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Courgette Harvest

Story location: Home / food_and_drink /
04/Jul/2013

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.

Yellow Ball Courgette

The only other things I've harvested so far have been herbs, a few wild strawberries, and some chillies from last year's plants.



Reverse Gear

Story location: Home / Blog / tv /
01/Jul/2013

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.

Top Gear in Reverse

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.



Week 26: Parsnip Bread

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
23/Jun/2013

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 I had bought a cheap bag of parsnips which were going out of date and needed to use some up since I didn't really want to fill the freezer with parsnip wedges (which would probably have meant I would be eating roast parsnip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.



Week 25: 'Pumpkin' Pie

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
20/Jun/2013

This week's recipe was an attempt to do something with the diced butternut squash I had in the freezer.

Butternut Squash Pie

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.

Butternut Squash Pie

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.



Game of Life

Story location: Home / computing /
15/Jun/2013

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.

See more ...



Mandelbrot Set

Story location: Home / computing /
13/Jun/2013

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.

See more ...



Week 24: Prawn and Butternut squash Biryani.

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
09/Jun/2013

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.



Week 23: Cranberry Muffins with cream cheese frosting

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
08/Jun/2013

Cranberry Muffins with cream cheese frosting



Week 22: Chicken mornay with courgette dumplings

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
27/May/2013

The inspiration for tonight's meal came from an episode of Man v. Food which we watched on TV earlier today, where they made a Hot Brown sandwich which contains turkey and mornay sauce, along with bacon. I decided to do a variation on chicken mornay and served it with courgette dumplings.

Chicken mornay with courgette dumplings

The mornay sauce contained a mixture of cheddar and pecorino cheese. The chicken breasts were flattened and fried in a little oil. These were topped with leeks, the sauce then finally capers. The courgette dumplings were made using grated courgette, breadcrumbs, grated cheese, finely chopped parsley, an egg, and seasoned with a little black pepper. These were baked in the oven until the outsides started to crisp off.



Week 21: Sourdough Pancakes and Pesto Bread

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
24/May/2013

I had planned to make a loaf of sourdough bread this week so I had my starter out in the kitchen and had been feeding it regularly (the starter usually lives in the fridge and I feed it a couple of times a week). I ended up with more starter than I needed so I thought I would have a go at making some Sourdough pancakes.

First thing this morning I stirred some milk, some more flour and a teaspoon of sugar into the starter and left it for a few hours. By lunchtime it was bubbling well again. I beat two eggs and added an teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda then stirred that into the starter, adding a bit more milk to get a pourable batter.

I poured a ladle of the batter into a small frying pan and cooked it on one side until the top was bubbling nicely. I then lifted the pancake out and put it face down into a second, larger, pan while I started the next pancake in the first pan. The second pan was big enough to hold two pancakes so they could be finished off and folded over with the cheesy filling.

At the weekend I made some rocket pesto, using ground mixed seeds, grated cheese and soft cheese. There was some left over which had been sitting in the fridge for a few days so I thought I'd see how it would go baked into a bread.

I made a standard loaf using a mixture of 50:50 bread flour and wholemeal flour and mixed the pesto in after all the other ingredients had been added. The dough had a slightly green appearance but the final baked loaf looked more normal, with some green herby flecks in. The actual bread was quite nice with a slightly cheesy taste.



Week 20 part 2: Spätzle with prawns and mussels

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
18/May/2013

I have cooked with spätzle a few times before but each time the recipe has been very similar, using onions and cheese along with whatever meat is being used in the meal. Now to be honest tonight's recipe is also a variation on the same theme. The inspiration came from here. We decision to cook this was made at the last minute so we I made a version using the ingredients we had in the house.

I cooked the noodles in a pan of boiling water, sliced an onion and a leek and cooked them in some olive oil, and grated some pecorino cheese. We had cooked prawns and mussels so they got mixed in at the end along with a splash of lemon juice and some freshly ground pepper. It was a quick and easy meal to make.



Week 20: Bananabread and Butter Pudding

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
17/May/2013

A few weeks ago I made a couple of loaves of banana bread and froze one. This week I defrosted the second loaf and when I ate some it was a bit dry. I thought I would have a go at a bread and butter pudding.

Bananabread and Butter Pudding

I didn't butter the slices first but simply placed them in the dish and poured over a custard made from cream, milk, vanilla, a tablespoon of sugar and a couple of eggs. I cooked it for about three quarters of an hour at gas mark 4, until the custard had set.



Week 19: Two Pies

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
05/May/2013

Late last year I had a go at making turkey pies using a hot water pastry. This week I had a go at a more typical pie, using a shortcrust pastry.

Chicken and Stuffing Pie

The filling was made by mixing cooked diced meat with stuffing - one pie used chicken, the other had pork and bacon. The pie shown here was chicken (with a 'C' on the lid). The pork and bacon pies had a 'P' on the lid so I could tell them apart after cooking.

Chicken and Stuffing Pie

The chicken pie was probably the better of the two. The stuffing helped hold the filling together and stopped the chicken from drying out. The meat in the pork and stuffing pie was slightly over-cooked and had gone a bit chewy but the pie was still ok.



Dandelion Coffee

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /
03/May/2013

Earlier this week I dug up a load of dandelion roots so I cleaned them and dried them so I could have a go at dandelion coffee. I dug out my copy of Richard Mabey's Food for Free and it was very vague so I looked up a few websites for more info.

In the end I roasted the roots at gas mark 6 until they were dry and crumbly (but they hadn't gone very dark), ground them up in a pestle and mortar and ended up with only 1 tablespoon of bits.

I put the bits in a jug, poured over a cup of boiling water and left it a few minutes before straining into a cup. I think I probably needed more roots because the drink was a bit weak but most noticeably it didn't resemble anything coffee-like at all (I am reminded of Arthur Dent and his cup of something which was "almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea").

Dandelion Coffee

The flavour was like a cross between unsalted potato crisps and something a bit like parsnips. I'm not sure whether to try again the next time I dig up some roots but my first attempt wasn't great. At least it was better than the cornsilk tea or the hyssop tea, which were my previous attempts at drinks from the garden.



Week 18: Leek, Bacon and Sweet Potato Quiche

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
30/Apr/2013

A few weeks ago I decided to branch out from experimenting with different breads and try making some pies and quiches. My first attempt was a Leek, Bacon and Sweet Potato Quiche (using up spare/leftover food from the fridge and freezer).

The pastry recipe came from the BBC website. I had a look through some of the many recipe books at home and was surprised to find that there wasn't a single quiche recipe in any of them. I found a few recipes online and used them for inspiration. I cooked the leek and bacon, then diced the sweet potato and boiled it in water. The filling was some milk, egg, grated cheese and a little salt and pepper, beaten together then mixed with the rest of the filling.

The pastry was baked blind first then the filling was poured in and the quiche was put back in the oven.

Leek, Bacon and Sweet Potato Quiche