baking some more

It doesn’t look as if we’ll be travelling abroad any time soon*, so I decided to partially make up for it by baking up another taste of Portugal.  I found this recipe for Bola de Amendoa on the Great British Chefs site. It’s a good resource for recipes and tips.

Anyway, I’d planned to make it a couple of weeks ago but had run out of ground, or indeed any kind of, almonds.  As had our local shop.  So I had to wait until we did our “big shop” (see* below) in Oban.  It was worth the wait.

I love almondy cakes, and gooey centred ones so this recipe promised a double treat.

dry ingredients

Here’s the ground almonds and butter ready to be pulsed together

 

sugar and spice

Sugar and spices

The sugar and egg yolks are whisked  up together,  salt, spice and lemon zest  folded in and then in goes the almond mixture.

all mixed up

egg whites whisked to soft peaks

Next  comes the trickiest part, gently adding in the whisked egg whites. Tricky because you have to mix it enough to avoid streaky white stripes of egg, but gently to avoid beating out the air.

Actually it can’t have been too tricky because I managed it quite successfully,  and into the oven it went.

My one mistake was using a baking tin which was a) slightly too small and b) a push rather than spring release. This meant I had a cuff of cake spilling over the side of the tin which I had to cut away to release the rest of the cake. This did mean I had a bit of cake to “test” – for purely critical purposes you must understand. So silver linings… But next time I think I’ll use my slightly bigger spring release tin, which might mean keeping a close eye on the last few minutes of baking, as the mix will be spread more thinly.

Anyway here’s a not terribly good photo of the finished cake

fuzzy finished product

I didn’t notice how fuzzy this was until it was too late

And once I realised,  I thought I’d take a picture of a slice.

But  I went to look,  and there was none left!  Cake thieves must operate in this area, who’d have thought?

I’ll just have to make another one.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and stay safe.

Marina xx

 

* Mind you it was a huge excitement the other day just walking in a different part of town. We went to the garden centre, along the esplanade, and then to the fishmonger.  Usually it’s the small supermarket, pick up our food hub  order and home.

Update!

I made another one,  and took a photo

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Ile de Re

I must start with an apology, I’m getting a strong sense of Deja-vu with this post. I’m pretty sure I’ve written about Ile deRe before, but on a quick scan back through old posts couldn’t find one. It’s possibly on my old blog? If it does turn up it would be interesting to see if I’ve written the same things and used the same photos? A pretty high chance I think.

Why today? Well quite often on sunny days, and today had been very sunny, I’m struck by the similarities between  it, and “my” island.

We have the same sort of small white cottages, though ours were built to house slate miners. There aren’t miners anymore but you can find  fishermen (yes it is always men), here. We even have oyster beds, Ile de Re is famous for oysters.  But lobsters, crab and langoustines are dominate here.

Both islands have lots of lovely summer flowers.

And both  are on the Atlantic coast, connected to the mainland  by a bridge.

Our trip to Ile de Re was quite a while ago, 2013 and it was our first trip abroad with DogS. And because of that, also the first time we crossed the channel using Le Shuttle.

First impressions weren’t great. We couldn’t even see the island as we drove onto the bridge . There was a fog worthy of an Edinburgh haar*

Luckily the weather improved, most days were nice and sunny.   We had a lovely time exploring, eating seafood, shopping in the market, even the odd drink.

Oh and cycling. Well sort of I had a tricycle.

And though she wasn’t keen at first, DogS came to love the box. Specially when  I picked up speed, and she could enjoy the wind through her fur.

She made friends too

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DogS is the very hairy one on the right

but was less keen on “Les Chats”.

We were based in St Martin de Re which is the capital, and that’s where the differences start. There’s a fabulous local shop here,  but not the kind of designer boutiques you find in Ile de Re. None of our three villages could be called the “capital”.

And we don’t have donkeys, and certainly no donkeys in stripy pyjamas.

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this one is “au naturel” but traditionally they wear stripy PJs to protect their legs from salt and beasties when they work in the marshes

There’s no point in my giving names of bars or restaurants that we liked, seven years on so much may have changed. Even without Covid-19.

One recommendation, we visited in June and our accommodation was almost 50%  cheaper  than it would have been in the peak months (mostlyAugust when Parisians visit). And it was still a nice buzzy place in the slightly off season. It would be interesting to visit in the off season, but I imagine a very different experience.

