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Archive for February, 2007

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Gung Hei Fat Choi!

Monday, February 19th, 2007

…as they made us all shout from the central stage during yesterday’s Chinese New Year festivities in Trafalgar Square. Hopefully, this will be a prosperous year indeed, as this is the golden year of the pig.

Chinese Dragon

London’s Trafalgar Square and Soho were inundated yesterday as the Chinese Association and Mayor Ken Livingstone laid on the biggest Chinese New Year celebration London has yet seen. Shaftesbury AvenueThe city was lavishly decorated with red lanterns and cultural performances on stage alternated with raucious lion-and dragon dancers parading through the streets. The crowds in Soho—normally quiet away from the tourist magnets around the square—were so dense that police had to be grafted in to keep people moving. I hope that more will return to sample Chinatown’s many delights in the future, but on this day, getting into a shop or restaurant, or even to the stalls lining the street, was near impossible.Golden Child

The weather put a bit of a dampener on the event: it was so dark that taking photos was near impossible, but at least we were spared a drenching. Still, I long to move away from dim Britain, and celebrating Chinese New Year brought back the travel bug. That evening, one of our mate’s colleagues regaled us with stories of 3 months spent backpacking through China. I can feel my feet beginning to itch, yet again.

But until that time, I’ll have to make do with occasional dinner at the Wong Kei.

Curry Goat

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

Curry Goat

Well, the weather has turned to shit, and so I’m trying to invoke memories of hotter climes through cooking.

I actually came across this dish when living in New Cross, SE London, where there is a strong Caribbean community. Still—aside from being one of the best curry dishes there are—this invokes memories of bright colours and tropical sunshine.

I can’t believe that I never blogged this before.

Curry Goat with Rice and Peas and Fried Plantain

Goat meat is required, but it can be picked up wherever there’s a Caribbean community. The halal butchers usually have it, and the remaining ingredients can be picked up in ethnic shops and markets nearby.

This is about the only dish which I cook with pre-made curry powder (Sharwood’s Madras).

Curry goat

1kg goat meat (bone in), chopped; juice 1 lime; 3 cloves garlic, crushed; 1 tablespoon chopped coriander (stalks are OK, keep the leaves for garnish, if desired); 2 spring onions, finely chopped; ½-1 Scotch Bonnet Chilli, finely chopped (take care—hot!); ½ onion, finely chopped; 2 tomatoes, scalded and peeled, then chopped; 1 tablespoon dried thyme; pinch allspice; 1 tablespoon curry powder, plus one extra; 1 cube chicken stock; few twists of black pepper

Wash the goat meat (it will be full of bone splinters), pat dry and rub with lime juice. The marinating step is optional. You don’t need to marinate, or you could just marinate for 1 hr. I did it overnight. If you marinate, combine all the ingredients (except for the 1 extra spoon of curry powder), and rest, then brush off and reserve the spice mixture.

Brown the meat and transfer to a heavy pot. Fry the chopped veg and spices with the extra spoon of curry powder (it will darken), deglaze the pan and just cover the meat with the liquid and stock (dissolve cube in 1 cup hot water, then make up the volume as necessary). The idea is that the gravy will thicken during cooking. Simmer very gently 2-3 hours until meat starts to fall off the bone.

Rice & Peas

(I always cook rice by volume, absorption method. Basmati rice from the supermarket doesn’t need washing).

1 cup rice; 1 onion, finely chopped; 400g gunko peas; 1 cup chicken stock; just under 1 cup coconut milk; small piece cinnamon; 2 bay leaves; 1 scotch bonnet chilli (whole); pinch allspice; salt

Fry the onion until soft, add remaining ingredients and simmer to absorb (ca. 15 minutes). Fish out the whole chilli and other spices and serve. The chilli should impart a gentle warmth on the dish. If you don’t have a scotch bonnet (habanero) chilli, use a small dash of original Encona sauce.

Serve with fried plantain and extra lime juice (or a relish made with tomato, cucumber, spring onion, chopped coriander and lime juice—I use that for all my curries).

Winter Wonderland (briefly)

Friday, February 9th, 2007

Weighed down by Snow

Heavy snowfall of about 4cm meant that the country ground to a halt yesterday.

From what I heard on the news, about 3000 schools were closed nationwide. Slow Down!

Makes one wonder how the kids in Switzerland ever get an education…

Anyway, the weather meant that I got to take some nice photographs for about 2 hours, after the light improved and before the snow melted away. By early afternoon, all the pretty sights were gone and only a few white flecks remained on the lawn, with the roads covered in grey slush.Cottage in the Snow

Mysteriously, our nice neighbourhood snowman had also disappeared without a trace—as had the ones across the road. Could it be that the fun police removed them as they might clog the drains when they thaw? I don’t think so—it wouldn’t make much sense either, as Ernie here was erected right next to the brook:

Meet the new Neighbour!

Updates in Progress

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

Things are not looking so bad, apart from the just-above-freezing cold. A watery sun was out today, John’s didgeridoo arrived and the company I ordered my sunglasses from has re-sent them after they were sent to an old address thanks to a Paypal database glitch.

I’m also finally getting around to labelling my Australia pics on Flickr and am in the process of updating the final bits of my Aussie blog. Have a scroll down the page.

Thinking of sunnier climes…

Great Keppel Island: boats in the shade

Unhappy Return

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

Flying Home

Australia has water restrictions because it’s a desert country and it’s suffering from a drought (away from Airlie Beach, that is—there are no restrictions in Airlie Beach). England has water restrictions because companies such as Thames water waste 198 million gallons of water through leaking pipes every day (that’s Thames water alone! —Evening Standard, 31/01/2007, p.12). They have failed to address this problem satisfactorily so far, and now one of their bright-spark corporate lawyers has devised an alternative solution to the problem: legally, TW is only obliged to supply water up to street level—so they have reduced pressure in the pipes. If you have an upstairs bathroom or don’t live on the ground floor, tough, you’ll have to install a booster pump at your own expense (ditto).

Ironically, Thames Water was recently acquired by an Australian bank.

Oh, it’s good to be back!

I’m not saying that Australia is without fault. The way they manage their water makes me cringe. The verdict about water treatment in NSW is that people ‘won’t drink sewage’ and Queenslanders are up in arms about it too. Meanwhile, drinking water appears to be used in heavy industry.

I would still move there in a heartbeat. But John wasn’t overly impressed. However, when we got home, half of the escalators in the airport weren’t working (try stumbling up and down those things in a zombified state after an 11 hour flight at 4 a.m. Japanese time…), we had to wait nearly 2 hours for the bus and it was freezing. To cheer ourselves up—and while the house was warming up—we went to the pub, bleary-eyed though we were. It was packed, but there wasn’t anybody there that we knew, apart from Hamish the landlord, who gave us a brief grunt, too busy to talk. When we were displaced from the table by a bunch of cribble players, we left.

Today, the skies are grey. The eucalypt tree in the garden has blown over.

Welcome home.

I’ll be updating the blog, but entries will be backdated, so have a look around later.