Thursday, May 14, 2009

Randomiser at Ketchup

Last night we went to Ketchup, a gourmet burger place on Ashton lane with Cat and Squizz. A feature of their menu I particularly like is the 'Randomiser' where your waitress chooses for you, or as the menu says:

Put your future in the hands of our helpful and friendly staff. Choose the randomiser and receive the burger your server thinks would suit you best.

We were a bit scared of this option but Squizz decided to test our waitress to see if she would choose something he would like. She obviously knew her stuff because, after looking him up and down, she chose a burger with chicken and haggis, to which he immediately agreed. Nick looked envious for a second and then announced he wanted that too. Apparently it was delicious.

At this juncture, if I were Christian I would write this:

I had the ostrich burger (extra rare) and Nick had the scallop burger with caviar salad and the bill came to £637 including wine* which we all agreed was very reasonable and we would definitely frequent this restaurant in future.

*None of this is true. Actually I don't know how much the bill was because Squizz put it on his expense account. He's not an MP though, and he's the boss of his own company, so it's ok.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

kitten improvement?

I thought the kittens had grown out of pooing behind the sofas. Clearly not.

I decided to do a bit of quilting the other day and went into the front room to get my roll of wadding which I keep, yup, behind the sofa. I hasten to point out that the cats are not usually allowed in the 'good' room. The sofa they used to frequent was in the TV room, and the front room has generally remained a poo free zone.

Unfortunately when I grabbed the wadding I realised that it had been unrolled and scrumpled up. Inside the wadding was a nice poo, smeared over most of the wadding rendering it unusable.

I don't know how long it had been there. I feel violated. And annoyed - that was about £15 quids worth of fabric. I shall be taking it out of their pocket money.

Monday, May 11, 2009

hard day at the office

Nick is 'working from home' today and has discovered what happens in our house when we are at work.

Not alot by the looks of things.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Boiling an Egg and making lemon curd

Chris posed a question in his comment on the last post. To save you going to find it, here it is:

Out of interest, how do you boil your eggs? For some reason this is seen as the most basic thing you can do in the kitchen, but I have to say producing a perfect boiled egg every time is a tricky affair* and there's many different opinions on the subject. You shouldn't boil them, I know that much. My current method is to put them in a pan of cold water, heat it until the water reaches 85 degrees Celsius and then maintain it at that temperature for 6-7 minutes depending on the size of the egg. Getting the exact formula right is a tricky bugger, as is keeping the water at exactly 85 degrees. I'm going to try a formula whereby you heat the water to 90 and then completely take it off the heat, as I think that will be more reliable.

*By perfect I mean a firm, but not rubbery white, and a runny yolk.

Now, you should know that Chris is a bit of a foodie and knows his stuff when it comes to fannying around creating works of art in the kitchen. (check out his blog for some of his bizarre recipes.) However I'm surprised at the lengths that even Chris will go to to get the perfect boiled egg. Maintaining the water at exactly 85 degrees? surely that's just one step too far in the search for perfection.

I have to admit that my method is this: Boil water, lower egg in on spoon, time using egg timer, remove from water. My eggs are usually really delicious.

I'm wondering if the rubberiness could be something to do with the quality or the age of the raw egg? Not having purchased any eggs for over 3 years it would be interesting to compare our eggs with shop bought ones in a scientific taste test. The eggs I eat are never usually more than a week old, and if I was going to boil one then I'd use one laid that day. I use the older ones for cooking with. However eggs do keep really well, up to 4 weeks I'm told, and supermarket eggs can sometimes be knocking on a bit in age. We have developed a rotational system at home so we always know which order to eat the eggs in.

Having said all this I would doubt that Chris's problem is down to quality as he always buys the best he can.

If I am being honest I would always prefer a poached egg over a boiled egg anyway. And, like Chris, I am constantly searching for the perfect way to poach an egg. We have bought a number of 'poaching' devices, none of which seem to do the job any better than:

swirling the boiling water round in a vortex,
chucking in the egg,
putting on the toast,
taking the egg off the heat
leaving in the water until the toast is done (which is my preferred method of timing the whole process.)

With this method the eggs are not always perfect in appearance, even though they taste divine. The various poaching devices ensure an aesthetically pleasing egg, but increase the chance of rubberiness.