Oh and a warning, it was the place I took this photograph.  While it was easy to eat out, visit the shops and even some of the monuments, many of the beaches were off limits for dogs

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So on  a lovely sunny day at home it’s been  nice to remember another pretty island and a happy holiday.

Until tomorrow

Marina xx

*Haar – a sea fog common on Scotland’s east coast, usually in Spring.

Feeling slightly sad at seeing my former favourite Sonia Rykiel top. Repurposed last year when it became too holey to wear or repair.

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Salamanca

I’d intended documenting my walk today, but the weather was against me. It’s really wet and windy, more Autumn than Spring. So I’ve decided to focus on another city from our October trip.

Salamanca in Spain’s Castilla y Leon region. We treated ourselves in this city and stayed at the plush Hospes Palacio de San Esteban , converted from part of a Dominican convent and right in the old heart of the city.

outof windowThis is the view from our room, into the cloister. Opposite is still a religious building.

We all had comfy beds, 

and treats too but we ate ours up before I could take picture of them.  DogS was made very welcome and we were allowed to leave her in the room while we enjoyed our dinner.

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We had an afternoon and one full day to explore. For our afternoon we just wandered around getting a feel for the city. Next day we headed out for breakfast , where DogS made a friend.

meeting a daxieHe was a lovely wire haired dachshund.

We  gave her a good walk along the river Tormes, where we met another dachshund! A smooth, black and tan one this time*.  We’d decided that we wanted to visit the Casa Lis a gorgeous Art Nouveau, or Modernista as it’s known in Spain,  building housing the museum of Art Nouveau and Art Deco. So once DogS was happily tired we took her back to the hotel where she could enjoy her luxury bed.

Now, when I was choosing my photos for this post I was convinced that there must be some I’d not loaded from my camera, or accidentally deleted. I mean I don’t have any of the Plaza Mayor**, one of the main sights of Salamanca. But there’s a good reason why I have none of the Casa Lis collections, photography isn’t allowed inside. You’re encouraged to just look at and enjoy the exhibits.  To be in the moment with them.

There’s a cafe inside but we didn’t want to leave DogS alone for too long.   We collected her from the hotel and looked around for a nice place for lunch. 

Then it was time for more exploring. We spent a long time looking for the stone frog on the facade of the university , before we realised we were looking at the wrong building! MrS eventually spotted it with a little help from the guidebook 

exterior universityWe had time for one more visit and decided on the old Cathedral. So we followed the map and walked round and round looking for the way in.  No luck, we could only find the entrance to the “New” Cathedral***.  I can’t remember how we found out the truth, it’s a “Russian doll” type set up. The old Cathedral is inside the new one.  And we’d only had a glass of wine with our lunch. We had planned on taking turns on going in, while the other stayed outside with DogS. I went in first, it was about fifteen minutes before last entry. But then it took a while to find the old Romanesque parts. And I didn’t want to be scurrying through not looking at anything else. By the time I reached the old parts I realised that there wouldn’t be time for me to get out, again,  find MrS,  and for him to buy a ticket and visit. So I stayed until closing time, and it was one place where I did take lots of  photos. 

We only touched the surface of a lovely city and would like to go back some day.

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Until tomorrow,

Marina xx

*DogS has a “fur-cousin” Lemmy who is a mini longhaired dachshund – there’s picture of him here.

**It’s beautiful, with cafes and shops at street level and balconies above. Like many Spanish plazas it was once the site of bullfights. When we visited, the centre of it was full of stalls  being prepared for a fair or exhibition,  but it didn’t open while we were there. 

***the “New” one is pretty old too 

 

Stopping for lunch

These days I start thinking about lunch pretty much right after breakfast, certainly no later than mid morning.

Who am I trying to kid?  This is normal , not lockdown behaviour for me.

I have to be very, very busy or ill,  not to have at least part of my mind on my next meal.

That’s today’s lunch by the way, cheesy beans on toast. Nothing fancy but quite delicious.

Anyway, lunch at home might be important, but lunch on the road?       Well…….

On our October trip, yes that again,  I planned our pitstops around nice breaks for lunch. And the chance of a bit of sightseeing. We were doing far too many miles to rely solely on the delights of the motorway service station*  And  they are rarely dog friendly**

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“Dunno why. I has luvverly table manners”

So,  on the road in October. Our first stop was  The Fleece Inn in Lancashire. Not only a pub and place to stay, it was also a shop and community hub. I hope it’s surviving the lockdown.

