CHAOSTOCOSMOS

Monday, 28 May 2007

Tudor Pull

Hampton Court Palace

Well I never, in all the years - about 20 of them - that I lived within walking distance (when I was considerably more energetic) of Hampton Court Palace and constantly visited there, I never knew there was an annual Tudor Pull.

What the heck is a Tudor Pull? Ah, as Londonist point out, "Henry VIII certainly knew how to cut it with the ladies, but we reckoned that a re-enactment of His Majesty's finest chat-up lines was unlikely, particularly in the middle of a river."

There probably are some similarities between that and this event though, as both would inevitably involve lots of 'oars'. Tongue out

Like most of these things - in most countries - it all seems incredibly pointless to have a "processional event", rowing up the river Thames, commemorating something that everyone has long forgotten, with a ritual "ceremony of giving back to the Tower's governor the thing that he had specifically sent away to Hampton Court so that it could ceremonially be returned to him."

But, like so many festivals in Spain, in dubious honour of the locally "revered" icon - and nobody can ever explain to me why it is locally revered - that is ceremonially brought out of the church, only so it can be ceremonially taken back in again, I'm certain that a good day will be had by all of those who, mostly, turn up for the food and wine / beer. Crowd size, naturally, increasing in inverse proportion to the "freeness" of the said refreshment.

It's funny, but when you've been away for a while, one tends to forget that Britain also has it's fair share of these quite unexplainable and decidedly strange customs. The closest I ever got to anything like it was volunteering one year for one of the teams in the decidedly less regal, "Dongola" racing in the annual Sunbury Regatta. Dongola racing, in this context, for those who don't know - that would be both readers - is two competing teams of I forget how many (representing fine local establishments, such as The Jockey Pub, who supported their team members with free T-Shirts and free beer), kneeling up, rowing punts upstream on the Thames, Hawaii Five-O (dragonboat) stylee.

Well, I think we maybe moved the thing a couple of lengths before being tipped and sinking into the murky waters, but that was the intent anyway.

We'd trained hard for this too. Half hour's worth of cursory punt hire - and we even threw a line to a passing motor launch who towed us back up river when we'd had enough - followed by several "challenging" nights down the pub. Smile

Sporting Weekend: Tudor Pull

Foreigners like Brummie

image "Brummie is not ugly. Far from it, foreign people unaware that it is the working-class accent of a formerly heavily-industrialised area, and who are not bombarded with stereotypical images of Birmingham speakers on a daily basis by the media, find it a very attractive accent indeed."

Maybe I'll have to brush my Brummie accent up again then? :)

Bit ironic, since I was born there, to belong to the group of people who think the accent sounds irritating and, have worked blastid hard to git shot of it since.

If I try very hard I can rise to Estuary English, but essentially, replacing it with a Cockney accent (real Cockney, not Mockney) picked up from me muvver, who is an East Ender, born inside the Square Mile and at a time when the Bow Bells were still ringing (before they were destroyed the first time in the Great Fire, probably). Curiously, that accent seems to have fared even worse with the native English speakers in this study.

When I went back to Birmingham for a while in the 80's, what was most curious was that other "natives" generally would not take to people without a Brummie accent. Despite being born there, because I didn't have the accent, many locals treated me like a foreigner. All the friends I made there at that time were also from or had lived elsewhere. On the other hand, I landed jobs at a level at which nobody with a Brummie accent could be heard.

The report also says that people confuse Brummie with Black Country speak. I don't know how! As well as Spanish and a smattering of a few other languages, I'm fluent in Brummie, but when I foolishly accepted a job in the Black Country many years ago, I had to keep getting someone to translate all the curious grammatical uses and colloquialisms used there.

Anyroadup, if yow int got a clue what the hell this is about, try Brummie slang as spoken by us brummies. It won't help a blind bit, but you might waste some time having a good laugh. Trarabit. :)

Brummie is beautiful Via: Brum Blog

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Simplified Paella

image They're hiding, but there are large prawns lurking in this paella, as well as the mussel "decoration." Can you go wrong with paella? Oh yes, very, but this simplified version is a lot easier to make than the "real thing." I won't repeat it again, because you will already find my recipe here. Being "cheap", this version uses just three or four large prawns - these were really big, almost the size of langostines peeled - and one fat mussel, per portion. But I find that it's enough and, show me a restaurant that doesn't meanly ... I mean, carefully count ingredients per serving and, besides this makes a way to have "luxury" foods even on a tight budget, because the "investment" on one bag of prawns lasts a long time.

