On the ground at the DSEi arms fair [archive]

I wrote this article a long time ago for the Indy on Sunday, but the experience has stayed with me and I thought I’d put it up here. I attended the DSEi arms fair and it was an education.

If you walked around DSEi with squinted eyes, you might think it was a normal trade fair. There are bright colours, glossy brochures, models and video screens demonstrating the wares. But when the gaze comes into focus, the videos are of battlefields – even cluster bombs at the Israel Military Industries stand – and the models are of missiles and bombs, such as the 12ft Tomahawk cruise missile used by the Royal Navy, on sale from its US manufacturer, Raytheon.

UKIP on the campaign trail in Newark

I visited a UKIP rally for the Newark by-election: this is my report for the Spectator blog.

After the European elections, we can smell blood,’ said a cheerful UKIP activist, Scott Cross, from Hampshire. Former Tory activist Steve Stanbury, who defected to UKIP a few years ago, felt ‘exhilarated and invigorated for the first time in ages.’ And this exuberance was given full vent when their saviour Farage appeared. Entering the packed 500-plus crowd in Newark’s genteel Kelham Hall, the ovation was standing and the roar was deafening. The grand Victorian hall is usually used for weddings, but marital celebrations had nothing on the enthusiastic applause from UKIP’s blue rinse brigade yesterday, still buzzing from their triumph in the EU elections a week earlier.

The jellyfish man: an encounter with ‘liquid love’

What happens when we die? Some people have very vivid Near Death Experiences, which could provide an answer. This guy, Ian McCormack, felt that God was guiding him as he was on the brink of death after being stung by box jellyfish. When he asked for forgiveness, he found himself in the presence of Jesus.

There is a short version of his testimony, but I’d really recommend listening to the full version below. What really struck me is his description of being in the presence of God: ‘liquid love’.

Making free fuel from scrap paper. No more shredding!

I’ve found a great way to beat the fuel crisis, plus avoid all that boring shredding of bank statements and so on.

Turn all that scrap paper into fuel!

SAMSUNG

I bought a paper compressor, to make logs with. You have to soak the paper in water, then put it in the compressor, and press down hard. You then have to leave it to dry for a few weeks – so you need space that is reasonably warm. I dried them in the conservatory. The results are on the right in the picture above (the other paper is for kindling)

It’s only just got cold enough to try it out, so I’ve been burning them along with normal paper as kindling and a few coals in my wood-burning stove. The paper logs last almost as long as a normal log.

They call themselves ‘briquette makers’ and all sorts of strange things, but if you google eco paper log maker, you’ll probably find it.  I got mine second-hand on ebay so it was cheap too.

Salmon with nettles & roasted veg

I just had the most delicious meal… made with nettles!

I got about 15 nettle leaves (fairly young ones), washed and chopped, and put them into an aluminium foil parcel. I added about 3 tbsp. of white wine, a glug of olive oil, plus lots of salt n pepper, and then put a frozen salmon fillet on top. I rubbed about 2 tsp of English mustard into the top of the salmon, and wrapped it all up. I popped it into the oven with some potatoes, artichokes and parsnips roasting in thyme alongside it. The fish took about 20 mins (it was a small fillet) and the veg a bit longer… it was delicious!

Rhubarb and ginger jam recipe

I was round at some friends’ house, and they offered me some rhubarb. Now, I love Rhubarb and Ginger jam, and you can’t get it in the shops. So I jumped at the chance.

I adapted a recipe:

1.4kg Rhubarb, clean and trimmed
1.1kg sugar
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ginger paste
200ml water

Use a pan that won’t react – I used a proper jam making pot, but stainless steel will do. Stew rhubarb and ginger in water until soft. Add sugar and lemon juice. Bring to boil, boil rapidly for 15 mins or so. When it sets, put on a cold plate to see if a skin forms. Don’t overboil, though.

Meanwhile, sterilise jam jars by putting in oven on 150 degrees for about 10 mins. When jam is ready, spoon into jars. Put a wax disc over jam, ensuring all bubbles are out. Cover with wet cellophane and a jam cover, fix with a rubber band.

I must find a friend who can divide their plant, so I’ve got my own free supply in the garden!

Food from weeds: Nettle soup

I’ve always liked the idea of making food out of garden weeds – I don’t use weeds for compost so usually they end up on the rubbish tip. I’ve liked the idea, but have not been sure about the reality!

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So I decided to be brave and try out this recipe from Good Food magazine, using the very healthy looking nettles that are sprouting around my garden. I only got stung once when picking them. I picked about 200g, which was the leaves of about 8-10 tall nettles.

It’s basically a simple vegetable soup: potatoe, carrot, leek and onion with nettles. I used milk instead of cream. The recipe just wilts the nettles before blending but I wasn’t so brave, I gave it a good 5-10 minute boil after the nettles had gone in. Although I washed them thoroughly, I was a bit nervous about what had been in the garden. A bit silly, all our food ultimately comes from a garden, with bugs, animals and all sorts running around there.

The soup does not give off a very nice smell, to be honest. It tastes very similar to spinach soup, I think. Not bad at all!

Apparently nettles are nutritious – with vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. That’s pretty good for a weed…

English: Damselfly perched on nettle The wild ...

English: Damselfly perched on nettle The wild plants and weeds growing beside the path are visited by a great number of insects; the iridescent blue of a damselfly, taking a very short rest, is contrasting vividly with the green of the nettles. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)