Tag Archives: Food

Citrus

Those of you who bother to read my febrile ravings might have noticed a little mischievousness on my part. It’s sort of an existential protest at WordPress for changing their editor without a bye, leave or thank you. So if you read rude words spelled out down the index, please don’t take it personally. it is not meant for you.

Obviously I direct my rancorous bile toward those who screw around with the lives of others without a thought as to the consequences of their policies. Those who take bad advice and inflict it on others for example. The average modern career politician being a case in point, and aren’t they all just that? Average. Decidedly so and only good at sound bites and getting elected. Some would say by fair means or foul.

So, to the title of this post, Citrus. Well chums, I’m at it again, growing citrus plants from seed. Hopefully this time my little jungle will not be dumped because we’re moving continents yet again. The current count is 100% germination, with two lemon and one grapefruit plant germinated and developing root systems.

Simplicity appears to be the key for germination. My germinator, is a transparent plastic pot which once contained coleslaw, wadded at the bottom with a couple of damp (but not wet) squares of kitchen towel. Yes I know I could just slip out and buy a Citrus plant from a garden centre, but that’s not the point. The idea is to do it from scratch. Like I have just started doing with five navel orange seeds, and will do with limes, when of course I find some grocery store limes with seeds in them.

Essentially, my mindset is one of experimentation. Does it work or doesn’t it? If it does, wonderful, great. If not, back to the drawing board. So it has been with my experiments in growing citrus fruit plants in temperate climes.

Right, so what else? So I cultivate citrus plants, big deal. Well there is a therapeutic motivation. Firstly, growing things, like jigsaws, is good for the soul and keeps the blood pressure in check. Secondly, various fruits have real health benefits. A couple of Pineapple chunks a day, no more, I have found, keep the floaters in my eyes at bay. Something to do with an enzyme called Bromelain, or so I am informed.

Similarly Grapefruit, which is supposedly good for the old ticker, but not if you’re on heavy medications like statins, and can increase the effect of those little rhomboid shaped blue tablets we men occasionally defer to when the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. But here’s a thing; I find that regular consumption of grapefruit helps clear the relevant blood vessels and saves having to take those little blue diamonds in the first place, which is nice, as those pills are expensive, and I’ve already sold my shares in Pfizer.

Downtime

I’m used to living and working online. It is, in some respects, something I’m fairly good at. For other things there is a phone, and as a trained communicator (Two ears, two eyes, two nostrils and one mouth, use in proportion). Unfortunately, when I need to talk to an overseas contact, our landline is down. Like today. So no business gets transacted. People don’t get paid on time and this reduces the sum of human happiness. Not something I like being even partially responsible for.

I could of course, if I had money to burn or an international data package, use my cell phone. But I’d rather put my funds to better use than paying cell phone companies for millivolts and sitting in a call centre queue for an hour or more while my remaining brains trickle out of my ears in tune with the bland awfulness of wait queue Muzak and their interminable adverts.

So what to do? Let my blood pressure be pushed beyond safe limits because the vagaries of fate preclude action? Or do I bugger off and do something slightly more interesting and successful while the phone company fix the lines? Dear reader, I chose the latter. Life, especially under the current pointless restrictions, demands little victories, those micro successes that bolter the shreds your self-esteem can be reduced to when utilities fail, and despite it not being your fault, guess who is first in line to get it in the neck when things aren’t done? Got it in one. Guess whose turn it is to be the office cat? Yours. Enjoy.

Here’s an interesting little life hack; did you know that an air fryer can make toast and fried bread? Well this one can. Saves putting the oven grill on. Don’t have a toaster, and didn’t fancy doing the old skillet toast trick. So my air fryer was put into service. 6 minutes at 200 Celsius lightly browns the bread and makes a nice hot slice to receive marmalade or whatever topping you fancy.

As an FYI; cast iron skillets can make seriously good toast and fried bread, which is where they score over the average toaster. Get the pan good and hot, stick in the bread and frying medium of choice (Olive oil, butter or nothing at all), flip when ready. There are more ways to make top notch toast than are thought of in anyone’s philosophy. All that is needed is a little outside the box culinary thinking and Robert is one’s father’s brother.

