Sunday 9 November 2014

Perfect presents for beer drinkers

As you know, my husband is a beer lover, a Casanova of the cask, an Ovid of the ale, a Mata Hari of the malt and hop (okay, I'm pushing it there).  His job involves travelling the world sipping, slurping, tasting, testing, judging beer. Some say it's the best job in the world, but that would depend on your proclivities.
Anyhow, he has been writing quite a few books recently and this one, in particular (which is just about to be published by Jacqui Small, £9.99; $14.99) caught my eye.

World Bottled Beers - 50 Classic Brews to Sip and Savour

Why did it catch my attention?  Maybe because it's shaped like a beer bottle.  When I first heard about it, I figured it was a bit gimmicky but, you know, actually it's pretty cool.  Put it this way, I don't read beer books but I keep finding myself flicking through this one.  So, I figure that, given it's coming up to Christmas (sorry, sorry), you might find it handy if you need a gift or stocking filler for anyone who likes the odd beer.

He's pretty good at the whole 'what it tastes like' thing.   The quote on the cover from Stuart Howe (of Molson Coors) puts it like this:  'Adrian describes beer with romance, balanced by the razor-edged prose of a contemporary poet.'  A troubadour of beer indeed.

Now, were I a beer drinker, this is the point where I'd pick out my favourite brews.  As I'm not, I shall share my favourite beer labels (with some of Adrian's lip-smacking, palate pouting poetry) to give you a flavour and feel of the book.

The Kernel - Export Stout
"This luxurious moonless-night dark beer has an earthy mocha, vanilla-like softness on the nose; meanwhile the palate is touched by rich vanilla-chocolate liqueur and freshly ground coffee notes before an end of palate acidity adds a noble and delicious contrast."

Tiny Rebel - Dirty Stop Out
"The nose is a moody composition of mocha coffee, liquorice and smoke notes. This is a big-flavoured beer, with chocolate and coffee, more liquorice, a hint of cola and a firm bitter backbone, all rattling the palate before a descent to a dry, lightly smoked finish."
Wild Beer Company - Modus Operandi
"The end result is an earthy, chocolaty, funky, herbal, woody, vinous, cheery and balsamic vinegar nose, stunning in its complexity. In the mouth it is a case of chocolate going off the rails, with Brettanomyces in the train's cabin, an earthy sexiness, chocolate, cherry, soft vanilla and the sort of bitter finish that makes you realise why you like beer and want to keep drinking it."
Mikkeller - Monk's Brew (Bourbon Barrel-Aged)
"In the glass it's the colour of dark mahogany with an intricate twirl of aromas on the nose; vanilla, dark fruits, wood, caramel and a vinous hint. On the palate more vanilla adds a soothing note, while raisins and rip plums give a fruity tang as caramel and chocolate bounce sweetness off the palate."
Flying Dog Brewery - Gonzo Imperial Porter
"Expresso-black in the glass with a thick caramel/dirty crocus-yellow head, a riveting beer whose surge of coffee, chocolate, cola, vanilla, liquorice and ripe plum is balanced by a viscous, resiny hoppiness before its appetising bitter finish."

So, take a look, take a lick.  World Bottled Beers by Adrian Tierney-Jones.

And, if you really want to push out the boat, you could double it up with Britain's Beer Revolution (co-authored with another beer legend, Roger Protz) which has just come out.

So, there you have it, Christmas (or birthday or just 'hello weekend') sorted for all the beer lovers in your life.  Don't say I don't ever provide you with useful stuff on this blog.

Want yet more?  Check out his author page on Amazon - here.
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Friday 7 November 2014

The 96 kinds of love in need of words

So, I read somewhere that Sanskrit has 96 words for love.  Persian has 80.  The Greeks differentiated between three types of love.  We have just the one word.  Love.  LOVE.  LOVE for love’s sake!  How can we be so deprived?  So lacking in discrimination and imagination and…love?
That one poor overworked word has to cover everything from fondness (I love baked beans on toast) right through to total overwhelming (I can’t breathe without you) adoration.  If I were the word ‘love’, I’d be not only confused but exhausted. 

