Dr John Hawkins
Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff,
home to a huge load of pictures,
and my daily blog.
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- Recent Entries:
- Beer, Curry, Whisky
Burgers and Amelie
Stone Henge and Salisbury
St. Paul's and St. Moritz
Thai Green Curry
Sushi with Gav
Curry and Cakes
Bland Weekend Part II
Bland Weekend Part I
St. Blaise's Day
One of those days
- Beer, Curry, Whisky
- [Thursday 24th February]
The girls went out to play pool somewhere, so I had a night off from my usual cooking duties. I took advantage of this opportunity to go for a couple of beers with Kev, after which we went and got a take away curry from Ali's. We rounded this off with a couple of choice whiskies - the SMWS Caol Ila (cask 53.89) and for a special treat a quick nip of the Fortnum and Mason Port Ellen.
- [Wednesday 23rd February]
Made Mexican food for the girls. Everyone came back quite late today, which was good in the end as it gave me plenty of time to cook so I could really go to town. We had vegetable fajitas with a kind of chilli and lime sauce which was very nice. Also I made a small pan of chilli, some salsa, guacamole, and had the usual trimmings - sour cream, some cheese, salad, etc. I think the whole thing went down rather well - there certainly wasn't much left to speak of by the end of dinner, despite me having been fairly convinced I'd made too much to start with. Just watched TV after eating. Quite enjoyed "Jamie's School Dinners", I have to admit - nice to see someone in his position trying to do something positive for society like that. After that watched Desparate Housewives, which Chie appears to have become hooked on. I suppose I ought to own up to a certain liking for it myself as well.
- Burgers and Amelie
- [Tuesday 22nd February]
Made burgers for dinner for the girls. Vegetarian of course. This seemed to go down rather well - it's funny, sometimes the simplest / laziest of meals end up being the most popular. I couldn't help but admire the conviction with which Yuka and Miho applied sauce to their respective burgers. Truly inspiring. After dinner we watched Amelie on DVD - partly as a preparation for our forthcoming trip to Paris. I'm not sure exactly what Yuka and Miho made of it - we had the French audio with English subtitles, so it must have been a bit hard work for them. I, as ever, absolutely loved it, and I guess even if you can't understand a word anyone is saying, it is such a visually stunning film that you have to enjoy at least some of it.
- [Monday 21st February]
Made dinner for the girls - Porcini risotto with grilled asparagus, black truffle and shavings of parmesan. I was rather pleased with it to be honest, although as ever the truffles did not quite provide the level of gastronomic ecstacy I was hoping for. I am becoming quietly convinced that there is in fact some kind of conspiracy afoot, and the sorts of legendary truffles that make grown men weep either don't exist, or are just never made available to the likes of me. Finished off my bottle of Caol Ila 12 year old after dinner, and was reminded what an utterly fantastic whisky this is - in fact this is quite possibly my favourite Islay malt at the moment.
- Stone Henge and Salisbury
- [Sunday 20th February]
Made a full English breakfast, to set ourselves up for the day, before heading out. Took Yuka and Miho to see Stone Henge. Not perhaps the best of days to have done this - it was bloody freezing! After that we headed over to Salisbury to take a look at the cathedral, and then meandered home. When we got back I made a sort of roast meal with some pies and roast potatoes, parsnips, etc.
- [Saturday 19th February]
Went with Chie, Yuka and Miho for a daytip to the Cotswolds. Started off at Burford, then proceeded on to Bourton-on-the-Water (including a wander around the model village), then Upper and Lower Slaughter, Stow-on-the-Wold briefly, Chipping Campden (personally my favourite) and finally back down to Burford again for a spot of afternoon tea at Huffkins. Having gorged ourselves at teatime none of us were particularly hungry when we got back home, so we had a late and light dinner - I knocked up a quick batch of home made pesto to go with some spaghetti, and the girls had soup.
- St. Paul's and St. Moritz
- [Friday 18th February]
Took the afternoon off work to go into London with Yuka and Miho. Made okonomiyaki for lunch before setting off. Spent an hour or two in St. Paul's, climbed right to the top and everything. Then went for a mini pub tour - Ye Olde Mitre, followed by my whisky club, and then a quick pop into The Cittie of Yorke. Headed back towards the centre for dinner, where we met up with Chie at St. Moritz and enjoyed some rather fine Swiss cuisine.
