Friday, September 28, 2012

Fresh home-made juice and juicing

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Freshly picked for juicing

Anyone who grows fruit and vegetables will know that at times there is a glut and the more you harvest the more the plants seem to produce. This situation at times is compounded when family, friends or neighbours arrive bearing fresh produce.

Here at La Pasera, we decided to purchase a juicer so that we could not only use up more of our home produce but also benefit from drinking home juices that incorporate in the main, freshly picked fruits, herbs and vegetables.

From a health viewpoint, when you decide to start juicing, you will benefit from all their micro-nutrients,  especially the vitamins that easily oxidise and get destroyed or which are radically depleted in cooking. Natural sugars start decreasing as soon as fruit and veg are picked or with long term storage, so using them in this way, the natural sweetness is much more prominent.

One of the disadvantages of juicing is the loss of fibre due to the removal of all the solids but this is a small price to pay when you consider not only the sweetness but also the taste you get when juicing home grown produce you collected from the plot a few minutes earlier.

The juice combinations you can make depend not only on the fruits and vegetables available but also on what you add to them in terms of spices and herbs. There is no reason why you cannot add spices and exotic or seasonally purchased fruits in your choice of juices.

 Only your imagination and personal taste is the limit to the range of juices you can make.

One of my favourite combinations include: beetroot and apple; celery, apple, lime and fennel; pineapple, celery and fennel with a touch of mint, and what about orange, ginger and apple. My latest one was windfall russet apples and Asturian wild peach, simply decadent and I will be making more tomorrow.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Notus and the South Wind

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Dawn at La Pasera

In ancient Greece, Notus was the god of the south wind and was associated with the desiccating hot wind of the rise of Sirius after midsummer and the bringer of late summer and autumn storms, and as such, feared as a destroyer of crops.

At La Pasera, we primarily experience the south winds during Autumn and they usually herald the arrival of rains when the winds die down. The intensity of the winds may vary from a gentle breeze to a very strong and howling wind that tend to leave a trail of damaged trees and some structural damage such as roof tiles being blown, damaged fences, chimneys, sheds, etc. Apart from the damage the passing of Notus may leave behind, one of the constant characteristics of this wind is how hot and dry it is.

At this time of the year, you may be woken up in the middle of the night or get up in the early morning as was the case today and be greeted by a temperature around 30 C and a humidity between 20 and 30 %, very dry living so near the coast where the air humidity is frequently close to 90% .

The locals refer to the south wind at this time of the year as "The chestnut Wind" as it is the one that causes the falling of this fruit....time to harvest.

I hope this time Notus' passing is a gentle one and leaves us with some much needed rain.

Midday at La Pasera looking towards the Sueve Mountains

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The coast near home

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When we were initially looking for a house we both said how great it would be if we could live on the coast or within striking distance. We drew a line on a map and started looking. After many disappointments we eventually found La Pasera. Situated just 1km (as the crow flies) from the coast it was perfectly positioned.

Most days when time allows we will walk to the coast on one of numerous routes. You can saunter on the quiet country lanes through a couple of sleepy villages, meander along farming tracks and animal paths or take the Camino de Santiago towards Ribadesella and veer off towards the cliffs. The scenery is spectacular and within a short distance by foot, car or bicycle there are some spectacular beaches and yet more coastal paths.

The Asturian coastline is unspoilt in the main with very little development and few facilities but that doesn't stop the visitors during the main holiday season in July, August and early September. Outside of those months it is rare to see anyone unless it is a particularly hot day and then you might get a few locals or weekenders.

The limestone cliffs near La Pasera are spectacular and peppered with blow holes known as Bufones. This is where the sea has undercut the rock and fissures act as a chimney. When high tides occur, the pressure of the water being propelled through the fissure forms a large jet of sea spray. Some of these blow holes are half a kilometre in land. On a still night when the tide is high you can here them breathe like dragon breath, a haunting inhalation followed by a long deep exhalation.

