I have just bought a Seagull 205 rangefinder camera. The first film is being developed today, although not printed I have no idea where I have to go to get that done. Its pretty cheap to buy and process film out here and it has been a good little experiment learning more about film (well I kind of new the stuff already but having to think out my exposure levels carefully rather than just firing a couple of test shots is something that I needed to get in the habit of anyway.

This has in turn lead me to use the 28mm fully manual lens and use it better. As no autofocus I have been sticking to focus zone focusing (ie setting the camera for the maximum depth I can for the light and snapping without refocusing)

Anyway I am writing all this because I am really bored at work, I have everything done apart from all the things I need to access in my gmail (which is currently down…yey China.)

Motorbike taxi shanghai Nikon 1/60 400 ISO Alex Coxall
Motorbike taxi shanghai
Nikon 1/60 400 ISO
Alex Coxall

I am getting a little drawn to portrait photography at the moment here are a couple I have taken recently. It would be nice to practice more with a willing model than have to work at parties with crap light but there you go.

Rexhighpass

nybigbird

marco

This Saturday me and Ross reformed our Chilli Cook-team, Sauce Code, to enter Bubba’s annual BBQ cook off. It was a good day out, we didn’t come away with any trophies but I learned a few things about BBQ.

BBQCOOKOFFe2 (2).png

The first point should be that this was a Texas style BBQ comp so it seemed like we should cook in a Texas style, which meant low and slow. Now, I have never used indirect heat to cook large bits of meat before (in a BBQ of course, I always roast things at home). Our largest piece of meat was a Brisket coming in at just over 2 kilos.

Here are a couple of things I learned from the experience:

With a new BBQ burn and treat twice with oil, similar to treating a wok. This can take up to an hour.

Keep one side of BBQ for direct heat and one for indirect – We were using a large but single chambered BBQ. This heat can be regulated by a water bath under the non-direct side.

Our large cuts of meat was undercooked and needed to be finished off over direct heat. I was a bit miffed about this as it had had more than enough time in the BBQ. It only occured to me the following morning that our indirect section was facing into the wind this meant that most of the heat would be flowing in the wrong direction (this was a closed bbq with vents, I did not think it would matter). Balls, they publish wind direction on the layout for a reason. I am also guessing the last minuite stall changes were due to more professional teams moving into better wind positions.

Meat should be seared on direct heat before being taken to the indirect, I dont know why I decided it would be better to do this afterwards, I am sure I had a reason at the time. This does not seal the meat by the way, we should all know that by now! But is important for mailliard reaction. My plan was to do this afterwards but then I didnt think about the glaze. The glaze being high in sugar would burn if over the direct heat for too long.

Fine woodchips give off a good amount of smoke but they do not last very long. Better with slow burning wood blocks, unless you are doing something like chicken wings in direct heat and you need a quicker blast with the smoke.

Burn all your paper out before you start cooking.

A spray bottle with apple juice is good for keeping meat moist over indirect heat.

Don’t forget resting times when handing in. These can be pretty long for large pieces of meat.

One large bag of good charcoal was good for us thoughout the day.

If the event is offering tasting tickets for teams to claim money back then it really pays to do something like a paella on the side. Rather than just having meat samples.

These competitions, because of the expense and the planning are taken pretty seriously. Expect heavy competition, computer controlled BBQs and grills towed in on the back of trucks.

Be friendly to your neighbours you will probably have to borrow something sooner or later.

Lots of wetwipes, bottled water, and teatowels you can never have enough. Also metal trays.

Keep prep off your front bench, work to the sides.

Okay best get to class, will publish part two and some phots as more stuff comes to me. Please feel free to leave any extra advice at the bottom.

Shanghai Moon

Or more accurately titled “How I shot the moon on this one occasion”

Shanghai Moon
Second attempt at the moon. Alex Coxall

I thought I would just keep a little record of a couple of things I have learned from shooting the moon over the last couple of days. These are fairly straight forward shots as they are just of the moon with no foreground etc.

Coming towards the end of Spring we have had some miraculously clear days here in Shanghai and the moon has been visable towards the end of the day framed by a nice blue sky. As the sun is setting it seems to make the shadows (ie the craters) of the moon more defined. I guess it is a little like putting the light source at the side of an object.

To get this shot I used my 300mm Sigma lens, set at 300mm. I played around with different exposure ratios for the first shots but then settled on f/11 which is the sharpness sweetspot for this lense (look up on line or test yourself). A shutter speed of 1/100 seemed to give me a reasonable shot.

The impotortant thing aside from the lens was the tripod. My tripod is so shodily built it was rocking for almost 3 seconds after I had pressed the release (I also managed to snap a handle off trying to retract the extension). So in this shot I gave it a ten second timer as opposed to the two that I had used previously. This made it settle down a little more. I think a good sturdy tripod would make a big difference.

There was very little post production to speak of. The shot is actually in colour just appears black and white.

Decent Tripod
Lens Sweet Spot
Not too near traffic
Moon moves fast so keep adjusting.
Might consider mirror lock up once I understand it better.

