Birds, Santiago and the Tarta

Since relocating my study to the back of the house with a tiny window that only allows sky, I have been in prisoner mode. My horizons have narrowed to such an extent that I have planned an outbreak. Or do I mean a break out?  Yes, that’s better.  The mental picture of all over spots and nurses in masks, or hospital beds shrouded in dust sheets, recedes.
A break out to pastures new.  Well pastures well trodden but not yet by me.  I must walk.
Another thing  is the new chair, skilfully put together by the tool collector, positively encourages mistakes in typing. It is the wrong height, the wrong angle the wrong colour and size.  Just so wrong.  it is  not just typos; it is whole other language.  Sometimes it is gobbledegook sometimes it sends me after wild geese over uncharted lands to follow the birds, black against a white sky, fleeting across  the narrow window and wonder whence they came – (and whither goest?)  Currently reading Pilgrims Progress, so my vocabulary is a tad archaic today.
One evening the rooks – or starlings maybe – that hold their evening meetings in the copse on the way to the beach and can be seen lining up on the roof of the medieval church  of Llandwywe, all sat in the trees framed by the narrow window.  It felt auspicious, even if it wasn’t.  I can’t think what would have been  about to happen.
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There has been serious tree felling at the bottom of our neighbour’s garden that abuts ours.  Perhaps it was a protest.
Before they clattered off into the sky and swirled their meaningful patterns they were silent, as if they were in church or an auditorium and waiting for the show to begin.  They were then the show.
The walk is of course in Spain. I have a two week appointment in Santiago in July as a volunteer warden.  Hospitalero is the Spanish term which implies more  the old fashioned almoner. I’m not entirely sure of the role.  A listening ear? I’ll take my trumpet. A fact finder, a booker of trains and taxis?  What if it means cleaning the lavs?  I will be slovenly and only do it once a day.  There may be induction, I guess.anns camino photos 060
And before or maybe even after I will walk the coast path; another old track of Roman origin.  It is said to be arduous; up hill and down, cliff paths with drops which I hate with a mortal fear.  Good for one to face fears.
Then there is the wonderful tarta Santiago.  Claudia Roden’s recipe follows as published in Observer Food Monthly.  I have made it with coconut instead of almonds and it is still good.
‘This is a splendid cake which is normally made in a wide cake or tart tin and comes out low, but it is equally good as a thicker cake.Pilgrims and tourists who visit the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, where the relics of the apostle Saint James are believed to be buried, see the cake in all the windows of every pastry shop and restaurant, decorated with the shape of the cross of the Order of Santiago. I have watched the cake being made in many sizes, big and small, over a pastry tart base at a bakery called Capri in Pontevedra. This deliciously moist and fragrant homely version is without a base.When I suggested to a man associated with the Galicia tourist office that the tarta was a Jewish Passover cake, he dragged me to a television studio to explain all. The presenters liked the idea. The Galician city of A Coruña is on the Jewish tourist route. There is a synagogue and an old Jewish quarter there. Jews from Andalusia, fleeing the Berber Almohads’ attempts to convert them, came to Galicia in the 12th and 13th centuries.’Serves 10
blanched almonds 250g
eggs 6, separated
caster sugar 250g
orange grated zest of 1
lemon grated zest of 1
almond extract 4 drops
butter to grease the cake tin
flour to dust the cake tin
icing sugar for dusting the cakeAlmond cake

Grind the almonds finely in a food processor. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar to a pale cream with an electric mixer, then beat in the orange and lemon zest and almond extract. Add the ground almonds and mix very well.

With a cleaned mixer, whisk egg whites until stiff and fold into egg and almond mixture – the mixture is so thick you need to turn it over quite a bit into the egg whites. Grease a spring-form cake tin around 28cm in diameter (preferably non-stick) with butter and dust with flour, then pour in the mixture.

Put the cake into an oven preheated to 180C/gas mark 4 for 40 minutes or until it feels firm. Let it cool before turning out. Dust the top with icing sugar. If you like, cut the shape of a Santiago cross out of paper and place it in the middle of the cake before dusting with icing sugar. Then remove the paper shape.

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