Nêspera (Loquat) Jam

If you’re harvesting nêspera fruit (otherwise known as Loquat or medlar fruit) about now you may want to try this simple nêspera jam recipe. And I mean it’s simple… as in “easie peasie” simple!

Delicious Nespera Jam

Delicious Nespera Jam

This April our little nêspera tree rewarded us with a bumper harvest of fruit, so rather than make yet another batch of chutney I decided to try jam. Now, you would think a jam recipe would be relatively easy to find on the net but no, Mr. Google in his wisdom insisted on returning results for jelly. I didn’t want pigging jelly Mr. G, I wanted jam!

Having had a few jam disasters in the past I was about to admit defeat when a friend came up trumps with an easy recipe. And I mean easy… as in easy peasey, easy!

Ingredients
Nêsperas (peeled with stones removed)
Brown sugar (same weight as flesh of fruit) In this case 1.4lb
Juice of one lemon

Method
Add the ingredients to a heavy base pan and simmer for about 1 1/2-2hrs until the liquid reduces and the texture is more gooey (piglet’s technical term) than watery.

In the meantime sterilize the jars in a hot oven (150C) for ten minutes. Hot Tip: don’t put lids with rubber seals in the oven. The rubber melts rendering the lids useless!

Once the jam is cooked spoon while still warm into the jars and then seal.

nêsperas

nêsperas

Nêsperas taste almost like a peach crossed with an apricot.

You may also want to try:
Courgette and Tomato Chutney
Mr Piglet’s Pickled Onions!

Blogging and Goals – Input Please

Dear followers, I’ve signed up to the WordPress Blogging 201 (basically how to improve your blog). Over the next two weeks we are given various assignments. This is my first assignment and I need your help, please.

Today’s 201 assignment is to consider what I want to accomplish with my blog. Good question!
question201

I’m curious, why do you follow my blog?
What topics are of interest to you?
Is my blog easy to navigate?
What about design?
Any other suggestions, please?

I can pontificate ‘til the cows come home about what I think is of interest but it’s you guys who decide with your visits, likes and comments.

I was then asked the following questions so I have a vision of my blog which I must then translate in to three specific goals.

Why do I blog?
To connect with people from all walks of life and from different countries who share common interests and values. Interests can range from travel, hobbies, cooking, gardening, life in Portugal, poetry, books, lifestyle etc. or just a random rant for discussion.

To gain notoriety?
Am I notorious? I’ve met perfect strangers in real life and they’ve exclaimed… “Oh you’re Piglet!” Joking aside I have followers from all over the world and I’d like more.

To secure a book contract?
Yes, please. I’ve written a novel, during NaNoWriMo 2012 – it just needs editing.

One of my poems has also been published in a magazine so that’s my only claim to fame at the moment.

To self-publish your work?
Yes, I intend to. I’m now an active member of a writing website WritingForums.comwhere I glean lots of useful information and interact with other writers.

To establish yourself as a leader in your field?
No, the scope of my blog is too broad.

To gain followers?
All bloggers want to gain followers, don’t they?

Traffic?
Yes, I’d certainly welcome more traffic.

To connect with others?
Most definitely!

To work through and clarify your own thoughts?
Sometimes, but it really depends on the topic. I’m a private person by nature so I don’t tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. Yeah, so I tend to joke about diets, midlife crisis and other bits and bobs and I’ve even been known to have the odd rant about kindles, barking dogs and bullfighting

If your blog exceeded your wildest dreams, what would that look like?
Looking back to when I started pretty much as it looks now although I’ve not checked out any of the latest design options.

Would you have a different design?
I’m always open to suggestions…

How many followers would you have?
How long is a piece of string? Okay, 7000 not 700.

How much traffic?
This depends on not only writing engaging regular content and how the various topics are ranked in Google, but also how I promote my blog through the various social media channels.

What sort of community would participate?
I don’t have a target market in mind. Different topics appeal to different readers.

What discussions would take place?
Lifestyle with a touch of humour. Anything else?

So why do I need goals? I was given a whole host of reasons but this was my favourite…

Because achieving a goal is a great feeling that motivates you to set and meet new goals, creating a continuous cycle of awesome.

My three goals are:
1. Publish a minimum of one post per week during April, May, and June.
2. Update my Pinterest with a minimum of three pins a week.
3. Publish an interview with one local charity, one blogger and one author by the end of June.

Are they achievable? YES, of course they are…

Please don’t forget to answer the questions at the beginning of the post or leave a random comment to help spur me on!

