Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Tuesday 26 November 2013

All home made...

I've been making chocolate and I promised on my last post that there'd be photos. Well there are, but I underestimated how difficult it is to take photographs whilst my hands are full!

I had wanted you to drool enjoy an online chocolate experience but instead, you may have to make do with just licking your lips a little.... no girding of loins necessary just yet. The full monty will have to wait for another day.

So, without further ado...

Milk chocolate melted to 42 degrees C

Cooling nicely ....

This is as cool as it needs to go before bringing the temperature back to about 29 degrees. This is called 'tempering' the chocolate. There are several methods - including putting it all on a marble slab - I'd love to try this but don't have a large marble I 'seed' the hot chocolate with cold which helps to speed up the tempering process.

I tried very hard to capture a reading of 29 degrees, but every time I got there, I had to put the thermometer down, pick up the camera, point, focus....and by then, the coolness of the ambient temperature meant my reading had dropped...but this is a good temperature to work with the chocolate.

The milk chocolate was then poured into a tray - nice and thin - and sprinkled with a mixture of dried sour cherries, raisins, caramelised almonds and salted pistachios. The combination of sweet, sour, salty, chewy and crunchy is absolutely wonderful!

Next task - add the secret ingredient to the rest of the milk chocolate - popping candy!! This makes the chocolate pop in your mouth as you eat it...mind-blowing!
This was when it got rather tricky and I needed at least three hands...

Mind blowing popping dinosaurs....
and snails!

Chocolate bark, packed and ready to go.
And I also did a tray of white chocolate - this time sprinkled with intense-flavoured freeze-dried raspberry, the sour cherries and caramelised almonds. This is a lovely combination too as the fruit cuts through the sweetness of the chocolate.

I made dark chocolate too but, having found the photography fiddly and not a little risky, I didn't take any 'action shots'! I made the fruit and nut bark, some chocolate gingers and some after dinner mints.

Later on, the children found one of my Snakes and Ladders game that I use for teaching English. In fact, this is one that Romy made when she came to help me one day. And so they had a game of that. Only we had no counters, so they used a chickpea, a pinto bean and a white bean! Resourceful bunch they are!

Market day dawned rather frosty!!

Ruy volunteered to get up early and come and help. See, even our frost remover is 'home made' - it's a milk bottle top!

Yes, it was minus 6 degrees - and it wasn't 9.09am, it was 8.09am - we haven't put the clock back in the car! (Oh, it's dusty too, isn't it... I'll have a word in the right ear about that!)

Despite the cold, the sky was blue and La Mota looked spectacular in the morning sunshine.

The market was in car park of a bar just off the road between Alcala la Real and Alcaudete - and there was a pleasing number of other cars there.

However, I didn't get round to taking photos....but Ruy took a couple of me setting my stall out.

In the literal sense.

And we were able to nip in and get ourselves some nice toast with tomato and olive oil (absolutely delicious) and some coffee.

And Ruy had a bit of chocolate from time to time too....

And guess what! By 11 o'clock, I had to move everything around and stand in a strategic, shadow-casting shape as the sun had begun to melt my chocolates! Nothing too serious though. We had a good laugh, lots of chatting to fellow stall-holders and in the end, I discovered I had sold quite a bit of chocolate.

Just another week or so before the next market...which is the CHRISTMAS market!! So I shall be making chocolate Christmas trees, I think!

Friday 22 November 2013

Up to my eyes....

(well, figuratively speaking...) in chocolate.

Making lots at the moment. It's that time of year for me.  Glad to say that on Saturday at the little market at our English shop, A LITTLE bit of BRITAIN, I did a stall of chocolates and cards. The cards weren't hot sellers though we (Romy and I) did sell a few and people were fascinated by the ones with tangle patterns on them.

The chocolates, however, started flying immediately. I'm very grateful to our expat community here as it's they who are buying, ordering and - hopefully - enjoying! I returned home a few hours later with my boxes lighter. And have to start all over again as there's a market on Sunday in a nearby village where there's a lot going on - there's a lively 'Women's Institute' and Katrina runs her burgeoning cake-making business - Golosaria - and Steffi has her beautiful, creative centre and villa - Cortijo las Salinas - so I'm hoping to tickle a few tastebuds and catch a few eyes with my wares. And no chance of my chocolate's jolly cold here at the moment!

