Sugar Tips

April 19th, 2011
Sugar

Gave up sugar for lent and now havetoo much of it at home? Here are ten uses for sugar I bet you never thought of … it even tells you how to get your fire going and (in an unrelated tip) how to soothe a burnt tongue.

10 Extraordinary uses for Sugar

How to crack an egg

April 11th, 2011
Cracked Egg

Nice video explaining how to crack and egg so you don’t get shell in your mixture and raw egg running down the side of the bowl.

The secret? Use a flat surface!

http://www.cooksillustrated.com/video/default.asp?newVideo=y&docid=23354&Extcode=L1DN1BA00

Top Ten Tips for Disneyland Paris

March 30th, 2011
Disney

We’re just back from Disneyland Paris with the kids and a super time was had by all, however it pays to do some homework before you go. Here are the top ten things, in no order, we learned from others or just on our own. Worth nothing that these are purely personal ideas which may not apply to your needs or plan.

–          Age: The idea of Disney appeals to all parents however the reality of access to rides, queuing, eating out and a lot of walking does not make an easy journey for the very young. Unless you have kids about to go over the age threshold then hold off on taking the younger ones until the age of about six if at all possible. Worth nothing the very young won’t even remember their trip so don’t be in a rush to bring the under fives.

–          Hotel Choice: We stayed three nights which equated to about two and a half days in the parks. Nearly all of this time was spent outside of the hotel. We got up, had breakfast and we gone by 9am. We did not see the hotel again until 9pm. For that reason we stayed in the 2* Santa Fe hotel which is part of the Disney complex. The hotel is basic but clean and a decent shower to get you going in the morning. Rooms had a flat screen TV with one or two English channels, mostly news but the Disney channel itself was in English. Different families will have different needs but there may not be much point in trying to book a hotel with a pool if you plan to be in the parks all day.

–          Transfers: The package deals will most likely include a VEA (Red Bus) transfer from the airport to your hotel. The transfer can be a two stage process i.e. the first white bus comes every 20mins which then takes you to the main shuttle which also arrives every 20mins. The bus can cost time and be a bit of an unpleasant scrum so we paid an extra €80 for a private transfer from the airport. He was waiting at the gate with our name on a card adn took us direct to the hotel. We landed at 13:30 and, as we carried hand luggage only, were checked in and in Disney park by 15:30. Journey time from the airport to the hotel was about 45minutes. We used  http://www.parisshuttleservice.com but others have recommended http://www.shuttle-transfers.net

–          When: Go midweek if possible. We went Wednesday-Saturday and the crowds in the hotel Saturday morning we a lot bigger to what we had seen Thursday and Friday mornings. Park queuing times will be less midweek. Tuesday to Friday would be the ideal choice for me.

–          Time of year: Outside of peak times you get much better deals. We went in March, and were there for St. Patricks Day, but the weather can be your enemy. Paris can be very cold and it can be wet at this time of year so you need to try plan for all types of clothing. Rather than bring a big bulky coat that will get in the way bring layers that you can take on and off as needed. Add waterproof jackets (or ponchos) and hats, scarves and gloves and you get the idea. Footwear can be the deal breaker here, if it rains everything gets wet very quickly. The Disney shops have children’s wellingtons which you can buy if you’re stuck.

–          Hotel Breakfast: The first queue of the day is for hotel breakfast, Some (most) hotels issue you with  a card that has your requested time on it e.g. 8:15-8:45. Miss this time and miss breakfast. In the Santa Fe they let everybody in regardless of what the card said but I heard of people turned away in the Newport Bay Club for turning up at the wrong time. In the Santa Fe hotel the breakfast room was huge and they let batches of people in every few minutes. Up to you to find a table after that by wandering around. We liberated a few breadrolls every morning which we brought to the park. The kids munched on them while waiting for rides.

–          Early opening: Disney hotels advertise early park access for those who stay with them. You can get in from 8am instead of 10am which is normal opening time. This is a swizz and none of the rides, or even the lands themselves,  are open. Maybe because it was Patrick’s Day on the only day we got there early. It appears to be a ploy to get you to have breakfast in the park with the characters (which they charge you for). Get to the park around 9:30am and get in. Don’t leave it until 10am or there’ll be a queue. If you plan to head early I would check on Google to find out what you can actually do at that time.

–          Fastpass: At the park itself there is the “Fastpass” option. This will only apply to a few of the more popular rides but use it wisely, you will want to avoid the 50minute queues for Big Thunder and Peter Pan. Here’s what you do: If you are staying in a Disney hotel get to the park about 9:30 or 9:45. Most of the lands (Adventure land, Frontier land etc) will still be roped off and closed. Pick the “big ride” you’re interested in for that area e.g. Big Thunder for Frontier Land and make a break for that as soon as they open the rope. This will 1) Save you having to queue 2) Having to use your Fastpass for that ride, remember Fastpass can only be used on one ride at a time, when you’re done on Big Thunder go off and Fastpass the Peter Pan ride (one of the most popular as its open to all ages).

–          Planning: There is a lot of walking and queuing which can be very tiring, towards the end of the day feet (and backs) are beginning to suffer so hold off on the more auditorium based, seated, type shows until the afternoon. In particular the Cinemagique and Stunt shows in the Disney Studios. Also, don’t dismiss the Lilo and Stitch show as for the small kids only, it’s amusing and entertaining for both kids and adults. Captain Eo (Michael Jackson 3D movie) and Star Tours and also worth leaving until a bit later when a seat is appreciated.

