ADSL acting up - More or less Non Food Related

And when I say acting up I really mean acting up. The line drops and resets, literally, 15 times an hour and I have to get this post in during the 3 minute window between one failure and the next. The longest continuous up-time today has been 55 minutes; when I shut down all the connections and network activity except for 1 application monitoring the status of the modem - and went to make some tomato sauce with leftovers from the fiesta last Saturday.

One interesting thing about the fiesta and cultural differences… for the party I bought loads of beer, wine, sodas and waters (and 100 pounds of ice to chill it all). And assorted guests brought a whole lot of (very very good) wine too. It was a warm (hot?) sunny day. On Sunday the clean-up and residues count showed that most of the beer, almost all the Fanta Orange, half the colas and all but one bottle of sparkling water were left over (and I recall drinking that one lonely bottle). Most of the wine was consumed (except 3 bottles of white) and 100% of the bottled water.

The cultural difference? Wine rather than beer is preferred except for maybe having 1 beer while chatting before the real food comes out. Once there's food then it's an all-wine weekend. Second, the little kids run around with a bottle of water in their hand all day and not (I repeat, not) a can of cola. Thus the roots of some difference in obesity rates between people over here in in the americas.

Sadly enough, over here the average weight/build has been rising (visibly) the last 10 years I've been here and the Mediterranean diet is being "supplemented" by international food styles such as hamburgers and fast/fatty foods. More products with crap ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, margarine and aspartame are on the shelves. I mean, I like Chips Ahoys and Oreos once in a while, but I'd rather not see them on the grocery shelves in 7 different styles and sizes. I'd rather see the traditional Magdalenas (cupcakes) made from flour and butter and not a single artificial ingredient.
Oops - turned out to be a food-related post after all.

Aperitivos: Hors 'd oeuvres: Little Hot Dogs

One of the starters from the fiesta. And snapped up heartily. Mini Hot Dogs.


  • wieners, cocktail - halved
  • baguette [french bread] - sliced
  • 50 ml Mustard, Dijon
  • 1 T Water
  • 125 ml Tomato Sauce, small can (or, better, home-made) [4,25 oz] or Sofrito
  • 1 T Oyster Sauce
  • 2 T Hoi Sin Sauce
  • ½ t Pepper


  1. Warm tomato sauce, add oyster sauce and hoisin and pepper
    • Mix - you've just made a 30 second ketchup & way tastier and healthier than store bought
    • Put this into a squeeze bottle and into the 'fridge for a bit (it's too runny when still warm)

  2. Warm mustard
  3. Add water (just to thin it a little)
    • Put this into a squeeze bottle and into the 'fridge for a bit

  4. Halve cocktail wieners the long way
  5. Slice french bread thinly
  6. Place halved wieners on the french bread slices; flat side down
  7. Put stripes of "ketchup" and / or mustard on the wieners
  8. Serve
Now, isn't that just the easiest thing in the world? Or almost; I complicated by making my own ketchup sauce but that's just because I really can't stand the commercial stuff most of the time.

Family Pic

For the record.

Saturday was the big fiesta in the garden. The maternal branch of the Galacian family pretty much all showed up (including those living in Rome who attended via Skype video). Plus a couple of dogs. The first time in 30-some years. Sun. Food. Drink. And a lot of fun. We really ought to do this more often.

Garden Party Prep

I'm getting ready for the garden party (30 people) this weekend and have been cooking up a storm. & quite enjoying it. The family's been either absent or watching their diets the last few months so there's not been a lot of "real" cooking going on around here lately. Getting out the big pots and generating heat in the kitchen has been refreshing. In a way.

In between preparing dishes I've also been cleaning up the garden. Planting, trimming, cutting, raking. It's been invigorating; if not exhausting. I've noticed that there seems to be two principle activities in gardening: cutting stuff and moving stuff from one spot to another.

A quick picture series of one of my kitchen toys; a mandoline. Basically a vegetable slicer - but French and all stainless steel. It's pretty and sharp and mechanical - and therefore a great deal of fun (to me).

And just look at those "teeth"! This is an accessory to make julienne strips instead of flat slices.

And the result is that you get (easily) the onions as brunoise (little cubes)

Fireplace: Chiminea

I was cleaning the glass windows of the fireplace (behind the iron grid-work) and since the degreaser from the kitchen wasn't doing the job I got out my jug of sulphuric acid. Known as "strong water" here in Spain; you can buy it in pretty much any grocery store (it's probably illegal in North America). Powerful stuff.

