Sunday, 29 May 2011

Vegetarian Cooking


Probably doesn’t sound too exciting a blog, but for me, over the years vegetarian cooking has been an eye opener, if not a mind banger and then the exciting.

I must admit I eat meat and love raw meat and fish so the vegetarian has been first slightly a reluctant attitude to an, oh well, okay, to a well that’s not bad, to later, m’mm good.

Now the imagination comes into play and the creation of the dishes. First the fruits of the garden, to the produce of the market, what’s in season, what combinations can we make.

Carrot and ginger appertizer

We start our menu with an appetizer this is often made from vegetables, hopefully to suit all palates, carrot and ginger, roasted red peppers with basil and black olive and chestnut pate.

Even our homemade breads sometimes have vegetables, spicy peppers from the garden, to courgette, carrot or onion and herbs.

Beetroot bread

If you take a step into the vegetable garden there is an excitement of seeing these lovely plants growing and then to reap their yield and serve them on your plate, what could be better than to have a lettuce picked fresh and minutes later on the salad buffet, no food miles, no hideous plastic packing just a few steps to the kitchen, washed and served. This is the exciting part of Nigel coming with the vegetable box and thinking how many ways can I prepare a cabbage or mange tout or what ever may be in season.

Fresh lettuce growing in the garden

Our salad buffets certainly run our imagination each evening thinking of combinations and compositions, food is not only to do with favour but appearance also plays a great part. Nothing could be simpler than leeks served with an onion and beetroot sauce, simple but the flavour and colours are intriguing. We work continually to improve.

Vegetable box from the garden

Lentil patties with courgette

Our vegetarian main courses hang heavily on pulses, pastry and grains; we have tried to not over use diary produce, which I think can saturate vegetarian cooking. For me good flavours have to be achieved using herbs or spices; lentil patties with courgette and cumin and aubergine stuffed with chickpea and hazelnut flavoured with a touch of coriander are favourites. Roulades are great favourites too, made with what’s available; onions, leeks, carrots, beetroot or spinach served with an herb sauce; these of course are also made with a little help from my friends, the adorable chickens.

Leek and cheese roulade

Fruits from the garden are the be all and end all of every menu, Raspberries juicy in the hazelnut roulade, to apples in the apple streusel, walnuts from our grand old tree in cakes, bread or biscuits. What better way to finish a meal.

Fresh fruit deserts; strawberry slice.

So maybe vegetarian cooking isn’t too bad after all....................

And for those of you who like me, like to indulge in more fibrous dishes now and again we do always have the option of an organic meat dish.

The setting for the food we serve.

Blog entry by Joe.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Orchids on the farm 2011

The woodcock ophry, this orchid was growing only five meters from the hotel.

Orchids can provoke a sense of the exotic in some people and for many botanists they are the prize specimen. Seeing a new orchid species for the first time is always something special and with a staggering 49 species of orchids recorded in the Picos de Europe, there’s plenty to see.

The man orchid, the rarest orchid we have growing on the farm.

The dull orchid

The butterfly orchid.

On our farm we are very lucky having recorded eleven species of orchid, the latest find being a butterfly orchid growing inconspicuously on a stone wall. Our traditional system of pasture maintenance helps ensure that the orchids (as well as many other types of flora) flourish. We cut the meadows for hay in late June and then graze them with the sheep in November. From December to late June the meadows are left undisturbed so there is no damage to the newly growing orchids shoots. On our meadows the combination of small rocky outcrops, shallow soil and south facing slopes also helps to contribute to the diversity of orchids.

The wild flower meadow next to the hotel full of serapias

There are 3 types of serapia orchids found on the farm. The tongue serapia is the most common, the heart serapia is less common, and the small flowered serapia the hardest to spot and flowers a little later.

The heart serapia

The small flowered serapia

The tongue serapia

One of our biggest problem in maintaining a good orchid population on the farm is the presence of wild boar which frequently roam the farm. They love eating the roots of the orchids and spend a lot of time hunting around the farm looking for orchids only to dig them up and munch their roots, much to our dismay!

Ground dug by a wild boar so as to eat an orchid root.

The heath spotted orchid found in the wetter parts of the farm.