You can’t do fried bread in a toaster either. They’re a bit one dimensional as far as kitchen appliances go. Try putting anything but dried bread in them and the next thing you know it’s sparks and flames all round like a fork in a microwave. So I have the more versatile air fryer instead.

Another little culinary parlour trick I have to pass on is to stop your garlic going off. If, like me you don’t use more than a clove every other day, the trick is to peel the individual cloves and drop them into a jar of Olive oil. Result; garlic that doesn’t go off in a week and which keeps fairly well for a month. This also gives you a ready supply of Garlic Olive Oil, which commands a far higher price in the shops than the usual. So it’s a money saver too.

Anyway, supper beckons. Just soup and a small charcuterie and cheese board. There’s probably another glass of Pinot Noir downstairs too. And here’s me with this terrible thirst.

TTFN

So here we go

Here we go for WTO BREXIT. Amazon sent me an email the other day saying that anything ordered from their UK site (There isn’t an Amazon.ie) may be subject to extra duties, so they’re ready. The main UK ports have been ready for several years, with ‘pop-up’ customs posts ready to clear lorry loads of merchandise as they come in and go out of the UK. A good thing (for me) is the pound losing five points almost overnight against the Canadian Dollar a couple of nights ago, which made it a good idea to buy sterling. No idea why the markets react in this way. The UK is ready, customs posts set up, exporters informed and the RN getting set to arrest and detain fishing boats without proper licenses in UK waters. The only people who seem ill-prepared, bent over a chair with their trousers around their knees are the EU states.

Out here in the wilder west of Ireland, all these COVID restrictions are starting to be ignored. Dropped by my local butchers to make my Christmas order today. No masks, seasons greetings, all very civilised. The local supermarket still enforces the anti-social distancing and masks bullshit, but other people are starting to not bother.

No idea what’s going on in the US. Obvious vote rigging and dismissal of legal challenges, probably dismissed on technicalities, evidence of, but not court admissible proof. As for Biden, it’s well known he’s pro-EU, anti-BREXIT, but that’s okay because with congress and the senate on the flip side of the coin, he’s going to be in a lame duck administration. One hopes.

There’s a reported problem with the voting machines ‘flipping’ votes and all sorts of other dodgy things going on. Nothing that constitutes definitive proof, but man, I would be asking for a thorough review and re-run of the elections right now, without the voting machines, with proper oversight, with voter ID and the absolute minimum of postal voting. But that’s just me. At least an obviously fair vote would shut up all the dissenting parties and give them less to kick off about.

Up in the not so great not so white as you think it is North, there’s Trudeau allowing Chinese troops to ‘train’ on Canadian soil. Does that corrupt little toe-rag not trust his own military? How long before those exercises allow Chinese troops to ‘assist’ the Canadian armed forces against their own people? Say those uppity Midwesterners in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan? No idea. We’re out of there and our investment money is following us.

For us the aforementioned is now rather academic. We’re hunkered down in the wilder west of Ireland. All our Christmas shopping is done. We have found out where to get some superb mini-rhubarb tarts and some of the finest Mince Pies known to man fresh on most weekdays. Right on our doorstep. Our accounts are well in the black and all credit cards fully paid off. The halls are decked etc and there’s food in the larder to see us clear through to February, and a suitably fiendish 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle on the kitchen table to stretch our pattern recognition software. I might get another, just in case we get a bit too clever and finish it before Christmas. There’s Oak logs drying ready for the stoves. The kids may be with us some time in January. Fingers crossed. We’re going to be okay. Hope you will be too.

Like a lot of people I won’t be staying up for the latest end of the world show on the 21st December when an optical illusion makes it look like Saturn and Jupiter are going to collide. I’ll be hitting the ‘snooze’ button for that one. If these people are that keen to see the end of the world, I’m sure there’s a high cliff they can jump off and stop mithering the rest of us with their ridiculous utterances. All the hand-waving man made climate change panic mongers can follow them for all I care. They’re all busy telling the rest of us how to live while ignoring their own rules, buying waterfront property and jetting off to conferences all over the planet. If they didn’t clock in tomorrow on account of being too dead to work, would anybody really care?

