10 things we learnt in Spain

After spending 2 months in Estepona it’s time to reflect on what we learnt in our time there. We had a very relaxing time but it also gave us time to do things we wouldn’t necessarily do at home, like thinking instead of doing 🙂

So here’s some of the things we learnt :

1. We can speak a bit more Spanish 

We continued to learn Spanish by completing 10 minutes a day of the free Duolingo online course everyday. We also used what we knew when shopping, ordering food and meeting people. We learnt more words from shops, signs, listening to people etc

2.Barking dogs get on your nerves

The sound of barking dogs is commonplace in Estepona. It seems that everybody has a dog or five.  They appear to be more guard dogs than pets. Every time you walk by the gated houses, they appear menacingly at the fences or gates. Most nights there was a cacophony of barking dogs at some stage, during the night. It was more than a bit annoying. The locals tell me that you get used to it. It doesn’t seem to bother them.

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3.Red peppers are so delicious

A bit obvious this one but red peppers are cheap and delicious in Spain. Oiled and grilled, skins removed, they turn into a sweet and delicious thing. I will be growing some this year and using them a lot more in my cooking.

4.You need never buy Oranges, Lemons or Avocados in Estepona

Everyone seems to grow them and they always have too many, so they give them away!

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5. Almonds are expensive! 

I use a lot of almonds in my cooking. I use them to make granola, bread and almond butter. I assumed, that as almonds are grown in Spain they would be cheaper. However, they are more expensive in Spain than in the UK. They do sell some delious salted and roasted almonds in Lidl (Spain) which we ate a lot of and bought some home too.

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6.  Motoring is a pleasure in Spain 

There are very rarely road jams or road works in Spain. Tolls roads are a pleasure to drive on. Fuel is at least 15p a litre cheaper than the UK. Ok, so they drive on the opposite side, but I got over that.

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7. Family time is important 

Spanish families like to spend time and relax with each other, especially at the weekends. All the shops close on a Sunday so friends and family gather together. Some of them go to their Fincas in the mountains and others meet for lunch near the beach. It was a real pleasure to see. I am sure the sunshine helps!

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8.There are some really delicious Spanish cheeses 

We tried a few from this list. The choice is a bit overwhelming though so it’s a work in progress job!

http://i-live-spain.com/gastronomy_from_spain/spanish-cheese/

 

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9.We can salsa 💃🏻

So continuing on the theme, of learning something new to keep your brain stimulated, we went to Salsa lessons every Wednesday evening at a pub in La Puerta de Duquesa. I’m not sure we have mastered it – but it was fun trying.

10. Mark loves Sherry! 

I knew this already but I am including it anyway! The sweet Spanish matured sherry  is  like liquid raisins. Mark had a tipple most nights.

Food we will be taking home from Spain – as it’s better or cheaper!

There are some foods we have been eating whilst here which are superior and/or cheaper than the UK. I am going to take a few items back which will travel ok. There are some more I would take but they proabably won’t travel very well, such as cheese, avocados, oranges, lemons.

We love the supermarkets here, as I have said before. We have been using mainly Carrefour as it’s closest but also Lidl and Mercadona. Some things are cheaper and some things are the same or a bit more expensive. However, the variety and choice of goods is far better here, in my opinion.

Olive Oil

The olive oil here is almost green – which tells you that it is good! I will be taking lots of this home.

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Tuna Fish

You can buy this in jars or tins, in oil or brine. We have been using the tuna in a jar with olive oil. The pieces of fish are lovely and chunky, not like the mashed up efforts sold in tins at home. This is actually bonito which is also very nice and is a bit cheaper than the tuna. I will probably take home both.

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Almonds

I am disappointed that whole almonds here are more expensive than in the UK. I thought that as they are grown here they would be cheaper but apparently not. It seems that Spain still import almonds from California! However, the roasted and salted ones from Lidl Spain are delicious and not available from Lidl UK.

 

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Chick Peas

Ready cooked chick peas are sold in jars here rather than tins.  The actual chick peas themselves are much plumper and tastier than the tinned variety available in the UK. You can sometimes but these in Lidl UK but usuallly only when there is a Spanish week.

