Sunday, 30 December 2012

To all my fellow bloggers and followers.

Well, we can now all look forward to a fabulous 2013 because we survived the Mayan prediction.
So a very happy and prosperous New Year to everyone.

Feliz Ano Nuevo


Monday, 26 November 2012

Full Moon 28th November 2012

Full Beaver or Frost Moon

Historically, the Native Americans who lived in the area that is now the northern and eastern United States kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to the recurring full Moons.

November - was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Full Beaver Moon comes from the fact that the beavers are now actively preparing for winter. It is sometimes also referred to as the Frosty Moon.

Hope the sky remains clear wherever use reside, so you can too can view this special moon.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Samsung images - Flowers

As a professional photographer, I see nothing wrong with using your mobile phone's camera , as a tool to capture your surroundings when out and about. The Samsung Galaxy, has an exceptional 8 mega-pixel, auto-focus, LED flash - just to name a few of it's outstanding qualities. I believe that this sets it apart from other phone cameras. and below is a small selection of images captured on  the Samsung Galaxy, with a little help from photoshop.

Choose a selection of flowers

Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Witch and Her Soul, a debut novel at 80 !!!!

With All Hallow's Eve and The Day of the Dead now behind us for another year, why not snuggle-up with a stunning debut novel from a writer on the threshold of her 80th birthday. This is a fascinating and utterly compelling fictionalised but fact-based account of the ‘witch hunt’ that gripped the county in the summer of 1612.
The Witch and Her Soul, a stunning debut novel

Four hundred years after their deaths, the Pendle witches continue to fire the imagination of readers and historians all over the world.

The mystery of their alleged dark arts and deeds has spawned hundreds of books and articles ... but who were these nine Lancashire women and two men, tried and condemned as evil, supernatural murderers?
Retired lecturer Christine Middleton from Samlesbury, one of the centres of Lancashire witching folklore, has returned to the scene of the ‘crimes’ to reconstruct the lives of the leading players, deconstruct the myths that have grown around them and give the witches a human makeover.

Middleton succeeds where many other writers have failed by humanising this group of disparate characters, putting their ‘offences’ into the context of a period of religious suspicion and turmoil, and allowing us to see them as innocents pursued by authoritarians and fanatics.

This is the tale of the Pendle witches told through the eyes of Jane Southworth, illegitimate daughter of Sir Richard Shireburn of Stonyhurst and later wife of Sir John Southworth of Samlesbury Hall.
And the result is moving, shocking and brutal... the realities of persecution, treachery and frenzied accusation are reborn in the graphically re-enacted trials and traumas of those closely involved in the terrible events that led to the gallows at Lancaster Castle.

Lancaster Castle

As she sits at her dying husband’s bedside in 1612, Jane Southworth begins her extraordinary diary, her confessional into which she commits a series of raw, evocative, deeply personal writings revealing her world, her forbidden beliefs and her desires.

Around her, the pursuit of those accused of witchcraft is just beginning in a county reputed to be one of the most unruly parts of the Protestant Queen Elizabeth’s realm.

From her early years at rural Stonyhurst, Jane was surrounded by controversy. Despite being a bastard child of Sir Richard, she was brought up in the main house alongside her mother and siblings.
It was a household that courted danger by secretly keeping alive the old and forbidden Catholic faith in a country where harbouring priests could still be legally punished by being crushed beneath a wooden slab.
After a brush with two local crones, old Mother Goggins and the Demdike Elizabeth Southern, Jane is convinced she has a special ‘power.’

But when she is sent to lodge with widow farmer and philanthropist Alice Nutter at Crow Tree Farm in Roughlee, near Pendle, Jane sees another side to life and faith because principled Alice practises a secret religion called the Family of Love, ‘a litany of sweet congratulation’ totally at odds with the harsher Catholic tenets of hellfire and punishment.

Slow to judge and quick to see the good in others, Alice publicly speaks out against the mistreatment of so-called witches, declaring that they have no real power to do harm and ‘it is only ignorance and fear that lend them reputation.’

