Friday, 29 July 2011

Jamie's Chicken Korma

This recipe comes from Jamie's Food Revolution, ISBN:  978-1-4013-2359-2, on page 74.

Chicken Korma

serves 4-6

1 3/4 pounds skinless chicken breasts, preferably free-range organic
2 medium onions
optional: 1 fresh green chile
a thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger
a small bunch of fresh cilantro
1 x 15-ounce can of garbanzo beans
peanut or vegetable oil
a pat of butter
1/2 cup korma or mild curry paste, such as Patak's
1 x 14-ounce can of coconut milk
a small handful of sliced almonds, plus extra for serving
2 heaped tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups natural yogurt
1 lemon

To prepare your curry:
  • Cut the chicken into approximately 1-inch pieces
  • Peel, halve and finely slice your onions
  • Halve, seed and finely slice the chile if you're using it
  • Peel and finely chop the ginger
  • Pick the cilantro leaves and finely chop the stalks
  • Drain the garbanzo beans

To make your curry:
  • Put a large casserole-type pan on a high heat and add a couple lugs of oil
  • Add the onions, chile, ginger and cilantro stalks with the butter
  • Keep stirring it enough so it doesn't catch and burn but turns evenly golden
  • Cook for around 10 minutes
  • Add the curry paste, coconut milk, half your sliced almonds, the drained garbanzo beans, unsweetened shredded coconut, and sliced chicken breasts
  • Half fill the empty can with water, pour it into the pan, and stir again
  • Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes with the lid on
  • Check the curry regularly to make sure it's not drying out, and add extra water if necessary
  • When the chicken is tender and cooked, taste and season with salt and pepper -- please season carefully

To serve your curry:
  • Feel free to serve this with any of my fluffy rice recipes (see pages 95-96)
  • Add a few spoonfuls of natural yogurt dolloped on top, and sprinkle over the rest of the sliced almonds
  • Finish by scattering over the cilantro leaves, and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over

Notes on how we cook it:
To keep costs down, we do not add the unsweetened shredded coconut, almonds or yogurt. These ingredients add very little to the dish and they make it more expensive to prepare. Same goes for the lemon; we never squeeze lemon on top.

We prefer the curry to be thicker, therefore we do not add the half-can of water as suggested.

We always add the chile. Jalapenos are great in this. One is nice, two is spicy and three is on the edge of too hot. Korma is meant to be a sweet curry, so adding lots of chile makes it something else. It's not really in the spirit of the dish.  Sometimes we add a red bell pepper for color.  That works nicely.

The rice we prefer is Basmati, rinsed under cold water and cooked with a few saffron threads thrown into the pot.

Patak's curry paste is GREAT! Look for it at your local ethnic grocery store if the supermarket does not have it. Cost Plus World Market sells it in America, last time I checked. In England & Ireland, Patak's is always in the supermarket.

We like to serve the meal with a glass of cold cider. If you want a wine pairing, try a Pinot Gris or a Sauvignon Blanc.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Funny scooter

I saw this funny little scooter on the Quay near Samuel Beckett Bridge.  Isn't it cute?  The badge says BMW on it, but I looked it up and this is a scooter manufactured by Bertone.  It comes with a 125 cc, 16 hp engine manufactured by Rotax.  That's the company who makes motors for ultralight aircraft.

I dunno... being a motorcycle person, I want to like this, but some part of me says, "Dude it's a scooter.  Lame."  Personally I'd rather ride a BMW motorcycle like the R65 that I used to own long ago.  That had a whopping 34 horsepower.  Not exactly Speed Racer material but the bike got me around alright and it was quite reliable.

