Get back on the bike…

You know what they keep telling you: if you fall off your horse, you must get back on. We were not rich enough to have horses… we had to get back on bikes. Anyway… I had a bread recipe go hideously wrong a week or so ago.


This is the recipe, and it’s one I’ve used quite a few times. It’s a tasty bread that uses both yeast and sourdough starter, the latter for its flavour, rather than to raise the bread. It seemed a little wet when I took it from the fridge after its overnight stay, but it shaped in the usual way, and I put it into the proving basket. At this point, as the saying goes, I must have lost my presence of mind, as I forgot about it for a couple of hours…


The result of that was that it grew hugely, stuck to the proving basket, and made a remarkable mess when I managed to get it out. Scraping the rest out of the proving basket, and adding more flour as I tried to shape it again, I scraped the thing into a baking tin. Well, it was obviously not going to cook on the baking stone in a civilised manner.IMG_20160815_163712small

Here it is. There was no point trying to score the top. I just cooked it, convinced it would not be worth eating anyway.IMG_20160815_180053small



It came out like this, with a good big crack caused by the oven spring.





The crumb was very dense, and the crust could do with stronger teeth than I possess, but the flavour was reasonable.




Yesterday, I jumped back onto the bicycle, and used the same recipe. It came out of the fridge looking like dough instead of soup, and it didn’t stick to the proving basket either. Here’s the result. It’s lovely.




It is time to stop the Brexit nonsense.

The story so far….

David Cameron didn’t win the 2010 election. The Liberal Democrats, a party that had tricked me and many others into thinking they were Liberal and Democratic, joined the Tories in an unholy coalition. In the 2015 election, they were hammered into the ground, losing most of their seats, for doing this. Served them right.

mascots cameroncleggnhs

David Cameron still had a problem in 2010 with a lot of his own party, who were so stark-staring bonkers that they wanted to get Britain out of the EU. To placate them, he announced he would have an “in out referendum” on our EU membership. He was certain the Liberal Democrats would prevent this referendum from happening. But the Liberal Democrats, now widely hated for being Tories in disguise, were no longer there to help him. And then he did better than he expected in the 2015 election, probably because of the systematic cheating his party is being very slowly investigated for allegedly having used, along with the usual lies they tell to get elected.

David Cameron’s Tories had a problem, as he wanted to delay the referendum for as long as he could, while the Brexit gang wanted it yesterday. And so, his weakness led to a rushed campaign, in which Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Michael Gove, and Christopher Grayling told a pack of lies, because they had no facts to support them, and the Remain people didn’t bother to explain the sensible reasons why we should stay, preferring to get dragged into idiotic arguments about the Brexit lies, and the whole thing descended into name-calling, culminating in some idiot

announcing airily that we had all heard quite enough from the experts who were trying to explain how much damage Brexit would do, but being ignored by the press. Oh, yes, Rupert and his billionaire chums with newspapers and TV channels all wanted us to stop being the third most successful country in the most successful part of the world. Something about normal people being able to live decent lives jarred with his world view. “Take back control!”  From whom, and for whom, they never said.

And one of the biggest lies came from a man that many people look up to.

boris in the air

Boris Johnson lied that Turkey was about to join the EU, and 75 million of them would come here, just like those 35 million Romanians we had already taken in. Here’s a fact: to join the EU, Turkey would have to comply with about twenty conditions. Over the last ten years, they have just about managed to comply with one.

And all of them pretended there was nothing racist about anything they said, dear me, no, perish the thought…

Came the big day…

It looked as if Cameron would get his Remain vote by a slim majority, even though he had managed to prevent a lot of people who would have voted Remain from having a vote at all, as part of the Tory grand plan to Gerrymander themselves into power for a Thousand Year Right. All those subtle changes, like the boundary changes, the way people register to vote, not extending the vote to the younger people who would have to live with the result for longer….

referendum with labels repainted

David Cameron was surprised to find 37.44% had voted to leave. He promptly resigned, leaving everyone else to fix the utter mess he had made, and buggered off on holiday.

Theresa May, who had made a simply enormous fuss about Gordon Brown taking over from Tory Blair without holding any kind of election, took over without holding any kind of election. She promptly announced that “Brexit means Brexit”, as if that idiotic slogan actually had any kind of meaning, and in spite of her own apparent support for the Remain camp before the vote. Like Cameron before her, she seemed convinced she now had the divine right to order everyone around, with no reference to what the British constitution actually required of her.

In particular, as explained very carefully by Professor A C Grayling, it is not at all a democratic thing to do, to let the 37.44% dictate the fate of the nation. British democracy works on the basis of MPs voting in Parliament.

