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Christmas 2011 was one of the best for me for numerous personal reasons. One of the highlights being a big family traditional dinner. It was phenomenal and I reckon Henry VIII would have struggled.... Well maybe not him but there was a lot to choose from.
There were 5 meats and all sorts of vegetables going on. We were catering for six though, so better to have too much than too little and you can't beat left over meat sandwiches after a mid-afternoon nap.
But what of the veg leftovers? The meat is so versatile but what about cold mash, cold sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and peas??? (The roast spuds and roasted carrots were snapped up on the day). There was so much it seemed a waste to scrape into the bin and not use.
I'm sure a lot of people have their own uses but I fancied something a bit different to a bubble and squeak so....
Ingredients: I'm just listing what I had at the time and the weights are very VERY rough estimates but this is more for anyone who may just throw left over food in a recycle caddy (if you have one), or looking for inspiration for something different, or just want to make money and food go further if like me your feeling the pinch more and more.
300g cold mash
70g cold sprouts
50g cold cauliflower
50g cold garden peas
50g cold broccoli
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 or 2 Beaten Egg
Plain flour in shallow dish
Breadcrumbs in shallow dish
Basically I threw it all (except the mash potato) into a large mixing bowl and started to roughly mash it down until mixed but still quite chunky, using a fork to smash down the larger chunks. I then added the mash potato and mixed thoroughly, seasoning well with salt and pepper.
Once it was all mixed I then fashioned a rough croquette shape about 3cm thick and 6cm long, dusted each one in flour and then dipped in the beaten egg and then rolled until well covered in the breadcrumbs. At this point I might recommend double dipping... back to the egg and breadcrumb again; I'll explain why later. With the amount we had in leftovers I managed to make 15 in total... not a bad portion for 2 people (I had the extra one to taste test sshhhhhh!!!).
I placed them on a baking tray in a pre-heated oven (gas mark 7 or electric equivalent) and cooked for about 20-25 minutes (adjust accordingly for fan assisted ovens) until the breadcrumbs started to turn golden and crispy. The reason I suggest double dipping is the coating on a few "split" and they lost a bit of shape. I haven't done a double dip yet but I'll update if it works as I think it does. They may even benefit from a spell in the fridge?
I served it up with a mixed variety of meat and sauce to dip. It wasn't a massive evening meal but it was all we wanted after the over indulgence of the feast the day before.
As a side note, you may or may not do this as a matter of course, we never used to, but we now allow plenty of extra veg, spuds and gravy with our traditional Sunday roast and plan a Monday night left over meal. I might do a series of leftover idea do if anyone is interested? perhaps if there was a Leftover section as it won't always be veg?
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 4 hours approximately
Serves: 2 (However you could increase the veg content and stretch it)
Ingredients (based on myself cooking for two people)
1 x Pork Shoulder Steak per person
1 x Medium Onion roughly chopped
1 x Large Carrot peeled and diced 1cm-ish
½ x Large Parsnip peeled and diced (1cm-ish)
½ x Leek finely sliced
1 x Celery Stalk finely chopped
4 x Medium Chestnut Mushrooms chopped
2 x Apples (Braeburn) cored, peeled and quartered.
1 x Pint Chicken Stock (I've used 2 cubes of Oxo for this)
¼ x Pint Port
¼ x Pint Red Wine
Potatoes for Mash (measure as you see fit for your own portion)
Salt and Pepper to season/taste
2 x teaspoons Dried Sage
Olive Oil to fry
1 x tablespoon Plain Flour to thicken
Implements (not of torture)
20 litre cast-iron pot.
Pre-Heat the oven to Gas Mark 4
In the pot heat the oil on the hob at a medium/high heat and seal the steaks on both sides until browned slightly. Don't worry if they stick and leave bits in the bottom as this is all "flavour" and will come good in the end. When done remove and keep to one side. Whilst this is going on make the stock if using cubes. You can also prep your veg if you haven't set it up in neat little pots like they do on the telly but you'll need to be quick as you have to keep an eye on those steaks!
