Monday, 30 April 2012

Camera come home...

Been playing with my old camera - or really I should say one of my old cameras as I have somewhat of a surfeit of them it seems.  
This is a Sony DSC-U20.  This one I really did get for the looks I'm afraid - totally form over function as even when it came out back in December ’02 the max resolution of 2 mega pixels was pretty low.  Admittedly I didn’t get it then at full price but at least 2/3 years later as a refurbished one from my then employer.  As soon as I saw its brushed royal blue metal body though I coveted it and if only the image quality could have lived up to those looks I’d have been more than happy.  I quickly realised however, that in anything less than good sunlight it wasn't that great so it got fairly minimal use over the years.
Back to now and what with being temporarily camera-less [or as camera-less as you can get when there’re at least 10+ in the house that is] this was one that I’d pulled out to look over.  Setting aside the low pixel count for a mo it actually had an ok spec for a fun young-demographic-base unit.  Here’s a pic taken with the solarise feature that’s now fairly ubiquitous on all phones and digi-cameras but I honestly don’t think I ever used it on this camera before.

Anyway – I am happy as I have a new camera swapped yesterday for my poorly one.  It’s nigh on exactly the same as the previous Nikon – it’s the S3200 with 2 million pixels more and a 6x optical zoom instead of the 5x of the S3100.  So I'm back in business again!!  It was typical that after I got the replacement camera the first thing I did on getting home was manage to stumble across the old card reader I needed to get the pics off the Sony with.  *sigh*  So expect some images of the river exe in full flood mode over the next few days as it's been raining hard here for what feels like a month now!

Friday, 27 April 2012

Camera, oh camera. Where for art thou my camera?

Another random post with some old pics here – still waiting to sort my camera out / remember where in the many piles of stuff in my house I left the old card reader so here’s another odd one I took – though judging by the quality (or rather – lack thereof) it was on my phone.  Which is old and rather poor on the picture taking front!  Anyway – it seemed to me that my Wotsits had been procreating in the bag and this was the resultant offspring when this little tiddler turned up!  Awwww…

On the same Totnes market trip where I spotted last post’s Marmite rat was this 'cup tree' outside an old fashioned cafĂ©. 

This is from the Food Festival I attended a couple of weeks ago – of which more later.  This is a great sentiment though eh?  J
I do like the ‘Keep Calm’ images although they’re hitting overkill now with versions for everything.  It’s a poignant reminder of times less fortunate though as it was designed for us in the event of an invasion during WW2.  More info here and here.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Feeling a wee bit bereft

My camera has decided to go on the sick!!  I'm lost without having it handy to take my daily snaps.  This was my birthday present from the Chap back in September so no waaaaay should it be failing yet.  It's a Nikon - a brand I've been with for years so I'm disappointed this one should have given up so soon.  Anyway - here it is from my birthday.

Due to the lack of camera I dug an older one out of retirement for the weekend - then realised yesterday I couldn't find the card reader to download that format card!  Doh!  *facepalm*  So I will instead share some random images / memories from the year gone by.
This is a house I see every weekday on my way to work - they have brightened it up with a little spray painting which I for one like though I guess it's not to everyone's taste.  Forgive me if I have posted this one before - I honestly can't remember!

This beautiful lavender bird was a gift from the fabulous couple over at the Cottage Smallholder blog - check the tab at the top for '=Gifts=' and you too can be the proud owner of one of their lovely hand made products.
He brightens up the cupboard in my kitchen where I see him daily.

This sums up about all you need to know about me and my feelings on Marmite.  Personally I'm very deffo a 'hater'!  Love this creative take though.  Saw this at the regular Friday Totnes market.

Finally I'll leave you with a smile from my family get together on my birthday - this was at the rather great 'Railway' in Honiton.  Very good food indeed!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Unforseen empty afternoon

Do you remember a couple of posts back I mentioned that the curators of 'The Perfect Nude' exhibiton were giving a talk today?  Well I just popped on the Phoenix's website to check the start time and it's been cancelled 'due to unforeseen circumstances'.  Damn - I was looking forward to that.  I guess someone's ill - hopefully not badly.  I was really anticipating the insights they'd give.  Oh well.  I'll have to think of something else to do with an overcast afternoon on my own now.  (The Chap's working.)
A little creativity perhaps...
Or I could pop out for a jacket spud for lunch...