However, the whispers that Alice sees as ‘malevolent but insubstantial’ start to grow and powerful enemies from both inside and outside Lancashire are waiting for an opportunity to take terrible revenge...
Middleton’s writing is elegant and richly descriptive, enabling the past to spring to life with startling authenticity and compelling drama.

The Witch and Her Soul is about flesh-and-blood women – not witches, not murderers, not purveyors of magic and mayhem but real, complex, vulnerable characters, downtrodden, often poverty-stricken, marginalised, misguided and abused.

Seventeenth century Lancashire revisited is an eye-opening, unforgettable experience; a history lesson, a page-turning thriller and a window into the soul of an age whose queen famously declared that she had ‘no desire to make windows into men’s souls.’

(Palatine Books, paperback, £7.99)

The witches of Pendle

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Haunting Halloween Cocktails

I love cocktails and never need an excuse to indulge. However, there is only one time of the year that I bring out my creepy cocktail book - All Hallows Eve.  Experimenting with flavours, colours and adding decorations to cocktails can bring hours of fun, especially with interesting ingredients. So after deliberating which of my MANY freaky favourites to share I've decided on three. These involve simple ingredients and  some can also be made non-alcoholic (for the kiddies).

Blood Orange Margaritas

Fresh blood orange juice
Triple sec or Cointreau

Moisten rim of two margarita glasses and dip in salt. Fill a cocktail shaker with crushed ice and add the ingredients. Shake well and pour into glasses. Garnish with slice of orange if required.

Poison Apple Punch

Half a bottle of Apple  Schnapps (omit for children's version)
1 Litre of fresh apple juice
1 bottle of Prosecco (lemonade for children's version)
1 litre of apple cider (not for children)
Half a litre of cranberry juice
3 red apples - diced
3 red apples,whole - just for decor ( do not use for bobbing )
Cubed ice

Place all the ingredients in an ornate punch bowl. Sir and add lots of  ice cubes just before serving.

Witches Black Cat

You won't mind this one if it crosses your path. At first glance you may think that the flavour combination is a little strange, but it's actually very good. Another delightful cocktail for Halloween parties

Cherry Brandy
Cranberry juice

Pour the vodka and cherry brandy into a highball glass filled with ice.
Fill the glass with equal amounts of cranberry juice and cola. .Garnish with a cherry

Have a Spooky Samhain everyone !!!!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

And now for something completely different ..... All i pebre - Eels in Piquant Sauce

All i pebre is a spicey dish made with made with eel. This is a famous recipe that originates from Albufera, a lagoon near Valencia. I think it's delicious, however it's an aquired taste. So if you're the adventurous type and fancy this eel dish, why not try this recipe is below?

Ingredients for 4 people:

1kg of eels
Olive oil
1 large onion, diced
50 g of flour
sweet paprika
1 chili pepper
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
1 small slice of toasted bread
10 to 12 almonds
2 large potatoes, cubed


Wash the eels in cold water and remove the heads and the tips of the tails. Wash them again and dry with a cloth. Once cleaned, cut them into pieces measuring approximately 6 to 8 cm. Crush the cloves of garlic in a mortar and add to an earthenware dish when the oil is hot.

Dice the onion and when the garlic begins to fry, add it along with the flour and the paprika, stirring at the same time. Also add a fair amount of water, but bear in mind it must not cover the eels, which will be added when it comes to the boil. Peel and cube potatoes, place in the dish and boil for 10 mins. Once the eels are in, simply add salt and chilli pepper, the amount depending on how spicy the stew is intended to be.

Leave everything to cook for 15 or 20 minutes. Five minutes before it is cooked, add the almonds, parsley and the toasted bread, crushing it previously in the mortar.

Buyer's guide - Eels are most often sold live, although they are sometimes available as steaks. A live eel is quite something to manage, so ask your fishmonger for advice.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Rustic Blackberry and Apple pies

With an abundance of blackberries in the garden and the apple trees laden with fruit. it seems to be that time of year again - time to start baking delicious, home-made, rustic fruit pies. These are a big family favourite and don't last long in this house - let me tell you!!

