Sunday, 20 February 2011

More on high street shops ...


Sigh. Well I decided to use what was left of my 'spare' time after the events in the other post from today, (I wanted to do Michelle's Punjabi Chole this weekend. But to do it justice I decided to get the spices and the spice grinder. Now, what is a spice grinder?

I have largely avoided getting one of these, but various blogs - especially Michelle's Food, Football and a Baby, have
managed to convince me that I may not use it often, but for a decent result I need to cook off the whole spices and then grind them; I could use a mortar and pestle, but I know from past experience that black peppercorns in particular are an absolute pain to deal with - you may do most of them OK, but there's always one or two which elude you and leave a tooth-breaking bit in there. So an electric spice mill/grinder seems like a good plan; however, everyone says use a coffee grinder. I have one of these and adventurous as I am I like to keep mine for coffee... It cost me £30 and it is brilliant - I only ever wipe it out and never ever put it into water.

So I went looking in Curry's [ouch, just realised
the horrible pun] (their response was sorry guv, we only sell these at a megastore - we're only a superstore: presumably when they get an even bigger store than a mega store they might call it a dinostore?), Next (their kitchen section occasionally has some good stuff); Comet, Sainsbury's Homebase, the little hardware place in the centre of Aylesbury (by this time I was prepared to settle for a hand-powered version), and finally Home Store and More. No-one could sell me a spice grinder or warrant the use of their equipment as being strong enough to deal with peppercorns and able to grind/mill the spices to a fine powder, the latter had an assistant who knew what she was talking about and said she used an attachment for her Kenwood food processor, but they didn't really have one which would cope with my spec. You may gather I did not try B&Q. Some tried to sell me herb grinders as being both; on being asked whether they'd take the kit back if the blades broke I was told that they wouldn't or that they couldn't guarantee to do so.

So, I've spent som
e considerable time on the internet as well and after following several specialist Asian shops to find they've sold out of their mills, Amazon came up with the Krups Twin Blade Coffee Mill, which I now have on order. The website has the big advantage in that the reviews actually have people who say they've used it for exactly waht I want to use it - I'll let you know how I get on.

The Home Store and More visit wasn't an entire disast
er as I bought a pair of curtains (yellow) for the aforementioned purple room, retiring the purple and green flecked monsters that were there and very greatly increasing the amount of borrowed light on the landing (which has a terracotta accent wall and magnolia in general, as has the lounge and the stairwell). To give you an idea of the sort of colour scheme:


Why high street shops are dying out

High street shops are dying out; partly because they are normally in places difficult to get to in a car and as towns go greener, with more pedestrian areas, car parks a mile from the shops you want to go to, online competition being cheaper, so the reasons are fairly evident why greener means deader in many respects. Public transport here isn't bad, it's just not easy for someone who's legs ache and who has to avoid getting kicked, pushed or anything else which would damage the skin. But there's another reason, which is generally poor service, with a few exceptions. A spectacular example of this is: B&Q.

They have a horrible reputation, locally, but sometimes I've been tempted or forced into using them. I'm not a houseproud guy (although a lot of my male friends think I'm extraordinarily clean!), but occasionally I like to change the way a room looks - marginally most of the time. I'm happy with most of the house now, although the purple room still bugs me. (Purple because my ex insisted that it had to be that way; and then went out and bought a horrible electric streaky white and purple carpet. Yeuch.) Well, I've never been really happy with the lampshade at the top of the landing, as it's your typical cone-shape. And as you walk up the stairs, you get to see the lightbulb rather than the shade.

