New Tent!

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There you are, browsing Amazon, looking at new kit that you won’t buy, you wonder how much postage is going to be, you click the buy button to go through the process to check just how much it WILL be and then…

Oooopsy

You hit the button that you think changes currency but is actually the Buy Now button.

And thats just exactly what sort of happened to me;) Well kinda.

I was wanting a new one person tent, and I had found a great deal and well…

ANYWAYS…

Here’s the tent and the offer:

Snugpak Ionosphere
A fantastic deal at that price.

What’s so great about it?

It’s small and light but pretty roomy inside and very well constructed. The material it’s made from is durable ripstop nylon. The poles are well formed strong aluminum and it even comes with it’s own repair kit! Simple and quick to put up. What’s not to like?


Not a lot really. Maybe that it pitches inner first (not always an advantage in Northern Europe) or the pegs (which are a little bit hazardous with sharp bits).


I’ve spent two nights in it so far, two very comfortable nights. 

The temperature was around 2 degrees above freezing and damp. First night was just the tent and a inflatable thermarest sleeping pad with a sleeping bag rated for -10 (apparently). It got a little chilly but not insufferable. Second night I used a good space/survival blanket and that made a big difference. 


What else about it?

It’s fun to get in and out of. But once you get used to it, it’s not too bad. What I would be tempted to do if using for extended trips is to take a small tarp and use that as well.

Would I recommend it?

Absolutely. It’s light, packs to more or less nothing and is very comfortable. 

Longer term? Well – time will tell. My feeling is that my oopsy purchase will be a bit of a winner.

Dutch Oven Soda Bread

BBQ, bushcraft, camping No Comments »

Sometimes…

…it’s time to shake it up a bit and try something new.

…you have an itch to scratch.

…you just want to do something different.

…you just wanna burn stuff.

 

That time was a few weeks ago. Having received a small open BBQ and bought a heavy cast iron dutch oven, I wanted to do something with them. Nothing too involved just yet. This was, after all, the first time I would use the dutch oven. But just something a bit different.

At Christmas, we have a tradition of making an oat based soda bread and serving this with homemade potted pork and/or smoked salmon. The bread is very easy to make, incredibly tasty and requires no yeast or even kneading. As such, it’s great for lazy people like me. Experience told me that this would be a great project just to get started with. Experience was right.

The Dutch Oven

Basically a Dutch Oven is a large heavy cast iron pan with a lid that can go directly on an open fire and is used to cook things. Things like stews, roasting meat or even bread. Made famous by the Settlers in the American West and now used not so much. Which is a shame.

They are seen as hard work, requiring seasoning and special care. A pain to clean and maintain. Well yes, and maybe no. Once you’ve used them a couple of times and understand that cleaning should be done after use, and not three days later, then life becomes much easier.

Cooking with them may require a bit of muscle but thats ok, the type of food you are going to cook will have plenty of calories in it and you needed that work out anyway.

Cooking with them outdoors, can be done on gas but that just isn’t fun.

Cooking with them outdoors is done on real fire, with real burning wood. Thats fun that is.

Cooking with them outdoors requires a few extra skills and some planning for sure. Skills that are easy to acquire and very valuable. Probably you already have them (and if not – then I’ll post something about those soon so you can learn  too):

  • Fire Lighting
  • Fire Building

The Fire

There is a lot to write about fires and what type fire is best for which job. I’ll skip a lot of that here as most of the heat we need for soda bread comes from embers and not open fire. In fact, at a pinch and not as much fun, you could bake soda bread using BBQ briquettes. But you really wouldn’t do that, would you? Missing out on all that smokyness. That would be a sin!

Briquettes on top of Dutch Oven

Briquettes under stand of Dutch Oven

The recipe

This is not my recipe. I got it from the following link:

Soda Bread Recipe

The link contains a lot of information about how & why it works without yeast and all that good stuff. Even if you only make it in a regular oven – it’s still a good bread to make.

