Friday, July 6, 2012

This chicken soup will give you a lift--but let it take time

Sometimes we should take the time to make something from scratch; something that will chase away the chills of winter and lift your spirits. Here is the chicken soup I dreamt up and cooked today. It tastes divine--- a seriously cook-half-the-day-soup.
I brought 3 chicken carcases for $3 today. I washed them and put them in my favourite large pot. I poured a whole kettle of boiling water over the carcasses. Then I added some garlic; here I go again saying that it’s over to you about how much. I put the hard ends of a bunch of asparagus in too, saving the tender parts for later.
At this stage, I only put a little salt in, preferring to add it later when the other ingredients come together. I turned the soup down to the lowest setting, confident that I could go away and leave it for a couple of hours.
When I came back with an exhausted Perdy (yes—I made her run and chase her ball for 90 minutes). She sniffed at the delectable odours assaulting us as we entered the house.
I added some white pepper and some dried herbs and turned the heat up a little. After another hour of simmering away, the soup concentrated.
I strained it and put it back in the pot and placed some paper towels over the top and soaked up most of the scummy parts. Now the soup had taken on a light brown look. I added more chopped garlic and tasted--- OMG---subtle and savoury. Now for building the flavour even more.
In went the chopped reserved asparagus and some chilli flakes. I let it simmer for another 30 minutes. I chopped 2 potatoes into tiny bits and threw them in. I wanted them to break down and provide some body to the soup.
Now for some real healthy protein. I cut half a chicken breast (Skinned and deboned) into pieces and soaked it in lemon juice and soy sauce. I let that marinate for about 20 minutes and added that to the soup. The potatoes had broken down giving it a creamy texture without the added cream. It really was turning into a health nuts dream.
In went the chicken. I let that cook gently for ten minutes then tasted again. No more salt needed. It was exquisite. I will not be wasting any of this beautiful soup. Maybe I shall freeze some for another meal; then again, perhaps I shall invite my sister over share it--- after all, it’s gluten-free (even the soy sauce I used).
The cost? ----- NZ$16--- but it would serve about 8 people and it is so special. You wouldn’t want to eat a canned or packet soup ever again after sampling this one. It just needed time, love and patience.    coming soon!

The nicer side of people

Today down at the lagoon in Onehunga, I was treated to the ‘nicer’ side of humanity. When Perdy and I arrived for her run-about, we saw a gathering of about 10 people, all looking at a black object on the sand, just above the tide mark. I noticed that the dogs were all on leashes or being closely watched by their owners. I kept Perdy away by throwing her ball way out to the middle of the lagoon, forcing her to spend more of her energy and to keep her way from whatever the people were watching.
It was a seal and it seemed quite happy to observe the humans. It was probably quite young and would have swum through the gratings for the tunnel that runs under the motorway. Maybe its mum was on the other side waiting for it to return.
Everybody was discussing options and eventually I found out that someone had rung DOC (Department of Conservation) and that an officer was on his way. I did wonder what he could do, especially when the seal headed out into the middle of the lagoon and played in the water.
What struck me was the camaraderie amongst the humans and the fact that they cared enough to keep their dogs and anyone else away who might hurt it. One guy had been there, for 5 hours and he wasn’t going to give up.
I wish we could transfer this caring attitude to some of the other issues we face with our kids. Still----it’s wonderful to see this ‘caring for our animal friends.
Perdy--- she didn’t even notice. She was far too busy chasing her mates and defending her ball. I’ve seen a few of them floating out under the motorway. Maybe the seals out there can play with them.

Is Hillary Clinton telling the truth about China and Russia, when she threatens them with 'consequences

