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Monday, 29 August 2016

Monday Munchies: Indian Spiced Lamb Steaks and Carrot Salad



Ingredients:

2 lamb steaks
2 carrots
1 red chilli
a bunch of fresh coriander
15g sultanas
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp sesame seeds
the juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil

For the indian spice mix:
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 chilli powder
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves


The Method:

combine all the spices in a bowl to make the indian spice mix. Coat the lamb steaks in olive oil and then rub the spice mix in and make sure the steaks are covered on all sides. You can either pan fry the steak or cook them under a hot grill. I chose to pan fry them for around 4 mins each side.


Whilst the steaks are cooking, cover the sultanas with boiled water (or lamb stock for extra flavour) and leave until they become plump and juicy. Toast the sesame seeds and cumin seeds in a dry pan for few minutes until slightly brown and then leave to cool. Peel and grate the carrots and add to a mixing bowl. Coarsely chop most of the coriander (leave a little bit for garnish) and add this to the bowl of carrots. Then add the olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice and the sesame seeds, cumin seeds and the sultanas and the salad is done.


By now the steaks should be done, so put these on a plate to rest for a few minutes. Now I did cheat a bit here and used pre made parathas which just needed to be heated under a grill for 1 minute each side. Next slice the lamb into strips, chop the chilli and tear the remaining coriander and sprinkle over the lamb.

To assemble to paratha add some of the salad to the paratha and a few strips of lamb on top then drizzle some yoghurt on and enjoy.



Well, that's all for now.

S


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Saturday, 27 August 2016

Time for Change: Back on it.

Ok I've been a bit naughty recently and I've fallen off the healthy wagon. To be fair I have had two holidays, two festivals, a wedding and my birthday. I've not been as bad as I used to be but I've also not been good. That being said in the 7 weeks I've not been watching what I eat I have still managed to lose 1lb. I know this isn't much but I was totally expecting to have put about half a stone back on, so #winning.

I think I managed this as I kept up my walking as much as I could. This was helped by the fact our car went kaput so had no choice but to walk most places. We have a new car now but with the kids going back to school in 2 weeks time I'm going to walk them to school which will mean around 4 1/2 miles walking each day. I have another wedding to go to at the end of September so my new goal is to lose 1/2 stone before then. I know if I set out with the same gusto I did when I started this journey a few months ago then I will hit this target.

So, what have I been up to in the last 7 weeks. Well 1st I had a holiday to Calella de Palafrugell, we had some amazing food here and did lots of walking (which you can read about here).


After we returned to England it was only a couple of weeks until we went the Corbridge festival (you can read Mrs Cools review of the festival here). There were loads of food venders there and I finally got a taste for Cider after a few people were saying I should give it a go.


Then it was only a week until I went to wedding and it was my birthday. The food at the wedding was amazing and I had a lot to drink but I did plenty of dancing so that would have burned off a lot of the extra calories. For my birthday we went to The Red House (see here) on Newcastle's Quayside. I had the Chicken, Gammon and Leek pie, it was friggin' lush.


After my birthday it was only week until our next holiday, camping at Loch Ness, we had BBQ one night and the next morning I had a full english from the campsite cafe.


After Loch Ness we then only had a couple of weeks until we went to the Just So Festival. Again there were some amazing food venders but there was a lot to see and the festival site was spread over a large are so again there was plenty of walking. My foodie highlight of the festival was the Chicken Koti Chaat I had from the Chaat Cart.


So that takes us right up to date and now I need to get back to doing more exercise and healthier meals. I'm going to start posting more regularly about my weight loss so look out for an update every other Saturday.

Well, that's all for now.

S

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Thursday, 25 August 2016

Suicide Squad: A Review

Alright, Everyone needs to chill their beans about the DC Movie Universe. When Batman V Superman came out it was heavily criticised, if you read my review (which you can find here) you will know I found this completely unwarranted. Suicide Squad came out a couple of weeks ago and it too has been receiving negative reviews and again this is uncalled for.