HINT – do not overwork the mixing. Read the recipe closely and understand what it does.

That all said – this is what it looks like before it goes on the fire:

Dough mixed an in the pot

The Bake

This is where it gets a bit tricky so take note…

Heat on top and (too much) below.

When I did it, I had way too much heat on the bottom of the oven. This made the bread burn on it’s underside. So what would I do different?

The BBQ I used was too small. This really limited the sort of fire I could build and amount of coals I could use. Limited is perhaps the wrong word, I had too many. Normally, there would be a fire to one side and coals would be taken from that and placed on and under the oven away from the main heat of the fire.

Because of the limited space – I had way too much heat in a small space. I know that now. As to how much heat to use initially, here is a little snapshot from a great little book I bought:

Fuel guide for Dutch Oven

Pencil figures are temperatures in degrees Celsius.

The Result

Well…

The results speak for themselves:

Fresh Soda Bread still in the oven.

Freshly cut Soda Bread

It tasted really good warm with butter. Even the burnt bits were not too bad:)

Summary

Cooking using a Dutch Oven is fun and flexible

Learn to control heat and be aware that more is not always better

Cleaning the Dutch Oven should be done as soon as is practical and don’t be afraid to re-season it.

 

BBQ lighting – a tip…

BBQ, Food No Comments »

A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away…

There was a poor defenseless little hibachi, desperate to be lit. He cried out for flame to ignite his charcoal. Flame was duly brought forward. Alas, the little heat the flame could bring was just not sufficient to support combustion of the little hibachi’s valiant charcoal.

Along came Darth Petrol bringing with him the lure of the dark side. Maximum heat, quick ignition, superb fire spreadability. The innocent little hibachi jumped at the thought of quick burn. To be lit and give forth searing heat was all it wanted…

Slosh went Darth Petrol, whoosh went the hibachi. Heat was brought forth in a marvelous energetic dance…

For in a few seconds, hibachi’s coals were hot. But too hot, the fire would not recede, the heat began to burn through poor little hibachi and then it was no more. Hibachi had melted. He was no more. The lure of the dark side had reduced him to slag. Never to be cooked on again.

Here endeth the lesson and beggineth the tip…

When lighting your BBQ, NEVER use petrol or other accelerants. They burn too quick, damage your grill and leave a nasty taste in your mouth – quite literally. Also, they are pretty dangerous. 

How to do it safely?

Get a BBQ lighting chimney, use organic, environmental friendly lighting blocks (marked as suitable for BBQ) or…

Get the heat gun you use for stripping paint, put it on it’s hot setting and leave it for a few minutes….

For a few briquettes – it looks like this and works a charm. Why only a few briquettes? I used them for starting a slow burn. If you have more to do then fire the heat from the bottom up.

Use your heat gun to light coals

Lay a snake of coals for a long slow burn

My iPad Mini 4 update…

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Because I’m over 40 and the Internet is not genetically programmed within my psyche I forgot to post the thing I’d just written about my iPad mini 4.

That’s ok because it’s a quiet Sunday morning and there is just me and the dog so I can add a bit more about the thing – after using it for a number of weeks.

Basically, if you are looking for a tablet or new laptop or new computer and you can’t decide then my guess is that the mini will do all the work you need. In a nut shell it’s truly amazing. It out performs similar classed laptops (with the exception of gaming type graphics). It runs Microsoft Office. It has a great camera. The battery lasts for a long time. The speakers are very good considering the size of the thing. The screen is great. Etc….

What’s not to like?

Some of the apps are expensive compared to Android. If that is a problem I don’t know. Stability and security are important. Paying for stuff is a way to help developers build better solutions.

I use an external keyboard that cost an extra 90 Euros (a Logitech key case type thing). This makes using the tablet more into a laptop experience if you have a lot of typing to do. Is this a downside? I don’t know – some folks would say that it is. I found the regular Apple onscreen keyboard fine but maybe not for masses and masses of text.

