Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Pork Chops

One of those days today, a whole lot of jobs, and not really much to show at the end of it all, but I did find time to forage 2lb of Blackberries and prepare Pork Chops in stuffing and apple. We had to have a ”Roast” type meal at some stage as, due to work we missed out on Sunday. I worked on Saturday and so was asleep Sunday morning, we had a chilli from the freezer (Made by Yvonne, YUM) and crumble from the same source for simplicity. We therefore decided to have a Sunday lunch later in the week. Well Monday we had vouchers for a cheap breakfast at one of the local Garden Centres (Jacks Patch at Teignmouth), so we decided to have the meal on Tuesday.

Tuesday morning had some spectacular cloud formations, due to the presence of Thunderstorms and showers;

I managed to dodge most of them and collected the aforementioned Blackberries in the Sharkham area.

 I now have enough for crumbles and pies through the winter, but need to defrost the freezer to see what I’ve actually got. Berries have been later and smaller this year, probably weather related, but there are still lots of unripe ones left.

After the berry collection and a cup of coffee, I prepared the chops; I rubbed them in oil, spread with stewed apple and covered in stuffing mix.

They go in the oven for about 25 minutes covered, with 5 minutes open to brown. Serve with Roasted Potatoes, Parsnips, Swede and Onion. All topped with gravy and assorted veg. Sounds good.

I have been struggling with feelings of remorse and loss, I think I mentioned before that I was going to kill off one of the characters in my book, well its hit me harder than I expected. I think that it’s because I created them, breathed life in and watched them develop, gave them voice and motives.

Somehow killing them seems almost like murder, and I feel a bit traitorous, it’s as if with their last breath they were asking WHY? You gave me life and you took it away. I now have to write the aftermath, and whereas before, the story just flowed, now it feels like there is nothing coming.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Long term Sourdough

My starter has now been active since February this year, and the flavour has really developed.
It lives in the fridge, where it is fed about once a fortnight, it has a layer of water over the flour; at first I thought that this was a disaster, but now I know that it's just a sign of hibernation, so when I feed it I just stir it back in.

I was making sourdough to take back to work on Friday, so working back gave me a start date of Monday, well there’s no need to rush, and the total time spent per day is minimal, except for Thursday when it all happens.
So here’s the Timetable.

Monday, take 125g of starter out of the fridge, add 67.5g flour and 67.5g water and leave in the kitchen in a covered bowl. Total now 250g
Tuesday, stir and add 125g flour and 125g water. Cover and leave. Total now 500g
Wednesday, stir and add 250g flour and 250g water. Cover and leave. Total now 1000g
 Every morning, the mixture was bubbling away and had the consistency of a thick batter; also a beautiful aroma had developed.

Thursday, today is the main day for the bread, I will be making two batches of dough each with 500g starter and 750g flour, this will give me two loaves of 1000g and some rolls.
I want a hydration of about 70%, to get a good crumb, so for dough that contains 750g of flour and 250g from the starter that equates to a total of 700g water. Now as 250g of that is from the starter, I need 450g of extra water. The total then is 1000g flour and 700g water.
If you’re using white flour the hydration could be reduced to 65%, but wholemeal flour absorbs more water.
I hope the maths is not too daunting, it's just proportions, with flour always equal to 100%.
Anyhow, for each batch of dough you need 500g starter, 750g flour, 15g salt and 450g water, this is based on the recipe from Paul Hollywood’s book, and works really well.  

After I had done both batches, I left them to rise for about 5 hours, covered.
Whilst that was happening, I made a sausage casserole for supper and left it in the slow cooker.
We had gone to Totnes Good Food Sunday Market last week,  totnesgoodfood.co.uk/  and had found some Pork and MARMITE  sausages, they had samples which were very tasty, and as we are both in the “Love it” camp, (me more than Yvonne) we just had to get some. I chopped carrots and onions, and used the remains of Sunday’s gravy as a base in the slow cooker,

browning the sausages before chopping them up and adding.

Secret ingredient to give a bit of extra flavour was a spoonful of stewed apple stirred into the gravy.
I will do Herbed Potatoes to accompany. Sounds posh, but it's only potato chunks tossed in Olive Oil, dried mixed herbs and salt, then in the oven for about 45 minutes.

 Also some runner beans from the garden.
I had a look at the dough at 12:45 and it was nearly doubled, so I shaped the loaves and put them in proving baskets, and made the rolls.

