Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Lost Chord

We were at the Black Box last night for the book launch of The Lost Chord, the first book by the husband of my friend and colleague in work Sinead. I had never been to the Black Box before nor to a book launch so it was exciting on two fronts. After picking up a glass of complementary wine [make that three fronts] it was time for a little mingling and introductions.

The inside of the room is decorated as if it were a small art gallery, which I'm sure it is on occasion, with bright white walls, polished wooden floors and a black beamed ceiling. The furniture is art deco with round curved seats ideal for arching backs and slumping into although it was clear by the amount of people squeezing into the room that there would be a shortage of them. However, we were soon told that due to sheer volume of people, we would be shortly moved into the adjacent hall which would accommodate us. During the introductory speech we were informed that not even Roddy Doyle filled the smaller room so it was a testament to the interest that Tony's book launch had gained.

Following a further introduction by BBC news presenter Jim Fitzpatrick, Tony read a few extracts from his book which is a difficult prospect because you have to convey the range of characters and depth of story to an audience unfamiliar with the context of the narrative in so much as they are intrigued enough to want to buy the book and are not put off by revealing too much or too little.

After the first reading I wasn't too convinced but by the final elucidation I was willing to purchase a copy of the book and find out more. As the story is based around a rock star and his decline and disappearance I'm not sure what appeal it would have for those not interested in the subject matter but I hope it is successful as it is a published Northern Irish book that has nothing to do with social, historical or political standings and as such elevates in my opinion above most novels that have emerged in the last decade or more which can't seem to shake themselves of the backdrop of these elements.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Six Organs of Admittance

It was my first time in the Big House aka The Pavillion for a gig and the venue itself was quite small. That said, the turn out was pretty low and there were perhaps twenty people sitting around having a quiet drink. You wouldn't have even got the impression that anyone was going to play anything at all.

After working my way through the better part of a pint of Guinness, the warm up act took to the stage with a laptop and began to twiddle about for 5 minutes making noise which sounded half-way between Fennesz and Aphex Twin but with a tenth of the talent - nothing new - and in fact, quite dull. After dropping the fuzz and keeping a slow beat he moved over and picked up his guitar and started to play a kind of Spanish chord sequence which wasn't too bad after he initial synthetic output.

Despite his ability to play he couldn't sing to save his life. All the high notes went awry i.e. "aaauuuuuuuuuuuu--eeeeee" and I had to look away.

I was talking to Colin and saying how bad all this was and it turned out his girlfriend and her dad or his dad were sitting beside us the whole time. However, the joke's on them though - having to put up with a no talent loser. They didn't say anything to me but if they did I would have told them exactly why he sucked which would have cut into the gig time as it was a laundry list of complaints. By the end of his set he was getting sarcastic applause and seemed only too glad to leave the stage.

I can only imagine that it was his first gig and he was nervous as hell because half way through a song he would just stop, cough, and then begin noodling the guitar again
so the whole force of the song collapsed.

A second pint later and Six Organs of Admittance took to the stage. There was a 99% increase in persona on view and they wasted no time getting the crowd hooked. After the second song, half the crowd had taken up positions around the band and the set continued at a glorious pace with some excellent guitar work and drumming completely unlike what is found on their records which is subdued and mostly quiet.

I'm not sure if it was the support act, the venue, or my own frame of mind but half-way through the set I was fatigued and longed to hear something that I could reference to their album work. They did not take to the stage until 11 O'clock and by midnight I was ready to go home. It was a shame because there was nothing technically wrong with the music and if it was another night I would probably lap it up.

Tonight is another night of events. Book party launch and another gig. More details tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by and see you Thursday!


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Working Up A Sweat

It was couples evening on the courts of Avoneil Leisure Centre as Keith, Jenny, Lou and I took up the racquet's and had several games of badminton. I hadn't played in years but recall a friend of my mums taking Keith and I to Queens PEC to play a similar version of it using a tambourine type instrument.

After a few warm up rallies we were ready to go. I had forgotten just how much you can smash the shuttlecock without it going too far which is great for working out any demons!

For the first two games my aggressive streak reared its ugly head and I was poaching a fair whack of shots from Lou but after settling down we worked a lot better and half way through our allotted time it was one game apiece.

The other great thing about badminton is the fast-paced rallies which are a great test of your hand-eye co-ordination and always resulted in a fit of giggles afterwards.

By the end of the four games it was 2-2 and I for one had worked up a light sweat. Unfortunately our score count was made more difficult to confirm as an aerobic workout with blasting dance music kicked in half-way through the third set.

Nevertheless we all had a great time and booked out the court for the same time next week. I hope it becomes a regular thing as it's great exercise and fun. The only drawback is that my arm is fatigued and sore but it was worth it.