For the shortcrust pastry:

100g butter, cubed and at room temperature
175g plain flour
1 egg yolk
a pinch of salt
2 tbsp water


Rub the cubed butter and flour together until they resemble fine breadcrumbs.
Add the egg yolk, salt and water.
Mix all together until the ingredients form a ball.
Cover and place in the fridge until ready for use.

For the filling:

8-10 cooking apples
250gms of blackberries
2 tbsp of water
6 tbsp of sugar
1 egg white


Peel and slice apples. Add to a pan with sugar and water and immer until the sugar has disloved then add the blackberries. Cook for a further 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, roll the cold pasty on a floured surface (I like my pastry quite thin) and cut out large circles with a double sided cutter - the smaller ones form the top of the pie.

There is no need to be neat as the pies will have a more rustic effect when baked.

Place the cut out circles on a mini-pie baking tray, in a pre-heated oven, gas mark 170 and blind cook for 7 minutes

Remove from oven and let cool, the add the fruit mix and place the smaller pastry circles on top, sealing the edges with egg white,

Make a small insert with  the tip of a knife in each of the pie lids - this will let the hot steam escape from the cooking fruit. Sprinkle the sugar on the top of each pie and bake for a further 30 minutes.

Serve with Devon clotted cream or homemade vanilla ice-cream.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Tapas are definitely made for sharing

A good friend of mine decided to have a tapas party and sent me a copy of his menu.
I, of course, was very impressed that firstly - a man would take on such an ambitious menu and secondly -that he could find all the ingredients, as he doesn't live in Spain. So I felt I needed to share his culinary skills on my blog and shall be pinching a few of his ideas myself.



a) Goats Cheese (all three ages in small bite size lumps) drizzled with honey which sticks the well crushed walnuts to the cheese quite nicely. Eaten by means of a personal crystal cocktail stick.

b) Lollipops of Confit of Duck Leg, really sweet warm Melon & herby Feta.


a) Albondigas my style. Don't ask cos there's no recipe - it's organically created as it goes along. Contains Oregano, Rosemary & Lemon Thyme (and whatever else it needs).
Aioli and Brava sauces to dip them in.

b) Raw Chorizo caramelised then gently finished in a reduction of Cider & White Port to glaze. Yummy.

c) Serrano strips & Smoked Salmon strips with multi-colour wafer thin Pepper rings, wafer thin Cucumber slices (seeds removed) & a bit of multi-coloured textured grass leaves all well doused in a decent Olive Oil/Lemon juice and hot/sweet/smokey Pimenton dressing.

d) Salad of Boquerones, Black Olives, Orange segments, Red Onion & multi-coloured grass leaves with dressing which includes a few wazzed up black olives, orange juice, Olive Oil and seasoning.

e) Sweet variety of new season red Patatas done very soft inside & out well crispy outside in Olive Oil (with the same Aioli & Brava sauces to dip).

f) Cold steamed French Beans (purple, yellow & green) in a tomato/garlic/buttery sauce (sauce added cos the beans themselves weren't that tasty).
The Goats Cheese thing, Lollipops, Albondigas and par fried Patatas are already made & in the fridge (That's FRIDAY).

As are the Brava and Aioli sauces


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

400 years of history and mystery: The Witches of Lancashire 1612 - 2012

I lived in Clitheroe, Lancashire in the early 1980's and I often visited Pendle Hill. Strangely fascinated by it's eerie and mystical ambiance, I found myself drawn there, time and time again. So it was to my delight, whilst in Lancaster this summer, I came across an exhibition all about Pendle Hill, it's famous witches and the trials. There were even some interesting magical charms and witch stones on display......even the preserved corpse of a witches cat !!! Spooky stuff indeed.

