Sous Vide Supreme

I like food. I like good food. My bathroom scales however thinks I should avoid food for while lol. Unfortunately my latest purchase bought in advance of my new kitchen is another food gadget.

What we are talking here is the latest food revolution for the home cook, Sous Vide. The French gave this name to the process of cooking “under vacuum”. Now to do the process and food a great dis-service it’s kind of like posh boil in the bag. Only it’s much, much better. Unlike boil in the bag food, where you just boil the thing to death, sous vide lets you cook just about anything in vacuum sealed bags but at precise temperatures, sometimes for up to 3 days!!

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The iPhone 4S – one month on


So how is it? Was it worth the upgrade? How is Siri? How’s the battery life? Camera any good? Phone fast enough? iOS 5 any good? Do I miss jailbreaking? Hopefully in the next few (or more) words, I’ll be able to explain my thoughts on Apple’s new phone, the iPhone 4S.

The major reason for me upgrading was that my contract with O2 was at an end and I wanted a change. 3G coverage with O2 is terrible (in my area at least). At work, 3 was the only one with a 3G signal and their all you can eat data plan with the ‘One Plan’ is the only plan on any network for non business users. Deal. So far they have been exceptional with the ability to stream content at work (useful for lunchtime entertainment) and great coverage and speeds. I get 4-5mb at work with a mate’s iPhone 4 getting at least 2mb less, so at least the HSDPA+ abilities of the 4s are a great bonus. In stronger areas I get 6-8mb, which is great for iTunes downloads on the fly. Not close to it’s max rated speeds, but that’s not Apple’s fault and we’re even less likely to reach those than the US.

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Cobb BBQ: The Ultimate Portable BBQ

The Cobb BBQ really is the ultimate in portable BBQs. This thing goes anywhere you can and even carried there while cooking on it!

Originally developed for use in Africa, it meant people could cook in rural areas without electricity and minimising the risk of causing fires using dried corn cobs for fuel. Since it’s inception, it has been developed and improved and is now a world wide success. Needing only a few charcoal briquettes or just a single Cobble Stone, this is more than just a BBQ. It’s a portable cooking system with the ability to smoke, fry (stir and griddle), grill, bake and even make pizzas on. It’s unique design means you can put it anywhere and even pick it up while cooking, thanks to it’s stay cool sides and base. The heat source is isolated within the base so there is no direct contact to the outside of the cooker.

There really is no limit to what you can cook on this, from the usual burgers to whole chickens and joints. Around the where you add the briquettes is a moat where you can add water, beer or wine to keep your food moist or add flavour. The moat also acts as fat collector as the bundled grill grid is slightly dome with holes around the edge, so any fat can run off into the moat. This means there are no flare-ups and little smoke, so you can even use this indoors! You can also add veg or small potatoes in the moat to cook so a proper Sunday roast can be made on this thing.

Right, that’s the story, now what is it like, really. Hah! It’s awesome! Having done all manner of things on it I can confirm this is brilliant. As I mentioned, this is more than just a BBQ, it’s more like a charcoal oven (as described by The Hairy Bikers). Using the lid is essential for cooking most things, due to the fact that your only using a few briquettes it needs the lid to create the heat needed. During the first few uses, means you must suppress the temptation to keep checking the food. However the flip side to this is it makes for a more sociable cook, as you can relax and have a drink or more with your friends and family.

My first attempt with the Cobb was jacket potatoes and the Cobble Stone as the heat source. The Stones are made from Bamboo and wood, which come as a single round brick that fits perfectly in the heat rack. Just light, wait for 4-5 minutes and your ready to cook with enough heat for 2 hours. Having just microwaved potatoes for a few minutes to give them a head start, they were drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with rock salt and wrapped in foil. Using an additional grill rack that sits onto of the holed grill, allows the food to suspended above the heat just like a traditional BBQ. With the lid on about 60 minutes later then were done to perfection. Crispy skins and hot fluffy insides, nice.

Further attempts were the usual affair with burgers, sausages and the like. All came out great and using some cherry tree wood chunks placed on top of the Cobble Stone gave them a great taste, though it does mean indoor cooking is a no-no due to the smoke. My most recent use was the big one, a whole chicken. Seasoned with some rub and stuff with a lemon and rosemary with wine poured into the moat. Cheap wine is only required given the amount needed and primitive requirements from coking with it. Fearing the time needed to cook throughly, I used some highly recommended Australian Heat Beads. These burn very hot for a bit longer than the Cobble Stones, it is also easy to add more if needed. Around 80 minutes later the chicken was excellent, being flavoursome, moist and well cooked.

