Sunday, 29 November 2015

Lamborghinis and Lesbians

There were a series of ups and downs in the kitchen this week, with Ole turning his hand to making brownies. Unfortunately, we had no eggs, so he decided that bananas and milk would be a good substitute. They weren’t. The resulting mess was quickly binned, and I offered to show him how to make them properly the following night. He declined, so I made them anyway. Ole has a brazil nut allergy, and possibly because of this the only nuts he really likes can be found in a jar of Nutella. To replace the substance that the nuts would have provided I opted for white chocolate chips. The result was a tray of brownies that were cakey around the outside and gooey in the middle. Interestingly, Felicity Cloake, one of my kitchen heroines, would not like this result, whereas Nigella, another of my kitchen heroines, definitely would! Research is a wonderful thing, something that Ms Cloake is noted for in search of culinary perfection, and there was certainly a hint of the green eyed monster as she first praised and then dismissed Nigella’s sumptuously gooey brown pleasures.

(Nigel) Slater reckons his is the "crumbliest, gooiest brownie recipe ever" but, of course, it's not – Nigella's is. With six eggs and 375g butter, what lies beneath the surprisingly crisp crust is something more akin to a baked fudge than anything which could be politely eaten with one's hands, which is probably the whole point – I expect she eats it messily, and in a crumpled silk dressing gown.
Aside from the richness of the ingredients, the lack of a raising agent is telling: no baking powder is allowed to lighten the load here – this is pure, unadulterated, chocolatey goo. It's got many fans, but, although I court the contempt of brownie lovers everywhere with this admission, for me it's too much.
Unlike Nigel's recipe, which seeks to trap air in the mixture before baking, Nigella's method melts the chocolate and butter together, and then quickly stirs in the eggs and dry ingredients to give a smooth, glossy batter. This technique obviously helps keep things nice and dense – if you like that kind of thing.

To be honest, the silk dressing gown bit is generally how I picture Nigella too! Now, where was I? Ah yes, my brownies. The ones with white chocolate chips in. Twenty four hours later they were still relatively untouched, except of course for Sally dipping the cakey parts into the gooey parts to make a nice, somewhat guiltily pleasurable mouthful. So I asked Ole and he admitted that he didn’t like brownies with nuts in. After a brief debate in which I explained that the nuts were actually white chocolate chips, he set about them intent on making up for lost time.

Zac had a much simpler explanation for not eating them. ‘I thought Ole made them.’ And once again, when the truth was revealed he was quickly up to his eyes in them.

I was going to take a picture of them, but when I got around to it they had all gone. I guess I will just have to make some more.

Sausage rolls are usually a winner with a hungry teenager, and when you can get a pack of pastry in a roll, and a pack of sausage meat from Sainsbury’s, 20 minutes later they are ready to eat. Not forgetting the egg wash! A picture would again have been nice, but Ole ensured that this was not possible.

I went to a funeral last week. It was my dad’s mum’s sister’s son’s wife, so clearly not a close relative, but respects still have to be paid. I accompanied my mum, and as we milled around outside we did not recognise many people. This is perhaps understandable, as they were mainly Brian’s (my late father’s) relatives. The hearse had still not arrived as the undertaker mingled with the mourners, asking people to fill in attendance cards so that the family of the deceased would know who attended. A bit of a strange tradition if you ask me, but my mum was happy to oblige. I watched her fill in the card and hand it to the undertaker, really before I realised what she was doing. Anyway, when the family of the departed read the attendees they may be a little surprised to find ‘Mary and Brian’ were there, though I am sure he was watching over the whole thing and chuckling away!

Back to the kitchen, and there have been many changes in that area recently, almost obsessive, some might say. Anyway, I have run out of Balti Paste, and although it is on my ‘To Do’ list, I have not yet got around to making some more. So, I decided that chicken jalfrezi would have to be created from scratch, and that is where my problems began. The cinnamon, that had been on the same shelf for months, if not years, was no longer there. I searched high and low, but not low enough as I eventually found it in amongst a bag of new spices, those that will form the basis of the next batch of Balti paste, on the floor behind the kitchen door. ‘Grind the ajwain seeds’ the recipe said, so I went to get the pestle and mortar from the kitchen dresser where it had resided ever since the huge piece of period carpentry arrived seemingly years before. But wait, it has disappeared. Again, a thorough search revealed that it must have fallen out of favour, as where once it sat proudly amongst quaint preserves, ornate crockery and often distraught gingerbread houses, it was now banished to the dark depths within the dresser, with only muscovado sugar, a mountain of coffee and the functional but rather clinical kitchen scales. Fifteen minutes in to the recipe I was still trying to find the utensils and ingredients. After locating the jar of cloves I was finally able to get on with it, and even though I say so myself it was well worth the wait.

