Saturday, November 29, 2008

Twelve Weeks

On Monday, the diet will be twelve weeks old. Other than the inevitable slip that occurred when I went to France, it has stood solid over that time, largely because it is founded upon the principle of eating more often, rather than less.

As of this morning, I have lost twenty-five pounds, just under half of my target (52 pounds).

So, it's going quite well.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Experimental Cookery Tuesday #6: Asian Chicken Noodle Broth

I don't have a food-y anecdote with which to set the scene this week.

Today marked the introduction of not one but two new vegetables to the diet, those being the mighty asparagus and the dread spinach. Both were green, but while one was spear-like and fierce the other promised cartoonish strength. Or something. In any event, they were both nice enough, I suppose, but somewhat unremarkable.

This recipe also proved somewhat tricky in the gathering of ingredients. In the end, I had to substitute powdered ginger for fresh, and the limes proved to have let fame go to their hea, having completely sold out. Therefore, I used an orange. I mean, how different can they be?

Other than that, the recipe went on in a fairly standard manner. Jamie had warned that it involved some multitasking, and so I had read the whole thing before I started - this proved to be a wise move. In any event, it went mostly without a hitch, although everything was constantly on the edge of burning, and you should see the mess I made of my hob!

So, how did it taste?

Well, I don't know quite where I went wrong, but I definately overdid something, because it was like eating molten lava. In a good way, of course, but still... burny hot. Ouch.

Other than that it was great.

Will I have it again?

I think here again the answer is "yes and no". I think in future I'll probably turn it into a stir fry, or perhaps cook it as I did but get rid of most of the broth before serving. That didn't really add much to the whole experience. Still, I'm giving Jamie the mark for that one, so that would be 5-1.

Next week is "Chicken Fajitas", which I actually have quite frequently, but usually make from a box. However, the book has me making the coating and the salsa from scratch; will it convert me? Next week also marks the end of the "Twenty-minute meals" chapter, after which I shall be moving into "Quick Pasta". In addition, I think I shall also start tackling the "Kick-start Breakfasts" chapter on Saturday mornings. So, it's all go here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Woah, that was an epic post!

In other news, on Thursday I went looking for an apartment and, contrary to all expectations I found one.

Actually finding one that was up for sale was slightly more difficult, since I had to leave the apartment to achieve that goal, but that was also successful.

And then finding an apartment that was up for sale and that I actually liked was another challenge, but I duly rose to that challenge, and succeeded! Indeed, I succeeded so well that I did it twice.

Now all I need to do is figure out which of the two I actually want to bid for (if, indeed, either), and proceed with that. And then I will be able to tick the last box for this year, and call it a success.

The Return of Kilt/Man

On Saturday I attended the wedding of two friends of mine, Graham and Shona. It was a good day. (For those who were there, Graham was Andrew's best man when he got married two years ago.)

The day began much as it went on, being very cold. However, despite the hanging clouds, there was an absence of rain. Apparently, a very small amount of snow fell during the day, but I missed it. All in all, this was about as good weather as can reasonably be hoped for in November.

Naturally, I arrived at the hall early, resplendent in my kilt and other assorted finery, not least of which were some rather spiffy Dalek cuff-links that were presented to me as a gift from the couple. As an added bonus, my kilt and jacket now fit rather better than they did a few months ago, as my weight has now returned to close to where it was when I was measured for these things (actually, I may now be just under where I was back then).

Now, if I'm being honest, I have played better. To a very large extent, this can be blamed on the cold, which not only numbed the fingers quite badly (not a terribly good thing when playing a demanding instrument), but also caused the chanter to become rather shrill. However, there was a rather high incidence of errors.

That said, there was only one that was serious, and it came in the first set, before many people had arrived: as the set was coming to the end, so buoyed was I with the early success that I decided to segue straight into another set entirely. This would have been a great idea, except that I segued into the wrong set, and specifically a set that I hadn't played the second tune of for some months. So, suddenly I found myself playing... I don't know what exactly. It was not good.

