Shed of the year 2010…

24 11 2010

A sheddie from Southend-on-Sea, Essex, has won Shed of the Year 2010 after beating off competition from 1,250 shed-lovers. Reg Miller’s pirate-themed shed, ‘The Lady Sarah out of Worthing’ named after his partner, was judged best shed in the competition sponsored by Cuprinol Sprayable and comes complete with a Koi Carp pond and even a parrot!

The judging panel, including Sarah Beeny and ‘Head Sheddie’ and creator of readersheds.co.uk Uncle Wilco , commented: “Reg shows that a perfect shed sums up the personality of the individual that created and uses it. The pirate atmosphere is superbly evoked throughout and underlines that when it comes to creativity, sheddies have it in spades.”

The man of the moment himself  had this to say: “I’ve spent years working on my shed and to win Shed of the Year 2010 is a real thrill – it’s the ultimate accolade for shed owners! It’s still a work in progress, as I’m constantly adding to my collection of pirate memorabilia and props and the shed is slowly but surely taking over the whole garden.

It’s become a real talking point in the area and since I entered it in the competition, I’ve had loads of really positive comments from sheddies around the globe – it really seems to have caught everyone’s imagination! Funnily enough, I’ll be spending my winnings repairing my decking at the top of the garden! It has recently collapsed and I really want to spruce it up again so that I can use it for the summer and yes, I will be using Cuprinol products!”

Reg bagged himself £1000 cash and a boatload of shed care products courtesy of competition sponsors  Cuprinol.

This sort of thing could only be from Britain; it captures the slightly strange eccentricity that we as a nation seem to thrive on. I mean seriously where else in the world would a happily married man be able to get away with converting his back garden into some sort of pirate themed fantasy land…

I have long been an admirer of all things shed and have made most people in my life well aware of the fact that one day I too will be sitting in a small wooden box at the bottom of the garden oohing and aahing over my collection of assorted detritus  as I lovingly catalogue it.

 

Advertisements




Adnams launches range of handcrafted spirits

24 11 2010

Following on from 138 years of turning out excellent beers Southwold based brewer Adnams has recently launched it own range of artisan spirits.

Their recent opened Copper House distillery makes Adnams the first joint brewery and distillery in England, a pairing that is quite common on the continent.

Adnams handcrafted gin and vodka are now available for sale on the Adnams Website and from any of the 10 Adnams Cellar and Kitchen stores. These initial offerings will be joined by whiskey after a 3 year maturation in oak casks.

Chairman Jonathan Adnams OBE said: “We have been brewing great beers in Southwold since 1872, and our business now incorporates five hotels, 70 pubs, ten Adnams Cellar & Kitchen stores as well as our online store. Hand crafted spirits are the next exciting step in our journey and we are proud to add distilling to our expertise.

“Small scale distillation produces spirits of a quality and character that far surpass mass-produced products”

Adnams are keen to promote the fact that all of the grains being used in the distillation of their spirits are locally grown in East Anglia all of which is in keeping with Adnams tradition of being one of the most ecologically friendly brewers around.

If there spirits are anything like their beers then I look forward to getting my hands on a couple of bottles and wish them the very best of luck.

The pot still





Greene King Harvest Ale

24 11 2010

Harvest ale was one of several seasonal ales released by Greene King.

I say was as unfortunately Harvest Ale is now “retired” and is increasingly difficult to find.

The aroma is rather pleasant with predominately malty tones and a hint of dried fruit creeping in.

In terms of appearance Harvest pours to a very dark brown – imagine coca cola almost with a thin beige head which lasts reasonably well.

Harvest is quite sweet but it isn’t sickly there is a nice dark malty taste with elements of raisins and a nice hint of red berries which carries through to the finish adding a slight element of sharpness which helps to cut through the sweetness.

Considering that Harvest is a mere 3% ABV it is surprising that there is as much body as there is, it is nicely rounded  with a fairly soft carbonation.

All in all I always found Harvest Ale to be a really good example of a brown ale and thought it was a damn shame when GK decided to retire it, especially when you compare it to some of their recent offerings!

4.2/5





Easy Buttercream Icing

23 11 2010

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but I was recently discussing the merits of making your own icing over those of buying those awful tubs of Betty Crocker pre-made icing that you can buy in supermarkets.

The discussion ended with me setting out to prove not only that it is easy to make your own icing but that the end result tastes better to.

I know that a lot of people like to use margarine in or shortening when making buttercream but I flat-out refuse to, the taste is completely different and the heavy greasy taste that it leaves in the mouth is just vile.

Ingredients:

250g unsalted butter

600g icing sugar

2 tablespoons of milk

vanilla extract

Method:

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and approximately 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Once the vanilla extract is incorporated into the butter you can start to mix in the sugar adding roughly 1/4 at a time, ensure that the sugar is well beaten in before adding the next batch

Once you have incorporated all of the icing sugar into the butter you will need to add the milk and beat until you have a light and fluffy texture, keep beating until there are no lumps and the icing doesn’t feel gritty.  At this point you can add more vanilla essence if you wish

You can add more or less any flavour that you want to your icing in place of the vanilla and you can also colour it anyway you wish. If you decide to use liquid food colouring then remember that a little goes a long way!





