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21 January 2015

 

White snow dying     grey

Children’s faces sad    silent

Birds sing    dreams of Spring

Fascinating to read the stats produced by the WordPress monkeys for views etc of my blogs in 2014. I had not realised just what an effect my bout of ill health had had, especially on my ‘hobby’ blog – that on classic cameras and photography and film. However, I was delighted to see that, for the most part, I had managed to maintain a reasonable presence on the blog/website I do for the village in which I live; as a service to the local community, albeit voluntary, I guess I unknowingly gave that a  lot of priority.

Here are the main points:

menstonvillagewharfedale.com  (An alternative Menston village website. Lovely place, lovely people, in Yorkshire of course)

Lofty in the Wharfe Valley38,000 views; 419 pictures published; busiest day, after I published a post about a local school concert dedicated to Nelson Mandella, had over 1,300 views. This was exceeded over a weekend when we had a classic car show in the village and had several dozen pictures from it on the blog. Almost 100% of the pictures on the blog over the year were taken specifically for and uniquely published on it.

grumpytyke.com (A view from Yorkshire, about anything)

Raluca, Alina and Ramona, l to r, with Ancuta behind. Four of the 'Bunnies', my delightful special needs class from School no.11, Suceava, in 1994. They are wearing T-shirts from a special needs school in Pensacola, Florida, with which the Bunnies did an email project (despite the headmaster's attitude which was that I was wasting my time trying to do such a thing with them. He had to eat his words, but more of that in a future post about the delights of teaching English in Romania.

3,300 views; 66 pictures published; busiest day was in November but surprisingly the post most viewed on that day was about teaching English in Romania, which had been published in February. This blog does not, of course, have a specific theme, and my impression had been that the most popular theme was food and cooking. I’m not going to change my approach: to write – on whatever takes my fancy on the day.

grumpytykepix.wordpress.com (An additional blog for my interest in film photography, ‘classic’ cameras and legacy lenses on digital)

Some of grumpytyke's film cameras

Only 2,900 views; only 6 pictures published (this astounded me and made me realise just how much I had been ‘out of it’); the busiest day was in July with 64 views but what is surprising is that, again, the post most viewed was a much earlier one, from January 2013, though which of the two themes in the post – the Contax AX camera, or ‘forbidden photography’, was the attraction, I’ve no idea. These stats will definitely prompt me to make more of an effort to post regularly on this blog, which will be helped by the recent decision not to confine themes to classic cameras and film but to broaden the approach as summed up in the final phrase of the tag line. Nevertheless, I am going to try to develop more film (and prints) – though it’s scanning, which I find a real, boring pain, which is the main problem.

As the above may be of interest in the context of the stats for their own blogs, I’ll reblog this on grumpytyke pix before, very soon, getting the tanks out and looking out the as yet undeveloped films.

By the way, many thanks to the blogger ‘Aware of the Void‘ (great photo blog) whose publication of his stats prompted me to have a look at mine.

 

 

 

New Year vies with Easter as the most important celebration in the Romanian calendar, the latter being the most important religious celebration of course. New Year’s Eve, Revelion, is an important date in our home as it is Petronela’s birthday – so ‘open house’ in accord with Romanian tradition. All are an ‘excuse’ for a magnificent feast which would please any Yorkshireman. Our tiny flat was stuffed, as were our bellies, with traditional Romanian New Year dance and celebration music as a background (see video clips links at the end of this post).

Carp skeleton

Eaten – crap remains ;) !

Carp (crap in Romanian) is one important New Year’s Eve dish and, as I reported in an earlier post, I was delighted to find one in Leeds Kirkgate market. This, at 1.5kg, simply baked in the oven for 1 hour at 180degC (in foil) with a couple of garlic cloves inside, was reserved for dinner with Romanian guests who stayed overnight for Revelion – New Year’s Eve, hogmany – celebrations. It is eaten with mujdei – mashed garlic which might be in oil, milk or water to make a sauce. Delicious – see picture!

