Friday, August 14, 2015

Simple Slow Cooked Osso Bucco in a Rich Red Wine Sauce

My slow cooked osso bucco today tasted so lovely that I had to share my recipe. Cooking can be simple, fun and taste even better than going to a Michelin star restaurant. There's no flour, no added salt and it's fairly low in fat and carbs too. It serves two people and was ready in less than 2.5 hours.

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 Onion
1 bay leaf
3 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
340g of osso bucco
1 small beetroot chopped into strips
1 cup of shitake mushrooms
1 cube of chicken stock
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon of worstershire sauce
1 cup of red wine
200 ml passatta
1/2 cup of green split peas
1/2 cup of quinoa
1 cup of green string beans
1/3 of a small red cabbage chopped
1 cup of broccoli

Heat the olive oil in a pan. Brown the onion, bay leaf, garlic, beetroot, shitake mushrooms and osso bucco in the olive oil.  Season with the worstershire sauce, cayenne pepper, paprika and chicken stock. Add the red wine, passatta and green split peas. Add enough water to cover all the ingredients. Cook on medium heat and when it is boiling, then reduce the heat to a simmer.

Top up the water when it gets low. I did this after maybe an hour. Stir occasionally. The quinoa and green string beans went in after 1.5 hours of slow cooking. The red cabbage and broccoli went in at the 1 hour and 55 minute mark. After 2 hours of slow cooking, it's ready to eat.

It's a recipe packed with lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. This was so healthy and it was such a pleasure to eat. The sauce was a beautiful rich red colour and I didn't need to add any salt, pepper or other seasonings. You could sprinkle some grated parmesan cheese on top or add a dollop of ricotta if you want a richer texture and taste. A sprig of parsley or some basil or oregano will pretty it up if you want to garnish the dish. You could also serve this with bread, couscous, potatoes or any other carb hits you desire.

Like all stews, this will taste even better if you have leftovers for the next day because the flavours will fuse together.

I used passatta from a carton as I avoid canned items. The chicken stock was organic. The red wine was an Argentinian merlot. The split peas were not soaked beforehand. They were rinsed and washed. Remember to also wash your quinoa before adding it.

What if you don't have some of these ingredients? Simple substitutes include pork, lamb or beef for the osso bucco, frozen peas for the green split lentils, rice or potatoes for the quinoa, chili for cayenne pepper, carrots for the beetroot, vinegar or lemon for the worstershire sauce and any mushrooms for the shitake mushrooms. Any variations may affect the taste and texture, but you'll still have a good simple healthy stew.

Treat yourself tonight! I know you will enjoy this simple slow cooked osso bucco in a rich red wine sauce.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

To Tinder or Not to Tinder

Tinder, the dating app that let's singletons swipe left or right to find someone, announced a few weeks ago that it is being listed on the stock exchange. It's the app that everyone has heard of and now its makers are looking to cash in on it. Tinder's success is it's simplicity . It takes the basic principle of online dating that people are interested in looks first then personality second. You look at a photo, if you're interested, you can see more photos and if they have a bio you can learn a bit more about them. You are interested if you swipe right. The next step is essentially just like being in a bar, you fancy each other and start talking.

So I began my tinder journey two weeks ago. I'd heard it had become more than just a hook up facilitator and some people managed to find someone to have a relationship with. So I installed the app. It took forever for it to load up and I must admit I nearly uninstalled and abandoned the experiment. My patience paid off. I began swiping and within hours I had guys chatting to me. A week later I had four dates! It was so easy, too easy it seems.

So I've tried a few online dating websites. How does Tinder compare? It is quick and easy. It is a good way to meet new people and get back into dating. The guys I've met were interesting. Three out of four guys were easy to talk to. The one guy who was a bit quiet, actually seemed really easy to chat to online. In person though, it was a long date and we didn't have much in common.

Tinder is essentially a superficial and not serious way of finding someone. It seems like quite a lot of people have been doing it for years and there is tinder fatigue of sorts. They go through the motions of meeting people but they aren't really looking for a relationship. Some guys are upfront. One guy I chatted to online was in the porn industry in an open relationship. No thank you! At least he was upfront about it.

