Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Perching....and Rain

We really wanted to catch something bigger.....

There's something about constant rain that is vitiating, it saps the energy, and leaves you unable to undertake even the most simple of tasks. It seeps into your neck, your sleeves, your socks and into your very soul. Rain soaks, it bleeds, it oozes, it exudes - and it leeches endurance and fortitude as it does so; rain is the very kidnapper of  animation and enterprise, the purloiner of pizzaz and the the poacher of purpose.

Today, yet again, it rained.

Naturally, constant rain also means that all the tackle, the bags, the electronics and the very clothes in which you are attempting to stay dry, end up a soggy, heavy, waterlogged mess that takes longer to dry out than it did to get wet in the first place and then leaves the car, the house and the laundry room damp too. Also every time you venture out from under the brolly the rain somehow lashes down harder and splashes onto your seat so that eventually even ones bottom becomes cold and wet.

....a lot bigger....

Poor old Harry - he's been fishing 3 out of the last 4 Tuesdays and it's hammered down on all three - he must be really damp...

Anyway, the plan was to fish a local carp water that also has a good head of perch, some of which are over the three pound mark - we managed to ascertain that half of that supposition was correct  - we caught plenty of perch! That was after an initial mix up about venues which yours truly managed to completely screw up...

Unfortunately all the perch were all small and the only thing that was immune from their hungry attack on anything that was remotely wormy, maggoty or prawny, was a livebait - these went untouched for the whole day. 

We couldn't even dodge the rain when we packed up - the showers were incessant - and by the time I got home the Land Rover was completely misted up and almost wetter inside than out.

It didn't rain at all the following day....

Monday, 26 November 2012


For how long will we be this busy....?

I suppose it was inescapable that a show which each year was so well attended, so manically busy and so looked forward to by all for twelve months, should eventually be split regionally in the hope that even more interest and attendance could be squeezed from the Cake Decorating Fraternity. Naturally, the Exhibition Company will do well, but the losers will inevitably be the Traders and ultimately, the public.

In 2012, the ICHF split the country in two, Birmingham and London, in 2013 it will be split into three, London, Manchester and Birmingham with the added possibility of Scotland and Dublin, Ireland. Also in 2013 the Cake And Bake Show will be in London and Manchester, just days apart from the ICHF shows. Where will it end and how many Traders will pull out their hair attempting to attend all 5 shows next year, to say nothing of Cork, Appeldoorn, Harrogate, Brighton and Boskoop? And of course, just how much money do the public have to spend at these shows? Surely the income will remain pretty constant, while the costs to the Traders and Public will jump astronomically.

My favourite Exhibitionist....!
Naturally, we as Traders have little choice about attending - we have to be where the public are - and we're certainly not complaining about the increase in interest in these shows or in cake decorating generally, but we now have to make some choices about which exhibitions to attend and which ones to miss. This leads to my other concern regarding the smaller regional shows and how attendance at them will be affected by the plethora of larger Exhibitions. Some shows have already suffered and closed as a result of reduced patronage and I would hate to see more of the smaller ones fall by the wayside. I suppose we will have to wait and see what 2013 brings as the number of Larger shows increases....

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Jelly Ear Mushroom (Auricularia judae)

An interesting etymology occurs with this particular fungus. As you can see from its Latin epithet, it is thought to be named after Judas Iscariot who, it is believed, hanged himself from an Elder tree in his remorse. This mushroom is often found clinging to Elder although in the photograph above it was growing on a Mahonia in a garden.

The Common name Judas' Ear, became Jews Ear, probably disparagingly, but is now fortunately more commonly called Jelly Ear. It is widely found throughout the year, all around the UK and its tough robustness makes it ideal for soups, stews and casseroles. It is also used in Chinese Hot and Sour Dishes but more interestingly, it can be dried and re-hydrated often ending up larger than its original size. 

Cook it for a long time in a casserole and it will add a mild, delicate flavour and a jelly like texture. For this latter reason I would prefer to use it in soups that can be blitzed into a smooth texture at the end of the cooking process.

As always, please take care when cooking and eating mushrooms....

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


The very best lure in my opinion..Kuusamo's Professor

One of my favourites...and the pike's...

When you catch so few fish, it's important to photograph all of them...

Naturally, we have our friendly rivalries Harry and I, our differences of opinion, our own views on what constitutes a good breakfast or lunch, whether deadbaiting is a better method of catching fish than lure fishing, the efficacies of trolling - but we both agree that spoons are highly effective and efficient lures. In fact, I would lose little sleep if I could only use spoons to lure fish from now on. They are simple, practical and cheap; they can be trolled cranked or worked; they come in a huge variety of colours, weights, lengths and shape but they are all powerfully proficient and potent fish catchers.

Today's spoon of the moment...

When I fish with spoons I work the bait with the rod tip allowing slack line for the spoon to flutter enticingly. If you experiment with a spoon, let it drop on slack line in front of you and watch it as it dances away from the rod tip, flashing in sparkles of iridescent colours as it sinks down. Often takes will come on the drop, so it is important to maintain some contact with the spoon as it sinks to the depth at which you wish to fish it, but as you draw it back jerk the rod tip then give a second or two for the lure to flash before another short sweep of the rod. Many jerk bait enthusiasts employ this method of working the rod tip to impart movement to the lure, it also helps if you try to think like an unwell baitfish if you can.....

Stupid hat day...

 Anyway, we were back at Bewl for a pike only day and as always the fish were few and far between. As the Autumn Colours fell from the trees like russet snow we trolled and drifted our way around a few of the marks we have noted over the years and we both managed a small fish each. Harry employed "Percy" a plug of dubious origin but the effectiveness of which cannot be denied, Percy often produces the goods when other lures fail and he certainly pulled one out of the bag this time..

My fish was caught around lunchtime on the red spoon pictured above and on the drop, as is often the case when moving into a new area. The rod kicked even though the lure was sinking, but this is the effect of the spoon dropping back from the rod, it keeps the line relatively tight and takes on the drop are communicated to the angler most of the time. The fish was a fat jack and maybe the redness of the lure enticed him or maybe it was the flash.

Coffee time - see, men can multi-task...

 It was nice to be out just 5 weeks away from Christmas and with a cold wind corrugating the surface of the reservoir, but with a warm layer of clothing and a flask of hot coffee it wasn't too bad a day. Unfortunately I couldn't stir in the sugar - I didn't have a spoon.....!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Daily Dahl

Red lentils....

If you haven't read A Thousand Splendid Suns or The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, then you have missed two novels of extreme power and strength shedding a deep insight into Afghanistan life in its recent history. I have given away as many copies as I could find in charity shops to as many people as I could convince to read them, if you want a copy of either book - well go find one - you certainly won't regret it.

That aside, I discovered a recipe in both books and after research, that I have come to love and that I probably prepare on average once every fortnight or so in the winter. It is easy to prepare and it lasts a couple of meals and  improves in flavour each day.

It is a lentil dish that is widely eaten across the globe but that can be adapted pretty much to your taste, your store cupboard and your budget. It could be a main meal, a starter or a side dish and it can be served with meat, fish or entirely on its own.

The main constituent is red split pea lentils, the rest is up to you.....

OK, I'll detail my recipe, but first it's helpful to wash lentils thoroughly whenever you cook with them. they get incredibly dusty and dirty as you will notice when you first rinse it through, the water is absolutely filthy!

Here's a simple version of what I normally do:

Put the washed lentils into a pan (50- 75 grams per person) with enough water to cover them easily and a teaspoonful of turmeric and boil until the lentils are softish. You may need to add more water and you WILL need to stir it often.  

Fry off some onions in a pan with oil and butter. After a couple of minutes add some finely chopped/grated or crushed garlic and gently sweat for a couple more minutes.

Meanwhile in a blender/food processor put in some oil, chopped chili (as much as you want) chopped ginger, a teaspoon of each of the following: coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cardamon seeds (the inside), fenugreek seeds together with some herbs of your choice, I use coriander. Blitz well..

When the onion and garlic is translucent add the contents of the blender to the pan and stir in and fry off for a couple more minutes. Add a tin of chopped tomatoes, a little sugar and some salt and pepper.

Add the drained, cooked lentils to this and mix well. Cook for 30 - 45 minutes or until the mixture is creamy. Again keep checking that the dish doesn't need more water as the lentils will soak up the liquid. Near the end add one or two boiled eggs per person, stir in to warm through and serve with mango chutney, chopped bananas, apple and fresh tomatoes.

Now. You could also add a tin of coconut milk as well as or instead of the tin of chopped tomatoes. To make it quicker you can use a spoonful or two of an Indian paste of your choice from a jar instead of blitzing and frying off your own mix.We think the Dahl is great with boiled eggs, but it's also wonderful with home made Nan, chapattis or crusty loaf and of course rice.

It's such a great recipe that gathers taste and flavour as it matures, so if you can make enough for the next day, it is worth it.

A darker dahl....with mango chutney...

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Deep Purple - Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina)

A wonderfully vivid mushroom of such fairy like character that none of my friends can believe it's edible. Its very appearance seems dangerous and "toadstooly" rather than mushroomy.....But it looks fantastic with saffron rice or in a dish with the mellow yellow sublimity of the chanterelle with which it is often found. It can look great in a salad too and it will definitely impress your friends when they see the stunning colour.