Friends and good food
And redressing the beard balance
The combination of being told you look thinner without a beard – and briefly being able to fit into the wardrobe’s tight shirt section after the recent strimming marathon – inspired me into action.
This week has been about eating and drinking.
It began with Ola’s fruit tarts and apple pie, included fabulous fresh fish with our first sardines and perceves of the season, featured two chickens with beer cans up their backsides and a double-box oyster shucking event.
And in terms of exercise, the only thing getting a thorough workout this week was the barbecue.
We paid a visit to our favourite local seafood clifftop restaurant O Sacas.
The perceves (pron: per-sev-esh) or gooseneck barnacles were fantastic – they grow on the rocks like mussels and taste even more like the sea than the oysters.
The amêijoas clams in a duck stock are also very special and the perfect aperitif for a fresh grilled sargo (sea bream).
Inspired by that fish-off we continued the week’s theme with a pair of robalo (sea bass) and then a sack of fat little sardinhas barbecued with a sprinkling of rock salt.
I blame our guest Nik Millard for not only giving us an excuse for planning and preparing fabulous food…but also putting his marinade where his mouth is and treating us to the best meal of the week…beer can chicken (link to the recipe!).
They’re dead, headless, plucked and gutted, but there’s still something wrong – perhaps a little humiliating and certainly rather invasive – about sitting chickens up on beer cans for a good roasting.
And it was an excellent roasting.
Combined with a Fattoush salad, the most delicious spicy garlic roast potatoes and a fresh tomato salad with cumin, we feasted with friends.
Ana rustled up a vodka and lemon sorbet to accompany the apple pie she’d prepared earlier, and along with some great wine and a splash of medronho we feasted until well past the usual Alentejo bedtime.
The meal was in honour of Richard and Pauline who came up from the Algarve for the latest in a long series of DIY lessons…this time in spray painting.
With our spare room occupied, we had a deadline to get at least one side of the guesthouse painted and prepared for our first overnight visitors.
It was a close call, but we did it – even the awkward high bits in the bathroom – thanks to the giant wingspan of the lesser-spotted Australian Millard.
This migratory species is usually found in Asia and the Middle East, but we hope a changing climate could eventually bring the whole flock to the Iberian Peninsula.
It’s so satisfying to see nicotine orange disappear behind a nice thick coat of white, and Nik’s suggestion of removing the radiators to paint behind them could become a permanent feature.
I’ve been pondering the possibilities of using the radiator piping the other way round to heat the boiler in winter with a wood-fire stove to heat water…it could be a great solution.
And it was a great solution of car paint and hardener which was at the heart of the next big task…painting all the doors and windows glossy white and the shutters a light olive green.
With the intense sun and salt of the Algarve eating away at an average paint job, Richard has developed the technique for his mum’s guesthouse in Portimão and it hasn’t needed a respray in years.
Spray guns, a compressor and acrylic paint – what could possibly go wrong?
The lesson went well – we experimented with thin layers and how much sanding was needed – and then, left alone to paint, it all started to go awry as usual.
Apparently paint dries – who would have thought it?
Richard said I’d probably be OK to leave it in the pot overnight…and that would have been true if I’d started at 7am rather than after noon and hadn’t left the paint in the sun.
It had turned to a block of jelly and jammed up the spraying mechanism.
I carefully took it all apart and tried to use thinners and compressed air to encourage it to work.
In retrospect I could have predicted what happened next.
Ana had to Emergency-Google how to get paint thinner out of your eyes…as I obviously wasn’t able to read my phone.
I think it’s OK (eyes and spray gun), so next week’s task will be removing windows, sanding and taping them up and then carefully transforming them into beautiful glossy works of art. Maybe.
Having called our place Vale das Estrelas (Valley of the Stars) after the sky-show we enjoy after dark, we feel it’s only right we learn a bit more about them.
Niels and Sibylle provided a practical start to our education through their son Oliver who had repaired his amazing reflecting telescope and invited us over to check out some nebulae and the occasional galaxy.
The great thing about a full moon is you get a really good view of the moon…but the bad thing is everything else is just a little too bright as a result.
It’s not a good time of year to see planets, but Oliver’s computer-controlled telescope tracked some double stars that look single to the naked eye, and plunged us into a sea of tranquillity.
The tranquillity of wandering over to Niels’ vineyard overlooking the Mira River in daylight was obliterated by a borehole expert who rocked up at our place after 6.30pm and never seemed to want to leave.
Ana took the brunt of his Portuguese procrastination, but the bit I overheard about how our rough road and the distance to a good lunch restaurant could affect his quote hit my tilt switch.
He’s apparently one of the best borehole guys in the area and so we will await his quotation with…interest. We fear it might be an inflated foreigner rate, but hopefully not.
We shivered our way over to Niels’ after dark as Millicent (the Land Rover) has decided she now prefers her back window down…all the time.
Along with the rear window that has been stuck ajar for ages, it provides the perfect through-draft…and I really could do with getting the central locking fixed.
I mean it’s fine when Garf is in the car…nobody’s going to mess with a 60kg guard dog, especially as he’s a bit grumpy and depressed due to seriously restricted post-op galumphing…but we don’t always take him everywhere.
The stars were amazing…as were Oliver’s photos of galaxies and stars…and we were treated to the flowering of the Queen of the Night…a cactus flower that emerges for one night only every year…great timing.
And this week? I guess I’m going to have to pull out all the stops with a chicken curry and black dal…Nik has already invested in a leg of lamb, so it’s going to be a high bar.
PS. Thanks for your identifications of the beetles which continues to drive Simon to distraction.
He has now realised that they aren’t as much fun and don’t fly as well after you crunch them.
I’m told, courtesy of my former Manchester University Geography Professor David Shimwell and his friend Peter Sutton:
“They are from the Family Scarabaeidae (Scarab beetles)…subfamily Cetoniinae (flower and fruit chafers). Your species appears to be Potosia opaca, a fascinating species that apparently steals honey from beehives.
“It has been found around the Mediterranean region but there do not appear to be many records from Portugal.”