Tag Archives: Food

Baking day

And today’s special is ….. wait for it Pork pie! Aaaand a game pie made with chicken, bacon and a little sausage. Unfortunately the local deer have vanished, so no venison. Not enough bunnies around either. So I had to make do with what protein was in the fridge. The leftover sausage meat filling some store bought frozen puff pastry. See below.

However, the hot water pastry is all my own work, and the game pie facsimile on the top left looks good, with the one pound (ish) Melton Mowbray style pork pie top right even better.

Victoria is not a great place, if like me, you are a fan of traditional English savouries. Our local stores have not seen a Pork pie since November 2019. So I have to cook my own. Which I do rarely, but the recipe is fairly straightforward. I won’t post the text on the main blog as it can get a bit involved, but I will give the how-to’s their own page under ‘cooking for conspiracy theorists’ along with my recently perfected recipe for Szechwan sauce, which makes fried rice zing and heats the mouth nicely rather than give you paint stripper breath or send you running for the cold tap.

That’s it really. Today has been a baking day because some chump thought it would be a wonderful idea to shut down a resource I needed to do my job effectively. Yes, because that’s exactly the right time to shut down ten percent of the companies online infrastructure. I shouldn’t complain really because it means I got to cook some old time favourites. It makes a pleasant change instead of staring at spreadsheets all day.

Oh, one last thing for my one remaining readers edification and amusement. A series of parodies culled from YouTube made by some very talented and bored people. Enjoy.

And finally (although there are many, many more)

Ants in my pantry

Being a moderate cook I try and keep a pretty tidy kitchen. A place for everything and (Mostly) everything in it’s place. I look at it this way. A kitchen is like a workshop. Keep it tidy and you’ll never lose anything or trip and fall flat on your stupid face. I may have a stupid face, but I do my best not to make it look any more stupid than it can possibly be. So I try and keep work surfaces clear and as clean as is practicable, so no-one gets food poisoning.

So imagine my shock when I picked up a packet of sugar today to make some feed for the Hummingbirds and half a dozen tiny ants dropped off it. Bloody things. I paid for that sugar, these freeloading bastards didn’t, so out comes the ant killer and I busy myself emptying all the cupboards and evicting the squatters. Thoroughly spray empty cupboards and leave the powder down for an hour before hoovering the excess up and giving the cupboards a proper clean with antiseptic wipe downs of everything before the dry goods and cans go back in.

The ants are now history. Until they establish a new run. But I’ll be ready for them.

We currently rent our Canadian domicile, choosing not to buy a house over here, but if it were down to me I would be getting pest control in to fumigate the place while we take a hike out for the week to fresher pastures. Unfortunately due to the current lockdown that isn’t going to happen for a while. So we do the best we can with the resources available.

Frankly the end of this quarantine can’t come too soon as Mrs S has decided I need a haircut. She’s got out my old trimmer kit and has, how can I put this? A slightly malicious twinkle in her eye. I think I should be afraid. Very afraid. I think she’s going to go all Wednesday Addams on me.

No, seriously, despite everything Mrs S and I are still getting on like the proverbial house on fire. You know what I mean; screams, sirens, collapsing buildings and a lot of curious onlookers wondering when the bodies are going to be brought out.

This is my life, such as it is. It’ll have to do until something better comes along.

All this and spring rolls too

While we’re closeted away, amongst all the other stuff I’m getting up to is that I’m trying to expand my culinary catalogue. I can produce a reasonable facsimile of special fried rice, Cantonese style, but last night I was handed the following challenge by Mrs S; Szechwan style fried rice.

First try was a bit hit and miss as I had to adapt and improvise on ingredients, however, throwing in a little handful of fried chicken and fudging my ingredients a bit of a with powdered Ginger and chili flakes actually brought forth a reasonable result. Add some store bought vegetable spring rolls and the final result was quite acceptable. A nice amount of heat in the mouth without searing the old vocal cords. I’ll post the recipe when I have had more practice and my results are consistent.

While I’m on the topic of diet, rummaging through memories of decades old (Some out of date, some not) training, there is a well founded school of thought out there that a healthy diet helps the immune system fight off infection. Foods rich in vitamin D and Zinc are good against the viruses that result in colds and flu. So if you partake of Oysters, Lobster or red meat once a week, your cellular zinc should be high enough to help fight off the worst of anything. For vegetarians, beans and pulses are modestly endowed with the necessary, as are mushrooms and spinach but supplements like cod liver oil and vitamin D2 or D3 (D2 is plant based, D3 animal based) will be needed. But as Vitamin D is a ‘fat soluble’ vitamin, a low fat diet may not be such a good idea in the face of a pandemic. As is covering up on a sunny day. Vitamin D is essential to a healthy immune system. Without enough of either you’re more likely to be a candidate for a ventilator.

Note to the dense; licking things made of zinc is not a good idea to get your Recommended Daily Allowance. Firstly, it’s the wrong kind of zinc, like fish tank cleaner isn’t pharmaceutical grade anti-viral chloraquine, and secondly, dietary zinc in foods needs to be bound to specific molecules within those foods which your digestive system has evolved to process. Which is why you are only supposed to take these supplements with food. So directly trying to ingest metallic zinc won’t work, and heavy metal poisoning is no laughing matter.

Side note; dietary advice from anyone who uses the word ‘veggies’ instead of ‘vegetables’ should automatically be considered suspect. It’s soft language used to cover up a lack of ability and sophistication and is so far from cool it could be considered as the real cause of the minor increase of global temperature we’re constantly harangued about that is going to drown everybody and is all our fault. At least according to people who have more than three houses each and fly everywhere on private jets without ever having done a proper job in the real world.