Make your own chili powder

23 11 2010

A number of years ago I found myself getting increasingly fed up with shop bought chili powder.

Unless you go to a specialist shop it is just not a particularly good product; some chili powders have no heat what so ever even if they are labelled as being hot, some have no flavour to them at all and many of them are adulterated with colourants and additives which are just unneccessary.

So I started making my own, now I am able to have different blends or mixes made up ready for certain recipes and have complete control over what goes into my chili powders, their flavours and levels of heat.

You can also make rubs and seasoning blends in advance by mixing in the required herbs and seeds.

Because I tend to get through quite a lot of chili powder I make fairly large batches at any one point but you can make as much or as little as you wish.

You will need to ensure that you are using dried chilies or if not you are going to end up with a paste as opposed to a powder.

If you aren’t able to find the variety of chili that you want in a dried form you can but them fresh and dry them yourself, or even better grow your own chilies.

In order to dry your chilies you will need to remove the stems and the seeds from the chili and flatten out the pieces.

Place these onto a dry baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 5 or 6 minutes before checking them. Smaller less fleshy pieces will dry out quicker and can be removed before returning the larger pieces to the oven for a further 5 minutes.

Once all of the pieces of chili are nice and crisp break them into  smaller section and pop them in a blender or better yet a spice grinder, pulse the chilies for afew seconds until you are left with a powder.

Hopefully you will notice that the colour of your chili powder is far deeper and that the aroma and flavour are far stronger and less artificial.

Store your chili powder  out of direct sunlight in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.





Greene King Hop (formerly The Beer To Dine For)

22 11 2010

 So we meet again Mr Bland….

 I was working at Greene King when The Beer to Dine For officially launched, unofficially it was the launch of butt plug beer but we wont go into that here…

Whatever it was called one thing is for certain it is still kicking around today, now under the interesting name “Greene King Hop”. The premise behind beer to dine for was that it would be the perfect accompaniment to food and would help win people over to real beer, particularly women.

The reality was a little different:

It looks fairly good, both in the bottle and when poured, having a nice clear honey gold colour with a fairly small head that quickly dissipates to nothing; I can well imagine it being poured into fancy glasses at some dinner party in suburbia and  fitting in well amongst the Blossom Hill and Jacob’s Creek.

The worry started to set in when I realised that there is no aroma, not just that it is faint but that there is quite literally nothing at all, not good.

The worrying lack of anything continues when you take a sip the best thing I can say about GK Hop/Beer to Dine for is that it is bland.  There isn’t really anything about it that jumps out and grabs your attention. There is some sweetness there and a slight amount of bitterness but being brutally honest there isn’t really much more flavour then you would find in Carlsberg or any other mass-produced lager.

Now correct me if I am wrong but isn’t the whole point of proper beer to steer people away from tasteless crap and onto something with a bit more going for it? Well you will never achieve that goal if the alternative is just as bland and unassuming.

The finish isn’t really anything you would be impressed by either it is thin and just helps contribute to the fact that this might as well be a bottle of fizzy syrup that has been allowed to go a bit skunky.

Oh yes did I mention the fact that due to the naff clear glass bottle 4 out of the 7 I tried had a nice skunky essence to them, just what I would want with my coq au vin!

I don’t go in for the idea of slagging off Greene King because they keep buying up smaller brewers but at the same time they really should know better than to put their name to this muck. It is marginally better with food but that is only because it is bland and inoffensive and doesn’t detract from what you are eating.

1/5





Fuller’s London Pride – English Pale Ale

22 11 2010

fullers london prideLondon Pride is Fuller’s flagship beer and has to go down as being one of the best examples of an English pale ale.

It is widely available on cask in the south of England and is one of the most commonly encountered bottled real ales that you can find, you can even find it on British Airways and American Airlines flights!

The cask version of London pride comes in at 4.1% ABV whilst the bottled version is slightly more alcoholic at 4.7% .  Personally I prefer my London Pride from the cask but there is really very little difference between the two.

The aroma that you get from London Pride is primarily malty with a suggestion of fresh bread, there is a slight note of hoppiness that comes through in the background along with a hint of toffee which adds a pleasant sweetness.

When poured there is a rather thin off white head, about 2 fingers worth, that lasts well and provides a fair amount of lacing. The body of the beer is a  clear amber colour that just sparkles when the light hits it.

 Following on from the dominant aromas of the beer the first flavour that you notice is a rich biscuit taste coming from the malt along with the toffee sweetness some buttery caramel and a light fruitiness.

The hopping in London Pride is great, there is a good level of bitterness that perfectly balances with the rich malts and helps to cut through the sweetness the leafy hop flavour is refreshing and carries through to the finish.

London Pride has a nice well rounded feel to it with a medium body, good carbonation and a wonderful smoothness to it, the flavours are complex and layered with everything working together perfectly.

A truly outstanding beer

4.9/5








%d bloggers like this: