Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Diaspora and Google

When I last wrote about DIaspora, the open source social network which I contributed to the development of, I said:

So far Diaspora looks quite promising.  I don't see it as being the "Facebook Killer" that some have touted it as but it will provide people like me who have a greater sense of privacy something to use.  In addition, it's existence may push Facebook and others to provide the separation they currently lack. 
Google has announced their return to the social network game with Google+.  Google+ apparently includes the separation I mention above:

Unveiling Google+, Gundotra stressed the ability it gives users to separate online friends and family into different "circles," or networks, and to share information only with members of a particular circle.
At the moment access is invitation only (as all new Google projects seem to be).  I have applied for my invitation.  If I get one soon, I'll post my thoughts on the new platform.

Link to original NZ Herald article

Link to the Google+ Page

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Black Pudding

Black pudding for breakfast! 

I have been a fan of black pudding for as long as I can remember and enjoy it as a breakfast food, usually accompanied by a fried egg. 

The traditional way of cooking it is to slice it into rounds and fry it.  As it cooks, it turns from a deep red to solid black with the occasional white bits  though Eric Olthwaite's mother used to make black pudding so dark "even the white bits were black".

My favourite black pudding was the Blackball Salami Company's product.  Thanks to a work colleague I have a new favourite which is made by Harringtons.  Jock (for that is his name) says it is the best black pudding he has had since he arrived from Scotland 20 years ago. 

It's flavour is quite different - more peppery/spicy than the Blackball pudding.   It's texture is very different.  It is, in the words of my Scottish colleague, "looser".  It doesn't hold together in the same way as other black puddings I have eaten and is pretty much impossible to fry.

I have tried frying it in a number of different pans and it sticks like an incredibly sticky thing to every pan I have used.  In the end I resorted to grilling it on Vogel toast or toasted ciabatta which was successful and provided a good breakfast.  As it grills, it loosens further and in the end can actually be spread very easily with a knife.

I mentioned the problem of cooking it to Jock and he confessed he had the same problems with frying it and that it even stuck to a non-stick pan.  His solution was to place it on large flat mushrooms and then grill it.  I gave this a go this morning and the result was perfect.  An excellent combination of flavours.

Harringtons will take orders on the internet but don't appear to have an online payment facility.  They also supply a wide range of pork, bacon, ham, sausages, speciality products and lamb products. 

Highly recommended.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Pork Hocks

Our local New World started selling pork hocks a month or two ago.  They are similar to lamb shanks in that they are basically a bit of meat with plenty of connective tissue running through it wrapped around a bone.  They also come with the skin on which is a bonus given the possibilities of crackling.

Our New World sells them for $3.07 each which makes them a very cheap meal.  As they are a bit larger than a lamb shank, Camille and I tend to share one between us so the meal cost is minimal.  At the moment they aren't popular but if people start to like them, I'm betting they will go the way of lamb shanks which started out a few years ago being one of the cheapest cuts but now are around $10.00 each.

How to cook them?   Slowly of course.  However, they have that skin which makes a beautiful crackling if treated right.  They don't come scored though so you'll need to use a very sharp knife or follow Al Brown's advice and use a stanley knife and score the skin yourself.  The skin is very loose though so it can be quite difficult to score. I tend to buy the hocks in bulk and freeze them.  Scoring them when they are partially thawed is way easier and safer.  Yes, I have scored myself once or twice when doing an unfrozen hock, fortunately not badly but I'm now very aware of that loose skin!

Once scored, rub a bit of olive oil over the hock and then salt the skin ensuring it is rubbed  well into the scoring.  Be generous!  Don't skimp on the salt!  Grind a bit of pepper over it as well.  Heat your oven up to 220 degrees or so.  Place the hock into a roasting pan and put it into the oven for 20 minutes or so.  You want the skin to start to blister.  Once this starts to happen, reduce the heat to around 150 and cook until the meat is very tender and pulling away from the bone.  This will take a couple of hours.   Some people like to cover the hock at this point to ensure they stay moist.  I prefer to provide extra moisture.

Roast pork hock with onion and pear with a red wine finish

This is for one or two pork hocks.

Prepare hocks as above and cook until the skin begins to blister.

Peel and slice 2 onions and 3 pears thinly. This will be enough for one or two hocks. Remove the hock(s) from the oven and leave the oven to cool to 150 degrees.  Remove the hocks from the roasting pan and layer the onion and pear slices in it.  Layer them so they cover about the same amount of space the hock(s) will take up.  You are making a bed for the hocks to lie in.

Drizzle a little oil over the bedding and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over it.  Place the hocks on top of the onion and pear bedding.  Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the hocks and return them to the oven.

Cook them until the meat is tender and pulling away from the bone. Remove them from the oven. At this point the skin may not be fully crackled. Boost the oven heat and remove the skin from the hocks and put it on a baking tray and return it to the oven. Remove the hocks from the roasting pan and cover them with foil to keep their heat in.

Place the roasting pan on an element and bring up to heat until the pear/onion/fat begins to bubble. Pour in about half a cup of a reasonable red wine and stir in ensuring you mash down at least some of the caramelised onion and pear so it blends into the wine. Add more wine as you see fit and reduce until it is slightly thickened. The onion and pear won't fully break down but this doesn't matter. In fact, I think I prefer it.

At this point you can either remove the meat from the hocks or serve them whole. If whole, spoon some of the pear/onion/wine finish over them and then place the crackling over the top. Serve the rest of the finish on the side.

Friday, 17 June 2011

National and Youth Rates

National are considering bringing in youth rates again.  It appears they may be thinking about making the new youth rate apply to people up to the age of 24.  If true, this is absolutely appalling.

One of the arguments for youth rates is below:
“If you've got somebody who is 16 who is wanting a job and someone who is 30 at the same price, then who is the employer going to employ?” asked Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson.
Obviously Kate thinks the answer is the 30 year old and the youth will be left to go  on the dole which National are gnashing their teeth over.  However, if we have youth rates, what happens to the 30 year old?  Obviously they are left on the dole instead.  This isn't, in my opinion, an improvement.  In fact, as many 30 year olds have families and financial responsibilities that youths (under 20 in my definition) do not, this leaves the 30 year old far worse off.

A youth rate penalises people for being under a particular age regardless of how well they work or the type of work they do.  It's age related discrimination, something that is against the NZ Bill of Rights.

It also contributes to New Zealand remaining a low wage economy - something I thought the National Government was aiming to change.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Telecom Mobile Broadband

Camille and I are currently in Lower Hutt.    Telecom's mobile broadband service is appalling.  We are experiencing slow connections and continuous dropouts.  It's making the service barely usable.  At one point I was getting 12000 ms ping times.


Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Mad bastards on the road

There are some right mad bastards on the roads.  This morning on my way to work I was following a couple of cars and two long trucks.  I had a silver falcon come racing up behind me at high speed.  As we reached a passing lane, one truck decided to pass the other followed by both cars ahead of me.  I decided against passing as I didn't think the lane would be long enough and I was only a couple of kilometres away from work so there wasn't any real advantage.

However, the silver falcon decided to pass and it shot passed me like a rocket and then started swerving into my lane, back into the passing lane, over the double yellow line into oncoming traffic, back into the passing lane and back into my lane.  Very scary behaviour particularly as it looked as though it was only semi in control and was almost sliding into my lane.  I backed off very quickly and let all the traffic get way ahead of me.

Last I saw of the silver falcon it had reached the end of the passing lane, was on the wrong side of the road (still with a yellow line) going up towards a rise in the face of oncoming traffic.  I lost sight of it after that.

Completely mad bastard.