Archive for June, 2015

Raising Steam

Saturday, June 20th, 2015 | Books

So this is it then. I’m at the end of Discworld. With Sir Terry sadly gone there is no more Discworld to look forward to. There is supposed to be another novel to be published posthumously, but it is a Tiffany Aching novel, so nobody is looking forward to that.

As a way to go out though, it was good. Moist von Lipwig is a cool character and Pratchett is not afraid to introduce big changes to the Discworld universe, possibly because he knew he wouldn’t have the chance to make many more.

More importantly, who doesn’t love trains?

Raising Steam

River Cottage Every Day

Friday, June 19th, 2015 | Books, Food

river-cottage-every-day

Hugh’s Veg Every Day! book is probably my favourite cookbook so far, so I was eager to see what River Cottage Every Day has to offer.

It’s not as good, but still useful. Mostly I think it is just a bit more hit and miss. The rabbit stew for example was rubbish. Whereas the home-cured bacon chops were pretty good and the breaded fish fillets were a winner.

The biggest challenge can often be getting the ingredients for the recipes. I haven’t dared schedule in devilled lamb hearts and oxtail stew yet in case my butcher can’t supply the foods, and the Thai seafood soup required squeezing a trip to the fish market into my lunch break.

The best part is probably the bread though. Hugh’s focaccia recipe has quickly found a regular place in our kitchen.

Hayfield

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 | Friends, Photos, Travel

hayfield-group

Earlier this month we visited Hayfield for a weekend of catching up, relaxing and enjoying the British summer, such as it is.

30 Minute One Pot

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 | Books, Food

30-minute-one-pot

We have a One Pot cookbook already and it’s reasonably good. At least in theory, when I use it it has been good, though I rarely do. This book is a much larger (size wise it is A4, though not long) and similarly well presented with large photos and simple instructions with clear timings.

All of that is brilliant.

It is let down by the rest of it though. Many of the recipes just do not work very well and often they take longer than 30 minutes. They also differ from the one pot philosophy (dump everything into a pot and cook) with a variety of different cooking styles, though I’m not too fussed about this.

There are some nice recipes that I am sure we will be doing again. The meatballs worked quite well. However it look quite a quite to narrow it down to the ones that work and the ones that do not, which was a frustrating process.

500 Ways to Cook Vegetarian

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 | Books, Food

500-ways-to-cook-vegetarian

Don’t get your hopes up, it isn’t 500 ways to cook a vegetarian. However, it is still pretty good. For a start, it has 500 recipes in. That is loads. Often such lists would just be identical dishes (beans with fennel, beans with onion, beans with leek), but the book does a pretty good job of providing genuinely different recipes.

Everything has a photo too. They are only small, but that is better than fewer, larger photos in my opinion. The recipes are reasonably simple and don’t take too long to make, though are not massively fancy or memorable. It’s a good every day book though.

The Accidental Vegetarian

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 | Books, Food

the-accidential-vegetarian

Simon Rimmer claims he bought a vegetarian cafe and then learned how to cook. Given how successful Greens has been, you have to wonder how true that is. However, with it being a cookbook, who really cares.

The book is okay. It has some good recipes in it, most notably the sweet potato and pineapple sandwich (a main that uses pineapple for bread), Lancashire cheese sausages (that contain so much cheese they are probably less healthy than real sausages) and honeycomb ice cream.

Overall though it is let down by not having a photo of most of the recipes. The photos that do exist are large and colourful, but I dislike recipe books in which I cannot judge if what I have made looks anything like it should or not.

Foundation and Earth

Monday, June 15th, 2015 | Books

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series is a masterpiece of science fiction writing. After many years it was followed up by Foundation’s Edge, which was so-so. Then, the year I was born, it was added to with Foundation and Earth, following Golan Trevize’s quest to find the planet from which all live originally came from.

It was heavy on the philosophy. Discussions of morality, ethics, whether robots are human and whether the good of the many outweighs the good of the few. This makes it slow going at the start by picks up as the book moves on.

There is a certain excitement generated on being in on the answer as it were. Obviously, being actually from Earth, and having a basic knowledge of our galaxy, you can feel the rush when you realise that Trevize is getting closer and closer.

The end is quite a nice twist too. It doesn’t throw everything on its head but provides something satisfying different. If you enjoyed the series so far, this is well worth a read.

Foundation and Earth

TV Dinners

Sunday, June 14th, 2015 | Distractions

TV Dinners is a show in which Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall investigating people’s dinner parties. Sort of.

As far as I can tell, it seems to be a show where Hugh travels round the country making fun of posh people. To me, the message seems to be “your life might have problems, but at least you didn’t spend nine months waiting for a custom-made table and multi-coloured chairs, and then make individual desserts for each colour, served by two hired waiters.”

And it goes on. There are men so obsessed with chilli that they put it in everything and brew their own chilli beer. This is all combined to make their wives their tenth wedding anniversary meal. The woman who goes to Harvey Nichols to get bones for her stock. The racing enthusiasts that hand out forfeits for forgetting to wear a club tie.

Of course it could be that you are incredibly clever and sophisticated if you throw a Futurist dinner party in which you blindfold your guests for the entrées, have a fish course that is just for smelling before going in the bin, and having a communal dessert that you all lick because cutlery is banned. However, I think we also need to face the possibility that you might also be a complete twat.

Luckily, there was a Yorkshireman to the rescue. He had a great recipe for puddings (I haven’t tasted them, but I’m judging it on proximity to my recipe) and when Hugh asked what he was going to do with his roasting joint, he replied that he was going to cook it. No fuss, just great meat. Champion.

Snuff

Saturday, June 13th, 2015 | Books

Sam Vimes running round the countryside solving crimes. Honestly, I found it dull. Yet another Discworld novel about how society learned to accept yet another species. Fine, but I’m sure we have had this storyline over and over again. I thought the Willikins jokes were a bit overplayed too.

Don’t get me wrong, it was okay. I was just disappointed, especially with just one more Discworld novel to go after this. The end is nigh :(.

Snuff

Speeding up Leeds Restaurant Guide

Friday, June 12th, 2015 | Limited, Programming, Tech

restaurant-guide-website

Leeds Restaurant Guide is incredibly detailed covering so many restaurants with high quality content and imagery. So it seemed only fitting that I should pay as much attention to the presentation as I do the content.

I’ve been using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to debug it. Ironically, PageSpeed Insights spends a lot of time complaining about the Google AdSense code that they provide to me. It does however provide some useful tips too.

Compression

Gzip compression costs almost nothing and can drastically reduce the file size you are sending to the client. The server compresses it and the client uncompresses it all of which is done transparently to the user.

It is pretty easy to configure using Apache’s mod_deflate module, and I’ve blogged about how to get it working on cPanel on Hardware Tutorials.

Expiry headers

If you have Apache’s mod_expires, and you almost certainly do, you can set default expiry headers for content using your .htaccess file.

<IfModule mod_expires.c>
    ExpiresActive On
    ExpiresByType text/css "access plus 60 minutes"
    ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access plus 1 day"
    ExpiresByType image/jpg "access plus 1 month"
    ExpiresByType image/png "access plus 3 months"
</IfModule>

This will tell the client it can safely cache the content for a while. Put whatever values in that you think are sensible.

Minify your CSS

Recently I wrote about how to use Gulp to set up a task to compile your SASS/LESS stylesheets. This included instructions on how to minify your CSS. Even if you are just using plain old CSS, you could still create a task to create a minified version.

Minification takes out all the spaces, comments and other unrequired characters so that you have less data that needs to be transferred to the client.