Monthly Archives: April 2009

Spicy Spanish

I love spicy food in whatever shape or form. Chillies are one of my favourite to cook with. Unfortunately, my boyfriend does not like things too spicy so I have to tone it down for him, most of the time. However, he has been away with work work this week, so I took the opportunity to invite my friends Suzie and Marie round and cooked a dish that I have wanted to cook for a while.

The dish is Chorizo and Potato Stew. I was originally inspired to make this dish watching an old Nigel Slater programme called ‘Real Food’ where on the show Nigella Lawson – before she became really famous- made a Chorizo and Potato Stew in the oven. I have adapted this recipe slightly and trying not to blow my trumpet too much, it worked out very well first time. I think it is because I have wanted to make for so long and have thought about it loads.

I brought the chorizo for this dish from the deli at the Top Barn Farm Shop, near Grimley in Worcestershire which I pass every day on my way to work. It was lovely – really hot and spicy! The recipe below served four people with some people having seconds!

Chorizo and Potato Stew

1 whole Chorizo sausage, cut into 1cm rings (I used hot chorizo but its up to you)
2 small or 1 large onion, diced
2 peppers, cut into chunks
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 large medium hot red chilli, chopped finely
8 medium sized average white potatoes, cut into 2 cm chunks
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 pint of chicken stock
pinch of onion salt or sea salt
olive oil
1 tablespoon of cornflour mixed with tiny bit of water, to thicken (if required)
French Stick to serve
50ml Red Wine – any of your choosing as long you will drink it with the meal.
handful of chopped Parsley


Put the olive oil into a pan. Fry the chorizo rings in the oil until the oil is turned red by the chorizo juices. Add the onions and peppers with the onion salt and allow to soften. Once nearly softened, add the garlic and chilli and cook for a minute or two. Add the wine and allow the alcohol to evaporate. After this, add the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock, followed by the potatoes. Cook until the potatoes are cooked through and the sauce is thickened. Stir occasionally during this time. If the sauce is not thickened to your liking, add the cornflour mixed with water and cook for a few minutes more. Just before serving, add in the parsley and stir. Serve in big pasta bowls with big chunks of French Stick on the side and enjoy!

I really urge you to give this recipe a try as it is the best success I’ve had in the kitchen for a while. Please give it a go and let me know how you get on. Please note, picture above was taken before the stew had thickened. (before I had too much red wine, really!)

On different note, congratulations to Red Bull on their excellent result in the F1 in China last weekend. You really deserve it. I hope it is Mark Webber’s turn on the top step of the podium next. i can’t wait until this weekend in Bahrain.

Have a lovely weekend. Happy Cooking!

Jo’s Chocolate Factory

Sorry I have been quiet for the last couple of weeks. I had a very relaxing Easter break. Today’s recipe comes from my sister, Nicola who made it at school. My sister loves cooking but she only enjoys cooking anything with chocolate involved. So this post is dedicated to her. Her recipe for toffee crisp (like the well-known chocolate bar) is below.

Home-made Toffee Crisp
100g unsalted butter
100g marshmallows (I use mini marshmallows – they melt quicker)
100g toffee
100g rice crispies
150g chocolate – I used milk chocolate


Melt the butter, marshmallows and toffee in a saucepan until it is completely liquid. Don’t let it boil. Add the rice crispies and stir to mix. Put the mixture into a tin lined with baking paper and put in the fridge for an hour to set. Once the rice crispie mix has set, melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Don’t let it get too hot otherwise the chocolate will seize up. Spread the melted chocolate over the rice crispie mix and put back in fridge to let the chocolate set. Cut up into small chunks (it is very sweet) and enjoy!

With the leftover rice crispies and chocolate (I used a 400g bar from my Easter supply), I made some rice crispie cakes. I added golden syrup to make them extra yummy and gooey! I am not going to give you a recipe for rice crispie cakes as they are so easy.

On different note, @HilaryPerkins pointed out an interesting blog post on Twitter earlier this week. Its by @bittman and is about TV Cooking versus Real Cooking. It is well worth a read.

Next week, I am going to make chorizo and potato stew for my friends so it will be on next post. I have never made it before so its another experiment. Don’t forget its the F1 in China this weekend. I will be cheering for Jenson Button and Mark Webber.

Have a great weekend. Happy Cooking!

GIS Stuff and Rocky Road Take Two!

To start today’s post, I thought I would put on some stuff that you can do with ArcGIS that new or occasional users of GIS may not know how to do. I think these things are buried within the help files somewhere but to make it easier for you. I have put it here.

