Chapter III: In which our charming and intelligent protagonists come perilously close to engaging in the sin of gluttony and discover definitively that the reputation of the Britons for culinary ineptitude has no foundation in fact and is bold and unjust slander.

So delicious!

For those of you who know anything about the way Natalie and I travel, you know that food forms a huge part of our experience. Our lists of “attractions” to visit in new places often contain as many restaurants, cafes, cheese shops, ice cream stands, and markets as it does museums, monuments, and churches. In fact, we often lament that one of the great problems we have when traveling is not that we don’t have enough time to try all the foods we’d like, but that we simply don’t have enough space in our stomachs to eat everything. London, being one of the great international cities of the world, is a food lover’s paradise, containing everything under the sun. Spain, on the other hand, is full of delicious Spanish food, but the pickings are a bit thin if you want anything else. Therefore, when we wanted lunch the first day we headed straight to Chinatown for dim sum followed by bubble tea and a trip to the Asian grocery store to pick up snacks. We then followed this up by partaking in the national dish of England for dinner with Ron and Betty. I am, of course, speaking of curry, which we enjoyed while watching the first few episodes of Downton Abbey (if you like period pieces and Maggie Smith being sassy you should definitely tune in; it airs on PBS in the States). Continue reading

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Apple and Cherry Turnovers

David and I made these lovely turnovers for our Christmas breakfast in Ireland.  Turnovers are wonderfully easy–just defrost a package of frozen puff pastry, cook some fruit down, fill, fold, seal, and bake.  But don’t worry, I also took pictures 🙂

Before you do anything, get the puff pastry out of the freezer and let it start defrosting.  It’ll take about 30 minutes.  We used a combination of apples and fresh cherries, mostly because that’s what was on sale at the Tesco.  It turned out to be a really great combination, though. I think we had three apples and about a cup of cherries.  Chop your fruit, sauté in some butter, and taste for sweetness.  You might want to add a bit of sugar if your fruit is especially tart.  We also put a little ground ginger and cardamom, just to kick things up a notch.

When your puff pastry is soft enoughto unfold or unroll, spread it out and cut it into squares.  Ours were about 7 inches, I think.  Put a spoonful of filling in the center of your pastry, fold it over into a triangle, and either pinch the edge closed with your fingers, or press it shut with the tines of a fork.  Lay your turnovers on a foil- or parchment-covered baking sheet, prick the tops so the steam can get out, and bake according to the directions on the puff pastry box.  If you want, you could brush the tops with milk or egg wash (an egg beaten with a bit of milk or water).  We didn’t, but it would make them brown a little more nicely.

And that’s it!  See how easy that was?  You should go try it.  And tell me how it goes.  When I have a properly functioning oven again, I really want to try and make puff pastry myself, but for now, cooking in other peoples’ kitchens means frozen pastry for me.  I don’t mind; it’s easy and delicious.  And it’s called hojaldre in Spanish, which comes from the word for leaves, in case you ever have to try and buy it in Spain 😀

Santillana and Samosas

David and I realized a few weeks ago that we have been slacking.  We’ve been here since September, but until the end of November, we hadn’t been to any of the many charming little towns in either Castilla y León or Cantabria that are all easily accessible by bus.  So when I went up to Santander for Thanksgiving, we hopped on a bus on Saturday morning and went to Santillana del Mar.  It’s known as “el pueblo de las tres mentiras, porque ni es santo, ni llano, ni tiene mar.” (The town of the three lies, because it is neither santo (holy), llano (flat), nor near the mar (ocean).)  But the town is fairly well-known within the north of Spain, and the name really comes from Santa Juliana, or Santa Iuliana, who is buried in the Colegiata, a church and monastery built in the twelfth century.  It’s an incredibly well-preserved medieval town, with very strict laws intended to help maintain the historical nature of the place.  For example, only residents and tourists staying in a hotel with a garage may bring a car into the city.  It’s a charming place, and I really liked the Colegiata, but after we walked up and around all three streets, there wasn’t a whole lot else to do.  We also had the misfortune of arriving too late to visit both the monastery and the art museum (the other draw, according to the guidebooks) before they closed for the siesta, and decided to leave on an earlier bus before the museum reopened rather than try and find something to do for an extra three hours while waiting for the bus.

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Bonus Food Pictures!

Delicious things David and I cooked last time I went to Santander:

Onion, Mushroom, and Cheddar Galette, with Roasted Smashed Potatoes with Creme Fraiche
Birthday Cake for David’s roommate, Sarah! Fudgy chocolate cake topped with hazelnut praline whipped cream and homemade caramel sauce.

Warm Butternut Squash and Garbanzo Salad

Guys.  This is my new favorite food.  It’s one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long time, and that’s saying something, since I just went to Paris and ate my way through the city.  Ok, so maybe it’s not BETTER than the food I ate in Paris, but it’s very different, and it’s definitely delicious.  I’ve made it twice now, and even though I just finished the last of it yesterday, I already can’t wait to make it again.  Unfortunately, the second time I made it (which is when I remembered to take pictures), I didn’t have any parsley, so it’s not the most beautiful thing I’ve ever made, but…just deal.  I’m telling you, it’s amazing. Continue reading

Santander: Topographic and Taste-errific Exploration

I’m really enjoying the chance to get to know Santander.  When I studied in Sevilla, I made frequent weekend trips to nearby Spanish cities and towns, but never got to know any of them more than superficially.  Just noticing the differences between Valladolid and Sevilla has been really interesting, but the chance to get to know a third city (without actually living there) is a pretty unique experience.  Having met some other couples who managed to end up teaching in the same city, I was initially jealous and a little cranky, and while it would be really nice to be able to see David all the time, I’m growing to appreciate this opportunity to get to know another part of Spain.

Last weekend, we went with Sarah and Jon to a huge park in the northeastern part of the city, Parque Mataleñas, which is bordered on two sides by the ocean.  We walked around the edge, looking out over the cliffs at the beautiful green sea.  After our scenic paseo, we wandered over to the lighthouse, where they had a great collection of paintings of lighthouses on one side of the exhibition, and the most bizarre collection of lighthouse paraphernalia on the other (think matchbooks, salt and pepper shakers, and empty beer bottles, all emblazoned with some image of a lighthouse). Continue reading

First Classes + Sopa de Ajo

I finally started teaching on Monday!  I teach at an Instituto Escolar Secondaria, or IES, which is like a high school, but starts at age 12 and incorporates both the Enseñanza Secundaria Obligatoria (ESO), which goes for four years from ages 12-16, and the optional Bachillerato, an optional 2 years of additional study focusing on a certain subject area, with the aim of going to the University to study said area.  I think it’s crazy that students are expected to decide at 16 what they want to do, especially coming from a liberal arts background where I didn’t have to choose my major until the end of sophomore year (nor would I have been happy had I chosen earlier.  I would probably have ended up majoring in Economics, which I loved in high school, and hated every minute of in college.). Continue reading