Broad beans, a hoopoe and an impromptu cake

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They’re a little later than usual this year because of the cold spring we’ve had, but our first broad beans, picked today, were delicious eaten simply, simmered for four minutes in salted water, drained and served with olive oil, chopped garlic and fresh mint.  I ate some of them raw and they were good like that as well since they were so young and tender.

On the way back from the garden on a detour through the vineyards to the north of the village I saw a pair of hoopoes on the ground among the vines.  They’re very difficult to photograph, I’ve found, because they’re very shy.  As they flew away I grabbed my camera and did what I could.  This was the best of a blurry lot, showing the beautiful markings across the wings:

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I don’t make many cakes and puddings, usually preferring fresh fruit for dessert, but sometimes all the ingredients come together to make one irresistible suggestion and this is what happened this morning.  I’d bought some very good-value ground almonds (in the supermarket, too, where I don’t usually buy much food) that had been ground with the skins left on them so they looked nicely natural and speckled with dark brown flecks.  At the market this morning the fruit grower from Fouzilhon, the tiny village just up the hill from here, was there setting out his punnets of strawberries at half the price of the other market stall and locally grown.  And we had some cut pieces of pear that had proved unripe in the fridge.  So I made a cake base with 100 grams of flour, 100 grams of ground almonds, 75 grams of sugar, a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, two eggs and two tablespoons of olive oil, whizzed up in the food processor and put into a cake tin, then baked for 20 minutes in the oven at 200 C.  While it was cooking I poached the peeled slices of pear in white wine and sugar to make a syrup and cut some of the strawberries in half.  Once the cake was ready and had cooled a little, I assembled it all and poured over the syrup.

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>Pumpkin harvest, and The Birds?

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Colder nights are forecast for later this week, so today we brought the remaining pumpkins back to the house so that they are not affected by any low temperatures we may have. The ones that have ripened should keep for months, the green ones maybe not for so long, so we’ll eat them first. Although a friend has suggested that they may continue to ripen indoors.

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Five pumpkins and two butternut squashes. We’ve already picked a butternut squash and two pumpkins, one which weighed 5 kilos and one, which we’re eating now, which weighed 10 kilos. The two bigger ones in this photo are even bigger. So far we used them to make soup, roasted chunks of them in the oven and puréed the roasted chunks to make a gratin with blue cheese – the simple recipe for this is on the Mediterranean cuisine blog. Today one of our friends passed by the garden and told us that you can make soufflé with pumpkin too, so we’re going to try that – if it works I’ll put the recipe on the blog.

The Birds

On the way back from Magalas we saw a remarkable sight – a huge flock of very small birds settled on the (not very busy) road. We watched them for about five minutes while I took a lot of photos. Each time a car came close they flew up into the sky and circled around the vineyards for just a few seconds before settling on the road again. There must have been hundreds, if not thousands, of them. There didn’t seem to be anything for them to feed on, so it’s a mystery why they were on the road. It seems a bit late in the year for birds to be gathering to migrate, but it’s possible they are migrating birds from further north either arriving here for the winter or just passing through. My researches on the internet and in bird books suggest they may have been Wood Larks. I’d welcome any other suggestions. They were much too small to be starlings.

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And more autumn colour in the vineyards and in the garden

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In the garden the rosemary and the roses have begun to flower again after the rain.
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An awful reminder…

Land being flattened next to our garden as work begins on the new houses.

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The landscape seems to have been completely changed, trees destroyed and new vistas created.