Thursday 21 March 2013

Just a wee round up!

Been a bit too distracted to blog much recently and my joke posts don't count although I hope the Welsh St Francis of Assisi got a giggle out of learning how he got his name.  I knew I was on the mend when my rather odd sense of humour returned.  Swapping Wales for the Falklands!  Now I read today that the Shetlands, the Orkneys and the Western Islands want to cede not only from the Union but also from Scotland.

Since successive British Governments have argued the right of citizens to determine their own future in order to hang on the the Falklands it will be amusing to see how Cameron wriggles out of this one if they vote to cede.

Doggy has done it again, delivering a litter of twelve live and one still born puppy.  That's a total of twenty two in two litters so far.  Fortunately, interest in them is such I already have good homes earmarked for them.  There is a mixed Chinese and Vietnamese building crew working near here.  They get all the rations from Marcia's shop.  They said they would take all the puppies.  I know we shouldn't stereo type but I was kind of uneasy about that.  One of the Chinese guys speaks a bit of English so I asked him if he ate dog.  He was appalled.  I felt bad about insulting him, especially since he really is a nice guy, even though it is agony trying to have a conversation with him.  Every time he hears a word in English he does not recognise (about every other word as far as I can tell), he insists I write it down in his book, explain to him what it means so that he can delicately create the work of art that is the Chinese translation.  He also insists that when he is with me, I can't smoke the cheap Angolan cigarettes I am more or less used to but must smoke his Chinese fags.  Jesus, I thought Russian tabs were deadly.  So I let him choose a puppy.  Now, every time he comes to the shop he is tailed at close quarters by an extremely well fed and intensely loyal little dog.  Let's hope all the new owners look after their little dogs as well the Chinese seem to.

This is just a round up so as a complete aside, above is the way beans should be cooked.  Not that anaemic salty sugar sweetened crap you get in tins but in palm oil.  Both beans and palm oil are healthy eating options but that's not why I eat them like this.  I eat them because they are cheaper than chips and taste delicious.  They are good alongside virtually anything else; fish, meat, whatever, and if you mix in pork and blood sausage, is a meal in itself.  It is the palm oil that makes the difference.

This bed looks pretty wild but in amongst that lot are various tree saplings almost ready for transplanting around the site, and watermelons.  I like watermelons.  They are as easy to grow as they are to eat and on a hot day, they are delicious.

Everything DOES taste bettter if you grow it yourself, doesn't it?

Naturally, a round up would not be complete without a photo of my personal weapon.  This ashtray is a cut down 105mm cartridge case which was fired in the Falklands.  Even cut down, it is still jolly heavy.  If the PM is ever forced into negotiating the future of the Falklands with that mad frothing Kirchner, I shall have it polished up and sent to No 10 so that it may once more be fired in anger.

A while back I posted photos of the hand crafted restaurant chairs.  Here are the tables.  All made out of scrap wood and not a screw in sight, these things are glued and nailed together.  Measuring 96x96 cms, they are bloody solid and weigh a tonne.  These are not the light patio furniture you get from B and Q, these would survive years of service in an Army cookhouse.

Final sanding was done on site to smooth out any slight warping of planks and to remove oily hand prints and the evidence of spilt beer.

Then, following Master Craftsman and Under Boss of the Alviti Family Kev's advice, I oiled rather than varnished the wood.  I am VERY pleased with the result.  In fact it was working on these tables that did much to get my blood temperature to below boiling after the recent theft and mob brandishing fire brands and machetes.  I don't know, maybe it is all the Chinese furniture being imported here but varnished wood to me looks cheap.  This is nice to look at, nice to touch and easy to keep clean.  These are solid drinking tables made to have tankards of ale bashed down on them and strong enough to support a dancing girl in a bikini (I am not dead yet, I can dream, can't I?).  Sure, Fifth Columnist, or his heirs, will never be bidding on these at auction in the future but I would never have been able to afford a similar quality and build from a restaurant supplier.  These things soak up one litre of oil each so the irony is, the cost of the tables (materials and construction) were cheaper than the oil used to finish them off as the oil was the one thing I had to import.  Everything else, wood and labour, was local.  I have already had one order for tables and chairs which, once I have all my needs sorted, I will fulfill.  I may be a bit slow but even I am beginning to realize, I could make money out of this.

