Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Sneak Preview

One week today is St Patrick's Day. I've had this date rattling round in my brain for at least the last month, because, obviously, a special pie will be required for it. And I've thought about what this pie should be, but never actually got round to doing anything about it.

What I thought was, it should be a steak and Guinness pie. Irish stew would have been nice, but the traditional version of that is pretty damn runny and just wouldn't work in a pie - the pastry would dissolve before you got a chance to eat it. No, the good ole steak 'n' Guinness, but with a green pastry shamrock on the top (pretty much the whole planet agrees that a whole pie made out of green pastry would be somewhat unpalatable).

Food colouring is fairly hard to come by in Madrid - the only colour stocked in supermarkets is orange - tartrazine, the stuff that makes kids hyperactive. So I thought I would make my own by boiling up some spinach and peas and freeze-thaw gelatine-filtering it. This takes several days, and when I looked at the result it looked like the wee-wee of someone who isn't very well. I made up some pastry with it anyway, but the result just looked mouldy. Grr.

A trip into town was required, to Manuel Riesgo, the chemicals shop. I got the colouring and a couple of other things to play with in my molecular adventures. When I got home, I opened the container and was fairly disappointed to see this tub of brown powder. I chucked a load into a glass of water, and *kshing!* it was green. Oh boy, how green was it? Greener than all the valleys on the planet, I reckon.

I made up some pastry with it, rolled it very thin and froze it, and then cut out shamrock shapes. Here's the result:

Pretty good, methinks.

Saturday, 5 March 2011


I've had a growing discomfort in the tooth department for a few weeks now, but tried to ignore it in the hope that it would just go away. Of course, it didn't, and by last Wednesday it had reached the point where lots of Novocaine and some attention from a dentist would be required. I haven't actually been to a dentist in Madrid (*hangs head in shame*), but I remembered a mate telling me he knew a good one out in the burbs who didn't get his pricing policy from Somali pirates.

I called my mate, and he called his dentist and made me an appointment for the following morning. He sent me an email with very clear directions on how to find him ('get the 512 or 513 bus to Móstoles, the fare is €1.50'). I wasn't too perturbed when the bus driver said he didn't go to Móstoles - he told me which buses did, and the alarm bells still didn't go off when the Móstoles bus driver wanted €2 to take me there.

My friend had told to get off at the Mercadona supermarket, and across the road I would see a sign for the dentist, but had to walk round the corner to find the entrance. This I did, and I was feeling quite proud that I was only five minutes late - that's actually early by Spanish standards. But the lady in reception denied all knowledge of me, my appointment, and the dentist I was supposed to see. I wandered round for a bit, and phoned the dentist, whose English is much better than my Spanish. He was confused and told me to go back to the main road and look for Calle Sevilla. I did that, and still couldn't find it, so I pulled out my phone and searched for it on Google maps. It suggested Calle Sevillas in Madrid and Alcorcón. Hmmm. So I called the dentist back and he asked me what was the name of the main street I was on. 'Avenida Alcalde de Móstoles', I said.

I could hear the centimo drop. The dentist told me I should be in Alcorcón where he was and not Móstoles.


So, I jumped on the next bus that came along, asked for a ticket to Madrid and was a little puzzled that it only cost €1. The reason eventually became apparent when we reached the terminus at the far end of Móstoles and everybody got off. The driver told me I now had to go to that bus stop over there to get back to Madrid. And pay another €2, of course.

Ho hum. Finally I was back in Madrid, got the correct bus, and found the dentist who thought it was pretty funny and managed to fit me in pretty quickly. He took one look at the offending tooth and said he wouldn't mess about with trying to rebuild it, he'd just extract it. I wasn't too unhappy with that - it's a molar near the back of the mouth so it wouldn't leave a visibly gaping hole, and I think several dentists over the years have attempted to fix it without lasting success.

I had to have two shots of anaesthetic, but once it was properly numb the tooth came out with a wiggle and a tug (I had expected much much worse). He gave me a handful of cotton swabs to place on the wound every half hour until the bleeding stopped. I paid the surprisingly reasonable bill (€36 if you're interested) and made my way back to Madrid, feeling very self-conscious at my bloody teeth and total inability to talk, eat or drink properly, but ever so relieved that the pain had magically gone.