Site Update

As you may have noticed, Adventures In Sigh-Fi has undergone a little style update. I should say a big thank you to Emer for designing the banner and also to Steve for making it work. Many hours of hard work has went into it and I hope it will make it more user friendly to find old postings together in one page.

As you will see, there are four clickable links across the top which represent the four main categories of the site which are film, media links, food and games. Each will take you to a full list of all the links or games or to the last 20 movie reviews or recipes. It is my hope that in time I will be able to make a full list of movie reviews [over 80] and recipes [over 50] but for now the search bar can be used to track down a recipe posted beyond 20. Clicking on 'Welcome to..' will take you back to the main page.

Please post any comments in order that I can take it into consideration and fully tweak the new design to make it as user-friendly as possible.

Many thanks for your patronage.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Casino Royale

I've always been apprehensive about watching a Bond movie because it's been treading the same water for decades. An evil villan with a nervous twitch or facial scar who's into world domination defeated by our intrepid hero who manages to bed the narcisstic arch enemies wench before getting captured and placed in a slow moving mechanistic death bed, manages to escape, shoot his way through henchmen and kill the bad guy in a twist of ironic fate. They are the types of films you half watch on Boxing Day whilst walking in and out of the room doing other things.

Casino Royale promised it would be different. A more gritty, realistic Bond. A hark back to Flemings first work and a more grounded and rounded character. Poppycock. I would have to say that the only thing gritty is Daniel Craigs face that looks like a sack of potatoes with blue eyes and a hairpiece stuck on the top. And let's run through the Bond clichés that were meant to be replaced by a more subdued and self-effacing Bond. Evil villan - check. Twitch or facial scar? - An astmatic requiring cinematic inhaler shots - Check. World domination? - An unscrupulous banker who supports foreign terrorists. Bedded wench? - Check. Captured and escapes? - Check. Henchmen shot? - Check. Bad guy killed in ironic twist of fate? - Well, he does die.

Hardly anything new and certainly not a reinvention by any stretch of the imagination. Apart from this being a Bond film, it looks and feels like it could be any generic action flick with a big budget. The plot is over-convoluted for what is a simple premise and the film is a whole is a huge let-down. I am probably one of the few nay-sayers as the film has garnered great reviews all round but in my opinion this film has no reach on any of the Bourne films which is a gritty and realistic action movie in terms of action sequences and plot development and I for one cannot wait until the next installment. As for another Bond, I'll wait until it's showing on Boxing Day.

I would give this film 005 out of 010.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Continental Market

The continental market is back in Belfast and kicked off this Wednesday and runs through until 19 December. Last year I went there for cheese and sausage and munched my way through them every lunch for a month - there were hundreds of cheeses and all kinds of sausage meats from boar to chorizo and the occasional French pastry for good measure.

This year however, to my dismay, there is a total lack of sausages and a limited range of cheeses on display. I was interviewed by a market researcher hired by City Hall and I told him I was disappointed with the lack of such products that were widely available last year.

Stalls have largely been replaced with wooden sheds and there is a bigger beer tent than last year with the added bonus of heating which is welcome so it's not all bad. Another welcome return is the burger bar selling boar, springbok and kangeroo meaty treats and another stall selling a scrummy looking bacon and blue cheese gourmet burger which might well be on the cards for today as I'm heading down to sample the joys of German beer after work.

Other delicacies worth checking out are the Dutch pancake stall, the French pattiserie stand and the Spanish shed serving up a hot steaming bowl of paella. Ones to avoid are the personally redundant embroidered tablecloths stall - seriously - what?

There's still plenty for everyone and a few stalls selling things for christmas - both for your home and stocking fillers so if you need to get something for a aunt or uncle then you should be able to pick something up.

It's open until 8pm on weekdays and I highly recommend going down to buy something for your lunch - who knows - you may see me and want to buy me that burger!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price

'Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price' is a documentary by Robert Greenwald about the market dominating global corporation that subverts towns across America by extracting government subsidies to establish themselves when other local family-owned businesses do not and muscling them out of business through price under-cutting brought about by the importation of slave-labour goods from China. This combined with highly agressive Anti-Union tactics to exploit its own workers in America by forcing them into overtime and not paying them and suggesting that they will be fired for fighting for a fair wage and working conditions - which they are.

The film documents various towns around America that had numerous small family-run businesses who were forced to close down when Wal-Mart came and the reprecussions on their lives and the townsfolk as shops closed down and main streets became ghost towns.