Candidly, baby talk should be reserved for babies and Mumsnet. Anyone using such regressive speech to grown ups needs to take and pass a proper course in English. That and be tested for schizophrenia.

Explanation; ‘veggies’ is a classic neologism and such neologisms are symptomatic of low grade hebephrenia, a type of schizophrenia or may even be a precursor to dementia. Some authorities even say that ‘precursor to’ may not be the right term and would substitute ‘symptomatic of’.

Communications wise, the world and his wife are currently bombarding us with nauseating saccharine email messages about the dreaded Wu-flu, assuring us that their services will not be affected and that they ‘care’ about us deeply. Everyone has ‘resources to support you’ which turn out to be not much different to the usual online services I use on a day to day basis. I blame the parents of people who grew up watching the Tellytubies and Care Bears pap on TV. Which makes me convinced too much TV negatively affects brain development in infants.

These spammy emails and messages are actually beginning to get rather tiresome and intrusive. Yes, fine. We’re in bloody lockdown and honestly we don’t need anyone’s ‘help’, which is only a thinly disguised marketing ploy anyway. We’re grown ups who have crossed continents and only require that anyone we pay for a service does what they contract to do. Yes, I’m cynical, but my experiences have made me so.

That and it’s tax paying time. Because we did so well last year, my tax bill has almost tripled. Unfortunately for me, all the gains I made last year have just been wiped out, so I’ll have to dig into my savings, my ‘walkaway money’ as Mrs S likes to call it to pay. Which some call ‘rainy day money’ – and boy is it pouring right now. It’s also been real four season weather outside. Snow, hail, wind, then sunshine. In other words, Spring.

Maybe Spring will mean the collapse of the Trudeau government and it’s complete ineptness in the face of two crises (in 2020 alone!) so we can get someone in who will stop being such a muppet and be half way economically sensible. I live in hope. But I’m not holding my breath.

Another observation; our local deer population has not been seen for over four weeks. Normally they’re snacking on everything with a flower on it. Are they packing someone’s freezer somewhere? Not that I care, our garden is not being denuded as it usually is by the freeloading little sods.

Speaking of gardens, our daffs are starting to fade but my tulips are coming on strong and buds everywhere are beginning to break. We’ll survive.

Update:
Read the abstract on this 2015 paper on immunology. It confirms that proper nutrition can help resist viral infections.

Steak!

I love a good steak. Which is great because steak restaurants are big in London right now. All sorts of ‘Gaucho’ type restaurants are in vogue, some where they give you a large chunk of hot stone upon which you can literally cook your own piece of beef to your idea of perfection and others where they serve a particular cut, medium rare, or should that be medium raw.

Notwithstanding, the customer service I have experienced in all of these has been little short of excellent. The quality of beef though, perhaps not as great as I’d hoped. Living in Canada as I do, the quality of steak cuisine is very good, from the on-a-budget version at a Denny’s roadside eatery to more upmarket fare, I have rarely been disappointed but for one thing, there is a cut of beef that knocks every other for six no matter how barely it is cooked. It is not often served on our side of the pond and unlike cuts I have now come to regard as inferior, can be had at a lower price. Possibly because your average Canadian consumer has yet to recognise true quality of this ‘butchers cut’. They’ll happily sink their teeth into the much chewier Rib-eye, but offer them the piece of flesh I refer to and like as not they’ll turn their noses up at it.

The piece of meat I refer to is called a ‘Flat iron’ steak and I have yet to eat its peer from any breed of cattle. Cut from the inside of the shoulder blade on a forequarter, this particular bit of muscle has an entirely different texture and flavour to any other. Firstly, texture. A flat iron steak has an almost buttery feel in the mouth, it almost melts, even when almost tartare. The grain of the meat runs longditudinally from end to end, not cross grained as with most other cuts. Properly butchered there will be no tough membranous tissue which sometimes mars the wonderful saliva inducing mellowness of this cut. Next, flavour. Mass market beef can be a bit of a flavour desert, not so the flat iron. It has a more pronounced beefiness combined with it’s splendid texture, a taste that might have you wondering why the hell you’d want to eat any other part of a steer.

The best news of all is that there is a chain of restaurants in London which specialise in this cut, serving it a little too rare for my liking, but the butchery was good and despite the redness of the meat, slipped down a treat. Did I also mention that they’re also not as expensive as most of the ‘Gaucho’ style steak houses? A full flat iron steak will feed two hungry meat lovers, even if I would have liked a little larger portion (and hotter) of their Horseradish sauce. Their creamed spinach too is enough to restore a badly Bluto battered Popeye and put a twinkle in his eye that his paramour, Olive Oyle, could not mistake.

Now I don’t do shout outs like this often, if at all, but if you want to get away from the fancy stuff masquerading as food whilst in the UK’s capital, you could do worse than visit one of the nine (At the time of writing) “Flat Iron” franchises dotted around town. First come first served. Expect to queue. Don’t forget your dessert. (Oh, the calories, the calories!)

Unless of course you have the misfortune to be a vegetarian, or worse still, vegan. Then I am afraid there is no hope for you. You poor thing.

BTW: No one really ‘hates’ vegans, vegetarians or other diet obsessives as claimed in the Grauniad.  The rest of us find the endless proselytising somewhat tiresome, even annoying, but no-one really hates them.  For example, one of my stepdaughters is a ‘fish vegetarian’ (Won’t eat meat but will eat eggs and fish).  Which I find curious but hardly a Casus belli.  To truly hate someone over their chosen diet would be to say that the matter was worth taking seriously.  Chacun a son gout.

