Posts Tagged ‘lifestyle’

Recipe For Tea Infused Indian Rice Pudding

Saturday, November 6th, 2010
Indian Rice Pudding

Indian Rice Pudding

For pudding with my Imperial Korma, I made Indian Rice Pudding.  I love rice pudding and I love the Indian versions, especially Pal Payasam which is the traditional Keralan recipe; these use basmati rice which has a firmer mouth-feel than arborio rice, which is used for a typical English rice puds. 

In Kerala, you would flavour it with cashews as they are grown all over Kerala, including by my friends at Elements Homestead; however, the other day I did not have any cashews to hand so I used flaked almonds which worked really well (cashews are rarely in our storecupboard, but almonds always are).

As it is an Indian rice pudding, I wanted to add an extra flavour element to the rice pudding and decided to infuse the milk with tea and I actually used one of our chai teas, which I make using a Keralan black tea from the POABS Estates near Nelliyampathy together with Fairtrade spices that are indigenous to the region.  You do not need to use a chai tea (or tea at all for that matter), but I suggest you should use light and flowery teas rather than strong ones, so a Nilgiri Black Tea or a Fine Darjeeling would work well, but I do not think a malty Assam or Kenyan tea would be right as those flavours will come through too strongly.

Axel’s Tea Infused Indian Rice Pudding

½tsp green cardamom powder
2tbsp ghee or unsalted butter
2tbsp flaked almonds
2tbsp raisins
100g / 3½ oz basmati rice
600ml / 1 pint full fat milk
1tsp Indian tea (optional)
100g / 3½ oz light muscovado sugar

Heat the ghee/butter in a heavy bottomed pan and fry the almonds and raisins until the raisins have swollen up.  Remove from the hot oil and drain almonds and raisins on kitchen paper and keep to the side; keep the oil in the pan but off the heat.

In a milk pan, warm the milk to just below boiling point; you will see bubbles just appear at the edge of the milk just by the pan edge.  Take off the heat and add the tea to the milk, stir in and leave to infuse for 5 minutes, then strain out the tea leaves by pouring the milk through a sieve. 

Wash and drain the rice twice.  In the saucepan, reheat the ghee/butter and lightly fry the basmati rice for about 1 minute being careful not to let it stick or burn.  Add the tea-infused milk and stir into the rice; heat to just below boiling point, stirring all the time to stop it sticking on the base of the pan and so burning.

When the rice is nearly cooked with an al dente bite, add the sugar and stir it in until it has dissolved and the rice is throughly cooked.  Add the fried almonds, raisins and cardamom powder, stir right through and gently cook for about 2 minutes longer.

Serve hot, with cream or milk if you want.

Apples, Bloody Apples And An Apple Cake Recipe

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

We only have three apple trees in our garden, but they have been massively fruitful this year.  In fact, they have produced so many apples I cannot even hope to use them all, even with friends and family taking them.  Nature has been so very fecund that even the quince bush outside of our front door has fruited; in the last 10 years, I reckon we have had had one quince on the bush in total, whereas this year there are seven.  It must be nature’s response to two harsh winters – up the reproduction and spread more seeds to survive.

Fruitful Apple Trees In Garden

Fruitful Apple Trees In Garden

Apples Picked From the Garden

Apples Picked From the Garden

Windfall Chutney 2010

Windfall Chutney 2010

So over the last two weekends, we have peeled for hours, then: picked and stored the eaters for later this year rather than chomp on out-of-season, flown in fruits from some high street chain; made apple puree, which has been frozen to lighten the fruitless days in the depths of winter; eaten baked apples using up leftover mincemeat for last Christmas that is now gorgeously matured and very boozy; made two types of chutney – General Gordon’s chutney and Windfall Chutney; and still made no dent in the apple harvest.

I love the plenty of harvest time, but I hate to see the waste when there is such an excess, while I know that in February/March I will be longing for fresh fruit in the knowledge that I was so wasteful in September.  And we have so little fresh fruit in this part of Northern England.

I have, also, cobbled together several different versions of apple cake, which both have a charmingly spiced, old world flavour to them.