Oh, you might find this interesting:  Irish license plates show the year registered and a county code.  This license plate starts with 01-D which stands for 2001, Dublin.  You can tell the age of any vehicle in Ireland simply by looking at the first numbers on the license plate.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Gourmet potato chips

We found gourmet potato chips at Marks & Sparks.  No, that's not an oxymoron, they really are gourmet potato chips.  Oh wow man, the flavors!  We brought home a bag of Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar chips.  They were fantastic.  They had the skins on and were slightly thicker than they typical American ruffles-lay's-pringles things.  Over here they are called crisps but anyway, the balsamic vinegar was brilliant.  Other amazing flavors include:
  • Bloody Mary
  • Cumberland Sausage
  • Taw Valley Cheddar & Caramelised Shallots
Wow.  These are really getting into the inventive flavor combinations.  Have you ever had sausage flavored potato chips?  I didn't know mankind had invented such a thing, but thanks to modern chemistry, it exists.  (Here at BASF, we don't make your potato chips.  We make your potato chips better.)  I wonder what new flavors are coming down the pipeline?  Dear Marketing Department, if you are reading this, I would like to suggest the following new flavors:
  • Bacon & Ancho Chile
  • Basil & Mozzarella
  • Shrimp & Tabasco
Ok maybe the shrimp thing is getting out of hand.  Let's just start with bacon and see where it leads us.  Everything is better with bacon.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

More ethnic grocery

We enjoy shopping at the Asian Food Co. on Mary Street in town.  I guess they use the word "Asian" differently in Europe than they do in the United States.  In California, an "Asian" market is usually Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indonesian or Filipino.  For example, the Mitsuwa Marketplace in San Jose or Han Kook Supermarket in Sunnyvale.  To me, "Asian" does not include "Middle Eastern" but that's exactly what this Asian market is.  They sell Coca-Cola in Arabic labels and they have Egyptian money tacked up behind the register.  I guess Europeans group Saudi Arabia and Egypt into Asia, but I don't usually think of it that way.

Anyway, we have been exploring the ethnic markets in Dubln and we have some favourites now.  The prices here are pretty good and they have an amazing selection of Patak's curry pastes.  We make curry from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution once a week and have found the Patak's paste is just perfect.

My other half and I have recently started a little tradition of making soup on Sunday nights.  We've been experimenting with various kinds of beans lately and have fallen in love with those big butterbeans they sell at the Madina market in Parnell Street.  We like lentil soup too.  Nom nom nom.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

The wheel in the sky keeps on turning...

So this big wheel is on The Point next to the River Liffey in Dublin. The Wheel of Dublin was made in Holland. Isn't that weird? I think it would be really kitchy if you got in one of these ferris wheel capsules and they started playing trite rock & roll songs about wheels over the Muzak system. You know like that Journey song, the wheel in the sky keeps on turning... Other campy tunes might include “Proud Mary” by Creedence Clearwater Revival and “Spinning Wheel” by Blood, Sweat and Tears. Let's see, did I miss any? I think ELO did one called “Big Wheels” but we won't inflict that upon the tourists. You can already imagine the torture of being stuck in a little box 200 feet up and listening to someone's idea of a humorous playlist for 13 minutes. Then you would have John Fogerty's voice stuck in your head all day, mispronouncing 'toynin' and 'boynin' for hours...

Big wheel keep on turnin'
Proud Mary keep on burnin'
Rollin', rollin', rollin' on the river.

The Point is home to The O2 Theatre. What is an O2 you ask? It's a mobile phone service provider. We went to a Roger Waters concert here on my first day in Ireland. It rocked. Britney Spears and U2 have played here, not that they're any good. It is said that the venue is just big enough to fit Bono's head. Def Leppard left their rocket ship here. 50 Cent once found a 50 cent piece outside on the sidewalk. Guns N' Roses received such a cold reception here that the venue was turned into an ice rink for a week. They even say Nirvana once played here sober.

The Point is at the end of the Liffey where it opens into the chilly Irish Sea. Lucky for Axl Rose, the Garda intervened before he was tossed in. You get there by driving out towards the Docklands on North Wall Quay. It is a fair walk from the O2 theatre to the center of town, about 1.7 km. Apparently the O2 Dublin is the second busiest concert venue in the world.

Friday, 22 July 2011

They DO make them like they used to!

