Sunday, 28 December 2008

F.A.C.T.S. 2008 : the inside story and pictures . All will be revealed !

FACTS is an event held every year in October in Ghent (Belgium) where ALL real fans meet to get overdosed on 7000 square meters of Fantasy, Anime , Comics, Toys , Space , famous guests, food, beer ( hey, it's in Belgium ;).
Thousands of visitors come each year to this genuine mekka where shops from Belgium and abroad display and sell their wares. Despite it's success , large distributors and companies are requested not to attend.

This is Jean , an acquaintance of mine, who runs the popular shop "De Stripkever" in Mechelen , that sells comics, strips, manga , anime and figurines.
It also has a counter and tables out front where you can sit down and drink coffee, tea, eat pancakes ( or have a beer ).

The cosplay competition isn't limited to Anime and Manga characters. This place is unique : only here will you find so many characters from Stargate , Star Wars and other movies shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Naruto and Inuyasha.
Picture above : R2D2 (the robot) from Star Wars driving down the ramp while on the left two soldiers from Stargate let him pass.

Do I even need to introduce this pretty character ? Isn't she just totally kawaii ? かわいい ね?

( For those of you who've been living in a galaxy far , far away (pun intended) these past 10 years and have only just now arrived on planet Earth, this is Haruno Sakura , the female lead and ninja from the very popular Naruto anime and manga )
( I've watched an episode of the anime and , frankly , 'our' Sakura is definitely prettier ! )
(click on pictures for larger version)

The three lovely ladies in the picture below are from left to right Yuko Ichihara (xxHolic) and two characters from Vampire Knight ( someone from the night class whose name I can't remember ( read : failed to find on Google ) and Shizuka Hiou ).

Here's a cute character that showed up in the corner of one of my pictures ( I didn't notice till I started editing them.) I'd really love to know which character she is : anybody any ideas ?

See you next year at FACTS 2009 !

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Obimaki Enokitake anyone ?

Together with the mushrooms from my post on Japanese hotpot , I also bought these.

The enokitake ( the ones on the right ) I split in 8 bundles about 2 cm thick, wrap them tightly in a thin slice of bacon and grill them on a very lightly oiled very hot grill plate both sides till the bacon is crisp ( eight minutes about). Cut them in half , arrange them like in the picture. Serve with some ground white pepper and a slice of lemon.
This is an original Japanese dish called obimake enokitake (obimake because the bacon resembles the obi that is wrapped around a kimono ).

( click on the picture for a larger view : you can almost smell them! )

The insides are juicy and go quite well with the saltiness of the roasted bacon.
Easy to make and a lovely appetizer before a larger meal. I love eating these!

The large ones are king oyster mushrooms. These were new to me so I sliced them in half from top to bottom and grilled them slowly on a lightly oiled grill plate for at least 10-15 minutes till they felt softer to the touch. Nice taste.
(Sorry no pics of the cooked ones : they were eaten too quickly :)

( Tip : if you want to photograph foods that cool down quickly like these for your blog , arrange the camera and the lights at the table before you start cooking, so you can arrange the food on its dish , whip it in front of the camera and take your pictures right away without your lovely food going all cold.)

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Hotpot dinner : Nabe

Winter approaches and after reading Kirin's post on Nabe Ryori ( see also her Comments on my post ) I had to have a go at a Japanese hot-pot. ( Do click on the pictures : the large sized pics look even more appetizing).
Because it's my first time I keep the recipe simple and the dinner crowd small ( once I know my way around a recipe I can add more ingredients and guests).

To serve two I made a soup base with 1.5 litres of dashi and 1.5 tablespoons of red miso. I seasoned it by adding some finely grated ginger ( less than a tablespoon I guess) a bit at a time, tasting the soup base till the ginger was noticeable but not overpowering and also added some drops of sesame oil.

The vegetables that go in are these lovely brown shimeji that I found at the Chinese supermarket ( they're from Korea , imported via the Netherlands (it's a small world ;) I'm keeping the white ones for another dish) , Chinese cabbage leaves , cut in bite-sized squares, sliced shii-take, sliced spring-onion. I put everything in the simmering base , adding the shimeji a few minutes later, because I want to keep these from overcooking.

I served it in a fondue pot ( mine has a ceramic interior and I kept the pot simmering at the table with a small alcohol burner underneath ) . I added the finely sliced beef at the table for effect ;).