Birthday ‘open house’ spread

Romanian food and wine for 'open house' on Petronela's birthday - the part of the spread which would fit on the table. Romanians will no doubt recognise things but there's an explanation in the text

Romanian food and wine for ‘open house’ on Petronela’s birthday – the part of the spread which would fit on the table. Romanians will no doubt recognise things but there’s an explanation in the text

While Petronela made two other important dishes the day before – salata de bouef (despite the name, no beef but piept de pui – chicken breast, cartofi – potatoes, morcovi – carrots, pastarnac – parsnip, castraveti murati – pickled cucumbers, mazare – peas, all in maioneza (mayonaise, real home-made mayonaise of course), and parjoale (Romanian meat balls), I was back to Leeds Kirkgate market to Marinela’s Romanian shop for other authentic Romanian food.

I found kaiser (cured pork), carnati taranesc (‘peasant’ sausages), salam Victoria (a salami with whole pieces of ham in a kind of firm pate), salam de Sibiu (Romania’s most famous salami from the town of Sibiu – really delicious), gogosari in otet (red bell peppers pickled in a sweet vinegar), gogonele (green tomatoes – again pickled). Also on the table are pufuleti (puffy corn bites beloved of children – like me), covrigi de Buzau – twisted bread sticks from the city of Buzau,  brezel – little salted pretzels, fursecuri – there are many types of these little sweet pastries but these are cones with Turkish delight inside, nucsoare – little walnut-shaped sweet pastries filled with a nut, cocoa and rum essence mixture, and two renowned Romanian wines, the rose Busuioaca de Bohotin (which our English guests were crazy about) and Grasa de Cotnar (again much appreciated by those of our English guests who prefer a sweet wine). Also on the table, one of our favourite Romanian red wines, 3 Hectare, and home-made (in Romania) cas – sheep’s cheese, from our freezer.

Dinner

Apart from baking the carp, my contribution to the New Year’s Eve dinner was ciorba de burta – it translates literally as ‘stomach soup’ and if that doesn’t sound very appetising then ‘tripe soup’ won’t sound much better to most people. Even many Romanians (including one of our guests) won’t eat it. It’s delicious: briefly, ox marrow bones and pig’s trotters are boiled up with some onion, garlic and root vegetables for a couple of hours; the cleaned tripe, cut into thin short strips, is simmered in the resulting liquid for an hour or so till it’s tender, then vinegar (preferably from pickled vegetables) is added. It’s finished with egg yolks and sour cream beaten together and added before serving. The best I ever ate was – would you believe it? – in the railway station at Gura Humorului in the Bucovina – but mine was pretty good. One course is friptura (grilled or fried meat); ours were chicken legs, marinaded in wine, oil, garlic and herb and spices then cooked in the oven.

Our Romanian guests brought piftie (or racituri) – basically pieces of tender cooked meat in jelly, another favourite of mine, and sarmalute (stuffed pickled cabbage leaves).

LA MULTI ANI !

Two video clips of Romanian New Year traditions (click the picture):

My goat is very proud

Picture of Marius Zgaianu with 'goat'

 

 

 

 

 

Hi little horses – let’s gallop

Picture of 'horsemen', a Romanian tradition

Boxing Day was restful: a superb walk up to the Chevin Inn for lunch. Time in the afternoon to watch again some of the great dancing in ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the New Bradford Playhouse by watching my video clips (and later to put some more pictures and video clips up on the net – see below – as promised on the village blog which I edit).

We’ve called in the Chevin many times for a drink when walking back home from Otley Chevin but have never eaten there (though we quite often ate at sister pub The Stansfield Arms when we lived close to it). The food was good – wild mushrooms and gammon steak for Petronela, chicken liver parfait and braised lamb shoulder for me. The young people serving were very pleasant and efficient, and the Timothy Taylor’s Landlord was an excellent accompaniment. All in all a good experience.

