Monthly Archives: February 2015

Good Eatin’: Hitting 300

List Item: Try 500 of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

So here we are, not even a year into my opening the 1001 foods challenge and I am now reaching 300. Since this marks me getting 60% towards my goal there were a few easier items I wanted to fit in. Items that I could not believe that they were done after the likes of palm hearts, ackee and cantabrian boquerone. Still, this is awesome and I am VERY sure things will start to slow down now.

Food items: Pecans and Brazil Nuts

I have stayed away from the grains section since I managed to get ‘really far ahead’ on it. Now I am thinking ‘screw it’ and I have decided now is time to invest in a nutcracker and take these on.

Firstly, pecans are a absolute devil to crack so that it remains completely intact. Made me wonder if I should have just had them on a pastry or something. In any case there is something satisfying about taking them from my squirrel bowl and cracking them myself. They are similar to walnuts in their taste, apart from the fact that they become slightly buttery when they are chewed for long enough.

Brazil nuts, in comparison, are more oily than most other nuts (something that showed when you unsuccessfully tried to crack it). It has a similar texture to the macadamia nuts although it does tend to leave the mouth feeling dry.

Food items: Dried Fruit in Chocolate and Malt Loaf

How the hell have I not had chocolate raisins in nearly a year. It’s inconceivable. Not much to say on these since dried fruit in chocolate is delicious and the only time you can convince yourself that chocolate is healthy.

Malt loaf is something that feels quintessentially British with Soreen being a regular fixture in the house the closer we got to Christmas. The key thing about eating these is that you cannot have them without butter. It just helps with the dark, squidgy, sticky sweetness. Now in a handy lunchbox pack! Apparently!

Food items: Nurnberger Elisenlebkuchen

So here we are, 300 and this is something that reaches back into my German heritage, specifically the part of me that is Bavarian. Lebkuchen, aka the spiced German biscuit-cake things that I used to hate as a kid and now really love. This is specifically a type of lebkuchen found in Nuremburg.

Just opening the packet unleashes the smell of Christmas. The first taste screams ginger, but later elements of cinnamon and orange peel can also be tasted alongside the whole and chopped nuts. Texture wise it is mostly cake-like  until you get to the bottom when you reach the ricepaper. The difference between the two can make you wonder if you had to remember to remove it first.

Progress: 300/500


Good Eatin’: The Good Food Show

List Item: Try 500 of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

It was late November and that could only mean one thing for me, time to break the three year gap and attend the BBC Good Food show at the NEC in Birmingham. There is a London version but the Birmingham has the bigger one, with many more booths to peruse. Also, sometimes it is just nice to get out of the city… and go to an exhibition centre in another one.

I figured that this would be the opportunity to sample a bunch of things that come from the list. However, since I am not made of money I was not able to completely buy out the spices booth so I have not been able to go as far as I could… but maybe next year.

Food item: Cold-pressed Rapeseed Oil

Okay, so this was one of the first booths we came across and it set the pace for 4-5 hours of sampling. They had a lot of varieties of oil and I tried out two of these. The plain version (for the sake of the list), which was light and nutty, and the smoked version which I am not wishing that I had bought in order to create some salad dressings.

Food item: Shortbread

This is a biscuit that I could have done a while ago but I was in an all day meeting when these biscuits were circulating around the office. I do love the buttery sweetness of shortbread, and this company were selling a number of flavours. The Earl Gray shortbread in particular was rather delicious.

Food item: Panettone

Over the way from the stand with the shortbread was  one with a lot of panettones on offer for sale/sampling. Now, I have never had a good panettone in the past, mainly because I found them to be dry and a little bit flavourless. The one that was on offer here was actually really nice. It was moist, buttery and loaded with raisins. If it wasn’t for the fact that I couldn’t factor in consuming most of this by myself I might have ended up going home with one.

Food item: Kelly Bronze Turkey

This was the find of the day. We were due to buy a whole one of these for Christmas (which is expensive) just for the sake of me trying some for the list. With this £4 roll I was able to check off something from the increasingly difficult meat section of the list. Needless to say, this is some of the best turkey that I ever had. It was moist with the dark meat having a slightly gamey taste and the white meat having a taste not too unlike the partridge I had not too long ago.