The book has been great way to find off motorway stops but it’s not infallible. We once drove miles along twisty car filled roads in Surrey to find a place that was dog friendly only on its very small terrace. Luckily it was a sunny day.

On the way  to Saumur we stopped off in Angers, to view the Tapestry and eat crepes in a cone. And in a damp Pamplona,  with MrS feeling a bit ill back at the hotel, I trudged around trying to find somewhere I could get a waiter to serve a crazy lady outside***

Street scene in Angers, my lunch in Pamplona.

On our return through France, away from the motorways we found a couple of towns that would have been fun to explore.

We made a planned stop in Rodez as it was convenient for our route between Albi and Le Puy . It looked interesting with a fine church and a fancy new museum****. But we just stopped for a quick lunch in a tiny cafe and filed it away for “future visit”.

We stopped a bit longer in Laon, unplanned this time. It  happened along conveniently at lunchtime. It was a bit like Le Puy, though not so far off the beaten track. Obviously hugely important in the past,  a stop for pilgrims along  the Camino.  As so many of our stops had been, though mostly by chance.

Its fine Cathedral was visible for miles, high above the otherwise flat countryside.

The empty streets were being prepared for Christmas and there seemed to be a municipal rollercoaster. This turned out to be a funicular, which like too many of the shops, had been closed for a few years.  Our first choice restaurant wasn’t dog friendly, not common in France, but we didn’t go hungry.

Rainbow drops and our robust lunch

It had a melancholy air.

Wandering about, eating lunch in a cafe, being among people.

Life enriching things.

Missing things.

Things I hope will return.

Until tomorrow

Marina xx

 

*there are some really good ones, check out the Westmorland group

**Cairn Lodge on the M74 is an exception, there is an indoor dog friendly eating area. Best if you are travelling with someone as you can’t take them into the food service area.

***we found very few places where DogS was allowed inside in Spain, so it was tricky alone on a wet day.

****where we parked, it seemed secure and I’m quite paranoid about parking when we have a fully laden car.

Le Puy en Velay

I’m back with the armchair travel. In Le Puy. A stop on our return through France in October.

And at first I wasn’t sure whether I did like it.

Actually it was strange and beautiful on first sight.  Approaching from the hills we could see its stripy cathedral, and  weird volcanic toadstools, those topped with churches and statues instead of pixies. Then as we spiralled down towards the town,  it looked a bit sad, and more than a little rough around the edges.

It didn’t help that I missed the entrance to the hotel parking on my  first two, was it three? passes.  But it is best that I’m driving in these circumstances. I’m much less law-abiding than MrS, and happy to simply stop in the street.  And MrS, has far better language skills. So off he went to the hotel and got directions. And in fairness  he was told that no-one ever found their way into the carpark without help.

So we set off for a little explore, and gradually my opinion and spirits improved.

Le Puy sits not quite in the centre*of France, but feels as if it is. It’s roughly equidistant from Clermont Ferrand and Lyon, just under two hours by road from either. And it isn’t on a major motorway route. Because of all that volcanic activity the approach roads are  scenic but not the easiest drive. And like many provincial towns in France its economy is a bit depressed. It used to make money from tanning and lacemaking. There’s no tanning any more, but you can buy and watch lace being made by hand in the traditional ways.

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It’s gorgeous but sadly not as fashionable as it once was.

Le Puy is known for its green lentils, but less so for another green  “foodstuff” – Verveine. Nope I hadn’t heard of it either but it was everywhere. It used to be made in a beautiful distillery** in the centre of the town. It’s still distilled locally but out of the centre.

 

It did seem to be a popular digestif, and not only in the more touristy restaurants.

We ate well in Le Puy;  dinner at the traditional and historic Tournayre,  lunch at a friendly bistro near the cathedral, and dinner again at Brasserie 912  which had great  vegetarian options. And yes, that is a lentil burger.

 

And of course, we visited that amazing stripy cathedral  the top of the town.

So yes, I did like Le Puy.

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“I liked it too”

A demain

Marina xx

 

 

 

*that’s a service area with a fantastic view, this was taken in February on a different trip. P1010856

**I haven’t many photos from Le Puy although I ‘m sure I took lots. You can find out more about Verveine here.

A good cocktail

Carefully mixed and preferably served in a classic Martini glass, a good cocktail is my favourite indulgence.

