“We’ve run out of milk,” I said to Joe. “Could you drive down the mountain and pick some up, please? There are a few things we need, and I have this blog to finish.”
I should explain that we had to sell our beloved jeep, and this month we bought ourselves a new car, a six year old Volkswagen Polo. It’s diesel, sounds like a tank, but we’re quite pleased with it. Compared with our jeep, it has all sorts of unfamiliar extras that we can enjoy, like a working heater, radio, and central locking.
I settled down to write, jumping when the phone rang.
“Vicky, I’ve done something stupid…”“Joe? What? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I’m in the supermarket car-park. I did the shopping and loaded the car, but when I closed the boot, I locked the keys and my phone inside.”
“Oh no! How are you calling me?”
“A kind lady lent me her phone.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Not sure yet. Don’t worry, I’ll sort it out. I just phoned to tell you why I was taking so long so you wouldn’t worry.”
I didn’t tell Joe that I hadn’t even missed him, I’d been so immersed in writing. But some time later, I jumped in fright again as a vehicle drew up outside, horn blasting. It was Joe, in a strange car filled with strange people, kids hanging out of the windows. Apparently, a Spanish family had noticed Joe’s anguish in the car-park. They’d finished their own shopping, and insisted on giving him a lift up the mountain to our village to collect the spare keys. Although local, they’d never been to El Hoyo before, and declared that it had been a most pleasant drive. They absolutely refused to accept any petrol money, and then drove Joe back down to the supermarket to collect our car.
Eventually, a sheepish Joe returned home, still kicking himself for his careless mistake.
“Wasn’t it kind of that Spanish family to give me a lift?” he said. “I dread to think how much a taxi, or a mechanic, would have cost.”
I’d done the same thing, years ago, in England. Nobody offered to help me then; in fact scores of people had walked past me, faces averted. Here in Spain we’ve lost count of the times that kind Spanish people have helped us out of emergency situations.
“All’s well that ends well,” I said as I put the shopping away. “Relax, I’ll make you a coffee. Where’s the milk?”
“Oh no! I knew I’d forgotten something! I forgot the milk!”
I sighed. Well, it was past six o’clock, I reasoned, so I opened a bottle of Paco’s red wine instead. We soon forgot about the incident.
Cauliflower Cheese and Asparagus Bake
(Coliflor y espárragos al horno)
Serves 2 to 4
~ 15 minutes preparation ~
~ 30 minutes cooking ~
Similar to our English cauliflower cheese, but with the delightful addition of asparagus. (Or use broccoli instead of asparagus.)
1 cauliflower, trimmed and broken into florets
10 green asparagus, trimmed
40g (1½ oz) plain flour
40g (1½ oz) butter
570ml (19 US fl.oz) milk
75g (3 oz) grated cheese (any cheese will do) plus a little extra for topping
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
2. Boil two (separate) pans of salted water.
3. Once boiling, add the trimmed asparagus to one and the cauliflower to the other. Cook for about 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce – this is the easy way! Place the milk, flour and butter into a saucepan and, over a low heat, whisk continuously until you have a smooth sauce.
5. Simmer the sauce gently for a few minutes and then add the cheese. Keep whisking until it has melted. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
6. Drain the cooked asparagus and cauliflower and place in a large terracotta cazuela or casserole dish.
7. Pour the sauce over.
8. Top with a little extra grated cheese and cook in the oven for 10 minutes, until the cheese on top is bubbling and golden.
9. Serve with a light sprinkling of paprika.
“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