Sunday, 24 April 2011

They have a lot of fish...

Today, when walking home from town along George Street, I was chatted up by a very strange man.

This is not an unusual occurence. I'm not boasting, though: I'm just a female who happens to walk along George Street a few times a week. Any other girl who ever spends any time on George Street will tell you there are plenty of very strange (usually drunk and stumbling out of the 524 Cocktail Bar which I doubt actually sells any cocktails, except maybe lager and lime. Having never been in, though, that sentiment is admittedly based purely on prejudice) men and sometimes, they attempt to chat you up. 'Chatting up' usually involves shouting 'nice arse!' at you as you rush past them.

Not this guy though.

He was maybe in his seventies or eighties and he was waiting at a bus stop. As I skipped past in my summery skirt he sleazily looked me up and down, winked, and did a leery giggle. Of course, I ignored him and kept walking and thought nothing of it.

I stopped to cross the road a little later and the bus I assumed he was on thundered past.
'Hello sexy,' said a voice by my side. I turned round. It was him.
'Err. Hi...' I mumbled and stared intently at the lights at the other side of the road, desperately willing the green man to burst into life.
'I've just sold my car. So I have to walk everywhere. I don't mind walking though. I used to walk a lot. You know. When I was in the service.'
He looked pleased that I'd responded, however non-committally.
'Yup. The Royal Marines,' he informed me, puffing his chest out proudly.
'Oh,' I nodded.
'You at the uni?'

The green man beeped shrilly and, relieved, I started to hastily cross the road. Bus stop man was fast though. He kept walking along beside me, chattering on about his friend and how his friend was on holiday and it was the time of year for it being Easter and all and wasn't the weather nice, while I nodded and gave awkward monosyllabic answers in an attempt to not be rude but not encourage him either.

Eventually, we arrived at mine.
'Well, this is me. Bye!'
'You not going to invite me in?' he leered, his whisky breath lingering in the air.

Suddenly I realised this creepy man now knew where I live.

'Errm. No. This is, uh, my friend's flat.'
He was sharp though, and I hadn't thought it through.

'So why did you get your keys out then?'
'Oh, um. These aren't my keys. My friends are away, you know, Easter and all... I'm just going in to feed their fish.'
'Oh okay. I'll wait for you out here then.'
'No! Ummm... I'll be a while. They... they, um, have a lot of fish.' I spluttered, before prancing inside.

Stalker situation averted, albeit very unskilfuly. Phew. Time to celebrate with some Easter egg...

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Library Etiquette

I have been spending an extraordinary amount of time in the library recently, what with my dissertation being due in 3 weeks and all (2 weeks 5 days, in fact...which means I probably should not be writing this right now, but I'm stuck so I'm taking a 'break'), and I've seen some interesting sights in the past few weeks. Here's some library dos and don'ts (actually just don'ts, but 'dos and don'ts' sounds better).


Eat crisps - crunch, crunch, crunch, rustle rustle, crunch, crunch, crunch. Enough said. Everyone flouts the 'no eating and drinking in the library' rule - I am currently munching on a Twirl - but don't do it with crisps. They are impossible to eat quietly. I tried it once and succeeded only in making my crisps soggy in my mouth. Yuck.

Sing loudly to yourself - I have seen this happen. It was funny. The girl stopped when I walked in the room and we both laughed about it, but if she had obliviously carried on I'm pretty sure it would have become very annoying very fast.

Watch hour-long BBC iPlayer programs on the library computers when there's a massive queue of people waiting to get on and do actual uni work  - there was a whiney article in the Gaudie recently about people going on facebook on the library computers. I disagree. I have no problem with people going on facebook, as long as that is not their sole reason for taking up a valuable computer. I currently have facebook open in another tab, and obviously this blog does not come under 'uni work'.  But, it being a beautifully sunny Sunday afternoon when only the hardcore and/or desperate are stuck in this pit, I'm sitting across from two completely free computers and I'm multi-tasking: every time I get stuck on my dissertation I am coming on here and writing a bit and then going back to the dissertation with fresh eyes (that's the theory, anyway...). But if you're sitting watching online TV, that's all you can possibly be doing. And I wouldn't have a problem with it if there were lots of computers free, but if you're taking up a computer to watch 'Snog Marry Avoid' when loads of people are waiting to work on their imminently-due dissertations, that's not cool. Extra annoyance points for you if you have the volume up so loud everyone else can hear it spilling out your earphones.

Wear warm clothes - the library is stupidly hot and stuffy. You will melt. Some unfortunate person will be given the wholly undesirable job of cleaning up your liquid remains and you won't get your dissertation/essay/whatever handed in on time, due to being all melted and such. It's a bit of an extreme way to get an extension, and I wouldn't recommend it.

