Money saving Duck methods

Duck is delicious. Sadly, it’s not cheap. But there are ways to make it less expensive.

Buy a whole duck. A whole Gressingham duck currently sells for about £9.

Meanwhile, two duck breasts cost £8, and two duck legs cost £4.50 or thereabouts.

A whole Gressingham duck, removed from the packaging.

Here’s a whole duck. I’ve pulled the plastic bag of giblets out, and put them in the stock pot, along with the wing tips. There will be more in the pan soon….

Giblets and other bits, waiting for me to make duck stock.

Now, with a very sharp knife, and considerable caution, I have cut one breast off the duck. Not very tidy knife-work, but I’m out of practice…

The duck with one breast cut off.
THe other breast’s gone, and so has this leg.
Here are two legs, and two breasts. £12.50 already, from a £9 duck.

Eventually, one ends up with two duck breasts and two duck legs, for the freezer. When I have collected four legs, I will make confit duck legs.

The duck breasts seem to be smaller than the ones they sell separately. My guess is that they use their biggest ducks for the portions, and sell the smaller ones whole.

Bits of duck, about to become stock.

The rest of the carcase just gets broken up, submerged in water, and boiled for a while, resulting in a delicious stock. What can I use that for, you ask?

Well, I used it for ramen. There wasn’t quite enough duck meat on the carcase for this, so I quickly cooked a couple of chicken thighs, you can see it at the top of the bowl. This was a lovely dish for a cold, wet evening…

A bowl of ramen.

Backing up Windows 10

Of course, you back up Windows 10 using the Windows 7 backup program.

Of course, you have made a System Repair Disc.

Now, you want to make a system image.

But if you have drives C: with the operating system and programs, and D: with only your data on it, which together are bigger than the drive you want to put the system image on, there’s not enough space.

If you just select “Make a system image”, and don’t select a drive, it assumes you want all the discs, and fails again, because “too big”.

You have to select “Make a system image” AND the C: drive BUT NOT the D: drive.

Now, it WILL make a system image…

No, of course it doesn’t.

Notice how a 30.88 Gigabyte backup is too big for a 2 Terabyte drive?

I am so utterly sick of the tripe Microsoft sells as software.

The comments on recipe pages…

Sure, I find recipes online, and sometimes I change things when I don’t have the full list of ingredients. That’s normal, surely? But then there are these people…

“One lemon is sufficient. I added a big bunch of kale at the end as I felt it needed some green. I roasted the squash then added to the pan. I added almonds with the coriander at the end to give a bit of crunch. I made my own harissa paste using chipotle. Nice meal with a depth of flavour.”

This was a “one pot” recipe. If you want kale with it, serve it separately. Of course, you’ve defeated the one-pot-ness of it, but this really won’t taste good if you shove kale in it. And the squash was supposed to disintegrate to make the sauce, but you’ve got nice crustly lumps of squash. Did it even need “a bit of crunch”, what with being a stew and all that implies?

Also, you can’t make harissa with chipotle. You’ve made some sort of chipotle sauce.

Some of the comments are a lot more sensible.

5 stars from us, followed the recipe to the letter and really liked the freshness the lemon brought to it …. Like a tagine but without using expensive preserved lemons. Portions are huge, this made 6 generous portions so some bonus portions for the freezer 😊

Now, call me greedy (OK, I am), but two chicken breasts doesn’t seem particularly generous for six people. I suppose one reason for recipes like this IS to feed more people with less meat, though.

However, if you put cut up a lot of lemons and put them in a big jar with salt, you’ll find preserved lemons are actually not expensive. And they’re brilliant in a tagine!

Cooking temperatures

I had a little rant, a while ago, about the bizarre ways some recipes tell us to judge temperatures.

Many of them involve testing the temperature of hot oil by dropping in a cube of bread, and noting how long it takes to turn “golden”, which is generally described as being around thirty seconds. The size of the cube of bread is rarely, if ever, given. I wonder how many cubes of bread have been wasted in this way? My solution was to buy a cheap electronic thermometer, or perhaps even a quite good one, as the less cheap ones tend to give a reading more quickly.

If you’ve eaten at a commercially run barbecue, for instance, you will have seen the cooks poking a quick reading thermometer into the food, to see if it can safely be eaten, or will cause illness.

I was reminded of this, when I looked up labna/labneh in Claudia Roden’s “The Book of Jewish Food” recently.

The idea of poking your little finger in the food, and trying to keep it there while counting to ten (and how fast?) when the food is hot enough for it to “sting” is somewhat disturbing.

And don’t try this with hot oil! It will do more than just sting…

Roden, C. (1999). The Book Of Jewish Food. New York: Alfred A Knopf, Inc.

Butter chicken wars

An Indian court is going to hear claims from two restaurants, as to which of them is entitled to claim they invented butter chicken.

In our recipe book collection, we have several recipes that are called butter chicken, here are just two…

Two recipe books with different butter chicken recipes.
Two recipe books with different butter chicken recipes.

I don’t know whether either restaurant has a valid claim, but if Rick Stein is right, it’s pretty much a standard Amritsari way to cook the beasts.

