Thursday, June 09, 2011

Get on the bus, Gus - in Gib

Today I got on the bus. Haven't been on the bus for ages because normally I walk around everywhere in Gib.

But guess what? at the last Bank Holiday weekend (end of May) it was all change on the buses in Gib.

New routes, new numbers - and - free. Yes, that's right. Free. With the exception of the bus that travels between the frontier and town, the buses in town are now free.

And for months now, we have been watching the installation of rather nice new bus stops. Just as well, one of our local ones had so many holes in the side there wasn't much point standing 'inside' in the wind or the rain.

Out with the old ...

... And in with the new

Well, it was always a busy bus route from Morrisons back home and today it hadn't changed. Totally full. Took even longer sitting around in Market Place for no obvious reason. Still, free is good.

Quick summary of new bus routes and a link below to the official poster:

New bus routes

Route 1
Starts at Market Place, goes along Queensway via Reclamation Road, past Trafalgar and up the back to the Moorish Castle. Back down a similar route via Waterport.

Route 2
Market Place via Line Wall to Europa Point and back via South Barracks Road and Rosia Road.

Route 3
Market Place via Line Wall to South Barracks Road. This is basically half of the old number four route, it just no longer goes to the eastern side.

Route 4
Does go up the east side. Europort, then Devils Tower Road, to Sir Herbert Miles, ie just before the re-opened tunnel.

Route 5
Goes from the frontier, via Market Place, to Reclamation Road, and back again. This service is to PAY.

What happens if you go to Morrisons? Virtually every bus service stops there - only one that doesn't is number 2.

The price used to be cheap, 60p single, so being free doesn't make that much difference if you don't use it much. The new single price on the number 5 frontier Market Place service has shot up to £1.

So why do we have free bus services? Well because it encourages people to use public transport and not their cars in a small congested area? How about because we have a general election this year? Free bus services were mentioned in the manifesto four years ago by the GDP. It's taken until now to implement them. That's probably because the GDP thinks people wouldn't remember freebies if they were implemented earlier. They are probably right.

The general election is probably also why we have all these lovely new health parks and kiddy playgrounds and .. and .. and .. the sudden flurry of activity at Europa Point with the new beautification project ie tourist attractions. There maybe more that I haven't notice.

Or am I just being cynical?

Still, the free bus service was nice today when I had a bad knee and heavy shopping. Otherwise I would have walked. Bad knee, heavy shopping and all. Hardly contributing to less car use in Gib am I? I never use a car in Gib anyway.

And, if the idea is to reduce vehicle use in Gib, and ease parking - why charge on the frontier route? Because won't that encourage people to continue driving into Gib? And continuing to clog up the car parks? Until the free parking changes? And it ain't free any more and charges are introduced?

Monday, June 06, 2011

Cooking with legumes/pulses. Two dals

Dried peas and beans are not part of the UK staple diet.

About the only thing that comes remotely near that is mushy peas. Invariably Batchelors with those two strange round tablets to chuck in the soaking water overnight.

We had mushy peas with fish and chips, and we had pea and ham soup. I didn't like the nasty salty ham and I guess by the time you had added the tablets to the peas it was even saltier.

A bit later my mother discovered lentils and made lots of lentil soup. That was ok. But otherwise - pulses? They are for poor people aren't they?

So when I first decided to cut out meat from my diet, I needed to get that most important protein. After all, westerners can't live without huge amounts of protein can they? I bought a Rose Elliott cookbook which was the basis of my pulse cooking for ages.

We also bought a pressure cooker. These are obligatory in every home in Spain. Every household has one to my knowledge, because, guess what? Garbanzos (chick peas), lentejas (lentils), and alubia (any sort of other bean!) are standard fare for the main meal of the day.

Not only that, but Spaniards will cheerfully describe their meal of lentils or garbanzos or beans as 'muy rico' - delicious. And then go into raptures about it and how and what everyone exactly puts in to make it so delicious.

The only time I have ever heard anyone waxing lyrically in the UK about pea and ham soup has been when there has been far more ham than peas in the soup.

But where I live in Spain, while it's not very poor area, it's not a rich one either. Many people make their living from the land, and we all try and eat cheaply. Pulses are filling, nutritional and - tasty.

