Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Making home-made balsamic vinegar

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This recipe for home made Balsamic vinegar has been adapted from one found in a herbal book many years ago. It is not the pure balsamic that is associated with Italy but a variation on a theme - a flavoured and marinated condiment that can be used in a variety of ways. Salad dressings, soups, sautéed vegetables and any other dish that needs a spicy, flavoursome vinegar.

We use a good quality cider or apple vinegar but any other basic vinegar can be used as a base. The mix of herbs and spices is really down to personal taste and therefore you might wish to change some of the ingredients we use to others that you prefer. The key to producing a balanced vinegar is to ensure the overall taste is not over powered by one ingredient.

Decant a third of the 750ml bottle of vinegar to make space. Add, a generous sprig of sage, thyme and rosemary. Place 15 black peppercorns, 20 coriander seeds, 12 cloves and 15 cardamom seeds in the bottle along with 30 raisins. Top up the bottle with the remaining vinegar, seal and store in a cool dark place for 2 months. The colour will change slightly as the herbs and spices infuse with the vinegar. Decant and discard the herbs and spices and use as required. We make about 3-4 litres a year for personal use and occasionally a few extra bottles for gifts to friends and family.

An additional use for this vinegar is for cleaning surfaces - use diluted, not only does it disinfect, it will help deodorise as well.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Horse Racing on the Beach

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Every year (beach conditions permitting), Ribadesella hosts a horse racing event on Santa Marina beach in the town. Fortunately, there had been no last minute storms taking the sand back out to sea or bringing in tonnes of wood and debris. What flotsam and jetsam had arrived in town had been diligently cleared by the local council in the days leading up to Good Friday.

Luis' birthday fell on Good Friday this week so we walked into town to meet with friends and watch the racing. A much smaller event than previous years (recession and all that I suppose), never-the-less enjoyable and well supported by locals and holiday makers in Town for Semana Santa.

Here are a few pictures and a short video of the event:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Snake in the grass - Vipera Berus - Adder - Viper

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It is not often we come across snakes but when we do it a great opportunity to take a closer look. The adder is probably the most common snake around here that we see. This one was about 55 centimetres long and 6 or 7 centimetres thick in the middle. This little beauty was crossing the road in front of us when we were out walking near Gaudamia cliffs at the weekend.

I tried to get up close and personal but he was obviously not in a friendly mood and wanted to disappear into the grass verge as soon as possible. Needless to say, Luis was well out of reach...(his pet hate, ssssnakesssss...).

More information here: Vipera Berus on Wikipedia

Monday, April 18, 2011

The garden in Spring

The garden is looking really vibrant at the moment with sharp spring weather encouraging lush and healthy growth. We've lost a few plants over autumn and winter but replaced them where necessary with cuttings given by neighbours or with divisions we made in early spring.

Most of our blog posts are about the growing food side of life at La Pasera. We thought it was about time to celebrate the garden and take stock of where we are and where we are going to with regard to the future of the garden.

We use the garden a lot throughout the year and have tried to find a balance and sympathy to the local landscape.

It has developed slowly over the past 6 years and there is still lots of things to do. We need to pave the patio and steps leading down to it. We are also about to complete a  flight of pebble mosaic steps and small seating area now Luis has nearly finished the 40 mosaic slabs it needs in total. The driveway and front garden still require  attention but as we are doing all the work ourselves, it takes time, money and energy.

The wildlife aspect of the garden is important to us and where we can we encourage insects, amphibians and birds by creating areas that are attractive to them i.e. water, shade and shelter, food. A future project soon to be started I hope, is to build a small transportable hide for photography that can be used in the various areas of the garden. I will let you know how we get on with the design and construction - If anyone has any ideas or plans for such a hide, please get in  touch soon.

Wentworth and Gawber enjoying one of their many vantage points.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Chives - many uses and a great, delicate taste

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We grow a wide variety of herbs and use them in cooking whenever we can. They add a certain quality to dishes and if used appropriately, they can add a depth of flavour and enhance the flavour of the ingredients of the dish.
Chives have always been a firm favourite. Not only do they look great in amongst other herbs and flowers but they are so versatile.

Fresh chives can be used in salads (including the flowers), chopped and used in egg, cheese or potato dishes. In fact chives can be used wherever its delicate onion flavour is not overpowered. The flowers can be marinated in a good wine or white vinegar for two weeks, strained and then the vinegar used is a variety of dressings and dishes. The vinegar has a lovely pale purple colour which fades over time so it is best made fresh each year.

Beware.....chives have aphrodisiac properties according to Siberian legend and have been cited as an aid to relieve congestion, cold and flu. This year we are also growing garlic chives, not sure how much of an aphrodisiac they will be....

The mass of chive flowers in early spring is also a magnet for numerous species of insects.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Course: Weaving a cane seat - Cursillo: Restauración de sillas en Rejilla

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Short course in chair restoration – Weaving a cane seat.

Dates: May 20-22nd  or October 7-9th 

Venue: Asturias, Spain

Cost €200 (includes materials, lunch and refreshments)


Due to demand generated from I am pleased to offer a short course in chair restoration – weaving a chair seat in rattan cane. The course will include:

1.   Preparing a chair for restoration
2.   Materials and techniques
3.   Finishing and aftercare

At the end of the course the participants will have woven a chair seat using rattan cane.
Participants can bring along their own chair for re-caning or purchase one from our small stock (details on request)

The course will take place in a workshop at La Pasera. There will be a maximum of 5 participants on each course to ensure quality tuition from the instructor Luis Laso Casas. 

