Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Quote from Soren Kierkegaard

competition-winning photo by Dave Greene
taken in the Brecon Beacons
"Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. But by sitting still, and the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill. If one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right."

I've just read this inspirational and timely quote in Follow The Money by Steve Boggan. I'm in Austin, Texas, on holiday. We're enjoying the beautiful weather - sorry to gloat! - and have been walking at least a couple of hours every day for a fortnight now, both here and last week in New Orleans. Whether around the cities, through the wonderful Parks or out on hiking trails into tamed wilderness, a good walk definitely is the best way to clear niggling thoughts and worries.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Bacon Savoury Roll recipe

This recipe came about when I was trying to recreate a meal that Dave's Mum used to make when he was a child. Apparently what I came up with is nothing like the original but is tasty enough so it's become a regular wintertime dinner.

Bacon Savoury Roll with sweetcorn
6oz self raising flour (or plain flour and baking powder)
3oz vegetable suet
3-4 tbsp cold water
Pinch of salt

Olive oil
3 bacon rashers
1 small onion
1-2 tsp dried mixed herbs
Black pepper

Put the flour, suet and salt into a large mixing bowl. Slowly add the water, mixing it into the dry ingredients to make a dough. You might not need all the water. Cover the dough with clingfilm and leave to rest while you prepare the filling.
Chop the bacon and fairly finely chop the onion.  Heat a couple of glugs of olive oil and fry the bacon and onion until both are lightly browned.
Sprinkle the worktop with flour and roll out the dough to a 'rectangle' about 1/2cm thick.
Lay the bacon, onion and mixed herbs evenly over the dough leaving about 1cm clear at the edges.
Roll up the dough like a swiss roll and pinch the sides together.
Loosely cover with tin foil making sure all the edges are sealed to prevent steam getting in but allowing room for the dough to rise. Roll may increase size by about another half.
Put into a steamer and steam for 3 hours.

I like to serve the roll with sweetcorn and ketchup.
Also, if you are organised enough, make up the roll the day before and cover it with the foil, but then keep it in the fridge overnight before progressing to steaming it. The bacon juices soak into the dough and make it much tastier. You'll need to add a bit more steaming time though to make up for the roll being that much colder at the start.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Mushroom Soup (recipe)

Mushroom Soup
Quick and easy recipe post here!

I nearly always make 'End-Of-The-Week' soup for Saturday lunch to use up any left over veg in the fridge before we go shopping again on Sundays. These soups are all based around the same method. I have salad lunchboxes for work so there are cherry tomatoes and peppers left and sometimes lentils, but this soup requires the special purchase of a whole tub +Sainsbury's closed cup mushrooms - last of the big spenders! They are usually £1 for a 300g tub but are often reduced when close to the sell-by date. The mushrooms don't need to be in perfect condition or even all of the same type.

Olive oil
1 small onion, fairly finely chopped
300g mushrooms, quartered
1 tsp dried dill
500ml light stock, vegetable or chicken
Salt & pepper
Splash of brandy (optional)

Heat a couple of glugs of olive oil in a saucepan and fry the onion until softened but not browned. 
Add the mushrooms and the dill and stir to coat everything in the oil.
Add the stock and bring to the boil. When boiling reduce to simmer and cover the pan to prevent too much evaporation. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until mushrooms are well cooked.
Remove from the heat and taste. Season and add a splash of brandy if you've got some / if you want to.

When cooled a little, blend the soup and reheat until almost boiling. Serve with hot buttered toast.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Unexpected delight of Micmacs

Did you see the fantastical French film on Film4 last night? 

Micmacs (Micmacs à tire-larigot) from 2009 was directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the same person who directed Amelie and A Very Long Engagement. This one one didn't have Audrey Tautou but does have the same quirky humour and inventiveness especially in the design and construction of the scavengers cave-like home. I loved the mechanical people that the artist Tiny Pete (Michel Crémadès) fashioned out of scavenged stuff and which were actually created by sculptor Gibert Peyre. The plot is suitably silly with Bazil (Dany Boon) and his new found friends striving to bring down two competing arms dealers, one of whom manufactured the landmine that killed his father and the other whose bullet nearly killed Bazil himself. The cast are all great especially Dominique Pinon as Buster the human cannonball, Julie Ferrier as Elastic Girl the contortionist and Omar Sy, who I recently saw in Untouchable, as Remington the former ethnographer.

I highly recommend Micmacs and, at the time of writing, the DVD is only £4 with free shipping from Amazon!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Tonight I ran all the way home

Me after first 5K race
(Apr 11)
and this was by choice, not because I was running away from anything! This is the first time I've managed this since October last year and I'm sitting here now feeling very proud of myself and with a big grin on my face. OK, when I say 'ran' I mean 'jogged', and I did stick to the shortest possible distance which is about 4.5 miles, but I didn't even have to wait to cross a single road AND I made it ALL the way up that nasty hill from the old folks home on the roundabout.

Can I get a Woo Hoo?

