Diary Of An ADI

A Driving Instructor's Blog

Sat nav displayAn email alert has just come in from DVSA advising that the driving test will change from 4 December 2017. The changes are as follows:

  • Independent driving will now last for 20 minutes (instead of 10 minutes)
  • 4 out of every 5 tests will use a sat nav for the independent driving part
  • 1 out of every 5 tests will use traffic signs for the independent driving part (as often done now)
  • turn in the road and reversing around a corner will no longer be tested
  • 1 out of 3 possible manoeuvres will be tested – parallel park, bay park, or reversing in a straight line on the right-hand side of the road
  • one of the show me/tell me questions will be asked while you are driving

The bay park exercise could involve reversing in (as now) and driving out again, or driving in forwards, then reversing back out again. The straight reverse on the right will be for about two car lengths, then driving back out into the normal traffic flow.

The sat nav will be supplied by the examiner and won’t involve route setting. Going the wrong way won’t result in a fail as long as it is done properly (as now with independent driving).

The show me/tell question asked while driving will be of the “show me how you’d clean the windscreen if it was dirty” kind (not “show me how you’d adjust your head restraint”).

Although the changes are watered down a little from what was being discussed last year, I am totally opposed to the removal of the turn in the road and corner reverse exercises. These should have remained on the list of possible manoeuvres to make sure instructors were teaching people properly. DVSA says that “you should still be taught them by your instructor”, but that is bollocks – within 18 months the majority of ADIs won’t go anywhere near them (many won’t right from the off), and pupils are going to start kicking up a stink when they know they’re not going to be tested and yet are still being taught them on lessons (especially the ones who have trouble with them, or who can’t afford lessons as it is).

DVSA has only provided the most basic information showing response to the consultation. There is no detailed breakdown of who voted what – God only knows why you would want to ask “the public” how it should be tested on something it can’t do very well in the first place – and some obvious weasel words which amount to “well, even though people said ‘yes’, we decided it would be ‘no’”, and vice versa. I know that some weak-minded ADIs who were involved in the trials were gushing about the changes from the moment they had their first meeting with DVSA, but I can’t believe that those with a mind of their own were happy with everything.

I don’t have an issue with the other changes.

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Silver Birch in autumnBack in 2014, our silver birch trees began to yellow and drop leaves in mid-June! We were worried, and Googling for an answer was next to useless.

Most of the technical advice was North American, and focused either on the Bronze Birch Borer (a beetle that feeds on white birches), or trying to grow trees in arid and/or swampy regions. Our trees had none of the beetle infestation symptoms other than leaf drop, and although the British never shut up about the bloody weather, we were not growing ours in either a desert or a mangrove swamp.

Since I first wrote this article, I have discovered that yellowing can be caused by two different things. You can’t really do much harm if you just apply both remedies, though.

The type we had was where the leaves really do turn a bright, canary yellow – just like they do in Autumn – and begin to fall off the tree. It started in mid-June, and although the yellowing/leaf drop wasn’t as widespread throughout the tree as it is during Autumn proper, it was worrying all the same. I can’t honestly remember where I found this now, but somewhere in the hundreds and hundreds of forum pages and obscure “ask the expert” sites rattling on about the bloody Birch Borer I came across two ideas that made absolute sense, and which can be implemented without calling in David Attenborough and Rentokil.Fertiliser and Iron Treatments

Summer leaf-drop and leaf yellowing is caused either by a deficiency of nitrogen in the soil, or a deficiency of iron (or a combination of the two). You can remedy nitrogen deficiency using ericaceous fertiliser (for lime-hating plants, which is what birch trees are). It is available from various manufacturers (I use Miracle-Gro, as shown above), and can be bought from most decent garden centres and from many online retailers (including eBay and Amazon, where I get mine). It only costs about £6 a box, and there’s enough to manage a handful of trees for at least a year (you can also get liquid and slow-release varieties).

