Cooking for Beginners 1 – ‘Simply Cook’

I’m an okay cook, but I’m lazy. I have a few default recipes and that’s it, so I have taken interest in those recipe boxes. I’ve mentioned Earthmiles before where you earn points for being active and you can use those points to get treats. I usually use mine to try out subscription boxes.

Enter ‘Simply Cook‘.

Unlike the rest of the recipe boxes out there, ‘Simply Cook’ don’t send you the ingredients. They have these pre-mixed pots and you supply the ingredients. The big downside to this is you can’t recreate the recipes yourself and it’s more like buying those sauce mixes than actual cooking. Regardless of how well this turns out, I’m not going to be continuing with a subscription…my free trial was enough. Amusingly, I’ve recently received offers from ‘Hello Fresh’ and ‘Gousto’…which I’ll probably try out.

Anyway, ‘Simply Cook’.

In my box I got mixes to prepare BBQ Tandoori Chicken, Malay Laksa, Bokkeumbap and Thai Red Prawn Curry.  I opted to make BBQ Tandoori Chicken, as I had a lot of the fresh ingredients to had.

One big advantage I can see these boxes having over ‘Hello Fresh’ and the others, is the ability to adapt. The BBQ Tandoori Chicken recipe called for sweet potatoes to make the wedges, but I don’t like sweet potato so switched them for normal potatoes…and being lactose intolerant I chose to use Alpro plain yoghurt instead of natural yoghurt.

Step by step recipe card (including tear off shopping list) and mixes for ‘potato seasoning’, ‘smoked chili blend’ and ‘Tandoori paste’. Pretty basic.

The preparation was very, very straight forward and simple to follow.

And this was the result.

Tasty? Definitely, especially the wedges. Worth it? No, not really. I mean for one…it’s not a lot of food. I have more chicken & wedges leftover and that’ll be tomorrow’s dinner but…IDK, it doesn’t feel like much.

I thought about preparing some rice to go with it but decided that it would be a little much with the wedges. I probably should have added more salad but I had a salad for lunch so didn’t have a lot of salad leftover (and my guinea pig tends to demolish any remaining salad bits).

I’m reasonably sure I’m going to be hungry later.





Theatre Review: ‘A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer’, Dorfman Theatre 29th November 2016


‘A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer’
Book by Bryony Kimmings & Brian Lobel, music by Tom Parkinson and lyrics by Bryony Kimmings.

I recently caught the last performance of Bryony Kimmings’s A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer at the National Theatre’s Dorfman Theatre.

During the first act, we’re introduced to people with various cancers at various stages of their diagnoses through Amanda (played by the wonderful Amanda Hadingue), a single mum facing the prospect of her four-month-old son having cancer. The musical numbers are moving, haunting and surreal as each character deals with the reality of cancer. Some of the most moving moments came from Laura (masterfully and movingly played by Golda Rosheuvel) in the final stages of ovarian cancer and not ready to face her end and the young man (Gary Wood) trying to deal with testicular cancer on his own.

The twist came in the second act when Amanda stops to ask the writer (the ever present voice of Bryony Kimmings) a question and it’s revealed that the characters are real people with real stories met when Bryony was navigating the NHS with her four-month-old son. Laura, the woman facing a terminal diagnosis was an actress and singer who stopped singing but found her voice in her final weeks. The cast as themselves invited two of the people whose stories we were witnessing onto the stage to give their hopes for the future and invited the audience to name the people they wanted to remember who had been affected by cancer.

Needless to say, it was very affecting and probably one of the few times as a theatre goer I’ve been asked to face the truth. I can see why the reviews have been mixed but I found it a profoundly moving and challenging piece of true theatre

2014 – My Picks & Whatnot…

Coming to the end of another year. It seems cliche to say it but it really went by very quickly! It seems only yesterday I was battling the weather to get to Greenford Town Hall (to PAT test, very exciting), then I remember that was actually two years ago! So what of this year? Well, it’s certainly been eventful – went from working on a long running show, to being temporarily freelance then back to full employment. Makes me wonder what next year will bring!

At work the other day we discussed all going to see the new Paddington film one night after work. That’s when I realised I haven’t been to the cinema at all this year and can honestly say I’ve hardly watched any films. In previous years I’ve gone to the cinema at least once a week, maybe I should use that as a weekly treat next year. Hmm. This means I can’t really do a list of my top ten films and honestly, the last film I remember watching was How to Train Your Dragon 2. 

So what did I watch? Hannibal (the TV series). Several times. Not that I’m obsessed or anything… 😉

My Top Five TV Shows of the Year (not in any order):
1) Hannibal
2) Sherlock
3) Some Girls
4) Detectorists
5) Inside Number 9

Honourable mention: Transparent, Orange is the New Black and Doctor Who

Coming up with a list of books was again tricky as I’ve not read much this year, or listened to as many audiobooks as I used to. I’m blaming my degree studies for this, for the first part of the year I was reading tons of history books and now I’ve returned to literature I’m struggling through several books I don’t particularly like or would have ever picked up to read. Knew I should have done 20th century literature.

