Friday, 30 December 2011

Make your own low-fat curds and ricotta

I got this from a recipe for "low fat ricotta" at — but this is actually just what my ancestors would have called "curds" masquerading under a posh name.

The recipe is very quick and cheap to make, but as there are no preservatives it will only keep a day or two in fridge.

You need:

  • 4 pints 2% milk;
  • 2-4 tablespoons lemon juice or white vinegar.

Bring the milk to just to below boiling point, so that little bubbles are around all the edge but not a rolling boil.

Add the lemon juice or vinegar. Wait until curds form — this will happen quite quickly. Strain the curds through cheesecloth. When finished draining, squeeze the curds and wrap the cheesecloth fairly tightly around them. Put it in the fridge with a plate on top and a tin on top of that, to weigh it down. After about an hour it will be ready to use. You may now add salt if you wish.

Note that the liquid that you drained off is actually "whey", and had many uses in traditional British cooking. It is nutritious drunk as-is, and has been found to stimulate production of insulin in type-2 diabetics. Interestingly, whey is the actual start point for making real ricotta!

"Ricotta", you see, simply means "re-cooked", referring to the fact that the milk is cooked once to separate the curds (mostly casein) from the whey, and then again to separate out the ricotta (mostly albumin and globulin) from the remaining liquid. Without further ado, here's how to do it.

Allow the whey to become more acidic by fermentation, by letting it sit for 12–24 hours at room temperature. Now heat the acidified whey to near boiling point. The combination of low pH and high temperature denatures the remaining protein and causes it to precipitate out, forming a fine curd. Once cooled, separate the curd by passing it through a fine cloth — your cheesecloth will probably do, but a piece of muslin might be better. I don't have times or quantities for this part of the process, so experimentation is the order of the day!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The benefits of Pinot Noir

According to this article, Pinot Noir is "the grape of choice for the calorie-restricted set, rich in anti-aging resveratrol".

Friday, 9 December 2011

HP open-sources webOS

I have to confess I didn't see this one coming!

I was fairly sure that the most likely outcome of HP's strategic review of webOS under Meg Whitman would be to keep it for their "other" products — printers, basically. Second most likely was, I thought, a trade sale to someone who might want their own OS and had the resources — of talent, money and time — to really make something of it; Amazon perhaps (although that boat has likely sailed), Barnes and Noble maybe if they really had the cash (as it might provide a way out of their patent spat with Microsoft), or one of the Chinese telecom companies or tablet manufacturers.

But it was not to be. Presumably HP explored the possibility of a trade sale, and either found that there were no realistic buyers, or decided that there was a better option.

One fascinating possibility is that open sourcing webOS really is the best option. Certainly, this way HP can continue to use it for their non-personal equipment, so it's at least as good as the first possibility raised above. Second, if HP really do continue to invest time and energy developing it, as they apparently are promising to do then I'd be surprised if the likes of Barnes and Noble, Amazon, yes and even Samsung, HTC and (whisper it!) Nokia don't at least take a very careful look at what's suddenly become available. There's a whole class of Android manufacturers who are chafing at being beholden to Google, at having to take Google cloud apps and Google search services, at taking their turns to be picked for the year's Google phone — and it's the big boys who feel this most keenly, not the also rans.

One has to feel that maybe HP have found a revenue stream here. Not from the OS itself, because they've just open sourced it, and not from any associated cloud services or app store because HP don't have them, but from something that's becoming of looming importance now: patents. Dangle an open source webOS as bait, and then sell the patent protection necessary to actually use it to the manufacturers who pick it up. There's a distinct possibility of cramping Android's style with that strategy.

A lot depends of course, on the details. On the open source community's acceptance of webOS as a living platform for one thing: it has to be a project with lots of vitality, like the Linux kernel; it mustn't fall into navel-gazing and obscurantism, like Mozilla. On the specifics of what HP contributes and what it doesn't, for another: an OS kit that can't actually run on anything without substantial and undocumented porting effort would be of benefit to few.

Reading around the web, most pundits seem to favour the cynical interpretation: HP are just using the fig-leaf of open-source to dump webOS without actually having to admit that they are doing so. Comments (to these sorts of article) are a different matter though, with many people making the point that, irrespective of HP's own motivations, the future of webOS (or parts of it) may still be somewhat bright.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

If only the Germans...

More and more I'm coming across articles, or comments to articles, that essentially say, "in the short term, everything would be fine if only the Germans would backstop all the peripheral European debt", as though that were some kind of rational thing for the Germans to do. Usually such people are either hopeless lefties / Keynesians (essentially indistinguishable in this case), which goes some way to explaining why I see them more in comments to articles rather than in the articles themselves, or they are academics and no one really expects what they say to make very much sense in the real world (one is reminded of that Baudelaire poem about seagulls: Ses ailes de gĂ©ant l'empĂȘchent de marcher).

Now the short term, like the poor, will always be with you — but eventually the medium and long terms really do arrive! (Incidentally, why do Keynesians always love to justify their position by making that quote, you know the one: "In the long run, we are all dead"? Have none of them realised that KEYNES HAS BEEN DEAD FOR SIXTY-ODD YEARS?) It does no one any good, when the long run is hammering at your door with every sign of breaking it down, to continue to bleat that it would be more convenient to do something else in the short term.

The real reason that the Germans aren't going to guarantee peripheral European debt (unless Angela Merkel goes criminally irresponsible on them) is because they can think past the next sentence. Let's see how that thought process might go shall we? 1) the markets are going crazy because they think that the peripheral countries are likely to default, therefore 2) we should guarantee their debt ... and ... ? At this point, it's obvious that the commenter thinks that the peripheral countries will eventually pay the Germans back, at least that's the most charitable interpretation I can come up with. But if that were the case, the markets wouldn't be worried about it, at least not to the same degree. So what these people are really saying is that the Germans should guarantee the debt, so that it's Germany who'll be left shouldering the costs of the default and not the markets.

Because, and let's be clear about this, what would Germany get from the peripheral countries in return for their backstopping the debt? Promises of reform? Promises to do better in future? Well these countries are all still running current account deficits, they are already broke in fact if not in law, and they are only getting more broke. And they have already made promises, lots of them: that's what their bonds are, promises. And if they default, their promises literally aren't worth the paper they are written on.

As the calls for Germany to guarantee peripheral debt grow, so does my gut rumble that it may be Germany, not the peripheral countries, that exits the Euro.