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HDR without bracketing.

Story location: Home / photography /
19/Sep/2014

I have previously mentioned using the Clahe plugin in ImageJ/Fiji to create a sort of pseudo-HDR image from a 16 bit image from a digital camera.

I set the camera to record a raw image at low contrast to attempt to record as high a range of intensities as possible, then use Clahe to increase local contrast while retaining detail in highlights and shadows.

I recently installed pfstools which includes a lot of command-line tools to convert images and generate HDR images. I thought I would look into whether I could use these tools with RAW images from the camera.

It is possible to convert the RAW to a HDR file using:

pfsindcraw DSC_nnnn.RAW | pfsoutrgbe DSC_nnnn.hdr

When the image has been converted into a suitable HDR format, the different 'tone mapping' commands can be tried to see which ones produce a pleasing result. It can actually be quite difficult getting the balance right between retaining detail and producing an 'over-processed' image which looks too obviously like an HDR photograph.

The original RAW image
Simply taking the 16 bit RAW file and adjusting the contrast to show the full range of intensities can result in a flat looking image.

See more ....

Processed using Clahe
The same image, processed using the Clahe plugin in ImageJ, to retain shadow and highlight details while maintaining good contrast.

Processed using pfstools
Using pfstools tone mapping to increase local contrast and decrease the dynamic range.

Pfstools offers several different ways of converting the HDR file into a 256 bit colour image and a bit more trial and error may be needed to get a good result.



Hand-held HDR photography

Story location: Home / photography /
18/Sep/2014

Classic HDR photography usually takes a bracketed set of exposures and combines them to produce an image which retains detail in the shadows and highlights. Normally this needs a tripod to ensure the images can be combined without any pixel shift between them. Sometimes it isn't possible to use a tripod, especially if taking a photo in a confined space or a building where they are forbidden.

A lot of HDR generating software includes some form of image alignment which can be used to overcome a certain amount of camera movement. Most of the time this seems to work quite well but every now and then, especially if you are using a lens with a lot of distortion such as an ultra-wide, a simple alignment won't work because the distortion stretches out different parts of the picture by different amounts.

Several months go I encountered a piece of software called LensFun which a library of functions to correct for lens distortions. There is a Gimp plugin based on it (GimpLensFun) which is readily available for Linux and Windows and is part of the Gimp distribution available from the Gimp on OSX project at Sourceforge.

The 'batch process' function of Gimp can be used to apply the correction to a series of images which can then be used to generate an HDR image.

See more ....

Astley Castle, looking out
A single exposure is insufficient to capture the dynamic range of the scene.

Astley Castle, looking out
Combining the corrected images increases the dynamic range.



Regional Cakeathon L: Liverpool Tart

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /
14/Sep/2014

When I began this A to Z of regional baking, I started to look for recipes named after places I knew or had been to. When I was looking for recipes for the letter L I found this and Lincolnshire Gingerbread. The latter is a recipe from Grantham, which we visited last year on our way to Skegness, but since I grew up on The Wirral and we would occasionally go shopping to Liverpool, I thought the more local recipe might be a better choice.

When I found this recipe, I thought I should give it a go. It's not as well known as the Manchester Tart - apparently the recipe was recently rediscovered in a hand-written recipe book.

Liverpool Tart

The original version of the recipe was published in a village newsletter (orignal web page no longer available but is archived here and is reproduced below).

See more ....

From a family cookbook dating back to the 1790s

Liverpool Tart

  • ½lb moist sugar (use a dark brown sugar)
  • 2oz butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lemon
  • pastry

Put the butter and sugar into a moderate oven to melt. When melted, let it cool. Boil your lemon whole very slowly (or it will break) until quite soft. Mince it whole as it is, saving the juice as much as possible and taking out the pips. Mince very fine. Beat the egg well. Mix all well together. Line a flat open tart dish with good paste [ie. pastry] and pour in the mixture to one uniform thickness (about ½ an inch), cross bar over and bake. Serve hot or cold.

The version of the recipe I followed came from the link at the top of the page. I made a quantity of sweet shortcrust pastry and while it was cooling down in the fridge I made the filling:

  • One lemon with (most) of the pips remove - see below.
  • 8 oz brown sugar
  • 2 oz butter
  • 1 egg (beaten)

I melted the butter, stirred in the sugar, blitzed the lemon in the food processor, then when the butter/sugar mixture had cooled a bit I mixed everything together.