- [Thursday 17th February]
Today was quite a busy day. I went to ITV in the daytime with Simon for a proof-of-concept demo which, after some initial "issues" actually went rather well. On the way back, we managed to time it pretty well so we could swing by Heathrow and pick up Yuka and Miho (Chie's sister and her friend) en route. We then transferred to Chie's car at Simon's house and did a quick visit to a supermarket before heading back home. I then whizzed round and knocked up a quick dinner for the four of us before more or less collapsing from exhaustion at about 10 o' clock. Knackered, but with a definite sense of achievement.
- Thai Green Curry
- [Wednesday 15th February]
It was a bit of a crazy day at work - to cut a long story short I was trying to test a system involving four or five separate units, and every single one of them, was at some time or other being used by somebody else for testing an entirely different system, which made what I had to do nigh-on impossible. To top it all off the router, which was the crux of the whole test rig, was, without any warning, shipped off to Germany around 4 o' clock. I just gave up at this point. I noted with some satisfaction that I just had a month left of my notice period now.
Anywho, after work me and Chie went to the supermarket, and decided whilst there to make Thai Green Curry for dinner. We put quite a lot in it - garlic, ginger, green chillis, green curry paste, atsuage, mushrooms, carrots, runner beans, red peppers, tenderstem broccoli and of course plenty of coconut milk. This came out rather well, although in all honesty I wasn't totally convinced about the Jerusalem artichoke Chie was pretty insistent on adding. This was served with Thai sticky rice which we'd bought from a delicatessen a while back, and was also very nice indeed.
- Valentine's Day
- [Monday 14th February]
To be honest I generally despise Valentine's Day. For a start, as if often pointed out, it's meaning has been twisted from the business of anonymous cards and secret admirers to a day when you have to follow a predetermined pattern of being forcibly romantic with your other half. Then of course there's the commercial side - yet another excuse for card sellers and the like to make money The other thing that really irritates me is the competition element of it. I'm convinced the actual main event is the day after, when women get together and gossip about what their man did or didn't do for them... and then secret league tables are drawn up, and you get dirty looks in the street from unknown women ever after if you didn't put in the prequisite amount of effort to get a pass grade. This competition factor is particularly accute if you go out for a meal on Valentine's Day - what you basically have is a collection of couples spending the whole night discretely observing each other in a restaurant, trying to reassure themselves that their relationship is less disfunctional than the others. Restaurants really ought to hire a pair of actors to sit in slience at a table in the middle, and occasionally stare frostily at each other, to put everyone else at their ease.
Anyway, all of that said, it is of course impossible to declare to your girlfriend/fiance/wife/whatever that you're just not going to do Valentine's Day this year. Luckily Chie is pretty against eating out on Valentine's Day too, more for financial reasons - she gets really annoyed that a lot of places basically serve the same old shit but for more money than usual (because men don't want to look mean in front of their dining partner, and so would pay the bill regardless of how much they hiked the prices up). Besides, without wanting to sound arrogant (but I'm going to) it is rare these days that we eat out and I think I couldn't do it better myself.
So, I decided I would cook for Chie, and luckily as she went to the gym after work I had plenty of time to cook, tidy up and even decorate the flat a bit. I made the front room look like a sort of bistro, by re-arranging and removing bits of furniture, doing a UKTV Style-esque job with creative lighting and I even put up a few balloons. I put quite a bit of effort into the meal, and have to say I was rather pleased with it. We started with french onion soup with a big cheese topped crouton, lasagne for the main course, and then a chocolate cheesecake for dessert. This was accompanied by a bottle of rose champagne which was rather nice. All in all a very nice evening, whilst skillfully managing to avoid all the usual hatefulness of Valentine's Day.
- [Sunday 13th February]
Breakfast was somewhat less glamorous than the previous day's - beans on toast. In the afternoon we popped into Reading for a bit to do a spot of shopping - I wanted to get Chie something for the dreaded Valentine's Day which was on our doorstep. In the evening, unusually Chie suggested we should get an Indian takeaway (it's normally me that wants to do this, and Chie complains about the money / health implications). Didn't do much the rest of the day, just watched telly I think.
