Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Scottish Drop Scones recipe

Scottish Drop Scones 
Like the Scottish Oatcakes recipe I blogged a while back, Scottish Drop Scones have a hundred and one variations because everyone's grandma has their own special ingredient or secret method! They are a thick batter pancake rather than a scone in the jam-and-cream sense which, just to add to the confusion, is what Americans call a biscuit! We used to buy Scottish Drop Scones readymade and heat them up in a toaster for lunch, but once I realised how quick and easy they are, I now make my own. Freshly cooked always tastes so much better!

If you have self raising flour, use this and omit the baking powder. Wholemeal flour is also good if that's what you have to hand. I think a finer sugar is often called for, but we only have the golden brown kind at the moment and it did the job without any grittiness to the Scones. I fried the batter in rapeseed oil, but again whatever cooking oil you normally use will probably be fine.

Batter in the pan 
4oz / 100g plain white flour
Scant tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
2oz / 50g brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 free range egg
Milk to mix - approx 4 tablespoons
Squeeze of lemon juice
Rapeseed oil for frying
Various toppings to serve

Place all the dry ingredients into a bowl or 1 pint pyrex jug and mix them together.
Make a small well in the top and break the egg into it. Mix in the egg a little, then start slowly adding the milk, 1 tbsp at a time. Mix well in between each tbsp and make sure to incorporate all the flour mix.

Add a squeeze of lemon juice and mix in.

When your batter is ready, heat a little oil in a non-stick frying pan until it begins to crease. Drop a tbsp of batter into the frying pan. If your oil is hot enough it will begin to bubble at the batter's edges.
Each Scone is 1 tbsp of batter and I can cook 3 at a time in my frying pan.
Keep a palette knife (or similar) handy. After a minute or two if should be possible to lift up a pancake and look underneath. If it has started to brown, it's time to flip them and I find sliding the knife underneath is the easiest way to do this. It does take a steady hand!
A couple of minutes later both sides should be cooked through and you can either serve your Scottish Drop Scones straight from the pan or cook up the whole batch ahead of time and reheat them just prior to serving.

Traditionally Scottish Drop Scones are served at breakfast time and, despite being sweet, are good to mop up fried egg yolks. I like mine with just a smear of salted butter or a nut butter. You could try nutella, soft cheese, marmalade ....

Cooking the other sides 

Sunday, 22 January 2017

TreatYourself - special offers that caught my eye

Excalibur sword at English Heritage 
It seems that no sooner has the Christmas tinsel come down, than every shop is adorning itself in pink and red for Valentine's Day! Actually that's not quite true - English Heritage sent me a refreshingly non-romantic email this week advertising their replica swords! This Excalibur model is made in Toledo, Spain and I was surprised at just how beautifully detailed it is. Good replica swords and armour don't come cheap - Excalibur is £165 - however English Heritage are softening the blow (!) until the 31st of January by offering free standard UK shipping on orders over £45 when you use the checkout code AFJD. The code applies to all items in their online shop, not just weaponry.

Heart pendant at Tobisias Lil Thing 
I have got two suitably romantic special offers for you though and will start with a 10% discount code for the Tobisias Lil Thing shop which is based in Blyth, Northumberland. Simply enter the code VALENTINE10 at checkout. I spotted this offer on Twitter and love the jewellery that Monika creates. This heart pendant is made by hand-wrapping copper wire and features a purple amethyst bead making it a perfect gift not only for Valentine's Day, but also as a February birthday gift because amethyst is the February birthstone. Ancient Greeks believed wearing amethyst would protect against drunkenness!

Liane Moriarty book 
at Amazon 
Amazon.co.uk is offering a selection of 150 books at special discounts of up to 70% off the normal retail price in their Valentine's Day Sale. Sadly they haven't picked any of the titles on my Wish List, but there is still a pretty wide choice. The sale lasts until the 19th of February and includes women's fiction and chick lit titles, science fiction and fantasy, crime thrillers and cosy mysteries, historical fiction and romance. Most seem to be intended for a female readership though. Wouldn't a man appreciate a good book as his Valentine present too?!

Roskilde Fleece at Weird Fish 
It's unseasonably chilly in Spain as I am writing this post (and raining too. If it's nice where you are, feel welcome to gloat!) which has turned my thoughts to warm clothing, mainly not having brought enough of it! Fortunately the Weird Fish sale has cosy fleeces, waterproof coats and even a knitted dress at up to 70% off the usual price. There's no checkout codes to remember, simply click through to the sale pages and enjoy browsing. I couldn't find an end date either so its probaby a first come, first served situation. I particularly liked this Roskilde Funnel Neck Knitted Fleece reduced to £35 from £50.

