Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Slap Chips, The Countess, The Gay Latino and the Crazy Militants

I always find it interesting what are people searching for on the net and why. Some of the top searches for today is Hutaree LuAnn de Lesseps Ricky Martin Hutaree – because it is a Christian Militia Cult in the USA who has become a tad too threatening to the US government. (Only in America) Countess LuAnn de Lesseps – Because she is an American Celebrity appearing in the series “The real Housewifes of New York” in the US together with other Celebrity wives. LuAnn de Lesseps was married until 2009 to Count Alexandre De Lesseps (a descendant of Ferdinand de Lesseps, famous Architect of the Suez Canal). They divorced after he had an affair with an Ethiopian Princess. (Only in America) Ricky Martin – because he FINALLY came out of the closet and admitted he is gay. (Only like in...erm ...everywhere?) Back to SA. With all the MacDonalds’ popping up everywhere (And other fast food outlets), when last did you have real slap chips from a dirty Portuguese Corner shop. Fat golden brown hand-cut chips, crispy on the outside, deliciously soft on the inside and the taste redolent of potatoes and oil infused with the flavour of years and years of frying russian sausages, newspaper and lots and lots of salt and vinegar. A small cardboard box of dry matchstick fries cannot possibly be as satisfying as R12’s worth of slap chips wrapped in newspaper. Man alive, have made myself so hungry now. But it is like we say in Afrikaans... ‘Hoe vuiler die Portugees se kafee, hoe lekkerder die chips!’. So here is today’s Vital Statistics. (click for larger image) The slap chip equation = The dirtier the Portuguese’s Corner Shop, the tastier the chips

Monday, 29 March 2010

Sticky & Crispy Chinese Chicken

Sticky and Crispy Chinese Chicken
I have not done proper recipe posts in a very long time, so today I do two. (See post below as well) This is a recipe of my own devising. I do not know how ‘Chinese’ this actually is, but it is really very good.
You will need: 4 Chicken breasts (without bones & skin) cut into long thin strips Chinese 5 spice mix (The Cape Herb & Spice Company does a very good one) 750 ml cooking oil salt ½ cup flour ½ cup cornflour (maizena) 1 cup ice water with extra ice 1 egg 125 ml hoisin sauce 125 ml sweet & sour sauce. stirfry vegegables 2 cups (uncooked) basmati rice Sprinkle a modest sprinkling of Chinese Five Spice Mix and salt over the raw chicken strips. Cook the rice as per instructions. Slice vegetables in very thin strips Heat the oil in a large pot. Make a tempura batter by whisking together the ice water, extra ice, flour, cornflour and egg. (The cornflour makes it extra crispy. Once the oil is very hot, dip small batches of the chicken strips in the batter and quickly fry in the very hot oil. The batter coating must be a very light brown, and the chicken strips must be tender and juicy inside. If you overcook, the chicken becomes dry, tough and stringy. Drain on kitchen towelling paper and stick the finished batches into a warm oven. As you do the last batch, flash-fry the vegetables in a very hot pan with a few drops of oil. At the same time put the hoisin sauce and the sweet and sour sauce in a small saucepan and boil together till it becomes thick & sticky. Put half the chicken strips in the sticky sauce and stir till all the pieces are coated. Mix the rice and vegetables. To dish up – put rice & vegetables in bowls, arrange 1st some of the sticky strips and then some crispy strips on top of the rice. Garnish with spring onion and enjoy! I desperately need to read up on how to take better food photos. Lamb did the table setting for the photo, but it does not come out as nice on the photo as it actually looked.