If you look at the history of superhero/comic book movies they are overwhelmingly poor. For every Deadpool you will get X-men Origins or The Wolverine, for every Dark Knight there is a Dark Knight Rises or Batman and Robin and for every Avengers Assemble there is a Hulk or Ironman 3.  I could list at lot more superhero movies that were phenomenally bad (Fantastic Four anyone?) but Suicide Squad is not one of them.

That being said I wouldn't put it in the same category as Deadpool or the Dark Knight, it is good but not THAT good. It does have some problems but the tour de force that is The Joker (Jared Leto) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) let me forget the problems and just enjoy the nonsense.


The main plot is pretty generic, a group of misfits are brought together by an unscrupulous government agent Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis) as a black ops team to deal with any future Meta-Human (or extra terrestrial) threat. The Enchantress a centuries old which who possess the body of a archeologist (Cara Delevigne) who was under the control of Amanda Waller but has escaped and is making a weapon to destroy all of humanity's military and turn ordinary humans into sort of mutant soldiers.


Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) is the special forces guy in charge of the squad, he is in love with Cara Delevigne's character. The squad itself is introduced fairly quickly with flashbacks telling you who they are and how they ended up in jail. There are cameos in this act from Batman and the Flash which ties this movie in with the other DCU films. Some members get more attention than others, Slipknot is mentioned only fleetingly, Katana is only brought in halfway through the film. Killer Croc, Captain Boomerang and El Diablo get more time but it's Deadshot's back story that gets the most attention. Deadshot is the best assassin in the world and supposed to be a bad dude but because it's Will Smith playing him he comes across as a decent guy.

Harley Quinn also gets a lot of time to flesh out her back story. We're shown how Dr Harleen Quinzel fell in love with The Joker while treating him and how he got inside her head and tortured her until she became the unhinged Harley Quinn. The Joker is fiercely protective of Harley Quinn and the pair ruled the criminal underworld of Gotham City until Batman captured Harley.


A secondary plot is a jailbreak whereby The Joker is trying to rescue Harley Quinn. The Joker is the best thing about Suicide Squad, he does't get enough screen time but when he does he is brilliant. Jared Leto plays a completely different Joker than Heath Ledger, he is more a criminal kingpin rather than a terrorist as in The Dark Knight but he is just as psychotic. I've heard there was a lot of unused footage of the Clown Prince of Crime so I'm hoping these will be extras on the Blu-Ray release and I hope that when the Ben Affleck Batman movie is made that this Joker is the protagonist.


Something else that is great about this film is the soundtrack. Not since Guardians of the Galaxy have I been so impressed with a soundtrack. House of the Rising Sun, Sympathy for the Devil, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, just a few of the killer songs used.

If you're a movie snob and are expecting to get emotionally moved by a film you will hate Suicide Squad. This is the type of film where you just need to switch your brain off for a couple hours and enjoy the ride. If you want lots of explosions, gun fights and fun, stupid over the top action sequences then you will probably like Suicide Squad. Sometimes in life you need a fun, stupid movie.



Well, that's all for now.

S

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Monday, 22 August 2016

Monday Munchies: Chicken and pepper enchiladas

I love Mexican food. I've already posted my recipes for Huevos Rancheros here and a healthy Meat-free Chilli here and now here is a recipe for chicken and pepper enchiladas.

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts
1 and half peppers
6 tortilla wraps
Cheese, grated (as much as you like)

For the Spice mix:
2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

For the Enchilada sauce:
1 can of chopped tomatoes
2 1/2 tbsp o chilli powder
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

The Method:

The spice mix and sauce you can make in advance and in bulk if you like enchiladas often and all you need to do is mix the ingredients for each together and then they're done. For the enchiladas start by chopping the chicken and peppers into strips. Heat some oil in a hot pan and put the chicken in until brown. Once done add the peppers and cook for a few more mins and then add the spice mix and cook for a further 2 mins and then you have your enchilada filling.



When the filling is ready it's time to assemble the enchiladas. First oil the baking tray you are going to use. Next spoon some of the filling onto one of the tortillas and then add some grated cheese. Fold the wrap and place in the baking tray with the fold facing down. Repeat the process until you have done all 6 wraps.


Next spread your enchilada sauce evenly over all of the wraps and then sprinkle more grated cheese on top of the sauce.


