Tag Archives: Food

Science, settling

Gritting my teeth today over a large car service bill. However, it’s money well spent as it keeps our little SUV chugging along and less likely to end up letting us down at some critical juncture. It was a large chunk of change, but we only get this kind of expense once a year. Well thrice if you count what’s coming next.

Mrs S and I are about to undertake another epic road trip, this time to Newfoundland and back. Unlike ten years ago we don’t have the complication of the dog, which meant we spent a lot of time looking for ‘pet friendly’ motels who would charge thirty bucks extra a night for the privilege of having our dog with us. We’re also taking the road less travelled along the northern route where cell phone coverage is spotty at best. However, so long as the motels we book have decent wi-fi, we’re all good. We’ve also bought a nice big cool box for picnics en route.

Talking of comestibles and the politics of food, sometimes you just have to give a grim faced nod of ‘told you so’ and shake your head at the sheer capriciousness of the diet industry and the quasi-political organisations that keep on handing down doctrinaire dictations about what we should and should not be eating, having first lobbied the WHO into backing their unhinged assertions.

Over the past few years there have been a number of food scares. All of which seem to be falling by the wayside. Recently the Framington Study, an analysis of dietary salt intake, came up with the long suspected result that a salt intake greater than 2300mg per day is not as dangerous as some would have us believe. The results indicate that good old sodium chloride is not the death dealing masked super villain the hand waving anti-salt lobby would have us all believe. See this article for the alternative guidelines and follow links back to the study.

Of course the anti-salt lobby have pointed out the weaknesses in the study, but the evidence indicates that so long as your kidneys are functioning normally, any excess salt gets flushed out of your system anyway. So why all the fuss? Indeed, more rational voices have argued that a daily intake of 4-6000mg per day is essential for a healthy heart and that the 2,300 FDA guidelines are far too low and may even be damaging.

As always, it seems that moderation is key and maybe the health problems the ‘experts’ claim, along with their total low-taste lifestyle recommendations are just wild guesses. Like the scares over dietary fat, the alcohol intake guidelines and just about every other claimed killer, all the figures behind these claims seem to be plucked out of thin air. It could be argued that by setting the limits way too low they are actually devaluing the case against excessive dietary intake which may well prove harmful at 10,000mg / day. Or are the panicmongers doing what I used to do with Eldest when we were going out, telling her that we were going half an hour earlier than we actually were and to get her buns into gear? Pitching the upper limit way too low because they know no-one’s going to do what they’re told anyway. Well I’m certainly not.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned it is that these Government Health guidelines too often have their genesis in advocacy organisations and commercial lobbyists (Sometimes working for the same people) who want to have their preferred product given more favourable market conditions. Like margarine was once promoted as ‘more healthy’ than butter (Hint; it isn’t). Or Gluten free diets for people without Coeliac Disease leading to an increased risk of heart disease. As with fanatic teetotallers pushing for yet another ban on booze, we’re still living with the consequences of that complete cock-up.

What the failure of all these guidelines should tell us is; a little bit of what you fancy is probably far better for you than stressing over Government guidelines that are based on 1) Wild guesses or 2) Advocacy directed ‘research’. Maybe Governments should stop giving out diet related advice as all they seem to do is get it wrong.

Singing my own praises

Why sing my own praises? Because I’m the only one that will… hold up a moment, did Sister in law just give me a compliment? Can I cook for them again? Hells bells, I think I’m going to faint!

Well not to my face, but the Sticker household has developed a reputation for being pretty damn sharp when it comes to comestibles. Take for example Easter weekend, our dinner guests got treated to my roast pork with crackling recipe. Which for some reason didn’t seem to be on my ‘Cooking for Conspiracy theorists’ list. Even though I’d already posted it elsewhere. Have now remedied this omission. In-laws even asked for my assistance with getting a proper Lamb joint. I said that I would search around and try to source some proper Lamb, not the Mutton which too often gets passed off as Lamb in Canada. Fortunately we’ve found a good local butcher who should be able to help. I’ll get the Mint sauce out for a 2lb shoulder of Lamb this weekend and see what happens.

