A highland fling

our wee adventure on the Black Isle

Tomato heaven


One of the great things about our vegetable glut is that we can return to one of our favourite Spanish breakfasts. We dream about this all winter, and once the glut is here, we eat this until we’re sick of the sight of tomatoes!


No jam or butter for us. No way. Fresh mollete, toasted (one of the great breads of Andalucia). Olive oil (Yunquera Gold – natch!). Chopped garlic. Sliced tomato. Both fresh from the garden. Salt and pepper. That’s it.


Mollete from Archidona (Malaga, Spain)

Mollete from Archidona (Malaga, Spain) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Casa Tyr breakfast


mollete, split and toasted
Yunquera Gold olive oil
1 ripe tomato, sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper


Drizzle the olive oil on the toasted mollete. Top with some of the chopped garlic, and sliced tomato. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.




Terminado !!

It’s finished. It’s finally finished! We have finished the olive harvest at long last.

Yes, at long last – almost a month later, with many sore muscles, turned ankles, sore backs and twisted knees. It’s been a wonderful year to harvest, however, full of rewards. The olives have been plentiful and healthy, and the weather has been almost perfect.

So, two tons plus of olives later, we’re calling it a day. The last sacks of olives have gone to the press, the nets are folded, the machine has been taken apart. In a few short days, we will return from the mill with 25 litre containers of gorgeous Yunquera Gold olive oil.


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The very, very (very) last tomatoes

It’s finally happened! We are reaching the very of the tomato season here at Casa Tyr. OK, I guess I can’t complain, as mid-November is pretty late to still be eating tomatoes fresh-picked from the garden.

And oh, man, are we enjoying them. I think they are especially wonderful at this time of year, because you know that before long, fresh tomatoes will be no more, and we won’t see their like again until next July. We refuse to buy those pale, tasteless imitations from the supermarket – they look like tomatoes, but they certainly don’t taste like tomatoes!

We’ve had a good crop this year. Unlike the locals, we grow many, many different types, from plum tomatoes, to heirloom, through to tiny white and chocolate brown cherry tomatoes. Our Spanish friends wonder about us sometimes (well, probably all the time!). After all, why grow these oddly-coloured tomatoes when all you really need are the ruby red, ‘big as a plate’ tomatoes that are obviously so superior?

So during the summer we: canned and dried tomatoes. We jarred cherry tomatoes with basil and garlic. We made salsa, curry base, ketchup and puree. We gave them away by the sackful!

Sad to say, we’re almost at the end. But in the meantime, we are cutting out the bad bits, and still using them sliced on our toasted bread in the morning, served with drizzled Yunquera Gold olive oil, chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Heaven.

And those slightly over-ripe tomatoes also feature in one of our favourite casseroles, which we’re having tonight.

Layered potato and tomato bake

4-5 large potatoes (peeled, sliced into 1/4 thick slices, then cooked in boiling salted water for 15 minutes)
4-5 fresh from the garden tomatoes (sliced)
2 onions (sliced)
fresh basil (fairly large bunch)
olive oil
big wedge of sharp, mature cheese (grated)
salt and pepper

Basil plant leaves.

Fresh basil (Image via Wikipedia)

In a greased casserole dish, first put a thin layer of onion. On top of that, put a layer of tomato and potato slices, overlapping and alternating each slice slightly as you go. On top of that, drizzle a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper it, and add some grated cheese and some of the basil leaves. (we use a lot of cheese)

Repeat the layers until everything is used up, making sure that the grated cheese is the last layer.

Bake in a medium oven until the cheese is melted, bubbly and golden.


Olive tree pruning 101

(Before you start on me, readers from other countries, let me say this. I know that you may not prune trees the way we do here, but hey, that’s what makes the world go round! OK, so we don’t use a little saw. We use a hatchet. But that is the way we were taught by our good friend, so that’s the way we will prune our trees! ‘Nuff said.)

So it’s that time of year again. The olive harvest starts in a month, just in time to (hopefully) get the last olive picked and pressed into golden Yunquera Gold olive oil before Christmas. So before that task begins, the tree pruning must be done.

Why, you ask? Glad you asked! Well, because if you don’t, it will be next to impossible to get the nets in closely around the base of the tree, so some of the precious olives  might be lost. During the course of the growing year, the olive trees send out suckers around the base of the tree, which not only get in your way when harvesting, they also suck the vitality from the tree. So they must all be cut away.

Not to mention the fact that it makes the land look tidier if the trees are nicely pruned around the base! A tidy campo is much prized in this area.

The pruning task is made much hard this year because both Kenton and I are recovering from surgery. So we are taking it easy – working only a few hours a day, so rather than the usual 4 day task, it is a 2 week task. After all, cleaning around 850 olive trees is no small feat!

