Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Monday 23 July 2012

Signing off - amended to 'in defence of Skelmanthorpe!'

This post was intended to be a brief two liner explaining that for a little while I would be 'offline' as we're off where there's no wifi, no internet connection, a deadzone. (FR's parents' house, where the internet connection we had when we lived there has been withdrawn - and then to his grandfather's house, where there is no wifi and no mobile signal either!)  However, events overtook me, as usual.

I wanted to put something like 'where the sun don't shine' for no internet access but of course, the sun will be shining, so that wouldn't do at all! So I popped onto the Urban Dictionary to check out synonyms for 'deadzone' - and found something that made my eyes pop a little.

Entry number 7 under 'Deadzone' reads thus:

The only place in the world where there is literally nothing of interest whatsoever.

Located 6 miles south-east of the town of Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, Skelmanthorpe is said to hold 4000 old people, out of a total population of 4000.

Ask yourself; How dull and uninteresting can it be here? Surely this is an exaggeration. Well no, dear reader, I cannot put into words how unbelievably lifeless and dead it is, since i cannot describe nothingness.
Man 1;
'Skelmanthorpe is where i'm taking my kids on holiday!'
Man 2;
'You sick, demented bastard.'

And instead of telling you what we are going to do on our visit of undefined length in northern parts of Spain, I feel I must right the wrong of this dictionary entry! Skelmanthorpe is a lovely place I know well and visited often. It has a wealth of interesting facts and features associated with it and I have friends who live there. I very nearly bought a little apartment there once, in a beautiful converted church - though in the end I didn't (NOT because it was a dull and uninteresting place full of old people but because it was the very week I met FR and our immediate intention and desire to reproduce could have meant a one-bed, bijou apartment would prove very impractical!)

It's very name is interesting, conjuring up a Viking history, which indicates it dates back to around the 9th century. Locally, it goes by the unusual, if not very pleasant name of 'Shat' - no idea why and don't like to ask. It was pretty much destroyed during the Norman Conquests - he had a lot to answer for did Norman - but sounds like it bounced back to become the place to be for rowdy revelling in the 1770s, when the Skelmanthorpe Feast was held, complete with bull and bear-baiting, gypsy fortune telling and a fair bit of drinking...

And in 1934, a cinema was built in the village! How many villages can claim this, I ask you? Agreed, it turned to hosting wrestling matches in later years to boost revenue (given the village's lively history, perhaps this is not surprising) and then, later still, a bingo hall and then a squash court. And to completely refute the entry in the Urban Dictionary, it is now a Youth Club - so much for only old people in Shat!

It has a very nice Mediterranean restaurant, called 'Volare' which has been seen in sunny weather, to sprout cosmopolitan tables on the pavement outside its doors. And being a good Yorkshire village, it has an excellent chippie. At least one.

There are two very good primary schools, no less than five churches, cricket and football teams - and heavens, the Kirklees Light Railway runs through the old station.  (And that does Santa Specials!)  It also has one of the oldest established brass bands in the whole country and they're good, very good.

 (....and 'Oh no, it's Selwyn Froggit' was filmed there too..but perhaps that's not one of the pluses..)

There, I feel I have done by bit to right a wrong. How is the world wide web going to manage without me in the next few weeks, I wonder? What have you read or seen on the internet that has shocked, outraged or merely made you tut at its inaccuracy?

I might manage a sneaky peak at what's going on because all being well, I will be meeting up with my sister and family on the north coast of Spain for a 'prehistoric day' - we plan to visit caves in Puente Viesgo and then to retread dinosaur footprints on the beach at Colunga - she's bringing me a very special present I purchased with my birthday money - a tablet! Not an iPad, couldn't run to buying one of those, but a rather nice little android. I am ridiculously excited about it.

See you anon. Happy holidays - and remember, if you're visiting the north of England, give Skelmanthorpe a turn of the head and a cheerful wave - I'm sure you'll get a friendly response.