I know one thing, too few places over here know how to cook Lamb properly. For example, a Lamb Rogan Josh at one of the local curry houses was effectively chunks of lamb cut way too big and not cooked long and slow enough. The meat hadn’t had enough marinading either, which made what should be a very spicy dish that melts in the mouth into something akin to chewing recycled car tyres dipped in curry sauce. Seriously, that was one serious sheep. I bet it had been beating up bears and cougars before dying of old age it was so tough. Guess where I won’t be going again.

A word to the wise; Lamb, beef or chicken for curry should be roughly cut into half inch cubes before marinating at for least two hours. Then given ten minutes in a pressure cooker to tenderise it before adding sauce ingredients. That way the meat cooks properly and the sauce flavours penetrate the meat. As a proof I’ll post my method (Including quick cheat) on the sidebar at a later date. A clue, my good friends Messrs Patak and Sharwoods are often a great help. Providing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency lawyers don’t get involved and screw around with what ingredients my culinary friends are allowed to use. In which case, pass the salt cellar.

A change for the worse

No, nothing personal, just an unsettling experience in one of my favourite downtown eateries. One of the better Italian places to have lunch. Lavazza coffee, a nice snacky lunch special. Just right for when you’re not up to a full on feed. Well that’s what I thought.

We haven’t been going downtown so much recently, but the other day the opportunity presented itself so we pounced on it. I immediately went for the fresh made tomato bisque and a sandwich. Oh. The sandwich was fine, but the soup was disappointingly vapid, nothing like the superb little number we’d dined on before. So when the waiter came round with their customary “How are the first few bites” routine, instead of my usual thumbs up, I was moved to look up at him and say; “The sandwich is great, but the soup’s a bit disappointing.” And it was. What had on previous occasions been a warming, rich and mildly spicy dish had been turned into a distinctly underwhelming offering. A woefully damp wodge of Parmesan standing duty for the wonderful hit of well seasoned fresh Basil we’d previously come to know and love. I mentioned this salient omission and the waiter told me that ‘Head office’ had dictated the removal of half the salt and most of the Basil.

This baffled me somewhat. The Tomato Bisques previous incarnation had been superb, now it had become simply ‘Meh’, even for my jaded palate. A requested pinch of salt helped, but somehow it just wasn’t the same. What did ‘Head office’ think they were playing at? They’d converted the almost sublime into, well, not quite dross, but certainly a pale shadow of its former glory. A Manager type person approached and apologised for the condition of the soup. I politely told him how I perceived the change, and how I felt the recipe had been diminished. He suggested that I request extra fresh Basil and extra salt as a ‘side’ in future. “Hmm.” I found myself thinking. “If your standards are falling maybe there won’t be another time.”

Which is a shame because this little place had previously been one of my favourite downtown lunch spots. Now an infection by the doctrinaire had diminished what I had long considered their signature dish. Perhaps some dozy item at ‘Head office’ had decided that we schlubs, mere customers, needed our diet regulated by their diktat. Or some city bureaucrat who can’t cook to save their lives had demanded that all the downtown restaurants cut the salt content of their culinary offerings. I don’t know. All I do know is that it’s made me feel less than enthusiastic about returning. Other diners who share my like of the previous recipe may well feel the same. All I know is that eventually yet another downtown eatery will end up closed as diners follow their palates.

Which is a crying shame. There are already far too many empty storefronts in downtown Victoria.

But what about the Jedi’s?

Just had a very pleasant weekend in Vancouver sampling two types of Chinese cuisine we’d previously not made time for. Firstly Dim Sum. Which is good. Although I found Chinese Toon buns a little bland. Secondly Chongqing hot pot, also known in Japan as Sabu-Sabu. Approach with caution. This stuff will blow your mind and taste buds into the stratosphere. If you think a full strength Vindaloo is hot, you will find out why the Chinese do not really need a nuclear deterrent after sampling this style of cuisine. Put simply, this chilli laden content detonates in the mouth and scorches its way into the stomach for an explosion of warmth which is welcome on a chilly wet Vancouver Winter evening. Upon ordering a ‘medium’ strength meal, we were entreated not to go for the spicy option by the head waiter, and found even the ‘mild’ version a tingling mouth-fest of gustatory amusement. If you like spicy food, you will absolutely love Chongqing hot pot. Recommendation; JDB (Wong Lo Kat) herbal tea reduces mouth burn.

