Friday, 31 August 2012

The World in 1933

BFTF has been fascinated by the contents of a multi-volume 1933 Odhams Press publication entitled "The British Encyclopedia".

The volumes provide a glimpse into the the way the world looked at that time and BFTF thought you, gentle reader, might be interested to read a few extracts from some of the somtimes surprising, sometimes shocking, sometimes sad entries.

…In the London area the chief aerodromes are Croydon, Heston and Hendon..

…On account of his [Afghan ruler Dost Mohammad’s] dealings with the Russians the British resolved to dethrone him and restore Shah Shuja, a former ruler. In April 1839, a British army under Sir John Heane entered Afghanistan , occupied Kabul, and placed Shah Shuja on the throne, a force of 8000 being left to support the new sovereign…

…The Afghans soon organised a widespread insurrection, which came to a head on 2nd Nov 1841 when Burnes [assistant envoy] and a number of British officers, besides women and children, were murdered… The other British leaders now made a treaty with the Afghans…agreeing to withdraw the forces from the country, while the Afghans were to furnish them with provisions and escort them from the country…

…On 6th Jan 1842 the British began left Kabul and began their most disastrous retreat. The cold was intense, they had almost no food - for the treacherous Afghans did not fulfil their promises - and day after day were assailed by bodies of the enemy. By the 13th, 26,000 persons, including camp-followers, women and children, were destroyed…only one man, Dr Brydon, reached Jalalabad which, along with Kanadahar, was still held by the British…

In a few months Gen Pollock, with a fresh army from India, retook Kabul and soon finished the war…Dost Mohammed again obtained the throne of Kabul and acquired extensive power in Afghanistan. He joined with the Sikhs against the British and afterwards made an offensive and defensive alliance with the latter. He died in 1863, having nominated his son Shere Ali his successor.

Shere Ali entered into friendly relations with the British, but in 1878, having repulsed a British envoy and refused to receive a British mission (a Russian mission being meantime at his court), was was declared against him and the British troops entered Afghanistan.[resulting in a treaty giving the British control of Afghanistan’s foreign policy]

In 1921 Britain recognised the independence of Afghanistan…

The great races of which the population of Africa mainly consists are the Eastern Hamites, the Semites, the Negroes and the Bantus…

…In religion a great proportion of the inhabitants are heathens of the lowest type; Mohammedanism numbers a large number of adherents in North Africa and is rapidly spreading in the Sudan; Christianity prevails only among the Copts, the Abyssinians and the natives of Madagascar…

…Great areas in Africa have been apportioned among the European Powers as protectorates of spheres of influence…

Aga Khan
...The hereditary chief of the Ismaillite sect of the Mohammedans. His real name was Hassna Ali Shan and he was born in 1800. [He] settled in India and supported the British in their wars against the Sikhs and the Afghans. He died in 1881. His grandson, Aga Khan III rendered great service to Britain during the Great War…

Alexandrian Library

..The largest and most famous of all the ancient collections of books, founded by Ptolemy Sotor (d.283BC), King of Egypt…at its most flourishing period it is said to have numbered 700,000 volumes, accommodated in two different buildings…

[one collection] was burned during Julius Caesar’s siege of the city..

[the other collection existed until the building housing it] was gutted (A.D 391) by a fanatical crowd of Christians and its literary treasures destroyed or scattered.

The library was again accumulated but was burned by the Arabs when they captured the city under Caliph Omar in 641. Amru, the captain of the Caliphs army, would have been willing to spare the library, but Omar is said to have disposed of the matter in the famous words “If these writings of the Greeks agree with the Koran they are useless; if they disagree they are pernicious and ought to be destroyed”. This story, however, which rests solely on the authority of Abulfaragius, a writer who lived six centuries later, is now generally discredited.

…The Moors and the Jews, who had been driven out of Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella at the end of the 15th century, settled in large numbers in Algeria and revenged themselves on their persecutors by the practice of piracy…

[Entry relates solely to people who were newcomers to a country and did not have full citizenship rights - no mention of alien as meaning “from another plantet”]

From the Arabic “al-qali”, the ashes of the plant from which soda was first obtained.

…the Alkalis may be regarded as water in which part of the Hydrogen is replaced by a metallic radical [possibly the best explanation of the term BFTF has ever read!]

The name given in Egypt to a class of girls whose profession is to sing for the amusement of the upper classes, as distinguished from the “Gawasi” who perform before the lower classes. They perform at feasts and other entertainments…

Alpha particle
…their charge is twice that of an electron and their mass is four times that of a hydrogen atom…

…The American Indians [are] now forming a very small portion of the population , especially in N. America, where the white population has almost exterminated them.

These people [American Indians] are divided into branches, some of which have displayed a considerable aptitude for civilisation. When the Europeans became aquainted with the new World [which was] inhabited by populations that had made great advances in many things that pertain to civilised life, dwelling in large and well built cities under a settled form of government.

…The scir-gerefa (shire-reeve or sheriff) was an important functionary...

…of the existing races the aboriginal Australian is much the most primitive and represents the survival of the earliest type of homo-sapiens…

…The movement assumed vast proportions about 1880 and manifested itself in various countries, especially Russia, Austria-Hungary, Germany , Rumania and France...

