Monthly Archives: November 2006

Beef and Mushroom Pie

Pastry

This is basically “fine lining pastry” from the Larousse Gastronomique, minus the sugar and with yummy animal fat. Makes enough for two pies.

  • 500g flour
  • 300g lard
  • 1 egg
  • Up to 100ml water

Rest pastry for a few hours before use.

Filling

  • 400g topside of beef, trimmed and diced
  • Small punnet of shitake mushrooms, chopped
  • Large onion, chopped fine
  • 800ml decent beef stock (I make mine from oxtail)
  • Few dried porcini mushrooms (cêpes)
  • Salt and pepper

Beef, shitake and onion fried in any combination of olive oil and/or butter. Stock and everything else added, reduce until only enough juice remains to keep pie moist.

Make up pie, pour a little truffle oil over mixture before lid is fitted. Bake at 150°Celsius for up to an hour.

Serve with a good, dry cider – preferably a Méthode Champagnoise.

Earwigs Ate Elvis!

Our unusual climatic conditions this year have have benefited some – notably earwigs (Forficula auricularia). We have had a veritable plague of them.

Although earwigs (or The Earwiggen, as I call them because I think it sounds better) are not generally a serious garden pest, in the numbers that we have had, I have replaced all my pumpkin and courgette (zucchini) seedlings twice. Even my peppers (capsicums, bell peppers) have been attacked.

So far, the only vegetables unaffected are a) garlic [nothing touches that] and b) tomatoes.

So, earwigs may not have eaten Elvis, but that’s only because Elvis wasn’t in my vegetable patch.

Pork Pie

I was starting off on the production of a meatloaf, but found that I had more pork that I would normally use in a beef/pork combination, but not enough pork to make two meals. With the pork already coarsely chopped, I tried a different tack.

With the pork at a pork pie coarseness (and about half a kilo of it), I added a ladle of fresh (still hot) chicken stock, large pinch of salt, pepper ground on fine, teaspoon of whole-grain Dijon mustard (end of the jar), dessert spoon of smooth Dijon mustard, dessert spoon of garlic purée, an egg, a cup of coarse polenta, a small dash of liqueur tokay – all into silicone (flexible) bread pan, whole beaten egg poured on top to keep it moist. Baked for just under an hour at 150° Celsius.

This went down very well with chips (real ones, made from potato) and College White from Sevenhill Cellars (warning: Web site with poor accessibility), the Clare Valley’s outstanding Jesuit winery.

Different Accessibility Issues with Web Content

This article appeared originally in the October newsletter of the Guild of Accessible Web Designers (GAWDS) and provides the framework of a session that I will be presenting at this years
OzeWAI conference. Anyone who has experiences that they would like to share regarding using the Web whilst suffering from fatigue issues is invited to mail me at the address at the bottom of the page. (Note that this is a temporary address, subject to frequent change; those who know my real address are encouraged to use it.)

Introduction

When creating accessible Web content, we need to consider the needs of people with a number of issues which include but are not limited to:

  • Sensory impairments
  • Impaired mobility
  • "Different" hardware/software (not a PC with Internet Explorer with an 800×600 screen resolution)
  • Cognitive and print disabilities

I guess that most people reading this are nodding at this point, saying, "yes, I am aware of all these issues, and a load of other ones".

Allow me to introduce an issue which is rarely mentioned, or considered. I write from direct, personal, experience but am sure that others will be able to identify with at least some of the aspects.

Chronic Fatigue and Friends

I am tired. I am tired all the time to the point of incapacity. Whilst this has been tagged conveniently as "Chronic Fatigue" I have two underlying issues – sleep apnoea (apnea to our friends in the USA) and thyroid/adrenal insufficiencies.

Note that the effects of my fatigue problems, whilst ongoing for me, can affect other people for other reasons – jetlag, over-work, teething infants, and more.

So what has this got to do with accessible Web design? Everything.

Before my sleep apnoea was treated, I used to suffer from "microsleeps" this is where I would, throughout the day, keep falling asleep for fractions of a second (like narcolepsy). On an everyday basis, this meant that I
could not safely drive, use power tools, have a bath, etc.

When trying to read a Web page, I would often have to start a good ten, twelve times (and still had to give up on many occasions). This problem was worst when there were large, unbroken blocks of text and/or wide columns.
My work-around was to increase the font size, although this did not help me when language was excessively complex. A clear layout with small chunks of text and plain language made my life much easier in this respect.

Multi-column layouts (more than two) were an issue for me in the apnoea days and still are in "Chronic Fatigue Mode" although slightly less so. I hate cluttered layouts; when the mind is tired and wandering, bits of content all over the place – especially when there are bits of navigation in several different places – is hugely distracting and very frustrating.
Blogs are amongst the worst offenders – what is with trying to cram so much onto a single page? Something to linearise the layout would help me here, a simple and tidy design would eliminate the need.

Movement. Argh! I would like to see a guideline "Do not allow any form of movement on a page without first asking the user’s permission." When the slightest distraction can make a page hard to read, any movement (often advertisements in the form of animated images or Flash) can actually push
"hard to read" to the level of "unuseable" As a user of the Firefox user agent (Web browser), the AdBlock extension is my saviour here, allowing me to "ban" distracting and/or annoying advertising (and other) content.

One thing that I would point out is that those with fatigue issues can be very irritable (just ask my wife). The hard-to-read page full of distractions can make for one very annoyed reader (take my word for it); if you are trying to influence that reader to buy something, support a cause, vote for someone – you may well have just sent them off to the
competition.

Scrambled Eggs

For various reasons, I am unable to eat carbohydrate in the morning. As I’m not up for burning large chunks of meat at 0600, breakfast tends to be either omelette or scrambled eggs. Unless I have tasty omelette filling, I have been tending towards scrambled eggs for a good morning taste experience. The only disadvantage of scrambled eggs is the state of the saucepan afterwards. I cook in a stainless saucepan on low heat and always end up with a thin veneer of wasted egg stuck to the bottom of the pan.

After a particularly good batch of egg fried rice – the first time that I have got the texture spot-on for my taste – I wondered whether the wok might be a better vessel for the preparation of scrambled eggs.

I should point out that I do not have a traditional wok – my wife did not like my old "yucky" spun-steel six-dollar Chinese wok and obtained a Scanpan model with some kind of ceramic non-stick coating. Whether this would work in an ordinary wok, I know not, but I was able to scramble eggs hotter, faster, with no adherence to pan or bowl and with a better texture than ever before.

My wife and I both prefer these wok scrambled eggs and I certainly like being able to clean the cooking vessel with little more than a quick wipe.

As they say, your mileage may vary.

The Big Dry

South Australia is the driest state on the driest continent. This year (2006) is extra dry. The River Murray – the source of water for much of the state – is at very low levels, the Darling is down to almost a trickle. Water usage restrictions are being put in place and farmers are feeling the bite, with cereal crops just about wiped out. Houses in Adelaide (built on clay) are starting to crack, and not just because of lousy builders.

My Year To Date Rainfall Table says it all. Although it rained in October (sort of), there was not enough to tip my gauge. I should be able to run the house on rainwater until mid-January but after that – who knows.

‘Tis a grim picture.