Meanwhile, back on the topic; the M-103 motion. Sargon of Akkad puts his thoughts on this matter forward in the video below.

With the passing of M-103, I’d like to clear something up. Firstly M-103 is not law, nor does it form the basis of law, yet. However, in the meantime it may well be implemented as policy by the ironically titled Canadian Human Rights Commission. Who are known to prosecute those whose voiced opinion does not fit an assumed ideal, regardless of supporting legislation. Their motto appears to be “If you’re Jewish or ‘white’ and Anglo-Saxon – you’re guilty.” Which I find more than a little prejudiced. Racist, even. As one who is happy to break bread with any skin colour, I must say I actually feel threatened and made uncomfortable by this bias against people of my dermal colouration.

Notwithstanding, if this motion does go on to form the basis of a more generalised blasphemy law, every single minority in Canada, especially the First Nations, will be threatened. Why should Islam be singled out for preferential treatment? Why should the more pantheistic beliefs of the North American natives (First Nations) be excluded? Or Daoists, Taoists, Shintoists, Buddhists and followers of Confucius? Never mind all the forms of Christianity and Paganism. And what about the Jedi? Will they have to give up wearing hoods and openly carrying their lightsabres? Or the Sikhs be forced to give up their turbans because Islam becomes the preferred religion of the corporate state?

Islam by contrast seems to be a religion of dislikes, which is defined by the things it considers Haram or ‘unclean’. Indeed, its proscriptions against Alcohol, Dogs, and Women are well known. Alcohol being forbidden, dogs considered dirty (Well they are, but dogs are also fun, loyal and trustworthy) and women reduced to becoming second class citizens, being forbidden to drive, go out on their own without a male escort and exhorted to cover their head and faces.

Islam also makes provision for treating the women of other cultures as inferior, considering gang rape and sexual molestation legitimate tools for subduing non-Islamic females. This of course includes ‘feminists’. Even the radicals who feel that by appeasing Islam they will be ‘safe’. Yes. This is not going to end well for you guys. Bend over buttercup. This is, whether you like it or not, the will of Allah.

I’d also like to make the point that if Islam gets a free pass, there will be no ‘safe spaces’ left for anyone. Indeed, radical (and not so radical) Islamists think violence against ‘unbelievers’ not only necessary but a religious duty. Well what about gays? Islamic Sharia law encourages throwing homosexuals and similar off tall buildings, hanging them slowly in public using cranes, cutting off their heads, stoning and burning to death.

My point here is that no religion, especially one with so many prescriptions of violence against non-believers and ‘alternative’ lifestyles, should be handed such a tempting platter as a blasphemy law. As has been demonstrated worldwide, they’d only abuse the privilege. Along with the human rights of everyone else. Even the Jedi.

On the nature of custard

Some like it cold,
Some like it hot,
Some dab while others smother,
And with a simple, yellow blot,
Robert’s one’s father’s brother.

Excuse me rewriting Nancy Tyler’s old saw, but I often remind myself how much I like custard. Not the thin runny nightmare of School dinners long years past, but of a thick yellow comfort food which lubricates any pie, cobbler, crumble or steamed pudding down into the digestive tract like a greased pig off Teflon. There are many versions, from the almost white sauces with a huge hit of Vanilla to the golden lusciousness of which I write, made with Mr Birds famous custard powder. Which is a strange substance, given to exploding and people have even been known to walk on it. At General Foods in Banbury 1981, some actually detonated, the explosion being strong enough to blow the factory wall out and injure 8 people. So, handle with respect. This is not a safe cooking space.

I belong to the thick custard end of the spectrum, because thin custard, as anyone who has partaken of a pre 1980’s UK school dinner will know, runny custard is an abomination and not fit for polite society. Thick custard is far more versatile and as well as generally being more tasty, can be moulded and even sliced by those inculcated into the culinary mysteries that even the Freemasons and other so-called ‘secret’ societies never tell you about. I’ve even heard it whispered that some chefs crust it over like Crème Brûlée, which is basically a fancy custard tart without pastry, and consume it in guilty secrecy so that the waiting staff will not look down their noses at them. Because custard is, well, too English, and English cookery is très inférieur, non?

