28 November 2010

Cooking with Bruce : Vege tart and feta

We've had some snow, not masses, but certainly more than a dusting. Quite chilly, but nice day today - went for a wander around some snow covered fields, peaceful. Even had peaceful music (well ok, Steve Hackett live, which I find peaceful). The wander in tomorrow could be chilly. I will report later.

Made this dish the other night, which really worked for me. Technically it was advertised as a starter, but it made enough for a main and lunch the next morning. The recipe, which was the base guide, also made the pastry from scratch, you'll notice in my usual slack fashion I've cut that. Oh and bear in mind will take some time from start to finish as you are making the relish from scratch then cooking.

Provencale Vegetable Tart with Feta
Tomato Relish
1T olive oil
1 finely chopped onion
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
4-6 tomatoes chopped
1/2t chilli flakes
1T tomato paste (I used some tinned tomatoes so dropped this)
1 bay leaf
sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper

Heat the oil and saute (gently) the onion and garlic until lightly browned. Add chopped tomatoes, chilli, paste, bay leaf, thyme, and seasoning. Cook at low heat for around 20 minutes until reduced, remove bay and thyme. Leave to cool.

2 medium zucchini chopped
1 eggplant, chopped 3-5mm rounds
1 red capsicum, chopped into strips
1 onion, chopped into 8
olive oil
salt pepper

Place all in a roasting tray, drizzle with oil, season, grill under tender. Toss once to do the other side.

Roll out the pastry to very thin (I had two long ones), spread the relish over the pastry and layer with veges. Place chopped feta (marinated maybe nice) on top and bake at 220C until brown-ing.
Drizzle with olive oil. Serve.

Bit of a note, the chilli comes through well but make sure you can taste it in the relish as it lifts things nicely.

27 November 2010

Rugby Day (pt 1)

Nice snowfall last night meant a reasonably chilly day. It was also ball-numbingly cold last night, a whisky and cigar had seemed a good idea. At the time.

But onto Rugby Day.

Scotland v Samoa
The Scottish resurgence, after the massacre by NZ, did rest on following up the Sth Afr victory with a win over Samoa. Samoa are ranked below Scotland, and as pointed out on the commentary, have a population of 178,000. Which you can halve, since it is a men's sport.
Good game, very tight traditional rugger. I did feel a bit sorry for the Samoan's, Aberdeen wasn't very warm, and even the lights came on at 230pm. Yes. At late lunch time, they switched the lights on.
I enjoyed the game, both teams were messy, but it was good. Scotland's quick lead was eaten away by Samoa who were kicking penalities over (would have helped a bit last week against England). Samoa crawled back to level, and with a couple of minutes to go the game was headed for a draw - which would have been a good, reaosnable result. Sadly, Samoa couldn't keep themselves penalty free, and so Scotland escaped with a, largely undeserved, win.

Wales v New Zealand
 The press has been saying Wales are a good team playing badly. Signs recently haven't convinced me of that. And the Welsh at work were not feeling too happy. Bumped into one of them this morning at the bottlestore before he headed to the game. Either way, I was confident. But the Welsh came to play, even if it was a very ugly game. Boring even. Couple of moments of brilliance, but having to listen to Jonathan Davies whinge about pretty much everything does get to you...
Having a player sent off seemed to fire the team and we scored, and at that point the tide changed. Was all a bit close until the last bit. Didn't help that the unthinkable happened, and Dan missed kicks.

England v South Africa
Heartily sick of the newspapers claiming this is the English rennaissance. Sure they are running the ball, but really a loss to NZ, win against a limited Aus team, and a struggling win over Samoa.
Sth Afr haven't been playing too well, and have suffered thanks to drugs tests and injuries. So the English were confident that they'd clean this one up. First half, Sth Afr forwards were certainly out muscling the english, leading to a two penalties apiece at halftime. Sth Afr defence is playing much better than it has recently, even if players are collapsing at a rate of knots due to injury. But their backs are running nicely, and scoring tries. Yes, I'm liking this result.


23 November 2010

Rugby: last weekend

FFS amazon associates is showing Susan Barf's the Gift (gonnarrea? Aids? chlamydia?) while I type this.

Anyway, with the Autumn Internationals, I have designated Saturday 'Rugby Day', where I sit, nibble food, possibly have a pint, and watch Rugby. I pay S off with food and she stays quiet, mostly.