What did I read? Well, of the books I read the only ones which stand out are Children of the Sun by Max Schaefer, Red Shirts by John Scalzi, David Miller’s autobiography Racing Through the Dark and Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch (book 4 in the Peter Grant series), which if you look at my reading list for this year pretty much make up my entire reading!

I’ve not even been playing that many computer games. I’ve bought a lot (damn you Steam sales!), but not played that many. I got really into State of Decay (even if the glitches made me laugh) but then the character I’d spent a lot of time building up died in a really tragic way so I uninstalled the game in a fit of rage. I kept having random crashes in Bioshock despite my computer being more than capable of handling the game so didn’t get very far in – I will return to it though.

My Five Games of the Year:
1) Door Kickers
2) Deadlight
3) Spec Ops: The Line
4) State of Decay
5) Breach & Clear

Looking at this I’m wondering what have I spent my year doing. Not very much it seems! I did get to spent some time with my very lovely friends in Leicester doing Holmesian stuff and eating far too much chocolate, I went to Deen City Farm with another friend and went to the Sherlock Holmes exhibit with a good friend. This year has really been about doing stuff with friends and working.

Do the politics matter? – thoughts on ‘The Iron Lady’

Phyillda Lloyd’s recent ‘biopic’ of Margaret Thatcher staring Meryl Streep has come under scrutiny for taking the politics out of Thatcher’s conservative government choosing to focus on her rise to power. As a film ‘The Iron Lady’ is a structural and narrative mess, but regardless of your politics the film is worth watching for Streep’s extraordinary performance.

I’m one of ‘Blair’s children’, my political knowledge is largely confined to episodes of ‘Yes Minister’ and ‘The Thick of It’; my understanding of Thatcher and her polarisation comes from what is essentially popular left-wing satire. I would have liked to have seen more politics, both the good and the bad, I would have liked to have seen what made her so popular with the voting public despite the strikes and union opposition. The moment that was seen as her betrayal by those key cabinet members was too brief, why were her closest advisers determined to bring her down? Prominent Tories have gone on record saying that it’s too soon to make a film about Thatcher and I would agree, if the film had been about Thatcher.

Last year channel 4 showed a drama about Mo Molem, played movingly and brilliantly by Julie Walters, that is the type of film I want to see about Thatcher. The politics do matter as it’s clear that Thatcher’s politics were what defined and polarised her for a generation.

Film Review: ‘Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows’

Guy Ritche’s last Holmesian offering won the sceptics over and found a place with modern blockbuster loving audiences. Moving Holmes away from the cerebral and placing him as an eccentric pugilist Victorian James Bond allowed Ritcihe to satisfy his core fan base whilst avoiding many of the criticisms that have befallen previous attempts to bring Holmes to the big screen. His Holmes and Watson inhabited that special cinematic ‘bromantic’ world where they could exchange barbs, clothes and other things that would have previously been labelled homoerotic. Robert Downey Jr makes for a delightfully eccentric and built Holmes, it’s entirely believable that his Holmes is equally at home fighting his way through crowds of thugs and a good game of chess. Jude Law played long-suffering ex-Army doctor remarkably well (periodically disappearing limp aside).

This time round Ritche (and screenwriters Michele & Kieran Mulroney) have tried to give us a more conventional Holmesian mystery, which unfortunately doesn’t work in this established formula. To complain that a Sherlock Holmes film has too much Holmes might be contradictory for a long-time Holmesian but in this instance that extra added Holmes feels more like an afterthought. The set pieces are as brilliantly zany as the last and the stunts just as impressive but the core mystery is to throw away with the solution coming in a bink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment that is far too key to treat so flippantly.

Stephen Fry gives us bizarrely buffoonish Mycroft who acts more as comic relief than the man who “is the British government […] the most indispensable man in the country.” (BRU) Presumably his reinvention as a nudist in an era that has become the byline for prudish British stuffiness is a device to show just how out of the ordinary the Holmes brothers are and that Mycroft is just as, if not, weirder than Sherlock. Noomi Rapace’s character finds herself sidelined and very quickly reduced to setting up one of the major gags and it feels very much a waste of her and her character, perhaps they’re planning to develop her further in a later film. Where Rapace’s character suffers, Mary (Kelly Reilly) is elevated to codebreaker and plays an integral part in the final solution. Jared Harris makes for a refreshingly young Moriarty and his confrontation with Downey Jr is clever but overplayed.

None of these criticisms stop it from being an enjoyable film, it might be narrative mess and rely too much on overplayed gags but the pacing is fast, the editing flash and the score is as brilliant as the last. The film is a fun romp and hopefully they’ll return the original format for the inevitable third instalment.

Review: ‘The Ladykillers’, Gielgud Theatre (14th December, 2011 [matinee])

I used to work at the Gielgud theatre where ‘The Ladykillers’ is currently on, so after the matinee on Wednesday I popped backstage to catch up with my friends and have a good nosy around the set. I didn’t see any of the cast but was told how absolutely lovely everyone is.

