Sunday, 20 January 2019

Discovering proper Sherry in Jerez de la Frontera

I'm linking up with The Sunday Post at Caffeinated Reviewer.

Our two-night stay in Jerez de la Frontera got off to a great start when, upon arriving at our motorhome aire, La Morada Del Sur, we were each given a complimentary glass of locally made sherry. I remembered sherry as a dubiously tasting liqueur that Nana might sip out of a tiny glass at Christmas. The dust-covered English bottles are a totally different beverage to the real Spanish version. Spanish cream sherry is delicious and dangerously moreish! We just had to buy ourselves a whole bottle!

Jerez de la Frontera is a lovely historic town. It's a little bit touristy, but not too much so and we enjoyed spending a day wandering around and pointing at things. The highlight was undoubtedly the beautiful Alcazar which was bought in the 1920s by one of the rich sherry families and has been restored for the town. Originally a Moor fortress and palace, it contains a bath house and a small mosque, both with wonderfully elegant architecture. The three-roomed palace overlooks a fountained courtyard, and the current custodians have recreated a typical kitchen garden as well.

There's a small art gallery within the main house displaying a dozen or so large vintage posters for Jerez events and fiestas - one was from the late 1800s. On the top floor is a superb recreated pharmacy which was rescued from a convent in the early 20th century. It has huge dark wood display units with all kinds of bottles and jars as well as lots of the pharmacist's tools and equipment for making lotions and potions. Jerez Alcazar is a fascinating place and excellent value at just €1.80 each to get in.

In bookish news, I'm currently reading a memoir written by a Vietnamese woman who is not going to survive colon cancer: The Unwinding Of The Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams. It sounds like it should be depressing, but is unexpectedly uplifting. I hope to blog my review on Literary Flits on Wednesday.

Giveaways closing soon
I've got four new Literary Flits giveaways for you this week starting with romantic suspense novel Winter's Heist by Emily Duvall today. There's several closing this week too:

24th Jan: Win paperback copies of of Flygirl by R D Kardon plus a notebook and a mug
24th Jan: Win a signed copy of all three books in the Women of Purgatory series (Raven's Breaths, Dark Abigail, and Holli's Hellfire) to celebrate the release of Holli's Hellfire by Tish Thawer
26th Jan: Win an ebook copy of Witch's Moonstone Locket by Marsha A Moore
27th Jan: (post on 24th) Win a Moleskine Journal to celebrate the A Heart In The Right Place by Heide Goody and Iain Grant blog tour
(All current giveaways here)

On my blogs this week were:

Stephanie Jane
#Veganuary Food Diary - Week Two
Books From The Backlog - The Judgement Of Richard Richter by Igor Stiks

Literary Flits
Flygirl by R D Kardon Spotlight + #Giveaway + Excerpt
Spiral Of Silence by Elvira Sanchez-Blake review
Holli's Hellfire by Tish Thawer Spotlight + #Giveaway
Spiral Into Darkness by Joseph Lewis Spotlight
UK2 by Terry Tyler review
All Things by Amber Belldene review (Veganuary read)
Winter's Heist by Emily Duvall Spotlight + #Giveaway + Q And A

Airing Out
Aire - La Morada Del Sur Parking - Jerez De La Frontera - Spain

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Books From The Backlog - The Judgement Of Richard Richter by Igor Stiks

Books from the Backlog is a weekly post hosted at Carole's Random Life In Books. Carole says it's "a fun way to feature some of those neglected books sitting on your bookshelf unread. If you are anything like me, you might be surprised by some of the unread books hiding in your stacks." Find out more and link up your own posts on Carole's Random Life In Books.

I enjoyed taking part in Books From The Backlog last year, but got out of the habit of the weekly posts. Now I hope to use this meme to stoke my enthusiasm for my 2019 Mount TBR Challenge. I'm going to post one BFTB a fortnight and then Actually Read The Book before the next post is due!

