For this years Heritage Open Days, we visited a few places in Coventry and Kenilworth, choosing places we hadn't been to before. We went to a few places in Coventry on saturday. Although we had been to Kenilworth quite a few times, we had never actually been to Abbey Fields, so we went there on the sunday.
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We took a short break to Skegness at the weekend, stopping off at a few places on the way there and also on the way back. Since we live in Coventry, which is almost as far from the sea as it's possible to be in England, it was nice to spend some time at the seaside and have a paddle.
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We were back in Birmingham today so we paid a visit to Woktastic, which we go to occasionally when we're in the city centre. We always have the all you can eat sushi and every now and then they introduce different types of sushi.
The change this time was the introduction of deep fried sushi. I don't know how long they have been serving this since it's been a while since we were last there. Part of me thinks that deep fried sushi is such a bad idea and goes against the simple and healthy image of sushi. Another part of me thinks that if a food is worth eating, it is worth deep frying.
This year we seem to have a house full of chilli plants. There are several on the windowsills in both the upstairs and downstairs front rooms. The upstairs chilli plants get a bit more sunlight during the day and were the first to start to ripen.
This afternoon I noticed there were 3 bright red chillies so I harvested them to add to our regular saturday night pizza. They seem to have a decent amount of heat and flavour. There are a lot of green unripe chillies on the plants so it looks like it might be a good chilli harvest this year.
The Ricoh Arena has been temporarily renamed the City of Coventry Stadium and is hosting some of the Olympic football matches.
Mexico v Gabon
It looks like, at long last, the almost continuous rain has ended and summer has arrived. The garden is growing again, and some courgettes seem to have appeared on one of our plants almost overnight.
When I left work this evening, it was a bit toasty in the car. The thermometer actually measures the temperature underneath the car rather than inside but I can easily believe that it was over 40c, since the car is practically a mobile greenhouse. The temperature originally read 42c when I first got in but by the time I got my phone out to take a photo, it had dropped a degree.
After a week of poor weather and almost non-stop rain, today started dry so this morning we walked into town. There were old cars on display near various Coventry University including near the Cathedral. The range of cars included Alvis (which were built in the city on a site which is now a shopping centre). There several other old cars and sports cars and also what looked like a Japanese TV camera crew filming the collection.
It has been a long time since I've been to Wing Wah (the all you can eat Chinese restaurant) in Coventry, so when Emma said she was meeting some people there for lunch and asked me if I wanted to join them, I agreed.
The food doesn't seem to have changed in the intervening period but people don't go there for a constantly varying or challenging menu. People go there because it is a great value eatery with good quality food (as good as you can reasonably expect for £s; 7 during the day).
One area where Wing Wah do sometimes get a bit imaginative is the presentation of their desserts. A few years ago I had a jam tart with a sprig of parsley on top so when I saw a jelly with what looked like a green bean on top, I expected the worst.
It turned out to be a sliced jelly sweet - the long tube shaped sweets with a fondant filling.
A few weeks ago I planted two pots of rocket and left them on the windowsill in the front room so they would get plenty of sunlight. I had two different packets of seed and thought it would be a good idea to compare them. Unfortunately I forgot to make a note of which pack went into which pot so now the rocket is grown, I have no idea which is which.
One of the packets is clearly doing better than the other, with the plants growing at roughly double the rate. Unfortunately this is the year when I forgot to label most of the things I planted. I have several different types of chilli pepper and tomato growing in various rooms of the house and in tubs in the garden but in most cases I have no idea what is growing where.
Some of the chilli plants are doing quite well and have a few flowers on them but the tomatoes aren't doing very well. A lot got eaten by slugs and some seem to have been affected by the bad weather and haven't grown an inch in several weeks. The courgettes seem to be doing ok so far so at least there will be some veg from the garden this year. The less said about the strawberries, the better. None of the seeds germinated. Same for the parsley. I will have to buy fresh seeds for next year.
Some photos taken in and around Warwickshire this month. The Kenilworth Castle photos were taken on a day when they were doing some medieval displays and re-enactments.
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My sourdough bread making experiments are continuing and this week I had a go at this recipe, which sounded interesting. I scaled it down a bit since it called for more starter than I had, and I only have a 400g loaf tin.
