Apr 16

In the water

Aqua Vitae is in the water at last, as of Saturday. It was an extremely busy day, with around 70 or so yachts being moved from the top of the pier into the two harbours at Capernaum Point and Brucehaven. Fortunately, there was a great turnout of club members mucking in and the whole process went off without a hitch. I’ll add a bunch of photos as soon as we’ve finished mucking around with them and removing the rude ones 🙂

It’s good that the season has started, though it’s particularly rough that today is a great day for sailing and I’m stuck at work. But such is life 🙂

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Apr 10

Imminent Dooking

Extremely busy week ahead in preparation for crane-in on Saturday. There’s a little bit of painting still to do above the waterline – the anti-fouling is all done now. I imagine this idyllic scene is going to look an awful lot busier on Saturday. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are going to be spent doing last minute jobs – checking the mooring shackles and getting them cable-tied, making sure the strops are sound now they’ve been in the water for a week, and giving Delphine the Duck a little clean as the poor wee lamb is still a little muddy. There’s still desk painting to do and a helluva lot of work needed down-below, but that can wait for nicer weather (assuming there IS nicer weather). Main thing is the mooring check through the week will give me an excuse to get the tender in the water and test out the action camera.

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Apr 02

All things move towards their end, of that you can be sure.

Sunday afternoons are perfect for those little bits of maintenance needed to get everything ready for crane in. One of the oars for my tender had a bit of a screw malfunction which was preventing the sheath for the handle fitting snugly, so a judicious bit of turning, adjusting, and finally battering with a hammer saw the problem solved.

I have a little bit of painting left to do on the rudder, but that’ll have to wait until the rain finally stops. Assuming the rain DOES finally stop.

My giant rubber ducky mooring buoy passed his sea-test (in the bathtub) with flying colours. He was deployed at my mooring at Capernaum Point on Sunday. The mud in the harbour is utterly horrendous and really difficult to work with. Hauling chains, attaching shackles and strops, and running link lines while bogged down in a foot of sticky nasty slime is bloody hard work!

Anyway, with the mooring constructed, I fitted the giant rubber ducky and left him sitting sadly in the mud, looking like just another mooring buoy. I dashed off on an errand or five to give the tide a chance to come in as final proof that he was indeed seaworthy and up to the task. I got back to the marina to discover it in a little bit of an uproar as more and more club members caught sight of the little yellow chap bobbing about on the waves. LOLs were generated, chuckles shared, and the world became a happier place.

I do intend to fit a ‘proper’ buoy before crane in, but ducky will still be out there, watching over my little boat and making people smile.

Next job is to get the tender inflated and take a row out to the mooring for a few last checks. I guess the most important check is the seaworthiness of the tender – it’ll be good to know that it’s survived the winter and actually still floats 🙂

Oh – I also serviced the outboard on Sunday. It’s a nice little 4HP Yamaha 4-stroke circa 1998 and it runs like a dream. A lot quieter than many outboards I’ve heard. Need to get it on board and stowed in the locker next weekend. That’ll be an interesting job because it weights a ton and will need to be lugged up the ladder. I’m sure I can convince a passing club member to hand it up to me. Failing that, I’ll sling a line over the boom and haul it up using raw man-grit. Or something.

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Mar 26

Hello? What’s this then?

Oh dear. I haven’t really been keeping my blog very current, have I? I guess things have been a bit strange over the last few months. I think that’s what the Chinese curse about interesting times means. It has certainly been interesting. But one door closes and another eighteen open. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses, make some changes, and get on with life. So, I had a surprise holiday for some people booked as well as a chunk of savings put aside for a life event  and a change in circumstances made it no longer appropriate or necessary, so what to do? Give the tickets to someone who would appreciate them and blow the spending money and savings on a yacht of course! 🙂

So that’s what I did! This here is Aqua Vitae, a very pretty little Pandora International, currently specced for racing but I’m working on getting a nice balance of racing and cruising. I’m moored in the Forth Estuary, where I plan to get a few seasons of adventuring in while saving money for something a little bigger, at which point I think I may just bugger off. Assuming brexit doesn’t fuck everything up forever, France, Spain, then into the Med sounds like a good plan, but we’ll see what happens.

Life is too short for constantly looking backwards. Forwards is where the fun is. Anyhoo – expect updates and photos and stuff. Been using social media a hell of a lot less than I used to, so here’s where the bananas will be.

