Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Who needs southern Europe?

So call me fickle but when you get a day as glorious as last Saturday then why move at all? Fortunately it coincided with a visit by Andrew's sister and puppy Dexter. So we threw the dogs in the car and set off to Old Hunstanton beach.

Everyone had the same idea but as the beach goes on for miles it wasn't a problem. Dexter remembered that he loved the sea and both dogs were fascinated by the kite surfers.

Dexter (the black dog) went straight to the sea
It didn't take Mortimer long to join him
C'mon Dexter!
Andrew took photographs of the kite surfers...

And I took photos of dogs and textures...

Tucked behind the sand dunes by the lifeboat station is a great café, really dog friendly. The garden was so sheltered and the sun so warm we ate lunch outside (yep in February. In Norfolk.) They bake dog biscuits and sell them at 3 for a £1. Mortimer decided that, as the biggest dog, he should have the third one.

I'm sure that's mine
After a hearty lunch we walked some more and decided that a good day was had by all. And not a squeak from the dogs on the way home.

End of the day

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Salami making

This post comes with a warning for those of a squeamish nature, some of the photos are a bit 'meaty' so by all means look away now.

Andrew is a great charcuterie fan, particularly salamis and saucisson. Last year I bought him a copy of Jane Grigson's classic 'Charcuterie & French Pork Cookery' which is heaven for a meat lover.  He had a chat with our butcher about supplies for sausage and salami making and was recommended Weschenfelder . So for Christmas I ordered a salami making kit and waited for the creativity to begin.

This Saturday Andrew deemed to be the right day for salami making and bought the meat for a basic Italian salami. His preference is for chunky saucisson, bold flavoured with peepers but sensibly decided to follow a simple recipe for a Milanese style salami before venturing into his own flavourings.

Weighed ingredients

It was recommended that the meat be partially frozen before going through the mincer to stop too much 'smearing'.

First pass

The meat is then mixed with salt, seasoning and the all important nitrite/nitraite mix. This is where salami making gets a bit technical. Bacteria has to be introduced to cure the meat but it has to be the right type of bacteria or things could turn a bit, say, nasty...

Once all mixed up then the salamis get made and Andrew was using natural casings. I had been observing most of this process from a distance anyway, but when the skins came out I nearly vacated the house. They are really not pleasant!

Of course Mortimer found the whole thing fascinating.

Self appointed sous-chef
Finally the skins were stuffed and tied.

Looks so wrong!

So now the maturation phase starts. For the first 24-36 hours they have to incubate somewhere warm so we used the boiler cupboard.

Even after 24 hours you could see the change.

After 24 hours

They now hang for around six weeks and will probably lose about 30%  of their original weight. We chose the back of the understairs cupboard, possibly an unfortunate choice as it does not have a catch. But it does have a guard dog!

We'll let you know how the salami project progresses.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

El Caminito del Rey

Okay I admit that I haven't quite shaken off Andalucia. I've progressed my virtual house stalking from quaint village casas to tumble down fincas with olive groves and stunning views of the mountains. I've received my order from Awesome books and am creating tapas recipes in the kitchen. All this to howling, storm force winds, is it no wonder I'm still looking south?

In my musings around the internet I chanced upon some stunning photographs taken from/of  the 'Caminito dey Rey' and so delved a bit further but what I found really made me quake. Never will I complain about commuting again.

Translated as 'The King's Little Path' it is apparently seen as the most dangerous walkway in the world and can be found along the walls of El Chorro, a gorge in southern Spain. The construction of the path started in 1901 when workers at two hydroelectric plants (Chorro Falls & Gaitanejo Falls) needed to be able to cross between the two falls for transportation of materials and maintenance of the channel. Completed in 1905 it was not until 1921 that the inauguration took place when King Alfonso XIII crossed it. Hence the name.

The path is one metre wide, and three kilometres long, and is constructed of concrete and steel rails. Although  currently in a dangerous state of disrepair it nevertheless has become an adventure sport for tourists. Not me. Not ever.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Dreaming of the south

I know I shouldn't be complaining about the weather here in East Anglia because even as I write the south west is being battered by more storms, there have been villages isolated since Christmas by flood water and electricity lines are down again. But this has been an awful winter, day after day of relentless grey.

View from the sitting room this morning
Usually I like winter but it has been utterly miserable, only a handful of crisp, frosty days and not a hint of snow. Mortimer's walks are less running in the orchards and more trudging the tarmac with the ground like this.

Ankle deep in mud
Many of the French bloggers I follow are suffering the same weather, Margaret has been unable to do her  weekly hikes (but at least she can escape to snowy mountains). Walt in the Loire is not faring any better so I'm beginning to wonder if Quercy, my favourite area in France, might not cut the mustard. So I've been casting my net far and wide and have settled on Andalucia.

Andalucia. I  love the sound of the word, just saying it conjures up pictures of white-washed villages, gorgeous ceramics

and of course warm winters. Granada is currently 18C and sunny. It isn't that I'm a sun worshipper, I haven't sunbathed for decades (I burn easily) and every day, without fail, SPF 30 cream goes on my face. It's just I crave some colour and life. I even have relatives there, including my grandmother who is 101 so there must be something to the lifestyle! And no worries about getting the right oranges for marmalade.

We could buy this house and I could swap my espress' for a cafe solo on the roof terrace. At 54,000 euros (approximately £44800) it's a snip.

Perfect for morning coffee
Or this one with a bit more work but only £28700.

Bargain village house

But could I swap croissants for ensaimadas?

St.Emilion for Rioja?  Aperos for tapas?

I'm sure when spring arrives I'll feel better, but until then I'll dream of warm sun and white washed villages.