There is not the same obsession with meat that I saw in the UK. Yesterday I stood in the supermarket in Gib and looked at the stuff bought by the guy behind me. Nearly £11 on two rather puny pieces of prime sirloin steak. My god!! I ring my hands when I pay £4 something for a pack of seitan and consider it a luxury. And next, he put down two even tinier pieces of salmon fillet for £5. They didn't even look worth buying they were so miniscule.

How many bags of different pulses could I buy from my local shop for that sort of money? And how many meals could I make? Lots is the answer.

I've mentioned the Spanish use of chick peas, lentils and beans, and because they use them so often, they are never stale or hard. I am equally lucky here in Gib with a couple of Indian shops which have every pulse and spice under the sun, more or less.

I decided it was time to embark on some of the promising recipes in my fave Indian cookbook - Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Vegetarian Cookery. I bought a whole new load of different goodies to prepare:

Punjabi Five Jewel Creamed Lentils - Panch Ratan Dal

There are five different types of lentil in the recipe and the five spices/seasonings are onion, garlic, coriander, ginger and chillies. Ms Sahni doesn't include fresh chillies in the recipe as it also includes cayenne but at least tells us we can add some if we like a hot taste. We do and I did.


Yellow split peas - or yellow lentils and Indian yellow split peas
Split white gram beans - urad dal
Split yellow mung beans - moong dal
Red lentils - masar dal

Green chillies

Spice perfumed butter

Cumin seeds
Fresh coriander/cilantro

I've not given quantities but basically, add however many of the pulses in whatever proportion you like for a decent meal. Say anywhere between six and ten ounces in total?

I didn't soak this lot overnight, but I did stick them in the pressure cooker. Next time I would probably soak them for an hour or two and cook normally to retain better texture.

Wash the pulses and cook them with the turmeric. When nearly finished add salt. (This is why I don't understand the marrowfat peas thing with sodium bicarb tablets - in this and other Indian recipes the salt goes in near the end of the cooking).

Cook onions, garlic, ginger, chillies and toms in frying pan and then add to dal.

For the spice perfumed butter - cook cumin seeds in oil and then add cayenne and paprika. Add to dal and stir slightly. Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve.

And yesterday I tried:

White Gram Beans Laced with Onion Butter

White gram beans - 7oz approx
Cardamom pods - 2 black or 4 green
Bay leaves (2)
(Soya) milk

(half and half milk/water)

Wash, and soak gram beans. Book said for two hours so I soaked for one in boiling water. Worked perfectly well.

Cook with above ingredients for around an hour, or until ready.

Spice perfumed butter

Onion - 1
Garam masala
Black peppercorns - cracked.

OK. I missed out the cloves. Eight seemed vastly excessive and I have a garam masala with lots of cloves in anyway.

Otherwise, fry onion, add garlic, ginger (and cloves), then when ready add garam masala and cracked peppercorns to sizzle for a few seconds, and pour over dal.

I served it with basmati rice and:

Fragrant Tomato-Onion Sauce

Black mustard seeds
Green chillies

Add mustard seeds to hot oil. Put lid on pan as the seeds spatter. When they have calmed down, add asafoetida and cayenne. Then add the onions, and stir until they are wilted. Add remaining ingredients and cook on low heat until of suitably saucy consistency. Turn off heat and let rest for half an hour. Apparently it keeps well in the fridge for a day. Not here it doesn't - never got anywhere near the fridge.

Worked out great for breakfast too.

Top tips

If you do decide you want to eat more pulses - for whatever reason - do buy a pressure cooker, and buy dried pulses, preferably from a shop that has a quick turnover.

Buying beans in cans and jars means you will often have additives. Dried ones don't.

Adding dill to beans eg white haricot beans or butter beans aids in cooking and digestibility. And tastes nice too.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Another first

I've got a couple of friends to thank for this post. The first sent me the cache info in an email to my mobile when it came up as a new cache and I had no internet access, and the second was chatting this morning about caches and blogs - which reminded me I hadn't posted this up.

So there I was, idly lying on the bed as usual flicking through emails and using up too much saldo, when the geocaching newsletter came up with a new cache about 20kms from us. Hey! Could be another first to find.

We left it for a couple of days but decided to go for it on the Sunday. If someone else had found it first, well, no matter. Our fault for hanging around.