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Sep 26

Savoury Lorne Sausage

Well, Lorne Sausage (or square sausage, if you like) is a staple of the Scottish breakfast and it’s particularly awesome. This is my take on it, including a sage & onion mix and basic crumb coating that my local butcher used to add when I was a wean 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 750g minced (ground) pork & beef – 20-30% fat. Equal parts pork & beef.
  • 150g pinhead rusk. You can buy this by the kilogram on Amazon for the square-root of hee-haw. You could also make your own breadcrumbs, it’s just a double baked biscuit of flour, water and a little raising agent, whizzed up.
  • 200g chilled water.
  • 2 tsp salt.
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg.
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander.
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper.
  • 1 tbsp onion granules (you can vary to taste).
  • 1 tbsp dried sage (you can vary to taste).
  • 1 egg and a little milk for an eggy wash.
  • Crumb coating – ruskoline is good, but you can make your own breadcrumbs from cold toast if you like.

Method:

Mix all the herbs, spices and salt together with the meat in a large bowl. Try and get it as even and broken down as possible. A food processor can help here.

Mix in the water and work it through to make a horrible sticky gooey mess.

Now mix in all the rusk, again getting it as uniform as possible.

Line a bread tin with clingfilm (don’t skip this – trust me) and pack the mixture in tightly. Leave for 24 hours to set. The rusk will absorb all of the liquid and bind everything together.

When it’s set, pop it out and slice into 1 cm slices with a sharp knife.

Make up your eggy wash and coat each slice then dredge in the ruskoline to coat.

Fry  or cook under the grill and serve on (preferably) a well-fired (i.e. burned) morning roll 🙂

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Sep 01

Ziti

imageI think this is more of an Italian-American dish that straight Italian – someone who knows will no doubt tell me. It’s similar to a Lasagne, but without the need to make two sauces. It’s cheap, it goes a long way and it’s delicious.

So, here’s what’s needed.

  • 500g hot Italian sausage (mix together 500g pork mince, 1 tbsp ground fennel seeds, 1tsp salt, 1tsp ground black pepper, 1 tbsp good balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp chilli flakes).
  • A little extra virgin olive oil for frying.
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 carton of passata
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • imageEither 250g grated mozzarella or 125g grated mozzarella and 125 sliced provolone. Provolone is getting kinda hard to find in the UK, hence the option.
  • 1 carton of sour cream – usually about 200ml
  • 400g dried Rigatoni or Ziti (big tubes) pasta. Offering Rigatoni as a substitute here as Ziti has gone the same way os provolone in the UK.
  • Salt for seasoning.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees / Gas Mark 5.

First up, we’re going to make the ragu. Lightly brown the sausage in a little olive oil. Add in the onions and garlic, stirring frequently over a medium heat and taking care not to burn the garlic, until the onion is softened.

Add the balsamic vinegar, basil and oregano and continue to stir for a minute or two until the hissing from the vinegar dies down a bit.

Add the tomato puree and mix in well, then add the tin of tomatoes, the passata, and the brown sugar.
Bring all this up to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for around 30 minutes. You want the tomato cooked and the whole thing reduced a little. You’ll see from the surface when the tomato is cooked as the oil will begin to separate a little and it’ll go a lovely glossy dark red.

While this is simmering, drop the pasta into a large pot of boiling salted water (please, no oil in there) and cook for around 8 minutes until al dente.

While that is simmering, butter the insides of a large casserole dish.

Once the sauce is ready, we want to start constructing the Ziti. First off, put a layer of half of the pasta in the bottom of the casserole dish.

If you’re using provolone, layer all of it on top of the pasta, otherwise layer half of the mozzarella and a quarter of the parmesan.

Top this with all of the soured cream and spread it over with a knife.

Next, layer on half of the ragu.

Next is a layer of the remainder of the pasta.

Then the other half of the ragu.

Finally, add the remaining mozzarella and parmesan.

Bake uncovered in the centre of the oven until either the cheesy is all melty and brown or until you can’t take the smell any longer and need to devour it.

Note: this makes enough food to feed four or five people easily. As an alternative to doing the whole lot in a single big dish, you can construct individual servings in little foil trays and freeze before cooking.

 

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Aug 14

Basic Italian Sausage

This is a lightly spiced sausage meat which works great for any red meat-based Italian food (your lasagnes, bolognese and what have you) as well as for stuffing into skins if you’re so inclined. A word about the ground pork / port mince first, though; if you’re going to use a packet from the supermarket, make sure there’s at least 20% fat content or you’ll have rubbery tasteless yuk at the end. If you’re mincing your own, I’d recommend a cut of pork shoulder (skin off, obviously) as it has the best fat:meat ratio.

Anyhoo – here’s what you’ll need for 500 grams of basic Italian sausage.