Nova suede boots at Jones Bootmakers 
And new winter clothes need new winter boots so Jones Bootmakers' two concurrent offers are well timed. Firstly they are offering 20% off all full priced footwear when you spend over £100 with the checkout code 20OFF100. It gets better though! Their sale pages have discounts of up to 70% off an extensive range of shoes and boots for men, women and children. As an extra incentive, there's free UK delivery on orders over £50. My favourite boots are these burgundy Nova Italian suede ones. Completely impractical for caravan living of course, but they are gorgeous!

That's all my special offer ideas for February. Let us know in the Comments about bargains and sales you find and I will search out another five great deals for March.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

A new year on Kiva

Kiva, the microfinance charity I support, recently sent me an overview of my 2016 loans which I thought it would be fun to share. In 2016 I made 45 loans totalling $1125 to women in 31 different countries. I supported a trainee dentist in Moldova and a beautician in Costa Rica; farmers in Myanmar, Kosovo and Burundi; shopkeepers in Brazil, Madagascar and Armenia; and a school driver in South Africa.

Since my very first loans to a Peruvian shopkeeper and a Kenyan fish seller in August 2012 I have made 165 loans across 67 countries. I paid in a total of $667 which has become $4125 of loans by being repaid and relent. I love the idea that I can keep relending my capital as it is repaid so I don't need to find new cash each month if it isn't convenient. I ask for Kiva cards for birthdays and Christmas too so I can feel good about using gifts I receive to help others. Then I eagerly look forward to the 17th of the month which is Repayments Day - the date most repayments come into my Kiva account and there is a mad rush across the website as lenders send their money out again across the globe.

This month I lent to Nataliya and Yvette Delva, shopkeepers in the Ukraine and Haiti respectively, and to Peggy who has just opened a Zoona money transfer booth in Zambia. If you would like to join me in lending and making a different via Kiva, click through here to find out more about it.

Nataliya in the Ukraine 

Yvette Delva in Haiti 

Peggy in Zambia 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Walking the Coll de Balaguer from l'Hospitalet

Footpaths Of The Mediterranean 4 
We thought our Saturday walk was just going to be an easy 6km legstretcher, but it ended up being considerably longer and lasting just over three hours! The route was another from our new Footpaths Of The Mediterranean folder and the first half was along another section of the GR92 coastal path. L'Hospitalet de l'Infant, our starting point, is named for its original purpose, a 14th century hospital for travellers traversing the Coll de Balaguer pass on their way from the Ebro delta to Tarragona. The hills here look very different now to how they did then because tons of earth were moved to create two motorways, the railway line and the N340 road, but in medieval times this area was particularly dangerous. With no towns to speak of for over seventy kilometres, travellers were at risk of frequent attack from bandits in the hills and corsair pirates from the coast. Fortunately these are no longer a problem and the only evidence of violence we saw were the remnants of wartime gun emplacements and a sign warning of the start of a hunting area.

View from Coll de Balaguer 
We parked up on the outskirts of l'Hospitalet, past the Arenal beach, and followed the GR92 south-west along sandy beaches as far as the Cala d'Ocques campsite which has pitches practically on the beach. We were a little envious until we got back home and looked up their prices online. I think we'll stay at Camping Ametlla for now! The GR92 turns inland up the Barranc de Cala d'Ocques and briefly follows a road until it turns off again and becomes a proper narrow stony footpath leading upwards to the ridgeline. The views up here got more and more stunning the higher we climbed until we almost had a panoramic 360o view. We could see for miles towards Miami Platja and Cambrils!

View to Platja de les Rojales 
The GR92 did have one short but scarily steep scramble at this point, but otherwise wasn't too challenging. The mapped route finished at a high point, Punta de les Rojales, with us then having the option to make our own way on a circular route or to retrace our steps. We prefer circular routes anyway and I certainly didn't fancy trying to get back down the steep bit! Continuing along the ridge until the GR92 descends to a beach-bound road looked hardly any distance on the map, but was probably the best part of an hour's more walking. Good walking certainly and with more fabulous views!

