Sunday, October 23, 2011

Blueberry Muffins

I think this is the easiest recipe I'll ever post! And damn they are tasty, I made a batch of 12, and am currently down to 9 as I write this, with still plenty of evening left for more to be demolished...

Blueberry Muffins

Lemon+Blueberry Muffins

1½ cups (180g) plain white flour
½ cups (70g) wholemeal flour
1 tbsp wheatgerm [optional]
½ tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
½ tsp baking powder
Zest of two lemons
1 tbsp poppy seeds [optional]
¾-1 cup (180g) sugar
1 cup (235ml) soya/oat milk
½ cup (78ml) sunflower oil
2 tsp (10ml) lemon juice
1 tsp (5ml) cider vinegar
1 tbsp ground linseeds
1½ cup frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 200ÂșC. Mix together all the liquids with the sugar and linseeds, until the sugar is dissolved. And the flour, baking soda/powder, salt and zest, and mix to incorporate (but don't overmix, just enough to wet the flour). Coat the blueberries in a teaspoon of flour, then add them to the batter, and fold in. Fill a greased muffin tray with the batter (should make about 12), and bake for 22-30 mins, until a wooden skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for 5-10 minutes before attempting to turn out onto a wire rack.

Good luck saving them for your friends, and not devouring as soon as you get them out of the oven. Warning: Hot blueberries hurt.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

All You Can Eat?

As always, the highlight of my travels is the food, and this time is certainly no different. Vegetalia is cute cafe tucked away in the back-waters of Fuengirola. Once through the labyrinth of alleys it revealed itself like an oasis in the desert. And if you manage to find it before the end of lunchtime, you'll be rewarded with an all-you-can-eat buffet, where almost everything was vegan. For the few things that weren't, the lady was happy to bring out a customized version especially for us.

Plate one of five. I walked away from this place delightfully stuffed with mounds of food. Much like one of the stuffed peppers we ate. Well you are what you eat, as they say...

Santa Isabel 8

Next in the agenda was the amusingly named Bombay To Goa, which we stumbled upon in La Cala. The guys here understood our request for no dairy, and happily bought us out a veg-friendly biryani, channa massala, aloo gobi and brinjal-something-or-other, and it was all delicious! Good indian cuisine seems harder to find in Spain, although I suppose the bar is set relatively high living around Birmingham.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Costa del sol

Its not even midday, but as they say,"when in rome". I'm sat on the balcony, overlooking a stunning panorama of the mediterranean, with a bowl of olives, monkey nuts and a glass of cool beer. This is the life!

Later we are heading to Vegetalia for an all you can eat buffet.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Where Megatron and Rapunzel Collide

Today I woke up in a bit of a daze, was it all a dream? Or did I really see Cinderella dancing with a Pokemon?

Black Waltz

The top hat and goggles on my bedside table brings me back to the harsh reality that Ayacon has come to an end, and that for another year, I have to endure the monotony of the real world. Okay that was pretty bleak, but if you've ever spent an entire weekend at a cosplay convention, you'll probably know what I mean! I've been reliably informed that this glum feeling has a name: Post Con Blues.

Bit of a Contrast!

Aya, where do I begin? Its a 3 day convention for the anime and manga fans. Its a weekend of comedy, informative lectures and dressing up. Its a party.

A three day party, from which I still haven't quite recovered.


Cosplay chess, watching karaoke, buying merchandise, getting my butt wooped at Bleach fighting game, watching hobbits play DDR, learning about steampunk, hearing about how to plan a trip to Japan, live bands, a violinist who played some of my favourite tunes whilst sat outside relaxing in an open-air amphitheatre... I could probably go on for a while!

Yuna, before a brutal game of chess

But it wasn't perfect, not far from it, but I had set my expectations too high by time it came around to the final event, the Ball. I've never been to a ball, I missed graduation ceremony at uni, and wasn't around for the school proms either. So my idea of a ball had been mostly modelled by the picture painted in hollywood. I was hoping for that scene in FF8. I was hoping everyone would be dressed like Kayleigh in Firefly, and the dance floor would be full if people waltzing in big flowery ball gowns. I was hoping a beautiful princess would come and sweep me off my feet.

Time Travellers Ball

Well there was definitly no dancing, at least not by me, which maybe was a good thing in hindsight, as I've never waltzed before, and I was wearing big boots that might've trampled the unwary. And actually, there were a handful of impressive ball gowns being worn, and a few people were dancing to the slow romantic songs. And I did get talking to a lovely woman with the prettiest steampunk outfit. So some may wonder what I'm complaining about... To tell you the truth I'm not even sure, I'm guessing the post-con-blues is to blame.

