Crispy Potatoes Recipe

We all have Christmas traditions, and often that revolves around food. Katherine and I have spent our 6 years together slowly perfecting our Christmas selection.

I thought I would share how we make our awesome crispy Christmas potatoes (you can eat them when its not Christmas too, if you want!).

Disclaimer: I am a proud member of the chuck-it-in-it’ll-be-fine school of cooking. I firmly believe a happy cook just throws stuff in a pan, rather than measuring 18g of this and 3.5 medium egg yolks of that; so take my measurements with a pinch of salt, so to speak. This recipe makes as many potatoes as you need. I usually plan for 1-2 large potatoes per person.

Cooked Crispy PotatoesIngredients

  • Potatoes.
  • Flour.
  • Olive oil.
  • Salt and Pepper.

Recipe

  1. Peel and chop up your potatoes. You want biggish lumps – cut big potatoes into 4 pieces, small ones into halves.
  2. Boil up your potatoes with a little salt in the water (helps them get softer).
  3. Check them after about 15-20mins: you should be able to stick a knife in them, but you don’t want them completely soft either.
  4. Drain the water.
  5. Chuck some in a metal colander, so there are about 8 pieces of potatoes in it (use a big bowl if you don’t have a colander). If you have lots of potatoes, you might want to do them in a few batches, 8-10 at a time.
  6. Jiggle the colander for about 10-20 seconds. This bashes up all the edges of the potatoes, making them uneven. This leads to lots of extra crispy bits.
  7. Have a bowl with olive oil in, and one with flour in.
  8. Potatoes before BakingRoll each potato in the oil, so its covered, then roll in in the flour. Oil + flour = more crispy.
  9. Sprinkle a little more oil on top, and grind loads of salt and pepper all over it.
  10. By now, your potatoes should look something like the photo on the right (click for bigger picture).
  11. Cook them at 180°C ish in the oven. You’ll want to take it out a few times and stir it around with a spatula so that it gets cooked evenly.
  12. When they are golden, with some crispy brown bits, cover them in gravy and eat them all up.

If you don’t like gravy, then I’m afraid you are a bad person, and you are not allowed to make my potatoes.

Low Cost Holidays – unbelievably bad customer service

lowcostholidaysA few years ago, me and Katherine went on holiday with a low cost company that managed to pretty much ruin our holiday.

They are called Low Cost Holidays. I think a more apt name is Low Quality Holidays, with terrible customer service thrown in

A bad start

Our apartment had:

I contacted the company after our third night with no sleep, after my wife started crying because of how little fun she was having. The representative I spoke to was friendly and understanding: “Go find some other accommodation, keep the receipt, and we will fully refund you on your return”.

That got worse

Our next week of holiday, in a self catering flat next to the beach, was great. My experience with Low Cost Holidays, on returning back to England, was less good.

They flat out denied my request for compensation. Repeatedly.

They denied that their customer service representative had spoken to me, or authorised me to stay in alternative accomodation. Even when I provided them with itemised phone records showing the exact time, date and duration of my 35 minute call to their number, on my mobile from the Canary Islands, they denied that the offer had taken place. They were uninterested in the photos documenting the poor quality of the hotel, nor my hotel stamped initial complaint letter.

Eventual success

Over the course of a year, I wrote 6 letters, and spent around 10 hours of my time on the matter. Eventually, after threatening to take them to the small claims court, they finally agreed to pay the £300 they owed my for the accommodation- but refused the £300+ that I was claiming for my time and expenses (such as filing small claims, lost time doing freelance work).

I decided that it was no longer worth my time fighting any more, and laid the matter to rest until…

A ridiculous request

In September, I received an email threatening legal action from the formerly mentioned untrustworthy holiday company. In the email they said:

Links from your site have been identified to us as malicious or spam content and we request the immediate removal of any links directed to lowcostholidays.com

We request immediate action or our legal team will seek removal. Please notify us with an email once action has been taken.

I explained that the link was probably in a post complaining about the terrible service I received. I asked they simply pay the money I was still owed, and links would be removed.

Making things worse

A month later they went to my excellent, high quality hosting company, and tried to get the links removed. In this email they lied and said “we haven’t managed to find the correct contact details for the site owner“, and asked them to remove the links.

