Saturday, 29 March 2008

Yesterday dinner was tapas, at a relatively new place in Aberdeen that I'm now a returning customer to. This is Eljos of course, on Langstane Place. I really like the food and limiting myself to only vegetable and fish dishes there was still plenty of choice. I really like the chickpeas in the spicy tomato sauce, and the prawns were more succulent and juicy than I've had in a long time. There are directions on the website and it might be an idea to reserve a table as it can get busy.
01224 572898

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Ma in Scotland!
My sister Maarya is visiting me from London at the moment! Yey! Were going to have all the fun that Aberdeen has to offer! I wont go on about it because I think Ma will let ya'll know how it was on Monday!
Anyway one thing we did today (not very cultural) was go to the cinema. We walked the considerable distance from the art-house cinema on Belmont street, where nothing was showing for a long while and the Vue cinema on Union street. Guess what we decided to watch.... 'Step Up 2 The streets'. Wow this is a bad film! But for some reason the trailers make you want to watch it. well they apparently did me and Ma! One character on finding a dead fish in his house says "Oh that's what that funky smell is", -NO- that smell is the movie your in!!! ahhh I could go on... I wouldn't say don't watch it though... Its very funny (in an ironic way) but don't laugh too loud at the 'intimate' moments and piss off the chaves in the row in front... maybe this ones a wait till its out on DVD number anyway!
Easter rocks! Just like at Christmas I get sooo many chocolates! (Every one thinks I'm crazy about chocolate...)
At Easter the chocolate comes in little bunny shaped packaging and doesn't last long!

This little bunny tried to get away, but it wasn't quick enough...

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Today I went to a new delicatessen that I'd spotted on Great Western Rd and before I knew it I was buying cheese! Two new cheeses, both Scottish; Criffel and Bonnett. I've been eating some ripe blue, French Roquford with crackers and grapes after dinner recently, and felt like getting something a little less intense for lunch time. These two are great cheeses, Criffel is prepared from organic unpasteurized cows milk and vegetarian rennet. Its semi soft, creamy with a rich flavour. Its not dis-smiler to a firmer brie. Bonnet is a Scottish cheese made form the milk of Sannen goats. Its a well matured white cheese, crumbly like Wensleydale. Its named after locals who worked in the bonnet industry (that's bonnet as in head wear!).
Lunch fit for a king!

Saturday, 22 March 2008

In Memory of a grey cat.
I'm feeling a little sick, I saw a cat get run over today, a cute, fluffy, grey, ALIVE cat.
It was like the cat in the Sheba adverts. I was in the passenger seat of my friends car just going round a roundabout when it happened. It was almost in slow motion. The cat came running from the pavement on the left hand side of the roundabout and sprinted towards the grassy bit in the middle, only it didn't make it, and ran right under the wheels of the car in front of us. The driver 'hit and ran'. We stopped there in the middle of a somewhat busy roundabout, me sinking down lower in my seat not looking at the scene and shouting at my friend to get out and do something (yeah I'm great in difficult situations) and my friend, the driver, transfixed with the poor casualty (I wont go into detail) repeating over and over “I don't have my phone on me”, later I enquired as to what he was hoping to do with his phone, (praying in the back of my mind he didn't say “to video it for YouTube” -sorry, but you never know) and he said “to call the RSPCA or something”, I didn't have the heart to explain that they wouldn't have fast response teams with local kitty ambulances. In the end we couldn't stay blocking the way on the roundabout and drove on. That's what is making me feel the worst, why didn't we move the cat off the road or... what would you do? You see road-kill sometimes, but apart from seeing the actual accident, I think this was worse because it was clearly a pet and not a wild animal. I know there will be someone at home tonight waiting for their cat to come home... and it wont. That sucks!
I'm a little angry at as well! At the driver who hit the cat and drove away and at the owners who had a cat on such a busy road. When I got home I gave Scoobie (my cat) three treats. He wasn't allowed out either (it was snowing).

Scoobie gives me a hug!

