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Laverbread Scone Recipe

When we were last in Cardiff we made a special trip to Pettigrew Tea Room, a lovely wee place at the entrance to Bute Park right in the middle of town, which specialises in delicious cakes and scones. We’ve been there a few times, having first heard about the cafe on the Great British Bake Off years back. Whilst we’d had their (delicious!) cakes before, but when we were back in town for the Christmas break we were looking for a good brunch option and were won over by the promise of laverbread scones, which proved scrumptious. And so, late that day we stocked up on tins of laverbread at Wally’s and decided to make some of those scones ourselves…

Tin of Parsons Laverbread

The definitive tinned laverbread, or at least the only brand I ever see in Cardiff. The lavercakes recipe on the back of the pack is also delicious if scones aren’t your thing.

And just 3 months later we’ve finally gotten round to making some.

I’m not usually the star scone baker in the house as Heather is usually in charge of making the wholewheat and blackberry scones that we make a few times a year, using up the stash in the freezer. She has a brilliant sweet scone recipe from my mother in law for those but we don’t really have a reliable savoury scone recipe. I have made mini cheesy scones for the Capital City Roller Derby team, with a version of Delia’s savoury scone recipe, but those aren’t the best I’ve had. I wanted our laverbread scones to be up to Pettigrew or Lovecrumbs standard so started scoping out options.

The Guardian round up of definitive recipes for scones proved most useful, and so I bring you my version of the National Trust featured there:

Laverbread scones

The finished scones – golden and crisp on top, deliciously speckled with greed seaweed inside.

Ingredients

  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 50g lard (yes, lard)
  • 1 can prepared laverbread (available online from Wally’s)
  • small handful or about 1/4 cup of finely grated Pecorino Romano, Parmesan, or Granda Padano
  • pinch of sea salt flakes
  • pinch of white pepper
  • Up to 100ml milk

In a large bowl (with very clean hands), gently rub the flour, butter and lard together to form a course breadcrumb texture. Get lots of air in – I tend to rub and lift to get lots of air circulating.

Add the laverbread – just tip the whole tin in – and stir with your hands. The texture of laverbread is quite jelly-like (it is seaweed after all) so you’ll need to kind of rub that in as well, again getting lots of air in if you can. Once everything is well mixed add/grate in the cheese, along with the salt and pepper. Stir quickly and lightly by hand.

You should now have a fairly soft large breadcrumb like texture. Add some milk to mix into a dough, after some gentle mixing add a little milk in as needed. You should now have a soft dough, a bit like biscuit or soft bread doughs. Be very gentle with the dough at this stage to ensure maximum fluffiness.

Place all of the dough on a large baking sheet and very gentle spread by hand so you have a 1.5 inch height roughly round shape. Use a knife to divide your giant scone into an appropriate number of smaller triangular scones. The Guardian/National Trust recipe specify’s this as a recipe for 12 scones but I divided our giant scone into 8 generous breakfast scones.

Bake at 190° C for 15 to 25 minutes until well baked and golden. The scones will have a lovely crisp crust and taste delicious warm with butter, or with bacon and poached eggs. Perfect for St David’s Day tomorrow too!

Laverbread scones

A delicious brunch: laverbread scones, Ballencrief Rare Breed middle bacon crispy from grilling, poached free range eggs and a good grind of pepper. With a wee bit of extra butter on the side for that second scone!

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Final Report published 30 April 2014

I am immensely proud to have been part of this inquiry, and really recommend giving the final report a read. Comments and follow up discussion welcomed, and we will have a series of dissemination and discussion events coming up over the coming months.

Spreading the Benefit of Digital Participation in Scotland

Final_Report_cover The Final Report of the Inquiry into spreading the benefits of digital participation in Scotland was published on 30 April 2014.

Consultation on the Interim Report has allowed us to refine the conclusions and recommendations that were set out on affordable access, motivating people and organisations to get online and equipping them with the skills they need to do so confidently, safely and creatively. To this we add further analysis of the picture of the digital divide in Scotland; and comment on the responsibilities of a digital society.

The Final Report is available on the RSE website in PDF, eBook and HTML formats. The presentation from the launch event is also available.

You can access Figures and Code associated with the report here.

