We have been fans of the Great British Bake Off since it first started and occasionally I cook something inspired by the programme. This week they did a Fougasse, which I hadn't heard of but looked good. The version on the programme was flavoured with herbs but I thought I would start with a plain version then try flavoured ones another time.
I followed the bread part of the recipe precisely, scaling it down a bit since I didn't need two loaves.
- 300g (2¼ cups) of bread flour
- 6g salt
- one sachet of yeast
- 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 200 ml warm water
The method involved adding ¾ of the water at the start, then slowly adding the rest, using a food mixer with a dough hook. I followed it to the letter, including the 8 minute mixing time.
I actually split the dough in 2, adding extra flour to one half to use for a pizza base. The other half I left as-is and shaped into an approximate leaf shape and cut down the middle and diagonally from the centre.
After about an hour or so proving, I transferred the bread, still on the baking paper, onto the pizza stone and baked it (at gas mark 7) for 15 minutes.
It looks a bit irregular (or informal as Mary Berry might say) but that was mainly because it slid off the tray while I was getting ready to transfer it to the pizza stone. We ate it with some dips. I made the cheese and courgette dip again, but this time using cream cheese and pecorino instead of goats cheese. The fougasse was good. The outside was crispy while the inside was soft and fluffy. The dip was cheesy and went well with it.
Next time, I will add some extra flavours to the bread. Possibly garlic and chilli or parmesan/pecorino. We have some fresh herbs in the garden (and more chopped in the freezer) so I could also do Paul Hollywood's herb version too.
I was watching the new episode of Top Gear on the BBC iplayer and I noticed something slightly dodgy during one sequence. Co-presenter Richard Hammond was pretending to hide from one of the guests (Mike Rutherford from Genesis) when I noticed the picture had been reversed.
I wouldn't have noticed if it hadn't been for the 'SONY' boxes on the floor and the box of kitchen foil on the table.
Earlier today we finished watching the Indian Doctor, which is a BBC TV programme which was on every day last week. I don't know why the BBC decided to show it during the day on weekdays, when it would be much more suitable as a Sunday evening show, and would almost certainly have higher audiences. At least there is the iPlayer on-line catch-up which let us watch it without having to bother setting the video.
The series features Sanjeev Bhaskar as the eponymous doctor, working in a Welsh mining village. The second series covered a smallpox outbreak in the village and features a lying hypocritical preacher, fresh from work in Africa, who tried to hinder the doctor at every step. I can almost imagine the Daily Mail newspaper working itself up to a fury over the storyline with its pro-vaccine and anti-christian sentiments.
The Daily Mail seems to be the UK representative of the American right wing, being very pro-christian and anti-science. The paper regularly contains stories dismissing global warning and sneering at any scientists who believe in it. It is also very favourable towards alternative medicine even when there is no evidence to support it, and regularly espouses the benefits of 'detox', even though the latter is based on myth and lies and is no better than simply eating healthily for a while.
At least the paper doesn't appear to have joined the anti-vaccine movement though. A quick search of vaccine related stories on the website all seem to be in favour of vaccines to prevent disease. For that we should at least be grateful.
We were watching the latest episode of How to cook like Heston on Channel 4 and he was demonstrating his method of making a cheese sauce and then using that to make a macaroni cheese. I was in the middle of cooking a chicken, sweet potato and butternut squash curry but I thought "I'd rather be eating that instead".
I was watching the third episode of the BBC series The Code and the presenter, Marcus du Sautoy, was watching the movement of a flock of starlings. All of a sudden the birds formed the shape of a number 6. The event went completely unnoticed by the presenter but from the screen grab below it looks like he had his eyes closed at the time.
The event occurred at 12m23s into the programme.
Last week I received an email from someone at ITV - they had seen my blog and thought I'd be interested in entering the Britain's Best Dish competition. I'm not sure whether I should enter - you need to cook a starter, main & dessert but I usually just cook main courses.
I don't really have a 'signature dish' which I could use to show off. Also since I don't make desserts, I would have to choose one I really liked and learn how to cook it.
If anyone does want to take part their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or phone them on 0871 62 66 222.