There is no external storage. Again – I’m no sure this is a relevant argument. This little box has 64Gb storage – certainly needed. That’s enough to store a load of music, games, pictures and movies – certainly enough for a long flight and business trip. If I needed more – well – there are some nice little options that will allow you to use either wifi or an SD card etc. 

Sometimes there are some little idiosyncrasies with app functionality. Navigation may always not work the way you think. This though is symptomatic of all apps on all platforms. 

Other than that – and of course it’s apple and as such a premium is paid on the brand – what’s not to love:)

Get one.

My IPad Mini 4…

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also known as My New Toy.

Not so long ago I was determined to not like Apple products. They were overpriced, trendy and generally just “not my thing“. Oh how times have changed.
I’m a hacker and a tinkerer. I love to play with technology and make it work differently. A big Linux advocate and occasional programmer, the iPad and iPhone were the antithesis of everything holy. What was wrong with beige? What was wrong with the command line? Why do I need a smart phone?

What happened?

We moved from Blackberry to Apple. I lost my faithful Curve with it’s keyboard, work anywhere and 5 day battery. I got an iPhone 5S. I tried to hate it, I really did. I tried to put it down, to look for faults but I just couldn’t. Even the 24 hour battery on a good day I can’t complain about. Maybe I should just move to Cairo and live on that river (denial – say it out loud, you’ll get it) but nope, I’m now an advocate. That’s not the same as a fan boy – honest. But certainly if you were to try and pry my iPhone or iPad from my cold dead hands you would have a struggle.

So why the change?

In short – “It just works

The build quality is excellent, the kit just feels good. The software (I’m not going into technicalities) similarly just works. You can install an application, find you don’t like it and then remove it without any problems. If you want to buy something you can, and yes, the apps may be more expensive than Google Android but they also tend to be of a better build and design quality. 

Connecting to wifi, it’s a breeze. Select which network, type the password and go. No messing with having to remove the old one for whatever reason.

Sound from the little speakers – considering the size – great volume and clarity. The phone comes with earbuds that similarly sound good. It’s true that they are not the best in the world but by no means are they the worst and they come included.

The screen is just so clear. On both iPhone and iPad – clarity is awesome. Responsiveness of the touch screen is snappy and accurate. 

Pea shooting…

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Or “how to turn ridiculously cheap dried stuff into great, nutritious food”…

See the below recipe for how to do this and more pictures below.

Pea shooting…

From Chris's Stuff | Salads | French

How to grow delicious fresh pea sprouts for not a lot of money. Use them in your salads for a bit of extra taste and lots of extra nutrition.

00:11
00:10
00:01

20 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 packet of dried peas (cheap sort, not split ones)
  • 1 Seed tray or satsuma box or similar
  • Soil for seed tray
  • Water

Directions

  1. Soak the peas for 24 hours before planting. How many peas? I spread my peas in the empty container before putting the soil in. You need to have enough peas to completely cover the tray, leaving maybe a pea space between each pea. Fairly dense but not on top of each other.
  2. Make sure the seed tray or container is clean.
  3. Put the soil in the tray to about 15mm below the top. The try needs to be around 30 to 40mm deep (more and it’s a waste).
  4. Scatter the soaked peas over the soil.
  5. Cover the scattered peas with more soil so they are about 2 peas diameter covered. About 10mm or so of soil.
  6. Dampen but not soak the soil.
  7. Put in warm place (window sill?) and leave for 2 weeks. Keep the soil moist but not drenched.
  8. After 2 weeks you will have fresh pea sprouts ready for eating:). Harvest them by cutting above the second leaf set. Doing this will allow another crop to grow. It maybe that you get more than two crops but is depends on the strength of the pea.

Tips

  • Eat the sprouts freshly cut and raw. Mix in salads or eat as a snack.