The Report sets out two key principles for digital participation:

1. That the Scottish Government must recognise that every individual has an undeniable right to digital…

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Thai chicken and coconut salad recipe

A random post to share a recipe that made for a delicious dinner tonight…

Thai Chicken and Coconut Salad

Ingredients

4 chicken thighs (boned and skin removed)
Tin of coconut milk
1 fresh coconut, grated, plus any coconut water
Fresh coriander – big bunch
Mint – small bunch
1 red chilli, thinly sliced
4 shallots, sliced thinly
2 lemongrass stalks, thinly sliced
3 dried long chillis, chopped (seeds shaken out and discarded)
4 lime leaves, shredded thinly
Big handle of shelled peanuts
Juice of 2.5 limes
Approx 2 tbls fish sauce
Approx 2 tsps shaved palm sugar

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1) Poach the chicken thighs in the coconut milk, topping up with water to cover if needed. Once cooked remove from the pan, leave to cool. When cool enough to handle, shred.

2) Roughly chop the herbs, combine with shallots, lemongrass, coconut etc.

3) Make a dressing from the lime juice, fish, and palm sugar. Adjust to taste.

4) Toast the peanuts in the oven. Chop roughly.

5) Mix everything together and serve with rice, or with coconut rice (extra yummy if you have all that fresh coconut and coconut water to play with!).

6) If you are feeling really fancy top with ancient chilli and coconut relish (toasted coconut, dried chillis, and toasted peanuts with salt – see David Thompson’s Thai Food).

Sharing My Dissertation: Continuing Professional Development in Collaborative Social Media Spaces

This is an extremely overdue post but exciting nonetheless…

The Preamble

Back in 2008 I became a part-time student on the excellent University of Edinburgh MSc in eLearning (now known as the MSc in Digital Education) course. This was in addition to my full time role as EDINA Social Media Officer – a really challenging balancing act but well worth it! In 2011, having slowly completed six modules (one module per semester) and had a semester break to prepare myself for the serious issue of research, I began work on my dissertation. I wanted to do something which reflected both my studies in elearning and my passion for social media so I decided to look at the relationship between transactions and connections in social media and continuing professional development.

The Dissertation

And, after that very busy year, and only 5 months after submitting it I am very proud to share my eLearning Dissertation: Continuing Professional Development in Collaborative Social Media Spaces. I won’t go into more detail in this post but if you are short on time I recommend looking at the Abstract and my four key recommendations for improving Continuing Professional Development (CPD) practice in Social Media.

The dissertation has been live on the web since it was submitted and I welcome your feedback on it so please do take a look and let me know what you think. I do hope to publish further articles based on this work and will make sure I share those here as well. I would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who participated in this research, who supported me through the dissertation research and writing up and to my marvellous supervisor Jen Ross.

The Graduation

In late November I was delighted to graduate (with distinction!) in a rather excellent mixture of locations. The eLearning programme conducts a graduation in Second Life that runs in parallel to the in-person event. This year both myself and Austin Tate chose to graduate in Second Life in parallel with our in-person graduations. Being a wee bit cheeky I also sent the occasional tweet as well! It was great fun and lovely to be part of both graduations with their quite different vibe and conversations.

This is myself and Austin after the in-person graduation (picture courtesy of Austin Tate)

And you can see me – as a rather unglamorous floating white blob – in this video of the graduation ceremony:

 

And Finally… The Stand Up Comedy!

Whilst I was writing my dissertation I had been regularly attending Bright Club Edinburgh, a brilliant stand up night for researchers. Completing my research meant that I too could take part so in December, with a rather serious head cold, I made my stand up comedy debut talking about some festive aspects of my research. Enjoy!

We (well our cupcakes) are famous!

We (well our cupcakes) are famous!

Yesterday, for Halloween, we had a baking challenge to meet. My partner’s work were having a festive competitive bake off and she was expected to do seriously well so, what to bake?

We decided to combine our trademark bloodied gingerbread men with something more cakey and thus were “Halloween Meats Christmas” born!