Always Be Prepared...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ladybird Challenge

All through summer I longed for an effective way of dealing with common garden pests. Slugs and snails have decimated my beans and courgettes, cats have defaced my soil, and ants have been teaming up with aphids in an attempt to ruin my tomatoes, chillis and herbs.

Whilst there's certainly no silver bullet (although these would definetly be effective against cats...) I certainly welcomed the arrival of these little guys.

How many can you spot?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Soft kitty, warm kitty

First off this post has nothing to do with cats, and secondly this is an experiment to see if blogging from a phone actually works, so forgive me for any predictive-text-related screwups!

I'm currently sat in bed, when I should be I work, drinking cups of tea and nursing a stinking cold. So I thought I'd share my getting-over-a-cold-quickly routine.

First in my toolbox, is a spoon if manuka honey... I know I know, not entirely vegan, but the bees will have to forgive me with this one, as I swear it works wonders. You can literally feel the tea tree antiseptic qualities burn the back of you throat as it cleanses its way down.

Next is tea, and lots of it. I like to boil up a batch of yogi tea, as you can make a couple of pints of the stuff in a saucepan, leaving more time to sit in bed.

And if this doesn't work, I don't know what will! Boiled potatoes, with garlic and ginger gravy, boiled cabbage, and wild rocket garnish.

6 medium potatoes, sliced thickly
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp flour
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 chilli, sliced thinly
4 cloves garlic, minced
2" piece of ginger, finely chopped
3 giant cabbage leaves sliced thinly
Chopped rocket to garnish

First get a saucepan half full of water up to boil (a bit of salt helps), and throw in the potatoes to boil, they'll take between 10-15 minutes to cook. Check then with a fork to bake sure, then drain the water, and put the lid back on to keep them hot.

Meanwhile, make the dressing. Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet, and add the flour. Cook for a few minutes, until the flour starts to brown, then add the paprika and chilli. Cook for another few minutes, then add the garlic, ginger and about two cups of water. Now is a good time to add other nice things to the gravy, like a dash of soya sauce, some mustard, or seasoning, but if you're not feeling 100% like me, then this will still do nicely! Simmer the gravy down to a nice consistency, around 3 mins should do, then pour onto the cooked potatoes.

Throw the cabbage leaves into the now-empty skillet, add some boiling water, cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Combine everything together, and garnish with the chopped rocket.

Minimal washing up afterwards, quick and easy, and made up of things you might already have in your cupboard, (especially if you have wild rocket growing in your garden like I do!)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New Music Strategies

After watching the livestream for New Music Strategies (#ampnms) I feel inspired to have a rant.

The Record Label
The "music industry" is working overtime to try and keep its stronghold on consumers money. The reason why? The industry focus way too much on stuff like piracy, and not nearly enough on satisfying their customers' needs.

For instance, not that long ago, it was almost impossible to buy a digital copy of music without it being riddled with some kind of DRM, rendering it useless and annoying to the end user. Why? Why would the music industry insist on its precious music being distributed in such a way as to make it more irritating to its intended audience?

And even now, they are still trying to impose silly restrictions to the customer - you can't buy a song on its own, you have to take the whole album. Or if you can buy a single song we'll make you pay the same price as an album. People don't like being ripped off - we're not stupid. If you say the CD costs £5 then a digital copy should cost maximum £3.50, otherwise we'll know you're trying to extort us.

And then there is the other end of the scale...

The Real Indy Musicians
These guys and girls and the lifeforce of music today, they are constantly battling the stereotypes of what music is and how it should be enjoyed. Employing such tactics as social media, twitter, facebook, blogs, soundcloud, bandcamp and others, to keep their fans up to date, and bypass the middlemen in distribution, marketing and the like, going directly to the consumer.

Whilst this is an excellent idea, it puts a lot of the workload on the artist to maintain their social media updates, working very hard with not a great deal of visibility to their intended audience.
And also on the consumer, who has to work out how to use proprietary websites and payment schemes, sign up to lots of different websites, and really work quite hard to "discover" new music.

The Missing Cog
I personally think there is a massive niche in the audio market at the moment. A tool that can deliver content as effectively as Spotify, that can recommend music in the same way as Amazon, and is as free as free can be to use, with no adverts, DRM or other stuff to drive the consumer crazy. It must be easier to gain music through it than torrents, and there must be no disadvantages to using it, over Usenet, or whatever the current flavour of "illegal" downloads happens to be.

We must accept that the pirates will always be ahead of the game, and so trying to stop them is a waste of time. Its the consumers we want to win the hearts of. The ones who are downloading music from ThePirateBay, simply because its the easiest (or only!) way to get music onto their Android phone, using their Gentoo Linux based system.

A distributed peer-to-peer system, where once paid for, a tune can be downloaded as MP3 locally as many times as needed, but can be listened to online easily too. Where the 100% of the money goes straight to the owner, not through the tool.