Where there is tea

There’s an old World War two slogan that came to my attention yesterday. “Where there is tea there is hope.” attributed to English dramatist Arthur Wing Pinero from his play (Book?) ‘Sweet Lavender – a comedy in three acts’. Saw it first in the Churchill War Rooms, now it seems to be popping up everywhere. On souvenir mugs and teapots, on tee-shirts, fridge magnets, even in sermons. Like a modern interweb meme it seems to materialise in the most unexpected places. See below.

These are frustrating times. People do not do what they are asked and seem incapable of passing on messages correctly, or even performing simple tasks. This is something I often find, when tempted to hurl my laptop across our hotel room because for example the account I’ve been given to manage data has not been set up correctly. Even the most creative solution I’ve been able to come up with won’t work, so I am reduced to reverting to older, more tried and tested methods to get my job done on time. Getting things done has always been an important facet in my life, and to not be that way is incomprehensible. So with Parliament at present. Won’t have an election, won’t deliver on Brexit, in fact will do anything but do the job they were put in place to do.

In these times I always fall back on a morning cuppa to hit my reset button and restore my internal equilibrium before stepping up to meet the challenges of the day and emerge victorious. Well, not always, but I don’t give up without having a damn good go at it. If in a losing fight, it’s always useful to make sure that any aggressor gets the message that one is not to be trifled with lightly. A mug of what I call ‘builders’ tea (English breakfast with milk) always helps. No idea why. Perhaps there’s some obscure biochemical trigger within the blend which calms the emotions whilst stimulating the cognitive faculties? I do not know.

No other hot drink has such a restorative effect. Coffee leaves me buzzed but disorganised and those wishy washy herbal brews are little but flavoured hot water with no readily sensed benefit, yet a traditional English ‘cuppa’ can drag me out from under a metaphorical ton of rubble to fight another day. This is one of those unexplained mysteries of life which can lead to exchanges like;
“Sir, that building collapsed on you. Do You need to go to hospital?”
“No, I’m a bit beat up but I could really do with a cuppa.”

I know I’ve explored this topic before, but can anyone tell me which is the best? Is PG Tips the most efficacious or perhaps Tetley, Yorkshire Tea, or even your basic bog standard brew? Let us plumb the depths of one of life’s great mysteries together.

Final pack

Travel days are coming and I’m packed and even more ready than Mrs S, who is fiddling around with the fine detail before we board the great tin bird which will, providence willing, bring us to not so sunny old Londinium for a long overdue break, even if it is in many respects a working holiday.

Today is larder emptying day, and I’m using up the last fresh ingredients before shutting down the kitchen this evening. Tonights repast will be a revisitation of a Cajun remoulade, ingredients below;

A quarter of a large Red Pepper (Fresh Red cabbage can be substituted if no peppers)
Half a stalk of Celery
One Green (Spring) Onion
A quarter cup of fresh Parsley (Not dried)
Half a cup of full on Mayonnaise
Half a cup of full fat Sour Cream or Creme Fraiche (Creme Fraiche is best)
Two heaped teaspoons of Dijon Mustard
Two heaped teaspoons of Horseradish
A shake or two of Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce
A shake or two of Tabasco
Two heaped teaspoons of Paprika
Four heaped teaspoons of crushed Tomatoes or two medium size tomatoes
A third of a teaspoon of Cayenne pepper.

However, because I’m clearing out the last of the fresh stuff, said recipe has been amended to a very satisfactory simplified green version;

Half a large Red onion
five stalks of Celery
A quarter cup of fresh Parsley (Not dried)
Half a cup of full on Mayonnaise
Half a cup of full fat Sour Cream
Two heaped teaspoons of Dijon Mustard
Two heaped teaspoons of Horseradish
A shake or three of Tabasco
1 home grown green Habanero pepper with seeds removed

Just throw it all in the liquidiser and let rip until you have a smoothish sauce. First taste tests indicate that it’s not so hot in the mouth as it’s predecessor. However, the remoulade is tasty and satisfyingly viscous. Might benefit from a squirt of Lime juice, might not. Tonight I shall be serving some with fried Pork steaks and Broccoli mash with garlic butter as I’ve given up on starchier vegetables. My waistline is thanking me for it.

So, tickets and bookings are paid for. Sterling Banking facilities are set. New cell phone in hand. This time tomorrow we’re off and running.

No doubt the desperate anti-Brexit crowd and doltish Extinction Rebellion people will block our path at some stage, but we’ll cross those mildly awkward bridges when we come to them. If push comes to shove there are plenty of decent pubs within short walking distance of our lodgings.

Small home truths

Barbecued steak day yesterday. I had a nice slab in the freezer and we were tired of chicken, so Mrs S and I dined on flat-iron steak with a nice green salad. Our fifty buck propane barbecue has been doing sterling service, and there’s something of a cachet to cooking outdoors. The steak was ably washed down with a nice 2015 Argentinian Rioja. A little tingly in the mouth, but which slipped down as slickly as silk knickers. Very nice.

While the meat was cooking I dead headed carnations and inspected our other plants. The Pansies I fear, are past their best, but that’s life, isn’t it? The bad news is that my planted Sweet William has been strangled by the Pansies. Well we can’t have that. A trial has been held, guilty verdict returned and sentence carried out. Replanting will be required. May the Lord have mercy on their wretched little souls.

Further on the downside, a nasty shock greeted me in my email inbox this morning. A booking that we made back in February for our forthcoming London visit was arbitrarily cancelled by our hotel booking service. No reason, just a “Your booking has been cancelled” message, which left me struggling for replacement accommodation in the smoke. A family conference was immediately convened and the situation resolved. To be honest, there’s been something nagging at my hindbrain for the last couple of months that was saying “This isn’t Kosher” about that specific booking, so it’s nice to see my instincts vindicated yet again. Anyway, within two hours travel plans were adapted, new accommodation booked and we were back on track for our original dates for Autumn 2019. Might even get to watch the fireworks for Guy Fawkes night before we leave. I may even have saved five hundred bucks, so, swings and roundabouts. We’re all good on that front. Major league kudos incidentally to booking.com.

