Quince jelly (sort of…)

Hello all! I hope you are well.

I’m back with another recipe: this time it’s a bit of an experiment (surprise, surprise!) because it’s my first attempt. Quince jelly. This is different from the Spanish equivalent ‘dulce de membrillo’, which is quite thick and granular, easy to cut and often served as an accompaniment to fresh cheese.

(Wikipedia)

Photo of the Spanish ‘dulce de membrillo’ (quince jelly). As you can see, it’s quite thick, compact and granular in texture.

I prefer the finer ‘jelly’, so as quinces are in the plenty now (and at 1 euro per kilo) I thought I’d give it a bash.

So here’s what I did:

Some quinces

These furry fruits are locally produced and though they might look a bit manky, in reality they’re not. They are sweetly perfumed. You don’t need to weight the fruit because it is the juice that is extracted from them that needs to be measured.

I washed the fruit, removed any bugs and put them out to graze, then I chopped the quinces into 2 cm-sized pieces (more or less — I didn’t use a ruler!). No need to core or peel the fruit, as it is the juice that we’re interested in.

I placed the ‘cubes’ into a thick, tall pan, just covered them with well water (which has quite a lot of calcium in — good for the teeth but not for the gallstones), and brought it to the boil.

The pan’s quite deep. I boiled the fruit gently for about an hour until it was soft. I then mashed it all up — should’ve used a potato masher, but as I don’t have one (sacrilege! — guess what’s on my Santa’s list, or rather the Three Kings since I am in Spain), so I used a metal ladle instead.

When mashed, I turned out the contents into a cloth turned over a bowl, allowing the juice to strain through. It was a bit thick so I added some water, which apparently you are allowed to do. I should’ve used a jelly bag strainer, but since I don’t have one of these either, nor a good-enough piece of muslin, I used a clean, cotton pillowcase instead. (Guess what my second pressie from Santa will be…) Now although this mash might look a bit pukey and cacky, it was by now smelling really fragrant and exotic.

The next stage involved suspending the pillowcase and mash via a string over a big bowl for a few hours so that all the juice can drip through. After about four hours I did have to help things along and give the pillowcase a good couple of squeezes (which left my hands and apron damp, sticky and perfumed). Unfortunately, because I was also making a banana cake at the same time, I forgot to take a photo of the hanging pillowcase mash.

The next step was to return the liquid to the pan measuring out how many cups worth there was, then adding half that amount in sugar. (Next time I will add a little less sugar.) I also added a good squeeze of lemon juice for pectin. If you happen to have any leaves of lemon geranium, then you can add these to enhance the flavour and perfume. (Next time I make this jelly, I will ‘borrow’ some of these leaves from a lemon geranium I have seen growing in the flowerbeds in the communal gardens in Posadas village. I might also ‘borrow’ one of the lemons from the lemon trees that also grow there.)

Bring to the boil, let it boil rapidly until the setting point is reached (I used the wrinkle method and a saucer). Since I forgot to take photos of this step, it is similar to the apricot jam and chutney that I made in an earlier blogs.

When the setting point was reached, I poured the jelly into sterilised jars and sealed them with a waxed disc. (If you don’t have any waxed discs like I didn’t — surprise, surprise — then you can use the bag that holds your cereal. I haven’t actually tried this, but I did read it somewhere…)

Voilá! The final product! Delicious! As you can see, I didn’t wait long to try it out!

Duduk.jpg

Aside: I did mention my apricot jam earlier, which reminds me that I should soon prune my apricot tree, the leaves of which are fast turning a luminescent yellow, which also reminds me of an interesting fact: that the duduk instrument, originating from Armenia, is made from apricot wood. I love the mournful, melancholic, spiritual sound of this instrument — it is well-worth listening to if you haven’t heard already. You could listen to Dzhiván Gasparián (Armenian), a master of this instrument. For me this music is bewitching…

Well, that’s all for now. Thank you for visiting — take care! xxx

PS. Comments or questions are always welcome!

Preserved, salted olives (take two)

Hello all! I hope that you are keeping well.