Wild mushrooms with a poached egg

Wild mushrooms, poached egg

Ham and egg, chips, onion rings

Ham and egg, chips, onion rings

Chicken Liver parfait and salad with toast and butter

Chicken liver parfait, salad

Braised lamb with minted peas and mash

Braised lamb, minted peas, mash

 

 
Ballet – A Christmas Carol
Library of the complete works of Charles Dickens, with a volume of Christmas Stories open at 'A Christmas Carol'

A pre-Christmas treat was the visit to a Christmas performance by young dance students from my village of Menston and their colleagues at Bradford Theatre Arts dance classes. I put a couple of video clips up on the village site which, of course, has concentrated on pupils from the classes in Menston village, run by Stephanie Clements for the past 20 years, but promised to put more here when Christmas cooking was over.

Apologies for the quality; I’m very much a beginner in video and as part of putting these clips up I had to teach myself a video editor (the free version of VideoPad). As is often the case, the program is very good but instructions not so. I may be able to improve the clips with time in the future. Stage lighting can be difficult for photography but it appears to me much more so with video; however, most of the faults are down to my inexperience. The one and a half hour performance was a real joy to watch and I hope some of that comes through in the following eight clips.

Ballet is very hard work and, for me, these performances contradict the frequent complaints about young people, as did the hardworking youngsters making our Boxing Day lunch so enjoyable.

Cratchit Family – http://youtu.be/9SdcIIerEU8

Lights – http://youtu.be/jm11THQecMA

Christmas Joy – http://youtu.be/yIe_EMm2cC0

Song and dance – http://youtu.be/kVXUV4E1DT4

Nic and Molly – http://youtu.be/iLoInAfCHpA

Happy Dance – http://youtu.be/EBP4nkk5ryY

Cratchit Family Dance – http://youtu.be/Xl3wRsQY6hU

Finale – http://youtu.be/LqDBNzZZfLQ

A few pictures

Click on any one to see them larger as a slideshow with captions

A beautiful crisp, sunny Yorkshire day.

(Click any picture to see it larger)

Breakfast

Roger pouring Freixenet bubbly at the breakfast table

Smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, Irish potato farls and Spanish Cava – Freixenet

Presents, Romanian carols, walk, Betty’s Hot Chocolate (present), Calvados, Queen’s Christmas message, English carols

Dinner

Roger at the cooker with prawns in the pan

Prawns, marinated in garlic, ginger, olive oil and chilli pepper for 24 hours, in the hot pan. Note the bottle

Prawns cooked - after 2 mins a side on a very hot iron pan

Prawns cooked – 2 mins a side on a very hot iron pan

Flames as prawns are flambeed in Pernod

The exciting bit – flaming Pernod. Who needs Christmas pudding?

Prawns on the table, with a lovely cold Bourgogne Aligote

Prawns on the table, with a lovely cold Bourgogne Aligote. No knives and forks for these – fingers only

Waiting for a 'chop' from the rack of wild boar; roast potatoes a la Michel Roux Jnr/Albert Bartlett; parsnip puree; red cabbage braised in red wine/wine vinegar with mixed spice; purple sprouting broccoli; 3 Hectare wine from Romania

Waiting for a ‘chop’ from the rack of wild boar; roast potatoes a la Michel Roux Jnr/Albert Bartlett; parsnip puree; red cabbage braised in red wine/wine vinegar with mixed spice; purple sprouting broccoli; 3 Hectare wine from Romania

Pavlova cappuccino, kumquat slices braised in syrup and poached peach.

Pavlova cappuccino, kumquat slices braised in syrup and poached peach.

No room for cheese! Might make a space for a bit of Colston Bassett Stilton before bed. Wensleydale, smoked Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire and Bleasedale Bewety going back in the fridge for another day.

Lazy day tomorrow; to the pub – the Chevin – for lunch! Half hour climb to prick the appetite; if necessary roll back down.

 

Christmas shopping in Leeds yesterday; it’s a great city to shop in. I find shopping on line no fun at all.

Carp for New Year (Revelion)

A handsome 1.5kg carp bought in Leeds Kirkgate market for New Year's eve dinner

A handsome 1.5kg carp bought in Leeds Kirkgate market for New Year’s eve dinner

Although I did a bit of Christmas shopping it was mainly to begin to provision for New Year as it is Petronela’s birthday (so ‘open house’ in accord with Romanian tradition) on New Year’s Eve (Revelion for Romanians, and as big a celebration as for the Scots)  and we have Romanian friends coming to stay.