Bring a mini deckchair for your book to sit on - It had pink and yellow stripes. I presume it was so that the guy's hand/wrist wouldn't have to suffer the trauma of holding the book he was looking at. It didn't work; the pages kept flipping over, so he constantly had one hand on the book to keep his place. Then eventually he resorted to taking the book off the strange contraption and holding it anyway. What with his deckchair, laptop, notebook and rucksack he took up enough space on the table for two people. Greedy. The most amusing part came when he left and had a 20 minute long struggle to fit the deckchair back into his rucksack. It's bad enough trying to fit all your books into your bag and carry them about with you, but adding an awkwardly-shaped-and-probably-not-that-lightweight deckchair to the mix? That's just silly. If you have ever done such a thing, give yourself two ridiculous points and then take one away for providing entertainment to your fellow bored library users.

Sit with your girlfriend/boyfriend and eat their face at every opportunity - I don't know how you even find opportunity for kissing  in the library. It's not the most romantic place to take someone on a date. Since libraries are generally quiet, everyone will be disgusted by the wet slurpy noises that your kissing makes, and your whispers about what you're going to do to each other later will carry to the ears of surrounding exasperated - and now horrified - students.

Procrastinate - you want to spend as little time in the hot, stuffy deckchair- and couple-filled library as possible. The less you procrastinate the more you will get done and the quicker you can escape off home where you can eat crisps, sing to yourself, and watch BBC iPlayer to your heart's content.

So on that note, I should probably get back to the dissertation...

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Guilty Pleasures

I love to cook and I enjoy creating tasty, healthy meals with lots of nice, fresh ingredients. Generally, I eat pretty healthily. I don't make a particular effort to do so: the foods I like just tend to be healthy. I'm not a big meat-eater, although I'm not a vegetarian, so a lot of the food I make is packed full of veggies and I love feeling smug that I've managed to consume my entire five-a-day in one meal.

But I also have an undying love for some very unhealthy, very strange foods. We all need to treat ourselves from time to time... and here is how I do it:

Cauliflower cheese with baked beans: Actually, this is still two of your five a day. Score! But it doesn't taste 'healthy'. It's comfort food at its best: heavy and cheesy and tomatoey and warming. I discovered this the way I discover most new food combinations: empty cupboards and being either too skint or too lazy to go to the supermarket. I had a teensy tiny portion of leftover cauliflower cheese - enough for a side dish but not enough for a meal. I wanted a meal and I didn't want to put in any effort to acquiring said meal whatsoever. Checking the fridge, the only other things I could find were half a tin of baked beans that really needed to be eaten, some sad looking spring onions, and a single mouldy tomato which was half frozen due to being shoved to the back of the shelf. The tomato and the spring onions were consigned to the bin and I was left with the beans. I heated them up separately and put them on the same plate as the cauliflower, intending to eat them one after the other. But I have an impulsive need I have apparently inherited from my Seanair (gaelic for grandpa) to mix whatever food is on my plate into one big gloopy mess. I did so and IT. WAS. AMAZING. Try it! It's definitely one for when you're feeling a bit lazy, so best to do it when you have leftover cauliflower cheese (I now make extra whenever I make it purely so I can have this 'dish' the following day) so you don't have to faff about making a cheese sauce. You can just heat and eat.

Pickled onions: Buy. Sit in front of TV eating them straight out the jar. I realise this sounds absolutely disgusting but as long as you're not planning on kissing/breathing near anyone that night (or for the next couple of days...), it's fine. And delicious. Maybe this one's down to personal taste; but before you judge me, please note that my brother has a pickled EGG addiction, which I feel is much worse. Judge him instead.

Nutella:  another 'straight out the jar' treat. I have to avoid buying Nutella for my toast, because I will sit and eat the whole jar with a teaspoon in one evening. Ben & Jerry's? Haagen Dazs? Pfft! Who needs them?! But, have you seen the adverts? Apparently the inclusion of FOUR WHOLE HAZELNUTS means it is healthy...

Fish finger sandwiches: This is a recent addition to my favourite guilty pleasures. I like them best with lashings of mayonnaise and gherkins on a wholemeal pitta. Yum. I also recently tried it with pickled beetroot instead of gherkins, and the addition of a tiny amount of ketchup (I despise ketchup, unless it is with mayo like in prawn marie rose). It was definitely a revelation, and I think I'll be having that combination again. And, again discovered due to empty cupboards, another favourite combination is fish fingers with coleslaw, gherkins, and rocket (again on wholemeal pitta). Don't knock it 'til you've tried it!

Mashed potatoes with Reggae Reggae sauce: I love mash and I love adding whatever condiments I can find to it. Horseradish mash is excellent with roast beef, mustard mash is amazing with gammon, and applesauce mash works with pork. You get the idea! But Reggae Reggae mash is great if you're in one of those moods on a dreich winter's day where you just want a big bowl of comforting mash. The sauce adds a bit of warmth and spice to the creamy potatoes. Be warned though, if you add too much your mouth will be on fire!

Roasted potato cubes with Caeser salad dressing: I love having potato wedges with garlic mayo but discovered this when I had run out of mayo and was too hungry and impatient to wait for wedges to cook so cut the potatoes into little cubes instead. It's delicious. 'Nough said.

So now you have a bit of an insight into how completely ridiculous and strange my food tastes are. But next time you're fancying a bit of comfort food, give one of these a go. I won't be offended if you give the pickled onions a miss, though. It's an acquired taste...

