Sunday, 29 November 2009

Reading the instructions, forgetting my brain

There's something about the weekly invention test (done to liven up what are the dreary weekends of Winter, not the least this one where it seems to rain incessantly). Anyway, gather round and hear the tale of the George Foreman grill and the madman who reads the instructions. But, first, I should explain that I have bought a baby version of one of these because I'm mean: grilling only one 8oz Sirloin steak means that a helluva a lot of energy is wasted. So the GF seemed like a good plan, especially as the Security Man at work (who you are very polite to, if you have any sense as he used to be a bodyguard) keeps getting in my ear about how wonderful they are.

So, I had this steak, some old basil and spring onions, some potatoes, mushrooms, passata and the usual veg. I sit down with a glass of wine and commence my first mistaken activity - I read the instructions. Now, I know better, really I do, especially with cooking equipment, as most of the instructions are couched in such a way as to ensure safety, not excellence of result. But, SM's words were in my ear, so I read them, I oiled the cooking plates and wiped them off after heating.

For the pots (parboiled baby pots, sliced in 1/2" chunks), I gently fried through some sliced spring onions, sliced garlic, finely chopped ginger, some chili powder in olive oil; added the mushrooms and brought the heat up until all the fluid has been absorbed and fried on a medium sort of heat for a further two minutes. I then added the pots, about 2 x wine glasses full of Passata, some Chili and Garlic sauce, and what turned out to be quite a lot of Basil. This bit turned out scrumptious, incidentally. I then put the lid on this and turned my attention to the GF; now I like my steak raw (a sort of cross between bleu and saignant), but the surface cooked and hot all the way through. The GF said 7-9 minutes, so I cooked it for 7 minutes.

I am an idiot. I would hardly cook a steak that long in a frying pan; get butter and olive oil blisteringly hot, add steak; hold down onto hot surface, move and then leave for 1-2 minutes; check and then probably turn over and do the same on the other side. 7 minutes I cooked this inoffensive 28 day matured steak. I ate it as a penance (it is, after all protein), but this part of the beef gave up it's life to an idiot. As far as I'm concerned I'd managed to remove all the flavour and make it as chewy as hell. As the GF works by draining the fat (the tasty bit) out of contact with the steak, logically it can't be any good for cooking steak. I am a moron.

Furthermore, the easy to clean GF is not; it took me three times as long to clean as a grill and 6 times as long as a frying pan... back in its box. Life's too short for a GF, although with substandard chicken or pork it may be a good way of getting rid of the injected water. I'll give it one more go with one of those...

Sorry to chunter, but it ticks me off big time when I ruin the most expensive ingredient I buy.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Go compare the telephone

To say that this is going to be a rant is a mild understatement. I used the service provided by this organisation in good faith, noting that some of my personal details would be passed on for the purpose of providing home insurance quotes. What I didn't realise was that they would also pass on my bloody telephone number to ALL of the companies on their bloody contact list. The top-ranked quote (which didn't fit the bill), then rang me. I then tried to ring them back, to find that although their answering machine message said that they were open at the time they rang, they weren't, even though they'd just rung ME, in the middle of eating my evening meal. You only need to read the blog to understand a) why that's a crime in my lexicon and b) why I'm so pissed off. Here's the email I sent:

The fact that my telephone number has been passed to all participant organisations, WHATEVER your protestations
"Additionally, and other carefully selected third parties may use your information to keep you informed by post, telephone, SMS or email about current and new products and services which may be of interest to you."
Which basically means that you can d
o what you want with my data is unsustainable as a defence, as I was contacted at an exceptionally inconvenient time causing personal injury as I upset extremely hot olive oil, over my hand for the purpose of asking me why I had not chosen Kwikfit. This type of call is neither covered by your privacy statement nor sustainable in a court of law.
Kindly notify all participants in your scheme that they are NOT entitled to contact me without my express permission.

(By the way my skin is very fair, so those red bits on the tops of my fingers and thumb and top joints are all deep olive oil scalds.)

