Darth Naga vs 16 Million SHU pure crystal capsaicin extract!

30 12 2010

From February 2011 pure capsaicin crystal is going to be illegal to buy or sell in the UK.

In advance of this latest bout of meddling from UK authorities Darth Naga tries a whole teaspoon of extract dissolved in vodka.





White Horse – Black Horse Porter

30 12 2010

Black Horse Porter is a seasonal beer from the White Horse brewery (see what they did there…) from Stanford-in-the-Vale in Oxfordshire.

I have encountered a couple of their beers before and had found them to be well above average, in particular Volund’s Hammer and Wayland Smithy.

I came across this beer on cask at the Argyll Arms at Oxford Circus and after looking at the tasting notes – great idea everywhere should do it – I decided to give it a spin.

In terms of looks this is exactly what a porter should be, so dark it’s nearly black with a good firm white head that stays well for the duration of the pint.

You get the expected aroma of chocolate malt along with a rich biscuity note and some very light fruit.

The taste of this porter is superb, rich roasted malts give real depth and body to the beer whilst there is a nice hint of dark fruits which add a little tartness without making the beer in anyway fruity or overly sweet. There is a long dry finish and a really surprising kick of hops which really makes this porter sing.

I found this porter to a be a real treat, it was warming and full bodied with a great depth of flavour to it and the liberal use of Kentish hops really made it stand out.

4.7/5





Brussel sprouts with leeks and bacon

28 12 2010

When it comes to enjoying brussel sprouts I am normally in the minority,

There is something about sprouts that just seems to put people off; now personally I think a lot of it comes down to two things – how fresh they are and how they are prepared.

There is a huge difference in taste between wonderfully fresh sprouts still on the stalk and those little wizened ones you buy in those nets or even worse frozen.

When really fresh sprouts have a wonderful sweet nuttiness to them that I would defy most people to find unpleasant.

Of course it doesn’t matter how fresh the sprouts are if you are just going to boil the life out of them and serve up a big dish full of soggy, mushy balls with all the taste and goodness boiled out of them.

I like to go off on a bit of a tangent with my brussel sprouts, especially if I am going to be serving them to people that claim not to like them I prepared this dish of sprouts with leeks and bacon to go along with Christmas dinner this year and it was  a huge success, even with non sprout eaters – you know who you are 😉

*If you want to make a vegetarian version of this dish you can leave out the bacon and crumble in a little bit of stilton about a minute  before serving*

Ingredients:

250g fresh Brussel Sprouts

150g Leeks

4/5 rashers of bacon

1/2 of a small onion

garlic salt

black pepper

olive oil

unsalted butter

Method:

Remove the outer leaves from the sprouts and make a small cross shaped incision on the base, this will allow for faster more even cooking

Clean the leeks and split down the centre before chopping into thin slices,peel and finely dice half an onion

Cook the sprouts in boiling water for about 3 1/2 – 4 minutes before refreshing by plunging into cold water. Now cook the leeks for just long enough for them to start to soften before draining and setting to one side.

Chop the bacon into small pieces and place to one side, now take the sprouts and slice them into quarters, if any of the sprouts are particularly large you may want to chop them into more pieces.

Fry the bacon in a little olive oil until it has just started to crisp at this point add in the chopped sprouts and a good knob of butter.

Cook the bacon and sprouts for around 3 minutes stirring regularly, add in the leeks, black pepper and garlic salt, stir through well and continue to heat for another 2 minutes or so until the leeks have warmed through.

Serve immediately.

 

 





Real men DO eat quiche

27 12 2010

 

 Real men don’t eat quiche….

 I must have heard that line about a thousand times at this point, somehow there is this strange view that quiche is some sort of effeminate food that no proper man would touch for fear of developing breasts on the spot.

Well I happen to think that any man who is worried that his choice of food makes him look “faggy” has some issues that only a few sessions with a psychiatrist will be able to sort out.

Quiche is great!

You only have to take a cursory look at the basic components of a quiche to work out that this is food that is packing some serious flavours yet can still be light and delicate.

Quiche is also incredibly versatile; you can add pretty much anything you like into them and a quiche can be a great quick meal to knock up out of store cupboard staples or leftovers.

The simplest quiche to make is the ever popular quiche lorraine, which incidentally should NOT include onions. However I have decided to go for something a little more fancy and have included my recipe for one of my all time favourites: Chorizo and red pepper quiche.

Ingredients:

250g of good quality chorizo sausage

2 red bell peppers

1 clove of garlic

5 eggs

1 medium red onion

250ml double cream

250ml milk

125g gruyerre – you can use manchego if you want an authentic spanish cheese

3/4 tsp paprika

sea salt

black pepper

shortcrust pastry – shop bought pastry is fine but it is even better if you make your own.

