Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Spain series (5)--- Paella

Hi everyone, I hope that you have had a lovely weekend.

As last week I was a bit down and things came to challenge my way of thinking, I brought the Spanish sunshine in by making my families and I a traditional Spanish dish-- Paella.

You see, I did not use the paella pan to cook it as i could not find one here with reasonable price.

When I was in Valencia, Spain, I had a lot of chances to have this dish as you can see it sold in restaurant and small store as take away.

Paella is originally from Valencia, Spain. If you ever visit Valencia, remember to go visit Albufera as you can taste the authentic paella there with reasonable price, forget about the restaurant in the city. Albufera is the place to go, it's about 20-30 mins taxi ride from the city centre of Valencia.

In albufera, they really cooked paella with open fire using wood to make the fire. Last time I was there, i waited for my order to arrive for about an hour. But it's all worth it as it tasted so good. Also, you got to see the lake and nature in Albufera as it's one of the rice growing area in Valencia.

Today, you can still see the traditional houses that belonged to the villagers in Albufera, also, people are still growing orange trees and rice there. After having the paella, you can pay for a boat ride to have a look at the lake.

I am lucky that I can get ingredient from supermarket here in Hong Kong to make Paella. The rice I bought is really from Valencia.
Nowadays people still are arguing about what ingredients to put in to make the authentic paella. I dont care much about that, you can put in chicken, seafood and rabbit meat to make the paella mixta. I never skip saffron, paprika.

Speaking of paella, the traditional drink sangria is naturally brought up. Here you can see I used tea cup to hold sangria.

Who said that teacups are for tea only?

I like the small hand-painted yellow flowers and something that looks like rice crops surrounding the cup.

Its maker is Wedgwood.

I found a video online and followed the steps when I made paella as I never got to take a look at how to make one when I was in Spain. I was either busy looking at the scenery or talking to people when the locals were making one.

I am linking with Terri & Martha

Monday, April 8, 2013

Spain series (4)-- dancing with feelings: Salsa

When it comes to dancing, I keep two principles: 1) I don't like being led so I only learn solo dancing. 2) I thought that without hard practicing or preparations, one should not dance in front of strangers. All these principles vanished in Spain when I learnt the true meaning of dancing--- dancing from the heart or dancing with feelings. 

When I was in Valencia Spain, I was lucky enough to meet people who liked salsa dancing. I was invited to join the free dancing lessons held in one of the universities. It was taught by students for students. There, they taught everyone techniques and skills about salsa dancing. I did enjoy myself so much that even with my hurt foot(I hurt my left foot when looking for a shared apartment), I kept on practicing with my dancing partner. Little did I know that this free dancing lesson gave my hurt foot so much burden that it took me at least 3 months to recover. Yes, I was very tough when it comes to dancing, I basically wanted to conquered physical limits like any other athletics do. Silly I know. I gave up going to the class after the first lesson because my foot called for that.

That was the first encounter of Salsa. I never thought that I would be given a second chance and that my perceptions towards dancing changed completely. It was at the birthday party of my friend and her brother that I learnt the true meaning of dancing. My friend's brother was an avid salsa dancer and after the first dance with his girlfriend, i was invited for the second dance. I was not prepared but somehow I was confident that I could manage. So, I put my heart into the music and heard the rhymes and my feet started moving naturally. Maybe because my leading partner was good enough to know how to lead the dance, I just picked up everything easily and got the hint as when to turn and which direction to go for. It was magical and I never thought that dancing with someone can be wonderful too. As long as the partner respects women, you wont feel uneasy having physical contact(well, they respect you enough not to have contact with your other body parts except hands and NO sliding of hands here and there on your waist). 

Then during a mini road trip I had another chance of dancing with my friend's brother and his friend. I managed well with both of them. They even asked me if I had learnt salsa before I said no. Yes, it's strange that I could dance like I had taken tons of lessons before but No I only had one free lesson and that's it. I guess it's because they could lead so well that I could follow well.

The cup here by Royal Grafton and design of pink and raised jeweled dots reminds me that dancing is a pure expression of passion one has and that dancing is not mechanism. One should only follow one's own heart or feelings instead of going through harsh practicing. It's not the perfection of dance that make things work, it's the joy you have when you are dancing that makes it enjoyable. 