Hillary Clinton just announced that Russia and China will face ‘consequences’ their support of the Syrian regime. Give me a break.  What is so different from their support to the USA and others support of the ‘rebels?’ For a start--- who are the rebels?  We don’t really know.
We see images of those who have been undoubtedly hurt by Assad’s goons. That their numbers are growing is obvious, but when it comes to offering viable alternate government, I am not so sure. No doubt the CIA and various Western agencies are doing their best to find out. We have no idea how much influence is coming from the Hezbollah or Al Qaeda, or how much is from genuinely Syrian ‘home grown groups.
One thing we can expect that it is going to be a long hard road to peace and prosperity and whether that starts from a ‘Western-style’ version of the democratic process, is an ideal that will find difficulty taking route. One only has to look at Iraq, Libya and other middle-Eastern nations to see the warning signs. Those nations I have mentioned are actually on the start of the journey towards democracy, but their counterparts in the Middle-East give little reason for confidence. Just look at Saudi Arabia or Iran and you will know what I mean.
Is Russia’s support or China’s that different from that of the ‘West?’ I am pretty sure that both countries want a stake in the future of Syria. They want their point of influence, just like the USA, and the UK etc. compete for the same position. If it is not oil, then it is geo/political in nature. None of the said powers wish to be ‘left out’ in this unstable area.  Their reasons for ‘involvement’ have nothing to do with altruistic or humanitarian ideals. Though they may state such positions, their words are hollow.
Neither the USA nor the UK wish to see yet another fundamentalist Islamic regime born out of the Syrian situation. The spectre of such regimes in Libya and Egypt must be causing sleepless nights in the bedrooms of those policy makers.
In the end, China, Russia, the UK, USA and others will seek to curry favour with either the ‘old failed regime or a potentially new one. That it is not clear who that will be is problematic for them all.
There is another common group in all of the ‘behind the scene nations’--- the huge corporate giants and politicians who have strayed from their Communist beginnings. The Communist Party in China is simply a new dynasty while Putin in Russia, backed by the military/ industrialists, is a byword for the Tsarists. Nothing really changes. Power is, and always has been in the hands of a minority, all over the world and throughout history.
 In the West, democracy is ‘tolerated’ by the military/industrial complex and when government policies become too unfriendly to them--- the pendulum swings. Little ‘people’ demonstrate and think that they are forcing change, but in reality, nothing really does. Watch Greece as the economy further unravels. The military will return.
If you think I have painted a cynical or depressing picture of real world politics, then closely observe as events unfold in unstable nations around the world and stay essentially the same in the West. It will of course depend on where you get your news-feeds from. The bright hope for the truth---Julian Assange and his leaked series of emails. I sadly think that he too will be closed down soon. He is getting a little too close to the truth...

You may call this 'Fat bugger 10--or 11 if you wish

Try this lasagne. You can add or subtract the calories as you wish.
Brown some onions (I used two) in a pan and then add about 500 grams of minced beef (Chicken, pork or lamb work well too or why not chuck them all in?)
Add some garlic (as little or as much--- you get the picture).
Now pout in a can of pasta sauce (use the cheap ones) some tomato puree and a small can of tomato concentrate (paste). This sounds like a lot of tomato product--- that’s cool, because it is very good for you and we are not adding heaps of calories (Yet!)
Shake in about two teaspoons of dried mixed herbs (use fresh if you have them) and a bay leaf. Be careful with the salt because now you can add some cooked or uncooked streaky bacon—I used a rather lot). Remember it has a good deal of salt. Grind in quite a lot of cracked pepper and if you wish---- some paprika--- the smokey sort. None of this is essential—just experiment.
Once it is all bubbling gently, pour in as much of the bottle of red wine that you don’t drink while you are standing over the stove admiring and tasting your creation. Don’t get too pissed while you are surveying your sauce!
Now in the bottom of a humongous aluminium roasting dish (I use them because they are ‘throw away’--- less washing up) that you have lined with baking paper, make a layer of cooked spinach and mushroom--- if you want to nod at being healthy.
Build up the layers now--- place the first layer of lasagne sheets (You can even get gluten free ones now—so you lot won’t miss out eh!). Then add a generous layer of sauce. I just had two layers of the sheets but you can have more if you wish.
Finally, put the remaining layer of sauce on the top and sprinkle lots of grated tasty cheese on that.
 Cook it in an oven at about 180c until the top is bubbling, then turn it right down to 160 with a layer of tin foil on the top to make sure the cheese doesn’t burn.
Serve with my potato wedges (see previous blogs) and a salad and of course--- more red wine. I had apple crumble with ginger topping for desert.
This recipe would feed a large family or about 7 hungry people with leftovers. Make it as big or as little as you wish. Have fun

Many years ago In Otara I used to-----

Yes, many years ago I used to be a teacher at Tangaroa College in Otara. Now some of those students are hitting 50 plus. Hehehe--- I bet you don’t like me reminding you of that. I was so young then and did all the dumb things young people (need to) do.
Now I see on Facebook that many of these wonderful students are spread all over the world: UK, Aussie and God knows where. I wonder how many are still back in Otara. I hope so, because so many of them have done really well and the kids there need good role models.
 My only complaint about these ‘kids’ is that they call me Mr Coleman or Sir, still. Hell--- a few call me Radar. How dare that usurper (Te Radar) take my name. Now--- do try to call me Neil---OK?
I love seeing what you are all doing with your families and grandkids.  I also know that some of you have had some hard times and hit some pretty hard rocks on the way. Life hasn’t dealt us all a bed of roses. What I admire about you all is the fantastic way you awhina one another with your love and support.
 I shall continue to watch and read about your exploits. I just wish the kids of today will work out as well as you did

School holidays are great for kids--are they?