Which is a nonsense. French cooking is good, but when it comes to stews and roasts English cuisine matches the English climate, in that it is bucolic, robust and hearty. Both the French and English traditions have their specific strengths, but neither reigns supreme. Each has a place. Just like sometimes you want the brash horseradish heat of Colemans English Mustard with roast beef where the spicier Dijon or German mustards just won’t do. Or a decent crumbly Blue Stilton where Roquefort is too pungent and Danish Blue too greasy.

This is where English style custard raises a triumphant two primitive fingers against all the food critics. It has no pretensions, no finesse, it just is. The trick is not too much custard powder and just enough sugar. I find a 50/50 mix does the trick, adding just enough whole milk, not skimmed, 1% or 2% but full cream, to give your custard the rich creaminess that is the hallmark of this viscous gold.

To make really thick custard for slicing when cold:

Ingredients:
One heaped teaspoon of Birds Custard powder
The same amount of white granulated sugar
One drop of Vanilla extract
One and a half cups whole cream milk

Method:  
Mix custard powder and sugar together, add a little of the milk to make a smooth yellow paste. Heat the rest of the milk on a small one pint pan over a medium heat until it begins to bubble at the edges.
Now add the custard and sugar paste in the pan, stirring gently.
Or
Decant hot milk into bowl with custard and sugar paste. Mix. Now return to the saucepan and put back on heat.
Now add one drop of vanilla extract, no more.

Keep stirring gently, or your custard will become full of lumps as the cornstarch in the mix binds too quickly and no one will love you ever again because it has been scientifically proven that those who make lumpy custard are no good in bed. I use a whisk for the best results. Wearing Leather bondage gear is optional. Not PVC or leather substitute. Like with your custard, only the real thing will do.

When the mix is thick enough that a slow stirring motion briefly exposes the bottom of the pan, remove from heat and decant custard into a dish. At this point you can eat the custard hot with the pie or pudding of your choice, but I’ve another suggestion.

Leave the custard to cool for an hour until it has the consistency of jelly. remove from dish using a knife so it forms a dome. Now you have the choice of making a kind of fruit compote and pouring it over the solidified golden dome, or stewing some apple, leaving that to cool and, having sliced your solidified custard into quarter inch slices, put a layer of stewed apple between each slice. Sprinkle with a little brown sugar, ground cinnamon and perhaps even nutmeg if you’re feeling posh. Bung in the fridge for half an hour. Serve. Or keep it for yourself. You’re worth it. I give you permission to caramelise with one of those rinky dinky little blowtorches. Tell me how you got on because I haven’t bought one yet.

Yes, Jordan Peterson says you must embrace your inner monster so you never have to use it, but I say, don’t just give your inner monster a kiss and a big hug, take it by the hand and drag it into the bedroom. Well made custard will enable you to do this. Honestly.

Told you so… again

Well, the writing on the wall is now appearing for the latest ‘Gluten free’ fad diet in a recent study of 30 years data. Well, colour me surprised. Not. Another fad diet bites the Broccoli.

That’s the thing with fad diets, they take little or no notice of actual facts. Now if you have the flattening of villi in the small intestine that indicates Coeliac disease, a lot of Gluten is not fun. Lots of abdominal issues including distension, dire rear, discomfort and a tendency to huge flabby woof-woofs await (As well as upping your ‘Carbon Footprint’). Besides, that’s only a problem for the one percent of the population with a genetic predisposition to the disease who have to lay off the sarnies. The rest of us are quite safe. Although too high a proportion of grain based food in the diet isn’t the best thing for you, so maybe cutting back on the breads and pastries isn’t that bad an idea. As for too much Gluten causing Coeliac disease, well, doubt has been cast upon that assertion.

According to the head of the study behind this news item, Dr Geng Zong, a ‎Research Fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston:

“Gluten-free foods often have less dietary fiber and other micronutrient [such as vitamins and minerals], making them less nutritious and they also tend to cost more,”

Which is what we see in the supermarkets, like with the fad over ‘Superfoods’ and the otherwise inedible Kale, which some people rave about. ‘Rave’ being the operative word here, or maybe ‘unhinged’ would be better. Fixating on one’s diet to the exclusion of all else isn’t good for you, physically or mentally. That way lies OCD.

