Sunday, August 07, 2011

The summer holidays continue, Elsa’s news, “la bomba” and Montrondo again.

Oli with little Elsa

Hello again my friends and readers.

Sorry for the delay with my blog but I took a holiday from writing, the truth being I never found the right moment last week.  But here I am again, ready to tell you all about my doings since I last wrote.

It is Sunday 7th August and the summer holidays continue but not for long now, I’m afraid.  It is hot but not unbearable and Eladio is in the garden removing the remains of the dead Elm tree he cut down yesterday.  It is the second to go now and the third and last also looks like it is suffering from Dutch Elm disease or something similar.  On the bright side, the garden looks less cluttered and you get the complete view from our balcony upstairs.

Eladio cutting up the branches from the dead Elm Tree he chopped down yesterday

I am writing from the swimming pool terrace with Norah sleeping nearby.  Elsa, thankfully, is asleep in the kitchen otherwise I would have to watch out for my pc cable.  Olivia has just got up after a good night’s rest which she needs dearly after another week combining two jobs with hardly any time in between.  She is reading the Sunday papers with my Father in the kitchen terrace.  Suzy is not with us as she went off on Friday with Rocío, Estefanía and Elena to the beach.  They have gone for three nights to Santa Pola from where they will be going to Agua Amarga in Almería on Monday.  They have hired an apartment there and Oli will be joining them next weekend, but not before another tiring week of work. 

Suzy leaving for Santa Pola and Almería with her friends Rocío, Estefanía and Elena

So where did I leave off last time I wrote?  Oh yes it was Monday July 25th.  That evening our friends Roberto and MariCarmen came to join us on our walk and afterwards we went to the Vinoteca for dinner locally.  That day too, Suzy returned from her earlier trip to Santa Pola where she went for a long weekend with Gaby and his parents.  Here is a lovely picture of her with Gaby having an ice cream at the famous Peret café on the Explanada in Alicante.  They have the best ice creams in the whole of Alicante in my opinion.  Ah and their horchata is exquisite too.  Funnily enough they don’t have a website.

Suzy and Gaby eating an ice cream at the Peret cafeteria in Alicante

Last week was quiet and hot.  I was officially working after my holiday in the UK but only really at half steam.  I went into the office on Tuesday for a meeting with my teams from the PR and Events agencies and we worked on the script of our presentation for the up and coming Santander conference.  The more time I have to do things the slower I do them. I far prefer to work under pressure.  Isn’t that funny?

The highlight of last week was taking Elsa to the vet, first for a general check up and then for her third and last puppy vaccination.  She behaved perfectly.  I was not impressed, however, with the Argentinian young vet who I thought handled her too roughly.  This is a photo of her when we arrived, waiting for the check up.  Of course she was the star of the show at the clinic with everyone wanting to stroke and cuddle her. 

Elsa at the vet

She will be able to leave the house two weeks after the last vaccination, so we look forward to her joining us on our walks.  I wonder how she will take to them. And this week Elsa had her first bath which she took to very well.  After all she is a Labrador and Labradors love water.  Thankfully she is now a sweet smelling puppy.  She is growing by the day although still smaller than Norah but it won’t be long before she is bigger.  We are all head over heels in love with her, although in the first hour of the mornings she is so frisky, she has to be locked out of the  kitchen, to avoid her tripping my poor Father over as he makes his breakfast.

Elsa's first bath, she took to it like a duck to water

Last week we had something to look forward to, the annual family gathering on the last Saturday of July in Montrondo.  Now it is all over which is hard to believe. I had decided to try out Liz’ chocolate caramel shortbread recipe to take to Montrondo and Susana was going to make Estefanía’s brownie recipe too.  So we spent the better part of Friday making huge amounts of both.  Eladio baptized the shortbread “la bomba” (the bomb) when he ate it in England this summer as it is so calorific.  It turned out to be a huge success, so much so that all the family asked for the recipe.  Here is a picture of the finished product before it was cut into pieces and below is the recipe if you want to try it.

My chocolate caramel shortcake now known as "la bomba" in Eladio's family

115g/4oz butter, plus extra for greasing
175g/6oz plain flour
55g/2oz golden caster sugar
Caramel Filling:
 175g/6oz butter
115g/4oz golden caster sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
400g/14oz canned condensed milk
Chocolate topping:
200g/7oz milk chocolate broken pieces

PREHEAT OVEN 180 c/ 350 f/ Gas Mark 4. Grease and line base of 9 inch shallow square tin. Place butter, flour & sugar in food processor & process until it binds together and makes a ball like dough.  Press mixture into tin & smooth the top. Bake in preheated over 20-25 mins, or until golden.

MEANWHILE MAKE THE FILLING. Place butter, sugar, golden syrup & condensed milk in saucepan & heat gently until sugar has melted. Bring to boil & simmer for 6-8 mins, stirring constantly, until mixture becomes very thick. Pour over the shortbread base & leave to chill in fridge until firm.

 TO MAKE TOPPING, melt chocolate and leave to cool, then spread over caramel. Chill in fridge until set. Cut shortbread into 12 pieces with a sharp knife and serve.

