Sunday, 27 March 2011

Another weekend away

This weekend to celebrate, among other things, our anniversary and my new (now old) job I prepared a surprise trip – I wanted somewhere no more than 2 hours from Madrid (for practical reasons) and something very rural but with a bit of style. A few hours of googling and somewhat disappointed with the amount of casas rurales with dusty vases of dried flowers and flammable bedspreads I stumbled upon Hotel Nabia in the Sierra de Gredos at the foot of Almanzor mountain and with views over the picturesque Valle del Tietar. The hotel is gorgeous -  see photo of room 14 below where we stayed - breakfast is also yummy serving all kinds of local goodies. In the vicinity you can go to nearby village Candeleda which is quite pretty (see bottom photo) and eat roast lamb/goat and there are plenty of stunning walking routes if your inclined to hiking. But to be honest, it's worth the journey (2.20 hours from Madrid) just to wake up to such gorgeous views of the valley.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Cream of Spinach soup

As seems to happen with me every few months, once again I'm mildly aneamic. Instead of resorting to iron pills which don't agree with me all that well I'm taking a more natural route - starting off yesterday evening with some homemade spinach soup - absolutely delicious even if I do say so myself. Here's the recipe which is a mixture of stuff I've seen online and a bit of my own inspiration (I measured out amounts pretty much guessing as I went along, but if you taste as I go I think it's quite hard to go wrong with this one).

Ingredients (will serve 4 'normal' people or 2-3 greedy guts like us):
1 huge bunch of spinach (stalks trimmed)
Good vegetable stock (I used Aneto - all natural, no additives) - around a third of a litre.
Around 1/4 litre of milk
A largish onion finely chopped
Big chunk of butter
Flour a desertspoon or a bit more
2 slices of cured sheep's cheese - though given the choice I would have used a Kraft cheese slice here (something that is normally inedible but comes into its own when used in green vegetable soups)
Cream - a good dash and extra to serve
White pepper

In a big pot melt the butter and add the onion, fry gently until transparent. Sprinkle flour over the top and blend in to make a thick paste/roux type mixture. Gradually blend in the milk- when dissolved add the stock and bring to the boil - I've been pretty inexact about the quantities of stock and milk but basically they should be 50:50 an reach up to about 2.5 inches above the base of the pot. Add the spinach and cook on a medium heat until wilted and soft. Remove from the heat and blend with a hand blender until smooth. Crumble the cheese into the soup and whizz with blender. Whizz in a little flour if it's too runny. Check seasoning, adding white pepper and salt. Serve with a swish of cream and crusty bread. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

A thought for Japan

These days Japan is on my mind, I can’t really think what to write about this horrible tragedy. I remind myself of how lucky I am that my loved ones are safe, to make the most of every day and smile at the little things in life. Thinking of everyone out there.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

A knight in Siguenza

Last weekend, and in celebration of David's tenureship, we spent the night in the Parador at Siguenza. The hotel is a medieval castle from the 12th century and a makes a really atmospheric getaway for a wintry weekend; suits of armour and stone fireplaces aplenty. One of the best places to eat in the town also happens to be the parador where we had roast suckling pig (cochinillo) and migas which are, er...breadcrumbs...though so much tastier than they sound - chunky breadcrumbs fried with a fatty paprika rich sausage known as chistorra and served in this case with a variety of acompaniments: fried egg, baby green peppers, bacon, gammon, cheese, preserved red peppers and grapes. The idea is that you roughly chop the runny egg and greasy chistorra into the crumbs then eat with the rest of the garnishes. Sounds yucky but tastes yummy. Prior to this I had only ever stayed at Paradores when travelling with work - basically they are state owned hotels, almost always in historic buildings and usually 4 star. Also it worked out to be great value as we managed to get an escapada joven (youth getaway) which is about 40euros less than the normal pruice - funny how in Spain joven is up to 35 -  funny in a good way of course, but surprising compared to the UK where your 'young persons rail card' is no longer valid at the 'ancient' age of 26... and I only have a couple more years of escapadas joven to go so I'd better get my skates on ;-)

Here are some photos of the weekend plus an example of what migas look like.
Siguenza Parador

This second photo is taken in a castle in Jadraque that is closed to the public but seeing as some local youths had already broken down the fencing we sneaked in :-)

Migas with accompaniments - source
Views of the deserted castle


Sunday, 6 March 2011

Bling coveting

Boy is it scary blogging when you haven't done it in a while. I feel expectant, like the words should just flow like they used to, and they don't... at least not yet. So to ease myself in, here's a light and airy little list of some stuff I like, jewellery to be specific - a bit odd for me as I barely even wear jewellery, but over the years there have been a few pieces that have caught my eye and that I thought I'd post here.

Swatch Bijoux Love Explosion ring. I think this one of the first pieces Swatch came out with years back when it launched its Bijoux jewellery collection and it's been a best-seller ever since, apparently even Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston bought them for each other back in the day. So whimsical and pretty.

A cute mother's day present would be this pendant from jcjewelry design on Etsy. Personalised with the names of of you and your siblings and adorned with a freshwater pearl, this is a lovely gift. There is also the option of birthstones instead of pearls.

Also on my love list (after seeing one on the wrist of one my glamourous colleagues) is the Links of London friendship bracelet. The photos don't do these justice at all - in real life they are so pretty.

Something cute by Thomas Sabo, like this charm carrier bracelet. I'm not a fan of charms when it looks like you've got most of the monuments in western Eurpe hanging off your arm, but something a little subtler I'm all for. And how about this little olive green flower or hand of Fatima charm to go with it?

Cartier Love bracelet. Would I look like a gangster's moll wearing it? Maybe, But I like it. And the romantic in me (or perhaps the prison warden in me :p)loves the idea of your adored one 'locking' it onto your wrist.

Well it's Sunday evening now and I'm going to get off to bed as have a long day tomorrow, but this post has got me wondering why I'm happy to spend money on clothes and cosmetics but not jewellery? Maybe it's time for a little gift from me to me :-)

Have a nice week!
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