As for Kale, it’s one of those things I was once persuaded, much against my good judgement, to eat. But honestly after one prickly mouthful found wasn’t worth the effort. I’d class it as one of those foods you only need to eat if there’s nothing else in the larder and every shop within a fifty mile radius has sold out and shut down for the next forty eight hours. Yes, it’s got minerals and vitamins, but so has a brick. Oh yes, and depending upon where it’s grown, can contain significant levels of the toxic metal Thallium. I’m told that it used to be popular in Scotland. Which would explain much about the Scots.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a nice brace of steaks ageing in the fridge calling my taste buds. That’s a low gluten diet fixation with flavour.

Another little bit of woodwork

Well, I’ve reached the half way point in the Drinks Cabinet project and proved to Mrs S yet again, that she may be married to one of the world’s few real multi-tasking men. Even if I had to cheat a bit. Having said that I think I’ve perfected my recipe for fish stew, but the Lemon and Garlic Couscous to go with it needs a little work. Less lemon, a spot of butter, and a trifle more seasoning with a scattering of finely chopped bell peppers should do it. I’ll post the method and ingredients under cooking for conspiracy theorists when I’ve nailed it all down.

drinks-cabinet-during-01A small job popped in via email and was quickly dealt with, then I busied myself with the usual chores and a bit of furniture redistribution before removing the shonky looking backing of the cabinet to expose the rebate (See before and after pictures). Why someone fitted that rubbishy looking 3/8th inch square Cedar beading in there is beyond me. I took it out anyway.

drinks-cabinet-during-02Next was staining one side of the inner back section and giving it a double coat of varnish. While that was drying, I fitted a small LED strip light under the shelf, running the cable to the left and left rear of the cabinet out of the back. Then once the inner panel was dry, I dropped it into place and fixed with a few panel pins and some carpenters glue. In the words of Cinderella overheard by palace servants just after her wedding to Prince Charming “It fits! OMG! IT FITS!” Have you any idea what they were up to? Me neither.

drinks-cabinet-during-03So how far have we got? Well, not much further to go. I’ve sanded the outer panel and got rid of the labels and manufacturing stain. The light fitting works nicely, and I should be finished by supper time tomorrow. No more groping around in the semi darkness of the single malt lottery and having to squint at wine labels for us. Although the wine rack is empty as we’ve been buying 3 litre boxes of reasonable Australian and Argentinian Cabernet Sauvignons for the last few months. Which saves all the fuss and palaver with Wine Savers and other such widgets if you just aren’t in the mood to quaff a full bottle.

I’ll restock properly in a month or two when the weather improves enough for an afternoon glass or three out on the deck watching shipping drift past along the Juan De Fuca and trying to ignore all the panicky hand waving over something someone has said on the Interweb, or Donald Trumps latest policy implementation, or BREXIT, and possibly even a FREXIT if the French electorate decides to bet on Ms Le Pen. That could be fun.

In the meantime that’s it really. Same stuff, different day. Life plods on.

Oh dear

The latest border creep of what constitutes ‘racism’ has just crossed the boundary into the kitchen. Specifically the rather strange claim that drinking milk is now ‘Racist’. Which greatly upsets me. Especially as the white stuff figures largely in so many of my favourite savoury or dessert recipes. Will a new crime of ‘Hate Cooking’ be created making it illegal to prepare things that are deemed ‘Too white’? What of whipping cream? Will that have to be withdrawn from sale because the act of flagellating milk derivative into lovely stiff, creamy peaks becomes the equivalent of statuesque blondes strutting around in swastika encrusted basques and black stockings thwacking people with riding crops? God yes, Helga, take me home I’m ready. Gosh. What an interesting thought.

milk-is-only-for-racist-nazisWhich raises a question. Is milk now so racist even Nazi’s hate it? Fortunately I can answer this question with a definitive “Yes” and have been able to obtain historical photographic proof. My God, this is political dynamite!