Statue Infante D. Henrique and the Mercado de Escravos – (Slave Market) in Lagos

Infante D. Henrique

Infante D. Henrique

The statue of Infante D. Henrique (Henry the Navigator), sits pride of place in the Praça do Infante Dom Henrique within a few metres of the “Slave Market”. Born March 4th, 1394 Henry was an important figure in the Portuguese Age of Discovery and sponsored exploration voyages in search of new trade routes down the coast of Africa. In 1434 Gil Eanes set sail from the Port of Lagos in the Western Algarve. Although his voyage was initially a voyage of exploration, the ships returned with slaves, spices,  gold dust, kola nuts, ivory, chilli pepper and birds.

The “Slave Market” (Mercado de Escravos), and the first in Europe was built in 1444,  now opens its doors as a Museum.

Mercado de Escravos – (Slave Market)

Slave Market Museum, Lagos

Slave Market Museum, Lagos – Portugal

I’ve passed this innocuous looking building on many occasions without a second glance. But it’s only now that I’ve researched its dark history (no pun intended) I discover it was the first gateway to the slave trade in Europe. Incredible!

Other great explorers of this era include Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama and James Cook.

References: Wiki – Lagos, Portugal and Infante D. Henrique.

This post was inspired by the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.

Midlife Crisis?

Hot Lip Leggings

Hot Lip Leggings

So what’s with the studded boots and ‘hot lip’ leggings, you may well ask?

My friends inform me I’m having a midlife crisis – that or I’m going barking mad. I even threatened to have pink and purple rebellious highlights in my hair but the jury is still out on that idea! So why have these silly leggings awakened something deep and rebellious within me?

I wish I could stand up and scream: age is only a number – it’s how we feel that matters. It’s not that I dread getting older, it’s just the way marketing companies tag us with different labels. NO, I do not want pearls, nor do I want to subscribe to SAGA magazine, NOR am I a “silver surfer” – I’m me! And by the way, the anti-aging cream you advertise on TV and in glossy magazines, it’s a waste of money.

You pigeonhole us by age group, gender, income… blahdy blah…

I digress, so what’s with the boots and legging? The boots were the only pair wide enough to fit my trotters, and the leggings? Well let’s just say Mr. Piglet said, “You’re not buying those!” I secretly confess, the ‘hot lip leggings’ are rather bizarre but as they were the only leggings in my size, and I was looking for something warm and comfy to wear around the house I thought, “hey why not?”.

Never say to Piglet: You can’t or don’t. It’s like a red flag to a pig.

A couple of weeks later we were going to a party and as a joke I tried the leggings on with a black top and started prancing around. I had no intention of wearing them, honest!

“You can’t wear those!” exclaimed Mr. Piglet.

“Watch me!”

When we arrived at the party my friends looked at me in horror. My reply… “Midlife Crisis” and with that they smiled and nodded in agreement.

Midlife Crisis

A throwback hippy and sixties child
in midlife crisis, bold and wild.
I don’t need designer clothes,
Dior or Prada in which to pose.
My Primark leggings do just fine
as lips are such a cool design.

I may go wild and dye my hair
bright pink or purple, I don’t care.
Cut short and spiky to rebel
it’s midlife crisis, so what the hell!


As you grow older, do you get the urge to do crazy things?

Mum – 19th November 1926 – 18th December 2013

Mum and Me

Mum and Me

My Mum passed away in December at the grand old age of 87 years young. Although her mind had long-ceased to focus on the here and now and she lived in the past, she was a tough old bird and I expected her to live to a hundred.

When I received the call to get back to the UK post-haste, as she was dying, it came as a shock. Apparently she was only expected to live for a few hours and I’d already missed the flight to the UK for that day. I can’t begin to tell you how helpless that made me feel so I wrote a poem.

Wait for me

My thoughts through God
I send you, like a message in a bottle
cast into the ocean of life.
You hover on the threshold
waiting for death, yet also for me
to hug you
one last goodbye.

Thoughts of words
we left unsaid linger with regret.
Life’s sorrow
now a secret you take to the grave
as you find peace with God.

Please wait for me Mum,
wait for me to hug you
one last goodbye
before your journey
beyond the here and now.

Godspeed the iron bird who will unite us
one last time.

I count the hours while you labour
with life. Can you hear me Mum?
Do you hear my voice through God
imploring you through my tears of grief?

Please wait for me to hug you one last goodbye…

I prayed to God I would be granted the opportunity to say “goodbye” and despite the prognosis that she would only live for a few hours she held on for a couple of days. Is there a God?

When is a potato not a potato?

When it’s a choo choo… noooo that’s not a Portuguese sneeze!

