Settling in for the longhaul… Day 18 of lockdown – 1/4/2020

Doesn’t time fly when you are having fun?? not quite what would spring to mind at the moment but all the same the days do seem to be going really quickly – perhaps we are just getting old and slowing down, therefore each task we do takes eight times longer than normal….

So, the good news (I think) is that we are still here.  We are now 13 motorhomes (5 Dutch, 4 Brits, 1 French, 1 Spanish, 1 Italian and 1 Danish) as the last German left on Sunday morning at the crack of dawn (especially as the clocks went forward an hour).  Currently – or at least until the government changes it mind – we are all safe to stay for as long as we need, although we did have to sign a disclaimer to say that we took on all risk and costs associated with us staying here should we become ill…. lets just hope it doesn’t happen!

Spain has passed the 100,000 contracted cases and 9000 deaths – not good at all.  The majority of cases are still in Madrid, Cataluna and the Basque region but innevitably there are cases everywhere and it is obvious that many more than those recorded actually have the virus, so it is all about restricting movement and trying not to come into contact with others as much as possible.  Spain implemented its next level of lockdown from Sunday night at mid-night, restricting commuting to any un-essential work place.  It has named the specific roles that are allowed to continue and they are focussed around emergency services, food and pharmaceuticals – anything else has been put on hold until 9th April and the government has dictated that the employees will continue to get paid BUT, the employees MUST make up the lost hours within this calender year…. harsh!

You’ll be pleased to know that the supermarkets are pretty much back to normal now and you can find flour, tinned tomatoes, beans and pasta pretty much everywhere… and you rarely need to queue to go in either.  Everyone is just taking this in their stride and getting on as much as they can within the restrictions.

We are all continuing to applaud the amazing people who are keeping the counrty going and putting their lives at risk on a daily basis at 8pm – it is an amazing athmosphere even where we are which isn’t built up – people are out on their balconies clapping and whistling, emergency vehicles sound their sirens… a proper community feel.

The official song of the Covid-19 over here is ‘I will survive’ which is changed to  ‘Resistere’ (I will resist) in the Spanish version.  We have been enjoying the original version until today when they have obviously brought out a ‘charity’ update as a collaboration… not quite the same unfortunately….I guess the least of our problems!

Spain has been experiencing the strangest weather over the last few weeks, the 31st March was apparently the coldest day recorded for nearly 100 years and last week they said was one of three times in 100 years that Alicante has said 7 consecutive days of rain.  To be fair, it didn’t rain all day every day but we have now had another week on top of this with very similar weather and it is snowing in Madrid and up North… certainly wouldn’t want to be travelling back at the moment through the mountains.

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Just for those of you who are concerned about out sanity, we are keeping busy, Keith has started to do a bit of weeding and we have offered to paint the wall next to us if they can find the paint and tools – no sign yet but it has been raining alot!

We are keeping up with our exercise in the morning and a couple of 30 minute walks on the spot a day, and have now finished cleaning out the rest of the cupboards – both internal and external.  The only other casuality that we found was a can of tonic that had a hole and leaked.  Thankfully it was inside a plastic box with other cans of tonic… it just means that the rest of the cans are now rusty and I need to drink more gin to get through them – life is hard but it helps when focussing on playing the board games which have also started to come out the cupboard again.

Lots of cooking but only one new recipe this week which was a daring move – Short Crust Pastry.  Apparently the pastry that contributed to the UK’s best pie in 2017 (the pie in question was beef and stilton).  I was intrigued as the pastry didn’t contain egg so thought i’d give it a go on top of our Squash, Goats Cheese and Spinach pie and was pleasantly surprised…we will definately do it again although next time I will try it with the herbs.

This morning we were honoured to wake to it being dry which was unexpected so got out for a bit of a static run, joined by our local fan base of goats and sheep for breakfast – what more can you ask for?

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Day 9 of Lockdown ….. 24/3/2020

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Rather than wait another month, I thought I would give you an update on Spain and how isolation is going.  Until a couple of days ago I hadn’t realised that the Spanish isolation terms were even more vigorous than Italy… I had wondered why the numbers were still increasing at such a great rate.

We are both well and we are all adhering to the isolation rules – including Hattie! There are now 14 motorhomes left out of 64 so keeping your distance isn’t a problem and in fact our neighbour who was two spaces away from us has moved further down …. might well be something to do with the cough I have developed …. joke!

The weather has been less than Spanish over the last week, the worst of which has come today as it has been blowing up a gale and we have pretty much spent the whole day inside but we have managed to have the door open and spend a bit of time outside the rest of the week, albeit in jumpers!