Friday, 21 March 2008

Tools and carbs!
Its been snowing on and off for the last two days, the snows not sitting though. Its just really really cold and windy. I went to mosque today, a long over due trip, but feel all the (spiritually) better for it, and bumping into some old faces near the University campus was nice too. But the walk to and from were horrific, there's not even any public transport routes for this journey, its times like this I miss London so much! By the time I'd battered my way back to my street, nearly blinded by hail stones, flying horizontally at gale force speed, I decided I'd get a quick lunch from Sainsbury's. This is most definitely a 'carb' overload day if ever there was one. I got a tub of risotto a baguette... some crisps oh and some Frü carrot cake...
'Covent Garden Food Co' don't just do soups:
I made a garlic baguette to go with my brought risotto, this is actually some what an of an advert for my new garlic press, before it came along I was using a knife to chop garlic (shock!), and getting big bits of garlic in every thing. Get one, you need it!!
Also I used my 'handy' baguette holder/slice spacer contraption... which is good but not very necessary, as you could probably manage the job without it if your Primary Motor Cortex is even partially functioning. Yeah yeah I know I still used mine, but this was a bad day!
And there you have it! Potato, rice and bread; three carb groups on one plate, cravings rock!
(Oh and the Frü carrot cake was perfect with a cup of tea! You get eight individually wrapped pieces... I had three and then cried for a while)

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

I'm probably the only person who could manage to eat whilst watching Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. As he poked about in a rotten pepper and lifted the seal of a fridge to reveal cockroaches, my stomach rumbled. Snack time! And what do I have in my snack cupboard today? Popcorn. Make some, its quick easy well it is for me.
Remember that Disney Land advert with that brat; “Magical”? Well you will find yourself agreeing with her sentiment... just not about Disney... watch the video!

200g apparently makes 3 litres so change quantity accordingly.
Pour oil (2 tbs) into a pan with a lid, place over a high heat and add the popcorn (un-popped...)
Cover the pan with lid and watch amazed.
When the popping party finishes turn the heat off and chuck in some butter to melt over the popcorn, you could also add some salt... or sugar or cinnamon or spices etc etc.
(Dont open the lid of your pan like the jackass in the video...)

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Fun and Dim Sum. (Title just for Maarya)
This Saturday I woke up with the sun on my face. What a lovely day, luckily we've had a few good ones this winter. I woke up thinking for some reason, about one of my college friends in London, Debbie. After trying unsuccessfully to get a hold of her on the phone, for a chat, I decided to have a sort of Debbie and Ballal tribute day. The Debbie and Ballal day involved my being dragged through hundreds of shops down the length of Oxford street with a stop at almost every Starbucks along the way and then my favourite part of the day DINNER (if only because I got to put down all her bags!); and because we would usually end up in the arcades in China Town, Chinese would usually be on the menu.
I forwent our traditional Starbucks coffee stop and grabbed my Americano from 'Books and Beans',- -this is a great workday lunch stop with fresh home made soups every day. It was also Aberdeen's first independent Fair Trade coffee shop. The addition of over a thousand second hand books means you can often spend a little longer then intended in here, so I got my coffee to go! Caffeine steaming through me I was ready to hit the shops, it had been months since I'd brought any new cloths and even longer since I'd brought non-work cloths. Deviating from the obvious Union street shopping route, I came across a place that I had been walking past, to and from work, but never been in; Retro Rebels- -I ended up getting two new T-shirts and because even this was making me feel a little guilty (end of the month) I decided that was all the clothes shopping I could take (afford).

Taking my new top out for a flight.
Lunch time fast approaching and being alone, I decided to go past the Chinese Super Market - -and grab something to take home. Boy was I happy I checked this place out! All the oriental ingredients I could ever need under one (massive) corrugated roof. And priced much better then my regular supermarket. Spoilt for choice, I eventually picked up some Dim Sum. I LOVE Dim Sum. I went for some Leek Dumplings (Ha Cao He) Shrimp dumplings (Har Gow) and Lotus paste buns. Ahhh my tummies still smiling. I couldnt resist buying the little steamer/serving things in the picture!

Regulars (mum) might recognise my little ceramic Kulfi pot, I now use it to hold Soy Sauce!

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Scots Foodie
A very popular foodie event in the North East is 'Taste Grampian', I've not been to one yet but going this year, its on Saturday 7th June 2008 at the Thainstone Centre near Aberdeen. Here's the web site for the event;
One place that I hope has a stall is a great delicatessen that I recently found. Its in Aberdeen city and its called 'RockSalt and Snails'. Seems like it is a bit of a secret treasure as most people don't know it exists. The delicatessen is downstairs from the 'RockSalt and Snails' coffee shop; which is nice but normally has a few too many mothers and toddlers on a Saturday morning to be relaxing. But go down the stairs at the back and your in specialist food stuff heaven! What really stands out is the amount of local and British produce, sure there's Italian Olive oils and Brazilian coffee beans, but I recently brought some of the best cheese I've tasted here, and it was made in Aberdeenshire.
This is the site, but I would recommend a visit to the shop to stock up your store cupboards!