The trouble with just getting the info over an email is - you don't get the little map thing or driving directions, so you have to guess how to get there. Especially difficult when there is nothing remotely resembling an OS map in Spain.

But, we had a river as something to aim for, so off we went. It didn't help that there was no GPS signal all the way there. We crossed what look like 'the' river - no name on the bridge - and then couldn't turn right. We ended up doing a merry few miles detour to come back on ourselves.

Once off the main road it wasn't too difficult to keep heading towards the river. GPS still not working. We found a nice dead end street, parked up and got out to see if it would finally find some satellites.

Partner walked to the end of the street and spotted the viaduct. This was one of the other features mentioned that was near the cache. It's a viaduct we regularly travel over that invariably makes me feel nauseous. On bad vertigo days I can't even look out of the window as we go across. It looked even worse from the ground up.

We set off down the track which wasn't particularly impressive as it seemed to be an unofficial council rubbish dump. In fact a council truck came down, reversed round and sat there happily doing nothing. Once past the rubbish we traipsed uphill and came upon a strange building - and - more rubbish.

This is not the sort of place people hide caches. Caches, for the most part are hidden in nice scenic places. And the ones who had hidden this one, had also hidden two extremely other good ones elsewhere in beautiful locations. Not rubbish dumps.

We gazed down at the river, which by now was well below us. I looked at the GPS. 'It's over there.' I said. 'On the other side of the river.' I was NOT scrambling down the sheer river bank which was more like a cliff.

'We'll just walk down the road to where we can get down to the river and then walk up the bed,' he said. Yeah. Right. Heard these bright ideas before. I was busy practicing saying 'You just go and do it yourself darling while I wait in the Landy' when I heard some strange grunts.

He was rolling over and over on the pavement in a little ball, grunting away. While I had been busy walking in the middle of the road (in the shade) looking at the GPS, he had sensibly been walking on the pavement. This is not a regular occurence, it is invariably the other way round. Being unused to pavements he had completely missed a ginormous hole that previously homed a rather large tree. He tripped over the edging, fell down the hole, rolled out and over onto the pavement.

I panicked and thought we should go home. Rubbish dumps and injuries weren't good omens. He got annoyed. 'I've nearly broken an arm and a leg to try and find this cache. We'll find it.'

But we agreed to drive to the other side of the river. A long walk is fine, but not through boring houses and streets. And of course when we arrived, it was a perfect cache spot. Parking, picnic tables, pretty riverside scenery, no rubbish dumps.

We (he) found it pretty quickly. As I took photos up and down the river, I noticed there was a track down from the high bank on the other side. Oh well. It was prettier on the cache side.

And we could never have walked up the river bed - ie never have climbed up the waterfall!!

And a couple of mobile pix - sorry - of a lovely cache up at Alcaidesa. Well worth a trip for anyone who comes down to the Gib area.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Royal Gun Salute - 2 June 2011 - Gibraltar

Today we wandered down to the dockyard to watch the 21 gun salute for the accession to the throne of HM Queen Elizabeth II.

It's easy, living in a place like Gib, to get blasé about these sort of events. It's five or ten minutes walk away from us, the dockyard is a spectacular setting, tickets are free, and the Governor of Gibraltar did the honours today. It's not the only salute, there are also the royal birthdays and maybe a few others, so if you miss one there is always another one to watch in a few months' time.

Sir Adrian Johns, Governor of Gibraltar

Free tickets

This was the first time Partner had attended, he's always been working before. Like me, the first time I attended a royal salute, and like someone I spoke to back then, he was surprised how few people were there. The salute today was fired by Headquarter Company (Thomson’s Battery) of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment.

Stepping out before the guns are fired

No 1 gun firing

But nevertheless it was a good event. A few of the great and the good (?) of Gibraltar got front row treatment and the rest of us stood up to watch. I was mildly impressed with our Governor, Sir Adrian Johns, who seemed to take a lot of time speaking to all the members of the Gibraltar Regiment taking part in the ceremony. Not just a handshake, but a little bit more of a chat.

And when everything had finished, he thanked the members of the GibReg for taking part and marking the accession to the throne. Nice touch Sir Adrian. Score high on the PR-ometer from me.

All lined up

No more chat for now