Btw , this is kangaroo beef which is a very lean meat ( less than 2 % fat )!

The Nabe with the meat added : it's very lean so only needs to cook shortly ! Tastes best when it's still a bit rosy inside.

When everyone had eaten all the goodies from the pot, I added green soba and tofu to the broth. You can see the result below : the taste of the broth by then was to die for ! ( Tip : I had pre-cooked the soba , adding the same amount of cold water to it a few minutes before it was done , so it would be cooked just right after simmering in the pot together with the tofu. )

Nabe is a wonderful dish to experiment with. I can really recommend it.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Bright new morning

Last saturday morning started out really bright and sunny ( even though it's October already, which is usually a rainy , windy period in Belgium).
I just got myself a digital camera and now I'm learning how to use it (so many settings !) because on saturday afternoon I'll be visiting the FACTS 2008 convention , which only comes around once a year.
So no travelogue right now , I'll continue it later on.

These are the very first few pics with my new camera.
This is Tek the neighbour's cat sitting in the back of my garden. He's been courting my cat for years without any success, but not for lack of trying ;)
He hasn't given up yet.

I made this bowl of Miso soup with tofu, Marufuji Udon , wakame and spring onions. It's so easy to make and so tasty !

Honestly, doesn't this picture make you hungry ?

Watch for my next post when I get my pictures from the FACTS convention sorted out.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Day 1 : continued

Following the A832 to the West coast , you pass by a place where the water of a clear mountain stream drops over a rocky precipice : Victoria Falls.
Perfectly cold and drinkable ( I know because I drank it).

There are small and large streams like this all over the Highlands. They are one of the things ( like the mountains and lakes) that make the Highlands such a unique and unforgettable landscape.

A few kilometers further , I pass by the western end of Loch Maree. From this end one can see how big it is , stretching into the distance between the mountains left and right of it.

From here the road continues down to sea-level. The following picture shows the village of Tournaig, sitting on the edge of Loch Thurnaig. Loch Thurnaig continues to the west out into the sea ( that's on the right of the picture).

This is a typical house of the region ( small windows and thick walls : to survive the cold winters up here). An owner of a boat repair company on the North coast told me that the cold is quite bad , but that the winds can go up to 200 kilometers per hour up here in the North!

From here the road starts to go up again : just a few kilometers further one I get a lovely overview of Touraig with the Bein Airigh Charr mountain behind on the left and on the right the Torridons (mountains).

Continuing up the west coast to the north , with the road steadily climbing , I get a breathtaking view of Loch Ewe and the island sitting in the middle of it. Just like Loch Thurnaig , this loch continues on into the sea.

One of the things that I like so much when journeying here is that , when I stop to listen, all I can hear is the noise of the wind and the sea. Except for the occasional passerby I don't hear the continuous noise of cars or railroads or airplanes in the distance as I do where I live.
It is a wonderful feeling and it's one of the things I love coming to the Highlands for.

(I'll continue this and other journeys in my next blogs. See you! )

Sunday, 21 September 2008

I've been to the Highlands in Scotland several times and I keep going back there , because it's so beautiful.
Yes I know the weather is changeable and it rains ( frequently ) but it's worth it !

The last time I went there on my motorbike. I crossed the Channel with the ferry from Calais to Dover and drove up to the Black Isle , where I stayed at a wonderful bed and breakfast on a farm . The Black Isle is just north of Inverness, which is the main city of the Highlands.
The city is situated by the Beauly Firth which you can cross over on the bridge you see in the picture to get to the Black Isle.

From there you can travel up into the mountains to the north. You can drive for hours without seeing anything but breathtakingly beautiful wild open spaces along roads that will go from 500 meters up down to sea level in just a few kilometers.

Day 1

On my first day I traveled by the A832 to the
West Coast. You can see the road winding down from high up to sealevel in the distance in the picture on the right. ( That's my motorbike on the left of the road )

Going down the A832 you pass by Loch Maree near Slioch ( Loch is Scottish for lake ) The mountain you see in the back is 666 meters high.
I didn't swim in the loch ( water's too cold ! ) but I did get to the little sandy beach you see in the middle and picknicked there.
Actually, Scotland allows you to put up a tent practically everywhere so you can camp there if you want, but I haven't tried that yet. Maybe next time.

(Keep watching my blog! I'll continue this travelog with more pics in my next post ! And Do Click on the pics to see them in a larger format)