Although gin is my spirit of choice for a simple mixed drink it’s not an ingredient in my favourite cocktail, the Manhattan. Three parts whisky and one sweet vermouth, mix over ice,  strain and serve with a cocktail cherry. Delicious.  And best mixed by a white shirted bartender in a glamorous bar.  I’ve not enjoyed that for a while and it’s likely to be longer until I do.

Of course I could make one at home, I have all the ingredients

IMG_0635 But it’s just not the same. The environment, the atmosphere, the accoutrements all add up to the experience.

And don’t get me started on these, a sorry disappointment

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And despite Fleabag giving credibility to  “gin in a tin” I still prefer to take a miniature and separate can of tonic for my picnic G&T.

There are exceptions to the home made rule, this mixed by Profski was superb*

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perfect ambience

I quite like ones served up in coupes too

Best for espresso martinis or salt rimmed Margaritas. Although I think the right hand ones are sweeter vodka based raspberry martinis.

I’ve had pangs of disappointment when an otherwise perfectly tasty drink comes in a sturdily unspillable tumbler.

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“S’pose it might be tasteee, not as good as a nice puddle tho”

But quite enjoyed a pudding/cocktail combination like this frozen Margarita

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Bacolod City, Phillipines

I’ve never drunk a classic in the bar of its birth, no Bellini’s at Harry’s nor Singapore Slings at the Long bar. I did open the door and peer into the dark panelled bar of the (pre refurb) Coliseum in Kuala Lumpur, but it wasn’t appropriate for me on my own, even if I’d opted for a Gunner rather then a Gimlet.

But actually one of my favourite memories of a cocktail defies my rules.

A Manhattan, served in an enormous globe glass, from room service at the Le Concorde in Quebec City. MrS was at a fancy dinner with colleagues somewhere way below on the Grande Allee. And I settled back with my burger (which was very good),  cocktail,  and a Harry Potter movie**.      Bliss.          Sometimes rules are made to be broken.

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the view from my room, apologies for picture quality, I managed to boot up my old iPad but had to take a photo of the photo!

 

 

 

A demain

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*I can’t remember what it was, perhaps a testament to  Profski’s mixology skills

**Not sure which one, it was 2007 so might have been Order of the Phoenix, though Goblet of Fire more appropriate.

 

Taking time to explore

Once upon a time we took a trip to Europe.  MrS, DogS and me.

Well it seems like a long time ago. Even at the time we felt it might be  a kind of a “last hurrah”.  We didn’t know how easy a trip like that would be after Brexit. To be able to pack up the car and drive down through England, into the tunnel and on through France,  and Spain, to Portugal.

And back again, but following a different route.

our outward journey

Where we  had an (almost) week long stay in Guimaraes. “Aqui Nasceu Portugal”*

We didn’t have the best weather so couldn’t make the most of the terrace in Casa Porta Nova but we made full use of the rest of the lovely townhouse.

the views up and down the street

I read in a guide somewhere that you could see all the sights of Guimaraes on a day out from  Porto. Well maybe you can,  but it wouldn’t be nearly so much fun.  We visited most of the museums, climbed to the top of Penha, rode the cable car back down, shopped, and extended our portfolio of TV property improvement shows.

MrS even baked bread using his sourdough starter that we’d taken along too.

And we ate.  Perhaps the most famous Portuguese delicacy is the Pasteis de Nata and we certainly ate plenty of those. But they’re not the only pastry available, one particularly rainy day we comforted ourselves with these sweet and savoury delights.

And less traditional choices were also available.

At the  Ducal Palace. we almost by passed the temporary exhibition. After all the Inquisition isn’t  the most appealing of subjects. We entered through a door unlocked for ticket holders and closed firmly behind us. Once inside it wasn’t a cheery exhibition and featured possibly the most gruesome set of artefacts I’ve ever seen.   But I spent most of my time reading the boards which gave an unflinching description of the way religious doctrine was used to scapegoat a minority, for what were largely economic reasons. So long ago but so familiar.

The exhibition is over now,  and of course the whole museum is currently closed.  But if you get a chance, sometime when we can travel again, Guimaraes is well worth a few days of your time. Meanwhile I hope that washing is still hung from balconies, Pasteis de Nata are baked, and our host Anthony remains safe and well.

 

Until tomorrow

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*Portugal was born here

Travelling, but is staying at home*

*Well apart from our permitted hour of outdoor exercise*.*

So with plenty of time on my hands I’ve been looking back at some photos from our trip to Europe in the Autumn.     I last posted in November. Back then my main worry was the effect Brexit would have on future trips.  And I was sad that it might not be easy to travel around Europe in the same way again…..