A few blogs ago I wrote about my recipe for pickled olives. I mentioned in it that I would also be trying out a recipe for dried, salted olives. Well, I have performed that experiment and although it’s not completed, I wanted to share my progress with you so far. (The olives probably have about another few days or a week to sit in the salt…)

Anyway, here are some photos:

Firstly, I always like to work with a cup of strong tea close at hand — and as you can see, I’m not the only one who appreciates a cuppa! (You can just spy an olive tree towards the left.)
I washed a load of black olives that I had previously picked and made sure they were free from any bugs (or cat hairs). I then pricked each one with a sharp knife, careful to avoid pricking my thumb as I gained momentum…
(The perpetual onlooker)
Once done, I took them inside and placed them in an earthenware crock (which I bought years ago from the nearby village of La Rambla, famous for its ceramics and pottery, exporting worldwide). I first lined the base with some salt
I covered the olives with more salt, then another layer of olives and continued like this until all the olives had been used up…
finishing with a layer of salt.

The olives should remain under salt for about three weeks until they are nice and wrinkly. You should stir the olives, or shake the pot every day. The salt becomes damp as it absorbs their bitter juice. I needed to add more salt at regular intervals. I think I have used about 5 bags of half a kilo so far, which although it sounds a lot is well worth it because it costs me only 34 céntimos per bag — and the olives were free.

Here is the result after 2 & 1/2 weeks. The salt appears coarser due to the dampness — it also smells nice ‘n’ olivey. I have just tried one of the olives and they are definitely getting there, tasting good already. However, I will leave them under salt for at least another week until every taste of bitterness has gone (and until I’ve gone to Posadas to buy loads of jars to put the olives in!)
…and here’s a close-up of the little fellas

When they are ready, I can either shake or wash all the salt off, then tightly pack the dried olives into sterilised jars, filling and covering with a layer of oil to form an airproof seal.

I will include photos and comments on the finished result in a further blog.

Well, that’s all for now. Thank you for visiting — take care! xxx

P.S. Comments and questions always welcome

Ode to Olives — and a marinated olives recipe from Posadas (Cordova)

Hello, I hope this finds you all in good health and spirits.

A few blogs ago I put up photos of the olives I had picked and was scoring them before putting them in water to remove the bitterness so later I could pickle them.

Olive picking is underway, even on these young alberquina olive trees from my son’s finca
And here are some ‘manzanilla’ olives from our finca, as yet uncut because I just picked them today

Well, a couple of weeks have passed since scoring the first set of olives, and after having changed the water daily they are less bitter (or ‘sweeter’ as they would say in Spanish), so today was the pickling day. And here is what I did:

The olives in soak produce murky, oily water…
…so I drained and rinsed them.
I prepared my marinating ingredients which were (this time) fennel, oregano, thyme, garlic, a little chilli, bitter orange rind, bay leaf, salt and vinegar.
I sterilised my jars by putting them in boiling water…
…but I cracked one by adding water to it before letting it cool sufficiently!
After filling the jars with the ingredients and adding the olives, I placed them back into the semi-boiling water for about 10 minutes to produce a vacuum so they would be tightly sealed.
I did place a cloth on the base of the saucepan so that the glass wouldn’t crack (again!)
And here’s the final result! I will wait a good couple of weeks before opening a jar, so that they have sufficient time to marinate. For my next set of marinated olives I will be varying the ingredients, probably making some spicy with cumin and paprika …

And to finish, I’d like to include a beautiful poem by Pablo Nerudo (1904-1973, Chile, poet and politician:

Ode to Olive Oil

Near the murmuring
In the grain fields, of the waves
Of wind in the oat-stalks,

The olive tree

With its silver-covered mass
Severe in its lines
In its twisted
Heart in the earth:
The graceful
Olives
Polished
By the hands
Which made
The dove
And the oceanic
Snail:
Green,
Innumerable,
Immaculate
Nipples
Of nature
And there
In
The dry
Olive groves
Where
So alone
The sky, blue with cicadas
And the hard earth
Exist, 
There
The prodigy
The perfect
Capsules
Of the olives
Filling
With their constellations, the foliage: 
Then later,
The bowls,
The miracle,
The olive oil.