Learning from my (bad) example I advise the use of gloves when using it and put the bottle way off to one side so that you don't knock it over while working. Luckily it splashed onto the cast iron base and the brown tiles so it only got them even cleaner than originally planned. But, boy oh boy was it a dumb move on my part. That, and it smells awful while cleaning and gives off a sulphuric smoke that's quite irritating.

The blue tiles across the top were custom/hand-made in Toledo, Spain. Famous for their beautiful tile-work.

With these 2 photographic posts the table for the béchemel should be clear of the right hand side bar and be fully visible by now.

Thyme: Tomillo

Found the camera.
Here's the picture of the back porch. Yes, it's made of granite blocks. That's a grape vine on the left of the picture. Those are wrought iron chairs and that top left is a cast iron table with a marble slab for a top. In back of the orange & yellow flowers is the parsley.
I put the thyme in a old sort of broken pot just because I thought it looked more rustic.

Hi, Elizabeth: you might want to put some kitchen planters on your back porch. They'd look great.

Spring Planting

Having to get ready for the garden dinner next week, I popped up to the garden shop to drop a few bills on plant stuff (about 3 bills Canadian). Obviously, there must be some serious maintenance needed.

New planters, peonies, begonias, more begonias, chrysanthemums; and (for me) thyme, rosemary, parsley, more parsley (curly), more thyme (wild), chives. Lots of dirt. It seems ridiculous to pay good money for dirt but there's just no way around it. I don't seem to have time to compost, mix, sift and enrich it the way my grandfather taught me.

I'd forgotten how hard physical work can make one sweat but once the weeds get knee high I guess it's about time for a counter attack.

If I could find the camera I'd take a picture of the giant thyme bush. I love having kitchen plantings just out the back door.

Krokets, Croquetas, Croquets, Croquettes

Update 1: 12 april: added to table
That's in Dutch, Spanish, English & French. Bet you didn't know you could read so many languages; did you?

I'm going to paste in a table that has several different recipes & proportions for croquettes &/or bitterballen - from Excel. This might even work. I'll be updating from time to time as I stuff more recipes in here.

Update 2: 13 april: added the Professional Cooking book; adjusted all to 2 liters milk/cream
Upate 14 abril: widen table
Top row is the recipe source

tmix tmix 1080 1069 canal
meat g 150 200 533 1000 200 600
oil ml 125 167 80 si 200 800


green pepper


flour g 250 333 160 300 200 200 190
butter g 30 40 107 300 165 120
clarifed butter

harboiled eggs
2 3

corn flour g 120

milk ml 2000 2000 2000 2000 1800 2000 2000
cream ml


si si
si si si si
si si

si si si
bay leaf


si si

2 3 5 6 6 8
bread crumbs g si si si si 200 120
flour g


oil ml

2667 2000 1000

Garden Picnic Plans

I've been taking it easy with this blog posting thing. The s.o. is out of town again and there's no food creations being made in this house; none at all.

We do have a family gathering coming up in a couple of weeks and the planning so far (still in development) calls for the menu to be:

  • Salads
    • Hiziki with onions (Japanese seaweed) (yes, really, seaweed [kelp])
    • Caprese (Italian) (tomato, buffalo mozzarella, basil, salt, pepper, olive oil)
    • Green - normal; with a really really good virgin olive oil and some balsamic vinegar on the side)
  • Appetizers
    • Pimineto de Padron (Galicia) (little green peppers [spicy]; fried whole)
    • Ham Croquettes - basically a thick bechemal sauce mixed with ham, breaded and fried (oh! more fried food! healthy!) edit to add-> Or maybe Bitterballen (Dutch)
    • I better make something else, not fried
  • Eats
    • Vegetable Paella (Spain) - rice & veggies (an excellent one more or less home-made by the lady with a little deli down the block)
    • Roasted pork loin (probably a couple of them, one with crusted mustard maybe) (to be served cold); applesauce
    • Beef Tagine (Morocco) - I've made quite a few times
    • Pasta with a simple tomato/meat sauce (bought pasta, homemade sauce) the emergency backup plan for picky eaters
  • Desserts
    • Nanaimo Bars - famous (in some parts of the world [western Canada]) which I plan to tweak from the official recipe)
    • Ice cream - a really good one (or two) (with a reduced balsamic vinegar for people who dare to try something new)
    • something that an aunt is bringing
  • Drinks
    • Beer (local, and a few Buds [for laughs])
    • A number of wines (Spanish, the whole lot of them)
    • Water
    • Probably a cola or two (but I'd rather not - don't like those sugary or aspertamey products much)
  • Bread
    • Baguettes (French)
    • Rolls (hand made, baked in a wood oven, if I have time, or help)
Sounds like a lot, but it's for something like 30 people and I want to make sure there's enough to go around. If you're in the neighborhood…

The cooking part is not too much work; I'm rather looking forward to it 'cause it's been much too quite around here on the cooking front. It's getting the garden in shape for the supper that's going to be quite the pain.