…In western Russia there was a great outburst against the Jews in 1881 in which men, women and children were slaughtered The Government of the Tsar , by its anti-Jewish policy, may be said to have sanctioned this murderous outbreak…

…in 1933 an organised anti-semite campaign on a large scale was carried out in Germany under the leadership of Herr Adolf Hitler…

…The Wahabis appeared towards the end of the eighteenth century and took an important part in the political affairs of Arabia, but their progress was interrupted by Mohammed Ali Pasha of Egypt and they suffered a complete defeat by Ibrahim Pasha…

[Arabia returned to Turkish control around 1840]

…On 9th June 1916, the Grand Shereef of Mecca declared himself independent of the Turkish government and an Arab revolt spread rapidly. The Grand Shereef Hussein then announced to the Muslim world that the Shereefate of Mecca was henceforth independent and on 4th Nov 1916 he had himself formally proclaimed King, or Sultan, of Arabia…

…Their features are well cut, the nose straight, the forehead high. They are naturally active, intelligent and courteous; and their character is marked by temperance, bravery and hospitality…

…An urban district and market town of England, Nottinghamshire, 4 miles north east of Nottingham, with lace and hosiery manufactures etc. It has a church built in the twelfth century, and a tower dating from the fifteenth century and restored. Pop (1931) 14,470

…A remarkable and highly useful mineral. . . in modern times it has been manufactured into incombustible cloth, gloves, felt , paper etc. [No mention of danger Asbestos poses to the lungs]

…It seldom proves fatal except as inducing dropsy, consumption etc…

…The view held at present is that the atom consists of a massive central nucleus of positive electricity, round which minute charges of negative electricity, called electrons, revolve at enormous speeds …

… The doctrines of a Mohammedan sect whose headquarters are in Persia, founded by Seyd Ali Mohammed in 1844...

...the morality of the sect is pure and cheerful, and it shows great advancement in the treatmetn of women...

...A schism divided the followers of Babism inot tow sects, Bahais and Ezelis. The former have carried on an active propaganda in America.

Baghdad Railway
A railway starting at Konia in Asia Minor...and intended to run to Baghdad and Koweit on the Persian Gulf... German capital was used throughout, and the line was part of the Berlin-Balkan-Baghdad scheme which was to provide Germany with a safe means of transport to India.

A Russian port on the western shore of the Caspian...the naptha of petroleum springs of Baku have long been known; and the field of fire, so called from emitting inflammable gases, has long been a place of pilgrimage with the Guebres or Fire-Worshippers.

Balkan War
The First Balkan War (Oct.1912 - May 1913) was the effort of thge Balkan League to dismember Turkey in Europe. Each member of the League [Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro and Greece[ was alloted a definite strategic objective, and each gained a considerable measure of success.

...Its prosperity is due to the mines of red hematite iron-ore which abound in the district...It has numerous blast-furnesses and one of the largest Bessemer steel works in the world.

A Mohammedan people of Arab race inhabiting chiefly the deserts of Arabia, Syrai, Egypt and North Africa...

...They lead a nomadic existence...varying the monotomy of pastoral life by rading each other and plundering unprotected travellers...

...they are lax in morals and unreliable even in respect of the code of honour attributed to them...

A light woollen fabric made of wool of the natural colour.

A town...with large cotton mills, foundries etc, and in the neighbourhood numerous collieries.

The birthplace of Christ; a small place in Palestine, 5 miles south from Jerusalem..

A great manufacturing city of England, situated on the small river Rhea…It is the principal seat of the hardware manufacture of Britain, producing metal articles of all kinds from pins to steam engines. It manufactures fire-arms in great quantites, swords, jewellery, buttons, tools ,stee-pens, locks, lamps, bedsteads, gas-fittings, sewing-machines, articles of papier-mache, railway carriages etc. The quantity of solid gold and silver plate manufactured is large and the consumption of these metals in electro-plating is very great. Japanning, glass manufacturing and glass-staining or painting form important branches of industry as also does the manufacture of chemicals. At Soho and Smethwick in the vicinity of the town were the famous works founded by Boulton and Watt, who there manufactured the very first steam-engines, where gas was first used, plating perfected and numerous novel applications tried and experiments made…

A town of the United States, near the centre of Alabama, a great seat of the iron trade, having iron-ore, coal and limestone in abundance at hand, so that its blast furnaces, foundries and other works are readily supplied. It has grown up since 1880. Pop. 259,678

Birth Control
…In recent years, the ideal of quality of population rather than quantity has become general; and birth control has been a keenly discussed subject…Dr Marie Stopes is its chief exponent. A medical committee has recommended that no married person should be hindered from obtaining knowledge of contraceptive methods ; while, on the other hand, the Roman Catholic Church denounced all such practices as definitely sinful.

…although the English Law still embodies the tradition which treats blasphemy as a sin, in practice it treats it as an offence against the peace and good order of society. ..

Blast Furnace
[mentions the following improvements : use of hot gas (James B Nielson, 1828, Glasgow); drying of the air (Gayley, 1905, Pittsburg, output inc by 25%, fuel consumption reduced by 20%)

An attack on a locality by explosive missiles from land sea or air. A bombardment is one of the recognised and legitimate methods of making war but, by the Laws and Customs of War as laid down by the Hauge Convention of 1907, its use is confined to the case of defended localities. Fortifications are not necessary to constitute a defended locality, the mere presence of troops is sufficient . A bombardment of an undefended town or locality by any means whatsoever is forbidden. The only apparent exception to this is the case of a naval bombardment, which may be resorted to to coerce an undefended town if such town refuses to comply with requisitions for supplies legitimately made under the Laws and Customs of War...

[Manufactures section] …Takin these in order of importance, we begin with cotton. In this branch of industry Great Britain still remains a long way ahead of other countries… The total value of the cotton goods (including yarn) exported in 1932 was £62, 845,000.

[Wool] is next in importance to that of cotton and draws large for its supplies on other countries, particularly the Australian colonies. The total value of the woollen goods (including yarn) exported in 1932 was £24.004,000.