Food item: Habanero Chile

Since I would never be fool enough to try one of these by itself, I mean it IS a chile pepper after all. So here it was flavouring a jam together with banana. I am sure glad there was a fruit helping to tone down the heat since it was still rather pronounced. There was also a touch of citrus here which I didn’t expect.

Food item: Piccalilli

The final food of the show. As a kid this was something I never really liked since it has a rather strong taste. Now that I am older and I have tried jellyfish something that is essentially vegetables pickled in mustard. It was spicy and the vegetables were, surprisingly, not soggy but still firm to the bite.

Progress: 295/500

I’m Folding Me Some Butterflies

List item: Make something from origami
Progress: Completed

I am not exactly artistic. I mean, sure, I completed NaNoWriMo a few months ago and I leave weird Post-It doodles on my co-workers’ desks…but my point still stands.

Origami kinda appeals to me for the fact that it’s creative, it can look really nice and there are sets of instructions that can be followed much like a recipe. In essence it’s like making macaroni cheese but with paper. Yes, I know it makes no sense.

The first thing  tried was a dolphin… which was so bad I got annoyed part-way through and binned it.

I then got onto butterflies. I actually began to have real fun making these and have since internalised how to make them. This alone would have checked this item off of my bucket list but I wanted to try more.

As you can see above I have tried my hand at other animals. I managed to make a successful dolphin in the end as well as a swan and (a stab at) a pig. Not pictured are two cranes that I have made.

I have a developing flock of butterflies. They are pretty and I want to decorate a corner of the room with them… I may need to put it to the engagement partner though… I am liking this idea.

Music Monday: Bitches Brew by Miles Davis

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 48/250Bitches_brewTitle: Bitches Brew
Artist: Miles Davis
Year: 1970
Position: #91

Okay, so this will probably be the shortest album write-up that I ever do for this blog for one main reason: the free-form jazz in this managed to stimulate a panic response to the point that I felt the need to rock back and forth. I have no idea why this would have elicited such a response, especially since I loved Kind Of Blue, but for the way it made me feel I don’t think I want to go in for a third listen now.

They say music should awaken something inside of you… but maybe not the feeling of immediate danger.

Goal Change – Film List

1001 movies 2014 book coverSince the first edition of this book came out (if I recall correctly it has Kill Bill Volume 1 as one of the final entries) I had a little bit of an obsession to see as many films on this list as I could. Thanks to my mum’s love of classic films and her subscription to Sky+ I was able to devour a lot of these films in quick succession. It even lead me to Sunset Boulevard and My Neighbour Totoro which stand as my top two favourite films of all time.

And then, Roger Ebert died. I changed my priorities temporarily, but I have decided to switch back to my original goal of the 1001 list.

Why? Firstly, it’s a longer list which means that I think it is more worth a bucket list place. The main reason is that it regularly updates with new films being added to the mix. Yes, it means it is more volatile, but it also has a lot more variety due to the purpose being a guide to see all different angles of cinema.

Also, since I am now fast approaching a year since this blog started I am also looking to add/extend some longer running lists, with this being the first to more than double in size.

If you have any suggestions of other things please comment below!


Good Eatin’: The Curious Incident of The Cheese Samples

List Item: Try 500 of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

It was a mild November evening and I had tickets to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time with a friend. Since we are both early starters in the office we were both out of the building around three hours before the play started and were not exactly sure of what to do.

It was a bit early for dinner and I, having had a lot of cheese at the weekend, remembered that there is a good cheese shop near where we work… to quote her “you had me at cheese”. So off we went to the Neal’s Yard Dairy.

The smell just hits you as you enter the shop. As someone who has always liked cheese but only got into the many different varities in the last few years I was a bit mesmerized by all the cheeses that were suddenly in front of us. Then suddenly in front of us was a free sample of a blue cheese extended in our direction on the edge of a knife. Her name was Adrienne and I have her to thank for three more entries to this food list.

  Food item: Stinking Bishop

When we were looking around the shop I was discussing this food list with my friend (I am that obsessive) and three cheeses caught my eye as needing to be sampled for the blog (the shop also carried yarg, cheddar, caerphilly and stilton). We got talking to the lovely shop assistant and she was keen to help me cross the three off of my list. She also spoke of trying things like geoduck and smokey blue… foods I will have a wait a while for.