Last time I chose UK2 by Terry Tyler and my review will be on Literary Flits tomorrow.

Next up is:

The Judgement Of Richard Richter by Igor Stiks

In this gripping, war-torn epic novel, author Igor Ć tiks, a nominee for the IMPAC Dublin Award, tells the story of a celebrated writer who travels to Sarajevo to unearth devastating family secrets and the lies that have defined his life.

Author Richard Richter’s mother and father were always phantoms, both parents having died by the time he was four. His life, now at a crossroads, has been a jumble of invention, elusive memories, and handed-down stories. But when Richard finds his mother’s hidden notebook, written by her during World War II, he discovers a confession that was never meant to be read by anyone—least of all, her son.

Richard’s quest for the truth about his life leads him to an embattled Sarajevo. In the chaos of the besieged city, he discovers something more: a transformative romance and unexpected new friendships that will change the course of his search. But fate has been playing with all of them. And just as fate determines the lives of the characters in his novel, a betrayal reaching back half a century has yet to loosen its grip—on Richard, on everyone he has come to love, and on those he has no choice but to try to forgive.

I bought The Judgement Of Richard Richter almost exactly a year ago and it has languished on my Kindle ever since. I was intrigued by the Sarajevo setting and Igor Stiks being a Croatian author makes this #ownvoices as well as #WorldReads. On a shallower level, I loved the cover's glacial blue tones!

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

#Veganuary Food Diary - Week Two

Chana Masala by Viva! 
This is a post about my experiences during Veganuary 2019. I'm going to talk about vegan food. If that's going to offend you, please feel welcome to discover My Travels in Spain or read Reviews of My Favourite Books instead!

As in last week's post, appetising photos have been 'borrowed' from their respective websites, dodgy photography is my own! Click pretty pics to see their recipes!

Exciting new recipes this week included a Chana Masala chickpea curry from Viva, and my first attempt at homemade lemonade. The Lentil Daal from Veggie Desserts is a great versatile dish I discovered a couple of months ago and have now made it several times.

I also made a Vegan Fruit Cake in our small slow cooker. I've done this as a banana or a courgette cake before, but this time didn't have quite enough of either ingredient so combined the recipes instead. It turned out brilliantly, surprisingly, although I didn't quite get the full upside-down cake effect with the pineapple chunks. Here's my improvised recipe:

Vegan Slow Cooker Cake 
1 Banana, mashed
Half a Courgette, grated
25 grams, Peanut Butter
25 g Olive Oil
225 g Plain White Flour
3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Ground Ginger
100 g Demerera Sugar
1 ounce Sultanas
Half a cup (ish) Aquafaba (Chickpea Liquid)

Grease the slow cooker insert (or use a paper liner if you have one) and set cooker to high.
Add ingredients in the order listed to a large bowl, mixing after each addition. When completely combined, consistency should be a little drier than a normal cake batter - more a thick mousse than a runny liquid.
Place pineapple at the base of the slow cooker (or don't!) then spoon mixture over the top.
Put the lid on and cook on high for two hours. When cooked through, invert onto a plate (hoping it hasn't stuck).

Here's what I ate this week:

Every day: Porridge made with flaked oats and soy milk

Tues: Pita bread with peanut butter, banana
Wed: Roti with homemade hummus
Thur: Sweetcorn fritters
Fri: Salad box (lettuce, tomatoes, olives, sweetcorn, carrot), apple
Sat: Salad box (lettuce, tomatoes, olives, sweetcorn, carrot) with the last of my Lentil Daal, apple
Sun: Wholemeal bread with peanut butter, apple
Mon: Olive oil and tomato toast, Russian Salad

My first Veganuary Fail during lunch on Monday! We ate at a lovely outdoor tapas cafe in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, where I ordered a Roasted Peppers Salad that (I think!) would have been vegan. Sadly they didn't have any left so I chose the only vegetarian option - a Russian Salad which included mayonnaise.