We’re also being plagued by mystery booming noises. About seven so far this morning. Probably sonic booms from the USAF going supersonic over the Pacific, maybe meteors coming in overhead but definitely not construction, that has a different sound altogether. The low pitched booming noises we’ve been hearing have been quite loud enough to rattle my office windows. So I checked the seismograph feeds, just in case there was an earthquake, but no. Couldn’t be meteors, as the Eta Aquarids were in early May and the Perseids aren’t due until August. So it’s probably some kind of supersonic aircraft out of Puget Sound Naval base. Boom-boom.

What else? Bitchute has been playing up of late. Video’s wouldn’t play and a few people were saying that the platform might be under attack, others that the increased traffic necessitated a major upgrade. Which if true is no surprise. Bitchute is rapidly becoming a refuge for those video creators YouTube don’t want. Or that Alphabet Inc (Owners of Google, YouTube etc) think their advertisers don’t want. The truth is that Alphabet want anodyne. Alphabet want ‘safe’, inoffensive. Funny cat and dog video’s. Which is where they think the money is, but that isn’t the content their market was built on. That was built by the very unsafe citizen journalist vloggers, comedians, gamers and commentators. It’s like watching a company that fires it’s top earning people for no good reason then watch the board stand around wondering where all those lovely profits went.

Although in Alphabet’s defence it’s common knowledge that online platforms, some advertisers and even credit card companies have come under pressure from certain activist media outlets, partially because said media outlets get money for pushing a certain world-view to rid YouTube etc of it’s most engaging voices, partly just to see the world burn. It’s also true that legacy media is increasingly under even more financial pressure from the new media, like the citizen journalists and gamers of YouTube. Now these ‘professional’ media types see all the advertisers paying what they see as their much sought after moolah to a bunch of upstarts who, horror of horrors, never went to journalism school. What must sting even more is legacy media watching advertisers paying these upstarts for poking fun at legacy media misrepresentations, bias and omissions, leaving the mainstreams credibility more full of holes than a good Emmental cheese. All the time the mainstream have been scrabbling for eyeballs they could sell to advertisers whilst watching their ratings sink like a torpedoed cruise liner. So the advertisers have been quietly cutting their legacy media spending, because what’s the point of advertising on a platform whose best days are long behind it? YouTube will follow. Personally, I’d sell my Alphabet Inc stock while the value is still relatively good. The market has peaked. Time for some serious profit taking before the crunch comes.

The penny is currently dropping like a rock that the relentless output of left leaning media, with it’s deranged hatred of all things heterosexual and north European is deeply unattractive to much of the eveyday public. As a result CNN has become a shrinking market. As are most of the main cable and digital news platforms, apart from the much maligned Fox News, who are smart enough to see which way the wind is blowing. For the rest, mass redundancies are becoming the order of the day. Huffington Post, Vox etc are all feeling the pinch.

Tim Pool has an interesting take on what’s going on.

In a bid to kill off the competition in the vain hope those straying consumer eyeballs will somehow come back to them, certain media outlets have resorted to using underhand tactics to silence anyone who isn’t them, because frankly me deario’s, many YouTubers have been effortlessly waxing the bums of the self appointed journalistic classes. People like CNN have been losing viewer ratings big time and desperate money men will have given out orders to shut down these upstart YouTubers by fair means or foul. Since these people don’t really do fairness, they have gone straight for the low foul tackle. Play the man, not the ball. Don’t present evidence or have a debate, that’s boring. Just go for the juicy Ad Hominem. Libel those unable to defend themselves. Sell the drama of Nazi’s behind every bush, which is a strange thing to do because there just aren’t enough real ‘Nazi’s’ to go around. Then apply the tactic of accuse, accuse, accuse, ‘expose’ with no real evidence, ‘out’ or Doxx, making people’s personal lives public so selectively that even Christopher Robin might look like Satan incarnate. Imagine such a headline; “Christopher Robin parties with animals – scandals of the hundred acre wood exposed” with some salacious insinuations about paedophilia, honey pots and bestiality in the first two paragraphs, the clickbait headline of which would be subsequently contradicted in the last lines of the headlined article. Which most people wouldn’t read as far as without suffering a bad attack of WTF! Then the story gets passed on in a game of Chinese whispers which only present the accusations as fact, not the original clickbait titled story in full. So the lie travels and the outrage machine roars into life.

You might think that this all sounds a bit tin foil hat, but I can cite at least six real live people whose well-meaning contact with the mainstream media has seriously screwed with their lives. Ergo, I don’t trust ‘Journalists’. One of the few pieces of wisdom my Dad imparted to me that stuck was “Don’t believe all that you read in the papers”. This would seem to be ever more apt as the blatant spin and news management has even polluted the pages of the Financial Times. Excuse me chums, I pay my FT subscription for hard information, not for some affectioned time-pleasers half baked opinion.

Of course the politicians go along because they need the media mouthpiece to get them votes so they can keep, in the immortal words of Mel Brooks’ corrupt William J LePetomane in Blazing Saddles “Their phoney-baloney jobs.” Which is why left of centre politicians are so keen to shut anyone with a ‘non-mainstream’ viewpoint down. They get their airtime from grateful legacy media platforms. It does not matter that otherwise innocent people end up getting defamed and even thrown in jail for ‘hate speech’ (Which is being defined by some very thin skinned individuals) Who cares? Gimme, gimme, gimme.

