21 November 2016

Do Something New Each Day - October 2016

Day 275 - 1 October 2016 - Visited the 'Giant's Causeway'

While I'm still writing what I did in September, I think it's best to start telling you about October otherwise I'll never catch up!

The Saturday just gone I had the chance to tick off another place in my bucket list. The Giant's Causeway is located in the north-east coast of Northern Ireland. It's an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption that happened around 50-60 million years ago.

This dramatic sight has inspired legends of giants striding over the sea to Scotland. In 1986 the site, as well as the coast around it, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Due to time restrictions I didn't have time to walk along the total length of the coast, but I'll definitely return back another time to do it as the whole area is extremely beautiful, as you can see from the photos. Click here for more info.

Day 276 - 2 October 2016 - Visited Belfast and attended a Catholic Mass

Belfast is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland. It was the centre of the Irish linen, tobacco processing, rope-making and shipbuilding industries. It was in Belfast where the Titanic was built.

It has been the capital since the establishment of Northern Ireland in 1921. Between 1969 and 2001 it saw some of the worst of the sectarian conflict between its Catholic and Protestant populations.

I was lucky to stay in the house of a lovely old lady, who lived in Belfast for most of her life. She told me a lot about the conflict and how life was then. And she was kind enough to drive me around the city and be my guide. So when she invited me to attend mass with her at her local parish, I accepted without hesitation (and not only because it was another first for me).

The people of Belfast are extremely friendly, generous and hospitable. Not surprising to me, since the Irish (whether Northern or otherwise) are such great people. It's such a pity that, even nowadays, the conflict still exists - but without all the bloodshed that existed before. I walked along the road that acts as the boundary between the Catholic and Protestant parts - a strange experience.

But I ended up spending most of my time wondering around and taking photos of the numerous murals spread all over the walls in the streets. It's the only beautiful remnant of an otherwise blood thirsty conflict that has affected so many lives. Click here for more info.

Day 277 - 3 October 2016 - Tried 'Montgomery Cheddar' by J A & E Montgomery Ltd

This is a fantastic cheddar! A really aromatic and flavoursome cheddar, that won the Super Gold medal in the 'Mature Traditional Cheddar Traditional Flavour' category.

According to its description, it's still made using the same handmade methods since first production in 1912. And the farm that produces it is one the very few farms that uses unpasteurised milk, giving the cheese its unique taste. I thoroughly recommend it! For more info about it click the link below.

Day 278 - 4 October 2016 - Made 'Milk Pie'

Time to cook something for the first time. And since beer and cheese was on the menu the other day, it was time for dessert! This is a very easy Greek recipe, with the result being a very tasty dessert. Click here for the recipe.

Day 279 - 5 October 2016 - Listened to the album 'Rio Baile Funk Vol 1 - Favela Booty Beats'

In my search for something new to listen to, I dipped into the Guardian's '50 essential albums from around the world' list. The paper describes it as follows:

"Forget the musicianship of other Brazilian artistes - these cuts are raw, the true sound of the favelas. Likewise, Brazilian music has always been sexy, but these 'booty beats' verge on the pornographic."

It's an interesting album. Not because of the music but, mainly, because it is clearly a selection of some raw, underground beats - it's like listening to pirate radio. So much so that some of the tracks are clearly not created in a recording studio.

Day 280 - 6 October 2016 - Listened to the album 'Dimanche a Bamako' by Amadou & Mariam

Sticking to the list of "50 essential albums from around the world", this time I listened to this really good one from this blind, Malian couple. Very easy to listened to. Click here for more info.

Day 281 - 7 October 2016 - Visited San Marino

Another tiny country ticked off my list! San Marino is only 61 square kilometres (24 sq miles) in size and has a population of about 32,000. It is an enclaved microstate surrounded by Italy.

It is the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world. It was originally founded on 3 September 301 by stonecutter Marinus of Arba. San Marino is governed by the Constitution of San Marino, a series of six books written in Latin in the late 16th century, that dictate the country’s political system, among other matters. The country is considered to have the earliest written governing documents (constitution) still in effect.

I stayed in its capital, Città di San Marino, a beautifuly preserved town located at the top of San Marino's highest point, Monte Titano. It is also in UNESCO's World Heritage list.

Compared to the other two mountainous capitals of micro-states I have visited (Andora and Leichtenstein), Città di San Marino offers the best views as you get a 360 degree view of San Marino and Italy, as far as Tuscany. Click here for more info.