For my current favourite egg-busting recipe look no further than my delicious lemon curd. It is truly fabulous, and a lovely thing to make on a rainy weekend when you can stand and stir and stir and listen to a radio play.

put in a heavy based saucepan:

8 eggs
700gms sugar
200gms butter
juice and zest of 8 lemons

heat very gently stirring all the time for about half an hour, or until it has thickened into curd consistency. Do this very carefully and slowly. If you have the heat too high you will end up with sweet lemon scrambled eggs which might not be that tasty. Pour the finished lemon curd through a sieve and into jars which you have washed and have dried in a very hot oven to kill all beasties. I sterilise the lids by pouring boiling water on them. I don't know if this is the right way to do it but it seems to work for me and my curds and chutneys don't seem to go mouldy.

This recipe will make about 4 or 5 jars, and is amazing on toast, particularly toast made from tesco's walnut bread. Mmmmmmm.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

written off

Well, unfortunately my car has been deemed a total loss by the insurance company.

I expect the next step is for them to value it and tell me it was only worth £4.32 before I crashed it and quite frankly I should be grateful they are giving me any money at all.

The other irritating thing that I have learned (and let this be a warning to you) is that I would only be given a courtesy car if they were going to fix my car - not if it's written off. Apparently, their courtesy does not extend to people who have really buggered up, only to people who have mildly buggered up. If you want to ensure you have transport during the 3 or 4 weeks it takes for your money to come through you have to get an extra policy.

Luckily enough my boss has a spare car he is lending me in the interim. I know - who has a spare car lying about? Still, I am very grateful. I suspect he offered in a rash moment, then regretted it when remembering the reason I needed it in the first place, but by then I had accepted his offer!

Animal News

On the chicken front things are going very well. I had not collected the eggs for the past few days and when I went out this morning there were 19 eggs in the nest. So many in fact I had to fetch a bucket to put them all in.

Last weekend we were also having a bit of an egg glut. I managed to make inroads into our egg mountain by making a quiche, 2 pints of ice cream and 2 batches of lemon curd, but now I'm back to square one with more eggs than I know what to do with.

I'm not quite sure whats going on, especially with Omelet, our oldest hen, who is coming up to 4 years old this summer. She still lays about 5 eggs a week, which is very unusual. Custard, who is 3 this year also lays 4 or 5 a week. I can only attribute this continuing productivity to the happy life they have rootling around in the shrubs at the bottom of the garden.

Lucy, our escapee hen, is now confined back to the run after we clipped her wings last week. She had been going for a daily wander for the past month, taking a visit to our next door neighbour and the occasional sojourn onto the pristine bowling green. Since the start of the bowling season we thought it might we wise to stop these little trips of hers for the sake of neighbourly harmony.

The kittens (Macy and Morag) are now all grown up and thankfully have stopped pooing behind the sofa and weeing on the hall carpet. Instead they have taken to digging up worms and bringing them into the house to play with until the worms dry up and go all crispy. On the plus side they are a bit less terrified of us, and occasionally they let us stroke them. It's a long process but we will tame them in the end.

That's all for now folks x

Friday, May 01, 2009

Car Crash Miracle

I'm very happy to be writing this. I have escaped death and walked away from rolling my car without a scratch on me. My car is totalled, but it saved my life and I'm very grateful to Renault. here's what happened:

I was driving along a bendy country road.

I lost it on the corner, and over steered, hitting the bank.

The car started spinning round and flipped over onto it's side. I remember the windows smashing and seeing the grassy bank flashing right by my head.

Next thing I remember is ending up back on my wheels in the middle of the road, in shock, with the man in the blue car phoning the ambulance and the police.

I'm very lucky and can't believe that I walked away from this with only a bruise on my neck and shoulder from where the seatbelt held me in my seat when I was upside down. It's very odd that I can't remember most of what happened, but I do have a very clear vision of the cubes of glass flying in front of me and the blurry grass bank whizzing past less than a foot away from my head, and thinking to myself: This is it. I wasn't scared at the thought of being dead, but it was enough to make be blank whatever happened next.

In some respects this is very comforting. I am not a religious person at all, and this experience has affirmed my belief that when you die, you just stop being, and there is nothing to be scared of. I am comforted that, with the very real prospect of being squashed to death, I didn't feel terrified, or regretful, or anything bad at all. I just thought 'this is it' and then my mind went blank.

Oh, and I will be buying another Modus, with it's 5 start Ncap safety rating, that's for sure.
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