I didn't blind-bake the pastry but poured the mixture in before cooking at gas mark 5 for 22-25 minutes.

Overlooked lemon pip

The resulting tart is a bit like a softer version of a treacle tart. The filling was a bit sticky with a few crunchy bits: the lemon had lots of pips. I chopped it up before liquidizing it, and there were were several pips in each piece.

There is an interesting discussion on the history of the Liverpool Tart in the PDF available from www.gerryjones.me.uk. Apparently several bakers in and around the city have started producing them.



Updated Seemore Plugin

Story location: Home / computing / blosxom /
13/Sep/2014

This website uses the seemore plugin which makes it possible to only show the start of an entry, and expand to show the full item when a link is clicked. The original version reloaded the entire page but I have modified the plugin to use the JQuery javascript language so it now expands the item in-situ without having to reload.

It works in a similar fashion to the updated gallery plugin and also needs

<script src="http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.11.1/jquery.min.js"></script>

to be added to the head section of the webpage.

The updated plugin can be downloaded here.



Guy's Cliffe House

Story location: Home / Blog /
13/Sep/2014

The Heritage Open Weekend continues and we visited another site this morning, again choosing one we hadn't been too before. I originally thought that Guy's Cliffe House, at Warwick, was just a ruined building to look at but there was more on site, including a medieval church which is now a masonic chapel, and various other pathways and passages to walk through.

 

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Click on the thumbnail to view the image



Astley Castle

Story location: Home / Blog /
12/Sep/2014

The Heritage Open Weekend is here again. The weekend actually started yesterday but we normally only go anywhere on the Saturday or Sunday. This time we actually went somewhere on the Friday.

Astley Castle near Nuneaton has recently been renovated and turned into an expensive holiday home. The open weekend would probably be the only chance we would get to see inside so we thought we'd be silly to miss out.

 

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Click on the thumbnail to view the image



Updated Gallery Software

Story location: Home / computing / blosxom /
10/Sep/2014

One problem with still using the fairly ancient Blosxom blogging software for my website is that it receives practically no updates any more and most of the plugins aren't being updated either.

Although everything still works, it would sometimes be good to have a more modern, better supported system, I have been staying with Blosxom because it would be a pain to transfer everything to a new format. One of the main problems would be the photo galleries which use ImageGallery, where the images and captions are all stored in different files, in different folders. I would need to find a way of converting the data to a new format. If I stick with Blosxom (and ImageGallery) then I would have to put up with the whole page being reloaded when a new image is selected.

Since there doesn't seem to be anything better at the moment I decided to update the plugin to use JQuery which lets you easily change document elements and load files from the server.

My new version, ImageGalleryJQ is a drop in replacement for ImageGallery but loads the images and descriptions without reloading the entire page. To use, simply rename the file to imagegallery and copy to the plugins folder. The JQuery library needs to be loaded by including something like

Add

<script src="http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.11.1/jquery.min.js"></script>

to the head section of the webpage.

All of the gallery pages in a website will automatically use the new plugin.



Regional Cakeathon K: Kentish Huffkins

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /
03/Sep/2014

This recipe is a bit of an odd one out since the Kentish Huffkin is a bread roll and not a cake but since it is traditionally served with fruit and sometimes cream, I treated it as a dessert item and decided it could count as one of my regional cakes.

While I was looking for recipes for this I came across a book called A Slice of Britain which covers more or less the same ground as I'm doing here. (A friend has since bought it and reported back that it's disappointing but that's not important here since I used the recipe as inspiration instead of following it slavishly). I found another recipe in The Telegraph which used milk and water instead of just water.

title

My Recipe

  • 2 cups of Bread Flour
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • approx 3/4 cup of milk+water mixture
  • 20g of butter

First thing in the morning I mixed everything except the butter and left it to rise. At lunchtime I kneaded the dough, and added a bit more flour since the dough was a bit sticky. I dotted the dough with the butter and folded it in followed by more kneading to mix it thoroughly.

The amounts I used were enough to make 4 buns. I left them to rise before poking my thumb in to make the dent. I baked them for 20 minutes at gas mark 7, turning them over half way though. They then needed to be left to cool under a cloth, to keep the crust nice and soft.

We tried the huffkins with some jam and butter. They were ok but to be honest they were just bread rolls. Quite nice bread rolls, and the recipe was easy to do if I needed to make rolls again, but they weren't anything special.