 I will have a look at about 20:00 and if they are well risen will cook them tonight, if not I will do them at 6am when I get up (I’ll leave the oven to warm up whilst I walk the dogs)
At 19:00 the dough had risen and was starting to wrinkle,

so I cooked it, the rolls were done in 20 minutes, but the loaves needed longer, it took 45 minutes to get the internal temp up to 95 degrees, by which time the crusts were solid.

The aroma permeated the whole house, and we just had to have toast and marmalade.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Hash, Revisited.

Regular readers will know that I hate waste, and save all my potato peelings, part frying them and freezing for later use.
So here is my take on Corned Beef Hash, I know I have done it before, but it’s one of my favourites, and after the hard slog of a day’s shopping, or indeed a hard day's anything, it's quick and easy.
First, and importantly, put your tin or packet of Corned Beef in the fridge the day before, it cuts easier when chilled. I used a 340g tin.
Heat the oven to 150 degrees and put the potato peelings in a roasting dish to start crisping them, you don’t need any oil as they have been part fried and will still have some oil on them.

Chop 2 large onions and fry till soft,

while they are cooking; cut the tin of Corned Beef into cubes.

When the onions are starting to become translucent, add the beef and stir, and keep stirring whilst it all dissolves together.

When warm and well mixed, take the potato out of the oven and add to the onion/beef off the heat. Mix well and return to the roasting dish.

Put it all back in the oven for about 15 minutes until the top is starting to brown.

At this point you could add grated cheese if you wanted. Personally, I just served it with Baked Beans and a hunk of bread.

Friday, 14 September 2012


So here it is, an extract from the novel, taken from about a quarter of the way in. I think it's just about the finished article, but of course it may be revised as the story develops.
As I said before our hero and his ship are guarding a surveying expedition, and pirates have just been spotted.Now read on:-

Right now we had more important things to think of. The proximity alarm had sounded, we both ran to the control room. I settled into the pilot chair and took manual control. Elana took the second chair, and set up the weapons screens.

“Pirates,” She called, after a short pause, “three of them in speeders, there must be a mother ship around somewhere, they’re too small for interplanetary work”
I was pleased now that we had upgraded the ships systems, being an ex-Federation vessel it had been easy to refit all the things that had been removed when it was decommissioned. We were now more than a match for speeders, and they wouldn’t be expecting that.

“Warn the lifters”
“We can’t, they are in re-entry, we will have no contact for a couple of minutes,” replied Elana, her eyes focused on the screen, hands flying over the holopad, hovering in mid-air in front of her.
“Looks like there are two more, following them down, these three are going to try and keep us busy.”
I smiled, “Bet they don’t know about our extra toys”

“Well they’re about to find out, I’m locking on the nearest”, as she spoke there was a succession of bleeps, rising in pitch as the targeting computer worked out ranges and relative motion, whilst on the outside of the hull, our pulse cannon rotated and tracked the nearest speeder. The bleep became a steady note; “Locked on” said Elana, “OK " I said, grimly consious of the decision to end a life,  "let them know we mean business”, she nodded, “firing.”

A beam of deep blue light shot out from our cannon, converged on the leading speeder and flashed over the small hull. It glowed cherry red, and exploded. Instantly, the other two speeders broke off from us and headed into the moons shadow. They were running back to the mother ship. It would be much better defended, probably too much for us, and anyway I needed to protect the lifters.

 “Elana, get on the comm to Urssa, tell ‘em what’s goin on, I’m following the lifters down.” She swung her chair to the comm panel, fingers busy on the holopad.

“All done”, she called as we entered atmo, “they got a cruiser on the way, they said good luck and try to salvage what you can.”

Pirates were an occupational hazard, they wouldn’t try and shoot down the lifters, just capture them: people, samples or maps were good bargaining tools, ransom was easier than digging holes. They hadn’t reckoned on us being armed, and because of the re-entry blackout the two speeders heading down would not be aware of us yet.

“Can we jam the pirate’s comms? “
“Yes but we can’t be selective, so that will mean that we can’t talk to our lifters either.” There were advantages in keeping the mother ship out of the loop, and if the lifters were following orders they would eventually spot the speeders on their displays. If they then tried to speak to each other and got static they would guess that we were on the case. The miners had instruction in procedure for attack. They would try and land in cover, under cliffs or in valleys, go silent and listen out for the call from the victors. If they were caught, they were to be passive.

