As sure as next week brings the autumn equinox there has been a marked change in the weather.  A week ago we enjoyed a beautiful Sunday morning on the beach.  A gentle swell of the surf barely creating waves as it met the beach, water warmed by the summer’s sun and comfortable temperatures for sitting out lobster like, reading, smoking or whatever your beach pleasure vice entails.  Today and 10°c cooler, with grey cloud laiden skies that followed a most tempestuous storm last night.  The streets of Cardedeu filled with the downpour and were soon like rushing rivellettes.  Autumn is here. 

Removal of the roof is all but complete and the squad who sandblast and treat the wooden beams and joists are back on site, leaving their trademark layer of black silicon – something akin to walking on the volcanic beaches of the Canary Islands or the moon I guess.  Whilst all that has been going on on the top floor, the door to bedroom two on the main floor has been created – knocking through the wall from the main hallway and defined from above by a steel reinforcing beam.  Below this in the basement, work has started on pointing the bear stone walls which will remain thus  – bear stone – throughout our ‘home’.  When finished our home will have concrete floors , stone walls with the exception of the new dividing walls and white vaulted ceilings. 

Since the excavation of the basement and the demolition of some walls commenced in February the resultant material has been deposited in piles in the garden adjacent to the house.  Separated into three lots, large stones, mixed ‘ruins’ of soil, broken tiles, stone and other inert material and finally soil.  All of this was accounted for in the tender process and it has been dealt with in an orderly manner so far.  The Aplec de Sant Miquel is three weeks away and for the last few years 200 neighbours and residents of Sant Feliu de Pallerols have come to enjoy a simple church service followed by an arros and sardanas , the catalan folk dance.  All this has until now happened largely in our garden and a spectacle it is too.  But before it can take place this year the above stated mountains of debris have to be disposed of. 

We have been in discussion with the local council since June regarding this matter.  The council are also planning to improve visitor access to the church of Sant Miquel de Pineda, adjacent to the house, upgrading the road and providing parking space about 100m from the house.  Great, anything that brings attention and people to the house is most welcome by us.  Thus, we have been talking to the council about disposing of the ‘ruins’ in the proposed car park area, thereby providing the foundations.  We would get rid of the soil and stone and the council would have made a start to their car park.    We should get that done in the next couple of weeks in time for the Aplec. 

Culinary news this week.  Figs have been to the forefront again.  Two more ‘pickings’ have been undertaken.   The first were;  given to our neighbours, eaten as a luscious salad and the remainder transformed into fig and red pepper chutney.

 Fig and red pepper chutney 

Figs 1kg

One large red pepper

One large white onion

Sugar 200g

White wine vinegar 200ml

Pimenton picante 1 teaspoon

Whole coriander seeds c.15 

Finely chop the figs, julienne the onion and pepper and place in a pan with the other ingredients, bring to the boil and cook until all of the free liquid has evaporated.  Place in sterilized jars and leave for at least 2 months prior to using. 

We have tried a little of the aforesaid chutney and it would appear to go well with cold meat and cheese.  I guess it might be a winner with pâte as well.  ‘Will keep you posted. 

Some of the second ‘picking’ of the figs are now sitting gently in my tum as I write this, having just consumed Sunday lunch.  They were served up as ‘roast figs with cinnamon and red wine syrup sabayon’.

Roast figs with cinnamon and red wine syrup sabayon’  – for 3 

12 ripe figs

5 egg yolks

100g caster sugar

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

25 ml red wine syrup 

Cut the figs in half, lay on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 10 minutes at 180°c, until bubbling and throbbingly hot. 

Meanwhile place the egg yolks, sugar, cinnamon and syrup in a bowl set over a pan of gently boiling water and whisk to form a sabayon.  The whisked yolks will balloon up  and will be ready when the whipped mass forms a ribbon like trail when the whisk is removed. 

When the figs are roasted, I gratinate them either with a gas torch or under the grill.  Place eight halves on a plate, spoon over two to three very generous tablespoons of sabayon and gratinate and serve.  So sweet and velvety. 

Finally, last night we had dinner with friends, us bringing the pud.  This took the form of ‘hot chocolate soufflé with macerated cherries’. 

Hot chocolate soufflé with macerated cherries – for 4 

300g Pastry Cream

30g soft butter

150g caster sugar

65g unsweetened cocoa powder

8 egg whites

Icing sugar to dust soufflés

Beforehand make the pastry cream – this can be made a day in advance.

100ml half fat milk

150ml double cream

15g plain flour

10g corn flour

40g caster sugar

3 egg yolks 

To make the pastry cream, place the cream and milk in a pan with a dessert spoon of sugar and heat until it starts to bubble.  Meanwhile, place the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk and then gradually mix in the flour and cornflour.  Pour one third of the hot milk/cream mix into the whipped egg yolks, mix and then add back to the pan on the heat.  Continue to whip for a few minutes until it starts to thicken.  Pour out into a flattish container and cover the surface with cling film to prevent a skin forming.  Leave to cool until needed.  

For the soufflé, brush the insides of the ramekins with softened butter and taking about 40g of sugar add this to one of the ramekins and move it so all of the sides are coated with sugar.  Place any remaining sugar in the next ramekin and repeat this process until all four are coated with sugar.  Place 4 or 5 macerated cherries in the bottom of each ramekin. 

To make the soufflé firstly warm the pastry cream, this can be done by placing it in the microwave for about 10 seconds.  DO NOT over heat or it will split!  When warm place in a large bowl and mix in the cocoa powder.  In another large bowl whisk the egg whites until they start to stiffen and  to this add the remaining 110g of sugar and beat until you get semi stiff peaks.  Take a large spoonful of the egg whites and mix this into the chocolate pastry cream, then carefully fold in the remaining egg whites.  Divide the mixture between the ramekins leveling the tops with a knife and cleaning the edges of the ramekins.  Place on a hot baking tray and place in an oven at 190°c until risen – about 8 minutes.  

Remove carefully and quickly, dust with icing sugar and serve immediately before they collapse.  Speed is of the essence.  Although on this occasion I didn’t serve these with ice cream, that would be an ideal combination – vanilla, raspberry, cherry etc. 

I think after all of that another run is in order tomorrow morning!  Oh, and the lemonchello we made the other week is a winner.

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