Monday 16 July 2012

The call of chocolate

Well, we've been here for almost two years and in that time, I've made lots and lots of things - jams, sauces, chutneys - but very few chocolates.  I am feeling rather frustrated about this, even though it's the height of summer and I would be unlikely to be making chocolates in the UK at this time of year. (Too much rain...chocolate is no friend of humidity!)

I am thinking very seriously about the possibility of setting up in a little shop here in Alcala la Real. It's a busy, bustling town and whilst there is nothing up-market about it, I feel sure there is enough footfall on the streets to encourage a few folk into a shop that offers unique, delicious and well-priced chocolates. Does this sound enough like a marketing strategy to proceed? 

Anyway, I'm going all chocolatey and need to post a few more photos of 'some I made earlier'. 

Easter 2009 and I went all 'SPLATTY'.  My 'SPLATTY' eggs were milk, white or dark chocolate hollow eggs which I filled with a range of different centres, then closed up with a SPLAT of contrasting chocolate. 

They went down a storm. I include here the fillings I made - perhaps you could give me ideas of what you would like inside your SPLATTY egg!

Apricot Splatties – a white chocolate ganache (double cream and white chocolate) mixed with apricot preserve and brandy, piped into a hollow egg and decorated with a SPLAT and a sprinkling of nuts. White or dark eggs

Raspberry Splatties – a white chocolate ganache mixed with raspberry preserve (no pips!) and raspberry liqueur, piped into hollow eggs and decorated with a SPLAT and a dusting of freeze-dried raspberries – White or dark eggs

Orange Splatties – (my personal favourite) 
a white ganache, with zest of orange, mixed peel and cointreau, piped into hollow eggs and decorated with a SPLAT and a teeny piece of orange peel. Dark eggs 

Shown here with cherry liqueur hearts.

Rum Splatties – a dark ganache with rum and the occasional tipsy raisin, piped into milk and dark hollow eggs, decorated with a contrasting SPLAT!

Caramel Splatties – dulce de leche caramel piped into hollow milk and white eggs and decorated with a contrasting SPLAT

Shown here with caramel snails...

I also made: 

Lemon and ginger truffles - a dark ganache with lemon oil, lemon zest and hot spicy crystallised ginger pieces - dipped in white chocolate and finished with a gold transfer pattern.

Honey truffles - a rich milk chocolate ganache with natural honey, hand- dipped in milk chocolate.

Chilli taste bombs! A dark ganache with a sprinkling of chilli flakes, hand dipped in dark chocolate and finished off with a fantastic transfer that indicates the explosion of flavour about to hit you!

The following pictures were taken at a craft fair I did at the National Mining Museum in Wakefield in 2009 where I sold a lot of hand made Easter Eggs and my lovely moulded chocolate bunnies - the moulds I got from my grandpa that hark back to the 1950s. I can't wait to get started again.


OK - it's not the same as making them but I've enjoyed digging out these old photos.

One day soon.

Sunday 15 July 2012

Granada Science Park - part 2

Part one of this post on the Science Park in Granada more or less took us up to lunchtime. We had hoped to eat there but just in case, had packed a few nibbles...
As it happens, this was a good idea because lunch ended up being haphazard. When most of us were hungry, we couldn't drag Mateo away from the exhibits so he got an extra hour on his own to explore. We sat in a little shade and ate what we'd brought with us - chorizo, jamon, cheese, bread and some fruit - then whilst FR and I indulged our addiction to coffee, Romy and Ruy decided they could also eat a plate of pasta in the less than inspiring restaurant (only real criticism of the place) -  so they did - plus ice-cream and some cans of lemonade... and in the end....

Mateo had nothing more than a crust of bread that was left. He just wanted to keep on looking and looking. And it was his day.

One of Romy's favourite parts of the Science Park was the 'Body' bit. She really enjoyed putting all the bits back in their proper place and did so with confidence - definitely a doctor in the making.

We saw stuffed animals, animal skeletons, human skeletons, human bodies - real and models;

There were laboratories with brains, rats, snakes, pickled piglets and organs of all shapes and sizes.