(See, you'd think that a person could just play whatever tunes in any order and at any time. After all, a tune is a tune, right? But, actually, this isn't the case at all; the brain gets used to one thing following on from another, and simply shifting gears doesn't work terribly well.)

Still, I cut that short, and retreated to more familiar ground. The rest of the piping was okay, if not brilliant. (I will, however, need to do something about that. In the next months there may again be call for my services...)

Anyway, I played, and the appointed hour came. At this point, I wondered how much longer I had to play - the piper plays until the bride arrives, and it is her prerogative to be late. And, with only one exception, every bride I can recall has been late, to one extent or another. Still, it was a nice day, so there would be no harm in carrying on for a bit...

But no! Shona arrived almost exactly at the appointed time. So, that would be two brides in the history of the world. Surely there could never be a third...?

(For those who want to know: it was a classic white dress with a short train. Mostly, I remember the veil.)

At this point, then, I offered my standard salutation, congratulation, and compliment. (These three elements are standard; the form of the three varies. In general, I've found that 'lovely' and 'radiant' are good compliments to use; 'magnificent' is overblown, 'splendid' disingenuous, and 'spectaclar' mis-spelled.) Then I ventured into the church, my work done for the time being.
There then followed the service, which was nice. Weddings generally are. This time, the couple took what I considered the risky step of inviting people to come up and offer a blessing and/or prayer. This is a fine idea in principle, but I say risky because one never knows what a person is going to say. Still, it went fine.

And then it was back outside, a couple of quick pieces of piping (on the emergence of the couple, and then playing them to the car), and then the wedding party departed to the Botanic Gardens for their photos. And so, I had some time to kill.

Some time later, the wedding party returned from what was, by all accounts, a rather chilly time. There was then a short period of mingling, and then a gathering of powers for a group photo, and finally people took their seats for the meal. Then I piped in the top table, the happy couple, and so I was done for the day. Huzzah!

Then came the speeches. Placing these before the meal is, in my opinion, quite wise. Public speaking is apparently the #1 fear of people in general, and at an event like a wedding this must be even more true. Of course, it has the down-side that the bride (in particular) hasn't eaten since the hairdresser arrived, and so is probably starving by this point. (And, besides, many brides don't eat for some weeks before the wedding in order to fit in their dresses. Frankly, it's a miracle more brides don't go on crazed cannibalistic rampages. Perhaps I've just been lucky that I've only seen this happen a few times.)

The meal was provided in a multiple choice format. With the invitations, we had been asked to express a preference for food, and had duly done so, and had duly forgotten entirely what options we selected. The starter was prawns with melon or a tomato and coriander soup (so, soup for me); the main course either chicken or beef, either way with potatoes and seasonal vegetables (chicken); the dessert was an alcohol-free trifle or a fruit salad (trifle). It was very nice indeed. No chips, though.

Over dinner we discussed saving the planet, fast food, and John Sergeant. Sadly, these were separate topics, and not the proposal for a new show in which John Sergeant will don the golden arches as the symbol of his new superhero guise.

After the meal, while they rearranged the hall for ceilidh purposes, we retired to other rooms within the community centre. Indeed, we found ourselves in a meeting room, where we took advantage of the opportunity to discuss the Africa Situation. There was a significant amount of thinking outside the box, the better to leverage our potentials. Or something like that.

And then, that silliness completed, we returned to the hall for the first dance, and then for the ceilidh itself. There are too few ceilidhs, I feel.

Anyway, as I hold the title of Knig, hail from a place that sounds a bit like Camelot, and an considered to be the lord of the dance-floor (despite that pretender to my throne, Captain Ric), I felt the need for a quest. As I already have a grail, though (it's verrrry nice), my quest would be to dance every dance at the ceilidh. Except the first dance, of course, but that doesn't really count.

