Venice By Day

Posted: April 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

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Venice At Night

Posted: April 11, 2011 in Art, Rants & Ramblings

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Currently on sale at Morrisons for £3.99 a bottle, this soft little number is an absolute bargain in my humble opinion.

Don’t be fooled by the smooth taste of this Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 from the Valle Central region of Chile, it will lull you into a false sense of security and before you know it, you’ve finished the bottle and feel a little ‘tired and emotional’ as we say.

The good news is that I have road tested a few bottles of this now and although a bottle gently ushers me into a near comatose state, it hasn’t been cruel enough to sour the experience by reminding me of the night before with one of those awful red wine headaches.

However, I must stress that as yet I haven’t just opened a bottle and started washing my tonsils with it immediately. As I may have mentioned before, I have got into the habit of decanting wine at least 2 hours before drinking it. There’s nothing nicer than a ‘premeditated’ bottle of red!  So I don’t know what it tastes like straight from the bottle so to speak.

As always, please find below a photo of this temptress and feel free to lick the screen.

Experimenting with Watercolours

Posted: March 2, 2011 in Art, Artists

A couple of weeks ago on BBC1, Shelia Hancock hosted a programme about watercolours.  It didn’t focus on how to paint using watercolours but on artists, especially Turner, who were famous for painting with watercolours.

It was a very enjoyable programme and sadly, a one-off, but it did remind me that some years ago I bought my wife a set of watercolours and she had never used them and I knew exactly where they were, which in this house is no mean feat.  The next day I got them out of the cupboard where they had been since they had been bought, dusted them off and had a go.

Being use to oils, it was a very different experience and my first 3 or 4 paintings were pretty poor.  A few days later I came across an illustration by Rene Gruau that he had done for the fashion house Dior.  I was very taken by the illustration and decided to try to paint it with the watercolours.

Now I know it’s not very artistic to ‘copy’ another piece of art but I wanted to focus on ‘how’ to paint with watercolours and not worry about ‘what’ I was painting.

I was very pleased with the end result and here it is.  Although I must say, since looking at it again, her shoulders are way to wide, poor girl. I must make them more petite if I try painting her again.

My wife asked me to cook this for dinner tonight.  It’s something I made up some time ago but had forgotten about. It’s pretty easy to cook and doesn’t take too long.  The prep takes about 15 minutes and it takes about the same amount of time to cook.  It tastes better if you do the prep early so the chicken has time to marinade. I do it about 3hrs before I want to eat but it isn’t essential, it just makes it more flavoursome.

I buy the ingredients from Waitrose because not all supermarkets stock chicken that is truly free range, and their own brand pesto is very good.

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 chicken breasts
500ml Crème Fraiche
Waitrose Green Pesto
Dried chilli flakes
Olive oil.

Cut the chicken into cubes and put into a big bowl. Sprinkle over some chilli flakes, I use about half a teaspoon, but do yours to your taste.  Crush or finely chop as much or as little garlic as you like, I love it so I use about 4 cloves and I also use one of those garlic crushers.  Pour over some olive oil, not too much, about a tablespoon or so.  You don’t want too much oil when you transfer it to the pan.  Give it a good mix up so all the chicken is covered in the oil, chilli and garlic. Leave it to marinade for a few hours if possible.

To cook:

Warm up a bowl in the oven that’s plenty big enough to hold the chicken and the crème fraiche. Heat up a shallow frying pan and when it’s hot add the chicken and fry until cooked, then put the cooked chicken into the warm bowl from the oven and put it back in the oven to keep warm while you do the sauce.

Using the same frying pan, pour in all the crème fraiche and 3 big teaspoons of the pesto, about half the jar.  The pesto keeps in the fridge for about 2 weeks after it’s opened so it won’t go to waste.

Heat up the crème fraiche and the pesto until its nice and hot, pour over the chicken in the bowl, and its ready to serve.  I usually serve it with some fresh vegetables and homemade chips.

If you try this, let me know how you get on?

Let It Breath.

Posted: September 24, 2010 in Drinks

Last night we had a friend over for dinner and my wife bought the wine when she went shopping for the food.  My wife would be the first to admt that she knows very little about wine, so she played it safe and bought a bottle of Cotes Du Rhone (picture below).

When she got home at about 4pm for some reason she decided to decant the wine into a large wine decanter we have to let it breathe.  Whilst decanting it she poured a mouthful into a glass to try it. She didn’t like it, she said it tasted acidic.

Our friend arrived and we sat down to eat at about 7.30. My wife had a sip of the wine and was amazed at how different it tasted. The acidic taste had gone and it was much, much smoother.

As I said, the wine in question was a French Cotes Du Rhone. It was from Morrisons, half price at £4.99. It has the very uninspiring name of Ramparts, which definitely would have out me off buying it, but that was two lessons learnt. One, let the wine breath for as long as possible in a proper decanter and, two, never judge a wine by its name.

Yet again, these half price wines from Morrisons are proving to be very tasty and if they do truly retail for £9.99 then they are a bargain at £4.99, but to be honest I am a little suspicious of their true retail value and I am looking into it a little further and will keep you updated on any news.

As usual, here is a picture of the poor little bugger after we’d finished with him.

The Simplest Pasta Dish In The World

Posted: September 21, 2010 in Food

I made this for dinner tonight.  I first ate this dish in an Italian restaurant and loved it, tried making it a few times myself and because it sounds so simple, I was surprised it took a few goes to get it right, but now I have, I will share it with you.

But, to like this dish you need to LOVE pasta, LOVE garlic and LOVE olive oil, obviously it helps if you buy good quality oil and only use it for dressings or dishes such as this.

(Serves 2)

Any pasta (I use spaghetti)
3 Cloves of Garlic (I told you that you need to love garlic!)
Dried or fresh Chilli, as much or as little as you can handle.
6 tablespoons of good quality Olive Oil

Once the water for the pasta is boiling, throw in the pasta and get another saucepan for the oil.  Put the oil in the pan, add the dried or fresh chilli.  If you are using fresh, make sure its very finely chopped. If you’ve got a garlic crusher, crush the garlic.  If you havent, again, chop it as finely as possible and add that to the oil as well.

Gently heat the oil. You DO NOT want to burn the garlic as this will make it bitter, so keep the heat low so the flavour of the garlic and chilli infuses into the oil.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it well and put it back in the pan, add the oil and make sure you get as much as the garlic and chilli in too.  Stir it in well and serve it immediately.

It’s that simple and takes 10 minutes.