31 March 2005

Shawn the shortbread sheep

Shawn the shortbread sheep

A rather blurry shot of a piece of shortbread I baked yesterday for some friends who are doing some DIY in their new flat and havenae time to eat, let alone cook. I used a 6-4-2oz recipe, which gave a much better hold than my usual 2-2-1 proportions. The 6-4-2 recipe is just right for two baking sheets of shortbread, whereas my old recipe had to be spread over three or four due to the way it oozed everywhere. In addition to the flour, butter and sugar, I added 2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, a good pinch of ground cloves, and just to experiment, some caraway seeds.

I don't normally like pre-ground spices, but it's really handy for cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, and other baking spices. I can never get small amounts pounded finely enough to be sifted, but that's probably due to my modern upbringing. Made some ducks too.

Three flying ducks

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29 March 2005

Eilean A` Cheo

Cuillin and river
Cuillin and river
Originally uploaded by framboise.
Skye truly is an island of mist. We woke to misty wetness every morning, but the weather usually cleared up by lunchtime to leave the most beautiful blue skies. Skye is now accessible by a toll-free bridge from the Kyle of Lochalsh, which takes some of the magic of the Western Isles away from it, and makes its roads the busiest of the islands we've been to. I've always loved the short ferry trips from the west of Scotland, and being able to take a half minute drive just isn't the same.

The hard rock that makes up Skye makes it look quite alien, as there is hardly any vegetation on the higher hills and mountains. And you don't have to get particularly high up to get the most impressive views. This shot was taken in Glen Brittle, by the base of an easily accessed waterfall, Eas Mors (see other photo). The peak in the back is of one of the Cuillins, but I can't remember which one. We observed someone picking mussles in the bay at the end of Glen Brittle, but didn't join in for fear of spoiling our appetites for dinner at the Three Chimneys that evening. If you're a foodie, and sometimes despair of the quality of restaus in rural Scotland, it'd do you a lot of good to get out to Skye. There, they're proud of their local produce, of which the shellfish is particularly good. For example, fishermen bring in fresh langoustines from Loch Bay, to be scoffed locally at the Lochbay Seafood Restaurant in Stein.

Skye is also chock full of craft shops and galleries. The harsh environment probably leads to a lot of time to sit, think and create during the winter months. We spent a fair amount of time in the Skye Silver shop, as well as the Raven Press, where we saw the most intricate woodblock prints and just HAD to get a wee souvenir print of Skye with minke whales by Neist Lighthouse. Our visit didn't last long enough, but we were glad to get out when we did, for on our drive home, we saw the most ridiculous convoys of cars heading in (probably to take up every last BnB and hotel room on the island). Typical Easter weekend then...

Oh yeah, the mini banana loaves came in handy as carbo and sugar snacks to keep us going between massive breakfasts and dinners.
Eas Mors (Mors waterfall) the three chimneys View from Stein Trumpan church ruins
Eas Mors The Three Chimneys Loch Bay from Stein Clear blue skies

For more photos of Skye and Eilean Donan, see my Flickr set.

21 March 2005

Banana, chocolate and walnut loaf

banana loaf

Another super easy G&B recipe. Yum! Decided to split the 2lb recipe so we could bring some small cakes with us to Skye. Can't walk very far without the occasional carbohydrate snack to sustain us. The 1lb loaf took 35min at 180degC (150degC in my fan oven), and the 6 little loaves took about 25min. End result out of the 1lb corrugated cardboard "tin":

banana loaf

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19 March 2005

Culcutta Cup

Aye, the game against the auld enemy seems a wee bit redundant now. But I'm still hoping Scotland does well enough to shut up those arrogant English TV commentators and fans.

19:20 edit: Partisan commentary yet again by the English. Scotland seem to be trying a lot harder, and deserve more tries than are on the scoreboard.

19:44 edit: England 43-22 Scotland. Oh well. They tried hard and didnae give up. Again, defence was appalling, but perhaps they can spend the summer working on that when the Lions are on tour.

Wales goes for the Grand Slam

Gethin Jenkins, what fantastic footwork! Great instinct there, to kick it rather than scoop it up. Brill charge down!
John Hayes (No. 3) doesn't look stereotypically Irish; he looks like he's a member of the Munster family. ;) (pun completely intentional)
16:16 edit: Wales 16-6 Ireland. It's tight. O'Gara has made a few mistakes, and tried to make up for them with some good kicking. Wales seem a bit more determined and confident, as evidenced by a 5-man tackle of can't-remember-who just off their touchline. Ireland are showing the occasional brilliance, but shame about the mutliple mistakes they're making.
16:48 edit: It may be Morgan's try, but boy oh boy was Shanklin storming! Great catch, run and pass. Went for the pass for a try rather than the glory. Lovely Welsh teamwork!
17:13 edit:So they've hardly touched the ball in the last 10 minutes... At least they finished the game with the ball in their hands... Wales have the Grand Slam!
Hip hip hurray for Wales!
Final score: Wales 32-20 Ireland.