Of course, dancing every dance is no easy challenge, on several counts. The first is the sheet exhaustion that this will inflict. People laughed when I revealed that I had come prepared with my very own towel. They laughed slightly less when they realised the genius of this move, for indeed it was genius.

The second challenge is that one inevitably requires a partner if one is to dance. And around half of my usual card were absent from the festivities, while several others were laid low by myriad non-ceilidh-related injuries and illnesses. And, as the state of my love life will attest, boundless confidence is not something I can call upon when dealing with women. (Nor did it really help that I had to drive home, and so must needs had to remain sober. Then again, maybe that did help - alcohol tends to make me really quiet.)

Fortunately, I am never caught without a backup plan, and it was this: for the first ceilidh dance, I partnered with one of my friends. While traversing the room, then, I kept an eye peeled for all those girls who were watching from the sidelines with a "oh, how I wish someone would ask me to dance" look about them. See, it's quite crafty.

And so, as the evening progressed, I made my way about the room, inviting one poor girl after another onto the floor. Indeed, it was noted that I did not dance with the same girl twice (except right at the end, when most people had left, when I again danced with one of two partners from a Dashing White Sergeant, but that doesn't count). Mostly, I just didn't want to get tied down.
And so, willows were stripped, Swede masqueraded (possibly as turnips; I wasn't quite sure), and two-steps were stepped twice. Even the dreaded helicopter dance was a triumph unheard of, as Gordon and I were paired with two fairly slight girls, allowing for a far greater degree of lift than is frequently the case.

And so, the quest was reckoned a success. And there was much rejoicing. Huzzah!

Of course, the ultimate challenge remains. I have heard it said that there may be a barn dance in the offing in months to come, and so the question: will the lord of the dance-floor continue his reign? Truly, this is a mystery of great depth, especially as I have been forbidden to study the dances ahead of time. As if I would be stopped by so minor a thing as not having a clue what I'm doing...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Water water everywhere...

I'm defrosting the smaller of my two fridges. I do this in the knowledge that it is not a good idea, but also that it is a task that simply has to be done. Over the past several months, the freezer compartment of this fridge (which is too small of be of any actual use) has gradually filled completely with ice. I'd been ignoring this, as I don't actually use that compartment, but I'm also aware that should I move, as I hope to do quite soon, I would have to put the power off, which would create quite a mess.

I am therefore making quite a mess while still present in the apartment. I'm not sure just why that is considered an improvement.

Anyway, the task is now almost complete. The block of ice became sufficiently loosened to remove from the freezer to the sink, where it was broken up with some hot water. Now all that remains is several hours of dripping and drying.

Once this is done, I think I'll leave the power off on this fridge. I'll work solely from my own, larger fridge, and accept that my ability to chill has therefore been reduced.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Not sure I've mastered the whole 'NED' thing

After my efforts in the kitchen, I was left with an empty bottle of wine (I used some cooking, and drank one glass separately. Lacking any means to properly store an open bottle of wine, I then poured the rest away). Conveniently, this evening took me on a wander through Camelon, going past the glass recycling bins, so I took the empty bottle with me for disposal.

Naturally, as I walked through the streets, bottle in hand, I elicited a number of disapproving stares from people out and about. Apparently, care for the environment is frowned upon. Or, more likely, they mistook me for a NED (non-educated delinquient, for those not up on the local parlance).

Still, I'm not entirely sure I got it right. I was under the impression that the NED's tipple of choice was Buckfast, as opposed to a rather pleasant Sauvignon Blanc. I'll try to get it right next time.

Experimental Cookery Tuesday #5: Chicken & Leek Stroganoff

I tried a beef stroganoff once before, back in "Part Two". It is fair to say it was not a resounding success. In fact, it would be more accurate to say it was a total disaster, that more of it ended up in the bin than in me, and that I determined at that time never to try it again.

Still, the next thing in the book was a stroganoff, so who am I to argue. Off I went to the supermarket, there to pick up some butter, some leeks, but not the wine that was called for as I got that from my parents (one of the joys of having tee-total parents working in education is the free alcohol that comes with the end of term).