(Did you just fall off your chair?)  Or I could go foraging for some more wild garlic...
Hmmm - so long as it doesn't hail / monsoon /gale force winds on me that is.  It's been a blustery week!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Meat cooking for the faint hearted #4 - Chinese Roast Chicken - w' oyster sauce and honey no less!!

After a slack section in my blogging recently I am returning with - what's this?  A meat recipe??!!  Yes - sorry m'dears but I figured it was a post I could hopefully write up fairly quickly as there's not masses to the recipe.
I get oodles of emails along the lines of 'visit our sparkly website and buy our shizzle' as I am in the habit of signing up for all the freebies I can find left, right and centre which invariably means giving them an email address in return.  Still - if you want free stuff (and after all - there's enough free providers of email addys out there that you can set one up specifically for this kind of sign up) I don't see the issue.  Sometimes you even get something that interests you pop into your in-box.  Hence this recipe which came from the Chinese food company Lee Kum Kee as part of their suggestions for mother's day.  It's easy, the ingredients aren't massively expensive; the chicken forms most of it but do get a decent welfare one and make sure you get your soy sauce from a Chinese supermarket - this recipe does us half a litre of the stuff!!  Most importantly for the beloved meat eater in your life it is; according to the Chap, most yum indeed.  [I'm fairly sure as a burly builder type he didn't utter those actual words - but don't you wish he had?!  That was certainly the sentiment he expressed anyway.]
Here goes then:

Chinese Roast Chicken with Honey and Oyster sauce  [I've linked the original recipe here but as it's listed under the mother's day options I'm unsure how long it'll stay on their site so I'm putting it here too - I figure me mentioning the company a few times over the course of this post is fair exchange for promoting their recipe don't you?  Especially as said recipe was on the web for purposes of monetary gain in the first place.]
1 chicken - approx 1.5 kg in weight
500ml soy sauce
2 fat cloves garlic - minced
1.5l water
10 'slices' ginger - don't ask me what this measurement is - I guess depends how much you like ginger.  I peeled a bit of root and did lengthwise slices of the section.
4 star anise
100g Oyster sauce
60+ ml honey - the recipe says 1/4 cup which is 62.5 ml.  Use 4 tbsp and you won't be far wrong.

The more observant of you may have noticed that the last 2 ingredients are in a diff colour - they are the 'glazing' ingredients.  The rest are the 'seasoning mix'  - boiling ingredients.
Put all the boiling ingredients (bar the chicken) in a pan large enough to hold them all and the chicken and bring to the boil.  Carefully manoeuvre your chicken into the mix [I declined to just 'drop' it in as the recipe said - fearing a soy sauce splash back incident!], cover and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Simmer for 30 minutes.
Put oven on to heat at 160.  Mix together the glaze ingredients of oyster sauce and honey.  As it turned out both the soy sauce I already had and the oyster sauce I purchased for this recipe from my local Chinese supermarket were the Lee Kum Kee people's products but any would do I'm sure.  The honey I used was just S'burys basics stuff - perfectly good enough for cooking and baking with I find.
Carefully remove your chicken from the water - at this point I realised that perhaps you're supposed to leave the damn thing trussed up as it comes in the packaging rather than carefully snipping through it's ties before boiling the thing as I did.  Legs and wings were flopping about everywhere I tell you!* 
Lay in a baking tray and pour the glaze over ensuring evenly covered as much as possible.  It does all slide off into the tray as it warms though.  The recipe suggested uing a brush here - I didn't bother as I found spooning it over and spreading it with the back of the spoon was adequate without having to thoroughly gunge up my pastry brush.

