Books, Bikes, and Food

Reviews, Recipes, Rides… and some other things, too.

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Merry Christmas, and a festive (non-)recipe

Merry Christmas, dear readers! I hope you’re all having lovely holidays, wherever you are and whether you celebrate Christmas or not! I’m spending it at home with my family, snuggled up on the sofa reading or watching TV, and spending some time with friends as well. Here’s a glimpse of our Christmas tree, all lit up.

Today, we had a big Christmas lunch, to which I made a humble contribution in the form of a starter. This is really a non-recipe as it involves very little preparation once you have the apple sauce ready, but it was delicious. It disappeared from its platter in record time and since we’ve still got another few days of festive eating ahead of us, I’m sharing it with you in case you’re still looking for a starter for New Year’s Eve – or for Christmas next year!

Pintxos de foie con compota de manzana y granada (Foie gras pintxos with apple compote and pomegranate)

Pintxos are Basque small snacks (they’re sometimes called the Basque form of tapas, but they’re not really tapas at all). They’re delicious little bites often arranged on a slice of bread and often pinned to the bread with a skewer or toothpick. But they also come in all kinds of other shapes and forms, some cold, some hot, simple or sophisticated. They’re elevated to a true art form, and they’re all over the country with bars taking real pride in making them look so pretty you almost don’t want to eat them. Especially in San Sebastián (Donostia), but also in Bilbao, you can spend the whole day just eating your way through the old town from one pintxo bar to the next. The bars are full to the brim with these little creations and I’ve often found myself, mouth agape and watering, with a tough choice to make – even though they’re small, there are only so many you can eat before you’re full.

As pintxos go, this one isn’t sophisticated at all and very quick to make, but it looks and tastes fantastic. In fact, it’s perfect for when you have a complicated menu to cook without much time to spare for the starter. Foie gras is a specialty in some regions of France and in the Basque country, which may be a bit difficult to get elsewhere or very expensive. You can replace it with other types of duck or goose pâté.

Ingredients (for about 15 pintxos)

  • 15 very thin salty crackers or 15 very thin slices of baguette, toasted
  • 180g foie gras mi-cuit
  • apple compote
  • pomegranate seeds (a tutorial on de-seeding pomegranates is here)

Cut the foie gras into 15 thin slices. It’s best to do this when the foie is quite cold, but to make the cutting easier you can warm up the blade of your knife a bit. If you’re using baguette, you may want to drizzle it very slightly with olive oil and sprinkle a bit of salt on top. Place the foie slices on top of the crackers or baguette. Top with a bit of apple compote each and sprinkle liberally with pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately.

On egin!*

* Basque for “enjoy your meal”



Hasta luego, Nigel

Today I learned the very sad news that my former Spanish professor, Nigel Dennis, has passed away. I want to dedicate a few words to this wonderful man, without whom my passion for Spanish literature would not be what it is today.

Nigel was the Alan Rickman of the St Andrews Spanish Department. His humour was exemplarily British and his lectures and tutorials were a part of the week I would always look forward to. He taught us to be critical, analytical, and look beyond the surface. Nigel made us see things in literature and poetry that made the works shine with clarity and helped us look into their depth.

He was also the Department’s rock star in residence. At the bi-annual Hispanic Society Dinners, he regularly brought out his electric guitar and gave the most hilarious accounts of student life in verse form, sending us into stitches every time.

Despite his dry wit, he was never cynical. He was one of the warmest, friendliest people I’ve ever met. Nigel always welcomed visitors to his office, and not once did I leave without a few minutes (or more) of great conversation and solid advice, academic and personal. When I was applying to Ph.D. positions in my final year, I asked him for recommendation letters. He would give them to me in a sealed envelope and I’d send them to the universities without having read them. But in the end, by accident I’d asked for one more letter than I needed, and curiously opened it. It made me cry. Nigel had written such a personal and wonderful recommendation that I was almost ashamed to have read it (I never told him I had).

I’ll leave you with a picture of Nigel and I, taken at the Spanish Department’s graduation ceremony in 2008.

Nigel Dennis and I, 2008. © S.P. Acebrón

Nigel Dennis and I, 2008. © S.P. Acebrón

Muchísimas gracias por todo, Nigel. Te echaremos de menos y nunca te olvidaremos.