The story of the Witches of Pendle takes place in 1612. Nineteen men and women were imprisoned in the Lancashire in small cells below Lancaster Castle. They were tried at the Lancashire assizes, a travelling court, ten of them were found guilty and sentenced to death. The ten found guilty are famous in Lancashire history. Any child growing up in Lancashire knows the names of the ten, and fears them at night when the lights go out.

The ten were:
Ann Redfearn,
Elizabeth Device
Alice Nutter
Alison Device,
James Device,
Katherine Hewitt,
Jane Bulcock,
John Bulcock,
Isobel Robey
and Anne Whittle (also known as Old Chattox).
Elizabeth Southernes (famously known as Old Mother Demdike), would have also probably been found guilty, but she died in prison before this could happen.

Charms and witch stones

Four hundred years after the fact, children all over northern England are threatened with the Pendle Witches if they misbehave. The sad truth is though, the Pendle Witches were nothing more than old and poor men and women who were pulled before the magistrate because of a quarrel between two families.

Mystical  and superstitious items

Old Mother Demdike (Elizabeth Southernes) lived with her daughter, Elizabeth Device, and grandchildren Alison and James Device. Anne Whittle (Old Chattox), another elderly woman, lived with her daughters Ann Redfearn and Bessie Whittle. Bessie Whittle one day broke into Old Mother Demdike's house and stole some clothes and some food. So Old Mother Demdike reported her to the magistrate. Bessie Whittle then turned around and accused Old Mother Demdike and her family of witchcraft. Alison Device, Old Mother Demdike's daughter, returned the favour saying Anne Whittle's whole family also practised witchcraft and both families were arrested.

Children's shoes found hidden under floorboards and buried in walls

After a long imprisonment and then a trial, ten of the members of the two families were hanged as witches - being found guilty of the murders of 17 people. They weren't dropped though, which would have broken their necks and given them a quick death. Instead they were hung so they strangled slowly in front of a huge crowd who watched their deaths. Nine year old Jennet Device was the only one who was really giving evidence against them though, saying she had seen them flying around on broomsticks and turning people into frogs.

The Pendle witches

To this day, the Pendle Witches are famous all over England. Their names are used to attract tourists to the area, and are a big draw during Halloween, when every neighbourhood child is warned about Old Mother Demdike and Alice Nutter.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

August 2012 Two Full Moons - A Blue Moon month

August 2012 is a month with two full moons. And, by popular acclaim, that means it’s a Blue Moon month. That’s because a Blue Moon is sometimes defined as the second full moon in a calendar month. The first full moon is August 2 nd. The second full moon is August 31, 2012.

Tonight's full moon is also known as The Sturgeon Moon - The fishing tribes are given credit for the naming of this Moon, since sturgeon, a large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water, were most readily caught during this month. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because, as the Moon rises, it appears reddish through any sultry haze. It was also called the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon.

Every month has a full moon, and, most of the time, the names for full moons coincide with particular months or seasons of the year. By either definition, the name Blue Moon accounts for times when there happen to be more full moons than is convenient.

The time between one full moon and the next is close to the length of a calendar month. So the only time one month can have two full moons is when the first full moon happens in the first few days of the month. This happens every 2-3 years, so these sorts of Blue Moons come about that often.

When is the next Blue Moon, according to this first definition? August 31, 2012.
The idea of a Blue Moon as the second full moon in a month stemmed from the March 1946 issue of Sky and Telescope magazine, which contained an article called “Once in a Blue Moon” by James Hugh Pruett. Pruett was using a 1937 Maine Farmer’s Almanac, but he simplified the definition. He wrote:

'Seven times in 19 years there were — and still are — 13 full moons in a year. This gives 11 months with one full moon each and one with two. This second in a month, so I interpret it, was called Blue Moon.'

EarthSky’s Deborah Byrd happened upon a copy of this old 1946 issue of Sky and Telescope in the stacks of the Peridier Library at the University of Texas Astronomy Department in the late 1970s. Afterward, she began using the term Blue Moon to describe the second full moon in a calendar month on the radio. Later, this definition of Blue Moon was also popularized by a book for children by Margot McLoon-Basta and Alice Sigel, called “Kids’ World Almanac of Records and Facts,” published in New York by World Almanac Publications, in 1985. The second-full-moon-in-a-month definition was also used in the board game Trivial Pursuit.