We were all the way up there! 
We descended by way of a winding road to Platja de les Rojales, a long sandy beach with gently lapping waves and beautiful colours from the setting sun. Two cyclists zoomed downhill past us which looked great fun, but we were less encouraged to emulate them when they turned around in the car park at the base and started back upwards again! From that car park, we walked through a short tunnel under the railway to reach the sand and, beforehand, could look back up over trees to the ridge from which we previously gazed down. Steps lead up from the other end of the beach so we had a short section along a wooded footpath passing El Templo del Sol nudist colony. It looked pretty closed up at this time of year! Then we rejoined our outward route to get back to the car and were both proud of our three hours non-stop hiking.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Cycling the Ebro Delta

L'Ampolla sculpture 
The first excursion we chose from our new Footpaths Of The Mediterranean folder (thank you Ametlla Tourist Office!) was actually, for us, a cycle ride although walking around the Ebro Delta is perfectly feasible too. We parked up just by a roundabout on the way into l'Ampolla. It had the distinctive sculpture pictured here which I have been unable to find online so I am not sure what it depicts or who created it!

From the roundabout, it was an easy cycle down to the seafront with just a little confusion once we got there as we expected the promenade cycleway to have started already, but we had to navigate a short road one-way section first. Then the open path beckoned and we tootled along the prom in gorgeous sunshine, only screeching to a halt to take a look at this amazing sculpture, El lector de l'Ampolla by local artist Paco Morales who is from Deltebre. The book being read is Odysseus which I am taking as a second sign to get on and read my own copy (the first sign having been the Phocaean Greeks at Empuries speaking the same Ionian language as Homer.)

El lector de l'Ampolla sculpture 
Footpaths of the Mediterranean 10 
The best thing about cycling the Ebro Delta is that it is practically flat for miles - and not just looking so, but actually cycling flat! We soon shot off the end of the leaflet map pictured below and made up our own ride along the camis and levees that separate the natural park from acres of rice paddies. At this time of year we hardly saw anyone else, just two other cyclists and one walker so it felt like the whole delta was ours alone!

The Ebro is a favoured area for birdspotting and we saw several varieties of waterbirds, a couple of which we could even identify! We definitely saw cormorants, herons and flamingos. I tried to photograph the flamingos but they were just too distant for my phone camera to cope with. If you enlarge and squint at this vista, I promise you that is what the white blobs are!

Flamingos on the Ebro Delta 

Our visit lasted about three hours in all including a brief picnic lunch on a convenient bench out in the middle of nowhere. I was delighted to finally see the famed Delta especially as it might not exist in such a way for much longer. Threatened by sea level rises from one side and lack of incoming sediment from the other (the River Ebro has been dammed upstream), I would say get there soon if you want to experience this amazing habitat. However erosion from so many tourists' feet (and wheels) is another threat.

Footpaths of the Mediterranean 10 

Friday, 13 January 2017

Top Five Etsy Finds - Bookish Jewellery

The Raven Bracelet by WickedWordsmithCo 
So I know we have only just got Christmas out of the way, but if you have a sweetheart then it's time to start gift hunting again already because Valentine's Day is on the horizon! In fact you've got a month and a day. If the intended recipient is as much of a bookworm as I am then I might be able to cut down your workload with this post in which I showcase my favourite five book-themed jewellery pieces on Etsy. All five are handmade in the UK by seriously talented artisans.

Lorraine White at WickedWordsmithCo in Doncaster painstakingly stamps out each word on her gorgeous metalware cuff bracelets by hand so you can be sure that each piece is unique. I love the Edgar Allan Poe bracelet (pictured above) which features two verses from his classic poem The Raven.

The Raven Bracelet is for sale at £65 plus shipping.

Origami Butterfly Earrings by ThePaperCircusShop 
A delicate choice is this pair of Origami Butterfly Book Page Earrings which are made by Corran Wilson Davies at ThePaperCircusShop in Guildford. They're tiny! Each butterfly measures just 1cm across and the earrings have a drop of 3.5cm. The hooks are available in a choice of different metals and the butterflies are sprayed with an acrylic coating to increase their longevity. Corran does remind us that they are still paper though so it's best not to wear these earrings when swimming!

Origami Butterfly Book Page Earrings are for sale at £8 per pair plus shipping.

World Traveller's Bookshelf Necklace
by Coryographies
I adore the range of bookshelf necklaces made by Cory Cuthbertson at Coryographies in Oxford. I found it difficult to choose my favourite, but eventually settled on this World Traveller's Bookshelf Necklace although the Teashop Bookshelf came a close second. Cory makes all the tiny books by hand from polymer clay - you can even see their white pages between the coloured covers - and the bookshelves are varnished wood. Each bookshelf pendant is just 1.5 inches (about 4cm) tall and weighs 9 grams. Buyers can choose between gold or silver chains and findings for their bookshelf.