I am currently watching the new BBC adaptation of The Day of the Triffids. It's ok but they have made rather too many changes. It's ages since I read the book so I can't remember all the details but the original Triffids couldn't move very quickly, unlike the ones here. The original ones would kill a victim then patiently wait for it to decompose. They also couldn't reach out and pull people towards them. I never imagined them to look like angry Aloe Vera plants.
The book had slower pacing, which gave time for the characters to develop. They obviously decided to speed things up to make the adaptation more dramatic. The narration in the book helped create the atmosphere, making the events seem scarily plausible. Unfortunately this is lost in the tv version.
I can't remember the exact details of the original ending, so it doesn't matter that I'm posting this before the programme finishes.
Occasionally the programme felt like Aliens: The Vegetable Edition.
We videoed the film Ghost Rider when it was on Channel 5 a few weeks ago. We watched it tonight. I really hope it was supposed to be some kind of comedy. It didn't take itself too seriously but it looked and sounded a bit stupid, as if it didn't know it was so ridiculous. The acting was fairly bad but a lot of that might have been due to the awful script.
The Nicholas Cage character seems to have the same taste in music as The Stig from Top Gear. In the early parts of the film he regularly listens to a lot of easy listening stuff such as The Carpenters.
Paradox is a new tv series on BBC1. The first episode looked interesting - images from the future which hint at a disaster are picked up from space. Tonight's disaster included a dead body and a mangled bridge. It looks like other episodes are going to follow a similar pattern of: see photos/try to work out where/try to avert disaster. We'll have to wait and see if it can maintain interest.
The episode claimed to be set in or near Manchester. The city centre featured in a few scenes, and there was a mention of a character taking a train from 'Manchester Station'. No actual station name was given at the time. Amazingly though when this information was relayed by the main character, she had miraculously deduced that he meant Victoria Station.
For some reason the show decided to use fictional place names: Hazel Hills and Marlingham. There is a Hazel Grove near Manchester - perhaps the writers heard the name but didn't like it so they changed it.
The bridge where the 'incident' took place was over the B204. This immediately sounded fishy because I knew that '2' roads were mainly around London, Kent and parts of the south coast. It turns out that there is a real B204 but it's in London, near the Old Kent Road, and not a few minutes train ride from Manchester.
I don't know why there were so many sloppy mistakes in the programme, nor why nobody noticed or bothered fixing them while the programme was being made. It was as if some southern writers decided to set something 'up north' but couldn't be arsed doing any actual research and just made things up.
Torchwood made a welcome return to tv last night. It is maturing into a very good series. I was surprised to read that the move from BBC2 to BBC1 has led to an increase in viewing figures. It is as if people are incapable of finding a programme if it is on BBC2. The same thing happened with 'Have I got news for you'. The viewing figures more or less doubled after it moved to BBC1.
It's not like BBC2 is a new channel and people aren't used to it. It started broadcasting in 1964 so everyone should know about it by now. Do people just not trust it? Or are people just too stupid to stray from BBC1/ITV1?
We were watching an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and they were in the gym in school playing dodgeball. I can't believe that people actually played dodgeball in schools - that schools encouraged games where the aim was to hit people with objects.
Dodgeball seems only one step above Deathsquare, which was a game from my youth. This was never an official game but one played on the school field during break time. The play area was roughly 5 yards square. The aim was to kick a tennis ball from one person to the next. If you kicked the ball out of the square, or the ball went between your legs, you had to get out of the square as fast as possible. Anyone could kick you until you left the square. As soon as you'd left the square, it was safe to return and the game would continue.
As far as I know, no-one has made a film about Deathsquare. I don't even know whether it's still played in schools any more.
We got a tip-off about how bad this programme was when we read in the newspaper how the audience were desperate to get out, and how they were fed up with being told when to laugh or applaud.
If this is the new re-branded BBC3, then God help us. As I write, Lily is laughing at some Internet video of animals having sex, while David Mitchell looks uncomfortable and a bit embarrassed. You can't blame him really. The programme is the worst sort of childish crap.
Please BBC, cancel this shite. We really expect better than this from you.
Now Lily Allen is putting her fist in her mouth. Oh dear this is pathetic. I don't expect the programme to get any better so I'll switch off before I get too angry.