So, first there was the stinking bishop. I’d sampled this at a food show before so I knew that despite having a strong nose this cheese did not live up to the name (the name deriving from the cultivar of pear used to make the perry that washes the rind of the cheese). The cheese itself is rich with a slightly spicy edge to it, similar in a way to the Langres that I had recently.

Food item: Brie De Meaux

After this came Brie de Meaux. It is the only brie on the list and it comes from the town of Meaux in the region of Brie. The main thing I have to say about this cheese is that it frustrates me when I think of it now. Mainly because this was the best brie that I have ever tasted and now it is going to be hard to go back to ‘regular’ brie. It had been left out to ripen meaning it was creamy and strong like a good brie should be. Gorgeous.

Food item: Cashel Blue

This leaves me with the Cashel Blue, the cheese I ended up buying some of because of my general love of blue cheeses. The first thing of note is how it is not as salty as a lot f other blue cheeses I have tasted, yes it is still there but some can really over do it. Like all good blues there is a creaminess to it, but this one is REALLY creamy. I think it would actually be a good starter blue cheese since it really is rather mild, especially when you compare it to the likes of gorgonzola. I bought two quids worth and have managed to eat the entire wedge with a fork whilst I am writing about it. I wish I hadn’t have done that as now I have no cheese left.

Food item: Skate

After spending over half an hour sampling and talking about cheese we went to get some dinner at Rock and Sole Plaice. I’ve passed this so often on the way to and from work but we had a recommendation from someone else and we decided it would make for a good dinner before a show (having just collectively spent over £15 on cheese, she was good at her job).

Now, with this food list there are things that I am eating that I disagree with trying. Foie gras is one of these because of the methods used to make it. Skate is another because of the fact that we don’t know how much we have left before we wipe them out. This sucks because I really love skate. I mean, fine, it is a hassle to get all that deliciously delicate flaky fish meat off of the bones. Look at the portions too! Okay, it was £16 but this is a large plate of fish and chips in central London.

Progress: 289/500

How was the play? I mean I went through all the food from that evening before the play even started. I think it says enough that it is something I have been thinking about for days since I saw it and I am trying to find another person to go with. Truly one of the best things I have ever seen on the stage.

Good Eatin’: An Impromptu Cheeseboard and More

List Item: Try 500 of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

This post started based on an impromptu cheeseboard because I could not choose one out of four possibly list cheeses in my local Co-Op supermarket. So, I opted to buy three of them with some crackers and grapes and just assumed that would be it and I would have a simple food post to write.

Within 24 hours I went from 3 to 8 so it made sense to group them all here at one go.

Food item: Bleu D’Auvergne, Brillat-Savarin & Appenzeller

This is the group of three cheeses that started this off, and this made for a really great cheeseboard since they were all very different cheeses.

The first cheese we sampled was the Appenzeller. We found that it really felt like a mixture between Gruyere and Emmentaller with a bit more on the side of Gruyere. It was nutty, crumbly and a bit spicy. I can imagine it being perfect grated over the top of some gratin potatoes.

Then we tried the Bleu D’Auvergne. Just from the smell of it you could tell it was a very blue cheese. It resembled Roquefort, with the main difference being that this is made of cow’s milk. It was like a creamier Stilton and no where near as acidic.

Finally, we tried the cheese which became our favourite; Brillat-Savarin. This was so very very creamy to the point that we were able to dip our crackers into the middle of the cheese in order to lazily spread it on.  Apparently this is known as a triple creme since they add extra cream to make it. Bloody gorgeous and I do not care how bad this was for me.

Food item: Langres, Moroccan-Style Olives & Piquante Peppers

The next day we had a long walk to Tescos and we FINALLY agreed to buy the Langres. I have been eying this cheese up for the better part of 6 months and we went for it. The smell of the Langres is powerful but the taste… not so much. If I could get you to imagine cheese made from clotted cream you would pretty much have this one. Rich with a spicy edge.

Then there are the Piquante Peppers (also known as Pepperdew Peppers). I have had these a lot since starting on this food list but I had not put two and two together that they might be the same thing. I have not seen these without the cream cheese stuffing, but why mess with success. They are sweet with a slight heat and go beautifully on the edge of a pizza.