Monday, 14 May 2007

I'm not dead...

... just lazy. Well, no, not really, but work, life, offline and other priorities have, once again, got in the way of me rambling and making comments here. Not least of which were two caídas (falls).

You may laugh (now) at the first of these, which involved an unidentified wet patch on the bathroom floor. (It was clear and didn't smell like anything the dog or cats might have done - thus had probably leaked in via the porous roof.) The result of which, I ended up, legs in the air, one either side of the bidet.

Actually, I did hurt myself: I bruised my elbow on something and my right arm ended up inside the bath, so the rim of the bath came up under my armpit. That caused great pain in my shoulder.

Falling on my bum reactivated an old "war wound" from when I slipped down the slope outside the house in the rain six years ago and hurt my hip.

My back aches ... In fact, I just ache everywhere, even in parts I didn't know I had, but for the first few days, all I could stand to do was lie flat.

Just when I could manage a bit more time at the computer, my internet connection decided to suffer a caída (also the word used in Spanish to mean "crash" in this context. Cars crashing is "un choque".)

One never expects much from Spain's former nationalized phone company, Telefonica, but their level of "help" for DSL customers, it has to be said, reaches an all-time low. I'd go elsewhere, but it took me 6 or 7 years to get them to give me broadband here and, there is no alternative that can be relied on at all in this rural area yet. So, after running all the diagnostics, it tells me that the broadband isn't working right now. Well, that was bloody helpful, wasn't it?

Except that did infer that my setup was OK and the problem was therefore at the other end. Nothing new there. The DSL gadget at our local exchange suffered a total caída a while back and we were offline while they had to get that fixed. It could have happened again.

You would think that the natural thing to do, therefore, would be to call the "help" line and, that is what I did. As soon as I got through, I was told, in no uncertain terms, like I was a naughty child or a piece of shit, that I had to completely unplug everything and basically do the technicians' job before they would even talk to me.

They wouldn't even check the situation at the local exchange first, to see if it might have been them and, that might have saved me the bother.

This was no easy task, because crawling about on the floor, twisting round the back of the computer, at my age and in my state of health was no picnic. And the first two goes just made the situation worse.

Many swear words later, I decided just to leave it.

Later, third time lucky - probably by then, whatever it was at their end that, I suspect, had been broken, had been fixed - fortunately, because I really didn't want to have to talk to those nasty rude people again.

But it really shouldn't have to be like this, especially when it costs me around $100 a month for this "pleasure".

Simple One Pot Fish Dish

image  The story behind this quick, simple and tasty fish dish is that I was watching a magazine program on our local TV channel TVCanaria, when a lady challenged her husband to make a dish that, usually, she cooked. He managed it OK and I liked the look of it too, so, here's my attempt at it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion
  • 1 large green pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 liter (approx.) fish stock (or water and a Fish Bouillon cube)
  • 1 tablespoon (approx.) of olive oil
  • 4 med-large potatoes
  • 4 fish fillets 

Method:

Slice the onion and pepper (discarding the seeds, but I'm sure you know that), peel the potatoes and halve them and place all of those ingredients into a large saucepan with the garlic cloves. Just cover, but don't drown, with the fish stock, add a slurp of olive oil, bring the pot to the boil, then immediately turn the heat down to a low simmer for approx. 15 minutes until the potatoes are nearly cooked. After the 15 minutes, lay the fish fillets over the top of the potatoes and veg, so that they will virtually steam on top of the rest of the dish.

Continue cooking for another 5 minutes until the fish is done. Serve.

The recipe just throws together in those 20 minutes, tastes just as good and with meets with equal success each time, which are all definitely huge plus points in its favour. The preparation couldn't be simpler either, since the onion, pepper and potatoes, all equally, need to be left in the largest and roughest sizes so that they remain as intact as possible during the cooking process.

The fish I used were filets of merluza (hake), apparently the most frequent and favorite fish of the Spanish consumer. Obviously, the fresher, the better, but this dish does also have the advantage that you can use frozen filets.

Optionally, serve with Mojo Verde. Mojo sauces are typical to the Canary Islands and, I will admit that I buy them, because bought sauces keep better. If you can't buy them, Discover Lanzarote has the recipe for the most typical Mojo Cilantro (coriander). I prefer the perejil (parsley) version to go with this dish and the recipe is exactly the same, only substituting parsley for the coriander in the recipe. Not that it matters when you're on your own, but eating parsley with garlic has the effect of neutralizing it's less than desirable effects too.

