Yes, you read it correctly.  It’s  a total winner and we challenge you to say otherwise!  The rich, sweet, buttery nature of the Sticky Toffee Pudding (STP) and its accompanying toffee sauce and homemade vanilla ice cream is hugged by the  embrace of that dear old friend, Glenmorangie Original  with its fruity palate and caramel and butterscotch nature.

So on your next stay with us when you find that STP is on the menu, you know what to ask for.  CHEERS!

FOOD_LA RECTORIA FEB 2012 051

http://www.larectoriadesantmiquel.com

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So, here I am again,  an amateur at work.  Trying to get into the groove again of writing a weekly blog on ‘La Rectoria’ and its related ongoings. This week we made preparations for and hosted a group of 5 travel bloggers and ones that might be described as professionals at their craft – 2 Brits Andrew Higgs (Grownuptravelguide.com), Iain Mallory (Malloryontravel.com),  2 Spaniards Diego Pons (viajanocondiego.com), Doris Casares Medin (3viajes.com) and a Costa Rican, Mariana Calleja Ross (traveldudes.org andmytravelthirst.com organised by the Jaume Marin of the Patronat de Turisme Costa Brava Girona as part of  a ‘fam’ trip on the Catalan Pyrenees.

Four days of skiing , ski mountaineering, snow shoeing ,  trains and feniculars!  So by the time they got to us we reckoned that they’d be pretty hungry. We arranged a little something extra from them, a tasting matching whisky with food,  something that we are exploring here.  On this occasion we had 4 pairings Caol Ilsa & smoked trout (Del Val d’En Bas), Aberfeldy 12 year old & walnuts,  Glen Garioch & 70% chocolate and Ardbeg 10 yr old & roquefort cheese.  Caol Ilsa and Ardbeg being Islays complimented the salty and smokey elements of the cheese and fish respectively.  The peppery nature of  Glen Garioch embraced the richness of the chocolate and the fruitiness of Aberfeldy  blended with the butteriness of the nuts.

With our guests slightly ‘oiled’ it was to dinner.  A starter of squid stuffed with black pudding, followed by slow cooked beef served with blue cheese polenta and roasted parsnips & carrots and to finish ‘Mum’s Own’ sticky toffee pudding and homemade vodka and white chocolate ice cream.

After dinner we were asked about our wee family business – why here? the ins and outs of how we operate….where do our customers come from etc.  And so it was to bed.

The next day and their final morning was an early start as they had to be at Can Xel by 08.00am and take off of their hot air balloon trip with Vols de Colom.  So after some coffee and OJ and a quick sneeky look at the chapel they were gone not before some warm farewells.

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 FEBRER 2014 011

Since then we have received some photo’s and most kind words through the ether of the social universe.  If any of them read this I ask one thing….how do we get our wee message out more.

But finally, many thanks to all of the above bloggers.  We hope that you got something of a flavour of this part of the Pyrenees and best of luck with all of your endevours.

http://www.larectoriadesantmiquel.com

Last week we played host to a family who came to La Rectoria to celebrate a 40th Birthday….Grandma, Son (Birthday Boy), Wife, Sisters, Other halves, Kids and the dog!  One of the requests was that we make and provide a birthday cake.

Now, I came up with the following type and style of cake earlier this year when we had a similar request with the instruction…’she doesn’t like chocolate’.  After some humming and haing the idea that was agreed on was a fruit and pastry cream cake on a genoise sponge base.  Thus this idea was replicated again here.

I’ll give the recipes for the component parts in subsequent postings.  But for now, here are the mechanics as to how the birthday cake was ultimately put together. So here goes.

Step 1 -Take one genoise sponge.  Top Tip #1 on making the genoise once cool, wrap it in cling film and freeze it down.  This cake freezes without compromising on its quality.  The principle reason for freezing is that at this stage in assembling the cake it can be cut, hallowed out and generally manipulated more safely whilst reducing the likelihood of damaging it and thus avoiding any mishaps that might occur.  An obvious secondary reason is that the genoise can be made some days in advance of it being required.

Step 2  – Hollow out the sponge – following on from top tip#1, hollowing out the cake is undertaken more safely when the cake is defrosting.  I crisscross the cake at about 1cm intervals with a knife to a depth of about 1.5cm leaving a perimeter of sponge of  about 1cm wide.  Then taking a fork the sponge can be gradually and carefully gouged out until you are left with a hollow centre.

Step 3 – Filling with pastry cream.  On to your flat and hollowed out genoise spoon in a generous quantity of that most lush of custards, pastry cream ensuring that you have enough to cover the entire surface to a depth of about 0.75cm.

Step 4 – Decorating with strawberries – in this case strawberries are utilised to form the number ’40’ and to mark the perimeter of the decorated surface.  Here I simply cut the strawberries in half and gently secured them in the pastry cream with the flat surfaces of the berries facing outwards on numbers and forming straight edges on the perimeter.


Step 5 – Decorating with kiwis.  The peeled kiwis were quartered, the white core removed and then cut into 0.5cm slices and these then placed firmly on the pastry cream covering the surface so that pastry cream is bearly visible.

