Wednesday, October 31, 2012

If you go down to the beds today... Cauliflowers

Since we turned the clocks back at the weekend it is, once again, a pleasure to take a stroll around the garden at first light and take in the views we never tire of. Our neighbour has brought his few cows to the bottom field and their tinkling bells greet us as we take in the morning air.

Cauliflowers, we knew they were there but we weren't expecting to find them ready for harvesting. Taking an early morning stroll around the vegetable beds we suddenly spotted 8 full size, white and crisp, cauliflowers.

The warm weather, recent rains and bright autumn sunshine has worked their magic and everything seems to be growing vigorously and lush.

The cabbages are not far behind and many are ready for harvesting. The early sprouting broccoli seems happy and will shortly need further staking to protect them from the stronger winds we get at this time of year. We are using the leeks already but like the carrots we have plenty to go at. The fennel have regrown tender young heads from the first cut - often two or three on each plant.

I picked four beautiful cauliflowers today and I probably will make a large pan of cauliflower and cumin soup and a cauliflower cheese pasta bake. Luis took one to our neighbours who often brings us jars of jam and other gifts.

Elsewhere in Toriello the trees have shed their walnuts, hazelnuts and chestnuts. The birds are busy stripping the berries from the hawthorns and sloe bushes, the buzzards soar high above and the cooler nights draw ever nearer.

Perfect for supper - cauliflower cheese pasta bake
Cauliflower cheese pasta bake:

1 lightly steamed cauliflower
600 mls of cheese sauce - flour butter roux, add milk, thicken and then add cheese, salt and black pepper
100gms grated cheese
1 good handful of boiled pasta.
Pumpkin seeds

Mix all ingredients together - put in oven proof dish, sprinkle with a bit of grated cheese and a few seeds, bake in a hot oven for 15 mins until cheese is browned.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

In celebration of carrots, carrots and carrots

You can tell we are overjoyed, by the title of this post. If you'd been disappointed by a poor or non-existent carrot crop for the past 5 years and were suddenly gifted these fine specimens, then you'd understand. For the first time since moving here and growing our own vegetables we have an abundance of fine, fat and sweet carrots.

Carrots feature a lot in our diet both as a raw vegetable for salads or used grated in nut loaf or grated in a rice, carrot and sultana salad. Using shop bought carrots has always been OK but fresh from the ground, grown without chemicals is better. This has happened since raising the vegetable beds and adding 13 tonnes of sandy topsoil.

Now we have a glut of carrots it will be great to be able to make one of our favourite soups: Carrot, coriander and orange. It really is very easy to make and is suitable for these cooler wintry days when a bowl of soup and a chunk of home-made bread goes down a treat.

Here is the recipe:

Carrot, coriander and orange soup

1 large bunch of carrots, peeled or scrubbed, top and tailed, chopped.
1 handful of rice
Zest or finely peeled skin of one orange (preferably un-waxed)
Salt and pepper to taste
Finely chopped fresh coriander for in the soup and to sprinkle on the soup
stock cube
enough water to cover ingredients

Bring to the boil, simmer for 20 minutes, leave to cool, blitz with a hand blender. If too thick it can be diluted with a bit of fresh orange juice. Serve warm with fresh coriander, a twist of black pepper and a slice of fresh bread bread. A meal in itself.

Edited to add: We also love carrot cake...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New Mosaic - Backgammon Set

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Luis has just completed making this Backgammon Board. It is made from marble and limestone. It took many hours to hand-cut each tesserae and place them within the design. The board is made in the indirect method and it is always stressful towards the end hoping and praying that the cement has not dislodged any of the marble. Thankfully this piece turned out well. After cleaning, grouting and polishing it is ready to be mounted into an outdoor or indoor table or used as is.

The wooden counters and shakers were commissioned from a wood-turner  The pieces are turned in chestnut and oak.

This set was made as a present to celebrate a special event.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Apple Harvest

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It has been a disappointing year for apples, well at least here in La Pasera. We have five apple trees, all of which were already here when the house was built. The two cider apple trees which were very neglected produced very little as they were reduced in size by two thirds about three years ago and they are still re-growing. The three other trees are a Russet and two others we are really not sure about. One of the trees was grafted two years ago with other Russet stock from Luis' sister.

Most of the apple trees are old, diseased and ready to be replaced or grafted. As a consequence, the harvests tend to be unpredictable and dependant on a variety of things such as the weather and infestation. Spraying is not an option for us so we make best use of what we manage to harvest. One day last week we harvested what apples we had before further damage was done by the prevailing strong winds.