In going over my head, and lying about previously contacting me, they clearly broke the law, as well as proved themselves to be the scumbag, disreputable company they had already proven themselves to be.

And then even worse…

They then offered my hosting company money to remove the links without my permission! Pretty sure that’s totally illegal, and definitely immoral regardless. They offered £25 per link. At this point, I was a bit angry. I think you can understand why.

However. I am currently volunteering in Africa, and I could do with the money, so here is my response:

Dear Low Cost,

In the above post, you can clearly see that your behaviour has been, at best, shady, and at worst, actually illegal. You still owe me around £350 for my time spent chasing your company after you broke your word.

That said, My family and I are currently volunteering in South Africa to help some of the poorest people in the world with healthcare. I don’t officially have a job yet, so I could do with a little extra income.

You offered my hosting company £25 per link. There are currently 14 links = £350. You already owe me £350 anyway, in case that wasn’t clear. Pay me that which you owe me, and I’ll remove all the links to your company, and, beyond an acknowledgement of your gracious behaviour, never publicly comment on the matter again.

How does that sound? Pay up, and I may even consider going on holiday with you again…

Regards,
Dr Chris Lowry

Couch Surfing: my first experience

couch_surfingBack in 2013, I had to work all weekend in Grantham. Considering that I finished at 11pm, I didn’t really fancy over an hour of driving back to Boston, only to have to return a few hours later. So I decided to stay there.

This left me with three options;

  1. Camping,
  2. Sleeping on an empty hospital bed, or
  3. Spending rather a lot of money to stay in a Travelodge.

Uninspired by all of these, I went for hidden option number 4: Couch Surfing.

For those of you who haven’t heard of couch surfing, its based around a website: CouchSurfing.org. Its a simple concept: Someone puts up their couch on the website, you contact them, and then you go and stay with a random stranger. Its slightly scary, but also tinged with an excitement that the Travelodge rarely imbues to a trip.

What is couch surfing?

Before I tell you about my experience, here are a few quotes about the concept…

Couch surfing isn’t just a means of accommodation; it is an entirely new way to travel. You get to see the world through local residents, not hotel concierges or guidebooks. But what is most profound about the whole experience is the trust that naturally exists.
Time Magazine

Overall, my couchsurfing experience was amazing, and I would highly recommend that people give it a shot at least once.
Brendan’s Adventures

I cannot surf. Something about that spring up from the belly onto the board eludes me and I always end up losing my balance, crashing into the wave instead of riding it, and often also knocking myself in the head with the board.

Couch surfing, however, is another matter completely. At that, turns out, I am a natural.
Huffington Post

So, how did it go?

In summary, it was fantastic. I rocked up, late at night, to the house of a complete stranger, and felt ridiculously welcome.

The house was very unique – it had no heating – but a delicious wood burning stove in the lounge that warmed you right through. The lady kept pet chickens, and I was very interested in her excellent steel chicken feeder – a much better solution to the problem than the rubbish plastic one we had at home. (Looking back, a year later, I realise that we bought both a wood burning stove, and a galvanised chicken feeder as a direct result of this visit!)

For breakfast, she generously made me this amazing Indian grain breakfast. I’ve never had a spicy breakfast before, but its definitely something I could come round to.

All in all, free food, free wifi, a free bed, and excellent conversation: if I’m ever travelling alone, Couch Surfing is going to be my first choice

The New Friars: Book Review

The New FriarsI’m not a huge fan of the established (read “out of touch”) church, but there’s always been something powerful to be about the concept of redeeming some of the really powerful aspects of the historical church.

The concept of community has excited me for years too. In the last decade, there has been a move of interest in both these fields. The result? New Monasticism. Taking the radical, biblical, REAL stuff out of the dusty old things we see caricatured in the world.

Its about asking questions; for example, what impact would a vow of poverty have on my life? What if we sold all our possessions and lived together? Can Acts 2 (below) be a practical application to our individualised, materalistic lifeview?

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

Acts 2: 42 & 43

Whilst on the CMF course a couple of weeks ago, I went on a little bit of a book buying binge, mostly thanks to chatting to my friend Jon… That means I have a huge pile of books to read, roughly in the area I’ve talked about above: but I’m vague about the specifics of what they are about.

I decided the easiest way to find out was just to pick one up, and the easiest way to remember what I’ve read is to write a quick book review…

The New Friars: The Emerging Movement Serving the World’s Poor.

