The road to Ben Nevis Nov 2009

The road to Ben Nevis Nov 2009
The road to Ben Nevis Nov 2009

Search This Blog

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

5 Knee jobs give useful boost to Consultant's Christmas shopping!

Consultant Sean O'Leary gave 5 anxious customers an early Christmas present by adding a Saturday morning to his busy operating schedule. Getting a knee-jobs done just before Christmas week meant his lucky patients were excused Christmas shopping.

At £640 each for the 20 minute procedure O'Leary boosted his Christmas funds and, despite oversleeping, he himself was free to join the happy shoppers in downtown Reading after lunch.

The consummate skill of this surgeon will mean than at least some of the rogue knees will be back in action for the New Year sales.

Find out more about knees in Reading at this web site!

arthroscopy arthroscopy arthroscopy

Monday, 10 December 2012

Tokyo Jazz: Shibusashirazu Orchestra at ShinJuku Pit Inn

My guidebook describes the typical Tokyo jazz club program as 'geriatric'. Not a comment on the music which can be as exciting and high quality as in any in the US or Europe, but rather on the hours they keep. This suits me just fine.

With a sleep deficit and a slight fear of the unexpected a program which says 'door opens 7:30, music starts 8:00pm, music stops 10:30pm' sounds just great to me.

To be sure, its not too easy. Finding an address in Tokyo for a non-native is not straight forward. The instructions on the website might get you to the neighborhood. Then allow upto an hour to search the streets, make sense of the map you downloaded, and find the right building.

The Shibusashirazu Orchestra played a great set with some impressive soloists tightly managed by their chain smoking conductor and with strange silent figures moving around infront of the stage.
See what you think:-

And - as promised - the program ended in time for the last trains at 11:00pm!

Fish for ever! Tsukiji market.

Imagine a market - not with one or two fish stalls but dedicated to fish.

Walk through it to reach another the same. And then another. And then another. And yet more. At Tsukiji the fish seems to go on forever!

Business starts early with auctions mostly of tuna - the record price this year was more than 56 million yen (c $500,000) - but on this Saturday in December the place was still busy mid-morning.

Special motorised carts race up and down the ailes. Since my last visit the smokey diesel engines are completely gone and replaced with clean electric power.

Super-sized mussels for sales!

At the edge of the market are tiny restaurants most with lines of customers eager to try the freshest raw fish.

In the surrounding streets there are many kinds of food shops and stalls - as well as fish restaurant, specialists in knives and cookware, pickles, teas, seaweed, fruit and veg.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Saturday Bread

4 'Tartine' style loaves, two tins with Stoates 100% organic wholemeal (foreground right), and two tempered with 15 % white plus 15% rye (back to right).

Last month in Oslo I spent the nights on a mattress in my host's library. The first of many temping volumes was Tartine Bread. The author Chad Robertson has done years of research in perfecting his loaf - a white sourdough bread. Now we can all benefit from the result.

His method uses a high level of hydration which can give difficult handling, but he explains about the need to build up tension within the structure during shaping. My first attempt failed in this area and resulted in a wide pancake loaf, the second attempt is shown above. He also proposes a low / no knead approach, instead 'turning' the dough every 30 minutes during the 3 hour initial rising period to help develop gluten structure.

Having perfected his loaf for commercial production he developed a home-baking method. Then he put his recipe in the wild with a number of non-baking friends. Apparently they all adapted the method to their own lifestyles but still produced great bread.

Several used his recommended 'dutch oven' - a cast iron pan with a lid which contains the loaf and sits in the oven during baking. I've seen this advocated by other writers but this is one bit of equipment too far for me. I was however inspired to get a thermometer as he regards the rising temperature and time relation as critical to a successful outcome. His recommended rising temperature at 80 degrees F is very much lower than the hand-warm temperature I have used upto now.

He has also worked on creating his ideal baguette. The pages devoted to this are also very interesting. Again I will be thankful for the months of effort and research and trial and error which I expect will lead to a step improvement in my next attempt at these long loaves.

Have a look here to see if you are inspired to investigate the book

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Baker's delight

Getting great flour is not so difficult in this Internet age, but getting flour at a reasonable price is not so easy.

