Sunday, February 1, 2015

AHS English Honey Bitter

Given the fact that it has been far too long since my last post and the fact that we just brewed our first beer in over a year I just felt that I had to make this post. The AHS (Austin Homebrew Supply) English Honey Bitter was sitting around in a press for quite sometime. Up until a little over a year ago we had been home brewing some very nice beers, but then something happened. We had two soured beers in a row and it kind of unnerved us a bit so we took a break from home brewing and concentrated on reviewing and trying various different craft beers over the past year.

Well about a month ago we got the itch to brew some beer again (watching the Hobbit may have helped). So we got to work on the English Honey Bitter kit we had bought from AHS the year before. It was kind of nerve racking, we definitely didn't want this batch to fail again so we redecorated the entire kitchen with new paint and new flooring (helped by +GIEnterprises Oregon ) then made sure the equipment was sanitized and ready for the brew. The main difference this time is that we had purchased two Beer Boxes from Northern Brewer. We were hoping because we wouldn't be dealing with 40 - 50 bottles that we'd be cutting down on the risk of infection and soured beer.

Tonight, nearly four weeks later we got to try our English Honey Bitter out of our new beer boxes for the first time. Glasses in hand, phone recording video and nerves on edge, we set about pouring the first glass. It had been a success, we were back brewing again and it tasted great. In fact I'm enjoying a glass as I type this post. I have said on multiple occasions how much of a fan of Middle-earth I am and how much it pains me not to be able to run around Lotro natively on my beloved Linux desktop. +Linda Dean and myself have also spoken at length over the years about what real Middle-earth ales would taste like if they were real. Well tonight I think we really came close to finding out, this English Honey Bitter from AHS is in my mind, about as close as you could get to sitting in the Green Dragon Inn in Bywater, enjoying a pipe by the flickering fire and listening to tall tales from across the river. So with glass in hand and the soundtrack to Lotro playing in my ears, I say, cheers! Have a great night all!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Nothing like a leg of lamb

In all the universe and all the worlds there is nothing quite like a roast leg of lamb. The tenderness and juiciness of the meat, the flavour and texture. Roast leg of lamb will beat roast beef any day of the week in my humble opinion. This week we cooked arguably one of the best pieces of lamb I have ever had. This was a cut from the whole lamb we bought a couple of months back from a local farm here in Oregon.
You would not believe how tender this meat really is. It can make roast beef taste like an old shoemakers boot. We covered the roast in garlic and herbs before roasting to give it that extra flavour and it paid off.
I really enjoy photographing food, especially roasts, they have an ability to make you instantly hungry, to make your mouth water in anticipation of the coming meal.
Even though I've said it before I'm really stunned that lamb is not more popular here in the USA. It would seem to me that it is easier to produce than beef and probably less harmful to the environment.
Served with white scallop squash and garlic along with mashed potatoes. If I was back home I'd probably add some Bisto gravy to the mix, however, we are currently out. We will order more in the future though (can't do without a bit of Bisto).

As always, if you haven't tried lamb you should give it a go. Try getting it from a local producer if possible as it will always be better. If you can't get it from a local producer then I'd recommend New Zealand or Irish lamb as an alternative. Both countries produce fantastic lamb and you won't regret buying it. If you need recipes try Google or drop +Linda Dean a note.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

4th of July 2014

A few things have struck me about the 4th of July celebrations, a few very important things that are a must have on the 4th, beer (preferably craft beer), food (preferably BBQ) more beer and of course last but not least fireworks. Well this year we managed to have all three in abundance. So we made merry, ate our fill and exploded the driveway...just joking +GIEnterprises Oregon , we didn't actually explode the driveway but we did have a whole lot of fun with the fireworks.