Once cut up it should look like this:

Home made chocolate caramel shortbread as it should look when it is cut up

Most of the family was there on Friday night but we had to wait till Saturday to go as we had to take Olivia with us.  We were up early and off at 8.  As usual we stopped en route for a glass of glorious chilled white wine and a plate of ham in Rueda at Palacio de Bornos.  Olivia slept most of the way trying to catch up on lost sleep during the week.  We were nearly the last to arrive and as we did, some of the family members had gone to the local church for mass.  But soon we were all together and the party atmosphere began.  Alejandro, the family musician, had set up the music to accompany his accordion which he has been playing by ear since he was a little boy.  As the final preparations were being made for lunch, the family lounged and drank Málaga sherry brought by Pedro, Paula’s boyfriend, who was joining us for the first time.  He seemed to enjoy himself, but this first encounter must have been quite an ordeal for him, I’m sure

A shot of the beginning of the family gathering in Montrondo this year

Lunch, as always, was to be in the “salon” which is actually the old cattle shed and here there were two tables set, one for the younger generation with ages ranging from 18 to 40 and the other for the older generation with ages ranging from the late 40s to nearly 90.  It’s difficult to count as we are so many, but we must have been about 28 people which are a lot of people to feed.  My sisters-in-law had prepared the usual fare: the ever popular potato salad, cold meats, roast lamb and salad, followed by Susana’s brownie, my chocolate caramel shortbread and Adela’s Montrondo cake, another sort of bomb made with butter, almonds and biscuits.  The lamb was roasted by the bakery in nearby Senra and included 5 heads, something I cannot stomach but which were extremely popular with the older generation in the family, including Eladio.

Roast lamb for 28, well it lasted 2 days

The family has grown in the canine way.  A few years ago we were the only members to have dogs but now 4 others have their own.  Pili’s family has Trébol, the serious and nearly human dalmation, Yoli’s family have Nano an aging terrier, José Antonio’s family have their beloved mongrel Nuba and Marta has Sacha, an already huge golden retriever at only 6 months old. 

Little Nuba, José Antonio and Dolores' dog on the Peña de Dios in between Montrondo and Murias. I love her.

All the dogs managed to get scraps from the table throughout our stay and I must say I contributed to this habit, hoping mainly to get into the good books of Trébol. 

Trébol, Pili and Andrés' wonderful dalmatian

Trebol is devoted to Mario but even more so to his Mother Pili, Eladio’s sister.  Whenever she gets up, Trébol follows and he obeys all her commands; something I have never seen in any other dog I have ever known.  He sleeps in their room and when Pili calls him, he comes to the window as if he were a person.  If you don’t believe me, just look at this picture.

Trébol comes to the window when Pili calls him

Saturday was a full house and we spent the afternoon relaxing after the huge lunch.  Some of us went for a walk to nearby Murias via the “Vao” fields behind Adela and Primo’s house and through potato fields. 

On the walk to Murias on the first day.  From left to right: José Antonio (Toño), Yoli, Dolores and Eladio

On Sunday for lunch we were still together and the men made an excellent barbecue.

Eladio and his brothers, Toño and Isidro, starting the barbecue

However many of the young people were leaving, like Suzy, her boyfriend Gaby and Olivia as they all had to work the next day. 

Me with my girls, Oli and Suzy in Montrondo.  I wish they could have stayed longer.

We all felt a little forlorn when they left.  Eladio and I had decided to leave either on Monday or on Tuesday but in the end so enjoyed our time there that we stayed until Thursday.  With us still were the abuela (my mother-in-law), Pili, Andrés, Isidro, Yoli and Alicia, José Antonio, Dolores, Miguel and Sara and Adela’s family.  We were in 3 houses so meal making was much easier.  However in between the meals we were always together. 

That day, I started what was to become a habit throughout our stay, a morning walk to Senra and back.  The round trip is some 8km according to José Antonio.  If you add an afternoon walk to Murias and back, that makes for just under 12km a day.  These walks were a great tonic in all ways.  I enjoyed the scenery, the sun on my back but I also needed them to work off the extra calories from the copious meals we always seem to have in Montrondo.  It must be the outdoors and the mountain air, but come lunch or dinner our appetites seem to be much bigger than at home.  Thankfully as I write I have returned to the Dukan way, except for dinner last night

The road to Senra, the walk I took every day whilst I was in Montrondo.

Dolores accompanied me a couple of times as did Alicia, my god daughter, and Yoli my sister-in-law.  When we arrived in Senra we would call someone in the family and they would come and have a coffee with us at the Cumbres de Omaña bar in Senra.  There we were served great coffee but by a very grumpy owner. 

With  my god daughter Alicia walking back to Montrondo from Senra one day last week

Once in Senra we went to buy some bread from the traditional bakery which I suspect has not been reformed since Eladio was a child.  I asked to take a photograph and here it is.  The baker woman did not want to be in the photo and mentioned rural tourism, little suspecting that my family have been in the area for over a century.  But I suppose I was behaving like a rural tourist so I shall forgive her for the comment.

