The winter days are very short in my current location so I asked the guys at Stonehenge Cycles for a recommendation on lights for night riding. I don’t generally ride more than 90 minutes at night so a hub generator would be overkill, but I do need bright lights for the narrow country lanes around Salisbury. And I’m tired of cheap lights that corrode into uselessness because they aren’t watertight. They recommended the Moon X Power 500. The price was £80 at time of purchase, but this has now dropped to the £60 range.
(Adapted from Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, Simone Beck, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol 1)
This has become one of our all-time favourite recipes and a great option for small dinner parties, but we came across it in an odd way. We were planning a big dinner because my sister Marianne was coming to visit us in Edmonton. I had come across a recipe for pork roast that sounded great – the sauce included madeira and three kinds of mushrooms. We were in Safeway picking out some chanterelles when Lynn said “does Marianne eat mushrooms?” Zut! She hates them and has been known to pick them off of pizza before eating it. So what to do with the large pork roast we had already acquired? A quick scan through the cooking “bibles” led us to this recipe. It is easy to make, delicious and not at all fiddly. With the exception of a bit of mashing at the end, the work is done and cleaned up long before the guests arrive.
Simple and delicious! This recipe comes from my late and dearly missed mother-in-law, Eleanor Kerr. Unlike most Swiss Steak recipes there is no tomato included – just pure beef for beef lovers. It must be served with mashed potatoes so you can mop up the gravy.
This could be made with the finest artisanal heritage locally sourced Wagyu beef, but actually it works really well with whatever you have.
1 lb round steak
1 good-sized onion
Beef stock or red wine
Flour to coat
Salt & Pepper
Fat. The best thing is to get a piece of beef fat from the butcher. Otherwise render the fat from your beef and add oil to make up the required amount.
When you start getting serious about birding you will want to get a telescope. If you want to look at waders (shorebirds, in North American parlance) and see more than just grey dots you will need a ‘scope, and it’s also the only way of getting the close-in views you need to confirm your identification of difficult birds. On a recent trip to Cyprus we were able to identify several sub-species of yellow wagtail because we could “grill” them at length from far enough away that we didn’t spook them.
There’s a direct relationship between price and quality, so as the birding mania bites deeply you may start thinking about one of the top-end telescopes. I had a decent mid-range ‘scope that served me well for several years, but there were many times I had to look through my mates’ Leicas, Swarovskis, Zeiss’s and Kowas to see things that the good old Opticron was missing. The issue with upgrading is that the really good telescopes are eye-wateringly expensive. Buy a new top of the line Swaro and you won’t get much change back from £3000. The best ‘scopes are clearly superior equipment, but they are priced like other kinds of man toys (e.g. golf clubs) – you pay a significant premium for the bragging rights of owning the best.
There was a niche to be filled for a ‘scope with optical quality to match the best, but without the same level of greedy mark-up. Enter the Vortex Razor HD.
Chocolate Brownies (Jane Kaduck) These are the Best Brownies Ever, but don’t skimp on the ingredients! Use butter (not margarine or any other substitute) and good chocolate. Baker’s is the standard but you could push the boat out a bit more and go for Valrhona.
1. Melt: 4 sq unsweetened chocolate with 1 cup butter
2. Sift together: 1 ½ cup white flour, ½ tsp baking powder, ½ tsp salt
3. In a large bowl: Cream together: 4 eggs and 2 cups white sugar Beat in: 2 tsp vanilla, 1 Tbsp corn syrup Then beat in melted chocolate/butter, followed by the flour mixture.
4. Bake in a greased 9×13 pan at 350F for 20 – 25 minutes. Brownies are done when they test done (with a toothpick) about 2 inches from the edge of the pan (not the centre). (They continue to cook in their own heat after removing from oven). In British ovens you may need to cook an extra 5 minutes or so with a piece of aluminium foil draped loosely over the top to prevent over-browning on top.
Top Tip: Don’t overcook these brownies. They should be very moist, Cool. Frost with chocolate icing if desired.
Chocolate Frosting Melt: 3 heaping tbsp cocoa powder, 2 tbsp butter, 1 ½ to 2 cups icing sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 tbsp (approx) milk. Beat together. Add more icing sugar/milk to achieve desired consistency.
We are just back from a long weekend in Venice. It was Lynn’s first visit, and barring a two hour dash through with Hank Adams and Scott Larese in 1998, mine as well. I’m going to post some restaurant reviews and a “Venice How-To” guide over the next few days, so this one will be just an overview aimed at first time visitors
So first, why should you go to Venice? It seems to be on everyone’s bucket list and if you have the chance to make multiple trips to Italy you should certainly include it sooner or later. However it’s important to know where it fits in the priority list.
Point number one – Venice makes a nice weekend trip but it ain’t Rome or Florence. The city itself is unique and attractive but it does not have anything like the megawatt artistic and cultural attractions of those places. And it has some significant disadvantages, which I will get back to in a moment.
There are three first rate things to see in Venice: the Basilica San Marco, the Palazzo Ducale (aka the Doge’s Palace), and … Venice itself. Beyond that there are a number of good-but-not-great galleries and museums, some interesting churches, and a lot of very swish and usually very expensive shops selling the best of Italian design, fashion and jewelry.
Riding long distances at moderate speeds is a good way to build up a base, but if you want to ride fast you have to push yourself. Racers do this in a structured way using tempo and interval training, but if you’re a recreational rider you can just build speed training into your normal rides.
A few ideas: If you see a rider ahead of you in the distance, make a hard effort to chase him or her down.
On one of your normal cycling routes, find a section of 10 or 15 km that starts after you have had a chance to warm up well. A loop is ideal. Zero out your computer and then ride hard with a target in mind – e.g. maintaining an average speed of 30 kph. Check the computer at the end of the section and note how fast you went. Once you can do this without blowing up adjust your target upwards by 1 kph.
Pick a target speed for specific points on your regular routes. No matter how tired I was I always tried to hit 30 kph at the top of the short hill leading past the Woodsman Pub in Fernham.
Put in a few sprint efforts during a ride. Telephone poles work well for this. While riding at a normal pace, pick a telephone pole in the distance. When you get to it sprint all out to the next pole, then spin easily for a bit before speeding up to your cruise pace. Repeat as necessary.
Best of all, ride with a group where you have to push fairly hard to keep up. (Make sure you can find your way home if you get dropped!)
One last point. Don’t do hard efforts every day. Speed training takes a lot out of you. If you don’t rest sufficiently between hard days you will end up going slower and be grumpy to boot!