[Linen and artificial silk also mentioned as being important] …Amongst the most important [of other industries] are the trades connected with iron and steel and other metals, and the manufacture of all kinds of machinery (giving in 1934 a total export of £33,636,000)

[Paper manufacturer and Ship-building also mentioned as being important]

[Commerce section]..It has been generally recognised that the Empire can be self-supporting and for this reason such organisations as the Empire Marketing Board have spared no efforts to foster Imperial trade.

…In his mildness, his readiness to overlook insults, his zeal, chastity and simplicity of life, he was not unlike St Francis of Assisi…

…Although now long banished from Hindustan by the persecutions of the Brahmin, Budddhism prevails in Ceylon, Burmah, Siam, Annam, Tibet, Mongolia, China, Java and Japan…

A fatty substance produced from milk, especially cow’s milk. When the milk is first drawn, this fatty matter is disseminated through it in minute clear globules enclosed in membranous sacs or bags which in a short time rise to the surface and form cream. The cream is then skimmed off to undergo the operation of churning, which by rupturing the sacs effects a separation of the cream into a solid called butter and a liquid called butter-milk, the latter consisting of whey and other caseous matter…the butter, being formed into lumps, is washed till all the butter-milk has been expelled.

…One of the finest churches is St Pierre [built in 1308]… there is a public library with over 100,000volumes.

In Mohemmedan mythology, a mountain, which surrounds the whole earth as a hedge encloses a field. Its foundation is the stone Sakharal, which is an emerald, whose reflection gives the sky its tints.

…The most celebrated of the Abbaside caliphs of Baghdad was Haroun al Rashid (Aaron the Just), 786-808, under whom learning, science and art were in a flourishing state. Subsequently the Muslim kingdom lost province after province and the temporal authority of Baghdad was destroyed.

… the most brilliant period of the Western Caliphate was in the ninth and tenth centuries, when literature, science and art were in more flourishing condition than anywhere else in Europe…

[this entry deals only with camouflage against observation from the air, no mention of camouflage clothing etc]

Capital Punishment
Formerly in Great Britain, as in many other countries, it was the ordinary form of punishment for felonies of all kinds, but a more accurate knowledge of the nature and remedies of crime; a more discriminating sense of degrees in criminality, and an increased regard for human life have all combined to restrict, if not to abolish, the employment of the penalty of death.

…The work of practical reform initiated in 1770 by Sir William Meredith…but the modifications secured [by proposed bills] were few, owing to the opposition of the House of Lords, which continued down to 1832 to oppose all attempts at criminal law reform…

[Reports an authoritative statement given to the House of Commons in May 1921 regarding WW1 casualties : Great Britain(743,702 dead, 1,693,262 wounded); India(61,398 dead, 70,859 wounded); Australia(59,330 dead, 152,171 wounded); Canada(56,625 dead, 149,732 wounded)]

Catholic Emancipation
…[ In 18th century Ireland, Roman Catholics] were deprived of the guardianship of their children…

Cetacea [Whales and dolphins]
…The blood vessels in these animals break up into extensive plexuses or networks, in which a large amount of oxygenated blood is delayed, and they are thus enabled to remain a considerable time under water. Injury to these dilated vessels leads to profuse hemorrhage, and hence the whale is killed by the comparatively trifling wound of the harpoon…

…these substances, by union of which all the different sorts of known matter are built up, are about 80 in number and are called chemical elements.

…the recent work of J.J. Thompson and others indicates [that] these atoms are themselves complex and are built up of positive and negative electrons. According to this conception the atoms of all elements are formed of the same material - these electrons - but in different quantities and it is thus not inconceivable that one element should be transformed into another…

…An electrical theory of the nature of atoms, based on the properties of electrons, has made great progress in recent years. According to the theory, the mass of an atom is derived from a nucleus which is made up of some whole number of elementary nuclei, all perfectly alike.

In 1880 its population was 503,185; in 1930 it had increased to 3,376,438.

Child Labour Regulation
…It has been increasingly realised how bad are the after effects of employing young children in factories and workshops…

…The international protection of children in industry formed an important subject of consideration at the Conference held at Washington in Oct 1919 under the League of Nations, when recommendations were made to the several nations of the League for levelling up the legislation of the more backward nations to a common minimum standard…

…In 1920, in Great Britain, the Women, Young Persons and Children (Employment) Act was passed. It made it illegal to any child under the age of 14 to be employed in any industrial undertaking other than an undertaking in which only members of the same family are employed…The Act does not apply to domestic service, agriculture of transport by hand…

Children’s Games
The study of children’s games is an important branch of folk-lore. These games are historically valuable on account of their derivation from the ancient ceremonies and religious rites inseparable from every great occasion in the lives of our ancestors.

…[Line Singing Games] are contestant in character and consist of two lines of players, representing rival tribes or villages which alternately advance and retreat before each other. “Nuts in May” is a popular example of the line game and preserves the ancient custom of marriage by capture, the boy, or prospective husband, advancing to carry off the girl for his wife.

…[Circle Singing Games] are the survivals of those occasions when the people of one community met to celebrate some special local event, such as a marriage, seed-time or harvest. “Oats and Beans and Barley” belong to this time and depicts the ceremonies of seed-time combined with marriage customs. “Kiss in the Ring” is also a circle game representing an early form of marriage by choice.

In bodily strength they [Chinese] are far inferior to Europeans, but superior to most Asiatics, and their great assuidity and patient endurance of fatigue make them valuable as labourers. They are considered to be deficient in courage. In their moral qualities there is much that is amiable. They are strongly attached to their homes, hold age in respect, toil hard for the support of their families…In the great mass these qualities are counterbalanced, or rather supplanted,, by numerous vices - treachery, lying and various others.

In the western parts Mohammedanism has many followers, estimated at 20,000,000.

