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A week or so ago I was in the supermarket and (as usual) had a rummage around the reduced and out of date fruit and veg fridge. There was a bag of limes for 30p so I decided to get them and worry about what I was going to do with them when I got home. Gin and tonic was sadly out of the question because I forgot to buy any tonic water.
I found several suitable cake recipes and ended up making some coconut and lime cupcakes. Sadly I seem to have eaten them all without taking any photographs, which is a bit poor and quite unlike me. The cakes were quite simple to make, being a basic pound cake recipe with added lime zest and juice and some grated coconut. After baking, they were sprinkled with toasted coconut and drizzled with a syrup made with lime juice and sugar.
After making the cupcakes I still had 2 limes left over so they sat in the fridge for a few days while I decided what to do with them. I thought I would have a go at making a lime curd in the microwave. It was very simple to make, a few minutes juicing the limes then 7 minutes in the microwave in 1 minute bursts.
If the lime curd was supposed to be a way of using up the limes and avoiding food wastage, it was probably a bit of a false economy. The two limes only cost me 10p but since I needed to add sugar, butter and 1 egg to the juice, the one egg alone cost me 17p so I ended up spending more money than I was saving/avoiding wasting.
The limes were fairly yellow with green patches so I shouldn't really be surprised that the curd came out much more yellow than green.
The curd was very sharp and sour. I probably needed to add a bit more sugar to the recipe but since limes vary a lot, I imagine it is quite difficult to publish a recipe which will give ideal results in all cases.
For this week's pizza night I decided to try a Stromboli pizza, a filled pizza which is often rolled up. The base was a normal bread/pizza base. For the filling I used vegetable chilli, chicken and cheese.
I started by rolling the base into an oval shape. Closer to rectangular would be better but oval works well enough. I spread the base with the vegetable chilli then sprinkled chopped cooked chicken over the top.
Next I added grated cheese.
The stromboli was rolled up and placed onto a hot pizza stone before being put into the centre of the oven at gas mark 6 for about 20 minutes.
Just before the end of cooking, I took the stromboli out of the oven and laid some sliced chilli cheese on top. I put it back in the oven just long enough to melt the cheese without letting it run all the way down the sides.
The final cooked product. It came out quite well although it had split along part of one side. I may have caused this by over-filling it or rolling it too tightly but that didn't detract from the eating.
This weeks recipe was based on one from the Hairy Bikers European Baking book and was a savoury onion muffin. The originals were topped with poppy seeds but I didn't have any of those so I made a few variations, topping some with onion seeds, some with grated cheese, and others weren't topped but had some chilli cheese mixed into the muffin batter before cooking.
I used red onions and one thing I noticed was that they turned green after cooking. The recipe contained baking soda, which is alkaline, so it is likely that this reacted with the anthocyanins in the onion to turn them green.
We regularly go to the English Heritage Festival of History. It was cancelled last year due to the weather but it was back this year, renamed History Live.
In addition to the battle re-enactments, there were old fashioned side-shows such as the fire eaters and a return of the Victorian Gymkhana.
Click on the thumbnail to view the image
This year has been largely dominated by baking and bread, mainly because my newest cookbooks are all baking based, mostly cakes, bread and pies. I regularly make normal 'everyday' loaves using either traditional yeast or sourdough without consulting any recipes, but every now and again I feel the need to try something a bit more adventurous. I had intended to try a brioche for a while and finally got around to doing it today, partly because we had 4 eggs in the kitchen which were getting a bit old and needed using up (they weren't off but the whites had gone a bit runny). The recipe I intended to try (from the River Cottage bread book) needed 4 eggs so that seemed to be a good way of using them up.
This recipe is 'all in one' where the flour, sugar, milk, butter and eggs are all mixed together, instead of more traditional ones where a dough gets made first and the butter is mixed in afterwards. I used our electric mixer with the dough hooks but the mix remained very sticky and refused to form a ball. I had to add a bit more flour and knead by hand before it became more manageable and was ready for the initial proving. After a couple of hours in the fridge, the dough had gone nice and firm and was then ready to be put in the tins for the second rising.
I decided to do a standard loaf and a more adventurous spiral shaped bun. I have been meaning to do more shaped loaves and I thought brioche might be a good one to start with.
I think I slightly over-baked them because the crust was a bit darker than I would have liked. The actual bread had a very good texture and tasted very buttery, possibly a bit too rich even! I can normally eat quite a lot of bread in one sitting but probably won't be able to with this. A very rich brioche like this would work very well with fruit or chocolate, to make a cake. A slightly less rich version would be more suitable to use as a normal bread, albeit a special treat bread.
We only popped in for a couple of hours on the saturday, to wander around the festival and have a look at the various stalls. When I was in the main arena last night I noticed a Nando's outdoor catering trailer and when I mentioned it to Emma, we decided that was where we would get our lunch from. Emma went there for a chicken pitta but I decided to go to he caribbean food stall next door for a tray of Jerk Pork with rice.
The meat was diced belly pork which had been coated in a spicy marinade and was served with more spicy sauce poured on top. It was different to the typical saturday lunch we have at home, which is usually something quick like pasta or a wrap or toastie and made a nice change.
The headline act on the main stage tonight was Echo and the Bunnymen. They were supposed to appear last year but the festival was cancelled due to the wet weather. That was a shame because I wanted to see them since I missed them at the Leeds Festival a few years ago (it was a choice between them and Iron Maiden), so this year after 3 attempts, I finally managed to see them live.
I knew 3 of the songs in their act: Seven Seas, Under a Killing Moon (which McCulloch introduced as the best song ever written) and The Cutter.