Also in the event Marine Le Pen wins the French Presidential election does that mean I will no longer be able to source the delights of Roquefort, Brie or Camembert? Friends, (I know I used to have some) possibly, well, maybe not so many; this is terrible. That nice Mr Trudeau will have to outlaw ‘hate’ dairy products that are deemed too ‘white’. Oh, hold on a minute, I’ve just read the year dates on some of the cited articles. 1997, 2004, 2016, and now 2017. Good gravy! Is there no end to this awful prejudice? When will this madness end! What will happen to the economy of Wisconsin? Is no-one safe?

the-french-resistanceFortunately my fiends, (either of you) there is hope. From Europe comes a brave group of heroic figures, skilled in the art of converting racist milk and cream into lovely, non racist blue cheeses. Meet Michelle, Rene and Yvette, specialist resistance cheese makers who can rid us all of the terrible racist curse of milk drinking.

Oh shit. That’s another of the sacred ‘ists’ isn’t it? The really naughty one prefixed with S-E-X. Oh dear. I’m in real trouble now.

Never buy anything Trudeau

No, nothing to do with the current Prime Minister of Canada, who is sucking up to everyone but our cousins down south. At present if he went to see President Trump, that would be electoral suicide in the urban enclaves which gave the fop his mandate. Today’s little missive, by contrast, is about a pepper mill.

Now I use fresh ground black pepper when I’m cooking. A lot. I like the bite on my tongues midsection when cooking spicy food, not too much, just enough to give things an fine edge. To this end I purchased a pepper mill. One of those dildo-like wooden thingummies that waiting staff in restaurants threaten you with, before they sneak up on you and try to make you choke with a sudden “How is your food tasting?” Who tells waiting staff to do this? I’d like to shake them warmly by the throat. I’m actually amazed that more people don’t die in restaurants when challenged in this fashion mid mouthful.

I’d also like to know why Black pepper is treated with such faux-reverence and doled out so sparingly in some establishments? It’s a condiment for heavens sake. Bought in bulk it is no more expensive than any other kind of pepper. If I want extra pepper on my food, which if it’s cooked and seasoned properly I won’t, I will use some from the cruet selection, or ask my server / waiting staff. But not before I’ve actually taken my first bite.

Anyway, I digress. The tale of the pepper mill. Sixty plus dollars. Ten inches tall. Make, Trudeau. Inferior quality steel on the screw cap (The thread stripped when finger tightened) Uneven grain size on the grind. No better than an ornament. Looked nice but absolutely useless after two weeks serious kitchen use.

Have replaced with matching (English) Cole and Mason salt and pepper grinders last Christmas which work beautifully, produce an even grain size for seasoning, don’t lose their thread, and get this blog owners full culinary approval. They cost me fifty bucks for both and should provide years of reliable service. Not two weeks.

There’s a life lesson in there somewhere.

Because it’s Friday.

As a means of an antidote to the current climate, both weather and political, I would like to introduce my last remaining reader to something deliciously food based. Specifically this YouTube channel. Seriously, the man is a carnivore Diva. From steak and kidney pies to fifteen bird roasts, all British style comfort food is here, including a few innovations of his own. Like the Pork Scratching Plait below. I’m drooling already. As he says, this is grade A food porn.

For those of you who like me aren’t moved by all the low-fat, ‘go vegetarian’ bullshit, Scott is your man for everything from butchering and reducing a whole deer or pig to delicious cuts fit to grace any decent dining table, to cooking the end result. Go visit, watch, salivate and be inspired. Don’t tell ’em I sent you.

It’s also lunch date day today, the AWD is ready, the roads clear and I’m going to treat Mrs S to a fine feed at our favourite venue. I shall also be popping over the road to the one place I’ve found on the Island that makes decent steak and kidney pies. What with the recent revelations of ‘be monitored or be fired’ which has left her quite upset and considering resigning, my (much) better half is in dire need of pampering.

There will be red wine and good stuff. Why? Because it’s Friday, and because she’s worth it.

Also delighted to hear via Head Rambles that Anna Raccoon is still alive and fighting. Of course she can’t blog any more due to her condition’s effects on her arms and hands, but we here at the Bill Sticker Institute of Shit Happens salute her and wish her well. Many thanks to the Blocked Dwarf for keeping everyone updated.

Oh yes, and another superb and simple source of recipes that isn’t a ‘big name’ sleb chef; Food Wishes. Ow my straining belt!