Make no mistake, this is not a party cooking machine. Being portable means it’s not got the biggest cooking area and needing to keep the lid on, means en masse cooking needs a bit of organising. But that’s not the point of the Cobb. So, up to this point, there has been no failures, just great food. Bad things? Well yes there are a couple. By the time you add all the accessories it’s not cheap, £200 nearly for everything in the range. There are five cooking pans if you will and I have and want to use all of them, then the bamboo chopping board is great as you can put the meat on it to rest with the lid on top to keep wee beasties out. The board has a groove around the edge so the lid sits perfectly on without sliding should you need to move it. I didn’t get it at the time, but you can get an extension to the lid so you have more room inside to cook bigger chickens etc, and that is needed also in my opinion.

The other bad thing is cleaning it. On a traditional BBQ, you’ll probably just clean the cooking rack and that’s it. Here, you need to clean everything and since it’s a cooker (BBQ that means grease) oil, burnt bits and all. While it’s not too bad at home with hot soapy water and a wire scourer (it’s also dishwasher safe), camping out will require hot water. Just in a tent in a field? Hmm not so good.

But overall, I just love it. I’ve always wanted a proper smoker, but most are too big and if you only want to do a chicken or some ribs, it s bit overkill. So this is perfect to smaller things, is very easy to use and given it can go anywhere, cleaning aside, very practical. Highly recommended indeed.

Here’s some useful links:

US Cobb website
UK site

YouTube

Article by Invisiblekid.

Go for the iPhone or the iPod Touch?

Apple iPhone & iPod Touch

Now that the iPhone is heading to Europe on November 9th (only on the O2 network), I am now debating whether to get the highly desirable mobile device or get the new iPods. As I previously posted here, Apple release a whole range of new music players for 2007 with the even-so thin iPod Nano, the iPod Classic (based on the fifth generation iPods) and the wonderful touch-interface iPod Touch.

Personally I like the iPhone as it features more applications like Google Maps, Weather, Stocks and Mail. All of these modes are unavailable on the iPod Touch but with the UK price of the iPhone valued at £269 – not including the cheapest tariff at £35 per month – it is difficult to justify if I need this Apple product at all.

For the same price, I can go for the bigger capacity (16 GB) iPod Touch but without the functions on the iPhone. Can I live with the fact it can’t make phone calls or the ability to send and receive messages? But interestingly, I read on the Internet you can ‘modify’ the touch-based music player to have these features anyway…

Nevertheless, I had the opportunity to test out the iPod Touch at my local Apple Store to see if it lives up to Steve Job’s hype as the ‘best iPod from Apple’. After playing with the device for around an hour I must admit it’s pretty impressive.

First off, the screen looks gorgeous. Crystal clear display that also scratch proof. Watching movies and flicking though a selection of digital photos feels great and you certainly feel amazed by the detail this glossy screen can show.

Another impressive feature is how thin it looks. Apple fitted a Flash-based Hard Drive to keep it slim (and also to improve battery life) so when you pick it up, it feels nice and comfortable in your hand. It is significantly thinner than the iPhone but it would have been better if was more than 16 gigabytes… Still, the improvements of Flash drives over time mean we will get a bigger capacity iPod Touch eventually.

I really like the touch screen element as its highly responsive and accurate. The interface is well designed and you can just select the different options just by lightly pressing the screen to access the features like music, photos and videos.

Speaking of functions, the music mode is essentially a great-looking iTunes music player. If you rotate the iPod Touch to one side, you get Cover Flow. By flicking your finger across the screen, you can browser through your music collection in a style of a jukebox. When you found a particular album you want to listen to, press it and you are given a selection of tracks that are featured on that album. Highlight the track you want to listen to and it plays!

You can also view your music in a list format under artists or album if you choose to wish. To browser your tracks list, just move your finger up or down on the screen.

In Photo mode, you can browser through your selection of digital photos similar to iPhoto on the Mac, but with an element of touching! I like the idea of ‘pinching’ the screen to zoom in as its fun and interactive. In addition, it’s clever that you can rotate the images to landscape or portrait position just by turning the iPod Touch from side to side.

As for playing videos, the moving images look pretty good and you can even change the screen ratio just by taping the display.

So far the iPod Touch is living up to its hype with positive reviews, but sadly the online features such as Safari (the web browser), YouTube application and iTunes Wi-Fi Store means I have to admit it doesn’t get the full appreciation it deserves.

Even though it uses Wi-Fi, the online mode is incredibly slow, which is surprising to say the least – perhaps the Apple Store’s bandwidth was quite sluggish as many people were playing on the desktop computers in the shop?