Bear in mind that normal fertiliser is no good – it has to be ericaceous – and you just dissolve it and water it in around the tree. Remember that the roots extend outwards quite a long way and you’ll need to cover a wide area. The slow-release granules of the same fertiliser are just sprinkled on the ground and watered in, and they apparently work for up to 3 months.

Iron deficiency – known as chlorosis – is easily dealt with by buying some sequestered (or chelated) iron (I use Maxicrop, as shown above). It comes as a liquid, and you can mix it with your fertiliser and water it in all in one go. Plants need iron to produce chlorophyll, and since chlorophyll is why the leaves are green, not being able to produce it means the leaves become less green and take on a yellowish hue, especially when lit from behind.

Note also that you may see new leaves to be small an misshapen, instead of the classic Birch leaf shape, if you have a soil deficiency.

In our case, after a single application of fertiliser treatment, leaf drop stopped immediately in that 2014 season (after the already-dead leaves dropped). The trees even threw out some catkins, which had been absent up until then. In 2015, I started feeding every few weeks from March with both fertiliser and iron and we had no leaf drop at all. In 2016, it was the same, with very fat catkins hanging from the branches, along with quite significant new growth. As of May 2017 our trees are putting out a lot of new leaves and have lots of catkins.

You can also treat the area around your trees with iron sulphate. This replaces iron in the soil, too, but it also acidifies the ground over time, which is good for ericaceous plants. It’s also good for your lawn.

It’s funny looking back, but I used to think that if you planted a tree you just forgot about it and let it grow. In fact, it turns out you need to look after them almost as much as you would a tomato plant or an ornamental cactus! And judging by the number of hits I’m getting this year, a lot of other people are just discovering the same.

Can you rescue leaves which have turned yellow?

No, probably not. Not the ones which are canary yellow, anyway, since they’re already dead and will have to fall off the tree. How long that takes will vary, and a little wind can speed things up. The important thing is that by feeding the tree you can stop any further yellowing – and believe me, the first time you do it the effects will be quite noticeable.

I would imagine that chlorosis could be reversed if it is caught early, since the yellowing is not due to leaves dying – they’re just iron-deficient. In that case, you might be able to save some yellowed leaves by applying the chelated iron treatment.

Do you have to keep treating the trees?

Yes. If you don’t, the problem just comes back depending on how long the previous treatment lasts for, and that is dependent on how bad the deficiency is, how big your trees are, what else is growing there, and how your soil drains when it rains. Huge trees will suck up all the nutrients, and if you’re raking up and binning the leaves each year nothing gets returned to the soil. It stands to reason, really, but I was as blind to it as anyone else until I encountered the problem.

Treat your trees from March until September. Feed at least once a month.

When do Birch trees normally start to shed their leaves?

The short – and very obvious – answer is: in the Autumn. It can vary a little up and down the country (just as Spring tends to start earlier the further south you are), but in the Midlands they usually start to show sprays of yellow from early October. The leaves will begin to fall from that point – very lightly at first, then increasing as the yellowing spreads.

In 2016 (almost overnight during the first week or so into October), ours produced a lot of yellow on the inside, whereas the outer canopy remained green – it looked rather nice. The neighbours’ trees had much sparser canopies than ours and they had clumps of yellow all over.

Autumn officially begins in mid- to late-September and you probably can’t do much to fix your trees after August if you’ve got the early yellowing problem. I’d still recommend a good feed or two, but not beyond the end of September.

But be ready to start feeding from March.

How do you apply these treatments?

You make up the required solution as directed on the pack, then water it into the area specified. A single watering can is usually spread over 10 square metres (a medium sized tree probably requires watering over as much as 100 square metres). You can also buy mixer units which have a small tank and connect to your garden hose. You put the concentrate into the tank and the device mixes it with water as you spray the ground under your trees.