Day 282 - 8 October 2016 - Visited Venice

Venice has been in my bucketlist for ages! Finally I got the opportunity to visit it last weekend! Despite the fact it was October, the city was still full of tourists.

I have to admit though - it's a beautiful city but it left me underwhelmed. Most of the activity seemed to be around the Grand Canal. And in other parts of the city, the ones quiet from tourists, the neighbourhoods seemed quite 'run down'. Loads of buildings seem in need of major renovation and the walls are full of ugly graffiti.

The city is also very expensive (I guess it relies on the fact that couples will pay loads for that romantic moment) and the few places where you don't have to break the bank serve blunt food. I did manage to find a lovely bakery, though, which supplied me with my daily meals. Well, I was glad to say that I finally visited Venice - but I'm not sure whether I'd like to visit it again. Click here for more info.

Day 283 - 9 October 2016 - Visited 'Gallerie Dell' Accademia' in Venice

Venice's largest museum, it contains the most extensive collection of Venetian masters in the world, spanning the 13th to the 18th centuries and all the major ones like Titian, Tintoretto, Giorgione, Veronese, Bellini and Carpaccio.

It's definitely a must-visit gallery for fans of art. The highlight of my visit was a collection from an artist unknown to me up to now, Jheronimus Bosch. One of the great things about visiting a museum is discovering artists you never knew about, whose art you seem to like a lot! I am glad that I got to see his wonderful work which I can only describe as the grandfather of Dali's surrealism!

As photos were not allowed, all the photos are from Google. The first two are paintings by Bosch. Click here for more info.

Day 284 - 10 October 2016 - Watched the movie 'Ida'

Winner of the 2015 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, this polish drama is set in Poland in 1962 and tells the story of a young woman on the verge of taking vows as a Catholic nun, who goes in search of her parents' graves. Despite the great reviews, I found it a bit too slow and with not too much to keep me interested. Click here for more info.

Day 285 - 11 October 2016 - Made "Olive Fougasse"

This is a french bread which I made with the help of my bread machine, which made the dough. So, here's the recipe:

210ml water
15ml extra virgin olive oil
350gr white bread flour
1tsp salt
1tsp sugar
1tsp easy bake dried yeast
50gr pitted black olives, chopped

1) Put the ingredients in the bread machine (in the order stated in its manual) and set it to the basic dough setting.

2) When the machine has finished, remove the dough and place it on a lightly floured surface.

3) knock the dough back (punch it down) gently and flatten it slightly. Sprinkle over the olives and fold over the dough two or three times to incorporate them.

4) Flatten the dough and roll it into an oblong, about 30cm long. With a sharp knife make four or five parallel cuts diagonally through the body of the dough, but leaving the edges intact. Gently stretch the fougasse dough so that it resembles a ladder.

5) Lightly oil a baking sheet, place the shaped dough on it and cover with oiled clean film. Leave it in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in bulk.

6) Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas 7. Brush the top of the fougasse with olive oil, place in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the bread is golden. Turn out on to a wire rack to cool.

Day 286 - 12 October 2016 - Tried the cheese "Wyfe Of Bath" by the Bath Soft Cheese Company

As I made a delicious bread the previous day, I had to accompany it with an award winning cheese. And, as it turns out, the one I tried was a really tasty one!

It's a Gold Medal winner in the World Cheese Awards 2015 and in the category "Semi-hard cheese produced on farm or dairy with a total output not exceeding a weekly average of 2 tons". It's nutty and creamy, made by placing the curd in cloth lined baskets. Definitely try it if you can find it! Click here for more info.

Day 287 - 13 October 2016 - Visited the 'Everyman Theatre' in Liverpool

Time to visit another theatre in Liverpool, this time one of its most popular one, the Everyman. Following a total renovation it re-opened in 2014 to great aclaim, winning the 2014 RIBA Stirling Prize for Architecture.

"Accessible and environmentally sustainable, the new theatre combines the trademark wrap-around auditorium and basement bistro with many new facilities. Light, open front-of-house spaces and a pavement café; rehearsal and workshop facilities; a dedicated space for our work with young people and community groups, and a workspace for writers allows the whole building to be a vibrant, creative hub, by day and night. And a beautiful façade, representing the people of Liverpool, expresses the fact that this is truly an Everyman for everyone."