Luis has been restoring cane and rush seating for the past 10 years. He has re-caned and re-rushed chairs old and new from a variety of sources. From exhibition pieces to dining room suites, boudoir chairs to Thonet, he has restored somewhere in the region of 500 chairs and overcome many challenges to accomplish the craftsman finish that has become his trademark. There maybe both English and Spanish participants on the course but as Luis is bi-lingual, this is not a problem. You can also practice your Spanish is you so wish!
The programme will commence on Friday lunchtime with an informal chat and lunch. The course will be structured to ensure maximum support for participants and where necessary, one to one tuition. A vegetarian lunch will be provided on each day the course. If you are unsure about anything or if you require further information, please contact Luis at :  artesanialapasera @ (no spaces) Telephone 0034 646436562

Cursillo de restauración de sillas: Rejilla

A consecuencia del número de gente quienes me han preguntado donde poder aprender a tejer un asiento de rejilla, esterillado francés, me complace el poner a su disposición los siguientes cursillos de restauración de asientos de rejilla o rattán.


20, 21 y 22 de Mayo del 2011

7, 8 y 9 de Octubre del 2011


Ribadesella, Asturias, España.


El curso incluye:

Preparación del asiento antes de la restauración.
Materiales y herramientas
Tintes y cuidados.
Al final del cursillo, los participantes habrán tejido artesanalmente un asiento usando junquillo o tireta de rattán. Los participantes podrán traer su silla si así lo deseasen; de lo contrario, dispongo de una pequeña selección de sillas listas para ser restauradas las cuales están a la venta en caso de que un participante no tenga una silla propia para restaurar.


€200.00. La matrícula incluye los materiales, tres comidas principales basadas en una cocina vegetariana y bebidas no alcohólicas durante el día. Puedo facilitar una pequeña lista de hoteles cercanos donde los participantes puedan alojarse durante el cursillo.

Aquellos interesados en participar en este cursillo deben ponerse en contacto con: Luis Laso Casas a través del email


El número de plazas está limitado a un máximo de 5 participantes.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Fence? Hedge? - Repairing the Fedge

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When we first arrived at La Pasera, clearing the garden and setting up a decent working area was high on the list. We needed something to separate the working area from the rest of the garden that would be practical, look natural and if possible serve a function. Copied and adapted from something we'd seen back in Yorkshire at Worsborough Country Park, in Barnsley, using branches and twigs from coppiced and pruned trees, we formed a Fedge. A sort of cross between a fence and a hedge.

It has to be strengthened and posts replaced every couple of years but this small amount of maintenance is well worth it as it lives up to expectations in every way. The grass and wild flowers are left to scramble up it whilst the diversity of wildlife that has taken up residence  never ceases to delight us.

Toads, lizards, slow worms, stag horn beetles, woodlice, field mice and spiders live in natural balance alongside other insects and invertebrates. The insects pollinating the crops, the toads and the slow worms feeding on slugs, the slugs, snails and woodlice composting the vegetation, the birds feeding on insects and larvae, butterflies sipping the nectar from the wild flowers whilst all are occasionally challenged by a passing curious cat.

Slow Worm

Friday, April 01, 2011

Celebrating 50 years a vegetarian - well almost...

This year it will be approximately 50 years since I excluded meat or fish from my diet.  As a child I would always reject meat and hated fish unless either could be disguised in minced up, highly processed sausage or fish-cake. My parents despaired and eventually gave up trying to encourage me to eat flesh but had the good common sense to feed me lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, eggs and cheese, later followed by new vegetarian dishes that emerged on the market such as nut roast or soya products. We grew some vegetables when young and I remember having my own grave-shaped plot in which I grew a few cabbage and salad crops.

To mark this journey to sustainable vegetarianism, I intend to publish some of my favourite vegetarian recipes developed over a half century of not eating meat or fish. Surprisingly, the term vegetarian wasn't included in our day to day vocabulary back in the 1960s although the term has been in use since 1847. Looking back it was "he doesn't eat meat or fish", as simple as that. I made do when out and made up for it at home. There were brief periods when I could be encouraged to eat a burnt thin slice of crispy bacon or a bit of tinned salmon mixed with breadcrumbs and butter however, these experiments were usually short lived and never to be repeated.

The first recipe will be home-made hummus - simple, nutritious, versatile and tasty. Having made hummus for many years it was only after speaking to a Turkish lady here in Asturias that I started adding cumin. Needless to say, it was the missing link and truly adds depth of flavour to this easy recipe.

350gm cooked chick peas and cooking fluid 
salt - half a teaspoon
garlic 5-6 bulbs (to taste)
2 large dessert spoons of tahini paste
lemon juice
Olive oil
fresh chopped parsley
chopped spring onions
Cumin - 1 teaspoon (to taste)

Blend or mash together chickpeas, tahini, ground garlic with salt, lemon juice with enough of the cooking fluid to form a loose pate type textured spread. Smooth is good but some texture can also be left in the paste. Stir in chopped spring onions, cumin, parsley and oil until well mixed. Adjust quantities to suit personal taste - will keep well in the fridge for up to a week but it never lasts that long. Best eaten in copious amounts with fresh-baked bread or clean, crisp celery. Spoonfuls can also be used as a tasty thickener for soups and stews.

Luis still eats meat when he knows of its origin and growth, and he still enjoys fish but equally these days values the variety that including vegetarian food in your diet gives you. Guests who visit invariably choose the vegetarian options and the many residents of our village who have tried vegetarian food at various village fiestas have always come back for seconds, which is great to see. Feedback on the recipes would be great.