What we had was an “advisory referendum”, the result of which was intended to advise Parliament of people’s wishes. But the way our country is supposed to work is that MPs vote for what they believe is in the best interest of the country, having due regard to all the circumstances, and listening to all those experts the Brexiters so despise.

Professor Grayling:

I have heard from a number of MPs who will oppose Brexit in parliament. I have heard from a number more who say they would like to oppose it, but they are concerned about going against ‘the democratic outcome of the referendum.’ I wish to demonstrate to these latter that to treat the outcome of the referendum as binding on them is precisely undemocratic, and that the interests of the nation and its future lies in their exercising their democratic right and responsibility to oppose Brexit if that is what they believe is right for the country.

The key point about what is democratic and not democratic lies in the difference between an election and a referendum. In an election, electors confer temporary and revocable license on representatives to attend parliament. In parliament the electors’ representatives are required to act in the best interests of their electors, which they chiefly do by acting in the best interests of the country. They are mandated to enquire, debate and decide on legislation, and to hold the executive to account. They are not messengers or delegates charged merely with reporting or acting on their electors’ views; they are plenipotentiaries, acting by their own best lights on behalf of their electors. If they do a bad job they can be dismissed and replaced.

This is representative democracy. The whole point of representative democracy is that its forms prevent the political system from descending into crude majoritarianism (‘the tyranny of the majority’ over minorities is a danger that systems of representative democracy are designed to prevent) or, worse, ochlocracy or mob rule. In an ochlocracy – consider the chaotic situation during a revolution, for example – the crowd overturns the rule of law, inflamed sentiments prevail, decisions are made on the spur of the moment, and reason is usurped by demagoguery.

And now, we have absurd demonstrations like this…


…where members of the 37.44% who voted to leave in the opinion poll advisory referendum are demanding that the Prime Minister do immediately something she has no power at all to do, ever. And it looks very much as though she thinks she can do anything she wants to.

The Eurosceptics, as they used to be called, spent the last forty one years whinging about us having joined Europe. Now, they think those of us opposed to the utter stupidity of destroying our country should just roll over and let them carry out their… Oh! Hang on. They don’t actually have any kind of plan at all for the way forward. No plan for what to attempt to get out of the two years they will have to negotiate terms, once Article 50 is invoked. No plan as to what to do when any country in the EU vetoes any of the things they think they will just demand.

We have to stop this madness. Parliament could vote to ignore the referendum, and apologise to Europe for allowing such stupidity to happen. Except they have all buggered off on holiday.

Write to your MP. Demand that this absurd nonsense be set aside, by Parliament, as the best thing to do for the country as a whole.

Slut’s spaghetti

ingredientsThis was a dish I had been wanting to make for a while, although I was told I had done it before. Well, I’m allowed to forget things sometimes. As you can see, I’m using a Nigella recipe. It’s all over the internet, along with the scene from “A Series of Unfortunate Events” in which the children serve it. The recipe is everywhere, too, and is very simple.

bowl of food close up

My favourite bouzouki player

If you know me, you probably thought that would be Markos Vamvakaris. But you would be wrong. He was great, but Halikias played some instrumentals that made a huge difference to Greek music, and he played them in America.

Lamb Tagine

Lamb Tagine needs harissa, and I didn’t have any in the fridge, so I made a batch. This is the red pepper being roasted so that it can be skinned. You just keep it in the flame, twisting and turning, until its skin is blackened in most places, before putting it in a plastic bag to cool. It will take ages to cool, and if you try to do anything with it before it has done, it will injure you with the steam from inside.
Here’s the pepper, waiting to scald the careless cook. Once it is cool, it has to be peeled, or you can look at it as scraping the cooked flesh off the burnt skin. The resulting chunks of cooked red pepper flesh should be chopped up. I didn’t chop this one, and discovered that the big chunks can somehow avoid the blades of the blender completely. I ended up having to fish them out and chop them.
Here are the coriander, cumin and caraway seeds, being toasted. Since I’m not giving you the full recipe, you can look at it here. There’s also chilli, garlic, lemon juice, and tomato paste in the harissa.

For some reason, no fresh chillis had grown in the garden, or appeared in the fridge, so I used dried ones, revitalised with some boiling water.

The tagine recipe is very similar to this Nigel Slater one. He must have a lot of money, to be able to put saffron in something that will totally obscure the flavour and colour, I think. My secret ingredient, that he doesn’t use, is preserved lemons, which you can see in the jar, here. They are wonderfully lemony, and you can taste them in the finished dish. They are also rather salty, so no extra salt is needed in the dish.

Dinner time! Cheers!

The cous cous is a good accompaniment for the tagine, but everyone seems to know their own way to make it. This one had our first broad beans in it, and a couple of runner beans. 

Yes, thank you, I did enjoy it!