Apple Puree Cake

Apple Puree Cake

Apple Puree Cake

Ingredients:

175g / 6 oz / 1 cup apple puree – cooking apples, stewed, pureed then sieved
110g / 4 oz / 2/3 cup sultanas
1tbsp currants
1 mug strong black tea (optional)
200g / 7 oz / 1 cup Fairtrade organic caster sugar
225g / 8 oz / 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs at room temperature, lightly whisked
340g / 12 oz  / 3 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of sea salt
½ tsp nutmeg powder
½ tsp cinnamon powder

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.  Prepare a 22cm / 9 inch cake tin by lightly buttering it and lining the base.

If you have not got any pre-made apple puree, peel some cooking apples then core and quarter them (weight will be more than the 175g / 6 oz but you can eat the balance with some sugar, while cooking the rest of the cake).  Place in a pan and put lid on; heat under a medium heat until hot, then reduce heat to a low heat and let the apples stew until soft.  Squash them through a sieve to give you your apple puree.

This next bit is optional and involves preparing the dried fruit.  I put the dried fruit into a pan, then brewed a strong mug of black tea.  The black tea was then poured over the fruit and I boiled the fruit for about 10 minutes until nice and plump.  Sieve off the excess tea and leave to cool.  You can ignore this stage and simply use the dried fruit, but I like doing this as it reduces that jaw-aching, chewiness of dried fruit, while adding another flavour dimension to your baking.

Sieve together the organic plain flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, sea salt, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Cream together the butter and caster sugar.  Add the eggs – half at first, followed by a tablespoon of the flour mix, then add the remainder.  Now add in the cooled apple puree and mix thoroughly.  Add the rest of the flour mix and mix together.  Finally add the sultanas and currants and make sure it is mixed well.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 50 minutes.  Towards the end start checking the consistency of the cake, by gently touching the top and feeling whether it is springy rather than liquidy.  If it is cooking too slowly reduce the temperature to 160C / 320F and cook for another 5 – 10 minutes.

Leave to cool in tin for about 5 minutes, then remove from the cake tin and let cool completely on a wire rack.

For the second apple cake recipe, this will be in my next blog…

Recipe For Oven Cooked Smoky Barbecued Ribs

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

We love spare ribs at home and have started eating them even more recently.  It’s the primaeval joy of chomping on your food while holding it in your fingers; something our kids truly adore.  In these straightened times, it is also great to use one of those cheap cuts of meat to create a delicious and fun meal, especially using a recipe that is really simple; food really must be fun rather than prim, proper and stuffy and that is why it always tastes better at home or in someone else’s house rather than a restaurant (or at least in my opinion).

Oven Barbecued Ribs

Oven Barbecued Ribs

And now that the nights are drawing in and you realise that there was no real summer this year, so you hardly barbecued a single thing, your mind can drift and dream of what might have been.  So over the summer, I came across this cheat way of making Barbecue-Style Ribs in your oven at home by Harald McGee via the Smitten Kitchen blog.  It makes far superior homemade ribs compared to recipes by the likes of Nigella Lawson.

The key to this cheat way of making smoky barbecued spare ribs is the slow cooking, which softens up the meat and breaks down the connective tissue in between the ribs.  Also, it is in the barbecue rub which is a good balance between sweetness and salty savouriness, plus through another cheat you can add back in the smokiness by using some smoked paprika from Murcia in Spain or smoked sea salt like Maldon Sea Salt, Anglesey Sea Salt or Steenbergs smoked salt from Denmark.  This gives the illusion of hours spent slaving over a hot fire.

Other than that, this is a really forgiving meal – you can pretty much play around with the seasonings as much as you want, and tweak the cooking times to suit your day.  For example, as long as you keep a long bake, you can turn up the heat to 110C/230F and cook it all in 4 hours rather than 6 hours without much of an impact, or you could change some or all of the paprika for chilli, even ground or flaked chile chiloptle to get in some more smokiness and intense bursts of chile heat.

How To Make Oven Barbecued Ribs

This recipe has been adapted from one in the New York Times by Harald McGee in two articles (29/6/2010 and 30/6/2010).

1kg /2.5lb spare ribs, cut into 2 equal sections
75g / 2¾ oz / ½ cup dark brown muscovado sugar
1tbsp sweet paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp sea salt (you could use smoked salt here)
1 tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground star anise, or China 5 spice
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 pinch ground coriander

Preheat the oven to 95C / 200F.

Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix together thoroughly.

Sugar And Spice For Spare Ribs

Sugar And Spice For Spare Ribs

Get two lengths of aluminium foil that are 3 times the length of the ribs as you are going to make this into 2 packets fully to enclose the spare ribs.  Place the ribs onto each piece of aluminium, centred horizontally but two-thirds of the way down vertically.

Cover the spare ribs throughly on all sides with the barbecue rub, rubbing in vigorously.

Ribs Rubbed With Spice Seasoning

Ribs Rubbed With Spice Seasoning

Now, make the aluminium foil into pouches: firstly, fold over vertically moving the ribs to ensure the ends meet, then fold the foil over a few times and flatten edges to give a good seal; secondly, fold the foil over lengthways once or twice (I like to do this twice as there always seems to be a small hole that gets into the foil, ruining the seal) and crimp the edges again to make a sealed pouch.  If you have got time, leave the ribs to marinade in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, otherwise move straight to the slow cooking part.

Ribs Wrapped In Aluminium Foil Pouch

Ribs Wrapped In Aluminium Foil Pouch

Place into preheated oven, then cook for 4 hours at 95C/200F, then turn down the temperature and cook for a further 2 hours at 80C/ 175F.

Remove from the oven, open the pouches, pour the sauce into a bowl.  Place the ribs onto a preheated serving plate and drizzle the sauce over the ribs and serve.

Barbecue Ribs Pouch Unwrapped

Barbecue Ribs Pouch Unwrapped

Should We Encourage People From Countryside To Cities?

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

…Self doubt gets you thinking.  I am still thinking through my concerns about Fairtrade and I wonder whether I’ve got it arse over tip. 

People who live in the countryside are relatively poor compared to people who live in an urban environment, but is that because there are, firstly, too many people in the countryside trying to eke out an incremental profit from cash crops to keep themselves above water, and secondly you actually are richer and better off just by being in a city or town. 

There is a strong argument that workers shifting from rural Amazonia and moving to Manaus (the regional capital of the Amazon region) to carry out industrial activity have taken farmers out of Amazonia and so reduced pressure on deforestation, allowing those remaining in the countryside to farm more efficiently and spread their profits across fewer people, while simply the act of going to a city has improved their personal finances.  So rural-to-urban migration is good for everyone financially and great for the environment! 

There is a strong case (and made by people much cleverer and knowledgeable than me) that people living in the slums of big cities and the favelas of Latin America are one of the most dynamic and happening economies of the world.  These are people getting on with life, generating income and stepping up out of poverty.  These places are not the pits of despair that we all once thought and continue to be taught.  Okay, they’re not perfect but they’re significantly better than rural poverty.  And city dwellers have less children, so women are liberated from their historical rural position as child-bearing machines that must cook, fetch water and bring up children.  City life gives them freedom and the creative energy of the fairer sex is a massive force for good and economic improvement.

So should we be encouraging rural-to-urban migration rather than preserving current rural farming structures.  Urban living is better for the environment as it is more efficient on the world’s resources.  Urban living is better for women.  Urban living reduces overpopulation as people living in towns and cities have less children – overpopulation is effectively a rural problem.  Finally, when people move to the city it reduces the amount of people living in the countryside and so reduces the burden from humanity on the countryside and nature quickly recovers – yes, the rainforest does just simply regrow when people leave it be. 

Lastly, is our nostalgic lova affair with the countryside and rural idyll and farming (I don’t know if it is just an English obsession, and I mean English in this case as I cannot speak for others here) simply wrong and something that just makes us look via rose tinted glasses at all rural farming, believing that this must be a great, wonderful and rewarding life for everyone in the countryside, rather than something most farmers just want to escape from, and be liberated from the back-breaking, never-ending drudgery of subsistence living and would rather become housekeepers, labourers, doctors and accountants or whatever is available in the nearest mega-city.  Who are we in the developed world to deny those in the developing world from wanting to live a better life with loads more consumer stuff to ease their daily grind?  Who are we (the great polluters and destroyers of the world) to deny the rural poor a new start and free women from the potential prison of a rural life?