The old fashioned bakery in Senra

Shopping in the area is quite quaint, mostly because there are no shops except for the bakery.  Food is supplied by “shops on wheels” and here is a picture of Yoli buying some eggs and fruit when the van stopped by our house once last week.  I love it, don’t you? 

Yoli shopping in Montrondo the old fashioned way
As Sandra mentioned on FB, it looks like time has stopped still and that is certainly true of Montrondo. Other sources of food are limited but you can buy fresh free range hens’ eggs and potatoes from Tomasín or Ulpiano.  Of course there is also an unlimited supply of lettuce for our salads from Primo, my brother-in-law, from his enticing orchard. 

Miguel, my nephew, is so enamoured with the place, especially since the family built their own house there, he has moved almost permanently to Montrondo.  In a way he was burnt out from his banking and stock broker jobs in Madrid and London so during the credit crunch last year he decided to get away from it all.  He now lives between Montrondo and Madrid and continues to work as an independent financial analyst.  Olivia was working on a piece about young people returning to the country and believe it or not she arranged for him to be interviewed live on the telephone on the TV1 morning show she works for, La Mañana de la 1.  Unfortunately when that happened I was walking back from Senra but was able to see it later on internet.  You can see it too on thislink in You Tube, in Spanish of course. 

Miguel, my nephew, in the tractor now lives semi permanently in Montrondo.

Miguel has his own hens which actually caused a bit of trouble whilst we were there.  Nuba, who is normally a gentle little dog, goes wild when they are let out and she has to be tied up or locked in the house.  Last week though, when they were let out of their pen, Nuba somehow got in and that was when bedlam let loose.  Eladio and José Antonio fell down the hill in their attempts to save the hens and even Eladio’s mother saved one by pushing Nuba away with her stick. Sara hearing the noise, rushed out of the shower, barely clothed, to find her father and uncle fallen on the ground and Nuba in the pen with the rest of the hens.  Luckily this time they were all saved but they had a huge shock.  Unsurprisingly they did not lay any eggs for a couple of days after the incident.

Nuba has to be tied up when Miguel's hens are let loose.

I had breakfast most mornings with José Antonio and Dolores where I was able to take advantage of their good internet connection.  The week was spent in a wonderful relaxed way with the family, the only upsets being Pili’s bout of lumbago and Isidro and Pili’s gastroenteritis, which thankfully went away very soon after taking medicine offered to them from Adela’s huge supply.  The men did lots of odd jobs around the house, notably repairing parts of the roofs which had the wives rather worried.  Even some painting went on when Yoli and Pili decided to paint Alejandro’s room pink like ours.

Isidro repairing one of the roofs with Eladio looking on. The men just love to go on the roofs which I find a little bit too worrying.

I also spent some quality time with Alicia my god daughter and enjoyed cooking with Yoli.  On the last day she made a great “cocido” which you can see in the picture here.

Yoli made cocido on the last day

All too soon Thursday came and it was time for us to go.  The whole family saw us off including Eladio’s mother who was especially sad to see us go.  She had a tear in her eye and remarked that now we were going the summer was over. 

Eladio kissing his sad mother goodbye in Montrondo last Thursday

And there and then the annual gathering in Montrondo was over for us once again and we were on the road to the warmer temperatures of Madrid.  Montrondo is high up in the mountains and it is much cooler there.  At night, in sharp contrast to Madrid, we slept with pyjamas on and under thick feather duvets.  At home Suzy was waiting for us as were my Father, Olga and our lovely dogs, Norah and the ever growing Elsa.

Sadly though for us, Suzy was going off the next day, so we had to say goodbye to her again.  Oli we weren’t to see until yesterday morning as she comes home so late at night from TVE.  As we hardly ever see her and because she had a lunch engagement, we treated her to dinner last night.  We went to the Argentinian restaurant in Majadahonda called De María which has excellent meat.  Unfortunately I ate or drank too much and had a very rough night from which I am still recovering. 

I have reached the end of the tale of the last two weeks and our stay in Montrondo.  Tomorrow, we will be continuing our travels as Eladio and I will be off to Santa Pola until Friday or Saturday.  I will continue to work from the flat but will enjoy our walks on the beach in the evenings.  Hopefully my tan from the walks to Senra will spread from just my arms and neck to the rest of my body.  I shall continue in the Dukan regime after too many excesses in England and Montrondo but look forward to at least one dinner out, hopefully with Jackie, one of my most loyal readers.  Is Thursday still on Jackie?

And that’s it for now. I must go and make lunch before uploading the photos and publishing this blog post.

Happy holidays to you all
PS You can see the full set of the photos I took in Montrondo here.


Laura said...

Masha, hello from Peña!! I just copied your recipe and as soon as I get all the ingredients needed, I'll bake la bomba!!!!!!!! It looks so delicious! Hopefully I'll let you know how it goes very soon (= Laura.

Masha Lloyd said...

Oh yes do please. Coming to see you in Peña soon:-)