This recipe, obviously, provides four portions and I always make four at a time, because while you're cooking one or two, you may as well to save effort. It keeps fine in the 'fridge for subsequent days, or you can box single portions in Tuppaware and freeze it. You can, of course, divide the recipe instead.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Broccoli Risotto

image What have we here then, green rice pudding? :) The recipe did say it should be creamy and that it was. My broccoli was frozen, so it required much less cooking, I used vegetable stock instead of chicken broth and, sadly the only type of rice I can get locally is just ordinary rice.

image But, even if it did end up looking like Kermit (notice the similarity on the color?) had a nasty accident in my kitchen and the fact that I thought I really had screwed this one up big style, it tasted really great.

Color me a surprised shade of lurid green!

Was it simple? Well, as Kyle Phillips, Guide to Italian Cuisine, says, "Making a good risotto is rather like riding a bicycle: It takes a little bit of practice to begin with, and a certain amount of concentration thereafter."

So, maybe the gooey rice pudding effect isn't exactly what we should have, but this did not diminish enjoyment of the dish. Actually, this also brought up an interesting thought when you're cooking a new dish alone. How do you know what it's supposed to be like? (Easy, if the recipe comes with an illustration, but this didn't.) And who's going to tell on you if it doesn't look like it should?

To answer the second question first, lots of people if you're daft enough to post the results of your failed culinary experiments on a blog! Smile

The first part can be answered by the good old internet too, for instance via this Google image search on the word risotto. There you will notice that, while the professional risotti all have neat, separate grains, the "normal folk" like us, all seem to make "savory rice puddings". Phew! But despite the appearance and incorrect texture, the results were so tasty that I wouldn't let the food snobs put you off. It was certainly quick enough to make, at around 20 minutes.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Lemony Lentil-Spinach Stew

imageFor ease of making, this scores really high. Just 4 easy steps, no constant attendance and cooks within the 40-min time specified. Apart from leaving some of my potatoes in large chunks, from personal choice, I think this resembles what we would have expected. You get what type of potatoes you get here, so mine weren't red and, I had to make do with frozen spinach, otherwise, I followed the recipe that Yumsugar reproduced from the Vegetarian Times, fairly faithfully.

Obviously, any dish is a matter of taste, but I really felt that this was a good choice, because it is delicious. It's heavenly in fact. The freshness of the lemon and the mint make it like "the joys of springtime in a bowl."

Small accomplishmentsThe dish was definitely enhanced by the fact that I have my very own patch of fresh mint: the dried kind wouldn't work as well. But, in all, it was easy, cheap and if it tastes this good with frozen spinach, it's nearly a "storecupboard dinner".

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

I'm in yr kitchen, eating yr foods

image As well my cats might be in my kitchen, eating my foods, after doing a shop for the month last week. I've been meaning to write a follow-up post ever since, but things kept getting in the way, not least of which was a little tumble I had on a patch of wet floor. Oh, nothing broken, but my dignity and derriere got bruised. That made it a bit uncomfortable to spend much time sat at the computer. And, as ever, living alone, nobody to bring me tea and sympathy. Sad

For those who've arrived half way through the story, what I've done this month is to actually make a menu, which is something I've never done before. 

Executing the plan: problems we have identified

image In general terms, the shopping went well, I think. A problem you will not have in "civilization", but I do suffer here, is the availability of items. For once - I don't expect this to be repeated - I did get everything I planned to get, even though I had to "make do" with a couple of frozen items, where I would much rather have had fresh.

The next "problem" is that I should have scheduled myself to eat something instant or junk food on the day I had lugged all the shopping home. After doing that, I was too tired to cook. The answer to that, I suspect, is to shop at a store that delivers, or grocery shop online and certainly to shop again BEFORE you run out of food and the ready meals that you prepared the previous month.

The next hardest part has been "shoehorning" all the made dishes into a small freezer. To get some of the items in, I've had to put them in freezer bags, instead of plastic boxes so they take up less space. I didn't really want to do that as much, because, obviously, the boxes can be reused and the bags can't, creating waste and not being as "green" as I would aim for.

Did I manage to save money?

