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EWAC: Chinese 5-Spice Pork Belly

This will be the last EWAC for a little while – I’m really just catching up.

Donal Skehan has a comparatively new book out, this time called Great Food for Less. I bought it for what the label says is €20.99. He’s well worth the money. I did also sit through a bunch of his TV shows before I got the book and one of the things he did which stood out from that was this Chinese 5-Spice Pork Belly. I, as usual, because I am cooking for one person and while I don’t actually hate my kitchen it is not laid out to my preference (I am getting very testy about these things – later), I cheated. I didn’t have any rapeseed oil. I have no idea what I used. Yesterday, I know I used vegetable oil.

Pork Belly is something I hadn’t eaten in years. This is a bad thing. It’s lovely. It’s particularly lovely with Chinese 5-Spice scattered over it. It took me twenty minutes to get it in and out of the oven yesterday. Did this join the list of stuff I’ll do again? Yes. You can freeze the pork easy enough provided you have room in your freezer and it doesn’t – if you are cooking for one – take a whole lot of time to defrost. These are all good things.

I like Donal Skehan’s stuff because it’s accessible. As far as the book layout is concerned, it’s nicely done and easy to read while you’re trying to follow it. This compares very well to Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals which was not laid out with someone actually cooking in mind; the recipes are cluttered and the print is too small. I also like Donal Skehan’s stuff because he’s bright and enthusiastic about what he does. You’d like to hope that lots of kids will start to cook because of him. And I particularly like him because he had the guts to go on Swedish TV to do a piece and did it almost entirely in Swedish and look as entertaining in Swedish as he is in English.

Anyway, thanks to him I have a slight addiction to this. I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.

EWAC: Chicken Skewers with carrot and apple salad

So, last Monday, while in Superwoman mode, I dragged out Rachel Allen’s EasyMeals book to see if I could create anything newish for dinner. It so happened that I could, just about. I had to cheat a bit, but okay, that’s a little of what running a kitchen is all about.

On page 115 (of the hardcover edition anyway), there’s this recipe for chicken skewers with carrot and apple salad. I didn’t have apples but figured I could do something different on the side serving front anyway.

Nor did I have – despite much searching and many clear memories standing in front of the Sharwoods stand in Tesco – any ground coriander, or, in fact, any coriander of any description. This stunned me but I cheated and used mixed herbs instead. Bearing that in mind, Rachel Allen could argue I didn’t really follow her recipe at all. I didn’t have skewers either but having read the ingredients for the marinade, argued to myself that feck it, doing it with chopped up bits of chicken would be just as good. Delirium hadn’t yet set in so in fact, I was reading the recipe reasonably accurately – oh, 4 tsp peeled and finely grated root ginger? Well I dont’ have that either. Ground/dried is going to have to do. Sorry Rachel.

So, back with the marinade. I have the limes. I always have limes because they go into breakfast most mornings, and I had the ground cumin which I had to buy for some experiment involving a Donal Skehan cookbook a while back. The ground coriander, nope, that was replaced, and the four cloves of garlic I was good on because I always have that thanks to a Jamie Oliver experiment about 8 years ago. Cheated on the ginger and although it was of the set variety, I did, somewhat unusually, have natural yoghurt. I had this because Tesco was out of the mango and peach stuff I usually put in my breakfast drink. Mix all that together and dump the chicken into it in bits and let for about 10 minutes, covered. So I did.

In theory, at this stage, you cover yourself in one hell of a mess by putting the yoghurty covered chicken bits on skewers but I didn’t really have any that would fit my frying pan (yes, I am useless I have 45 cookbooks and no skewers) so I looked carefully at the recipe and decided it would be prudent to add a little oil to the frying pan. I then cooked until the chicken looked cooked and most of the loose marinade had, unexpectedly, reduced off.

On the side I served sliced raw carrot because I like it and because I was low on didn’t have any apples or lemon. I will always have lime but rarely have lemons.

On a scale of “would I do this again, 1 to 10” this has scored a ten. It’s a doddle to do and I bought ground coriander at the supermarket this morning, although no skewers. On the side I might be inclined to put a potato salad or, as I’m more inclined to eat, some mashed sweet potato, but all told, it was good. Just a pity that the dessert was such a fiasco.