Pasta Primavera

Fettuccine Primavera – The Family Recipe (borrowed)
Although my Mom made this a lot, I have to credit my Dad for making this recipe for Pasta Primavera for the first time. Despite having the status as one of the ‘classic’ pasta sauces, Primavera sauce for Pasta is an American Invention. The origins of Pasta Primavera can indeed be traced back to New York in the 1970’s. My Dad got it from a Pasta Cookbook by Giuliano Hazan, and everyone in our family adopted the recipe ever since because it is so incredibly good. I made this on Friday night.
From Wikipedia “Giuliano Hazan (born 1 December 1958 in Manhattan) is a cookbook author and educator who travels throughout the world teaching Italian cooking. The son of Italian cooking doyenne Marcella Hazan, his combination of Italian palate and American organization makes his message of fresh ingredients prepared in a simple manner, clear, timeless and delicious. His cooking school in Italy, Cooking with Giuliano Hazan, has been profiled in many US publications. Hazan is an author, teacher, entrepreneur, and considered by some to be one of the foremost authorities on Italian cooking.” Primavera means ‘spring’ in Italian – therefore the spring vegetables the sauce is based upon. Many a times you would order Primavera in a restaurant and you get served an insipid sauce containing hard strips of vegetables that tastes of nothing. Here is the reason and the SECRET of a good Primavera. (One that does not give vegetarians a bad name)
A common mistake in making this is not sautéing the vegetables enough. Do not be afraid of overcooking them here. Whatever dubious virtue there may be in undercooking vegetables, it certainly does not apply to pasta sauces. By cutting the vegetables in tiny pieces and sautéing them thoroughly, you will concentrate their flavour and infuse the cream with it. Done properly, this is a heavenly dish with the rich, sweet flavours of spring.
Ingredients ½ small yellow onion 1 large carrot 1 medium celery stalk 4 tablespoons butter 250g fresh asparagus (canned will not do in this instance) ¾ red sweet pepper 250g baby marrows 250 ml cream 4-5 sprigs flat-leaf Italian parsley Salt Freshly ground black pepper ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano fettuccini or any ribbon pasta
Method 1. Peel and finely chop the onion. Peel the carrot and cut into ½-inch dice. Wash the celery, trim the top and bottom, and peel the back to remove the tough strings. Cut it into ¼-inch dice. Put the butter in a large heavy bottomed saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Once the butter begins to melt, add the onion, carrot, and celery and sauté until the vegetables begin turn caramel – be patient. 2. Take the asparagus and bend each one at the bottom end till in snaps. It will snap where the woody bottom part and the tender top shoot meets. Discard the woody bottom bits. Blanch the asparagus in rapidly boiling water (with teaspoon salt) for about two minutes 3. Cook the pasta according to instructions on packaging. 4. Wash the baby marrow, trim the ends, and cut into ½-inch dice. Peel the pepper, core it and remove the seeds. Slice into thin strips. 5. When the onion, carrot, and celery are ready, add the baby marrow and peppers. Season generously with salt and pepper and continue sautéing until the baby marrow and peppers are quite tender and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. 6. While the baby marrow and peppers are cooking, finely chop enough parsley to measure 1½ tablespoons. Cut the cooked asparagus into pieces about 2cm long. When the baby marrow and peppers are ready, add the asparagus and sauté for about another minute. Add the cream and parsley and continue cooking until the cream has thickened and reduced by almost half. 8. When the pasta is done, drain it well, toss with the sauce and the freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve at once. Serve with extra parmesan.

Friday, 26 March 2010

My bladder vs traffic

During my 70 km commute to work every day, I spend a lot of time in traffic. If I leave at 5am, my travel time is usually about an hour. If I leave anything after 5:30, the volumes of traffic I encounter increases exponentially, my average speed decreases dramatically and I arrive at work having spent 1.5 - 2 hours in the car with a bursting bladder and a bad mood. Click on the Graph below which explains the various relationships which takes place if I leave my house at 6am instead of 5. When are they going to be finished with the infernal roadworks in Gauteng????

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Blue Wednesday

I wish I could do longer posts, but I have a bit of... erm... let’s just say ‘fan cleaning’ to do at work. So I am a bit busy, since washing off the proverbial from fan blades is disgusting & tedious employment. To top in all, I had the morning from hell. I left for work early, so I can start on my odorous task. Because of traffic I took a different route which takes me through Rosettenville. As I was driving pleasantly along, an articulated truck in front of me made a wide turn to get into a narrow side street. It didn’t quite make the turn and stopped suddenly. I swerved and both my right side wheels struck the middleman. Both tyres were busted and as I was worried about the suspension, I had the car towed. The insurance instructed the tow-away to put the car on a flat-bed and take it to heir approved panel beaters. When I eventually got to work, I went to wash my hands. I opened the tap to wide and water splashed all over the front of my tan chinos... I think I must go home... Mr. G. Ripewater...If you are reading this, I am trying to comment on your blog, but there is something wrong on your comments page!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

