and scatter around the plants. The yuccas at the back will hopefully make a hedge, deterring any invasion from wild boars or the neighbours straying cows, who did trample down the wire fence last year and ate all the vegetables from every single plant except for the chilli peppers!
And here’s a Spanish cucumber (short variety). I am training them up and along the wire fence so that they won’t trail on the ground. They’re delicious — I didn’t realise until recently just how good cucumbers are for you: not just hydrating (and we need it, today is already 33 degrees celsius, going up to 38 on Friday, that is 100.4 F!) — but also packed full of minerals. (I am in Posadas, Cordova, inland Andalusia. Hot!)
My faithful helper. I have five cats and seven kittens (no problem with rats or mice, but I do feel sorry for the lizards and geckoes though! However, they’re not too partial to the dreaded amber-coloured scorpions or millipedes, but they do have fun with the snakes…).
And there’s Stawberry, another of my helpers walking between the rows of courgette and aubergine plants.

Apart from gardening and using the fruits of my labour in the kitchen, I have also been painting. (Oil on canvas. This painting and my others are for sale by the way: some are advertised on this link, as so is my humorous, fully-illustrated book An English Lady in Cordova — the Alternative Guide. https://www.etsy.com/es/shop/GillysWork?ref=search_shop_redirect Well, here are a few self-explanatory photos:

I hope you enjoyed this blog — thank you for visiting and look forward to writing again soon. Take good care of yourselves. Bye for now!

Nature knows no confinement.

While the population observe confinement in the trying virus-filled days, nature continues expressing itself freely outside, unhindered by our cares.

I have just wanted to share a few photos with you, which I think, underline just how free nature is. To keep this post short and hopefully sweet, I am concentrating only on the sky. I think you’ll like the photos if you like pinks, purples, burnished orange and pomegranate — and even dusky indigos and pigeon greys. Because these are the unrestrained colours of my sky at sunrise and sunset — ‘my’ because I am referring to the sky that forms a mantle and a canopy above my rustic home — a sky in which the colours spread freely, unrestricted in its state of non-confinement.

(And, no, I haven’t photoshopped the photos or retouched them, the skies are often truly biblical skies, especially when Andalusia becomes veiled by the hazy ‘calima’ sand particles in suspension that waft over to the Iberian Peninsula from Africa. These particles diffract the light, accentuating and diffusing the matinal and twilight colours.)

So here goes:

Looking from my porch in an easterly direction, towards Cordova
Looking west in the direction of Seville (some 70 miles away from my country abode)
Sunrise spied through the young, tender shoots of an olive tree
The sun steadily rises between the olive trees
Sunrise behind the enchanted castle of Almodóvar del Río (lying approx 6 miles east from my home)
And the morning sun still continues in its path upwards…
just to set some hours later.

I hope you have enjoyed the photos — (more about the castle in a further post).

Thank you for visiting — back soon !