Labna for mezze

I wanted to make labna, the soft cheese popular in the Middle East. Basically, it’s strained yoghourt. It would clearly be expensive to make it from good shop yoghourt, like Fage, at about £5 for a 900g tub, our favourite from Greece, so I decided to start making my own. Cue intensive internet “research”…

It turns out that Lakeland are selling the Easiyo yoghourt maker for half price, which I took to be an auspicious omen. The internet says the charity shops of the country are full of the things, because people get fed up with buying the ready-made powder the makers want you to keep buying, but I got myself a clean new one, for about £10.

The internet kindly pointed out that I wouldn’t need to go to all the bother of heating the milk to a certain temperature, and then cooling it before adding a live starter. Instead, I’m using UHT milk, which somebody else has heated, cooled, and put in a handy box.

So, I put UHT milk and a couple of spoonfuls of Yeo Valley organic natural live yoghourt in the inner jar, filled the youghourt maker with boiling water, put it all together, and left it overnight.

Putting the yoghourt I made into cheesecloth

The result was a good, set, yoghourt. Not very solid, but tasty. The next step was to put it in cheesecloth, and strain it. There’s three layers of cheesecloth in the picture, as I thought even quite thick yoghourt might run through it, but one turns out to be enough.

Labna, with the whey that came out of it.

Now, the Mezze book says one of the things I can do with labna is make little balls, and keep them in olive oil, in the fridge, ready for use. I had a go, but only made a few, before deciding that the process was too messy, and wasteful. The rest has gone back into the fridge to dry out some more.

Raspberry Pi 7 Segment display


One of my #RaspberryPi Zeros is called PiClock, and has an 8 digit seven segment LED display. The program it runs displays the time, and sends it to two other Pis, that display it on Unicorn HD HATs. Between midnight and 8 am, it flashes the message “SLEEP” every five minutes, as well. The software library that it uses can display numbers, and most upper and lower case letters, but not all of them. I rather liked the idea of animating sequences of single segments on it, because, well you know, blinkenlights. I had a look at the software library, “”, to see if I could get it to do that.

It turns out that the library uses a Python dictionary to look up the byte to send to the display for each of the characters it can display. Decoding the hexadecimal bytes took a few minutes, working from the code for the digits from 1 to 5.

The first bit is always a 0. The remaining seven are the seven segments, in the order abcdefg, which are laid out like this…

So, the codes for illuminating single segments are as follows…

Now to amend the library! I needed some typeable characters to put in the dictionary, ready to be used in strings in the python code. For no obvious reason, I chose a selection of brackets and the tilde character, and amended the library file. The selection of brackets didn’t work!

After trying characters until they did work, I ended up with #][£<$~ as the symbols for the segments abcdefg.

I’m only showing the amended part of the file, where the pattern to send to the display is looked up. The arrangement of the brackets and tilde for the segments is as follows…

Now I’m ready to program PiClock to do silly animations, which will be fun, and a lot easier than using the WordPress editor. Note to self: See if you can find a WYSIWYG editor for WordPress.

A marker

All the old stuff is here, and the remaining stuff on Blogger and Blogspot has been abandoned, and will not update.

It must be obvious by now that I have no idea what I’m doing with WordPress.

Rick Stein’s cookery books

Now that I think about it, these are so very much more than just recipe books. They’re works of art in themselves, with terrific photography. Not just the photographs of the food itself, but the pictures of the places Rick has visited. Mind you, some folks will feel cheated when they find just how many pages are sumptious photographs, rather than recipes, perhaps.

The fish and shellfish book, as you would expect from somebody with world-famous fish restaurants, has an excellent section on the methods used to make the various dishes. Want to know how to dismantle a crab? It’s there, with clear pictures. All of his books have thoughtful descriptions of the destinations, their cultures, and anecdotes about the people Rick met, who cooked dishes from him.

Secret France, Road to Mexico, Fish and Seafood, India… I use them all.

But, I say, Rick! Using the same picture in two books? I thought I was suffering from déjà vu… Both the Fish book and India have a picture of Amritsar fish. One is zoomed in a little, but…

The same photograph in two of Rick Stein’s books.

Python and SQL with matplotlib.

# Quick hack to graph last 500 greenhouse temperatures from weather database.
import mariadb
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
conn = mariadb.connect(user="pi",password="password",host="localhost",database="weather")
cur = conn.cursor()
tempIN     = []
tempOUT    = []
timestamps = []
# Get the most recent 500 records.
cur.execute("SELECT greenhouse_temperature, ambient_temperature, created FROM WEATHER_MEASUREMENT 
             ORDER BY created DESC LIMIT 500")
for i in cur:
plt.figure(figsize=(14, 6))
plt.title(label="Greenhouse and outside temperature up to "+str(timestamps[0]))
plt.xlabel("Date and time")
plt.ylabel("Temperature in Celsius")
plt.plot(timestamps, tempIN, label='Greenhouse temperature')
plt.plot(timestamps, tempOUT, label='Outside temperature')
plt.axhline(y=5.0, color='r', linestyle='-.')