L-Arginine – the price for sex leaves a bad taste in the mouth

I have too many topics I want to cram into this one post, so maybe I’ll refer to them all and discuss them at length in posts to follow, we’ll see. Let me start with a bit of an update of what happened during my blogging drought between October 2009 and March 2010. I was feeling more than a bit overwhelmed with everything going on in my life. I had a terrible time at work (I am on the project from hell) and after a year we were still struggling to come to terms with caring for a baby after 11 years of marriage. I was feeling seriously stuck and became worried that my emotional state would negatively impact my relationship with Lamb and Image and, so I asked my Psychologist friend, Supplanter, for a referral to another Psychologist, as I would not be comfortable seeing him, since we are friends. He referred me to a lady called Paris von Dry Season. I felt comfortable with Paris straight away (funky older lady – platinum blond with a pink stripe in her hair). Paris suggested that I see a Psychiatrist as well, as she felt that I need to consider medication for depression/anxiety. Now depression and anxiety are called co-morbid conditions to ADD. It is thus not uncommon for people/children with AD(H)D to have either or both. Since I do not have to spill my guts to a Psychiatrist in the same fashion as to a Psychologist, I felt comfortable to approach Cara Noir, someone I know socially-bordering-on-friend. Cara indeed prescribed an anti-depressant, one which also alleviates anxiety and can be safely taken with Ritalin. I feel that I’ve greatly benefited from the combined therapy, despite work conditions deteriorating and even though the passing away of my Mother set me back a bit. (At least I feel that I am advancing in the grieving process – Feb was a terrible month in that respect, but I feel much lighter as of late). Anti-depressants, however can inhibit one’s sex drive and I have certainly felt that. It is strange... the mechanics still works perfectly, but the drive is not what it was before. Top that with the diminished opportunity for nooky which a new baby brings along... So, as I very often do, I jumped on the internet. I found that the supplement l-arginine is recommended for lowered sex drive due to the taking of anti-depressants. L-arginine is a supplement taken amongst others by body builders, as it is a precursor or something to the human growth hormone – so it helps you build muscle. So off I went to Dischem and bought a bottle of Solal (my preferred supplement brand) l-arginine (powder form). The first trick was to find the right time to drink the stuff, as it is to be taken on an empty stomach, at least two hours before or after a meal. Very rarely does 4 hours pass without me having anything to eat, so... When eventually I ended up for a brief period with an empty stomach, I took the powder as per the (inadequate) instructions. The bottle just said 3 scoops. I proceeded to add 3 scoops to half a glass of cold water. I stirred it well and drank deeply. Merde! Scheissen! ¡Hijo da puta! Fokken Moer die goed is sleg! I started gagging, heaving and roaring, but stopped just short of actually throwing up. The stuff is totally undrinkable. I added half a glass of grape juice, pinched my nose closed and downed the rest (the stuff is damn expensive). Lamb nearly peed herself with laughter. L-Arginine is vile-and evil tasting. It has a strong bicarbonate of soda tang overlaid with an odd bitterness and saltiness which sticks to the back of your throat. This is all combined with some other inexplicable taste – something I have not yet encountered. Onto the net again. I learned that acidity helps in countering the taste. The next time I dissolved it in Lemon juice (lots) and added ice cold water (lots). It was still not nice, but I managed much better this time. And guess what... It works. Although, I must admit, I am one of those people on which the placebo will work as well as the real thing. Just the act of taking something makes me feel better already. I’ve decided to spice my posts up a bit with some charts & graphs – so here is the first of my new vital statistics feature: The taste of l-arginine vs it’s effect over time.
What is the vilest thing you have ever tasted?

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Weird food - Casu Marzu - Maggotty Pecorino