It was good to see our friend Ben on Channel 5 tonight, in a programme about the World Memory Championships. He's written extensively about it on his blog so I won't bore you with the details here.
It was good to see him wearing the t-shirt which Emma bought for him a couple of years ago. He referred to it as his lucky t-shirt and he tries to wear it sometime during the competitions.
We've been watching the Hugh's Chicken Run programme on Channel 4 (final part tonight) where Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall highlights the plight of intensively farmed chicken.
The aim of the programme and campaign is to encourage people to buy free range chicken. In the programme he created a chicken barn according to industry standards, to illustrate the conditions the birds have to endure.
I just wish the website wasn't so annoying, with 'sign up' banners making beeping and honking noises all the time. The banner below (which you can click on to sign the petition) is one of the less annoying ones. It only beeps when someone new signs up.
Thanks to the BBC iPlayer, I finally managed to watch the episode of Top Gear where they 'celebrate' 40 years of British Leyland cars. Unfortunately the episode I originally downloaded failed to work - the licence had 'expired' despite having 5 days left - so I had to watch the version with the sign language person 'flapping' in the corner of the screen.
In the episode, the presenters had to go out and buy an old BL car each, and then perform various tasks. They drove to the sites of some of the old factories, but most of them had since been demolished. The only one still in use is now owned by BMW. Others had been demolished and (like Longbridge) were derelict land or had been turned into hotels or offices.
At the site of the old factory in Coventry they commented on how it had turned into a hotel. They complained that there was nothing to commemorate the site of the factory, apart from a few road names (Herald Avenue, Dolomite Avenue). They must have missed the metal plinth which gave some of the history of the site.
The Canley factory has gone the same way as most of the motor manufacturing in Coventry. A lot of the sites have been converted into flats, offices or shops. The Canley site has an industrial estate, a hotel and a Sainsburys. The Peugeot site at Stoke is now flats and offices. The only cars made within Coventry are the Black Cabs, made by London Taxi International, at the factory on Holyhead Road. This factory (tucked behind the BMW/Mini dealership) is opposite yet another shopping centre built on the site of an old car factory - the Alvis Retail Park.
Anyway, back to Top Gear. They took their old cars to a test track and had to drive along a bumpy cobbled road, with a colander of eggs taped over their heads. They scored depending on how how much egg was still in the colander, and lost 'points' for any trim which fell off. The biggest bit of 'trim' lost was the back door from Clarkson's Rover SD1.
Another of the tests was to drive up a 1 in 3 stretch of road, apply the handbrake, and see if the car would stay there. Now 1 in 3 is very steep - lesser gradients make it feel like the car is tipping over backwards. The Rover had great difficulty even getting up the slope. The wheels lost traction and the wheelspin hid the car in huge clouds of smoke.
Back when I lived in Aberystwyth, there was a 1 in 4 road between Waen Fawr and Llanbadarn. At the bottom of the hill there was a T junction and I had to approach it very slowly because it always felt like the car wasn't going to stop. Heading the other way, up the hill, unless I managed to get a good run up I had to take the hill in 1st gear. At the time I only had a Rover Metro with a 1.1 litre engine so it struggled when presented with challenges like that.
We got rid of the Metro a few years ago, but we noticed the address in the back of the handbook was given as 'Canley Road' - the site now occupied by the hotel/industrial estate/Sainsburys. I did a search for the postcode on Google maps but it doesn't exist any more.
Getting back to Top Gear, the tests became more surreal. They filled the cars with water and drove around the track to see which would go the furthest. The surprising winner was an Austin Princess driven by Captain Slow.
Top Gear is at its best when they have the silly games and challenges. Most of the car reviews get very tedious. They tend to be either overexpensive cars being driven fast around the track while being compared with other overexpensive cars, or small/affordable/economical cars being accused of being dull and boring. I can't be the only viewer who gets tired of hearing about the latest supercar with zero relevance to everyday life. It's like a car version of the pathetic Celebrity type of magazine.
Despite these problems, the banter between the presenters is good. The 3-way reviews, where they all go out with similar cars and compare them, tend to be more interesting than the one-off reviews with individual cars. Hopefully they'll continue to do more of the motoring challenges - the one where they had to drive old cars across Africa was one of the better episodes of the series.