I might even post pics/recipes of progress as things develop.

Ten Cutting Boards (or Eleven)

No recipe today either. I'm not cooking at home at all this week 'cause the s.o.'s out of town.

So here's an post on another topic.

I have rather a lot of cutting boards. Here are ten of them; and there are a couple more that I could get but don't yet have space for (read that as want to get).
There's one more that's not in the picture but it's out on loan at the moment.

Bottom to top.

  • Wooden block - an about the width of the stove-top. Its really very nice looking and that's mostly why I like it. I think I got it at IKEA
  • Blue - for fish
  • Yellow - for chicken
  • White - baking and dairy
  • Red - meat; red meat that is
  • Green - vegetables
  • Flexible (the really thin one) - pastry making
  • White, but smaller - mostly for cutting bread
  • Black - squid (!?) - what with the black squid ink and all
  • Red - meat again, but a little one
  • missing is a little hardwood one that I like to use for cutting and serving cheese
The idea behind having a whole mess of different colored one comes from the professional kitchen and food regulations. It prevents cross-contamination; when you chop a chicken up and then some vegetables to make (for example) soup, you don't get the chicken cutting muck mixed up in the chopped veggies. And, you don't don't have to more or less disinfect your cutting board between steps when making your recipes.

Usually I have three of four of these out at any one time and I pretty much cover the counter tops, and the little marble topped kitchen island that we have, with these things.

Sure, it's maybe a little odd of me to have this many - but we all have our little obsessions, don't we?

Seven Salts (or Eight)

updated with some costs, restated just exactly what expensive might mean and fixed a link

I like salt. Not too much, just the lots of different kinds of salt there are and what each does for a dish.
When we were at the apartment Paris I enjoyed walking into an everyday type supermarket and seeing loads of different sorts of salt on the shelf. Not just regular and "Easy Flow" but a whole bunch of different ones - - and apparently each has their own reason for existence.

¿Moi? I poked my head into the cupboard and discovered that I have seven different salts in there; plus one more in the bathroom; and I know there are a few I want that I don't have.

Left to right, top row first.

  1. Maldon Crystal Sea Salt - thin, flat, flakes of super delicious stuff that we use (we, as in professional kitchens) use on serious meats and salads. Beat regular salt all to.......gether.
    Goes for about $$25 a pound on Amazon.
  2. Sal Costa -fish salt. Here, we sometimes cook a whole fish completely covered in salt. The skin gets all crispy and the flesh stays wonderfully soft. This salt is really super large grained and it hardens up in the oven. You have to use a hammer or a great big serving spoon to crack the thing open.
  3. Himalayan Salt. Expensive. Like 5 bucks a pound here, $15 on Amazon. Comes, as one might guess, from salt mines in the Himalayan mountains. Probably has some sort of new-age good for you properties. Mostly I use it on my muesli in the morning.
  4. Household (refined) fine salt. Don't actually use this very often. This particular one doesn't even have iodine or anything. Would be called Table Salt in many places but we never use it at the table.
    Cheap at about 50 cents a pound.
  5. Gordo. Big grained salt. The most common sort is know as Kosher Salt. This is the one I usually reach for when cooking. My fingers know, from experience, how much is the right amount.
    Cheap too.
  6. Fleur de sel - French. The top layer of naturally evaporated salt. Hand harvested by quaint hand maidens in romantic regions of France (or maybe not). A nice touch in a little pile on a plate next to the food. Sort of looks floury and is very very moist. Not actually very white but more a sort of gray colour.
  7. Natural Sea Salt - I picked up at the local natural foods store. Evaporated in the sun, in southern Spain, using water from the Mediterranean Sea - - hopefully the water's been filtered and is not too contaminated. This is the day to day salt for the table.
    Maybe a buck.
  8. Atlantic Sea Salt - not pictured. (not that, what with the vague quality of the photo, that it makes much difference). Is in the bathroom and we use it in the bathtub. Was picked it up, personally, from a salt evaporating place on the island of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands of Spain. We literally "picked it up" in that we got a plastic grocery bag from te car and scooped handfuls of it from the evaporation pools of a salt plant down there. And, if you're every looking for a nice place for a vacation Fuerteventura would be a good choice. Deserted, hard to access, western coastline and lots of more or less empty beaches. Good skinning dipping.
So, that was sort of food related wasn't it?