Because of the blogs I follow and the friends I have on Facebook, I often find tantalising glimpses of English craft fairs and I do get a little 'pang'... you know, that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you're missing something, have forgotten something or want something...because I did enjoy doing craft fairs. I am so very happy here in Spain in our lovely house...but I do feel, since I've retired and found so many interesting things to do with my time, I think I might have quite enjoyed a crafty semi-retirement in England too!

But, how could I possibly miss anything at all when, on the stall next to me on Saturday is a very nice, Northern couple who sell a selection of all sorts, including some lovely vintage jewellery, little 'nice' things, a few antiques, cards, wrapping paper...anything really. And they're from a village in Huddersfield! From Skelmanthorpe actually - about which I wrote about in a post last year strangely enough! They've done craft and antique fairs all over - and we shared a few venues in common! (Probably not at the same time....that would be pushing it a bit!)

Anyway, for a woman with so much to do, I digress....(why change the habit of a lifetime?) ... next post, I shall be showing explicit photos of chocolate in all its states of deliciousness.....YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Another tick in the box

Actually, I don't have a list of things to tick off - there was one big one for several years (find a house!) but now I just seem to have a vague wishlist. Planting a palm tree was on it, though I'd sort of got used to living with the big hole in the ground over the months. Now, we have waving fronds and a garden that looks like it might be wonderful - one day - although the weather has changed ominously today and frost is threatened at the weekend, of course, so our gardening and nurturing skills are going to be tested this winter. Getting the palm has spurred me on to doing something else that I've been meanng to do but which has been put off and off for one reason or another.

Since we first arrived in Alcala la Real - almost three years ago now - I have been meaning to take a day to myself and catch the bus into Granada - not exactly a very ambition intention but it's taken a long time to fulfil. I wanted to get to know the city, in the same way as I got to know Valladolid when we lived there and as I knew places like London, Leeds and Malaga when I lived there. It's a bit like staking your claim on the city as your own, and despite Alcala being officially part of Jaen, Granada is our nearest provincial city - and of course, it is a wonderful place.

I just never got round to going when we lived in the town - I always seemed to have something to do in the mornings and then needed to be ready to go teach at around 4pm. And since we moved here, even a trip to Alcala seemed to drag me from my home unnecessarily!  I have been several times - don't misunderstand - but always with either FR and the children or with friends when they've visited, but never on my own. The time had definitely come to 'pop into town' on the bus.

Two buses actually, as I  went into Alcala with the Villalobos crowd on the 'school' bus - seemed like half the village was off on an outing and we filled the little bus...12 of us, laughing all the way about nothing. It left me at the bus station and after buying my ticket, I was off on the Granada bus about ten minutes later. Simple! I was on my way at 8.30 and the day was already sunny, though a chilly 7 degrees when we set off.

It takes just over an hour to get to the bus station and once there, I had the option of taking a bus directly to the Cathedral, which is fairly central to all of Granada - (with exception of the Alhambra, which wasn't on my visiting plan this time.) However, I decided to walk and, trusting to my sense of direction, set off roughly south and east assuming that somewhere I would find some directions to help me.

I walked a good half an hour in more or less the right direction and was amazed by how quiet the place was. A new tramway has been installed and looks very elegant but as yet, there are no trams running. The roads  - which have been a complete nightmare for cars to get anywhere on for several years - were empty. I saw hardly a soul and for a while began to doubt I was going in the right direction. Then I came to the hospital and began to recognise where I was.
There was never any doubt as to where I was, though - Granada (Spanish for pomegrante) is full of symbolic portrayals of the fruit - in the pavements, traffic bollards, in carvings and statues around the city you will see the pomegranate!

As I continued,  the architecture became elegant, less modern and more interesting against the blue of the sky.
I kept glancing at the time and temperature displays and within an hour of leaving the bus station, the temperature had gone up by 12 degrees and it was time to take off my scarf.

And I kept walking.

By now, I had reached the Gran Via de Colon, whose name convinced me I was on the right track. I was ready for a coffee and a sit down...I'd been walking for about an hour and a half, pausing from time to time to look in shop windows and enjoy the scenery of the parks I passed.