Stuff it. It’s too nice a day not to go riding. TTFN

The Motorcycle diet

As my one remaining reader will know, I’m a biker. One who passed his motorcycle test three years before he took and passed his car test. I’ve ridden everything from a beat up Honda 175 to a full sized sports tourer, which is what I have at present. 1261 wonderful cc of genteel fun. It’s a big dog, currently securely chained up in the yard under cover. It gets plenty of exercise and gives me a fair bit too. Which is why I am currently losing weight quite rapidly.

The thing is about riding a motorcycle is that unlike driving a car or truck, it is a dynamic process. Every time you corner for example, your whole body has to be involved, in my case piloting a machine almost two and a half times my current body weight. There’s no power steering, no gadgets (Apart from heated handlebar grips), just bodyweight dynamically managing a heavyweight machine along uneven roads and some fairly tight uncambered bends.

The process of positioning your body correctly for a bend takes effort which is not unlike the philosophy behind ‘hot’ yoga. Even at relatively sedate speeds, shoulders set, knees cuddling the tank, it takes a a fair bit of energy to swoop, apparently effortlessly, through repeated bends. Then there’s the loss of body heat which means you can burn quite a few calories keeping up even within the space of a two hour ride. Think of it this way. What might be a warm day standing still can get decidedly chilly over sixty miles an hour, so even fairly well insulated you can burn up a whole heap of energy simply keeping warm, thus losing weight as your body goes through those calories like a blast furnace.

Add to that a fairly high protein, low carbohydrate way of life and weight loss is guaranteed. I call it ‘the motorcycle diet’. It works. At least for me.

Anything in the news? Not really, just the usual bunch of suspects getting bent out of shape over Trumps state visit to the UK. That idiot Sadiq Khan didn’t attend the state dinner, neither did Corbyn. Jesus H Christ on a moped! Are these people so devoid of intellect and statecraft that they shut themselves out of the party. While Liz and Trump were celebrating the alliance between the UK and the USA and deals were quietly being discussed, a bunch of incompetents were trying to virtue signal that because ‘orange man bad’ this somehow excused them being utterly atrocious at their jobs. Then the credulous morons who can’t be bothered to do their own research and see how well the USA is doing under Trump turn up en masse to complain. These would be the same people who ‘think’ that man made climate change is a physical threat to humanity despite the continual failure of their end of the world prophesies and that Socialism isn’t a bad idea despite a century of failure. Newsflash kiddies; if you believe what the bought and paid for media tell you, that ain’t ‘thinking’.

Oh well, I look at it this way. In order for a certain number of people to be of above average intelligence, there have to be a whole heap who are dumber than a bag of sponge rubber rocks. It’s a simple rule of averages. Like what we have taken to calling ‘Emotional Literacy’, like reading ages, some people only get as far as an emotional age of 11, others make 13, fewer still 17 and the very few emotional maturity.

Mrs S and I had a broad and in depth discussion on an associated topic last night. She came back from a conference at UVIC yesterday and we had an interesting exchange of views about childhood trauma and how it impacts people. “You control your impulses very well, Bill.” She observed. Yes, she knows I’m damaged goods, but I know precisely where and how I’m damaged and try to take a breath before simply reacting. It passes for wisdom sometimes. And that pertikular commodity, me deario’s, is where you finds it.

Is that the sun shining? So it is. Time to shed another pound of two.

Baking Daze

By George I’ve done it! I’ve cracked baking both my favourite Black Olive Bread and French style Baguettes. Using bog standard flour, salt, instant yeast and water alone. No baking powder, no additives or ‘improvers’. Better than store bought. More flavour. Ee, I’m dead chuffed.

The trick for French style baguettes is in the dough which should be damp and slightly sticky but not too wet. Too wet and you’ve just baked a twenty inch long muffin, too dry and it comes out like bad pastry. Dry mix the Flour, salt and yeast thoroughly before adding room temperature water. Mix and add flour until you’ve got a dough ball that sticks to the bowl a little, but not too much. Leave resulting dough in mixing bowl for a couple of hours, punch down the dough and knead it until your dough ball gets smoother and more plasticky. Let it rise again. Knead once more then leave for twenty minutes or so before cutting dough into loaf sized bits. Roll and place dough, cutting as per your fancy to be cooked on some baking paper on a tray in an oven pre-heated to 415 Fahrenheit (About 210 Celsius) with a heat proof bowl half full of boiling water on the shelf below. Rotate tray after ten minutes or so. Remove baking parchment and leave loaf on grid or tray. Continue to cook until brown all over (About 15-20 additional minutes). Remove and leave on a grid or some baking parchment to cool. Works like a charm every time. Passes the toast test too.

Thanks to our Landlord’s apple tree, apple tarts have also been created and apple pie filling is being readied for the freezer. The tarts proved an absolute snip with some thinly rolled pastry, thin sliced apple and baking them in the oven for about twenty five minutes at 350 Fahrenheit (175 Celsius), although to get the full glistening glory of a patisserie produced product I will need to invest in some gelatin to brush over the baked apple and cinnamon.

Oh yes, all the wildfire smoke has gone. In forty eight hours. We’ve gone from an AQI in the hundreds (Almost hazardous) to single figures (Good) almost overnight after the Pacific winds drove inland and reports of snow and rain from the interior of BC. Snow in August? WTF? True, the snowfall is all up on the peaks in the Rockies, but hang on a minute! This is still August FFS! And it’s earlier than ever reported before, so what’s going on? Are we in for a long, cold Winter as the US Farmers Almanac is predicting or is this just a blip?

Which reminds me, my old toaster just died and we’ve had to spend a few bucks on one of those fancy long slice models.