Late last year, I was almost ready for the Bexhill Half and feeling pretty good about myself. But having hardly run since getting a miserable cold in the autumn, I have put on a stone and just feel sluggish a lot of the time. My running mojo vanished completely. This is depressing and my depressions lead to cake shops which leads to clothes not fitting which leads to more depression which ... you get the picture.

Me after Brighton 10K
(Nov 11)
My inspiration was marshaling the Eastbourne Half Marathon last weekend. I spent a couple of hours standing in front of traffic on one of the Atlantic Drive road junctions just after mile 8. Several work colleagues were taking part and I also saw a couple of people from Parkrun (must get back there soon). It was bitterly cold but all (except one) of the drivers were patient and lovely and seeing more than 1500 people striving to achieve their own 13.1 miles was magical. Mojo back!

I walked the six miles back to Polegate that afternoon. I ran most of the way home on Monday (damn hill), and today I kept going the whole way! Next week I'm going for the-whole-way-again, possibly followed by the-whole-way-by-the-slightly-longer-route.

Big thanks to all the Half Marathonners! The way I feel right now, next year I'll be joining you!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Why I wasn't convinced by the ending of Bent

Last week I went to the Little Theatre in Eastbourne to see Bootcamp's production of Bent, Martin Sherman's drama of the persecution of gay men during the Holocaust. It was excellent and I came away quite emotional. The play is certainly thought-provoking, so much so that I have spent several hours thinking over the work I saw - however, the more I think about it, the less I agree with the final moments.

My morning-after reactions are posted in the Comments of this Theatrical Eastbourne post which specifically talks about the Bootcamp Production and doesn't give away the ending.  
If you have not yet seen the play and don't want to know how it ends, stop reading this post now!

This post contains spoilers!

Early on in the second act, Horst and Max discuss the electric fence which surrounds them. They talk about some men in the camp who commit suicide by throwing themselves onto the fence, positing the argument that orchestrating their own deaths is the only freedom remaining to them. Horst is not ashamed of his sexuality and has made no attempt to hide it as Max has done. The two become lovers, Max falling in love with Horst as I don't think he has allowed himself to do with previous partners. Horst tries to show Max how to be proud and accepting of what he is.
Then comes the disaster of the sick Horst being singled out by a Nazi guard. Given the choice - which is really no choice at all - of the electric fence or being shot, Horst makes a brief, futile dash away from suicide, 'forcing' a guard to kill him. In the Bootcamp production, Ben Woodward as Horst played this scene with a stunning blend of desperation and immense dignity, creating a truly powerful moment of theatre. 
Max reverently carries Horst's body away, talking about love, how he finally understands love and believes he is capable of such deep emotion. He swaps shirts with Horst. Max now wears the pink triangle. Horst has not died in vain because Max is now proud to be identified as a gay man.

And then he makes a run for the fence and kills himself. End of play. WTF!

Max has just made this tremendous breakthrough of self-discovery, but immediately throws it all away by dying? Admittedly, it is a fabulous dramatic device with a major shock value! However, I'm just not convinced that this is what Max would have done. We had already seen him expend so much effort on wheeling and dealing, getting medicines and better food and even his yellow star. Discussing the play with friends, it has been suggested that Max couldn't bear to live without Horst but I'm not convinced by this argument. Surely he would have chosen to live, discovering uses for his new-found self-belief?

Perhaps I missed an important clue earlier on? 
Perhaps not being a gay man myself means there's something I don't 'get'?

Help me out here! If you've seen any production of Bent, please Comment how you felt about Max's ultimate suicide?


Friday, 1 March 2013

Chicken and Chorizo Stew recipe

Another Spanish-inspired dish today and one that was originally created by us to use up leftovers so it's both tasty and thrifty. We like pasta penne with tomato and chorizo but a whole chorizo ring is too much for one meal so about a third gets put back in the fridge. Also, a whole chicken - even a small one - will do us for its original roast dinner with plenty of good white meat left to make this stew. The leg meat is also fine to use in the stew if you want, but Dave's not so keen on it so I normally use that up in a lunchbox salad for me. A pint of stock made from the chicken bones and that's a pretty good £6 worth. The quantities below are for two but are quite vague as it depends on how much of each ingredient we have. Experiment to find the flavour combination you like best.
Chicken and Chorizo Stew

olive oil
6-8 inches of chorizo sliced into half-cm thick rounds
half a large onion, fairly finely chopped
small new potatoes, cut in half (or left whole if they're really tiny)
400g tin chopped tomatoes
200ml chicken stock
left over roasted chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
salt, pepper, dried mixed herbs

Pour a glug of olive oil into a saucepan and heat. Add the chorizo and fry for a couple of minutes until the oil starts to colour. 
Add the onion, lower the heat, and cook until the onion is soft.
Add the potatoes, tomatoes and stock and bring to the boil. Add the chicken and simmer for about an hour or until the potatoes are cooked through. 
Season to taste and serve.
I've submitted this recipe to Credit Crunch Munch which is a fun initiative from Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food 4 All to find budget-conscious recipes, saving some money whilst still enjoying good food. I've followed Fuss Free Flavours for a couple of years but this is the first recipe I've submitted. There's several blogs taking part in Credit Crunch Munch and I always find great ideas for new meals and flavours.