I mean… just think about it.  Oh, wait, how can one think about love?  Okay, just feel about it.   So I made a quick list while I was drinking a mug of mint and licorice tea, the kind I love - see?)…and, you know what, 96 is just the beginning… 

So, we have ...

      1. Liking a lot love

      2. Fond love.  
      3.  Hits the spot on occasions love.
      4.    Dear old friend love.
5.  Love one has for one's child (that one likes).
6.  Disliked child love (yes, of course you can love someone while disliking them).
7.  Duty love.
8.  Familial love (combined with liking)
9.  Familial love (combined with fundamental disliking)
10. Fuzzy warm feeling love.
11. Slightly confused – I like you more than I probably should – love.
12. Take your breath away love.
13. Slightly dazed and overawed love.
14. Slightly sickly fluffy New Age love.
15. Total lust love.
16. Wildly inappropriate love.
17. Love you have for someone or something that makes you feel somewhat embarrassed.
18. Guilty, secretive and painful love.
19. Hopeless lorn love.
20. Pleasure and pain love.
21. Bit bored love.
22. Taking for granted love.
23. Habit/going through the motions love.
25. Love that has gone past its sell-by date – slightly mouldy love.
26. Exhilarating frisson down the spine and throb in the groin love.
27. First sweet love. 
28. Idealistic/courtly/on a pedestal love.
30. Misunderstood love – loving what isn’t.
32. Bruised love.
33. Making do love (while waiting for something better).
34. Comfy like an old sofa love.
35. Guilty and yet highly pleasurable love (yes, nuances between this and #18).
36. Forbidden love (can have an essence of ‘fuck you!’ love).
37. Decadent love.
38. Wildly depraved love.  Yes, there’s a difference between decadent and depraved.
39. Innocent sweet love.
40. Adoring from afar love.
41. Spiritual love.
42. Religious extremism love.
43. Religious sexualised love (Teresa de Avila type).
44. Passionate rip your knickers off love.   
45. Some days I can’t stop thinking about you and other days I wonder why I’m wasting my time love.
46. Only when you’re drunk as a skunk love.
47. Passion that has died but leaves traces of fondness.
48. Sad lorn despairing love.
49. Angry vicious stab you in the heart love.
50. Bitter and twisted stab you in the back love.
51. Maudlin weeping and writing poetry love.
52. Possessive love.
53. Controlling love.
54. Unconditional love.
55. Wistful sighing and staring out of windows love.
56. Protective I'd take a grenade for you love.
57. Half-hearted love.
58. Torn in half and thrown to the wolves love.
59. Projected love.
60. Deluded love.
61. Provisional love.
62. Cruel love.
63. Sexual love without liking.
64. Tender love.
65. Like an itch you can’t scratch love.
66. Dark tormented love.
67. Love you only feel in the middle of the night or on long journeys.
68. Dream love.
69. Second-best love.
70. Tantalising love.
71. Adoration from afar love.
72. Love for the idealised potential lover you haven't yet met.
73. Misplaced love.
74. Bouncy overenthusiastic love.
75. Revoltingly oversentimentalised love.
76. Fake love.
77. Smug love.
78. Deeply conditional love.
79. In love with the idea of someone love.
80. Love that is totally and utterly reciprocated.
81. Uneven love.
82. Dutiful love.
83. You know damn well we’d go crazy without one another love.
84. Very complicated love.
85. Soul mate love.

86. Push me-pull me love.
87. Love for someone you don’t know and haven't met.
88. Stalemate love.
89. Loving everyone and everything love.
90. Purely for the sex love.
91. I don’t really love you but I don’t want anyone else to have you love.
92. Simple joyous playful bounding like puppies love.
93. I love you more than you love me point-scoring love.
94. Over-intellectualised love.
95. Snobbish love.
96. Kept apart by circumstances love.

Okay, so this was top-of-head (should that be heart?) stuff and there may be some which are sort of the same thing and equally many more that need consideration.  Not to mention the Love that passes all understanding...the heart-beat of Creation.    
But hey...your thoughts? 
Oh, and, if there are any Sanskrit speakers/readers out there, I'd be really interested to have a run-down of the 96 and their meanings.  

