Memories of Gozo

I went up to Barcelona this weekend to meet up with a fellow blogger and her cocker spaniel Inca.  She writes here!
I met them in Poble Sec where I spotted this thin stripey building

We had a lovely lunch in a Canarian restaurant. 
 Is that the right adjective to use?  The food was from the Canaries.

I once went to Gozo, near Tenerife for winter sunshine and to get rid of my annual Cornish bronchiatis.

I remember this holiday for three things mainly

1. My friend complained on the first night that I was breathing too loudly and keeping her awake so I spent the entire week sleeping on the sofa
2. While she drove around the island in a hired car, I went for a boat trip which included lunch on board and a lot of Canarian wine. The sea was rough and it was very invigorating sitting at the prow and being pitched up and down over the waves.  
I became so absorbed in watching a very attractive fellow passenger that I followed him off at the wrong port and had to shout for the boat to let me back on to take me home.
3. I then went to cool myself down with a swim in the sea and as the Atlantic waves are quite fierce on those shores I got knocked over and lost my glasses in the swell. 

Actually there were four memorable things

4. For the first time I ate Papas Arrugadas – the wonderful wrinkly potatoes with green and red spicy sauce. I have never tasted them again until yesterday in Poble Sec

Dancing the Gay Gordons in Granollers

Burns Night is on January 25th and celebrated all over the world, including in Granollers!

Robert Burns, the Scottish national poet, was born on this day in 1759 and lived his short life of 37 years with gusto. He wrote poetry, much of it radical and passionate.  He was a farmer, a radical, a supporter of the French revolution, lover of women, collector of traditional songs and he had a wonderful sense of humour.

Each year on this day thousands if not millions of people all over the world have a special dinner which more or less follows a set pattern.

We had the same group of people as last year with the additional of lovely Lydia who is 3 months old and my friend Cristina from Barcelona who read the Selkirk Grace in perfect Scots

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

 We ate cock a leekie soup thanks to Tiffany, vegetarian haggis flown in from Scotland, neeps and tatties minus the neeps because I could not find a single turnip in Catalunya, and then Cranachan, the raspbery, oats, cream and whisky pudding that is traditional on this night.

We had songs, poems and even a burst of dancing the Gay Gordons.
This video is not of the Gay Gordons dance but as I was searching I found a dance group called the Gay Gordons and I love it. I have a big soft spot for gay men dancing after so many years of learning ballroom and tango and line dancing with them in London.  Great kilts!

Anyway, we had a perfect night,  not only remembering Burns but also introducing him to a wider world.  And seeing Lydia dancing in her Scottish dress – bought last year in Inverary – was a delight.

And here is our Catalan translation by Pep Mogas of one of Robert Burns most famous songs

El meu amor és rosa roja
Que s’obre al juny de nou
El meu amor és melodia
D’un cant dolç que em commou

Com més formosa ets, amor
més enamorat em fas
T’estimaré aixi, fins que
eixuts siguin els mars

Fins que eixuts siguin els mars, amor
I el sol no fongui els rocs
T’estimaré aixi, amor
Mentre em bategui el cor

Que et vagi bé unic amor
Que et vagi bé molt temps
Jo tornaré de nou llavors
deu mil milles faré

Collecting water from Montseny

We are muddling along.

Bonnie has good and bad days. In general she is happy and full of energy but her digestion is very unstable and this tires her (and me) out.
There is no way of knowing what will happen next.
Or when it will happen.
That is just a fact of life that I must accept.

Our new kitten Phoenix (Fenix in Catalan) has settled into Granollers fairly well. We keep her in one room until she feels more confident and also to avoid her running out of the front door onto the busy street. Once she is calm and comfortable with us all then we will have to trust her not to be foolish. She is still nervous when we make loud or sudden noises but trusts Bonnie totally

Yesterday we went up to Sant Fe in the mountains of Montseny. There is a natural spring there where we fill up our water bottles.  Sometimes when I am writing English I can’t remember which is the correct way to express something. I reverse translate and end up with funny expressions like ‘gather water’ or ‘collect water’. What is the right way to say this in English? Is it just ‘get water’?

