It’s been a long winter and excessive rain has resulted in the village being even quieter than usual. Our mountains have been shrouded in mist and we’ve stayed indoors. Recently, however, we’ve had a few days of sunshine, just in time for some old friends from England who came to stay for a visit.
When they arrived, they looked a little shell-shocked. They’d read ‘Chickens’ but I don’t think they’d grasped quite how small, isolated and purely Spanish our village is.
“It’s beautiful,” said Andy. “But perhaps a little, er, third-world?”
“No shops?” Anna asked. “What happens if you need to see a doctor?”
We explained that delivery vans come daily with bread, fish and local produce, and that the doctor comes once a week and holds a surgery in one of the villager’s living rooms. She looked dubious.Andy and Anna were keen to see the local sights.
“We’ll take you to see Europe’s one and only desert,” said Joe.
“You see how lush and green it is here?” I said. “Well, you’ll be amazed at the desert – it’s utterly dry and barren.”
So off we went to Fort Bravo, near the town of Tabernas. Fort Bravo is a permanent movie set where dozens of spaghetti westerns like ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ and ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ were filmed. The terrain is similar to the Colorado desert with rocky outcrops and prickly pear cacti. An entire Wild West town has been recreated there, complete with gallows, funeral director, blacksmith, church and school. You can wander round, enjoy a drink in the saloon, watch filming and generally imagine you are in a cowboy town.
“I thought you said it was a desert?” said Andy, pointing out the verdant scenery. Instead of the expected dry, dusty crags, the whole area was green and dotted with wild flowers. Joe and I could only make lame excuses about the immoderate seasonal weather.
The place was empty. No filming was taking place, the town seemed deserted.
“We’re going to have a nice quiet time,” Joe said happily. “We’ve got the whole place to ourselves.”
The staff at Fort Bravo always dress in authentic costumes, and on this particular day, they were clearly bored. For them, our little party was a welcome diversion, but poor Anna suffered the most. Two cowboys amused themselves by frightening the living daylights out of her. Perhaps her naturally nervous disposition made her an easy target because, as we strolled around, they appeared unexpectedly from behind buildings or furniture, pistols drawn. At one point she was forcibly put in jail at gun point. We finished the visit with several tours of the town, viewed from a mule cart, rattling along at breakneck speed.
We had a great day, but with gunshots still ringing in our ears, it was nice to return to the quiet of our village.
My Recipe of the Month – Roast Lamb with Asturian Cider
This roast lamb with Spanish cider from Asturias is the perfect Spanish lamb dish. The slow cooking allows all the flavours to infuse and creates a fantastic gravy too.
You will need:
1 leg of lamb about 2 1/2 kg 5 garlic cloves, skins left on and halved or roughly squashed 4 apples, cored and quartered 500ml Asturian cider Olive oil Few sprigs thyme or rosemary Juice of half a lemon Salt and pepper 500ml chicken or lamb stock
• Preheat the oven to high then score the lamb in a criss-cross pattern. Drizzle with a little olive oil and rub in salt and pepper.
• Place the lamb in a deep roasting tin and add the garlic and herbs. Pour over the lemon juice, add an extra drizzle of olive oil and cook in a hot oven for about 25 minutes.
• After 25 minutes, turn the heat right down and remove the lamb. Place the apples into the tin and pour in the cider. Return to the oven for about an hour.
• When the lamb is cooked, remove from the tin and place onto a cutting board, cover with foil and leave to rest while you prepare the sauce.
• Place a sieve over a pan and tip in the contents of the roasting tin (everything will be nice and soft) into the sieve, squashing down so you get out the juices.
• Discard the pulp remaining and add the stock to the pan with the juices. Boil until the sauce is the thickness you like.
• Carve the lamb and serve with the sauce, fresh greens and potatoes for a warming, fruity and succulent supper or dinner.
(Recipe courtesy of www.OrceSerranoHams.com)
“a charming and funny expat tale” The Telegraph (UK)
“Weeks later you will be doing the dishes and recall some fleeting scene with chickens or mules or two old fools and laugh out loud all over again.” The Catalunya Chronicle