This year has been exceptionally dry and together with the strong winds causing early windfall, the harvest has not been that good. Luckily we have friends locally who often offer us additional apples. In addition, Luis' sister will no doubt send some for us the next time we visit.

The apples are stored in a cool dark place and sifted through regularly to ensure that any rotting fruit does not contaminate other fruit. We will use some for eating, a few for baking in desserts and the remainder either in chutney, drying or juicing.

Elsewhere in the garden, the spell of rain and intermittent warm sunshine has brought the insect population back out in a last flurry of activity before the cooler weather sets in for winter and the cheerful Robins have returned and regularly come to say hello.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Morning sunshine

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I just wanted to share with you all to images I took from one of the back bedroom this morning showing the beautiful and warm sunshine we are experiencing at La Pasera after the much needed rain we have had over the past few days. This soft and plentiful rain will soften the soil before we start digging the empty areas within the vegetable plot that will be sown with oats, our preferred green manure. Oats as green manure sends roots deep into the soil helping to improve its structure, suppresses weeds during the Winter months and will return nitrogen into the soil when in the early Spring it gets dug back in the soil.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Rain and Sunshine: Weather

The rain has arrived with the full force of North westerly winds driving it almost horizontal at times. Many  a litre re-hydrating slow-baked earth and refreshing failing plants and trees.

After the driest summer for a few decades, the rains are welcome.

The temperatures have dropped and it is noticeably cooler both outdoor and indoor. With our wood store fully stocked, fires set and central heating fuel full to capacity we are ready for anything.

Wentworth and Gawber are sleeping longer hours and snuggle up together on their cushions in the workshop only venturing out when they can hear a calm in the weather.

The garden pond is once again full to overflowing and the fish and plants will surely benefit from fresh water. The toads and frogs are still singing and calling in between rain storms and the birds take advantage of the windfalls and earthworms that lay amongst greening grass.

The vegetable beds are no longer thirsty and the vegetables are growing before our eyes.

With the onset of darker nights, the time has come to re-focus on indoor activities and enjoy the glow of burning logs.

One thing you can count on in Asturias is a quick succession of weather fronts, torrential rain and then glorious, warming sunshine. No wonder they call it a natural paradise.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Foraging figs, peaches and walnuts

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There is something very comforting about being able to forage food at different times of the year. Here in Asturias, there is a succession of crops, windfalls and wild food to nourish you throughout the year. Around the village there are many fruit and nut trees  that mainly lay to waste their abundant fruit. No-one collects or harvests much at all.

October has been a very dry and warm month so far with very little prospects for heavy rain and the driest summer in 50 years according to the locals and we are now eager for a few downpours. The warm southern winds bring a threat of rain but so far, only a few spots noticeable on the terrace. The 'pebbling' of the sky is a sure sign of rain to come so we will see. The fruit and nut trees are dry and with the advancing winds, they shed there fruit as windfall.

This season is a time for chutney and jam making and with a batch of Green Tomato Chutney, Picallili  and various jams made and stored it is time to harvest and forage more.

A wild peach called Piesco is collected from local orchards and meadows. It is a strong tart yet sweet peach flavour which makes the most wonderful jam or chutney.

Figs were a gift from the Gods according to the Romans. Around here, very few are harvested and the majority go to waste.

Overtime, we get to know which trees produce the best fruit and collect accordingly. If the tree is on a neighbours land we would always seek permission, knowing that in the majority of cases they do not bother at all with the fruit. Needless to say we collect several basketful to make jam or eat as they come. So sweet and soft.

We usually take a jar of jam or pickle to any landowners we forage from and we hear very positive reports back as most have never before tried such things, with spices they are not used to. Fig jam made with a generous helping of All Spice is truly, a gift from the Gods.

Walnuts are now coming to maturity and the green outer casing is beginning to split and release a fresh and tender nut. When we walk we generally carry a small bag to fill along the way. These are then dried in the sun for a couple of weeks and stored to hopefully, last all year.

We are looking forward to see what's on Mother Nature's Menu in the coming weeks. Buen Provecho as they say here in Spain.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Will we get Avocado fruit?


Much to our delight Avocados grow well in Asturias. In our village there is a mature tree that produces an abundance of fruit that no-one seems to eat. Remembering my efforts to germinate a stone using matchsticks and an egg cup, 5 years ago I managed to get one of these to sprout. It is now a 4 meter high tree, growing well in our garden.

The question is, will it fruit? Some say that we will need to graft from the original tree whilst others say it is a matter of time and it will fruit when it matures. We are hoping it is the latter.

I have recently sprouted another stone and will also plant it soon, if nothing more, their glossy dark green leaves look splendid in the Asturian sunshine.

If you can answer our query please leave a comment or email us....