Saturday 22 February 2014

Adnams Ale

We visited the extraordinary Noz* discount store in Loches today, in search of manbags#...
(it's a long story).

L>R: Adnams Innovation, Hardy & Hansons Rocking Rudolph and Captain Chrismas, Elgood's Golden Newt.

We didn't find those, but instead there turned out to be rather a lot of English beer
a huge stack from Adnam's of Southwold...  
Innovation [7.6% ABV] at 1.79€ a bottle...
a few bottles from Elgood's of Wisbech...  
Golden Newt [4.6% ABV] at 0.65€...
and two Christmas Ales from Hardy & Hanson [owned and brewed by Greene King]...  
Captain Christmas and Rocking Rudolph [both 4.2% ABV] at 0.75€...
the last two available on draught, normally...
Rocking Rudolph is particularly nice!!
But we've never tried either bottled.

All well within "sell by" date and the Adnam's a strong ale at that.
Needless to say we bought some...
but at the time there was plenty of the Adnams and Hardy & Hansons brews left.
Just thought you ought to know.

[* purveyor of the remnants of broken dreams]
[# and handbags...]

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Wasn't borne yesterday

You can now plug in your electric car in town, and charge up its batteries for nowt!

Look at it! Covered in smeary fingerprints already!

 You can read more about the installation here.

Something forceful and masculine about these things....

There is a new word in the French language - badger, to badge, describing the action of waving an object, such as a name badge, across a reader, to let you do something, such as to allow you to enter a room if you have the required level of security. Here you badge your SIEIL membership card over the little fan-shaped doodad at the top and the borne releases the socket so you can plug in.

Thus rendering those smelly polluting objects behind it redundant!

Now all we need is some users.

Note 1: if you have an electric cyclomoteur, don't plug it in here, it will probably blow up. Likewise your cordless drill.
Note 2: The borne was actually installed on Monday, not yesterday, which was Tuesday...

Monday 10 February 2014

Hot stuff

One of the essential spices is chilli, and one of the best chillis is cayenne. Home-grown chillis give a much better range than commercial ones, and if you grow a named variety, you know what to expect.
All home-grown - except the contents of the large jar of chilli powder!

Cayenne grows happily in a greenhouse in the UK, and equally happily outdoors in our potager. It turns into a rather leggy bush, which needs staking to stop it falling over. One good plant will provide enough to keep a curry-loving family in chillies for a year. My favourite variety - reliable and prolific - is Long Red Slim, though I keep experimenting with other varieties.

A decorative Cayenne cultivar called "Fireflame" - growing in a flower bed with Black Millet, Black-eyed Susan and Tagetes

Drying ripe chillis is easy. I thread them on kitchen string using a darning needle and just hang them up somewhere cool and dry. If you want the flavour with greatly reduced heat, cut them in strips lengthways, remove the seeds and dry in a cool oven or with a dehydrator.

Poblano (left) and "Pinocchio's Nose" extra-long Cayenne type chillies, drying in the cellier

Turning the dry chillis into powder calls for - a gadget!

Genuine 1970s moulinette - the blender goblet is long gone

My little old spice grinder copes very well with dried cayenne peppers, turning them into flakes. It needs careful cleaning though! Three strings of peppers yesterday became three quarters of a jar of flakes. You also need a well-ventilated work area, to avoid explosions. Not from the chillis, that is! A faceful of fresh chilli powder is quite an experience. The antidote to an overdose is full cream milk - capsacin, the key ingredient, is soluble in butterfat.

There are hundreds of varieties of chilli (chili, chile...) derived from several species of capsicum crossed and re-crossed into a complete tangle. Capsicum pubescens types, which have purple fruit and are small and bushy, make good pot plants and can be overwintered indoors. Many varieties are highly ornamental with multicoloured fruit and/or leaves. My favourite use of chillies as an ornament was in the Marriott Hotel in Mumbai, where each table in the restaurant bore a small pot containing a little chilli plant covered in small plump fruit. Needless to say I took a couple of the fruit home with me.

Last October I bought a little chilli plant in a pot from Jardiland, particularly for its spectacular black fruit and partly because it was all on its own and I felt sorry for it. The fruit did not turn red, but dried ton the plant to a warm brown.

Nameless variety of "Piment"

Today, by complete coincidence with yesterday's spice grinding, when I came to water it I realised that it had responded to a little TLC by producing delicately coloured flowers.

Little Beauty

And plenty more to come

Delicate - but the peppers have some punch!

The flowers are rather like the F1 hybrid "Trifetti" (see spice jar in top picture) now superceded by Purple Tiger which has variegated foliage (green white and purple) and purple fruit ripening to red. And they're hot!

Tuesday 4 February 2014

New Borne

La Nouvelle République of 28th January announced, under yet another pun-laden strapline, the installation of charging points for electric and hybrid vehicles (la voiture électrique accumule les bornes) in towns and villages across Indre et Loire. Just for once la France profonde would take the lead in a (debatable) environmental project, with 276 sets of double charging points installed by the end of the year, the first département to create such a resource.

This was not big news in the market place in Le Grand Pressigny where the work was already in progress.

Don't park your car here for fear of mighty retribution

The two parking spaces nearest to the Mairie now have a smart pair of steel bollards, a post with a sign indicating "electric vehicles only" and a wire sticking out of the ground with insulating tape on the end.

About to be borne

It's rather a cute sign, once you work it out.

Forbidden except... for something or other

The new emplacement has caused some disruption of the Thursday market, because it is right where the Limouzin Frères goat cheese stall usually is. So they have bumped along next to the fish wagon, while the Cheese Lady was tucked away behind Laurent Poupeau's butcher's van...

Waiting for a connection

When it's finished, it should look like this one, in Joué-lès-Tours... the latest in service.

Nicolas a découvert la dernière borne mise en service, à Joué-lès-Tours. - (Photo NR)

Nicolas, the young man in the picture above, has sold his old Renault 5 in favour of a Twizzy. Before, his budget was 165€ for petrol; now he pays 45€ to hire the battery. But he reckons that as long as the availability of charging points is inadequate, the market for electric vehicles will never take off. He is using a badge (free from le Syndicat intercommunal d'énergie d'Indre-et-Loire (Sieil)) which is managing the roll-out. The communes pay 20% of the 12,000€ cost (not including tax) of the installation. Meanwhile, during the hour it takes to charge the Twizzy's battery, Nicolas can take a stroll around the village, have a coffee, do a bit of shopping... la bonne bouffe for somebody!

The first person to spot someone using one of our charging points wins a jar of marmalade.