Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The last post...

We have made the decision to bring to a close our personal blog: Tales from Toriello. We started it ten years ago when we first bought La Pasera as a way of documenting our lives in the UK and Spain. We have posted over 500 blog posts in that time and built up an average monthly following of 5000 views from all over the world. We have always been truly amazed that people from all corners of the globe have taken the time to read our stories, look at our photographs, comment on our posts and occasionally have visited us when they have been in Asturias. It's been a great pleasure getting to know some lovely people and hearing about their stories and adventures. Tales from Toriello will remain as an archive as there are some useful posts and recipes that we hope will continue to be used. Take a look through the archive which can be accessed using the timeline in the right hand column.

We will continue with our other blogs for the time being and hope you will continue to keep in touch with us through them or by email.

Somewhere in Asturias - A photo blog featuring photographs from Luis and Ian of Asturias

www.artesanialapasera.com - Luis' blog that details his work restoring cane and rush seating.

www.mosaicoslapasera.com - Luis' blog for his mosaic art.

Small Tales and Tittle Tattle - a site where Ian shares his short stories and music.

Smaller Tales from Toriello - a site where we store photographs and short films of wildlife found in the garden at La Pasera.

www.soundcloud.com/la-pasera - a repository for Ian's music.

We both have plans for developing our interests over the coming months and years and sincerely hope that our paths will cross again sometime in the future. Don't forget to look us up if you are ever passing this way....

With love and best wishes

Ian Hicken
Luis Laso Casas

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Outdoor activities in Asturias: Cycling 1


Asturias with its dramatic coastline, green meadows and lush woodlands so close to the towering Picos de Europa mountains is a good region where to enjoy impressive and beautiful scenery in Northern Spain.

Today, I want to tell you about one the of cycling routes I regularly enjoy starting from our home at La Pasera. This is a route along the eastern Asturian coast finishing at Torimbia Beach which is one of the many stunning and dramatic beaches along this part of the coast that never fails to impress us whenever we visit it. In future blogs, we will tell you about some other walks we also enjoy along this part of the coast that have not been featured in previous posts.

For me, cycling in Asturias presents some challenges that can easily be overcame with the help of a good map and /or mobile application especially when orienteering does not come naturally. Getting slightly lost is something I do not tend to mind as it usually leads me to discover some beautiful places otherwise I would not have discovered. Other challenge cycling in Asturias relates to instances where the path's surface may be heavily eroded , overgrown or suddenly comes to an end to continue along a narrow trail normally used by animal. This is always a good opportunity to practice certain off road cycling techniques or get an adrenaline kick.

Cycling any distance in Asturias will always mean that you are faced with hills to climb with varying degrees of difficulty, even the coastal path has some challenging climbs that I initially detested and that now I have come to like, enjoy and even miss.
The route to Torimbia has several climbs that certainly make me sweat and increase my pulse rate. This is a good route to enjoy when I want to do a few kilometers and have some challenging climbs without the need to take my bike in the car to the start of the route. In time I also tell you about some other routes I  plan to explore further away from home and in within the Picos National Park.

To do this 38 Km route from La Pasera means that at times I am riding along some small roads and country lanes where traffic is very quiet with little or no aggression and/or road rage towards cyclists. As a cyclist using a road, Spanish traffic laws grant me the same rights as any other road traffic. I am also a very considerate cyclist while out cycling.

Torimbia beach
 On reaching the clifftops before dropping down to Torimbia beach, the views of the coast never cease to impress me. The sound of the sea and how its surface reflects light captivate me and are a good distraction while recharging energy with a light snack and a drink.

On my return journey, the coastal path is a great opportunity to enjoy magnificent views and some spectacular beaches, sandy coves or clifftops. The occasional chapel in the middle of the meadows and the quaint sleepy villages the path passes by present me some aspects of traditional Asturian architecture that I admire and intend to show you in a future blog post.

St. Antolin's beach

Gulpiyuri beach is usually referred to as the beach without a see. At some point in time, the erosive action over the limestone caused by the sea and rain carved a large underground cavity that eventually collapsed creating this beautiful beach with a very short channel where the tidal waters come flooding in giving the illusion of a beach without a sea. Gulpiyuri was recently declared a natural monument and attracts ever increasing numbers of visitors.

Gulpiyuri beach
On occasions I also get to see some incredible flora and fauna. During my last ride along this path, I came across a magnificent caterpillar I could not resist photographing. You can even appreciate the little stoma, mouth or opening in the individual segments forming its body that the caterpillar uses to oxygenate the individual segments. A much simpler respiratory system than that present in other animal and one that has always fascinated me with its simplicity. Can anyone identify it?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The best recipe ever for Piccalilli

No comments:
We love pickles, chutneys, salsas and spicy sauces as accompaniments with a wide variety of foods. Amongst our favourite is Piccalilli however, it has to be home-made. So far I have not found a shop bought version that can come anywhere near the recipe handed down from my great grandmother and probably even earlier.

September views from La Pasera

Each year in September we look forward to harvesting a variety of green vegetables that form the basis of our piccalilli: cucumber, celery, green tomatoes, cauliflower, courgette, onion and anything else that blends in with the mix. The key to a good mix is the fine chopping of the ingredients to ensure that everything is approximately of similar size. The other key components are a specific brand of dry mustard powder (Colman's) and good quality Turmeric.

This is the basic recipe that is tweaked each year to accommodate the vegetables we have available. We usually double these quantities.


1 cauliflower
1 cucumber
3-4 courgettes
2 lb of shallots or onion
2 lb of green tomatoes
1 head of celery

About 6 lb of vegetable in total. Chop all the vegetables into small pieces. The cauliflower should be broken into small sized florets and if small enough, the shallots left whole. Soak overnight in a brine solution made with 8 pints of water and 1/2 lb of salt.