Turn the heat down and add the chopped onions and coat in the juices from the meat and cook until softened. You may want/need to add a touch more oil before frying the onions if your steaks haven't released much juice.
Add the carrot and parsnip turn up the heat and fry until covered in the "flavour" then add the chopped apple until it starts to brown at the edges. Now throw in the leeks, celery and mushroom and again make sure all ingredients have been coated and warmed through. Don't worry if the base of the pan starts to get dark and sticky as this is taken care of soon enough.
Pour in the red wine. When the liquid hits the heat of the pan it will start the de-glazing process and you get back that "flavour" that more than likely has scorched to the bottom. Use a wooden spoon to help it come away. Pour in the port and again mix to ensure all of the ingredients get a good swim (lucky beggars).
Keep the heat up at a rolling boil and let the wine and port reduce down by about a third to intensify the flavour then pour in the chicken stock and the sage, and put your steaks back in. Add salt and pepper to taste stir to mix well and bring back to the boil. Pop the lid on and whack it in the oven for a minimum of 3 hours.
After 3 hours take the pot out and pop it on your smallest hob and simmer whilst you do your mash but take the quartered apples out and set to one side until you are ready to mash your spuds. I quartered instead of chopped the apple to aid identification later as the veg all looks very similar when stewed.
While the potatoes are boiling mix the flour in a bowl with some fairly warm water and mix to make a smooth paste about the consistency of tinned chicken soup add this slowly in stages to the pot of meat and veg and stir to thicken up. It is important that you mix the flour and water so there are no lumps in the finished gravy. After 10 minutes or so simmering the gluten in the flour should thicken your stew enough otherwise it'll be too watery.
Drain the spuds and let them rest uncovered for about 3 to 5 minutes before mashing. I like to do this so there isn't too much moisture in the potato. Mash how you like. I like a good spoon of Utterly Butterly (or similar), a splash of milk and a dash of salt and pepper but it's up to you. Add your apple that you separated earlier and mash together.
Best served in a large pasta dish with a crusty cob on the side and a generous glass of your favourite wine.
After having a bargain with the Morphy Richards "43772" Pyramid Kettle in metallic red, (as previously reviewed), my partner and I seriously wanted some more stylish kitchen appliances in the same range.
We have a filter coffee maker in the office at work and you really can't beat the smell and taste of freshly brewed coffee so we said we would treat ourselves. But just a quick note before I review the product... if you are not aware it is well worthwhile using a website called camelcamelcamel. It basically tracks anything on Amazon so you can see what a products cheapest and highest price is over the last 6 months. Using this site I managed to bag the 47094 coffee maker at a remarkable £27.99 delivered!
Upon receiving the item we opened the box. My initial impression was how large it was. It stands at about 36cm high, about 23cm wide and is 20cm deep, so if you are not too flush with space it might not be for everyone. However the actual build quality and overall look is very impressive, with a combination of stainless steel (red and silver detail as you can see from the picture) and a glossy black plastic lid and a matt black finish on the base of the unit. The jug feels robust enough and again finished with a sturdy black plastic handle. I didn't find it excessively heavy I'd reckon under 5 kilos for unit and jug.
I looked over the instructions to familiarise myself with basic operation and all is very straight forward, some may even be able to operate without reading it seems that user friendly.
I took the unit out and washed the appropriate items first (Jug, filter and filter holder) and set about a few runs with plain water as is standard with any item of this nature. There is enough to make 12 cups and this is easy to gauge as the glass jug has markers to indicate the fill level starting at 4 cups (minimum) and increasing by 2 cups up to the 12 maximum. This is also complimented by the fill gauge on the right-side of the unit which is a floating ball in a thin glass tube. So after filling the jug to the 12 cup level I flipped the lid open and poured the water into the reservoir at the top. This can be a bit tricky if you have the unit on a kitchen surface below a cupboard; I had to pull it to one side for more room so I could pour it in due to the height of the main unit. Overall though this isn't a major concern for me and have now found a suitable location for it.
