Spuggy

Recipe: Spooky Halloween eyeball tarts

A really easy Halloween recipe for delicious (and actually rather healthy) fruit tarts with a spooky twist.

Ingredients (makes 12):

  • 250g jarred balled pears or lychees
  • 1 tube of Smarties or similar colourful chocolate circles
  • 1 food-safe black cake decorating pen
  • 200g raspberries
  • Sugar to taste
  • 12 small cooked pie cakes or flan bases

Method:

  1. Using the food pen, draw black pupils on the Smarties. These will be the irises.
  2. With a knife or (if your kids are helping) spoon, gouge a Smartie-sized hole in the top of each pear ball/lychee
  3. Push the raspberries through a sieve to extract the juice. Add sugar (and a little of the pear or lychee juice) to taste.
  4. Put the pear balls/lychees in the pie cases
  5. Put one Smartie in each to make eyeballs
  6. Spoon the raspberry coulis into the space between the eyeballs.
  7. Enjoy!

Recipe: Beef tea OR chunky beef soup

Unfortunately Dove has been down with a cold this week. To ease her suffering, I cooked her this soup. You can stop halfway through to produce a delicious warming beef tea, or do both halves to produce a chunky stew-like soup.

Ingredients

For the stock

  • About 400g beef bones
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 leek
  • 2 bay leaves

For the stew (ignore if you’re only doing the beef tea)

  • About 500g stewing beef
  • 150g pearl barley
  • 250g mushrooms

Method

Roughly chop the onions and garlic and put them in a stock pot. If you’re doing a chunky soup, cut the green part of the leek and add to the pan – if you’re just doing beef tea, add the whole leek. Boil all the stock ingredients with about 1.5 l water for about 20-25 minutes. If a lot of water has boiled off, top it up. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Filter the stock through a sieve, and throw away the bones etc. This can now be drunk as a beef tea.

Otherwise, add the pearl barley and beef to the stock. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the mushrooms and the leftover leek and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread!

Recipe: Broccoli and Stilton Soup

Piping hot soup

It’s been a while since we put a recipe up, but I managed to bring back a block of stilton cheese to Germany and this soup turned out too good not to share.

Ingredients

  • 1 large head or 2 medium heads of broccoli
  • 1 large onion or 2 medium onions
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 leek
  • Around 200 g (one wedge) stilton
  • Herbs (I used basil, thyme and tarragon)
  • Optional: cream to garnish

Equipment

  • 2 large pots
  • 1 sieve
  • 1 stick blender

Method

  1. Cut the florets off the broccoli (keep the stems!), slice the leek (keep the tips!) and chop up the onion (keep the ends!). Cut the stilton into reasonably small pieces (keep the rind!)
  2. Put the broccoli stems, leek leaves, onion off-cuts and stilton rind in a pot with 1.5 litre of boiling water to make a stock. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. In another large pot, sweat the chopped onions, leek and garlic with the herbs, pepper and salt on a low hear.
  4. Once the stock has simmered, take the broccoli stems out. Let them cool a bit, and then use a knife to cut off any small sprouts and leaves. Cut them into smallish pieces. Drain the stock through a sieve into the other pot. Discard the leek, onion and stilton cuttings.
  5. Add the broccoli florets and stems and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  6. Take the soup off the boil and blend it smooth.
  7. Put a little bit of stilton to one side for a garnish. Add the rest to the soup. Briefly blend to mix the soup through.
  8. If the soup seems too thick, dilute with a little cream. Taste – add more salt if necessary (it shouldn’t need much, since the cheese is also salty).
  9. Serve, crumbling the left over stilton on top as a garnish.

 

How one cancelled train can ruin the whole system

After my blog post about how maths means trains seem more frequent than they are, here’s another even more irritating rail-based maths problem.

From Germany, I’ve been feeling quietly smug watching the chaos on the UK Northern and Thameslink lines over the past few days. Well, joke’s on me, because I got my own transport chaos this morning. One tram didn’t show up this morning, which was mildly annoying. But they’re frequent – every five minutes or less at peak times – so I wasn’t too worry. Five minutes later, along came the next tram, but it was so full up that no-one could board. Another five minutes, and another totally packed tram arrived. By the time I managed to squeeze my way onto a tram, I’d missed my train to work.

How could this happen? How could a well-trafficked route, which doesn’t normally run anywhere near capacity, completely collapse with a single cancelled tram?

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Recipe: Korean-style bitter orange and lime tea

No photos for this recipe, because I couldn’t find a way to make boiled citrus fruits photogenics.

This is based on the Korean yuja-cha (also known by its Japanese name yuzucha), and it’s effectively a marmalade you put in a jar and keep in the fridge. To make it up into tea, you just put a spoonful in a cup and fill it with boiling water. This recipe was mainly just something I did to use up the fruit from a bitter orange tree that I impulsively purchased, but it is really good.

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Sparrow Songs: Metal that’s not about death

It’s been a while since I did one of these posts! So, one image that people have of metal music is “Oh, it’s all screaming about death and Satan and so on”. But this is not true! So, in this blog post I’m going to just post some metal songs about really random topics. Enjoy!

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A map of every town in It’s Grim Up North

Where does the North begin? This debate has been raging on the Wikipedia talk page for Northern England for over a decade. Well, luckily the answer has already been given to us by… the KLF. In 1991, the band – then going under the name “The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu” – recorded a ten minute techno song “It’s Grim Up North”. The majority of the song consists of town names being delivered in a Scottish monotone over a pulsing techno beat, ending with the phrase “are all in the North”.

I’ve taken the song lyrics – using Wikipedia’s interpretation of ambiguous lines (so “Cheadle Hulme” not “Cheadle” and “Hulme”, but “Accrington” and “Stanley” not “Accrington Stanley”) and ignoring the fact that Leigh appears twice – and mapped them all.

So, what is in the North?

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Urban birdwatching in Frankfurt — Urbane Vogelbeobachtung in Frankfurt-am-Main

If you follow me on social media, I’ve probably been driving you mad recently with lots of bird pictures. Lots and lots of bird pictures.

In order to have them all in the same place – and not just have them on a social media site that could disappear and/or use them to hack an election at any time – I’m going to put a little list of all the birds I’ve Frankfurt, and where I’ve seen them! (Und auch auf Deutsch!)

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What is the top-heaviest country?

This post is based on an interesting Twitter thread about country populations! In particular, this pair of tweets from Josh Fruhlinger:

It’s an interesting thing – how top-heavy is a country or federation? In other words, how much of the population is concentrated in its largest constituents?

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The periodic table of tastes, and how to cook with them

One of the more confusing bits of childhood science education is learning that there are only four or five tastes (textbooks have been slow to add the fifth taste, commonly called umami or savouriness, even thought it was discovered over a hundred years ago).* How can all the flavours, from chocolate to broccoli, be broken down into just five simple components – sweet, salty, sour, bitter and savoury?

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