Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Master Chef

It's probably the culinary themed blogs I've been posting lately that has people stopping me in the street saying "Hey, you there...are you going on Masterchef or what?".

Sadly though, the ability to bake a world class Victoria sponge, however perfect, or a cheese cake fit for champions, isn't enough of a repertoire when it comes to appearing on national telly-vision Ireland (RTE in Irish) as a contestant on Masterchef.

Question: what has lunch today with the wife, Masterchef Ireland, modern day business computers and Nigella Lawson got in common?

No?

Here's what.

This evening (Tuesday 18th March 2014) on RTE television, a friend of ours will be appearing on Masterchef Ireland.  So be sure to watch that tonight (and tomorrow) instead of Coronation Street or whatever, and tune into some proper telly to cheer Nessa on, or catch up on RTE iplayer.

So, earlier today, I met the wife for lunch at Le Relais de Venise on Throgmorton Street in the City of London, which happens to be directly across the road from what once was a J. Lyons tea room, and I think this was the last of these magnificent tea room restaurants to close it's doors in London.  To give you an idea of how big these tea rooms were, the London Trocadero used to be one.

It turns out that it was Masterchef Nessa herself who introduced the wife to Le Relais de Venise, and I seriously recommend it if you like meat, fries, red wine and walnut salad, because that's all they do.

It was while I was sitting there gazing lovingly out the window behind the wifes head, that I spotted an old dusty sign for J. Lyons & Co.  I then proceeded to educate the wife with my superior intellect, and explain to her that J. Lyons were once upon a time not only the market leader in tea room entertainment, but were also the first company to use a computer in a commercial sense with the LEO I computer (LEO = Lyons Electronic Office).

After the tea room business dried up, LEO evolved and eventually became part of ICL (International Computers Limited), who were the British competition to IBM, but were never going to win that one, and ICL have themselves disappeared into the computing giant that is Fujitsu.

Nigella Lawson?  Well apparently she's descended from one of the founders of J. Lyons & Co, so we should give thanks to them for giving us business computers and Nigella.

So back to the here and now and tonight.  Watch Masterchef, and please click through to Nessa' lovely new blog and Twitter, where she's very kindly sharing her recipes so the rest of us can cook like master chefs too.








Friday, 14 February 2014

Valentines day

Valentines day, or VD for short.

What a load of rubbish.

I for one think romance should be spontaneous, and as such, I wrote my wife this poem, vis-a-v Roses are red...

Verse 1

Over the years
As my bodys got hairy
I've come to suspect
You're the underpants fairy

(Saint VD is buried on Aungier Street Dublin, very close to where myself and the love of my life used to live)

(That was a long time ago)

Verse 2

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Here, take this baby
He's just done a poo


Verse 3

It's that time of year
And I'd like to say
It's Gillians, Donnachas and this blogs
Birthday

Verse 4

Love is forever
Fame is fleeting
I wish they'd stop asking
Who's Ronan Keating?

To answer that one, here's where it all started, and he plays the guitar...allegedly

Life is a Rolo Coaster

A great dancer he is too.  Anyway, eighteen years and two children later, I marked the passing of all those many romantic years together appropriately, with a Romeo and Julietta Number 1.

Happy Valentines Day.

xx

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Where I live

Believe it or not, but the part of London I live in is agrueably the most hip happening place known to man, and as such, each day, it attracts thousands of visitors from other not so hip happening places.

The majority of these transients, known as hipsters, are in their late teens and early twenties and will be on their way to a vintage shop, or to Allen Gardens to smoke spliffs, or more commonly just urinating in the street somewhere.

The more mature males will be sporting ironic moustachios and beards, lumberjack shirts and skinny jeans with loafers and no socks.

Apart from the vintage clothes scene in and around Brick lane, the artist of Hoxton, and the market stalls of Spitalfields, we also have the murderous history of Whitechapel and surrounds, plus the silk weavers and the Huguenots.

With all this going on, it's easy to miss the changes and happenings when you actually live here.  We're not here on holiday you know, so we tend not to amble around obliviously with a £500+ camera hanging from our necks, nor do we stand in the middle of the road taking another photograph of another piece of street art by another street artist that nobody really knows or cares about, unless the name is Banksy.

To be honest, I'm only living here in the vain hope that Banksy will one day discover the virgin red brick side of my house, do a doodle, thereby adding another zero to the value.

This hasn't happened yet, but recently, somebody did hang a bike-cycle wheel to the trellis on top of my back garden wall.  (Sadly not Banksy, more like Bikesy.  Aha ha...)

You're probably remembering at this stage that I was supposed to be doing a cigar and Rioja pairing, but I've had to postpone that for now as I need more time for research purposes.

Instead, I decided to grab my £500+ camera, hit the urban landscape and photograph some hip happening street art, which I'll exhibit with some cigars I got for Christmas.

I want this to be my way of saying thank you to those who got me these gifts.  You know who you are.  Think of this as my gift to you...