Wales v Fiji
Just for a lark, I decided to support Fiji. I expected them to get cut to pieces by the mighty Gatland and his semi-competent gunners. What the hell happened? Fiji almost played with structure, and Wales had no clue what was happening. Dropped balls, confusion, a forward pack looking like they'd all been caught in a gay sauna. It wasn't pretty. But to Fiji's credit, they kept tackling the crap out of the Welsh, and it paid off. Enjoyed this game, ugly to watch, but brought back memories of supporting Wellington.  There has been criticism here of Gatland's open bollocking of his players. It seemed more than fair to me.

Scotland v Sth Africa
I know Scotland had been written off after the demolition NZ did on them last week. But really, the clinical precision of the NZ would have ripped any other team to pieces. Therefore my money was on Scotland. As  I mentioned during the 6 nations, they were playing as a team, and were very unlucky to not win more of their games. So as long as that team turned up, they were in with a chance against an understrength Sth African team.
The Scottish sunshine poured down, suiting their rather good first five, Dan Parks, and the forwards held up well against the SA pack. A very well deserved Scottish victory.

England v Samoa
Oh dear god have the papers been full of the English resurgence. I guess they have a point, there is a backline and mobile pack, both of which are foreign concepts forced on a surprised English nation. Samoa were quite unlucky not to do better in this game, if they'd had a better kicker the game would haev been closer. So the upshot is, yes the English are playing much better, but it's not chicken counting time.
As an aside, they are annoying good at peaking at the right time. Does this concern anyone else?

Ireland v NZ
I for one was expecting a re-enactment of the Irish financial situation, with NZ playing the role of the IMF, and Ireland playing the dual role of barrel and people.
Bastards screwed up my plan and played a blinder.
sure they lost, but they looked good doing it. It would have been a much closer match if NZ hadn't got a bit bored just after halftime and blown the Irish out of the water. So big potential for Ireland, although their team is getting on a bit. And, B O'D is still the bomb, sure he's not half as scary as Sonny BW, but he's still got it.


18 November 2010

Bluray and Hawkwind

I admit a certain level of perversity in wishing to have those two subjects in the title.
I managed to flog off my DVD player and upgraded to a Blu-Ray for no particular reason other than it could handle the DTS and SACD better than the Cambridge Audio DVD99 I had. Personally I think the sound from the Cambridge Audio may have been better, but convenience and more formats being handled made the bluray a more sensible option.

And I have to admit the DTS sound works much better with my amp. So all in all, win.

Reasons to buy bluray: Attenborough's Life. Damn was that a great series. I'd caught a couple on TV when it was shown, but had always figured I'd rather watch it in higher def. Glad I did. Brilliant series, and stunning in high def. Dunno what was the most impressive, mainly as it was all damn good. I know I've linked to the US version, but amazon UK has it quite cheap at the moment.
Next up was Watchmen on bluray. Been awhile since I saw it at the Embassy, thought it was an excellent adaptation of the book. Although I can see why people didn't like it. It's not an action movie, which unfortunately most people went in thinking it was. Anyway the bluray looks stunning and the sound was great. Mmm loud.  Haven't started working through the extras, but that's next on the list. It really did set the benchmark for movie adaptations of comics. Although I am enjoying Walking Dead at the moment. It's nothing brilliant, but seems well done.

Hawkwind. How underrated were they? For a band regularly described as a bunch of stoned hippies, they were incredibly tight live (Space Ritual should be your first album). A band for whom the term 'space rock' was invented. Lyrically and musically very tight, and creative. Most people will have heard Silver Machine  or Sonic Attack, but if you like your rock music pretty tripped out, but rocking, go check out their stunning double live 'Space Ritual'. I picked up the Special Edition, which comes with a DVD - which isn't, sadly, a live performance, rather its an audio (maybe 5.1, can't remember) live performance with some trippy visuals. I was rather hoping for a live DVD to watch the band, the large breasted naked dancer, and the visuals. I thought that would be rather superb. So if anyone reading this knows of a DVD performance, feel free to suggest away. By the way, cheaper at amazon.co.uk. Oh I do love this album (it's playing at the moment). Huzzah.


12 November 2010

The ol' home town

What passes for news in New Zealand.