What we don't see - or why your antique shop is someone else's pub

So James and I were in the car and he said, ‘Could we pop into that bike shop in Tiverton?’ and I said, ‘Which one?  The one down…?’ and then we got into a long and exceedingly boring exchange in which we tried to pin down the location of said bike shop, along the lines of:  ‘So if you’re standing outside Smith's and turn left then…’ 
‘Where’s Smith's?’ 
‘Okay, so if you’re coming up the other way from Tesco…’ 
And so on and so forth.  Anyhow… after we had eventually established the precise spot…
Nah,’ said James.  ‘That one shut a couple of years ago.’
Well, stone the crows.  

‘So which one?  And where is it?’ I asked, negotiating the one-way system.
‘It’s opposite Heathcoat's.’
‘Huh?  There aren’t any shops opposite Heathcoat's.’
‘Yes, there is.’
And, er, yes there is.  Because there it was.  A great big shop with THE BIKE SHOP in huge letters on it. And a banner.  And everything.
I had never ever ever seen it. Despite driving it past it probably once or twice a week.  Or, more accurately, I have seen it; I just haven’t noticed it.  And it made me think how funny it is that we are so selective in our seeing, our noticing.  We only see the things that matter to us; that are of interest to us.  So Adrian’s world, for example, is constellated by pubs.  My father’s was exactly the same.  I, on the other hand, barely notice them.  What do I notice?  By what do I navigate?  Well, I don’t really – I tend to get lost. 

‘You just don’t notice anything,’ said James.  
‘Not true,’ I said.  ‘I’m the same as anyone. I notice things that interest me.  Just like you.’
‘Nah. I notice everything.’  And he went on to list the businesses one would pass when walking into town from Tesco. 
‘Hmm,’ I said.  ‘You missed the antique shop.  The beauty/therapy place.  The delicatessen and the craft/gift shop.’
‘What antique shop?’
‘There you go.’ 
‘But who cares about antiques?’
‘Evidently not you.  Now do you see?’

It’s the same with people.  How often do we really notice what’s going on?  How often do we really see them?  We don’t see.  We don’t listen.  We don’t notice.  We’re too wrapped up in our own selves – when we see people we mainly see our own projections. 

And that made me think about television.  About Grey’s Anatomy.  I know, I know.  Feel free to judge.  But hey, even The Walking Dead has turned into a hospital drama now. 
Anyhow…sitting there on the sofa by the fire it’s all so easy to see.  We the viewers know Teddy (Teddy????) is in love with Hunt because the camera makes it pretty damn obvious.  Just as we can see all too clearly that the guy whose wife got turned off life support and who was more than a bit pissed off to be told that the decision had taken ‘less than a minute’ was going to implode in some way, shape or form.  But nobody else did.  Because it can be hard, when you’re in the middle of living, to notice.  We’re not Olympians – we don’t have that overview.  Anyhow…oh why am I going on with this?  Bottom line, sometimes you don’t notice things until it’s too late and by the time you do, you’re shacked up with Yang or half your friends are lying in pools of blood.  Wait….no…yes…that is Grey’s Anatomy and not The Walking Dead.  Heck, all these TV shows are merging into one.  I really need to get a life, huh?  
Anyhow, the personal aspect is a whole different Game of Thrones.  Where was I going before I got Lost back there?  Oh yes.  Things we don’t see.  What are we missing?   Remember that old story about how when Columbus arrived in the Caribbean the local people couldn’t see the ships because they had no visual reference for a ship.  All they could notice was the effect the ships had on the water – the wave effect.

Perception.  Only seeing our own reality.  Have you ever looked at those 2D worlds?  Things like Flatland?  
How a 3D object would make no sense to creatures living in 2D?   And of course that makes one wonder about what we aren’t seeing?  What is wandering around and through us all the time?   So I started watching some vids on YouTube trying to find one for you (and me) that explained dimensions nice and clearly but I got lost in string theory and conspiracy theories and, for the love of all dimensions, five hour films on Satanism in the Music Industry and so on and so forth.  But, anyhow…

Maybe we could just widen our eyes a little.  Maybe we could pay a little more attention (how much would it cost?).  Maybe we could all make an effort to notice one new thing a day?  Not just the things that are right in front of us, but those that are peripheral, off to the side.  Those things that are dancing at the edge of the corner of the eye?  Perhaps then, we could train ourselves to see the unseeable?  