We found The Pen Corner at 12 College Green, next to Dame Street.  I love how Irish businesses have such classy looking store fronts.  Shops in America have glossy signage made from laser-cut plexiglass, fancy logos backlit with fluorescent tube lights.  Marketing executives get all tingly when they see their corporate logos in lights, yet fail to understand that it has zero aesthetic for the rest of us.  Thank you Pen Corner for using gold foil on glass and for being tasteful.  God how I miss tasteful.

Having worked in a fountain pen store, I am perhaps a little biased about what a great store this is.  One look at the antique Waterman logo behind the counter brings me right back to working in my shop.  I loved selling fountain pens.  Waterman was my favorite brand because the pens are made so sturdy.  They have brass barrels and beautiful lacquer paint.  You can just feel the quality in your hand.  I can't tell you how many customers came in to my shop with a broken Mont Blanc, and I sent them home with a shiny new Waterman.

Typical scenario:
Them:  "The plastic barrel of my Mont Blanc just cracked in my purse!"
Me: "Yes, the plastic is not very strong and cracks easily.  Bummer."
Them:  "But I paid so much for it!"
Me:  "That's called perceived luxury.  You bought a prestige pen, not a good pen"
Them:  "help me Obi Wan, you're my only hope..."

So I would show them how sturdy the brass barrel of a Waterman is, usually by making them hold a plastic Mont Blanc in one hand and a metal Waterman in the other.  They could feel the difference in their hand.  By this time, another customer would have come in and whipped out his sterling silver Parker 75 that he bought in the 60s and say, "My Parker has lasted for years!"  I would begin to drool and the other customer would take over the sales pitch, this time for Parker.

Ah, working at the pen shop... those were good days.

The Pen Corner in Dublin does more than bring back memories; this pen shop has everything you need!  They sell Crane paper Thank You cards and they make custom stationery by order.  They also sell greeting cards and blank journals.

I discovered a new brand of journal called Rhodia.  They are made in France and they look like a good replacement for Moleskine.  I was extremely disappointed when Moleskine journals stopped being made in Italy.  Moleskine moved their production to China and the journals were just not as good; they suffer from cheap paper and overall lack of finish.  Writing in a journal is an aesthetic endeavour, and writing on cheap paper just feels wrong.  So it looks like I'll be buying French journals from now on.

Have you ever tried writing with a fountain pen?  You might really surprise yourself by how much you like it.  The nib flows over the paper on a cushion of ink like an ice skate glides across the ice.  Fountain pen ink is water-based, ball-point ink is oil based.  Writing with a ball point is like pushing a fry pan around on a greasy stove.  Again, its all about aesthetics.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Come to the dark side, we've got pizza

My friends went to Hell.  They said it was really good and we should try it some time.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Found anime in Wicklow Street

I remember the people in the Anime club in college would get really steamed up if you called it “Ann-i-may” instead of “On-i-may.” I used to say it wrong just to watch them turn red. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Japanese Anime; I just don't take it so seriously.

So, we were in Wicklow Street last weekend and my other half wanted to check out Tower Records. Hey, I'm always up for that. Upstairs we found the DVD section. She looked at foreign films and I looked at anime... which I guess are foreign films too.

Anyway, I saw two Anime DVDs that I really liked: Ghost in the Shell, and Mospeada (Robotech.)

Ghost in the Shell is a cyberpunk (think Blade Runner) series about a cop who is a replicant, (heard this story before?) Major Kusanagi works for Section 9, a counter-terrorist wing of the Japanese government. She is pretty much the bionic woman; most of her body is cybernetic and mechanized. Only her brain and spinal column are organic. The show gets into what it means to be “human” and delves into the complicated question of what is a soul, which is referred to as her “ghost.”  Meanwhile they fight cyber crime with robots and big guns.