We might as well start this 4th of July post with the food images captured on the day. We had BBQ pork ribs, two racks and they were delicious. And the bonus was that we had plenty of leftovers for the next day.
Unusually we didn't use BBQ sauce this time round but instead marinated the ribs in a mixture of Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar and garlic over night.
I thought they might have lacked moisture with no BBQ sauce but they were fine, they turned out very juicy and didn't appear to dry out at all.
I have to say there is nothing quite like the taste of BBQ pork just off the grill, I'm actually drooling here thinking about it.
We also had salad with the meal though I failed to capture any images of that as I was to busy devouring the ribs.
All good things come to an end they say and this was true of our ribs, after we ate our fill it was time for some real fun. The front yard fireworks display for Talon. He was waiting anxiously at the door with a box of matches in a safe way I might add and not in a Beavis kind of way.
I love fireworks, when they are relatively low key and not setting off sonic booms to scare the bejusus out of our pets. The legal ones in Oregon though are just fine and still provide a lot of fun and entertainment.
They are mostly just fountains of colour and sparks but they do give a great light show. This is the one night a year that we really do appreciate having very few working street lights on our road.
Above, +Linda Dean  and Talon set up for a light show that very nearly reached the camera, it was very cool.
Not sure if our hops appreciated it, they were probably suffering from shock afterwords.
Being the one behind the camera meant I didn't get to set a whole lot of them off but I eventually got my chance with Talon giving me very detailed directions on how to light them properly and safely.
I hope you all had a great 4th of July and I hope you share your images with the rest of us when you get time, for now though, that is it from me.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lamb shoulder roast

The roasting of the lamb continues, tonight we had a lamb shoulder roast and it was melt in your mouth good. We slow roasted it for four hours packed with onions, potatoes, garlic and broccoli. It's almost hard to believe how tasty and tender lamb is if you've never had it. It is a completely different eating experience to beef and pork. Beef is much tougher and can dry out while roasting if not done correctly, lamb on the other hand stays moist and tender.
The onions add a nice flavour to the meat and potatoes and the dripping makes a really delicious gravy for your meal. +Linda Dean is particularly good at making gravy.
Linda can best describe the cooking method of this meal though. My fun begins when the meal is cooked and I get to photograph it in the hopes that my images make your mouths water. That they stir the hunger in your bellies for decent home cooked meals and flavours that you might not have tried before.
I really do love photographing good food, it's not always easy to get the right image because you want your pictures to cause a reaction in the viewer, to inspire a desire in your audience.
I know several people back home that will be eating a roast this week because of this blog post. In fact they will probably be eating several over the coming weeks.
I'm still in shock at the lack of lamb in the USA, maybe these posts will stir more of a desire to try it and we'll start seeing it turn up in the shops. If possible try and get it from a local farmer though as it will be less processed and should be a superior cut of meat. We're lucky in Oregon that we have several very high quality farms willing to sell lamb at a good price.
The potatoes were cooked in with the meat and other veg and so soaked up all those flavours, we then mashed them with garlic and the onions and they turned out great.
The final meal was just fantastic and we have plenty of left overs for a snack later and tomorrow. For more information on the cooking method feel free to drop +Linda Dean a message.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Linda's first lamb BBQ

One of the strangest things for me moving to Oregon from Ireland was that there was no lamb to be found in the supermarkets, I mean literally no lamb at all. Back in Ireland it might be expensive at times but lamb chops and lamb roast are a common sight in every butchers. So I found myself really missing the taste of lamb as I've never really been a huge beef eater apart from the odd steak during the summer or a beef stew during the winter. Then one fateful day last summer +Linda Dean with the help of Google discovered a local farmer who was actually willing to sell us lamb at an affordable price. We had struck gold and a week later we cycled out to the farm to collect our lamb. It was Linda's first taste of a lamb roast and she was blown away by the flavour, lamb really is an incredibly tasty meat and even mutton is fantastic if cooked correctly.

So this year while at the local farmers market here in Corvallis, Linda once again came across a farmer that was willing to sell us Lamb at a reasonable price. So we bought an entire lamb to freeze and keep for the months ahead (better value to buy in bulk if you can) and tonight we had our first lamb chop BBQ. 
Our still newish grill was put to good use tonight and not for the last time this summer cooking some great lamb for us.
If you look very closely at Linda in the above picture you can actually see her drooling at the thought of eating the lamb.
Lamb is much more pink I think than beef and takes a bit longer to cook, it is normally very tender and the taste is completely different to beef.
They sizzle nicely with a drop of olive oil and their own juices. The smells of lamb cooking on the BBQ are delightful and will have you drooling just like Linda in anticipation of the coming meal.
They definitely cook a lot slower than beef steak so you have to watch that but they don't burn like beef either as lamb is a very juicy meat.
Lamb is very, very succulent, tender and incredibly flavoursome, we didn't have any tonight but mint sauce can be great with lamb and we really should make some as we have a ton of mint growing in the garden (we've been using them for Mint Juleps).
Next I think we'll try a nice Lamb roast or possibly rack of lamb with mint sauce made with fresh mint picked in the garden.
And that's about it for now, so the lesson here is, if you haven't tried lamb you seriously need to...unless you're a no meat person in which case you need to try some fresh garden mint in a Mint Julep.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