We came clear of the radio blackout and started jamming. The scanner picture was confused anyway, from the violent atmosphere, so we would not have been able to see the lifters until we got close. That meant that neither could the pirates. I made a decision:
“We’ll have to get below the cloud layer to get a visual on the speeders”.
“Then we can be seen”
“They won’t be looking behind them, they will think that their friends in orbit have us cornered, and even if they did, they can’t tell anyone”

I spotted the two speeders, heading fast and low to the ground. They were clearly in pursuit of our lifters, but we couldn’t see where they were in the atmospheric soup, visibility was patchy, and we kept losing sight of them. The scanner was useless in the charged air, lightening flashed repeatedly, and the smoke and flame from numerous volcanic vents filled the sky.

We gradually closed on the speeders and could see that they had split up and were trying to block the lifters escape, marshalling them toward a piece of flat ground. There was no cover for the lifters, and no way for them to break out of the view of the circling speeders. I reduced speed and hung off, in range but hiding in the clouds.
“What are they doing?”
“They will round them up and call the mother ship. It will clamp the pods on its hull, like we do for transport, then ransom the crews and equipment. The lift bodies will just get dumped or maybe raided for spares.”
“But the mother ship won’t be coming,”
“They don’t know that yet.”

As we closed the range, we saw the lifters land, on a flat plateau, one speeder touched down beside them, the other stayed hovering above, to prevent escape.
“Elana, can we hit either one?”  I needed to take out one speeder quickly, the one in the sky would be easiest, but I didn’t want to risk damage to the lifters. Added to this smoke from the volcanic eruptions was billowing around the plateau, obscuring our view of the scene below.
“No, they are too close to the lifters.” with the buffeting we were taking and the static interference from the storms the targeting couldn’t get a lock.

“How about if you take manual control of the cannon?” for all I knew she was a lousy shot, but based on the way she did everything else I was ready to give her the benefit of the doubt.
“If you can move it I might be able to risk a shot, but I don’t want it to fall on the lifters”, that would be ironic, but her comment had given me an idea. 
 “I’m going to try and push the hovering one away, keep it in your sight and wait for my signal.”

 I piled on the power and aimed for a spot just above the hovering speeder. The collision alarm sounded as the speed built up and I raised the nose slightly. The pilot of the speeder must have wondered, in his last seconds of life, what had hit him. I passed about a metre over his craft, and as I did, I hit the reburn. This caused a large displacement of atmosphere right where he was. The shockwave hit his craft and swung it sideways, clear of the lifters below. “Now”, I shouted and Elana fired, as I had suspected she wasn’t a bad shot, and hit one of the speeders stub wings, tearing it from the frame. The remains of the craft went into a spin and drove into the ground at high speed, well clear of the lifters, but close to the second speeder, showering it with wreckage as the remaining engine exploded.

 Elana cheered, “Stop the jamming” I said “and open the lifters frequency”,
“Lifter one” I called, “standby”
“What took you Dave” came the voice of Danja, the pilot on one
“Are you all OK and ready to fly?”
“Yes Dave we’re all fine here, I haven’t closed down, and the ground feels unstable”
“Nor me”, I recognised Olya, the pilot of lifter two; “we are ready also”.
Now I only had one enemy to deal with and they were on the ground and a sitting target.
“Calling the speeder, this is Urssa mining guard ship. Do not operate your craft”.

Silence, just the hiss of static, and the crackle of interference from the lightening.
I tried again, “Speeder, we will not hesitate to fire if you obstruct us, I turned the transmitter off, “Elana, keep your cannon on them”. I had been flying by instinct, keeping the sprite level and concentrating on the lifters, Elena’s voice made me glance sideways.
“Dave, you should see this, by the wreck”, I looked down, the crashed speeder had broken the thin crust of a magma vent, which was widening quickly, and molten rock was flowing slowly toward the three craft. It would reach the silent speeder first. Now we needed to get everyone out of there.

“Both Lifters take off now” I called, “and stay in formation with me. We’re not going into orbit until I check for the mother ship”. I was pleased to see them both leave the ground and hover, thrusters angling to hold position in the turbulent air. The magma was causing updrafts, and the speeder on the ground was tilting as the plateau collapsed.
“Speeder, take off now, I will not fire unless you make a hostile move”. But it didn’t. “Speeder, are you disabled?”