As a flip-side to the conditions in America, the documentary interviews European workers who are free to set up Unions and are not exploited like their American counterparts and have no qualms about their working conditions. However, it also shows the predicament in the Chinese sweatshops where workers are almost forced to live within a commune as rent is taken out of their pay whether they live there or not and the state of these buildings is atrocious.

Whilst the documentary itself is fascinating, the style and production is lacking and at times it comes across as amateur. Nevertheless this is a serious documentary not a blockbuster so one can overlook this minor shortcoming. If you are interested in these types of films, I highly recommend another work of Greenwald - the excellent documentary 'Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism' about the absolute bias with which Fox News operates in it's pro-Republican/Conservative and anti-Liberal marketing.

I would give this film 7 anti-business global corporations out of 10.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sleeping In

Not since imaginery creatures were crawling up giddy womens legs has a person jumped out of bed so quickly. The sudden dawn of recognition followed by a rush of blood, a constriction in the chest, a panic in the brain and the metaphorical equivilent of a stick of dynamite exploding beneath ones posterier. That's right - I slept in.

I, like most people, suffer from awake denial when it comes to grabbing those extra vital minutes in the morning. I trust in the alarm. If I were to look at the LED display on the digital clock across the room and see that I have only 5 minutes in bed before I have to get up I will just not enjoy the time at all. My mind will reset itself to 'going to bed mode' which means that a thousand silly thoughts will flash in my head and I will become restless. I may aswell spend the extra time in the shower rubbing warm water into my eyes.

This morning I was awoken by the sound of the council bin-lifting machines. A quick scan of memory revealed that I never hear these sounds because I've left the house by the time they arrive. This caused the eyes to open. Sunlight streaming in from under the curtains. Instinct reveals that this is not 7.30am on a cold November morning. I reach for my mobile phone. It's gentle backlight cascades a low glow in my face. I begin to get that feeling of being on a rollercoaster when its slowly moving up that 45 degree slope before charging down the opposite side. It showed the alarm sign and 08.43. Cue first paragraph.

I race to the bathroom. I shower as quickly as possible, literally grabbing the water and rubbing it into me like that scene in Dexter's Laboratory where he slows time. Jumping out arms flailing, using the 'dog technique' to lose excess water, I run a towel around me like I'm trying to get rid of ants that have crawled over me. No time to dry between the toes - athlete's foot be damned! I run into the bedroom and throw clothes on like I'm having an affair and my mistress' husband is coming up the drive-way. Sleep is now a distant memory, replaced by blind panic.

Alas I am saved from total lateness as Lou has the day off and offers me a lift into town. I make it into work by 09.15. Not bad at all. Plus I got an extra hour in bed.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gamespot #50

Dice Mogul

This is a cool game which is just like Monopoly but easier to play!

Roll the dice, move around the board, buy property and build hotels.

Wikipedia - Monopoly

Monday, November 20, 2006

Beer Festival 2006

This was our third year at the beer festival and as usual some of us took a half day to enjoy more of what was on offer. As in previous years, there were over 50 beers available on the day and by my scoring sheet, I sampled 23 of them.

We set off on a moderate pace aiming for each half pint to last 30 minutes which worked until late afternoon when more friends turned up and things began to get a little hazy with each other swopping pints for tasting and recommending which beers to try next.

Having snuck in the day before to check out the facilities I overheard the judges annoucement on the top 3 beers at the event and it was my duty to decide whether or not I agreed with their decision.

Twenty-fours hours later, however, I had forgotten #3 but my first port of call was their #2 choice, the Strathaven Trumpeter - a "strong smooth dark ale with coffee and hop taste". I thought it was a good choice and marked it 4/5 which meant there had to be a better beer available - and I was determined to find it!

Ales, stouts and bitters were consumed as I worked my way around the four bars sampling their delights and the following beers all managed to score a worthy 4/5:

Beartown Ambeardextrous [Dark Mild]
Whitewater Nut Brown Ale [Brown Alw with mild hoppy undertones]
Messer's Maguires Plain Porter [A full-bodied porter with a hint of chocolate]
Shepherd Neame Late Red [Richly flavoured autumn hop all combining toffee and honey]
Bateman Salem Porter [Ruby black with liquorice aroma and hint of dandelion and burdock]

All worthy beers worth buying if you see them anywhere and ones to note down if you're there next year.

One of the best things about the festival is the rumours spreading about a new beer being opened and how you must sample it so as not to miss out. One of which was the judges #1 choice which had sold out the day before due to it's prominent status - the Crouch Vale Brewers Gold - a light and thirst quenching 2005/6 winner Beer of Britain. I necked what remained of my previous beer and queued up. Due to demand they were offering half pints only. It was indeed asuperior beer but I was sure there was something better and I scored it 4.5/5 - which still placed it first on my list and allowed a winner if I could only find it.