Each day has been a learning curve and we are evolving our approach but trying to keep a routine to get the exercise in first thing in the morning to help kick the day off to a decent start.  We have started to try building in a bit of running on the spot to the exercises and also, later in the day – yes, I know it sounds strange – we go for a half an hour ‘Walk on the Spot’ together.  Well, you have to make things work for you within the limitations you have…. today, we have managed to do two walks in the motorhome whilst raining – all we need now is a fake dog and we’ll be well away!

We have also completely stopped going out 30m apart to the same supermarket as quite a lot of people have been stopped by the police. Instead one of us will go to one supermarket and another to a different one, or if there isn’t any shopping to do – throw out the recycling …. anything to get a little bit of fresh air and stretch the legs without being in contact with people.

It is interesting to see the different supermarket’s approach – Mercadona is our closest and pretty much every time either of us have been, it has been quiet and you can walk straight in and they have most of the produce, although today was an exception.  Consum has a one in one out policy and everyone must use hand sanitiser before they go in.   The queues go round the block but everyone waits patiently, 1m apart for their turn to go in and it is very well managed.

Then you have Carrefour which I haven’t quite worked out their policy yet as when I went the other day I had to queue for about 30 minutes and they then let 100+ people in at the same time which kind of defeated the object.  Keith said it was one in one out yesterday though so hopefully they have now got themselves sorted.

The good news is that stock levels are reasonably good.  At the beginning the supermarkets lacked store cupboard goods – flour, rice, pasta, tinned vegetables and tomatoes, beans, tissues, etc but these seem to be mostly back on the shelves now, although they may dip depending on delivery day as I am sure they are still trying to catch up with themselves.  Mercadona is a bit of an unknown as their stock levels seem to be lower than the other two and today was the worst I had seen for fruit, veg and yoghurts…. but we are doing fine and finding plenty of food to feed ourselves on!

We even tried out a new curry recipe yesterday, found on Jimmy and Jamies Friday night dinner from 2017 when they had Joanna Lumley in …. Aubergine Kuzi– a really nice change using ground almonds, tomato paste and yoghurt in the sauce rather than coconut milk/cream or tinned tomatoes.

We are taking advantage of the time that we have got and giving Hattie a good clean – each day another couple of cupboards or lockers are ticked off the list.  Keith has been doing most of the cleaning to be fair but I emptied out the under floor storage area yesterday which is where we keep most of our tins, wine and fruit and rather embarrassingly found an escaped satsuma…. or what was left of it.  It had obviously tried to jump ship to join the gin but hadn’t quite made it so was quite dehydrated!  Thankfully no damage done but just highlights we need to check and clean that storage area a little more often!

Dealing with the rumours/unknown has actually been the most difficult thing over the last week as you are constantly waiting for something to happen – we have both now stopped thinking about everything that is flying around unless it is on a government website and then we take a view.  The rumours of the police shutting off the facilities on sites were true however – we knew that they had already closed the toilets, showers and communal areas at several other sites close by but the police hadn’t been on site until Saturday when they cordoned off all communal facilities telling everyone that they had to stay on their own pitch…. sensible some may say but others still chose to ignore the instructions.

We had already decided to go back to using our own facilities a few days beforehand when we saw that the government had told all sites to close communal areas and it doesn’t cause us a problem as long as we can still fill up with water and get rid of our waste – which we can.

Unfortunately several people didn’t understand why this was necessary and were still trying to treat this like a holiday – needless to say most of these people have now left and gone home.

Life is restrictive but you can still keep happy and healthy, eating well and doing exercise.  Spain’s death rates from the Virus are still on the increase but we are only 9 days in to the lock down so I expect that we have a few more to go until the line starts to level off.  We are all in this together no matter where you are and all we can do is relax, do what they ask and remember that there are people in a far worse situation than us.  On the plus side, look at what this is doing to the environment and let’s hope that once we get through to the other side everyone will take note and make some changes to make the world we are living in a better place.

Last Wednesday we found out that the Spanish government planned to close all short term campsites, holiday accommodation and hotels as of 26th March at mid-night.  We have been told that we are considered a long term site as we are self sufficient and that they will be able to stay open – however, with everything that has gone on over the last couple of weeks we aren’t taking anything for granted and will wait to see if we get a knock on the door and are told to leave.

Happy isolation everyone and leave the loo roll on the shelves if you don’t need it!

Locking down…. 17/03/2020

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It’s been a busy few weeks since my last blog and how things have changed. We had planned on a couple of weekends back in the UK to celebrate birthdays and then back to Spain to stock up and head on our travels with Hattie to explore pastures anew, alas our adventures have been halted for a while – how long, we shall just have to wait and see….

We decided to book a quick weekend back to the UK to celebrate my mum’s birthday which was at the beginning of February, taking both mum’s out to a tea tasting and champagne afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason’s in London.

We were lucky with the weather as the three previous weekends had seen torrential rain and storms with huge delays and cancelled flights. The weather was actually pretty good for us, although as it was half term which we hadn’t appreciated – we had the French Air Traffic Control being on strike ….again!