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Olives

There is a HUGE choice in olives as you would imagine. Some of them are quite bitter but we have found some nice ones which come in very small tins, (which is good as they tend to go off if you open a large jar or tin) so I will be bringing back a few cans of these.

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Tomato Frito

This is a bit like passata but nicer. It comes in cartons and is good for sauces. Lidl do a good version.

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Corn Crackers

I do buy these in Lidl at home but I will be bringing some of these back. They are good for me as they are GF.

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Raisins

The black raisins are lovely and juicy and great for adding to the granola after cooking.

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Vinegars

i use a lot of wine vinegars in salad dressings but I also like to have other vinegars in my store cupboard for when I need them. I have bought red and white vinegars here,  which are cheap at approx 50p for a litre,so I will be taking some of those home. Sherry vinegar is ridiculously cheap too. I don’t use this a great deal but it’ll be there if I need it and it keeps for ages.

 

 

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Tapas Thursday’s

If you follow my Fidgety Lil Instagram account, you will have noticed that I have been doing a Tapas Thursday feature instead of a Curry Friday spot. It seemed the right thing to do as we are staying in Spain for so long.

I decided to cook 4 Tapas dishes each Thursday. It has mostly worked, except the day I made Paella and I just did that. Making 4 dishes between 2 of us has meant that there have been a LOT of leftovers, but the upside is, we don’t have to cook on a Friday!

I have spent a quite a bit of money on ingredients but, as its a bit of a hobby, and we are on an extended holiday then it’s guilt -free! Mark gets to eat the dishes (and photograph them) so he doesn’t complain either.

I have been lucky that there is nice crockery in the villa, to use in the pictures too. Some of it is very Spanish but there are some lovely classic plain white plates and bowls, which I have also used for some of the photos. There is a lovely black Paella dish which I used to cook and display the Chicken and Chorizo Paella.

It’s not all been successes, there have been a couple of things I wouldn’t cook again. For example, the almond chicken I made this week, is just not right. The sauce is made from almond, onion, garlic, stock and bread – I used GF bread. The consistency wasn’t sauce like so I added more stock and a bit of cream but we just didn’t like it very much.  Also, the Russian Salad, although very easy to make, wasn’t very exciting, so we won’t be having that again.

 

My three favourites are the Chorizo and Chicken Paella, Langoustines and Saffron Mayonnaise and Tuna and Mango Salsa. I also love the Patatas Bravas and would happily make those every week.

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I have taken the recipes I have used from online sources (BBC Good Food) and a book I downloaded to my Kindle from Amazon. Hamlyn All Colour Cookery Tapas and Spanish Dishes

I haven’t decided on next weeks 4 dishes yet but it will probably include a fish I haven’t used before.

So today we will be eating leftover Red Pepper and Egg Salad and Tomato Rice and Chicken.

Happy weekend!

Spanish Sewing Project No 4 – Japanese Style Apron

This is the 5th apron I have made with this pattern. I bought the pattern at a craft fair in Leicester a couple of years ago. I had been looking for a Japanese style apron pattern for a while and so I spent a hard earned tenner on it. The lady who made it had one she had made on, which I admired. She said she had made it from an Ikea curtain. (Saved!) I duly went and bought a pair of the grey curtains in Ikea and made 2 aprons. They were made from grey linen but the material frayed quite a lot after washing, so not ideal as they get quite a lot of laundering.

The pattern is very easy to put together and there are only 3 pattern pieces. I can whip one up in a morning now.

The next one I made was using some denim material I bought from the Knitting and Stitching Show in October. I made one soon after and saved the rest of the fabric to make another whilst here in Spain.

The aprons are very good, because they cover a lot of you of you and look stylish, as well as keeping your clothes clean, whilst cooking.

The denim one was more of a success and looks pretty smart I think. I have reinforced the pocket edges more this time, as they came undone on the original ones. I also took more time to neaten the edges before I made the apron up. They wash much better.

Spain Sewing Project No 3 – Blue Top

8xz639l6qqemrzpuyfqvmwUsing another piece of Seasalt fabric, I made this top to wear over jeans and leggings. The colours go well with my Winter capsule and the red bits match my red jeans.