The cakes are a dark moist chocolate cupcake topped with a pool of strawberry jam blood, vanilla butter cream lips and vampiric gummy teeth into whose ghoulish jaws have fallen our pool little gingerbread men with missing legs, arms or heads. So much royal icing gingerbread blood has been spilled to make these…

Not only did the cakes win Heather’s workplace prize but a preview bake also won much love at our friends’ Halloween film night. And then, the bloodied icing on the creepy cake, not only have the cakes been retweeted by the Great British Bake Off but today they also made it onto the Guardian’s Life & Style page. Awesome!

Film Review: Dune

Dune | USA, 1984 | dir. David Lynch | 137 mins

Some days bring you unique opportunities… today it was the chance to see David Lynch’s 1984 film of the Frank Herbert novel Dune on a 70mm print in Filmhouse Screen 1 as part of their Lynch season. Having never seen the film before it was not a chance to pass up…

Dune may be a classic but it’s legend is of hamminess and giant worms. Science Fiction often spends years in the wilderness but to be a poor sci fi film from a short time period that saw the release of Blade Runner, Alien, Brazil, and, if we must, the original Star Wars trilogy is a slightly tragic legacy. But is it fair?

Opening with a dense prologue , delivered by Virginia Madsen (now best known for her role in Sideways) we enter a strange futuristic and baroque world. This is space as envisaged by the first generation of Star Trek mythology: power struggles, strange visceral alien races, complex politics and diplomacy and, to add a proper sense of sinister order, a slightly third reich inspired emporer (Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV as played by José Ferrer with much beard and brocade). The emperor is assisted by Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam (Sian Phillips giving us full thespian value), a sort of bald tudor psychic lady in waiting. But trouble is afoot…

The most valuable thing in this universe is the spice “melange”which allows you to “fold space” (science geeks will know that “folding space” is something you may hear discussed in physics but Dune is not being nearly so well informed here), enabling any space ship to traverse the universe safely and instantly with the help of strange translucent space whale navigators. These navigators come to the “Emperor of the Known Universer” with an offer he can’t really refuse: they want Paul (Kyle MacLachlan), son of Duke Leto Atreides (Jürgen Prochnow) and Lady Jessica (Francesca Annis), heir to the House Adriedes, to be killed. The Emperor sees the House Adriedes as a threat, partly because of their “weirding” technology and so a complex plan is hatched. Since “The spice” is mined on one planet only, Arakis, a barren place inhabited by giant worms who, it’s fair to say, are not huge fans of the mining it is a very big deal indeed to lead that mining. So, the decision is taken that the House Harkonnen, led by the disgustingly diseased Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Kenneth McMillan), will lose their right to mine Arakis and this will instead be handed to the House Adriedes. Once they are in place the opportunities for assassination, in-fighting and political maneuvering should, so the theory goes, be straightforward…. but of course it’s nothing of the sort…

Now if you’re not a science fiction fan even that miniature summary may have put you into a slight coma. The full description on Wikipedia might send you over the edge. So the first thing to say is that this is a dense film trying to pack generations of storylines into a serious two and a half hour film. That the rough cuts ran to four hours is no surprise as whole sections will move at a snails pace only to be followed by a three minute montage summarizing a two year period. Think of this as a less elegantly thought through Lord of the Rings situation. And indeed as we become increasingly sure that Kyle’s poutingly youthful Paul Adriedes is “The One” things do take some similarly odd turns that leave us relying on the hand of god for solutions…

But there is much to recommend in Dune. The production design is astonishing and has clearly been of enormous influence in the nearly thirty years since it’s completion. Medical and leather and rubber fetishism as well as entomological touches clearly have their origins in the work H.R. Giger, legendary creator of the Alien, prepared for an earlier doomed production of Dune which was to have been created by Alejandro Jodorowsky (director of some notably demented films such as El Topo). To this very Skin Too [NSFW] aesthetic vibe there is also a significant dose of Tudor chic – cod pieces as far as the eye can see, enormous dresses corsetted in the long form ultra flat Elizabethan style. As a combination that’s not as odd as it might first sound – 1984 being, after all, the time of Tom of Finland-esque gay bars and Derek Jarmen and his peers gender bending reimaginings of the classics. And then we have competing combat gear: ultra special forces-ey rubber water-recycling suits for the rebels vs. third reichian uniforms and safety gear for the emperors people and allies.

