Saturday, September 28, 2013

Making marrow and chilli spicy pickle

We make a lot of pickles and jams of fruits and vegetables in season; enough to see us through the year and to gift a few jars to friends and family. We came across this wonderful pickle last year after being given a jar by our friend Cal. We were given another jar this year which prompted us to have a go at making it.

Cal and Rob brought us some wonderful chillies from their plant and together with home-grown marrows, further chillies from our plot and some bought fruit, ginger and sugar, we were ready to get hot in the kitchen.

We made double quantities to this recipe and eagerly await for it to mature. We compared the taste with Cal's as we adapted the recipe by adding more fruit and slightly less chilli. We also chopped the ginger very finely and left it in whereas Cal removed hers after cooking; cooking time was reduced. They are strikingly similar of course but there is a difference in when the heat strikes but both are sweet and spicy; wonderful.

We of course sampled it with freshly cooked tortilla and sautéed peppers and, again with some cheese and crackers. Absolutely delicious. I can't wait to try it with a fruit and veg based curry. Have a go and maybe adapt it to your own tastes.


2 kilos finely chopped and de-seeded marrow
3-6 hot chillies to personal taste
2 kilos soft brown sugar
300mls of vinegar
60 gm fresh ginger
60 gm fresh garlic
120-240 gm raisins
40 gm salt

1. Gently simmer marrow and sugar for approximately one hour.
2. Add finally chopped chillies, garlic and raisins plus the salt and vinegar.
3. Add chopped bruised ginger
4. Boil gently until thick – approximately 2+; depends on sugar used and moisture content.
5. Leave or remove ginger and bottle.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Honey and the bees

No comments:
Luis has just returned from Palencia with our annual purchase of honey. We rarely use sugar these days apart from pickling and jams. The honey comes from a vet who keeps bees which harvest pollen and nectar from wild flowers, woodlands and some local commercial crops.

We stopped buying supermarket honey here are much of it was poor quality and glucose syrup had been added to many of the commercial varieties available. This year we have purchased 45 kilos which will last us for at least a year, maybe more. At €4.75c a kilo we think it is really good value and we know its origin and processing methods.

Those of you who are into honey will know that there is a vast range of flavours, consistency and colours depending on the flowers and conditions. This particular honey is not too strong in taste and is a rich light caramel colour. Luis was also given some beeswax for making hand-cream. This is pure, unprocessed beeswax and it smells divine.

We have also heard of a bee-keeper locally who has honey for sale so we might try and locate them and try theirs. Meanwhile we continue to enjoy the many different bees in the garden as they harvest and pollinate flower after flower. We have thought about keeping bees but we understand you have to undertake a compulsory course and be licensed here in Spain before you can become a bee-keeper.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Making Piccalilli from home-grown vegetables

It's that time of the year again when the lure of Piccalilli can be heard calling from the green tomatoes, cucumber, celery, cauliflower, onion and green peppers. You cannot beat a home-made piccalilli relish for bringing to life savoury dishes, cheese, rices, tagines or meat (if you eat it).

Much to my surprise and delight, I found two jars in the store room just the other day. They are from last year's batch and still wonderfully fresh and crisp. We just couldn't resist opening one. Enjoyed with chestnut stuffed marrow last night for dinner.

The recipe I use is one which has been in our family for at least 5 generations. I have still to taste one that can beat it. They don't sell mustard powder in Spain so I usually bring it back with me, along with several litres of malt vinegar, when I return from the UK.

We have published this recipe previously but felt it was worth repeating two years on. Let me know how you get on with it if you decide to make it. We usually double this quantity.


2 cauliflowers
1 cucumber
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 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. Hide from everyone except your best friends....

Friday, September 06, 2013

Exploring local beaches and coves in Asturias


One thing we are not short of in Asturias is coastline. With hundreds of beaches and and coves to explore there is never a dull moment if you are into that sort of thing: which we are...

The main tourist season is over and the beaches and coastline are once again quiet apart from sunny weekends and bank holidays. The main tourist season lasts only a few weeks from mid-July to early September with the remainder of summer and autumn being very quiet and peaceful.

Within walking distance we have a half a dozen wonderful beaches and inlet coves which are constantly changing with the seasons, tides and weather conditions. Within 15 minutes drive we have access to another 30 or so beaches and such so as you can imagine there is no shortage of places to walk, explore and enjoy.

The majority of beaches, apart from those located in main resorts, have few facilities such as toilets or showers, chairs or beach gear. Some have surf schools where boards and instruction can be hired. Few have access to a café or bar out of the main season and only the main tourist beaches will have red cross life guards on duty during high season, outside of which there is no-one.

The sea is cool even during summer but I am told you soon get used to it once you've taken the plunge. We rarely swim in the sea and mainly use the beaches for beach combing, exploring rock-pools or dinosaur footprints, walking or just relaxing listening to the ocean.

The Bay of Biscay tends to have a very mixed weather pattern and the sea can be great for surfing or body boarding. There isn't much windsurfing which is a pity as I have RYA qualifications in windsurfing but haven't done it for some years now. Who knows maybe one day I'll squeeze into a neoprene wetsuit and ride the wind once again?

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Aubergine / Eggplant


We seem to be able to grow really good aubergines here without too much difficulty. This year we are growing two varieties. The flowers of the aubergine are lovely with a soft shade of lilac and undulating petals, they really do bring a touch of early summer colour to the vegetable plot.

We rarely get problems with aubergines apart from delays in germination with cooler weather in spring. We normally grow about 10 plants which is more than enough. What we cannot use we will distribute to friends and neighbours although many of our neighbours are unfamiliar with this plant and really do not know what to do with it.

We use aubergine in many different ways including:

Thinly sliced and roasted with some oil, spread with basil pesto and rolled up (you can add an anchovy if you eat fish).


Aubergine paté with garlic and oregano - diced, sautéed with salt pepper, garlic, oregano and garlic. Add a few table spoons of water to reduce the amount of oil, add stock cube and let it cook until soft, mash with fork and cool. Delicious on fresh bread.


Vegetarian Moussaka with layers of lentils, potato, tomato and cheese sauce.

How do you eat yours?