The best things about ‘The Ladykillers’ are the truly impressive old fashioned tricks they use, such as the chairs moving about randomly as the train passes, a knife getting thrown from one side of the stage and sticking in someone’s head on the other side… that sort of thing… oh and the world’s cutest car chase. The rest of the show is a fine, it’s not the best thing I’ve seen on stage nor is it the worst, it’s very enjoyable and the comic performances are spot on. Some of the sight gags are too set up (the scarf especially), particularly if you’re in the upper-circle but it’s early days and I imagine as the run progresses the timing will become better and they’ll look more spontaneous. I’ve never seen the film so can’t comment on the closeness of the adaptation but I will say it does get very muddled towards the end and I don’t think running the last ten minutes or so in darkness works. It also wasn’t as funny as I was hoping but in chatting to my former co-workers they said it does really depend on the audience, sometimes it clicks and other times it doesn’t.

Peter Capaldi and James Fleet were the stand out performers for me, both very funny and spot on with their timing although I haven’t the slightest idea what accent Peter Capaldi was going for (at first it sounded like a bad Welsh accent but it wasn’t distracting once I got used to whatever wispy accent he was going for) but that’s not a criticism of his performance. Clive Rowe was also brilliant… and so was everyone else but Capaldi and Fleet stood out.

It wasn’t even close to sold-out so I think getting tickets shouldn’t be a problem, especially if you go for a matinee, but I really wouldn’t pay more than £30. If you’re booking for the upper-circle, be warned if your towards the back you will miss things and the sight lines aren’t great if you’re not in the centre.

For me, 4/5 for the production, 3.5/5 for the show.

The reviews are in…

Reviews are out for ‘Lend Me a Tenor’ and they’re… well, not great.

The West End Whingers ‘reviewed’ us before press night (black mark in my book), they went in expecting to hate it and hated it christening it ‘Lend Me a Pillow’ – I doubt you could sleep through the show, there’s too much laughing from the audience, door slamming and general hilarity. To be honest, even though I read the WEW blog I don’t really take them seriously, I have for a long time thought that they give good reviews to the shows they’ve been invited to by producers who have caught on to the ‘anonymous’ free publicity blogs can give. They do this rubbish about covering their faces in photographs, trying to gain some notoriety I suppose in a sort of “ooh, we’re edgy and if producers knew who we were they’d bar us from seeing the show.” way.

The Guardian gave us 3 stars but the review itself is a bit snooty as they don’t like that a farce has a ‘moral’ (!!). The Times gave us a brilliant review (4 stars) and it looks like that reviewer from The Times was more in-tune with the audience – they almost gave it three stars but the audience’s enjoyment swayed them (“My fourth star hovered for a while, uncertain: it was won by the unforced glee of the preview audience. For it’s a good-hearted show with real laughs: not to be sniffed at.”) The Stage absolutely loved it saying “…this is by far and away the most accomplished musical comedy opening in the West End this season.” I don’t think The Evening Standard stayed for the second act, they agree with the West End Whingers and I have to say – if the Evening Standard reviewer thinks that the tunes are instantly forgettable I’d love to know his secret, I’ve hummed ‘Lend Me a Tenor’ ever since the technical! It is interesting that the ‘reviewer’ gave it 2 stars but the reader rating is 4 stars. (Update: The Arts Desk gave us a good review “…it’s not “Lend me a pillow”, as one vicious wagster put it, but “Take me again”. And if you like to see showbiz staging at its slick, frivolous best, you shouldn’t miss it either.”)

Audiences and critics are in disagreement here, the audiences we’ve had have loved the show and even if we’ve only had two levels open and have barely filled them we get standing ovations, cheers… all the signals that the audience is having a great time. Hopefully then it’ll be word of mouth and social media that sells the show.

I can’t tell you how nice it is to work on a show where everyone in it is a very talented professional. Saturday night the lead, Max (Damian Humbley) fumbled the wine bottle thrown to him by Tito (Michael Matus), dropped it and slipped over in the broken glass cutting his arm pretty badly (he went to A&E after the show) – watching from the spots we could see his shirt sleeve getting redder and he seemed to bleed all over Tito in the bed – he carried on with everything regardless, even directing cast away from the glass/water on stage. Major kudos and he got a well deserved cheer at the end. Saturday night was a bit of a show for things going wrong, in the second act Cassidy Jansen’s (playing Maggie) dress came undone during her number with the in-disguise Max – audience had a good giggle, stage management didn’t know what was going on and I managed to muck up my spot cue in trying to let them know over cans (I don’t have a clip on my belt pack so it was on the spot stand and my spot ‘wanders’ if you don’t keep a tight hold of it). There’s a line in the show that’s something like “from this point forward, there is nothing that could possibly go wrong.” – it got the biggest laugh of the night.

Maybe they could use it for a bit of publicity – the cast literally bleed for their art 😛