Now bake in the oven at 220ºc (200ºc fan) for 25 minutes until the tortillas have gone crispy and the the cheese has melted.


Let me know what you think of my enchiladas and what your favourite Mexican food is.

Well, that's all for now.

S

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Thursday, 18 August 2016

Star Trek Beyond: A Review

As you may have guessed from my previous reviews I am a bit of a geek. Although I'm not a full on trekker I do enjoy Star Trek and I've passed my geek genes onto my son Harry as he also loves a bit of Trek. We were both delighted recently when Netflix added The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and the TNG movies to their catalogue and Harry has been making his way through them to get up to speed on all things in the Alpha Quadrant. We loved the 2009 Star Trek reboot and really enjoyed 2013's Star Trek into Darkness so when the sequel Star Trek Beyond was announced we were both super excited and today we popped along to our local cinema to finally watch it. I don't want to give too much away so here's the jist.


The film starts with Kirk on a diplomatic assignment as the Enterprise is just over halfway through it's five year mission. After the assignment goes wrong the Enterprise heads to a new advanced space station to reprovision its supplies. We find out Kirk is struggling with the monotony of day to day life on board and has applied for a promotion to Vice Admiral. We also find out that Spock Prime has recently died (a nice little tribute to Leonard Nimoy) and Spock is planning on leaving Starfleet to help rebuild Vulcan society.

Around the same time an out of control escape pod heads towards the space station. The survivor on board tells of how her main ship headed into an unexplored nebula and crashed on a deserted planet and ask for help to rescue any survivors. Captain Kirk and the crew are given the task of mounting a rescue mission. However they will be cut off from all communication once they enter the nebula.

Soon after they arrive at the planet they are attacked by an unknown ship and the Enterprise is almost completely destroyed and the crew need to abandon ship. Most of the crew are taken hostage by the demonic looking Krall (played by Idris Elba), Scotty manages to hide inside a torpedo and shoots himself at the planet, Bones and Spoke escape together and Kirk and Chekov remain behind to try and get whats left of the Enterprise onto the planet.


Spock is seriously injured and luckily he is with the ships doctor who quickly sorts him out. Scotty finds a survivor from a previously attacked ship called Jaylah who takes him back to her 'House' as she calls it to help fix a few things. Her house turns out to be the USS Franklin and early Starfleet ship that went missing 100 years earlier. After they find each other again they come up with a plan to rescue the rest of the crew and use the USS Franklin to escape.


Meanwhile, Uhura and Sulu find out Krall is a warrior who is hell bent on bringing war to the galaxy. He is planning on using an ancient weapon to kill everyone on the space station and then use the technology therein to attack all of the other systems in the quadrant.

I won't give the ending away so you'll have to go see it to find out what happens. Although I liked the last Star Trek film I was a little disappointed with it and after seeing the trailer I wasn't expecting much from this film but I couldn't have been more wrong, This is a really great sci-fi film. The special effects are incredible as you would expect. The villain Krall is genuinely threatening and even though Idris Elba is unrecognisable he gives a performance that is always captivating. There are some lighter moments too, the banter between Bones and Spock is funny as as well as the interaction between Scotty and Jaylah (who I think steals the show). There is also a good twist at the end.

I've heard there is going to be a 4th film in this series and there has also been a new TV series of Star Trek announced so things are looking good in the future for trekkers the world over.

Well, That's all for now.

S

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Monday, 15 August 2016

Monday Munchies: Perfect Picnic Spelt and Lamb Meatballs

Every couple of weeks we get a food box from Gousto. You order the meals you want and all of the ingredients and a recipe card are delivered to your door. The produce is always good quality and I've been impressed with all of the recipes we have had so far.

Here is one of my recent favourites, Perfect Picnic Spelt with Lamb Meatballs.

