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Posts Tagged ‘cakes’

We’re not sweet eaters as such. That’s not to say we don’t like sugar ‘n’ spice and all things nice, it’s just that these days we might as well miss out the middle man and simply staple any slices of cake straight on to the waistline.

We do actually buy a bar of chocolate every second week and with an iron-willed discipline limit ourselves to two squares which are eaten with relish post lunch.

However, a few years ago friends, who throw caution to the wind in the sweetie eating stakes, introduced us to the pleasures of turrón and now this Christmas treat from Jijona is a regular addition to our cupboards over the festive season.

It’s probably this simple cake that sparks the first feelings of Christmas on Tenerife as a dizzying array of boxes and varieties take the place of the rather more healthy fruit selection in the local supermarket. And the selection is dizzying. I’ve watched Canarios, fingernails being chewed furiously, trying to decide for upwards of 30 minutes which flavour to opt for.

We’ve tried caramel flavour, coconut flavour, cherry flavour and cream. But we always return to the classic yema tostada made from almonds, honey and egg yolk.

Round about 3.30pm, when creativity and enthusiasm is flagging badly, a cup of coffee accompanied by a finger slice of yema tostada provides just enough of a boost to get us through another three to four hours work.

In that respect it’s not a treat at all, it’s an essential Christmas work tool…honest.

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As we ate breakfast on the terrace yesterday morning, the sun was being very coy.
Typical. Pretty much all summer the default setting for our weather has been clear blue skies and sun, sun, sun. But Friday was the start of the annual craft fair of Pinolere in the hills above La Orotava and if belly of the donkey was going to make a re-appearance anywhere, it would be there.

800 meters above sea level and hemmed in by barrancos to the east and west, Pinolere is a community of some 700 inhabitants living in the shadow of Tenerife’s mountainous spine, and more often than not, beneath a sea of clouds. It may mean that Pinolere is never going to topple Playa de Las Americas as Tenerife’s number one tourist destination, but the clouds bring high humidity ensuring that everything here grows in abundance.

Birdsong whistles (€3) make great gifts for kids

But yesterday, as we snaked our way high above the coast of Puerto de la Cruz, the sun finally broke free and the clouds ran for their lives leaving another glorious day in the La Orotava Valley.
Even though it was barely 11.30am when we arrived, the car parking was choc a bloc and we ended up parking on a small dirt track which led off to fincas set amongst the vines of the valley. Bemoaning the fact that we hadn’t thought to bring ropes and crampons, we toiled up a near-vertical street, back to the site of the craft fair wishing that the clouds had chosen to descend as sweat trickled down our backs.

The last time we visited the fair, the trademark bruma (cloud) had entirely obscured its location but yesterday, under clear skies, the true beauty of our surroundings was nothing less than awesome. The emerald, forest-clad slopes of the upper La Orotava Valley rose to dizzying heights in a shimmering heat haze beyond the thatched roofs and vines of the hamlet.

A Crafty Piece of Work
For the majority of Pinolere’s inhabitants, the land provides their livelihood and allows them to be almost entirely self-sufficient. For generations, the community have been basket weavers, iron workers, charcoal producers, carpenters, farmers and muleteers. It’s only recently that they’ve ceased to construct their homes in the traditional manner of many of the country dwellings of Tenerife; walls of dry stone roofed with chestnut wood entwined with branches and then thatched with straw.

25 years ago Pinolere made plans to introduce a new aspect to their local fiestas and came up with the idea of showcasing the wide range of crafts and skills that they held. Calling it ‘The Day of the Traditional Canaries’, they brought together all the craftspeople from the local area and invited them to exhibit the best of their products. Over the course of the years that event has grown from a local fair to the Canary Islands’ largest showcase for crafts made from traditional produce.

Handmade ceramic dolls, €24

The Pinolere Craft Fair is set in 10,000 square metres of terraces and pathways that meander as randomly as the surrounding barrancos and contain hundreds of stalls filled with jewellery; woven baskets; clothes; hand carved furniture; ceramics; pottery; toys; herbs and spices; cheeses; jams and mojos; cakes; glassware; cane furniture; iron and copper ornaments…the list is endless.