 There was a machine for two people which allegedly measured brainwaves. The idea was to stop thinking so that a ball that was placed between two 'competitors' moved away from the person who was most relaxed mentally - who could reduce their brain activity.

FR (Player 1) beat Mateo hands down, though he swears he was thinking about Einstein's theory of relativity at the time. Mateo admitted to not knowing how not to think, so we're going to work on that over the summer holidays...

Interestingly, Romy was excellent at this and beat me twice, though I put up passive resistance for quite a while both times

We visited the Sahara, going back to its original settlers to see some cave paintings. I'm sorry - I wasn't paying too much attention so can't tell you how long ago these paintings were done. I just thought it was rather well presented for the ignorant tourist...


I was impressed by this giant ammonite that was found in the desert though - my history might be loose but I do know that the Sahara is no longer anywhere near the sea...which is where I presume this ammonite once lived.

Then we entered a hall of permanent exhibits - many of which we were familiar with from other science museums but which were irresistibly good fun.

Balls that floated on their own

And made little girls look like magicians

I love this photo - guess why!!

Not quite got the angle here...

Three-legged Romy

Exhuberant Ruy

FR won't mind me publishing this picture of him flying

Couldn't drag him away

Mateo going for the special effect

It's all done with mirrors, you know.

Even the exhibits that had nothing to 'play' with hit the spot for father and son. Not born to shop, born to visit museums!

We went up to the top of the tower and looked out over Granada. (I did get the hang of it eventually...)

And of course, I had to capture the Alhambra, where we could just see people on top of the highest part looking at us through spyglasses too!

And then we had only just enough time to visit the Tropical Butterfly House. Always a favourite with us, I was dreading entering into a hot place - but as it was already so very hot outside, the dampness of the tropical house actually felt rather cool and pleasant! And we took rather a lot of photographs of butterflies...these are just a few.

It felt to be quite an achievement to capture these creatures in a settled position - we seemed to be surrounded by them flying.

I think Romy and I were admiring some turtles that shared the space - Romy I know has a peach stone in her mouth, not the beginnings of mumps!

And finally, we were too late to get into one part of the science park where there are penguins and other animals but as we walked past it, we met the animal carers who looked after the birds. We got a really good close up of some of them, including this very impressive vulture.

And my only real criticism of the park is that it closed at the ridiculously early time of 7pm. No one was ready to leave and the staff were not rushing us away, but, apart from the shop, of course, everywhere was closed or closing. We could easily have spent another hour or so - guess we'll just have to go back again one day.

All finished off by a wonderful meal at the Brasserie on our way home called Tu y Yo. We ate really well for an incredible price. Perhaps we will do that again too. Excellent day out. 

Saturday 14 July 2012

Jam making in the 30s

No, not the 1930s - in more than 30 degrees (centigrade) of heat! Must be barmy - not balmy.

We have had some wonderful cherries but it's the figs I've been waiting impatiently for - green figs - and now they are ripe and ready.

We had the opportunity the other day to raid a few trees. I'm so glad the people here are overwhelmed with land and fruit trees to the extent that they care little when the fruit is ready to be picked and just leave it to fall where it is. We carry lots of bags in the car to make the most of these opportunities.

And despite the sweltering heat we've had these past few days, when I got my treasure home, I set too to make my favourite jam and I'm going to share the recipe with you in case anyone else can get their hands on some delicious green figs. I suspect jam making is rather more appropriate to the summer weather in England just now - warms the kitchen up nicely. This is microwave jam, though, which is why I could just about bear to make it.

Recipe - measurements are not overly accurate, I'm afraid, but I've never had a poor result.

Fig and Orange Jam

About 1.2 kilos of figs - green ones work best for this recipe - remove stalk and base ends and then chop roughly and put into a large microwavable bowl.

Add about the same weight of sugar to the bowl and stir well to mascerate the figs.
Peel an orange and take the pith off (saying this always makes me giggle - I'm so puerile). Cut into small pieces and add to the fig mix.