Wheel spin

It’s Friday. The one day of the week I’ve always had a problem with. Mainly because I’m not really a weekend person and always feel like I’m just spinning my wheels, going nowhere fast. The skies are clearing, but there’s still too much wildfire smoke outside to spend much time outdoors. I’ve even taken to wearing a filter mask.

However, because work is still slack and staying out on the deck for too long makes me cough, I’ve been in the kitchen experimenting and come up with a fun dish which isn’t too hard to make. I call them Nested Eggs. Very simple but quite cute. Goes well if you’re fed up of burgers in a bun or feel like showing off some rudimentary culinary skill. Who knows? Your kids may even take a liking to them if you’re having difficulty getting the little horrors to eat whole eggs. who knows? Live a little.

Stuff you will need for two servings;
One large baking potato
Two eggs
Two identical oven proof cup receptacles you can put under the grill. I use two stainless steel baking rings which are like cookie cutters only four inches across and about an inch and a bit deep placed on a piece of folded foil. Individual sized oven proof dishes greased with butter will do.
Salt and pepper to taste
Two teaspoons of Butter
Optional teaspoon of grated cheese, no more.

Method can get a bit finicky, but even I got it right first time so here goes;
Microwave your baking potato so it is fully cooked.
Peel and mash potato thoroughly, adding butter, salt and pepper to mash for seasoning. Mash consistency should be firm but soft enough to mould but which does not stick to the sides of your mashing receptacle. This is British style mash, not that sloppy North American stuff which looks like lightly solidified sludge. Powdered potato or ready mix mash will not cut it for this dish.
Add cheese to mash if you are so inclined. Not too much.
Grease your receptacles (Oo-er matron!).
Put half of mashed potato into each oven proof receptacle. Make a depression in the middle which will fully take one egg.
Put mashed potato cup under low to medium grill until it browns. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Unless of course you like half of your egg white barely cooked. The idea here is to apply heat from both above and below. Besides, browning the mash first gives a lovely crispy note to the end result.
Remove receptacles, cups whatever from under grill making sure that you don’t burn your delicate pinkies when doing so.
Add salt and pepper to the centre of the depression.
While browned mash is still hot, carefully break a whole egg into the centre and put back under the grill immediately.
Cooking times will vary, but if you work to about the same timing as for a boiled egg of the same size, you won’t go far wrong. A large egg will take around eight minutes and thirty seconds. A medium about eight minutes if you’ve got the grill settings right.
Remove from under grill again when egg looks cooked and doesn’t wobble when you jiggle the grill. Again, being oh so careful not to scorch your delicate ickle pinkies. Leave on one side for a couple of minutes to let the cooking finish. The egg should be cooked through, ideally with a solid white and a golden oozing yolk. Sprinkle with a little seasoning to taste and judiciously loosen it from your cooking receptacle with a knife. If you’ve got it right, the nested egg can now be decanted onto your plate ready for consumption. Hold receptacle with a bit of folded kitchen towel while you do this as your cooking receptacle will still be hot and roast fingers are not on the menu here.

A minor note regarding sauce or accompanying dish. Nested Eggs go well with burgers, thick cut bacon, Sausages, a mixed grill or anything carnivorous. They’re even good on their own with Baked Beans in tomato sauce. Tabasco or HP sauce is a tasty accompaniment. Alternatively treat them like an eggs Benedict and smother in Hollandaise sauce but without all the fuss of poaching eggs, which is a skill I’ve never quite been able to master.

On the whole I’ve found Nested Eggs make an entertaining adjunct to casual food. They’re dead simple to make and a welcome change from chips (Fries) with everything. Enjoy.

Happy weekend.

TTFN

Some holiday reading

Back home and unpacking now. Our little deck garden has survived our absence and the Lemon tree seedlings are doing very well indeed. The biggest issue we face having returned to BC is where to get half way authentic French bread in our locale. We’ve tried some of our local outlets, but their output is too dense and not crusty enough. Good French bread is a simple thing but so hard to get right without the correct T55 or T65 grade flour. Which is very difficult to get over here in BC, Canadian import restrictions being what they are.

While we have been traversing the byways and higher ways around Western Europe, I’ve been using a couple of books to pass the time in various airport lounges and flights. The first is a Penguin edition of Orwell’s ‘Why I write’, the second, Christopher Hitchens’ commentary ‘Why Orwell Matters’. Finished ‘Why I write’ on the flight to Marseille and ‘Hitchens on Orwell’ on the flight back to BC.

Conclusion; like another of my favourite writers, Rudyard Kipling, Orwell was a man of his time shaped by conscience and experience. To me Orwell was right as an opposer of totalitarianism, which is a doctrine which always assumes that others should dictate how you live your life, wrong regarding Democratic Socialism, which puts power in the hands of some supposedly benign, unbiased authority. Which as the Communist and every other form of Socialist regime have found and are finding, is a path that leads only to mass graves. Because the tighter the definition of what is mandated by these supposedly beneficent individuals, the less becomes allowed and the more ‘outliers’ there are across the general population who won’t fit.

Think of it this way, we’ve all got enough going on without having some eternal parent figure supervising and regulating our every waking thought. Running people’s lives through fiat and diktat is a bad idea because Government or religious rules set up to tightly govern irrational, greedy, selfish humans are set up and often enforced by, guess who? Irrational, greedy and selfish humans. Possibly more so than in private institutions. If you’ve ever worked in the public sector anywhere, you will know this to be true. The majority of people who work in them are not fit to rule themselves, let alone others, which is an excellent reason to minimise Government power wherever possible. The same goes for cartels and monopolies, like Alphabet inc (Google, YouTube et al) Facebook or Twitter.