Once filled, I then plugged the unit into the socket. The flex on mine is about 50cm so again consider your power points and where you would want it if struggling for room. The digital clock on the front is illuminated in a very vivid blue and the fill gauge is also subtly illuminated in blue. Although it is digital the clock face reads as analogue (hour, minute and seconds) it couldn't be more simple to set the time; simply press the hour "HR" button and "MIN" buttons until you have set as desired. To set the first water run through simply press the power button located above the clock face and away it goes. It took about 15 minutes approximately and was very quiet. I did this twice but some may prefer to do a few more?
After finishing the initial set up I went about making a real brew. I spooned the coffee into the filter with the required amount of ground coffee, filled the reservoir and as before pressed the power. It wasn't long before the aroma started to fill the house and I was very pleased with the finished result for taste. The hotplate stays on for about 2 hours and there are little black indicator bars on the clock that come on every 15 minutes so you can gauge how fresh the brew is. Having used a different machine at work that stays on I haven't personally noticed any degradation to taste the longer it is kept warm. I personally would prefer it to stay warm until I'd finished as a full pot is a bit much for two people in one go, (having only used it a few times I have not yet experimented with the reduced measure and aroma settings). But on a plus note it does act as an automatic cut off feature.
Onto one of the main reasons we wanted it... waking up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee.
Setting the timer function was as easy as 1-2-3; press and hold the "PROG" button and set the time as you do for the clock, then press the little "clock" button at the top left of the clock face and let it do its stuff. All I can say is it worked spot on and we awoke to a wonderful smell (although I did add an extra spoon of coffee to give it a bit of extra oomph); it was a perfect way to start a Sunday morning and set about frying bacon.
That's it in a nutshell it is a very simple appliance to use. After having this appliance for several weeks we haven't used it as much as we thought so it is no longer constantly plugged in. This isn't a big deal really, owing to how easy the time is to set and it does look really good along with the kettle. We bought it as a complimentary appliance because the price was right. I would suggest considering very carefully if it's one of those items you've "always fancied". If you are a major coffee head then even at the £40.00 plus mark you would be very happy with the performance.
Will we go for the toaster... only time will tell?
What can I say... it's unoriginal throughout but highly enjoyable! What it lacks in originality it makes up for with lady flesh.
From recollection it was one of the first mainstream 3-D films in the cinema. The trailer did sum it up as ridiculous gore-fest but I think the draw at the time would be it was a live action 3-D film as opposed to an animation from Pixar or Dreamworks.
Quick Synopsis is: underground earthquake causes a trench to open under a lake releasing a swarm of pre-historic flesh eaters. A wonderful cameo from Richard Dreyfuss sets the scene and gore level for what to expect. So the lake is now teaming with these nightmares and a Spring Break is looming. It's up to a sheriff to close the lake when the danger is realised but oh no... too late. It's pretty much Jaws but in different clothing, and let's say not much clothing on the actresses.
So I steered well clear at the cinema as the price tag to watch this in 3-D would not justify it, however I have recently purchased a 3-D TV (LG 42LW650T) and this Blu-Ray was cheap enough to see what it could do.
From Amazon it was under £6.00 and the quality of the film aside you get a decent bundle cotaining:
1 x Blu-Ray 3-D disc with the stereoscopic (sunglasses type) version which also has the HD 2-D version of the film too.
1 x Blu-Ray disc with a HD version but in anaglyphic (red and green type) which there are two pairs of card glasses included.
I didn't use the anaglyphic type (there is no point with the new TV) but I have used anaglyphic from a Blu-Ray feature previously and although it is good in respect to 3-D, you are obviously going to lose the colour aspect.
Not taking the film too seriously it suited for a Sunday evening mindless entertainment. The 3-D aspect added to the overall enjoyment of the film, and considering the shortage of 3-D content for the home market at the moment, it makes a nice, cheap addition to the collection.