Feeling rather adventurous during a recent shopping foray to the local farmers’ market, I stepped outside my cautious ‘foodie’ comfort zone and decided to experiment with some, shall we say…  some of the more weird and wonderful vegetable offerings they had on sale.  As I looked beyond the usual staple veg such as cabbage, onions and potatoes an ugly misshapen green shrek-like pear piqued my curiosity.

(No, my curiosity and adventurous spirit still does not extend to sampling the “unmentionables”!)

On closer inspection of  shrek-pear and still none the wiser the stallholder, no doubt sensing my curiosity and/or ignorance, proceeded to explain  it was called a “cho choo” and a vegetable similar to a potato.

I thought my hearing deceived me: ” choo choo?”  I repeated.

“Sim.” She even said train in English, and then accentuated the word “Choo Choo”, by way of verbal demonstration to make sure I’d understood before she proceeded to instruct me on how to cook them. Interesting, because I would have put shrek in the fruit bowl waiting for it to ripen. ‘It’ certainly looked more fruit like rather than vegetable to me.

I’m sure my body-language still oozed caution so she generously gave me one to try.

ChuChu

Chu Chu or Chayote

Once home I tried to Google the name without success. In for a penny in for a pound, as they say, so that night I cut the beast in half and roasted it in the oven complete with skin; it tasted delicious. Mr. Piglet, however, was having none of it and with jaws clamped firmly shut he flatly refused to taste even the tiniest morsel. Men!

Folks, if you’ve never tried a Chochoo or whatever it’s called in your country, trust me they are delicious.

My next visit to a supermarket revealed the true name “chuchu’ which, after consulting Mr Google, is its Brazilian name and chuchu led me to Wikipedia which offered several names including Chayote.

Next week I will return to the market to buy some “ChuChu” but in the meantime if anyone has some recipe suggestions, please share them below.

Dogs on Blue Flag Beaches – Are You “For” or “Against”?

Dogs on Blue Flag Beaches

Dogs on Blue Flag Beaches

As the ongoing debate concerning dogs on blue flags beaches rumbles on, each  party vehemently defending their point of view, I wonder who is right.

“My dogs loves playing in the sand.”
“Your dog craps in the sand and then kids build sand castles.”
“But I clear it up”
“You are one of the few. Besides, this beach has Blue Flag status and you are not allowed to bring your dog on the beach!”
“Tough! Who’s going to stop me…”

“My dog loves swimming in the sea.”
“Your dog is a nuisance.”
“No it’s not!”
“Yes it is, you have no control over it.”

“Your dog just cocked its leg over my picnic basket and clothes!”
“It’s never done that before.”
“Well it has now!”

“Dogs are not allowed on this beach.”
“My dog is part of the family.”
“Yes, and my family don’t want to be stepping in its pooh on the beach!”
“Some people are so anal…”

“Please will you control your dog!”
“It won’t hurt you.”
“I’m frightened of dogs, please…”
“Don’t be stupid.”

“People are smelly and noisy.”
“Oh, unlike dogs?”
“Yeah, people should be banned from beaches”

“Do you need glasses?”
“No, why?”
“Because that sign means no dogs allowed on this beach!”
“Tough, so what? My dog has every right to be here…”

Is a compromise the answer or should there be an enforced outright ban during the summer season?

Who enforces the rule?

Although the police/GNR enthusiastically clamp cars and issue hefty fines in car parks and roadside parking where “No Parking” signs are displayed, the no dog rule is ignored. I don’t mind dogs if they are kept on a lead, but they are usually not and the beach becomes one big doggy toilet.

While the rules for Blue Flag status suggest:

The beach must be clean.

and

Access to the beach by dogs and other domestic animals must be strictly controlled.

unfortunately this is not always the case because dog owners blatantly ignore signs:

No dogs allowed on this beach

No dogs allowed on this beach

and

No dogs

No dogs

Regardless of language the signs are pretty clear, so why do people choose to ignore them? Dogs can’t read and no doubt view the beach as an exciting place with lots of nice doggy smells and an opportunity to splash in the sea.

Blue Flag

Blue Flag

What is The “Blue Flag”?

The Blue Flag is a voluntary eco-label awarded to more than 3850 beaches and marinas in 48 countries across Europe, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada and the Caribbean.

To qualify for Blue Flag status beaches must comply with certain criteria in the following categories:

1. Environmental Education and Information
2. Water Quality
3. Environmental Management
4. Safety and Services

More information available at www.blueflag.org/menu/criteria

Blue Flag beaches in Portugal

There are currently 279 beaches in Portugal with Blue Flag status.