Whatever the true reason, you are not that impressed by how slow it can open a web page or access YouTube videos. It took around 30 seconds to render a web page (not good) but at least it doesn’t contain any errors. Once it is done, you can tap the screen to zoom in, meaning you can read the text more clearly. You can even rotate the iPod Touch to display the web page in a landscape position.

If you want to type in a web address, a virtual keyboard appears. It looks uncanny to Animal Crossing: Wild World on the Nintendo DS! Pressing the individual letters is quite tricky at first but with more practice, you can type out web addresses or messages faster.

To access YouTube video clips, you will need to use the virtual keyboard to search. To do this, just highlight the search bar, input your text and press enter. Then you have to wait for a short while (around 30 seconds) for it to be processed before displaying a selection of video clips available on YouTube. Then highlight the clip you want to see and it plays. It streams the clips quite fine but the visual quality is not that great…

As for iTunes Wi-Fi Store, this was also slow to access. Perhaps if the wireless Internet connection was less clogged up with bandwidth traffic, this and the other online modes will be faster? Whatever, it is still annoying to wait for the screen to load before making you purchase for new music tracks.

That said, the iPod Touch is still an excellent music player and the touch interface works well. But you are left feeling frustrated by its slow online capabilities, its high price (£199 for the 8 GB model and £269 for the 16 GB version) and short battery life. But when you consider how beautiful it looks and what it can do despite it flaws, you can’t say no can you?

But ironically, I am favouring towards the iPod Nano and iPod Classic. Sure, it doesn’t have the slick touch-screen but these two models are an improvement over the previous generation iPods.

Initially I was quite critical towards the iPod Nano as I thought it looked horrible in its pastel colours and obese shape. But when you see the product in real life, it actually looks good! The images you see on the Internet do not give a full representation in how small and thin it really is. The pastel colours are very nice though I prefer the black one. As for the screen, it is incredibly sharp despite the small size. You can even watch video clips on it, but you may have to re-adjust your eyes after squinting over a moving image for a while…

As for the re-branded fifth generation iPod named as ‘Classic’, the music player feels ever so familiar. It has the scroll wheel, a display and a large Hard Drive (now up to 160 GB!) to store all your music, pictures and videos. Only two colours are available which are silver and black. I don’t know why Apple called it ‘Classic’ as the original white colour is not present… Personally, the silver version of the iPod Classic looks nasty but not so when in black!

With 160-gigabyte Hard Drive, this is the biggest data capacity Apple has done for the popular MP3 player. And it is not even that thick when viewed from the side! For only £229, this iPod is exceedingly good value.

Both the Nano and Classic has a new interface with Cover Flow for browsing your music collection. But it feels really sluggish at displaying the album/singles covers compare to the silky-smooth iPod Touch. Other than that, both iPods are a major improvement over its previous generations with a better screen and battery life.

And yet I am still deciding whether the iPhone is ideal for me. November 9 is the official release date when the O2-exclusive mobile phone is available on the market. But for the price you’re paying to use this glamorous electronic is a bit much in my opinion (£269 + £35 per month). I might go for the 16 GB iPod Touch in the end… or possibly the 160 GB iPod Classic. Damn it!

Apple reveals new line-up for iPod. Now caught in a dilemma on what to buy…

 

The next generation of portable music players from Apple have been unveiled to the world’s press this week and the one that caught my attention was the much-rumoured touch-screen iPod.

This new device looks remarkably similar to the popular iPhone launched earlier this year in America but without the obvious phone calling capabilities. There are two versions available – 8GB and 16GB – though I am disappointed that the size of the hard drive is less than my current black iPod that I brought a couple of years ago.

Despite that, the ability to access the Internet with Safari, watching YouTube videos and downloading the latest music tracks from Apple’s new Wi-Fi online music store just by touching the screen is pretty amazing. Though compare to the many functions available on the iPhone, the iPod Touch is disappointing for the price you pay.

So if the iPod Touch is too expensive for my liking, then what else is available from Apple? How about the re-branded iPod Classic? It looks identical to the fifth generation iPod but this time it’s thinner and now has a massive 160-gigabyte data capacity – perfect for storing thousands of songs and video clips.

As for the iPod Nano, I think it looks horrible in its pastel colours and obese shape… Though I must admire its ability to playback video for the first time with its new high quality screen.

All the iPods from Apple features a new user interface in particular Cover Flow, which allows you to see the different album covers in your music collection.

But the key dilemma for me is what to buy. Should I buy one of these iPods even though my current one is working fine? Or should I be patience and wait for the UK release of the iPhone?