Thursday, 13 March 2008

I have a dirty secret! I quite ashamed but its bad and I think it requires confession and the anonymity of the internet seems the ideal place to unburden myself of my guilt. I use Heinz sandwich spread in my sandwiches for work! There I said it. The 'tangy crunchy spread' to be precise. Unfortunately there's more to come and its worse; I quite like it! (gasp).
I know I could make smoked trout pate with some crusty bread or a sandwich with some great local cheddar and pickle or when there's no time for a packed lunch some sushi from Markies should do, but no, I reach for the little glass jar with the luminous 'Guar Gum' pieces and Xanthan. Do you know any other food stuffs that have ingredients beginning with X? Any way this is taking an awful long time to write, with one hand... I went to the fridge! I might go have a wash now.
Better then Bessie's
Home made usually means more work and sometimes for the amount of time and effort exerted, the results aren't great. But there are some things that shouldn't ever be store brought, it would just be wrong. Yorkshire puddings fall under the latter cooking category, they're so simple that there are no excuses AND they're better then any cardboard tasting, frozen version. Make them!
-125g plain flour or Preferably strong plain flour
-½ tsp salt
-2 eggs, beaten
-300 ml milk or for a lighter batter I would
recommend using a mixture of equal parts milk
and water to make 300ml
-vegetable fat
Preheat the oven to 220ºC
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and make a well in the center, add the beaten eggs
gradually mix in the flour from the sides and slowly add the milk/water mixture to make a smooth batter. For a very smooth batter work all the ingredients together with an electric whisk for a minute.
If you still have lumps you can sieve the batter through a fine-meshed sieve.
Cover and let the batter rest for 30 minutes or over night.
When ready to use (once your roast is cooked?) put ½ tsp of the vegetable fat (you could also use some sort of animal fat (lard) or cooking oil) in each cup of the Yorkshire pudding tin and heat at 220°C until very hot and almost smoking. This is important the fat has to be very hot or the Yorkshires will not rise! Quickly remove the tin from the oven and fill each cup half way with batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes, but don't be tempted to open the oven in the first 5-10 minutes.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Sky, Chicken and Dogs.
I've not written for a while because recently my evenings have been incredibly busy... Its Crufts! Ahh happy days, two hours of pure doggie fun! Its so exciting to know that all the strange and wonderful breeds I have only yet read about, are actually out there, owned by little old ladies in 'twin sets' and pearls, in this very country; Portuguese water dogs, Chow chows, Neapolitan Mastiffs, all living breathing and pooping! Gives me hope that I will be able to find an Italian Greyhound breeder, -when the time is right of course! (Italian Greyhounds didn't get picked for best of group! So no more of them in the series). This week held one of those increasingly rare occasion in which I was invited out, with people, to make with the fun. Socialising, is what they called it, anyway it meant I missed my pooch show, so I caught up on Fridays Crufts, today whilst I made the best ever roast chicken, there'll be more on that in a minute (this blogg's about food?). I was able to do this (the watching of Crufts, not the roasting of chicken) with my amazing new Sky plus. It can Record, Pause and Rewind live T.V! I say 'new' Sky Plus, but I've had the thing for months now, (and paid for months) but have only just got it working. (Warning: I'm going to moan now) So... I used to get broadband from B.T. Until one day in a crazy spontaneous break from my groceries shopping, I stopped to talk to a man promoting Sky from a little stand. He told me I could have Sky broadband, telephone and T.V. for the price of B.T. broadband, the lure of new electric goods proved too much and I signed up there and then.
I waited a week feverishly, eager for the installation person to come over with my new set top box of delights and when it finally arrived, in all its minimalist, white façade-ed glory, my fingers were twitching at my side like a cowboy at a duel, geared up to pause my first channel. There was one compromise that I had to make, the installation man used an unused satellite dish that was already connected to my flat, but who's wires went through a top floor neighbours basement. And because these 'neighbours' are never in their flat we weren't able to attach the second feed to the dish that is required for recording multiple channels simultaneously. Any way to cut an increasingly long and possibly not very interesting story short, not only am I missing functionality but one week after installation the Sky starts playing up and loses its signal completely. Numerous hours of calls to Sky later I managed to get an engineer to come and fix it, only he couldn't, because the dish was too high and went through another persons property. But finally this weekend the 'Heights Team' – not better qualified or more experienced engineers, but in fact cowboys, externally sourced from Sky willing to hang from dangerous ledges- got the thing working again. I'm glad they got it done, but really, the two men who came over, not a brain cell between them! They got me a new Sky dish, with two feeds (so far so good), they attached the dish to the garden fence. They also left the feed cables stretched along the longest part of the lawn to my flat, with not enough flex left to tac the cable around the garden. I promptly started my Saturday morning off by digging a 4 meter trench (with an axe!) in the rain to bury the cable. Pictures to follow!
Back to the best ever roast chicken. I got the recipe from Jamie Oliver's website, which I feel like I shouldn't be promoting (because clearly he's the only thing standing between me and culinary fame). You can get it here:
I did make a few changes:
Firstly I left out the ham, I blitzed the peeled and de-seeded lemon in a blender with an onion, garlic and the herbs and enough olive oil to make a good mushy stuffing, I then mixed this with the softened butter and stuffed it under the skin. I rubbed butter all over the bird and some leftover stuffing. I boiled the potatoes as instructed but left out the celeriac, when boiled I drained the water, chucked in some flour and gave them a quick shake (with the lid on the pan). I dropped a heap of vegetable fat in to the roasting pan containing the chicken and when this was hot and sizzling I scattered the potatoes around the bird and placed a sprig of rosemary on top. O.K. so its quite different from his (better) but use his timings.
Apart from my roast chicken the other great success of the night were my home made Yorkshire puddings, so much better then the store brought kind and so VERY easy to make!
Well I've had Delia's new T.V. show on pause for quite as long as I can take so 'Yorkies' recipes to come later! (There, 'old dogs' new food show, paused on Sky, it was all connected!!!)