The World Traveller's Bookshelf Necklace is for sale at £32 plus shipping.

Acorn Hobbit Brooch by infiniteANDdarling 
Staying with tiny for one more of my favourites, I think this Acorn Hobbit Brooch is adorable. Made by infiniteANDdarling in North Yorkshire, each laser cut brooch measures about 2cm across and features a character or place name upcycled from a vintage copy of The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien. At the time of writing, ten options were still available although Baggins and Thorin had already sold out. I particularly like the cross-hatching and stem details on the acorn above the paper.

The Acorn Hobbit Brooch is for sale at £5 plus shipping.

Books And Tea Necklace by BunnyBosworths 
My final choice for this bookish jewellery post is an elegantly simple fabric Books And Tea Necklace created by Natalie Bosworth at BunnyBosworths in Liverpool. The text 'all you need are books and tea' is printed onto a cotton lawn fabric which is then sewn around a cotton core and fixed to a silver plated chain. Natalie trained as a theatre costume designer and still uses the sewing machine she got for her eighteenth birthday for all her Etsy creations.

The Books And Tea Necklace is for sale at £18 plus shipping.

That's all for my Top Five Etsy Finds this month! Please note all links on this post are affiliate links so, should you click through and make a purchase, I would receive a small percentage. I look forward to curating another five Etsy items for you in February.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Our visit to Tortosa

Cat in a derelict Tortosa building 
Yesterday we jumped in the car and drove ourselves 45 minutes into Tortosa, a historic town a little inland from the Ebro delta. In Roman times it was known as Dertosa, although the town predates Roman occupation. It was also ruled by the Moors for over 400 years and this Arabic legacy is seen in some of the remaining architecture and in traditional foods of the town. Sadly many buildings were destroyed during various wars over the centuries so there is now a mix of the old jutting up against the very new throughout most of the centre. We had hoped to follow the Hemingway Route through Tortosa as Ernest Hemingway lived here in 1937 and 1938 reporting on the Civil War. Ten points of interest are named and we visited the Tourist Information Centre, a beautiful building, to get a map of the Route so we could explore. Unfortunately 'no tengo nada' (I have nothing) said the staff! Apparently we needed to have downloaded and printed out what we wanted - maps of the town, the Hemingway Route and the Via Verda cycle path - from the internet prior to our visit. Unlike the very helpful Ametlla de Mar Tourist Office, Tortosa's one was useless!

Tortosa Tourist Office 
So, instead of literary inspiration leading us, we wandered more aimlessly, but still managed to find El Portal del Romeu which is the old Roman gateway, now a stone arch under and between more modern buildings. We also circled the 14th to 18th century cathedral, as impressive a structure as could be expected, but surprisingly short-looking from its river frontage because it doesn't have a great tower or spire reaching to the sky. Out in the river nearby is the Battle of Ebro monolith, this being almost entirely a spire, which was inaugurated by Franco in 1966 to honour those of his forces who died in Civil War battles across the Ebro. I found this interesting Progressive Spain article talks about how the monument is now technically illegal as it breaches Spain's 2007 Historical Memory Law that serks to remove or recontextualise symbols glorifying the Franco victory. Tortosans voted last year to decide the monument's fate and decided to rededicate it to honour everyone who died.

Away from the riverside, we ascended towards the huge stone Castell on the hill and were surprised to find a fairly large area of derelict looking buildings and streets. They didn't look lived in, other than by stray cats, as pictured above. Above this, we climbed up steps to fortified walls where we had great views out across the town, towards the delta and further up the narrowing river valley. The Castell was originally a Roman fortification, but was rebuilt by the Moors so much of what towers over the town today is based on the Arabic construction.

We ended our wander with a delicious Menu Diario lunch at an olde worlde looking restaurant next to the cathedral. Forn de la Canonja serves a three course lunch with bread, wine, water and coffee for just €12 per person and we had excellent food. I tried a couple of regional dishes, peas and artichokes as a starter and borage fritter for dessert, with a lightly cooked bacalao main course. Dave had pumpkin soup to start, grilled meats (cooked over a wood fire) for main and a nougat cheesecake for dessert. Together with efficient friendly service, we'd highly recommend Forn de a Canonja to anyone visiting Tortosa!