Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The absolute minimum difficulty recipe with maximum impact: authentic chicken soup

I like cooking, and I like to share that joy. If  you can’t cook however, your first efforts are likely to be mediocre, which is not very encouraging. “Why bother?!”.

In this post, I’ll share something that can barely be called a recipe, that’s how simple it is. BUT! The results are entirely authentic and spectacular. You can take this with you to a home cooked dinner, and your friends will be very happy with your efforts. They will ask you for the recipe! Little will they know how easy it is. Also, it is almost impossible to mess this up. I dare you to try ;-)

Ingredients: 10-20 raw chicken wings (plain or spiced, NOT breaded!), 2-4 onions, a few large carrots (or more smaller ones), salt, pepper.
Required equipment: oven-proof container, oven, pan, stove, strainer or colander.
Time spent in the kitchen: 15 minutes

Pre-heat oven to 180C (350F). Meanwhile, put the chicken wings in the oven-proof container. If you got plain wings, add some salt and pepper.  If you have it, sprinkle some oil over the chicken wings.

Put container with chicken in oven (if at temperature). Then you can wait 25 minutes, you can wait 35 minutes, you can wait 45 minutes, and in every case you’ll have some pretty good chicken wings. If after 25 minutes they look ready to eat, they ARE. Do not eat unless thoroughly hot inside!

(if you don’t have an oven, you can also fry the chicken wings in a pan on a stove, works just as well, but you need to pay some closer attention to getting them browned all round and well done inside. Will require more oil).

Now for the surprising part. Eat as many of the chicken wings as you feel like. No need to finish them all. This was not your special dinner ;-)

Next, fill a pan with a few liters (quarts) of water, then throw in all your chicken wings, the ones you ate, the ones you didn’t. Peel onions, cut in large chunks, add to water. Chuck the carrots in there too. Bring water to a boil, turn down heat and leave to simmer for 3, 4, 5, hell 6 hours if you feel like it. If during the boiling you note brown stuff floating on the water, remove that with a spoon. Your house will smell lovely meanwhile.

Afterwards, use colander or strainer to filter out all the bones and pieces of meat. (You can add back the pieces of meat if you want.) Now taste the soup and add salt to taste. This part is not optional, it really needs salt.

That’s it! You can take the soup with you to a party and heat it there. In a fridge it will last for days.

Note: to improve on this soup, add more vegetables (doesn’t really matter which ones), or instead of chicken wings, use an entire chicken.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Some tips when travelling through France: toll & internet

Brief post so other people can find this. If you are going on holiday in France by car, I can highly recommend getting a 'telepeage' badge, which allows for contactless payments.  This means you can pay for the highway tolls without the hassle of tickets and credit cards at booths. The telepeage lanes go a lot quicker than the ones for people who need tickets. Many of them you can pass at 30km/hour even! In The Netherlands you can get a badge at the ANWB before you go. I'm also told you can buy them at the largest toll stations.

Secondly, if you want internet, Orange has several interesting options.  There is the "Let's Go" offer which is attractive. It is a WiFi box which can offer internet service to up to 5 devices. It does HSDPA. There's also a 4G offer, which is even cooler.

However, this being France, so life is not made easy for you. When you buy the box, inside you find a form you have to fill out and send in with a copy of a photo ID. Until this has been processed, you can't top up your 500MB internet credit. In my experience, this processing takes more than a week at least.

It so turns out that the store where you buy the Let's Go offer can also verify your ID on the spot, but nobody reminds you of this. So, when you buy it, insist that they register you too. Even then it takes 48 hours to process.

Secondly, even though the "Let's Go" offer is geared for tourists you can only top up your internet credit.. using a France-domiciled credit card!! I'm not making this up. You can however buy credit at "Tabac" shops or Orange boutiques. Not all Tabac shops know their Orange terminal can do this though.

I would recommend that when you buy the Let's Go box, you take care of the identification, and also immediately buy a voucher to top up. For 35 euros, I got 3500MB of internet, which should suffice. (Unless you forget to turn off cloud backups of all photos you take..)

Finally, although many shops are called 'Orange', I found that the ones labeled as 'Partner' on the Orange website do not carry the Let's Go offer. So head one that is actually Orange owned.

With the advice above.. you may save yourself the 6 visits to various Orange stores I needed to get functioning internet access!