What I do is make up a concentrate in a 5L drum, then use 1L of that in a 15L watering can topped up with water. It’s quicker this way. I put 14 large spoonfuls of Miracle-gro and about 250mls of Maxicrop in the drum (marked with 1L divisions) and make up to 5L with tepid water. Once dissolved, I just pour out 1L into my watering can, top up from the garden hose, and evenly spread it over about 10-20 square metres, making sure I include flower beds as well as the lawn.

Although I haven’t used it yet, I have built an irrigation system which mixes the fertiliser/concentrate and feeds it to a garden sprinkler system. It consists of a venturi mixer and 5L container, and can treat around 30-40 square metres in a single go without any human intervention. I’ll post more next year when I start using it.

My tree is losing branches and twigs

If the tree is weak then it is understandable that twigs and branches might fall off. Once they’re stronger this will stop.

Another likely problem, though, is crows. Yes, the winged variety. From March they will be nest-building, and they are very, very selective in their choice of twigs for the purpose. We get great amusement watching a pair that have nested near us for the last 10 years or so. They will tear off a hundred twigs and drop them until they get the one they want. It’s nature, so we don’t worry.

Mind you, I’ve never seen a crow carry off a branch – they stick to the smaller stuff – so if your tree is dropping large branches you might need to get a tree surgeon in to have a look at it.

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Dropped star on EU flag29 March 2017 is a date which will go down in history as a turning point.

It marks the point at which stupidity as a prerequisite of being allowed to vote in the UK was officially sanctioned. It also marks the official sanctioning of hatred and xenophobia as a British trait suitable for campaigning purposes, since the only reason the aforementioned stupid people cast their votes the way they did last June was because of hatred and xenophobia directed at Europeans (and anyone else who doesn’t look British if you’re just too stupid to realise they might not be). Oh, and because of that bloody bus promising £350,000,000 a week to the NHS.

Of course, the Americans have taken a similar wrong turn with the election of a certain gentleman who – if you take into account some of the more artistically contrived stories the last few days – is either a complete a**hole or a misunderstood genius.

Occam’s Razor springs to mind here: if you come across as an a**hole to just about everyone who hears you every time you open your mouth, all things being equal, you probably are an a**hole. The same goes for Brexit, of course, because no matter how many times you repeat the mantra “everything will be all right”, the simple fact remains that the UK is leaving the largest economy in the world to strike out on its own as the fifth largest, and without having a clue how it is going to manage to retain that position.

Yes, Article 50 has been triggered.

So, 29 March 2017 will live in infamy as the precise point when the UK turned from metaphorically shooting itself in the foot, and aimed a little higher.

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I updated this again. I’m still getting hits on the same search terms so I thought I’d give examples when I get them:

  • 13/10/2015 – “bribe driving examiner uk”
  • 14/03/2016 – “how to tell if your driving examner is corputed [sic]”
  • 26/03/2017 – “driving test how does bribe work woth instructors [sic]”
  • 26/03/2017 – “bribing driving examiner”
  • 28/03/2017 – “how much to bribe a driving examiner”

I wrote this article back in 2011, but I’m still getting people finding the blog on the search term “how do I bribe driving examiner” or something equally lacking in good English.Bribery - it means handing over money

Look. If you are so stupid that you don’t know how to do this, ask yourself if you really should be driving a car unsupervised. Because you really shouldn’t. But since you obviously are that stupid, it means handing over money in return for a favour – in this case, a test pass even if you are a crap driver.

The simple fact that you’ve typed the question into a search engine means it can be traced back to you, and for all you know the agencies could be looking for people just like you. So well done for flagging yourself up to them as a cheat and a liar.

It’s hard to fathom how weak-minded someone needs to be to consider criminal acts and to ignore the consequences of those acts as a viable way of getting what they want.

Bribery of driving examiners has less than a 0.1% chance of succeeding. However, the risk of jail or deportation for trying it is pretty much guaranteed. It’s far easier – and cheaper – to learn to drive properly and take your driving test. Just look at some of the idiots who have been prosecuted – two morons in this story, lots of them in this one, two more here.

