The English Armada…about as successful as the Spanish one

Firstly the medical update – I was getting quite worried by last weekend about when the operation would be – a Wednesday in March, but which?

I then got a call on Monday and went in for an ECG and a blood test, which  gave some reassurance that things were happening. Well, I found that out later anyway. I’d initially thought (looking AWAY from the needle) that they were injecting the tracer substance to find the nearest lymph node, and was somewhat concerned that they didn’t seem to be going to look for it…

Then I was very happy to get a call saying the operation will be on the 9th (next Wednesday, though I don’t know what time yet) – hooray! As I’ve said before, it’s much easier knowing that things are happening fairly soon.

Now, onto the blog title and beyond…

It’s a slightly amusing fact that the people who’ve sailed hundreds or thousands of miles to get to Las Palmas rarely go out sailing from here. When you’re living aboard a boat you tend to make yourself comfortable in harbour or at anchor, and preparing to go to sea again will probably take a while. Still, Mike and Caroline had kindly offered to take a big party of friends out on their boat, and I decided to take Maid out as well to make a mini-regatta of it.

Phantom Lady – the other half of our fleet for the day

They left at around 11, and I was about to follow – wind vane self steering ready, engine running, most of the mooring ropes untied and coiled on deck – when I spotted them coming back in again. I was rather surprised to find they’d tied the boat back up and opened a bottle of wine (before midday seemed a little early), and a couple of people seemed to be sporting minor scrapes. Very strange..

I discovered they hadn’t even made it to the marina entrance when the engine went into overdrive and started gushing smoke. The ‘stop’ button didn’t stop it so Mike had to very hastily shut the fuel off while Dave put the anchor down. Having been busy preparing, I was probably about the only person who didn’t watch them get towed back into their berth…

So since nearly everyone was gathered and it was a Sunday most of us decided to go to the beach instead. We took the boules set, but most of the adults (Dave was a very notable exception, but then he is also known as ‘Dangerous’) didn’t have enough energy, and the kids had too much, so we’ll have to play another time.

Mike had a rather more productive afternoon with his diesel engine maintenance book and has happily fixed the problem. So one plan worked out!

I didn’t actually take any photos that day, but never mind, there’s always more to catch up on. It’s always interesting looking through photos a few days afterwards – both the pictures themselves, the memories, and my reactions to them.

This is probably my favourite view on the island so far – an incredibly steep cliff, then a huge gash between two great crags of rock framing the village of Tejeda on the valley floor, with even bigger ridges on the other side, and the spike of Roque Nublo sticking up in the background. It’s incredible, and the photograph really doesn’t do it justice.

Sorry photo

But just occasionally, you come across one that preserves a sight that otherwise wouldn’t have stuck in the memory as well – by isolating a small window and focusing on a particular object, it creates an image almost as memorable as the sight itself. It’s just a pity it can’t convey the warmt and the scents.

The rest of the recap seems to involve a lot of entertaining. I’d now had a couple of meals on Simon’s boat moored next door to mine, so I’d invited him, Brian and Sue (friends he met earlier on his trip who come round quite often) over for dinner in the evening on Thursday. Lemon cheesecake once again for dessert, some tortilla chips for starters, and some kind of stew with rice for the main course, and some salad made with Caroline’s Lebanese recipe – but that’s been posted already. A couple of things that haven’t:

One ripe avocado
Juice of up to half a lemon
mix all that together, adding the lemon juice gradually and tasting occasionally, then keep covered until you use it. Makes more than enough for 4, probably good for 6-8.

1 large onion and an aubergine fried with a little cayenne pepper

400g stewing steak, chopped into small pieces
1 HUGE tin of chickpeas and 1 tin of tomatos
A handful of fresh parsley and some lemon juice

I’ve liked aubergines for a long while, but I’ve been using them a LOT since Simon made a very spicy side dish for a barbecue in which they were a main feature. I’ve tended to chop them pretty finely and let them largely disappear into the sauce, which is fine if you’re cooking for people who don’t like them that much but really wastes them otherwise. Fried in big chunks they have a very distinctive, almost meaty taste – well worth trying if you don’t know you dislike them.

Speaking of exciting flavours, something I hadn’t mentioned about the walk last Tuesday was the discovery of rather a lot of wild thyme, which lead to discussion of what one might do with it, which lead to me picking some and folding an origami thyme pouch from the paper bag my lunch was in, and Carolyn and Yann coming round on Friday for lemon and thyme-flavoured chicken with Canarian potatoes and spinach.

Well, sort of. I haven’t fathomed the mystery of Canarian potatoes yet. Apparently they’re just boiled in lots of salt, but the ones served in restaurants are incredibly wrinkly, giving the skin a slightly crisp texture almost like baked potatoes. Probably I’m just using the wrong variety. I’m not sure how close my mojo sauce is to other versions in ingredients, but it’s pretty close in taste, and very easy to make, just using mojo powder (I kid you not) and bechamel.

The main recipe is very simple as well:
Lemon & thyme chicken
~400g chicken breast, thinly sliced by the butcher with a quite terrifying knife – it went through it like butter
juice of half a lemon
a small handful of thyme sprigs
olive oil
I marinaded it for a token five minutes or so in the pan, and then fried it. I think it was probably cooked within 10-15 minutes, but I kept it on longer to brown the chicken nicely. I had to drain off some of the liquid in the pan – the lemon flavour had definitely been absorbed though.

Bjorn, who organised the walk last Tuesday, joined us for the dessert

Having made a lemon cheesecake the previous evening I felt like being a little more experimental this time.

Dark chocolate and vanilla cheesecake

I’m pretty pleased, though it needs some work – I still haven’t pinned down the quantities of biscuits and butter to get a solid base, and in this case it was exacerbated by the chocolate stripe being far too solid. Of course, if it’s less solid it might get significantly harder to sculpt.

Still, I’m pretty pleased with it for a first go. Once I’ve perfected it I might have another try at the orange version I’d concocted a couple of weeks ago, which was sort of nice but bafflingly indescribable – something like eating marmalade with biscuits in it.

One I won’t be trying again is a version I made for Dave and Scott a few weeks ago, just before they headed off across the Atlantic.  We decided to make it on a Sunday when no shops were open, so had to use a lemon I acquired from a bar and the remains of their herby cream cheese. It was surprisingly tasty, but not very set (too much condensed milk trying to counteract the chives), and had an aftertaste curiously like cheese and onion crisps.

So, what have your latest culinary adventures and misadventures been?

And while we’re at it, any feedback on the blog now I’ve written a few entries? – more of this, less of that, etc.

2 Responses to “The English Armada…about as successful as the Spanish one”

  1. The blog is great Pete!!

    • maidofmettle Says:

      Thank you 🙂 And the picture of a certain cat in the dinghy will make it on as soon as I can extract it from my phone – you’ve definitely beaten me to that scoop!

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