I watched a play by none other than William Shakespear, "The Two Gentlemen Of Verona", transformed into a 1966 musical. It was a very enjoyable and different experience, with great performances by the talented actors. The photos are from Google. Click here for more info.

 Day 288 - 14 October 2016 - Made 'Moroccan Ksra'

This traditional leavened flatbread is a perfect accompaniment to tagine, a spicy Moroccan stew, but it's equally good with salads, cheeses or dips. If you have a bread making machine, here's the recipe:

200ml water
250gr strong white bread flour
75gr semolina
1 tsp aniseed
1.5 tsp salt
Half tsp sugar
1 tsp easy bake dried yeast
olive oil for brushing
sesame seeds for sprinkling

1) Place the ingredients (apart from the olive oil and sesame) in the bread maker as per the machine's instructions. Use the basic dough setting.

2) When the dough is ready, place it on a lightly floured surface.

3) Knock the dough back (punch it down) gently, shape into two balls, then flatten them into 2cm/1 inch thick discs.

4) Place each dough disk on a lightly floured baking sheet. Cover it with oiled clear film and leave to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.

5) Preheat the oven to 200C / Gas 6. Brush the top of each piece of dough with olive oil and sprinkle sesame seeds. Prick the surface with a skewer.

6) Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the ksra is golden and sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Turn out on to a wire rack to cool.

TIP: You can replace half of the white bread flour with wholemeal bread flour for a nuttier flavour.

Day 289 - 15 October 2016 - Visited St George's Hall, in Liverpool

You can't really be in Liverpool without noticing St George's Hall. The minute you step out of Lime Street Station it's the first building you notice - and if you're Greek you could be forgiven for thinking you haven't left home yet!

Its construction started in 1841 and it opened in 1854. It originally had two separate functions: a hall to be used for festivals, meetings, dinners and concerts; and as a court.

In fact, the Liverpool Crown Court was housed in the southern end of the building until 1984. During the 2000s a major restoration of the hall took place, costing £23m. It was officially reopened in April 2007 by Prince Charles.

Finally I took the opportunity to see the building from the inside. In fact, I attended one of the tours that actually take you to its depths and heights (in full workman's gear too!!) and tell you a lot about its history, its architecture, as well as some of the most interesting court cases held. I'll definitely come back to examine more of its rooms as it's a very impressive building. The first 4 photos are from Google. Click here for more info.

Day 290 - 16 October 2016 - Had a burger at 'Death Row Dinner' in Liverpool

Great company and interesting conversation (especially footballwise) was the order last Sunday. So when we found out that the place I had recommended for a very good burger was no longer open, we stumbled into this one instead.

Luckily, not only the burgers were good but it was my first visit to it. Interesting interior (as I've never been on death row I can't really comment on any resemblance) - and everyone liked the music and the food. Apart from the photo of my burger, the rest of the photos are from Google. Click here for more info.

Day 291 - 17 October 2016 - Tried a kebab from Tureen, in Liverpool

A funny little story behind this!

Last Monday was football night at Anfield. On my way to the ground the bus stopped at traffic lights, exactly outside this kebab shop. I've never heard of it before (I do shop from that area), but I saw massive chicken kebab skewers entering what was described as a clay oven. So, I decided to try one next time I was around.

However, all this changed after the game and the disappointing draw with Man Utd. Two very good friends of mine were staying over at my place and we were really hungry after the game. So off we went to Tureen, bought big chicken kebabs wrapped in home made arab bread and headed back home. The shop owner treated us to some lamb kofta too from the clay oven (it was delicious too) and gave us soft drinks for free!

The kebab was very tasty indeed - and loads of chicken in it!! Pitty the photo does not show this!

Day 292 - 18 October 2016 - Tried the cheese "Quicke's Extra Mature Cheddar" by Quicke's Traditional Ltd

Another award winning cheese and a fantastic mature cheddar! Winner of the Gold Medal in the World Cheese Awards 2015 in the category "Extra mature traditional cheddar - traditional flavour".

Matured for 18-21 months, this is a great cheese that can be enjoyed with anything really - especially with a glass of deep red cabernet sauvignon. Click here for more info.

Day 293 - 19 October 2016 - Watched the movie 'The Family Friend'

After watching the amazing 'The Great Beauty', I decided to watch another film directed by Paolo Sorrentino. Unfortunately, 'The Family Friend' disappointed - especially when compared to 'The Great Beauty'. Click here for more info.