More newsworthy would have been 'Sheep learns to say no', but at least the article puts the size of this bugger in context, 'bigger than an All Black prop'.


1 November 2010

Whisky Show

The Whisky Show

Having won tickets worth 95quid each,it would have been churlish not to attend. And so, early on Sat morning, I found myself on a train heading to London with Alec. We wandered up to the rather lovely venue, The Brewery, picking up our gift bags - tasting glass, bottle of water, meal ticket, and other advertising crap- oh and a token to get an expensive whisky sample.

First impressions, nice relaxed layout and one of the obvious reasons for the increased ticket price was to limit the number of people in the hall. So made for a nice informal vibe. 

Tasting notes start off OK, although I was writing while holding the glass which made life difficult. And after our break for food, I gave up and just noted *most* of those we tried.
Tastings were about 10ml but even so, we got through a fair number…

Entering the hall I went to Bruichladdich first, and we tried their 16yo Cuvee Margaux from their 16yo french oak finishes range, 46%.
N: very sherry, wine, warm
P: warm, sweet, very tasty, sherry
F: medium; wine, sherry
8/10 very lovely warm whisky. could do with a bit more on the finish, but as an excuse to curl up with a whisky, yeah it works.

Headed across to the Bowmore stand, which was quite disappointing with only the 12, 15 and 18 yo standard released. And a salesman who really wasn't interested. Tried the 18yo, 48%

Very sweet whisky, strong chocolate taste on the back of the palate, but hints of salty peat in there too. Both worked nicely as complementary flavours. Finish was very short. 6.5/10

Ohhh look, one of my favourite distilleries is here, Glengoyne. Chatted to the main dude there, explained how much I loved the 20yo single cask I have here. So he said, well then you'll love the 23yo 55% cask we're releasing soon. He was very right.
N: great, candyfloss, foot odour (this is good by the way)
P: sweet, complex, tangy spice, sherry, xmas cake
F: long, spicy. 
Very lovely whisky. 8.5/10 and yes I would like a bottle. They are supposed to be retailing for around 170quid I think. So maybe next year :(

Never heard of them before, which was,of course, red flag to a drinking bull. And since it was still early we had a nice long chat to the Manager. They are an older distillery which was mothballed, which recently re-opened in 2008. So too young for new whisky, but they'd brought down some of their new spirits - including flavourings from bourbon, wine, plain, and a peaty version. Very tasty. 

Glenglassaugh 46% 26yo  150quid
N: complex, wood, sweet sherry
P: sweet, spicy, flavoursome
F: long
8/10 Oddly, for a coastal distillery, there's no hint of salt. But really is beautiful.

One of nice things was the opportunity to try their expensive whisky by using the token. And after some discussion - the Manager saying it's the best whisky in the world, me saying really, how does it compare to Brora 24yo or the Adelphi Whisky that cannot be named etc, we decided to go ahead.
Seeing as we'd spent some time chatting we both got some, and he threw in a sample of the 41yo as well. Result. Although having now had his whisky, I will be buying some when it's released.
So we also tried the 36yo and the 41yo. the 36yo was a very young whisky - sprightly - whereas the 41yo was more a mature form of the 26yo. Which is odd, but worked beautifully. I think I'd agree with the Manager than the 36yo was the better, or at least, the more unique, of the two. Prices were about 500 for the 36 and 1500 for the 41.
I'm picking a 9 or 10/10 for both those.

This is exactly the reason whisky shows are good, I came away from this stand very excited, and very keen to buy their booze when it's whisky. Quite tempted to buy some of their new spirit as well, it's that good. 

Oh damn, next door was my favourite indie bottlers, Adelphi

Even worse, they had a longhorn 18yo 55.6% bottling. Oh well, needs must:
N: toasting marshmallows, cut grass
P: sweet, marshmallows, fluffy!!
F: med
7/10. Very light and drinkable whisky. For breakfast?

We also tried something else, on the lovely ladies suggestion, I think it was a Bunnahabhain that she described as weird and wrong. But I didn't write down which one it was, I'm guessing the 9yo 59.2% from their website. 

Mackay and White has a large stand, covering Jura, Fettercairn and their blends. Figured we should give a couple of the Jura's a go so:
Jura Prophecy 46% - nothing startling.. 6/10
Jura Boutique Barrel Cask. Hint of sulphur, sherry, 8/10  I liked this. At some stage I must get some Jura. 

