Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Haunted Blackpool.....read it if you dare!

This is a wonderful book written by the founder of Supernatural Events, Stephen Mercer.
Drawing on historical and contemporary sources and containing many tales which have never before been published, HAUNTED BLACKPOOL will delight every one interested in the paranormal.

Based in Blackpool, Supernatural Events presents amazing experiences including paranormal tours and investigations, clairvoyant evenings, talks and other special events. Originally set up on Hallowe'en 2006 by Blackpool Grand Theatre marketing manager Stephen Mercer for a one-off Ghost Tour at the beautiful Victorian theatre, the tours became so popular that Supernatural Events continued to provide tours there for another year; then more locations were added to its portfolio including Blackpool Opera House, the Winter Gardens complex, Blackpool Zoo, North Pier Theatre and Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks with special tours also held at Blackpool Tower and Pleasure Beach Blackpool.

Stephen Mercer

Monday, 22 August 2011

and now for something completely different.....concept art

'A concept artist is an individual who generates a visual design for an item, character, or area that does not yet exist.'

Here's another layer of me and my artwork. I'm really very blessed to have come from such an artistic family. My great-grandfather was a superb artist and hand-painted the backdrops for the Theatre Royal, Dublin
I also have two extremely talented and successful cousins who are both concept artists and have worked on films such as : -  I ROBOT, WATCHMEN, HULK, 2012, KING  KONG, DISTRICT 9 and many, many more.

Check out these websites for more information:
Warren Flanagan http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1441367/
Paul Flanagan http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1498321/

My following sketches and  final illustration are of a fantastic gift from the sea - CORAL.

Doctors Trying Coral for Skeletal Repairs

"FULL fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made . . ." Shakespeare's whimsical notion of a skeleton replaced by reef is turning to reality as doctors are discovering that treated coral seems a near-perfect substitute for bone in reconstructive surgery.
"Bone made from coral makes an excellent replacement," said Dr. Phillip Spiegel, professor of orthopedics at the University of South Florida Medical Center in Tampa, who is using coral in the operating room to repair fractures that need to be bridged with a graft. "I think it is going to become very popular." Plastic surgeons have also used the bone substitute in facial reconstruction, to replace jaws destroyed by cancer, for example.
The doctors have turned to coral because it is "uniquely compatible" with bone, Dr. Spiegel said, and once fixed in place it melds almost seamlessly with the human skeleton.
"Certain species of coral have almost an identical physical configuration to bone, with numerous channels that are interconnected," said Dr. Timothy Miller, a plastic surgeon at the University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center, who is using the bone substitute in preliminary research. "In our studies, it looks promising. It looks great."

Because the porous coral contains a maze of channels, native bone adjacent to the coral prosthesis sends spicules and blood vessel into the graft, producing a firm permanent seal between the skeleton and the coral. Over time, the coral prosthesis is so permeated with the encroaching bone that, although the coral is dead, the replaced segment of bone is more or less alive.
When Dr. Spiegel sampled bone from areas reconstructed with implants 18 months after reconstructive surgery he found that the coral material accounted for only about a third of the bone volume.
Traditionally, surgeons doing reconstructive surgery borrowed bone from elsewhere in the patient's body, generally from the outer layer of the skull, the ribs or the hip.

But surgeons can only borrow limited quantities, and the need to gather bone requires new incisions which in almost 10 percent of patients lead to complications, like infection and pain. "After we take bone from the hip, patients often can't walk well for days or weeks," Dr. Miller said.
Also, he adds, "If you're trying to correct major congenital abnormalities, you really need more bone than you can gather from all three places, anyway." Risks From Cadavers

All illustrations are by LORRAINE RIMMER B.A.Hons

Monday, 15 August 2011


Empanadas or empanadillas (smaller versions) are in, Spain, Portugal, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Philippines, essentially a stuffed pastry. 

The name comes from the Spanish verb 'empanar' meaning to wrap or coat in bread.
Usually the empanada is made by folding a thin circular-shaped peice of dough over the stuffing, creating its typical semicircular shape. Empanadas are also known by a wide variety of regional names.
Most cultures have some sort of traditional "pocket" or meat pie food making it a portable and hearty meal for working people
It's quite simple -- they're very portable, easy to make and, of course, they don't have to be meaty.

Empanadillas de Atun

Ingredients for the pastry

Traditional shape for empanadillas

Ready to start filling the pastry

The filling - tuna, anchovies and egg

Now for the tricky bit.......

Ready for the oven

........and the result!

Tuna empanadillas (Makes about 15)

135 grm plain flour
50 grm butter or margarine
2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, grated
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg

1small onion, chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, diced
100 grm tuna, flaked
I tin anchovies
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 large red pepper, thinly sliced
2 hard-boiled egg, chopped
Pinch paprika
2 garlic cloves, chopped

Mix salt into flour and rub in butter as for short crust pastry. Work egg and cheese into mixture to make a dough, using a little water if necessary. Knead lightly, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Soften onion, celery, carrot and red pepper in oil and add garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add tomato and paprika. Cook until the vegetables are soft. Place mixture to one side to cool. Add chopped egg, tuna and anchovies to the cooled mixture.

