Category: REVIEW & RECOMMENDATION

Review of products, films, books, etc

Ghost in the Shell – Movie Review

Major

Ghost in the Shell – Movie Review

We started the week by going to the movies.  The movie of our choice was Ghost in the Shell starring Scarlet Johannson, a very capable American actress (I still remember her in the Horse Whisperer as a child actress).

The film has a tinge of that excellent iconic film, Blade Runner of the early 80s, starring Harrison Ford and Sean Young as well as that heart-thumping performance of that excellent actor, Rutger Hauer.  It has that apocalyptic feel to it.

The story was based on a Japanese manga, of the same title, thus some unfounded controversies have surfaced.  The selection of Scarlet to play the Major is a typified Hollywood whitewashing in the eyes of a few.  Apparently whitewashing is when a white actor is cast to play a role of ‘historical’ non-white’ which is deemed rather racist.

I can think of a few Oriental actresses that would have made a good Major, Korean Han Ji Won for one.  However the film was made especially for world cinema goers and because it is fast-paced there are so much to see, too much goings on; reading subtitles or listening to heavily accented actors delivering their lines would definitely be a challenge and may detract viewers from fully enjoying the film in a cinema, where there is no access to rewind button. LOL

Asians are perplexed about this issue.  The Japanese audience did not mind, in fact they were expecting an A-list Hollywood star to play the role for worldwide audience.

Being from the Orient myself, I did not have any problems with the casting of Scarlet.  It was me who proposed to Peter to go and see the film as soon as we saw the trailer a few months back. I still remember how good Scarlet was in Lucy.

It is those pc brigade and pressure groups, who are stirring it up, thereby influencing prospective audience and fans into altogether not going to see the film, thereby missing a good movie.

I believe this controversy has affected the movie a lot and thus there were news that the film had flopped in the box office.

This is sad as the film is rather good.  Scarlet did very well playing Major.  And the story is a good hokum to tell. A very plausible scenario that could happen in the future.

Ghost in the shell is about the rise of technology.  So much so that some scientists working for Hanka Robotics, presumably based in Japan, started experimenting on creating human robots as weapons.

There were pockets of activists and bloggers working against the excessive  technology that is being implemented.

The irony was that these activists against technology were carted off to the lab and experimented on one by one until No 99 was the one deemed ‘perfect’.  Number 99 had the brain of the activist Motoko Kusanagi encased in a perfect mechanical body.  Motoko had been completely brain-washed and told that she was Major Mira Killian, working against terrorism.

Motoko or rather Major in her new guise had become a killing machine.

As I said the film is fast-paced and thrilling, worth a watch even for just the sheer ingenuity of the SFX and CGI.

In the end if we allow such pressure and over political correctness to influence movies and entertainment, the movie industry will be run aground.

Let us not be sheep corralled in PC machinations.

Ginataang Kuhol (Escargot in Coconut Milk)

Escargot in Coconut Milk, Photo by Rosie Reyes-Barrera

Ginataang Kuhol (Escargot in Coconut Milk)

I love and miss eating snails!  That doesn’t sound right!  That sounded too full-on with too much yucky factor 🙂 .  I think I would call it with the more exotic French word for snail, escargot, instead.

When I was a young girl living in Marag, we used to eat a lot of escargots, which are called bisukol in Ilocano `(and kuhol in Tagalog).

My memories of bisukol (escargot) is deeply embedded into my happy family nostalgia.  Eating these little critters bring back memories of strong family bonding.

In our province of Marag in Kalinga-Apayao, Philippines, dining with bisukol involves both hand and arms actions.  To prepare the bisukol, prior to cooking, get a fairly heavy ladle or metal spoon and tap to break the bottom of each snail.  This will allow the snail flesh to come out easily.  And the most fun way of eating a bisukol is to pick one up with your right hand ensuring that the snail opening is facing down onto your plate, then banging your right wrist into your slightly extended left wrist a la Psy Gangnam Style (the horsey bit) until the snail meat comes out and drops on your plate.  It was very satisfying watching everyone doing the arm action at the dining table.  LOL

In the West, every paraphernalia seems to be available for most food, exotic or otherwise.  Like with escargot, when eaten in fine restaurant, you will get a snail tong (like the ones with Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman) and a two-prong snail fork.