Method:

Peel and finely dice the onion and garlic and set aside for later

Roll out your pastry to the correct size for the pie dish you are using and line the dish making sure it is well pressed into all of the nooks and crannies. Place the pastry lined dish in the fridge so the pastry can chill.

Stir together the milk and double cream before mixing in the eggs.

Grate the cheese and stir into the cream, milk and egg mixture until it is well incorporated, season with the paprika, salt and pepper.

Soften the diced onion and garlic over a low heat and place to one side to cool

Dice the chorizo and colour in a pan until it is lightly browned

Deseed the red peppers and slice into strips before mixing in with the chorizo, onion and garlic.

Take the pie dish out of the fridge and spoon in the mixture of chorizo, peppers, onion and garlic ensuring that it is well spread out and that all of the base of the pastry is covered.

Pour over the egg, cream and cheese mix and fill to the top of the pastry.

Bake in a 180 c oven for between 45 minutes and 1 hour or until the eggs have set and the top is golden brown.





Merry Christmas 2010

24 12 2010

To all my readers I would like to thank you for supporting my blog and to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year

 

 

 





Butterbeer

23 12 2010

 I have messed around with the idea of making butterbeer quite a few times in the past, it has always seemed like quite a nice idea for a festive drink, particularly as I have more than a passing interest in historical English foods and beers.

 I have tried out several variations but in the end I settled pretty much on Heston Blumenthal’s recipe from one of his TV shows – Heston’s Christmas Feast if my memory serves.

I have made a couple of tiny little changes to the recipe but they are purely down to personal tastes. For starters Heston recommends using Old Speckled Hen; now whilst I have nothing against Old Speckled Hen I just find that it doesn’t sit right with me for this particular application.

My reasons for this are two-fold; firstly I would rather use something closer to what our Elizabethan ancestors would have had available and secondly and most importantly I don’t think it tastes quite right when mixed with the other ingredients.

Seeing as Heston’s recipe is pretty damn authentic I reckon the clash could come about because the other ingredients were supposed to work with a certain style of beer, I have seen other recipes make the suggestion that Fuller’s London Pride would work well but I am also not convinced that this would be the case, a pale ale just seems far too modern somehow.

Instead I have opted for an old ale, in this particular instance I am going to use Theakstons Old Peculier but feel free to go with whatever you want to use – I have in the past used Greene King Strong Suffolk to good effect.

One quick warning to any parents out there this is NOT a recipe for the drink of the same name in the Harry Potter series, there is very clearly alcohol in this recipe and as such is NOT intended for children to quaff whilst pretending to play quidditch.

That said you could always increase the heat in the early stages in order to cook off most of the alcohol, but where is the fun in that?

Ingredients

3 pints of “old Ale”

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground nutmeg

120g caster sugar

5 egg yolks

20g unsalted butter

Method:

Pour the ale into a saucepan and stir in the ground ginger, cloves and nutmeg. Gently heat the mixture until it is warm, do not let it boil.

Cream together the egg yolks and caster sugar.

Once the ale is warm, add the egg yolk and sugar mixture, stirring constantly, until the liquid has started to thicken slightly. Be careful not to let the saucepan get too hot or the eggs will scramble.

After 2/3 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter until it melts. Stir vigorously to make sure it is well incorporated with the other ingredients.

Serve immediately in 1/2 pints, if you want to get a frothy head you might want to use a small capuccino frother





Uley’s Old Ric

22 12 2010

I had this beer at the GBBF back in the summer I remember that my sole reason for picking up this particular pint was that I was at the festival with my uncle who just so happens to be called Ric and after a day of drinking strong ale this seemed like the funniest thing ever.

Old Ric is one of the regular beers from the Uley brewery in the Cotswolds and is named after Ric Sainty who was the landlord of the Old Spot Inn in Dursley.

Ric was much loved by his customers and sadly passed away in 2008.

The beer itself is a clear amber colour with a thin white head and a fruit filled, hoppy aroma.

The aromas of the beer come through strongly in the taste and there is a nice full-bodied fruitiness that is very nicely balanced with a slightly bitter finish and a hint of alcohol dryness.

I found Old Ric to be very easy to drink and would like to get my hands on some more should the opportunity arise.

4.2/5





The Magician’s Guild – Trudi Canavan

20 12 2010

The Magicians' Guild (Black Magician Trilogy, #1)The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan

Seeing as the story revolves around a pre-teen child who has no knowledge of her magical abilities but ends up being whisked away to a magicians guild and ends up being pretty much the top of the pile there were always going to be similarities drawn between this book and the Harry Potter series.