New look to the Apple iMac

Apple iMac 2007

Earlier this month, Apple CEO Steve Jobs reveal the next evolution of the popular desktop computer, the Apple iMac.

The new model features a new aluminium and glass enclosure, replacing the white plastic look.

Personally, I love my ‘old’ iMac as the silver and black colour combination doesn’t work too well. Sure, it looks modern and elegant but it would have been better if the whole computer was either in brushed aluminium or completely black. How cool would that be if Jonathan Ive – the design genius working for Apple – made this?

Despite that, the new 20- and 24-inch iMacs uses the latest Intel Core 2 Duo processors and an incredible, ultra-thin keyboard.

The keyboard in particular looks fantastic. I just can’t believe how thin it is and yet feels ever so comfortable to type on. I brought one recently and I am now using it to write this very post! The only criticism will be the Return/Enter key is quite small and the missing Apple button…

But which iMac do I prefer? Well, the glossy glass display looks great when viewing High Definition video clips but in terms of performance, its not a giant leap compared to my current 24-inch ‘Bauer Mac’. Plus I like the classic white look!

My next mobile phone

Apple iPhone

Now that the Apple iPhone is out in North America, I am becoming a little impatience of owning this desirable mobile device.

After reading the many reviews online including Engadget, I really want to have this right now! The ability to browser the web, check your messages, take photos, listening to your music and obliviously, make phone calls all by the sense of touch is pretty amazing. Yes, I know the price will be off-putting (currently it cost around US $499) and that doesn’t include the network subscription, but I still want to buy one.

Apparently, the iPhone will be available exclusively on the 02 network here in the UK. Which is bad as I am currently using Orange… But looking on the brighter side, this sexy-looking Apple product might be out sometime this Christmas!

Well, that’s my gift sorted out then! Need to put my name down on the list to get my hands on an eight-gigabyte model…

Apple’s new electronic toy

Apple iPhone
When Steve Jobs announced to the world’s press the Apple iPhone on January 9th, it ended the on-going and never-ending rumours of the Apple-branded cell phone. This new product looks highly desirable and even though I was disappointed by the fact that there wasn’t any mention on a ‘true’ video iPod, the iPhone does look something truly special.

I do like the feature that it uses Mac OS X as its operating system, as I consider this better than Microsoft’s Windows.

In addition, the way the different functions can be access by moving your fingers on the scratch-resisted screen is a nice touch (pun intended!).

And yet, the sad part is the iPhone won’t be out until the end of the year. But for those lucky Americans, they will have the unique opportunity to purchase one in June. As for importing one, I won’t bother to be honest. I can imagine what the prices on eBay will be…

Would I buy one? Yes, of course! It looks beautiful and I love the way Safari works when viewing web pages. The new widescreen mode when viewing movies is also a welcome feature.

But if Apple releases a proper iPod sometime this year with the same functions as the iPhone (touch screen for example) then I will purchase that item instead. I would prefer to listen to my vast amount of tracks on a dedicated music player than having an expensive multimedia mini handheld Macintosh.

New iMac for Leaf – but no-one is around to collect it…

An update on my new iMac: Last week I returned the desktop computer back to Apple to get a free replacement. I wasn’t pleased after spending nearly £1,500 to have two ‘stuck’ pixels on the massive 24-inch screen…

After making a phone call to Apple about this, they agree to send me a replacement unit free of charge. Unfortunately, when it came to the time to pick up the new computer this week, no-one was around to receive it.

I was at work and my family were out of the house as the postman rang our doorbell… So that means I will have to wait until the weekend to get my hands on my Bauer Mac.

Hopefully the new iMac will be perfect with no dead pixels. If there is, then I will be pretty annoyed. Fingers crossed!

Replacing my iMac

As you know I’ve just purchase a new Intel Core 2 Duo powered iMac and at first, it was great. But after a few days I spotted two ‘stuck’ pixels on the 24-inch screen… It’s annoying to discover this.

Why so? Well I have just spent the whole weekend configuring the desktop computer to my personal taste and have copied over all my music, video and applications from my PC and PowerBook G4. Now that I’m getting a replacement (for free), I will need to back up over 200 gigabytes of data.

This took quite a while (around three hours) but hopefully, when I get my new iMac – Bauer Mac Version 2.0 – sometime next week it will be perfect.

In the meantime, I will go back to my faithful PowerBook G4 laptop.

Once I get my new model from Apple and it’s flawless, then I can take some photographs of my lovely 24-inch screen and show you how big it really is!