26 December 2005

Ceci n'est pas une haie

Ceci n'est pas une haie

I'm kind of proud of this photo. For no particular reason. Maybe it was just the moment when I took it. Or I have an inordinate fondness for shadows.

Happy holidays to anyone who stumbles across this. And as the year ends, my thanks to the visitors who read or commented on my irrational rants.

25th December

Christmas bread

Christmas, or whatever you want to call it, is a good excuse for a blow-out, food-wise. We ate. Then we ate some more. I even tried egg nog. And despite Amazon.com mucking up on the delivery of the presents for my parents and P, the Getty Museum shop saved the day (where P and I performed the "I won't look at what you're buying for me if you won't look at what I've got in my hands" dance that two last-minute shoppers are wont to do), and we had some semblance of our usual post-Christmas meal tearing of the wrapping paper.

Oh yes, the over-indulgence aspect of this winter solstice festival is one that we practice. It's always been an excuse for P and I to get some of the toys we both want, and to take a real day-off, where we do nothing but cook, eat and play. And for the first time in a whole month, I got the camera out, updated my blogs and generally faffed about all day. Even getting lunch ready was no chore as we played with our new breadmaker, baked the funniest looking ham I've ever done (crushed pineapple instead of pineapple rings makes your ham look like someone chundered on it even before the overeating began) and I showed off my BBQing skills. And giving chocolates to my folks was a fabby idea, cos we got samples of yummy Belgian chocs (from a shop round the corner). For today, we avoided the usual frustrations of living in LA, stayed in our neighbourhood, got two runs with our neighbour's dog, and played with a soap bubble that magically lasted for at least 5 minutes with careful flapping of arms. Batteries recharged. I only wish we could have days like this once a month.

25 December 2005

Christmas lunch

Well, more like Christmas lun/ner. By the time we sat down to eat, it was 5pm, and Christmas was already over by UK and other more easterly countries' time. But feast we did, and we didn't stop eating till 11pm.

Christmas bread Sweet potatoes on the BBQ Christmas Ham
Tommies and Courgies Shrimp on the barbie Grilled asparagus
BBQd orange BBQd banana Odd orange concoction

Sunflower, sesame and cumin bread

Sesame, Sunflower and Cumin bread

For Christmas, my parents found us a great breadmaker from Macy's. We'd stipulated that we didn't want to spend much on a breadmaker because we could never bring it home (the aage-old US vs rest-of-the-world voltage issues), so they were best-pleased with themselves to find a display piece at a bargain basement price just because it didn't come with a box and had a small, almost unnoticeable mark. Which meant we spent Christmas morning hard at work making bread at the same time as walking our neighbours' dog!

I've never been much a fan of supermarket bread, being the fussy kind who hates chewy "crusts" (I mean, how could it possibly be a crust if it's no longer crusty?). So a breadmaker with the ability to set the timer for breakfast seemed the ideal thing in a city where it's not so easy to get fresh bread if you don't drive.

The recipe is from the user's manual, but was fairly adventurous due to the addition of cumin seeds to what would otherwise be a bog-standard seed loaf. Also, not being well-prepared ingredient-wise, we had to make do with all purpose flour (the US version of plain white flour). And it still worked! I think this is one appliance we will make use of, however busy we are.

Chicken pie

Pie innards

A brief hiatus in food blogging due to work getting in the way. I have eaten loads in the intervening period, but not much of note. Taking a few days off while my parents are in LA means that we finally have some time on our hands to cook. The chicken pie above was a result of directions from my parents, who make this on a regular basis.

It's one that's ideal for folk with little free time, using a few modern conveniences like concentrated soup, frozen mixed veg and pre-made puff pastry. Despite that, it's quite tasty, and all the convenience food products can be substituted with homemade hard work.

Simply get yourself some chicken (free range and preferably organic too), cut into bite-size pieces and fry in some oil (olive oil is all we have right now and works fine). While the chicken is browning, dice yourself some onions and potatoes. Add those to the chicken when it's golden brown, and stir in a few handfuls of frozen mixed veg (usually sweetcorn, peas, carrots, but sometimes with green beans and broad beans too). If being lazy, you should have gotten the premade, even pre-rolled, pasty out of the freezer much earlier so it doesn't crack when unrolled. Line a pie tin with one sheet, trim the excess (save it to make cheesy twists) and pile on the chicken mix. Cover with the other sheet, brush with a beaten egg, and snip a few pretty holes to allow venting. Bake in a hot oven (190degC) for 45 minutes (or until the innards are hot and the pastry is golden brown). Serve piping hot, remembering to take a few snaps before it's devoured by hungry people wondering why you didn't just serve up the cooked chicken mix in the first place.

04 December 2005

's good news

Same-sex civil partnerships become law in UK.

Finally, the same legal and financial rights for same-sex couple. 's all good. Now how about civil partnerships for heterosexual couples who don't subscribe to the religious implications of marriage?

01 December 2005

The Singaporean government shows no compassion.

This morning, another drug mule was hanged. It is very well known how the Singaporean, Malaysian and Thai authorities treat drug traffickers, yet still it continues. I always wonder why they take such huge risks; why they can't find another route that does not take them through these countries with barbaric death penalties*. Never having been in the darkest depths, I will never understand their reasons. I can, however, understand fully why the Singaporean government fails to show any clemency regardless of the circumstances. It's a paternalistic government. They believe they are right in this. They regulate the number of births with propaganda, incentives and deterrents. They tell you how much to save for retirement, how many qualifications you can have, hell, they even make sure kids know how to brush their teeth in primary school. These are just some of the little things that they like to control. And they sure as hell like to control everything that comes in from the outside. Of course, Singapore has a drug problem just like everywhere else. It's an age-old problem, starting with opium in the colonial days, and moving on to today's soft and hard drugs. And like the good parents that they are, they want to keep their charges off drugs. So they introduce harsh laws that they hope will deter people from bringing in or using drugs. Maybe their reasoning is that these folk will die from drug abuse anyway, so why not use the death penalty to put the fear of god into them and stop them before they start. Maybe. Whatever the reasoning, the fact is that the Singaporean government is always right. They have never publicly admitted to being wrong (maybe except for the agreement to merge with Malaysia all those years ago), and they're not going to start now. Doesn't matter if the drugs are merely in transit. The fact that they are transiting through Singapore is enough to give her a bad reputation. And as anyone who knows anything about Asians knows, face is everything. And no-one likes to "lose" face even less than the fucking Singaporean government. No compassion to be found there.

*I'm not advocating drug trafficking, nor am I in favour of the death penalty under any circumstance. I just don't understand.