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Sunday

14 day solo mission back to England - Saúdades for Portugal

 I missed my husband, I missed the sun, I missed speaking Portuguese - loads!  But there were a few compensations.  30 day matured sirloin steak which I cooked on a griddle in my woodburner.  

90 seconds each side and 90 second rest.  Perfection.






Any tame Portuguese archeologists about??

Whilst digging my vegetable patch, deep deep, down I have been coming across various shards of pottery.  As a potter I recognise it isn't an even manufactured clay, it is a mix with bits of tiny stones in it and an uneven firing temperature which suggests a basic kiln type and very clearly isn't glazed or to do with drainage.  

I have often thought that cultivation of our land here dates back centuries, with wonderful terracing and water well which possibly might be pretty ancient.  Now I need to find an expert who might date a few shards of pot.  There is also a stone I found which isn't like our local stone, and I think could possibly be an ancient axe head - my husband thinks it's a ...stone.

Here are my prized finds.  Any positive helpful comments please send to rachel@rachelbarker.com



  

Friday

As Nossas Queridas Vizinhas

 Somos abençoados com uma família encantadora ao lado da nossa casa.  Estou sempre interessada em ver como eles estão a cultivar as coisas, e aprendemos muito ao olhar para as suas vinhas.  Este ano cultivaram abóboras enormes que se tornaram cada vez maiores a cada semana.  Hoje, elas desapareceram!  Queria tanto tirar uma foto de Sónia e Andreia, as suas filhas com os legumes.  Aqui estão elas e não tenham um ar tão angelical!  Tiveram a amabilidade de me deixar tirar-lhes uma foto e interromper as suas vindimas.









We are blessed with a lovely family next door to our house.  I am always interested to see how they are growing things, and we learn lots from looking at their vines.  This year they grew huge pumpkins that became ever bigger every week.  Today they were gone!  I so wanted to take a photo of Sónia and Andreia, their daughters with the vegetables.  Here they are and don't they look so angelic!  They were so kind to let me take their photo and interrupt their grape harvest.

Thursday

Finally some rain

After months of absolute drought I awoke in the night to hear rain on the tiles  - and over the course of the day rain cells have been passing over with sometimes heavy showers.  The trees and plants breath a sigh of relief!

Here is a departing storm over Alvaiazere Hill down from our valley towards the coast.

 


Tentacles - worth a trip to sample

(No, I said tentacles).  We have just discovered a new favourite restaurant in Sertã.  I chose Polvo à Lagareira, and it turned out to be one of the best examples of the genre, delicately grilled to keep it tender, and served with batatas murras (bashed potatoes).  
Tel 927775316






 Finally I seem to have cracked it, making feta.  You can buy it here but it's wildly expensive so I have been experimenting making it in house.  It has a nice creamy, yet crumbly texture with a slight sharp edge to the taste.  Excellente with our home grown cucs, toms, and olive oil.



Monday

Tuesday

The drought continues...

 Despite the ferocious heat and total absence of rain some things miraculously just keep going.  The grapes are starting to turn and we are wondering if my trip to England in September is going to coincide with the ideal time for the harvest.  Another case of careful planning coming unstuck?  We will see.

This is a shot of our entrance walkway, the vines making a perfect, enticing dappled shady path to welcome us home.



Wednesday

Pastelaria Império - Cernache do Bomjardim

 Just been to our favourite pastelaria in Cernache do Bomjardim, not far from us.  All the cakes are made on the premises and super fresh, and the ingredients are lovingly prepared to make delicious treats.  It is run by a team of very nice people who patiently listen to us stumbling through our portuguese!



Sunday

A Whopper from our favourite tree

 


Hot Days Ahead

 
With temperatures like these make sure you keep your favoured vehicle somewhere cool.     

    

Friday

The remarkable power of the sun

 Here is a picture guide to our growing prickly pears.  We "gathered" our paddles from Pedrogao Pequeno on 17th Feb 2020.  Now in June 2022 we have our first prickly pear fruit, with flower just starting to develop.