Solace came in the form of another new beer on the block - the Hop Back Stout. It was like drinking velvet. I was in stout heaven. If they had offered the keg I would have thrown my credit card at them. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

Happy and content I sat back and sipped at the beautiful beer. Everyone was in a cheery mood and once again it was a resounding success. If only the event ran twice a year I might have a chance at sampling it all.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Fried brie, Chicken Cordon Bleu & Mushroom-Stuffed Tomatoes

Last night Brian knocked up Fried brie, Chicken Cordon Bleu & Mushroom-Stuffed Tomatoes served with garlic bread.

Whilst the meal was delicious the only complaint was that it was very cheese heavy and therefore very moreish and filling to the point where I felt absolutely stuffed half way through the main course. The sauce for the brie was delicious as was the fried brie itself and would be ideal along with a salad as a main course in itself. The cordon bleu was delicious with the sauce and didn't need to be served alongside the mushroom stuffed tomatoes as the garlic bread was sufficient.
Therefore whilst each dish was pretty scrummy it was just too much as a whole. However, pick something that you like and make it yourself as it's totally worth it. Here's the science.

Chicken Cordon Bleu


6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
6 slices Swiss cheese
6 slices ham
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon paprika
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy whipping cream


Pound chicken breasts if they are too thick. Place a cheese and ham slice on each breast within 1/2 inch of the edges. Fold the edges of the chicken over the filling, and secure with toothpicks. Mix the flour and paprika in a small bowl, and coat the chicken pieces.
Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and cook the chicken until browned on all sides. Add the wine and bouillon. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.
Remove the toothpicks, and transfer the breasts to a warm platter. Blend the cornstarch with the cream in a small bowl, and whisk slowly into the skillet. Cook, stirring until thickened, and pour over the chicken. Serve warm.

Garlic Butter


Loaf of crusty bread
1 cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground paprika

In a small bowl, combine softened butter, minced garlic and Parmesan cheese. Season with garlic salt, Italian seasoning, pepper and paprika. Mix until smooth.

Fried brie

Here's some admittedly low quality footage of us shuffling some brie around in the pan.


4 slices thick white bread, crusts removed and torn
handful of fresh herbs, including parsley and chives
110g/4oz brie, cut into 3 pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp vegetable oil
For the sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
½ red onion, peeled and finely diced
1 tomato, diced
squeeze of tomato ketchup
1 tsp caster sugar
splash of red wine vinegar


Place the bread into a food processor with the fresh herbs and blend together to form fine breadcrumbs.
Tip the herb breadcrumbs into a bowl.
Dip the brie chunks into the whisked egg and then coat in the breadcrumbs.
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the brie pieces for 1-2 minutes on each side, or until crisp and golden brown.
To make the sauce, heat the oil in a frying pan and gently saute the onion for 1-2 minutes.
Add the tomato and heat for a further 1-2 minutes. Stir in the ketchup with the caster sugar and vinegar and heat gently for 2-3 minutes.
Remove the fried brie from the heat and transfer to a serving plate. Serve with the tomato sauce alongside.

Mushroom-Stuffed Tomatoes


4 large tomatoes
Dash salt
1 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup half-and-half cream
2 tablespoons soft bread crumbs
3/4 cup minced fresh parsley
2/3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, divided

Cut tomatoes in half; scoop out and discard pulp, leaving a thin shell. Sprinkle lightly with salt; invert on paper towels to drain for 15 minutes.
In a large skillet, saute mushrooms in butter until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with flour; stir in cream. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
Remove from the heat. Stir in the bread crumbs, parsley and 1/3 cup of cheese. Spoon into tomato cups; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Place in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 200C for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bonkers For Conkers 2006

The 2nd annual Bonkers for Conkers competition kicked off in work yesterday with a surprising 14 people signed up to take part. I had spent the previous week taking the odd minute and lunchtime driving a huge nail through similiar sized conkers so there would be no complaining although that didn't stop people suggesting that tampering was involved - all in jest of course.

A new rule this year was a stomping rule whereby if your opponent knocks the conker and string out of your hand they get to stamp on it until you pick it up with the possibility that you could get your fingers trodden on. Despite the anticipation of violence, this happened twice and half the time people forgot you could do it or only did it in jest out of friendly competition. However there are a few who would gleefully jump up and down until there was nothing but dust.

As the first game began the crowd looked on in anticpation the game soon dragged on as the first two participants were, to be honest, rubbish. The '20 gos each' rule of last year was soon enacted although half way through came a zinger and one conker was split in two and fell half way across the room.