What I want to know is, why is Major Kusanagi always running around with her pants off? Look at the DVD cover. She's a cyborg for feck's sake. She doesn't even have lady bits or the ability to reproduce, yet the producers play up this whole sexy-anime-chick angle; they give her Nancy Sinatra boots and an armored bikini top. Oh well, she is kinda hot.

The next DVD is Mospeada. That stands for Mobile Operation Soldier... er, something something Armor. Basically it's a motorcycle robot. That you wear. And it flies.

Ok, I'm not explaining this well. You've seen Iron Man, right?  Imagine Iron Man's costume, but it also turns into a motorcycle. This was part of the Robotech series that I used to watch on TV with my friends in high school. It was pretty cool. We all rushed home from school at 3:00 PM and went to a friend's house to have Cokes and cookies and watch Robotech. Robotech was an 85 episode three-part saga about alien invaders called the Invid taking over the Earth. Human beings are pushed off the planet, and the human colony on Mars launches the Earth Recapture Force to take back our planet. And yeah, it involves giant transforming robots with lasers. Not so many hot chicks in this series, but they did play up the love interests between the characters and it was kind of a soap opera. Just with robots and aliens. Come on, I was 13, it was cool! :)

Monday, 18 July 2011

Crabbie's Ginger Beer

Crabbie's Ginger Beer is the real thing!  Yes, it contains alcohol.  Their advertising slogan is, "Refreshing ginger beer only for grown ups."  The alcohol content is only 4% which is less than some ciders you can purchase here in Ireland.  A beautiful amber bottle costs €2.50 and contains 500 ml.  It has a nice hit of ginger heat and a sparkle of lime on the finish.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Bewley’s Grafton Street Café

We had an excellent lunch at Bewley's Café on Grafton Street. We walked upstairs to the James Joyce Balcony and found a wonderful room. We want to model our library after this room: It has dark oak floors and contrasting duck-egg-blue paint throughout. There are framed sketches on the walls and a fantastic burgundy marble fireplace in the corner. If I led a secret life as a cat-burglar (like Pierce Brosnan in The Thomas Crown Affair) I would love to steal the gorgeous Chinese tea pot displayed on the mantle. It was emerald green with an embossed gold dragon. I won't mention the matching teacups. You can read about them in the police report... The room lighting came from subdued crystal chandeliers on the high ceilings. I'm not much of a decorator, but I really dug the cozy-library-living-room atmosphere. I felt right at home.

Lunch was simple but as I am fond of saying: Simplicity is elegance. I ordered a pot of their signature Gold Blend tea and a bowl of Seafood Chowder. My other half ordered a caffè latte and a B.L.T. Our meal arrived quickly and was the proper temperature. The seafood soup was a white chowder with dill, clam, mussels and shrimp. My other half thought it was a bit too dill-y but I thought it was perfectly dill-icious. (har har) Her B.L.T. was served with thick Irish bacon and had red-stemmed rocket for the lettuce. She gave me a bite and it brought back memories of having lunch with my grandmother at the Neiman Marcus In-Circle Café.  Lunch really hit the spot.

We sat close to the windows.  Perhaps next time we will grab a cup of tea and sit on the balcony.  The dining room contains very Paris-bistro looking tables, with square tops made of dark marble and well worn iron bases. The high backed purple velvet chairs were comfortable. The room gets its name from the balcony where customers can sit and watch street traffic down below. The balcony itself is hardly more than a wooden railing to place your cup, and deep enough for a single row of chairs. They have a red awning to keep the rain off patrons which they needed to employ because of a sudden and very Irish downpour. Herself and I were quite cozy at our table with our coffee & tea. I felt sorry for the street musicians down below in Grafton Street and the throngs of summer tourists caught without their umbrellas. It was a swift and lashing rain, which mockingly lasted only 5 minutes. We were delighted not to be in it.

Lunch for 2 was 15.95 euro. It was a perfect lunch. The meal may not have been as fancy as Café en Seine but just as delightful. The service was excellent, the atmosphere was energetic yet comfortable and we are definitely coming back.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Two faced restaurant

We had sushi at 10,000 Restaurant in Dublin.  It is next to our favorite haunt, Kokoro sushi on Lower Liffey Street.  Kokoro does not have a lot of seating inside and we wanted a sit-down dinner so we decided to give 10,000 Restaurant a try.