We’re getting to the end of it now, only about 3 days to go. Then 2 weeks to work on the Lujos Christmas orders, and bang! Olive harvest is here.

Enjoy this instructive video. It’s a couple of years old, but believe me, the work is the same now, as then.


Lujos goes Dutch!

It was very much a Lujos week last week! We fulfilled orders on the Monday, posted them on Tuesday. Then came Wednesday – yet more cooking in the Lujos lab!

It came about this way. In the spring, I had an email out of the blue from our Yunquera Gold site, asking if we offered tours of our olive farm. The email was from a lady who was bringing a group from the Netherlands to a retreat/spa near Yunquera. They had some spare time, and Mirjam (“the lady”) thought the group might enjoy a tour of the farm, and a talk about how and why we moved here.

Well, we had never considered doing this, but why not? We love to talk about our farm, our village and our life here. They seemed very much like-minded people (the Dutch are very into natural products), so it seemed like a good fit.

So turn up they did – on a chilly, windy day when it was just starting to drizzle. They were such good sports, going for a long walk with Kenton before coming back for a little “hospitality snack” of homemade bread, Yunquera Gold olive oil, and a few other snacks. (we hastily put away the ham and wine, as they were on a detox week!)

It was good fun, and they were lovely people. So I was delighted when Mirjam emailed me last week asking for a return visit on October 12th! A different group this time, but just as supportive, and just as friendly. They were appreciative of our efforts here, and loved our Lujos products. And luckily, this time we had superb weather!

What more could we ask?

Lujos friends from the Netherlands

Lujos friends from the Netherlands (photo by Kenton @ imagenary.co.uk)

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Potato glut? Try my warm potato and bacon salad!

I had to pass on a new recipe that I tried over the weekend. You may have already read about our huge potato glut, so for the next several months, almost every meal will feature potatoes! Warm, cold, fried, boiled. In salads, as a side dish, as a main course. You name it, we’ll have it!

So I’ve been hunting around the web looking for a great recipe to try, as we were barbecuing yesterday. We were having the first of (hopefully) many warm days, so a non-hot dish was required.

The big challenge when you are looking around for a new recipe is to actually find something that you have the ingredients for! Our shops are all closed on a Sunday, so we had to have absolutely everything. Hence I ended up coming up with a recipe all my own, because after all,

Necessity is the mother of invention

So here it is, my own version of warm potato and bacon salad. It is hugely yum, so I recommend you try it!

Ann’s warm potato and bacon salad

500 g really good quality potatoes
8 rashers bacon, cut into one-inch pieces
2-3 jarred piquillo peppers, cut into strips
1 T balsamic vinegar
2 t honey
handful of chopped parsley
1 T olive oil (preferably Yunquera Gold)

Peel and cube the potatoes. Cook in boiling salted water until just cooked. Fry the cubes in a pan with the olive oil for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally.

Add the peppers, vinegar and honey – turn until coated. Top with the parsley and serve at room temperature (not chilled).


Olive edification

Every year it is the same at Casa Tyr.

All year, we watch and wait. We watch the olives as they grow from tiny flowers to fully formed olives. We wait while they turn from green, to purple, and finally to black. Then we wait a bit longer for them to become slightly wrinkled, which indicates that the water has left the olive and only oil remains.

It’s a long process, especially  here on the mountain. As we grow our olives at a higher altitude (therefore cooler temps) than most, they ripen much more slowly. I was just chatting to someone today (a Lujos customer, in fact!!), and she told me they picked their olives about a month ago. I’m jealous.

However, the long, slow ripening on our mountain results in a richer, more olive-y olive oil. Everyone who has tried our Yunquera Gold oil says it’s the best they’ve ever tasted, so who am I to argue with that?

There is a down side, as there always is. We can’t pick our olives until the first of December or later – the olives just aren’t ready until then. So December it is – with its winter rains, high winds, fog, and often other unpleasant winter weather!

Our goal is to beat the wind to the crop – the ripe olives are very prone to being blown off the trees! We also hope to be lucky enough to get a run of dry days, as it usually takes the two of us 7 days or so to pick a “press-worth” of olives. Then there’s Christmas – we’d like to get the picking finished by then, so we aren’t picking on Christmas Day! What stress!

For the past 3 years, we’ve only been partially successful. For example, last year was a bumper crop, but the rains came mid-December, and didn’t quit for 3 months, so the second half of the crop was just…lost. It was heart breaking!

So the nail-biting season is here – we hope to start the harvest this week, but it’s raining and windy as I’m writing this, so the race is on!


Casa Tyr olives

Olives just before harvest at Casa Tyr (photo by Kenton@imagenary.co.uk)