Now, before I proceed, a word about butter, which I described as one of my culinary nemeses. In truth, it's not really butter I object to, but rather margarine, and even then, it's mostly in sandwiches. The reason for this aversion is that many moons ago, back when I were a lad, those who would prepare sandwiches were somewhat over-generous when applying the margarine to the bread. And so, instead of having a cheese sandwich, or a chicken sandwich, or such thing, one would have a margarine sandwich with hint of cheese. It wasn't entirely pleasant. However, rather then try to explain this, it was simply easier to drop the margarine from the sandwiches entirely.

Anyway, while making dinner today, the first thing I made was a real mess. There were bits of food flying everywhere - the walls, the floor (none on the ceiling, though). I'm not entirely sure what went wrong there, but never mind.

Eventually, the meal was complete, and the moment of truth.

4-1 to Jamie. It was good.

Will I have it again? Well...

The problem with this one is that it's not going to be easy to cut down for one person, and I'm also extremely dubious as to the prospects for reheating. Perhaps one day, when I have someone to impress. Like that's ever going to happen.

Next up is "Asian Chicken Noodle Broth", which to me says 'starter', but I guess we'll see next week. Tomorrow, I'm having lasagne.

No joy

I looked at an apartment yesterday. From my internet research, it looked like the most likely candidate.

And it was almost perfect. The living area, in particular, was very impressive.

But, alas, that almost would have been quite painful, for two reasons, one fairly minor and other quite major.

The relatively minor issue was that the ceilings were quite low, and whoever had done the interior design had then had the bright idea of using low-hanging light fittings. So, all the lights were five and a half feet from the floor. As I'm six feet tall, this would have left me constantly walking into them. (After all, it's not like lights are easy to see - especially when they're switched off.)

Incidentally, this just proves that interior design is an art, not an engineering discipline. None of the people I work with would have made that mistake. Also, it seems quite apparent that the designer was either a very small person or, more likely, never actually visited the flat before doing the design.

Still, that would have been surmountable, as it would merely require replacing all the fittings in short order.

The bigger problem, though, was the kitchen, which seemed to be of a decent size, but actually wasn't. It would be fine for a person to whom 'cooking' meant 'heating things up', but as soon as you have to prepare food it becomes an issue. There was a lack of cat-swinging space.

Actually, I think what happened there is that the people who built the block have tried to split it into slightly too many flats. Or perhaps they have tried to split each flat into one too many rooms. Either way, the kitchen was not a room I could have used, and so proved a deal-breaker.

Rather unfortunate, that. Still, it was probably too much to hope for to nail it on the first time out.

Democracy in action

On the street next to mine, they have installed a variety of traffic calming measures. These are widely hated, and so the council have decided to perform a public consultation on whether to keep them or not.

Only they haven't. The letter we've been issued offers two possibilities:

1) Keep the traffic calming measures as-is.
2) Remove the traffic calming measures and instead spend money on a scheme that will be utterly ineffectual, and which no-one in their right mind would be willing to support.

Apparently, the sane option 3 (remove the offending part of the scheme, but leave the parts that are actually effective in place) isn't an option. Because....? Well, they don't say.

And people wonder why I'm cynical about democracy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Experimental Cookery Tuesday #4: Prawns and Avocado with a Marie Rose sauce

Or: Steph/ven's Trilogy of Fish, Part Three

I'm aware that it's only Monday. However, as I am on holiday this week, and as I missed a week when I was in France, I elected to use today playing catch-up, and also knocking off the last of the three fish dishes.

This week was prawns.

Now, I first had prawns almost exactly ten years ago, when they were served as part of a hibachi platter at the hotel restaurant I was visiting while on a business trip. Since I had ordered the platter, since the company was paying, and since there wasn't really any alternative, I ate them. (The main meat of the platter was chicken; the prawns, like the salad, were extras.) But the thing is that prawns, like calamari, are actually on my list of acceptable seafood. I tend not to seek them out (since that would be insane), but I won't object to them. So, when Jamie said I was to have prawns this week, I wasn't too dismayed, despite my aversion to fish.