I suppose what I am saying is that if farmers cannot make a living wage from growing sugar or tea or vanilla or fruits or rice, shouldn’t we encourage more of them to move to cities so then less people grow these crops, so then there is a relative shortage of supply over demand and then prices will go up until farmers can then earn a living wage or more.  Are we not just perpetuating an imbalance of excess supply over actual demand by offering a bit above market prices via Fairtrade?

In stark figures, a rural farming family in Madagascar earns $600 per annum, with Fairtrade vanilla they can earn $2000 per annum, but what could they earn were they to live and work in the capital city of, for example, Madagascar – Antananarivo – and perhaps their family size might also fall*.  So isn’t it better to get them to migrate to the cities where education and public services are better and they will have a lower impact on the environment?

I honestly don’t know the answer, but it remains a dilemma that is constantly fighting itself out between my heart that says “yes to fair trade and ethical food” and my head that says “yes to free trade” and reducing levels of rural farming and shifting population towards the cities.

As in everything in life, the answer I suggest is a fudge – we need to trade ethically to ensure that those farming now are not disadvantaged and abused hence Fairtrade, while at the same time providing incentives for people to move from the villages and rural economy into the nearest cities, and then to ensure that cities become as economically vibrant, socially responsible and environmentally sustainable as possible.  But I will probably never answer this quandary to my own personal satisfaction, so will remain racked by doubts and indecision.

* I asked The Foreign Office and World Bank for help on numbers here, but the former could not help and the latter never deigned to answer or acknowledge my request.  That is a worrying starting position for Madagascar.

Food Blogs Round Up – August 2010

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

It is the height of European Summer so a number of the food blogs are in holiday mode.  In spite, or perhaps because of the summer, Julia Parsons at A Slice Of Cherry Pie has been making Tuscan Style Soup.

Aran of Cannelle et Vanille fame has been holidaying in her native Basque country in Northern Spain.  She has posted some gorgeous photographs of her family and of just over the border into France

At Chocolate and Zucchini, Clotilde Dusoulier has been baking sourdough bread; I am not a great bread baker, nor a big fan of bread itself, but I do like sourdough, so perhaps I should give this a go.  She has also baked an Apricot Blueberry Cobbler which is so classic American that it evokes a homely feeling of on the range, plus I like the idea of using orange flower water.  Cobblers are not something I have come across until I started reading food blogs, but will definitely get an outing sometime over this winter to check out whether these fruit puddings with a sort of biscuity dough will enter the family repertoire.  At Orangette this month, there is a great looking recipe for Berry Cobbler.

At Cooksister, Jeanne has been enjoying lots of exquisite looking restaurants in London and South Africa, plus quaffing wines at an exclusive wine tasting event in London town.  I liked the simplicity of the recipe for Pan-Fried Fish Fillets With Capers On Pesto Mash, as I imagine the capes nicely offset the fish tastes, and the slightly old fashioned charm of Gammon Steaks With Spicy Caramelized Pineapple and Crispy Duck Breasts In Wild Cherry Balsamic Reduction.

David Lebovitz has been enjoying the protests by the Communists in France for local food, while offering up a great recipe for that classic – Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Helen at Fuss Free Flavours has baked some amazing looking Brioche, fittingly while holidaying in France, as well as a healthy looking version of Coronation Chicken – much healthier than the full on version we tried from Xanthe Clay recipe earlier this month.

At Lemonpi, Y Lee has been spending her staycation baking cakes like this delicious looking Carrot Cake and some intriguing Skillet Cakes, i.e. cakes baked in a pan. At Mahanandi, I am nervously lusting after making the Red Chilli Pickle as it looks mindblowingly hot, as well as the wonderfully simple Semiya Upma which is an Indian vermicelli-based vegetable stir fry.  There is also an intriguing recipe for Badam Beerikaya, which is a vegetarian dish based around Chinese okra or beerikaya which can probably be done with any smallish gourd.

