A Year in Review

2016 03 11 Cosuenda

Cosuenda, Zaragoza, Spain

As we approach the end of another year, my first full year writing on this blog, I thought I would have a reflective look back on 2016….. the highs and the lows. As an engineer I of course decided to base my review on the blog statistics. I know….. lies, blatant lies and statistics, but I had to start somewhere right?

Before I go any further, just let me say that the tools I use give me no personal information at all. I can see no names nor addresses. What I can see is a whole stack of information so that I can “improve” my blog. I can see which articles have proved most interesting to you all. I can see when most people connect in, i.e. what is the best day and time of day to send out new articles. For good or bad I tend ignore all these statistics. Sorry, but I write what I want, when I want. I write what I enjoy writing, no more no less.

Nevertheless, I thought I might be able to glean a gem or two from 2016. So, what do the statistics say, who are the winners and losers…….?

To see the rest of the article and some suggest links please click here.

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Coney Rice

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Do you remember the “good old days” when you could call a company and get a real, living breathing person on the other end? In the dim and distant past when the oxymoron, “intelligent systems”, was just a few sparking neurones in some computer programmers head? Today I thought I would share with you a tale of man against machine which left me wondering just what the world was coming to.

A few days back I had to call a utility company to increase our contracted service and therefore increase the monthly charge we paid. The call was of course answered by a machine with a list of menu options and the associated keys I ought to press to have my call attended to correctly. Of course something always goes wrong and after about half a dozen calls I was no nearer having my monthly charge increased. I spoke to lots of polite agents, all willing to help. Unfortunately of course, as I had gone through to the wrong departments, the agents were unable to help and, of course, they were unable to transfer the call to the right department………

………….. So why a diatribe on intelligent systems? Well I received a request to facilitate the translation of my articles on the blog-site.  For those of you who need it, you will now see a button down on the left underneath my photograph……

…………today’s recipe, as it is a dish made with wild rabbits. You can of course use shop-bought rabbit or indeed other meats, for example chicken. It is a simple but delicious dish which I hope you will enjoy. 

For the full article and the recipe, please click here.

Coca en Llanda (Valencian Walnut Cake)

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Zaragoza is at the centre of a motorway hub with major roads heading south towards Madrid, north-west towards Bilbao and the Cantabrian Coast, east towards Barcelona and the Costa Brava and south-east towards Valencia and on to Alicante. In spite of this, most people from Zaragoza tend to travel to the Pyrenees or to Salou depending upon whether they want mountains or beaches for their holiday break. The same is true for many of the villages around the city.

Although we live in a village relatively close to Zaragoza, living as we do to the south-east, we and most of the people from this area tend to take the nearby motorway towards Valencia and Alicante. We like the food to be found between Valencia and Alicante, especially the paellas and, with the exception of few over-exploited beaches, we find many of the towns are small and still retaining much of their original charm. One such town is Oliva.

2016 09 12 Sant Roc Church Oliva

We ended up there on a whim, spending a most enjoyable weekend at a rural hotel called “El Sequer”…………

The hotel itself is a jewel, tucked away amongst palm trees and orange groves. The hotel and rooms are beautifully decorated with antique furniture and fittings. There are comfortable rooms to relax in within the hotel, but better still are the outdoor seating areas within the gardens or beside the pool.

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Breakfast was served in the gardens of the hotel, with a view across the gardens, pool and orange groves. It was here, amongst a selection of other local delicacies that I first tried the Coca en Llanda. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and told them so. The following day I was welcomed to the breakfast table with a new, freshly made one……..

…….. The Coca en Llanda is typical from Valencia. Coca is the local word for cake whilst Llanda is the metal tray in which this cake is baked. The Coca is normally rectangular in shape and should be around a couple of inches, five centimetres tall.

To read the complete article and to see the recipe please click here.

Liebre con Alubias (Beans with Wild Hare)

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I heard a new term this last week, “Nature Deficit Disorder” (NDD). Although not a recognised medical condition at the moment, I guess it is only a matter of time before it becomes one. Yet another medical condition or label we can assign to our children. It is almost as if we need new terminology to legitimise our / their poor habits or behaviours. NDD is all about children losing contact with nature, they are not experiencing it, they are not even seeing it first hand. The nearest many of them get to nature is looking at images on a computer screen.

Not so long ago the majority of children spent most of their free time playing out in the streets, parks and countryside. In fact the biggest challenge for parents was rounding up their wanderlust imbued offspring of a night…….

……..  I have always been an outdoor person and, luckily, I have always been pretty observant too. There is nothing I like more than to wander through the wilds, quietly, often on my own, absorbing the sights and sounds of nature. In the area where I live there are many wild animals and exotic plants and flowers for those with the eyes to see……

……… What for me has been the sight of the year though is a genet, a beautiful and illusive creature I have managed to see a couple of times at dusk……

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Genet (Archive Photograph)

……… This week therefore I wanted to talk about hare, and the typical dish from the village here. The neighbour, Javier, is a hunter and some time ago he gave us our first wild hare. His wife explained a local recipe to us, that we have repeated on numerous occasions over the years. It is as simple as it gets, just four ingredients. The results are delicious and perfect for these cooler and wetter autumnal and winter days.

For the full article and the recipe please click here.