Roll out pastry thinly, cutting into 3” diameter rounds with a cutter or glass, 1 tsp or so of mixture in the centre of each round, then fold in half, expelling the air and crimping with your fingers. Place on a non-stick tray in a pre-heated of at 200 for 20 mins. Serve at room temparture or cold with a glass of chilled Amontillado.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Saffron and El Porron


Saffron is derived from the Saffron Crocus Flower species Crocus sativus which belongs to the Iris Family Iridaceae. The parts used for culinary purposes are the stigma or style: the central yellow threads which are, in fact, the female sexual organs of the flower. As there are very few stigma in any one flower, it takes 150,000 flowers to produce one kilogram of dried saffron, making it the most expensive spice in the world.

Since its first documentation in the 7th Century BC, the long and interesting history of saffron traces back over 4000 years and traverses many civilizations, countries, and cultures. Saffron began being used in the middle east and then branched out to conquer hearts worldwide, being utilized as a food seasoning, perfume, hair and clothes dye, and as a medicinal herb. Researchers have shown through historic documents that saffron has its origin in the Zargos mountain range in Iran, where around 1 Kg of saffron was used in the royal kitchen every day.
The word saffron is derived from the Arabic word Zafaraan, it was the Arabs who planted saffron initially in Spain over 1000 years ago when they ruled the region. Although the majority of the world's saffron is produced in Iran, Spain is the world's largest exporter of saffron.

Cooking with Saffron

Saffron is used all over the world to flavour and colour foods from Spanish paella to French bouillabaisse to Arabic lamb and chicken dishes to Indian dessert sauces, as well as in many Swedish and Cornish recipes, but as it's such an expensive spice, it's important to get every bit of flavour out of it. This can be achieved by either toasting and powdering the threads or steeping the saffron ahead of time in hot water or broth.

Your best bet is to go with saffron threads. Not only will they retain their flavor longer, but you will also be assured you have purchased pure saffron.
Powdered saffron is not as strong, tends to lose flavor, and is also easily adulterated with fillers and imitations. Since so little is needed, you will find ground saffron sold in packets of about 1/16 of a teaspoon, and threads equaling about 1/4 gram or 1/2 of a teaspoon. Yet, these seemingly small amounts will often flavor more than one dish.

A major ingredient of a paella is saffron

To Toast Saffron threads, place the strands in a dry frying pan about 30 seconds only or until they begin to give off an aroma. Be very careful not to burn them. Cool and crush finely between two spoons. They can also be dried out in a microwave, again for 30 seconds on high. You can buy ready powdered saffron.

Saffron threads

When using whole threads, steep them in hot water for at least 15 minutes to extract as much flavour as possible. The longer better - up to 4 hours. If using alcohol, there's no need to heat it. Always store saffron in an airtight container in a dark place so it stays viable for longer. You can also buy liquid saffron.

Fabada Asturiana
A popular stew from the Asturias Region in North Spain

Serves 4


550g/1¼ lb Dried White Beans, pre-soaked overnight
2 Onions, chopped
4 Garlic Cloves, crushed
125g/5oz Bacon, chopped
125g/5oz Jamón Serrano (ham), chopped
2 tbsp Olive Oil
3 tbsp Tomato Paste
1 tbsp Paprika
1 Bay Leaf
Salt and Pepper
A pinch of Saffron
275g/10oz Chorizo Sausage
275g/10oz Morcillas (Spanish blood sausage)


Drain the beans and rinse well. Place in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and bring this to a boil. Remove from heat, and drain again. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or flameproof casserole and the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are transparent.

Stir in the tomato paste and paprika then add the drained beans, bacon, ham, and bay leaf. Season with pepper then add 1L/40fl.oz. water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1½ hours. Periodically skim any "scum" from the surface.

After the cooking time, add the saffron, chorizos and morcillas and adjust the seasoning, adding salt and more pepper if required. Continue to cook for a further 30 minutes adding a little more water if necessary. Serve hot.


The porron replaced the original bota bag
A porron, porrón, or porró (Catalan: porró in the singular, porrons in the plural) is a traditional glass wine pitcher used in Spain to serve and drink wine. The idea originated as a replacement to bota bags. Porrones are an old and traditional way to store and to share wine with a group of people. The lack of contact with the lips allows a group of people to share the same vessel without offending their sense of hygiene.

Me attempting to drink from a porron
They can be clear or green glass or clay and keep exposure to the air to a minimum. They are wide at the bottom and have a long, thin neck and usually are fit with corks. At the bottom is a long spout. Hold up the porrón in front of your face with the spout pointing towards you, tilt your head back slightly and raise and tilt the porrón spout toward you. A thin stream of wine comes out and pours directly into your mouth… if you have good aim! Lower the porrón toward your face before you stop drinking or you'll spill wine down the front of you and the tablecloth. It takes a bit of skill, but that only comes with practice !!

The porrón is typically seen in restaurants catering to tourists, old-time taverns, at festivals and at family gatherings. You can buy glass porrones at import stores or on the internet. They make great conversation pieces, fun additions to parties and a great gift for any family or friends who enjoy Spanish cuisine and culture.