In mid August, we harvested our small offering of corn grown in the garden.  We ate them boiled lightly, then sprinkled with fleur de sel and drizzled with melted butter.  However, I wish I had noted the recipe for Sweet Corn Pancakes at Smitten Kitchen as that looks a luxurious take on a morning pancake; I love the idea of riching up the batter with buttermilk, which is not something I use although my mum loves her buttermilch.  And Deb’s Fresh Tomato Sauce is one of those labours of love of harvest time; homemade tomato sauce really does taste so much better than shop bought tomato pastes, although the time and effort to make them is a huge barrier to wanting to do it too often, as I have found as your yields are so tiny.  I have to confess to usually making my own tomato sauces and salsas etc using a tin of chopped tomatoes as the starting point as it is much less depressing on the effort front.  And all can be rounded off with a really satisfying American Blueberry Muffin – love them, but I still call them a bilberry here in England even though strictly they are a different plant, but closely related.

Ree Drummond at The Pioneer Woman Cooks has modern takes on classic recipes like Burgers, Raspberry Crisp, Fried Round Steak and homely Cinnamon Bread.  Plus the Mushroom Burgers that this superlady has been trying on the meat eating husband.

And finally, I am tempted by the recipe for Sweet Portuguese Bread at Wildyeast.  I would like to try it alongside the Brioche recipe at FussFreeFlavours, as I am intrigued by what the differences in flavour and texture will be.

A Sense Of Community

Monday, August 30th, 2010

On Saturday morning, I went to Havenhands the Bakers in St James’s Square in Boroughbridge*, then on to the Post Office before going to Ripon to watch the start of the Annual Raft Race in the Ripon Canal Basin.  On that short journey, I met several people who I knew really well in both personal and business life, and a few others who I knew well enough to pass the time with.

It made me realise why I enjoy living in the country, in a rural space, rather than in a town or city.  I love that sense of community that gently underpins life in our rural community-scape.  We know the current Mayors of Pateley Bridge and Ripon quite well, which sounds grand but it’s not especially so in our small community – this ain’t London or New York.  We know the family that runs Boroughbridge post office, many of the local postmen, the local courier drivers, a good proportion of the local policemen, the local vicars and Dean of Ripon and many of the local schoolteachers and so on and so on.  You soon realise how many people you know who create the fabric of our local community.   And we know many of the local business people well enough to have an idle natter with, and we do have those chats.

I like that, having been brought up in a rural Northumberland.  City life never fitted comfortably, and the money never got close to compensating for a loss of that fabric that can bind people together.  While some business gurus talk about the business environment giving that community spirit, it does not really work, as there is always a hint, an undercurrent, of tension and aggression; business does not forgive mistakes and transgressions, whereas real communities live with, forgive and forget, and perhaps are defined by their own sense of forgiveness and tolerance for day-to-day transgressions amongst their own.

I feel that the Internet can go some way to recreating that sense of community and rebuild a fabric for society and go some way to letting people have a sense of belonging to something, a community, and hopefully that is a civil and decent digital and online community.  Maybe the Internet and its web can bring people together in a way that Governments really have failed to do, in spite of the billions in cash spent and huge amount of brain cells and legislation proposed on areas such as social inclusion and redevelopment.  In the end, it is people and communities that matter not politicos with an agenda to grab power.

Recently, Ripon as a community celebrated its founder, St Wilfrid, with the exuberant St Wilfrid’s Parade, full of joy and singing and not a small amount of indulgence.   This weekend our real life community had fun with its Annual Raft Race held at Ripon Canal Basin, where teams competed on a course in a mobile swan and on home-made, but rather professional, rafts; then on Sunday, it was the turn of the duck race held by The Water Rat at Alma Weir in Ripon.  What is great is the huge amount of fun and joy that people have when taking part in these community events – just look at the smiles on peoples faces and in their eyes.

That’s community, that’s North Yorkshire.

Photos from St Wilfrid’s Parade 2010 (more at Facebook):

A Vampire Screams

A Vampire Screams

The Jolliest Zebra I've Ever Seen

The Jolliest Zebra I've Ever Seen

A Jolly Bee With A Lovely Smile

A Jolly Bee With A Lovely Smile

The Great And Good Of Ripon - The Wakeman, The Dean, The Mayor

The Great And Good Of Ripon - The Wakeman, The Dean, The Mayor

Photos from Great Raft Race 2010 (more photos on Facebook):

Mayor Of Ripon In A Swan

Mayor Of Ripon In A Swan

Happy Face

Happy Face

Pirate Boat

Pirate Boat

Pirates Rowing Hard

Pirates Rowing Hard

Getting Dunked...