I was delighted to find crap (unfortunately, in the UK, Romanian for carp) in Leeds Kirkgate market. This will make a great centre piece for New Year’s eve dinner so I’ll roast it whole rather then the more usual cut into steaks. Not so handsome as salmon but, in my opinion, far better tasting. Lots of mujdei (garlic sauce). Bought some things from Marinela’s Romanian shop in the market but I’ll be back next week for kaiser (cured pork), carnati tiganesc (cured ‘gipsy’ sausages), salam Sibiu (a superb dry Romanian salami) and salam Victoria and some Romanian wines.

Stouts and porters

Four stouts and porters - the empty bottles

Four stouts and porters – the empty bottles

We’ve got through four of the stouts and porters from The Wharfedale Beer Club so far. Top for both of us so far is an ‘old’ Yorkshire one brewed originally for the Russian Imperial Court – Samuel Smith’s (Tadcaster) ‘Imperial Stout‘ (7%). The only fault is it comes in a 355ml bottle whereas the 500ml bottle of the others is far better for sharing. ‘Vanilla Porter‘ (4%) from Hebden Bridge and ‘Dragonhead‘ (4.5%) from Orkney come a close second – difficult to split them on taste; I marginally prefer the Scottish, my wife the Yorkshire. We were not too impressed with the Hazelnut Coffee Porter (4.6%) from Saltaire – rather light and without the depth of taste of the other three.

 

Rack of Ballinwillin wild boar

Rack of Ballinwillin wild boar

Venison last year for Christmas dinner so I wondered what I could do for something different this year. I settled on wild boar from Ballinwillin House Farm in County Cork, Ireland. It arrived today, just as requested, brought by DHL (and what an excellent tracking system they have!). There are only two of us so I ordered a four bone rack; it looks great. I especially like the look of that black-speckled skin over the substantial layer of white fat. (I also ordered some belly and both wild boar and venison sausages, so bringing the total cost up to the level meriting free delivery). I will, of course, let you know how it tastes on the day.

A case of stouts and porters

Glass of Dragonhead stout with the bottle

Wonderful beer from Orkney

Another exciting arrival today – a case of stouts and porters from the newest business (apart from my own) in my village of Menston in Wharfedale, Yorkshire.

Both I and my wife like dark beers so when newly-launched the Wharfedale Beer Club offered a case of stouts and porters, delivered to the door, among an amazing range of beers from all over the world, I couldn’t resist ordering a case.

We couldn’t resist immediately trying one either, but rather than the one brewed in the heritage village of Saltaire, just down the road and where I lived as a child, we shared a bottle of Orcadian ‘Dragonhead’. Wonderful! I wonder how many of the other 11 bottles will survive until Christmas. Probably not the ‘Dia de los Muertos’, from Mexico – hope it doesn’t kill me.

To go with the boar, and before and after?

Cooked marinaded prawns

The marinaded prawns after 2-3 minutes a side on a very hot iron pan

Back to Christmas dinner, thinking of what to put with the boar and what to have as a starter and finisher (sweet, that is, before some cheese). The starter is easy: we enjoyed the prawns flambeed in Pernod, recipe from My French Heaven, so much last year we are going to have them again.

As both my wife and I like red cabbage and parsnips very much they will certainly be on the plate in one way or another with the boar. Roast potatoes, roasted in goose fat, are a must too. I’ll be taking the advice of one of the few celebrity chefs I really admire, Michel Roux Jnr; I’ve already bought the Albert Bartlett potatoes.

Pudding is always a problem when it’s just my wife and me; she doesn’t like fruit so Christmas pudding is out, but I’m not very keen on it either. Maybe some kind of cream and meringue with fruit, the latter being left off my wife’s plate. It’s a work in progress.

Cheese? Certainly some Colston Bassett Stilton and some Wensleydale. Others I’ll think more about.

 

 

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