Lastly, there is the penultimate olive on the list: Moroccan-style olives. This is a bit strange since it refers more to the preparation style of the olive rather than the cultivar. The olives themselves were nice enough with a slightly nutty flavour. The major thing is the marinade which was loaded with cumin and citrus flavours.

Food item: Rasgulla

That evening I went out to dinner with some friends, the purpose being to ask my friend Seen Wai (pictured) to be a witness at my wedding under the title of Maid of Dishonour. So we went to a vegetarian South Indian restaurant (seriously, what type of restaurant can you NOT find in London).

While the starter and the mains did not have anything list-oriented I was able to find an Indian dessert that was appropriate. How to describe the rasgulla… basically like squeaky balls of milk that have been made into a cake-like substance. Almost like sweet mozzarella if the mozzarella had a bit more give to them.

Food item: Jamon Iberico de Bellota

So, I thought that would be it. But on the walk from the restaurant to Charing Cross station we got to talking about we had been up to recently and the talking turned to this bucket list and how I got a lot of foods in the previous 24 hours. Then we passed an Iberian ham store and I mentioned how some of these meats were on my list.

One thing lead to another and my friend Rhiannon talked to the guy behind the counter in Spanish and explained my bucket list and how tasting this ham was part of this. He was such a sweetheart as not only did he give us samples of two hams (including the list one) but he also gave some cheese samples to my friend Seen Wai since she is vegetarian.

The ham itself was gorgeous. More on the side of Parma Ham instead of Serrano Ham and it tasted better (and was a lot less fattier) than the Chorizo Iberico de Bellota. The taste was rich, the smell was sweet and it just melted in the mouth. It saddens me that it costs so much to buy this since it tastes so damned good.

Progress: 285/500

Oscar Bait: Mutiny On The Bounty

List Item: Watch all Best Picture Winners (to date)
Progress: 74/87Title: Mutiny On The Bounty
Director: Frank Lloyd
Year: 1935
Haul: 1 award in total

In a few days this list will gain a new movie (I’d love a film like Birdman to gain the title… but I guess we will just have to wait and see on that one), but for now I am going back 80 years into cinematic history to look at Mutiny On The Bounty. 

This has two rather interesting honours when it comes to Academy Awards. Firstly, it is the last film to only have won for Best Picture and nothing else (everything else, pretty much, being scooped up by The Informer) which puts it in rather dubious company alongside Broadway Melody and Grand Hotel. More positively, it found a way to split the vote by being the only film to ever have three nominations in the Best Actor category. The latter of these really speaks to the performances in the film by the lead actors, something that carried the film as it began to limp along in the final act.

The story of the mutiny on the Bounty has been adapted a number of times over the years with the likes of Mel Gibson, Marlon Brando and Anthony Hopkins all being drawn to the main roles. However, having seen the 1935 film, it will now be very hard to see another pair as strong as Charles Laughton and (the strangely moustache-free) Clark Gable. In fact, scratch that, since I am talking about two rather immortal actors giving one of their best performances it is impossible for them to be eclipsed.

The first two thirds of this movie are brilliant. The way that the tension ramps up between the captain and his crew through his, essentially, being an absolute bastard. However, after the actual mutiny occurs then… the film just loses a lot of what was making it great. The mutiny happened, it was bloodless and now you see the aftermath. Maybe I am just a bit of a sucker for period-based brutality but, there we are.

Also, in the back of my mind, I had what I already knew about the mutiny playing around. Other than the recent child abuse trials on the Pitcairn Islands (a number of those involved being the ancestors of the mutineers) it’s fairly common knowledge that the settling of the island was pretty doom-laden with rape and murder being common. Still, this is a movie under the Hayes Code and with box office draw Gable in a leading role… it had to end on some sort of hopeful not.

Music Monday: Jimi Hendrix in 1967

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 47/250

AreyouexpUK Axiscover
Title: Are You Experienced
Artist: The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Year: 1967
Position: #13
Title: Axis: Bold As Love
Artist: The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Year: 1967
Position: #168

It’s been a while since I did two albums in one go. Usually because of my job it isn’t the best idea. However, since I have the same artist releasing two albums in one year (the only time I have noticed this in the Top 250) I figured that this was a good time to make an exception.