Someone was definitely doing their best to try our patience as although we all managed to get in and out of London unscathed, most of the underground (and overground) either had major works and were closed, or had severe delays.  Even Green Park station shut due to over-crowding as we were walking towards it.  Needless to say it was a lovely day, the tea tasting which was ran by a very knowledgeable tea sommelier – yes, there is such a thing – was excellent – we all learnt a lot and the Champagne afternoon tea wasn’t too bad either. A lot of cake was eaten – maybe too much if there was such a thing!  Its nice to be able to do something different and spoil the mums every now and again…. although we don’t want them to get too used to it!

Whilst in the safety of my mums kitchen we tried out a recipe I have been looking at for quite a while but hadn’t wanted to risk doing it in the motorhome for the first attempt…. and I am glad I didn’t!

The Snake…. or apparently the real name is M’hanna  was a recipe from Jimmy and Jamie’s Friday night programme. Very impressive to look at and absolutely delicious – combining barley, squash, onion, garlic, apricots, dates and lots of other delicious things into a rolled up filo parcel.  Although it was very tasty, it was really messy and you need to work quickly as the pastry dries out – impossible to do unless you have about 2 meters of straight work surface…. so a big ‘no’ in the motorhome!  Although there may be an adaptation coming soon as a simple pie as the flavours were worth an attempt at a variation!

On a similar scale of impressive looking cooking – ha ha – I can’t claim any ‘impressive cooking’ – I also revisited the Salmon Monster which I haven’t done for a while – this one is motorhome friendly though!

Salmon fillet topped with spinach and a salmon and cream mousse encased in puff pastry – simple, delicious and always looks impressive!

In preparation for our departure on the 26th March we started to stock up on staples as we had run all of our stock down – obviously some kind of subliminal forsight, although we were down to our last two rolls of toilet roll which was potentially a bit of a disaster!  This did mean however that when the Spanish cleared the supermarkets out last weekend while we were in the UK things weren’t too bad for us on our return and as the Spanish dont eat much fruit and veg we are pretty sure we will be able to eat over the coming weeks!

We also recently decided to invest in a pressure cooker to help reduce the amount of time required to cook beans and experiment with other recipes.  We haven’t done a huge amount of pressure cooking yet but are looking for suggestions if anyone has any! So far we have cooked up quite a lot of chickpeas and black beans – as we use these mostly – and we also tried a new recipe for ‘Eat the Rainbow Black Bean Soup’ which is pretty good – definitely one to be repeated.

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We had planned this last trip back to the UK about five months ago as it was to celebrate Keiths’ birthday with his family.  With the flights and cottages booked we set off last Thursday morning (12th March) conscious that although it was looking like ‘lockdown’ was on the horizon we assumed we would be able to get to the UK and back by Monday (16th) before there were any restrictions… a little naive apparently.

The journey over to the UK went smoothly and we had a lovely meal out with my mum, brother and family on Thursday night at a great Italian in Old Amersham called Zaza – just in case anyone is in the area.

On Friday morning we then set off to do the shopping and down to the place we had hired for the weekend just outside Chichester to meet up with Keiths’ family for the weekend.

What a fantastic hotel and cottages – highly recommended. We had two cottages next to each other for the 11 of us and 3 dogs, cooking a cassoulet on the Friday night and ate in their restaurant on Saturday.  It’s only a few miles from West Wittering beach so there was a dog walking trip down there on Saturday morning and then we all met for lunch in Chichester. Keith and I walked in along the very wet and muddy canal… little did we know this would be the last of our ‘freedom’ for a little while!

We had obviously been following the news but were still convinced that it wasn’t going to affect us until we heard that a couple of flights to Alicante had been turned around mid flight on Saturday and they announced complete lockdown from 8am Monday morning.  Concerned that we may not get back to the motorhome we took the decision to move our flights forward by 24 hours, arriving back late on Sunday instead of the Monday. Not ideal, but we were concerned that they may turn non-nationals away following the 8am lockdown meaning that we would possibly have 4-6 weeks + before we could travel into Spain – something they have now put in place.

Saturday nights birthday meal was nice despite the evolving news. It was a bit of a joint celebration – Paul (Keith’s brother) was 46, Alex (Keith’s nephew) was 25, Keith’s 50th and it was also our Wedding Anniversary so in addition to a lovely meal, there was also some cake (Of three different varieties I may add!) to help the gin, wine, beer, whiskey and cider – amongst other beverages – go down!

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Without too much of a hangover – obviously the quality of the alcohol – we woke and had the best breakfast anyone could ever wish for. It was lovely to be together but also Paul had bought Sausages, bacon, black pudding and eggs from the farm shop he works at…. all mopped up by Liz’s home made bread.  That definitely helped us on our way for the day!