Rice is great with sauce based dishes. I love a good curry and the more sauce to mop up the rice the better. However after trying to kick start a healthier approach recently and cutting a few calorific items from my diet I found rice to be too bland and it fell out of favour. I was determined not to slip and so started experimenting with a few different bits and bobs and below is a simple recipe to pep up a steady staple without racking up the calories.
Prep time: 15 mins approx
Cook Time: 15 mins (with a Rice Cooker)
Ingredients (based on 2 people in my experience)
1 cup of Basmati Rice (the cup I use is about 200ml)
2 cups of water (400ml using the same cup I used for the rice)
1 small/medium onion (finely chopped)
3 Garlic gloves (through a garlic press ideally)
1 ½ teaspoons of crushed chilli
½ teaspoon of salt (reduced sodium for those watching their intake)
1 teaspoon of black pepper
½ teaspoon of basil
2 tablespoons of Dark Soy Sauce
How you cook your rice is purely up to you however I've always struggled weighing and measuring to cook rice properly therefore the above is based on using a rice cooker so.....
Basically I throw all the ingredients cold into the rice cooker cold with the exception of the soy sauce. Stir it to mix and leave to infuse for 5 - 10 minutes.
Turn on your rice cooker.
About half way through the cooking process I give a stir to make sure the flavours are as evenly distributed hen leave until the cooker lets you know that it's cooked. At this point I add the Soy Sauce and stir through and let rest for a couple of minutes.
Serve up as it is or I like to break up steamed salmon fillets and mix in too.
I needed to get a new phone last year and had to start a contract from scratch. I opted to look at what deals Carphone Warehouse had on offer and they are usually generous with gifts too. I'm not a major technophile but wanted something fairly modern and with some useful features. After much trawling I felt this phone on a 2 year contract with Orange which came with a Playstation 3 was the best option. Here's a breakdown of how I found the phone.
In the box you get the hand set, hands free/earphones, usb connector, cd with media software and Mains charger.
This was my first touch screen phone and took a while to get used to "it" and "it" to me. After calibrating the touch screen sensitivity things went smoothly enough and I quickly adapted to the layout and menu features.
The unit it fairly light-weight and a comfortable size to keep in your pocket. The main screen is split into three sections which can be customised with various "widgets" (clock, calendar, favourite contact etc.). The first screen is central and you can swipe either way to allow more room for lesser used widgets. I found having a clock and date display ideal on the first screen as more widgets tended to look cluttered, and when swiping you could unintentionally open an application you don't want. With a swipe to the left I put shortcuts for the radio and media player widgets (more about those features later). To the right I had favourite contacts which could be customised with pictures assigned to contact. There are all sorts of widgets available on the phone out of the box. Just tap the screen and a menu appears to the left and you simply drag them to where you want them. More can be downloaded free or for a nominal payment.
Making calls is fairly easy to get to grips with. One tap on the main screen's phone keypad shortcut takes you to a bog standard numerical keypad. Type your number and call... easy. When on a call the screen locks to prevent accidentally opening various menus. Not a problem unless you are on to one of those automated phone system that requires you to press 1 for this or 2 for that. You have to take the phone away from your ear to unlock the phone and bring up the keypad. Overall very fidgety. I'd recommend using hands free if you know you are going to need extra functions. In the main I found connection satisfactory and suffered very few "dropped" calls. There are two volume buttons on the side which gives the options of setting call volume to your own desired preference.
Texting is also straight forward when held in the standard upright position. You have the familiar number pad and letters associated with it e.g. ABC on the number 2 key, and the T9 dictionary works well with predictive text. You can teach the phone new words too. T9 can be turned on or off depending on what you like. There is the option to use a stylus and write a la Nintendo DS style. I tried this but found it more time consuming and it would necessitate the need for a case with stylus holder. I did not feel it would offer any benefit and would "bulk" the whole unit out thus taking away what I felt was a plus point overall. If you are texting in the upright position and turn the phone to a landscape position it reverts to a virtual QWERTY keyboard. I found with the size of the screen along with the letters that this option didn't offer major improvement over the standard layout and after mis-hitting far too often I wasn't enamoured to use full time. Again it might be aimed at a stylus approach.