So far this year though, we haven't had snow and so the Sierra Nevada is not living up to its name - its still quite bereft of its snowy will come, it will come.

I noticed too that the streets had Christmas lights up. There not much sign of Christmas yet in Alcala la Real beyond the local supermarkets having a display of chocolate and panettone. The council hasn't put up any lights and the shops don't seem to be pushing anything different to usual.

I was always rather averse to Christmas starting earlier and earlier in England. I'm fond of the holiday itself - I'm not the 'Bah humbug' type but it feels better that all the merchandise and hype is much less here.

I spoke about the cost of food and drinks in a post recently. I had expected that Granada prices would be higher than those in our town, but when I stopped at a busy, lively cafe and patisserie on the Gran Via and had a typical breakfast/brunch of toasted bread with tomato and a 'cafe con leche', I was amazed that it cost only 1.90euros!  Slightly less than in Alcala - AND I could have pan integral - or wholemeal toast!

Coming out of the cafe, I passed one of the gates that leads up to the Alhambra though I couldn't actually see the palace from where I was. It's nice to think it was quite close though...

Before I left the cafe, I nipped into the loos and removed a layer of clothing - in the same style as I had done when travelling back from Manchester to Malaga. In just two short hours, the temperature had gone from 7 degrees to 21 degrees!

I stuck to the shady parts of the streets and I continued my trek.

Rounding another corner, I saw, on a street to my right one of the best views of the cathedral of Granada - though this isn't saying much! It's really difficult to get a good shot as it's surrounded on all sides by very narrow streets. You walk around it, knowing it's there but not being able to see it properly.

This is the back of the building. I've looked on the internet to share a better photo but even though this isn't good, it's obvious that no one can get much of an angle on the place...and you have to make do with the odd glimpse up a street... like this one below...

I enjoyed looking in the shops around this area and again, was pleasantly surprised at the prices. I found some great ideas for Christmas presents, even though today wasn't a buying day.

And I love the big square just to the side of the Cathedral. It's called Bib Rambla and hails from the last Muslim dynasty of Granada around the end of the 15th Century. I like it mainly because it's where the annual Chocolate Festival is held...though I missed it again this year as it was just as the children went back to school. But I think of it being held here in this lovely square and on my vague wishlist for next year will be a visit to the 2014 Chocolate Festival of Granada. Would someone please remind me of this as the time approaches?

I walked down Los Reyes Catolicos (The Catholic Kings) and then took a left down toward the ubiquitous department store in all Spanish cities - El Corte Ingles (or The English Cut) - which is sort of a necessary visiting place when window shopping. Well, it is for me.

The walk down this street was very pleasant - starting and ending with wonderful fountains.

Yes, I forgot my camera...but you can see how blue the sky was and what a lovely misty effect the water had as it rose up from the fountain.

And believe it or not, it was now 28 degrees! I was feeling the heat and had stripped off as much as was decently possible. And of course, most of the folk around me, who were from Granada, were in boots and scarves and warm jumpers. It's almost as if the date dictates what Spaniards wear, not the thermometer!

A lovely lion drinking fountain. He has a very kindly face, I think!

And this is the long pedestrian walkway between the two big fountains. Also strung with Christmas lights.

And this is the fountain at the other end of the street.  I began to wonder whether to postpone catching my intended bus back at 3.30...I would have liked to see the city lit up. But as I reached this - my furthest point - I knew  to stay until it went dark would have made it just a tad too long a day for me...guess I'll do it next time when it will be darker a bit earlier!

I went into El Corte Ingles at around midday, went up and down it and inspected everything of interest, bought a few bits in the posh supermarket and then came out again. I bought some drawing paper and some pens, that's all. Such restraint...? No, I just wasn't that bothered about anything. I guess my spending days have blown clear away.

I walked all the way back to the hospital, where I decided to jump on a bus for the last little trek up to the bus station. Only afterwards did I realise that the bus to Alcala actually stops outside the hospital! I could have stayed put....but at least I learned something for next time!

It was, of course, lovely to get home again - and the first thing I did - after taking off my boots(!) was to see how far I'd walked. It was 9.6 kilometers which is near as damn it to 6 miles. This isn't much considering I do almost that much on a walk with Darwin - but it's a lot of Granada and very satisfying to have done it. I can't quite claim it as 'my' city yet but I shall work on it again...soon!

