Back in England, I don’t remember thinking much about logs. Of course we had central heating, and although we had an open fire, we didn’t rely on it for heat. How different it is here in our tiny, mountain village of El Hoyo!
When we first moved to Spain, one of our neighbours dragged us into his house to show off his central heating, fuelled by a huge tank of paraffin. “Nobody else in the village has central heating,” he said proudly. He stood back, inviting us to examine it closely. Joe and I looked at the ugly setup. “That’s wonderful!” we said enthusiastically. We didn’t have the heart to tell him that central heating wasn’t a novelty for us, and that everybody has it in Britain. And we didn’t believe that southern Spain ever suffered much from the cold anyway.Really? That first year, we were snowed in for four days, and seven years later, we are absolutely aware of the importance of reliable heating. When winter’s icy fingers creep over the mountains, and temperatures drop below freezing point, Joe and I depend on our wood burner. “This year,” said Joe, “let’s order all our logs in one go. It’ll be cheaper and last us all winter.” So I agreed. Stupidly.
The lorry arrived and tipped its entire cargo into the street outside our house. It took us nine back-breaking hours to stack the logs and clear the street.
Luckily, it was a Wednesday and the village was virtually empty so we didn’t inconvenience any of our neighbours. But we suffered. As the sun went down, we were still stacking like robots and I didn’t believe we would ever clear the log mountain. But eventually we did. For the next few days our bones and joints screamed protest, and we were so stiff we groaned as we shuffled around doing our daily tasks.
The aches and pains have gone now, but the memory of the log mountain in the street, waiting to be stacked, is forever etched in my brain and memorialised in the photo above. Yes, we are very warm, and have enough logs for a year, probably more. But would we ever order a whole lorry-load again? No way, Jose!
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(Recipe courtesy of Orce Serrano Hams)
I chose this recipe as it is the most popular one highlighted by readers of the Kindle edition of ‘Chickens’.
4 medium potatoes
8 ripe tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
Tablespoon sherry vinegar
Olive oil for frying
Teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt to season
• Peel and chop the potatoes into equal size pieces of about two inches.
• Place into a pan of boiling salted water and parboil for about 10 minutes.
• Peel and crush the garlic and chop the tomatoes into small pieces.
• In a frying pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add the garlic and sauté for a few minutes until soft. Add the tomatoes and cook for 25 – 30 minutes on a low heat, adding the cayenne pepper, sugar and vinegar after around 10 minutes.
• After 10 minutes, blend together using a hand blender, taste and adjust the seasoning.
• When the potatoes have been cooking for 10 minutes, remove from the heat and drain.
• Heat about 400ml olive oil in a small deep pan and when hot, add the potatoes.
• Cook for about 5 – 8 minutes until golden and drain on kitchen paper. (You may have to do this in batches)
• Serve the potatoes on a large serving dish and add the tomato salsa.
Serve immediately with fresh bread.
“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