Perhaps Orwell, had he lived long enough, would have wholeheartedly agreed. He’d probably have been horrified by the wholesale banning of InfoWars too because someone like him would have been first on their list for no-platforming. Especially when Facebook are sniffing around the US banks after people’s transaction data.

What would happen to someone like George if Facebook etc got that access and enforced their will on his personal life? “Sorry Mr Orwell, but we don’t like your opinions so we’re going to stop you getting a credit card or having a bank account.”

Which makes me look at my LinkedIn and Instagram accounts and think about deleting those as well. That and a word to the banks I’m a shareholder of, telling them that should they enter negotiations with the axis of evil (Alphabet Inc, Facebook and Twitter), I will be voicing serious concerns about security and voting against any board Director who wants to go in that direction.

Update: I see that Instagram have deleted the ‘realtommyrobinson’ page.  Well, he can join another social media platform and take all his followers with him.  Instagram’s loss.

Have you seen this, Bill?

Sometimes you wonder where all the bullshit comes from. Seventy four years ago on the 6th of June and for the next few weeks, my Dad was having a whale of a time (He told me he actually enjoyed being under fire during his wartime service on Minesweepers and Landing ships) as an Ordinary Seaman Signals on the run in on the second wave of D-Day to a place called Juno Beach, Normandy. Today Mrs S sent me the link to this document on agriculture which is a BREXIT consultation paper doing the rounds in Wastemonster. My response; well, fuck me rigid. Are these people proposing what I think they are?

1. Once the UK leaves the EU, the Government plans to incentivise methods of farming that create new habitats for wildlife, increase biodiversity, reduce flood risk, better mitigate climate change and improve air quality by reducing agricultural emissions.1 It intends to do this by leaving the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and implementing a new system based on paying public money for public goods.

I read the first paragraph with a massive WTF? “implementing a new system based on paying public money for public goods” (sic) Like the old and failed milk, egg and potato marketing boards? Not to mention the clusterfuck of the Department for the Elimination of Farming and Rural Affairs, as DEFRA is known in fishing and farming circles (And Private Eye).

I look at this proposal this way; if the Eurocrats put the screws on, as those bitter petty tyrants are likely to do as the UK exits the EU, dear old blighty will need to ‘dig for victory’ in every square inch of their back yards. Because despite all the media hoo-hah about ‘climate change’ (a.k.a. the mythical man made global warming) the astrophysicists are pointing at a deepening solar minimum, reduced magnetosphere, increased cosmic ray radiation in the upper atmosphere resulting in increased cloud cover and albedo. And an overall global climatic shift and cooling. At least if you think that Henrik Svensmark has gotten his sums right.

Now if the folk pointing at a cooling phase of the global climate are right, productive growing areas will shrink and there will be less food overall for UK government policies to create famines from. On the upside this will mean be more marginal land for grazing, so more Lamb, Pork and Beef can be raised. More hedgerows for fences, so more havens for wildlife in the cold times. Which might be no bad thing.

Now I, as my one remaining reader will attest, grew up on home grown food with all it’s benefits and drawbacks. At school we learned about how to grow stuff. Indeed I began learning at my Mother’s knee because she was a born a farm girl and even if you’re a Jazz piano player at heart, you never lose the earth under your finger nails.

The other shocker is that from 30th March 2019 all the EU regs on UK airlines cut off. Which means flying a UK airline or with UK licensed pilots or aircraft might just get a bit problematic. If a flight, pilot, airline or aircraft is only certified in the UK then it can’t enter European airspace. No doubt all the major airlines already have plans in place to get dual certification. Unfortunately this state of affairs, if push comes to shove, may result in a tit for tat where transatlantic aircraft originating in Europe are refused entry to UK airspace. Which will be awkward for all those long distance flights into Amsterdam, Paris or Frankfurt, requiring extra fuel loads or Icelandic layovers. Just watch the video below of flight paths and take a look at how all the most economical flights to and from the US and Canada to Europe cross UK airspace.

This could be fun to watch.

Cucumber Sandwiches

The wind was howling a little this afternoon, so I busied myself making cucumber sandwiches for tea. With the crusts cut off. Bloody hell Bill! Have you joined the upper crust then you class traitor!? No seriously. There’s something particularly civilised about cucumber sandwiches. Something special about these tiny triangles of bread, butter, thinly sliced cucumber with a swift twist of black pepper. Has to be salted butter, not margarine or anything ‘low fat’ which doesn’t cut whatever mustard you are fond of, be that the savage horseradish bite of traditional English, the fragrant acidity of Dijon or the sharp vinegar twist of Bavarian. The bread must be fresh, white and thinly sliced or else the whole experience becomes muted and insipid. Get it right, even adding a smear of cream cheese to the lower piece of bread and the reward is a fresh, mouth watering experience that is very moreish and dirt cheap.

Which kind of led me to a minor epiphany about all the ‘county’ people I used to know back in my rural English days, they were ‘rich’ because they never spent a penny they didn’t have to. Most of their wealth was / is what’s called ‘family’ money anyway, tied up in trusts and property so tightly it’s enough to give a church mouse a fit of the vapours. Cucumber sandwiches were simply a low-cost way of keeping the grocery bills under control while keeping up appearances with an ease that would make the legendary Hyacinth Bucket (Pronounced Boo-kay, you peasant) marvel. And they’re surprisingly tasty if done right. Not Hyacinth Bucket, the sandwiches.