One thing that’s becoming apparent is that the people most likely to consider paying someone else to do their test for them are usually from countries where fraud and corruption are written into the constitution. It’s also apparent that those most likely to take money from these idiots and then to try to impersonate them (even though they look nothing like them) come from the same communities!

Let’s try this in big red letters to see if it helps some of the stupid ones out there understand it better:

IT IS EASIER AND CHEAPER TO PASS YOUR TEST LEGITIMATELY THAN IT IS TO TRY AND BRIBE THE EXAMINER OR TO PAY SOMEONE TO IMPERSONATE YOU.

IN YOUR OWN COUNTRY YOU MAY WELL FIND THAT EVERY ASPECT OF GOVERNMENT IS CORRUPT, AND EVERYTHING CAN BE OBTAINED IF YOU PAY THE RIGHT MONEY TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE. IN THE UK IT IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE. THEREFORE YOU ARE TAKING A HUGE RISK.

YOU ARE PROBABLY DESPERATE TO DRIVE SO THAT YOU CAN GET A JOB. IF YOU GET CAUGHT TRYING TO CHEAT YOU’LL BE LUCKY IF YOU EVER WORK AGAIN IN THE UK.

EVEN IF YOU FOUND A CORRUPT EXAMINER (HIGHLY UNLIKELY IN THE UK), AND ASSUMING THAT YOU GOT AWAY WITH IT (EVEN LESS LIKELY), THERE IS A GOOD CHANCE YOU WILL END UP KILLING SOMEONE BECAUSE YOU STILL CAN’T DRIVE.

How can I tell if my examiner is corrupt?

Or, as it was asked to find the blog, “how to tell if your driving examner is corputed [sic]”.

Ask him. If you end up in handcuffs in the back of a police van, then he obviously wasn’t. Or you didn’t offer him enough.

It’s cheaper to learn to drive properly, you idiot.

Can I get done trying to bribe an examiner?

Or more accurately, “can I get done tryong [sic] to bribe a [sic] examiner”?

See above.

Is it easier if I get someone to take the test for me?

If you get away with it, yes. However, it will mean that you are still a crap driver and may well end up killing someone. However, paying someone to take the test for you is more expensive than learning properly. Your chances of  successfully gaining a licence this way in the UK are almost zero, and even if you initially get away with it, at some point they will catch the person you paid and take your false licence away. You will then be fined, perhaps imprisoned, or even deported if you are not a UK citizen.

If you’re still so stupid you want to try it, go ahead. And watch me laugh when you get caught.

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This article was originally published in February 2014. Updated in 2015, November 2016, and March 2017.A Clifton Test Route

I get frequent hits on the blog from people looking for test route information. Test routes are no longer published for Nottingham, or anywhere else – they stopped publishing them in 2010!

If you’re an instructor, it isn’t difficult to work out where the examiners go. To begin with, anywhere near the test centre is bound to be on most of the routes. If you know the examiners to look at, you’ll see them from time to time as you conduct your lessons, so you can add that location to your memory bank. You can also ask your pupils where they went after their tests – some of them will be able to give you some details, though many won’t. If they fail their test, find out where the mistakes occurred – the examiner will be more than happy to tell you – and if it crops up more than once, modify your lesson structure and deal with it going forward. Finally, if you’re desperate to know the exact routes you can sit in on tests and learn that way. If you know what you’re doing you can even log the routes for reference – the picture above shows one of the test routes for the now-closed Clifton Test Centre (the orange dot), which I recorded myself. Click on it for a larger image.