A great weekend, despite being a little dampened by the media.  Liz dropped us back at Gatwick en route which unfortunately meant we didn’t get to see my mum again on Sunday as originally planned but we made it back into Spain before non – residents were turned away…. lets just say that Keith will never forget his 50th birthday!

I am not sure anyone really appreciates what lockdown is until you are actually in it. Keith and I knew roughly what we were coming back to and that it was going to restrict our movement but it was our choice to return as we wanted to be back in our ‘home’ rather than unable to get back.

We are now on day two of ‘lockdown’.  No-one is allowed to go anywhere together unless one of the people is dependent on the other.  No-one is allowed to go out on the streets unless they are going to work or to get necessities from a food shop or pharmacy.

Yesterday we walked to Carrefour – 30 meters apart….it felt a little like a bad smell was following me around – you would have thought I would be used to it by now as he’s been there for the last 20 years!!

You need to have ID on you at all times and a valid reason to be on the street, if you don’t have one and you are stopped – and they are stopping people frequently – you will get fined or put in jail.

We can’t go for a run or do our exercise outside the gates any more…. those nice Lebanese guys who honked every time they went passed are also quarantined so won’t be missing our morning routine! Yesterday we were able to do our HIIT by the boules pitch which is inside the site but we will see whether they stop us doing that at some point as we have heard that police are also coming on to some campsites and asking people to get inside their motorhomes.

The streets are empty and all shops, bars and restaurants are shut that are not critical to day to day necessities – i.e. no clothes or electrical / hardware shops are open either.

The Campsite isn’t accepting anyone new but if you are here you are allowed to stay and as there was a mass exodus on Saturday, they have spaced everyone out to every other pitch.  As a very kind gesture they have given us all free electricity until the pandemic is over.

It’s going to be interesting to see how everything pans out over the next few weeks/ months but we are just going to take each day as it comes and keep healthy and happy. Currently we are planning to stay put – despite the grey skies and rain that we have had these last two days! – but we may change our mind and it is still possible for us to travel back to the UK as it is our country of residence but we cannot travel anywhere else at the moment.

This morning it was raining so Keith did his exercise inside the motorhome and I managed to sneak 20 minutes exercise in between the rain showers outside before we went to Mercadona to get some of the other bits that we needed. Unlike Carrefour, the stocks of everything (except fruit and veg) were very low although I am sure they will stock up at some point later this week.

We are lucky as we have lots to keep us busy and in fact today dusted off the Boules set and played a bit just to move around and get some fresh air.

Let’s see what the next few days bring …. I understand that there is a little bit of sunshine is on the cards!

Oh and I nearly forgot with everything going on at the moment – I received a message a couple of weeks ago to say that my blog had been nominated for the sunshine award – how lucky am I… and how amazing is that – thankfully it is on content rather than grammer…. or at least that will be what my mum will say!!

I want to say thank you for the nomination which was from another keen traveller and blogger who enjoys beautiful places as much as we do.   I can only hope that I manage to continue to make people smile and motivate you with our passion for travel and food amongst other things.

 

Storms and sunshine…. 19/2/2020

Storm Gloria hit Spain with a vengeance back in the middle of January but thankfully the damage to San Juan was more visual than long lasting.  The winds were high and the rain was torrential closing all the airports in the region for nearly 48 hours.  Just 20km inland the snow fell so hard it cut circulation on all the main roads for 48 hours, cutting some towns off completely – something unheard of down here, although a minor interruption to daily life, almost embarrassing when you look at the damage that has been done elsewhere over the past month.

It has though, taken a month to clean up the beaches…. probably because Easter isn’t round the corner like it was last April when we were here and it wasn’t really going to have an impact on tourism – just shows where priorities are.

A huge amount of damage was done however to the fish farms which are just off the coast, thankfully the one that Nuria (Pilar’s sister) works at came out with minimal loss… just a few fish that jumped the nets when the waves got high.  Other farms lost 18 months worth of fish and the locals are benefitting from their loss… day and night they are lined up along the beach hoping to catch a biggie!

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The weather has got better though – we even had a bit of a heat wave a week ago when the temperature got up to 26 degrees during the day …… ridiculous for February! Although, all we have been able to do over the last couple of weeks is watch the news and sit helplessly whilst the storms attack the UK.

So, we have been focussing on finding more new, interesting recipes, trying out new restaurants, catching up with friends and slowly starting running again…. ah yes – it is a slow process, two steps forwards – one back but there is progress.

I thought I would try and detail the new recipes differently this time as it does just end up sounding like we are constantly eating… which is true, but we don’t just look for new recipes – we have repeated a lot of the good ones that we have found in between times as well!