Grate the zest of another orange into the mix, then add the juice only of this orange.

Add the juice of a lemon as well.

Then, I always add a handful of walnuts, broken into little pieces - I love the extra flavour.

You can also add some ginger or cinnamon if you fancy a spicy jam.

Then put into the microwave on full power. Initially, you'll need to give it around 10-12 minutes to reach boiling point, though I usually stop it every 6-7 minutes to give it a good stir.

All in all, today's jam took around 30 minutes or so in the microwave and the quantity reduced by about a quarter. Sometimes it takes a little longer, sometimes a little less. You can always test by putting a saucer in the freezer, then putting a little of the jam on this - it makes it quicker to identify if your jam has reached setting point.

In the meantime, make sure you've got enough sterile bottles or jars ready. I just underestimated by a small amount how much I'd made, but that will be gobbled up on some bread or stirred into a Greek yogurt very quickly at some point today.

And there it is - I made one lot yesterday and another lot today and even if the temperature reaches 40 degrees, if I find another tree of figs, I'll be making this jam again. It is yummy.

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Granada Science Park - part 1

Mateo's birthday wish was to go to the City or Art and Science in Valencia (or CAC as they say - Cuidad de Artes y Ciencias) but it's a 1200km round trip and this year, impossible to organise. He should have gone with school but it was cancelled - we're not sure why but we might as well say due to 'la crisis', which is what takes the blame for most things these days.

Anyway, he agreed he would 'make do' with the local science park in Granada. Ruy and Romy had both been here on their respective school trips and I think we were all expecting something aimed at younger children. But I'm glad to say we were very pleasantly surprised - and scientifically and artistically improved on our return. So good, I'm posting in two parts. This is our morning's activity.

Firstly, we took Darwin to visit a friend, who lives on the way to Granada. Despite the name, Darwin would probably not enjoy the science park very much and probably couldn't be trusted not to have a little chew on some of the many bones on display there.

We'd tried really hard to get up and off in good time and in the end, managed to get to the park by 11.00 - which was good as it didn't actually open til 11! We had it in our heads it opened at our inability to get out of bed when the alarm rang didn't matter at all. And we were one of the first into the park. It took us an age to actually enter the place as we were already impressed with the entrance and the water features and the domes that demonstrated the Coriolis effect - that swirly, cloudy effect you see round Jupiter. They were wonderful!.

My personal favourite was one of the special exhibitions called 'Títeres' which is the generic name in Spanish for puppets. The exhibition was celebrating 30 years in puppet theatry of a local company called 'Etcetera' and had the most fantastic selection of puppets on show together with workshops showing the making of puppets and films of the actual performances.

The photographs cannot do this exhibition justice, and I knew this as I snapped away but I couldn't resist trying to capture almost everything!

These were puppets made of light

This old man was incredibly lifelike as he played the violin

Part of  a 'Carnaval of the Animals' show

Absolutely amazing puppets..

- enormous, see FR infront of them! They were watching a puppet show!

We got to have a go at shadow puppet theatre

Not much of a story line to tell you though.
But lots of animation

More neon puppets

We couldn't drag Romy away.

Eventually, we had to so we could explore the Dinosaur exhibition. It was a blast from the past for me because I first saw these giants in the Natural History Museum around 18 or 20 years ago. I didn't have the  shock of seeing the animated models and hearing the roar of the T. Rex  as I did the first time - so much has changed in 20 years and we have become so much more accustomed to impressive visual and aural stimulus, but it was good to be reminded of the incredible size of the big dinosaurs - to stand next to one, looking up.

Did that dinosaur just move!

Watch out Romy - dinosaur feeding time!

Romy is not put off by the gorey bits.
Face down a T. Rex or run away...

More delights from the afternoon to follow. Doesn't do to try and take in too much information in one go, does it? Which is my excuse - in reality, I am absolutely exhausted from our busy day yesterday and must just go and lie down for a little while!