Step 6 – Covering with apricot nappage-  Using about 50grams of apricot jam to which is added a very little water, this is heated to make the mixture more homogeneous.  The resultant nappage is subsequently brushed on fruit to give the finished cake a brilliant sheen.   The cake is now finished and ready to be ‘suited and booted’ with candles.

Step 7 –  Candles lit and ready to go.  Apply the chosen candles,  40 in this instance.  Light them and parade the finished cake to the ‘Birthday Boy’ in this case and blow……fffffffffffffffffffffooooo

 

Per molts anys!  Happy Birthday

Clichésville here we come….well, the circle has almost been squared and with each week that passes the finish line would appear to be just around the next corner.   No, we are not about to announce a concrete opening date, but the changes that are taking place each week are palpable.

Most recently, holes have been dug for clean and grey waters, some windows with glass have been fitted and the first doors are now in place.  Internally painting progresses, the stairway between the main and first floors has been rebuilt, pointing and plastering of the walls in basement floor is ongoing and the solar tube that will enlighten our living room is under construction.

My neglectful absence of writing can only be forgiven by a plate that runneth over with things to do.  Never having learnt the ability to juggle, the one ball that has been dropped of late is that of blog writing and for that I apologize.

Away from the actual reconstruction of the house itself much else has been done.  Construction of the website is well underway and however it is finished, photographs will not be finalised until the casa rural is up and running for obvious reasons.  Other finishes for the house are being looked at and purchased and to that end we have just returned from a couple of days in El Delta de l’Ebre, part pleasure, part business.

The city of Barcelona marks something of a watershed in the landscape of the east coast of Spain.  To put it bluntly, to the north of the city much of the countryside would be more familiar to northern Europeans, remaining largely green and verdant more most of the year.  To the south one is quickly confronted with the grape vines of El Penedes and the arid and angular hills and mountains of the area.  Further south the vines give way to mile after mile of orange groves interspersed with olives.  We spent two nights in the somewhat forgettable seaside town of Benicarló, just south of the Ebre in Castello.  The hospitality and accommodation were good, let the visitor make up their own mind on the rest.

Being Good Friday, what else would one expect except cloud and rain.  Yes, good old british bank holiday weather.   That didn’t dampen our visit to El Delta de l’Ebre….flat as a pancake, traversed by canals and rivelettes and criss-crossed with roads and paths this is the rice bowl of Spain…..the ‘P’ in your paella!  A bracing wet walk along a windswept beach at La Tancada was followed by a hearty shell fish fideua -a pasta type paella – at Cal Faiges in Poble Nou Del Delta.   The birdlife of the area is impressive and I will certainly return to this remarkable corner of Catalunya.

The business part of the trip took the form of a visit to La Sénia, ‘Furniture City’ Catalunya….and tables, chairs and all things furniture.  I can only guess that the place is hanging on by its proverbial fingernails, given the current economic climate.  La Sénia lives or dies on the making of furniture.  Surrounded by ‘factory outlets’ and factories crying out for customers to call.  A tour of one was like a tour of every other outlet….’follow the arrows and let us know if you like anything’…country, neo-classical, glitzy, beige, simply garish to the outright frightening.   We struck lucky at the fifth or sixth outlet I can’t rightly remember which and left with an order for a sofa for the TV room firmly in Goretti’s handbag.  Good luck La Sénia and thanks for an amusing lunch time at El Trull.

One diversion I’ve omitted to mention since we started this blog is skiing. Well, today I rolled back fifteen or sixteen years to enjoy a superb day’s spring skiing – in France. Hardly next door to La Rectoria, yes, but an invitation from friends to join them for a weekend’s skiing was not going to be passed up. So we are holed up in Marignac some 30kms north of Vielha. Right now the legs are like jelly but it was great to get back on a pair of planks. The snow was wet and heavy with a consistency close to that of damp sugar, but the sun shone and our son had his first taste of the sport.

Now our priority never was to be situated in a ski resort when we started out to look for a suitable house five plus years ago. But La Rectoria is not only situated in some stunning countryside, handily placed for Barcelona and Girona , it is also within striking distance of some not too shoddy skiing. The nearest resort whose name escapes me right now is under one hour from La Rectoria, La Molina in Cerdanya and Nuria near Ribes de Freser are one and a half and Andorra about two hours. Today we are about one hour further west of Andorra enjoying French bread, pork rillette and some skiing. So the point of all of this is depending on when you come to stay with us you can indulge in a variety of past times. Skiing, golf, cycling, walking, history, natural history etc…….