The new recipes this month are as follows:

  • Smokey Tempeh Fajitas with a Mango Slaw (above) – although I am normally very anti mixing sweet and savoury, this worked out really well and although not particularly photogenic, is a definately repeater if we can get good ripe Mango.
  • Mac n Cheese (below left) – the Vegan version with a really nice ‘cheese’ – if you can call it that – and nutty sauce
  • No Tuna Pasta Bake (above right) – I put this next to the Mac n Cheese as they are very similar dishes in principal (Pasta, cheesy type sauce and a bit of veg) but the sauces taste completely different – both really tasty but the bake is far nuttier.

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  • Lentil and Mushroom Stew – I could eat this every day, proper comfort food served with sweet potato, what is there not to like?  Really quick and simple to make as well
  • Pumpkin and Blackbean Soup (Below left) – A random recipe that I found with tomato and coconut and fancied trying and it had the same effect on me as the chickpea curry below…. absolutely delicious and so quick and easy to make
  • Chickpea curry (above right) – why oh why have I never made a curry before with tomatoes and coconut? This is the most delicious recipe using our base curry paste and although it goes really well with Chickpeas, you can add prawns, chicken or whatever you fancy and I am sure it would be equally tasty…. no going back now – this is the curry of choice!
  • Fresh Artichokes – well, they were in season here and there were loads of them in the market so I thought I would give it a go.  I found a recipe to eat them raw with freshly squeezed lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper.  Nice but a lot of faff to peel and prepare for not a lot of veg

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  • Vegan Lasagne – Absolutely delicious but this isn’t too different from my normal vegetarian lasagne apart from adding lentils to the mix and the cheesy sauce being vegan – I prepared it the day before for the Spanish guys and it worked really well though.

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  • Vegan Balls – well what more can I say.  My meat balls with a pasta sauce but with quinoa and black beans instead of meat.  So light and tasty… just a little bit messy to roll into balls!

I know there are more savoury than sweet but that is just the way it has been this month…. one of the Spanish guys is on a bit of a health kick/diet and the other looks like he has put on weight so I thought I’d try and cut back!

We have been out a few times to eat in the last month and found a lovely little restaurant in central Alicante called El Bokao which is just near the market and the ingredients (as well as the food) are fantastic.  They do a lovely set menu – which we have ended up opting for both times we have been and I have even ended up eating the pate – which considering I normally can’t  tolerate liver is a huge compliment for them!

And just leaving the food aside for a minute, as my foot has improved we agreed to join Pilar and some friends on a walk near Guadalez which is a picturesque – but way too touristy – village in the mountains about 20km in land from Benidorm.

The walk was mostly flat around a lake which on a clearer day is apparently an incredible green.  Unfortunately for us it was a little overcast but we still managed to stop and enjoy a picnic half way round and enjoy the tranquillity and beautiful Almond blossom that is in full bloom at the moment.

A quick trip back to Blighty…. 16/1/2020

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I had been holding off on updating the blog as by now, most people know I update it just before we make a trip somewhere to bring everyone up to date…. and this time our trip back to the UK was supposed to be a surprise so I didn’t want to ruin it!

Sharon and Steve – Keith’s sister and husband – celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary last week and the kids, if you can call them that, organised a surprise party to celebrate and we thought it would be rude not to join in!

Amazingly, it remained a surprise and Vicky, Felix, Alex and Lauren pulled it off flawlessly – a lovely afternoon / evening.

As we were back in the UK we managed to catch up with the rest of both families, it was a little like ping pong between houses but it worked pretty well all in all, despite illnesses – not us, but others around us.

We set off on the tram to go to the airport just as the sun was rising, roughly the same time as when we are doing our exercises in the morning but as I don’t normally have my phone with me to take a photo I thought I would share the natural beauty that we are lucky enough to see each day…. although as the sun actually poked its head through the cloud it was even better but we were already on the tram and couldn’t take a photo

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As is always the way when we get to Alicante we have been a little more static than usual, so the blog is even more limited to food than travels and new places. We have been walking a lot more though as my foot injury was on the mend until a couple of weeks ago with the help of a good physio, massage and exercise.  Unfortunately I did something to set it back just after Christmas and although it has been improving, recovery isn’t as speedy as I would like.  I hadn’t had the chance to get back to the physio until today but already feel so much better despite the pain he inflicted upon me!

Since my last blog, we have continued our gastronomic Vegan adventure – well, we think so anyway – and have even dared extend some of the recipes out to our guests, the Spanish included… although we have alternated with meat dishes as we don’t want to scare them too much!

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Before Christmas we tried out recipes for a lovely Vegan Bolognese (above) which uses butter beans and some really easy (and tasty) lentil burgers that we cooked on the BBQ that actually stay together, rather than the majority of veggie burgers that fall apart and between the grill. Although that said, we would still would cook them on the hot plate/griddle rather than the wire mesh ….. just in case!