You will need:
Cucumber
Bread (Doesn’t really matter which type, thin sliced is good)
Salted butter
Optional extras:
Ground black pepper
Cream cheese

Method:
Thinly slice cucumber and bread. Warm a little butter, or leave out in a warm room until it is soft and spreadable. Spread butter thinly on one side of bread slices. Lay thin slices of cucumber (the thinner the better) on the slices of bread. At this point a thin smear of cream cheese may be spread on the top slice of bread and a light scattering of ground black pepper added. Put the second slice on top and cut off the bread crusts with a sharp knife. Cut each sandwich into quarters diagonally and serve immediately with a nice hot cup of tea. Preferably on a hot sunny day. They’re quick, easy and can give you an air of charm and sophistication you may not display in your day to day life.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that these sandwiches have to be kept cool, possibly in a lightly chilled container before serving or they will either rapidly dry out and curl or become soggy and inedible. Freshness is important.

Get it right and you will feel the sophistication literally flood into your veins as you partake of this quintessentially English delicacy, making you a better, more rounded person and all your cares will fade into the background. Unless someone else nicks your cucumber sandwiches, then may battle commence. To the death.

Anyway, whilst I was preparing said degustatory delights my email inbox was going crazy with notifications of updated terms of service because of the EU’s latest ERDP GDPR (Whatever) regulations. Several came in making me wonder when I’d actually signed up for these specific accounts. More to the point, why? Note to self. Must get busy with cancellations tomorrow. If I don’t have an account, they can’t slurp my personal data, well not legally anyway.

Another side effect was popping over to Head Rambles and trying to leave a salient comment only to be refused with a message saying my comment had been blocked, directing me to contact the site admin with a ‘case number’. So I dashed off a quick missive to Himself and hoped that it didn’t end up in his spam filter. After a brief email discussion we concluded that neither of us had ever seen anything like this before. Despite significant experience in IT on both our parts. Didn’t happen again, but if it ever does I’m taking screen shots.

As for the censorship that seems to not be on University campuses any longer but spilling out everywhere, with obscure tinfoil hatters being prosecuted for ‘Holocaust Denial’, arrests of protesters against the religion of being blown to pieces etcetera one could be forgiven for thinking the world has gone madder than usual. I blame Donald Trump. If he hadn’t been elected we’d still have no idea that almost half the population of North America (including Canada) is completely out to lunch and screaming to give away their civil rights because they can’t accept responsibility for their own actions. Or have even the faintest idea of the scientific method which demands evidence. There have even been calls to jail people for having a difference of opinion on other scientific, cultural or social issues but who will that benefit? We are either a free society or we are not. Part of our freedom comes from tolerating opinions we do not share. Jailing people who engage in peaceful verbal protest is the hallmark of weakened societal institutions.

Perhaps if all parties could come together for tea and cucumber sandwiches (no food fights) for a polite discussion of evidence and issues we might make the world a better place.

Sweet FA

Not much happening at the moment apart from work, work, work. Sweet Fanny Adams in fact. Just number crunching, which isn’t part of my usual workaday skill set, but it’s not really dragon magic, just a big game of arithmetical join the dots. I’m just mildly surprised that no-one else in this particular company has just buckled down and sorted out the mess they created for themselves. Oh well, it all makes work for the working man to do. As in ‘the gas man cometh’. See below.

I see that Starbucks is caught in a perfect PC storm where two guys who wanted to use premises without the normal niceties of a commercial transaction cried ‘foul’ when they behaved like arses and got nicked. Now that haven or PC hipsters has come under fire for asking two of a protected class to behave like ordinary people or leave. Does the boycott these Twatterers are talking about mean we’ll be able to get a table now all the latte classes will be boycotting Starbucks? Good. Although this means the hate mob will have to find another coffee shop chain to haunt. Who knows. if they all fuck off and stop hogging tables and bandwidth for hours at a time maybe other patrons will get a look in? As far as coffee shops are concerned, these keyboard warriors can’t be the most profitable of customers.

Mrs S likes Starbucks, but honestly I’m not that impressed. My taste is for less bitter brews. I prefer Italian roasts like Lavazza myself.

Froody pron

Recently I’ve been experimenting with that illicit foodstuff, not generally available in Canada. A staple of my UK midlands upbringing. A small guilty pleasure I first encountered in a younger, more innocent time. If food were sex, this would be the knee trembler up an alley after closing time. Quick and deliciously dirty. Feeding an immediate appetite that nothing else can quite touch. A foodstuff designed to make middle class busybody heads explode.

I refer of course to that excellent British delicacy, Pork scratchings, for which I have developed my own so easy to do even-I-can-do-it recipe. This is a dish said busybodies would ban if they could. An ideal accompaniment to beer or ale it is not low salt, low fat or politically correct, but a taste Gods would create from raw firmament if they could.

All you will need is the pork rind most supermarket butchers insist on removing from their pork joints. Why, I have no idea. For best results this should have at least around a quarter inch of pork fat on the inner surface or it just goes all leathery. Pork rind is cheap as well. I can pick it up by the kilo for just a couple of bucks. Over here it’s sold by Chinese owned supermarkets, because they at least appreciate the value of the whole pig, which is an animal venerated in Chinese folklore.

Simply spread your skin (Skin side up of course) on a baking tray, score like with ordinary pork crackling.  I have a dedicated craft, Stanley type blade for this specific purpose.  Give a thorough oiling with a splodge of any old cooking oil, then throw salt on it. About a teaspoon. Rub evenly.  Then add ground black pepper to taste. Heat oven to 420 Fahrenheit, 220 Celsius (200 for a fan oven) or gas mark 7. Put in prepared skin and wander off for forty minutes while it bakes and crisps up like pork crackling. Take out and leave to cool. Break off a piece. Eat, enjoy. and whatever you do, don’t feel guilty. Because guilt is a means of control and when it comes to control, that’s for other people. The rest of us can have pork scratchings and I know which I prefer.

Froody.