The Spanish way with pay & display

The Wi-fi collapsed after two days in Spain under the pressure of having nine teenagers or thereabouts trying to access it at the same time so there is a certain amount of catching up to do.

There are always learning experiences when abroad. We were shopping  in Archidona and getting ready for Christmas Day. When we were there on our first day I thought I had spotted a market and so insisted we go back on Christamas Eve to get our meat fish and veg.

The town was a lot busier than when we had been there before and there were less places to park. We thought we had found a space outsider the post office but then noticed the serious looking yellow lines that were telling us to go away.  I got out of the car and found another space around the corner.

As the car was being backed in I looked behind me where there was a sign telling me how much we would have to pay to park there. I looked around for a box to put my money in but there was nothing there although a short Spanish man in a flouresecent jacket was walking purposefully towards the car. He helpfully guided it in over the last few inches and then started to negotiate over payment.

We explained we were English and held up 2 fingers so that he knew that we were going to be there for 2 hours. He understood and produced a small green ticket and tucked it under the windscreen wiper and then took our money.

The market was a slight disappointment.  We had obviously got there late and most of the stalls were closed with their shutters down. But some were still open including a small fishmonger, butcher and grocer. So we had most of what we needed.

There wasn’t much left in the fishmonger but she had a couple of trays of fresh prawns so I took kilo of those. The butcher didn’t appear to have any lamb but there were a couple of pert looking chickens in the cabinet. There were two elderly ladies in front of me and the talk between them and the ladies bahind the counter was tight and constant. The ladies behind the counter were wearing red Santa Claus hats and every so often one of them started to sing Jingle Bells in Spanish. The two chickens had gone by the time it came to me but they were able to fetch another one from the fridge out back.

We then went to the supermarket which was substantially busier than it had been last time we were there. The highlight there was the fish counter. It overflowed across the aisles, the trays spilling over with fresh fish There were hake as thick as a man’s thigh and next to them a fish of similar size I had not seen before, they were a vivid red and angry looking. Someone ordered one and the girls behind the counter had to man handle it onto the scales it was so big the tail lopping out. I bought my boquerones and half a kilo of some strange looking flat prawns, in fact prawns that looked as if they had been hit square on and evenly with a heavy frying pan.


A paella

Last night I had to look on with some jealousy as brother in law Steve cooked supper in an enormous paella pan. The boys had found the pan in a shed down by the side of the house whilst exploring during our first afternoon here. It is about three feet wide and once found it had to be used.

The ingredients were bought in the supermarket that afternoon. Two bags of paella rice, chicken, prawns, clams and mussels, reed peppers, saffron, paprika and onions.

The pan was far too big for the oven and so we decided to balance it on top of the barbeque.

A full bag of charcoal went onto the barbeque and the fire was then stoked up with pieces of dried hard wood. The pan was lifted on to, oil added and the ingredients tipped in.

The barbeque developed a fierce heat the flames from the fire curling up and over the sides of the pan. Steve stood over it shouting instructions for water and stock and pouring it in, spatula in hand, turning over  the rice and vegetables to stop them from burning.

Now we need to try and work out how to wash the thing. Someone suggested the swimming pool as the water is too cold for anyone to be doing much swimming.

First night in

First night, Saturday night we managed to finish off the bottle of Patraran. Fortunately there were eight of us drinking it so we were able to even out the consumtion.  It was far healthier than sharing a bottle between three or four. Even so there was a slow thud at the back of by head as I woke up. Lying in bed and thinking it over I remembered spending half a day walking rould the Prado in Madrid with a Patcharan hangover and standing in front of the great panels painted by Hieronymous Bosch and his visions of hell.

Out of bed was the sun was shining again and so went went on a walk through fields of olives . Apparently there had been heavy rain a few days ago and the ground was heavy and claylike underfoot and covered with fine stones. The trees were heavy with black fruit the branches weighed down.

There was the occasional pomegranate tree along the side of the path. The remaining fruit on those trees had an obscene look about them, the red skin torn apart and dirty and the seeds plucked out by birds.

The walk took us to a small village and a bar.  There was one man behind the bar. He took the order for drinks but looked nonplussed when we asked about food. He shook his head  and said something about this evening.  Looking at our faces he asked if we wanted tapas and then went back inside.

Five minutes later he came out with four plates of deep fried anchovies. They went in a minute. We worried that that might be it and went inside to order another round of drinks. There was a menu on the wall but he shook his head again as he saw us looking at it. He asked about tapas again and we all said yes. There was a local policeman stood at the bar in his green uniform and stiff black staff cap. He held a small rounded glass that looked like it contained brandy.

Five minutes later the man was out again with another four plates. These had slices of black pudding and small bread rolls that had been filled with pieces of pork cooked in tomatoe sauce.

As we had those he brought out another four plates of fried fish  – a mixture of sardines and pices of cod. They had been dusted in flour before being deep fried. The last few plates were of pork – a mixture of thick pieces of bacon and small slices of thinly sliced loin.

It was a a very good lunch.

Thinking about what to cook

Well there is internet access in El Molino so those who follow this thing are going to have to put up with a few bulletins from southern Spain. We are about an hour inland from Malaga and 30 miles west of Granda. The house is an old bakery tucked down amidst the hills which are covered in straight lines of olive trees.

Flying over Spain early this morning we could see snow covering the tops of the mountains and we saw it again driving up from Malaga dusting the tops of the Sierra Nevada in the west. Hopefully there will be clear skies when we go to the Alhambra on Monday and we will have the classic view of the old Moorish palace with the snow covered mountains in the distance.

It was cold when we arrived and I was glad that I had brought my thick Irish wool jumper. But then as the sun sat high in the sky over lunch the air started to warm until you could feel the heat in your face.

There is a pool but it is not heated and the water still carries the cold from the frost that descends at night as whatever warmth may have gathered over the day is lost to the clear sky.

We went shopping this afternoon – mostly to scout out the local supermarket and work out the potential for making Christmas lunch. There were two half suckling pigs that looked tempting – the oven here is big enough to take them both and the old bread oven is still next to the kitchen. Unfortunately it it is not in state to be fired up and is more decorative than functional – but the decoration means that it is now used as a place to store a vast array of large trays and pots – some of which are large enough to accommodate a small pig.

So that is an option. Not too far away the fish counter was overspilling and in the centre there were three blue plastic trays of anchovies silver and quick . You don’t get those in Tesco. They will go down well dusted in flour and paprika and deep fried.