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Shiny Side Up… Or Down?

Roll of aluminium foilAs most people will know, aluminium cooking foil has a shiny side and a dull one. This is not deliberate, and is simply a result of the shiny side being in contact with smooth rollers when it is manufactured.

Personally, I prefer the shiny (smooth) side to be in direct contact with food because it seems logical that the smooth side is likely to stick to food less than the dull (and rougher) side. I have no evidence for this, and I am not claiming it is true – because it quite possibly isn’t. It just makes sense to me as a Chemist.

Another thing that makes sense is that if the dull side is rougher, then it has a greater surface area, so contact with anything acidic might result in more aluminium getting into the food.

About a month ago there was a story in the media where the chef Tom Kerridge claimed the shiny side should always face towards the food ‘because it radiates more heat back’.

I immediately thought that this was nonsense. If you are placing something in a metal tray, and lidding it with more metal, radiant heat is not really in the equation while cooking it. Yes, the shiny side will reflect more radiant heat than the dull one, but you are only using radiant heat to a significant degree in the oven if the food is uncovered and directly facing the flame or heating element. The rest of the time you are using conduction and convection heating – mainly the latter. There is certainly no radiant heat (as infra-red waves) trapped inside your foil parcel.

Incidentally, you can purchase non-stick foil. This has a coating on it which reduces sticking to food. Interestingly, they put the coating on the dull side – presumably because it sticks better to the rough side during manufacture of it. The packaging for this product specifically tells you to use the dull side against the food solely because that’s the side with the coating on it.

The funny thing was, I was listening to Planet Rock this afternoon and I heard Darren Redick ask Wyatt about this and they didn’t know. They asked people to email in with the answer, but I was just about to start a lesson so didn’t get to find out what had been said. Though I can guess.

The answer is that it doesn’t matter what side you have facing the food as far as cooking and heating is concerned. However, the shiny side might be less sticky and react slightly less with acid foods. And with non-stick coated foil, the side with the coating should be in contact with the food.

Well, I NEARLY Made It Right!

Crab Meat White Hand Picked - 454g

I’ve mentioned this topic before, but you have to laugh at some of the ‘reviews’ for online recipes.

I was scrolling through a few the other day – you have to scroll, because standard food blog technique is to write about 6,000 words on how your grandmother used to catch mackerel by hand whilst blindfolded and swimming naked under pack ice, and only give the recipe in the last 50 words – and found one for Crab Cakes in an air-fryer. It calls for fresh Crab meat, Red Pepper, Spring Onions, and a few other bits and pieces.

Someone right at the top in the comments had added Cayenne Pepper and an egg white – and those are not in the recipe list as written. And another had used ‘imitation crab legs’ (i.e. not crab at all), green pepper instead of red, plus a totally different seasoning blend. Whatever it was they had made was apparently worth a five-star rating. Others have left out ingredients because they ‘didn’t have any’ and still rated it as five stars. Another had had a power cut and didn’t get to cook them, so used the raw mix as a sandwich filling instead – and still given it five stars. And another states he uses different ingredients in his recipe for Crab Cakes, but still gave this one five stars in spite of never having made it.

Another had used waxed paper in the air-fryer instead of the stated parchment paper and then complained about the cakes sticking to it. And someone else had apparently almost had a fire when they put the parchment paper into the air-dryer and tried to pre-heat before adding the Crab Cakes to hold it down.

Prime Day Is Coming!

Amazon Prime Day is 12-13 July 2022 and it is great time to bag some bargains.

If nothing else, it can give you some ideas before you shop around to see if you can get a better deal somewhere else (which I often do myself, even though I have Prime for the next-day delivery option if available).

Post-Pandemic Pupils

 Common Sense - Dilbert by Scott AdamsMost ADIs will be aware that there is a huge backlog of people wanting to learn to drive right now. So much so where I am that I’m turning them away – I simply do not want to end up working from 8am until 10pm again, which I often was before the pandemic.

An increasing number of email enquiries are coming via DVSA’s website. The unexpected advantage of this is that you get enough information to help you be selective and decide whether to reply ‘sorry, I’m full up right now and can’t take on new students’ or take things further. For example, I got this one the other day:

I work shift patterns but should usually have 3-4 full days off per week (sometimes midweek/sometimes weekends). I have driven before so we will not be starting from scratch, I hope to pass within 20 lessons if possible.

I just don’t want that hassle anymore. It’s bad enough when it turns up out of the blue, like the young chap several years ago who – after his tenth hour, having never driven previously – declared ‘I am ready for my test’.

I said ‘What? Are you telling me you’d only ever planned to take ten hours and then go for your test?’

‘Yes’, he replied.

I said ‘Well, you really should have told me that at the start. I’m sorry, but you are nowhere near test standard and I am not taking you in my car’. I explained how I could lose my licence if I take bad drivers to test, and told him ‘I think you need to find another instructor, but I wish you all the best’.

Other emails are so short and terse that they also get a polite rejection:

I found your name on the DVSA website and was wondering if you can take new students right now.

When you get one like this, there’s every likelihood they are not local, or want automatic lessons – I get that even with referrals sometimes. And in most cases with email enquiries, they will have sent the same question to a dozen other instructors and are really only looking for the cheapest price – which won’t be me, so I’m not going to waste my time entering into discussions over it. As I said, I don’t need to chase work.

And then there was this one:

I have my test next month and I need an instructor to take me.

Guess what I did with that one.

On a slightly different note, I’ve mentioned before that I offer a free lesson to anyone who refers someone to me who commences taking lessons. I don’t advertise it, but casually mention it. That has always worked, but it did bite me a bit recently.

I was teaching a young lad and told his mum about the offer. She told me his sister would soon be turning 17 and she’d use it then, which she did. But she then referred someone who had three kids, who all commenced lessons at the same time (their dad paid for 30 hours for each of them upfront), then someone else, then another one!

I honoured the arrangement, particularly as she had brought in so much extra work, but I think I’ll have to be a bit more careful about that in future.

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BirdCam Live Page

BirdCam is now up and running again after the technical issues earlier, and I am also with a new streaming host – Brownrice – whose service is excellent, covers the resolution of my camera without repeated buffering, and whose support staff are immediately available for any issues (bearing in mind the 7 hour time difference which, oddly enough, actually works for me).

This year had a tragic outcome. Our resident roosting Great Tit from last year turned out to be female, and in early Spring she built a nest. I was able to see this locally, but could not stream it live as the camera was faulty.

She then laid nine eggs over a ten day period, and all of them hatched. She and the male bird fed them regularly and they grew and developed all their feathers. They must have only been a short way from fledging when both parents stopped coming. I incorrectly assumed they were trying to get them outside, but the chicks weren’t old enough.

One by one, they died. The last night was awful, as there were still five chicks jumping around, then as night fell they settled down and just died.

Anyway, that gave me time to install a new camera, and this is the feed from that.

Let’s see what happens this year now.

Incidentally, one of my other CCTV cameras shows that there are at least three cats which prowl our garden at night. One of them – which I think belongs to neighbours at the bottom of the garden – is a cute and friendly little black and white thing, but it regularly goes for birds in our garden. A short while before we lost the chicks, I saw it after our resident Blackbird. My mother virtually handfeeds that bird, along with two Robins, and since our garden has a lot of trees and bushes and is well maintained, we attract (and have feeders for) wildlife.

Anyway, I have declared war on that cat! I’d never hurt it, as I am a cat lover, but I want to deter it, because there’s a high probability it was responsible for the disappearance of the chicks’ parents. So I bought my mother a Spyra water gun and she is surprisingly good with it.

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