Snail fork or arms action, escargot is exotically delicious!  Below is a very satisfying recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs escargot (kuhol)
  • 3 cups coconut milk
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoon ginger, cut into fine strips
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp shrimp paste (1½ tbsp fish sauce)
  • 2 green long chilli pepper
  • Kangkong leaves (Swamp cabbage/ water spinach), cut and trimmed into manageable size for comfortable dining 😉
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Cooking procedure:
  1. Tap each of the snails’ bottom to break, then wash the escargot thoroughly, removing all the grits.  Did you know if you live in the UK, those pesky snails in your garden are edible.  According to Gordon Ramsey,  intrepid gourmets can go to the garden to gather up the snails. As an added bonus, these wild garden snails taste far better than those which are farmed.  However you cannot just put garden snails directly to the pot and eat them.  There are steps to be taken first for health, taste and safety reasons.  First leave the snails watered but without food for two days to get rid of any toxin they might have ingested.  On the third day, give them carrots; watch their droppings.  If they start to poop orange substance, wash them again and put them in a sealed container into your fridge.  when they are soporific, they are ready to cook.  Thank goodness you can get snails, which have been purge and ready to cook.
  2. Heat up the cooking oil in a large pan or better yet a wok (kawali),
  3. Saute the garlic, onion  and ginger.
  4. Drop in the escargots followed by the coconut milk.
  5. Bring to a boil and then lower down the heat and continue to simmer until the coconut milk turns slightly creamy.
  6. Stir in the shrimp paste or fish sauce.
  7.  Add the Long chilli peppers and Kangkong ( water spinach) and simmer for 5 minutes.
  8. Check and adjust the seasoning by adding more fish sauce or salt and pepper if needed.
  9. Serve with freshly boiled or steamed rice.  Arm wrestle your way to a delicious escargot.  It is fun.

Oysters in Half Shell with Mignonette Sauce

 

Oysters, photo by JMorton

Oysters in Half Shell with Mignonette Sauce

Peter and I had a lovely time shopping and dining at Fortnum & Mason.  We can greatly recommend Fortnum & Mason’s The Wine Bar as a great venue for freshly shucked oysters.  See above photos.  It is fine dining at its best!

Ingredients:

6-12 oysters , 3-6 oysters each
lemon juice

For the Mignonette Sauce

  • ⅔ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced shallot
  • 2 teaspoons, freshly ground black pepper

Make up the sauce by combining the vinegar, shallot and black pepper together in a clear glass and refrigerate to chill for at least an hour.

The preparation of this delicious recipe was from Jamie Oliver’s Recipe blog. Jamie gave a detailed description on how to choose, clean and prepare oysters, which can apparently be difficult if proper tools are not used. 🙂

Method

Oysters are probably the best-known aphrodisiac and, although they aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, I love them! They’re available year-round, but the best time to eat them is in the depths of winter when the ocean is icy cold and they are plump and juicy. British oysters are fantastic and great value. There are two main types available – rock oysters and native oysters. Both of these would make a great starter to a romantic dinner.

When you buy them, make sure that they are tightly closed and heavy in the hand. Ideally, oysters should be straight out of the sea when you eat them. Give them a rinse in cold water before you start preparing them – this can be tricky so please be very careful!

To open them, you’ll need an oyster knife which is short, thick and quite blunt. Do not use a normal kitchen knife! It’s dangerous and you’ll probably snap the tip of the knife off. A screwdriver is probably a better bet if you don’t have an oyster knife.

Hold the oyster curved-side down on a chopping board with a folded kitchen cloth between the shell and your hand. This is to help you get a good grip and protect your hand.

Look for the hinge between the top shell and the bottom shell, and poke the knife tip into the crack. You need to push quite hard and work it in there but eventually you should be able to prise the top shell off. It’s not always that easy so it might be a good idea to try a few before dinner to get the hang of it. Wear an apron too in case you get a bit dirty.

When you get the oyster open, throw away the top shell. If there is any seawater in the bottom shell with the oyster, try and keep it in there. Pick out any fragments of shell and place the oyster on a plate with a mound of rock salt or crushed ice in the middle.

Season it however you like, then tip that lovely fresh oyster into your mouth!

Bonoo Indian Tapas Restaurant Review

Bonoo Indian Tapas Restaurant Review

We spent a very delicious if rather expensive Valentine’s Day at Bonoo Indian Tapas Restaurant, which is quite local to us.

The food were appetising, tasted really freshly made.  I particularly liked the various flavoured crispy naan and poppadoms presented in a nice dainty bamboo/wooden basket.  They came with four kinds of chutney/dips: mango, cucumber, plum and pineapple?!!!

The Aloo Pakora was enjoyed by all. The crisply deep-fried sweet potatoes shreds in butter was divine.

We had the tandoori mix, which was quite good but I prepared the Masala Lamb chops as it was really tasty that I had to prised every bit of meat from the bone, yummy.

The Jalfrezi, Masala, matar and pulao rice were cut above the take-out from other restaurants.

We also had the Rogan Josh, though very expensively tasty, the lamb was rather chewy with bits of bones that you have to delicately spit out. 🙂

The service was very good, very attentive and friendly staff.

The restaurant was packed compared to other restaurants in the area.  Childshill boasts a number of excellent eateries, perfect for meal dates.