I recently spotted the story of a home baker scaling up - Birch Cottage Bread. An interesting subject for me as my Kenwood mixer bought specially for preparing dough had stopped working, and I was feeling a need to make more bread in less time. I quizzed Lucie about equipment and flour. It is from her I learned that Amazon can be a good source for flour.

There's lots of flours with all sorts of qualities, but brown breads for me have to be made with stoneground flour. Organic or not? I'm undecided - although I use mostly organic. A favourite is from Waitrose with a great texture and flavour. 
There are many craft millers up and down the country who can sell flour on-line but the killer is delivery charges which can add upto 50% on the price. Amazon somehow absorb the delivery costs, and will even provide a discounted price for regular monthly orders.
Bacheldre mill is an example of a miller that delivers to customers via Amazon. With prices around £1 per kilo for 16 kilo bags this beats the best supermarket prices for a similar product but of unknown provenance.

Buying at the mill can be another way of saving on delivery cost. I managed to do this recently at Cann mills near Shaftesbury. There's not a lot to see, but to hear the clatter of the equiment and to talk to the miller about the flour all serves to build the anticipation of using it.
My target was his 100% Wholemeal Organic Wheat flour, but of course there's a whole range of flours available. I ended up also with a large bag of his 81% organic flour too which is produced by filtering out some of the bran. I always imagined this was made by adding white flour to the 100% - so this was a learning for me!
 The upper picture shows the 100%, while the lower the 81%. If you look closely at any of these flours they have a characteristic texture which I consider 'oily' from stonegrinding.

Having baked both flours several times now with conventional yeast for the 100% and using a sourdough starter for the 81% there's nothing to say against them. A taste test? That's a bit difficult - none of my subjects can definitively say they prefer this over the other stoneground flours I use.

I recently read a rave review of some organic white flour which made 'fabulous' pizza, so I did buy one small bag of Stoates Stoneground Organic Strong White (£2.20 for 1.5kg) - this had a lovely creamy colour. In a Pizza bake-off against Sainsbury Strong White (70pence for 1.5kg) - it was almost indistiguishable, so I'll be continuing to buy some flour in the supermarket!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

TGO Reflections #1

I gave up carry a big camera on walking trips some years ago when I discovered that this was a major source of back trouble. Now compact digital is the order of the day.

Digital cameras don't enjoy wet conditions however. My older Pentax Optio was often out of action for a few days after rain until it could be fully dried out. My current favourite from Sony is the Cyber-Shot DSC-HX5 (more here When it rains it is double wrapped in my pack or pocket - it feels and looks too delicate for rough all-weather handling.

You'll see lots of good pictures from the TGOC despite the challenging conditions. How is this achieved? My answer is to use this Olympus 'Tough' camera when wet weather is expected. It can sit in my pocket without a case, attached to my anorak by a length of dynema chord and is then ready to take a picture at any time.

In 4 or 5 years of service I have come to understand how to use it at its best and despite its shortcomings in the schema of hi-fidelity photography (imagining resources who provide some of the best equipment reviews suspended a recent review because of the image quality) it can take satifactory pictures in any weather.

I appreciate two features not found on any of my other cameras. One is an LED light which is useful instead of flash for close-up (macro) photography. Another is tap control which enable the selection of some setting options by tapping the camera on the side or top - this is a partial remedy to the difficulty of pressing the tiny control buttons with thick gloves or mittens.

This is the latest incarnation Olympus Tough TG-1 HS. Despite significant improvements it is hard to justify an upgrade while my current one still delivers . Temptation on Amazon at a bit under £300!

Spare batteries are essential for a trip like this. With OEM batteries costing around £30 I've gone to Ebay more than once and generally been satisfied with what I get for £5 or £6. A charger is another necessity. The Olympus charges the battery in situ - not the best option for public places. This year I found a great light-weight charger that is good for most camera and mobile phone batteries and will also charge AA batteries.

The only other accessory is a mini-tripod to be used for self portraits and group pictures!

Thursday, 31 May 2012

TGOC - The Pictures

Morar & The Way East!
  Here's a link to some of the pictures. They look good in slideshow mode, but 1 by 1 you can see the map locations.Click on picture below ....

2012 May TGOC