Getting Dunked...

...And Splash

...And Splash

Photos from Great Duck Race 2010 (more photos on Facebook):

Helping The Ducks Over Alma Weir

Helping The Ducks Over Alma Weir

In The River Skell

In The River Skell

* I bought croissants, jam doughnuts, cinnamon Danish and a loaf of bread which Havenhands bake every day on site and the bakers still live above their bakery.  How about that – I bet you thought small village bakeries like that had died away and the only ones were the new wave of hip, ultra healthy microbakeries.

New Razors – Old Razors

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

I have been spending the last week  and a bit shaving with two new razors that I bought on Ebay.  They are Gillette Razors from the late 1950s – a Red Tip and a Blue Tip Super-Speed Razors.  Why, you might rightfully ask; well, with razors, Gillette is like your mother’s cooking in bakery comparisons, everyone always say “X is great but not like an old Gillette”.  So I reckoned that you needed to try an old Gillette to discover the truth in the statement.

Gillette Red Tip Razor From 1950s

Gillette Red Tip Razor From 1950s

They both look very stylish in a futuristic 1950s way like a Chevrolet El Camino, with sleek handles and decent designs on their handles that definitely improve the grip.  The handles are short at just over 7cm long, while the weights are a light 46g for the Blue Tip and a weighty 66g for the Red Tip.  I find the handles a tad on the small size for me, preferring the 9½cm handle of the Mühle razors, but that is a small price to pay for the really excellent balance on the Gillette Red Tip.  The Gillette Blue Tip, being much lighter but with the same razor head, is less well balanced. 

Gillette Superspeed Red Tip

Gillette Superspeed Red Tip

Gillette Superspeed Blue Tip Razor

Gillette Superspeed Blue Tip Razor

The beauty of these classic razors is in the engineering of the head.  Both razors have the same smooth finished, compact and well-organised and built butterfly razor system.  By twisting the tip, the razor mechanism starts moving through its complex set of synchronised moves, opening up elegantly, ready to take the blade.  It really is a dream to watch rather than the functional and clunky butterfly mechanism on the modern Parker razors (you can watch a quick video on Youtube of the mechamism by me following this link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqt–_P19YU).

Butterfly Mechanism On Gillette Red Tip Razor

Butterfly Mechanism On Gillette Red Tip Razor

I was mildy apprehensive when actually shaving with these two little beauties, as the Ebay seller had dubbed the Red Tip “the most aggressive razor ever”, but it was as deadly as a cute, little tabby cat.  The angle of the Wilkinson Sword double blades was just right, flowing smoothly over the face and handling well over the edge of the face down to the neck.  While a little large, the razor head worked decently around the nose.  Overall, I rated the Red Tip a really good shave, while the Blue Tip was too light in the hand so, even though the actual razor head was the same, I did not enjoy that shave so much.

So the crucial question, will I be changing my shave?  No, not yet but I will try and track down a Gillette Fatboy; for me the Mühle R89 still gives a closer, neater overall shave, but the Red Tip is a close second.  As for the blade mechanism, that is a true joy and is much more robust and better engineered than the Parker razors.  It really is a pity that Gillette has switched from being a razor maker to a blade manufacturer, changing from a creator of long-lasting icons to becoming the billboard of our throw-away, use-your-blade-a-few-times modern culture.

I Don’t Know

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

I had recently found that our children, as well as some colleagues at work, would always answer questions “I don’t know” or “Don’t know”, whether it’s the answer to “What do you want for supper tonight?” or “What did you do at school today?”  So I have bought the web domain www.idontknow.co.uk, but the irony is that I don’t know what to use it for.  At the moment, it is being redirected to www.steenbergs.co.uk, but better thoughts and ideas would be gratefully received, e.g. for a childrens’ clothing range or a website that asks those questions you don’t know the answer to.  Yes, I know those have already been done and that’s why we’re not doing them, but there must be something to build in that space…

Recipe For Pomegranate Barbecue Sauce

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

We have been asked for some time whether we could source a pomegranate molasses and I am nearly there on that.  One of our current suppliers, who is based in Beirut in the Lebanon, sent us a sample of Concentrated Pomegranate Juice which is the same thing as Pomegranate Molasses, or so I am told.  It has a lovely deep, licquorice colour and a sweet and sour, tangy sort of taste.  I thought that this would give a great flavour to barbecue sauce, being less acidic and tart than adding vinegar.