Fettercairn: another M & W, we tried some. nothing interesting. didn't make any notes, so can't have been any good at all.

Mackay and White blend: 30yo very very good, 9/10. But at around 300quid a bottle, I'd rather get some good single malts.

Like this a lot, 7.5-8/10

We ended up chatting to the boss and letting him pour stuff into our glass, but initially it was a cute blonde. Yes. It's a tough life researching whisky.
Virgin Oak  finish 46% didn't think much of this. 5/10 lacking much flavour.

About this point we decided some food would be a plan. Which the Whisky Show was putting on, I went for a blue cheese and mushroom pie with a pasta side and salad. Superb. Really was. Finished off with a ginger and plum pudding. Yes, again taking a hit for the team.

Back into the fray saw us wander past the big guns stands, momentarily distracted by a very disappointing Clyneish from some double distilled bottler. About 14yo and no flavour. Wankers.

We stood and stared at the one remaining bottle of the worlds most expensive whisky, 100,000 quid. It came with two guards. They looked cheaper, and far less smooth. A 64yo Dalmore.

In a worrying turn, suggestive of some form of cheapskate, Alec declined my magnanimous offer of accepting the bottle if he bought it for me. 

And so, still smarting from his rejection, we went back to the BenRiach/GlenDronagh stand.
We used the other token on the BenRiach 30yo.
N: bland, sherry
P: sweat, honey, fruity
F: punchy, sweet, med-long
9/10 - very lovely whisky, about 170 quid from memory

Next up was the Benriach Solstice, 15yo 51%
N: smoke, ask, peat
P: peat, subtle, port finish
9/10 - this is a new one coming out in a week or so. And I really loved it. To the point where I may pick up a bottle. 

BenRiach : Authenticus, very tasty. Yes notes were getting more vague here.

And since we'd been chatting to the boss of GlenDronagh for some time he said we had to try their expensive one. Naturally we declined. Oh FFS, really, you believed that?

So yeah, around 340quid, very tasty. Full bodied. Brilliant. 

And so, with heavy heart and empty vessels we moved on. I'll definitely be buying some of those two distilleries. Superb stuff.

Oh lookeehere another indie bottler. And a Mortlach. 
Berry's 21yo Mortlach 46%. Not a hugely typical Mortlach,I felt it lacked complexity. But more than adequate. 60quid
Berry's 1971 Invergordon - Grain whisky. 47%.1971. 99quid. Nothing startling, but drinkable.  
Berry's GlenGrant 1972 Speyside 51.8%. Couldn't go past tasting this one, Superb. And probably worth the 140quid.

Springbank, and associated, were next door to Berry's. Saying goodbye to the nice chap at Berry's, who invited us to the store where he works if we wanted to try more, we began exploring Springbank, Kilkerran and Hazelburn.

the Hazelburn Cask strength, 8yo, was superb. Getting two ticks on my new rating system (notes be damned, simply drink, not drink, or much drink).
Kilkerran is the new distillery, and is just coming of age. the 6yo 46% got one tick, but shows much promise.
N: fruit, sweet
P: strong, sherry.
By comparison the Springbank 15yo didn't' get much of a rating from me. Think I'll stick to my 100 proof sitting in the cupboard.

Port Askaig 17yo. Extensive tasting notes = Dead. Port Askaig I've since found out is where Caol Ila is, and just down the road from Bunna'. Recommend you avoid. 

Lg2 : lagavulin, from speciality brands. Meh.

See, never let be said I won't try a blend. This one is based on the dude's (who we were speaking to) Grandfathers blending book. Very nice. Id' be ok with this in my cupboard, there's complexity, warmth, and it's very reasonable at 26quid.
Although I suspect if someone asked me, I'd recommend going for the Adelphi blend, which is slightly cheaper, and possibly better. But it's pretty close.

Highland Park 18yo

Ardbeg of unknown description

Bruichladdich 18

The lovely lass on the Bruichladdich stand was packing up early to catch a flight, and didn't want to take all the bottles. Thankfully I was there to help, and so I now have 1/3rd full bottle of BL 16yo CuveeA (yet to be tasted).

We also picked up a few glasses, to improve our respective collections.

All in all, a superb day. And I think I'll be going next year, even if I have to pay. I think the relaxed environment, and limited numbers, just made it. Great stuff.