Monday, 17 January 2011

Winter in Madrid and a recipe to share

This winter in Madrid is proving to be particularly enjoyable; not too cold this time round, plenty of home-cooking and good wine, browsing art galleries, day trips (Aranjuez in the photo) and staying in and watching Caprica (and no, I don’t normally like SciFi but this is one of those series that doesn’t include characters that wear spandex jumpsuits or have bony knobbled foreheads or pointy ears, so I’m actually not averse to it!). I just wanted to share a little side dish that I cooked the other day as it was perhaps the first time that I cooked fennel and it turned out just right. Normally I cut it into lengths then braise it with white wine and butter, and while it’s tasty it’s not ‘come back for seconds’ tasty… but the other day D did roast lamb and I decided that I’d do a side to accompany – a quick Google and voil√° (Sp?) – fennel with pine nuts and raisins (a mix of various recipes found online). I’m sorry that as usual I don’t have a photo but promise this is delicious and easy peasy!

Ingredients (for 2-3 people as a side)
1 bulb of fennel
Tablespoon of butter
Slug of olive oil
Small handful of raisins/sultanas
Small handful of pine nuts
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop the fennel into more or less 1.5 cm cubes, meanwhile heat up the butter and oil in a pan. Add the fennel and cook for around 5 minutes on a medium heat, add the pine nuts and raisins, cook until the fennel is done – about 10 more minutes in my case. You might want to partially cover the pan if you find the pine nuts and fennel are getting too dark. Add salt and pepper to taste. Goes beautifully with lamb. Enjoy!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year!

Well, it wasn't actually that happy as it was spent arguing with money-grabbing pen-pushers in Khartoum airport, but I feel quietly optimistic about what the year ahead might bring :-) Looking back to last New Years, I think this post reveals that I knew certain aspects of my life were not going well and were about to come to a sad end. I'm happy to say that this year things seem to be looking a lot brighter and that the old saying that time is a great healer is at least a little bit true (other stuff like good food and great people also help)

This Christmas/New Years break has been a little unusual to say the least - there was no turkey, no crackers, no carols and no presents. My brother got married on the 27th December in Sudan (of all places) and so yuletide festivities were cancelled this year and replaced by the mayhem that is a Sudanese wedding - think 1000 guests, tribal bridal dances (go to minute 1.57), fertility ceremonies, intensive ululation and enough food to make you explode. There's a preview of Sudan photos below but I'll post more soon. As for Christmas, D and I plan to do our own Christmas and New Year in one here in Madrid on Reyes (Epiphany, 7th? January)

I feel surprisingly relaxed at the start of this new year, none of the intensive 'I must improve' lists of resolutions - I feel reasonably fit, work-wise and relationship-wise things are going great and my big bro just got married :-) Perhaps more than looking to the future (there are a few exciting trips and events in the pipeline that I hope to be able to share here soon :-)) I'll reflect on what I've learnt this year - it's not much I'm afraid and perhaps very obvious but I feel I ought to record it nevertheless:

1. Know when to give in and ask for help - I've really had to swallow my pride and do that this year - and funnily enough sometimes those closest to you are not the people to get advice from.
2. Don't be afraid to travel alone - I did it for the first time this year (Marrakech and Bali) and it was possibly one of the most enriching experiences of my life - I met great people, had a wonderful time and forgot my woes in a big way.
3. When you want something (a better job and a happy relationship in my case) just keep gnawing away until you get it. That probably sounds awful doesn't it? At the start of this year both of these were looking truly and utterly dire with no light at the end of the tunnel - but I have to say that perseverance, direct communication (i.e. letting people know clearly what I want) and coming at the problem from different angles paid off despite often feeling that I was getting nowhere.

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year and that 2011 turns out great for all of us!
My sisters and I at my brothers wedding
Henna time
Where the blue and white nile converge before travelling north (and on to Egypt)

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