A small voice, seeming to come from miles away answered, “I have no computer controls, and my fuel lines are broken”. The speeder started sliding across the ground toward the open vent.

“Stand by”, I swung the ship around and triggered the belly cameras. Flipping switches I lowered the lift magnet and swung it to land on the speeders hull with a clang. Elana looked worried as the sprite tilted and the engine noise rose as I put the power on. Slowly we took the weight of the speeder. All the alarms were sounding as we inched into the air; the cable and the magnet were not designed for this sort of weight, but I just wanted to reduce the friction between the speeder and the surface. As I tilted the controls, the speeder stopped its slide toward the vent, and slowly started moving away, I was dragging it across the ground away from the vent and the spreading magma. I moved the speeder sideways to a piece of clear ground and lowered it.
“Speeder, you will be safe there until your mother ship can get you.” The comm crackled,
“They won’t bother with me, you should have left me there to die, I’m expendable to them.”  There was a calm resignation in the voice.  Elana and I exchanged a glance; surely the pirate’s wouldn’t just leave her there. And even if they would, I couldn’t. I pressed the transmit:
“Are you suited?”
“Well get out then, I’m coming back for you.” Elana shot me a look that said, are you crazy, well maybe I was, but I couldn’t leave them there, I know they had tried to kidnap my customers, but it was different to killing in the heat of the moment.

I hope you enjoyed that, and that it made sense. Any comments welcomed. (I have a thick skin)

It’s a lovely sunny day, and there are so many butterflies and bees on our Buddleia that I just had to take a few photos.

 The camera on my phone is not very good, so I had to get my proper camera out. I’m waiting for a phone upgrade; hopefully the camera will be better on the new one.

Last time I talked about slow roast beef Chilli, well I made it yesterday, basing it on a Jamie recipe.

I used a 750g piece of Bone in brisket I got from our local butcher for £2.99, and before sealing it in a frying pan I rubbed it with a mixture of Cinnamon, Oregano, Paprika and ground Cumin.


Meanwhile in my £5 charity shop Le Creuset casserole dish I put 2 chopped peppers, 2 chopped onions, 3 chopped dried chillies, a tin of chopped tomatoes and 400ml of Bovril stock. This I warmed in the oven at 120 degrees.


When the beef was browned all over I added it to the casserole and cooked at 120 degrees for 5 hours. At this point the meat fell off the bone and was shredded and put back into the casserole.

We had it with some mixed peppers bread, and had enough left over for today.

Within the next couple of days, I will be putting a short extract from my novel up for comment, just a piece from one of the action sequences, I will put it on this site, as nobody has visited the other one, any feedback will be most welcome.

To set the scene, our hero and his ship are protecting planetary surveyors from pirates, out on the fringes of human exploration, of course if sci-fi is not your thing then you will be disappointed, you could always try my piece “School” on the other site. See top right on my blog for the link.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Pink Gin, F7 and A New Business Opportunity.

F7 refers to the facility in Microsoft word to spell check, however you still need to be sure that the result is the appropriate correctly spelt word.
Signs I have seen locally this summer,
Hanmade Crafts,
Rashes of Bacon,
Place and Chips.
Not to mention a letter I got after a complaint to a well-known supermarket chain, containing the classic “We would like to apologise for any Incontinence this may have caused”.  
Pink Gin refers to the Yacht of that name that I piloted out of London on Monday. We left the West India Dock (By Canary Wharf)

 and passed under the new Cable Car, through the Thames Barrier and outwards. We had about 3m clearance at the Dartford Bridge, but looking up from the deck it never seemed that much. I found a picture taken on the bridge of a ship that I did a while back, passing Tilbury.

