Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It's just not romantic

I've never been grape picking before, not had the wanderlust need to fly to Oz and pick grapes with a lot of gap-year students and a couple of old hippies.  But when the grape harvesting season started recently in Portugal I started to feel the need to snip some grapes and become part of the wine making process.

So instead of the lush vineyards of Bordeaux or the stunning landscape of the Douro wine region in Portugal nor the far off general loveliness of Stellenbosch we plumped for Avelar.  Not somewhere (although it pains me to say it) where you would really go for a romantic image of grape picking, complete with wine lodge and Keanu Reeves (if you've never seen A Walk in the Clouds you won't get that).   No, Avelar has a good bakery, a hospital, a car show room and is the home of João, whose father in laws grapes we were about to pick.

Now, I do have to say that my knowledge of grape picking does come from the afore mentioned film - A Walk in the Clouds - a romantic image of a family picking grapes, living for the vine, large lunches under the sun, using your feet to crush the grapes and Sideways another wine film, but this includes men reaching a mid-life crisis, alcoholism and having a mental breakdown, so not something to aspire to.  Alas, grape picking in Avelar is a little more perfunctionary!

a)  As normal with things Portuguese, I seem to be the only girl

b)  I'm grape picking with car-mechanics not Keanu

c) It's September and it's still bloomin' hot

d) No one, and I mean no one told it, it's really hard work and there are spiders!
e) Wine no longer crushed by the feet, but through a machine

f) Wine in a vat, starting to ferment looks a bit gross (not quite enough to put me off for life)

However, having said all that we did have a lovely time, got a good lunch and went home with lots of grapes and two massive jugs of last years 'vintage' so it can't all be bad eh!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's all about the food

It was about 9am when our neighbour Alfonso handed Peter a dead, but still warm rabbit.  It might not be how every day starts, but it works for me.    

This is the dish Peter created for our dinner by frying off the rabbit and some chorizo then adding everything (except the rice) to a casserole dish and putting in the over for a few hours, adding the rice in the last hour.

1 Rabbit (from the neighbours)
2 peppers (from the garden)
Tomatoes (from the garden)
Piri Piri (from the garden)

He’s also been using up some of our slight excess (is 20 kilos excess?) of tomatoes, by making gazpacho;

It’s so simple and really refreshing and surprisingly hearty.   Just wiz the ingredients together in a processor, then chill, chill the bowls you serve it in too. 
Just use
Tomatoes (from the garden)
Cucumber (from the garden)
Olive oil 

And as if that was not enough, he seems to have created the Aubergine fritter....

Grate the aubergine (note it does not grate in a food processor), add some corn flower and spices, add and egg then shape into balls and put in the fridge.  Then all you need to do is fry them!  They went down well at our neighbourhood BBQ.