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Annual BBQ—2008

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Last week my sister was visiting, and on Saturday the sun peeked through the clouds just about long enough for us to attempt our once-a-year BBQ cook-out.

The occasion—aside from her visit—was our 19th wedding anniversary. John’s workmates had given him a bottle of champagne which would probably have gone undrunk until our silver jubilee, if it was just the two of us. (Well, I would have drunk it, but that’s not really the idea…). So, with the strawberry season at it’s peak, the starter was a no-brainer:

Strawberries and Champagne

With just three people attending, it was hard to restrain myself when it came to the prep. I reluctantly gave up on humous, seeing that I was out of tahini anyway. I also didn’t have any aubergines, but we needed a Mediterranean influence so I made mini lamb köfte balls:

500g lamb mince; 4 spring onions; 1 batch ras-el-hanout (Waitrose does an authentic mix. Failing that, it’s 1 pinch allspice, 2tsp nutmeg, 20 threads saffron, 1½tsp black pepper, 1½tsp mace, 1tsp cinnamon, 1½tsp cardamom, 2tsp ginger, 2tsp salt. Really, this also ought to have rose petals in there. Waitrose’s does, but it doesn’t have saffron. Use 2-4 tbsp.); 2 cloves garlic; handful chopped coriander; 10(!) tbsp sesame seeds, slightly toasted.

This mixture freezes well. Make walnut-sized balls, roll in (corn)flour and thread onto soaked bamboo skewers (these give better hold than metal skewers). Serve piled into miniature pita pockets lined with lettuce leaves and drizzled with tzaziki (full fat yoghurt with cucumber—peeled, grated and squeezed—spring onion, garlic, lemon juice and fresh mint).

Morroccan Lamb Balls

They also go well with vegetable skewers: peel 2-3 mushrooms per skewer, score the caps cross-wise and marinade for an hour or so in balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, oil, fresh thyme and black pepper. Toss in a few thick, halved courgette slices and roll some cherry tomatoes in oil. Thread the lot onto skewers and throw it on the BBQ until the tomatoes are soft. Olives, stuffed jalapeños and salad make nice sides.

Naturally, there had to be an Asian influence as well. It’s always good to have some Chinese chilli oil at hand (veggies, note that this contains fermented fish or shrimp). I tried my hand at chicken satay again, after spotting some free range chicken breast at the butcher’s. This dish is better if the meat is cut into very small pieces and threaded onto thin skewers. The chilli oil was needed to liven up the saus kachang which was a bit weak (a strong Thai chilli would fix this). This is derived from my favourite Asian Street Food cookbook:

8tbsp peanut butter; 2tsp jaggery; ½tsp garlic salt; 3tbsp soy sauce; 1tsp blachan (shrimp paste); 1 finely chopped chilli; 100 ml coconut milk; 1tsp lime juice. Heat in sauce pan to combine and add water to desired consistency.

The satay chicken is marinated in a pinch each of cinnamon and tumeric; 1tsp each of ground coriander, cumin and jaggery; 1tbsp crushed salted peanuts; 6 minced spring onions; 2tbsp oil and the grated rind of 1 lime (lemon grass would be better, if any was to be had in Tadley).

The book also provided the base recipe for the enduring classic Indonesian barbecued spare ribs, although I must say that I haven’t come across anything like it in Indonesia. These ribs are usually pre-cooked in the wok or oven and finished on the BBQ, basting frequently. Since I didn’t have enough notice, I stuck the ribs directly on the BBQ. They have to be grilled for a long time over a low heat to cook through. Keep brushing on the sauce with a pastry brush:

2-3 chillies, chopped; 2 cloves garlic; 2cm ginger, sliced; small onion, grated (or 4 spring onions)—mince all this.
1 good slug kecap manis or 1tbsp jaggery; 2tbsp soy sauce; 1tsp nam pla (fish sauce); 1tsp tamarind concentrate; 1tsp tumeric; 1tbsp ketchup; 1tbsp oil.
Coat the ribs with the mix and toss them on the BBQ. There’s no need to marinade.

BBQ selection

This was it for the year, or so experience tells me.

We’re unlikely to go abroad this summer (John hasn’t renewed his passport), but we’re off to Scotland next week. Perhaps—just perhaps—we’ll have another BBQ there, if I can dissuade the guys from landing me with 3 (!) assistants when cooking. The current rota spells chaos.

Well, we’ll see.

Discrimination: positive or otherwise

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

You can’t help wondering what direction your life might have taken, had things been different.

I still wonder sometimes, even after all these years.

I also wonder how history is recorded.

The current occasion that caused me to wonder is the image of a woman scientist posing in her drysuit in Antarctica.

Search as I may, I can’t find any reference as to when women were allowed to work as equals among men with the British Antarctic Survey. Up until well into the nineties, ads for research positions which were permanently based in the Antarctic stipulated that applicants must be male and physically fit (and—so the joke went—must have a beard).

My entire cohort was denied the opportunity to work in the Antarctic, at least with BAS. I remember that one of the scientists at the Millport marine lab had to start up a collaboration with the Australian Antarctic Survey so that he could allow his female PhD candidate to carry out essential fieldwork there.

And yet, look at the BAS website or at wiki entries and you find no reference that such discrimination ever existed. I can understand that they don’t want to bang on about it, but I believe that my generation of Zoologists is owed an explanation, and an apology. I think that current and future generations are owed the same if they are ever to make sense of their own history.

Whitewashing isn’t the answer and ‘positive discrimination’ is right out. Discrimination, no matter what motives lie behind it, is never positive.

Another Near-miss

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Secured Emtrance
Phew, I’m literally just back from flood defence duty.

We got away with it, this time. The sandbags arrived just as the brook was starting to recede.
Flood Defence
We had to bail out the backyard though, and call the plumber for emergency assist before the kitchen and lounge flooded by stealth, thanks to a blocked-up drain.


Where is This Place?

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Internet is creepingly slow when it works, yesterday we had a power outage for five hours and today we have a(nother) flood alert.

Rain Falling Down

Where is this place?


No: Tadley, England.