Now THAT is a cool advert!

13 02 2015

Land Rover has lost a bit of its cool lately.

Consider it fully restored with this bit of Valentine’s Day schmaltz from New Zealand.





Haggis it’s OK.

30 01 2013

Now, despite my proud ownership of a blue Canadian passport, it can’t be denied that I was born in England. Yorkshire to be exact (as Yorkshiremen often are in such emotive matters of origin). I went to university slightly further North, in Durham. Slightly further North still (at least in galactic terms) lies Scotland, or Écosse as the more trendy Jacobeans would have it. The recent Burns Night celebrations reminded me of my collage days back in the early ’80s. The local Woolworth’s in Durham used to sell fresh (I use the term loosely)  haggis.

Being at a collegiate university, there was no need to cook or otherwise fend for myself during my undergraduate years. This was a major godsend (or Darwinsend, I suppose) to the hapless teenager I was then. I later matured and developed into a full-grown hapless adult, but that’s another story. In any case I remember acquiring at least one haggis (hey – it was 30 years ago – memories fade! I couldn’t swear to the exact number)  and cooking it.

Wikipedia: Durham Cathedral and Mill-house

Now, if you’ve never “partaken” of haggis, you’re missing out on one of life’s great experiences. Great as in large. It’s a personal decision whether it’s also great as in good. Memorable either way. Suffice it to say at this juncture that boiling up a haggis is a somewhat, er, pungent affair. Popularity was never one of my goals at university, and haggis-cooking pretty well excluded popularity from the horizon for a while.

Fast forward to a few days ago, and a cheeky exchange I had at work with a Scottish colleague. He proudly flies a St. Andrew’s cross on his desk, and I engaged in light-hearted nationalistic jest. I asked if he’d received a discount for said flag, as most of the white, and all of the red was missing. We both shared a laugh, but had to explain to the blank-faced “proper” Canadians about the various component flags making up the Union Jack. Anyway, conversation came around to wee Rabbie, and the Scots capability of making up a drinking excuse out of pretty much anything. From there, I lamented my failure to find haggis in the 12 years I’ve lived in Canada. I did however have to qualify that by admitting that I hadn’t actually, in all honesty, looked!

Wikipedia: Flag of St. andrew

Wikipedia: Union Jack

So tonight (there is a point to all this – stick with me…) Mrs E told me she’d bought me a present. Now this in itself is a massive event, so I rushed home with my mind’s eye full of Lamborghinis and holiday cottages. On arrival, I was told it was in the fridge. Strange place to keep a sports car, but hey ho. I gave up looking in the end, having incorrectly guessed that several bags of frozen blueberries and a loaf of unsliced bread were the goal.

No – there, hiding timorously  in the bottom tray, unassuming and shy was… a haggis! Frozen obviously, but a haggis nonetheless. The brand is Goodricks from New Westminster, BC. Purveyors, the label assures me, of quality meat products since 1987.

38846_143416432354535_3753815_n(Not sure how good their meat was before 1987, but that’s not the point here really, is it?) The ingredients list on my new haggis is short and to the point. In this day and age that in itself is a rare thing not to be undervalued.

The haggis itself does seem to be in a traditional sheep’s stomach, though it’s hard to tell through the frost-coated plastic. Nice to know there’s still a role for traditional sheep. Modern sheep with their piercings and tattoos remind me of a great New Zealand comedy-horror. But enough frivolity. The ingredients, I am assured in writing, consist only of the following:

  • Lamb Pluck
  • Oats
  • Spices
  • Onions
  • Stock

“Spices” of course can hide a multitude of sins, but otherwise pretty innocuous. Hang on though… “lamb pluck”? What in the name of Jamie Oliver is lamb pluck when it’s at home? It sounds like belly button fluff.

Enter my good friend Google…

Lamb Pluck, it would seem, is esophagus, lungs, heart, liver, kidneys… all still connected.

Lamb Pluck

egullet: Lamb Pluck

Well I guess that’s OK then. I thought it might have been something unsavory for a moment. What can I say? Well – “waste not, want not” springs to mind. I guess it depends on your upbringing. I frequently ate and loved the taste of lambs kidneys and liver too as a kid. I think I’d have drawn the line at lungs or heart – even in onion gravy – though on my trip to Brazil, I enjoyed many chicken hearts from the grill. (They’re like almonds – you can’t just have one. You need at least a handful.) I have also eaten “duck entrails soup” in a newspaper press-hall in China which I guess has pretty much the same ingredients… just with a dash of soya sauce.

Anyway, the haggis is defrosting in the fridge, and no doubt there will be complaints from the neighbours once I start to cook it. That’s OK – I’ll offer them a slice. Then tell them what’s in it.

I can be like that sometimes…





A different view of things

20 01 2013

So – just got back from a business trip to Salt Lake City. Interesting place.

I’d never been in ski season before, so it was a bit chilly and a lot busier than I was used to. Very dry cold though – my poor delicate skin was all flaked off by the time I got home. (Poor baby, eh?! 🙂 ).

Now THAT's an icicle!

Now THAT’s an icicle!

I had a very interesting conversation with a Mormon colleague down there about what was and was not “allowed”. I knew alcohol and coffee was off limits in their faith, but was interested to learn how extensive the list was and what the rationale was. Caffeine (there’s my favourite i-before-e rule breaker) was my assumed reason for coffee which was confirmed, but then why did so many people drink Coke? A matter of long debate, it seems!