So let's get things moving with the wheel installation hanging from my garden wall.

It's a bit like art I suppose in that I don't understanding it and I don't know what to do with it.

The wheel with no name...
The council won't remove it and I haven't got the wherewithal to do it myself, and our estate management people are money grabbing useless leaches.

So for now it stays.

I'm not going to pair a cigar with this as it's not art.

It's just a wheel some moron locked to my trellis, so you just get to look at it and wonder why.

Maybe it is art after all...


Any who, I took these photographs today in a round trip from my house in less than 30 minutes, which should give you some idea of how much of the area is covered with this crap.



No idea who made it, but it caught my eye, so here it is.






Here's a Cohiba Behike.

Absolutely beautiful.

A masterpiece.







Next we have this thing.

Again, I have no clue what's going on but apparently art is trash and I couldn't agree more.





This is a Cuaba.

It's very big but makes sense.

It's not trash.







This is my favourite photo, and that's only because it's the cooperage entrance at the back of the old Truman brewery





This is another Cohiba.

A maduro 5

I'm planning on smoking this on Saturday.

While drinking Rioja.






Here are some more photos from my 30 minute adventure.

Those three guys against the wall are artists...








Tuesday, 21 January 2014

We interrupt this blog...

...to bring you this breaking news story...

Details are just coming through, but initial reports suggest that one of the worlds leading cigar blogging extraordinaires, the man behind the modern day on-line classic "Cigar Stories", may be attempting to post a third blog update in just one week.

A spokeswoman for the blogger released a statement earlier today saying "it's a bit too early to tell, and people should not be getting their hopes up"..."but you never know, stranger things have happened".

Analysts believe nothing like this has ever been attempted before, as the internet braces itself for what will no doubt be an upsurge in something or other.

We'll bring you more on this story as it comes in...

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Cigar life balance

After the cheering and applause eventually died down after my last blog instalment, I decided to get busy with the next one, which is this.

With the festive season now over, I'm sure most of you are planning a bit of weight loss, so I'm going to share some pearls which should help you drop a dress size or two.

You know, people are always coming up to me in the street saying "Here you! How do you do it?  A hectic schedule and all those manly outdoorsy things you do, but you still manage to maintain that perfect physique and winning smile...tell me, what's your secret?".

Well I'll tell you my secret, and if you follow these simple instructions, you too could have a body like Ronan Keating.

Actual Size
So, the secret of being thin is...

Stop eating food.

That's it, that's all there is to it.  A bit of exercise helps, but as they say on the south side of the Liffey, "you need to cut down on your porklife".

The main thing is to stop eating white bread, potatoes and cut out all things sugary, especially sugar.

And Beer too.  Beer is bad.

Apart from being force fed Guinness when I was home in Dublin recently, I haven't had a beer since September, only wine.

Who am I to be talking to you about all this healthy stuff?  Well this is me being quoted on a health food website... Honestly Healthy ... where I recently attended a health food cookery course solely to bring balance to the outdoorsy manly stuff.

So now you know that I know what I'm talking about, even if I don't.

One of the things us beautiful people are down with at the moment is the juice diet, which leads me nicely on to the topic for today, a cigar and juice pairing.

The cigar is a tubed Romeo and Julietta No.1, which is one of about 30 cigars Gearoid recently (and very kindly) brought back from Cuba.

This was my first R&J No. 1, and as all the R&J's I've had thus far have been good smokes, this one turned out to be much the same.  Nothing brilliant but a decent smoke, with a good draw, nice TTS (that's time to smoke...I just made that up) of about one hour, good construction and a good sized stick to boot.  I'd give it 7/10.

The juice to go with this should not be enjoyed at the same time and should be polished off fairly quickly in order to gain the most health benefit, so neck the juice and enjoy the cigar with some fermented grape juice instead, just like I did.

When I say juice, notice that I'm not saying fruit juice, so leave out the apples and oranges.  Only use grapefruit, lemons and limes, and any or all of the following...

Kale, Carrot
Cucumber, Celery
Root ginger, Fennel
Spinach, Beetroot

A splash of Aloe Vera juice too will do wonders too.


Right, that's enough of that.

Next time I'll be blathering on about a proper beverage, as I've been enjoying Rioja lately and been gifted with lots of cigars over Xmas, so I'll be doing a cigar and Rioja pairing instead of this cake and juice malarkey.

Until then.  Muah.





Thursday, 16 January 2014

Cigar and Cake

Hello again,

A quick recap on life.

Since early August 2013, I haven't worked a day.  Not for money that is, as in paid work, like in a job.

What have I been doing? (apart from not blogging)

Well, those of you fortunate enough to know me, probably know this already, but for those of you that don't see or hear from me as much as you'd obviously like to, will no doubt be happy to hear that I've given two fingers to the man, and struck a blow for mankind by resigning from my job of 11 years in order to look after my two children full time.

This means that the wife is the sole bread winner, but so far, she hasn't won any bread.  Not so much as a sliced pan or a batch loaf.  To be fair to her though, I'm not aware of that many competitions where bread is top prize.