France.  And DogStarke

How things change.  At the beginning of March I spent a couple of days in Edinburgh.  MrS was busy with some research at the Archives. I had fun, meeting a couple of friends for lunch, spending time  with Master S.,  and treating myself to a new phone.

Then the world began to shrink.

Mid March I had a hair appointment, we were being discouraged from too much contact and large gatherings had been banned so  I rang ahead to check my stylist was still happy to see me.  As I sat in foils under the heater my phone beeped with notifications.  Business after business announcing their closure, pubs,  restaurants, small shops.  The cinema had closed the day before. By the end of that week we had Covid locally and pretty much went into lockdown,  lots of my friends went into shielding isolation. Lockdown became official policy the following week.

Spain and DogS again

Our days changed.  Normally I walk to our local shop while  MrS takes DogS for  her walk.  But I’ve cut those trips down to once a week and  instead we go out for our hour of exercise together. We have a route that avoids livestock*** (completely) and people (mostly) and gives DogS a chance to walk off lead.  After that we’re home where MrS has been working in the garden, aided or otherwise by DogS. I’ve been catching up on reading, trying to write, and failing in my attempts to draw trees****  We do a weekly trip to town***** to go to the supermarket  or Food Hub.

Portugal, an apposite caricature we saw there, and you know who.

It’s hard not to see friends, difficult not to go out on a sunny evening and scary to hear the news each night.   But I’m lucky, I have a house,  garden and live in a beautiful part of the world.   Tonight there was some good news, a relaxation of restrictions in Austria, a slowing of the pandemic in Spain, and a downward trend in Italy;  but still too much grim news.

views from our walks*****,* my attempts with pencils, and DogS

 

What will life be like after?  Different,  probably for quite a while.  Relaxation of restrictions will be gradual and perhaps not the same everywhere.  Many businesses won’t have survived to reopen. There will be hardship and recession.

And too many people missing their family and friends.

 

 

Here’s hoping that even though things change, so the good things stay the same.

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And looking forward to being with friends again.

 

Marina x

 

 

 

**permitted at time of writing,  and hoping it continues.

***although we are rural we can’t walk in the fields as it’s lambing/calving season

**** you might imagine I’ve never seen an actual tree

***** it’s about 12 miles to our nearest town

****** we’ve been doing much the same circular walk most days, but in different directions.

(still) being European

Don’t misunderstand, I’ve nothing against the other continents, I’m just delighted that we’ve got a little reprieve and still belong to the EU and all the benefits that brings. We’re just back from a three week trip through France, Northern Spain and Portugal, taking advantage of DogStarke’s pet passport for what may be its last outing.

DogStarke on tour

(and a couple of friends she made along the way)

 

We all did lots of walking, and MrS and I did lots* of eating and drinking.

 

Discovered that we’d planned much of our journey along the ancient pilgrim routes

And visited lots of Cathedrals…..

 

I’d intended to blog as we travelled but we all know what happens to good intentions on holiday.

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Now I’m trying to get back into blog mode.

So this is just a taster,

Until next time.

 

 

                    Marina x

 

 

*too much in my case.

Alicante

It’s been a  bit dreich* today and so I ditched my plans to visit a local garden and remembered sunny times in  April instead. (Caught up on the ironing too)

Alicante.  Probably most travellers fly there to  reach  the  resorts of the Costa Blanca but that’s a shame. Our previous visit to Spain had been Seville,  a major tourist city full of world famous attractions but Alicante had plenty to occupy us.  We climbed up to the Santa Barbara castle, explored colourful streets,  ate and drank well. And even though  I didn’t brave a sea swim I enjoyed a paddle from El Postiguet beach.

There was a superb exhibition of treasures from Persia (modern day Iran)

And a fascinating municipal museum of Fogueres fantastic sculptures built by neighbourhood organisations then burnt in a festival of bonfires each June

I even managed to find a dress for a wedding next month.

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no this isn’t my dress but some topical branded whisky I found in El Cortes Ingles foodhall                           (wonder which one sells best………)

Before MrS retired  we did a certain amount of travelling for his work, often to places we wouldn’t have otherwise chosen, and because of that I’ve been lucky to visit some amazing places. This trip was a little like that, determined by time and available flights, but we had a really great time.

 

And the flight home was pretty spectacular

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Until next time,

Marina x

 

We stayed at the lovely Hospes Amerigo  

*Scottish word meaning wet and grey