Here, I can really only talk in costs relative to what I might normally spend on a month's shopping without such a strict plan, since we all live in different parts of the world with differing costs of living. Food here in the Canary Islands, is not that expensive, I don't think - say, compared to UK prices. Well, unless you buy expensive, imported goods, but I don't often. There was an article in our local press the other day that said Tenerife had one of the lowest "shopping basket" costs in the islands. Properly "translated" (i.e. with the "spin" removed) that really means, compared to the rest of Spain, it's expensive! :

Keeping to a low budget was an issue and I am happy to say that I feel I was successful in this aim. After deducting the vast amount of cat and dog food, odds and ends not on the list (who put those chocolate things in my basket?) and non-food items, (like bathroom tissue in bulk because we seem to eat that too in this house), bearing in mind I did start with a few items in the cupboard, I spent only around €35 (£24 / $47) on the remaining ingredients for 30 main meals. My average cost, per portion, is roughly £1 / €1.5 / $2.

In relative terms, I estimate that by planning and cooking, you can eat for a whole month on the cost of a week's worth of ready meals and convenience foods. You'd probably spend an equivalent amount in 2-3 days if your idea of "cooking for one" is ordering pizza to be delivered!

Friday, 4 May 2007

Day two of the banana diet ...

100_0054 My landlady brought me this humongous bunch of bananas as a gift. Real Canary Islands bananas, fresh from her plantation. There really is no comparing these to any other banana, because they are just sweeter, more full of flavour and just better than any other. And, I'm not the only one who likes them. Holly dog here, is not famous for being the most obedient dog in the world, but she's certainly not daft. If she thinks that certain behaviour is going to get her what she wants, she's first in the queue. So there I was trying to get a shot of the massive banana bunch for posterity - I mean, how often does one have half of the crop from one banana plant - something that weighs about 15 - 20 kilos or more (I'm guessing, having lifted many sacks of cat and dog food in those weights) - and that took 14 months to grow - to eat (almost) by oneself?

Along comes Holly to inspect. Well, she would, because whenever we have bananas, I only have to pick one up and she arrives, begging.

Normally, if I tell her to lie down, there would be a delay, or she would fail to see the need and avoid doing as she was told. This time, I'd bearly opened my mouth when her arse hit the floor. You don't think this was because she guessed it would earn her a banana, do you? :) When faced with this many bananas, I thought it best to check to find out Is it okay to feed dogs bananas? or the alternative question, Are bananas bad for my dog?

Thankfully, the answer is that they will do no harm, in moderation.

Yeah, the word moderation and this blinking great bunch, seem to be at odds with one another, don't they? We've both eaten a couple of bananas (in my case more) over the last two days. Neither of us has suffered from what the above question politely calls "loose stools", yet, but let's just say that production has increased, considerably, in both of us. It's the "F-Plan Diet" revisited. Laughing

Happiness is a potty trained cat

Photo Hosted at BuzznetI'm all up for the idea of cat toilet training - when cats are indoor cats, as it has to be better than smelly litter, the worst of which is not when it's in situ, but when it gets walked all round the house - but, I'll bet that toilet training isn't as easy as it looks.

(Mico doesn't seem to have quite the right idea there yet, does he?)

So far though, I haven't had to train anyone and, consequently, we don't have a litter tray in this house, usually, even when the cats stay indoors.

Betty took it upon herself years ago to use the bidet for wees, which is fair enough, because I can just run the tap on it. The silliest thing is that she has all day and night when she could use it, but invariably waits for when I go.

Ah well, it's nice to have the company and the conversation!

Somehow, I think I may have gone a little too far in instilling bathroom etiquette - it certainly wasn't training - into Kitty. Even when she can go outside, even when she's been for a long walk up the road and back with me and the dog, she dashes back indoors to use the bathroom.

All of them, mostly, just naturally use the bath, which is fine by me, because it is easily cleaned. (We have a special dustpan for picking up the "lumpy bits" that go down the loo.) And actually, I prefer this to sharing my toilet seat.

But, there have been occasions when Mico has availed himself of whatever suitable (in his mind anyway) receptacle was provided, to do a pee.

This is not so good when it's the dog's food bowl. No, that's not fair.

To prevent this, the thought crossed my mind therefore - half in jest really - that I would buy him a baby's plastic potty to use, but I never did anything about it, until the other day when I was in a local supermarket and saw one for a single Euro (a few pence). Mico is a boy, so I chose the blue one.

Said and did nothing special, but placed it, strategically, on the bathroom floor after I bought it home on Monday. And, without further ado, someone has been using it regularly all week. Yay Mico has gone potty! :-) Now I know how mothers of non-fur babies must feel: really proud to see "results"!

Yes, maybe I've gone a little potty too, but if it works ...
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