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We have started to frequent a different stall for our fruit and vegetables in the market and although more expensive the quality is fantastic.  A few weeks ago Keith decided he fancied trying a pork and pineapple satay recipe, so we bought a pineapple from said stall…. which turned out to be the most expensive pineapple we have ever eaten – but worth it!  It was delicious, so sweet and juicy but it was nearly 10 euros!  Apparently something to do with being picked from the tree when ripe, then flown in… probably wrapped in cotton wool (or perhaps gold)! We will definitely be buying one again but may just keep it to ourselves!  The Pork and Pineapple satay skewers were delicious by the way!

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We also tried to do Mushroom Wellingtons but I chickened out of making individual wellingtons when I realised I had made too much filling, so just made it into a pie …… which was also pretty tasty if I don’t say so myself!

We opted for the stuffed peppers for our first experiment on a couple of the Spanish guys – there were three invited and one dropped out when we said we were doing vegan! –  the two who came were convinced there was meat as the flavour and texture was so full. We then tried out the Vegan Enchiladas on them, which despite being a little too spicy for their taste buds (they are light-weights) were a huge hit….even the sweet potato queso sauce!  It’s one of those recipes which has lots of parts but once it is constructed you can leave it in the fridge until you are ready to cook. It is not only full of fantastic flavours but also one of those one dish wonders that means you don’t have much washing up afterwards as you have done most of it beforehand!

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For those with a sweeter tooth, we also found some delicious (and really easy) Vegan cookies…. or at least that is what they call them.  They are basically a mix of nuts, dates, oats and chocolate – what is not to like!

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With so many new recipes over the last couple of months, we have had two non-repeaters. Maybe just our taste but all the same something wasn’t quite right. It was a shame as we were both really excited to try a recipe we found for a Mango Stir fry but it just didn’t work…. not even going to post the recipe! The second was BBQ Plantain – or perhaps I should say BBQ Cardboard – all I can say is that we obviously didn’t put enough Salt/Flavour or anything on them as even when dunked in a huge amount of hummus they still tasted like cardboard.

The weather has been kind to us over the last month and although it has been pretty cold over night these last couple of weeks (going down to about 4 degrees) the sun has been shining during the day raising the temperature to around 17/18 degrees.

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So, not wishing to break our tradition of a BBQ on Christmas Day we found some lovely – albeit pretty large – steaks at our butchers in the market and cooked them alongside baked sweet potato and BBQ Brussel Sprouts.… yep, we found some in the market and with a marinade it worked and they were delicious – possibly the maple syrup helped!!

We have been entertaining quite a bit – as we are always looking for guinea pigs!! –  the Spanish guys, some of the neighbours and we also had another couple who we have got to know quite well over the last few weeks over for New Years Eve who shared our Lentil and Aubergine Moussaka – well, it was only the day before and we had already arranged what we were cooking so they didn’t have much choice…. despite Sally not being very keen on aubergine and tomatoes it went down pretty well, perhaps helped by the reasonable quantity of excellent Cava and wine that was drunk!

BBQ Ribs

Having mostly caught up on the washing and shopping yesterday and today we managed to squeeze in another new recipe on the BBQ before the weather changes this weekend – BBQ Seitan ribs…. tasty, although the recipe I took it from doesn’t quite work as the marinade is too liquidy.  I have updated the recipe inline with what I will do next time as I think it is definately worth another go – despite the plate looking a little ‘orange’!

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Settling in …. 15/12/19

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The rest of the journey went smoothly with the temperature briefly rising enough for us to not actually turn the heating on for a couple of nights – well…. it didn’t go down below 10 degrees which for the previous couple of months in the UK has been unheard of!

We were keeping an eye on the weather as they had been threatening a lot of rain – and snow – however, we were lucky and the route we took, although wet in parts was pretty good despite the Somport tunnel already having over half a meter of snow at the side of the road.

We opted for the toll road to cross over from France into Spain as earlier in the year when we avoided them the traffic was horrendous. It cost us 55 euros but saved us a good hour/hour and a half and all the stopping/starting which we felt was worth it.

Once in Spain we stopped overnight at the same two places as earlier in the year – Berriozar and then Teruel before finally getting to San Juan Playa, Alicante on Thursday 28th November – welcomed by sunshine and famliar faces which was lovely.

After a lovely walk along the seafront and a good nights sleep we woke to sunshine, ate our breakfast outside and got on with the first round of washing….. It was going to be a few days of catching up and chores!

With our Spanish friends away for the weekend in Madrid we took advantage of a free weekend to go out to a few bars in San Juan on our own taking in a few glasses of wine and tapas – finishing the evening with a spectacular ‘Brazo de pulpo’ – Octopus arm – which was served on a bed of mashed potato and onion … absolutely delicious….so good I almost forgot to take the photo!