Sunday

Ucrania woman alone harranges Russian soldiers near Crimea -

 

This brave woman confronts Russian soldiers, addressing them as enemies and telling them in no uncertain terms to leave, pressing upon them sunflower seeds to flower when they are dead.  

Thursday 24 February 2022

 


Saturday

February 12 - the end of summer

 This has been a winter like no other.  We have had pretty much 3 months of sunshine and blue skies, (which now obviously is becoming a problem for farmers who rely on winter for growing crops and grass for animals).  But we woke up this morning to cloud - it was so odd, I'd forgotten what an effect dull skies have on a person.  Tomorrow we might even have a small possibility of rain, well let's wait and see.

In the meantime our arum lilies have just started to flower.


  

Monday

"Less is more" and the moon

 This is our first year of managing our vines properly, cutting out excess "twiggage" drastically from previous owners methods, and learning from our previous year's mistakes.  Here is a detail from one of our walkways, culling back to create a basic cordon form but from which we now know huge amount of growth will spring.  You can just see the buds swelling (we are the first week in February) and also the very tiny moon in the middle at the bottom.



Thursday

fanfare ciocărlia - golden days

 You know what it's like when you hear a teeny clip of music that reminds you of something from way back, well I just had one of those moments and after an evening of searching Youtube I finally found it.  Crazy Balkan guys playing frenetic music to make you feel happy.  Try this...

Golden Days



Wednesday

Sunshine bush

 Even on dull days our Bush Daisy aka Euryops pectinatus exudes light.  It's a native of South Aftrica but thrives here - not even our huge population of Lusitanian Pine Vole can undermine its enthusiastic growth.  It starts flowering in November and will carry on without break until June or July.  This autumn/winter has been remarkable for the lack of rain and almost uninterrupted sun for over 3 months - even by Portuguese standards this is unusual.  Admittedly the reservoir is decidely low and it is difficult for people with grazing animals to find enough grass, but for us sun deprived English it is amazing.



  

Thursday

Digital images

 I still find it amazing that an image taken in a nanosecond, with barely any thought can produce such clarity - such is the joy of taking photos with a phone.

This is from a garden in Coimbra.



Wednesday

Our best oil so far...

  We inherited 30 or so neglected olive trees, many very ancient ones with huge boles, but they were badly in need of serious pruning, if they aren't pruned they are not viable fruit producers and old wood is a source of disease to the point of tree destruction.  So pruning is not only done with secateurs but also with chain saws.



Thursday

One of our favourites from2021


 

 


Twelfth Night

 Before Christmas we discovered how a few pruned twigs from one of our fig trees, put on top of our wood burner, gave off the most delicious sweet spicy smell that you can normally only come across in the heat of summer.  With this in mind I dreamt up an alternative Christmas tree which we made together in Andrew's workshop.  Here is the result.



Jan. 2022

 Our 2 favourite clementines are just starting to ripen.  Citrus trees are truly miraculous, they are ripening fruit (often in huge quantities) whilst putting out flower for the subsequent season.  And ours will produces fruit over a 4 or 5 month period.  


 

Sunday

olive harvest 2021

 We started picking from our olive grove on Friday 5th Nov.  A beautiful mild day, brilliant blue sky, with a welcome breeze.  This year we have about 20 odd trees to harvest with the remaining 12 trees  - pruned hard last year, so this year they are just putting out leaf.  From one tree today we gathered 6 (10lt) buckets of olives.





Thursday

28 October

It seems as though this might be the end of summer, we have weather coming in from the Atlantic bringing lots of rain for the next 3 days.  Fortunately yesterday we managed to have a trip to the far eastern frontier of Portugal, very different from our neck of the woods. 

Marvão an amazing hilltop walled town in the Alentejo.  The sun was hot and we even saw a Black Vulture soaring overhead in the clear blue sky.


