Sunday, 21 February 2010

Crisps & Soup

Homemade Crisps / Potato Chips

Yesterday I decided to try to make crisps - or potato chips as the American's call them. I've been wanting to try for a while now and never got around to it, but looking in the cupboard in the morning I discovered half a dozen left over Baby New Potatoes from last weeks dinner so figured it was worth a try to use them up.

Because "simple" is my middle and last name I looked up on the web the best (i.e easiest) way to make them. The first result was to slice them, soak in vegetable oil, then put in the microwave. I was a little bit dubious that this would really work as to my knowledge a microwave oven never makes things crispy, and by their very nature, crisps need to be crispy! But I gave it a go....sure enough they came out soggy and remained so even after dabbing with kitchen toweling and leaving for a while. Into the bin they went.

The two remaining methods are to oven bake or to deep fry. I chose the latter method to try next, basically because anything I put into our oven tends to come out black. I swear the damned things got a nuclear core. Its not just "fan assisted" its got isotopes as well.

I deviated slightly from the YouTube video I watched first as they used a heck of a lot of vegetable oil. I just got my smallest saucepan, put about a cup or sunflower oil in it and heated it up until it bubbled. Having already thinly sliced the potatoes up - I left the skins on as thats where the fibre is - I added them a slice at a time to the pan. Be careful not to overload the pan as its better to do a few at a time.

I guess they took about 5 minutes to cook. Its very easy to tell because they become golden brown - just like crisps, and when you gently move them around with a slotted serving spoon they feel "crispy". Ensure that they are crisp though because the last thing you want is "soggy" ones. Leave any that arent light brown in the pan a little longer and remove the ones which are done onto kitchen towelling to dab them dry. Add another load of potato slices to the pan so this can be frying while youre doing something else.

Next I put the finished crisps into a bowl and seasoned. I did the three batches of crisps I made into three different flavours. The first I sprinkled Paprika over, put the lid on the bowl and shook them to get them all coated. The next batch I made I finished off with ground pepper, and the final ones I finished off with just salt.

And that was it. Extremely simple really.

Homemade Vegetable & Bacon Soup

This is something I've been making for a few months now and is an adaption of my sister Madeleine's recipe which was amazingly good. This is my cheapskate method, which the family love anyway.

Serves 6-7 people
The 4 of us eat this and theres enough left over for whoevers at home during the week to eat a bowl for lunch for a few days.


1.5Kg Carrots
1 head of Broccoli
1/2 a Swede (optional)
2 Beef stock cubes (I use "Kallo" brand)
6 rashers of chopped smoked bacon (streaky is good but any type is ok)
1 tsp dried Ginger
1 pinch of dried Chilli flakes
1 tsp dried Garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tsp of Chicken Tikka Massala powder

You will need a hand blender for this recipe too.

1. Put the stock cubes in a large soup tureen. Add the dried Ginger, Garlic & Chilli.
2. Boil a kettle of water and pour this into the tureen, then stir until all of the stock cubes are completely disintegrated.
3. Peel the Carrots and then top and tail them. You can either slice them and put them into a blender or manually chop them into small pieces with a knife. The choice is yours. I opt for the blender myself a its a long job chopping up 1.5 kilos of the buggers by hand.
Either way, you want them small because you will need to blend them again later on and its easier to do then if they're small.
4. Once all the Carrots are chopped small add them to the pot and place onto the hot plate of the cooker on a high setting. If there isnt enough stock to cover the vegetables, add some more water, but be careful not to add too much.
5. While thats heating up chop up the head of Broccoli. Discard the large stem and add the chopped heads into the pan & stir.
6. Bring the whole lot to the boil and then simmer for about 30 minutes.
7. After this period remove the pan from the heat and hand blend the vegetables. You are after a thick finish to the soup, but the density of it is really up to you.

If you have to, add more water. If there is too much liquid, then either break up a couple of slices of bread into small cubes and blend it in with the soup, or add a couple of large peeled potatoes. They will eventually absorb some of the liquid and then remove and discard them. I usually use the bread solution as its cheap and easy if I have to.

8. Next heat a frying pan, add 1 tsp of oil and add the chopped bacon pieces. Sprinkle over 2 tsp of the curry powder, then stir them around and sprinkle over the remaining 2 tsp of powder. Fry the bacon until its golden brown.
9. Place the cooked bacon equally into 4 soup bowls and ladle the soup over the top.
10 Serve with slices of crusty, buttered bread.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

A New Toy

For Valentines Day I bought my wife a Samsung N130 Netbook. I had the idea of getting her one of these way before Christmas, but at the time I already had something else for her so I figured Valentines Day was as good an excuse to get her one than any, plus its ages until her birthday.
Initially I was after the Samsung NC10 which is quite old but all reviews claim is still one of the best for the money. Unfortunately I missed the boat by about 4 days as every shop I went to said things like "oh if only you'd come in last week we had stock then" and "its just been phased out, sorry".
I did manage to find two in PC World locally but they were both display models. In good condition but when I asked how much they'd give me off the retail price for buying one they refused to offer any discount. I actually said to the guy "look I'm here now prepared to buy this. You aren't getting any more in and its a superseded model. Surely its in your interests to sell it?" Still he wouldn't budge, so I walked out disgusted.
Giving up on the NC10 I went for the N130 which is one of the newer models and on the face of it just as good. Most of the online stores had it for the same price so I randomly bought it from Amazon UK.
My wife was delighted with it - much to my relief - and has used it every day since. Mostly she will use it to watch BBC iPlayer, check Ben's school website and generally browse the Internet so its ideal for the job and she can sit in the comfort of her lounge chair while doing so.
Added bonuses to the ownership of one of these is that Ben can do his homework on it from the table rather than at my desk plus maybe Chris will be interested in it or one like it when he gets into University later in the year.
The only issue I had with it was getting the wifi to interface with my router. Fortunately a call to BT Broadband Services sorted this out, although it took about half an hour to remedy and involved the engineer taking over the Netbook remotely. If I'm honest it may have all stemmed from a wrong address I put in there initially but which took her a long time to discover.
Anyway I highly recommend this little Netbook for anyone who just wants to surf and watch video's. You may say "Its not exactly a token of love", however I would reply that it certainly is. Okay its not flowers or chocolates, but those things are fleeting. This has use and shows how much I care about her, which is a heart achingly huge amount that I could never express sufficiently.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Of Holidays & Cupboards