Scott Bessenecker, the Associate Director for Missions at InterVarsity, has written this beautifully researched book looking at the traditional phenomenon of “Friars”. He starts with a story of visiting a modern day Franciscan monastery, and being disappointed:

We asked the brother leading us on this tour of the monastery about the cable TV in every room. This was 1979 when cable was a relatively new luxury—one that our middle-class family did not enjoy. “The brothers take a vow of personal poverty,” our guide emphasized. “These things are actually owned by the monastery, not the brothers.” Apparently, as long as it was communal wealth, at this monastery a Franciscan could live in luxury.

He talks about St Francis of Assisi, St Clare, Brigid of Kildare, and then, in the same breath, talking about modern day Friars, people like Ash & Anji Barker, Viv Grigg, Chris Heuertz and hundreds more:

What new friars like Faye and Cami and old friars like Francis and Clare excel at is breaking out of the padding that separates and protects us from the harsh realities of poverty by embracing it voluntarily and stepping into relationship with the poor without the power dynamic that is normally present between the poor and nonpoor.

He attempts to lay out some of the key principles that, intentionally or accidentally, were apparent in tradional friar orders, and I feel he is saying are evident in modern day movements (such as InnerChange, Urban Neighbours of Hope and Word Made Flesh).

I could try to summarise the points, but he’s already done a great job of that, so I’m just going to wholesale quote him – although I have trimmed it a bit…

Incarnational. First and foremost, these orders were incarnational.

They sought not simply to bring the gospel to the lost or oppressed from the outside, as if by remote control, but to be the gospel by becoming part of the communities of dispossessed they sought to serve. They took their cues from God, who, rather than saving humanity by asking us to become like him, chose instead to become like us.

Devotional. Second, these orders were radically devotional.

Each order was organized around a set of spiritual commitments, or a “rule,” to govern their walk with Jesus, with one another and with the community of lost, poor or broken souls into which they had grafted themselves. They vowed themselves to principles of holiness and purity that went beyond the common practices of the faith, then held each other to these ideals quite rigidly.

Communal. Third, these orders were communal, living together and sharing many of those things that they held privately before joining the order.

I’m not speaking of personal luxury items simply renamed communal luxury items. Given their commitment to incarnation, most of these communities were quite austere. I’m talking instead about living in a way that goes beyond the principle of the single-family dwelling, where traditional Western society begins and ends its understanding of a shared property.

Missional. Fourth, the historic orders were missional—at least the ones that went to communities on the geographic fringe.

These were communities on the move, responsible for stretching the borders of the church into the dark corners of Europe. Celtic monks, for instance, were known to board a small boat, raise the sail and pray that God would direct their vessel to some barbarian tribe where the gospel had not been heard. The cloistered (or inward) and the missional (or outward) forces in these various monastic communities were often held in tension, some emphasizing one over the other.

Likewise today we find both cloistered and missional communities cropping up. The New Monasticism, as it is being called, often consists of households of Christian men and women planted in dying inner-city communities within their home country, attempting to live the Christian ideal among their neighbors, drawing the lost, poor and broken to themselves. They resemble more the cloistered order. The new friars, on the other hand, have something of the spirit of mission-driven monks and nuns in them, leaving their mother country and moving to those parts of the world where little is known about Jesus.

Marginal. Finally, these movements were marginal.

This is true in two respects: they were on the fringe of the mainstream church; and they sought to plant themselves among people who existed on the edges of society. Almost all of the movements discussed in The New Friars have been born out of a reaction to spiritual flabbiness in the broader church and a tendency to assimilate into a corrupt, power-hungry world.

In the process of pursuing a different kind of spiritual life, they often found company with those who were trapped outside the systems that kept the powerful powerful and the rich rich. They positioned themselves alongside social lepers, economic slaves and political malcontents on the world’s margins, and often found themselves on the margins of the church as a result.

It’s only in writing this review that I’ve particularly noticed the distinction he makes between the Monastic orders and Friar orders – and I don’t feel it matters tremendously, unless we want to be painfully rigid and formal… which I don’t!

Ben & Beth in StreetWhen we look at modern day UK inner city ministries like The Eden Network (see my friends Bill and Beth on the right): do they fit firmly in one box or the other? Not at all, but there is still something to learn from studying the historic differences.