My wines are now selling well, I used to sell Bread at work, but now living so far away and only working a bit it's impractical, so I concentrate on Jam, Mint sauce and now Home-made wine. It’s all snowballed from my talking about what I was doing with my time after I semi-retired and people asking for samples when I would tell them what I had made. So we started off with Mint Sauce, and moved on to Jam and Marmalade, then whilst talking about wine I was asked for a sample and the person wasn’t at work when I took it in. So someone else tried it and asked for more, and so we go on. I was asked for a Sourdough loaf as well, I guess that’s the one thing that will cope with travel and being made early. The trouble is, whilst I enjoy making the stuff, as soon as it feels like a chore, or there’s pressure to deliver, I start to lose interest.
This time home, we are having a slow roast brisket in the Jamie style amongst other things, and I need to use up some flour that’s nearly out of date. I also want to pick some more Blackberries for winter use and the last of this year’s mint. If I can get another jug of rose petals I can make my third batch of wine, considering its selling well I need to replenish stocks and have some for myself.
I’m also buzzing with ideas for the book, I’ve now got the ending sorted and know what's going to happen, it's just a case of filling in the gaps, and getting all my surviving characters to the end. By the way, it's a very emotional thing, killing off one of your characters, I thought it would be easy, but having created the person and seen them come alive under my pen (so to speak) ending their existence is tantamount to murder. I agonised over it for a while, but it's kind of essential to the story, and motivates another character to …..Well enough, I’ll give it all away; you’ll just have to wait.

But first, we will have a trip to Tavistock to see some friends and have a day out. The best bit for me is still the trip across Dartmoor. It's always different, in all its moods beautiful and ever changing. There are usually various animals to dodge on the road, the shadows of the clouds scudding across the gorse and heather and the wild freedom of the place. As you can probably tell I love the moor, and have been lucky enough to have spent time on it all my life. My parents and I used to go out for long walks on the moor when I was growing up, and with my Grandmother they introduced me to it. My Grandmothers sister and her husband lived on it's edge, and had a lot of stories, unfortunately I never listened enough.
But first: at half past 6 in the dawns first light, I went to Sharkham to pick more blackberries,

 this time for winter crumbles and pies, so that in deepest winter you can sit in a warm room, whilst it's cold outside and taste the summer. Preferably with lashings of custard. Anyway I found about half a kilo of berries, with more to come in a few days.

But as usual the best ones are just out of reach, and my arms are lacerated from trying. I also fell into the brambles in my excitement, good job nobody was watching.

Saturday, 1 September 2012


After a quiet day at work, (I piloted one ship from Gravesend to Tate and Lyle at Silvertown, and one ship out from Barking) it was good to get back to Devon, and my other passions.
The ship to Silvertown was on its maiden voyage, loaded with raw sugar, and was 179.9m long and 10m deep.

 Considering the navigation channel at Silvertown is 182m wide, and 5.6m deep at low water it made getting it there and turning it round an interesting job. The tide was coming in, making the river deeper, and I had about 1m under the ship at the worst point. I had two tugs to help me turn the ship, they were, as ever, superb, and made the whole job so much easier. Fortunately the wind was not too strong, it all went smoothly, and I didn’t scratch the new ships paintwork.

Lots of food to do at home, including Sourdough bread, Blackberry Jam, Rose Petal wine, and some slow cooked pork ribs and couscous.
But first some salsa, chopped Tomatoes, Pepper and Onion in oil and Balsamic Vinegar Pearls (New from Belazu, at Waitrose)

I fed my sourdough and left it overnight, Friday morning, I will make bread, as long as it is active. The plan is to make a wholemeal loaf and a white flavoured with bacon bits and garlic, from Paul Hollywood’s book.

At 6 this morning, I was out blackberry picking, I’ve found two new spots to replace Sharkham, and there are loads at both, at the closest to home I got the 3 kilos I needed in just over an hour,

there should be enough by next week for wine as well (Another 2 kilo’s), and I haven’t gone to the other place I found yet.
I managed to make 13 jars of Jam, which will keep us going.

We went to the beach for a picnic lunch, Strawberries and Cherries.

I had fed my sourdough starter on Thursday, and it was active by Friday lunchtime, so I made two batches of dough,

one wholemeal and a white which I added the bacon and garlic to. I left them overnight and baked Saturday morning, after splitting the dough into a loaf and some rolls.

The ribs were marinated in honey, tomato sauce and paprika then slow cooked at 120 degrees for 4 hours, at which point the meat fell off the bones!

I fried peppers and onions and added to couscous, to use as a base.

I have added yeast to the second lot of Rose Petal Wine and left it to ferment; the first one has almost stopped and is clearing, so I will bottle it soon.
Not a lot else to report, the novel is still progressing, slowly, when I’m in the “Zone” it’s as if I’m watching a film of the story, and I just have to write it down. Other times there’s nothing there.