Last Friday I got a call that was quite unbelievable. It started by a familiar pause followed by an automated announcement. ‘Are you fed up of getting unwanted calls?’ You mean like this one? I thought. I continued to listen and it turned out that the automated call was selling a phone that claimed to block 100%, thats right, 100% of ALL automated calls. So, no more automated calls? They might have to change their sales pitch. Another thing that concerned me about this approach is that I am registered with the TPS. That is also supposed to block unwanted call, though of course unscrupulous firms still cold call by ignoring this legal obligation. So not only are you trying to sell me a phone to block calls like the one you are making, the manner of your sales pitch is illegal! If they call me back I might just point that out, and then buy one!

Another bugbear, I used to carry bags of shopping in to the house and store the bags to use for all sorts of things. Vegetable peelings, kids lunches, errr, not much else, which probably explains why I ended up with a huge wad of them. In October the government introduced a bag charge, and the supermarkets swapped out their ever flimsier bags for the 5 or 10p much sturdier replacements. However, I can count the number of times I have remembered to take one of these all purpose bags to the supermarket on one finger. I have remembered to put them in the car, but then, that’s where they stay. So now my cupboard is filling with 'Bags For Life', and they are so sturdy, and deserve so much respect, that it seems such a waste to put vegetable peelings in. I guess they will just grow and grow, and I will get poorer and poorer. One thing that I do take pleasure in, on the one occasion that I have remembered to do it, is to never go into the supermarket with the right bag. If you are in Tesco, use a Sainsbury’s bag. In Sainsbury’s use a Morrison’s bag. In Waitrose, use an Aldi bag. In Aldi, well just don’t go in to Aldi.

Saturday saw Zac's long awaited driving experience. It was a bitterly cold day, and the 90 minute drive to deepest, darkest Staffordshire saw Zac fall asleep. When we got there it seemed somewhat disorganised, but he registered for his drive and we went outside to watch the action. There was a ten minute briefing session, actually it was just a video that proved to be out of date, and then we were ready. After about 20 minutes of standing around in the icy wind Zac's name was called and he marched across to a bright yellow Lamborghini Gallardo. No lessons, just sit in the drive's seat with an instructor to your left and off you go. It wasn't even dual control.

The driver had to tug the steering wheel to prevent Zac hitting several girls with clipboards and the barrier that separated the spectators from the track, but then they got going. Zac managed to steer onto the oval circuit that had a twisty bit at one end. He got overtaken by a Porsche and a Subaru, but after a couple of laps he seemed to have mastered the controls and he got some speed up. Now, he only managed about 50 miles per hour, (I am sure this increases depending upon who is listening), but he did manage to negotiate about six miles in a car that retails at around £150,000.




It was cold on Monday. Very cold. And my white car showed just how cold by illuminating not one but two warning lights. The first one was now familiar, telling me that the outside temperature had dropped to below five degrees. The second was quite different, a squiggly line below an exclamation mark enclosed by two brackets, all in bright yellow. I looked it up in the book, thinking that I was missing a snow handbrake or something equally important, but it actually meant that the tyre pressure system had detected reduced pressure in one of my tyres. It suggested that the display would tell me which one, but it didn’t. I had a look around, a quick kick, and they all seemed ok, so I carried on. Its having a service tomorrow – I’ll let the professionals deal with it.

D-Day is getting nearer. I saw my consultant on Monday, and we discussed the options for my knee. He said I could try a brace, but that would just be a temporary thing. He did some more straight leg x-rays, and told me that my left leg needed to be realigned by seven degrees. In my mind, the decision was made. The High Tibial Osteotomy (HTO) has a very good success rate, often halting the onset of osteoarthritis and giving ten plus years to the life of the knee. The prospect of wearing a brace that realigned the knee by that much was not one that I considered. The thought of moving it seven degrees, and having it revert by the same seven degrees every time I put the brace on or took it off, seemed more like a destabilising exercise. Anyway, those who are a bit squeamish should look away now, as these are the images from inside my knee, taken during my arthroscopy, that gave my surgeon the information he required.