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

FOOD: Where's the CITY?
Or more precisely the country, as this weekend I went on two of my favourite out of town walks. When you live so close to some of the most beautiful rural locations in the country its criminal not to have, at the very least, a brief look in. Now that the weathers improving I find there's even more reason to leave the neon glow of the gym, grab my wellies and go for a good long walk. Walking isn't everyone's idea of a great time, but with some of the finest eateries in the north east actually outside the cities the promise of a good lunch convinces most of my friends.
Haddo House and estate, heres the guff:
Lady Aberdeen still lives in Haddo house, you can sometimes see her in the conservatory cursing inheritance tax laws and the National trust. Sometimes she knits, well she is a 'Lady'!
The planed walks range from short 15 minute walks to the longest which takes about 1h 30minutes at a good pace. There is an enclosed dog run (I spy from the bushes!) and a child run (play area). The gift shop sells 'stander national trust guff' as my friends describe it and the tea shop has a good selection of locally produced cakes and a very well priced sandwich and soup option for lunch. Ask the tea ladies about the 'hole-ie' plates on the walls!

Haddo also has a very big tree!
The sign says 'This is the largest tree in Haddo, perhaps the largest in the North East Scotland as you can see its not especially tall (about 27 Meters) – but the spread of the branches (about 35 meters) is exceptional.'

There's also something about a giant toadstool eating away at the tree making it very unsafe but you'll have to visit to find out more!

