Friday, 27 August 2010

Bank hol weekend

Well events have conspired to prevent me from posting this week - been a wee bit on the manic side. Have a good bank hol weekend all of you that get it, may the sun keep shining on us into September! (When all the best people are born. :-p )

Monday, 23 August 2010

All quiet on the (South) Western front

I had the week off!! I did mean to warn you but quite frankly by the time it hit 8pm on the Friday and I was still at work all I wanted to do was leg it. Anyway I took a week off for a very good reason - a rather small but incredibly disruptive influence has entered my life and is doing his best to destroy the very fabric of space time itself - or at least the fabric of my curtains, duvet cover, whatever I'm wearing...

Me - disruptive?? But I'm tiny!!
And master of all I survey.
Snooze time before...

Kitten ATTACK!!

This is Zeke; short for Ezekiel. Now it's a while since I've been around tiny cats and I'd forgotten just how high they can jump even though they're miniscule. Oh - and all those people that say to 'kitten-proof' your house - it can't be done! However they do have the redeeming feature of making me laugh like a drain at his antics. Like biting one's own tail then (presumably at the shock) rolling off the sofa backwards. Or kicking oneself in the head when attempting to attack anything and everything including quite a few things that aren't there. I could go on but suffice to say, we'll be hearing more from my resident scamp.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Top notch

Apologies for the absolute dearth of posts - been a tad busy to say the least. You can blame that on the UKBA and their damn fool ways of bringing in sweeping changes with about a weeks notice. Grrr...
Got round to trying the Manchega cheese I got in Wareham recently. Ooh it's good - so very glad I got 2 lots! :-) It's rich, nutty, buttery, pliable at the outside edges and a little crumblier towards the centre. Going by this site I'm guessing it must be the 'Curado' version, medium aged. Went very nicely on a Rich Tea biccie in a passable imitation of breakfast this morning. Of course really I should be eating it with membrillo - quince 'cheese'. As it happens there's some in the fridge at home so may have to go another round of this later. Nom nom nom...
Now some of you may be well aware that I've been somewhat tardy in determining the postcard art pay it forwards 'winner' - if getting a random postcard from me can be called a 'win'. I had some typically convoluted and grandiose ideas of holding a snail race to pick the name but frankly I realised I was just making life rather harder for myself than it really needed to be. Therefore I will devise some less elaborate method of name picking today and announce it in the very near future. Probably. If you're lucky... ;-D
Oh - big shout out to the 'Northern' boys without whom the campus would be a much quieter and less muddy place to work. :-) If you're reading this C (you know who you are) you can see my favourite door in this post.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Spice kits

Just a quick post but wanted to mention these lovely kits I ordered recently from Everyone's Kichen on t'interweb. Only costing £1.29 each with no postage, sent out first class within 48 hours it seemed like a nice way to be able to to try some different dishes without buying whole pots of spices that you may never use again if you decide you don't like it. It tells you on their site what fresh ingredients you need to add to each kit, and this info is duplicated on the front of the card. The spices are inside, attached in the order you use them in the recipe and the instructions are on the back. Think a trip to my favourite fishmongers is in order tomorrow to get some ingredients and give these a try. I know the office smelt great today after these arrived!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Dorsetshire weekend part 2

Saturday of the weekend had us planned to go for a traipse along the coast the other side of the Purbecks but a rather inclement start to the morning put paid to that. Grump - missed out on visiting my fave pub in the world for a pasty!!
Instead we settled on a visit to Wareham with a stroll along the river and a pub lunch before they headed back up t'North. I must confess that this decision was in no small way influenced by me having heard there was a market on the quay with a cheese stall and needing to stock up on Blue Vinney for myself and a couple of friends I have got hooked on the stuff, mwah ha ha haaa... :-p
So, first to the market and the cheese stall. Mostly the market (small) was the general selection of bric a brac / clothes / household bits / massive packs of crisps that you find at lots of markets but it's saving grace was that there was a small fresh fish van, a very good looking sprawling veg stall complete with yellow courgettes, romanesco caulis (the cool ones that look fractal), fresh lemongrass &c &c and the aforementioned cheese stall. Ahh - the cheese stall. It was a goldmine, I ended up spending over £12 and that was holding myself back!! (I'm very definitely not expecting to buy any more cheese this month!!) They had short dated Camembert at £1 each or 2 for £1.50 [2 - of course I got 2, did you really think otherwise?], the Dorset Blue Vinney I was actually there for, various Cheddars, Stilton, Smoked Cheddar et al. I came away with a very nice mature cheddar called Coastal, which although aged for 15 months isn't the kind that destroys your taste buds but remains still smooth and very, very good. I got a couple of chunks of Manchega at £2 a pop, one can go in the freezer. I have yet to try this but am hoping it's good. I got to like Manchega when I had it in Spain but then got some from the S'bury's deli counter last xmas and was bitterly disappointed at the flavourless plasticy product they'd somehow substituted for something actually edible. A big wedge of blue Vinney as it was being split 3 ways and the most intriguing for me, a blue cheese I've never come across called Fourme D'Ambert. Not knowing what it was like I opted for a small piece of this - MISTAKE!! It's like a blue brie or camembert is the best way I can describe it and super good. Deffo got to stock up on that next time I'm down that way! [On the subject of cheese, as we ever are, I may have to go to this - a cheese festival - what could be better!!]