EWAC: Vanilla sponge square (or something)

Last Monday, something weird happened and I went into Superwoman mode when I got in from work. Lunch for 2 days, sorted Breakfast for 2 days, sorted. Bread in and out of breadmaker, sorted. You couldn’t believe how on top of things I was. I even did a new dinner (sort of) out of a new cookbook which was fantastic and I’ll write about that in a minute. After all that productive activity, I decided to bake a cake. Something that I could garner all the ingredients for without little difficulty. The cook book was Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals which I got for Christmas and which is a very nifty cookbook.

The cake, well…I’m going to try it again later on today because frankly, it didn’t start off all that well when I made the utterly elemental error of mixing up teaspoon and tablespoon, particularly with respect to baking powder. The error was further compounded by the omission of 150ml of milk.

Kids. Don’t do this. If you seem to be adding a lot of baking powder to a cake mix, always check you’ve read the recipe correctly. I could have used the end result as a brick to build the new kitchen extension with.

13 years in Dublin

Around now, 13 years ago, I got on a plane in Brussels with about 5% of my belongings – the rest had been collected and were in transit somewhere between Brussels and Dublin, and moved back to Ireland. I’m not sure what I expected. I do know I had plans to stay in Dublin for 2 or 3 years and then move back down to Cork. It never quite worked out that way. I didn’t buy the house I was planning to buy and I haven’t yet met someone to spend the rest of my life with.

There have been lots of unexpected good things. There has been the kitesurfing, and the photography, and the being profiled by the Irish Independent as a blogger, and by RTE as a photographer. I got stuck into the boards.ie community in a big way, and twitter also. And via those two tools have made a lot of friends around the place. I’ve been very lucky in many respects.

At some point, I did point out that moving house, and starting off from scratch, building a social circle and all that got harder as you got older. This was why, at certain points, I did not move back to France, to Bordeaux, as I thought about for a while, just because at that stage of my life, it would be too lonely. But I don’t think it works like that any more. I could move anywhere in the world it seems, at this stage, and somehow, the global community that is Ravelry, would open doors for me as, it did, here in Dublin. I’m not so worried about moving from that point of view; I just own lots of stuff.

But Ireland has been a rough place to live as well. Not purely because it’s doing poorly economically, but because that doing poorly could have so easily been avoided. I think this happened because of a lack of confidence. Confidence to say that debt driven growth was not good enough, would lead to tears. If you said this in Ireland in the early 2000s, you were a pariah. I got told where the Ryanair site was often enough if I wasn’t happy with how well the country was doing.

Most years, at this time of year, I remember being an emigrant. There wasn’t really a lot wrong with it then; and even less now with much better/less expensive communications and the like. It is not something that would bother me so much, apart from the packing.

Dublin has changed a lot. Some things are better. It seems to me that it’s less alcoholic in the past couple of years, or maybe I’m just out with a different bunch of people now. Property is no longer insanely expensive, although I’d argue it’s still over priced for the economic situation of the city. Some of the infrastructure is better. For all that Dublin Bus has cut back on services, they are still streets better than they were in 1999. Irish Rail has improved beyond recognition and we have things like the Luas and Dublin Bikes. These are all good things.

I still don’t own a house here. There are a couple of different reasons for this but the key one at the moment is for all the houses we have on sale, I just don’t like anyway. And deep down in my heart, I’d prefer to be buying a house near the coast in Cork, with greater access to the Atlantic. Possibly, the five years of eurohopping still have tainted my soul in some respect and I may never fully settle.

 

Favourite piano concertos

A while back, I went to the final of the Dublin International Piano Competition, an item which along with figure skating championships had been on my bucket list for about 10 years. While it is fair to say that the finalists were all very talented, I wasn’t so enthused about the choice of concertos I sat through that evening. In summary, we had Tchaikovsky No 1 twice, Rachmaninov No 3 and what I think was Prokofiev No 3 although I am not familiar with that piece and it didn’t endear itself to me enough for me to seek it out any further.

So, bearing that in mind, I wanted to – again – list a bunch of piano concertos which I particularly like, some of which are well known and some less so. After that I would choose a couple of movements out of piano concertos which are almost standalone work of genius.