It is definitely skewed towards women being able to get a lot of dates. Guys are getting dates too but now they are making girls pay or go dutch because they are getting more dates and so unable to afford to seriously show interest in any one girl. They basically make a point to tell me I have to get the next drink which I happily do, though one guy refused when I offered to get the next round. Chivalry is certainly an admirable quality, though it's understandable that chivalry may die with tinder's success.

I've noticed that being on tinder, your attitude changes. You think there are so many guys out there and you care a bit less. You aren't too sensitive about dating and don't take it personally. These are strangers who have simply swiped left or right. There's no etiquette and no niceties about it all.

I decided to do a clean up of my match page by unmatching a number of guys. I wondered if they would get a message that I had unmatched them and felt a bit guilty. Should I message them and apologise? I googled whether they get a message and there is no notification. I read that some guys swipe right in front of the television. They only bother after they have been matched! So I guess there is no expectation that because you have matched with someone, they genuinely took an interest in you after they looked at your photos and profile. It is a bit sad that the rules of engagement aren't even followed because people are becoming too lazy to even do that. So I unmatched all the guys that I had matched with but not had any messages from or we had to stop messaging each other. Tinder is going to change the way men and women interact. Our society is playing loose and fast with finding sincere and genuine relationships. I suppose there will be other apps and online dating forums for those that are looking for something other than keeping busy every night. Perhaps I'm being cynical. There may be others like me who are giving tinder a go and feel that it could be a way to find a happily ever after.

Can Tinder change your life? Tinder's marketing team suggest it will. Well at least I know what it's all about now. It will certainly be great for those behind the app who will financially benefit from the IPO. So back to swiping right and left. Happy tindering!  

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Entourage the Movie

Entourage the Movie comes out in UK cinemas this week. Vincent Chase and his boys are back, but now on the big screen. The critics have not been kind, the opening numbers in the US over the weekend have been disappointing and Jurassic World has just come out in the cinemas too.
Often compared to Sex and the City, Entourage depends on the public's fascination with Hollywood. The movie has been called misogynist and that seems to be the press' focus. I am looking forward to watching the movie. I am a fan of the series and was sad to see the series end. In fact, I've just re-watched all eight seasons of Entourage which is now available on Sky box sets. It's funny how many faces you now recognise.
It is true that the show is disturbing for all of its misogynist tendencies. The depiction of women has been deplorable, but then the representation of Hollywood and actors hasn't been particularly favourable either. I don't believe that Entourage is great for women in general but then I do believe that there is a lot of television out there which is not. These shows primarily target a male audience and perpetuate stereotypes. However, despite this, I still enjoyed watching it because I see it as light entertainment. I don't believe everything I see on it and I do like that it is about friendship, positive attitudes and finding success. I realise that it is a dramedy, so the characters are exaggerated - Ari Gold will stream vitriolic offensive abuse, Eric will be mocked for being a serious relationship guy and Vince's ego will help and hinder him in both his career and girls.
What doesn't work is that the movie is defending itself for being misogynist. It was a misogynist television show that fell out of favour. It became very politically incorrect and the show tried to address this by dialling everything back and not reconsidering what were the strengths, weakness and opportunities. Character development suffered and the scripts did too. What struck me about the first few seasons was how well crafted and constructed the scripts were. I cared about the characters and the story. Vincent Chase's swagger was reminiscent of John Travolta and the cameos were loads of fun. It was a feel good experience watching them.
Entourage the franchise has much going for it, but it needs to be injected with a certain freshness. I wondered how much input there was from women. The show has so much potential. They could have introduced a rival female entourage to counter and balance the male entourage. They could have brought the families and the boys' mothers into more plotlines. If they kept working on the jokes and story, the series could have continued for years and its stars might all have remained in the spotlight. The show failed to integrate the new world of the internet, social media and reality television. I wonder where the movie will take them and hope that it isn't a massive flop because they built some solid stories and characters over the eight years, which I hope will not disappear forever.   
Jeremy Piven's career remains solid with Mr Selfridge. Notably, seasons 7 and 8 of Entourage built Ari Gold's dimensionality, exploring him from many angles and left the impression he is a brilliant actor. However, the cast had a certain chemistry and that is not something you see much on television any more. There is a distinct lack of quality dramedy. HBO has done well to produce several popular television shows. Well done on Entourage.
Entourage opens in UK cinemas on 19 June.
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Friday, August 22, 2014