Adding the x,y coordinates of the centroid of a polygon layer to a new field

  1. Click Editor on the Editor toolbar and click Start Editing.
  2. You can make calculations without being in an editing session; however, in that case, there is no way to undo the results.
  3. Right-click the layer you want to edit and click Open Attribute Table.
  4. Right-click the field heading for the X field and click Calculate Values.
  5. If there is no field for X values, you can add a new field for X by clicking the Options button and selecting Add Field. However, to add a new field, you need to exit the editing session.
  6. Check Advanced.
  7. Type the following VBA (Visual Basic) statement in the first text box

Dim dblX As Double

Dim pArea As IArea

Set pArea = [Shape]

dblX = pArea.Centroid.X

8. Type the variable dblX in the text box directly under the X field name. Click OK.

9. Right-click the field heading for the Y field and click Calculate Values. If there is no field for Y values, you can add a new field for Y by clicking the Options button and selecting Add Field. However, to add a new field you need to exit the editing session.

10. Click Calculate Values. Check Advanced.

Type the following VBA statement in the first text box:

Dim dblY As Double

Dim pArea As IArea

Set pArea = [Shape]

dblY = pArea.Centroid.Y

11. Type the variable dblY in the text box directly under the Y field name.
Click OK.

Please note: The property for X and Y returns a field type of double. For best results, your X and Y fields should also be a double field type

Calculating area for polygons

Creating an “area” field in your attribute table if you don’t already have one

If your attribute table does not already have an “area” field, you need to create one before doing the area calculations. You can create the new field in ArcCatalog or ArcMap. Note you can add an acres field using these same directions.

To create a new attribute field for “area” in ArcMap, follow these directions – note you cannot be in an editing session to do this (don’t ask me why):

1. Open the layer’s attribute table in ArcMap

2. Click on the Options tab

3. Choose Add Field

4. Name it Area

5. For Type, choose Double

6. Don’t put anything under Precision or Scale.

7. Click OK

Calculating area for polygons

1. Open the attribute table of the layer you want to edit.

2. Right-click the field heading for area (if there is no field for area values, you can add a new field for area by clicking the Options button and selecting the new field option).

3. Click Calculate Values.

4. Checkmark the Advanced box (this is important – dont’ forget this!)

5. Type the following VBA statement in the first text box (you should be able to copy and paste):

Dim dblArea as double

Dim pArea as IArea

Set pArea = [shape]

dblArea = pArea.area

6. Type the variable dblArea in the second text box (near the bottom of the dialog box) directly under the area field name.

7. Click OK.

I hope that they will help someone in learning GIS. Anyway, my previous post was when I revealed my Rocky Road recipe, that I adapted from Nigella Lawson. I discussed the recipe on Twitter with @geokaren and she suggested that it could be turned into an Ice Cream. I had never thought of this before. I have now had a chance to think about it and I can suggest two ways of making Rocky Road Ice Cream. I have not had chance to try these out myself yet so if you have a go, please let me know how you get on.

Version 1: Lazy Rocky Road Ice Cream


Very good chocolate ice cream, such as Carte D’or

Mini marshmallows

digestive biscuits, bashed up into bits

chocolate sauce, to serve


Take ice cream out of freezer, allow to melt slightly. Add marshmallows and digestives biscuits. Either refreeze or serve immediately in bowls, with chocolate sauce over the top. Easy!

Version 2: Proper Rocky Road Ice Cream


2 oz (1/3 cup) chocolate

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 1/2 cups milk

2 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup digestive biscuits, bashed up in bits

1/4 cup chocolate chunks or chocolate chips

2/3 cup mini marshmallows


  1. Melt chocolate in a double boiler.
  2. Slowly add cocoa powder, stirring until smooth.
  3. Using a whisk, stir in milk. Stir until mixture is blended and smooth.
  4. Remove from heat. Cool.
  5. Meanwhile, beat eggs 1-2 minutes until they are light and fluffy.
  6. Gradually stir in sugar and whisk for 1 minute.
  7. Add heavy cream and vanilla extract.
  8. Stir in cooled chocolate mixture.
  9. Chill 1-2 hours until cold.
  10. Pour this mixture into your ice cream maker.
  11. Churn for 20-25 minutes or according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  12. Add digestive biscuits and chocolate chunks.
  13. Churn 5 more minutes.
  14. Remove from ice cream maker and place in a storage container.
  15. Stir in marshmallows immediately.
  16. Enjoy your home-made ice cream!

If you do not have an ice cream maker (I don’t), follow the recipe until step 8. Then, put mix in freezer for 1-2 hours to chill. After 1-2 hours the ice cream will not be completely frozen. Stir in the marshmallows, digestive biscuits and chocolate chunks. Allow to freeze for an hour or two more and then serve and enjoy!

Version 2 recipe is adapted from here.

I forgot to mention in my GIS section above, that there is a place where you can find lots of GIS professionals who can give you advice and help. This place is The GIS Forum. Please check it out. It is run by some very nice people.

That’s all for today folks!

Happy Cooking or Geospatialing!


PS: Sorry for any weird changes in font. I am still getting used to HTML!

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