Hope my last reader can stand the suspense.

Merry Christmas, Yuletide Greetings and all that Jazz.

Warmest regards

Bill

Lemon and Lime Mousse

Food post. As if you didn’t know from the title, but literacy is so neglected in these times that sometimes one is forced to reiterate. Right, this mousse comes with a mental health warning. If it were human it would be a bullwhip-toting dominatrix clad in white stockings, leather basque and no knickers. And heading your way with a knowing smile. Seriously. This little dish is salacious.

There are some times you luck on to something which teases some taste buds, putting the rest in chains then bending them over a chair. Similarly, this is a recipe for the BDSM crowd that punches back through your salivary glands and leaves you with a sensation of pressure at the back of your shoulders. Well it did for me. Mrs S is reporting similar sensations. Caveat; this is very, very grown up. Children will not like it because it is not very sweet. Grown ups will because it isn’t.

Mousse is normally a fairly mundane dish. Soft and billowy in the mouth, tasty and refreshing, but fairly unmemorable. Mousse can be the base of a pleasant savoury starter or a lightweight dessert but this one is neither. The texture is light and billowy like a ballerina’s tutu, but with the bite of a lime flavoured mongoose on methamphetamine.

To experience this sensation you will need;
1 lemon
1 lime
1 tablespoon of granulated sugar, no more
Half a pint of whipping cream
1 dessert spoon of full fat Greek Yoghurt
A large bowl and a whisk
3-4 raspberries for garnish per serving

The above recipe will make enough for three people. You may also need a bucket of water with five pounds of ice in it. Or not, depending upon your personal predilections. The great thing is that it’s very unfussy. No eggs, no gelatin, no unpleasant bending, just simple ingredients in proportion.

Squeeze the juice of both the lemon and the lime into a small glass. Remove pips but not the pulp.
Put the cream in the mixing bowl and whisk until it begins to thicken.
Add sugar and continue whipping until the cream stiffens.
When mix is stiff enough that most of it forms a soft lump inside your whisk, fold in the Yoghurt.
Mix in the lemon and lime juice.
Decant into serving bowls. I use small Ramekins.
Put in fridge for half an hour to finish setting.
Garnish with raspberries.
You may also garnish with a little lemon and lime zest. If you dare.

Eat and enjoy the savage tartness. At this point you may need to use the bucket of iced water. As for the rest, well disclaimer alert; this blog takes no responsibility for your actions during or after consumption. Do not eat in public. We will not pay your bail money.

Now I must go and polish my mistresses high leather boots.

Save the world!

Went out today. Snuck up to Galway, to see if we could get out of the rain, which has been quite persistent. Bought a Tea Brack, which is a tea cake type of halfway house between fruit cake and bread. Very nice too. But oh, the calories, the calories. This is one of those treats that has to be rationed carefully.

Ireland, we are finding, as we sneak around the tiers and lockdowns, is full of tiny places to grab some of the tastiest baked goods it’s ever been my pleasure to get teeth into. Today we stopped at a tiny filling station on the road between Tulla and Ennis. Not much of a shop to look at, but stocking exquisite individual rhubarb crumbles and mince pies, all home baked. Their flaky pastries being crunchy all the way through and cooked perfectly. I’ve had far worse at the much smarter run of cafe.

Unfortunately, according to some people our little pleasurable perambulation contributed to destroying the planet. Supposedly because of that deadly killer carbon dioxide stuff pouring out of our exhaust. We are continually told we must “Save the world” by cutting back on everything we do. No more air travel, nice meals or personal transport, and turn down that thermostat you heretic! Then when the greater number of humanity have died through cold and famine brought on by so-called anti-global warming policies the world will be ‘saved’. Or will it?