Meanwhile back at the ‘fort’ work has been continuing apace against a backdrop of rainfall on almost biblical proportions. Some 250mm – ten inches in old money – fell over a period of five days last week. Thankfully no damage was done, although a little water did enter a bedroom and measures are being taken to ‘root out’ this problem; a channel is being installed along the back wall of the house and a water repellent product will be used on the inside wall. The main cause would however appear to have been a pile of builder’s sand at the back of the building which resulted in the accumulation of water. All in all the rains have tested and identified areas where excess rainfall has to be redirected away from the house and disposed of. Tiling of the bathrooms is almost complete on the top floor and the tracking of wiring and cementing of walls continues. Any external work ground to a halt due to the weather as much of the surrounding country side took on the appearance of Chinese rice plantations with fields submerged in water. With spade in hand we have been able to plant a few trees and bushes. A greengauge and an apple tree and two blackcurrant bushes. The sole cherry tree has also been moved close to where the hort will be. Thus in time we hope to harvest some of our own fruit.

While I’ve neglected to keep you up to date with progress on La Rectoria, the builders, plumbers and electricians have been anything but idle.  On the first and second floors all of the partitioning has been built delineating bathrooms, bedrooms, storage areas, living rooms and dining rooms.  We are now being harried to make decisions concerning light switches, stone plinths to support bathroom sinks, plaster finishes to walls and light fittings.  The pace of work has moved up a number of gears since the summer and changes in and around the house are occurring at perceptibly quicker pace.

Until today, I had not visited the house for a couple of weeks.  Thus I found the majority of the steel frames marking the windows in place, piping for heating trailing across the upper floor, radiators fixed to walls, mountings for sockets and switches in place.  Walls were awash with the pink graffiti of the plumber where he had indicated where the various installations are to be fitted.   So very quickly, the space for guests has been laid out and one can envisage with increasing clarity the final outcome.

Whilst all this has been going on, we have not been idle outside.  Three weeks ago friends joined us for a barbeque and assisted us in making a start in cutting down the bamboo.  In the three or so hours myself, Matts and John got to work and a considerable swathe was cut, stripped of its branches and disposed of.  The top half of much of the bamboo will be kept to provide canes for our planned hort/vegetable patch, whilst the considerably thicker bottom portions could be used for an array of alternative uses, decorative or structural.

As darkness fell comfort and solice were found by the fireside with barbequed meat, sausages and black pudding and then it was homebound, tired but contented after a good day’s work.

PS: HAVE A LOOK AT http://arquipindoles.blogspot.com/2010_12_01_archive.html

Last week we awoke to a beautifully sunny Sunday October morning.  The sun kissed the fields and woods surrounding Cardedeu as I enjoyed a wee run around the town.  Goretti’s Mum joined us for a cup of coffee followed shortly after by Mar, Scottish John and wee Martin and then it was on the road to La Rectoria for the annual Aplec de Sant Miquel,  held adjacent to our house. 

The outlook did look a little ominous as we drove to Vic and beyond.  But, as we left the last of the 12 or so tunnels that connect the conmarca (county) of Osona to La Garrotxa the clouds parted and the sunlight streamed on to the Vall d’en Bas.

On our arrival we parked some 400 meters from the house and numerous cars were already parked along the roadside and people were striding up the carri bici towards the church and house.   La Missa (Mass) had just finished  and many of the throng  had taken up their seats beneath the sky blue awning chatting in the warm autumnal air and waiting expectantly for the feast to follow.

Preparations for lunch were almost complete.  The finishing touches were being put to the Mar i Montanya arros – mussels, chicken and pork paella  – and a three substantial metal griddles each containing about 80 large sausages were being  grilled on the embers of what had been the wood fire on which the rice had been cooked.

We introduced ourselves to the Priest and briefly discussed a wedding that was to take place there the following weekend before taking our seats at the end of one of eight long trestle tables beside our neighbour Pere and the Alcalde (Mayor) of Sant Feliu.  No sooner was lunch announced than a queue appeared three wide and twenty plus deep, amiable and expectant.   The steam from the paella mixed with the smoke from the cooking sausages and blew clouds of hunger inducing smells over the assembly; the queue dispersed quickly with plates heaped with rice. 

Thereafter followed a  further not insubstantial, ‘hale and hearty’ course of mandonguilles (meatballs) and sausages which ´flirted´ with the occasional pea and mushroom; a robust wine accompanying both plates.  The waistline was then given a reprieve as sharp and juicy green mandarins were handed around along with pots of flam (Crème Caramel) supplied from the dairy of La Fageda, near Olot.  Coffee was served with small sweet pastries, vi ranci poured from four litre containers and whisky or ratafia were offered round.   Time to loosen the belt and lottery tickets were purchased for the prizes……a live rabbit, a live duck and assorted small food hampers.

Sardanas ensued, that seemingly simple, rhythmic catalan folk dance performed in circles of three to thirty people, interlocking arms at shoulder level, counting and concentrating on their delicate steps, occasionally moving slowly to the left or right.  The accompanying music played on wind instruments – clarinet, oboe and the catalan gralla producing a somewhat discordant sound.

John and Mar thoroughly enjoyed seeing the house, local village and surrounding area for the first time.  The day was capped by our winning a basket of assorted sheep’s cheeses and yoghurts from  Mas Claperol, a local farm we have to get to know better, where you can ‘sponsor’ a cow in exchange for various dairy products.  Something else to be explored in future.