Here’s what I came up with, and it’s been tried and tested, and wolfed down, by two very appreciative children, who are the meanest and harshest food critics by far.  This is a less sweet sauce than the one I posted last month and I prefer it.

Ingredients

1½ tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
2tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp sunflower oil
2tbsp agave syrup*, honey or golden syrup/corn syrup
1tsp smooth mustard, ideally an English Mustard
1 garlic clove, chopped finely and crushed
¼tsp sea salt
¼tsp coarse ground black pepper
¼tsp paprika

8 chicken drumsticks

1.  Prepare all the barbecue ingredients and mix together thoroughly.

2.  Pour the Pomegranate Barbecue Sauce over the chicken drumsticks and leave to marinade for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

Marinading Chicken In Axel's Pomegranate Barbecue Sauce

Marinading Chicken In Axel's Pomegranate Barbecue Sauce

3.  Put the oven on at 180oC / 350oF.

4.   Bake the chicken drumsticks marinaded in the Pomegranate Barbecue Sauce for about 30 minutes in the oven until crisp and cooked right through.  Enjoy immediately with potatoes and vegetables or a salad.

Barbecued Chicken Drumsticks

Barbecued Chicken Drumsticks

5.  If using to cook on a barbecue proper, mop the Pomegranate Barbecue Sauce over the meat in the last 30 minutes of the cooking time.  If you add it on any earlier, the flavours will be overpowered by the barbecue aromas and the tomato and sugars will go beyond caramelisation and burn to black cinders.

* I like agave syrup as I find it less sickly sweet than many other liquid sweeteners (even though technically it is sweeter than sugar), but you can use any of the other ones mentioned as they all give the same flavour profile to the sauce, plus caramelise decently while you are cooking the chicken legs.

Razor Review From Steenbergs

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

For many years, I shaved with a Gillette safety razor that used a classic plastic double-bladed Contour disposable blade until mid 2009.  However, I did not find the shave particularly close or satisfying, and I didn’t like having to chuck the blades in the normal trash can.  So I have been on the hunt for a better shave that also might have less of an impact on the environment.

My first blind alley was on the environmentally friendly.  I looked at a disposable razor from Preserve, but they were disposable, cheap looking and they didn’t offer a special blade, so you were advised just to use the normal Gillette razor blades.  What a waste of time.

So I decided to go back to the start.  I have had my Gillette basic razor for over 25 years and it has served me well, while my dad has been using the same classic Gillette Safety razor for 60 years.  The razor itself, therefore, lasts and has no impact on the planet unless you buy disposables but they are a terrible shave, so I reckoned that perhaps I should spend some money on getting a really good razor that has been engineered well and looks good, shaves well and glides well over the face.  So the search began.

Let’s start with the Merkur Razors.  These are made in Germany by DOVO Solingen, look good and are generally really well engineered, just as you would expect from a German product.

Merkur Razors 34C and 42

Merkur Razors 34C and 42

I began with Merkur 34C which is a good-looking shiny, closed comb steel razor, with a heavy weight and relatively short handle at 76g and 8½cm resepectively.  The handle has a useful cross-harch design that is good for grip and the end twists to release the top of the razor head to enable you to place the razor blade easily onto it.  The blade is then screwed down simply using the twisting knob.  As a razor, I found the handle of the Merkur 34C just a bit too short, but that’s because I am used to a longer handled razor, but the balance was good and it moved over the face well to give a decent shave.  I found that the razor head seemed to stick on my skin a bit as it moved around which meant that I had to tug a little as I went along; I could imagine that this could cause cuts on a bad day or for those less used to wet shaving.  But overall, I liked the look, weight, balance and shave, although I do prefer a lighter razor with a longer handle.

