Post summer fallow

I have been quite absent from here lately.

Trying to keep up with the weekly posts stressed me, which was the opposite of what writing here should be. So I decided to stop it, there and then.

Then we were really lucky and we could finally go back to Spain for a few weeks. It was really strange to be elsewhere, not in our flat, for the first time in six months. It all felt quite unreal, as if we were in a dream.

Grafitti depicting a cup with a palm tree, a slice of lime and a barraca, and an “Aigua de València” title

We enjoyed spending time in Valencia again. We ate and drank, explored new and old favourites, and of course, visited my beloved market almost daily—summer fruits are a thing of beauty! We also made almost daily use of our balcony, having very socially distanced aperitivi and practising the noble art of Human CCTVing (and sometimes also being bitten by mosquitos).

All of this requires active dedication and the last thing I wanted to do was to stop enjoying what I was doing in order to blog about it. Hence, no writing here!

Now that autumn has started, that might change…

A fallen leaf

Pseudo-isolation, week 15: in food, not photos style

Coca de San Juan
Coca de San Juan
Coca de San Juan

I hope Devvers allows me the license to include one photo. Here’s food, not photos if you want to go for the text only experience!

  • Monday: Mushrooms, carrots and aubergines in a miso sauce with sesame seeds on rice. Socially distanced conversation with a friend in St. James’s Park. The grass tickled our legs. First sunset outside our home in many months.
  • Tuesday—the saint’s day for St John: My cousin declares “the good thing about masks is they hide a double chin”. A salad with endive, chickpeas, orange and dukkah. My fennel seedlings reach for the sky. It’s too hot to cook, let alone bake the Spanish sweet I wanted to make for St. John, a Coca de San Juan.
  • Wednesday: cocktails with Blu Hydrangea for Pride at work, via Zoom. It’s still very hot; we’re persistently sleepy all day. I make gazpacho with limited ingredients; I read out the ingredient list with delight. Devvers keeps asking if I’ve spiked it, like in the Almodóvar movie.
  • Thursday: we melted. Devvers goes to Bubbledogs to have a look at the new deli; inevitably comes back with grower champagne.
  • Friday: working from home at 32ºC+ is unbearably suffocating. There are no more windows left to open or fans left to run. We had a walk to cool down when we finished work. We saw an orphaned coffee machine in the street.
    • Our train of thought was mildly eccentric:
      • “Can we have the champagne?”
      • “Only if we have popcorn first”
  • Saturday: it rained overnight and it was cooler during the day, so I finally had the chance to make the Coca de San Juan and some sort of baked butternut squash kofte. We found two ladies having a picnic in our very urban doorstep, because evidently it’s the best place to set up shop in the whole of Fitzrovia. We tried out the Great Thai for dinner (take away, obvs).
  • Sunday: it rained again. It’s chilly today. Devvers invented a chicken and cardamom pilaf style rice cooked in the rice cooker. It was extremely satisfying.

Bollit / hervido (“boiled”)

Picture of a portion of bollit / hervido in a soup dish, containing half a red onion, a carrot and one potato with a dash of butter

In the quest for the most extravagant and spectacularly looking dishes, we often overlook the basics. What a shame!

So here’s one of them: bollit (in Valencian) or hervido (in Spanish). Which literally means… boiled!

This dish is extremely simple, consisting of boiling vegetables in salted water, and then having them with a bit of fat of your choosing. I know—it sounds “unappetising”, and it looks “ugly”, but it can be oh so comforting, especially when the weather is cold or if you’re feeling not so great and all you need is some simple food that doesn’t require extremely sophisticated skills to prepare.

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Horchata de pipas de melón (melon seeds horchata)

Horchata de pipas de melón - Melon seeds horchata

Last week we got a big melon in our fruit and veg box delivery, and when I was removing the seeds I remembered that I read that early horchata recipes used melon seeds, and I wondered: what would an horchata made of melon seeds taste like?

Why not try it? After all, these seeds were going to go to waste, and I have a bit of time in my hands… so…

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Mona de Pascua

Mona de Pascua
Mona de Pascua
Mona de Pascua

This is a sweet cake that is produced around Easter time in the Valencian region, and it’s also one of my favourites!

In fact, I like it so much that I learned to make it, because it’s impossible to source it in London, and I was missing it lots each time I spent Easter in the UK.

One of the defining features of this bun is that it uses eggs both in the dough and in the decoration, which has many variations: you can brush the top with beaten egg, or whisk the egg white with sugar until it stiffens and use it to decorate the top the bun, or you can even place an egg on the bun before baking, which makes it look like an egg nesting on the bun (this is most typical of the smaller, individual pieces). Often, the eggshells are dyed with food colouring, so this makes for very colourful pieces that you’re sorry to eat.

A Mona with egg on it – taken from the Wikipedia page

Tradition has it that you should take a mona with you on a country side walk on Easter Monday, to celebrate the arrival of Spring. Then, when you find a nice and calm spot, you sit down and eat your mona outdoors, while enjoying the early warm weather and the sight and scent of flowers (hopefully without too many insects!).

And if your mona includes eggs, it’s quite traditional to ‘crack’ them on the forehead of your family members or friends… preferably by surprise! 🤪

Not my forehead or the forehead of anyone I know! Source: Alicante Vivo
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