Monday, 18 February 2008

Some Butchered Binoculars, A new grape and a Macro Camera

This was my wine last night. A very nice Rhone Valley wine made from the Tannat grape, a little used grape found in France and Uruguay wine making I'm told. I was recommended it as a one step sideways from my usual 'big' Aussie shirazs, while still being in the realm of the bold and fruity. It was lovely and full of buttery blackcurrant, I spent double the time drinking it just smelling it. Accompanying it was a Chaplin film (my dad is currently into the Chaplin collection), although I forget which one - it was about factory work and criminality, a bit disjointed and without much conclusion but enjoyable nonetheless.
[Chateau d'Aydie, Madiran - between £8 and £9 in Nicolas]

As you can see from my picture above the quality of my new digital camera at close range is not great (even though it is a 7 megapixel and supposedly has a macro function). I was wondering over this and thinking I may have to take it back to argos (it was only around £50 but seeing as I got it for blogging I really need it to be able to do macro). Ever the engineer I decided I would give modifying it a go before resorting to such drastic measures as searching for the receipt, and what a success!

Here is a photo of some saffron before my modifications:

As you can see the saffron, which I am trying to take the photo of, is completely blurred but the stuff in the background is in focus. This is the cameras 'macro' setting.

Here is a photo (taken on the camera of my eepc) of my modified camera along with the pair of binoculars that I had to rip apart to get a lens - it started with me trying to do it without breaking anything but in the end I had to split some plastic. Now I have an awkwardly shaped telescope.

The lens is stuck on with electrical tape which I have stuck double thickness, sticky bit to sticky bit, and then attached to the camera with blu-tak, so that I don't get the sticky stuff from the tape on the camera permenantly.

Anyway, importantly here is the resulting photograph. I am very impressed how much clearer it is than before (even though I didn't do it with very great lighting):

All in all, a success, and definitely worth breaking my binoculars which, lets face it, were very cheap from a market in Palafrugel, Spain, several years ago and which I've only ever used twice.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Cape Grace - Chardonnay Semillon

Here's my wine for tonight (I realise that the last post was also posted tonight, it was in fact started on saturday but I only finished it today). It is a Cape Grace Chardonnay - Semillon from South Africa.. and Somerfield, again. It is pretty drinkable, but not overwhelmingly full of flavour. In fact, I couldn't name a flavour at all at first drink. I checked the online reviews (I always feel like I'm cheating or something doing this, but my flat mates aren't exactly into tasting what they consume, at least not enough to be bothered to try and describe it, so it's the closest I've got to having someone to bounce ideas off) and it was described as a pear tasting wine. I'm sorry I just couldn't taste it.

That is, I couldn't taste it until I had had a mouthful of my meal (thyme rainbow trout with rosemary new potato mash). The slurp I had after this was full of fruit , especially pear, flavours. I'm back to drinking it sans food now and, though it's drinkable, there's nothing much going on again. How interesting!

This wine is obviously one that is great with food, but on it's own lacks much punch. I continue to learn, and be utterly amazed.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Terra Organica - Bonarda Sangiovese

I had a really interesting wine the other day. It was interesting because it made me change the way I thought about wine. This happens every few wines I drink at the moment, as I have decided that I don't know enough about wine (although I know a fair bit about cocktails and spirits) so am very early on in my learning 'adventure'. In fact I had a couple of really interesting white wines today as well, but I'll mention that later.

It was a Bonarda Sangiovese from Argentina.. and somerfield. I had decided I would go above the usual £5-7 mark but then this one caught my eye (at a fiver I think) and so I thought, what the hell, I know nothing about either of these grapes.

First taste and I thought, hmm this is interesting - it's not got much of an obviously apparent taste, but it is very drinkable. I couldn't put a name to any of the tastes I was experiencing so I had to look the wine up. I looked up Sangiovese in the Matt Skinner book, as it didn't have bonarda. He described it as earthy, which I could agree with, but it isn't a flavour you can grab hold. Let me explain that until now I have been a fan of really big, fruity wines - my favourite being big Australian Shirazs.

I looked up this particular wine on the web and discovered a great site called love wine which allows me to look up the particular wines in my local supermarket. It described it as a having cherry flavours, which I can accept but wouldn't jump to automatically, but more importantly said that it was great with something like a steak, as it cut through the fats. This I could see as completely true, of course that was what this wine was for, how could I have not seen it before?

So my revelation, sort of, was that different wines can be like completely different drinks. I wouldn't make the same cocktail to sit and drink on its own than I would make to say, accompany a steak, or a salad or whatever. Wine is like this too and so now, after this one wine, I have started to look at the wines I drink as completely different drinks, as opposed to in contrast to each other.


P.S. The whites that I mentioned at the start of this post were two very fruity (one overwhelmingly strawberry and the other peachy), not sweet but very well balanced ones that I tried while watching the sun set across the Firth of Forth (as always, setting is at least half of the experience). This experience made me stop thinking of white wine as something that I had tried but just didn't see the attraction and start thinking of it as a drink as complex and interesting taste wise as red wine.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

TGRWT #9 - Well.... this is fun!

Well, this flavour pairing thing is interesting isn't it!

I apologise profusely, before I get started, for the terrible photography in this post. I'm an avid fan of film photography over digital, but since 15 films of photos (of an unrepeatable extended family get together) were lost in the post I've been kind of reluctant to pick up my camera. I think I'll have to give in and get a digital one. Basically, these photos have been taken by the webcam on my eeepc, so absolutely no macro whatsoever. Anyway...

It was pancake day on tuesday. I started making a pancake for breakfast and had just put some saffron in, just to see how it would go (I've yet to be totally convinced by it) and then remembered the parmesan and chocolate/cocoa foodmatch.. so I shoved in some chocolate and then shaved some parmesan onto the finished pancake. Disgusting!... but it made me wonder.

Here's the finished product, and a sort of recipe, after which are musings on what I can improve - as this is by no means a finished recipe, more an idea to expand on.

Chocolate Pancakes/Blinis
1 medium egg
10g chocolate powder
50g plain chocolate -melted
Whisk egg, chocolate and powder. Add flour until a thick paste then add milk until the consistency of chocolate ice cream sauce... if you know what I mean.

Parmesan & White chocolate Sauce
Finely ground parmesan
50g white chocolate
vegetable oil

Melt chocolate and add parmesan and pepper. Thin with vegetable oil until a "saucy" consistency

The chocolate pancakes worked out pretty well, in fact I will probably use them next time I need an interesting savoury blini thing - would be a great idea for an interesting canapee. The sauce itself demonstrated how well parmesan and chocolate go well together, which was interesting as white chocolate seems sweeter than others so I thought that it would be more difficult to go put together with cheese.

Here are my notes for possible improvement:

I used chicken boiled in apple juice - an idea that, sadly, didn't really have much effect on the chicken - for my meat. I was really looking for something more interesting but just couldn't think of anything. I will of course keep experimenting with this dish idea, as it definitely has promise, I just wanted to get this post out within a crows spit of pancake day (as it was there that the idea occured).

The flavours are very delicate and really I would like a way of beefing them up. I could have used a lot more parmesan than I did and more salt in both the sauce and the pancakes. The big problem is that while I can beef up the sauce by adding more parmesan and pepper this then makes the pancakes almost unnoticeable.

Another problem is that the sauce is grainy. I started by using grated parmesan, which was far to grainy. This time I grated then finely ground the parmesan.. however it was still too grainy. I will have a look around the other blogs and see how they got around this.

Anyway, I've rambled on for far too long. Any suggestions then leave me a comment.