[on trade:]…a second embassy in 1816, by Lord Amherst, was treated with insolence ; and subsequently the treatment of British merchants became such that a collision was inevitable. In 1840 the British, on being refused redress for injuries, proceeded to hostilities, and a treaty was concluded (1842) , by which the five ports…were opened to British merchants”

[after a definition of Christianity:] This comprehensive statement defines…its universalism, which differentiates it from Judaism and Islam, both of which remain national forms of theism.

The average length of the common cod is about 2.5 or 3 feet and the weight between 30 and 50lb, though sometimes cod are caught weighing three times this.

A town in south-west France…pop 6640.

…Reduced by a long course of oppression and misrule to a state of degradation, the number and national character of the Copts have greatly declined. At present they number about 700,000.

… the women go out with veiled faces, like the Moslem women…

The Copts are quiet and industrious, have a good capacity for business, but are servile and crafty.

National Dept
...The Bank of England was, indeed, founded upon a perpetual loan of £1,200,000 to the State [in. This loan was the first national dept...

National Debt
1694 : £1.2 million (initial national dept on formation of Bank of England)
1697 : £21.5 million
1713 : £52.0 million
1748 : £79.3 million
1763 : £138.3 million
1783 : £250.0 million
1814 : £742.5 million
1914 : £711 million
1919 : £8079 million

National Health and Unemployment Insurance
...The idea of State responsibility fo rrthe distress arising to the individual out of illness...grew very gradually in the British public mind...

In 1911, however, was passed an Act of Parliament which imposed...a State system of insurance...[This entry covered a rather impressive 4 pages]

...Another innnovation of this period [~1880] was a structural alteration whereby a ram took the place of the old-fashioned bow...and proved a frightful source of danger to consorts by aggravating the effects of accidental collision...

12 pages [regarding the invention of the underwater mine and torpedo] the great wars which followed vastly more loss was occasioned by underwater weapons than by the gun...

[worth noting that this entry was a very impressive 12 pages long!]

...Some astronomers think that the spiral nebulae may be external galsaxies of stars, or island universes comparable with our own, and at enormous distances from it, but others consider that they are subordinate parts of our universe, being star clusters too closely packed for telescopic resolution.

...A race of mankind probably indigenous to equatorial Africa. ..

...The typical negro is described as having a black skin, wooly or crisp hair...calves poorly developed and feet comparatively long...

...A sultanate of Central Arabia, inhabited by Wahabis. . . Ibn Saud, Sultan of Nejd, annexed Jebel Shammar and made captive the representative of the Ibn Rashid dynasty in 1921; andin 1924 he made war on the Hejaz and captured Mecca, the Sherifian capital. In Dec 1925 he entered Jidda and, on the abdication of ing Ali in the same month, became King of the Hejaz. A treaty embodying Britain's recognition of his complete independance was signed at Jidda in 1927...

[No entry, this particle was only discovered in 1932]...

...During the seventeenth century...the main barrier [to the printing of newspapers] was provided by the Licensing Laws, which forbade the setting up of manuscript in type without a license from the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Bishop of London, and not until 1695 was the Licensing Act finally abolished... the middle of the [18th] century the Stamp Act [a tax on newspapers] was made even more exacting... "taxes on knowledge" continued to be multiplied and by 1804 the Stamp Tax amounted to no less than 3 1/2 d per copy... [The Tax was abolished in 1855]

Northern Ireland
[Only ref to conflict there was: ] ...After the settlement of the Irish problems in 1922, boundary disputes between Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State continued. . .in 1925 Mr Baldwin intervened and a settlement was arrived at whereby no boundary alteration was made A commission to inNo entry, this particle was only discovered in 1932]...

...The chief mineral is coal. The soil is generally extemely fertile. . .The manufactures include lace, hosiery, machinery, silk and cotton spinning, bleaching, coal mining, iron adn brass founding, glove making etc...

Old Age Pensions was not until 1909 that the first statute providing for old age pensions came into force. . .the claimant must have reached seventy years of age...

...The habitual use of opium is most common in China...

Large quantities of opium used to be consumed in China. . .the use of opium was put down between 1906 and 1916. In 1917 the importation of opium into China ceased [no emntion of the British involvement in forcing China to take Opium as payment for silk etc)

A maritime country of the Mediterranean administered by Great Britain under mandate from the League of Nations, as a Jewish national home...

The predominant race is Musselman-Arabs, but the Jews are rapidly increasing, mainnly by immigration from Russia and Rumania...

The principal farm crops are wheat, barley, millet, tobacco, olives, melons and lentils. Sheep, goats and camels are raised...

Oranges (from the Jaffa district) are exceptionally thick skinned and are more suitable for transport than any other competitive oranges on the market. The best are sent to Liverpool, which receives 2/3 of the crop. Egypt and Turkey take the remainder. Each orange crop is worth £2,000,000.

The ostensible aim of the British Government, in accordance with the Balfour Declaration, is to make Palestine the Jewish national home without prejudicing the non-Jewish communities within the mandate area.

Population (census 1922), 757,182(590,890 of Mohammedan belief, 83,793 Jews, 73,024 Christians, 7028 Druses, and 163 Samaritans)

The Future of Palestine.-Much has been said about the development of Palestine, its future prospects and the probable effects of concentrating a small number of Jews in a territory that is overwhelmingly Muslim..

The Jew accepts Moses but rejects Christ and Mahomet; the Christian accepts both Moses and Christ but not Mohamet; and the Mahommedan accepts all three, Mahomet, Christ and Moses, as prophets, and in virtue of such a recognition he would appear to have a paramount right to th custody of the holy place of civilisation.