The first thing to note is that these were both released in 1967 because the contract that they signed stipulated that this must be so. A bit short-sighted if you ask me, but they managed to eke out two highly acclaimed so who am I to judge really. Then again, if you look at the difference in the positioning between the debut album (#13 which makes it the second highest first album in this list after The Velvet Underground & Nico) I do wonder if more time and less pressure might have helped it scooch a few places higher… or maybe necessity is the mother of invention.

Listening to both of these albums all the way through back-to-back there were some things that immediately became apparent to me. Firstly, I am now on board with the commonly held idea that Hendrix is some sort of guitar wizard. Some of the noises that he is able to get out of his instrument during ‘If 6 was 9’ are incredible. The face that he is such an influence is something that I now completely get. I can now listen to St. Vincent’s shredding solo during ‘Northern Lights’ and appreciate the evolution it has made from its origins.

Secondly, it is hard to listen to these albums together without thinking about how much Jimi Hendrix was evolving in such a short space of time. We toss out the phrase “re-invention” way too often nowadays when we usually mean that the singer has put on a new hat and jacket. Here, however, there is a sonic shift from his debut, dabbling in a variety of different genres, to a more focused psychedelic sound. It does mean that, on the first listen Are You Experienced provides the more attention-grabbing listen because of the slightly greater variety, but Axis: Bold As Love does have charms all of its own.

Something that does hinder the listening of Are You Experienced is the fact that the UK and US both had different tracklistings, with the classic track ‘Purple Haze’ only appearing on the US version. As such I have gone for something which marries the two versions and is about 6 tracks longer. I am glad that this is an issue we don’t get as often in music as it is rather tiresome when you want to hear to the definitive version of an album.

As someone who mostly listens to pop music I have come away from this Jimi Hendrix cocoon with a few lessons about how the music I have listen has come about. Hendrix was one hell of an arranger and musician (less sold on his vocals, but it’s unusual for someone to be brilliant at everything). The fact that there are only three albums that were released before his induction into the “27 Club” is rather astonishing when considering the legacy he left behind. A bit like James Dean in that respect.

Good Eatin’: NaNoWriMo Extras – Part Two

List Item: Try 500 of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

For the weeks leading up to and my completion of NaNoWriMo I was still coming across a number of different foods that appeared on the list. This post is the second of two where I will be quickly going over them since they don’t have much else in common.

IMG_1126Food item: Cranberry

During two days of NaNoWriMo I was off work sick with a stomach bug that meant I did a lot of vomiting. I went to Morrison’s up the street to get some fruit to help fight the bug and I came across a punnet of cranberries, something I had never seen in a shop before.

I can now understand why these are sugared so much, since there really are not that sweet when eaten unprocessed. Despite being a berry they were crunchier than I had expected. They were also sour and woody with a taste that could be resinous at times. Like a lot of things I found that they were better the more I consumed them, they went really well when I floated them in Pepsi Max.

Food item: Gooseberry

Gooseberry fool, one of my favourite desserts when I was a lot younger. I haven’t had it in a long time as it essentially fruit mixed with whipped cream, but I missed gooseberry season this year so thought I would resurrect an old love. Plus, this is a use outlined in the book so I figured it would count. Cream and the sweet and sour interplay of gooseberries. Yum.

Food item: Turron De Jijona

When I was making notes for this on my phone to describe the flavour of this I wrote down that it was “amazeballs”. Thanks be to Rachel from work who brought this back from her trip to Barcelona.

I was never too fond of marzipan, and this really is like a mix between marzipan and nougat with the base covered in dark chocolate. There were some almond shards within the turron but it was mostly a thick, sliceable paste. I only regret that I didn’t have more of this.

Food item: Chipotle Chile

The chipotle chile pulled pork from Tesco has become a regular go-to since it is easy to make and it isn’t too bad calorically. Based on when I have cooked with chipotle paste a few years ago I am very aware of the taste, which is basically pure smoke with a hint of heat. I can see that it would go well in pretty much all barbeque sauces.

Food item: Cornish Fudge

Another office offering, this time fudge from Cornwall. Slightly more crumbly than other fudge that I have had. I ended up having two from the pack. The one with a hint of orange was… a little bit odd, but the regular one was sweet, creamy and delicious.

Progress: 277/500