Ewww!

The operation itself is now scheduled for 4th December. Originally he told me it was weight bearing as much as could be tolerated from day one. Now he is kind of backtracking. Crutches for a couple of weeks, maybe. Maybe longer. Everyone’s different. Certainly no driving. Then he explained why. ‘We actually break your leg and then take a saw to it so that we can insert a titanium plate.’

And the dangers…'well the arteries are very close to the bone so there is a chance we could slice into them with the saw. We know when this happens because your foot quickly goes white.' (Presumably there is also a lot of blood pissing out from the incision!) 'Then we would have to get the vascular surgeons involved. Touch wood I haven’t done this so far!'

Touch wood?! I’d rather have something a bit more certain than that! He then mentioned the very slight possibility of something called compartmentalisation. As someone who can’t even watch Casualty I turned off at this point. Friday 4th December – can’t wait!

Amazing what you can get on the internet these days. First Christmas present for Pixie sorted. She will be pleased!

With The Apprentice, I'm A Celebrity, and various other high profile tv shows on at the moment, its no surprise that the televisual event of the year (if not longer) has somewhat gone under the radar. Fortunately you can still see it on Sky One Catch Up TV. It is episode 4 of After Hours, starring Ardal O'Hanlon. I say 'starring Ardal O'Hanlon', but really its all about the stunning extra work of Lady M. Of course, Ole and Ethan can be seen in the distance, but the allegedly reluctant Lady came to the fore in three separate shots. Steering the trolley in a manner reminiscent of Lewis Hamilton circumnavigating the streets of Monte Carlo, she kept Mr O'Hanlon on his toes as she rounded the juice aisle and headed for the milk. If she had been Elvis, no doubt her shopping trolley would have been on eBay by now, but she is far too shy and retiring to let that happen. Actually, has anyone checked the auction site listings recently?


Just waiting for the inscription...

I don't really put football in the blog, but I have to say that the Man United performance at home to PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday was truly awful. It made David Moyes seem positively adventurous, and Dave Sexton was sacked for playing football that was less dull than this game. The club should move for Pep Guardiola before its too late.

Thanksgiving came and went yesterday, but was marked in a special way by Zac. 'I made the tea for me and Alex,' he proudly announced. 'What did you make?' 'Sausages in the microwave and oven chips. We didn't have any micro chips so I got frozen ones and made them in the oven.' He went on to explain how he managed this gastronomic feat. 'I looked at the instructions and preheated the oven for about 2 minutes. I used the oven gloves and took them out after about 15 minutes. A few were not properly cooked but most were ok. I had a couple that were still cold. So its now official. I can make my own tea.' I suspect the consumption of oven chips is about to go through the roof!

The disturbing sight of a couple of young girls kissing on the street caused Zac some concern this week, and of course he had an opinion on it. 'They are only lesbians because they can't get a man.' I blame the sex education at Chapel School.

We drove past Memories Of India, and you may have noticed extensive work going on next door, in what used to be the taxi base. Zac was curious.
Zac: 'What are they actually building there?'
Me: 'A wine bar.'
Zac: 'I guess mum will be spending a lot of time in there. Will it be posh?'
Me: 'Well it will be ok I suppose. It will be a wine bar. In Whaley Bridge. So I guess it won't be too fancy.'
Zac: 'I reckon mum will be having a lot of nights out in there, with Jan and Helen.'

Ole's gone out tonight. Round to his friend's house, and then they are going for a Chinese. And somehow he expects me to pay for it! I've made tomato soup, barbeque pork and flapjacks today, There is plenty to eat, but he still expects me to pay for any food that he wants to eat at any time of the day. He's got a lot to learn that boy!

And speaking of a lot to learn, here's an exchange between Zac (12) and Ole (16) playing 20 questions. Ole had thought of an animal - Zac had to guess what it was.
Zac, 'Is it an amphibian?'
Ole, 'What's an amphibian?'
FFS!

Finally, Zac, concerned about the potential loss of limbs from terrorist bombings, decided that he would create some robotic arms. A noble cause but then it went a bit awry.
Zac: 'I could win the Nobel peace prize.'
Me: 'Don't you mean the Nobel prize for science, or medicine?'
Zac: 'Maybe, but then I could use the robotic arms to hold guns and other weapons. I could actually make a whole robot to go to war for me so none of my army ever get killed.' A Bond plot perhaps?

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