So instead of bread, she's been bringing home the bacon.

At this stage, I'd like to take the opportunity to say thanks to the wife, well done, and keep up the good work.  You're doing a great job.

Obviously looking after kids and running house isn't easy, and while the wife is out enjoying herself all day, I'm stuck watching homes under the hammer and bargain hunt, so you know, it's not easy with that choice of telly.

However, I do think it's only fair that I have my dinner ready on the table for when she gets home.  I feel it's my duty now that I'm a kept man and all.

Apart from the obligatory dinner, I have tried to surprise her from time to time with my culinary delightenings.  On Tuesday for example, she had freshly baked blueberry muffins waiting for her, because I didn't have enough time to eat them all.

So for this blog, I'm going to do a cake and cigar pairing.  Not that I smoke cigars while eating cake, nor would I recommend it, although they do say you should try everything once, so why not, but this is really just to give something to those of you out there that like cake and/or cigars, and who doesn't like cake and/or cigars.

First up is a cigar that I smoked at the start of August, and one that had been resting in the humidor for over two years. 

While I'm no cigar snob, it's my opinion is that overall, Cuban cigars are better than those produced outside of Cuba, or at least that's what I thought until I smoked the Arturo Fuente Anejo.

A good sized torpedo shaped cigar with a slight box press, and a red ribbon on the foot, which was so pretty that it seemed almost a shame to smoke it.  Deep, dark and delicious. (just like me)

This particular cigar is supposed to be a rare find, apparently only released twice a year, at Christmas and Fathers day, and from the online blurb, you find that it's five year old Connecticut maduro wrapper is aged in a cognac barrel, and only the very best tobacco to be found in the Dominic Republic is used in it's construction.

All that I know is that this one of the finest cigar I have ever smoked, Cuban or otherwise.

I strongly recommend it and I'm looking forward very much to the next one, hint hint.

The cake to go with this fine cigar, according to the wife, is the best cheesecake she every tasted, and it's easy to make.  I've only every gotten it wrong once, when I used olive oil based butter instead of unsalted butter.  I know, duh!

Here we go...get 100g of good quality dark chocolate, break it up and melt with 50g of UNSALTED butter in a bowl over water.  If you want to grate some chocolate over the finished cake, keep a small bit for later.

While that's melting, crush about 200g of digestive and ginger biscuits in freezer bag with a rolling pin, and when the choc has melted, add together and mix well.  This is your base.



The topping is simply 400 to 500g of mascarpone mixed with three to four tablespoons of icing sugar, and the zest and juice of one lemon.  Mix that around well and plop on top of your biscuit base, which by now you'll have cooled a bit and smoothed firmly into your cake tin.  Carefully smooth the topping and finish by grating the reserved chocolate over the top.

Cover it in cling film and bung it in the fridge for at least four hours.  Eat within a couple of days, if it lasts that long.

Jaime Oliver who?

Remember, don't use olive oil based butter, which oozed out of the bottom of the cake, but as luck would have it though, I gave that one away to the Larkins.

That cake may not be the healthiest of options, so here's a great healthy alternative that I made last year...

Coconut flour chocolate mousse cake

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Spot the Difference

Previously on Cigar Stories...

Mel Gibson shoots at helicopters with his eyes closed, and I get done for a second time with fake cigars.

Now as much as I dislike every minute of all the Lethal Weapon movies, even the ones I haven't seen, it isn't the only TV slash movie production that I have a problem with when it comes to helicopters, as Magnum P.I. caught my attention earlier today.

I have fond memories of Magnum P.I., which was one of my favourite TV shows back in the 80's.  That and Manimal. 

Tom Selleck is great, but to be honest, I don't remember much past Magnum and Higgins living together, Magnum driving a Ferrari that wasn't his, and his two mates - T.C who flew helicopters, and little Rick.

In this episode, Tom and T.C fly off to catch the bad guys, who just happen to be acting out the scene on top of some cliffs, and of course everybody knows that cliffs make it easy for helicopters to sneak up on people, and so up pops the helicopter right behind the bad guys, taking them completely by surprise. 

They weren't half as surprised as I was though when I noticed T.C had been replaced with a bank robber.

And these are the photographs of what I'm talking about...


Here we have the real Magnum P.I. and his mate T.C (and no, it doesn't stand for Top Cat).

In this picture, you can clearly see that T.C. is not dressed as a bank robber, although who knows what he might be thinking.





In the next photograph, Magnum P.I. looks normal enough, he's the same colour at least, while T.C. has turned into a white guy in a balaclava.














Skipping quickly past all the obvious jokes and stereotypes, I can't believe they thought that slapping a black balaclava on a white guy would do, whatever the reason.

Anyway...

Moving onto cigars.  See if you can spot which one is fake.



 


I'll give you a clue.  It's the bottom one.

Did you know that Manimal only ran for one series of eight episodes?  I know, mad isn't it.