The decor certainly looked Japanese.  They had the rice-paper screen thing going, and they were playing Japanese jazz on the stereo that sounded like a good imitation of Frank Sinatra.  The menu had the usual sushi items, so we ordered shrimp tempura and a plate of 10 unagi (barbecue eel.)

The first hint was the tea.  "Do they usually serve Chinese oolong at Japanese restaurants?"  The next hint was the chef who came out of the back wearing a red cap and Tangzhuang jacket.  When he spoke to our waitress he said, "Xie xie" (shay-shay) which means thank you in Mandarin.

So, the tempura was... ok.  The batter was a bit greasy and tasted more like fish-n-chips batter than authentic tempura batter.  Then the unagi.  Generally when you order barbecue eel at a sushi bar, they serve it warm.  This was kind of limp and room temperature and certainly didn't taste barbecued.  All in all, the meal was mediocre and not very authentic.

The clue that put everything together was when I got up to use the restroom after the meal.  When I walked to the rear of the restaurant I was surprised to see that it was linked with the back of another restaurant!  This one had red wallpaper with auspicious symbols printed in gold, paper lanterns and Chinese style decor.

We had been duped into thinking we were eating at an authentic Japanese sushi restaurant.  10,000 Restaurant has a Janus-faced exterior:  On one side of the block the shop front is a Chinese restaurant, on the other side of the block it's a Japanese sushi joint.  Oh look, they're hiring too.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Clothes Shopping

Generally I have adjusted to Ireland pretty well.  The thing that makes me think, "Toto we're not in Kansas any more," is clothes shopping.  That still takes some getting used to.  Sure they sell jeans and t-shirts, but the things that get me are sizing and price.

We saw some pretty cool t-shirts the other day.  I like this one that says, "Now available in happy!" and the other shirt in a dark, brooding color with a quote from Poe's Raven.  The bottom of the shirt says, "And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door."

I wanted to buy the Raven shirt.  I am an American size XL.  I'm 6 feet tall and I have a 43 inch chest.  Typically European t-shirts are a size smaller than their equally-labelled American counterparts.  That means if you pick up a Size XL in Ireland, it will fit like an American Size L.  The shirt pictured above with the raven on it came from a trendy-and-sort-of-hipster store.  When I tried it on I looked like a complete dork; not only was the shirt 1 size too small but it had a low neck and girly "capped sleeves".  What is it with hipsters anyway?  This cross-dressing stuff is weird.  All I needed was tight-fitting-jeans and Buddy Holly glasses and I'd look like a sales associate at American Apparel.  Now where did I park my fixie?

(Aaargh!)  Pardon me.  Hipsters sometimes make me scream.  Moving on, we decided to look at jeans.  This is what floors me.  The price of Levis in Europe is outrageous.  I just checked out the Macy's web site, (for those of you who aren't American, Macy's is a famous department store.)  As usual, Macy's is having a White Flower Day sale and Levis 501's are $39.99.

Same jeans in Europe:  €110.  At today's exchange rate that comes out to:  $155.  That's nearly four pairs in California for the price of 1 pair in Ireland.  Holy blue jeans, Batman!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Egyptians had lasers!

The National Museum of Ireland has a great collection of Egyptian antiquities.  One display in particular totally blew my mind.  It shows how the Egyptians sailed boats on LASERS!  Disney must have copied the idea for those Solar Sailer transport ships they used in the movie Tron.  How cool is that?  The Egyptians did it first.  I bet they used lasers to build the pyramids too.  Those guys were amazing.

 Copyright © 1982 by Walt Disney Productions

Copyright © 1982 by Walt Disney Productions
See?  Pyramids, lasers... it all makes sense now.

 Copyright © 2008 Laseronics & Laserfabrik Germany