- Lazy Saturday
- [Saturday 12th February]
Spent the daytime lolling around the house not doing very much, which suprisingly wasn't too bad actually. Had a Japanese breakfast (rice, miso soup, tamago, natto - the works), and spent quite a lot of the day tidying up for Yuka's (Chie's sister) forthcoming visit. Chie went out with some Japanese friends in the evening, and I opted to stay in, whilst also acting as a chauffeur service for her on the way there and back. I spent the evening not doing much really. Ordered in a rediculously oversized pizza. Watched a bit of a couple of DVDs but couldn't really be bothered to watch any through to the end.
- [Friday 11th February]
Felt generally yucky and unwell all day. In the evening I just about mustered enough effort to throw together a simple meal for me and Chie - a kind of a hotpot. This was largely a mushroom stew, but the supposed hotpot title comes from the fact there were potatoes on top. I'm pretty sure your average Lancastrian would scoff at this imposter, but I actually thought it was quite good.
- Sushi with Gav
- [Thursday 10th February]
If I recall correctly this was a completely unplanned night out, where I was determined to get out and do something for the evening, and thankfully my friend Gav was at a loose end too. So I headed over to Oxford for a spot of dinner and a few drinks with Gav. Went to the rather excellent Edamame, which, as luck would have it, has a sushi night on a Thursday. I particularly enjoyed the avocado gunkan sushi and the raw tofu. This is a great little place and definitely worth a visit if ever you're in Oxford.
After that went on a short impromptu pub crawl, taking in some of my now favourite pubs in Oxford - the Turf, the Bear and the Wheatsheaf. Rounded off the evening by going to some club or other, don't particularly remember the name.
- Curry and Cakes
- [Wednesday 9th February]
At Chie's request I made a curry for dinner, sort of sag aloo (kale, potatoes and Quorn stuff). Afterwards I had a strong craving for chocolate cake, and so, highly unusually for me, I decided to do some baking. Although I cook just about every day, I'm much more of a main courses and starters person, and very rarely make dessert - particularly not one that involves baking. Still I had a bash at making sort of cup cakes. We didn't have any of those little paper case things so they came out a funny shape, but were very nice nonetheless.
- [Tuesday 8th February]
Went to the cinema to watch Closer, yet another film with Jude Law in. I can't say I really enjoyed it, but I suppose I did find it sort of thought provoking.... and as ever it is nice to see a film set in London. Had a very quick dinner before going out - some fresh pasta we'd picked up in Marks and Spencers the other day, with pesto, which was quite nice.
- [Monday 7th February]
Had a very lazy dinner - a ready made pizza we'd bought in the supermarket, plus a bit of salad. Put some brie in the salad for a change, which was quite nice.
- Bland Weekend Part II
- [Sunday 6th February]
In an attempt to avert the blandness of the previous day, I decided we ought to go out for lunch somewhere. Predictably we didn't get up particularly early, so it was already gone 12 before we left the house. In total we went to five different pubs, all of which were full to the brims (with the exception of one which didn't have anything vegetarian), and finally gave up on the idea around 2ish. Instead we went to the supermarket and bought some bits and pieces to make a roast meal at home. Eventually ate at dinner time, and I have to say it was probably much better than anything we'd have got in a pub. After that the evening was pretty bland, don't remember much about it.
- Bland Weekend Part I
- [Saturday 5th February]
Got up late, and went into town towards the end of the afternoon, as I wanted to have dim sum. We ended up being too late for the dim sum place (closes at 4). I really wasn't in the mood for shopping either. Had a Lebanese meal back at home, involving some Lebanese bread we'd bought at the delicatessen, and some flagolet beans that I'd bought a while back. Not bad I suppose.
- [Friday 4th February]
In the evening went into London (again!) to see CAKE play at the Astoria. They've been one of my absolute favourite bands for years now, and amazingly this is the first time I've ever seen them live. Naturally, I had an absolutely fantastic evening. There's a more extensive review here...