Anyway, you know the deal by now. The recipe this week was quite cheap (fish - cheaper than meat; avocado - fruit, so not too expensive; and a bunch of common items, most of which I already had). Only the whisky part of the equation was expensive, but here I plumped for a cheap and nasty blended whisky (Grants, if you're interested). Our VP (who knows this stuff) would call this sacrilege, and I'd agree with him, since it's not very nice, but since it's for cooking, the good stuff would just be a waste.

This recipe was actually not terribly fiddly - I started my preparations at 5, cooked, ate, and cleaned things away (didn't do the washing up), and then started this post at 5:30, which is pretty good going.

And the taste? Well, mid-way through the recipe it says to test the sauce, and when I did it was just foul. Awful stuff. I thought this would be a huge rant about the evil lurking in marie rose sauce.

But something changed when the whole thing was put together. Perhaps it's that the sauce was diluted by everything else. Perhaps it just needed to sit for a few minutes. Or perhaps it just wasn't as bad as I expected. Because the meal I ate was very nice indeed. A bit on the light side (and no carbs that I could discern), but very nice.

Would I have this again? Absolutely. It needs some sort of light pudding or dessert to go with it, but the meal itself is absolutely fine.

So, that's 3-1 to Jamie. And, what's more, he might actually manage to change my mind about fish during this experiment! So, I have to hand it to him: he clearly knows his stuff. (And, since I'm now a convert, here's a link to the book in question, which Amazon seem to have at 60% off.)

Next up is "Chicken and Leek Stroganoff", which I will be trying tomorrow. I'm actually looking forward to it, despite the recipe requiring me to go and buy another of my culinary nemeses: butter.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


During the World Cup 2006 (or was it the preceding European Championships? I forget), the term 'WAG' was introduced to refer to the Wives And Girlfriends of the England players. It has since been expanded to describe any wife or girlfriend of any person who plays any sport at almost any level (witness: Nicola McLean).

Now, at the time it was first introduced, the term was not unreasonable: the ladies in question were, at the time, playing a distinctly supporting role to their husbands and boyfriends, while the spotlight shone on their efforts.

What I don't understand, though, is why, absent that initial context, the term WAG is not considered horrifically offensive.

Here's the thing, a person cannot be a WAG in isolation. To be a Wife or Girlfriend, one necessarily must have a Husband or Boyfriend out there somewhere. Get divorced or dumped, and you lose the status.

In effect, therefore, to be a WAG is to be defined by the man in your life.

Contrast this with Cheryl Cole, probably the alpha WAG at present. Now, I'm certainly no fan of "Pop Stars: the Rivals", of Girls Aloud, "The X-Factor", or Cheryl herself, but the simple fact is that Girls Aloud have been extremely successful where virtually every other spawn of these talent shows have not, largely through some very hard work, and Cheryl herself has clearly been very canny in taking advantage of her opportunities.

And yet, label her a WAG, and she becomes nothing more than Ashley's wife.

Why is this considered acceptable? Why do so many girls aspire to this vaunted status? And why exactly are feminists not up in arms about it?

Friday, November 14, 2008

That's it!

As of fifteen minutes ago, I am now on holiday for a week. (And yet, somehow, I haven't left the office yet.)


I think I shall spend my time in finding somewhere to live, and perhaps in reading some books. I might even consider doing all my Christmas shopping, despite being morally opposed to the Christmas season expanding before the start of December.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Qapla' !

As of this morning, I have gotten rid of the weight I gained while in France. I have also (re-)attained the third mini-goal for the diet. I find this to be good news. (Although, I'm not entirely trusting of my scales. They're mostly good for ensuring that the trend remains downwards, but not necessarily an exact figure, while both the mini-goals and the final goal are exact figures. Still, they're probably good enough for government work.)