Am I going to pursue this. Oh yes, it took me 5 years to stop nuisance calls, to protect my identity from identity theft, finally, and I still have a folder 2" thick with the letters relating to this. Utterly irresponsible to pass on unrequired information and utterly contrary to the DPA. You've probably guessed that I'm the DPA officer for my company and I would have blue fits before allowing what this site is doing.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Prawn and Avocado Tagliatelle

I must confess to throwing this meal together after reading a few internet recipes and looking at what I'd got in various cupboards - I can't stand waste and I had a slightly over-ripe avocado to use up! So just in case you have some cheap prawns and an avocado...


  • 200 gr cleaned prawns
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 chopped chili
  • 1 tsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1 clove of garlic pureed or sliced
  • 1 tbsp of tomato puree
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz Tagliatelle
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 tbs chopped fresh basil
  • 1 handful of sliced carrots
  • 1 handful asparagus tips
  • Loads of Parmesan (see the photo!)
  • Salt and pepper (lots of the latter, little of the former) to taste


  • Cook Tagliatelle how you like it and whilst that goes on:
  • Rinse and drain the prawns.
  • Mix chili powder, tomato puree, garlic, ginger and olive oil in a bowl.
  • Cut avocado and remove pit. Scoop it out of the shell and put it into the bowl, get a hand blender and add vinegar and puree until smooth.
  • Microwave with clingfilm over the top (with holes!) for about 1 minute, making sure the clingfilm doesn't touch the ingredients!
  • Put 1 tbsp of water into a microwave dish, add the carrots and asparagus tips and microwave for about 4 minutes at full 850 power.
  • Add to the bowl and then very briefly pulse the hand blender to make smaller the carrot.
  • Add the prawns and simply leave til the pasta is done. Decent cooked and peeled prawns don't need cooking, just warming through. It's not necessary to have them hot for this dish.
  • When pasta is done drain, put on a plate, put the prawn and avocado mix on top, sprinkle Parmesan to taste and eat.

I really, really liked this - so much so I had to hurriedly rush up stairs (and for me that's a sacrifice - see other posts) and grab my camera to take a shot and then scribble down the recipe thereafter, before the slumber on the wine-soaked sea overwhelmed the night-time brain! I wonder what this weekend's invention test will be - I'll be lucky if it turns out as well!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Channel 4 Programming Rant

Since the beginning of last week (9th November) my early morning routine has been destroyed by the removal from the Channel of the repeat of the programme at about 6.00 a.m. This was the ideal time for me as it was light, fun and a good way to get my brain going for the day. 5 times a week I arranged my life to accommodate this and now it's stopped - I'm devastated. It had everything to get my brain going in the morning; not the least of which was the challenge of trying to beat the contestants (which most of the time I did - courtesy of having lived 10 years with a truly immense Scrabble player (entered the nationals twice, once winning it and the other coming fourth).

So, for the first time in my life I've complained about a TV programme - or rather the lack of it. I guess it won't affect anyone else and it may bring me further back into line with the rest of the human race by allowing my body clock to move round by an hour! Channel 4 have been trying to dump Countdown (God knows why - some hairy, spotty little oik of a 'creative' executive thinks it doesn't fit the Channel's 'image', no doubt), as they've been bouncing it around the early morning schedules so that the start time varies by about 45 minutes. But I'd got used to checking the schedule. Sigh.

16th November: That was fast! All credit to Channel 4, they responded very quickly, even if they did think I was complaining about the re-scheduling of The Treacle People (!?!) - having cleared up what I was ranting about, they told me that it wasn't being repeated because of a scheduling decision.

Really, what can one say? Of course it's not being shown because of a scheduling decision - asinine numbskulls. Did they think that I thought they'd mislaid it? "Oh, terribly sorry and thank you for pointing out that we'd forgotten to include it in the schedule at that point." Plonkahs.

And what has usurped the position? St Elsewhere - what appears to be a very dreary soap shot in monochrome, it looks like a sort of House without the edge of seat anarchy and humour. Not what I want to wake up to on a cold winter's morning. They tell me that they've passed me complain on to the person responsible. Oh yeah ;-(

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Fimbulwinter approaches

It must be something about the onset of winter; the last of my flowers (a poppy, no less) has bitten the dust and leaves are turning squelchy with the rain. The instinct is to hibernate, but the way work is going at the moment I can see no end to endless activity (unsurprisingly). And for those of us fortunate enough to be in work, that's what's happening. More and more actitivity and stress for the same money. It's nice to be valued and have a responsible position, but 50+ working hours a week is wearing when it's paired with perennial health problems.