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I haven't had much time to do any really adventurous or new cooking but I did a couple of quick desserts this week. The first was a simple scone recipe. This was made by mixing the flour, sugar and butter in a food processor then stirring in the milk. I used a variety of our shaped cutters, including duck and dinosaur.
The second was a custard tart. These were supposed to separate into a pastry style base and a custarty top during cooking but they ended up more like sweet yorkshire puddings. They tasted good but weren't really what I was expecting. This might have been because I used a yorkshire pudding tin, which was fairly shallow, instead of a deeper pie tin.
I had tried to grow Summer Ball Courgettes a couple of years ago but it was a bad year for courgettes for me. None of the plants did well and I didn't get any courgettes. This year has been better and so far I've picked a smallish one.
The only other things I've harvested so far have been herbs, a few wild strawberries, and some chillies from last year's plants.
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.
My first attempt at making a parsnip based bread was from a recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I had bought a cheap bag of parsnips which were going out of date and needed to use some up since I didn't really want to fill the freezer with parsnip wedges (which would probably have meant I would be eating roast parsnip for several months).
I followed HFW's recipe very closely but used finely chopped rosemary instead of thyme. The substitution worked well. There was one slight problem, which was probably my fault: the dough was a bit too wet and the resulting bread was slightly soggy in the middle. The actual flavour was good and the bread toasted well, which had the advantage of slightly drying out the bread a bit.
My second attempt was a sweet potato and parsnip bread. I started off with the vegetables mashed and left to cool before I added bread flour, yeast and a little water, and mixed to a soft dough. I think the dough was roughly 50% vegetable by weight. I baked the bread in a moderately hot oven until it was brown and crusty on top. The bread was slightly sweet and had a chewy texture but worked really well in a cheese toastie.
This week's recipe was an attempt to do something with the diced butternut squash I had in the freezer.
The filling was based on a recipe from Good Food magazine but I made half the quantities and made 4 individual pies instead of one large one. I also used a regular shortcrust pastry base instead of a sweet pastry.
I have never tasted a 'genuine' pumpkin pie so I don't have anything to compare mine to. The filling had a slightly 'custardy' texture and the flavour was mainly a combination of squash and cinnamon. I'm not sure if I would make them again but I think I'd be interested in tasting a more authentic one.
Here is the ImageJ version of the classic Game of Life which I wrote in an evening, several years ago. I have made a small change since then so the 'Reset' button clears the window and the 'Random' button fills the window with random dots.
The ImageJ drawing tools can be used to fill in pixels. Clicking on 'Start' will begin the animation. Pixels which have remained unchanged slowly fade to grey while pixels which 'came alive' are in white.
Download the source code and load into ImageJ or Fiji. Select 'Compile and Run' to start.
The program was cobbled together fairly quickly and ideally would need a bit more work to make it more user-friendly. Any configuration is done by editing the source code and recompiling. The speed of the animation can be changed by altering the value of 'pause' (value in milliseconds). The size of the world is given by the 'width' and 'height' variables. If these are changed then the image window may need to be resized by changing the default magnification in the setMagnification() command.
A few weeks ago I was reading the book The Emperors New Mind by Rodger Penrose and I reached the part where he discusses the Mandelbrot Set. Years ago I used to enjoy exploring this on my computer. I decided to download a mandelbrot program for my mac but couldn't really find one which I liked. This prompted me to have a go at writing one myself. I decided to cheat a little and write it as an ImageJ plugin so I didn't have to handle the display and mouse myself.
I reused some bits of code from a version of Life which I wrote a few years ago and also some code which I developed during my PhD and managed to get a useable plugin up and running that evening. Over the next few days I added a few extra features and made it a bit more useable.
Click on the download link and save the 'jar' file into the ImageJ or Fiji plugins directory.
Select 'Mandelbrot' from the 'Plugins' menu. Configuration options are in the 'About Plugins' submenu of the 'Help' menu. After changing any options, the mandelbrot set window will need to be closed and the plugin re-run before any changes will come into effect.
How to Use
To zoom in or out, use the 'Point' tool of ImageJ to select the new centre and click on either the 'Zoom To' or 'Zoom Out' buttons at the bottom of the window. To pan the view without changing the zoom, select the new centre then click on the 'Re-Centre' button. The 'Reset' button returns the view back to the original zoom.
The number selection box to the right of 'Reset' controls how many calculations are performed before the algorithm decides whether a point belongs to the set or not. Increasing this number will show more detail at the fringes of the set at higher zoom levels.
The Normal/Sqrt/Log selection controls how the colour values are calculated. Initially all values are displayed in greyscale. To display in colour, select one of the ImageJ lookup tables for the required colour scheme.
Finally the Julia Set for a particular point can be displayed by selecting a point then clicking on the 'Julia Set' button.
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This week's recipe was a bit of an experiment and not a 100% successful one at that. I'll discuss that at the end but first, the recipe.
I tossed some uncooked prawns in a seasoned flour mixture which contained paprika, turmeric, cumin, cayenne and mixed spice. I left them to sit for a few minutes while I chopped and fried a red pepper, an onion and a clove of garlic. Next I added a handful of diced butternut squash. When the veg had softened I added the prawns and more spices: half a teaspoon each of ground ginger, curry powder and garam masala. Finally I added a portion of cooked rice and a sprinkle of chilli flakes.
The end result was something of a curate's egg. The spiced prawns were good - the seasoned flour had gone slightly crispy and created a good texture. The actual flavour of the biryani was also good. The only problem was created by the butternut squash. It was just too sweet and clashed a bit with the savoury flavours. I have used squash before and not found it a problem so it might have just been this squash was more sweet than I'm used to. It may be worth trying a sweet recipe, such as a variation on pumpkin pie, so that may be a future new recipe for me to try.