Conducting your lessons only on test routes is rather foolish. Apart from the fact that you’re cheating your pupils by not teaching them to drive properly, examiners can change routes or mix and match from several routes any time they need to. Pupils who try to memorise test routes are far more likely to fail because they’re prioritising the wrong things – worrying about forgetting the route instead of thinking about driving properly. Considering that there are dozens of official routes at any large test centre, it would require a considerable feat of memory to store all of them, and then to be able to recall just one as needed. Based on my own experience, many pupils have difficulty recognising a street we’ve been on a hundred times before, so memorising 20 or more complete routes is even less possible for them.

Having said that, it is important for an ADI to have some knowledge of the test routes so that special features can be covered. Every town or test centre has these – the tricky roundabout with the one-way street and No Entry sign, the unusually steep hill that can only be negotiated in second gear (and which may require a hill start if some jackass in a van doesn’t give way coming down it), the STOP junction immediately after an emerge on to a busy road with a bend, and so on. It doesn’t matter how good someone is at dealing with roundabouts, if they come face to face with ones like the Nottingham Knight or Nuthall roundabouts up my way, without prior practice there’s a high probability they’ll get it wrong. Someone’s first practical experience of such a roundabout shouldn’t be on their driving test.

I remember when I first became an ADI, and religiously downloading all the routes provided by DVSA (then, DSA). The documents consisted of tables of directions which were cryptic unless you knew roads by name and/or number, which I didn’t at that time. I made a single half-hearted attempt to plot a route before giving up – there just wasn’t time – and I quickly realised that it was pointless anyway. These days, I’d probably be able to interpret those route plans quite easily, but these days my pupils get to drive all over – sometimes on test route roads, sometimes not.

Hanging around test areas like a bad smell also gets you a bad reputation. You get in the way of real tests, if nothing else. But you’ll also end up struggling with all the other morons trying to do the same as you.

Where can I download test routes?

You can’t. Not unless some ADI has recorded them and is publishing them independently.

Should I pay for downloadable test routes?

My advice would be no. DVSA stopped publishing them for a reason, and if some smart aleck is trying to profit from selling them then he or she is behaving in an unprofessional manner. If you buy into that then you’re not much better. There’s a good chance you’re being sold old routes, anyway.

A desire to obtain detailed test routes for use on lessons seems to be something newly-qualified ADIs attach high importance to. Trust me: don’t waste your money.

Is it possible to record test routes?

Yes. There are free and paid for apps available for both Android and iPhone which use GPS to record journeys. Similarly, there are numerous GPS tracker devices available which do the same. I use a tracker and I know where every pupil goes on their test (and I can see where they are while I’m at the test centre, so I know when they are coming back). This is purely for my own information, and publishing my logged routes would be completely against DVSA’s original reason for stopping publication. If it wasn’t already apparent from the rest of this blog, I have absolutely no inclination or desire to go against DVSA.

I have provided an old Clifton test route in the image at the start of this article (Clifton is now closed). What is interesting from my logged routes is how they change over time. Sometimes, tests follow precisely the same route as previous ones, but other times new sub-sections of route are added. And knowing where a pupil went on their specific test is useful if they fail and you need to identify exactly what went wrong, and where.

You can also record routes using dashcams. I recently showed a pupil where she had failed after the examiner explained it in the debrief, but she didn’t know what he was talking about. I placed it online for her to look at less than an hour later.

How do I know the routes I’ve bought are correct and up to date?

You don’t – and they’re probably not. They might even be totally imaginary, or simply cobbled together to be reasonably close to actual routes in order that the unprofessional person selling them has some justification for the price they charged you. They may just be the original ones that they stopped publishing in 2010 and which are almost certainly out of date. As I said above, routes change with time.

Do I need to know the test routes for my test?

No. The examiner will give you directions as necessary, or ask you to follow road signs. However, if there are one or two awkward features – big roundabouts, steep hills, or so on – then your instructor should know about them and make sure you know how to handle them.

People fail tests because they can’t drive properly far more frequently than they do because they couldn’t recall a memorised route. However, not driving properly becomes much more likely when your brain is scrambling around thinking “now, what is it I have to do here?”

