The ghost in the machine spirited the PC awake again at about 3:20 AM last night. I had forgotten to shut it down completely and had only hibernated it. It really is quite disturbing when the hard drive starts whirring away and the screen begins glowing all by itself – all very Close Encounters of the Third Kind. A swift excursion out of bed across the cold tiled bedroom floor sorted it out but slumber was interrupted for some time.
After waking up for the second time and enjoying a relatively leisurely breakfast, we drove the few miles into Benissa to introduce Steve and Rosemary to Spanish markets and see what appealing items we could find. The main focus at such markets seems to be fruit and vegetables but there are other stalls with flowers, charcuterie (sorry, I know that’s French but I haven’t learned the Spanish yet), clothes and hardware stalls with a splendid array of paella pans in various sizes. That seems like a silly phrase, really: paella means pan, I believe, hence the name of the dish, so “paella pans” would probably translate as “paella paellas”. That’s clearly rubbish: they have a wonderful array of paellas in various sizes. Also on sale are matching paella rings, the gas burners, to go with the paellas. The trick to making a first rate paella is in having the correctly sized paella ring for the chosen size of paella.
Carol’s first purchase was not a matched paella and ring but a matched pair of intriguingly mottled poinsettias. A gardener would probably describe these poinsettias as “variegated” but I’m no gardener and they look mottled to me. Whatever, they will help increase the Christmas atmosphere while we are house, dog and cat sitting.
“Mottled” seemed to be the theme of the day. It cropped up again as the ladies bravely lashed out on some curious-looking mushrooms that seemed to be basically yellowy-orange but with a slight green mottling. Steve remarked that they looked sufficiently frightening to make one give them a wide berth should one happen past them on the forest floor. Nonetheless, since they were for sale in the market we must assume them to be edible and work them into our menu.
Not content with mottled poinsettias and mottled fungus, our market booty next included flat green beans with red mottling. [Note: disappointingly, the mottling subsequently vanished upon cooking. Darn!]
There’s a particular vegetable puzzle that we have yet to solve concerning Spanish gastronomy: large artichoke leaves are commonly sold on the markets but we have thus far been unsuccessful in discovering how to prepare them. Given the amount of effort involved in preparing that part of the artichoke normally considered edible, the flower, I cannot imagine the preparation required to turn these enormous leaves into something edible. Rosemary attempted a rescue by accosting two perfect strangers and, first enquiring if they were English [yes], secondly enquiring if they knew what to do with said artichoke leaves? No, they did not. They did, however, volunteer that they put celery leaves into soup so maybe that might be a clue. Hmmm?
Having broken away form the ladies with a mottle fetish, I had spotted some bright, spankingly fresh looking bonito tuna in a local fish shop. I was a little concerned that, given the theme of the day, they might not be sufficiently mottled to be added to our collection. However, my fears were unfounded and they were voted in unanimously so another purchase was made. Two fish, ample for four, weighed in at 1.25 kilos and we were charged the princely sum of about €5.50. Darn good value, even at this Gordon-Brown-induced disastrous exchange rate.