Laden with cheese we then decided to take a short stroll down the Wareham River (the Frome) to Redclyffe at the end and back. (Yep - shoulda done the shopping after, I know, I know.) New since the last time I was there are these stone benches carved with lines from a poem about rivers. I love this kind of functional item elevated to art by something relatively simple, and wholeheartedly encourage any local councils with a modicum of funding left over to follow suit.

Spotted this intriguing garden across the river, equipped with teepee, birdcage type seating area and 'love' stones, it made me want to be able to have a poke around but this was the closest we got.
After a pleasant stroll - it had turned sunny by now as if to taunt my lack of a visit to the pasty pub - we decided on the Black Bear for lunch, based on this specials board outside. Although we were having a light lunch if the calibre of the specials board is anything to go by you can be pretty sure the rest of the menu should be alright. Everyone else plumped for the crab sandwiches, which was my original choice until I saw they had a pint of prawns on the menu - that's for me then!! Given the moniker 'activity food' by a sister this falls into that area of food where you really are going to have to get your hands dirty, like with moules, or whole crab etc. I love it!! I have to say these were excellent, plump, fresh as anything prawns with that slightest edge of sweetness that tells you just how fresh they are. My only quibble was the distinct lack of a finger bowl but hey, there was soap in the ladies so who's complaining. I'd recommend this characterful old boozer, there's fascinating old photos of the area on the walls in the main bar and they do very good Badger beers, the local beer to this part of Dorset.. Although the pub has a fairly narrow frontage it goes back and back through different rooms until you emerge into the courtyard garden at the back so there's plenty of space. They have a music festival in Wareham on the bank hol weekend and this is one of the venues so I may get to revisit it then. Here's hoping!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Dorsetshire weekend part 1

Well, I had a very busy and enjoyable weekend in Dorset with family members various, including some from 'the frozen North' (Guiseley, Leeds) who complained of the heat down here in the South. :-D
First up was our annual trip to see the open air Shakespeare on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour. This is great fun if you like the theatre, or Shakespeare in particular. Your ticket includes the ferry over, a trip of approximately 20 minutes that loops round the side of this National Trust owned island giving you a good view and a great opportunity to get blown about a bit if you sit 'up top' on the ferry.
The Shakespeare has been performed by the Brownsea Open Air Theatre (BOAT) since 1964 and is highly acclaimed. [In this Wiki article apparently it was rated 2nd top place in the UK for open air arts and was mentioned in Debrett's list of top 5 things to do in England.] Done in the traditional style with period dress there's a different director each year.
We go over on the first boat at 5pm with our picnics - this is very definitely the 'done' thing. This is a 'posh picnic' occasion and we lounge on blankets on the grass, enjoying wine, cheese, smoked trout, olives etc at leisure (apart from the repelling of an occasional peacock foray) before the play commences at 7.30. This year I had a bit of an oven/gas disaster the night before so was unable to make my proposed mini homity pie/tartlets and so nipped to my local fishmongers early the next morning for some goodies from their deli counter. [Top fishmongers I've mentioned before.] Excuse the blurry photo - I got seafood salad/medly stuff, garlic stuffed queen olives, kiln smoked salmon and some proper anchovies - nothing like the preserved ultra salty ones that come in the tins. If you've never had them get some from your local deli, or when you're in Spain, and have on a bit of crusty bagutte or half a croissant, they're gorgeous and I even made a convert of my uncle whose face when I mentioned 'anchovies' had to be seen to be believed!
As an aside - the green stuff in the foreground is Samphire which is a very seasonal veg generally only found in proper fishmongers. Wash incredibly well before cooking as it's tres salty being an inhabitant of salt marshes; steam / boil very gently and serve with a little melted butter or a drizzle of olive oil on it's own or as a side dish to fish, perhaps with a squeeze of lemon juice. My fishmonger said on Friday that there's about 4 weeks of the season left so search it out now.
Well 'The Taming of the Shrew' was very good as I would expect from this Director; Denise Mallender. I've seen a couple of her contemporary set Shakespeare productions before (done by her own Blade Productions) and she's very good at really conveying the meaning and enabling you to relate to the storyline, which can sometimes be hard with Shakespeare due to the age and style of the language used. Although this production was done traditionally with period dress and set she still managed to make this play shine for me in a way it's not done before. (And I must have seen Shrew at least 4-5 times in my life now.) Done badly 'Shrew' can be a misogynistic piece with a (to a female) deeply unsatisfying ending of Katherina capitulating and falling simperingly into Petruchio's arms. Done well - as here - it is a brilliant piece commenting on the wiles each sex uses on the other in order to get what they want and think they deserve, showing a few of humanities less attractive traits along the way. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
If you're in the area one summer I recommend this as a fab trip, you need to book the tickets well in advance though!
More tomorrow rather than one monster post. Enterers (is that a word?) of the Postcard Art Pay It Forward fret not - I have a cunning plan to pick the winner. All will be revealed...