Day 294 - 20 October 2016 - Made 'Feta Cheese & Black Olive Loaf'

Another tasty bread, which tastes better if eaten on the same day. Personally, I'll also add more olives and feta, to give it a stronger flavour. Here's the recipe if you have a bread machine:

210ml water
350gr strong white bread flour
25gr wholemeal bread flour
1 tbsp skimmed milk powder
1 tsp salt
1.5 tsp sugar
1 tsp easy bake dried yeast
40gr pitted black olives, chopped
50gr feta cheese, crumbled
olive oil for brushing

1) Put the first 7 ingredients in the bread maker, in the order stated in the machine's manual. Set the machine to the basic raisin dough setting.

2) When the machine beeps (or 5 minutes before the end of the kneading cycle) add the olives and the feta cheese.

3) Once the dough is ready, place it on a lightly floured surface and knock back (punch it down) gently.

4) Shape it into a plump ball, Place it on a lightly oiled baking tin, cover with oiled clear film and leave to rise for 30-45 minutes in a warm place.

5) Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Remove the clear film, brush the top with olive oil and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden.

Day 295 - 21 October 2016 - Watched the movie 'Tess'

Tess is a 1979 drama directed by Roman Polanski. Winner of the 38th Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film, it is an adaptation of Thomas Hardy's 1891 novel 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles'.

Thomas Hardy is not one of my favourite writers. In fact, after initially reading 'Jude the Obscure' and then 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles', I decided not to read anything else from him as I found his style quite boring to read.

But since I am a fan of period movies, I watched this film in the hope that Polanski would have done a good job in making a great film out of not so good a book. Alas, my hopes were in vain as the movie is also way too corny for my liking. Click here for more info.

Day 296 - 22 October 2016 - Had dinner at 'Slim's Pork Chop Express', in Liverpool

Another Saturday full of football and a visit to Anfield, so the opportunity to do something new was limited. Nevertheless, I got to tick off another restaurant in Liverpool. This one serves a range of pork dishes. The photo may not seem appetizing but this is because the lighting was too low so the food looks as if it's burnt. And no, I didn't eat all that by myself! Tasty food, expecially the ribs. Click here for more info.

Day 297 - 23 October 2016 - Visited the Williamson Tunnels, in Liverpool

The Williamson Tunnels are a labyrinth of tunnels in the Edge Hill area of Liverpool, which were built under the direction of the eccentric businessman Joseph Williamson between 1810 and 1840. They remained derelict, filled with rubble and refuse, until archaeological investigations were carried out in 1995. Since then excavations have been carried out and part of the labyrinth of tunnels has been opened to the public as a heritage centre.

I was slightly disappointed, to be honest. Having visited a number of tunnels and caves around Europe, this was a very brief tour in what was, actually, not tunnels. Williamson was actually trying to raise the surface of what was the side of a hill, in order to build housing. So he built a series of 'roofs' on the sides of the hill, which gave the space underneath the look of tunnels.

However, the story behind Williamson and how the tunnels were built was very interesting. Apart from the first photos, the remaining ones are from Google.Click here for more info.

Day 298 - 24 October 2016 - Listened to the album 'Space Is The Place' by Sun Ra

Why do I put myself through this when I know it's gonna end up in a 'headache'? I decided to dig into yet another 'music list' and this time I was brave enough to give a go on Mojo's list of the 50 Weirdest Albums of all time.

This album was in number 2 but it certainly gave me a No 1 headache by the end of it! Calling it an experimental jazz album would be quite an understatement. Calling it a series of random musical notes that accidentally create a melody every now and them would be a more accurate description. Click here for more info.

Day 299 - 25 October 2016 - Listened to the album 'Tilt' by Scott Walker

Another one in the Top 50 list of the Weirdest Albums of all time, this is actually a quite good one! It was released in 1995 and reached number 27 in the UK albums chart without actually having released any singles.

The genre of music in the album is described as 'art rock, avant-garde, experimental'. Although it has a depressing, melancholic tone to it throughout, the whole arrangement from music to lyrics is very commendable. Worth a listen! Click here for more info.

Day 300 - 26 October 2016 - Made 'Walnut Cake from Peloponnese'

Well, I've reached 300 days already!! 66 more to go in what has been one of the most interesting and exciting years ever. So, to celebrate it, I've tried another traditional Greek recipe which resulted in many happy and satisfied faces from those who tried the final result. Click here for the recipe.