Lentil Daal by Veggie Desserts 
Tues, Wed: Chana Masala with basmati rice
Thur, Fri: Lentil Daal with brown short grain rice
Sat: Cauliflower 'steak' with fried potatoes and baked beans
Sun: Aubergine and Pea And Spinach burgers with cauliflower and leftover fried potatoes
Mon: Bean And Sweetcorn Stew with brown rice

I wanted to give brown basmati rice a try, but could only find brown shortgrain in Mercadona. It was locally grown in Spain though. This rice takes longer to cook (about 20-25 minutes) but actually has a flavour of its own and is far more filling than my usual white rice. I had remembered brown rice as being a bit crunchy and chewy, but now I think I just hadn't cooked it long enough!

Snacks this week have been fresh fruit and dried fruits. I bought a bag each of mixed dried fruits and of dried apricots hoping they'd last several days. We ate them all in 48 hours and the cake only lasted a couple of days too.

And finally my vegan motivation book suggestion this week is:
Fishing For Maui by Isa Pearl Ritchie, a wonderful novel of a New Zealand family. You can Read My Review Here.

Are you doing Veganuary too? If so, please link up your recipe successes in the Comments so I can visit and be inspired!

Sunday, 13 January 2019

I made lemonade!

I'm linking up with The Sunday Post at Caffeinated Reviewer.

I know making homemade lemonade is a staple of American childhoods and I've often read of characters doing so or seen it on TV programmes. I'd never thought to try making it myself though. However, this week, a Belgian woman who lives in the hamlet nearest our current Portuguese campsite wandered over to visit friends and brought a bag full of lemons from the tree in her garden. She handed a couple out to everyone she could find, including us! Basically the tree has produced so much fruit that she had no chance of using it all up herself, especially seeing as the lemons are huge!

So I popped online to find a basic recipe and was amazed at how easy lemonade is to make. We only usually see the commercial fizzy stuff in the UK which is far too artificial-tasting for me. Fresh homemade lemonade I now know is delicious - and perfectly refreshing after one of our daily hikes.

We're on the move back into Spain today having spent ten nights in rural Portugal. I'm going to miss hiking out in the hills every afternoon and the gloriously fresh, clean air here. Instead, we're hoping to get onto the motorhome aire at Seville marina which I expect will be quite the culture shock after our current isolated location! Hopefully it won't be too noisy when we are ready to sleep?

I found a couple of photos on my phone from Armacao de Pera. I forgot to share them when we were there. This adorable little hedgehog and the Spring narcissi were at Armacao, all the other photos were taken at Almada de Ouro. The long views are a bit of a challenge for my antiquated phone camera, but I hope you get the idea. I love the mix of trees around here. The hillside pictured below has tall cypress trees which always remind us of ancient Rome, and pretty pines. There are also thousands of orange trees and olive trees, plus the occasional carob and stand of eucalyptus. Despite the climate being so hot and dry over the summer months - and warm and dry through much of the winter - there is miles of beautifully green countryside.

In bookish news, I've just finished reading Chilean novel Seeing Red by Lina Meruane which is about a woman abruptly losing her sight. It's not medically grisly, fortunately for me, and I loved the first-person narration style which I felt suited the novel very well. My full review is up on Literary Flits today.

Giveaways closing soon
No giveaways closing this week, but I've added three new ones in the past couple of days!
(All current giveaways here)

On my blogs this week were:

Stephanie Jane
#Veganuary Food Diary 2019 - Week One
Cover Characteristics - Stairs

Literary Flits
Accessible Fine Dining by Noam Kostucki spotlight + #Giveaway
We That Are Left by Clare Clark review
The History Of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave review
Music Love Drugs War by Geraldine Quigley review
A Sky So Close To Us by Shahla Ujayli review
Witch's Moonstone Locket by Marsha A Moore spotlight + #Giveaway + Q and A
Seeing Red by Lina Meruane review

Airing Out
Campsite - Almada de Ouro Club - near Odeleite - Portugal

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Cover Characteristics - Stairs

I've long been a fan of the beautiful Cover Characteristics posts that Kristen curates over at Metaphors And Moonlight so I thought I might try putting together a similar post myself. The idea is to choose book covers which are linked in some way (featuring  object in common, perhaps, or a similar title font) and to then display them artfully. Sounds easy, turns out not to be! I can see if I want to make this a regular feature, I am going to need to start keeping pretty comprehensive lists of covers by theme!