With over 200km of unspoilt coastline in Asturias there are many golden and clean beaches that only ever see tourists for about 8 weeks of the year. There is nothing better than walking along the shoreline, beach-combing on pristine and untouched sand, listening to the waves and watching the sea-birds gliding high above. The plants and animals that inhabit the shoreline never cease to amaze us and each day we count our blessings and remember how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful part of the world.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Growing and eating carrots

Carrots are a favourite here at La Pasera. Until this year our efforts have failed miserably and we have had to use shop bought carrots which on the whole are tasteless and dull. Things have changed. Since we imported the 13 tonnes of sandy top soil, all the vegetables have improved beyond expectations and for the very first time, we have carrots, variety Nantes.

The first sowing didn't do anything so we think it was a bad batch of seed. The second and third sowing are doing amazingly well and we have now begun harvesting them.

We have so little rain in the past 10 weeks the ground is extremely dry and soon hardens so before harvesting we water the carrots to soften the soil. Give them 15 minutes or so and the with a gentle twist and pull, the whole fresh carrot comes out without snapping.

The texture and sweetness of the carrots is great. Not too sweet and a clean crisp bite allowing that true carrot flavour and aroma to come through.

The culinary use of carrots is endless and we will have a great time preparing new dishes in which to use them. Raw in salads or as a snack is one of our favourite ways to eat them so I doubt we will have many to store in the long run.

This following recipe is another great way of eating fresh raw carrot that we prepare on a regular basis, it'll be a real bonus now we will use our own carrots.

Carrot, Rice, Seed and Mint Salad

6 small to medium carrots - grated
2 sprigs of mint finely chopped
Boiled rice - wild or basmati
1 teaspoon of honey
75g raisins or sultanas (pre-soaked and drained)
Olive oil
Cider vinegar
Salt and pepper
30g Pumpkin seeds
30g Sunflower seeds

The key to making this salad is getting a mix of ingredients and flavours that do not overpower each other. Mix to your own individual taste. The sweetness of the honey, fruit and carrot is offset with the blandness of the rice and the acidity of the vinegar. Adjust quantities to suit your taste and mix.

Apart from Carrots, we are harvesting loads of aubergines, cucumber, marrow, beetroot, peppers, blackberries and fennel. Our harvests this year have been so good that we are sending out gift boxes to friends and neighbours who appreciate fresh, chemical free vegetables. Fruit hasn't done that well this year with few apples, no pears to talk off and no evidence of greengage. The wild peaches are struggling but there are a few to collect and use for jam. The walnuts and hazelnuts look to be laden with fruit so we might have a better nut harvest than last year.

The wild peach known as piesco

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Growing Basil and making Basil Pesto

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There is no headier scent than that of freshly picked Basil. Having grown several varieties over the years we always seem to favour Sweet Genovese. This broad leafed and bushy basil does well here and despite a dodgy start, it has done wonderfully well this year and we have plenty to use on a whole array of dishes.

We will use the smaller, sweeter leaves chopped on fresh ripe tomatoes with thinly sliced garlic, rock salt and a grinding or two of black pepper. Alternatively we will use the smaller tender leaves in a mixed green salad but it can over-power other flavours if used in excess. We use a lot of herbs in our cooking and shredded basil is used in many of our vegetable, bean and chickpea recipes along with fresh oregano and thyme, a touch of sage and mint or fennel leaves for that wonderful rich and flavoursome Mediterranean meets north African flavour.

One use for basil that we have always wanted to try is fresh Basil Pesto. I can smell it now as I remember those simple Italian pastas and spaghetti we used to eat on pavement terraced restaurants in Rome on warm and balmy summer evenings, served with fresh bread and a glass of red, nothing better.

This year we have grown enough for several summer evenings.

Here's what we did:

Fresh Basil Pesto

100g fresh washed basil
2 garlic cloves
50g of toasted hazelnuts (or pine nuts)
180 ml of olive oil
60g Parmesan cheese
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and Pepper

Pop the hole lot into a food processor and blitz until you reach the required consistency. Add a touch more oil and stir.

It will keep in a jar in the fridge for up to two weeks and preserve well if topped up with oil to exclude the air from oxidising the basil.

So far we have had it with Tallarin (pasta), spread thinly on roasted slices of aubergine, with cheese and onion toasties and as an ingredient with stuffed marrow. My favourite though has got to be with plain and simple pasta. Couple of spoonfuls, knob of butter, splash of olive oil, black pepper mixed into freshly boiled pasta, served with tomato and garlic salad, fresh crusty bread and a glass of wine. Who needs Rome?