Italy 13-56 France

That gives France a 43-point difference (a grand total of 53-points over their 5 games), one more than they required before start of play today to improve their chance of winning the championship should Ireland beat Wales. No thanks to a complete collapse by the Italians in the last 20 min, the 6-nations championship is still wide open between France, Ireland and Wales. Unless, of course, Wales wins. Come on the Welsh! Oggie-oggie-oggie! (Very quietly, so as not to jinx the result: Oi Oi Oi!)
As it stands:

 Playedpoint diffPoints
Who cares about the rest? For once, I don't give a darn what happens in the last game against the Auld Enemy. This is the tightest Six Nations Championship I can remember, and it's great!
Edit: And here's the breakdown from the BBC.

18 March 2005

In hot soup over swan

From BBC news: Police swan find hits wrong note
A classic Scottish news story. Some 'jobsworth' has decided to investigate the Master of Queen's Music's possession of a swan carcass (now, try to dissect the nouns in that one). Sir Peter Maxwell Davies has been warned by the police that regardless of the fact that the swans died naturally, they take his possession of swan carcasses seriously. Thanks to The Times for the classic quote from the spokesperson for the Northern Constabulary: “Our inquiries are continuing,” and their fantastic headline: "Composer may do bird for eating swan". Only in the boondocks can such things happen. Perhaps Sir Peter can use this farcical situation to write a comedy opera. ;)

17 March 2005

Chromosome pendant, work in progress

chromosome pendant
chromosome pendant
Originally uploaded by framboise.
I'm in the process of making a silver pendant for myself. The inspiration was originally from a pair of flowers from Linda Macdonald's collection. I've dropped the flowers, and given it a twist so it resembles a pair of mitotic chromosomes, with a few gold rings representing the G-banding. The grooves were cut out using a size 4 saw blade, giving a groove for the 0.5mm gold wire to fit in. It's not a tight enough fit for the gold to be inlaid, so I'm going to use some gold solder to stop the gold rings from moving around. Close-up of the grooves below.
detail of chromosome pendant

14 March 2005

Quiptic No. 278

This week's fave clue from the Guardian's Quiptic Crossword (No. 278 set by Moley):
Issue on the Web in fourteen lines (6)
Highlight to see answer:


13 March 2005

Wales gives it some welly

Watching the replay 'cos we went for an invigorating walk this afternoon in an effort to avoid depressing ourselves. The first Welsh try was quite nice work, but the second was yet another mega Scottish blooper. Just what part of don't do that again did they not understand? (Poor wee souls must be devastated...) Then I lost count of the Welsh tries, but mistakes were made.It was as if the man-marking failed miserably. We have the weakest defence of all the 6 nation sides; even the Italians could do a better job. (Plus, they have a good kicker. Poor ol' Paterson tries his best, but he's not one of life's natural kickers. Not like Andy Merhtens anyway.) Wales definitely walked all over Scotland in the first half. How demoralising. Wales took their feet off the pedal later, and allowed Scotland three rather nice tries. So, Scotland's defence was pathetic, but at least some tries were scored. That's some consolation. However pitiful. Come on Scotland. You've got to do better against the Auld Enemy.

12 March 2005

No luck for the Irish

I was looking forward to a Grand Slam showdown between Ireland and Wales, but a strengthened French side stopped all that. It was decent start for Ireland, with a 9-6 lead, which was soon lost through a pretty good French try. And Ireland never really got a look-in after that. Very nice try by O'Driscoll about 10 mins before full-time. That man is so nimble, jinking here and there; like a rubgy equivalent of Thierry Henry or Diego Maradona in his prime. Shame it was then erased when Ireland were oh-so-careless in their own 22 right at the end, handing the French victory on a plate. Again, Ireland come oh-so-close, only to duff it at the finish.
For once, I'm really hoping that Scotland loses tomorrow to Wales, just so anyone but the glory-two (France/England) wins the 6-nations for once! (Sacré bleu!)