So, I thought I'd blog a quick NHS rant/update; those who've read In the hall of the mountain king below will know that I have a blocked artery in my right leg (amongst other cardio-vascular problems). Following the sonogram I was told to make an appointment with my GP a week later, so that he could then refer me on to a clinical specialist. I made it a fortnight later, as I have no faith in the speed of the NHS.

Turn up for the appointment: Dr: "...and what can I do for you". Me: "Well I was rather hoping you'd have the results of my sonograms and were going to relay them to me." "Were they sent here?" Can you believe that question, how would I really know? The nurse could've eaten them for all I know. "I was told that they would be." "I'll get my secretary to search for them - they've probably gone to the dermatology department." "Should I call you." "No, I'll get her to call you." "And what about the referral?" "Oh, I can't do that without the notes." And that was two weeks ago. It's now 4 clear months since the condition forced me to go to the surgery, we have now managed to get a diagnosis; treatment, I feel, might be a while coming. (I tried to call whilst typing this 'We're closed this afternoon for staff training'...)

During this time I've been stuck full of needles (two kinds of 'flu jab - and boy the swine flu jab really does have some side effects), had blood drawn, told my blood pressure's high. (What a surprise!) Am I being wound up? Oh yes; especially when the nurse with the needles keeps saying "All right, my love?". I know I have short grey hair, but I'm not in the "I'm only 90 crowd" yet. And she cannot possibly fancy me! I'm still waiting for the calls back on the sonograms/referral, the blood tests (5 types) and the urine test.

14th November: And more... I went home early yesterday, mainly because I feel pretty unwell at the moment. I know this seems weird, but with all the other health stuff I feel discomfort or pain, but I very rarely feel unwell. But the swine flu jab is, well, a bit of a swine. I keep getting the symptoms of flu, but not all at the same time. So variously volleys of sneezes, the shivers, aches in the joints, blocked ears, runny nose and just generally feeling awful. A nurse told me that that was a 'good thing'... And now the letter has come through which tells me that they've at last consulted within the Dermatology department and referred it back to the surgery. But it's obvious from the dates that my Doctor's secretary has contacted them and they've found my results and realised they've sat on them for the best part of a month; time to box clever - send the results back to a different Doctor in the same practice! As for recommending treatment, they effectively suggest doing nothing unless I don't get better! So, that's 22 appointments with nurses, 4 appointments with Doctors, 3 appointments with hospitals to establish that there is a problem, it's not trivial and their recomendation is to do nothing.

And my wretched body clock which has become tied to European time, means that I get up at about 6 in the morning. That doesn't help. So I took the camera out in the hope of give you a feeling of just how early I do my supermarket shopping:

Sunday, 1 November 2009

The American import

It's one of those odd things that sometimes you find your attitudes to some things are different to most other people's feelings. I can't stick Halloween: I believe it's partly because of my age (didn't exist when I was young) and also my parents who hated things American. But also because it is an American festival and is used by kids (don't have any, don't want any) to beg things that they shouldn't eat. Older thugs go for money, instead. I give the next door neighbour's kids' parents sweets to give to their kids when they think it's right. But I won't stop what I'm doing to answer the door because someone wants to beg something from me.

I hate appearing mean or being unpleasant to people, especially small children, so the whole thing fills me with an anxiety which is really hard to explain to anyone else. I actually retire from the front part of the house so that I'm not put in that position. Gangs of kids who cause all sorts of havoc in the area (like the ones who chucked a stone through my patio door costing me £780 to replace - what a jolly wheeze), but are not my immediate neighbours, are given licence to wander around begging (with a degree of menace which is only tempered when they see how big I am). And in previous years the avaricious nature of both children and parents was transparent. This wasn't universal; but I live on the borderlands here and the majority believe they have a right to do this, which I don't.

But what's really horrible is that it extends the period in which people feel enabled to let off fireworks, so that around here the wild and tame creatures are terrorised after dark by all the whistles and bangs for about three weeks instead of two. Cats especially can't be kept inside on a permanent basis. There's a phrase which is both mindless and illiberal which is 'it's only a bit of fun', which apologists for this imposition use. If it didn't impose itself on me and the innocent creatures (the pets around here and the wild creatures in the fields beyond) then fine, but it does and it is for that reason indefensible.