Eating Holidays - Turin and Genoa in Italy

Pizza and pasta, does it get any more perfect than an eating holiday in Italy? In Turin and Genoa, the sun is shining, the wine is flowing and you have the charm of a small city while you eat and eat and eat. 

Trofie pesto is  the specialty in this region. I tried it at Trattoria di Santiago which is down the street  from Piazza de Ferrari. I was actually attempting to go to Trattoria Maria which I had heard from a local has very typical Genovese food, both reasonably priced and very good. Sadly it was closed and only open at certain times.

One of the highlights of my holiday so far has been Trattoria Rosmarino's prawn canelloni with cinnamon. I was so blown away that I am determined  to recreate it when I go home. Bookings are essential and they turned away numerous people whilst I was there. They have English menus on tablets and the staff are multilingual. It is just off Piazza de Ferrari. It has a great atmosphere with great attention to detail, as well as being very affordable.

It's not just about pizza and pasta in Genoa. Focaccia is the food of the day. You must try the focaccia with cheese from Recco, which is a 'gastronomic experience'. Focaccia shops are like the McDonalds of Genoa, but infinitesimally better tasting. Focacceria Genovese in Piazza Fossatello in the historical part of the city sells it by weight and is highly rated on Tripadvisor.

The most famous restaurant in Genoa is Zefferino's. Popes, Sinatra and Celine Dion are just a few of their famous customers. Unlike most restaurants in Italy, it is open from 12pm to 12am so it might make life a bit easier if you've not adopted the late dinner schedule (8pm in Turin and 7.30 in Genoa). It's expensive but then you might want to try it.

Fresh fish is very popular too. I tried a local white fish which was tasty but full of bones. Such is the delight with fish!

Around Piazza Vittorio Veneto, Pizzeria da Michele and Porto di Savona are both very good and have lovely views of the Piazza.

I enjoyed the €30 tasting menu at Porto di Savona - vitello tonnato (veal in tuna mayonnaise), agnolotti (meat ravioli which is a specialty in Turin), braised beef and bonet (a traditional dessert which is like a chocolate creme caramel).

Rabbit and beef cheeks are also very popular in Turin. Hams and meat are more prevalent in Turin.

I had amazing pizza. Italian tomatoes are so full of flavour and it goes so well with the cheese and thin crust base.

You can save a little by not having the bread which is charged at €2 and brought to your table at the beginning of the meal. Wine by the glass is around €3. Overall eating in Italy is very decently priced.

Of course there is gelato. Did you know that you can now get it in violet?! Creamy and divine. The sun shines and the gelato beckons.

Chocolate, biscuits and cakes galore. Bars and cafes sell them in abundance and they are sweet treats.

Italy is a foodlover's paradise. Enjoy it. Both Genoa and Turin are exemplary culinary experiences that will make your holiday that much more memorable.

Prawn Canelloni with Cinnamon
Wild boar pasta
Duck pasta

Monday, April 14, 2014

London's Waterways - the Thames River and the canals

London's Thames River and canals make me smile. From seeing a ship called The Tolkien to watching a bird taking a bath.

The river is 346 km and features throughout english literature. The clay deposits suggest it may be as old as 50 to 60 million years old!

Taking a walk along the southbank, crossing over one of London's magnificent bridges, you can't help but feel proud of one of London's greatest treasures.

You shouldn't swim in the river, though some people do and then need rescuing. The river is not just home to sea life but raw sewage finds its way in there too.

Keep an eye out when you're by the river. You never know what you might see. In 2006, there was a whale which sadly died. Its remains went to the natural history museum for research.

This spring, take some time to discover London's Thames River and canals.