In case you're wondering, the title of this post is, indeed, Klingon. It means, "Success!" Yes, I know that the use of Klingon is both bogus and sad. I don't care.

Oh, and to the person who complained about a lack of updates when we spoke at the weekend: this makes five for this week. Does that meet your expectations?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I've just watched Michael Moore's film, "Sicko", which made for an interesting experience. Now, Michael Moore is a giant socialist weasel, as "Team America" says, which makes his evidence more than a little suspect. And certainly, when he was comparing the lives of English people, French people, and American people, he wasn't being entirely fair - he typically compared very well-to-do folk from other countries with very poor Americans.

Still, he is right: health insurance, at least as the sole means of getting healthcare, is fundamentally flawed.

The problem is that those who will most likely need health insurance, being the poor and those with pre-existing health conditions, are also the ones who will face the harshest health premiums (not unreasonably, since they're the ones most likely to need a pay-out), and are also the ones least likely to be able to afford coverage, assuming that they can get it at all.

Still, maybe you think that's okay - it works, as long as you're willing to turn people away (possibly to die) when they can't pay their bills. Personally, I think that's monstrous, but it would let the system work.

Of course, Americans, not being monsters, aren't willing to stomach that. And so, instead of turning people away when they can't pay, instead treat them at the ER. Where, of course, treatments are more extreme ("a stitch in time...") and more expensive. And someone has to pick up the bill, even if the recipient of care can't pay for it.

And so, the US spends more on healthcare per person than most other nations, which pays for substandard care for those who can't afford insurance.

I know Americans have a pathological fear of socialism, but in this case I think it really is the best solution to this question.

Recent TV - the good and the bad

When "Fringe" started, I heard some negative reviews, but determined to watch it for myself and make up my own mind. Sadly, those negative reviews were pretty much accurate.

On the one hand, "Fringe" is somewhat like "X-Files", only less good. On the other hand, it purports to be about the fringes of science. What this actually means is "stuff we make up, but pretend sounds good".

But what really bugs me about "Fringe" is not so much that the 'science' is utter tosh, but rather that every single week Pacey explains that the science is utter tosh, and then gets harrangued by Denethor for his lack of imagination. That really doesn't help with the show's credibility.

Typical "Fringe" script excert:

Blonde FBI Agent: Oh no, we've hit a dead end in our investigation. Whatever shall we do?
Denethor: Not to worry, I'll just technobabble a bit. If my hypothesis is right, we might just be saved.
Pacey: You do realise that that it utter tosh, right?
Denethor: When did you lose your imagination? Was it when Joey married Tom Cruise instead of you?
Blonde FBI Agent: Can we just focus on the technobabble, please? I want to go home and try to work out whether I'm upset because my boyfriend died, or because he turned out to be eeeevil.
Denethor: It worked!
Blonde FBI Agent: Huzzah, we're saved! We get to use some entirely different technobabble next week!
Pacey: Huzzah!
Denethor: Huzzah! Ice cream for everyone!

Or something like that.

Meanwhile, also in TV land, Heroes is well into its third season, and unfortunately really really sucks. Too many characters, too many plots going in too many directions, not enough focus, and no clear idea where the story is going. A lot of people said that the second season was where it all went wrong, but I actually liked the second season (although it was too slow at the start, and too rushed at the end due to the strike). Season three, though, isn't even worth watching at the present time.

Fortunately, not all is doom and gloom, for Terminator is back for its second season, and it is excellent. They've really managed to capture the menace of the terminators, and actually do seem to have a plot arc that they're unfolding. Nice. (Naturally, it's apparently set to be cancelled.)

And then there is Clone Wars, which I am enjoying a great deal. Episode 4 was on this weekend, and for the first time it really felt like they'd captured the spirit of Star Wars. I presume that the episode number was just a coincidence. Regardless, this is a fun show.