An Ottoman political ideal having as its basis the reunion of of the scattered religious sects and political divisions of Islam under one head, for the resistance of further encroachment by European powers, and for the ousting of European rulers from Asia and Africa. This ideal finds expression in Arabic by a phrase Ittihad al-Islam, meaning "Islamic Union" or Pan-Islamism, and was first mentioned in English in the Times of 19th Jan. 1882.

The Ottoman interpretation of the movement was simply a confederation of Muslim peoples on German lines and under Turkish hegemony. 1911 the Young Turk Committee...were canvassing all Muslim states under European control on behalf of the Pan-Islamic doctrine, urging all good Mohammedans to achnowledge the Sultan of Turkey as their legitimate, and emphasising the oriental fact "religion first, nationality second".

The Persian was urged to "remember he was a Muslim and to forget he was a Shiite"

Under a similar scheme the smaller sects of Islam (Ismailis, Zaidis, etc) which rendered any system of unification impracticable, were to be wiped out and their adherents incorporated with the break bulk of Muslims.

With the advent of the European War, events moved rapidly. Turkey subordinated her foeign policy to [Germany] and went to war claiming a jihad that nobody would either countenence or join. The keeper of the Holy Places, the Sherif of Mecca, entered on the British side in 1916 and in doing so he damned forever the Turkish cause in the eyes of the already disgusted and Turk-ridden Arabs. . .

At the end of the war...the general shrinking of Turkish power, extent and prestige gave Pan-Islamism a blow from which in all probability it will never recover.


All of BFTF's recipes brought together in one tasty post!

250g biccies
Whilst the rest of this blog is, admittedly, a bit "do-gooder", the recipes section is here for a very different reason - BFTF appears to be utterly incapable of keeping track of the recipes that it has tried, especially the ones that seemed to work.

So putting them here will hopefully ensure that BFTF can find them when required.

I suppose you could call it "Cloud Cookery". . .

250g biccies

250g butter (British)
250g brown sugar (Fairtrade, if possible)
250g plain flour
200g mixed peel (the sticky kind in tubs, ASDA own-brand seems to work best)
2 eggs, beaten (Free Range - there is no excuse for buying anything else)

Place butter and sugar in mixing bowl and mix together (10-20 seconds in the microwave may help if the butter is straight from the fridge and it is a cold day)

Add Flour and beaten eggs, mix until uniform.

Add Mixed Peel (Avoid the syruppy bits at the bottom of the tub, they can make the biccies over-sweet)

Pre-heat oven to 180C

Use fairy-cake baking trays (and paper fairy-cake cases), place about a heaped teaspoon worth of mix in each tray location. The amounts above should give about 48 biccies.

Place in oven and cook for about 19mins (until nicely browned on top).

Remove from oven, take cases out of tray and allow to cool for 5-15mins then remove cases and your biccies are ready.

Eat within a few days.

Without wishing to blow my own trumpet too much, it has to be said that all feedback thus far suggests that these biccies are rather good.

On the other hand, the butter content means that each one probably takes weeks off your lifespan, so I guess it's a bit swings and roundabouts.

A plate of 250g biccies and mini-muffins

The dish rates as "MEDIUM" on the BFTF Washing Up Index

Mini Muffins
500ml milk (semi skimmed of full fat)
250ml oil (vegetable or sunflower)
250g brown sugar (Fairtrade, if possible)
2 eggs, beaten (Free Range - there is no excuse for buying anything else)

500g self-raising flour
250g chopped fairtrade milk chocolate (or chopped glace cherries, or raisins)

Place milk, oil, sugar and eggs in a bowl and stir together for a couple of minutes.

Add Flour and mix until no free flour remaining. DO NOT OVERMIX, the mix should remain lumpy

Add Chopped chocolate and mix for about 30seconds.

Pre-heat oven to 200C

Use fairy-cake baking trays (and paper fairy-cake cases), fill cases about 80% full. The amounts above should give about 38 mini-muffins (which is annoyingly 2 more than the spaces in three standard trays)

Place in oven and cook for about 20mins (until nicely browned on top).

Remove from oven, take cases out of tray and allow to cool for 5-15mins then remove cases and your mini-muffins are ready.

Eat within a few days.

BFTF usually makes these in combination with 250g biccies. For some reason, blokes seem to prefer the muffins while the biccies seem to be a hit with the sisters. Don't know what is going on there, but there you go. Incidentally, you can use the same approach as described here (admittedly for tuna) when buying fairtrade chocolate.
A plate of mini-muffins and 250g biccies

The dish rates as "MEDIUM" on the BFTF Washing Up Index

Plum Compote

BFTF has always been interested in the idea of making jam, but has been less keen on the perceived need for paraphanelia such as muslin filters, airtight jars and gelling agents. All sounds a bit technical.

But then an auntie(see note at end of post) down the road presented the BFTF household with a big bag of plums from her plum tree. There were too many to eat so a preserve of some kind was in order.

A work colleague recommended a recipe for a Plum Compote (a compote is basically a runny jam) and this has proved very successful. . .

12 ripe(ish) plums
1/2 cup sugar (fairtrade is good)
1/2 cup water

Cut plums into quarters. Remove and discard stones (they contain a toxic chemical)

Bung everything into a saucepan and bring to a strong simmer

Keep simmering for 20 minutes, longer if you want a thicker result.

Allow to cool, put in a plastic container and freeze. Scoop out spoonfulls from frozen whenever required.

This compote is "the business" when added to vanilla ice cream. .

This recipe rates as "EASY" on the BFTF Washing Up Index
Potato Dauphinoise

BFTF is a fan of potatoes - not least because they are so spectacularly easy to cook that even BFTF can do it without making a mistake.