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The wonderful weather unfortunately only lasted a few days before we got our monies worth of wind and rain…. a little ironic that we managed to do our exercises outside in the UK right up until the day we left and then we arrive in Spain to be restricted to the motorhome for two mornings…. it did only last four days though so I think we will cope!

 

Just before we left the UK a couple of people mentioned the film ‘The Game Changer’ to us and finally, on the journey down here, we managed to watch it – really interesting!  If you haven’t already seen it and you are interested in food, exercise and nutrition as a whole, I highly recommend it as it certainly opens your mind…. so much so that we have been experimenting!

Before I start – to all of our friends and family, don’t worry – we don’t plan to go completely Vegan…. we would miss bacon, cheese and steak too much – but we are definately converted to a more plant based diet …. maybe 80/20!

We started thinking about different sandwich fillings as we do eat alot of cheese and fish and came up with a really tasty Mushroom Pate which although I initially tried using Girolle mushrooms, is actually better with a mix of button and chestnut mushrooms, onions, walnuts and a lot of garlic!  As before, I have linked through to the recipe on the name if you want to give them a go.

We then tried a Butterbean and Sun dried tomato pate…. also absolutey delicious as both a dip and a pate.  This one uses slightly less garlic but has a real tang as it uses the juice of a whole lemon.

And then finally the flexible ‘Soyrizo‘ – Chorizo made out of TVP which is textured vegetable protein.  Having only ever had Tofu once before which I thought tasted like cardboard, it is fair to say I was a little apprehensive about trying any of the soya based ‘supplements’ but TVP soaked up the flavour from all the spices and provided a real depth to it.  We made a batch and have put some in the freezer as it can be used in wraps, paella, chilli sin carne, stuffed peppers or many other dishes.

Meanwhile the huge amount of brie and camembert that we bought in France is actually starting to pong alot …. so we have starting to dip into those as well… I did say 80/20!

After success with the sandwich fillers we thought we would start experimenting with main meals…..  the first of which was paella using some of the Soyrizo – not sure I will go back to normal chorizo now for the paella as it provided a huge amount of flavour withough the high fat content.

Also using TVP, we tried a Chilli sin Carne – I wouldn’t have known that there wasn’t any meat – except for the fact that we normally use chunks of meat for our chilli instead of minced meat – you don’t need to cook it for anywhere near the same length of time as meat yet it provides a huge depth of flavour by soaking up all the spices.

Our final new recipe this week also using TVP wasstuffed peppers which used a combination of rice, TVP and black beans and once again a huge success… definately to be repeated!

We also tried a couple of recipes with Seitan and Tofu… they had a lot to live up to!

The first recipe was a Quinoa and Seitan fajita bowl which was a light and refreshing meal with lots of vegetables as well as more black beans…. a very popular ingredient!

And finally this morning we had No Huevos Rancheros which used tofu as well as guess what …. black beans… its fair to say that we have had our fair share of fibre over the last couple of weeks as well all the other vitamins and minerals that we need!

We have had meat and cheese in between but it has been 80% plant based – Keith has even been trying out different types of Soya milks… although we have decided to stick to the Skyr type protein yoghurt that we like!

All of the meals we have had have been full of flavour – probably because they use alot of spices – and delicious. Neither of us have felt hungry or lacking in energy, in fact we both feel like we are sleeping better and have higher energy levels if anything!

We are going to continue to try out more recipes and see how it goes but the balance is key for us – we have had friends over and cooked a huge spatch-cock chicken as well as eaten out… not going to give up the things that we enjoy!

The first batch of mince pies have also been cooked – this year using Waitrose’ Amaretto mince meat which was absolutely delicious…. a muffin tin, a gin glass to cut the bottom and an egg cup to cut the tops – perfect!

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The foot has been to see a physio as although it is a little better, I am now up to ten weeks of pain and it would be nice to know that there is a possibility that I won’t have another ten ahead of me!

The physio was excellent – and cheap at 30 euros an hour – and although it has been subjected to a huge amount of pain whilst a metal tool was being pushed into the nerve between the toes, he also did a bit of acupuncture and ultrasound and told me to buy some toe seperators to help provide the inflamed nerve space to breathe….. ha ha – maybe I should think about painting them whilst I have them !

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Fingers crossed though – I will be on the road to recovery now that we know what it is – its just a matter of time and errrrrr patience – something that most of you know I don’t have a huge amount of!

The weather is looking reasonably good over the next week or two so fingers crossed the foot will get better, we will be able to have a BBQ for Christmas and we will continue to get the beautiful sunsets that we have been having over the last few days.

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Stocking up for winter…. 25/11/19

Like gerbils, bears and all sensible animals we have been doing our best to pile on the pounds over the last few weeks to get us through the winter…. both physically and also by stocking Hattie up for our trip south…. she can hold a few more kilos on her frame!