The sets are no less breathtaking despite half the film taking place in the desert (the sands of Mexico standing in for Arakis aka Dune). Spaceships are inventively shaped – apparently inspired by moths or wasps – and the mixture of model work and sound stages makes their scale large, convincing. But the palaces and state rooms of the various Houses are where you can see the real money on screen. House Harkonnen is all steam punk abbatoir chic: metal, rust, steam, blood, lab wear (if Heston Blumental were in a sci fi film he’d be serving the little self-juicing bug vials on Giedi Prime, the Harkonnen home world. Over on the Adriedes home world there is a medieval meets hold the front page chic – wooden desks, wax seals, charming flying lamps, and the kind of wood panelling and carving that speaks of the all the cash producer Dino De Laurentii clearly threw at this film.

Between the sets, costumes and creature work if you cannot spot Dune’s influence on at least a dozen latter day Doctor Who creatures, planets, episodes, you’re not even trying! The look of the Harkonnen’s also seems to split – there is clearly influence in Lynch’s own odder work whilst their home planet is surely an inspiration for the likes of Jean Pierre Jeunet’s City of Lost Children. Meanwhile Kyle MachLachlan’s confused beautiful and destiny riddled Paul Adriedes, whilst being a right old second coming sort of cliche, clearly had some influence on the stylings of The Matrix’s Neo. And the giant worms? Well it’s near impossible to think that Tremors would ever have been had it not been for Dune.

It is tempting to analyze further – is Baron Harkonnen with his myriad disfiguring diseases and entire lack of self control, particularly when pretty boys appear, the unacceptable face of gay promiscuity? It is hard not to wonder at his ailments and literal bloodlust and see something of the AIDS paranoia that was in full flight at the time. Perhaps the comparison is unintended but McMillan certainly plays the baron with lascivious glee and his industrial planet is portrayed as entirely free from women and populated only with big haired maniacal technicians and beautiful young red haired boys.

You will have noticed I have yet to mention the acting. It’s a really mixed bag… Sian Phillips and Patrick Stewart lend gravitas to supporting roles in a way that neither best lives up to nor harms their Shakespearean chops. Francesca Annis is gorgeous – a rare reminder of the very best that gigantic imaginative 80s hair and make up offered – and also takes things seriously, and she is certainly enigmatic if not given room to do much more. Kyle Maclachlan has to lead the movie and he does so with huge charm that brims over with homoeroticism as his attempts to bond manfully with his fathers friends and the people of Arakis come across as just a little too enthusiastic. The voice over – added as an afterthought to explain the plot – does his performance no favours but it is, in any case, an impossible role to carry off. However, even as he chews the scenery, MacLachlan somehow manages to maintain his dignity and he was a canny casting choice  since he looks exactly on the cusp of manhood making the journey from Duke-in-training to rebel leader plausible. Other notable cameos include Linda Hunt (The Year of Living Dangerously) and Alicia Witt (probably best known for her role in TV series Cybil) as Alia, the weird creepy powerful child reminiscent of the Poltegeist films even if, in this case, the child is on our side.

And Sting? Well he wears a turqoise winged codpiece with a puckish grin that is all his own…

Dune is hugely flawed of course but it is a great bad film. It doesn’t lack vision, imagination or ambition but it lacks coherance, is unevenly paced and too packed full of story to engage. It is nonetheless great fun in places and a treat for the eyes and, with a huge dense Toto soundtrack (and a “prophecy theme” by Brian Eno), the ears. Well worth seeing for it’s influence on others’ work and it’s astonishing production design but be ready to enjoy it for what it is: half an hour too long, 50% too pretentious and indeed 100% too portentous, and twice as complex as it needs to be.

And remember… if you walk without rhythm then you won’t attract the worm

New articles out on Social Media in Education

Happy New Year!

Today sees the publication of the second of two articles I’ve written for IBM’s DeveloperWorks portal. The first article (curiously also now in Portuguese) looks at the challenges and opportunities of using social media in an HE/FE context whilst the second article discusses specific tools and examples of their use in the sector. The full series can be found here.

You can leave comments/ratings on the articles themselves but I’d also be very happy to hear any feedback here.

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