However, for your delectation, my first collection is:


Click each cover image to see its review on Literary Flits.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

#Veganuary Food Diary 2019 - Week One

Sweet and Sour Tofu
by Pickled Plum 
This is a post about my experience during the first week of Veganuary 2019. I'm going to talk about vegan food. If that's going to offend you, please feel welcome to discover My Travels in Portugal or read Reviews of My Favourite Books instead!

OK, that's hopefully gotten rid of Piers Morgan! I checked #Veganuary on Twitter a couple of times this week hoping to find inspirational vegan recipes I could try out in future weeks. There's loads of fab mouth-watering links, but also a depressingly large amount of spite and hate tweets as well. This reminded me why I tend to be such a misanthrope!

In this post I'm going to stick to my main motivation for taking part in Veganuary which is to discover great new-to-me food. I am an unabashed foodie and love my plate to have lots of bright colour as well as delicious flavours. New recipes are a great way to discover new cuisines so, for my first week, I've been eating Greek Pita Breads (My Greek Dish recipe), Gambian Domoda Stew (Viva recipe), and Chinese Sweet And Sour Tofu (Pickled Plum recipe). All made myself from scratch. I love cooking too! (What I don't love is faffing about trying to take a perfect blog photo while my dinner goes cold so you'll notice all pics here are borrowed from the site where I found its recipe. Click the pics or food names to visit each one.)

Pita breads by My Greek Dish

I'm in our motorhome at the moment so limited to meals I can cook on a three-ring gas hob or in a small slow cooker. We have a small fridge with a tiny freezer compartment. To add to the complexity, my OH isn't even vegetarian so we now usually cook our own meals. One of the things I have learned this week is just how many portions one can get from a red cabbage. When only one person is eating it, this cheap vegetable will easily last for nearly a week! Yay, cabbage. Again! So for me, buying vegan food seems to work out even more economically than vegetarian (good cheese is expensive!) although I do appreciate that this is mostly because I am happy to cook and so primarily buy raw ingredients. If I relied on ready meals and pre-prepared food I could easily spend ridiculous amounts of money and (probably) not eat as well.

Gambian Domoda Stew by Viva! 

Here's what I ate this week:

Tues, Wed, Thur: Porridge made with flaked oats and almond milk
Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon: Porridge made with flaked oats and soy milk

I've been making non-dairy porridge for us both for months so the only new thing this week was a few days of almond milk because the Continente supermarket had temporarily sold out of soy. I normally use soy and have discovered that I prefer its flavour to that of the almond.

Tues: Roti with baked beans, banana
Wed: Pita bread with Marmite, banana
Thur: Pita bread with peanut butter
Fri: Pita bread with Marmite and peanut butter (one on each of two breads, not mixed together!
Sat: Bean and sweetcorn chilli with spinach and basmati rice
Sun: Sojasun Vegetable Nuggets with sweet chilli sauce
Mon: Pita bread with fried tofu slices, banana

The pita breads are one of my lunch staples. I use half the quantities in the My Greek Dish recipe and split the dough into six breads. They are dangerously moreish straight from the pan, but also keep well in an airtight box for up to four days. I 'refresh' them for a couple of minutes in a hot frying pan if they do feel a tad stale.
The Soyasun nuggets were my only premade food and they were nice enough! Quick, easy to cook and ok value at their nearly-out-of-date reduced price of €2.