The next two games were of a similar nature and with the game limited to a score of strikes each, the pace is much faster and enjoyable for those watching and taking part. Last years reigning champion was taken out by his own over-enthusiasm and then it it was my turn. I stepped up to the floor and faced off against a dark horse of a colleague. For the first 5 gos I was getting severely beaten and all my swings were misses. After scoring a few hits I noticed a crack appearing in my opponents conker so it was only a matter of time but with only 10 hits left and me trailing in points I had to rely on my weakest factor - skill. I persued the only tactic I could in defense and that was to hope that he hit my conker and his would break before mine. And it worked! Another few hits later and his conker flew into bits over the floor. Victory and a place secured in the quarter finals!

Tomorrow is the beer festival and a review of Brians dinner creation so find out if your intrepid conker player makes it to the final. See you tomorrow and thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Snowcake is a beautifully told story about a man, played by Alan Rickman, who befriends the mother of the daughter whom he was involved in a car accident with and becomes emotionally attached to the small neighbourhood where she lives and the lifetstyle it involves.

It becomes more poignant because the mother, played by Sigourney Weaver, is a highly functioning autistic woman who, due to her condition, is seemingly unphased by this turn of events which plays on Rickmans guilty complex because he is unable to resolve his feeling of responsibility through absolution.

The screenplay itself was written with Rickman in mind and after reading it, he sent the script to Sigourney stating that she would be ideal for the role of the autistic mother. Both actors are perfectly suited and turn in fine performances with Rickman possibly giving the best he has ever delivered, drawing the viewer into his world and the surroundings he finds himself in.

Snowcake is a movie-goers gem that takes a simple premise and expands it into a layered and engrossing story. It has fantastic snippets of black comedy which add charm and depth of the characters. I highly recommend renting it.

I would give this film 8.7 out of 10.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Lamb Shanks with Roasted Onions

This is a great meal for a Sunday dinner which is what I made it for and I have to say it certainly hit the spot. Feel free to swop red onions for shallots which are also great in the oven.

[Serves 4]


4 x 350g lamb shanks
6 garlic cloves
2 tbsp olive oil
1tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
4 red onions
350g carrots, cut into thin batons


Preheat the oven to 180C. Using a small knife make incisions in each shank. Cutting the garlic cloves into small slices insert them into the incisions.

Place the shanks in a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with rosemary and season with pepper. Place in the oven for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile wrap each of the onions in foil. After 45 minutes is up, remove the roasting tin from the oven and season with salt. Return to the oven with the onions on the shelf beside the roasting tin and cook for a further 60-75 minutes until the lamb is ready.

In the meantime bring a saucepan of water to the boil and blanch the carrots for 1 minute, drain and wash under cold water.

When the lamb shanks are ready, transfer them to a warm serving dish and pour the fat from the roasting tin into a saucepan and cook the carrots for 2 minutes adding boiling water and cooking until ready.

Transfer the shanks and carrots to the plate. Remove the onions from the oven and unwrap the foil. Cut off and discard the ends of the onions removing the outer layer and serve.

You can create a gravy with any excess fat from the roasting tin forextra flavour.


Monday, November 13, 2006


Most British people are familiar with Sacha Baren Cohen from his humble beginnings on Channel 4's 'The 11 O'Clock Show' to his rise as the blinged up self-agrandising Ali G. After the success of his TV series it was followed by an abysmal film which received less than enthusiastic reviews and most people probably thought this was the end of his career.

Fast-forward to a few years later and Cohen was back as a faux-Kazakhstani reporter Borat with broken English playing to borderline racist/sexist comments and all-round innuendo. News of a film came by way of online newspaper reports of a film being made in America and offending natives wherever he went. Any humour that is played at but flies over the general population of middle-America because of it's satirically black comedy stylings is always potentially hilarious.

Cue 'Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan'. As with such media frenzy being created because of the 'outrage' caused in America hardly any publicity was required for the film which is a PR dream come true. But is the film any good?

Absolutely. I haven't been in a cinema that has laughed so much since I saw The Squid & The Whale earlier this year. The genius lies in the visuals whereby something ordinary is followed by something surreal and also in the capturing of pure bewilderment and horror on peoples faces when they are caught up in Borats actions. As there is a loose structure to the film in which a vein attempt is made for Borat to learn culturally from Americans by way of pre-arranged meetings and interviews it allows the excuse for many skits inbetween and their agenda is soon aborted by Borat attempting to get to California to have sex with Pamela Anderson.

It is useless to describe the comedy without ruining the intention or gags themselves but they are as much hilarious as they are cringe-worthy due to openly racist and sexist Americans spewing forth non-sensical xenophobic diatribe without their knowledge of them being the butt of the joke.