It is time for another weird food post again! From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casu_marzu retrieved 17 March 2010 Casu marzu (also called casu modde, casu cundhídu, or in Italian formaggio marcio) is a traditional Sardinian sheep milk cheese, notable for being riddled with live insect larvae. It is found mainly in Sardinia, Italy. Casu marzu literally means "rotten cheese" in Sardinian, and the cheese is known colloquially as maggot cheese. Casu marzu is created by leaving large pieces of Pecorino cheese outside and letting it ferment. During the fermentation process, the eggs of the cheese fly Piophila casei are either intentionally introduced to the cheese, or a female Piophila casei lays her eggs in the cheese, sometimes exceeding five hundred eggs at one time. The eggs hatch and the larvae begin to eat through the cheese. The acid from the maggots' digestive system breaks down the cheese's fats, making the texture of the cheese very soft, as described. By the time it is ready for consumption, a typical Casu marzu will contain thousands of these maggots. Casu marzu is considered toxic when the maggots in the cheese have died. Because of this, only cheese in which the maggots are still alive is eaten. When the cheese has fermented enough, it is cut into thin strips and spread on moistened Sardinian flatbread (pane carasau), to be served with a strong red wine. Casu marzu is believed to be an aphrodisiac by local Sardinians. Because the larvae in the cheese can launch themselves for distances up to 15 centimetres (6 in) when disturbed, diners hold their hands above the sandwich to prevent the maggots from leaping. Those who do not wish to eat live maggots place the cheese in a sealed paper bag. The maggots, starved for oxygen, writhe and jump in the bag, creating a "pitter-patter" sound. When the sounds subside, the maggots are dead and the cheese can be eaten. Several food safety issues have been raised in relation to Casu marzu, including anecdotal reports of allergic reactions and the danger of consuming cheese that has advanced to a toxic state. In addition, there is some risk of enteric myiasis, or intestinal larval infection. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and bloody diarrhea. Piophila casei larvae are very resistant to human stomach acid and can pass through the stomach alive, taking up residency for some period of time in the intestines and causing stomach lesions and other gastrointestinal problems. The larvae have powerful mouthhooks which can lacerate stomach linings or intestinal walls as the maggots attempt to bore through internal organs. Because of EU food hygiene-health regulations, the cheese was outlawed for a while, and offenders used to face heavy fines. However, it was always possible to get Casu marzu on the black market, where it can sell for double the price of a regular block of Pecorino. Nowadays, the EU ban has been circumvented by using another EU regulation, and having the casu marzu declared "traditional" food (made by the same recipe for more than 25 years), and as the recipe is thousands of years old, it is therefore allowed to deviate from ordinary food hygiene regulations. The traditional method is even explained by an official paper of the local government. Gorgonzola, Stilton & Roquefort is as rotten as I'll go...

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Amazon Kindle in South Africa 2 – My experience

Amazon Kindle in South Africa 2 – My experience A! [short & sharp Aahh] A! A! A! A! It is difficult for me to describe my experience of my Amazon Kindle in words. I, J. Hardspear de la Azotea have taken to my Kindle like the proverbial fish. Not having a backlit screen like such as a computer or cellphone, the Kindle is as easy on the eyes as printed paper. I have downloaded 5 books already, amongst others, The Lost Key – by Dan Brown; and the New International Version of the Bible. Two of the 5 books were free. The total cost of the three books I have paid for, amounted to the same as one hardcover book (New Fiction). Kindle New Fiction releases cost anything between R80-R110 (and depending on Rand/Dollar exchange). Older books cost anything between R35-R75. Classics will cost you anything between R15-R30. Kindle books are way much cheaper than the printed ones. The Amazon Kindle has so many wonderful features, such as a built in dictionary, opening on the last location where you have read, built in MP3 player, text-to-speech facility, etc, etc. I have taken it with on a business trip and it is an absolute pleasure in the airport & on the plane. Not to mention the envious stares from everybody else. So, what about the tactile experience & romantic aspects of reading and touching and smelling a printed book – a book which looks nice on display in your bookshelf, a book which, alongside others lends atmosphere to whichever room in your house? Well, I still love the smell of a second hand bookstore. I still like to touch and feel a book. But with the cost of books in South Africa, I can mostly afford Mass Edition Paperbacks only anyway. Kindle editions is even cheaper than paperbacks in SA. There remains however a number of printed books I own, which I’ll never willingly part with. I am reading a paperback at the moment. Yet, for some reason unbeknownst to me, the Amazon Kindle has enchanted me and within the space of one month of owning one, I have grown quite attached to it. Who would I, J. Hardspear de la Azotea recommend the Amazon Kindle to? Bookworms If you are a technofreak and a lover of gadgets, but do not like to read books – you will waste money if you buy this. You’d be better off and buy yourself the brand new Apple i-Pad when it becomes available in South Africa soon. The iPad has way more features than the Kindle and is much more powerful, it’s application is endless and blah blah blah, but... it has a backlit screen and I would not like to read books on it for extended periods. Please see my previous post for more on the Kindle.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Amazon Kindle in South Africa 1 – How to get ALL Kindle titles in SA