- St. Blaise's Day
- [Thursday 3rd February]
On a bizarre whim, I took the afternoon off work to go to a church. Yes, you read that right. Following on from my recent Burns Night, I'd been rather keen on finding an obscure day of the year to have an excuse for a celebration. I thought perhaps a Saint's day might be a good place to look. So obviously there's St. Patrick's Day, but that's already widely celebrated, and a bit of a cliche. St. George's and St. Andrew's days don't seem to have much happening, so these seemed both like potential candidates... but I wanted to go even more obscure than this. So after a bit of searching on the web, I happened upon February 3rd - St. Blaise's Day. St. Blaise (or Blase) was "famous" for removing a fishbone from a child's throat apparently, so has become a sort of patron saint of people with sore throats. Having had a sore throat for a while, this had already caught my eye... but better still, it seemed the only place that celebrated this was St. Etheldreda's Church in London where they hold a "Blessing of the Throats" ceremony. This just happens to be next door to one of my absolute favourite pubs (Ye Olde Mitre), and just round the corner from the Whisky Society. In fact the Whisky Society use the crypt at St. Etheldreda's for some of their functions. So the overall level of appropriateness (if that is a word) was just too hard to resist.
I arrived at the church around 2ish, and found I'd already missed the ceremonies - there was one held at 8am and one at 1pm. Still, I did have a look around the interior, which I hadn't seen before, and is very nice indeed. Somehow just being there on the correct day seemed sufficient to satisfy my interest in this bizarre event. Naturally after this entirely wholesome action, I had to bring about some kind of balance by going for a few drinks. I started off in Ye Olde Mitre, which was as downright other-worldly (and yet lovely) as ever. From there I went for a bit of a wander, and happened across a modern but still very nice little pub/restaurant called the Gunmakers. A further wander and I found another interesting little pub called The Jerusalem Tavern. To round off the afternoon I headed over to my club and had a selection of very interesting malts - a Hakushu, followed by a Bowmore, and then an unusually Ardbeg.
I headed back at 5 something to meet up with Chie. In the evening we went out for a curry with Nozaki and a couple of his students, as a sort of congratulations meal for them handing in their dissertations, or something like that. I didn't totally understand, but the curry was very good indeed.
Took a few pictures during the day...
- [Wednesday 2nd February]
Went to the doctor's in the morning, about my knee and my throat, only to be told they'd just get better my themselves. As for the evening, not much to report. Had jacket potatoes for dinner, and didn't do anything else of any really interest.
- One of those days
- [Tuesday 1st February]
Today started off looking fairly reasonable, with the exception of Chie being a bit unwell, but as the morning wore on and the afternoon took hold it began to spiral downwards into a crappy day of fairly epic proportions. I had become very annoyed on hearing about a new home office ruling (see here) that would mean as of today me and Chie would have to pay 135 pounds for a special "certificate of approval" in order to get married. This by itself I could have just about dealt with, but when combined with a project at work going rather badly (everything falling apart at the customer's site), and the final straw - the estate agents phoning out of the blue to suggest increasing my rent - I was dangerously close to losing my temper.
After the peak of sheer hatefulness this Tuesday had achieved around 4:30, things did start to cool off and improve. The work related stuff seemed to sort itself out - as is usually the case with these things, and the rent issue was resolved following a nice chat with my landlady. Chie seemed to have got better by the time I got home, and so I was just left with a general feeling of malice towards the home office, which I decided quite wisely to shelve as a battle for another day. Had a slightly strange dinner - these Quorn fillet thingies, with some ratatouille, and boiled potatoes in soy sauce and better.
- Stir Fry
- [Monday 31st January]
Went for a quick pint (at the Greyhound for a change) with David, Rich and Kev after work. For dinner I made a kind of stir fry with some Korean aburage and a lot of broccoli, which turned out surprisingly well. Didn't do much after that.
- Stayed In
- [Sunday 30th January]
Didn't leave the flat all day, and didn't do very much in particular either. Had a strange sort of brunch affair involving potato wedges and a Japanese omelette. Around teatime had a toasted sandwich. For dinner had roast potatoes and pies.