Finally, there's Merlin from the BBC, a sort-of retelling of the Arthur story. This is the show that has succeeded Robin Hood in the "Doctor Who" slot on Saturdays, and it's thankfully much much better than Robin Hood (not that that's terribly difficult). Although it's strange trying to work out which bits of the Arthur story they've kept, and which they've discarded, and I'm not sure why they chose to make Gwen the blacksmith's daughter, when they could have used a different name for that character and done better. However, of particular note is Anthony Head's Uther Pendragon, who is a marvellously nasty piece of work, and yet probably a good king.

So, TV just now isn't bad. Still, I'm eagerly awaiting the return of 24, and the last half-season of Battlestar Galactica.

Oh, also, although it's not TV: "Saw IV" is rubbish. Truly, truly bad.

Bills, bills, bills

The good news is that the nonsense surrounding my latest gas bill has now been cleared up. They've issued me with a revised bill, and although it is considerably higher than the amount they were first charging, that was something I was expecting. There still remains the oddity that each time they give me a discount for paying by monthly direct debit, and yet each month they fail to take the money from my account by direct debit.

Anyway, with a bit of luck I won't be paying a gas bill for much longer - one of the things I'm looking for in an appartment is electric heating (although gas isn't an absolute deal-breaker).

I also received my electricity bill this month, which was somewhat lower than I'd expected. Having paid this off, I then got in touch with them, and arranged a monthly direct debit so that I don't need to worry about this again. I wonder if they will actually manage to take the money we agreed.

Of course, a consequence of all this bill-paying is that I'm now broke. Guess I'll have to lay off on buying any silly hats for a while.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Experimental Cookery Tuesday #3: Salmon Tikka with Cucumber Yoghurt

I do not like fish. Jamie knows this, and has therefore arranged his book to suit: a meat dish to lure me in, then three fish dishes in sequence, to test my resolve. Will I be able to maintain my arbitrary, self-imposed rule that I have to cook everything in order?

Some people have asked me: why, if I don't like fish, do I not skip these recipes? Or, perhaps, cook them out of order to break up the ordeal? Well, there are three reasons:
  1. If we go breaking rules just because they're inconvenient, even (especially) self-imposed rules, how are we to have the discipline to achieve anything? Truly, that way lies madness! Madness, and hippydom!
  2. If I were to take the meals out of order, the reality is that I'd cook up all the things I would think I'd like, and somehow end up leaving all the boaky fish dishes to the end. Which really wouldn't be at all pleasant. No, better to cook everything in order, and thus break up the pain a little.
  3. And besides, fish is really good for you. Except that we're not supposed to eat it, because of all the mercury. So, the addition of a couple of fish dishes really is no bad thing, unless it actually is.

So, in many ways, this was part two of the great fish trilogy. But, would it be an "Empire Strikes Back", or would it be a "Mission: Impossible 2"? Let's find out.

My first impression of the recipe was that it was a tad fiddly. There were a couple of odd things on the list this week, which wasn't a great problem, but meant poring through the shelves at Tesco at some length. In the end, I don't think I got quite the right curry paste (I got Tikka Masala paste, instead of the specified Tandoori paste), but I don't think that particularly affected the outcome.

I also made sure to get a very high quality piece of fish from Tesco. I suspect that did have a great bearing on the outcome; it also boosted the price somewhat, although it remained cheaper than the Steak of week 1.

It's also worth noting that the instructions miss out two steps: they don't mention that you should actually stir the yoghurt mix, which I assume is required, and they don't say how long you should warm the naan bread. (In fact, the naan bread was a complete disaster. I should have followed my usual policy of just sticking it in the toaster, instead of using the over. In the even, I discarded the resulting naan biscuit, and instead toasted the spare one from the packet. Which was an excellent move.)

I also ended up discarding the instruction to use the back of a spoon to apply the curry paste to the fish, and just rubbed it in by hand. This worked much better.

And for the taste?