It was noticeable that software developers in the office there drank lots of pop, and although a few did indeed drink the more typical (for the profession) coffee, by far the most were sugared, rather than caffeinated as they hammered their keyboards. So – after much discussion, I learnt that the rationale is around stimulants and things generally that may affect one’s ability to make reasoned decisions about right and wrong. So – alcohol, “recreational” drugs, caffeinated drinks (+/- Coke). these I could get. Even chocolate seemed half-reasonable (I’ve seen the effect good European chocolate can have on a woman’s knicker elastic!). It didn’t explain all the Red Bull I saw being consumed though. Plainly a city of contradictions just like any other.

Another observation I made was that the local beers were VERY strong. Like 8%+ strong. Forgive the bad BlackBerry photo, but here’s a picture of a limited edition bottled beer I was given in a welcome package. (The trophy in the background was my “prize” for somehow coming last in the go-karting event).)

Imperial Red Ale

Imperial Red Ale

So the EPIC brewing company of Salt Lake City (there’s a different one in Aukland, New Zealand) produce these limited edition ales. This one was of 1,800 bottles only, and you can learn more here. Not selling beer to under-age people I can understand (after all, there’s more for the rest of us – makes total sense! 🙂 ), but this web site won’t even let you LOOK unless you’re of age! It seems that the non-Mormons take it upon themselves to tempt their neighbours by offering well beyond the usual strength beers in SLC. This one was 8.3%! My all-time favourite beer, Tetleys (of Leeds) is a mere 3.8%, by comparison. These beers were up in the Belgian “triple-brew” category.

Anyway, work done, I had one last breakfast in the hotel and got ready to leave. Being Saturday, the skiers had arrived in force, and there was little left on offer to eat. As I sat enjoying a cup of tea, the kitchens delivered a new tray of bacon, and I decided to have a good old bacon butty for breakfast. As I rose, I was beaten to the tray by a lady. No problem, and I waited patiently behind her with my expectant plate. After a few moments though, I realised she was meticulously picking up each and every rasher in turn, examining it and replacing it to the tray. As this continued, I was getting impatient, and attempted humour by asking whether she “was looking for the prize”? I was rewarded with a very hard stare and informed that she and her family only ate very crispy bacon. Bearing in mind this is a chain hotel offering free breakfast, this seemed like a bit too picky of a position to be holding, but I guess my face spoke for me, and I was left to fill my plate with whatever random rashers happened to be caught in the tongs.

So, the flight North was over some spectacular scenery. No idea where these photos were taken. Except to say “from 38,000ft”. Again, on a poxy BlackBerry, so apologies for the quality.

By the time I got home I was peckish again, and was excited to see my little mushroom project had been busy in my absence. I harvested a large plate of succulent Oyster mushrooms, and set to work. I began by slicing them coarsely, more to make them quicker to cook than for any other reason, and set them to sauté in some olive oil infused with truffles – a souvenir from my Brazil trip. A twist or two of coarse black pepper and sea salt for no other reason than Jamie Oliver always does it and the women seem to approve!

The warming scent was amazing. Once they were reducing nicely, I was struck with inspiration (or madness – you pick) and remembered a recent photo I saw of a salmon steak with a slice of blue cheese. Such an interesting pairing of flavours. I usually enjoy my Oyster mushrooms with just the oil they’re cooked in, but decided this time I’d add just a couple of thin slices of blue cheese (which fortuitously happened to be in the fridge). Of course it melted immediately, and being a soft cheese anyway mixed beautifully into the slight oil base the mushrooms were cooking in. Not at all stringy, the cheese simply coated the mushrooms as they touched, and became part of the light sauce that was forming by pure experiment. On a bit of a roll now, I discovered a solitary egg in the fridge too, and cracked that with gusto into the pan. I was quick to spread it out, so that it didn’t form a fried egg in the middle, but more filaments of light egginess interspersed through the mushrooms. Somehow, this seemed just right, and after a couple more minutes in the pan, I tipped the results out onto a couple of slices of crispy toast and devoured lunch with absolute delight.

Here’s a before and after shot. Unless you’ve downloaded Google’s latest smell-o-vision app, I’m afraid you’re only getting a faint version of the experience. The scent of truffles and blue cheese were definitely part of the experience, yet I’d somehow managed not to use too much to over-power the whole.





New Zealand: Tolkien spolkien here?

10 10 2012

Well, I guess if all you’ve got is sheep and Flight of the Conchords

New Zealand Is Putting “The Hobbit” On Its Money.





Foreign Intelligence Brief #406: Kiwi Troops Welcome Home Dead With Big Haka : Scout Magazine

28 08 2012

We have some friends from the UK visiting town at the moment. Their girls and our 2nd born were school friends in the UK and they kept in touch these last 12 years.

Anyway, we did the tourist thing with them this weekend, and their dad and I naturally got to chatting. The parents are originally from New Zealand, and much of our conversation was about the islands, Peter Jackson and all things Kiwi.

It was apt then that I came across this piece about the recent NZ troop deaths in Afghanistan.

Whether it’s rugby or soldiering, the NZ men have kept the fierce bonding dance of the haka as truly theirs, and in this video they pay homage to their fallen comrades. Fair brought a tear it did…

Foreign Intelligence Brief #406: Kiwi Troops Welcome Home Dead With Big Haka : Scout Magazine.