Completed seed tray. Next time I’ll get better pictures.

image

 

After two weeks you get pea sprouts that look like this – ready for cropping as and when you want…

image

 

And the proof is in the tasting. Seen here with a nice piece of fresh smoked salmon served on a bed of mixed leaves and fresh pea sprouts with balsamic vinegar as a dressing:)

image

The Ikea Hobo Stove – an introduction…

bushcraft, camping No Comments »

Well – not so much an introduction as a philosophy…

Sort of:)

Lets face it, cooking on fire is fun. It’s warm and just a bit primitive. But – we don’t always have the opportunity to set up a camp fire because of grass or no camp fires or wind or rain etc etc. All very frustrating.

Well – you can always use a gas burner or something like that but it just isn’t the same. Meths stoves sort of give a nice flame but again, it just isn’t the same.

You need fire, real fire. Wood burning, smoke making, fire…

Building a fire pit can be difficult and lighting your fire on the ground is probably not acceptable. So what to do?

You could always go and splurge a lot of money on one of the many brilliantly designed stoves out there. Like the Firebox. A great design, I want one but I can’t afford it. Or you can go cost efficient and make your own. For not a lot. And the results are pretty good.

How?

Ok – a little disclaimer. I didn’t invent this and I’m making mine after seeing other versions floating around the internet. As most things, this is a work under construction and will be improved upon and worked with over time.

Start of at a local IKEA and look for product called “ordning” or some such. It’s a cutlery drained made from stainless steel.

Get some 30 to 40mm bolts and fix them to the bottom to form legs. I know that this doesn’t seam to stable but it works for now. Some designs I’ve seen have cool detachable legs. This is something to improve upon.

At this point you can use the stove as is. To be fair you don’t even need the feet. Just throw in some burny stuff and light. But we want something a little more classy.

Get the pot and mark out where you want the fuel hole….

image

Marked up pot for fuel hole

This needs to be big enough to slot in pieces of wood but not so big as to cut the thing in half. I chose two groups of the holes and three rows up. This felt about right and also looked to be popular taking into account other designs out there. Interestingly, some designs have the holes higher up. I don’t know what difference this makes. Maybe if used with a trangia or some other thing?

Now to fire up the Dremel or multi to of choice. You could us a saw or I guess even cutters. I just like the Dremel:-) Cut along the outside of the holes to give as straight a cut as you can. Important here is to wear those safety glasses and don’t jam in the cutting wheel. If you bend it too far and it then shatters, is going to hurt.

image

Save the bit that you cut out. I’m not sure what it will come in for buy her, you never know.

image

There will be sharp edges, so use the tool to remove these.

image

Cheap nasty grinding to alert! Don’t use the cheap and nasty tools that you can pick up in the bargain bins. They don’t last, do a poor job and are most likely dangerous. Anyways, is tone for first burn. All that work, you deserve some fun. Right?

I cheated and used a fire lighter thing. I know, I’m not proud of it and I let the side down but it is what it is…

image

Building the fire up further, we get to see some potential here. Not just for cooking but also heat, light and general camp comfort…

image

In conclusion…

This is just the start. Looking around the web there are so many things you can do with this style of some. It’s use as a multi fuel since should not be over looked. The Trangia can be made to fit by using tent pegs through the holes.

Fuel tablets can be used, again the tent pegs and a metal burning plate. Pan stands and grill plates made from computer fan covers? Removable feet and legs. All in one kits where you store your cook waste inside. Etc etc etc.

Lots of things to try. And lots of things to cook. Let’s see how it goes:-)

Gravlax

Food No Comments »

From wikpipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravlax

Always wondered what it was, I found out and so went and made some:)

Have to say that I’m very glad I did. Using a video from Jamie I cured the salmon with:

  • Sea salt
  • Sugar
  • Dill
  • Beetroot
  • Lemon zest
  • Schnapps

… I left out the horseradish. This was spread over the salmon:

 

Gravlax in curing mix

 

 

I wrapped a few bricks up in foil, covered the salmon with clingflim and then put the bricks on top of the salmon to press it down. The whole lot went in the fridge for 2 days (48 hours). When it was done, I scraped off the junk from the fish and removed the skin on the bottom. This is the result:

 

 

Gravlax finished

 

Serve it cut along the diagonal in very thin slices with knackerbrod or very dark bread and a bit of horse radish and wash it down with a bit of akwavit.