Having said that, BFTF was wondering about new ways to cook potatoes recently and became aware of this French recipe (don't ask how because BFTF has no idea, although it may have been featured on a Jamie Oliver programme). It's widely available on the Internet and seems to come in two flavours (as it were)
a) Pre-boil the potatoes (about 40mins cooking time)
b) Make everything in one shot (about 90mins cooking time)
It may come as no surprise that it is version (a) that is described here. . .

1-5-2.5kg potatoes (cut into 2-3mm slices)
500g double cream
500g full fat milk
250g grated cheese (mature cheddar is good)
1 chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic paste

Bung everything (except the cheese) in a large pan and bring to a gentle simmer.

Stir gently and frequently until potatoes almost cooked, about 15mins

Transfer to greased oven dish and add cheese (either in alternate layers with the potatoes or all on top)

Place in a pre-heated oven at 200C and cook for a further 15-25mins


This dish goes really well with Easy Mackerel Curry

There are two types of people in this world,
the sensible ones who like their Potato Dauphinoise with a crispy cheese skin. .  . .

. .  . and the weirdos who don't !

This dish is rated as "VERY HARD" on the BFTF Washing Up Index, so don't say you weren't warned. . . .

Easy Mackerel Curry

Sadly, BFTF is too incompetent to cook lamb or mutton successfully, and feels uneasy about the conditions that chickens are reared in so shies away from that as a dish. As dal is also beyond BFTF's abilities that leaves fish as the only protein source that BFTF dare tackle (no pun intended).

Overfishing is a real issue worldwide, but one way can ensure you are buying fish that has been sustainably caught by buying products that are either Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified.

There are a number of posts on this blog relating to Fish and sustainability (see here and here).

With MSC certified mackerel being available in most supermarkets, this dish is an easy one to make

240g mackerel fillets in tomato sauce (i.e. two of the small rectangular "ring pull" cans)
1 chopped onion
200g peas or mixed veg
salt, pepper,
a little oil

Boil the peas/mixed veg for 4-6mins (NB you really don't need to add much water at all and less water equals less time to get to the boil)

Get the mackerel out of the cans and onto a plate, chop up the fillets a little

Fry the onion in the oil until nicely browned. While this is happening, drain the peas/mixed veg)

Once the onions are brown, add the mackerel and the peas/mixed veg. Give it a quick stir to calm things down.

Add the salt and pepper, give it a good mix.


Perhaps surprisingly, this dish makes a great sandwich filling and also goes well with Potato Dauphinoise

The dish rates as "EASY" on the BFTF Washing Up Index

Easy Pilchard Curry
Pilchards are a very economical fish to cook, and BFTF is using it increasingly in these tough economic times. From a sustainability point of view they get a rating of "2" on the 1-5 scale of sustainability at the good fish guide (where 1 is the most sustainably sourced) so should be ok from that perspective.

BFTF was wondering what to cook today and thought a combination of fish and peppers might work. Turns out that it certainly does!

some new potatoes
450g pilchards in tomato sauce
140g tomato puree
1 onion, chopped
a cereal bowls worth of chopped peppers*
a little oil
butter/spread (optional)
grated cheese (optional)

* : as in red/yellow/green peppers, not as in jalapeno - capiche?

a)Bung the potatoes in some boiling water and simmer for about 20mins

b)While they are boiling, make the curry as follows:
i) Remove spines from pilchards, discard the sauce they came in
ii) Fry onions in the oil until almost done
iii) Add the peppers and continue to fry for about 5mins
iv) Add the pilchards, tomato puree, salt, pepper
v) Give is a stir for a few minutes to sort itself out

c)Drain potatoes

d) Melt butter/spread

Serve by cutting potatoes in half and drizzling the melted butter/spread on them and sprinkling on the grated cheese.

If this was MasterChef, the dish would be called "Boiled new potatoes drizzled with an olive oil emulsion and a sprinkled with grated cheddar, accompanied by a stir-fry of South Asian Pilchards, Peppers and tomato concentre. Served with a garnish of cucumber and tomaoto discs".

The dish rates as "EASY" on the BFTF Washing Up Index

Kaama Salan
It's a taste sensation!

1 kg minced mutton
1 tin tomatoes
2 large onions
1.5 teaspoon Salt
1.0 teaspoon Red Chilli Powder
0.5 teaspoon Turmeric
0.5 teaspoon Garam Masala
2.0 teaspoon Zeera (Cumin seeds)
Some cooking oil

a) Bung everything except the oil into a pan, bring to the boil and it simmer for 20minutes, during this time, add a little water if required.
b) Increase the heat to evaporate most of the water then add some oil and gently fry for a further 20mins.
c) Serve.

The dish rates as "EASY" on the BFTF Washing Up Index

Easy tasty tomato sauce
3-4 onions, chopped
3 tins chopped tomatoes (slightly drained)
100-200g tomato puree
1.5 teaspoon Salt
1.5 teaspoon Black Pepper Powder
Some cooking oil
a) Bung the onions in a large frying pan and fry in a little oil until golden brown
b) Add chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, salt and pepper and continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated

In south asian cooking, there is no such thing as too much onion

Onions now ready for the tomatoes to be added

The final, flavoursome, sauce. Nice!

The dish rates as "EASY" on the BFTF Washing Up Index

Easy Rice and Sardines

Tin of Sardines
One firm tomato

NB: Sardines are not an overfished species, but many other species are. BFTF always looks for the MSC logo when buying Tuna, Cod, Mackeral etc. See here for a related post)

a) Boil the rice in your preferred manner.
b) Meanwhile take the bones out of the sardines and dice the tomato
c) Once the rice is cooked, transfer to a frying pan and add a little oil, the sardines and diced tomato
d) Fry for a few minutes.