Tues: Domoda Stew with red cabbage
Wed, Thur: Bean and Potato Burgers with red cabbage
Fri: Bean and sweetcorn chilli with spinach and basmati rice
Sat: Pepper Soup with Pita Bread
Sun, Mon: Sweet and Sour Tofu with basmati rice

I'd made the Domoda Stew before. It's perfect winter comfort food. This time I halved the Viva! recipe and just crumbled in one veg stock cube instead of liquid stock. This resulted in three pretty large portions of a thick nutty stew.
My new wow dish is Pickled Plum's Sweet and Sour Tofu. This one is absolutely a keeper - easily as good as from a Chinese takeaway! I swapped courgette for the green pepper, added two chopped up pineapple rings and only had red wine vinegar, and it was still superb. The floured tofu is an excellent trick.

I've limited myself to a couple of snacks a day most of which have been fruit. We did share two bars of dark chocolate over two nights and also spoonfuls of chocolate coconut 'fudge' on New Year's Day. You might remember I planned to condense coconut milk to make a vegan Slow Cooker Fudge. Well, the condensing worked perfectly - can of coconut milk, two tablespoons of demerera sugar, and let it slowly cook down until its as thick as dairy condensed milk. Unfortunately I then got the proportions wrong for the fudge stage so good taste, but it just wouldn't set. More focus needed next time!

And finally my vegan motivation book suggestion this week is:
Farm Land: Sentience by Gemma Lawrence, a dystopian fantasy novel. You can Read My Review Here.

Are you doing Veganuary too? If so, please link up your recipe successes in the Comments so I can visit and be inspired!

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Sitting On The Border

Oil drum wall 
I'm linking up with The Sunday Post at Caffeinated Reviewer.

I'm writing this post from a campsite  near the village of Odeleite - practically on the Portugal-Spain border, up on a plateau with gorgeous panoramic views for miles and miles. We can see the Guadiana river (the actual border) from our pitch and we're still just on the Portuguese side. Our current campsite is actually a motorhome aire owned by the local hunting association which, admittedly, isn't very Veganuary, but we've not heard anyone shooting at the wildlife yet! It's an amazing 8 euros a night including electricity and there's fantastic walking routes right from our doorstep. We've been out for great hikes on each of the past three days and are considering delaying our planned departure from Tuesday until Friday or beyond so we can do even more wandering.

Our motorhome is second from the right 

The oil drum wall pictured at the top of this post is part of a small ramshackle encampment nearby where a woman seems to live on her own and keeps an assortment of ducks, geese, chickens and guinea fowl. Most of the place looks as though it was built from recycled materials. It's brilliant!

Traditional farming is apparently still practiced around here (according to one of our Walk Route leaflets anyway). We've not yet seen anyone using a horse-drawn plough, but a wandering shepherd brought his flock of sheep and goats across the land just below our aire on Friday. He had about half a dozen dogs 'helping', only one of which looked like how I envisage a Collie sheepdog. The others were mostly guess-the-breed mutts, but they were certainly enthusiastic!

In bookish news, I've got two giveaway winners to announce today! Congratulations to Keith who won the My Dream Woman by C H Clepitt ebook and to author Marsha A Moore who is this month's Literary Flits Spotlight Post winner!
Also let's welcome chucklesthescot to WorldReads. She's blogged books set in the Arctic.

Giveaways closing soon
6th Jan: Derrick by Russell ebooks
(All current giveaways here)

On my blogs this week were:

Stephanie Jane
A Month In Books - December 2018
Books From The Backlog - UK2 by Terry Tyler
December Challenges Wrapup - Bookish Bingo
#WorldReads - Five Books From Argentina

Literary Flits
Crush by Richard Siken review
Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey review
Crazy As Chocolate by Elisabeth Hyde review
The Bead Collector by Sefi Atta review
Incident At Diamond Springs by Kendall Hanson review + #FreeBook
Farm Land: Sentience by Gemma Lawrence review
Black Holes by Ochi review + #FreeBook

Airing Out
No new campsites this week

One of the views from our pitch 

Guadiana River