How many test routes are there?

It varies from test centre to test centre, but there could be 10, 20, or more. You couldn’t possibly memorise all of them – and to be honest, even if you drove down your own street on your test the chances are that you might not notice! You will be nervous, and you will be concentrating. The last thing you want is to have to try and remember a detailed list of directions, then to start fretting if you think you might have forgotten something.

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Wonder Woman - from the upcoming filmThere’s a new superhero film on its way, this time a remake of Wonder Woman. That second word pretty much guarantees that everyone involved with the film is going to be strung up by the feminist community, no matter how feminine, masculine, or neutral the main character ends up as being portrayed.

In fact, it has already started. In her armpits.

Apparently, the tinfoil helmet brigade have already decided that her armpits have been digitally altered, and are… wait for it… up in arms over it (I couldn’t resist).

Twitter has turned incandescent over the matter, but someone beat me to it with this picture suggesting what she looked like before the digital airbrush treatment.The unaltered version

I almost choked when I saw it.

The simple fact is that with high definition imaging these days, someone’s armpits are going to put you right off your popcorn, no matter if they’re au naturel or freshly mowed. A bit of electronic jiggery-pokery is of benefit to everyone except the professional loonies out there.

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Another nail in the coffin of the UK as any sort of world power comes as it is announced that Theresa May will trigger Article 50 – the official notification of the UK’s intention to leave the EU – on Wednesday, 29 March 2017.

Remember: 29 March 2017.

It is a date which will live in infamy.


Incidentally, I saw a very appropriate comment posted by someone earlier today. They said:

The clocks go forward one hour on March 26th.

They go back 40 years on March 29th.

I wish I’d thought that one up.


And this one sums up pretty much everyone who voted to leave the EU:

why do remoaners always mention bananas when taking about the EU? I don’t mind if I never eat a banana again, I just want to get out of the EU, to be honest with you I don’t eat foreign food, it probably taste nice but I don’t trust it, Europe is ungrateful, we taught them English, gave them civilisation and taught them basic skills like how to use a knife and fork and use toilet paper.

Only thinking of himself, and so narrow-minded that he’ll only eat lard and gravel spread on BRITISH cardboard. The frightening thing is that he almost certainly believes that part about teaching Europeans to speak English and “civilising” them. And this clueless twat was allowed to vote last summer.

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Doner Kebab meat being slicedI like cooking, and I especially like to be able to reproduce food that I would normally end up paying an arm and a leg for if I went out and bought it from a restaurant or fast food joint. I can make curry that tastes almost identical to those you get from an Indian Takeaway, and I can make pizzas which are also identical to takeaway ones. Another long-time quest has been to be able to make my own doner kebabs from scratch.

I’ve tried making doner meat in the past, and it wasn’t successful. Membership of the local cash & carry outlets means that I have access to the kinds of things you wouldn’t find on supermarket shelves, and on more than one occasion I have been tempted to buy a whole doner leg (that’s one of those big things that slowly turn around in front of the grill at the kebab shop). If I’d have been stupid enough to do it, God only knows how I’d have cooked it (and yes, the option of buying a doner grill did occur to me), or what I’d have done with 10kg of cooked doner meat. Buying it would have been cheating, anyway. Satisfaction could only come from being able to make doner meat from scratch.

The few goes I had a couple of years ago were a hell of a palaver. It was all about mincing lamb breast twice, forming patties, pushing them inside an empty tin can, cooking it, then using a blow torch whilst turning the mini-doner leg on a fork and slicing layers off. Even the pictures that accompanied one of the recipes I tried showed that the final slices of meat were coarser-textured and nothing like a proper slice of doner meat. That’s how it turned out for me – the taste was pretty much spot-on, but the cooked meat was crumbly and had no “bite” to it. The worded version of that same recipe mentioned that commercial preparations “probably” use transglutaminase – or meat glue – to hold the texture. I’d been planning on trying that, when out of the blue the answer came from… bacon.