The provence orchid

The earliest orchid to come in flower on the farm is the early purple which normally starts flowering late March followed by the dull orchid. The last to flower is the autumn ladies tresses which fills our Casta├▒arina meadow in late August and September.

The early purple the first orchid to flower

The autumn ladies tresses orchid which flowers late August to September

Happy orchid hunting!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The Beyos Villages

Since we moved to Asturias 15 years ago the Beyos gorge and particularly the Beyos Villages or “Pueblos Beyuscos” have always fascinated us and been one of our favourite places to visit.

Looking across the impressive Beyos gorge to the Picos de Europa from near Casielles.

The Beyos gorge was formed by the river Sella eroding through the impressive masses of the Precorninon limestone. It is about 12kms long and runs mostly through the Ponga region starting in the valley of Sajambre in Leon and finishing near Amieva in Asturias. Driving down the gorge is stunning; on either side white limestone rocks tower above you imparting a sense of power and dominance that is quite intimidating at times. Abeyu” is a local name for ravines, gorges and canyons and they could not have found a better word to name this imposing gorge.

The road leading up to Casielles

The cementry at Casielles

The Beyos villages or Pueblos Beyuscos are the remote villages impressively situated along the gorge. Three of the villages are still inhabited; Casielles which is approached via a “new” road with twenty three tight hair pin bends has just one farmer living there. Viboli with a couple of inhabitants is set slightly back from the Beyos gorge and is reached by a painfully narrow road which edges along a small gorge the “Foz de los Andamios.” The village of San Ignacio which is anchored to the rock at the edge of a precipice also has a couple of inhabitants. The other villages; La Caviella, Biam├│n, Canisqueso and Rubriellos are now all uninhabited and Tolivia probably the most remote of all the Beyos villages has sadly been totally taken over by brambles, chapel and all.

The church at Casielles

Typical ruined house at Biamon

The main characteristic of the Beyos villages is their geographical location and adaptation to the surroundings; steep terrain, steep roads, very closed enclaves and on occasion literally hanging from the rock into the valley. Simple stone built houses and granary stores with their two sided roofs unique to the Beyos are examples of the functional traditional mountain architect to be found in these villages. In times gone by, necessity drove the inhabitants of this land to create settlements in such a remote and demanding location. Even today, despite the improvement in communications, it remains hard to reach some of these villages and this has contributed to their decline and depopulation.

The village of Biamon lost on the edge of the Beyos gorge

"Horreo Beyusoc" Unique to the area; granary stores with two sided roof.

Despite the hard life there was still time for art; gate in Biamon

But the charm of these villages and hamlets lies precisely in their remoteness and timeless state. This is an area like no other, oblivious to changes in the modern world, natural beauty and landscape impact. Whilst walking through these abandoned villages one cant help but imagine just how hard living and working in such a precipitous landscape must have been. Growing food, farming, moving animals, collecting firewood and most aspects of daily life must have posed incredible challenges.

The chapel and granary stores in Viboli

Approaching Viboli on the "path" from Casielles

The paths and tracks which connect these villages and the surrounding pastures never cease to amaze and at times their trajectories defeats imagination. Some of the tracks are wide enough for a horse and cart to pass along, often built up at the edges with rocks and stones to facilitate their passage. Others are frighteningly narrow making the most of rock ledges, caves or whatever natural features there may be in the terrain which coupled with bravery and ingenuity would allow villagers to pass from one place to another with out having to remount some of the daunting mountains that surround them.

The major track from Casielles to Viego

The "Sedu Vibolinse" connecting Casielles with Viboli!

It is a unique experience visiting these villages and hamlets, the views are spectacular and the ancient roads and tracks offer tours of great natural and ethnographic interest. However as some of the photos show extreme care is needed if you decide to go walking away from the major tracks!

Goats in Biamon

We named our asturcon ponies after two of the Beyos villages; Tolivia and Viboli, wild and beautiful, and that’s what these villages are.

Welcome

Hotel Posada del Valle is a small hotel in Asturias Northern Spain surrounded by its own organic farm and where we are passionate about organic farming, food, and sustainable livelihoods. In this Blog those of us who live and work at Hotel Posada del Valle open a door to share with all of you who are interested in what we are doing.