My wife bought me the Curry Bible for Xmas, from Marks and Spencer – not to be confused with various other similarly named books. It's a great recipe book as it keeps things relatively simple, and contains most of my curry house favourites. It explains things in a decent manner that certainly worked for me, judging by the results!

ButterChicken1  ButterChicken2

I made Butter Chicken for my first attempt. This uses tandoori chicken (the nicest single foodstuff in the world) but I wasn't up for doing that entirely from scratch this time around. The supermarket didn't have any tandoori chicken ready to go though, so I bought chicken thighs (free range) and a jar of tandoori paste. Add lemon juice, salt, oil and yoghurt, mix it all up (or get wife to, as in the picture) marinate overnight in the fridge then blast in the oven to get that slightly charred surface. Then I took the chicken off the bone and used it in big chunks in the Butter Chicken recipe. I'll be doing tandoori chicken again, since it was so easy and so delicious even on its own.

ButterChicken3  ButterChicken4

I shan't bore you with the details of the recipe (or invite a copyright problem) but it wasn't crazy difficult and the results were to die for. The quality of the chicken in particular really made it stand out from usual curry house fare. I know the final picture of it on the plate just looks like an orange splat, but trust me it was great, and I couldn't be doing with garnishing with nuts and coriander sprigs.

It's actually officially Xmas now, though you'd think that had been the case since early November in some shops.

So, have a happy and healthy one, and a cracking new year!

Nearly there, and dare I say I've been quite organised about it this year. Let's hope I haven't forgotten anybody.

Walked on the beach at Sandyland near Skegness today. Apart from the wind it was really quiet mild, especially for Xmas Eve Eve.

Here's a quick example of our home baking (a bit rough and ready to look at but the best mince pies I've had this year) and the tree (artificial because it fits our small space much better – real ones tend to be very broad at the base), to make you feel Xmassy.

MincePiesJamTarts
Bauble

Last Tuesday I went to The White Lion pub (a preferred local of mine, but blimey that's a low-fi website if ever I saw one) to see the Dead Victorians. These fine chaps are quite magnificent – music hall entertainment from a bygone era crammed with interesting instruments and innuendo.

This is the second time I've seen them, in the same venue as it happens, but both times they have been a threesome, without the elusive Pedro. I don't know why, but the good Dr. Blake doesn't seem to be in any of the publicity photos and gets nary a mention on the CD (on sale that evening for the first time) whilst appearing to be a thoroughly integral part of the band on drums, many vocals, spoons, washboard etc.

I'll quite happily admit that it was seeing the Dead Victorians for the first time that tipped me over the edge and caused me to buy an accordion. It was a pleasure to see them again, though the photos I took are shamefully poor, taken as they were from the back of a crowded but dark pub with a small compact camera. The blur sitting in front of Maestro Paul on the accordion is the good doctor playing the typewriter to accompany a vigourous trombone rendition of the William Tell Overture.

DeadVictorians

In my last post I complained about just a few of the many terrible failings of First Capital Connect Thameslink. One of my bugbears was the 5-across nature of the trains – a thoroughly uncivilised way to pack people into a tin can. What do you know, the very next day the 0842 from St Albans was comprised of old Southern rolling stock (still, probably newer than all the other TL stuff) with 4 seats across, armrests, tables and even a funky coffee bar type area with rounded armchairs and stand-up tables. It was just a teaser though, with normal cramped service resumed today.

Here's what heaven looks like, courtesy of poor quality phone camera.

FCC4Across

It's always a worrying time when the train timetables change and I find out whether my commute is going to get better or worse. First Capital Connect have been promising a lot since they bought the franchise into London (I commute from St Albans to Kentish Town) but delivering little from my point of view. Today new timetables came into effect and I longed to see those "more trains", "longer trains", "disco carriage in every train" promises fulfilled. Actually I made up one of those. Actually I'd might as well have made up all of them.

My main two morning trains (I don't always get the same one) are much the same, except one is now four cars instead of eight. The reason I went for these trains in the first place was that they were eight car so I'd get to London without being crushed. Oh well.

My evening trains appear unchanged. Between 1802 and 1914 there are still no eight car trains. So I either have to leave work before six or after seven unless I want to fight for standing space.

I find it insulting that they joke about twelve car trains whilst reducing existing eight car services to four. I will find it doubly insulting in the new year when the fares leap up by inflation busting amounts same as they have each and every year before (usually 6-9%). I can only dream of the day when the whole fleet is replaced by trains with four seats across rather than five, bringing them blinking into the light of civilised society enjoyed by most of the rest of the country.

When the wife's away and you have to make dinner from the limited remains in the fridge, you end up with the extraordinary feast that is the omelette baguette. Frankly I'm pretty proud of this creation, because it was absolutely delicious and over the top. Elvis would have approved.

OmeletteBaguette 

I made a straightforward 2 egg omelette in a small non-stick frying pan, then added grated mature cheddar and thin slices of a good dried sausage before folding over and leaving long enough for the cheese to melt and all the egg to just about cook. Incidentally, I always keep a big dried sausage in the fridge as it's perfect for slicing into lots of things: omelettes, pasta, laid on top of grilled fish, pizza or just to scoff as a Dutch style snack.

The baguette was a part-baked one from Waitrose in this case. These are amazing as they have a shelf life of about a month (I don't want to know what they put in them to achieve this – I like to think it's just the airtight sterile packaging) and can be whacked in the oven for 10 minutes for fresh hot bread. Having let it cool a little I sliced it open and put my gooey omelette inside, cut into three pieces so it fit the long, narrow sandwich. I then added slices of tomato and a bit of pepper. Beautiful, but admittedly a bit of a coronary on a plate.
This is an amazing beer. It tastes like a really flavourful Chardonnay – full of oak and vanilla, with a very buttery finish. Given it's aged in American oak barrels, that's not surprising, but honestly most people would be absolutely gobsmacked when trying this beer, it's just so different to anything they will have tasted before.

It's fairly strong, like most of Innis & Gunn's range, but like all of their range, it's totally to die for. I hail their efforts as the very best beers available from the UK, if not the world!

InnisGunnBlonde