Easy Rice and Sardines

The dish rates as "EASY" on the BFTF Washing Up Index

Easy Risotto with Fish and Peas

300g Risotto Rice
1 litre hot vegetable stock
Tinned oily fish (anchovies/sardines etc)
Peas (optional) One onion
Salt, pepper, oil

Worth knowing that So, anyway, you just need to know that while Sardines are not an overfished species, many other species are and you should look for the MSC logo when buying Tuna, Cod, Mackeral etc.

a) Fry the onions in a little oil until brown.
b) While onions are frying, boil the peas (in a separate pan, you muppet).
c) Add the fish to the oinons and fry for a couple more minutes
d) Add the stock and rice to the onions.
e) Simmer for 20-30mins, stirring occasionally.
f) Add the peas and stir in

This dish rates as "EASY" on the BFTF Washing Up Index, which has gotta be a good thing right?

Easy Risotto

Saturday, 18 August 2012

What will happen to Afghanistan in 2014?

Some time ago, BFTF was talking to someone from Stop The War about the situation in Afghanistan. He commented that he wanted the US troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. I asked him whether his priority was for the US troops to leave or for the Afghani people to have a better life, pointing out that the last time the US left Afghanistan to its own devices, the country quickly descended into civil war, with Muslim killing Muslim. His reply was so long as it was Afghan killing Afghan, it was their own problem to sort out.

His comment really disturbed BFTF, and came back to mind on reading an article by Patrick Bury, a former army Captain who served in Afghanistan, describes how the all sides are now gearing up for the withdrawal of NATO forces in 2014:

"Northern warlords are already re-arming in preparation for the coming civil war with the southern Pashtuns after NATO withdraws. ANSF troops occupying the ‘transitioned territories’ marked as green areas on headquarters’ maps are increasingly confined to their bases and will be more so when the West leaves."

This leaves the frightning possibility that Afghanistan will see a re-run of the 1990s when, according to Human Rights Watch :
"Battles for control of 1993-1995 destroyed at least one-third of the city, killed thousands of civilians, and drove a half million refugees to Pakistan. As party leaders frequently had only nominal control over their commanders, much of the northremained a patchwork of fiefdoms under the authority of various warlords. For civilians there was little security from murder, rape and extortion."

So far as BFTF can tell, not a single Muslim majority country did anything tangible to stop the killing - and it is reasonable to expect that they will be content to watch the killing from the sidelines again, no doubt whilst blaming everything on the US.

One would hope that the organisations in the UK that claim to represent British Muslims will also have thought about this issue and are making efforts to ensure that Afghanistan does not descend into a bloodbath come 2014.

So BFTF has asked the MCB and the ISB.

what their efforts were in this area (the MAB has no way, so far as BFTF can see, for ordinary people to email it).

Will let you know what feedback BFTF gets.

UPDATE : 9th Dec 2012:Having had no response, chased up the MCB again

UPDATE : 8th Jan 2013:Having had no response, chased up the MCB again

UPDATE : 3rd Mar 2013:Having had no response, chased up the MCB again

UPDATE : 29th Mar 2013:Having had no response, chased up the MCB again

UPDATE : 15th Apr 2013:Having had no response, and noting that a Commons Committee has said that civil war is likely in 2014, chased up the MCB again

UPDATE : 2nd Sep 2014:An Al-Jazeera article comments that :

"As the country's political crisis lingers and the US-led NATO forces begin to pull out, coordinated assaults by the Taliban - consisting of hundreds, sometimes even thousands of fighters - targeting strategic areas across the country...."

"...armed [local militia] groups, who operate in a culture of impunity, are growing increasingly volatile, creating more problems for civilians."

Asked the MCB what they were doing to stop Afghanistan falling into civil war, again.

UPDATE : Oct 2014: Emailed and Tweeted to MCB again...

What will be the fate of Afghanistans children
if the country desends into civil war again?
Image Source : Wikipedia

Monday, 13 August 2012

Guns Don't Kill People

Anyone with even the most peripheral interest in the spetacular gun crime statistics from the US, will have heard the pro-gun lobby's phrase "Guns don't kill people, people kill people"

Just saw a the most perfect antidote to this here, where one Ian Shields has commented :

"Cars don't go 100 miles per hour -- people do. But try it without a car, and see how that works out for ya."


Incidentally, this is what Wikipedia has to say on gun crime rates :

The incidence of homicides committed with a firearm in the US is much greater than most other advanced countries. In the United States in 2009 United Nations statistics record 3.0 intentional homicides committed with a firearm per 100,000 inhabitants; for comparison, the figure for the United Kingdom, with very restrictive firearm laws (handguns are totally prohibited, for example) was 0.07, about 40 times lower, and for Germany 0.2.

For another comparison, Switzerland has one of the highest gun ownership rates in the world, with somewhere between 1.2 to 3 million guns in the private residences of its approximately 8 million citizens. In 2006 there were 34 recorded murders or attempted murders with a gun, representing a firearm homicide rate of 1 per 250,000.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Great Comedy on Radio 4 at 6.30 weekdays

Those of you of a certain age will smile and recognise the catchphrase “It's Friday, it's five to five and it's Crackerjack” - words that were a part of BFTF’s childhood and in a somewhat tenuous link, these days BFTF often thinks “It’s a weekday, it’s 6.30, so its time for comedy on Radio 4” - perhaps UK broadcasting’s best kept secret.

Fags, Mags and Bags
To get a feel for the quality of what is on offer, check out this snippet of dialogue from an episode of “Fags, Mags and Bags”, a shows based on the characters who visit the Glasgow corner shop owned by RameshMahju. Here the characters are discussing snooker in episode 2 from series 4 of the show:

Mrs Begg (customer) : … there used to be a lot of personalities in snooker, didn’t there? All named after extreme weather formations ,weren’t they?