If you are easily offended or without a sense of humour this film is not for you and I deride any criticism of the film inciting hatred of Jews or insulting the population of Kazakhstan as it is purely tongue-in-cheek black humour.

I would give this film 8.4 Ice-Cream Vans out of 10.


Belvoir Park

After a chilled out weekend of lounging about watching films we decided to stretch our legs and check out the autumnal offerings of Belvoir park. Au voila!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Hot Cheese Soup, Chicken Vindaloo, Sticky Ginger Marmalade Loaf

Last night I made a three course meal of Hot Cheese Soup, Chicken Vindaloo and Sticky Ginger Marmalade Loaf. The Hot Cheese Soup was simple and delicious - not too heavy and just the right consistency and great for dipping some rustic bread into. However the vindaloo was a bit of a let down as it was in no way hot. In fact it was very mild and could have been fed to a small child without them batting an eyelid. I think this was to do with the type of chillis so if you're making this make sure they're the hot fiery ones so you're not disappointed. Also the diced potato, despite simmering in a wok for an hour was still a little hard so while it was still pleasant to eat, it did not live up to it's name. Nevertheless, saviour came in the form of Sticky Ginger Marmalade Loaf. It looked and tasted beautiful and was served with a little double cream for added moreness.

Overall, two of the dishes I was very happy with and I intend to remake the vindaloo again next month as winter intrudes further into our lives and it will be a welcome meal on a dark and cold night. Here's the recipes for everything:

Hot Cheese Soup

[Serves 4]


55g butter
55g plain flour
425ml chicken stock
300ml milk
2 carrots, grated
175g cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper
crusty bread to serve


Melt the butter in a saucepan and sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring constantly until disolved. Stir in the chicken stock and milk and bring to the boil for 3-4 minutes until the soup is smooth and thickened. Add the grated carrot and simmer for 3 minutes and then add the grated cheese.
When the cheese has melted, saeson with salt and pepper and serve.

Chicken Vindaloo

[Serves 4]


1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp dried mustard
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cayenne pepper
5 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar
150ml vegetable oil
8 garlic clove, crushed
3 red onions, sliced
4 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized chunks
2 red chillis, deseeded and chopped
450g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
800g canned chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
Red Food colouring
salt and pepper
Rice, to serve


Mix the cumin, cinnamon, mustard, corriander and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Add the vinegar and sugar and mix well.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and onions and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the chicken and cook for a further 3 minutes adding the chilli, potatoes, chopped tomatoes and tomato purée and a few drops of red food colouring.
Stir in the spice mixture, season generously with salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 1 hour stirring occasionally. Serve with rice.

Sticky Ginger Marmalade Loaf

[Serves 6]


175g butter
125g ginger marmalade
175g muscovado sugar
3 eggs, beaten
225g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
100g pecan nuts, roughly chopped


Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease the loaf tin. Place 1 tablespoon of the ginger marmalade in a small saucepan and reserve until later.
Place the remainder of the marmalade in a bowl with the butter, sugar and eggs.
Sift in the flour and add the baking powder, ground ginger and beat until smooth. Stir in 3/4 of the nuts. Spoon the mixture in the loaf tin and smooth the top. Sprinkle the remaining nuts over the top and place in the oven for 1 hour or until ready.
Leave to cool for 10 minutes and turn out until warm. Set the reserved marmalade to a low heat until warm and brush over the loaf. Serve in slices. Add double cream for extra decadence if you wish.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lights, Coffee, Action!

A short while ago I mentioned that I managed to convince management to purchase some overhead lighting for our office in order to brighten things up as we have no windows and therefore no natural light which makes working in here over the winter a real drag.

A few weeks ago we recieved them in the post and set them up and it was like stepping into a sunbed room or something - the difference was unbelievable. Here's the proof!

This is the office before the lights were installed.
As you can see it's drab and everything has that turgid yellow look under the lighting.

This is the office after the lights were installed. As you can see everything is looking as if we had a skylight for a ceiling.

According the manufacturers, if sunlight is 100%, the lights provide 98% likeness to sunlight.

Bonus points for noticing 10 changes within the two pictures ;)

There's been a notable difference in tiredness levels too as I am no longer asleep on my keyboard at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Ergo a win-win for management and staff.

Fresh with success I am currently petitioning management for a hammock room with piped jazz music and soft cheese on silver trays. Will I be successful in my bid? Find out next week after I find out how quickly a fired employee can claim unemployment benefits!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Halloween Cook Night

I'm only getting around to this now but last week Keith created a Halloween twist on cook night by gore-ing up the meal to make it more festive and gruesome. Here's the results of our dinner creation or as we called it, 'corpse crunching':

Fresh Pea and Mint Soup with Croûtons [aka 'Snot Soup']

This is probably the least looking Halloween versions of the meal but its moniker of 'Snot Soup' speaks for itself. It's probably best I don't mention our discussion of what the single cream could represent...