That's it as far as using it as a mobile phone so on with a few of the added features. I'm not on social network site but it's geared up to take you to the usual suspects; facebook, twitter, myspace, bebo to name those you'll know. It also has a Google search shortcuts and YouTube. I did a few searches on Google and again you can have the screen in portrait or landscape, the phone adjusts accordingly. Some websites are mobile friendly but others were illegible or took an age to load. You can zoom in if you can't read the text but this is tricky to accomplish. I tried YouTube and here was where I noticed a major flaw for a web enabled handset and something I hadn't picked up when reading the blurb. There is no 3G or WI-FI so internet access is awful and videos unwatchable. I really don't see the point of adding something like YouTube to this handset.
One feature I do look for in a phone is to have it as an MP3 player to save carrying too many gadgets and this fails dramatically in my opinion. The MP3 player it comes with could be of some use if you choose to expand the memory with a micro SD card, although I found the headphones too uncomfortable to wear. Unfortunately this model has its own bespoke connection for headsets and not a standard 3.5mm standard jack so you cannot opt for a pair you prefer. For me the MP3 player gathered virtual dust and because of this alone spurred me to look for a new handset. I tried the FM radio but the reception was far too poor when out and about this on top of the discomfort of the ear-buds I gave up.
I made limited use of the camera at 3.2 mega pixel it's not bad but without a flash a fair amount of graininess was noticeable.
You have the usual raft of standard options too such as alarms, calculator and convertor but nothing amazing to set this phone apart from any other.
Considering how the smartphone market has bloomed in the last 12 months, I feel this is probably too basic now for what people expect as an app/widget piece of kit. Considering I had this on a 2 year contract I actually bought a new handset (Blackberry) after 12 months and I gave this phone away to a family member to replace theirs. Overall not bad as a phone but if you like your extras you'll be disappointed.
My partner and I needed to replace a temperamental kettle and we saw 2 in the Morphy Richard's Accent range. A jug kettle and this retro little beauty on offer at our local Morrison's supermarket. Obviously the first thing that jumped out on both was the striking red colour. We had recently had the kitchen updated and I must admit stainless steel worktop appliances are always going to be timeless and suitable whatever your décor but become somewhat unnoticeable. I felt drawn to have something that offered a little bit of a statement and would complement the colour scheme.
The main components that came in the box are the kettle which is a brushed steel effect in a vibrant red colour with a separate bog standard black plastic base unit. The kettle has a discreet "Morphy Richards" brand logo at the base of the unit on both sides so it can sit facing either way depending on your preference. The fill gauge is a window with floating ball used in many kettles and located centrally at the "rear", above the ON switch paddle, opposite the stainless steel spout; again offering an option of how you may wish to face the kettle. I have had kettles which lend themselves design-wise to face more for a right-handed person. Not being a leftie myself I'm sure this design is appreciated in some corners. The lid is also stainless in finish with a hoop big enough for a finger to curl in and remove. The kettle is finished off with a nice arc-style soft grip handle.
After reading the usual care instructions (I know it's a kettle and it doesn't take Einstein to work out but best to err on the side of caution), I gave it the first of several initial boils as recommended. The lid was somewhat tight to remove at first but nothing to cause concern as this I put down to the products newness. The boil action was fairly quick for a full load of one and a half litres from tap temperature, approximately 2 minutes. I found the style of the spout offered a certain amount of control when pouring the water away; something I always found haphazard with jug-style kettle some can have a lip which can lead to far too much water coming out too quickly. The soft grip black handle of the kettle is comfortable to hold but I found that my first instinct was to hold it at the top of the arc and I was using my wrist to pour. This wasn't a major setback for us being in our 30's but it could be a consideration for somebody suffering from arthritis or other similar ailments as a full 1.5 litre load would be 1.5kgs and may not be suitable for all. You can hold the handle nearer the rear which is how I have become accustomed to using it.