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Life lessons on the twisty turning road and the trippy trappy bridge

So I was driving to Exeter, down the valley road, twisting and turning (on three hours sleep and a cafetiere of monster strong coffee because needs must when the devil drives – does that make me a devil? Nah, that really is inflation) on my way to a meeting.  And I got stuck behind a tractor, doing next to nothing a mile but hey…no need to fret, huh?  Because, as I always remind myself at times like this, you just never know, do you?  If you push at things, if you overtake on a blind corner, or even on a seemingly clear stretch of road, you just never know what the consequences will be, do you?  And it got me thinking, it’s a fine balance, isn’t it?

I mean, if we never overtook, we’d be forever stuck in the seriously slow lane, caught behind tractors all our lives, right?

Anyhow, the tractor went off towards the motorway and I could have overtaken then but instead I took the slow way, the winding way, and I came to a bridge, one that is only wide enough for one vehicle at a time.  This one, as it happens...the bridge, I mean...
And there was a Toyota in front of me stuck out in the middle of the road waiting to cross.  Just one problem.  Facing him was a huge, and I mean really really really huge and vastly long articulated truck/lorry thing (what is the difference between a truck and a lorry?).  But the guy just sat there, like this lorry was suddenly going to morph into a Mini and squeeze past him.  So I reversed back to give him a nudge, a gentle reminder of what was needed here.  But nah.  And we all sat there like that for a bit until the guy in the Toyota finally came back to life and reversed…just a tad.  And then a tad more until the guy driving the city on wheels managed to manoeuvre past and he looked down at me and I looked up at him and we both rolled our eyes and grinned and shrugged our shoulders and laughed. 

Sometimes, when faced with a juggernaut, you have to accept that you need to back right off.  

So I continued, trip trap over the bridge and the Toyota driver suddenly woke right up and morphed into rally cross guy and vanished in a puff of speed.  Which was fine except …a sign.  Not this precise one but one giving out the same message.

Oh shit.  But hey, I thought, you never know, do you?  Sometimes you have to take a chance, right?  Even though the signs aren’t good.  So I drove on.
ROAD AHEAD CLOSED.  Another sign shouted.  Hmm.  Well, what’s the worst that could happen, I asked myself?  There’d be a way out, right?  Or, if not, I’d just turn round.  I kept driving.
ROAD AHEAD REALLY CLOSED!!!!  It yelled.  Okay, it didn’t really say that but, you know…that was the gist.  So I drove on.  And on.  And on.  And the signs kept wagging their fingers at me and I kept sticking a finger up at them.
I was nearly at Exeter when the signs stopped.  Instead there was a different sign.  DIVERTED TRAFFIC. 
You gotta laugh, right?  All that yelling and then they divert me onto... the same road I was on anyhow? 

Sometimes you have to say 'fuck it' and just keep on going regardless.

So, I got to Exeter and I parked and I wandered up to the place I was having my meeting and, hey, it was nice.  Yes, this is it and I sat right off in that very far left-hand corner.
Ordered a mocha (I always kid myself that mocha isn’t really coffee) and waited.  No sign of my editor.  Waited a bit more.  Then checked my diary.  Ah.   Right place. Right time of day. Right day even.  Wrong week. 

Sometimes it’s just the wrong time. 

I laughed.  Told the waitress what had happened and she laughed too.  Ordered a green smoothie and drank it.  Paid my bill and the woman at the next table asked the waitress what was in the smoothie and she told her and I smiled as I walked past and said, ‘It was pretty good.’  And she smiled and said, ‘I thought so.’

And then, because I’d drunk all that sodding coffee, not to mention the green smoothie, I popped into the museum to go to the loo and I was sitting there, minding my own business, musing gently as you do, when the bloody thing flushed itself.  And I thought again.

Sometimes, sod it, timing can be a real shit.   

