Thursday, August 11, 2016

Back online

DSC02866 (1300x866)‘sorry to have been missing the past few weeks: it’s been a busy travel interval mingled with a couple of technical failures and a brief illness.  Things are progressing with the products, though, and life has generally been good.  My sincere thanks to the folks who have asked how things are going, I apologize for worrying you.

A friend pointed out that if I’m going to focus my attention on a limited number of social media channels, then I need to be both vocal and visible on them.  For me, that would be narrative on this blog and images on Instagram.  I will be more diligent on both.

Another friend reminded me of my resolution in leaving Facebook: The people who want to find me know where to look.  A fair number have actually sent emails, but I’ve been unforgivably slow in replying.  In my defense, work emails haven’t fared much better in recent weeks.  But I take the point that waiting until I find the time to write a proper letter, or to finally settling circumstances once and for all, has meant that I don’t make any timely reply.  That, too, will change.

DSC02847 (1300x867) (2)I’ll do a bit of backfill here and I’ll try to be more regular in writing ideas and in sharing pictures going forward.  And you should always know  that a koffie or bierje is on offer for those with time to spare among the Maas cafés or walking the Poole beaches.

‘just drop me a line or a text.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Fishmongery

DSC02550When I first took a class in watercolour painting, I quickly learned that I lacked basic drawing skills.  While I could apply convincing and pleasing washes and blends, it was hard to produce  credible landscapes without some ability to draw a tree or a mountain.  I needed a good skills class.

Similarly, a recipe can carry me some distance, but I’m limited if I lack basic kitchen skills.  My w.wezen gave me a course-of-my-choice at Ann’s Smart School of Cookery in London, and I decided to use it to bone up on the basics.pic_gallery_big_21.jpg (367×550)

Like fishmongery.

A very British term, it implies the skills needed to reduce a whole fish to a pair of filets, nicely cooked and presented.   Knife work for boning and skinning, skillet tips for crispy skin and smoking, were the core skills.

Ann’s London base is out on Canary Wharf, out along the DLR about as far as you can get from Paddington Station.  The Star Wars Celebration (Europe) convention was being held nearby, so I was treated to lots of Storm Troopers and X-Wing Pilots,  Leias and Reys filling the coaches.

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Ann’s School is in the lower level of the West India Quay (Key), best found by keying off the nearby cinema and gym.  It’s a nice working space with lots of nearby restaurants along the water: arriving 30 minutes early, I took in a light veggie-English breakfast and the early joggers beneath the symbolic cranes.

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Once installed around the Ann’s kitchen, we were tasked with learning three skills, filleting, skinning, and braising.  The chef-instructor quickly dispatched  the first fish, slicing off the flank with a 7-inch knife before lifting off the ribs and trimming the fat.  We sized up our trouts in pairs and slashed in. I failed to cut  deep enough as the second man in our relay, and my filet was sadly pulpy and nicked.

Fortunately, we were headed towards Pâté, so it was all mashed in mascarpone  and seasoned anyway.

My skinning skills were much better: a bit of pressure on an absolutely horizontal knife yielded a lovely fillet and a satisfyingly clean skin.

DSC02552I was surprised to find that smoking was stovetop-accessible.  A layer of foil, rice and tea, parchment, herbs, filets and ten minutes gave a delicately cooked flesh with almost no effort.  We all plunged into trying to enhance the dish with spices: our lemon-garlic (with a hint of 5-spice) gave a delicate flavour against the smoke, while others went mad with chilies and peppers.  Ah, the excess of youth.

On to Sea Bass (and Pin Bones), Flat Fish (and ‘Y’ cuts), both with butter and caper braising.  The chefs approach crispy skin different than I have.  I follow the ‘Absolutely dry applied to absolutely hot’ rule. They prefer oils, butter, DSC02561and ‘never turn the fish’.  It produced a very nice result with far less smell, smoke, and drama than mine.

There was a lot that I could use from the course, from choice of oils to angles of the knives.  I am, sadly, of the ‘third time’s a charm’ school of learning.  As with fondants and poached eggs, so shall it be with filleting and braising seafood. 

Fortunately, trout are cheap and cooking only takes 20 minutes: easy to get lots of practice in a week of dinners.

Monday, July 11, 2016

At the Readi(pop Festival)

DSC02440 (1300x902)As the summer heat finally settles in, lazy afternoons turn to picnics in the park, beer tents, and music into the twilight.  Readipop is the annual festival held at Christchurch Meadows along the Thames.  A family fun event lies outside of the ticketed areas, while paid entry gains beer tents and food stalls, music tents and the main stage.

And close-up time with the steampunk sculptures.

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I credit the organizers for bringing in lots of local talent and for discounting the food and drinks to offset the entry fees.  There was a sad-song folk tent and a rockin’-loud modern tent, the worlds biggest ukulele band filling the main stage with orange and the old-geezer classic rock tent on the fringe.  The food was burgers and paella, ice cream and pulled pork; a variety of craft beers, lots of summertime Pimms and lemonade, gin and tonic.

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The bands did four of five songs each before yielding to the next, just long enough to get an appreciation without wearing thin.  It was fun to pick out the entourage of each in the audience and the emcee had personal stories of each singer that he had discovered.

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I am getting a bit hesitant to keep writing accounts of events, as they are already past when I post stories and pictures.  But lots of these come around every year, and they all give the flavour of the Great British Summer.   So I’ll keep mixing expat-entrepreneur observations with reviews of the local Feests for the time being.

Oh, and the steampunk.

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There was an encampment out by the rock tent that was creating lovely wheeled animal sculptures from metal and mesh.  Generally immense, each crowned and escorted with performers dressed as frilled clowns, decontamination squads, and deep sea divers.  The kids loved them: a lot of work and creativity that went into the whole traveling exhibition.