Not just for noodles

A few months ago, I coined the term noodlesprucing to refer to the fine culinary art of making simple foods, such as instant noodles, a bit more interesting by the cunning application of spices and stuff.  I mentioned in my previous post on the subject that, name notwithstanding, the same technique could be applied to things other than noodles.

Recently I’ve had a couple of goes at noodlesprucing frozen pizzas.  I’ve occasionally made pizza from scratch (with or without a homemade base) but more often, especially in recent years, gone for the supermarket frozen pizzas that can just be whacked into the oven and be ready to eat within 15 or 20 minutes.  I often add a bit of extra oregano to these pizzas but haven’t, for quite a long time, added anything else until last week when I put some anchovies and black olives on top of a thin-crust four cheese pizza.  The result was very pleasing, if not spectacular.

Earlier this week I went for my second attempt, again featuring olives.  This time the base was a deep-pan meat feast pizza and I decided that anchovies would not be required, since it’s already quite a salty tasting pizza.  I did put a bit of extra oregano on, though, which also worked well.

These particular noodlesprucings have been done prior to putting the pizzas in the oven.  It’s possible that some less robust ingredients would want to be added part-way through cooking.

In addition to the sprucing, I’ve found over the past few months that a good, and very simple, way to improve the results of cooking frozen pizza is to turn the oven up a bit.  The pizzas I usually get, from Morrisons, say (or, for the terminally pedantic, it says on the box) that they should be cooked at gas mark 5.  I found (by happy accident) that I get better results by turning the oven up to gas mark 7 and cooking for the same time.  Having checked my oven temperature with a thermometer, it doesn’t seem to be (entirely) a matter of the oven calibration – the suggested temperature seems a bit on the low side and the base rises a bit more, and is lighter and airier, with the higher-temperature cooking.  I think pizzas are classically cooked at quite high temperatures, often on stones, so this is probably not surprising.

Another food-related find, which doesn’t really fall into the category of noodlesprucing, is my recent discovery that scones and honey make a delightful combination.  This isn’t particularly surprising, in the way that, for example, cheese and jam would be, but I don’t think I tried it until recently.  I’ve so far only tried it with fruit scones but I expect that honey would work equally well with most other sorts, possibly even cheese ones.


No pain, no gain…

This year hasn’t been a particularly mountainous one for me, in the literal sense.  As in, I haven’t been out walking and climbing in the mountains much.

In fact, I think my trip to the Glyderau range last Saturday was probably the first one of the year.

The Glyderau, part of Snowdonia, are about the second closest group of mountains to where I live (the Carneddau are closer, and the Snowdon Massif itself is just a little bit further away) and are the ones closest to my heart.  Largely that’s because my first trip into Snowdonia after I moved to Wales (fourteen years ago last week) was to these very mountains.  Also, I find the rugged, rocky, windswept landscape up there particularly beautiful.  I’m fairly sure I’ve been up there on at least five previous occasions, so it’s almost certainly my single most-visited bit of the mountains.

On this trip, we ascended via Bristly Ridge, a scrambling route up from the foot of Tryfan, to the north.  This is classified as a grade 1 scramble (i.e. the easiest grade) although it’s apparently towards the top end of the grading and the particular route we took, up the appropriately named “Sinister Gully”, is one of the more difficult ones.  The scrambling itself is not too bad but the fact that a lot of it is quite exposed and even on a dry, sunny day some of the rocks are quite wet and greasy adds to the fun.

This was my first ascent of Bristly Ridge itself, although on one previous occasion I went up the scree slope just to the left of it (on my way “down” from my first ascent of Tryfan).  After that trip, I wrote a couple of tunes in honour of a friend’s wedding (my friend Phil, with whom I made the trip).  One of them I named “Bristly Ridge” (I think in the mistaken belief that I’d actually been up the ridge itself) and the other was called “I don’t Adam and Eve it” (a reference to the two stones at the top of Tryfan).  I haven’t played either tune for several years, but I have managed to find the manuscript book in which I wrote them down and I hope soon to make a recording of them that I can put online (not that they are particularly great tunes).

Once we got to the top of Bristly Ridge, we checked out the Cantilever (a popular photo spot – though I forgot to take my camera with me on this trip) and the summit of Glyder Fach before scrambling up Castell y Gwynt on our way up to Glyder Fawr.  The clouds came in briefly several times while we were up on the top, although for the most part it was a lovely clear day.

We went back down y Gribin, the next descending ridge along from Bristly Ridge.  This was at least the third time I’ve descended from the Glyderau via this route, although I don’t recall ever having gone up this way.

Interestingly, when I first went to the top of Glyder Fawr its height was listed on the map as 999 meters.  It was resurveyed in 2010, using more accurate (GPS-based) techniques and the height was established as 1001 meters.

It was a lovely day out in one of the most beautiful places I know, with some good friends.  It was also quite a physically (and at times psychologically) demanding walk/climb and I’m still feeling a little stiff and sore almost a week later.  Looking on the bright side, every time I feel an ache in my limbs it reminds me of my exciting mountain adventure.

To see or not to see

Yesterday morning when I woke up, I found that it was foggy (or at least misty).

It was still quite misty when I cycled to work about an hour later, so (unlike most of the cars on the road) I made good use of my lights to help ensure that I could be seen.  I particularly enjoyed cycling over the bridge, as I couldn’t see the mainland until I was almost upon it and had to take it on trust that it was still there.  There was perhaps just a small part of me that hoped the mist would lift and I’d find myself in Narnia instead.

The sun was clearly shining behind the mist and I fully expected it to burn off within a couple of hours, so I was surprised to find it still around by mid-afternoon.  It ended up staying pretty much all day.

I had an optician’s appointment in the afternoon, which is the first one I’ve had for several years.  This was just a general check-up, as I decided one was long overdue.  It confirmed that my eyesight is still fine so, in the absence of external factors such as mist, I can see without trouble or glasses.

This morning when I woke up, I found that it was raining.  Cycling over the bridge may not be quite so much fun today.