Following on from this, I tried the Merkur 42.  This was lighter than the others at a mere 65g and with an 8½cm handle.  The design is a hexagon with a fancy design but none of this helps as the grip is less sure than the 34C and uncomfortable.  The blade mechanism is difficult, as you need to twist the whole handle and then the top of the razor head comes off, yet it all was quite stiff and laborious.  As for the shave, it was fine, sticking a little as you move the head over the face rather than gliding; I reckon this must be something to do with the angle of the blade, the distance of the blade from the comb on the razor head and the skin which is off a bit, or at least wrong for my face.  All in all not as good as the Merkur 34C, feeling and looking cheaper as if it was going for style over substance.

Then, there’s the Merkur Futur Razor which is a gorgeous beast of a razor – it’s the Porsche to the Vauxhall Astra that’s the Gillette Contour razor.  The Merkur Futur comes in at a heavy 119g with a 10½cm handle, designed with a futuristic, curvaceous style like the Guggenheim in Bilbao or the Aston Martin One-77, but hugely cheaper.  The mechanism is simple and neat to use, you just flip the lid and off comes the top of the razor head, so you can slot on a razor blade.  Next, there is a neat function where you can adjust the distance between blade and edge between settings from 1 – 6, giving much greater accuracy of the shave and the ability to change the shaving style to suit your own face and way of shaving.  At 6 more of the blade is exposed, down to 1 which has less blade exposed and gives a safer shave.  The Merkur Futur gives a great shave, but like a fast car, it’s not really a razor just to casually have a go with, as you are likely to cut yourself a few times; this is for someone who is experienced with a wet shave and wants a bit of luxury.

I have, also, tried the Mühle R89, which is a German made three piece razor that you twist apart and then place the razor into the parts.  The Mühle R89 weighs 67g and has a 9½cm handle.  The design is good looking with a well engineered German finish, that has a great feel to it as these razors are well balanced.  While the three piece razor top is fiddly, all the pieces fit together perfectly, resulting in the razor blade sitting really snugly on the razor head. For me, the handle was just right, with a good grip from the knurled handle and the weight & balance is good.  As for the shave, it was great, moving over the face very well and giving a good clean finish and not at all aggressive, feeling a bit like the classic Gillette Super Speed razor.  For me, it’s probably the best looking razor of the ones I am reviewing here and has become my favourite shave of all those razors that I have tested recently.  The Mühle R89 would be good as a starter wet shave razor and for those who have sensitive skin.

Muhle R89 Razor

Muhle R89 Razor

Next, it’s the turn of Parker Razors which have been manufactured in India by JTC since 1973.  They have a retro feel about them and are generally pretty well made, and the packaging has recently got better, looking less cheap and plasticky.  The two Parker Razors that I have tried are the 71R and 90R. 

The 71R looks good with a long matt black handle that’s 10½cm in length while the weight is 80g.  The mechanism is a safety razor head that twists off with the whole handle and then the comb and razor top.  Unfortunately, the balance of the razor is not good with it definitely swaying to the head, giving you less control in the movement of the razor head over the face.  The razor head glides over the face pretty well, but the actual shave is not very close and does not leave a great finish.  All-in-all the Parker 71R was not great.

However, the Parker 90R is a different matter all together.  The Parker 90R razor has a similar long handle at 10½cm, but is much lighter at 73g and is much better balanced, although still a bit top heavy.  What I really like about the Parker 90R is the razor blade mechanism, which is a butterfly mechanism that you twist the base of the razor’s handle and the top moves, then opens out, allowing you to simply place the razor blade on top of the razor head easily and safely.  The shaving action is similarly easy, gliding over your face, giving a decent smooth shave.  The distance between blade and razor and face is well proportioned meaning that even new wet shavers should be able to shave without too much hassle.  I had been shaving with the Parker 90R since I stopped using my trusty old Gillette Contour of 25 years, but have just switched to the Mühle R89 for everyday shaving.

Parker Razors 71R and 90R

Parker Razors 71R and 90R

So for now, Steenbergs is selling the Mühle R89 and Parker 90R razors as entry level razors for those just starting with wet shaving, while the Mühle R89 is also great for those who have more sensitive skin.  The Merkur Futur is for men who prefer a more aggressive shave and want to invest into something really heavy and flash.