Algarve (69)
Alentejo (25)
Centro Portugal (27)
Tejo (50)
Northern Portugal (67)

Source: www.blueflag.org/

Please share your views in the comments below and/or please take a vote!

 

Piglet’s Plot in July

It’s now September and here’s me wittering on about my garden activities in July. I’m so far behind with this year’s “Vegetable Diary” I was almost tempted to abandon the idea. However, as I have all the notes and photographic evidence I thought it would still prove useful to other Algarve gardeners and a reminder of my successes and failures for next July.

Raised Vegetable Plot - July13

Raised Vegetable Plot – July13

I harvested the red onions in mid July,  so apart from the Galega cabbage, two white cabbage, a few lettuce and a self-seeded squash plant, which was growing, and is still growing like a triffid, the plot was empty. Rather than replant with peppers and salad I decided to plant these in pots to conserve water – extreme heat makes for thirsty vegetables!  Another point for consideration was the cost of water as it is charged by the cubic meter. Once you exceed a certain level of usage, water is almost as expensive as wine!

Red Onions

Red Onions

The red onions, I planted in December, were a great success.  This year I will plant more onions – reds because they are expensive to buy in the shops, and normal onions because we will grow enough for Mr Piglet’s pickled and spring onions.

Growing Fruit and Vegetables in Containers

Growing squash in pots

Growing squash plants in pots

Growing squash plants in pots

The self-seed squash plants continued to thrive and much to my surprised produced a couple of squash.  I fed with liquid fertiliser once every two weeks and kept well watered.

Growing melons in pots

Melon plants can grow in containers

Melon plants can grow in containers!

Growing melons in a large pot (or in this case a plastic paint pot) was purely experimental. They adapted well, and while several flowers failed to fruit at least I had two fairly good specimens to prove it can be done. I fed the plants fortnightly with liquid MiracleGro and kept the plants well watered. I think these were planted as plugs in late May.

Growing Tomatoes in Pots

The cherry tomatoes were once again extremely successful. I did not attempt to stake the plants and instead just let them trail so they were more compact. I fed approximately every two weeks with liquid fertilizer and kept them well watered (not drowned). I tried other varieties such as beef and plum tomatoes but these needed stakes which proved difficult in pots. Next year, I, or should I say Mr Piglet, will create a trellis area so I can grow other varieties.

Cherry tomatoes grow well in pots

Cherry tomatoes grow well in pots

Aubergines growing in pots

I planted two aubergine plants  in February. One in the raised bed and the other in a pot. The latter survived while the former disappeared without trace (zombie snails)
They grow well in pots that’s Aubergines not snails, albeit a little slowly. I fed approximately every two weeks with MiracleGro liquid fertilizer.

Aubergine growing in pot

Aubergine growing in pot

Peppers grow well in pots

The orange pepper plant pictured below was planted as a seedling plug at the end of May. I also grew green peppers planted the end of February, and red peppers planted from April onwards. I staggered the planting dates to avoid a glut of peppers and the dreaded ‘feast then famine’.

Once the first flowers had set I fed approximately every two weeks with MiracleGro liquid fertilizer. I kept the soil moist but not wet.

Orange Peppers growing in pots

Orange Peppers growing in pots

Growing blackberry plants in pots

The blackberry plant continued to bear fruit but for some reason they seemed to take a long time to ripen.

Blackberries

Blackberries

As I know very little about growing blackberries I conducted some research and discovered this brilliant website: www.almanac.com

Fruit Worms
Gray Mold
Viruses

If your plant is suffering from the blackberry disease known as Raspberry Bushy Dwarf virus, the leaves will be have some bright yellow on them, and the leaves of the fruiting vanes may have a bleached look in the summer. The disease known as Blackberry Calico will cause faint yellow sublotches on the leaves of the plant.

I’ve quoted the above from the site, because as sure as God made little apples my blackberry plant is sure to get one of the above.

The website states blackberries need full sun and sandy soil. As luck would have it I can tick both of those boxes. diseases? It is early days but as they say “forewarned is forearmed”.

What else grew in Piglet’s plot during July?

Strawberries, cucumbers and rocket. The orange tree still had two oranges which should be ready  by Christmas. The lime tree had one lime, the fig trees had no leaves and there was a partridge in our nespra tree (just kidding).

Weather
Temperatures ranged from 17C to 30+C

Pests and diseases: Snails and caterpillars.

There was very little white mould despite the high humidity.

David Cameron visits the sleepy town of Aljezur

Aljezur, is the first location in my “Out and About” series
where I review various towns and villages in the Western Algarve.