Monday 11 November 2013

Put your hands together please...

to welcome our new palm tree....

Is that a beauty? We dug the hole the first month we arrived and even chose the one we wanted - but the digger at the garden centre was out of action. We ended up dithering about spending so much money on one plant and hesitated all summer...(when there was more chance for the plant to establish itself )....until last week, when FR had a brainstorm and went out and bought it. (Actually, it took several days and numerous phone calls before he could convince himself that he'd found the best deal.)

The hole we'd dug was ambitious to say the least - Ruy and Romy used it as a muddy paddling pool in the early months - but after much shovelling and balancing, we got the palm and almost all the earth back in. Then we trekked (OK, it was mainly FR) back and forth to our piece of land and made this lovely surround for it from the stones we had spent ages 'extracting' yesterday.

I absolutely adore it. I keep looking out of the window, or going out of the door sneakily - and am surprised and amazed every time to see it there. A palm tree, Phoenix Canariensis, to give it it's proper name - in my garden! Whatever next?

(Fingers crossed it survives the winter.....any tips?)

Friday 8 November 2013

Had to happen....

Those of you who are good enough to read my blog on a regular basis - as some of you do - will know that my love of chocolate and making chocolates has been going on for quite some time. I have also shared a more recent pleasure in the art of Zentangle. I have created a separate blog for that so that this blog doesn't get taken over entirely by pictures of my doodles - you are very welcome to pop over to Annie's Tangles to see what I'm up to there.

And as the weather has changed, I'm making chocolates again - hurray! I've made some rather nice milk truffles flavoured with natural vanilla bean, dipped in dark chocolate; some milk chocolate honey and rum truffles also dipped in dark chocolate; some orange and almond milk chocolates, some dark, mint chocolate and ......

TA DAH....

Chocolate with Zentangle!!!

I piped the 'Betweed' Zentangle pattern in milk chocolate on some parchment paper then covered that with dark chocolate to get the contrast. The parchment doesn't give a good shine to the chocolate - it would have been better on some acetate...must bear that in mind for next time.
Unfortunately, I don't think anyone will want such a huge piece of chocolate, so it's been broken up and bagged....still tastes delicious!

And with the chocolate left in the piping bag, I made some 'Cruffles'...well almost...which is also a Zentangle pattern. These turned out really well and they're lovely to eat! 

Am I pleased with myself??? (Just a bit!)

And on the subject of the somehow inevitable - I'm teaching again! Not at the same academy and nowhere near the same number of hours, but it's lovely to be back in the classroom again. A new academy had opened in the town in September and they'd already asked me to work there, but the hours were awful and I had to turn it down. However, they needed someone urgently last week for their Thursday evening spot and asked me if I'd do it...which I did. And now I'm doing Thursdays every week. And very happy about it too...

It had to happen.

Sunday 3 November 2013

Plot Night and Parkin Pigs

I thought I'd better check out my facts before I embarked on a story from a long time ago. Most people in England have heard of Guy Fawkes and know that he had something to do with Bonfire Night on 5th November. And they'd be right. In Bradford, where I grew up, we didn't know much more than that ...but we did call it 'Plot Night' and indeed, Guy Fawkes was a member of a group of fellow Catholics who planned - plotted - to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Guy Fawkes hadn't always been a Catholic but converted to this religion when he was about 16, probably due to the remarriage of his mother to a Catholic.... He had been a soldier in his early life, fighting for the Spanish against the Dutch - and at this time, chose to call himself 'Guido' - not sure why as this isn't a Spanish name.. The main target of the plot was to get rid of the Protestant King, James 1 and the year was 1605. The plot failed and it was Guy Fawkes who was the first of the group to be caught and taken prisoner, before being tortured to provide the names of his accomplices and then, as he was led to the scaffold, he jumped and broke his neck before he could be officially put to death. I always thought 'Guy' was an unusual name but I rather liked it. Until I met one in real life and that put me off the name forever! He was originally from York...

There's another Spanish link too - in 1603, Fawkes went to Spain to seek support for the removal of King James, but the Spanish weren't interested.  I put this down to the fact that Spaniards really don't like to eat anything with ginger in it - and ginger is a key ingredient of Parkin and a must for Plot Night - and also they never set off fireworks on November 5th. They only get to hear about the Plot from their native English language teachers...and most of them never mention the Pigs!