As we made our way up level after level filled with stalls, the stone-built thatched houses provided small exhibitions on the history of wheat production in the area and a short-lived refuge from the hot sun.
Arriving finally at the top level we reached the welcome sight of a large guachinche where the aroma of sizzling pork pinchos (kebabs) and the sight of condensation running down the side of cold beer bottles was too much to resist. Finding a small section of vacant wall we sat down to enjoy our pinchos and beer and peruse our collection of purchases while gawping at the incredible scenery.

Our haul of goodies

It’s probably a good job that Pinolere doesn’t enjoy this kind of weather continuously or the fields of wheat, vines, vegetables and cereals would soon get replaced by villas and apartments and we’d have lost something really, really special.

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We were hiking in the Chinyero Reserve on Tuesday and when we finished

Almond blossom in the Santiago del Teide valley in late January

Almond blossom in the Santiago del Teide valley in late January

we headed to the Las Fleytas bar and restaurant for our customary post-hike beer. The restaurant has a deservedly good reputation for tasty, plentiful food and is also known for its almond cakes.
With Richard and Nikki (and of course Basil, the Tenerife Dogs spokesman) as hiking companions, I thought introducing them to ‘almendras’ would be the perfect excuse for me to finally get to try one.

We ordered our beers and I hesitantly asked if the barman had ‘almendras’ as I wasn’t sure if that was what they were called.
He shook his head and said he didn’t have any.
Disappointed but now having the ‘taste’ for something sweet in our heads, Jack was despatched inside to see what they had that would serve as an adequate substitute. He re-emerged moments later with a broad grin on his face and a plate containing four large, circular almond cakes.

He later told me that the barman had said that they never have almendras for sale and when Jack had pointed to the cakes in the glass food cabinet under the bar and asked, “So what are these?” the guy had said, “They’re almendras”, before adding, “Oh! You meant you wanted these?”
Jack’s raised eyebrow must have been a recognisable clue because he then realised what he’d said and tagged on “almendras dulces” to the order.

I have to say, looking at the large, flat, biscuits I was very disappointed. I had expected soft, moist sponge with an almond essence and I dunno, maybe even the slightest hint of vanilla icing on top, or desiccated coconut maybe.
As it was, Basil got an unexpected few lumps of biscuit.

For biscuit lovers, it was probably perfectly nice. But for a cake lover, it was definitely a disappointment and a complete misnomer if you ask me.

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One of the really cool things about the north of Tenerife is that it’s so easy to access loads of the island’s fiestas and ferías. Today I went to Pinolere in the hills above La Orotava to the annual craft fair which is dedicated to ‘that which the sea brings to our shores’. It’s a celebration of Canarian traditional craftsmanship from across the seven islands and has the most fantastic displays of produce, both modern and traditional, involving palm weaving, wicker basketry, leather work, ceramics, pottery, jewellery making and wood carving (and that’s just the ones I can remember). In the stunning beauty of the valley of Pinolere, over 100 stalls surround small thatched houses within which are exhibitions of the evolution of these crafts from the earliest photographs of the islands, to modern interpretations of the art from around the world, like fabulous handbags made from painted palm leaves and a tray made from beer cans ( I know it sounds tacky but it was actually really cool). Dotted about amongst the stalls and the huts, are groups of Islanders in traditional costumes producing hats, baskets and intricate ornamental displays with the sort of dexterity childrens’s TV presenters could only dream of.
In the midst of the proceedings, a large bar is dispensing delicious ‘pinchos’ (spiced pork kebabs) at €2 a go served with little slices of anis flavoured bread and washed down with vino del pais or beer at €1.50 a glass.
I gained a few pounds just looking at the homemade cakes, soft goats’ cheeses, biscuits, sauces and honey stalls that lined the first courtyard and, as if that wasn’t enough to hold my attention, there was live music involving musical instruments from across the archipelago and a man doing things with a spinning top that would have Ronaldhino considering retirement from the professional game. And all for the entrance fee of €2.50…brilliant!There was one particular shoe, boot and handbag stalll belonging to Pisaverde that had THE most wonderful boots I’ve seen in a long time and I might just have to nip back tomorrow and throw my entire wardrobe into chaos with one of their creations!

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