Why bacon, you ask? Well, yet another of my culinary quests was recently completed when I started curing my own bacon (I’ll have to do a write up of that). I needed some curing salt, and I found Surfy’s Home Curing website as a source of it. While browsing Surfy’s site I noticed that they also sold Doner Kebab Seasoning, and with my previous failed attempts in mind, I asked Surfy a few questions about the texture problem I’d experienced. That’s where the key piece of information came from: temperature.

In a nutshell, the most critical part to getting the texture right when making doner kebab meat is the temperature you do the mixing at. It has to be very cold, almost freezing.

Making Doner Kebab Meat

Surfy’s Kebab Seasoning, comes with a handy recipe for doner meat. The recipe is so simple that I couldn’t believe it was going to work, but I decided to give it a go exactly as it was written to see what happened.

I bought two 500g packs of lamb mince from Asda and stuck them in the freezer along with a bowl of water. When the water had just started to freeze (therefore acting as a crude thermometer), I threw the mince into my Kenwood Chef fitted with the K blade, added 50g of the kebab seasoning, and mixed on a medium-high speed until it became sticky and of a uniform texture (just like pink bread dough, in fact). Then I added 50g of the ice-water and mixed for a minute more, also on medium-high speed. Apart from the hour or so in the freezer beforehand, it took less than 10 minutes to produce the meat mixture in accordance with Surfy’s Recipe.

Cooking was based on my previous experiments. The first time I made this recipe, I packed the meat mixture firmly into a non-stick loaf tin by hand, placed this in a baking tray half-filled with boiling water (making a bain-marie), then put the bain-marie into a pre-heated oven at Gas Mark 4. I let it cook until the inside temperature reached above 75°C. Once removed from the oven, I let it cool a little.

Then came the moment of truth. I cut a slice off the end using a knife and immediately saw that the texture was identical to shop-bought kebabs. The slice was firm and even-textured, and it had just the right “bite”. The smell and taste was also identical to that of commercial meat. Once completely cool, I used my bacon slicer to slice it up into strips. The cooked loaf was about 220mm x 110mm x 65mm (i.e. slices were about 2½ inches wide).

On my second try, I made it in exactly the same way, but this time packed it into a square, non-stick cake tin. The cooked loaf was about 220mm x 220mm x 35mm (i.e. the slices were just over 1 inch wide, and much more like shop-bought meat). I’ve frozen this batch by rolling it up, two slices at a time, in cling-film, so all I have to do when I want some is unroll what I need, then put the roll back in the freezer (I use this technique for Panchetta, which I buy in slabs, slice up, then freeze for when I need it).

Making Kebabs

Re-heating can be done either under the grill or in the microwave. Personally, I prefer the second cut of meat when I buy a kebab from a shop. The first cut is the highly-browned and often crispy layer right next to the grill flame, and it is sometimes so brown that the meat is very dry. The second cut is much more moist. Grilling simulates the first cut, microwaving simulates the second.

Making a kebab is simple enough. Just re-heat some meat as described, and heat a pitta or naan under a grill (or in a pan or the oven). Thinly slice a little cabbage and some Iceberg lettuce. Slice up a red onion, a tomato, and some cucumber. Place the hot meat on the naan or in the split pitta and add some of your favourite chili (and/or other) sauce, then layer on the vegetables. And that’s it.

Costing

I estimate that 1kg of lamb mince produces enough doner meat for up to ten kebabs – admittedly, perhaps not ones the same size as those you can get in takeaways, but that’s probably a good thing because eating one of those is sometimes a challenge, and even if you manage it you feel like your stomach is going to explode if you make any sudden movements. At £8 per kg of mince, plus £0.60 for the seasoning, each serving of meat comes to about 85p. Add another 50p for the naan or pitta and salad and you have a total cost of around £1.35 per kebab. The average takeaway price is £5.50-£6.00 (though when I researched that, I discovered my local takeaway has been overcharging me if their online price is anything to go by).