Raspberry Bakewell Cake

Story location: Home / food_and_drink /
20/Aug/2014

Despite this recipe being named after Bakewell, this is nothing to do with my A-Z of Cakes since the cake is really named after the Bakewell Tart and not the town itself. The 'genuine article' is the Bakewell Pudding, not the pastry based tart you can get in the shops everywhere else.

We first cooked this cake a few years ago, following a recipe we cut from a newspaper. An almost identical recipe features on the Good Food magazine site but uses more raspberries than the one we followed.

Our main change was to use diced marzipan in the middle layer and also on top instead of flaked almonds.

Raspberry Bakewell Cake

The resulting cake is soft, moist and delicious.



Spaghetti Loaf

Story location: Home / food_and_drink /
17/Aug/2014

This is a recipe we've been thinking about doing for a while, ever since we first read about it. It's a similar idea to the picnic loaves which are a cross between a sandwich and a stuffed loaf.

The first step is to make the pasta sauce. We often do a 'meat sauce' in the pressure cooker, simply putting chopped vegetables (such as onion, pepper, courgette, leek, garlic) in the pan along with a tin or two of tomatoes, some herbs and seasoning and a packet of mince. The lid goes on the pressure cooker and the sauce is cooked for an hour or so.

The next step is to make the dough. For this I used my normal 'mostly white' loaf, using milk instead of water, and making the dough slightly softer than normal.

Spaghetti Loaf: Roll out the dough
Roll out the dough and sprinkle some cornmeal in the centre (this helps stop the bottom going soggy during cooking).

Spaghetti Loaf
Mix the cooked spaghetti with the sauce and spread over the dough.

See more ....
Spaghetti Loaf
Dot the pasta with diced mozzarella.

Spaghetti Loaf
Cut slits in the dough, going outwards from the pile of pasta. Fold the slits over to approximate a 'plait'. There was spare dough at the edges which we used to make doughballs. Brush the loaf with melted butter and cover with grated cheese (such as parmesan or pecorino).

Spaghetti Loaf
Bake at gas mark 4 (180C) for half an hour. I assembled the loaf on some baking parchment and transferred it to a pizza stone to cook. The loaf came out well, with no sign of a soggy bottom.

I was surprised by how straightforward this was to make. The 'meat sauce' is something we regularly make and often have in the fridge or freezer. The bread dough is quick to make and just needs to be left to prove for a few hours.

This has spurred me on to try other stuffed loaves. A couple of years ago I made a macaroni cheese pie (inspired by a pie we bought while out at a country show) so I think a macaroni loaf would work well. The cheese sauce would have to be quite thick but I can't see why it wouldn't be as good as the spaghetti loaf.



Regional Cakeathon J: Jersey Pudding

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /
14/Aug/2014

I struggled a bit finding a suitable recipe for the letter J but found something called Jersey Pudding. This was a sponge pudding with dark sugar and raisins and sounded a bit like a christmas pudding but with a bit less fruit. Since I'm not a huge christmas pudding fan I used a mixture of dark and white sugar and changed the raisins for apricots.

The inspiration for the recipe came from the Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery book. I scaled it down a bit so I could cook it in the microwave in our smaller pyrex jug. It took about 6-7 minutes on medium in an 800W microwave.

recipe from Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery, 1894

It was my first attempt at a sponge pudding (as far as I can remember) and it came out ok. It tasted very rich and buttery but it should, since there was 40g per serving in there.

Jersey Pudding reinterpreted as an Apricot Sponge

My Recipe

My version of the pudding is very different to the original so it shouldn't really be called a Jersey Pudding. Since I didn't have rice flour I whizzed some oats in the food processor.

  • Flour 20g
  • Ground Oats 40g
  • Sugar 40g
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Butter 80g
  • Dried Apricots 40g
  • Lemon Juice 1 tbs
  • Eggs 2
  • Milk, 1 and a bit tbs

Work the dry ingredients into the butter then add fruit and lemon juice followed by egg and milk.

Pour into a buttered dish and cook in the microwave on medium for 6-7 minutes.



Kenwood Bread

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /
28/Jul/2014

We bought a Kenwood Chef food processor at the weekend, to replace our old hand-held mixer which has developed a slightly dodgy switch.

We tried it out last night, making our fluffy pancakes using the beater attachment. This afternoon I made a bread dough to try out the bread hook. The recipe which came with it used 3lb of flour which is rather a lot so I tried half that, using my usual 1/3 wholemeal, 2/3 white bread flour mixture.