Once again we have been on a bit of a gastronomic journey over the last few weeks, squeezing in another visit to Dishoom and the Hand and Flowers – the venison was particularly good – however, we have also tried three new places which were all exceptional.

My mum had been talking about a local pop up restaurant project which was run occasionally near Marlow in benefit of Syrian Refugees.  The chef – Imad Alarnab – was in fact a refugee himself and now that he has been lucky enough to set up a business, he is putting back into the community by running pop up events.  The food was delicious, the venue was great – it is a fantastic looking coffee shop by day so I need to pop back when we are back – and the atmosphere was lively – all in all a great evening for an excellent cause…. highly recommend it if you happen to be in the area at the right time, or fall upon one of his pop up restaurants or Falafel stalls in London as his Falafel are second to none!  Unfortunately as we were sharing a table with another couple – which incidentally was a lovely mix – we got distracted talking too much – no surprises then – and I only managed to take photos of the falafel and Babaganoush …..

Our second new restaurant was found as it was Keiths sisters’ birthday just over a week ago. Not that we needed an excuse but we took the opportunity to do an Anderson night out, meeting for cocktails and then on for a meal at the ‘Buen Asado’ in Reading …. lots of lovely Argentinian Steak!  We hadn’t been before but would definitely go back as the food and service were both excellent… no photos as I had obviously had one too many cocktails by that point …. I really am failing this week!!

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We then did a little trip that we have been trying to do for a good three years now -finally making it to visit Shri Swaminarayan Mandriva – the Hindu Temple in Neasden, the largest Hindu temple outside India.  The detail in the marble both externally and internally was incredible and a visit is highly recommended if you are close by.  As you aren’t able to take photos inside I have copied the link to some of the most beautiful carvings so you can see more here.

We took both mums to have a look round the temple itself and then met my brother and a friend (who is Hindu) for lunch afterwards in the restaurant where we enjoyed lots of vegan delicacies. We opted for the buffet this time to try a selection of flavours, although the a la carte menu looked pretty good …. this was round one and included dhal, okra, pea fritters, paneer and naan – we were spoilt for choice and flavours and ended up contentedly full!

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With it being our last week in the UK before we travelled south for a couple of months, we spent it catching up with friends and family and stocking up the cupboards with those weirdly important things you struggle to get – or really aren’t quite the same – whilst away…..marmite, decent bread flour, yeast, coconut cream, black beans, decent oats, bacon…. oh and a couple of jars of Waitrose mincemeat so I can make some mince pies !!

Not quite having eaten enough,  we went to my brothers for dinner on Thursday night and my sister in law had just taken delivery of the Dishoom cookbook….. I can confirm that we don’t need to go back to Dishoom again!  Although the recipes are pretty complex and involve a lot of spices (and time) the Chicken Ruby curry and Black Lentil Dhal that Farah cooked were spot on…. restaurant standard!  Very happy to have had that as our penultimate supper in the UK – a fantastic curry and we will happily help Farah test any recipes she wishes to try going forwards!…..  Although I am not sure that we are going to be making any of the recipes in the motorhome unfortunately….. that’s a lot of different spice to carry!

Fat and happy – I am not running or doing anything aerobic at the moment due to a foot injury going back nearly seven weeks now – we set off from what had become a rather muddy field on Saturday morning.  I love the farm but it is fair to say that I won’t miss the quantity of mud we have been bringing into the motorhome for the last couple of weeks!

The journey south has been pretty good so far considering the time of year with our first stop being at St Valery sur Somme as usual.  A beautiful little town with a great Aire,  lots of lovely walking and cycling – although we didn’t do any this time – close to a supermarket where I think we confused the checkout lady with our very unbalanced diet…..stocking up with a large caulifour, a couple of Camembert, goats cheese and some Pont d’eveque to go with 15 litres of red wine…. ahem!

Day two saw us travel to Vendome where we have also stayed before.  It is also a beautiful town with a free Aire just outside the campsite which is closed at this time of year.  This year we arrived on the first day of its Christmas market which was small but all artisanal and quite nice.  The SatNav had tried to direct us through the town center right next to the market but thankfully memory kicked in on the previous route we followed…. although we have since found a better route in and out so we won’t annoy any more locals than we need to going forwards!!

Although the rain threatened this morning we woke to almost darkness (at 7:45am….) and managed to get our exercise done, showered and breakfasted before it started to rain again which was quite nice.  The days journey was grey and wet for the most but without issue so we have to be happy.

We switched our stopover location from February to a little village called Cavignac where there is a Super U with a fuel station that we could fill up at and reverse out – large vehicles are a bit of an issue in France – and a nice little free Aire (without services) overlooking the vinyards  – GPS n 45.100399 w 0.39111.

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The weather is supposed to be getting better as of tomorrow but we just had a downpour so we will keep an open mind to see how the next few days play out …. although we are feeling hopeful that we won’t hit any snow!

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