All quiet on the western front

Its been a quiet few days here, we've been exercising away and enjoying the World Cup. I haven't really been active with the camera so I'll show you a few old ones to satiate your appetite, your hunger, your starvation, your....wait a sec, OK, back to reality. I have a pretty huge collection of images now but I'm not sure what to do with them, I'm still sorting through a lot of them.
Above a sunset from two years ago when we were on one of our nightly walks in the local park. During the late summer we get the most incredible sunsets here in Corvallis.
We have not yet had a trip out to Newport this year but we might just head out that direction in the not to distant future as we both love it out there. The beach can be a bit gusty but on a hot day it's fantastic.
Above another view of the beach out in Newport, if you haven't been out there you need to visit.

Autumn in Corvallis, the river walk is incredible when the warmth of the summer hasn't quite faded but the leaves are starting to turn to their autumn colours.
A couple of weeks later and the clean up work begins, a few weeks of endless gathering of leaves as they leave their trees for good to make room for a new generation in the following spring.
No where escapes, not even beneath a park bench. But not yet, not until the summer has passed and the evenings draw in. For now we have those balmy summer nights ahead of us. Craft beer, BBQ and summer walks through the woods. Of course all that is in between bouts of gaming and troll taming online, debating the ills of abandoning net freedom with...people and of course more beer, BBQ and beer.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Playing with HDR and ageing pics

A buddy of mine from back home got involved with a WWII historical re-enactment group called "The Brandenburg Commandos". They're based in Ireland and have members from all over the country. Their main goal is to help teach history and have a bit of fun while doing it. They also celebrate and remember the veterans from all nations. As far as I'm concerned it's a fantastic hobby, it gets you out and about, teaches you history and at the same time gets you exercising while having a lot of fun. In a way it's like playing a part in a film without the camera's rolling.

My only connection with the group is through my friend +David Sinnott, I was delighted when he got involved with this because he has been a history buff pretty much as long as I've known him, which is nearly my whole life. For my part I love playing around with images and the guys have been capturing some pretty decent shots at the different events around the country. The most recent being last week when the "Irish Military War Museum" opened its doors for the first time to the general public.

As far as I know the Irish Military War Museum is a first of its kind in Ireland because it's a museum that celebrates history from all over the world and not just Ireland.

In my own opinion this is a remarkable achievement and one worth celebrating. The Ireland that I knew was far to inward looking for far to long and it's great to see that they are finally moving away from that old outlook. From a personal point of view, the guys celebrate and remember veterans like my grandfather "James (Jimmy) O'Donovan" who served in the South Staffordshire Regiment of the British army from 1939 - 1946.

Himself and his brother "John (Jack) O'Donovan" and his best friend "Edward (Eddie) Murphy" made it through the whole of WWII seeing action on multiple continents. It is fantastic to finally see these veterans being remembered in Ireland. For to long they were forgotten because of ridicules politics that should have been put to bed decades ago. So a massive thank you from me to both the "Irish Military War Museum" and the guys in "The Brandenburg Commandos" for all you do in celebrating our heroes.
So back to the fun part, ageing some of the photos the lads took over the past few months. This is not hard to do these days and I get a lot of enjoyment from it.
I've also been playing around with HDR to make the images look more like the covers of the boxes of Airfix models we had when we were kids.
David Sinnott and Tony Walsh (above) enjoying an ice cream in Listowel...they were not expecting the yanks that day.

They've been doing an incredible job in re-enacting and capturing moments from history.
Above, a captured Russian soldier wonders what his fate will be and where he'll be taken to see out the war. I can only imagine that the guys will get better and better at capturing these moments through the lens as time goes on.
For now though you can check them out at the links below. If you have an interest in history or are involved in historical re-enactment groups around the world why not get in touch with the lads, share experiences and stories. And who knows, maybe even meet up some day for a show at the Irish Military War Museum or similar around the world.