A Change is Gonna Come

You may have noticed a recent flurry of changes. You may also have noticed I hadn’t been so hot about blogging lately, and to be honest, only half the time this was because I didn’t have time. The other half, I felt like blogging about something, and holding back because said something wasn’t books but cooking, biking, or something else altogether. So I’ve decided to make a few changes.

  • Liburuak is becoming Books, Bikes, and Food (new header pending). 
  • I’m widening the spectrum. Aside from books, bikes, and food, there will also be a category “other” where I blog about whatever takes my fancy. Because I can.
  • New outfit! I got quite tired of the old theme and decided to make some changes. Still in progress.

I hope this won’t cause too many of you (those who are still out there… hello?) to drop off the face of this little blogging world. I hope you enjoy the increased variety!

Please bear with me as I make these changes. Some things, like my extensive blog roll for instance, will take quite a while to transition properly. I’m working on it…

Thanks for sticking around or newly coming in, and your patience!


I wrote a little something… (on Europe)

My wonderful University friend Katharina is not just a very clever vision scientist (it’s a branch of Psychology – until I met her, I didn’t know that either) but also a very talented chef. She shares her recipes over on Tea, Cake and Sandwiches and I encourage everyone to take a look. One word of warning though, it’ll make you hungry!

Katharina is hosting a very interesting series at the moment where she invites her friends who are also bloggers or those who, as she puts it, “do other amazing stuff” to guest post on all kinds of interesting issues, food or non-food related. This week, as a member of the first category of “friends who are also bloggers”, it was my turn. I wrote about the Euro crisis and about how we’re losing not just a currency but an incredible dream. Here’s an excerpt:

All over Europe, we are forgetting what Europe really is: an idea, a dream. A dream that we can work together to live in prosperity and in peace, in tolerance and in freedom. What is at peril in the crisis is a European Dream that is just as great and possibly even more ambitious than the American Dream.

If anyone is interested, you can read the rest here.


The Blogging Mojo

… well… hey there! It’ s sure been a while and I have few excuses. Except, work was busier than ever and the blogging mojo, alas, it was gone. All I was capable of when I got home in the evenings was dropping into an armchair and turning on the TV.

Then Mr Liburuak and I went on holiday to Bilbao for a week, stuffed ourselves with Pintxos and other delicious Basque food, spent time with family and friends and even went to the beach. Now I’m back and apparently, so is the blogging mojo.

In bookish news, while the blogging mojo was gone, the reading mojo stayed on. Books finished:

  • Delirio by Laura Restrepo
  • El hombre que amaba a los perros by Leonardo Padura
  • In One Person by John Irving
  • Bartleby y compañía by Enrique Vila-Matas

I will definitely review El hombre que amaba a los perros and In One Person soon, but first a review of Bartleby y compañía is coming up this weekend for Stu of Winstonsdad’s Blog and Richard of Caravana de Recuerdos‘s Spanish Lit Month. This weekend it’s Bartlebymania and I’m joining in.

On another note, I’m now looking for a new flat as my rental contract is running out. Flat hunting in Hamburg is hell. If anyone knows anything about a two or three-bedroom place becoming available, I’d be eternally grateful if you could drop me a line.


What I’ve been up to

Having always been an irregular blogger, I kind of skived blogging for the past few weeks in the hope of no one noticing. The reason for the momentary disappearance was my PhD defence, which took place last week. I’m pleased to report it went very well! It was an exhausting but wonderful day. I then spent the long May Day bank holiday weekend with Mr Liburuak relaxing in Berlin.

Anyway, I come back not only bearing a PhD, but also loads of books, and the potential for even more! So I think it’s only fair to share the book love with you, ladies and gents of the bookish variety.

First, Mr Liburuak brought me back an “order” from his Easter holiday in Bilbao. Bartleby y compañía by Enrique Vila-Matas had been on my wishlist for a while, and here it is!

Next up in the list of amazing bookish things that happened while I was incommunicado are the gifts I got after my defence. My University colleagues gave me a fab voucher to buy books for my e-reader, and my supervisor gave me a voucher for actual “physical” books. So I have a lot of book shopping to look forward to! Thanks to everyone!

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