Cooking Gadgetry Success

Because I am not completely boring, I do normally buy myself a present at Solstice, just to keep in with the spirit of the season. There isn’t much that I need, of course, but something I can treat myself with is a kitchen gadget. I’m a sucker for those, after all.

So this year I decided to buy myself an air fryer. I’d resisted buying one for a long time, because I didn’t believe the marketing promises. But I do miss proper chips (that’s fries for North American friends). The various frozen or re-heatable options that they have in Tesco just aren’t the same. Having done a bit of research (thanks, Which?), I opted for a Tefal Actifry. It was expensive, but the considered opinion of reviewers was that cheaper models didn’t do the job, whereas this one did. With some trepidation, I made myself chips to go with the venison steak for my Solstice meal.

And they were great. Considering that this was my first time using the thing, I was really pleased. There are supposedly lots of other things you can cook in the machine, but even if all I use it for is making decent chips then I shall be very satisfied.

Io Saturnalia!


Today, December 17th, is the first day of the Roman midwinter festival of Saturnalia. It started out as a one-day thing, and through the long history of Rome morphed into a multi-day epic holiday incorporating the solstice and terminating in the birthday of the sun god, Sol Invictus, on the 25th. Among other things, it has given us the concept of the Lord of Misrule.

As I have been doing a lot of Roman stuff recently, I figured that I should celebrate properly, which means Roman food. For lunch I had bread, olives, feta cheese and octopus. It was yummy. But what to cook for the evening meal?

The Romans didn’t have turkey. They didn’t have tomatoes or potatoes either. But they did have a vast empire, and if you were rich enough you could bring in food from the far flung corners of the empire. So what might Romans have in place of turkey? Ostrich seemed like a good idea.

Obviously I don’t need a whole ostrich, and I don’t have the means of cooking one, but Tesco does sell ostrich steaks. All I need is something to do with them. Does Apicius have a recipe for ostrich? Of course, he has two. I’ll be experimenting with the first of them. I’ll be serving it with one of Apicius’s mushroom dishes, and some green vegetables.

There will be wine, of course. Mustn’t forget to show respect to dear Dionysus.

Introducing France #GiveItUp125

Here we are folks, the final stage on my virtual world tour. France, of course, is famous for its food. In this video I have breakfast and lunch. The latter includes far more cheese than is entirely sane, and a plate of escargots. Enjoy!

In case you were wondering, I did eat all of the snails. So much garlicky goodness.

As always, if you have enjoyed these videos, please donate to help One25. Every little helps. I’m only on 68% and today is the final day of the challenge.

Introducing Finland #GiveItUp125

Hello, and welcome to Virtual Finland. I’ve had a busy morning in the kitchen. You can see the results in this video.

The recipe that I used for the Karelian Pies is this one. I’m not hugely impressed with it. There seemed to be rather too much filling for the amount of pastry. But I did have to improvise quite a bit along the way.

In the video I promised you some photos. Here are the Karelian Pies:

And here is the cream tea with cloudberry jam:

For the benefit of folks from Devon and Cornwall who care passionately about such things, I put the cream on first because the cloudberry jam is a lot more liquid than a traditional English jam, and if you put the jam on first the cream will just slide straight off.

Coronavirus – Day #64

It has been another busy day at the fundraising coalface. So far so good, I think. I hope people are enjoying it.

There was also WiFi SciFi #3, for which I was a panelist. We had a great time. Thanks to Anne, Kevlin and all of the team.

As with yesterday, it has also been a busy day on social media. We’ve had the brilliant Guy Gavriel Kay’s #CocktailHour, where we all dress up and post selfies with a drink of our choice. And we’ve had #StayAtHomeDisco run by my lovely pal Laura Rawlings from BBC Radio Bristol. Conviently they were on at the same time so I was able to make one outfit do for both.

Out in the “real” world today there have been “anti-lockdown” protests in major British cities. No automatic weapons here, but doubtless the same far-right funders behind it all. Today was also the first day in around 3 weeks that the 7-day rolling average of deaths in the UK ticked significantly upwards. Cummings and his pals will doubtless be pleased with a job well done.

Welcome to (Virtual) California #GiveItUp125

Here we go again. Today I am in Virtual California. There will be music, science fiction, and tourism. Later on I will be joined by Kevin, and by Nalo Hopkinson. But for now, here’s an introduction and some food.

There’s a mistake I noticed in that video. Thanks to Bozo and his jolly chums doing such a good job of destroying the UK’s economy, California now has the 5th largest economy in the world.

And here is Nigella’s recipe for Roquamole. You’re welcome.

Life in Pompeii #GiveItUp125

As promised in my last video, here are some pictures from the Last Supper in Pompeii Exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. In case anyone is worried, that’s not a real dormouse in the pot.

If you want to learn to cook like a Roman, here is a modern edition of Apicius. Or you can get the original for free from Project Gutenberg.