Overall, I found it an inspiring, and thoroughly thoughtful book. There was tons of stuff looking at the spiritual, economic and self-perpetuating elements of poverty, and all of it kept my interest. I would recommend it to anyone on a similar journey to me and Katherine.

Even the appendices are useful, thought provoking and compellingly challenging. I will leave you with a final story, of Heather on an outreach trip to visit some friends in a brothel in Bolivia:

With tears in my own eyes, I had asked her to come with us. Begged her to leave. She stayed.

We had continued on, singing those same carols a dozen times more, receiving skeptical looks from bouncers and applause from drunken men.

The girls were quieter recipients, but in the weeks that followed we would hear gracias a hundred times or more.

Thank you. Thank you for remembering us.

And he does. He remembers her. He comes for her, to her, into the darkest of nights, into her darkest of rooms. He stands with her there and holds her hand. See, your Savior comes.

“It gets darker and darker, and then Jesus is born.”
Wendell Berry 

 

Take some Pudding home…

Thanks for all the friendly offers of a home for our dog. Pudding has been given a home over the next year, so please – no more offers, its heartbreaking having to keep saying no!

This is a heartfelt plea to see if anyone would be able to provide a home for our dog Pudding over the next year.

Myself, Katherine and our children are all off to South Africa from the end of August until July, working in a hospital, and trying to avoid being eaten by hippos.

Unfortunately, its too difficult and expensive to take our two lovely dogs with us for this period. Hezebelle, our 8 year old collie, has a temporary home with a friend for 11 months, so we just need somebody who would like to support our work over this year… by looking after a slightly annoying Labrador.

IMGP1455Pudding is 6. She is half collie, half Labrador, and 75% moron.

She plays well with children, and other dogs – there might be a settling in period for a day or two with dogs – she loves to be with people and animals.

She is a scaredycat – we have chickens, its funny to watch her run away from them round the garden. If you don’t have a chicken, we can lend you one. She will bark at your front door, but she shuts up pretty quickly, and there’s no aggression in her, she’s just saying “OH NO, THERE’S SOMEONE AT THE DOOR?!”.

She is fully housetrained. That said, she is still an animal, and she is known to eat ridiculous things like sticks and frogs, so I can’t guarantee that you won’t have one or two accidents in 11 months – but it shouldn’t be more than that.

She is a food lover. She will eat anything you offer her – and the occasional poorly guarded thing that you don’t – but she is reasonably well behaved. For example, if you put cake on a table and said “Pudding, do not eat that cake!”, you can be pretty sure the cake is fine. If you put a tub of butter on a chair, and just wander away… there’s a reason she is called Pudding. We will pay for her food whilst we are away.

She is lazy. She is happy with 5 walks a day, but she also manages with 2 a week. Half the time we have to call 3 times to wake her up in the morning to go out. She will likely not even notice if you leave her alone for the majority of the day at work, and has been threatening to become wider than she is tall ever since we got her.

She is a much loved part of our family, and I’m confident that she would settle into yours too. If you think this is something you would be able to take on, please give us a call, an email, or whatever. In looking after her, you’d be supporting a young family as they go on mission to help those in need in Africa.

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Snakebites and sad goodbyes

dhThese notes are about the CMF Developing Health Course 2014.

The focus of today is Dermatology. I made notes on the whole course in 2012 – you can read about this day here.

Each day I’m just going to write about things that impacted me, and things I need to read later…

A final morning chapel followed our joyful late night escapades last night, with a combination of Amazing Grace and We Are Marching to get a bit of the African clapping vibe working. The photo below is from earlier in the week, but since its the last day today, it seems appropriate to share it…

Beautiful_photo_DHC_2014

Dermatology

Clare Fuller showed us lots of very interesting graphs. Dermatology complaints are known to under present, be poorly treated and lead to people avoiding healthcare for other important issues.

In some studies, more than 60% of Dermatological prescriptions were inappropriate in a Developing world setting.

Also, distance effects health seeking behaviour in Dermatology more than other conditions: if there is a clinic within 1km, people attend with their fever, their pain, their rashes. If the clinic is 10km away, they will only go with their fever or pain, according to one study.

Apparently 10-20% of children with scabies will still have haematuria 10 years later! That’s terrifying, and only something that’s recently coming to light.