The following day, drain and rinse well, leave to drain and pat dry with a large clean towel whilst you make the sauce.

4 oz of mustard powder
1/2 oz of Turmeric
1 lb sugar (can be reduced if necessary)
2 1/2 pints of vinegar
1 cup of plain flour

Make a sauce with all the ingredients, thicken with the flour and gently bring to the boil to cook out the flour. Be careful not to burn the sauce, stir constantly. Add the dry vegetables and bring to the boil and immediately remove from the heat. Cover and leave to cool. Bottle and seal in sterilised jars the following day and label.

The piccalilli is best left to mature for at least 3 months but it will keep for over a year if kept in a cool dark place and if your bottles/jars are  sterile on bottling. Hide from everyone except your best friends....

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Black magic in the garden

As the garden has developed we have both grown very fond of deep red, dark purple and almost black planting in the garden. Sunlight enhances the rich coloured leaves by enabling them to show their rich deep red and purple tones whilst the dullest of days serves to bring out the black. Add rain or dew to the mix and you get an altogether different perspective: the raindrops reflect the light like diamonds. This group of hues adds focal points to the garden and serves as a splendid backdrop to other plants and flowers or helps to lead the eye to a view.  If you have any recommendations for black or deep purple foliage plants, please let us know in the comments below.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Feeling peachy and full of beans...

Harvests come and go and when you grow the majority of your own fruit and vegetables or forage fruits and nuts, you cannot delay harvesting or processing; if you do you risk losing them to the animals or to nature.

In Asturias we have a wild peach called Piesco that produces small fruits which have a strong peachy taste but once ripe, do not last. If the rain comes their skins spoil and the insects and birds can soon devastate the crop. Knowing when to harvest is paramount. The reason we use these wild peaches is because of their wonderful flavour and they are perfect for making jams, chutneys and for dehydrating. A kind neighbour lets us have their crop of piescos that grow on one of their fields as they don't use them and they know how much we love them. 4kg of them were used to make jam and a further 6kg were chopped and frozen for use either for jam or chutney. They freeze well and it is a great way to preserve as much as the crop as possible before they spoil, especially if you don't have the time to use them straight away. We will collect more this week for dehydrating; they make a great snack for when out walking.

The beans have just been harvested and just in time. The recent heavy rains has caused some damage to the outer pod but fortunately this has not spread to the beans inside. We quickly shelled them and have left them to dry for a few days in the sun after which they will be frozen as is for 24 hours, re dried and stored. The freezing part was a tip from a neighbour who tells us that it destroys any lingering bugs or bacteria and therefore they last much longer and in better condition. It works for us.

Elsewhere we are just about to harvest our first tomatoes which is always a treat. We still have lots of basil left so plenty of scope for some Italian inspired tomato based dishes. On the list of things to do this week include: making piccalilli, chopping wood, extending the stone skirt to the garage, beginning to thin out and weed the garden....enough already.

What are you currently harvesting and what jobs are taking up your time during September?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A high summer peek at the garden

Most gardens have several faces that are determined either by natural cycles or through their purpose and the resources allocated. Ours is no different. We have beautiful places that are pleasing to the eye and other senses where you can sit and idle the time away. We have both tidy and not so tidy working areas which are in a constant state of flux, piled high with wood to chop or stone to cut and use. We have unfinished areas that are at the end of a list that grew and grew over the past 9 years and that will one day on completion, serve as the full stop to the overall preparation and build elements or at least signal a semi colon.

Here are a few photographs of the pleasing elements of our garden (in our eyes at least). As the late summer colours overtake the fresh shades of the spring greens, the changing summer light advances bringing with it rich hues and tones to the nearby landscapes and, the midday skies take on an increasingly erratic carpet of blue, grey and white.

Monday, August 24, 2015

August update from La Pasera

It's been a busy month. A couple of visits, a family wedding, a family barbecue, lots of work around the vegetable plot and garden, some building work, a street market to prepare for and stand, and...a few preserving and jam making jobs.

Luis' brother Oscar came to stay with us from El Salvador and besides valuing his help with one or two DIY jobs it was good to hear about his life as a Marist Brother teaching in El Salvador. He have previously been living up the Orinoco Delta in Venezuela so this recent move is quite a change for him.

Another brother of Luis, Ruben, got married to his long term partner Veronica and we all met up with the family at the weekend for a large family barbecue and gathering. It was a lovely day and great for Luis to spend time with some of his nieces and nephews.

Just a snack before the main event...

The vegetable plot is producing well with beetroots, aubergines, basil, peppers, cucumber, marrow and chard ready for harvesting almost on a daily basis. I made two large pots of Basil pesto (Recipe here) with lots of garlic and some mature Parmesan. It is lovely to have with pasta and a variety of vegetable and cheese dishes. I doubt it will last long. Luis made 14 jars of Raspberry Jam and there are still lots on the canes and many more frozen ready for later on in the season.

We have just stood our 5th or 6th annual Rastrillo in Nueva, a small village a few kilometres away. It has always been a great showcase for our chair restoration and with a live demonstration we always attract a lot of interest from passersby who either remember past relatives being able to weave cane or rush or from people who have chairs they want restoring. This year, along side the chairs we took a whole load of bric-a-brac; items we no longer had a need or use for. We took quite a healthy amount of money on the day and will probably put it towards a high-end shredder which will help tremendously with out coppicing and pruning off-cuts.

An early start setting up our stall.

We are gearing up for more visits in September and will continue with some building jobs before winter sets in, more about that in a later post. The main holiday season is nearly over here in Asturias and although it is good to see the place buzzing, it is also a relief when they leave and the beaches and roads become tranquil and at peace one again.