25g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
225g leeks, finely shredded and washed, keeping as much of the green as possible
225g potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
1.2 litres light vegetable stock
225g fresh or frozen peas
1 small bunch of mint, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Single cream
Mint sprigs, to garnish


2 slices white bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped mint


Melt the butter in a saucepan and gently fry the onion until soft. Add the leaks and cook for a further five minutes. Add the potatoes and stock, bring to the boil, then simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. Add the peas and mint and simmer for five minutes.

Allow the soup to cool, then liquidize in a blender or food processor until very smooth. Return to a clean saucepan, reheat gently and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the soup garnished with a swirl of single cream, a mint sprig and croûtons.

For the croûtons: mix the mint and the olive oil together and season. Brush the bread on both sides with the oil and bake in a preheated oven at 200C for 10-15 minutes, until crisp. Remove the crusts and cut into cubes.

Roasted Tomato and Goats’ Cheese Tart with Thyme [aka 'Road Kill']

This took some extra time in the oven due to the juices in the tomato so you may want to increase the tomatoes and remove the centre to reduce cooking time. That aside it was a tasty section of the main course.


725g ripe plum tomatoes
150g soft goats cheese
4 level teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, plus a few small sprigs
375g pack fresh, ready-rolled puff pastry
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly milled black pepper


Unwrap the pastry and place it on the baking tray. Then, using a sharp knife, carefully score a line on the
pastry, about 1cm in from the edge, all the way around, but be careful not to cut it all the way through.

Place the goats cheese into a small bowl, add the crushed garlic, chopped thyme and a good seasoning of salt and freshly milled black pepper. Then give it all a good mixing and, using a small palette or other round-bladed knife, carefully spread the cheese mixture evenly all over the surface of the pastry, right up to the line.

Thinly slice all the tomatoes and arrange them on top of the goats’ cheese in overlapping lines lengthways; overlap one line one way and the one next to it the other way. After that, season the tomatoes and then drizzle the olive oil and scatter the sprigs of thyme all over them.

Bake in the pre-heated oven on the middle shelf for 55 minutes or until the pastry is golden-brown and the tomatoes are roasted and slightly charred at the edges. If you are going to serve the tart warm, leave it to settle for about 10 minutes before cutting into squares.

Baked Potato Skins with Cheese Topping [aka 'Open Wounds']

Probably the most disgusting looking of the tonights dinner/autopsy given the red food colouring added to the potato and green colouring added to the sour cream to give that open wound/gangrene effect. Frightfully good.


4 Medium Russet Potatoes
1/3 Cup Sour Cream
1 TBSP. Fresh Chives, snipped
1/4 Cup Margarine, melted
1 1/2 Cups Cheddar Cheese, shredded


Preheat oven 200c. Bake potatoes for 1 hour. Combine sour cream and chives. When potatoes are cook. Slice length-wise and scoop some potato from skins and save for other use. Brush entire surface of each potato with melted butter and broil for 6-8 mins. Sprinkle cheese on each skin. Broil for 2 mins. Place on small scoop of sour cream mixture on top of each skin and serve.

Butternut Squash Wedges [aka 'Dead Man's Fingers']

It's difficult to go wrong with butternut squash and talking to some people, it's a vegetable that isn't as popular as it should be - I think there is a barrier in that people don't know how to open it never mind cook it. Which is a shame, but not for us. Finger lickin' good.

¼ butternut squash, peeled
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
knob of butter


Preheat the oven to 220C
Remove the seeds from the squash and cut into thick chip-shaped chunks.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the butternut squash for 2-3 minutes.
Add the thyme leaves, seasoning, garlic and butter and fry for a further 1-2 minutes, to give the squash some colour.
Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 10-15 minutes, or until the squash is tender.
Remove from the oven and transfer the wedges to a plate to serve.

Apple Crumble

This was quite simple to make and with a little green food colouring and props it turned out to be the best looking of tonights meals in terms of style. It was a shame to break the surface on this thing. Best clicking to zoom in and take a closer look.



300g plain flour, sieved pinch of salt
175g unrefined brown sugar
200g unsalted butter, cubed at room temperature
Knob of butter for greasing


450g apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1cm pieces
50g unrefined brown sugar
1 tbsp plain flour
1 pinch of ground cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the flour and sugar in a large bowl and mix well. Taking a few cubes of butter at a time rub into the flour mixture. Keep rubbing until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Place the fruit in a large bowl and sprinkle over the sugar, flour and cinnamon. Stir well being careful not to break up the fruit.