Skin lightening products

Using topical steroids for skin lightening leads to low birth weight and vaginal bleeding in pregnancy.

Generally dangerous

Cutaneous bacterial infections

Very common in the tropics, can be difficult to identify which one in particular.

Treating cutaneous bacterial infections

  1. Wash skin – clean water, disinfectants
  2. Remove crusts, debris, necrotic tissue
  3. Topical anti-inflammatory/anti-biotics, honey, etc.
  4. Oral antibiotics

Eczema

Acqeous cream should not be left on the skin – can inhibit barrier function.

Otherwise the greasier the better.

Snakebites

Approach will vary depending what snakes you have in your area.

I saw a snake on my balcony, and was concerned, so asked a colleague what to do.

Their response, “Have you tried the exposure test?

“What is that?“, she replied.

Let it bite you, and see what happens

Fond goodbyes

I was feeling desperately sad by the end of the day, but it was time to say goodbye to everyone. I got bullied into starting a Developing Health 2014 facebook group, so feel free to join if you came along – it’d be great to stay in touch.

Thanks to everyone who came along, everyone who donated their time to teach, and the course organisers: I’ll be processing everything I’ve learnt for months…

Ladies, feet washing and goodbye curry

dhThese notes are about the CMF Developing Health Course 2014.

The focus of today is More Women’s Health. I made notes on the whole course in 2012 – you can read about this day here.

Each day I’m just going to write about things that impacted me, and things I need to read later…

Cross Cultural Care

Mary Hopper delivered a talk that usually marks part of a 30 hour course over 6 weeks. In 55 minutes.

Your race is a constant.
Your culture constantly changes.

She recommended reading a book called “Desert Flower”, by Waris Dirie.

She mentioned that simple things like Dermatology books rarely have pigmented skin, making medicine itself culturally inaccessible, but then Marli emailed me an African Skin Guide, which is not added to my ridiculous pile of things I need to read…

Labour and Obstetrics

A maternity dashboard sounds like an excellent way of keeping track of statistics and aiming to improve them across a whole hospital.

We had lots of very useful workshops, which included resolving a shoulder dystocia, and delivering a breach. I also had some great one-on-one tuition from Julie-Rachel, a midwife working in Zambia, who invited all of us to stay out there – she has ridden on an elephant! I definitely want to ride on an elephant, so now I just need to persuade Katherine that the experience is worth 20 hours or so of travelling…

Final evening

jesus-washing-disciples-feet-by-taklaIt being the last evening before the end of the course, there was a goodbye service in the chapel, where Ian spoke about Ephesians 1 again, and talked about the big transformation present in so many biblical lessons: imagining a U shape, starting high, dropping low, coming high. Jesus is Lord, coming down to mankind, dying an ignoble death, then rising up again.

He ended with John 13:

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.

No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.

Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!

Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

John 13:3-17

Last time I was on the course, I felt a calling to wash everyone’s feet. This time we did it again, myself, Marli and Jayde. As always, it was an intimate, humbling experience – an honour for all of us.

CURRY!

Several of us had wanted to go out for an evening meal, but Vicky was sad about people leaving on the very last night: we compromised with an Indian takeaway. In the largest order I’ve ever made, we ordered £120 of curries, rice, poppadums and naan breads. We pulled together 3 tables, and sat round them, laughing, sharing, and trying not to think about saying goodbye.

After the food was finished, we spent some good old fashioned time singing Irish songs, National Anthems of every country round the table (we didn’t do all 11 verses of the Norwegian one), reading out poetry and spoken word, and telling jokes.

Worship in the dark

By around 10, a small group of us – Me, Jayde, Marli, Jakob, Ingvlid, Richard (until his wife summoned him away) – headed to the chapel, where we started playing worship songs. We turned off the lights, with just a small torch lighting up the music on the piano, and stayed together for hours.

It was a peaceful end to the course, and an honour to share with friends who were strangers to me 2 weeks ago. Around 1am, we prayed for each other, and headed for bed.

I stupidly also chose this time to pack, but because I’m a disorganised man, it only took me about 5 minutes to shove everything randomly into bags

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Names Not Numbers charity - because individuals matter! MedRevise - free medicine revision for student doctors When Will I Be Sober? An alcohol sobriety calculator. Plenty of Room - The Lowry family and life.

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