The dough hook seems to need a large amount of dough to work properly, the amount I made was probably the bare minimum, so if I used it to make a pizza base I would either need to make a loaf at the same time or make several weeks of dough and freeze batches of it.

Loaf made using a Kenwood Mixer

The bread was more or less the same as my usual hand-made bread but took much less effort. I only had to do a small amount of kneading at the end to shape the loaf before its final proving.



Around Leicester Castle

Story location: Home / Blog / work /
26/Jul/2014

I've been doing some work in Leicester for a few months. I had to test out a new camera which has been bought for a project which needs images taken at regular intervals.

I decided to take the camera for a bit of a walk at lunchtime, along with a fisheye lens, and took some photos in the Leicester Castle area.

Leicester Castle Tower
One of the towers at the approach to the Castle.

St Mary De Castro Church

St Mary De Castro Church
St Mary De Castro Church



Regional Cakeathon I: Isle of Wight Cracknel

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /
29/Jun/2014

It has been quite a long time since I did one of the regional recipes. I haven't forgotten about them but I have been very busy recently. My new job keeps me out of the house for 12 hours a day during the week so I have very little time in the evenings. Yesterday I finally managed to make the Isle of Wight Cracknels. They take quite a long time but most of that was between the boiling and baking steps when they were left to dry.

I decided to make Isle of Wight Cracknels because I've never made a traditional biscuit before (i.e. a 'twice cooked' one, which is where the word biscuit actually comes from). There are a lot of historical mentions of the biscuit and a few published recipes but I couldn't find any pictures, so I had no idea what 'form into cracknels' actually means. I decided to just roll them out and cut them into a variety of shapes.

extract from The Isle of Wight Tourist, and Companion at Cowes
Extract from The Isle of Wight Tourist, and Companion at Cowes by R. Moir, published in 1830.

See more ....

Cracknels in New Zealand

A mention of Cracknels from a newspaper: New Zealand Colonist and Port Nicholson Advertiser from 1st August 1843.

To make the biscuits, I mixed together: 400g of flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp mixed spice and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. I mixed in 200g of softened butter and beat in one egg to form a stiff paste. I rolled out the paste, cut out the biscuits and dropped them a few at a time into a pan of simmering water. When they began to float I fished them out and put them into a bowl of cold water. After they had all been boiled and cooled, I put them on cooling racks to dry out. (As I mention below, I sprinkled sugar and seeds on some of them) When they had dried out I baked them at gas mark 6 for 25-30 minutes, turning them over half way through.

Cracknel Recipe
The Cracknel recipe from Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery.

The biscuits came out more like pastry disks which, now I look more closely at the ingredients, shouldn't be a surprise really.

Since the recipe I followed doesn't include any sugar, and I didn't want to add any since I was trying to stay faithful to the old 1883 recipe from Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery, I didn't add any to the mixture but I did split the mix into three parts and sprinkle sugar on one set, some sugared fennel seeds (leftover from the Bath Buns) on another set and left the final set plain.

(I had found an almost identical recipe in a book called The Canadian Housewife's Manual of Cookery which includes an unspecified amount of sugar but I had forgotten about it until I came to write this up today)

alternative cracknel recipe
Cracknel recipe from The Canadian Housewife's Manual of Cookery.

Some of the biscuits had puffed up while others had stayed flat. While this didn't affect the taste at all, the puffed up ones had a softer texture and were nicer to eat.

Isle of Wight Cracknel

I tried a couple of the biscuits last night, before they had cooled down fully, and the mixed spice flavour came through quite well but the biscuits could do with being a bit sweeter. Even the ones which I sprinkled sugar on didn't really have much of a sweet taste. One of the newer variations, which include quite a lot of sugar, might be more suitable for the modern palate.



Pizza Deux Chevaux

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / pizza /
21/Jun/2014

Last month we went on a short break to Lincolnshire and brought back some locally made flavoured cheeses (the Lymm Bank cheeses we often get from the Living Heritage country shows we go to).

We have just got back from a week in France and brought back a range of different foods, including some smoked horsemeat sausages. I've probably accidentally eaten horsemeat, especially given how widespread the food contamination problem was last year but this is the first time I have knowingly eaten it.

Pizza Deux Chevaux

The pizza has slices of the sausage topped with slices of horserasish cheese so I felt that it should be called a '2 Horse Pizza'.

This post also appears on the Pizza Blog.