Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.
There’s a “login” for the /Personal/ category now. As the login text states: “The password is my middle name (4 letters) + the state I’m from (using usual abbreviation) + my partner’s initials (2 letters).”. Log in once and it’ll set a 1y cookie so you’ll “always” be “logged in” – or if you don’t like cookies it’ll still work as a one-shot.
The purpose of this is just to keep out complete randoms and websuckers – if you’re neither of the above and don’t know my middle name you can just ask! Stuff in the /Personal/ category is typically aimed at family or good friends and will include things like travel plans (most recent entry), personal events and any comments about work 😉
This started earlier this month and coincidentally it’s hitting a post about a potential referrer spam worm. Targeted silly-buggers or chance? Chance I’d guess — possibly thanks to an amusing search string choice? The user-agent is “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1)” in all cases.
Note that visiting those IPs hits CPanel entrances in two instances but just default/dead account pages in the other cases. I’m guessing these are owned server systems – or just host XSSed junkcode of some sort.
I guess I’d better report them.
In other news I was horribly sick last week (well, about as sick as I ever get: head feeling like a sack of wet cats had taken up residence, throat like I’d been swallowing crushed glass and all-over body pain rubber-hose style). Also, we now have a 27U rack in the study. And I thought my days of living with racks had ended with EvilHouse (domain name now seemingly defunct – I guess we’ve all left those “evil” days behind us then).
*sigh* So it’ll be good to get back on track with some work tomorrow, things are moving again.
Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.
I wouldn’t normally bother to write about soup since it is essentially a “grab stuff, throw stuff in pot, heat and maybe blend” creation. I make a week’s worth of soup almost every Sunday so we can have soup in the fridge and freezer. We have soup for dinner at least three nights per week and alternate between “this week’s” and “last week’s” soup for variety. This will probably sound most unlike me, but here in the UK I follow much more planned eating habits than I did in Sydney. The primary reasons for this are: inaccessibility of good produce, the high price of produce and the extreme price of eating-out. Life here is very different to living and working mid-Sydney, I’d probably revert to my old ways if I lived and worked mid-London (and could afford it!). These days we have soup on Mon, Wed and Fri with カチンシ (Kathleneshi – Kat’s sushi) on Tue and my own cooking on Thu (usually a fish dish using something from the “Billingsgate” compartment in our freezer), weekends are “freestyle” to make up for weekday lunches, which are strongly regimented.
Back on topic! Today I made a potentially unusual soup and it turned out so well that I decided to make note of it, it can probably be more accurately called a borscht thanks to the beetroot.
The story of borscht starts on Saturday when we visited the Notting Hill office and thus, inevitably, the Portobello Road market, where I was browsing with this week’s soup in mind (and coffee!). Looking like boxes of well used medicine balls there was celeriac everywhere. I have never bought celeriac before but they look like they have soup potential so I picked one up. I’m afraid I didn’t take a photo of it but it looks like most celeriac I’ve seen – large, spherical, greenish and rough. The cooking goddess Stephanie says you should choose celeriac that are firm and baseball sized… I didn’t know this at the time though so I picked one that was about twice the diameter of a baseball (an unusual measure for an Australian chef to use!), luckily it turned out to be solid all the way through with no pithy hollows. I decided to pick up some beetroot too since I was aware that celeriac had a flavour similar to celery and I didn’t relish the idea of soup with a monotone celery flavour. The beetroot were around baseball sized and I got three of them.
Skin and roughly dice the onion and put into a large stock pot with the butter and grate in half the nutmeg.
Peel the celeriac (I found this much easier to do roughly with a knife than with a peeler), quarter and slice thinly (since it is going into a soup with beetroot don’t bother with the acidulated water).
Peel the beetroot (peeler does fine here) and slice as with celeriac.
Turn on the heat and cook to very lightly brown the onion.
With the onion browned throw all other ingredients except for the basil into the pot and add water until the celeriac just starts to lift (i.e. just-covered).
Up the heat and bring to a boil then reduce to a low simmer (lowest heat on the smallest rosette), cover with the lid slightly ajar and leave to simmer (we actually went out with it simmering away so it got up to two hours of simmer-time but probably would have been fine with less).
When the beetroot is tender turn off the heat and let cool for emulsifying.