Can there be two blue moons in a single calendar year? Yes. It last happened in 1999. There were two full moons in January and two full moons in March and no full moon in February. So both January and March had Blue Moons.

The next year of double blue moons is coming up in 2018.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Rice Culture in Valencia - More Than Just Paella

After paella, Arroz al Horno is probably the most iconic dish on the table in the Valencia Community. This dish is traditionally baked in a ceramic dish and includes pork ribs, panncetta, morcilla sausage (black pudding), garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, and garbanzo beans (chickpeas).

The region of Valencia is known for its many rice dishes, like paella, but there are so many other mouth-watering rice dishes to enjoy, (see below) . In English Arroz al Horno is called Oven-Baked Rice.

This traditional dish is so popular that Xàtiva, a coastal city in Valencia, holds a festival in honor of Arroz al Horno.

Traditionally, this dish is prepared in a clay or ceramic dish. So, you’ll need a ceramic, enamel or stainless steel casserole dish that can be used on a stove-top and in the oven.

Valencian Arroz al Horno (Oven-baked Rice)

Serves 4

lb. lean pork spare ribs
1/2 lb. morcilla, blood sausage ( or bury black pudding)
1 whole head of garlic
1 cup diced panncetta
2 medium tomatoes
1 1/2 cups of paella rice
4 cups beef stock
2 medium potatoes - sliced
4 oz. cooked chickpeas
olive oil

Cut the morcilla sausage into thick slices or if small leave whole. Cut tomatoes into slices approximately 1/3 inch thick. Peel potatoes and slice.

Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil into the casserole dish and heat. When hot enough, fry the pork ribs and pancetta until golden brown. Add the potatoes and the rice into the dish, then add the stock and season.
Sprinkle the chickpeas around the dish. Simmer for 10 minutes 

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Before placeing the casserole dish in the pre-heated oven, arrange the sliced tomatoes and black pudding on top and place the whole head of garlic in the centre.of the dish.
Cover and bake in the oven until the rice is cooked and golden brown.


Below are just a few other Spanish rice-based dishes:-

Arroz a banda
Arroz a la cerveza
Arroz a la criolla
Arroz a la franciascana
Arroz a la húngara
Arroz a la Jardinera
Arroz a la mantequilla
Arroz a la mexicana
Arroz a la milanesa
Arroz a la morrón
Arroz a la oriental
Arroz a la persa o arroz dulce
Arroz a la poblana
Arroz a la puertorriqueña
Arroz a la Saz
Arroz acuario
Arroz al coñac
Arroz al curry
Arroz al estilo libanés
Arroz al horno
Arroz al Guadalquivir
Arroz al vino
Arroz blanco con frutas secas
Arroz blanco
Arroz Bombay
Arroz brut
Arroz caldoso de puchero
Arroz campanero
Arroz cantonés a la vietnamita
Arroz color
Arroz con acelgas y sepias
Arroz con aguacate
Arroz con alcachofas
Arroz con almejas
Arroz con ancas de rana y cangrejos
Arroz con atún
Arroz con atún y apio
Arroz con bacalao
Arroz con bacon
Arroz con bogavante
Arroz con camarones
Arroz con castañas
Arroz con Cerdo
Arroz con cerveza
Arroz con coca cola
Arroz con coco
Arroz con col
Arroz con coles de Bruselas
Arroz con coliflor
Arroz con "Consomme Beef"
Arroz con costillas de cerdo
Arroz con chocos
Arroz con espárragos
Arroz con frutos secos
Arroz con hígados de pollo
Arroz con huevos escalfados
Arroz con Lentejas de Año Nuevo
Arroz con Mariscos
Arroz con Mejillones
Arroz con mejillones y puerros
Arroz con palmito
Arroz con patatas y bacalao al horno
Arroz con Pato
Arroz con pimientos fritos
Arroz con Pollo
Arroz con Pollo Almendrado
Arroz con Pollo "al estilo Panameño"
Arroz con salmón al cava
Arroz con sardinas
Arroz con sobrasada y botifarrón
Arroz con verduras
Arroz con vino
Arroz Congrí
Arroz Costa Brava
Arroz cremoso con azafrán al manchego semicurado
Arroz cremoso
Arroz Chaufa
Arroz Chaufa de Mariscos
Arroz Chaufa especial
Arroz chaufa tres sabores
Arroz chino
Arroz de conejo con mejillones estilo Ornosa
Arroz de Pascua Rusa
Arroz de verduras
Arroz español
Arroz especial
Arroz frito
Arroz Frito Tres Delicias
Arroz Genovés
Arroz Graneado
Arroz huertano o de verduras con bacalao
Arroz Imperial
Arroz rojo integral
Arroz integral con alcachofas
Arroz Ligur
Arroz marinera
Arroz marinero
Arroz Montemar
Arroz negro con sepia
Arroz negro cremoso con sepias
Arroz negro cremoso de setas
Arroz pilaf
Arroz pilaw
Arroz pilaw
Arroz rápido
Arroz salteado con coca- cola
Arroz sazonado con lentejas
Arros pobler Arroz sorpresa
Arroz sushi
Arroz Tapado
Arroz tres delicias
Arroz vapor
Arroz verde .............PHEW!!!! thats a lot of rice dishes