Ingredients:

200g of british lamb mince
1 beef stock cube
2 garlic cloves
10g of fresh tarragon
1 british free range egg
150g of organic greek yoghurt
30g of dried cranberries
120g of spelt
1 tsp of ground cumin seeds
1 tsp of ground coriander seeds
1 tsp of lemony sumac
30g of panko breadcrumbs
1 spring onion


The Method:

This is ridiculously easy to make. First put the spelt in a pan of boiling water and leave it for around 20 minutes. In the meantime roughly chop the cranberries and garlic cloves and put them in a large mixing bowl. Crumble in the stock cube with the lamb mince, breadcrumbs, egg, cumin, coriander and 2/3 of the sumac.



Mash all of the ingredients together with your hands and mould it into 6 meatballs (or you can probably get away with making 8 smaller meatballs).



Put the meatballs onto an oiled baking tray and cook in the oven for 15 minutes at 220ºC (200ºC fan). Whilst these are cooking finely chop the tarragon (including stalks) and the spring onion  and mix the yoghurt with 1 tbsp of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.


By now the spelt and meatballs should be done. Stir the tarragon and spring onion into the spelt and season with salt and pepper (to make the spelt extra unctuous stir in a tbsp of olive oil). Spread the spelt out onto a plate and put a helping of the yoghurt on top and then the meatballs on top of the yoghurt. Sprinkle on the rest of the sumac for garnish.



This is a delicious meal and not too heavy so works great for a lunch or (as the title suggest) it can be taken as a picnic snack as an alternative to soggy cucumber sandwiches.

Well, that's all for now.

S

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Thursday, 11 August 2016

Hadrians Wall: My favourite spots

Growing up in Wallsend only a mile or so from Segedunum, The final fort along Hadrians Wall, Roman Britain has always been an interest of mine. My wife and I recently took our 3 kids on a trip along some of my favourites spots along the wall.

We decided to take the Go North East AD122 bus (named after the year Emperor Hadrian visited Britain to begin construction of the wall) as it stops at all the places we wanted to visit.


We started at the Roman Army Museum at Walltown. This is brilliant museum which has a mixture of artefacts from Roman Britain as well as replicas of Roman Army equipment. There is a 3D cinema which shows a short film about life on the wall. The film is brilliantly narrated by Brian Cox (the actor not the Professor) whose voice always lends a sense of gravitas to anything he does. There is also a great interactive school teaching you about the army as well as some basics in Latin.


Next we got back on the bus and headed to the Twice Brewed pub for lunch. I loved this pub, it had a great selection of ales and I liked the look of a few dishes on the menu, They also had board games which kept the kids entertained. Mrs Cool went for the local sausage sandwich with chips and tomato relish. Sam liked the sausage sandwich but wasn't impressed that her chips were frozen chips. I ordered the gammon steak with poached egg and pineapple chutney. I was really impressed with my lunch. The steak was a big portion, it was a proper poached egg not just a microwaved one you sometimes get and I had homemade chunky chips (much to Sam's annoyance).


After lunch and a couple of pints (I wasn't driving after all) we decided to walk to our next stop, Vindolanda. The walk is around 1.7 miles and as we had 3 kids with us it took us about 3/4 of an hour. It was some much needed exercise after a calorific lunch and we were treated to some amazing views including the spectacular Sycamore Gap.


Vindolanda is a working archaeological site and there is so much to see and do you could easily spend several hours here. As this was just a short trip for us we had a quick look round (we've been before so we knew which bits to visit again). The kids enjoyed exploring the reconstructed milecastles and there is a nice walk down to the stream which passes by a reproduction of a Temple of the Nymphs.


When we were finished at Vindolanda we hopped back on the AD122 and headed for Chesters Roman Fort. By this point we were all getting a bit tired and were in need of a sugary pick me up so we headed to the tearoom. They had a great selection of cakes and we all had a hot chocolate to warm us on on a rainy British summers day.


After we were finished our cakes we headed out to look at the site. On a sunny day Chesters Roman Fort is one of my favourite places to visit, on a cold rainy day like this day not so much. We still enjoyed looking around the excavated fort and stopped to meet the various farm animals that live on site.

We all loved our day out exploring the wall and I think we are incredibly lucky to have something as historically significant as Hadrian's Wall so close to home. After a very tiring day we got back on the AD122 which took us to Hexham where we could catch our bus back to Newcastle.

Well, that's all for now.

S


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