Marcia was deeply skeptical about me arranging to make all our own restaurant furniture but now that she has seen the finished result, I can see the dollar signs in her eyes.  I am not going to last forever and Marcia is only 32.  My sons are 14 and 4 so I need to make sure she has everything going for her when I pop my clogs or suffer the long overdue accident arranged by some irate corrupt sheriff.  Owning a furniture making business will be yet another string to her bow.  I already have several designs for coffee tables, book shelves, TV cabinets and beds prepared.

There are a number of skilled artisans in Angola.  It is just that they are generally only ever asked, and rewarded, for producing cheap knocked together furniture using nothing more than a cross cut saw, a hand plane, a few chisels and a hammer and nails.  Tell them exactly what you want, provide them the materials and the tools and pay them an honest wage, and they can produce some really nice stuff.

I hope you have all noticed that the Idiot Gardener has abandoned Blogger and set up a new site.  I can't be bothered to embed the links in the text of this post so just look under my list of favorite blogs down the right had side of my blog and visit the new, far more professional looking Idiot Gardener site.  Now I like IG.  He calls a spade a spade (not so long ago he pisshed the city of my birth, Berlin, a clear indication he not only had eyes in his head, they were connected to a functioning brain)  and freely admits the sight of a well turned ankle does something for him.  I believe he sympathises with the moral dilemma I face every time my teasing nieces clad only in the most miniscule swimming costumes deliberately provoke me when they come to stay for the weekend. 

I have no idea what IG does to earn his crust.  Having built a greenhouse out of Tsunami scrap, he is now into Charcuterie.  Butchery to you and me.  I live in the middle of the countryside and am surrounded by the pigs, goats and catttle he clearly would love to slaughter, mince and carve up into bite sized portions.  By an amazing coincidence, I was chatting with a South African friend of mine about IG's plunge into charcuterie and how I felt that a decent butchery here could rake it in, especially if value was added to the product by processing.  He agreed wholeheartedly as friends do when they are mostly through sharing a bottle of scotch.  I went on, in what I supposed was for him, boring detail.  Salamis, bacon, sausages. air cured hams, biltong.  Get a decent vacuum packing machine that can handle liquids as well and we could do ready for cooking meals, all those expats too tired to cook themselves a decent meal after work can just boil in the bag or slide the contents out into an oven dish and heat it up.  We could supply not only my restaurant but all the other restaurants around here and, of course, sell all the products through Marcia's shop...

'I used to be a butcher' Henry said.

'...and then let's not forget all the staff houses and the retailers in Benfica most of whom Marcia knows',

'What did you just say, Henry?'

'I said,' said Henry, 'That I used to be a butcher'

Henry is a production engineer, I never thought of him as a butcher.

'What's more to the point,' he continued, 'I still have all the equipment, a complete butchery from the heavy three phase stuff like bandsaws, grinders, sausage stuffers and walk in freezer right down to the stainless steel tables, display counters, trays and drop forged steel knives'  I looked at him dumbfounded, 'I even have an industrial vacuum sealer. And I'm selling it all' he finished.


I offered to buy the stuff off him as a job lot.  He readily agreed and gave me a price that I immediately said was far too cheap (c'mon, he is a mate and we were both drunk by then).  So we chatted some more.  All the while, in the back of my mind, I was reminding myself that I know bugger all about butchery.  I hardly think that having a copy of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's 'Pig in a Day' DVD qualifies me.

We drank some more beer.

'OK mate, why don't we do it this way?' I suggested. 'I get a freightforwarder to stuff the kit in a container and bring it here.  I build a butchery to your design, and then you, me and Marcia are partners in the business.'  Obviously, if I wanted his butchery, I also needed his skill and expertise.  And I really would like a butchery.  I really would like to put quality cuts, quality sausages, quality hams, bacon etc, onto the market.  The demand is here, easily outstripping supply so margins are healthy and overheads are low. 

The deal having been concluded, we went back to general chit chat.  Naturally I wanted to know why he had mothballed his butchery.  His tale was one that would be all to familiar to a UK high street butcher.  The South African economy is stuffed and traditional butchers have been, well, butchered by the big supermarket chains.  He now earns far more, and in hard currency, running the production line making cans for Coca-Cola and the local brewery in Angola for a lot less risk and effort.  Of course he would much rather be back in SA at home with his wife earning a reasonable crust but sheer economic necessity had driven him so far away from home.  You have no idea how I could relate to that but at least I can try to make some sort of life here and keep my family together.  Sitting thousands of miles away from his family watching cans roll off a production line must be miserable for him.

Serious looking slicer
Bandsaw, label printing scales, and two other bits of kit I don't recognize
Henry's wife sent me loads of photos, far too many for me to bore you with here but, trust me, there's a serious amount of kit there.  I'm also impressed with the size of his garage!