Go back to your childhood---- it’s the last day of school and the holidays are nigh. Fantastic; you have two weeks or in the case of the summer holidays, 6 or more weeks of bliss, having fun and what?
For some it was boredom after a while and for other it meant getting into trouble. Nothing has changed about those feelings, but there is something a little scary of research published is true.
For those kids who have been falling behind with their reading, then the holidays only make matters worse. If you come from a family where books and learning are ‘ingrained’ (Cultural Capital) then you will continue to read and involve yourself in appropriate activities along with some that parents don’t readily approve of---well, that’s not so new is it?
Imagine though if you have struggled with your literacy (and numeracy) skills in school and come from a home where the major effort goes into just putting ‘bread on the table.’ There may be no access to books, and reading is considered or to put it even more bluntly, ‘not considered’ a valuable pastime.
For these kids, any gains made during term time, are actually reversed in the short time the kids are away from school. Yes, if you measure their levels on their return to school, there is a strong chance that some kids fall even further behind the national average for their reading. It seems that reading IS A SKILL THAT MUST BE PRACTICED. Use that skill (especially as a young learner) or you start to lose it. You get out of the habit in an incredibly short time.
This has serious implications for these kids. Failure is reinforced and the accompanying behaviours are enhanced making gains even harder for the teacher. This group of kids needs a major input. They must be given access to books during the holidays. I know there are programmes around to achieve this, but it is simply not enough. The problem is even worse amongst boys, where we have to break some pretty damned bad stereotypes about books and reading.
This research and information needs to be given voice and we must act collectively to address this serious problem. Reading does not have to be presented in a boring manner. If it’s combined with part of other holiday programs there is every chance that we can ‘stop the rot’ and have our kids return to school, still essentially up with the remainder of their cohorts. We have a long way to go

RT (Russian TV) Mmmm---- Interesting and honest?

A few days ago I wrote a blog about Russian TV (RT) and then another one on Anwar Ibrahim (the Malaysian Leader of the Opposition) being interviewed  by Julian Assange. That interview was on RT and I was mightily impressed. Since then I have taken a few other programmes on RT and I have found it to be refreshing.
This may sound hypocritical of me given my criticism of the way Russia is ‘rewriting their history under the banner of ‘Positive’ History.’ It seems that there can be two threads operating at the same time in that huge nation.
For many years we have been fed the views of BBC, CNN, Fox (God forbid) and our own TVNZ. After consuming these organizations’ viewpoints for so long one tends to assume that they represent the truth about the issue they report on. You could say that we are being ‘lulled’ into believing their every word. It would seem that the ‘world view as expressed by RT and perhaps Aljazeera, may represent a ‘voice’ that should be heard.
I am going to take the example of Julian Assange. He is being hounded and portrayed as the ‘evil wizard;’ dishonest and possibly criminal in his behaviours. With the latest announcement and release of more Wikileaks emails, this time about the USA’s intentions re GITMO, one does wonder at the actions of the USA Government. Does it not make you wonder at why so many Governments are becoming a little jittery about what the ‘leaks’ might reveal. Sometimes the ‘truth,’ is more than a little inconvenient.
Before you get carried away and think that I am turning into some sort of advocate for the Russian (Putin) Government or RT--- stop. I know that of it suits the purposes of the just mentioned person and organization, then of course they will court Julian. Why should they be any different to the ‘tried and true’ media outlets and politicians that we have lived with for all of our lives?
Maybe we should thank Julian and Wikileaks for their tweaking of the lies we have listened to and swallowed for so long. That he is being hunted speaks for itself. He is possibly speaking in a way that we are not used to---- in a balanced and truthful manner.
Hang in there Julian. Be careful though, because when it suits them--- even your new friends may turn on you.