Though the final bill was on the high side, it did not contain a service charge.  It is up to you how much tip to leave.  I think that was nice, instead of having 10-15% presumptuously added to your bill when service was below par.

Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital – UCLH

rntne_hosp

Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital – UCLH

I finally had my eardrum repair operation yesterday at University College London Hospital and I have to say the service and care were first class.  Excellent in fact!

Because I am growing older by the day, I am more susceptible to illnesses and diseases, which are rather unheard of when younger.  I find that I have a few more medical problems that require me to visit various hospital specialising with ailments of the human body 🙂

My experience with UCLH was the best.  The building itself is very old, inside is quite old as well but very clean and somewhat comforting.

The hospital is also a teaching hospital like the Royal Free Hospital.  The nurses, doctors, consultants and anesthetists were all professionally able. Their bedside manners were friendly, heartening and inspiring.

Additionally, I had a room all to myself.  It was like a private hospital, I was given a welcoming pack consisting of the blurb of what the hospital does, a pair of totes-like socks to use to walk on the very shiny, very clean tiled flooring to prevent you from falling. There were also eye mask, earplugs, dental kit, pen and paper all sealed in a lovely zipped plastic envelop.  The pen was so useful, I used it to answer all the quick crossword puzzle of the Metro newspaper, available at the reception of UCLH.

The food was  good, there were selections for everyone; those with allergies, vegetarian, who are kosher, also who wants halal food and for me, who eats everything. 🙂  I had the Chicken with creamy sauce, and it was delicious completed with jam pudding & custard.

Bimala was my personal nurse.   She was so kind and so cheerful but I also saw other nurses as well, who were equally kind, in the intervals of 15 – 30 minutes taking my heartbeat, temperature, blood pressure, etc.  Apparently to increase the level of oxygen to your body, you have to take a deep breath with your mouth wide open, that will also open your lungs.

Prior to the operation I was visited by the various doctors and the anesthetist, telling me what will happen and the likely side effect of my operation.  Apparently the ears control the facial muscles, the right side of my face can drop, I could have tinnitus, permanent hearing loss, etc.  All wanted to know if I might die during the operation.  Reassuringly, they laughed it off and said they don’t do death!

My surgeon was Dr Quinney, who I consulted at the Edgware Hospital.  He was very serious but you know you will be safe at his hand.

After my operation under general anaesthesia, I was gently woken by reassuring nurses about 4-5, two were Filipinas telling me Gising na Jean (wake up Jean).

I am so happy that we have the NHS.  We should all make sure that it is not privatised for all our sake!

Charcoal Grilled Tilapia

Tilapia, photo by PH Morton

Tilapia, photo by PH Morton

Charcoal Grilled Tilapia

I really find it very sad that tilapias have been having a bad press lately when in natural fact, they are one of the best tasting fish there is.

They are also very versatile, they can be cooked with just a bit of ginger and a few tablespoons of vinegar or can be fried, and be made into fish balls, etc.

Whilst growing up in Marag, where we had a farm,  tilapias used to grow naturally along the dykes that run in between our rice-field.

At lunch time we would go and catch them by hand or with the help of a rattan woven like a net.  After cleanign and de-scaling the fish, the would then be pushed into a bamboo skewer and set over an open fire to grill.

We then have a delicious lunch with boiled rice.  We also have a home-made sauce made from small amount of water, a dash of salt and a few siling labuyo (bird’s eye chili).

 

Apples In Vinegar

Apples in vinegar, Photo by JMorton

Apples in vinegar, Photo by JMorton

Apples In Vinegar

30 years in London has not taken the Filipino out of me, especially when it comes to food.  Despite a diversity of food collection and selection widely available in the UK, I remain having a taste for fruits soaked or dipped in the most sour vinegar, mansanas sa suka. 🙂  It is probably my Ilocano blood or Tagalog as well. 😉

While I love it so much, when I asked Peter to taste it, he said it was ok, unusual combination of vinegar and fruits (sweet and sour) but not really his cup of tea.  He is more of a custard or cream man.  I supposed it is really an acquired taste.

Nevermind 🙂 more for me, I say! LOL

However, when our dear seven year old grandson visited this week, he declared that he wanted sour tasting apple slices and was happy to tuck in when I made him some. He is showing his inherited Filipino taste buds. 🙂

Anyway, I have been eating our apples from our garden.  For me, this is the perfect time, just before the apples are ready for the picking.  Apples in September are still halfway to being really sweet, they have that little sour taste to them and they are rock-hard, which is perfect for ultimate crispness.

To prepare my apple in vinegar, I chop two apples and drizzle them generously with cider or red wine vinegar (malt vinegar is good as well).  Sprinkle them with a bit of salt (mind the blood pressure!).  Give it a good stir, ensuring that the vinegar gets into all the apple pieces.  Leave to soak of a few minutes while turning on the telly for another dose of Korean drama.

Heaven is here on earth! 🙂