 It was Sunday and many other people had the same idea. When we arrived there was a group of neighbours from Sabadell who were just beginning to fill up about 60 eight litre bottles of water. I timed them for a while and realised it takes about one minute each bottle. The stream coming out of the rock was steady but rather slow. The water is delicious and so cold

As we waited three more couples arrived armed with large plastic bottles. It was a bit of a party

The woods around the fountain are mostly beech and the ground was inches deep in reddy brown leaves which perfectly matched Bonnie’s coat

We filled up 30 bottles which should last us a few months. It is one of my great pleasures here – going to collect, or fetch, or catch, or get fresh mountain spring water.

Sant Celoni

We stayed over a week at Sant Nicolau and came back via Sant Celoni which is a town further up the train line from Granollers, about halfway between Barcelona and Girona. As my partner works there I decided to spend a few hours exploring the town while waiting for him to finish.
The town always seems a bit austere when I arrive there on the train but this time I found the central street and there are some lovely buildings and interesting shops.
The church of Sant Marti was constucted in the years between 1634 and 1703.  A whole life time of works!  The front facade is beautiful
Here is the town hall
Christmas specialities such as crisp-flavoured turrons. At the back of the photo there are children playing hopscotch. Catalan towns provide lots of play areas – it is officially painted on the pavement!
Roasted chestnuts cooked on a brazier – sorry this photo is not good but it was hard holding the camera with a dog pulling on the lead. Bonnie is not happy walking through shopping streets.
Sant Celoni is right on the edge of the Natural Park of Montseny and makes a good starting point for excursions up into the mountains.  It’s on the direct train line to Barcelona and in the other direction to Girona and Figueres so is well placed for city, mountains and countryside. 
Until August 2013 there was a famous 3 star Michelin restaurant called Can Fabes. After the death of its founder Santi Santamaria in 2011 and in the current difficult financial climate, the restaurant closed its doors after 32 years of business. I wish I had known about it when I first arrived here and had taken the opportunity to eat some special Catalan cuisine.  I know I have often complained in this blog about the difficulty of finding good food so it is a shame I missed this one.  I just looked up its web site and it looks as if possibly it has reopened.  Impossible to tell with the internet as sometimes the ghosts of old establishments continue to haunt the airwaves. If anyone knows then please write in and tell me – does Can Fabes still exist, or not?   
And if you have eaten there, was it possible to eat vegetarian food?

How to Make Panellets at Home

As promised here is our recipe for making these little sweet cakes that are traditional at this time of year.
We have this recipe thanks to my partner’s mother who lovingly typed up lots of traditional and favourite Catalan dishes and stuck them in a folder called Cuina de L’Avia/ Grandmother’s Cooking.
There is a photograph of her on the back of the book, cooking a large paella. On the front she put a photo of the happy couple who received the book.  It was done in the days before Photoshop (and before me) and lacking actual images of them cooking, she stuck their heads onto other bodies. It always makes me smile when I take out the book – it was done with such love and generosity and when you cook one of her recipes you really feel her presence helping you in the kitchen.

400g of ground almonds
400g sugar
150g boiled potatoes and sweet potatoes
lemon rind from one lemon

For Decoration
100g pine nuts
100g chopped nuts (almonds or hazlenuts are good)
100g ground coconut
one lemon
anything else you fancy using!

-Boil the potatoes and sweet potatoes in their skins, 10 minutes high and 10 minutes low heat.
-Let them cool, take off the skins and then mash them well.
-Add to the potato mix the almonds, the sugar and the lemon peel.
-Mix it together gently with a spatula – too much and it will be difficult to get it to stay in shape.
Now you have the base of the panellets.

Pine Nuts
Roll the mixture into balls and dip in egg white. Cover in pine nuts. These are your round panellets

Mix together the base with some ground almonds,dip in egg white and roll in the chopped nuts. Make these into cubes.

Mix together the base with some ground coconut,dip in egg white and coat with more coconut. Make into pyramids.

Add some lemon rind to the base and make these panellets into half moon shapes.

Coat them all with a mix of egg yolk and a little water and put into a HOT oven 220C for 10 minutes. 

Eat accompanied by a little glass of something tasty!