Aljezur Market - Western Algarve, Portugal

Aljezur Market – Western Algarve, Portugal

The sleepy town of Aljezur is now well and truly on the map since the British Prime Minister and his wife, Samantha, visited the local market to buy squid. It made me smile when I read the newspapers were more interested in reporting on David Cameron’s dress sense, than information about the town itself.

Aljezur Fish Market

Aljezur Fish Market

Aljezur Fish Market

Aljezur Fish Market

Aljezur, still has the rustic charm of a small Portuguese town as yet unspoilt by the ravages of mass tourism.

View from Aljezur Fish Market

View from Aljezur Fish Market

Directions:
Take the A22 motorway west, towards Sines and drive to the end. At the roundabout drive straight across, direction Sines (N120). Drive up the wibbly wobbly road for about 20 minutes and you will eventually reach the Moorish town of Aljezur. N.B. trust me, you won’t fall off the end of the world – there is life after Portimao and even Lagos.

Aljezur

Aljezur

Where to eat:
Piza Bica
Tel. (+351) 282 998 693
Cruz – Igreja Nova
8670-089 Aljezur
(On the road to Monchique)
Horário:
De Segunda a Sexta, 12:00H ~ 14:30H e 18:30H ~ 22:00H
Sábados, Domingos, Feriados, 18:30H ~ 22:00H

Restaurante PONT’A PÉ
Largo da Liberdade
8670 ALJEZUR
(near the taxi rank, by the bridge)
Tel. (+351) 282 998 104

Restaurante RUTH – O IVO
Tel. (+351) 282 998 534
Rua 25 de Abril
8670-088 ALJEZUR

Aljezur, Western Algarve - Portugal

Aljezur, Western Algarve – Portugal

Local Beaches:
Praia do Monte Clérigo – Western Algarve

Praia da Arrifana

Praia da Arrifana, Western Algarve - Portugal

Praia da Arrifana, Western Algarve – Portugal

Praia da Amoreira (closest beach to the town of Aljezur)

Useful Contacts
Câmara Municipal

Tourist information:
POSTO DE TURISMO DE ALJEZUR
Rua 25 de Abril, 62
8670-088 ALJEZUR
Tel. (+351) 282 998 229
E-mail: turismo.aljezur@turismodoalgarve.pt
Aljezur

Aljezur, Western Algarve - Portugal

Aljezur, Western Algarve – Portugal

Indoor Activities

COMPLEXO DESPORTIVO DE ALJEZUR
Pavilhão Desportivo (Sports Centre)
Tel. 282 990 021 – Fax 282 990 022
Piscinas Municipais (Swimming Pool)
Tel. 282 990 023
Fore more information regarding opening times and a full list of activities, check out the Camara Website here.

Local Surf Schools
(Information to follow)

Cultural Organizations

Tertúlia – Associação Sócio-Cultural de Aljezur
Morada: Rua de Lisboa
8670 ALJEZUR
Tel: (+351) 282 998 870 / (+351) 969 979 550
Correio Electrónico: tertulia.aljezur@gmail.com
tertulia-aljezur.blogspot.pt/

Associação de Defesa do Património Histórico e Arqueológico de Aljezur
Morada: Rua João Dias Mendes, 48
8670 – 086 ALJEZUR
Tel: 282 991 011

View to castle

View to castle

Aljezur Market
Opposite School
3rd Monday (morning)

Aljezur market sells a variety of goods including a great selection of vegetable plants, clothes, hardware and underwear etc. Unlike some touristy markets you are unlikey to find dodgey DVD’s, fake designer brands. If you want a real insider tip about life in Portugal, why not mingle with the locals, and for lunch sample the delicious BBQ’d chicken and chips washed down with copious amounts of red wine served in beer glasses. Yes, you read correctly – beer glasses!

David Cameron (British Prime Minister) and his good lady certainly missed out on this experience!

Is Pilates a Load of Pooh?

Please check out my latest column at Expat Focus.

There are many different exercise classes here in the Algarve including yoga, zumba, and aerobics, so whatever possessed me to join a pilate’s class? …I asked myself as I lay on the beach, covered in sand and frizzling in the midday sun.

My friend, who introduced me to the pilates class, was an excellent sales person. Although she convinced me pilates would “tighten my midriff and all my other dangly-bits”, I felt she just dragged me along to make up the numbers. If I went “AWOL” for even one class I usually received at least one email and/or telephone call demanding to know why I did not attend…

Article continues here.

Don’t be shy, please leave a comment over at Expat Focus!