It's such a liberation when one learnt that dancing with a partner does no harm as he respects his partner and as long as men are good enough to lead, let them lead. (I dont like being led but if they have the ability then let it be)

It's such a wonderful experience to forget about techniques and mechanical practicing. Be in the moment is the most important elements of dancing. 

Note: After 3 months of suffering with the foot, and after putting on chinese medicine my family sent me and two consultations in local hospitals , I finally came across one clinic that saved me, and after 3 times treatments, my foot was fully recovered and guess what, all treatments were free of charge. That's why I had a deep feeling that I had done something really good in previous life in Spain and people were returning my kindness during this one-year trip.

Have a nice week!

I am joining tea cup Tuesday with Terri & Martha .

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Spain series (3)-- Spanish people

Have you ever visited a place and felt that you belong to that particular place even though you have never lived there before?

Have you ever encountered some people whom you felt they are returning your kindness in this life time because you had treated them well in the last life?

To me, the situations described above happened to me more than once when I was in Spain. 

Every time I use this cup, I remember the story.

There was this cafe that sells ice cream, cakes and fresh hand made yoghurt in the city of Granada in Spain. I was dragged into this nice cafe with modern decoration by my dancing teacher one day right after lunch because she had to have ice cream in one cold winter day. I had no idea that after the first visit I would become a frequent visitor there.

The cafe was often packed with visitors because the food and the service there was superb. In its busy hour(around 2--3PM), you often found one waiter in the centre of the counter busying serving all customers. My teacher and I were impressed with this waiter's swift service. He was able to take orders while making yoghurt, serving ice cream or cakes to customers. He never got the order mixed up. We never learnt his name. All we knew was that he never left his hometown--Granada and he was not the boss of the cafe. We often jokingly said that he belonged to a fast-paced city like Hong Kong. Sometimes we had this understanding that he could slow down a bit when it came to our order because we had all the time in the world to wait for our orders. Sensing our patience one day, after completing our order, he went to the chocolate counter and took out two pieces of chocolate as a compliment gift. At that moment, we bonded.

Sometimes I felt that I visited the cafe just to marvelled at the swift service. Sometimes I just had to have ice cream. Whatever the reasons, I went there at least once a week. 

For some odd reasons I had to leave Granada for Valencia, I left Granada for two full months and decided that I had to live in Valencia so I went back to Granada to pack my things. 

The day I stepped in the cafe for the first time after my 2-month absence. The waiter immediately asked me where I had been. I told him casually that I had been to Valencia and decided to settle in Valencia and I was back just to pack my things.

As usual, I ordered ice-cream and sat there quietly and started observing the waiter's work. He was making yoghurt with fresh fruit. All I saw was that he was mixing the yoghurt of original favour and put some freshly cut strawberries in it and then he made the crunchy chocolate to top it off. Minutes later, I found this cup of yoghurt sitting in front of me.He said to me,"This is the hand made yoghurt with fresh strawberries, it's good for your health." He said to one of the customers,'well, this girl is a frequent customer, she is leaving Granada for Valencia, I make this yoghurt to her hopefully she will come back again to Granada one day.'

Looking at this cup of yoghurt and feeling the kindness, I found myself in tears and called my friend to talk about it. It never happened to me in my own city. People just are so cold that they made no contact with one another let alone doing things for one another unconditionally. God, the happiness and grateful feeling were so difficult to contain and I burst in tears. I was happy and touched because I felt that the world was still full of humanity and kindness. 

'I think I will be back once again before I leave for Valencia.' These were the words I uttered. I had no idea that the day I visited again the waiter was nowhere to be found. Maybe he was on holiday. Well, life! life!

The white texture trim looks like the yoghurt. I also love the violets at the well of the cup and saucer. Violets remind me of this pure friendship between the waiter and I. We never talked much but somehow he was like my uncle, we had this kind of understanding. It's kinda like the friendship between the two characters in the film--'Lost in Translation'.

Though it's a married set, the cup is in pale blue and saucer in mint green, the color tones are the same and it does not distract its own beauty.

Who said that Spanish people are always lazy and inefficient? There are always exceptions.

Have a nice week.

I am joining Terri & Martha  for tea cup Tuesday. 

Note: Usually most of the shops in Spain close from 1PM--4 PM. But the cafe I visited open during Siesta hour, maybe that's why it was packed with people.