This photo would have included either Pip – the latest kitten to join our feline family – or Minstral, our elderly Birman. But they both declined to pose in front of the Christmas tree for the camera. Well, they do say never work with children and animals . . .
A Merry Christmas to you and thank you for reading Living in rural Mallorca during 2014. Feliz Navidad, or Bon Nadal, as they say in these parts.
One Christmas, early in our time on Mallorca, a courier’s van arrived outside our gates. We assumed the driver was lost and trying to find a property somewhere in the valley. Much to our surprise, the parcel he had to deliver was for us. We weren’t expecting anything – and certainly not something from the company whose name was emblazoned on the side of the box: Fortnum & Mason.
Having established that the large box was indeed addressed to us, we waved goodbye to the driver and rushed indoors to find out who had sent us such a superb parcel.
It turned out to be from our lovely friends Duncan and Kristina, who live in Oxford. They have been coming to stay with us for a holiday or two every year since we’ve lived here and seem to love Mallorca and the finca nearly as much as we do. Their generous gifts from Fortnum & Mason have continued each Christmas and their carefully chosen selection always adds some gourmet luxury to our Mallorcan festivities.
The DHL driver no longer drives out to the valley to deliver to us. Instead, he rings us at the finca and arranges a time and venue for a meet with The Boss. In a car park in Manacor, the latter exchanges his signature for whatever parcel is being delivered. When the driver rang today, saying that he had a parcel for us, I fixed up the rendezvous and was just about to tell him what type of car to look out for, when he stopped me and said he knew. One thing we’ve discovered about the Mallorcans – certainly in our area – is that they have incredible memories for details like this.
Our unexpected parcel turned out to be another generous gift from our friends. Aren’t we lucky to have such great friends – and such delicious treats to add a touch of luxury to our Christmas in rural Mallorca?
The first snow of the season fell on Mallorca this week, in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tramuntana mountain range. The magnificent mountains are a long way from our home, but it still felt pretty cold here in our valley. Like other parts of Europe, we’ve been battered by fierce winds for a couple of days.
Indoors, at least, we’re keeping warm – thanks to our much-loved Jotul wood-burning stove. We often say that this chunk of metal, in our north-facing sitting room, is the thing we love best about winter.
Here are the reasons we’re so glad we invested in this essential piece of kit for winter on Mallorca:
Our winter warmer
It keeps us – and the house – warm around the clock. We feed it a big chunky log just before we go to bed and it burns gently through the night.
It makes great jacket potatoes. Once prepared, with a good bathing of olive oil and dusting of flor de sal, the potatoes are wrapped in a double layer of aluminium foil and placed on the fire bricks lining the sides of the wood-burner. One hour later, we have fluffy jacket potatoes with crispy golden skin. Bring on the butter!
Plate-warming is easy: we’ve placed a small metal trivet on top of the stove and I put the plates on top of this to warm them while I’m cooking dinner. If you try this, do make sure the trivet and plates are well-balanced. On one occasion, I placed the plates slightly off-centre on the trivet and they crashed to the ground, smashing into dozens of pieces on the stone hearth. Plate-warming fail.
Cooking soup on top of the wood-burner is a breeze, and savesbutano. I simply prepare everything on the kitchen hob and then when the soup has started to bubble gently, the pan goes on top of the stove, to sit there cooking gently for the morning until lunchtime
It successfully proves bread dough. I never make my own bread in summer because it’s much too hot to have the kitchen oven throwing out even more heat. But, in winter, I bring out my inner baker and get kneading. Unlike our old home in England, we don’t have an airing cupboard in which to prove the dough. Instead, we use the log-burner: placing the bowl containing the dough on a table in the same room as the fire makes easy work of the proving process.
It keeps Minstral, our elderly Birman cat, happy. It’s only in the past couple of years that Minstral has decided he likes the warmth of the log-burner. Once upon a time he would give it a wide berth as he walked past but, at the age of 17, he’s finally realized that there’s nowhere more inviting than the rug in front of the hearth.
Home is where the hearth is . . .
It makes everywhere dusty. OK, so this isn’t exactly A Good Thing – unless you love dusting (which I don’t). But with so many benefits, The Boss and I can forgive the Jotul for endowing the sitting room with a layer of dust more befitting Miss Havisham’s home.
It’s that time of year when I reach into the back of my cupboard to find the jars of Christmas mincemeat that I made the previous year – to put in this year’s Christmas cake. (I always use Delia Smith’s Last-minute Mincemeat Christmas Cake recipe because it takes only one-and-a-half hours to cook – so doesn’t use too much butano gas).
Treasure From the Deep
I have deep kitchen cupboards and only short arms, so it’s not unknown for me to encounter things back there that I’d forgotten about. Like the olives from our young tree, which I picked and preserved a while ago. Quite a while ago, as it happens. When I pulled out the jar (just the one; we had only 22 olives that harvest) I read on the label that I’d preserved them in December 2010. We did try them during spring 2011, but they were unbelievably bitter and The Boss had even suggested that we throw them away. Well, there’d been too much effort involved (yes, even for just 22 olives) so I buried the jar at the back of the cupboard and decided to leave them a little longer.
Four years later, the olives had human contact once again when I retrieved them from the buried treasure in the dim and distant back of the cupboard. We had some with our lunch one day. The Boss’s verdict? “They’re almost pleasant.”
Another year in the cupboard and they may just make the grade . . .