I tell you what, Henry, let's seal the deal with a 'High Five'!

Remind me to change the blade on the band saw.... now I know why he gave it up.
Actually, Henry lost these after his hand was dragged through a set of gears and a chain. 
Eek!  At least I lost mine clean.
Bloody hell, I haven't even opened the restuarant and shop yet but it looks as if I am in the butchery, sorry, charcuterie business.


  1. What happened to the pork that you salted last year?

    1. I only tried one and it was a bit of a disaster. The police came to look for the body after the neighbours complained about the smell. Mind you I did try this during the hottest time of the year. The butchery, though, will be air conditioned so I will stand a better chance of success then. I don't want to oversalt the product.

  2. Love the trench art
    It would make an ideal wine coaster

    1. Bloody heavy items though, John! But you are quite right, they would. You would need to turn the centres out inside on a lathe as they stand proud to house the primers, a bottle would be unstable otherwise. 76mm QF Fixed cases would be a better fit for a standard bottle. You've got me thinking...

  3. This would dovetail nicely with the smoker you wanted to construct, too. And you have as much fresh water on site as you need!

    1. A hot smoker and biltong cabinet is included with the kit but I will build a cold smoker onto the butchery.

  4. I make pretty good paté, bacon, and ham. But I suppose having all my own fingers probably counts me out for a partnership.

    Well done with those tables. I shall be making my own version soon.

    1. I think you run on Duracell batteries, Cro, you are always doing something constructive.

      Henry and I could always blindfold you and let you loose on the bandsaw, you'd soon be one of us!

      A barn like yours is begging for some serious drinking and eating furniture.

  5. When I was a kid I lost a finger up my nose, but I don't suppose that counts because A&E got it back for me.

    1. That sounds pretty serious but I am relieved the outcome was benign. An accidental frontal lobotomy could have left you stranger than you already are.

  6. "One of the Chinese guys speaks a bit of English, so I asked him if he ate dog. He was appalled..." Given his difficulty with English, he probably thought you asked him whether he ate the food given to the dogs.

    Chinese love dogs. As food. But anyway, I suppose one shouldn't get too precious about these things. We feed and like chickens, cows sheep, (even lambs and calves), and then slaughter them for food. Perhaps something for your charcuterie?

  7. Given your fame/noteriety, your furniture will attract a huge premium at auction. After your demise. So I should perhaps take a position* in them now.

    *as in the financial term, rather than a reclining one.

    1. A bit of port spilt and polished into the surface of the wood. I can see what you are driving at. Dogs will not be on the menu. In my experience, dogs are far more loyal than women and deserve credit for that.

  8. Isn't it the Koreans that eat dog? Our local curry house was rumoured to be using alsation in its Rogan Josh. I'm not fussed one way or the other as we've all been fed a diet of horse for some long time now evidently. I guess the heavy furniture is a good thing given what a lively part of the world it is there...

  9. I thought Rogan Josh was Kashmiri, not Korean. Your local deserves to be prosecuted.

    Heavy furniture is all well and good unless you are shoved into it and it doesn't give way.

  10. Glad you like the oiled finish. I much prefer it to varnish although it does take a little more up keep. did n't relise it was so expensive over there- do you think something like palm oil would work as a wood finish? As I'm sure you've got plenty of that (and no doubt the locals like plam wine as well...)
    As for charcuterie it's something I've always wanted to try and if it ever drys up enough for me to do some fencing then I plan to get some pigs for the "summer" and then cure the results. All your new buctuery toys look good fun. chorizo has to be one of my favorite things so I'd love to learn how to make that.
    I'm sure you've heard this joke but I'll put it hear anyway:
    Man walks into a butchers shop and says "Wheres your assistant?"
    Butcher replies "I sacked him"
    Man says "Sacked him? why?"
    Butcher replies "He kept sticking his dick in the bacon slicer!"
    Man, shocked says "So wheres your bacon slicer??"
    Butcher says "I fuckin sacked her as well!!"

    1. I hadn't heard that one Big Don Kev, it made my day!

      The oiled finish od perfect. The tables got a good soaking last night in the storm and they are fine, no stains, nothing. I just need to give them a few more coats. Each table has so far soaked up a litre of oil but the wood has been weathering under a hot African sun for months so I guess it is thirsty.

    2. By oiling it you're trying to replace some of it's natural oils that its lost due to weather etc. The first coat always soaks loads up so it should need less next time (should...)


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