Amazon Kindle in South Africa1 – How to get ALL Kindle titles in SA I, J. Hardspear de la Azotea first saw the Amazon Kindle on the Oprah Show. Oprah Winfrey was getting wax lyrical about this e-Book device from Amazon.com and proceeded to tell the world how much she loves this thin plastic tablet on which she can download and read books, the New York times and many more newspapers, periodicals & magazines. It does not often happen that I, J. Hardspear de la Azotea covet something, but from the moment I saw the Amazon Kindle, I knew that I have to have one. Sony’s e-book reader was the first of its kind to be available in South Africa, but whilst it already piqued my interest on a prior occasion, I was enchanted by this device from Amazon. Well done Oprah, you got me panting for this thing... On her show, Oprah continued to sing the Amazon Kindle’s praises, she interviewed Jeff Bezoz, the CEO of Amazon.com, she showed off the features of the Amazon Kindle and went on like only Oprah can. At the end of the show, Oprah gave everyone in the audience their own kindle and Jeff Bezoz lead the members of the audience in downloading a book each (for free). I was super jealous. The next day, I googled Amazon Kindle and much to my dismay had to learn that the Amazon Kindle at the time was only available in the USA. This was, as far as I could gather in part because Amazon’s Whispernet feature only being available in the States. The whispernet feature uses 3G technology to allow Kindle users to download books directly from Amazon.com to their Kindle devices. The connectivity part of this feature is free and the user only pays for the e-book itself and not for the download thereof. When in November 2009 I learned that the International version of the Kindle 2 has been launched and that the Whispernet feature is now available in South Africa, I knew that the time has come to acquire one. There was just one more hurdle. Due to licensing issues/agreements etc etc, not all the e-Books available for download on Amazon.com will be available in South Africa. (The list of Kindle books available in SA is still considerable) This aspect worried me though, for I was about to spend R3 000 (Three Thousand South African Rand) on something which full use I would not be able to enjoy. I, J. Hardspear de la Azotea found a way to overcome this hurdle however... I am not going to publish my strategy though, but should you wish to know how it is to be done, please mail me with your request at hardspear@hotmail.com Be warned though, that in order for me to know that you are South African, I will send you a question in Afrikaans, which you have to answer in Afrikaans as well. If you are not native Afrikaans speaking – the question should be easy enough to answer in whatever broken Afrikaans you can manage. So, I did buy a Kindle and my next post will deal with my experience with it thus far.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Ma - my 1st Afrikaans Post

My dear Mother Bee passed away on 26 November 2009 after suffering an aneurism. It was quite unexpected and a big shock. My Dad asked me to say something at the funeral and this is what I came up with between gasps & sobs... Skaapboud, rys & sous, groenboontjies, pampoenkoekies met karamelsous, gebakte aartappels, malva poeding, Beef Wellington, hoenderpastei, spaghetti bolognaise, fettuccini primavera, skaapskenkel kerrie, tuna en rysgereg, Tabasco hoender, hoender Briyani, Ouma Rosie se gestolde visvoorgereg, vis & chips, stew, vlakoek, sjokoladekoek, joghurtkoek, kaaskoek, vrugtekoek, peppermint crisp tert, appeltert, sultansgenot, chille con carne, short bread, romany creams, kaaskoekkies, ongelooflike muffins, vetkoek met kerriemaalvleis. Tannie Dalena, Tannie Hettie, Stan & Flynn, Tannie Therese en Oom Carlo, Tannie Kotie, Tannie Petro & Oom Alfred, Tannie Herculien en Oom Cormie, Tannie Hanet en Oom Piet, Fanus, Oom Du Toit en Tannie Doreen, Sonja & Johan & Simeon, Pulane & Johnnie & Sulet & Zander. Oom Schalk..., Tannie Julie & Oom James, Pieter en Esther, Pieter & Monica ..., Alta...., PM & Adele, Pa Louis..., Gerrie & Coline & Imme, Rosa & Poen, Melissa & Eugene, Oupa Piet en Ouma Rosie, Oupa Gert & Ouma Lena, Oom Gerrie & Tannie Betsie, Marius & Elmarie, Tan en Oom Lood. Tee drink, die see, sêgoed, kosmosblomme, fotos, vriendinne, kuier, kosmaak, boeke, brei, tafel dek, tuinmaak, Israel, die Jode, die Bybel, intree in gebed, bybelstudie, Kerk, lofprys en aanbidding, die Here, Shabat, waardes, liefde, omgee, hoofpyn, grappies, staaltjies, mense, baie lag, die nice bure aan die een kant, die bure met die honde uit die hel aan die ander kant, Tikka en Cliff. Standerton, Ermelo, Heidelberg, Mmabatho, Bloemfontein, Oos Londen – Die Nuwe Jerusalem Mom... I miss you so, so, so much...