I always thought writing would be a gentle pastime. Sitting at a desk, fingers busily tapping the keyboard, ideas flowing from mind to computer in a steady creative stream. But it’s not like that in our household. For a start, if the words won’t come, I pace the kitchen, deep in thought. If Joe speaks, I snap at him, annoyed that he’s breaking into my train of thought.
Living in a tiny village in Spain is definitely inspirational. I can work undisturbed, gazing out onto the mountains between paragraphs. No sounds apart from the bee-eaters chattering as they fly through the valley in flocks, or Uncle Felix’s mule clattering through the streets. So there should be no distractions, right? Wrong, I’m afraid.“Vicky! Come and see this eagle,” Joe calls, and I abandon everything and race to look. We’re not expert enough to identify it, but that doesn’t matter. To watch an eagle wheeling in the endless, blue sky over the mountain tops is a joy and a privilege.
Or, “Vicky! Paco’s just given me this huge bag of vegetables. What shall we do with them?” I turn away from the computer to admire the contents of the carrier bag he’s holding out, crammed with glossy red and green peppers, courgettes and purple aubergines. So I search for recipes that require these delicious ingredients, and start preparing and cooking, my manuscript forgotten.
“Vicky! The fish van is here, what do we want?” (Or the fruit van, or bread van, etc.) Again, I leave my sentence half-written and join the village ladies to purchase our produce. I sigh. Maybe I can get on with the writing later, perhaps in the quiet of the evening? But, when darkness falls, the guitars come out and our neighbours fill the street, laughing, shouting, hand-clapping to the strains of Flamenco. We love it, but yet again the manuscript is neglected.
And then there are the fights. Joe is my Editor in Chief, and every word I write is checked and scrutinised by him.
“I don’t like that chapter,” he says. “It needs re-writing. And why don’t you use the word ‘palisaded’ here?”
“Palisaded? Why should I use words that people might need to check in the dictionary?” I say, reaching for the dictionary.
“And this part isn’t clear. You need to explain why the ladies’ thongs are up the tree.”
“I did! Read the next bit!”
So we bicker and argue, and further writing is pushed aside once more. However, miraculously, ‘Two Old Fools – Olé’ is nearly finished. My target is to get it out in time for Christmas, even though the village and Joe seem to be conspiring against me.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering – Joe won. The word ‘palisaded’ appears in chapter 22. And what did we do with all the red and green peppers? Well, some went into a vegetable and ham tortilla. Delicious! Some went into salads, some were baked in the oven. The remainder went into the chickens.
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My Spanish recipe of the month – Vegetable and Ham Tortilla
(Recipe courtesy of www.OrceSerranoHams.com)
This traditional Spanish tortilla has been adapted and made with the addition of fresh vegetables making this dish both colourful and exciting. Here we used green and red peppers but you can also use spinach, broccoli or peas. We also decided to add some diced Serrano ham. Or you could use Spanish chorizo to liven things up even more!
Vegetable and Ham Tortilla
Vegetable and Ham Tortilla
You will need:
2 medium potatoes
1 medium onion
1 small red pepper
1 small green pepper
100g diced Serrano ham (optional)
Salt and pepper to season
• Peel and finely slice the onion and potatoes. Dice the peppers into quite small pieces.
• In a large, heavy based non-stick frying pan, heat about 200ml of the olive oil.
• Add the onions and potatoes, then turn down the heat to its lowest setting. Cook for about 10 minutes until they begin to soften, stirring occasionally so the onions and potatoes don’t brown. Then add the peppers and continue to cook for a further 10-15 minutes until all the vegetables are soft. Add the ham and cook for 5 minutes more.
• Meanwhile beat the eggs in a large bowl with a little salt and pepper to season.
• Remove the ingredients from the pan with a slotted spoon and add to the eggs, mix well. Carefully pour away most of the oil into a bowl and set aside (you may need more later) Leave just a light covering of oil in the pan.
• Pour the egg mixture back into the pan and leave to cook on a very low heat for about 10 minutes. You can go round the edge with a knife to make sure the mixture is not sticking.
• After 10 minutes or so (the omelette should be firm on the bottom and starting to cook through to the top), place a large plate or specialist tortilla flipper over the pan and very carefully turn the pan over. Lift off the pan and add more oil if necessary. Then slide the omelette back into the pan to cook the other side (careful of hot oil).
• Cook the other side for a further 10 minutes or until it is cooked right through. You may need to repeat the flipping process again.
• Once the omelette is cooked through, flip again and place on a serving plate to rest.
• The tortilla can be served warm or cold and is great served cut into little squares for tapas or in larger slices if eating as a main meal.
Serves 4 – 6
“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