Yeah, it's a winner. Once again, Jamie got the cook time for the meat (fish) part of the meal exactly right, leaving the fish soft and juicy, but also ideally cooked to crumble under the fork. Also, much to my surprise, the fish taste mixed extremely well with the tikka taste.

I will definately be having this one again. In fact, I'll have this again more readily than the Butterflied Steak Sarnie, as this seemed rather less fiddly to prepare, and was definately cheaper.

So, that's 2-1 to Jamie. I think he might be on a winner here.

Next week is the third fish dish in the trilogy, Prawns and Avocado with an Old-School Marie Rose sauce. Despite it being fish again, I may find I don't care - the recipe calls for the use of whiskey.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Suddenly, it all makes much more sense

This week, I discovered that there are two sets of numbering on my street. Consequently, there is another appartment that shares the same number, street name, and postcode as my own. The only difference is that the other is within a particular appartment block, and is properly addressed "Insert Name Here Buildings, Steph/ven's Street..."

I found this out when I received a package "FAO: Name" that seemed to be correctly addressed. I had assumed that this person was a previous tenant at this address, but this turned out to be incorrect. Unfortunately, I have been unable to redeliver this mail, which means getting in touch with the couriers, who expect me to be available on Monday morning for them to deign to pick up the item!

The other annoying consequence of this was that for the past year I had been receiving mail from Scottish Gas addressed to this person, but bearing the legend "Important information for the current occupant of Steph/ven's address". So, naturally, I opened the letters, to be informed that my gas meter needed replaced.

I finally got this done last time I was on vacation, and was told by the engineer that my new meter would be logged into their system, and all would be well. Naturally, this proved to be screwed up when my gas bill arrived. (I assumed this was just another case of general incompetence, an impression compounded when I was forced to spend an hour on the phone to them, having to shout to make myself heard and understood, and eventually just about managing to explain what had happened.)

So, that mystery has been resolved. Of course, it still leaves the more telling question: just what exactly where they thinking when the numbered my street thus?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Assessing the Damage

Whenever I leave the country, some nasty people break into my house and recalibrate my scales, adding six pounds to my weight. For reasons unknown, they even manage to do this when I hide the scales in inaccessible places, or even if I throw out my existing scales and buy new ones. It's really quite annoying.

Seriously, though, travelling is always a major diet-breaker. Not only is the routine shattered, leading to eating odd amounts at odd times (in restaurants that tend to use rich oils and fats to improve taste at the cost of high calories), and not only is one expected to take a drink when others do (oh, the horrors!), but there's also the problem that you never quite get to sleep as much as you should, which further knocks things out of alignment.

This particular trip was also expected to be really bad: on Monday we were taken to an expensive French restaurant and treated to a five-course feast. Oh, and unlike previous 'five course' meals I've had, this one didn't include coffee as one of the courses. Oh no, this was a proper five course meal, consisting of a pre-starter (salmon), then a starter (foie gras on couscous), main course (beef steak with more foie gras and potatoes), cheese course (a goats' cheese and apple pasty - which seemed quite odd, but was rather nice), and a desert (chocolate cake with caramel sauce and ice cream). Plus copious amounts of red wine, and coffee.

So, it was with a measure of some trepidation that I stepped onto the scales this morning. By Sunday, I had managed to shed 20 pounds, but how far had this set me back?

The answer was 4 pounds, which is less than I had feared. Still, a setback. The diet has resumed this morning. Hopefully, the new weight should be removed almost as easily as it was put on.

Oh, one other related fact: on Tuesday Kilt/Man was in action at the photo shoot. My kilt was purchased almost three years ago, and was made for me as I was then. It had become a little snug in the interim (one of the reasons for the diet starting), but is now back to fitting as it should. I'm told it created quite a stir.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Lost a tooth

This morning, my comb lost a tooth, effectively rendering it useless.

I'm gutted, not least because I have had that comb quite a long time. Indeed, I'm pretty sure it predates brother G.