Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Experimental Cookery 2013: Quick Chicken Pilau

This was the first meal I cooked from the Hairy Bikers' "Great Curries", a book I got some time ago but never quite got around to using. As the name implies, it was a quick dish made with chicken and rice.

There wasn't really anything to making the dish, with the most difficult bit being sourcing the required curry paste (where most of the local supermarkets had every other paste in the range except for the one that was needed). Beyond that, there was a small amount of chopping, and then a series of steps consisting pretty much of "add this to the pan now". Half an hour later, and it was done.

And very nice it was, too. In hindsight, I think the quantities are over-generous - the recipe says it will serve four, but I'm inclined to think that the meal I did would have served five easily. Indeed, had I used the full amount of chicken listed, six would not have been a difficult stretch. But the meal was easy to make, it was full of flavour... basically, it was a winner all around.

We'll definitely be having this again, and not just to use up the remaining two servings. A success!

Incidentally, I've decided not to bother doing "Experimental Cookery..." posts about any more soups, unless there happens to be something of particular note. They'd reached a point where they came to "we made this; it was easy; it was okay", and that's pretty dull. The cookbook I've been using is a good one, although I doubt I'd ever use more than 10% of the recipes, but it's not worth posting, or reading, about every little thing.

#42: "Liar's Blade" by Tim Pratt
#43: "The Thirteen-Gun Salute", by Patrick O'Brian

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

And Two Other Updates

  1. I didn't get to be Doctor Who. Obviously, I'm gutted at this - I was sure I'd argued my case to perfection.
  2. As you know, my mobile phone died on me. At the time, I was undecided whether to go for a cheap-and-nasty phone as a stop-gap, or to take the plunge and buy a smartphone. In the end, I concluded that I really needed a phone now, so went for the cheap option. Mobile phone #3 then lasted for all of 4 weeks, before it was discovered that it wouldn't work in the US, and I really needed a phone to take. And so, mobile phone #4 was bought - also a cheaper option, although this one actually has a camera and other functions. Actually, it's much like mobile phone #2, so I expect to be using this one for some time.

Update on Goals

It's not been too long since the last update, but since we're now two-thirds of the way through the year, I figured it that now would be as good a time as any.

  • Health: This is a very mixed one. There's some good news, some not so good news, and the likelihood of a way forward. I'm not so keen on sharing all the details here. Sorry.
  • Weight: No movement. Actually, that's not true. When I was in the US, I put on somewhere between 4 and 6 pounds. Those have since come off, leaving me back where I started the year. This is going to need some work.
  • Work: The last couple of months have been some of the best ever. So, that's good. Actually, part of the reason I'm posting now is that things have reached something of a lull (in a good way). But that won't last long... and that's good too.
  • Books: I've read 41 books, and hopeful of getting to 45 by the end of this month, putting me back on track. I'm also up to date on three of the five series, and only one behind on a fourth. There's now no chance that I'll read twelve books from The List in the remainder of this year, but I'm not too dismayed about that.
  • Debt: Paying off the bathroom took slightly longer than anticipated, due solely to that great evil: compound interest. But it's done now, and that was an amazingly great weight from my shoulders. Next!
  • Games: "The Ebrrron Code" came to its planned end, and that end went as well as I could have hoped. That campaign really justifies its place in my "Big Four" great campaigns. The next campaign, "Imperial Fist", is due to start on the 1st of next month. I'm looking forward to it, although I really need to get some prep-work done. Since the last update, I haven't managed to fit in another one-shot, so remain at 2 out of the hoped-for 5. It seems likely that that count will end the year at 4. That said, I'm hopefully going to be playing in a one-shot in a couple of weeks, so think I might count that. All in all, that's pretty good. However, there are two small flies in the ointment. The first is that I've basically let the Imaginarium slide into inactivity, much as happened to this blog; I'm hoping to restart that one fairly soon. The second is that I concluded I have basically no interest whatsoever in 5th Edition of D&D - and indeed won't be too unhappy if I don't run or play any version of D&D for quite some time.

And that's that.

Experimental Cookery 2013: My Dad’s Really Very Good Lasagne

Well, not my Dad's, of course... This one comes from Lorraine Pascale's "Home Cooking Made Easy", so it's presumably her Dad's lasagne.

Anyway, I do like lasagne. But thus far, making lasagne has meant getting two jars of Dolmio sauces from Tesco, and then browning some mince and vegetables. Which is fine, of course, though it does now mean working from memory - so extreme is LC's rage against the mushroom that she threw out my lasagne recipe! I did try Jamie's lasagne recipe, from his "Ministry of Food", and while it was okay, it wasn't better enough than the Dolmio jars to justify the much greater effort involved. So, could Lorraine do any better?

Well, the short answer is "yes". The slightly longer answer is, "yes, but not enough to completely supplant the Dolmio version."

The lasagne that resulted from following Lorraine's Dad's recipe was very nice, no question about that. And, like Jamie's before it, it was indeed better than the Dolmio version. However, it also takes more than twice as long, and so while it's the best to date, it probably isn't the version I'm going to use regularly. I'll probably keep it for special occasions.

(It's much like pizza in this regard - the homemade ones are better than Tesco's alternative, but they're not better enough to justify the much greater effort involved in making them. So, that's three things: pizza, lasagne, and fajitas.)

One last thing. Lorraine's recipe was time-consuming, but it wasn't particularly difficult to follow. However, there was one thing worth noting: the book doesn't include the over temperature to use, which is a fairly crucial omission. Fortunately, I was able to track this down using the wonders of Google, finding a blog by someone who noted that she'd asked LP herself and received a response... and then didn't include said response on her site! (The answer is 180 degrees.) It's been a long time since I wrote in a book. It still feels wrong somehow.

Anyway, that's that.

#40: "Pathfinder: The Worldwound Incursion", by Amber E. Scott
#41: "The Wasp Factory", by Iain Banks (a book from The List)

Friday, September 06, 2013

Experimental Cookery Disaster!

Lady Chocolat and I are having some friends over for dinner tonight, so in honour of the occasion I thought it would be a good idea to bake some bread... and also a good opportunity to get some use from my latest cookbook, "Bread" by Paul Hollywood (sadly, not a great book).

So, the plan was to cook up some garlic bread, and the method started off easily enough - stick the ingredients in the mixer, start mixing slowly, add the liquids, and then mix at a higher speed for 10 minutes. Easy!

At this point, I set an alarm and went away to let the mixer do its thing.

A few short minutes later, there was a loud crash from the kitchen, and then the noise of the mixer trying, but struggling, to run its motor.

I rushed back into the kitchen, only to discover that the mixer had, lemming-like, hurled itself off of the counter, and smashed itself into pieces on the floor. The dough was splattered across said floor, and whole thing was a mess.


So, no garlic bread for tonight, although we may buy some from Tesco. I spent the next twenty minutes cleaning up the mess, getting the kitchen back into some semblance of order. Fortunately, it looks like the mixer actually wasn't damaged - the various bits are designed to come apart, and although quite a lot of dough got into the motors I was able to brush it out.

Still, a definite disaster to add to my tally. At least I didn't end up wounded this time!

#37: "Pathfinder: The Dragon's Demand", by Mike Shel
#38: "Heart of Darkness and Other Stories", by Joseph Conrad
#39: "Catching Fire", by Suzanne Collins