So onto the second boil and maybe I should have let the unit cool but I needed a brew, I found the lid to be too hot and awkward to remove to refill. The ring on the lid does have some form of plastic to reduce but i found it wasn;t enough so I opted to fill via the spout, something I'm sure most people get into the habit of anyway?! While this is not a major problem I have found over the past months of using it that the splash and run off from filling this way, coupled with the heating of use leads to water marks and slight scale build up on the spout and down the front of the kettle. Nothing that cannot be removed but I feel that had the lid been more user friendly this could be avoided and remove the need to wipe the kettle after every other use to keep it as lovely looking as it is. As I haven't used the lid to fill maybe as often as should it could be I haven't worn that initial tightness away mentioned upon first use?
One feature which I feel could have been added to really give to the retro feel is that of a whistle. This may sound strange but I have come across electric kettles that give an audible toot when they have reached boiling point and this coupled with classic design of the kettle would make a fine additional feature.
Overall for the little niggles we are very happy with this kettle and it really works well from a style point of view... so much so that we are considering updating the complementary toaster to the go with and even the coffee maker.
After dropping my old iron on the kitchen tiles thus rendering it inoperable i went for a basic Value Iron from Argos. Admitedly it was £3.99 and it worked.... for about a week. I decided to go to Asda and have a mooch for something of a reasonable quality and brand name for about £20.00 (i'm a bloke and these things don not come naturally). It must have been fate as this product was on offer for £17.00. I admit the snazzy pink detail was a bit off putting but for the price I jumped right in.
Once home a tried it out on a few work shirts. The stainless base glides easily enough. It does not suffer that certain "stickiness" some non-stick coated ones get if they go too hot. Ergonomically it's very comfortable too. the cord is a reasonable length too which I find beneficial as too short could be hazarous.
I did find when it was upright it did not seem to be too well balance. There is what can only be described as a small wing jutting out at the back to keep it steady but i didn't feel too confident at first. So far though, there have been no instances of the iron toppling. I would be wary if your ironing board is not that sturdy.
The water reseviour is easy to fill and has a flap to stop it leaking, (the value range Argos iron was an open hole and water would slosh out when i used it).
I have had a few irons over the years and one thing I found a little confusing at first is the steam button is on the right-hand side as you look down on it. To me it feels slightly unnatural (as a right handed person).
I did a quick online price comparison and it should have retailed at about £39.00 (at the time of purchase mid 2010) I see it listed here sub £20.00 and for that price point I would certainly say that's fair.
I recently had the task of finding my Father a new television. Being a man of frugal means the brief was simple "What's the best 32 inch TV and how cheap will it be?"
I always use for Amazon so set about selecting my preferences accordingly and the LE32D580 was the top choice. Being cautious I didn't want to lump for the first one suggested by Amazon however looking at the overall features in comparison it was a no brainer. At around £330.00 including delivery it fit the bill. So as follows, what I would consider a layman's breakdown:
Freeview HD. Considering other models in the price bracket only came with Freeview this was a big plus.
1080p Full HD. Running Blu-Ray content from a PS3 via HDMI the picture was vibrant and took my Dad by surprise (He was upgrading from CRT and digi-box set up). There are numerous picture enhancements but I find these a personal preference but handy for adjusting to your own room ambience.
2 x 10w speakers which do produce virtual surround with certain content. Adequate for TV but lacks oomph with films/games.
4 x HDMI. A great amount again in comparison to other models in my search bracket which only boasted 3 with the added bonus of the fourth one located on the side great for peripherals on the fly, especially if wall mounted!
2 x USB ports. I did try a stick with various media formats on and the majority played no problem. Again one of these was located on the side panel.
1 x Scart. I understand that more and more peripherals will go down the HDMI route but worth considering if you are upgrading and have numerous scart only products.
1 x Optical Out. Handy if you have a dedicated Home Theatre system.
the overall look of the set is simple and subtle and will suit most homes/bedrooms.