In batches process soup with the emulsifier (sorry, I just like that word – I mean food processor or blender) to an almost-smooth (but not quite) texture.
Chop the basil leaves finely (i.e. with a knife or herb-chopper) and mix into the processed soup.
At point taste and add more salt/pepper/nutmeg as you see fit.
Reheat and serve! Or: Package and freeze!
I would serve this with a sprinkling of very-fine-sliced basil leaves, a couple of grinds of pepper and a drizzle of good olive oil (photo on left topped with grated nutmeg, ground pepper and olive oil – if you look at the album you’ll see it was served with an unusual accompaniment). A good crusty chunk of bread would go down with it beautifully – but unfortunately bread isn’t something we buy.
Discovered on busy Portobello Road thanks to an “I had a good coffee at this place” comment from a co-worker Coffee Plant has a special place in my caffeinated heart: my first good UK ristretto. It’s hard to describe the moment. About two weeks after getting into the UK I had decided that coffee was a thing of the past, so any halfway reasonable attempt at an espresso would have knocked me out. Trying to explain feeling of sheer glee in discovering that I was wrong would just make me look loony (as if I don’t already). I think I had four doubles — not wise after two weeks of very litle caffeine (I had switched to drinking a lot of green tea though).
Coffee Plant is a decent sized café with a mid-floor counter populated with barristas and a counter up the back where they sell beans (including green beans for home roasting). Their prices are just not London – with a single espresso clocking in at only 80p (but I must say that all the good coffee places I’ve found have remarkably below-chain pricing for espresso, including back in Sydney). They’ve been busy every time I’ve been in, but with the high customer turnover means you often do get a seat, the atmosphere is lively and has an almost un-Londonian friendliness (another common trait amongst the coffee places I like here).
They’re fair-trade up to their eyeballs and what a friend of mine would call long-haired-tree-huggin’-hippies. Peace symbols scrawled across a wallpaper of anti-war, anti-golbalisation, anti-Bush, anti-Blair and anti-anything-non-long-haired-hippy propaganda. In fact the owner of the place is known for such politics and has even written book about the inconsistencies in the US governments “official story” for September-11. I’ll neither agree nor disagree with any of this, I must admit that some of it seems a bit far-out. But hippy politics and good coffee seem to go hand-in-hand, Coffee Plant is merely the most extreme example I have seen thus far. Fair-trade is an excellent and sensible way for things to be and since my own political views lean Left and have a strong hippy bent to them I don’t mind the extended politics.
But this is about the espresso! At Coffee Plant you can have your excellent espresso and rest assured that third-world farmers have got a reasonable deal (as at any coffee house that really cares about their coffee).
On the ristretto front the only negative is that occasionally you’ll get a barista who doesn’t quite pour one that is up to their usual standard (but I’m not the sort of person who can make a point about this so unless it is terrible I don’t say anything – and it has never been even close to terrible!). On a measure of personal taste I rate them just below Monouth Coffee and on-par with Coffee Tree in Aylesbury – I think this may have more to do with the roast than anything else. Honestly, I can’t specifically fault anything at any of these three places and they’re my “top three” for the UK – thus far.
The photo on the right was taken from the same point that the façade photo was taken from, but facing 90° to the left — so this stall of sweet carbohydratic delights is directly outside Coffee Plant. If you’re visiting London the Portobello Road market is one of the top-ten locations to visit in my mind (especially if one of the movies you grew up on was Bedknobs and Broomsticks!), it’s chaos stretches along the road for a mile or more on Saturday so wear good walking shoes. You’ll need to fight your way down the road (from the Notting Hill end in my case) to get to Coffee Plant, but it is well worth it (it is a lot easier on weekdays).
The market area around Coffee Plant is devoted to food, mainly fruit-and-vege but with a smattering of meats, cheeses, spices, preserves and take-away. If you wander further along towards W10 it’ll degrade to clothes and trinkets, then to garage-sale quality junk and finally to tip-quality junk and bodgey furniture. If you go far enough you’ve hit Golburne Road where you’ll find a variety of interesting delicatessens and cafés (including a seemingly Australian one, it matches the street name I think) — and in the distance you’ll see the absurd looking building pictured on the left.
So for an interesting morning out and excellent espresso hit the Portobello Road market and drop into Coffee Plant a couple of times, or maybe more.