And before I forget again, here is the Delia Smith recipe for zabaglione.

We’re Live! #GiveItUp125

In case you missed the announcement on Twitter, yes, the #GiveItUp125 challenge is now underway. I am in Virtual Italy, and I’ll be posting Italian content on various social media throughout the day. There will be music, tourism, books, and of course food. Here, in best Blue Peter tradition, is one that I prepared earlier.

If you like what I’m doing here, please consider donating to One25 who are doing amazing work in Bristol, putting themselves at risk to help those who have nothing.

And now, time for that Zabaglione…

Coronavirus – Day #62

Today started well. The weather was fine, the pollen count was low, and there were no urgent emails from clients. So I decided to go in search of hormones.

The car was a bit reluctant to start today, so I took a very circuitous route into town to get some charge into the battery. That’s probably contrary to one of the ever-changing Lockdown regulations, so if any of the “Gender Critical” mob are reading this, there’s your smoking gun. You can report me to the Authorities and have me taken away for re-education.

Boots was very quiet and the staff were very helpful. However, as all I had was an email copy of the prescription, they couldn’t fulfill it immediately. They need to phone my doctor and confirm that they are the only people I have approached. When they get that confirmation, they can order the hormones. But in order to find out if they have had confirmation I need to be able to get through to them on the phone, which is easier said than done. If I can’t get through after a few days I will have to go back and see them.

For some unexplained reason there was a massive queue at Tesco when I got there. It took forever to get in. They still didn’t have any flour, but I got a few things I needed for the Canada and France food list. There were a few more people wearing masks this time, including me, but we were still very much in the minority.

When I got back home there was a cement mixer blocking the road. I now have one neighbour and two people immediately across the road all having building work done. Being a builder is clearly a key occupation.

Coronavirus – Day #55

With the government planning on loosening the Lockdown restrictions and me needing a few bits and pieces for cooking for the One25 Fundraiser, I decided to go to Tesco today while it is still comparatively safe to do so. I was quite late getting there as I had to wait in for an Amazon delivery, but I only had to queue for around 20 minutes to get in. Everyone was well behaved, and this time I saw four people wearing masks (out of 100+).

There’s still no flour. Not even rye flour. I’ll cope.

But they did have Welsh Cakes!

Coronavirus – Day #48

Well that was great. Museum from Home was hugely successful. I’m really happy for Dan and Sacha, who have put a lot of effort into this. Who knows, maybe they’ll get their own TV show one day.

In among all the museum and free ebook excitement I found time to sling some chicken curry into the slow cooker, so that’s food sorted for a few more days.

Bozo has apparently announced that the UK is past the peak as far as virus cases goes, and the data is still supporting that. On the other hand, we are still running at well over 500 deaths a day, so if we lift restrictions now things could get a lot worse very quickly. And the government has still not made any significant steps towards managing the exit process.

Coronavirus – Day #47

Today I did the shopping thing. It all went very smoothly and I now have enough food to last me another two or three weeks. Interestingly the food selection in Tesco seems to have reduced somewhat since last time I was there. The cheese selection in particular was very disappointing. This suggests that Lockdown is having an effect on the food economy.

One thing that is plentiful is toilet paper. There was loads of it on the shelves. Some of it was even on sale.

On the other hand, there is still not a spoonful of flour to be had. Why that should be I do not know.

I saw only three people wearing masks. Two of those were Japanese. But everyone was well behaved.

Life continues to be busy. In addtion to the new Salon Futura, I have been working on this year’s fundraiser for One25, the Bristol charity that supports local sex workers. You may remember that last year I walked 125 miles for them. This year I will be giving up something for 125 hours. And no, it won’t be chocolate. There will be more about that next week.

Tomorrow is #MuseumFromHome Day on the BBC. I will be on social media much of the day to support my pals Dan and Sacha. I also have a contribution of my own to launch tomorrow.

And of course tomorrow there will be a new piece of Lockdown Reading.

Phew!

Coronavirus – Day #46

I almost forgot again. Sorry. I’ve been in the middle of an book review that has been very difficult to write.

Last night the cough came back. I have no idea why. Possibly it is something to do with the change in the weather. Anyway, I got rather less sleep than I wanted, and have had a mild headache through the day, but I’ve been fairly productive.

Today also marks two weeks since I last shopped for food. As it was raining heavily I elected not to go to Tesco where I would potentially have had to stand in the rain for 10 minutes. Tomorrow or Thursday may be better. Alternatively I could wait for next week. I’m out of quite a few things, including fresh fruit and veg, but I can certainly survive for several more days. I’m treating this as practice for January, because I am still expecting a hard Brexit and major food shortages. I’m learning a lot about what it is useful to stock up on.

If there’s a break in the rain tomorrow I’ll probably go out. Thursday is Museum from Home day on the BBC and I want to be on social media supporting Dan and Sacha. I’m also a bit worried that the government will relax the lockdown restrictions way too early, and that going out will become dangerous.