Dave(Ramesh’s friend) : That’s right. There was, what’s his name, Jimmy the Whirlwind White..

Mrs Begg: Alex The Hurricane Higgins

Alok (Ramesh’s son) : Was that it?

Mrs Begg : Er. . . I think so, yes.

Alok : That’s pants!

Ramesh : In my imagination there were more weather centric purveyors of snooker. Was the tornado never invoked?

Mrs Begg : Actually, d’you know what, I don’t think it was

Ramesh : They missed a trick there, one of the top 16 should have deployed that epithet in his nomenclature. Ray Reardon, for example, Ray “The Tornado” Reardon.

Dave : Two things Ramesh. One - Tornado Reardon’s not alliterative, it needs to be alliterative. And Two - He resembled Dracula, that was his thing. Well, that and being good at snooker, and being avuncular. He was on Jim’ll Fix It once, he came over very well. The point is, he was well catered for gimmick-wise. He didn’t need to jump on the coat tails of a weather formation.

Genius, utter genius.

But what is perhaps most appealing about comedy at 6.30 is not the conventional “sitcom” type shows, of which “Fags, Mags and Bags” is an example, but rather the more off beat shows where the listener has the chance to “get under the skin” of comedians.

Jimmy "Whirlwind" White wearing white socks. What can you say, it was the 80s.

I’ve never seen Star Wars
One example of this is “I’ve never seen Star Wars” in which, often comedic, guests are asked to partake of five experiences that they have never had before - it was fascinating to hear what Paul Daniels thought about swimming (which he gave 7/10) and the movie The Great Escape (9.5/10), particularly as the listener felt they were hearing the “real” Paul Daniels, not the artificial act that he puts on when he is in magician mode.

And sometimes the comments can be really informative, Ardal O'Hanlon’s comments on using Twitter were the first time that BFTF really understood what Twitter was all about, although Ardal’s rating of 2/10 shows that he was not really convinced.

Chain Reaction
This show, in which the guests become the interviewers for the next week, can sometimes be a bit of a damp squib, but when it works it really works. One particularly fascinating episode involved Steven Merchant interviewing Jarvis Cocker. In it , Jarvis commented on how his vision was very blurred without his glasses and that “ “Don’t you think it’s nice when you wake up in the morning and it’s a gentle way to wake up because everything is still nice and fuzzy and deciding when to put your glasses on is really like deciding “right, I’ve decided when the day is going to start and suddenly everything is in focus”.

Jarvis also recounted a tale from his past in which he had tried to impress a girl by climbing out of a window and then re-entering the building from the next window along - a feat that he had seen someone perform at a party previously. Unfortunately, the trick relied on the windows being of a “sash” variety - in contrast to the hinged windows at the girls flat. So Jarvis decided that he could still impress the girl but hanging off the window sill and then swinging over to the next window before entering.

Once he was out and dangling from the window, Jarvis quickly realised that he did not have enough strength to swing across, nor did he have enough strength to haul himself back in. As the girl was (unsurprisingly) unable to pull him I, he ended up letting go (apparently he felt this was a better option than losing his grip) and falling three stories to the ground.

The resulting injuries put him in hospital for six weeks and in a wheel chair for two months. On the plus side (such as there was) he commented that “I suddenly realised that all this stuff around me, in Sheffield, normal day to day things that I thought “ooh, that’s too normal to write about”, was actually the stuff that I was more interested in. And so I started to get a lot more specific and use place names and stuff like that in my writing.“

Sometimes artistic insight comes at the bottom of a three story fall.

My Teenage Diaries
This programme involves celebrities looking back on, and reading from, their teenage diaries. Whilst there are plenty of laughs, there are also some quite touching moments. Victoria Coren, for example, subsequently commented that “I remembered myself as a rather classy teenager, above all that trivial nonsense, thinking only about reading and writing and having a job. Apparently not. Those things held no interest at all. I thought of nothing but boys. I was as trivial as they come. I made the cast of Beverley Hills 90210 look like Nietzsche.”

Bleak Expectations
Written with a wonderful sense of the surreal, this show describes, in a Dickensian style, the exploits of Pip as he struggles to save himself and family from the evil Mr Gently Benevolent. BFTF’s favourite quote relates to an incident where someone was attacked with “a sharpened cushion”. Quality writing, pretty much all the way through.

Mark Steel’s in Town
This multi-award winning show takes Mark Steel, one of the most likeably comedians of recent times, to several small towns around the UK, At each location, Mark performs a stand-up routine that focuses on the people, history and character of that particular town.

In a testament to the ability of the British to laugh at themselves, the audience invariably laughs as Mark outlines the foibles of the area. Check out these clips to see what he is like in action, it really is a great mix of education and entertainment.

Lincolnshire, it's like a British version of Kansas

The News Quiz
A long time stalwart of the comedy slot, the News Quiz features comedians and other showbiz people commenting on recent news stories. Not least of these was the late great Linda Smith who, in response to Clive Anderson saying that they should not give (recently released) Geoffrey Archer the oxygen of publicity said "I'm not that happy with him having the oxygen of oxygen, actually,".

And a recent show included this gem of an anecdote from Roisin Conaty "When I was nine I had a very big argument with my Mum in Camden Town because she was reneging on a trip to Margate and I ran off and was picked up by the Police - who I then told my name was Lucy and I lived in Margate. And I got driven to Margate, my friends!"

Related content : Challenging the BBC on coverage of the NHS Bill

Image Sources : Jimmy White, Jarvis Cocker, Lincolnshire