The following link by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall includes a few more great Spanish recipes

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Zarzuela de Mariscos (Spanish Seafood and Shellfish Stew)

The wonderful fresh array of seafood that is found all over Spain

This excellent seafood stew comes from the Catalan coast of northeast Spain. Zarzuela means "operetta," or "variety show," and perfectly describes the sing-song versatility of this dish. The greater the variety of seafood you add to this dish, the better its flavour will be.

Zarzuela de Mariscos
(Spanish Seafood and Shellfish Stew)

4 to 6 servings


175 ml white wine
85 ml sherry, Manzilla or Fino
Fish and shellfish (see variations), cleaned and prepared -- 2 pounds
Olive oil
1 Onion, chopped
Red, green or yellow bell peppers, diced
3-5 cloves Garlic, crushed
Serrano ham or prosciutto (optional), sliced into thin strips
2 large Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
a large handful of almonds, ground in a spice grinder or food processor
1 Bay leaf
Saffron - pinch
Salt and pepper - to taste
Water or stock - 3 cups
1 tablespoon Lemon juice
 Parsley, chopped

Spanish seafood stew


Clean and prepare your fish and shellfish  Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high flame. Add the onions, peppers and garlic and sauté until onion turns translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the ham or prosciutto and sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, ground almonds, bay leaf, saffron and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes to marry the flavours and reduce the liquid.

Add the wine and sherry and simmer to reduce its volume by about half. Then add the water or stock, lemon juice and parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 more minutes.

Add the fish and seafood to the stew. Cover with a lid and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until everything is cooked through. Do not overcook. Adjust seasoning and serve.


Use whatever fresh fish and seafood is available. Any firm, white-fleshed fish, cut into large chunks, is a good base. Other possible additions include calamari, , scallops, mussels, clams, crab, lobster and crayfish.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Macro photography with a point and shoot

Much has been written on the topic of Macro photography for those photographers fortunate enough to own a DSLR with macro lenses – but what about if you own a compact point and shoot camera? Can you get great macro shots too?

While the results achievable with a point and shoot camera in macro mode probably won’t compare with a DSLR with a purpose built macro lens I’ve still taken some remarkably good shots with compact cameras 

Adding filters to your photos will give the macro images a twist. So why not have some fun and give it a try? Below are a few taken wjth a Nikon Coolpix.

 Start with a simple flower arrangement, select macro mode, then just point and shoot!