Can I ask a few pertinent questions? First; how will anyone know when the world is truly saved? Second; if most of people are dead, who is the world being ‘saved’ for? Furthermore, who gets to decide if the world is ‘saved’ or not if a bloody great asteroid (That might have been averted if there were enough people to fund an asteroid aversion programme) slams into the Earth? These things do happen from Epoch to Eon, and might it be a better idea instead of messing around with atmospheric trace gas levels, if human activity has any effect upon those at all, to ensure the Earth doesn’t get wasted by a rogue chunk of rock from outer space?

Just my ten cents worth of course, but every time you ask these serious questions, all the fanatics can do is splutter and do an impersonation of Donald Sutherland at the end of “Invasion of the body snatchers.”

Which begs the question; does the world need saving from humanity in general, or just saving from the global warming fanatics? I have formed my own opinion, what say the rest of you?

Update: or should we be more worried about the latest asteroid to explode over New York state last Wednesday? It was part of a larger debris field. So don’t say you weren’t told.

Comfort food

The main heating went down today, so while we’re waiting for the heating guy to come and fix it, I went looking for recipes for a traditional rice pudding for some good old stick to your ribs comfort food.

Frankly me deario’s the results of my digital perambulations left me distinctly underwhelmed. Is it just me or do some Interweb chef types keep trying to make things far more complicated than they should be? Eggs in rice pudding? Do me a favour.

So I went back to the recipe I learned at Ma Stickers knee, which was an occasional but avidly anticipated treat to accompany Sunday dinner. One which I have adapted for the 21st century and simplified to produce a rich, creamy rice pudding to outdo anything you can get out of a can or packet. And it doesn’t leave you with an unpleasant eggy aftertaste.

You will need:

A three pint saucepan and wooden spoon.
A half cup of Pearl or short grain rice.
A quarter cup of sugar
One pint whole, full cream milk
One half capful of vanilla essence or half a de-seeded vanilla pod if you want to be ‘authentic’
A pinch of Cinnamon or ground Nutmeg if you have it, if not, don’t worry, this dish is great without either.

Method:

Throw rice and sugar in pan. Heat up half your milk in the microwave and add to rice and sugar. Stir. Put on a low medium heat until it begins to bubble. Stir again. Add half capful of vanilla essence. Stir again. Allow to bubble gently but do not boil. Stir again every ten minutes or so until milk has been absorbed by rice and sugar and the mix has thickened. This will take a while. About an hour. Add milk and stir in to reach the desired texture. Some like it milky, I like mine as a creamy glutinous mass. Sprinkle with a small pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon if you want and stir again. Chacun à son goût.

Serve hot or cold with a dab of jam. I like raspberry, but this is a cooks choice. Kids love this as they get to stir the jam into a warming pink mix which isn’t too sweet yet is very grown up. This has always been an instant hit Chez maison Sticker, and in these times when economical and low cost comfort food is an essential to keeping sane, will gain you high praise and esteem, even from teenagers, been there, done that and survived with kudos. May you be accorded the same success.

Happy eating.

Good gravy! Or rather not

I’ve been trying to ignore the US elections by playing with my new kitchen gadget / toy. Specifically an air fryer, which does pretty good roast vegetables and makes a reasonable fist of out-of-a-packet frozen stuff that can get a bit soggy if the oven isn’t set up right. It’s also quicker than an oven. I’ve nicknamed it, as is my wont; ‘The Fat Dalek’ because it sits in my kitchen, balefully but harmlessly glowering at the rest of my kitchen appliances through three neon blue slits.

Fortunately the one thing it does not do with my cooking is try to exterminate anything. It also saves me a fortune on cooking oil. Very clean too. All I have to do is cut up the veg right, spice and toss in a little olive oil, throw it in the little container, set it running and bingo! Tasty roast veg. Much nicer than the alternatives, and much better portion control.