I had a day off work yesterday (Monday). The amazingly good thing about it was that it doesn't come out of my holiday entitlement for this year. Even better, it didn't come out of last years either.

Last week my boss said to me that as it was a little quiet I ought to take the two days holiday entitlement I have left over from last year (it was all supposed to used up by x-mas). I remember saying to him back then that as it was busy I may have to defer one or two days over to this year and he agreed that was okay. Now I'm pretty sure that despite being busy I eventually managed to use up all of my holiday in December, although I never told him this. So he has it in his head that I still have two days left over - well, one day now, I guess. Naturally I tried to come clean and inform him of his inaccuracy however something was sticking in my throat whenever I went to say the words.

Sadly the weather was cold and wet and yet again I decided that going out on a bike was the folly of fools and numpty's. However even that would have been better than what my wife had in store for me. If I had but known that she was plotting for us to go out to B&Q to look at kitchen wall units for the utility room. Bugger! That bike ride was beginning to look quite good now. In fact as the afternoon wore on a miserable ride in the cold and wet was looking decidedly superb.

I hadn't quite realised how expensive a wall carcass (sans doors) for a standard kitchen unit was going to be until I looked at some of the prices. Add that to the fact that we wanted More than one of them, plus doors and it was looking at being well over £100. Now I don't begrudge the fact that we need cupboards in the utility room, Ive thought the same myself before, but its not like they're going to be on display to landed gentry or anything. In fact after a week we wont even look at them in awe. Besides, all you see are the flipping doors, and they're probably the cheapest part! I hate spending money on stuff you never see or that performs a mundane task which when alls said and done, you can do without.

After making sure my wallet was even deeper in my pocket than usual, I was considering making a run for it when I spotted some bookcases on racking. There were singles or banks of 2, 3 or 4 units and they came with separate doors or drawers. The oak veneered bank of 3 were only £19 and at £4.99 a door leaf, if we bought three sets this would work out cheaper than kitchen cupboards and we'd have bigger shelves too. More bang for your buck! So we loaded these onto our trolley and paid for them. My wife kept cheerily saying to me "I've saved you some money dear" every five minutes. My reply to this was "Well no you haven't dear. We've spent money whichever way you look at it, so that's not saving anything, and besides I was the one who saved money if either of us could be construed to have done so because it was me who saw the bookcases, not you"

On opening a box to assemble one of the units it transpired that you have to fit the doors at the same time. Not a problem you may think! But you'd be wrong! You see the bookcase is sold on the assumption that you wont want doors on the fronts, so there are no holes for hinges, magnets, etc and all these needed to be drilled. Suffice to say that it took me almost all afternoon just to assemble one of them. Even then I didn't get around to hanging it on the wall, so it looks like I know what I'll be doing next weekend; building the other two units and hanging all three of them up - once Ive located where the studs are in the plasterboard drywall.

I guess the moral of the weekend is this; Don't put off something shitty because it's shitty, because something even shittier will in all probability come along that you'll have to do.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Let Us Spray

So as promised here are a couple of photos of the bike in its two coat primed state. My plan was foiled this weekend by the constant interminably cold & breezy weather preventing me from doing any more spraying.

"Why are you spraying outside?" I hear you ask. Well the answer is that I wasn't when I did these two coats the other week. Instead I hung the frame from the rafters of the sun lounge at the rear of our house and sprayed it there. Everything was going great until at the end of the day when I went to get it down I asked Ben to assist me. As soon as he stepped into the room he said "Dad it's awfully dusty in here".

I was about to brush the comment aside with a jokey "yeah that's because your mother sits on her bum eating cakes all day" (a total lie of course), when I looked around properly for the first time and saw......"bloody hell!!!"

It was only then that something triggered in the back of my mind of spraying my VW Beetle over 20 years ago and the bright Apple Green bogeys and nasal hair I got, plus the green dust everywhere. Back then that was in my dads garage. This was a completely different kettle of fish and a bit of a bollock too. Mrs Kung Foo was going to go absolutely &%*$ing spare when she got home from work!

Quick as a flash we had the bike frame unhung and I got a bowl of water and some wipes. As soon as I started moving things about I could see the difference by the white rings under pots and the concrete floor was decidedly dirty looking. Well I did all of the main areas she was bound to notice; the skirting's, the cills, anything that was supposed to be white, and even did the floor - well mostly - and I am pleased (and relieved) to say that a week later on she still hasn't noticed. I have no doubt that one day she will spot the grey tint to something and investigate further and if I cant do a proper job by then I am doomed.

Especially because that night when standing in the sun lounge, she asked me where I had sprayed the frame & I said "tsk! outside of course. I'm not that stupid. It'd make a real mess in here".