Category Archives: Basque Country


Blue sky; blue sea
Blue sky; blue sea

Well the sun did shine some of the time, though it also rained some days – though it doesn’t matter if you’re staying with your lovely family, all busy getting on with work and school and Uni.

Made our usual pilgrimages to the Basque supermarket Eroski and across the border to Quiksilver and Carrefour. As usual had an excellent lunch at the Quiksilver café but for once didn’t buy any jackets there or bread flour in Carrefour.


Fresh from San Sebastian
Fresh from San Sebastian


Louise and her family come over from San Sebastian Easter, August and Christmas – during the school and college holidays. They always come bearing goodies – this time they brought this delicious box of strawberries and jars of my favourite pickled peppers.

Basque Pickled Peppers
Pickled Peppers from the Basque country

We’ve tried buying picked peppers in London but have only been able to find the fatter tough peppers that are best used for cooking. I like to have a pickled pepper in my home-made cream cheese sandwiches.


I might try  this tongue twister on my Basque grandchildren.

‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
A peck of pickled peppers Peter picked.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter picked?’

I wonder who remembers how much a ‘peck’ is – 9.0923 litres or ¼ bushel. A bushel is a measure of volume (1.2445 cubic feet or 8 gallons) used originally for quantities of grain, fruit or other produce, so the actual weight would vary depending on the contents.
As a children in pre-WW2 London we had to learn all these old measures like rods,  poles, perches and  chains as measurements of length.  Acres (4840 square yards) are still used as measures of area, particularly in farmland.


Pains au Chocolat baked from frozev
Pains au Chocolat baked from frozen

I like to provide home-made cake or muffins for the meetings of our Writers Circle but the last time we went to Sainsbury’s they had sold out of plain ready-to-bake croissants so I thought I would try their ready to bake Pains au Chocolat. I don’t really care for sweet things so I only had half of one but the rest were gone in a flash as soon as we pulled our left-over Christmas Crackers  .
We always have crackers on New Year’s Eve – Louise and her family spend Christmas with her in-laws in the Basque Country but from December 27th to January 5th with us. Twelfth Night (January 6th) is a big day in Spain so I’m always sad when January 5th comes round and they leave in time to celebrate The Three Kings (Los Tres Reyes) at home.


Supermarkets to make your mouth water

Vegetables in our local Tesco
Vegetables in our local Tesco

There’s no doubt that our local Tesco is going upmarket. Its produce is better and I have now started to buy meat there but unlike the big Spanish supermarkets I need a shopping list, rather wandering around and getting inspired

Pick your own
Pick your own

I think the big difference, for example in this Basque supermarket Eroski,  is that except for potatoes and oranges all the produce is laid out for you to choose.  Doesn’t matter if it’s been handled by someone else – you’re going to wash it anyhow. Everything is so much more tempting. When we go to visit Louise I often wish I was the cook – but I don’t cook in her flat and she doesn’t cook when she comes to us.

Best of all are the big covered markets like the one in Valencia, where we had a long weekend with our daughter Jane and stayed in a hotel. There was every kind of delicious looking food on sale  and I regretted that we hadn’t taken an apartment instead where I could cook our dinner.  You wouldn’t have to plan the next meal and take a shopping list – just wander around and be tempted.

Another off to Uni

Yes - well he doesn't quite look like that now!
Yes – well he doesn’t quite look like that now!

Yet another grandchild off to Uni. He’s got more teeth now and he’s no longer into dusting.

Unlike my Basque grand-daughter he’s going to take a gap year – work for a while to earn some money and probably trek around India. His mother did the same when she was his age. The Basques tend to go straight on to Uni from school – as we did in the old days.

San Sebastian and my Fruit Cake

Looking out to sea
Looking out to sea

Off to see Louise in San Sebastian in a couple of weeks. Her parents-in-law have invited us to Sunday lunch so I am baking them a rich fruit cake, well-laced with Drambuie. I use a Tefal kugel-type silicone cake mould – I always found my cakes stuck to my Kugelhopf metal tin, even though it was non-stick and well-greased. I  bought the non-stick metal tin originally to make a yeast Kugelhopf cake. I love the slightly sour taste the yeast gives to it but a traditional English-type fruit cake is safer – especially if it is alcoholic enough.