Sunday, 23 December 2018

Winter walk to La Preciosa

One of our favourite walks from Montanchez village to Manfred's olive grove, La Preciosa. It's about 3kms across the sierra on a high slope looking down on Arroyomolinos. It feels like the end of the world, perfect peace and beautiful views. The olive grove is ancient with wonderfully knarled olive trees and a few old fig trees, surrounded by intricately layed stone walls, it's a special refuge and often our picnic spot.
Today the clouds were lying low in the valleys but up above the sun was really bright and warm, the sky a gorgeous luminous blue.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

A trip to Estremoz in Portugal for the Saturday market

It only takes one and a half hours heading west into Portugal to reach the beautiful old market town of Estremoz. Every Saturday morning there is a wonderful market selling  delicious local products and fresh fresh fruit and vegetables, the range of cheese is particularly interesting, all from local producers.

 Besides the food market is a big area of bric-a-brac, some fascinating vestiges of past times and a great place to people watch, many of the stall holders are traditional Portuguese gypsies, amazing faces peering out of deep black clothes.

Estremoz is one of the marble towns of the Alentejo region, there are huge quarries dotted around the countryside amongst the olive groves. The architecture in Estremoz encorporates marble in all its forms and colours, the pavements are a kaleidescope of geometric patterns, there are spacious pra├žas and stately houses with the roads getting more narrow up towards the castle which dominates the whole town.
 It's a real delight strolling around this walled town, great little cafes and restaurants everywhere. We had a jolly lunch with old friends at the solidly old fashioned Cafe Alentejana serving traditional dishes and the famous Alentejano wines.  The food is served in clay dishes, delicious but the most wonderful thing was the bread, baked in big loaves with natural unbleached flour, we can't get anything like this in Extremadura.

We stopped on the way home to stock up on some superb wines. A lovely day out in Portugal.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Chumbo jelly.... a.k.a. a right waste of time

The local cactus plants are loaded with exotic looking fruit, vivid against the extraordinary shapes and contortions of the cactus, the giant nopales sprouting more extensions along side the fruit.
The botanical name is Opuntia ficus-indica , a species of cactus that has long been a domesticated crop plant.
Originally from Mexico, yet another plant transported back to Europe by the 17th century Spanish conquistadors. 
Some of the common English names for the plant and its fruit are Indian fig opuntia, Barbary fig, cactus pear, spineless cactus, and prickly pear. In Mexican Spanish, the plant is called nopal, while the fruit is called tuna, which are names also used in English, especially as culinary terms, in Spanish the fruit is known as chumbo.

By previous experience we knew that we needed gloves before approaching the plant to harvest the fruit because the fine hairs on the fruit penetrate skin and cause very uncomfortable irritation. Apparently on windy days these hairs can be blown off the fruit into eyes, must be torture. Picking the fruit was not difficult with aid of gloves and tongs, it broke off easily and we picked a big basket very quickly. The problems started in the kitchen, we became careless in emptying the fruit into a boiling pan of water to remove the hairs, better to keep gloves on until the whole process is complete.

After the fruit was safe to handle we scraped out the pulp and sieved it to remove hundreds of pips which are completely inedible and as hard as shot. 

After this process there was very little pulp. Adding lemon for pectin and a horrendous amount of sugar the whole mess was boiled up to produce this 400g jar
........... yes, from a big basket of fruit, maybe 5 kilos, one small jar of marmelada which was so sweet it almost disguised any natural taste of the fruit.
 Will not be bothering with this again, perhaps for eating fresh and spitting out the seeds as one goes. Apparently full of antioxidants and particularly effective for hangover cure, perhaps that little jar will come in useful during the coming festive season.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Battle of Arroyomolions re-enactment on October 28

A different format this year, somewhat reduced with no horse activity unfortunately but entertaining never the less. A perfect autumn day with blue skies above Arroyomolinos unlike the original battle of 1811 when there was torrential rain and thunder storms.
 See here for the 200 year anniversary in 2011
And here for some spectacular horse action


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