11 March 2005

Miniscule chance

From BBC news: Uefa clarifies warning to Everton
How's this for a silly headline? At the moment, Everton are in fourth place in the Premier League, 8 points clear of the Reds. There is no way Liverpool is going to catch them up for the fourth Champions League place. Plus, it's pretty likely that they won't even get to the finals of the Champions League. Really, what are the odds that the Reds can beat Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Juventus, Lyon, Milan, PSV Eindhoven or Porto (possibly)? And to top that, the FA has to request that Liverpool goes through instead of Everton.


In an oriental mood today; made some onigiri to take to friends' for dinner. Used 3 cups of short-grain rice and followed my usual sushi rice recipe (Yasuko-san's website has a good graphical guide). Not having a triangular mould for onigiri, I used my half and quarter measuring cups to pack the rice in. By pushing my thumb into the rice, I made a hole, which I filled with a very small amount of red miso paste.

onigiri preparation...onigiri preparation
triangular nori onigiri...half-cup triangular onigiri covered in nori
sesame onigiri...quarter-cup sesame onigiri
sesame and nanami onigiri...sesame and nanami onigiri
sesame and nanami onigiri...and some I saved for my lunch

Edit: I've posted the recipe here. And the onigiri went down a treat; shoyu sauce isn't necessary for the miso-filled balls. It's definitely good snack food!

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Gray Tsumugi

Tsumugi Kimono
Originally uploaded by framboise.
Tried on my gray tsumugi kimono with a red Yuzen nagoya obi. Still can't get the hang of the taiko musubi; it looks rubbish from the front, back and sides. Am also starting to regret not checking sleeve lengths before buying juban/kimono on ebay. The juban sleeves stick out, and I gather that is a no-no.
Not being Japanese, I found several websites extremely useful for the eleborate process of putting a kimono on, the most useful of which has been kimono.fraise.net. There are extraordinarily clear directions on kitsuke (the technique of wearing a kimono), and brill links to other sites that have photographed step-by-step directions, like Somesho and Tomasan's kimono school (both of which can be easily translated using nifty or babelfish). Another site I've found very useful is Japan Culture Club's Kimono FAQ, which has photos of the accessories needed for kimono wear, and instructions in English for putting on a tsukesage, and tying a simple obi bow.

10 March 2005

Crossword clues

Number of anagrams in this week's Guardian Quiptic crossword (No. 277, Don Putnam): 6 (+1 that was part anagram, part sandwich). Different setters seem to like various combinations of clue-types. While it's very satisfying to get an anagram, I sometimes feel a little cheated if it's gotten too easily. Or really frustrated if I just can't see it, however many times I move the letters around in a circle. Some people are never happy...
Clue that tickled: Unplanned, like a bun in the oven? (4-5)
Highlight to see answer:


08 March 2005

Encouraging kimono use

From BBC news: Kyoto rewards kimono wearers

What a shame I don't live in Kyoto. My recent kimono acquisitions are just begging to be worn oot and aboot. I think it's a smashing idea to provide an incentive to dress up in traditional attire. The kilt is still very much in use in Scotland, although not on a daily basis. Most Scottish men wear kilts at weddings, funerals, and even graduation ceremonies. They don't all own one though; there's a fantastic rental trade that makes it a lot more affordable. To kit yourself out fully with a brand new kilt and accessories (jacket, shoes, sporran, special kilty hose, flashes) costs upwards of £700 nowadays.
That pales in comparison with 'proper' Japanese kimono. Debutantes in Japan pay around £500 just to rent a furisode (with those characteristic long, flappy sleeves) for a day. Second-hand kimono (plural, same thing as sheep) can be acquired from flea market and internet traders for a great deal less, but I understand it's something of a taboo in their culture to re-use kimono. All the better for those of us non-Japanese who are simply fascinated with the beauty and intricacy of these works of art.

Cake and troll

clementine cake and troll

Scoffalophagus, if I may say so meself. It's quite tangy, with a bitter bite, and extraordinarily moist. Yum. Paired with a plain ice cream, it makes for a really scrummy dessert.

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04 March 2005

Easy-peasy Clementine Cake

  • Prepatory stage for super-easy-to-make clementine cake: cover 4 small clementines with water, boil for 2h, cool, pulp, reserve.
  • Beat 6 eggs, and add: 225g caster sugar, 250g ground almonds, 1tsp baking powder.
  • Stir in clementine pulp.
  • Bake in a lined springform tin for 1h at 190degC (cover with parchment/foil at 40min or the top burns).
  • Grate 100g of Maya Gold chocolate (G&B, or other orangey-dark chocolate slab) on cake straight out of oven. Wait till it cools to remove it from the tin.

Recipe originates from Nigella Lawson, courtesy of G&B's chocolate recipe book.

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