Mrs S asked me last night whether it did sauces as well, to which I had to go into a long, convoluted explanation of how the device works and why no, it does not do sauces. Anything breadcrumb coated from the freezer, great, roasts a resounding yes, roasted veg tossed in Olive oil and chips definitely, but nothing ‘wet’ like a pasta sauce, which is tonights culinary offering as part of a nice spaghetti bolognese. My ‘Fat Dalek’ will be a mute bystander to that process.

On the news however, and this is a massive however, you can’t switch on a ‘pooter without getting bombarded with stuff about the US elections. Sounds like Biden might not be in after all. See Viva Frei’s delve through the legalities below.

Well, he said, picking his jaw off the floor, if what the allegations say is only fifty percent true, then the whole Michigan election staff should end up in jail and the new guys forced to redo the entire vote from start to finish with cops and adjudicators standing over them, watching hawkishly for the first hint of impropriety. Oh my. This does rather call the behaviour of certain officials into question and no mistake. Coaching voters? Duplicate voting? Excluding ajudicators / ‘challengers’ from the counting rooms? Stuffing ballot boxes? Falsely registering votes? Blood and sand. Sounds like the soap opera is truly off and running. Wonder if any of those officials likely to be indicted over this matter will flip and turn states evidence? The fallout from those conversations would be illuminating.

Don’t know if the officials in question were going for the contest in how many ways to to skew a vote, but this must be some kind of a record outside of the third world, and I don’t care who was doing it for whom. If the republicans were accused of even five percent of the fraudulent activity alleged, the fourth estate would be screaming from the rooftops that not only is ‘Orange Man Bad’, but a cheat as well and therefore sent home with a sharp note to his mother and no longer allowed to play at elections any more, ever again with brass knobs on, so there and no returns. But they won’t do that for the other side of the aisle because it’s become painfully obvious that much of the US media is bent as a three cent note and not to be trusted without a sworn statement from three independent witnesses and video corroboration from it’s own mother. And probably not even then.

This whole US election business is like the ‘science’ of lockdowns, you know instinctively that something is well dodgy, but there’s bugger all you can do about it but point it out to others and laugh piteously when they regurgitate the nonsense they have been programmed with. They’re invariably those who trust government, not seeing it for the monster big government truly is. Because people who believe that ‘government’ can keep them ‘safe’ don’t understand the Godzilla effect big government can have on the poor bloody individual. Word to the wise; don’t get under it’s feet. Being squished is no fun at all.

Unlike my ‘Fat Dalek’, the gaze of big government is rarely harmless to the individual and should be avoided at all times where possible. As Reagan once said. “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’ Sends a shudder down my spine every time.

This is going to get real interesting, real fast. Let’s see what the courts say.

Update: The FEC is demanding (and getting) recounts of votes, and the overall picture is of massive ‘irregularities favouring the Democrat party.’ This ain’t over. Not by a long chalk.

Additional 15th November; the private Michigan vote challenge has been dismissed on a technicality by a Judge, but the other challenges are still ongoing. Oh well, it passes the time while these pointless bloody lockdowns continue.

Grilled Mac and Cheese

Food, glorious food. It’s been a long time since I wrote one of my favourite family recipes down and presented it for the delectation of the general dyslexic. I’ve been too preoccupied with other things. Wasting my time railing against the wind.

Right. Mac and Cheese, grilled. Cheap, easy and filling. You can buy those ghastly Kraft dinners, but frankly you’re better off doing it from scratch. The end result is far better than the packet varieties. Tastier, more filling. All you will need is;

A cup and a bit of elbow macaroni
About an ounce of butter.
A tablespoon of cornflour, cornstarch or flour.
Two ounces of strong cheese.
A quarter teaspoon of ground chili flakes.
A quarter teaspoon of ground black pepper.
A teaspoon of finely grated Parmesan cheese. The cheap stuff is fine.
A cup and a bit of milk. Doesn’t matter what kind, although 2% is best.
About a litre and a half of water.
Half a teaspoon of salt.
A handful of frozen peas.
One large, one medium saucepans and a casserole dish.