Cook for 30 - 45 mins (the recipe says) - I did 45 mins basting with the glaze every 15 mins.  Check the chicken is cooked through properly usng the old 'juices run clear' technique.
Serve.  Apparently this was authentically like the 'Chinese' chicken bits you can get pre-done in the shops and was thoroughly enjoyed by the Chap.  It's a low prep recipe so easy to do with little time having to be spent watching over it.
* [This bit did make me a bit uncomfortable - the whole 'recognisable shape' thing I guess that did a good job at eroding the distancing I use when cooking meat for The Chap.  It was the way the limbs moved - far too easy to see the form of the hen it once was bounding about a yard somewhere.]

Friday, 6 April 2012

A pause to relax; and a few randoms

Well despite promises to the contrary I evidently still haven't got a full and proper post up here yet - Doh!  Hey ho - no time to hark on about that now or this post may go the same way!
Last weekend we made an effort to empty the freezer somewhat which meant using the last of the sloes to make sloe gin with.  If you've never made this it really is a piece of p*ss and the reward is low in cost but deffo super high on the tastiness factor so when autumn hits get out there and see if you can track down a local blackthorn bush or two.
A brief synopsis is - 1 bottle gin to 1lb / 500g sloes - freeze then defrost on a tray and run the rough side of a grater over them to break the skins.  Put both items into a sterilized le parfait style 1.5l size jar and add sugar if so desired.  I added 100g. 
*Top tip to take notice of - the sugar has no effect of any kind in a fermentation type way.  The gin is already alcohol - you are merely adding flavour with the sloes and the sugar is just there because sloes are so tart and sour on their own.  Lots of sloe gin recipes say to add loads of sugar - up to the same weight as the sloes!!!  How do you know at that point that all that sugar is needed?  Each years fruit will vary slightly in terms of taste, juiciness and tartness but once you've added all that sugar you can't take it back out.  You can leave the sugar out altogether and just add at a later date to taste once the gin has finished 'steeping' or you can add a little now; which is what I do, then you have the option to add more later if needed.  * Didactic style mini-rant over.
Shake the jar like your very best 'dad' dancing style personal disco just rolled into town and stick it in a dark cupboard.  Shake again at the very least once a week for another 2-3 months - the more shakin' goin' on the more taste you'll get from your sloes.  Strain off and taste, taste again then taste again.  Do the sugar thang and enjoy.  :-)
Over the weekend - back when it was still sunny (!) we also took a minute out from the Sunday food shopping run to sit in the sun with a pint, a bag of Burts crisps and these lovely olives - I appreciate the sentiment on the sweet little pot they came in and olives are fairly good for you I believe.  [Click on the pic to enlarge.]
Lastly; on Monday I popped into the local Arts Centre - the Phoenix, to purchase tickets for myself, ma and big sis for the upcoming Exeter Festival of South-West Food and Drink.  (Hereafter referred to as 'Exeter food fest' as the official title isn't particularly snappy and takes waaaay too long to type out.)  Whilst I was there I took a brief wander round their current exhibition 'The Perfect Nude'.  There were some very interesting pieces here in many different styles and mediums although they are all 'paintings' in some form although there are 3D pieces amongst the works.  The exhibition runs until May 12th if you want to see it.  I found it thought provoking, finding some of the pieces a little uncomfotable in their delivery whilst others really drew me in..  My favourite 2 pieces were 'Blue Nude' by Laura White.  I didn't get a shot of this but there's one on their site I'm borrowing for here - hopefully no-one minds as I'm bigging the exhibition up!  The other is 'better out than in' by Mindy Lee which I did take this
shot of.  I guess some people may find this a little macabre or 'gross' but I love it - I think it's fascinating and I also really like the delivery - the immediacy the 3d aspects bring plus the glossy 'wet' look of the eviscerated innards.  This exhibition is the brainchild of two artists and curators; Dan Coombs and Phillip Allen and is composed of works by invited artists who were given the subject matter by the pair.  They say their "interest lies in the idea of imposing a subject onto the participating artist, to see what happens when the artist no longer bears responsibilty for the subject."  There's some insightful comments on the naked vs the nude on the sheet that was given out at the gallery but what I'm quite interested in is that the 2 artist/curators are themselves giving a talk on the background and themes of the exhibition at the Phoenix on the 21st April.  Even better it's free so I might just pop along to that. 
Until next time.  :-)