Day 301 - 27 October 2016 - Made 'Spinach & Parmesan Bloomer'

I have to admit that of all the breads I've made so far, this was my least favourite. The spinach gave it a strange taste that I didn't like. But if you want to try it, here you go!

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
115gr fresh young spinach leaves
120ml water
1 egg
450gr strong white bread flour
Half tsp freshly grated nutmeg
50gr freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1.5 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1.5 easybake dried yeast
2 tbsp pine nuts

1) Heat the olive  oil in a pan, add the chopped onion and saute until a light golden colour. Add the spinach, stir well to combine and cover the pan very tightly. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Then stir again and leave the pan uncovered to cool.

2) Add the rest of the ingredients in the bread machine, in the order stated in its manual.

3) Tip the spinach mixture into the machine too. Set the machine to the basic dough setting.

4) Add the pine nuts to the dough when the machine beeps or during the last 5 minutes of the kneading process.

5) When the dough cycle has finished, place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Gently knock it back (punch down), then carefully roll it out to a rectangle about 2.5cm thick.

6) Roll up the rectangle of dough from one long side to form a thick baton shape, with a square end. Place the baton on a lightly floured baking sheet, seam side up, cover with a lightly oiled clear film, and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

7) Turn the bread over and place it on a second lightly floured baking sheet. Plump up the dough by tucking the ends and sides under. Cover with a lightly oiled clear film again and leave it to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

8) Preheat the oven to 220C - Gas 7. Using a sharp knife slash the top of the bloomer with five diagonal slashes. Bake it for 30-35 minutes, or until it is golden and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Turn the bread out on to a wire rack to cool.

Day 302 - 28 October 2016 - Listened to the album 'Forever' by the Cranes

I can't really remember the reason this particular album came to my attention. I think it appeared on some list which I can no longer find. It's an OK album, nothing special, apart from the great voice of its singer. Click here for more info.

Day 303 - 29 October 2016 - Made 'Caramelised Onion Bread'

This is a lovely bread, which makes a tasty crust for those who love crust.

80gr butter
2 onions, chopped
280ml water
1 tbsp honey
450gr strong white bread flour
1.5 tsp salt
Half tsp freshly ground black pepper
1.5 easy bake dried yeast

1) Melt the butter in a frying pan and saute the onions over a low heat until golden. Remove the pan from the heat and let the onions cool slightly. 

2) Add the remaining ingredients in the bread machine, in the order stated in its manual. 

3) Place a sieve over the bread machine then tip the contents of the frying pan into it, so that the juices fall into the bread machine pan. Set the onions aside to cool completely.

4) Set the machine to the basic dough setting. Add the onions when the machine beeps or in the last 5 minutes of the kneading cycle. 

5) When the cycle has finished, place the dough in a lightly floured surface. Knock back (punch down), then shape into a ball. 

6) Place on a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with oiled cleared film for 45 minutes.

7) Preheat the oven to 200C - Gas 6. Slash a 1cm deep cross in the top of the loaf. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Day 304 - 30 October 2016 - Listened to the album 'Harnessed The Storm' by Drexciya

Another album I can't remember why I added it on my list. This time from a very well known dance label (Tresor) but by a due of producers of unknown identity. Unfortunately it didn't hit the right notes for me; way too minimalistic. 

Day 305 - 31 October 2016 - Watched the movie 'The Seventh Seal'

This is an example of why I'd recommend to everyone to do something similar to what I did this year (to do something new each day). It's not only the new experiences  - it is also how much you enrich your knowledge. 

Take this movie for example. I didn't know anything about it. But when I listened to Scott Walker's album 'Tilt' for the first time, my interest for this artist brought me to listen to his other work. So I cam across a song of the same title which I loved - apparently Walker wrote it influenced by the film. 

So, as a result, I also watched the film which was very good indeed. Directed by Ingmar Bergman, it tells of the journey of a medieval knight and a game of chess he plays with the personification of Death, who has come to take his life. Highly recommended. Click here for more info.

October 2016 - Review
October was a month that saw me do a wide range of activities. I tried 3 award winning cheeses, made 2 recipes for the first time, visited 3 restaurants and made 5 new breads. I also watched 4 films and listened to 6 albums. But above all, I visited 4 sites for the first time and ticked off another 4 places in my bucketist! (Belfast, Giant's Causeway, San Marino and Venice).

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