Moon - Big Rock in Sky
Moon – Big Rock in Sky

Here is my first attempt at moon photography. I was out for a walk an a bit lost with the same old subjects when I noticed I could see the moon, clearly during the day (around 6pm). It was very high and very small but I had my 300mm lens on me and my tripod. Setting up quickly near the interesction of Jinshajiang and Kaxiuan I snapped a couple off. Because the sun was setting the details were more pronounced and did not have to worry about metering as much.

However my tripod is a bit shit and there ws a litte wind and I was next to the road so there ws a good bit of shake. I will go back and try again shortly.

Managing to see the moon in Shanghai is a rarity so will just have to keep watching the skies and hoping for a break.

A

Rat Tar Art Bar – Jing’an’s Reel mall

Don’t knock something until you have tried it. In this way I will refrain from knocking Rat-Tar-Art Bar’s drinks. I did intend to try their drinks, I don’t often walk into bars, sit down and not order but that was the way it played out.

So we took a seat on a couple of the strangely designed seats, they looked like a series of paint rollers packed next to each other, and the overpowering smell of paint made me check my jeans before sitting back down again.

The waitress brought us a menu, however, this is where the problem arose. If someone brings me a menu then I make the, perhaps naïve, assumption that they might return at some future point in time to take my order.

Well, we came…..we waited….we gestured…….we waited…….we fucked off.

My only conclusion was that it was too dark in there. As soon as the waitress returned to the dim light of the bar she found that even that moderate light had dazzled her night vision into obselence. As she turned back around she realised she could no longer see or remember where she had left the three small groups of customers in the cavernous black abyss.

I only knew there were other customers in there when a face would occasionally illuminate as someone struggled to use a phone as a torch to scrutinize the menu.

The bar was apparently decorated well. The cocktail menu had a rat theme, by which I mean that there were various standard cocktails with the word rat stuck in them. I hope the food menu refrained from this but my rapidly dwindling phone battery meant that I did not have a chance to check.

It is a little overpriced but not excessively considering the bit of real-estate it is occupying, the service was non-existent (on this occasion) and if you want to see the décor (for which it is supposedly more famed) I would suggest going during the day, because just like the rodent that so inspired it, they seem to have aversion to any type of light.

Its a massive space, located in spitting distance of Jing’an temple so I am guessing someone has put down serious money on this place. There were barely any customers, unless they were all lurking just outside of my little circle of light, like those ravenous aliens in Pitch Black. If I was an investor I would be abandoning this project like some kind of small rodent leaving a sinking ship.

Maybe I will go back and give it another try but probably not in a city as big and as lively as Shanghai. This is the problem of not being 100 percent on your game in a place with so many options, one nights shit service and you have lost a customer for good.

The chairs (not my photo so if owner wants it removed just email me, no-reads this anyway!)
The chairs (not my photo so if owner wants it removed just email me, no-reads this anyway!)

Kaixuan Bai Lu Near Jinshajiang Lu

Carrying on in the tried and tested vane of Shanghai dive-bars, Ellen’s and Helen’s, the new offering, James’ bar, will present no particular surprises to anyone that has ever visited one of the aforementioned venues.

Expect the same ludicrously cheap menu, beer, offers, wooden interiors, flag bunting and piss poor graffiti on the wall. In fact it is almost impossible to tell which of the bars you are in until you stick your head out the door.

So why bother mentioning it? Well these bars have their place, especially towards the end of the month when your scrapping the Yuan together and don’t really fancy shelling out a weeks salary on an over-rated craft brew in one of the towns more “trendy” areas.

Its also in a pretty good location (for me anyway). Sitting as it does near Jinshajiang station, it is a long awaited addition to an area without any bars to speak of. Also note that is is close to Global Harbour, so it is a good refuge if a shopping trip is becoming a little too much.

The real advantages though:

They serve Asahi on draft for a reasonable price, a welcome break from the 10 Yuan Tsingtao bottles of varying temperatures.

The music selection is not quite as shit as Ellen’s, or as blastingly loud.

No-one seems to have found it yet so it is not filled with all the bloody American students going out for their first beers away from home.

This is a really lazy review as I am just killing some time in the office on a Sunday(one of those give you a holiday take a holiday day’s they so love over here). You want a more in-depth idea then just read a review of Ellen’s and make the above three mental adjustments.

Its cheap, staff are friendly, food is surprisingly good considering the price, like Ellen’s. Very much does what it says on the tin. Get down there before it gets too busy, its pretty close to the university, once one of them spots it, it is game over.

KgingerninjaWell I have decided to take my Chilli Sauce, open source. What follows is the recipe for a chilli sauce I have created. It is the first itteration and I am hoping people adapt the recipe and together we can create a trully great sauce. In the open sauce nature of things each new adaptation can be given a new name by its creator. May I suggest then that the following recipe is known as OpenSauce v.1.0 – The Ginger Ninja

If you would like to join in this project please take this recipe, adapt it and add tasting notes. I will happily act as cataloger for any new versions. Lets see what we can make.