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Rishi's: A Review

Having completely run out of money (and when I say 'run out of money', what I really mean is 'hit my overdraft limit') until I am paid on the 5th, I am currently relying on other people to take pity on me and buy me food. Luckily I do also have a few portions of food in the freezer to heat up when no one is willing or able to feed me. There is an element of fun in this, as I didn't think to label said portions and when frozen they all look like brownish sludge so it's a bit of a lucky dip as to whether I get beef in beer, chilli con carne, or vegetable dhansak for my tea.

So last night, Jamie felt sorry enough for me and my starvation (not melodramatic at all...) to take me out for curry at Rishi's on George Street. Most of the Indian restaurants in Aberdeen are actually run by Pakistanis, apparently, but my flatmate was on placement with a teacher originally from India who recommended Rishi's as the best place for authentic South Indian food.

For those of you who don't know, last summer I spent five weeks in Chennai, Tamil Nadu with Beyond Barriers, and one of my favourite things about the trip was the food, which was nothing like the curries you get in most restaurants in the UK. So I was very much looking forward to experiencing all my favourite dishes again, and Jamie was looking forward to tasting all the things I've been banging on about for the past nine months.

Due to India's win at the cricket yesterday the restaurant was absolutely heaving, so we were put in an upstairs room normally reserved for parties. It was just us and a massive table of twenty or so Indians.  The decor at the restaurant isn't great - pretty bare and mismatched - but we were there for the food, not the look of the place!

Despite being so busy, service was really prompt and attentive. They kept apologising for 'the wait'. What wait?!

I may have become a little over-excited in my ordering, and we ended up with a table absolutely heaving with Tiffin items, curry, rice, and breads.

We had a dosa between us, which was served with three types of chutney (coriander, coconut, and onion, I think) and sambar (a slightly spicy South Indian sauce made with lentils). A dosa is a bit like a very thin, crispy pancake, and tastes amazing with the chutneys and sambar.

We also ordered idli, which are like rice-cakes. They too come with the chutneys and sambar and although quite plain on their own, soak up the flavours of the chutneys really well. The other tiffin item we had was poori masala - a puffy deep-fried bread served with spicy potatoes.

Very tasty!

Curry-wise I had kadai paneer. Paneer is a type of Indian cheese. I would describe it as a cross between halloumi and cottage cheese. My curry was made with various spices and tomatoes. When in India I loved the curries made with paneer, so I loved being able to eat it again! I was also very much enjoying, much to Jamie's disgust, being able to eat with my fingers without receiving any odd looks. Though I did discover how out of practice I am! I had become used to doing it when in India, but felt clumsy and unco-ordinated attempting it again last night. It was nice, though, for anyone who (like Jamie) prefers to eat curry with a knife and fork, to see that the waitress automatically gave us cutlery while the Indians at the other table weren't given any. Curry definitely tastes better when eaten with fingers, though admittedly it is messy!

Jamie had a lamb dish, and the lamb was beautifully tender, falling apart in my fingers (and on his fork). We shared some lemon rice - another thing I have missed since first tasting it in Chennai. I have to say, though, that the lemon rice at Rishi's was nowhere near as good as Anjali's! (Anjali cooked most of our food when we were in India.) She was a particularly good cook though, so we won't hold it against Rishi's.

Another thing I really appreciated was that the waitress asked us how spicy we would like our curries. We both opted for 'medium', but Jamie was concerned it would still be too spicy, so the waitress said it wouldn't be a problem to send it back if he found it too much. Again: excellent, excellent service.

I found everything we had to be fairly mild, but Jamie thought it was very spicy and his bright red face and watery eyes confirmed this! So if you are a bit sensitive to spicy food (though Jamie claims he is not sensitive to spicy food: I am just hardened to it) and go to Rishi's, simply ask for your curry to be made a bit milder - they don't have any problems with such a request. And order a mango lassi to soothe your burning mouth! Lassi is a yoghurt drink, and at Rishi's you can choose from sweet, salt or mango. I ordered a sweet lassi to begin with, and Jamie had a Kingfisher, but after finding the curry too hot he also ordered a mango lassi. I tasted it and immediately regretted my decision to have a sweet one! Although mine was delicious, the mango one tasted so strongly of fresh juicy mangoes that it transported me straight back to Chennai, eating fresh mango each evening, stuffed after a beautiful meal cooked by Anjali.

We rounded off our meal with a cup of chai each. It was deliciously sweet, and Jamie was taken with the metal cups it was served in, but again, it didn't quite match up to Anjali's.

The bill was also a pleasant surprise, being less than we expected. The curries are about £5.99, while the tiffin items are £2-3 each.

We will definitely be going back there to try all the other things, like Chicken 65, that I had to restrain myself from ordering.

Having ordered such a ridiculous amount of food we, of course, couldn't finish it all. But the staff were happy to bag it up for us to take home and I'm looking forward to having the rest of my curry for tea tonight. Plus, it saves me defrosting one of my mystery meals!

Edited to add: Jamie says, 'You made me sound like a wuss! It may be partially true, but that chilli would have melted even Charlie Sheen's face off!'
So there you have it.