Drum Castle, was my second walk, this place has an enormous tower! There's some information on the castle on this site:
The walk at Haddo offers spectacular views of the surrounding country side and hills, where as this walk is mostly forest. This is nice just now but will be even more enjoyable during the summer months. The woodland has amongst its wild inhabitants Great Spotted Woodpeckers, red squirrel and tons of bugs. The information at the start of the forest walk mentions that the dead trees are left alone, rather than moved, to encourage biodiversity, the fact that you notice the dead trees goes to show just how 'managed' so many other 'natural' areas are.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Whack The Haggis Game
avoid hitting the good haggis (with the tartan hats) during this pop up hunt and splat: You might need: Shockwave Player Download Center
Click on the square below to start playing whack the haggis game.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Okra AKA Lady fingers
Not many people have had Lady fingers (the vegetable, silly), they don't seem to have garnered the same interest amongst the British public as other exotic vegetables. Not many people even know what they are, here's what I'm talking about:
Sainsbury's have sold Lady fingers, but if I recall the packs contained about 5 pieces , OK to add to your stir fry but not enough for a meal on its own, which is what I recommend you try and make! Asians almost always know the deal about Okra, we make Okra curries (surprise, surprise) in the far east Okra is used in tempura, Americans (south) are pretty big into the Okra as well, there they coat it in corn meal and shallow fry it.
Generally quick stir frying is the way to go to burn off the characteristic goo released when Okra is cooked, or on the other hand Okra can be used to thicken food as with Gumbo.
Here are a few simple recipes:
This is 'o`hitashi', which is basically any boiled vegetable, served with a dip,
You need about a pound of Okra and for the dipping sauce dark soy sauce and an inch of ginger.
In a pan of boiling water drop in the Okra and boil for 3-5 minutes. Drain the pan and rinse the Okra under cold water and then leave to dry as you make your soy sauce by grating the ginger finely in to a dish followed by the soy.

Southern fried Okra:
• Oil for shallow frying, an inch in depth.
• Okra
•Milk or cream• flour• cornmeal (yellow or white, I use yellow)
Make the coating for the okra by mixing the cornmeal and the flour which should be 1 part flour to two parts cornmeal. Season with some salt and pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Chop the cleaned Okra in to 1cm rounds and get the oil heated in a pan.
Add a splash of milk to the Okra and stir it, it will start to get sticky with the juices of the Okra being released. Add milk slowly and continue to stir until the Okra is coated lightly in milk. Now drop the Okra into the coating mix and coat all the pieces. Test the oil with one piece of Okra and if it sizzles drop in the rest covering the pan with a shallow layer. Don't be tempted to turn the little pieces too soon as they will just lose their coating. Test a little bit and if golden turn the lot with a spatula. Drain all the pieces on a paper towel. Enjoy with diced tomato relish.

My curry recipe (well mine and the rest of South Asia)
You need:
1 onion chopped
oil for frying 1tbs
Brown mustard seeds 1tsp
Okra about ½ kg chopped into 1cm peices
red chilli powder 1tsp
coriander powder 1tbs
2 small tomatoes chopped or half a can of chopped tomatoes
2tbs chopped coriander
Fry the chopped onion in a heavy based pan until light brown add the mustard seeds and fry for a further minute. Then add the Okra to the onions and stir add a splash of water so that they become tender keep stirring. When the okra darkens (5 minutes) add the spices and tomatoes. Cook on a low heat, covered for about 20 minutes. Garnish with coriander and serve with buttered chapatties.
It'll come as no great surprise when I tell you that I moisturise, yeah... some men do, that's just the crazy world we live in now. Well, on stepping out of the shower today I realised that I had run out of the stuff I'd been using recently, I went to a local store (all the while feeling dry and stiff, of course) to restock. I noticed whilst there the vast amount of products directly targeted at men. In fact a whole isle of tonics and balms and salves. Normally I use generic, unisex brands but today I thought I'd have a look at some of these products 'scientifically rendered to deal with the demands of a male body' and hopefully get something with 'fighting ingredients for when things heat up', things are always heating up for me.
Yes, the language on these things is every 'A-level English' students wet dream (ahh, gender and language!), and its not just what they say its what's missed out; one product I looked at, in essence a tinted moisturiser, was full of information about harmful UVA rays and amino proteins but failed to mention that you'd be colouring your face...The statement 'just like foundation' would have sufficed. So we are now buying more and more cosmetic/beauty products, but we're still in denial? We know what we're doing (make-up, shh!), but we're not quite comfortable enough to have details written down on a bottle and stare at us from the vanity cupboard as we shave?...or pluck, tone, etc.
Well I AM comfortable hydrating my skin with the 'latest in male grooming technology', I do though object to the price (we reach our point). All the products I looked at were twice the price of their unisex cousins. I doubt that this is because men are now so eager to achieve a flawless complexion that money is no barrier, but more because targeting one sex is cutting your market down by at least 50% which means selling less products overall and this has to equal higher prices. How can we over come this? Well men, be kinder to your skin (and my wallet), and remember the packaging wont even give away your secret!
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