Voskhod instruments by Tom Royal on Flickr
Valentina Tereshkova with Vostok 6 by Tom Royal on Flickr
Voskhod Capsule by Tom Royal on Flickr
Chartwell by Tom Royal on Flickr
Chartwell by Tom Royal on Flickr
Heron by Tom Royal on Flickr
Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr
Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr
Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr
Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr

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Japanese cooking for the kanji-illiterate: Curry

December 28th, 2009

There are few foods as versatile as japanese curry. In Tokyo we saw it served on or with just about everything, but katsu-curry (breaded pork fillet with cury) and curry rice (yes, that’s just curry with rice) are staples of good-but-cheap food. If you want to make your own here in the UK, there are three options.

Of course, you can make it from scratch. This would provide both curry and an air of smug satisfaction, but it requires both a recipe and some skill. I have neither. If you’re in the same situation you can buy it ready-made in a packet that must then be boiled or microwaved. I’ve tried these, and they’re OK, but there’s a definite air of Vesta about the whole business, plus they’re very expensive.

There is, fortunately, a third option – and here it is:

This is ready-made curry roux. and you can buy it from just about anywhere that stocks Japanese food. It’s cheaper than ready-made, plus you get to choose exactly what goes in the curry, and there’s a certain degree of smug satisfaction to gain from doing some of the work yourself. So, what’s the downside? Well, er:

Yes, that’s the recipe. If you don’t speak Japanese, or like me you speak a bit but know hardly any kanji, you’re in for a world of translation-related fun. What you need, in fact, is a curry dictionary – and so, courtesy of the ten minutes I spent wrangling with my pocket kenkyusha, here’s one I made earlier:

I’ve pasted this in as an image so it should show on any computer rather than relying on Japanese display fonts. Note that this may not be perfectly correct – I’m guessing that “sarada oil” is vegetable oil, but it seemed to work for me. Any corrections gratefully accepted. And so, on to the recipe.

Armed with that vocabulary and a packet of roux it should be easy to make out the necessary ingredients. For five servings, using Golden Curry roux, the recipe asks for the following:

  • 200g meat
  • 300g onion
  • 100g carrot
  • 200g potato
  • 1 spoon vegetable oil
  • 700ml water
  • one packet of roux

Double these for the full ten servings. I had no meat, so I just added more carrots and potato – it’s not an exact science. Chop the whole lot, add the oil to a pan, and cook the meat followed by the vegetables (or just chuck the veg in for a bit, in my case):

I cooked it until the onions were softening up nicely, which took a few minutes over a low heat. Next, add the water. The packet calls for 700ml, or 1300 for 10 servings:

The packet, if I’m reading it correctly, says to simmer for 10 minutes, or 20 if making ten servings. I found that about 15 minutes were needed to cook the potato chunks. Anyhow, after ten to fifteen minutes, it’s time to break out the curry. Here’s what’s in the box:

If making ten servings we’d use both, but for five only one is needed. Open it up and chuck the incredibly attractive contents into the pan:

Obviously it’s less than a feast for the eyes at this stage. Stir gently for a few minutes, though, and as if by magic:

Curry! Stir it for a few mintues more (be warned, it’ll stick and burn given the chance), then serve on rice, katsu, or just about anything else:

Brown, glutinous, chunky, probably packed with MSG and yet strangely delicious. Enjoy.

Assassin Cat: Viewpoint Synchronised

December 26th, 2009

Because this is what happens to your brain when you spend an entire week at home playing Assassin’s Creed 2 and hugging cats.


December 20th, 2009


Too cold to run this weekend, so I took a walk up to Greenwich Park instead. The paths were treacherous, but the rose garden was pretty – a few flowers had survived, and a robin even popped in to complete the scene.

Vote Hunter

December 10th, 2009

Boris and Hunter

Pictured: a personable but slightly dim creature with impressively fluffy hair, left, and my cat Hunter.*

One of the great benefits of the internet is being able to keep in touch with political developments as they happen – whether they be the pre budget report or, yesterday morning, a GLA plenary session on transport policy. One of the great annoyances of life, on the other hand, is listening to Boris ‘bendy buses kill more cyclists’** Johnson and his ass-backward opinions on the various merits of public transport.

In fact, listening to Boris on public transport (the only time you’ll see those four words together outside a photo opportunity right there, folks) is, as I realised, as frustrating as watching a cat attempt to operate a washing machine. And substantially less cute.

It’s not even a matter of failed election promises, although a quick glance back through his transport manifesto does produce some gems – “halting the proposed Tube ticket office closures“, anyone? – because, after all, Boris wasn’t elected on the basis of his what he planned to do. He was elected because London’s suburban voters recognised him as that funny bloke with the floppy hair off the telly. Personality over policies.

And on that note, meet Hunter.

Hunter is one of my two cats***. Like Boris, he has a mop of fluffy hair and, like Boris, he is either a little bit dumb or, very possibly, an evil genius simply pretending to be that way in order to ingratiate himself with fools. Like Boris he has no sensible policies on any issue facing London or Londoners, but has a few irrational dislikes (bin bags) and prejudices (Whiskas, not Felix) and knows how to play to his audience.

Hunter has not, however, published racist drivel, or, for that matter, written any of the same. Nor has he offended the people of Liverpool.

And so, assuming Boris stands again in 2012, I’d like Hunter to run for Mayor of London. In order to officially enter he’ll need 330 signatories from around the city, which could be tricky, and a £10,000 deposit, which is frankly never going to happen. Which is a shame, because he could probably do a better job. Should you care to back him, there is what I believe constitutes a “Interweb 3.11 for Workgroups social media twampaign”, or something like that, on Twitter here: #VOTEHUNTERFORMAYOR.


* Photo by Adam Procter, CC licensed, original here.

** Fans of statistics may be interested to note that no they really really fucking do not.

*** His brother, Ralph H Cat, Esq, has no interest in provincial politics and intends to seize power as evil overlord of the universe sometime next April.

“Most magazines you pick up — you choke to death”

December 8th, 2009

“[Esquire] thought they made their statement where there should be copy and type all over the cover where you can’t read a goddamn word. I don’t get it. What are you trying to say to me? What’s the point? Is that an idea?

“Why do you put all those cover lines on? They say, ‘Well, if I don’t get somebody interested in this one, I’ll get somebody interested in that one.’

“The covers [of The New Yorker] are the only thing that looks different on the newsstand. David Remnick, three or four years ago asked me, ‘Gee, do you think I should be using photography on the covers now?’ I said, ‘What, are you out of your fucking mind?’

This Blackbook interview with George Lois, who designed Esquire from ’62 to ’72, is fascinating. Recommended to anyone with an interest in magazines, and especially those who work on them – and covers in particular.