My scaled down recipe contained:
- 250g plain flour
- 30g rye flour
- 280g starter
- 1tsp turmeric
- zest of 1 orange
- juice of 1 orange (came to 70g)
- 20ml water
I did not need to add much water since my starter was quite runny. The original recipe called for '75% hydration' starter but I have no idea what the 'hydration' of mine is, since I add flour and water in a fairly irregular manner without keeping track of the exact amounts of each. This is the first recipe I have used which specifies a particular hydration of starter - equal weights of flour and water give 100%, which is how mine started off but over the weeks it will have changed quite a bit.
I deviated from the original recipe with the proving and rising steps too. Instead of putting it in the fridge for 9 hours, I left it in the cold oven overnight. The weather has recently turned cold again and the kitchen temperature is around 18c, significantly lower than the 23-25c specified.
I baked the loaf for about half an hour at gas mark 7 (equivalent to about 250c). The texture was good, with a hard crust on top and soft underneath. The orange flavour came through quite well but the turmeric was less noticeable. The only other times I have made spiced bread has been when I put chilli flakes in a pizza base. I will have to experiment with other spices and flavourings.
A couple of weeks ago I made a German Friendship Cake which was used a sweet yeast based starter. After making the cake I gave a portion of the starter to my mum so she could have a go at making it, and kept the rest of the starter going by repeating the feeding and stirring process.
I had read somewhere that the starter can be used to make pancakes. Since today is Good Friday, and the end of Lent, I thought it would be a good time to have a go at making them, so that Lent started and ended with pancakes.
I poured a few tablespoons of the starter into a hot oiled frying pan and cooked for a minute or so on each side. The pancakes started to bubble nicely and looked quite promising while they were cooking. The end result wasn't quite as good as I was expecting, they were still a bit doughy in the middle. I added a bit more milk to the mixture and gave it a second attempt.
The plain pancakes were a bit sweet but they went well with a bit of lemon juice. I didn't get the cooking time or temperature sorted properly since each pancake was still a bit soft in the middle. It was an interesting experiment but I will stick to the traditional pancake batter in future.
Just over a week ago I exchanged sourdough starters with a colleague in work. I gave her some of my wild yeast starter and in return I was given a tub of Herman starter.
The Herman starter mix is made using flour, sugar, milk and yeast. Unlike the traditional bread starter, which ideally should be fed every day, the Herman starter is only stirred each day and fed on the 4th and 9th days. The feed consists of equal quantities of sugar, milk and flour.
On the 10th day, the cake is ready to make. Take 1 cup of starter and add all the other ingredients, mixing well to make a stiff batter. As usual, I made a few substitutions based on what we had in the house at the time. I used:
- 1 cup of sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 cups of plain flour
- ⅔ cup of vegetable oil
- 2 medium eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla essence
- 2 medium sized apples, chopped but not peeled
- 1 cup of dried mixed fruit
- 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp of mixed spice
- 2 tsp baking powder
I poured the mixture into a couple of loaf tins and sprinkled them with demerara and a little melted butter. I then covered them loosely with foil before baking them at gas mark 4 (180 °C). One of the cakes was ready after an hour, the other was in a deeper tin and took nearly twice as long.
The apples help to keep the cake nice and moist. I think it would work just as well with pears, and possibly using apricots instead of the mixed fruit.
Last year I bought a pack of seeds from Garden Organic at Ryton. It was described as 'Edible Leaves, Roots and Shoots' and contained a collection of wild plants which are commonly described as weeds but which are edible. I planted the seeds in a tub in the garden and last year I made some crispy seaweed from some of the leaves, and managed to save some Wild Mustard seeds from one of the plants which grew.
I left the plants over the winter but yesterday I decided to dig them up so I could reuse the tub for a more productive crop this year. I found two large roots:
This plant turned out to be Wild Carrot. I washed the root and had a chew on a small piece. It was very tough and fibrous but did have a slight carrot taste.
It took a bit longer to identify this but I managed to work out that it was Common Mallow. This is a relative of the Marsh Mallow, which gave its name to the soft and fluffy sweet. It is possible to boil the roots to extract a gelatinous substance which could possibly be used to make a version of the original marshmallow so today I decided to give it a go.
I peeled and chopped the root then simmered it in a small amount of water. I then whisked the slightly gloopy water with some caster sugar, vanilla essence and pink food colouring. The mixture was a bit runny and kept splashing everywhere so I cheated by whisking in some cornflour and returning it to the pan.
The end result was a soft sweet tasting jelly which did not resemble an actual marshmallow sweet at all.
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.