Those Exploding Potatoes in Full

August 23, 2009

Never let it be said that I constantly ask for your advice in order to increase the number of comments I get and then wantonly refuse to take it. Ok, except maybe about the bike colour, but we’ll draw a veil over that for now. Ahem. But anyway, a couple of weeks back I was wondering why my new potatoes exploded when boiled and many of you were kind enough to offer suggestions on how to avoid it. These were:

Start cooking in cold water rather than boiling (I’m guessing this was the implication of cha0tic‘s question, and is also my neighbour’s technique)

Brown in butter and then braise in stock (from the  Allotments4All forum, suggested by Flighty)

Slice them up and make grillpan chips (Jo)

Toughen up the skins by leaving them in the sun for an hour or so (allotment blogger)

And then steam them (also allotment blogger)

Try different kind of potatoes (Bill Sticker)

Full soil sample analysis (J‘s farmer friend)

Use artificial coagulants instead of holding them together with Love (thanks, Mike)

I haven’t tried different kinds of potatoes yet – although I’ll be paying more attention to the variety next year – and somehow I haven’t quite managed to get around to having a full soil sample analysis done – I know, these part-time slacker gardeners, eh? – but I have had a go at most of the other suggestions. I’m afraid I’m not one of those systematic bloggers who sets up proper cooking experiments with controlled and measured outcomes, I just cooked supper in various different ways, but I thought I’d report back on the results. Anyone really really desperate to know how I got on – or who has exploding potatoes of their own – can read on. For the rest of you, I suggest you don’t bother

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Gauntlet Laid Down

August 21, 2009

GOM1, over on TLATET, has been doing some crunching of the OpenStreetMap numbers and produced this. It’s an estimate of coverage in Scotland in Wales, following an earlier version he did for England. The colouring is a little difficult to interpret, but the numbers are here (and no, I don’t know what’s going on in Anglesey either – possibly some understandable confusion there between sheep tracks and major A-roads). Anyway, Scotland is looking fairly dire, and – despite my best efforts – it’s not looking much better round this neck of the woods. I shall have to get on my bike and get going. And if anyone is living in London (or indeed Anglesey) and is fiddling around mapping individual buildings and wants something to get their teeth into, come up here! Not only are we more or less Terra Incognita, but there’s some of the finest cycling, on or off-road, in the country*. Don’t believe me? Come up and see for yourselves…

*Especially if you like hills**

**and rain.

Welcome Home

August 20, 2009


It’s been raining, pretty much, since I got off the train yesterday and stepped into the half-inch of water that was pooled on the platform below the steps. The Met Office has issued a flood warning that covers the rivers of the entire county. So when the rain did finally stop after lunch today, there was really only one thing we could do.
Or rather, two. Because having wellied up, we first had to go and clear out the drains along our section of the road which had formed an impromptu ford of its own. This always involves much enjoyable poking about with sticks and a very satisfying plug-coming-out-of-the-bath noise when the blockage finally clears. It’s almost – but not quite – worth putting up with 24 hours of torrential downpours. It’s also much, much better if your wellies don’t develop a leak in the process, as I found to my cost half way through.
Then, our civic duty done, we went to check the level on the ford.
I think it’s a little higher than our previous record attempt, but the other half’s not so sure, and he’s the final arbiter in these matters.
Either way, I wouldn’t drive over it

And now it’s raining again…

Platform Nine and No-Quarters

August 19, 2009

People of Edinburgh: how hard can it be to number the platforms in your principal railway station in some kind of sensible fashion? I hear that starting at one and going in consecutive order up to, but not beyond, the number of platforms you actually have is fashionable in certain forward-thinking railway stations. As opposed to say, randomly scattering the platform numbers, as you appear to have done, or possibly – I didn’t have time to work it out, being in a hurry what with having a train to catch and all – in some elaborate fibonacci sequence, or Dan-Brownesque code that, when deciphered, reveals the ultimate secret of the universe*. And if you will insist in doing it your way – and you are the Athens of the north after all – how about then arranging your signs so that the weary traveller doesn’t have to walk the entire way widdershins about the station in order to find platform 9? Only to realise that there are in fact two platform 9s, 9E and 9W with – and this is the sort of detail that marks you out from all the other, lesser, train stations – the eastbound train on the ‘W’ end and the westbound train on the ‘E’ end. Add in the fact that at this time of the year every other person in the city is either dressed as a gorilla or in full zombie makeup, and it’s hard to shake off the feeling that the weary passenger has become instead an unwitting audience member in an interactive promenade performance of an absurdist European drama. Six passengers in search of a train, perhaps?

Still, I made it home. Normal posting to resume tomorrow.

*how to buy a standard advance fare to anywhere that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg

And Points North

August 15, 2009

So we’re off for a few days, to Edinburgh via Orkney (I knew we should never have trusted that sat nav). We’re going to Edinburgh, of course, because of this, which I know is in all of your diaries.  Pehaps with the scribbled reminder ‘avoid at all costs…

Posting may be patchy until I return. And who knows, photos may follow.

If there’s Anywhere…

August 14, 2009

… more depressing than Bigtown in the rain, I’ve yet to find it.

That is all.


August 13, 2009

Not long ago, I got an email via OpenStreetMap telling me about a forthcoming mapping party in Bigtown. Obviously they’d noticed that having just me doing the mapping, at my current rate of do-a-few-side-streets-on-my-bike-when-I’m-in-town-if-I-have-time, it was going to be a while before Bigtown’s coverage reached saturation, and they’d decided to come up and give me a hand. Which is cool, but it did make me realise I had better get a move on and with today being the last fine day predicted on the weather forecast I decided to get out and put one of Bigtown’s two big cycleways on the map. This proved a bit of an adventure. The routes themselves aren’t bad – well signposted, beautifully surfaced, lit, reasonably well used and – miracle of miracles – not carpeted in broken glass. But – and how did you know there would be a but? – there are a few minor flaws. There was the ‘cyclists dismount sign’ at the entrance to one section, but then that’s usually how you know you’re on a really serious cycle route in the UK. And then every time it got to a road there would be a chicane, although I’m better at cycling through those than I used to be. And, worst of all, there was the slight sneaking sensation of boredom I got as I bowled along a flat, straight, untrafficked path with nothing to think about but pedalling – but that’s just me, and hardly the path’s fault. On the whole it was pretty good, and if I lived or worked round there I’d certainly use it in preference to the road.

But there are cycle tracks, and there are cycle tracks. On the way back, I noticed a sign pointing me off to the right, indicating a short cut home. I had a quick look at the map and couldn’t see how it crossed the river, but in the spirit of mapping, and exploration, I decided to follow it to see where it went. Lulled into a false sense of security by the wonderful facility I’d been on before, I didn’t smell a rat when I ended up diving through underpasses beneath a big roundabout. Nor did the roar of lorries tip me off as I rounded a corner, until I found myself right on the edge of the major A-road, the wind in my face, on a narrow pavement, heading against the traffic, with what seemed like every lorry in Scotland bearing down at 60mph towards me. True, I was off-road, technically, and therefore ‘safe’, except where the bushes were overgrown and I had the choice between ploughing through branches or going head to head with an articulated lorry. But it was deeply unpleasant and scary and there was no way off, and nothing to do about it but grit my teeth and put my head down and cycle for the longest mile of my life.

It was a relief to get off and onto the roads once more, albeit the quiet back streets. After a quick stop off for much needed fuel at the garage – a Yorkie bar, as it happens – I was happy to thread my way through the cars queueing for their fuel (rather pricier and much less tasty I’ll bet), and head for home.