Anyhow. I got back in my car and drove back down the windy twisty road, past the signs telling me the road was still closed (yes, in both directions), past the trippy trappy bridge (no Toyota) and home again, home again, jiggidy jig. 

So, was it all a wasted journey, huh?  A total waste of time and effort and space?  Not at all. 

Destination isn’t everything. The journey can be pretty beautiful all on and of its own account. 

Don't you reckon? doesn't matter.  I'll just go back again.  Next week.  Well...hopefully.  Because, after all, you just never know.  Do you?  

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Tarts or balls? A tale of two recipes

So, Adrian is off on his travels again (Belgium, Prague, London, St Albans), leaving James and I to our own devices.  This has, so far, involved finishing off The Walking Dead (we have agreed that maybe we need some lighter viewing having fought our blood-splattered way through a whole series in a few days) and eating Pecan and Chocolate tart. 
James made the latter as the last hurrah for his Duke of Edinburgh award and it is disgracefully good.  Okay, so the shop didn’t have pecans so he made do with walnuts and mixed chopped nuts but still…
Oh. You want the recipe?  Fair enough.   Here goes…

Pecan(ish) and Chocolate Tart

Rub together 120g chilled cubed butter with 165g plain flour and 25g ground almonds.  Stir in 55g castor sugar and then break a medium egg into the mix.  Work gently into a soft dough and tip onto a lightly floured surface and flatten (my grandmother would, of course, have washed her hands in cold water first, and used a slab of marble to keep it all cold).  Wrap in cling film and chill for three hours. 
Roll out pasty to about 3mm and line a greased 25cm tart tin.  Back into the fridge with the little bugger.  And we wonder why we all buy ready-made pastry?  

Now melt 80g dark chocolate and 45g of cubed butter in a bain marie (you know, a bowl suspended over a saucepan of simmering water).  In a separate saucepan combine 160g of granulated sugar and 235ml of golden syrup – stir like fury so it doesn’t catch until it is all melted.  Beat together three medium eggs and whisk into the chocolate/butter mixture until smooth.  Now fold in the hot syrup mixture, whisking all the while.

Add in a teaspoon of vanilla extract and 235g of nuts (ideally pecans but your choice – I’d probably eschew the mixed nuts but the walnuts are damn fine). 

Preheat oven to 180 degrees and put baking tray in for about five minutes to get hot.  Now place pastry case on the baking tray and pour over the nut and goo filling.  Bake for about 40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is set.  Cool and eat.

Now then.  Yes, it tastes delicious but, for the love of all that’s sacred, will you just LOOK at those ingredients.  It’s sugar on sugar on sugar.  The nuts are a saving grace (the protein will slow down the sugar rush) but even so…  It has made my teeth sing and my pulse race and I've got the start of a killer headache.  

So, let’s find an alternative.  Something that is still really yummy but will actually help your body rather than sledgehammer it.  So I asked Gertrud for the recipe for the energy powerballs she serves as snacks at Yobaba Lounge (report coming soon on Queen of Retreats) and here it is…

Gertrud’s recipe for peanut butter, banana and honey powerballs

1 cup ground almonds
1 cup ground walnuts or hazelnuts
2 heaped tblsp crunchy plain peanut butter
1 heaped tblsp creamy honey (ideally not runny)
2 dried bananas, finely chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
Juice of half a small lemon
zest of half an orange (optional)
1/2 tblsp coconut oil (optional)
Sesame seeds

Mix together all of the ingredients (apart from the sesame seeds).  Don't be shy, get in there with your hands. Make sure the honey, peanut butter and coconut oil are well mixed in. The mixture should not be too wet or sticky, but hold together when you press it into form.  If it's too wet, just add ground almonds.  Form into balls (should get 20-30), roll in the sesame seeds. Put in the fridge for half an hour.

Inspiration: Instead of the 1 cup of ground walnuts or hazelnuts, you can add a mixture of milled seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seed). To mill the seeds, add them to your high speed blender, and shortly blast them at top speed. You can do the same with nuts if you don't have any ground. Add other dried fruits and flavours - Morello cherries with raw cacao works a treat!

So, there you have it.  Tart or ball?  Up to you.  Because there are always choices in life, huh?