What to do for next time?

  • Skip the beetroot – it doesn’t seem to add and is just a lot of mess.
  • Add a bit more alcohol.
  • Try some official stuff and compare it to mine:)

Quick Egg Frittata

Food No Comments »

OK, I’ve no idea if this officially counts as a frittata or not, especially after reading around a little. But I don’t really care:mrgreen:

This is a good snack or lunch for those doing low carb or just good in general. Also this is more an idea and not prescriptive. It’s your  kitchen, get creative.

Anyways….

4 eggs, well beaten
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
Half onion finely chopped
Salt & pepper (and whatever) beaten with eggs
Lug of Olive oil (to use a Jamie’ism)
Good splash of milk added into eggs
And more or less whatever else you feel like

Heat the oil and get the onion and garlic. Also if you are going to put in anything like a bell pepper or meat, now is a good time. When the onion or extra are soft, simply add the egg mixture and if you have cheese or maybe little cherry tomatoes then add these on top. Turn down the heart and if you got it, put a lid on the pan.

Leave to cook until the eggs are cooked through, take off the best and serve. Have it with some good brown bread and its a great little meal.

Simple.

Shepherd’s Pie

Food No Comments »

It’s done nothing but rain this weekend. Time for some traditional anti rain food…

 

Shepherd’s Pie

From Chris's Stuff | Main Dishes | English and Irish

Rainy day comfort food

01:00
00:40
00:20

High cal Calories 752kcal

High fat Total Fat 41g

High sat-fat Saturated Fat 19g

High chol Cholesterol 123mg

sodium Sodium 362mg

High carbs Total Carbohydrate 62g

Serving size 639g Calories from fat 369kcal Fiber 8g Protein 35g Sugar 9g
5 servings

Ingredients

  • For the meat:
  • 750 g Lamb Mince
  • 250 g mushrooms, sliced
  • 30 g flour
  • 3 large carrots, diced
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 300 ml lamb stock
  • Tomato ketchup
  • Salt & Pepper
  • For the Mash:
  • 1.25 kg potatoes, chopped for mashing
  • 30g butter
  • milk

Directions

  1. In a large pan, gently cook the mince. Squash it and stir it as it goes. When done, with a slotted spoon, lift it out of the pan and use the back of a spoon to squeeze out the rest of the juice form the meat.
  2. Turn up the heat and add the veggies to the juice. Stir, reduce heat, put lid on and leave to cook until softened. Stir occasionally.
  3. When the veggies have softened, add the mince back into the pan and stir. Once mixed together, add the flour, stir and cook for 1 minute, stirring as you go.
  4. Add the stock and again stir. Add in a good squirt of ketchup and salt & pepper to taste.
  5. Leave covered on a low heat to simmer for 30 minutes.
  6. Now make the mash…
  7. Boiled the potatoes, when soft, mash. While mashing, add in the butter and milk. Use enough milk to make the mash smooth.
  8. When the meat is done, place it in the bottom of a suitable sized oven tray. Cover this with the mash, trying to put the mash on top of the meat and not mixing it. Smooth the mash with the back of a spoon and then use the back of a fork to make a series of lines in the mash.
  9. Put in oven at 200 deg C for 20 minutes. To get a nice crispy top, you may need to place it under the grill for a little whiles.
  10. Serve.

Tips

  • I like to make my mash leaving the skin on the potatoes. This way it tastes a lot more potatoey:) You also get a lot more nutrients this way.

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