What I was going for here was a day to day chilli sauce, nothing too powerful, influenced by the chinese ingredients around me.

the recipe and tasting notes are as follows:

The Ginger Ninja – OpenSauce v1.0
Strong front punch of ginger, meduim heat, garlic coming later and tingling from the Schezuan pepper corns.

Colour – dark orange almost sligh glow! (kind of like cheddar valley cider)

500 ml White wine vinegar
3 heaped table spoons Prickly Ash (szechuan peppercorns – get them in big packs from oriental market, the English suppermarket ones really wont pack the punch)
10 dried chillies
100g sugar
100g ginger root, sliced as thin as possible

Put all ingredients in a pan
Bring to boil
Simmer – reduce to approx 250 ml
Steep in open container – (lost another 50 ml over one day)
Sieve and retain liquid

add 10 birdeye chillies
5 cloves garlic
10 or so of the already boiled and softened Szechuan pepper corns)
Boil simmer for 5 mins
Cool
Blend
Sieve all material out
Season (season with salt and white pepper when cool as the sauce is to be served cold).

So there you go, i will post any updates.

Burn's Night - Haggis, Neeps and Tatties - Chef: Alex Coxall - Assembly Inn  - Bath
Burn’s Night – Haggis, Neeps and Tatties – Chef: Alex Coxall – Assembly Inn – Bath

There has been a brief hiatus called on this blog as I have started work on a book. The book is to be a collection of recipes celebrating food from festivals around the world.

Festivals provide focal points for families and communities and since my time in Shanghai celebrating European festivals with the various expats that have come and gone has become an important part of bringing home comforts to our ever changing group.

After cooking various traditional meals such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter along with having the chance to experience some of the wonderful food associated with the many Chinese festivals, the thought struck me that with a bit of hard research it would be possible to celebrate a festival on nearly every day of the year.

I have spent the last few weeks gathering information and researching festivals from all over the world and have now started the long process of contacting various possible sources to find out more about food central to these celebrations.

Along with recipes I want to collect first-hand accounts of memories and experiences of festival food. In a world increasingly homogenised, festivals provide a window into the past that must be preserved and celebrated. For me the food of a festival is of equal if not more import than pageantry or costumes.

From the humble toffee apple to the painstaking organisation of the Christmas Dinner it is clear that, even in England, festival food remains an important part of life. Why not explore the world’s cultural festivals through the medium of food?

So here starts the task of accumulating recipes and accounts from all corners of the globe and it is to this end that I ask anyone that may stumble across this blog to please contact me if they have any information on festivals that they celebrate, the food involved and any personal memories they wish to share.

I will be updating with my progress. Please leave any comments you wish. Comments, I am afraid, have to be approved due to large levels of bot Spam but I will check regularly.

Once I have gathered a few festivals I will be publishing recipes on here in time for the relevant feast.

All the best
Alex

Just like a Shanghai poultry market I am currently on lock-down. My leg has improved enough that I am able to hobble around the house. With no-one home and a need to do something other than sit around researching eastern European criminal gangs on the internet for no good reason, I decided to make some bread from what was lying around.

Here is what I came up with, I will start with the basic dough recipe:

500g bread flour,
55g butter
45g olive oil
12g salt
12g sugar (fine grain)
7 g dried yeast

Now this was no professional bread I was intending to make and some of that recipe was driven by necessity, notably the butter and oil mix. I am fairly sure the butter in the fridge was ours but just in case I left some of it and substituted the rest of the weight for oil.

I basically mixed all these ingredients together with little care for getting salt in the yeast and all the other little worries that go into bread making. In my experience I can produce a good loaf without to much hassle just by mixing it all together at once. Once thoroughly mixed and the butter worked in I started to add warm water until it formed a wet dough that was just on the verge of workable.

In a frying pan I sauteed off half a red onion, half a leek and 6 cloves of garlic (this was after all a fridge raid, my legs are not up making it down and back from the 17 floor to the shop just yet). Once coloured, I squeezed off any moisture and added about 8 black olives, diced to mince. I cooked these off to take away the moisture.

I added all this to the dough and continued to knead until springy. i decided to keep the dough very wet, close but not quite as wet as a brioche dough. The reason for this is that I feel my doughs have been a little on the dry side recently so I fancied a change. Finally to this I grated Pecerino cheese and left to rise.

After the rise reached nearly double, I knocked it back, adding a little flour to help with structure. I formed a loaf, and then baked at 200 for ten minutes, dropping to 180 for some more time (about an hour actually, I lost track, just until it sounds hollow when banged on the underside) our oven is cheap so trust your own judgment.

disclaimer: I am fully aware that Pecerino cheese is not obviously hanging around in your fridge all the time unless you are incredibly middle class or your girlfriend is Italian. You could probably use cheddar, or maybe even that sketchy pot of ground Parmesan that has been knocking around at the back of your cupboard since the late 80s. At your own risk!