Mid October swim

 We did get in the sea - for a few moments.  The sun was warm but the water was perishing.



Monday

Wine fermenting - the background noise is it happening.

 


Moussaka based on nice mr. Fernley Whittingstall’s recipe.

I have tried this recipe using goat or beef, both worked well.  I always use meat that I have previously casseroled.  The texture is good and you need some sauce with it.

 350 g meat not including sauce

3 or 4 long aubergines

1 small onion

2 cloves garlic

thyme, mint, coriander as preferred

150ml milk

150 ml fresh homemade yoghurt

1 egg

2 dessertspoons flour

some cheese grated (sml amount)

I also added home made lecsõ maybe half a cup

Slice aubergines, brush lightly with oil and grill till golden, both sides.  Fry onion and garlic. Chop beef or goat, add to onion, add sauce, tomatoes lecsõ, chillies as you like.

Cook gently to meld flavours and textures.

line deep bowl with aubergine slices, add 1/2 the meat sauce, add another layer of aubergines, and another layer of meat, then cover with one last layer of aubergines, and pour over sauce topping -

which is made by ;-

mix a little cold milk into the flour, when smooth add the rest of the 150 ml, add to this one egg and beat till well mixed, then add the youghurt and some salt.  Heat gently, when thickened and heated through pour over top aubergines and sprinkle on a litttle cheese.

Bake 30-40 mins in hot ish oven.

The top layer of yoghurt, sauce is essential for giving a lightly set slightly sharp accent offsetting the rich meat.  Serve with a green salad.


Saturday

Vintage, vendemia, vindima

 24 September, we celebrated the last stage of our grape harvest.  We have about 80 or so vines and make both red and white wine in a very mini micro production.  Now we have 15 containers fizzing away and by mid November we  can finally taste the resulting wine.



Baking Day

 Have just submitted our last design plan to Zen Hankook in Korea - we are never very sure how many of our ideas are taken up till we go out to visit, which given Covid, is not likely for a while.

My mum's birthday would have been last month, and it is with her in mind that this design came to fruition.

Old family recipes read like poetry, calming and soothing words - words to welcome a child home from school, phrases with evoke warm kitchens on cold winter afternoons and the joy of returning to the family.

The phrases - so familiar, delicious in themselves - Sifting and scattering, whisking, melting and stirring, cooling. Ingredients of intense flavours, lemon zest and cinnamon, honey, cocoa, vanilla.

Even the writing - faded and uneven from years of use and reference, holds memories within its familiar scrawl, recollections of motherly affection.

With this design I celebrate the preciousness of our mothers, whose love for us throughout our childhood was constant and ever present in their daily acts of kindness and attention.




Monday

Praia fluvial September dip.

 Afternoon spent swimming at one of our favourite river beaches, For a while we had it all to ourselves (other than a turtle - or terapin? who sat on a rock on the far side).



Sunday

5th Sept. Mid 30 degrees and standing over a barbi

 A glut of sweet and hot peppers



Tuesday

Passion fruit jam

 This huge passionfruit vine started out as a small wizzened fruit bought in Aldi in Ludlow in 2018.  I kept it in the fridge over some months till it was even more dried out.  Then brought it with me to Portugal where I finally cut it open and sowed the seeds.  2 years later we are eating its fragrant fruit and have just made some jam.





Friday

Azerbajani stuffed vine leaves via Portugal

Feride Buyuran's Dolmas 

This has become a firm favourite with us and is definitely worth doing, I was very impressed with watching Feride Buyuran's recipe, here below is my version, I have added a few variations of my own.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJOEBF5XI-4

She can show you how it's really done!  If you would like my version ...