Nutrition

No one is ever quite sure what goes into commercial kebab meat. At the very least, the majority of meats aren’t 100% lamb, some have no lamb in them at all, and you can be certain that they don’t use the best cuts of whatever meat they do use. Indeed, there is the recurring suggestion that various body parts (and occasionally, if you read The Sun, non-food meats) end up in the kebab mix, and given that the meat is ground to a fine paste, none of that would be beyond the realms of possibility. Furthermore, commercial kebab meat is very high in fat (up to 22%), and in some cases, trans fats are so high that they must have been added to the meat during manufacture. And since we’re looking at commercial production, chemical additives (sodium phosphate, in particular) are used, and I wouldn’t be surprised if synthetic flavourings are also added by some manufacturers. In short, you simply don’t know what you’re eating – just that you’re eating a lot of it (and you know you shouldn’t).

The only fat in this homemade meat comes from the lamb. The Asda lamb I bought contains less than 20% fat in the first place, and a lot of that is rendered out during cooking. It contains no synthetic fats, and no chemicals for emulsification or preservation. Unless Asda is pulling the mother of all scams, when it says “lamb” on the packet it means “lamb” (in any case, you could mince your own if you are a tinfoil hat wearer and really wanted to be certain).

I estimate that each homemade kebab weighs in at no more than 800 calories, even on a large naan. On a pitta it’s closer to 500 calories. Indeed, the majority of the calories come from the bread and not the meat. It’s no more than a typical meal, and probably healthier since it contains quite a lot of vegetables and not much fat.

If you were on a 2,000 calorie diet, you could have one (or even two or three) of these as your main meal without any worries. A shop-bought kebab, on the other hand, could contain the full 2,000 calories in one go.

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CuckooYou couldn’t make this sort of thing up. Level after level of complete stupidity.

On one side, you have Katie Hopkins – anything she says or writes is usually complete bollocks, and with her unique way of putting it across, it is frequently even more bollocks than that. Back in 2015, she made a mistake (not a unique phenomenon for her) and got someone mixed up with someone else, made one of her trademark asinine and highly offensive comments to the innocent party, then followed it up with her trademark refusal to admit her error and apologise to that person once the error was noted. Indeed, even after the subsequent libel case went against her – leaving her with a legal bill likely to top £300,000 – she is still shit stirring.

On the other side, you have the person she offended – listed as a “food blogger” who goes by the name of “Jack Monroe”. Something that struck me in all the media stories this week was that it wasn’t possible to pin down whether Monroe was male or female. The name implies one thing, the photos are ambiguous (which is the only reason the question occurred to me in the first place), and none of the stories I read used the relevant personal pronouns. But I think I can now see why that was. That Huffington Post article starts off confusingly by using the possessive pronoun “their” to refer to Monroe in the singular. I initially assumed it was a typo or bad editing – something which is now standard in most media outlets – since “he” and “she” are singular, and the only grammatically correct asexual alternative is “it”. But it clarifies a few paragraphs later:

Monroe, who identifies outside the binary construct of gender and prefers the gender-neutral pronoun ‘they’ and title ‘Mx’…

I wonder how long it took to come up with that pile of crap? I mean, you could say quite simply “he or she is writing a blog article”. It would appear that “it is writing a blog article” is not acceptable for some reason. Monroe apparently expects it to be rendered “they is writing a blog article”. And what the f*** is wrong with “Ms” if you live your life on a high horse, free from any sort of reliance on a filthy, putrid male? How the hell is “Mx” any different, other than requiring a brand new construct?

Any sympathy I originally felt has wafted away on the winds, along with grammatical correctness, and I now consider the match to be a draw. Mind you, it does mean we get two nominees for the 2017 Darwin Awards instead of just one.

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