–          Thrill Rides: I wouldn’t automatically dismiss any of the rides or shows in Disney no matter how lame they seem. You can spot the thrill rides a mile away, some folk like them, some don’t. The Studios seems to have the majority of the thrill rides. Word of advice here: beware Crushes’ Coaster (Nemo), no fastpass system, huge queues and apparently a nice soft ride the young ones will enjoy. The reality is that this is all but a full on coaster in the dark and not the pleasant jaunt through Nemo’s world that it would seem.

95% of what we took in between the Park and the Studios was worth doing. I’m not going to tell you what wasn’t. Some scared the absolute daylights out of us (Tower of Terror) and some were just so well put together you had to admire (Stitch Live!).

Enjoy

Lal Quila – Douglas Village

February 19th, 2011
Lal Quila

Four of us went to Lal Quila in Douglas Village last Saturday. The table was booked for 8:30 so a quick drink in Barrys first and then a dash in the rain over the restaurant. We were seated quickly and handed menus and that’s where the attention ended. Forty minutes later we still had our menus and not even an offer of a drink. Plenty of staff were flapping around the busy restaurant, every table was occupied, but the problem was nobody seemed to have a dedicated station. Eventually we flagged somebody down and ordered.

After that the service was reasonable, outside of having to ask for water twice. The jumbo prawn with ginger starter was €9.50 and consisted of THREE prawns. Terrible value. Luckily the other starters represented a more typical Indian restaurant, the Chicken Tikka was tasty. The Lamb Haiderabadi for main (sweet and sour cooked with black vinegar and raspberries, ginger, garlic, fresh lime and selected spices) was also nice but when you add the €15.95 for the dish, €2.75 for Pilau rice and €3.50 for a Peshwari Naan a total of €22 isn’t cheap. Plenty of food though. The bill for four people (four starters, four mains and eight beers) came to just over €150. When you compare this to some of the curry houses in the UK it’s an steep price to pay.

In short the chaotic service ruined an otherwise OK meal. The food and prices were pretty typical of any other Indian I’ve been to. In Ireland.

Cooking for kids via dad.ie

February 15th, 2011
Dad.ie

This week I’ve temporarily relocated to dad.ie to write a quick piece on feeding kids and coming up with nutritious home-made alternatives to the type of food kids like.

First up is Home Made Chicken Nuggets. Quick and simple and very tasty. As the comment says it can also be adapted for more mature palettes with the addition of some herbs and/or spices. Read on …

http://www.dad.ie/dad-stuff.aspx

Sweet and Sour Fried Onions

February 8th, 2011

Hard to beat the simple dishes like sausage, mash and onions. Here is a quick and simple way to tart up some fried onions.

Ingredients
Two onions
Two teaspoons balsamic vinegar
One tablespoon of honey
Olive oil

Method
Fry the onion in some olive oil until golden. Add the balsamic vinegar and honey and cook on a low heat for three or four minutes.

iChef : The Touch Screen Oven

January 24th, 2011
iChef Oven

After the failure of the fridge industry to integrate LCD screens and online ordering systems up step the oven manufacturers to have a go. The iChef+ is a new touch screen based oven where “the complex innovation translates into simplicity of use”. If I understand correctly is rather like the microwave settings that nobody uses where you tell it what you’re cooking and estimate the weight (if its so smart why doesn’t it weigh it for you?) and hit the icon of choice.

How long before the touch screen breaks?

http://www.gorenjegroup.com/en/news?aid=2706

EatMagazine launch

January 20th, 2011
Eat Magazine

Mikey from Phonic publishing have been on to mention the launch of a new free monthly food & drink magazine called EatMagazine. He will be distributing 20,000 print copies a month around Dublin initially and it will also be available nationwide via the online version and the iPhone/iPad apps that launch in February. Issue one was designed, written, sold and will even be delivered by Mikey himself so it’s a pretty small operation to begin with and looking at the result I think he’s done a great job.

EatMagazine may be looking for contributors to take a monthly column so anybody interested in that should give them a shout via the contact details on their web site.

Best of luck with the new venture Mikey!

http://issuu.com/phonic_magazine/docs/eatmagazine1

http://www.phonicpublishing.com

Hugh’s Fish Fight – Discarding in the North Sea

January 12th, 2011
C4 Fish Fight

This week Channel 4’s chefs join forces in the Big Fish Fight championing sustainable seafood and celebrating lesser known delicacies of the deep, as part of this schedule I saw Hugh’s Fish Fight last night. The show highlighted the issue of discarding in the North Sea, a process by which under EU law certain fish are not allowed to be landed by trawlers so have to be discarded before the trawler hits land. See the video below and sign up for the campaign

http://www.fishfight.net/
By supporting this campaign, your name will be added to a letter to be sent to Commissioner Maria Damanaki, members of the Common Fisheries Policy Reform Group, and all MEPs.

Reuse Onion Bags as cleaning tools

January 11th, 2011
Onion Bag

Here’s another kitchen hack you can try, instead of messing up your regular kitchen brush or sponge cut up an onion bag. I guess it will have scourability and is good for the environment but whether it works or not is a different question. Answers on a postcard please.

http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/004744.php