That is my official, historical explanation, with some chronology and my take on cause and effect....

Now onto my memories of Plot Night...

Just before Plot Night itself, the children I went to school with would talk about going 'proggin'' (we're famous up North for not pronouncing the 'ng' at the end of 'ing' words...we stop short at the 'n') which was a sort of scavenger hunt for bits of wood and things that could be burnt on our bonfires. I wasn't allowed to go proggin' but didn't really need to as we always had Plot Night at my grandparents' house and my grandpa would build a pretty good bonfire out in the 'croft' - a piece of shared land at the back of our houses. We would sometimes have a 'Guy' - a comical thing made by my granny from Grandpa's old clothes - and we'd always have a selection of fireworks like Catherine Wheels, Roman Candles, Snow Storm and a few rockets - but I always loved sparklers the best of all. I loved trying to write my name in mid-air before the image faded. And the smell...what a smell it was! Apparently it's sulphur residue though I'd always been told it was cordite...not true. Whatever it was, it hung in the air and made everything seem exciting. I really loved Plot Nights.

We ate pork pies and baked potatoes followed by parkin - an oatmeal-based ginger cake - and my Granny's special Parkin Pigs. Again, it would appear that this particular thing was quite local to Bradford and nearby areas of Yorkshire - unless of course, there is anyone reading who can tell me differently. I don't have any photos of our pigs - my mum now has 'the' cutter and she reckons it must be at least 100 years old as it's passed through generations of her family. The pigs themselves must have a currant eye and are thin, crispy ginger biscuits - the recipe is almost foolproof and I'll share it here...I guess it will be OK to make other gingerbread things out of it if you don't have a pig cutter...I do. And because the recipe is very old, it's in imperial measures...

4oz golden syrup                 }
10oz sugar                          }  - melt together in a large saucepan
4oz butter                           }                

Then add:

16oz self-raising flour
2tspns ginger
1 beaten egg

Stir into a soft mass and roll out as quickly as possible. Cut into shapes and bake at 120 degrees (low heat) for 10 to 15 minutes. It's easiest to work with when the dough is warm and slightly soft - I've found a quick blast in the microwave softens it again to make the shapes in batches - stops the cracking that happens when it's cool.

We're going to make some tomorrow when I've bought some golden syrup...I have a wide range of shape cutters but sadly, no pigs...

I am still none the wiser as to why we used to eat Parkin Pigs on Plot Night but we did and my mum still makes them at this time of year and gives them out to 'Trick or Treaters' in Knutsford...who won't have a clue why they've been given a gingerbread pig biscuit (unless they read this blog).

When we lived in Huddersfield, our Plot Night treat used to be a drive up to Castle Hill which overlooked all of Huddersfield and beyond, where we got a real bird-eye view of all the different bonfires and fireworks parties that were going on. Inevitably, there would be other families and groups there and we would always set off a few rockets from this vantage point - nothing too much but always with a sense of community spirit. Since 2009 though, fireworks have been banned on Castle Hill.

Funny to think how customs come and go - if I ever inherit the pig cutter, I shall most definitely continue the tradition. Whatever that might be!

Saturday 2 November 2013

November blues

I realised this morning that we have hardly been anywhere as a family for ages...maybe a day at the seaside over the summer....but since we moved into our house, we have rarely set off in the car all together.

So today, we decided to 'go out' for the morning. We didn't need to go too far to find a picturesque spot.

The reservoir near Colomera - just twenty minutes drive away

Created between 1982 and 1989 and now offers fishing, water sports and swimming.

Can you see the heron centre left? I just managed to catch it as it flew off...
At the chiringito by the lake...perfectly placed chairs!

November....23 degrees and all is well.

Time for a drink...

Yes, seeing the tapas before we ate them would have been slightly more photogenic...we had five drinks, three plates of fish, some aubergine slices, a big mixed salad and a basket of bread...for 10euros.

Exploring the reservoir

Creating some amazing and comical echoes and sound effects....

Hugely peaceful

We came home a couple of hours later, stopping off to buy a panettone from the supermarket...delicious with coffee. My thoughts feel a long way from bonfires and toffee just now!

My November blues....what colour are yours?