I love
The homelands of olive oil, 
The olive groves
Of Chacabuco, in Chile, 
In the morning
Feathers of platinum
Forests of them
Against the wrinkled
Mountain ranges.
In Anacapri, up above,
Over the light of the Italian sea
Is the despair of olive trees, 
And on the map of Europe, 
Spain
A black basketful of olives 
Dusted off by orange blossoms
As if by a sea breeze.

Olive oil,
The internal supreme

Condition for the cooking pot, 
Pedestal for game birds, 
Heavenly key to mayonnaise, 
Smooth and tasty
Over lettuce
And supernatural in the hell
Of king mackerels like archbishops.
Olive oil, in our voice, in
Our chorus

With
Intimate
Powerful smoothness
You sing:
You are the Spanish language; 
There are syllables of olive oil
There are words
Useful and rich-smelling
Like your fragrant material. 
It’s not only wine that sings
Olive oil sings too, 
It lives in us with its ripe light
And among the good things of the earth
I set apart
Olive oil,
Your ever-flowing peace, your green essence, 
Your heaped-up treasure 
Which descends
In streams from the olive tree.

A golden end to an olivey day!

Thank you for reading, I hope you have enjoyed this blog. As usual, comments and questions always welcome.

Take care! xxx

My version of beetroot salmorejo puree/cold soup

Hello again to all!

I’m back with another of my laid-back recipes — this time it’s salmorejo. It’s a sort of thick, cold soup/puree made from beetroot and other ingredients, as you shall see… In other words, it is the beetroot alternative of the classic Spanish tomato salmorejo.

(Please note: for those of you who are Spanish-speaking, wanting to practise your English, do have a look at the end of this blog where I have included a list of the English vocabulary and expressions used and their Spanish equivalents. Level B2 and up approx.)

So, to kick off:-

Beetroot, tomato from my vegetable patch and some over-exposed garlic (photographically-speaking that is, but I SHALL and WILL improve!)

You will need some beetroots (I used three medium-sized ones), a couple of ripe tomatoes if you have them (optional), a clove of garlic (to your taste — if you use too much and have the salmorejo for breakfast, then it can be unpleasant for those who work with you — or if you have it for supper, then you could suffer a restless, disturbed sleep plagued by nightmares. However, we all know the benefits of garlic!).

Beetroot cut up and ready to be liquidised with the other blurry ingredients

You will also need some white bread (enough to thicken the ‘soup’), some white wine or cider vinegar, salt and good-quality virgin olive oil (like the one that my son’s alberquina and lechin olive trees will produce this winter and will be up for sale!). You can also add about half a small green pepper and a couple of centimetres of cucumber for the extra flavour, vitamins and minerals.

Liquidise all the ingredients together, adding the bread in stages. Be fairly liberal with the salt and oil. The vinegar also helps to bring out and marry the flavours well. The more you liquefy, the smoother, creamier and silkier the puree will become (similar to making mayonnaise).

The final product showing off its gorgeous magenta

Spoon the final product into a serving bowl. Dribble with more of the oil. Don’t leave the sides of the bowl looking grubby and sloppy like I have, but tart the final product up a bit — after all, you do want all your hard work to be appreciated, don’t you?!

You can eat the salmorejo like soup, but the flavour can get a bit intense if you keep spooning away. I prefer it as a dip. Remember: less is usually more!

Well, that’s it for now folks. I hope you enjoyed (and will be trying out) my recipe.

Look forward to writing soon.

Stay well, happy and healthy — bye for now!

Vocab and expressions:-

laid-back — relajado

Kick off — empezar

beetroot — remolacha

clove — un diente (de ajo)

plagued by — plagado por/de

nightmares — pesadillas

blurry — borroso

up for sale — ponerse a la venta

to liquidise / liquefy / liquar

adding the bread in stages — añadiendo el pan poco a poco

to bring out — realzar / acentuarse

to marry — unir (casarse)

silkier — más sedoso

dribble — regar

grubby —  sucio

sloppy — descuidado

to tart up — mejorar el aspecto (pero cuidado con esta expresión: referendo a una persona, puede significar vestirse, pintarse un poco vulgar, provocativo, llamativo etc.)

to spoon away — seguir comiendo con la cuchara

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!)