The fabric is a printed cotton viscose twill (Forest Collage Marine). The pattern is New Look 6871. I carefully read the back of the pattern and the instructions on the back with regards sizing. I didn’t quite understand but by looking at my actual measurements it made me a size 18. My initial  hunch was  to ignore this and perhaps go with size 16 to account for said boobs. But no, I pressed ahead with the next size up which was a mistake. It does fit my boobs but it’s a bit big on my neckline, so I have had to add a couple of darts. If I use this pattern again, I will use the size 16.

The fabric was a bit of a nightmare to sew, to be honest. The automatic tension didn’t work on the machine so I had to adjust it, to stop the fabric gathering when I sewed. I think it may also have been the thread too. I have found that cheap threads don’t work.

It didn’t take me long to put it together as there are only 5 pieces and no zips or awkward openings. I made it in a couple of mornings.

However, the upshot to all of this is that I don’t like it!  I have worn it but will probably just wear it around the house.

Spain Sewing Project No 2 – Making a dress – to fit my post menopausal shape!

Ha! I should be used to it by now but I’m not. I hate the huge boobs thing I have going on now and love the charming way that Mother Nature has dumped a load more fat round my middle section.  I get it though – being post menopausal makes us less shapely when we can’t reproduce, so that would make us less attractive to males. Thanks a lot MN. Actually I don’t care about the men bit. I am who I am, like it or lump it.

So back to the subject, the dress. I bought some lovely floral linen material from the Seasalt sale last year. Their fabric sales are great, almost a third off. the original prices.  I bought 3 metres, which I thought should be enough to make me a dress. I didn’t actually have a pattern in mind when I bought it but I already had a Simplicity pattern to try out, pattern number 2247.

I saved the making until we got to Spain. I wanted to make it without hurrying. Mmm not sure I managed that,  but I did try and go slowly, so I would make less mistakes.

The pattern instructions are very good. Basically you cut out all the pieces to the size you think you are and then machine tack it all together so that you can adjust it and have a perfect fit. I haven’t ever actually done this before. I have gone by which size I thought I was only to find that when I have finished the item, it’s a bit tight around my bust area. Fortunately, I have a lovely sister, who’s not so big on the bust as me and so I can pass them on to her.

Mark helped me with the fitting, it’s impossible to do it on your own. I forgot to buy the zip I the UK and couldn’t find a long enough one here in Spain, so I have used a shorter one and will replace it when I get home.

I am fairly pleased with the finished article. I haven’t yet tried it on with nicely done  hair and make up yet, which I think, makes a difference. Also, the shoes I have bought with me aren’t quite right either as they are too flat. I’m pretty sure I have some others at home.

So on to the next sewing project.

 

 

 

 

 

Our Spanish Adventure

1f011c47-611e-434c-b4b3-161722a9d40aOh it’s great to escape the British greys skies in winter for the blue skies of Spain. Even when it’s cold here the sun shines and the air is dry. Eating salads instead of soup, sitting outside the cafes for coffee instead of moaning about the weather at home.  You just can’t beat it!

We love space, so when we come to Spain we hire a large villa. The one we are in this year, in Estepona, is HUGE. It can sleep 14! It’s got loads of space inside and out and has the most brilliant kitchen with everything I need to cook. However, I did bring my Magimix though because I could!

The supermarkets here are so good. The variety of fresh fruit, veg, meat, cheese, fresh fish and seafood is immense. A lot of the fish is caught locally. I am going to make it my mission to try some of the fish I have never heard of before.

Today we stocked up and also bought fresh prawns and merluza (hake) which is filleted for you. They even give you the fish heads to make stock. Avocados and tomatoes are plentiful, ripe and full of flavour. There are large bunches of fresh herbs such as parsley and mint at a fraction of the cost at home.

The garden here has oranges, lemons which we can pick and use and there is even an avocado tree with fruits on.

Although we are planning to do lots of walking, we will also be doing lots of cooking with all the local produce. I am planning Tapas Thursdays to replace Curry Friday’s for a while.

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