Butter a 9in ovenproof dish. Spoon the fruit mixture into the bottom, then sprinkle the crumble mixture on top.

Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes until the crumble is browned and the fruit mixture bubbling. Serve with thick cream or custard.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Cansei de Ser Sexy

Cansei de Ser Sexy are an electro funk rock band from Brazil who formed in 2003 as an excuse to meet up and drink with only one of the band skilled in playing an instrument - a bass guitar no less. Three years later they are gaining in popularity due to their excellent debut album and amazing live shows guided by their bubbly front woman Lovefoxxx who seems to enjoy her time off stage just as much as on it. I caught them playing at one of my least favourite venues, the Speakeasy aka The Students Union bar. My disdain of said venue is due to the fact that at least a 1/3 to a 1/2 of any crowd who pays in to see a band there doesn't know them and spends the entire time ignoring them and talking over the top. I don't blame them for doing this however, I blame the tour organiser for choosing such a venue.

The place was packed more than usual especially on a Sunday night so I took this as a good sign and we got a couple of pints and found a spot near the back to catch the warm up act without spilling our drinks.

First up was the 1990's, a three piece band from Glasgow. At one point the singer and drummer from Franz Ferdinand was in the band and it looks like they got the best deal after leaving because this band has about as much talent as a pub rock trio from Scunthorpe. Simplistic rock chords and lyrics with "yeah" and "whoOo!" thrown in on almost every song. It was tiresome and very un-rocking.

Grace came in the form of The Roger Sisters who were an unexpected and welcome second support act. The Brooklyn-based trio kicked some serious ass and I would definetly pay to see them again.

As soon as CSS took to the stage the crowd went nuts and they kicked everything off with live opener 'CSS Suxxx' before launching into 'Alala' which seemed to seal the deal with everyone. Lovefoxxx strutted about the stage and climbed onto speakers and pumped her arms to the beat whilst guitarist Luiza Sá took the speaker on the other side and noodled to the crowd. As the band worked through their self titled album kicking out songs such as the hilarious 'Meeting Paris Hilton' to the classic 'Let's Make Love And Listen Death From Above' every one was a crowd pleaser and when the lights came up after the final song everyone was in good spirits and and happy. It was certainly one of the best gigs of the year and I recommend checking them out if they come back.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Keith & Jenny's Reception

After a few days to soak up their vows and newly cemented marriage a reception was held at Madison's so everyone could congratulate the couple and well, get very drunk and have a good time. Here's some photos from the night.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Keith & Jen's Wedding Photos

Click here for some wedding photos. More to follow soon!

Check back tomorrow as Keith knocks up a halloween dinner for us and we kick back with bloody marys.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Adamson +1

Yesterday the Adamson family had an extra member as Keith married Jenny in a registry wedding at the City Hall.

After meeting the Hill family and introductions aside, we were led down to the registry room and Jennys father Roy and I were brought into the side room to receive instructions on our duties which included being the witness to the marriage. I was quite nervous as he went over the procedure in case I would make some crass error and somehow annul the event. I had nothing to worry about however and the ceremony went as smooth as I could have imagined and a quarter of an hour later they were husband and wife.

We moved out into the main reception area of City Hall and the photographer took some great shots of us on the red carpet stairs and from the gallery above so I'm looking forward to checking them out. He took a few outside although it was bitterly cold and we soon made our way to the car park which is situated in a court in the middle of the building. It actually looks and feels a lot bigger inside than looking at it from the city centre although this might be because I walk past it every day and have become accustomed to it.

Making our way through rush-hour traffic we made our way to the folks house for champagne, strawberries and cream and the cutting of the cake. It was a good chance to get to know everyone and before we knew it, it was time to leave for our evening meal at Beatrice Kennedy's.

We were seated by the window at the front which afforded us a great view of passers-by and this being Halloween, it meant hundreds of students in costume. They came in a constant flow parading down University Road - Batman & Robin, Snow White, Ghostbusters, The Smurfs and the Pope himself. It was a great bonus to the delicious meal of feta cheese & red onion bruschetta with balsamic viniagrette followed by barbary duck breast with pickled red cabbage, roast parsnips, apple & rasin jus washed down with a nice Chilean red.

After the meal we were hoping to make it down town for the fireworks display but it was too late and we made our way to McHughs for a few drinks before letting the married couple to their own devices in the penthouse suite of Malmaison which looks fantastic.

It was a great day and I'll hopefully have some pictures up tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by.

eXTReMe Tracker

Stumble Upon Toolbar