Method;
Put water in large large saucepan, all salt.
Bring to boil. Throw in macaroni. Put to simmer.
Put smaller saucepan on heat, melt butter. Stir in cornstarch until it forms a paste, stir in milk, cheese, Parmesan, chili and black pepper until it forms a thick sauce, keep stirring even after you take it off the heat.
When macaroni is soft, add frozen peas. Cook for five more minutes before taking off the heat and draining. Stir in cheese sauce and put resulting mass into the casserole dish.
Put casserole dish under grill and set on two thirds until it goes medium brown.
Remove and serve to grateful audience.
Serves two hearty adult appetites. Can be eaten hot or cold.

Accept praise and the sensation of your grateful stomach hugging your spine. Double up on ingredients to serve 4-5 people. Barricade doors to keep out unwanted dinner guests. Enjoy.

Best wishes, Bill.

About time, maybe…

Mrs S and I are taking a time out today, as she has been spending far too much time behind a keyboard. I have baked bread this morning and being an habitual early riser, left it to cool ready for her breakfast. When she gets out of bed there will be tea, coffee and toast. I like early mornings. There’s time to think and consider before the sun comes up and the noise of the day crowds around you. And who doesn’t like waking up to the smell of fresh baking and new brewed tea or coffee?

One of today’s tasks is getting out and about, checking on what’s open and what isn’t. Looking around and packing our bags for the next part of our journey. I’ve been taking advice from locals and they say that as we’re far out of Dublin, there won’t be much to worry about. I fancy a trip around the Dingle peninsula. Our last trip to a beach was a bit lonely as we were the only people in sight. Today’s forecast is for rain, but I have a seeming that it will pass and I’ll end up needing sunglasses by early afternoon.

Well now, we’re well into the third week of the ‘second spike’ or ‘second wave’ of ‘cases’, so can I ask a few questions? What’s the death and hospitalisation count? Anyone? Come on chaps, the rise in cases started over a couple of weeks ago, so hundreds of people should start to drop like flies around about now. Anybody seeing that? No? Riight.

Does this whole wavy hand panicmongering start to look more than a bit foolish to you? Because all the detected SARS/COV-2 infections should start to cycle through the system by now, surely? The ICU’s should be standing room only and the mortuaries should be starting to stack ’em up in refrigerated containers, right? What? It’s not happening? All the potential COVID-19 deaths the ‘Government scientists’ have been banging on about, where are they? Where are they hiding? Is there some dark and super secret government base where all the excess stiffs are being disposed of in huge crematoria, or on ‘black sites’ known only to a privileged few? Do you mean to tell me there aren’t any? What? Only one or two ‘extra’ deaths? Well that’s no fun. I feel rather cheated. I was promised a proper apocalypse and I want this one sent back for a refund.

All that drama, all the flashing red and blue lights and people in smart new uniforms dashing back and forth doing derring deeds? Or is the sad truth that there are few who need saving, apart from the usual falling over a toy on the stairs or one of the many banal banana skins of life. Even Trump is back in the saddle after only a weekend’s treatment. Much to the elevated blood pressure of all those deluded lefties who seem to be seriously intellectually challenged when it comes to understanding how the world works.

I hate to be a Donnie Downer (No I don’t – I love it), forever raining on the panicmongers parade, but the SARS/COV-2 crisis is over. The ‘second wave’ should be crashing down about our ears like a massive Tsunami right about now if all the ‘experts’ had even the faintest scintilla of credibility.

Let’s face it, as I’ve said before, these are the same clique of ‘experts’ whose advice led to the foot and mouth debacle, decimating UK beef and dairy herds, sending family farms into bankruptcy. And the same people who predicted an epidemic of Mad Cow disease in humans. Whatever happened to that?

Where are the zombie hordes staggering around the streets… no, sorry, you’re quite right, they’re the ones still wearing masks, wearing masks in their car with the windows rolled up, or all alone walking across an empty car park, glaring and shaking their heads at people going about their business maskless. Forgot about those. Apologies. The unthinking Zeeps. Gotcha.

Those are the people I intend to avoid today. Despite the forecast rain it might just be a lovely day.

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.