I really can understand how on the face of things it all seems a bit of a coincidence. Especially when in the second book of the trilogy we discover that the real enemies were believed defeated years ago but are back in secret and it will take huge sacrifice to defeat them…

Ok so I lied –  the similarities aren’t just on the surface. This really does read in parts like a mild re-write of some of the HP books.

But that didn’t really detract from my overall enjoyment, not just of this book but of the trilogy as a whole. The story is different enough that you don’t feel like you should just be replacing the name Sonea with that of HP himself and for the most part is well written, if a tad simplistic.

The class issues that Canavan brings up are a little bit clumsy and play out much as expected but even so it is a nice touch and helps keeps things fresh when otherwise you could be about to swap the Magicians Guild for Hogwarts.

There are however two big problems for me that keep me from scoring this book higher and unfortunately they carry on pretty much through out the latter installments of the trilogy.

Firstly there is the characterisation which is a little bit lacking on occasion.
The principal characters are surprisingly two-dimensional and formulaic and you never really find yourself building any attachment to them or indeed giving two hoots as to whether they all die in a fire.

This is a real shame as there is plenty of potential to really build some tension between the main protagonists right from the start.

 One prime example of this is the relationship between Sonea and her friends in the slums; it is obvious that Cery, one of the thieves, has strong feelings for Sonea but rather than build this up into anything too deep or emotive Canavan has the character dismiss his own feelings and cast them aside quite casually over the space of two or three paragraphs.

The second big issue that I have with this series is that I never really get a sense of immersion into the world the story is set in.

The slums and the guild are outlined reasonably well but even they are rather thin on detail and everywhere else we venture is so sketchily outlined that you are squinting to see it.

I am not asking for Tolkien like levels of detail about every blade of grass crushed underfoot but I would like to feel some sense of connection.

If I had to give an example of a fantasy writer who manages to pull this off to perfection it would have to be Terry Pratchett; on one hand I haven’t a clue what colour the second daffodil to the left of the buttercup and indeed don’t want to know was but on the other hand I can walk the streets of Ankh Morpork in my head without having to fill in huge chunks of blank canvas.

When I read that Sam Vimes stops and buys a sausage in a bun off of C.M.O.T Dibbler I can not only see Sator Square where they are standing I can smell the sausage.

In contrast to this I can read that some Bolhouse (a pub in Sonea’s world) is about to be destroyed by marauding Sachakan magicians (the bad magicians) and I really couldn’t give two figs. I haven’t a clue about the place in question other than the mere fact that it is a kind of pub and that they better have insurance. 

I am probably coming off sounding more displeased with this series than I mean to; it really isn’t bad but I feel that it lacks depth and a bit of originality and I am hoping that Canavan’s next installments will give me a bit less Potter and a bit more sense of her world and what she wants the reader to see.

View all my reviews





Stilton Beer…

20 12 2010

British cheese-makers have recently announced that in conjunction with the Belvoir brewery they have developed a Stilton based beer.

The beer has been cunningly named “The Blue Brew” and is said to capture the distinctive creamy and salty flavours of the world famous  blue cheese  by adding stilton whey in with the wort as the beer is fermenting.

Bosses from the Stilton Cheese-makers Association and Belvoir Brewery say it took several attempts to get the drink right but they are convinced drinkers will like the taste of this unique 4.2% real ale.

I reckon it is going to be quite sometime before one of these beers happens to cross my path but I will admit to being rather excited to sample it.

In the meanwhile the information surrounding this beer is a little bit sketchy so I have contacted Belvoir to see if there is any more light they can shed on this cheesy tipple.





Santa’s Sack Christmas Ale

16 12 2010

I had this recently as part of Wetherspoon’s selection of festive beers.

It is the last of Thwaites  “Signature Range” for 2010 and  having enjoyed several of the earlier offerings I was looking forward to an enjoyable pint.

My first impressions were pleasing as the pints that were set in front of me a really dark ruby red with a nice  thick foamy white head on them.

There was a fairly distinct aroma coming off  the beer which was a mixture between chocolate and what smelt like ovaltine, suggesting to me that there should be a really malty depth to the beer.

Well it turns out that looks can be deceiving, I led to believe I was going to be spirited away to a magical Dickensian Christmas  full of luxury and richness. Instead I was dragged on a 3 hour bus ride to Weston-Super-Mare, in the rain, with the windows open and the heater broken.

The predominant taste was that of cheap sugar and burnt toffee, none of the rich fruits, spices or chocolate notes that I would expect to get from a Christmas ale or winter warmer.

The body was so light as to be non-existent and if there was one that sticks out in my mind most about this pint it is wet.

I know that a number of people online have been raving about this beer but I just couldn’t bring myself to enjoy it. So much that I took my pint back unfinished as did my mate.

1/5








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