Wednesday

Out of the blue

It's a wonderful thing when you are surprised by the loveliness of a vegetable plant growing in one's plot.  OK, some might consider it to be technicaly a fruit, but that I think is splitting hairs.  Here is my favourite aubergine, with its gorgeous velvety leaves, with their cockled edges. It  produces many elongated slim aubergines which are delicious and have no hint of bitterness or sharp spines on their calix, in other words an all round good thing.  I am preparing Moussaka tonight - will report back...

Monday

Magnum opus

 Well OK maybe not, but still my latest creation does not fail to raise a smile.  When we bought the house we found a large dried out gourd, which seemed like a total waste of time to have grown, but needing a bathroom waste bin we sawed it in 2 and just this week I got round to painting it and afixing legs.  Admittedly it now looks remarkably like a cow's udder - but it has a certain charm.



Tuesday

 Temperatures here are in the mid-30s and so perversely I decided that our next design suggestion for Zen in Korea should be for Christmas.  We work well in advance to get manufacturing deadlines right for the season. 

I wanted to buck the trend of the normal, Christmas themed scarlet /green/ holly/ baubles motifs. Instead I wanted to evoke a winter’s night in a forest.  The wind blows between the trees and mist swirls in the chilled air casting a hazy diffuse aura in the night sky.

I chose 2 simple shapes – here shown is the elongated oblong (just right for a generous handing round of mince pies) and a tall mug.





Sunday

Pickled cucs - August 8th

 We're well into the preserving season now.  The garden is producing more than we can manage to eat so I'm busily bottling our tomatoes, pickling chillies and cucumbers  and have just purchased a food dehydrator.

These though are a real fav.  In the States they are called refridgerator pickles.  They don't keep for long as they are in a subtle vinegar- not the usual sort that will strip your mouth of sensations with their acidity!

I make a light vinegar- 

1 cup vinegar (6%) 

3 cups water

1 tsp salt

4 tsp sugar

dill, coriander seed - whatever is growing handy.  Boil all this up for 1 min and cool.  In the meantime, chop gherkins into fingers or chunks as you like.  Put in a capacious bowl.  Sprinkle on 1 tsp course sea salt and leave to drain.  After 30mins, pack into sterile jars and pour over pickling brine.  Seal and put in fridge.  Will keep safely for 1 month - but one's loved ones will steal them well before that date. 



Thursday

5th August - All the constituent parts ready to harvest

 

Finally my first aubergines are ripe and picked.  this year I am growing Asian ones, enlongated, and creamy smooth texture with no bitterness.  Tonight I will of course cook a rat.

water gimchi on a hot day - perfect.




 i love the contradictions, cold juice and searing chilli.  The shock must do great things for your endorphins.

Saturday

 Rain and more rain  - it has its benefits, now our spring is gushing and gurgling happily.



Wednesday

It's been a while...

 


Now all of our designs are sold in South Korea I have been taking a breather from showing what I am up to on my blog, but a suddenly thought I should put a toe back in the water.  Here is "Painted Olive" a detail from a mug.

Monday

Not a cat purring or husband snoring but the noise emmitted by a wasp nest at dusk when the wasps have returned for the night. Shot in my kitchen Lydbury North, Shropshire, England

On this morning's walk...

This year's warm summer has brought out one of my favourites - the Lesser Mottled Dewberry.  It might be a less extravagantly coloured butterfly to some, but I love the subtle markings :-)


Sunday

My good friend and colleague Wonseok

Wonseok painted this for me.  Here she is adding the final touch.

Tuesday

Soup and seed sowing stragegy

Threat of frosts over and the soil temperature is on the up, time to get sorted with my seed sowing.  My over-wintered lettuces have been great, but suddenly they want to bolt but they make a delicious if vivid soup for lunch.

Some of my favourite things are totally weird

Every year when this honeysuckle flowers in my garden I am bowled over by its strange beauty. Pale glaucus-green leaves and twining stem, creamy, intensely perfumed flowers stacked in unlikely cupped layers, something you'd imagine in Alice in Wonderland not Shropshire.