  1. Saint-Saens Number 5
  2. Rachmaninov No. 2
  3. Grieg in Am
  4. Schumann in Am
  5. Bruch in A flat Major for 2 pianos
  6. Hummel No 3
  7. Tchaikovsky No 2
  8. Beethoven’s Mighty Emperor No 5
  9. Liszt No 2
  10. Brahms No 2.

If I am looking to listen to powerful piano music, these are often close to the top of the list.

Now for a few odds and ends which stand out for various reasons

  1. Shostakovich 2, II Andante.
  2. Adinsell – Warsaw Concerto
  3. Ode to the Yellow River (get Lang Lang’s performance of this – it’s well worth it)
  4. Saint-Saens Africa Fantasy
  5. Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
  6. Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody arranged for piano and orchestra
  7. Rachmaninov 3 Opening movement
  8. Mendelssohn 1, opening movement
  9. Mendelssohn for 2 pianos 1, second movement
  10. Franck – Symphonic Variations

Happy listening.

Special presents

I don’t often do the Ebay trick but lately I find myself regularly looking through it. I am on the hunt for one particular item, well, 4-6 of them anyway. Special, all the same.

In 1998, I was on holiday in Finland learning Finnish on a government sponsored course and over one weekend had dinner with the family of a girl I had taken in after an au pair story hadn’t really gone well. They wanted to give me something and so they gave me a beautiful piece of Finnish glassware. You’ll (currently) find a picture of something similar here on eBay. I still have it. It was designed by one of Finland’s top glass designers, Oiva Toikka. I love it.

Recently I learned that there are little serving bowls in existence. The pattern doesn’t appear to be sold at the moment so if I want them, I need to find them on one of the auction sites. So for that reason, I am watching Ebay for them. I want the clear ones (the rare blue and green ones don’t interest me) and am looking forward to actually owning them.

I’m very fortunate to have some unusual but very thoughtfully selected things in my position. Another one is a most beautiful pewter tea measuring spoon which, for someone like me who drinks a lot of looseleaf (and expensive) tea is a highly thoughtful gift. You’ll find some very similar measuring spoons here (at the moment)

I like things like these.

Interesting stuff to listen to: More or Less

Tim Harford, the Undercover Economist at the Financial Times does a radio series on BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service called More or Less which takes a look at how statistics are reported. It is produced in cooperation with the Open University which is an extraordinary resource that I have the fortune to benefit from at the moment.

We don’t really have something like this in Ireland which is a pity. New Zealand has a lovely blog site that does something similar except on a blog rather than on the radio. I’m inclined to perhaps looking at this model and doing a post a week on the subject but this would mean I’d have to find time to read the Irish papers, even the ones I can’t stand, to find some poor statistical reporting and then write about it.

 

I’m tempted, however.

Science – it’s a girl thing

Let’s assume you want to get more women into science, and more women to stay there once they are in.

And then you release this video clip. Daily Telegraph link by the way.

I feel sorry for the European Commission in certain respects. They have to deal with all sorts of cross cultural misunderstandigs and miscommunications. They’re everybody’s favourite target – particularly amongst politicians – for a punchbag. And then sometimes, they just get things wrong.

There are issues getting girls into science. I’m not absolutely sure why although when the time was I chose languages over chemistry because I wanted to live in France (yes, I know this is a superficial reason) and the chem/lang course I’d love to have done did not exist at the time. I am back studying mathematics and statistics however with some vague interest in geology and oceanography so….

But women don’t stay in science because they don’t think it’s cool and trendy. There are practical issues for a lot of jobs which make them very unfriendly for women who take time off to have children. There is a lot of instability in the academic/science world in terms of funding at the moment. Science is still not really all that well remunerated compared to – for example – the financial industry. And, though it grieves me to say it, whether many are willing to admit it or not, women are not always welcomed by men in the workplace, regardless of what work it is.

This video sucked. It has been pulled from the campaign site now. But in terms of getting girls into science, I have to say I think this comic strip is one of the best ever:

XKCD nails it again.

There are a couple of great, great messages in this.

Today is Alan Turing’s birthday

I first discovered Alan Turing by reading The Code Book by Simon Singh. This year is Turing Year; it’s the centenary of his birth and today is the day.

There’s a round up of useful informatino here around activities linked to Turing year courtesy of Christian Perfect here. It’s well worth a look.

I have a job in information technology. Alan Turing was one of the key groundbreakers making the future I live in possible.