So when I saw a nice looking white shade made out of plastic which would c
onceal the bulb in B&Q's local giveaway pamphlet at under a tenner I thought - that's it. So I got into the car, gammy legs aching away, drive for 20 minutes, circle the car park until I can find a space where I can guarantee that nobody can park too close to my door (osteo=arthtritic knee) and hobbled my way in, up the stairs and after hours of wandering around find it; definitely the one. I hobble down the stairs, queue with aching knee until I get to the check out. Guess what, shows up at the original price. So I am not best pleased - I tell them it's less than half that price, so the weekend oick sends for some guy (who looked like a spiv) to do a price check - I reckon he's out the back having a cup of tea. He comes back and tells me that it's marked at the price on the shelf (and I know full well it isn't but my legs are giving out, the queue is a mile long and I will HIT this guy if I'm in front of his smirking face any longer).

Amazingly they have no copy of the bloody giveaway magazine, they have no access to the internet or their head office or their senior staff. I am so angry I have to leave. (If you're 6' 1" and 16 stone, giving someone a smack round the chops is only going to land you in a heap of trouble). They say if I come back with the giveaway then they will sell it to me at that price. I've already spent 1.25 hours, £1.20 on petrol getting this 'bargain', so doubling that is highly unattractive, but above is the picture of the object which is currently showing on their ****** website for £9.98. Goodbye B&Q; this is the last time you will ever yank my chain like this (try the time I bought some pvc corrugated sheeting needed another sheet, went back a week later and they told me they don't sell it and if they did, they don't any more)...

I won't recount the story of how my barber bought a bathroom suite where they delivered it with the cistern cracked and then refused to admit that one of their staff could possibly have done such a thing.... Sigh

Friday, 11 February 2011

Yay - Masterchef is back - 2011 starts 16th Feb

Just a very brief note to say that in case you haven't spotted it, Masterchef starts next Wednesday (16th Feb) BBC 1 - 9.00 - 10.00 pm UK time (GMT). It looks as though they are going to follow a similar pattern to last year, which is 2 x 1 hour Wednesday and Thursday but no 30 minute session on the Friday. There are 15 shows overall. This is a shame because I still think it worked better as 30 minutes every night. *sigh*

One odd thing is that there is someone on Facebook who has the following handle:
Lisa Duong - Masterchef 2011 -being something of a Luddite as far as these social sites are concerned I'm not prepared to join Facebook to see what she says about it or whether she has anything to do with the upcoming series (lord - I have a mobile phone, but only switch it on if there's an emergency that's how anti-instant communication I am!) .




I find it hard to believe that there are many more hidden talents like last year's amazing final trio (and not forgetting the wonderful beehive hairdo and chutzpah of Stacey Stewart). And who will return from last year? Sadly, it looks like we're going to have to endure the same repetitive voiceovers from India Fisher. But I wonder where it's being staged? The trailer indicates something like a cross between a converted gymnasium and a quaker meeting house! And it's kitted out rather more like Iron Chef than the old Masterchef classroom (in City Uni, if my memory is correct). No speakers at the moment, so I have watched without sound, but a couple of things made me laugh - a young guy cooking in a white trilby! vo - "Trilby Fred is cooking a gaspacho soup with turnip crisps" .... (My, I can't wait for that episode). And someone flamethrowing what looked like a green turd (Masterchef doesn't get tougher than this!).


Addendum - borrowed some headphones to listen to the sound track of the trailer and it is very good; there is a kind of tongue-in-cheek element present which I hope goes through some of the programme. From the opening, 2001 Space Odyssey bit to the almost final dialogue: Toad "Let's go and find some cooks", Egg "Let's get fatter" there is an appealing element of humour. But yes, it is India Fisher again.

And more - Michelle, apparently the series is being shot in a converted aircraft hangar) (but shurely shome mishtake ed - should have been a converted barn...). And another link to the Masterchef site where more is revealed about the mechanics - one of which is perhaps weird or sensible - the first few rounds are 'auditions' (ye ghods - shades of X Factor etc) where they cook in the new prep kichens before finishing their dish in the 'Judges Room'. That could be sensible in the sense that everyone prepares stuff up til the last bit and then re-heats/does the final stuff in the other room when they're judged. I guess that Egg and Toad have had enough of cold food!