  • 500g minced/ground pork
  • 2 tsp ground fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp good quality sea salt (you know my preferences there)
  • 1 tsp good balsamic vinegar

Method: mix it all together, leave for an hour or two to marinade. Use. 🙂

Some optional extras – you can make sweet, hot, smokey, all kinds of varieties by adding a teaspoon of chilli flakes, smoked paprika, brown sugar, etc. Obviously not all at once though. Although…

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Jul 18

Monster Hunter Generations (3DS)

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Look! I’m not Bague! I’m Chewbury! And I’m a bloke! This is a direct result of the Rath Heart Armour making me look like a cupcake in MH4U.

Oh Lordy! It’s a new Monster Hunter game. And I haven’t even reached G-rank on MH4U yet! Well, that’s embarrassing! Anyway, all is not lost! Just like MH4U played sufficiently differently to MH3U that it didn’t supplant the previous version, MHGen does the same thing – in spades. The jumpy mechanics introduced in 4U are still there, but there’s a whole new “Styles” system which allows you to switch up both your play style and the special abilities that style gives you, depending on the fight you’re doing.

For example, this time round I’m using the switch-axe as my main weapon. I’m also using the ‘Aerial’ style rather a lot. This basically adds a little jump to my dodge, meaning I can vault off monsters (which makes special attacks fun and mounting easy). The trade off is that I can only select one special move and my combo finishes can only be triggered while part of an aerial chain. Other styles allow you to select up to three special moves and provide a wide range of defensive and offensive options.

On top of these new mechanics, there’s a buttload of new areas and new monsters as well as a VAST array of villages, areas and monsters from earlier editions, right the way back to Monster Hunter 1. I think I could probably play this one forever.

 

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Jun 06

British Indian Restaurant style base curry gravy

Hello all. So, I’ve been experimenting a lot with curry cooking the way it’s done in British Indian Restaurants. These dishes have a unique taste and texture of their own, distinct from traditional Indian and Pakistani cooking. I expect this has come about from a requirement to rapidly produce a wide range of dishes in as short a time as possible.

Using this “base gravy” as a stock allows you to produce a huge variety of curries just by changing the ingredients in the basic masala (spice mix) you start with. Anyhoo, here’s how the gravy is put together.

First bit:

  • 1.5kg brown onions, peeled and roughly chopped.
  • 100-125g carrots, peeled and roughly chopped.
  • Half of a large green pepper, roughly chopped.
  • 100g potato, peeled and roughly chopped.
  • 80g ginger & garlic paste.
  • 1.5 tsp salt.

In a large pan (a pressure cooker works well – you’ll need a minimum of 5 litres), heat 200ml oil on a medium high heat. Add all of the above to the oil and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Cover and turn down low. The aim here is to simmer gently for an hour, until everything starts to disintegrate. Stick your nose in it – it should have a gentle sweet smell.

Second bit:

Turn the heat up to medium and add:

  • 2 tablespoons of mix powder
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala

Cook in the spices for a minute or so, stirring constantly to make sure they don’t burn. Next add:

  • 160g double concentrated tomato puree
  • 40g creamed coconut block (or 80ml coconut milk)
  • 1 teaspoon jaggery or brown sugar
  • 2 litres of water

Bring to the boil then put the cover back on and turn down to low. Simmer for about an hour. 15 minutes before the end, add a handful (a generous one, in my opinion) of chopped coriander stalks. About 50g. Or the stalks and the leaves. Whatever, but DEFINITELY the stalks – that’s where the flavour is.

You have an immersion “gravy gun” style blender, yes? Stick it in there and blend until it’s as smooth as you can get it.

You now want to simmer for another 30 minutes. Yes, I know this is a long-ass recipe (2.5 hours cooking so far, never mind the prep), but it freezes well and you’re making enough for a good dozen curries.

This base gravy is double concentrated. Before use, you’ll want to dilute it a bit. I generally portion it up as is in takeaway sized tubs. When it’s time to use, I add another takeaway tub of water to the gravy to thin it. This generally makes two single portions of curry.

 

 

 

 

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Jun 06

Indian Restaurant style “Mix Powder”

So, in most of the BIR style curry recipes I make, I use what’s called a “mix powder”. This is just a blend of the spices common to just about every British style curry there is. It’s easy. Just punt the following spices into a jar, shake ’em up, and you have mix powder.

  • 4 tablespoons of a GOOD QUALITY MILD curry powder. I’m not talking Schwartz or your supermarket’s own brand. Those are SHIT QUALITY MILD curry powders. If you need a recommendation, Al Noor Pakistani bassar curry masala is an excellent choice.
  • 2 Tablespoons paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin powder
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 1 tablespoon good quality garam masala. You can make your own – in fact I recommend you do – but if you don’t want the faff, the East End branded one is pretty good.

And that’s it.

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