With relief, I finished the last chapter of ‘Two Old Fools on a Camel’ just before the Gin Twins arrived for their annual Spanish visit. Now I could really enjoy their company without worrying about writing deadlines.
As usual, they came laden with gifts from the UK, including everything one could ever need to celebrate Hallowe’en. Decorations, banners, plastic skeletons, drinking straws with skeletons, a ghostly soundtrack CD, masks and a massive bag of sweets to give visiting village children.
“When the kids come Trick or Treating, we’ll put the masks on,” said Gin Twin #1.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing the Spanish kids all dressed up,” said Gin Twin #2.We did a lot of stuff during their stay. We walked along the seafront and had tapas at a bar. We shopped and the Gin Twins cooked up an Arabian banquet. We sunbathed, as the weather was kind, and ate at our favourite restaurant. But this was the Gin Twins’ tenth visit, and I’d never taken them to Fort Bravo, the permanent Wild West movie set. So this year, did.
Fort Bravo is near the little town of Tabernas, in Europe’s only desert. When Joe drives, it takes about 40 minutes to reach, but my navigational skills are sadly lacking. Joe didn’t go, so I took the helm and got ourselves thoroughly lost. We finally arrived, having seen a great deal of rural Spain.
Fort Bravo is much in demand for cowboy movies and has been used for countless films like ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’, ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ and, most recently, a Dr. Who episode. Filming was taking place that day, which is always entertaining to watch. We bought two beers and a coffee from the wench in the saloon, and settled ourselves on a step to watch a shot involving a minister throwing a villain out of the chapel.
All the staff at Fort Bravo are dressed in costume, so we weren’t surprised when a cowboy cantered up to us. We smiled, and Juliet held up her camera to take a photo.
“What do you think you are doing in the middle of the shot!” shouted the cowboy in a French accent.
Red-faced, we sprang up and removed ourselves, hiding behind the tavern to finish our drinks and giggle at our own stupidity. It didn’t spoil our day. We still had a ride in the mule-cart, explored the whole town and watched the Wild West show. Then we drove home, the direct route this time, drank more gin and went to bed.
Each day seemed to be action packed, and by Hallowe’en, we were exhausted. The decorations looked great, but as no kids had knocked on our door by 10 o’clock, the Gin Twins and Joe went to bed. At midnight, there was shrieking in the street and a thumping on our door. I pulled on a scary mask, which probably looked ridiculous with my dressing-gown. I handed out the sweets while the Gin Twins, and Joe, snored in their beds, missing the fun.
If you’re ever in the area, do visit Fort Bravo, it’s a good day out. Oh, and look out for a new movie, the French version of Billy the Kid. Look past the chapel, and the reverend. You may see the Gin Twins and me, sitting on the steps of the saloon, drinks in hand.
Nadia Sawalha says, “They’re delicious, especially with buttered cabbage and onions sitting prettily alongside them.”
Serves 2 big eaters
8 potatoes, peeled (Maris Piper are good)
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander or parsley
For the filling:
4 tbsp pine nuts
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2-3 tsp ground allspice
225g (8oz) organic minced lamb (not lean – fat adds flavour)
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
Salt and black pepper
3 tbsp tomato purée
300ml (1/2 pint) lamb stock, hot
Preheat the oven to 180⁰C/gas mark 4.
Cut off the top of each potato. Core each potato leaving a 1cm (1/2 inch) shell.
Fry the potatoes in a little sunflower oil, and a knob of butter, until they are golden brown, then set them aside.
Heat some sunflower oil in a heavy-based pan and fry the pine nuts until coloured, then set them aside.
In the same pan, fry the onion until soft, adding more oil if necessary.
Now add the spices and fry until their aroma is released.
Stir in the lamb, tomatoes and pine nuts and season well.
Fill the potatoes with the lamb mixture, leaving a 1cm (1/2 inch) gap at the top.
Lay them side by side in an oven dish.
Mix the tomato purée with the hot lamb stock.
Pour around the potatoes until they are halfway covered. Add hot water if necessary.
Cover with foil and bake for 45-50 minutes or until tender.
For the last 15 minutes, remove the foil and drizzle over some olive oil.
Serve sprinkled with coriander or parsley.
“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