Sunday, June 27, 2010

Whisper of the Heart

I'm on a mission to watch and review all 19 movies from Studio Ghibli. This weekend I watched 'Whisper of the Heart', their 10th movie.

This is probably the SG movie with the least actual magic in it; the animals don't talk (but they do ride trains!). But it is a really nice coming of age or first love story about a school girl called Shizuki. The theme song of the movie is John Denver's "Country Roads", which Shizuki translates into Japanese for a school project, and also writes her own lyrics for based on her own life in a Tokyo suburb.

A sad fact about the movie I found on the wikipedia page, linked below, is that the director of this movie died just a few years later from an aneurism. He was expected to be a successor to the directors Miyazaki and Takahata.

Like most of the other movies the children are the main characters of the story, and are left to roam the streets of a Tokyo suburb late at night. The parents expect the kids to take care of themselves and also make the dinner and do a lot of house work; I hope my son takes notes on how lucky he is!

One thing that struck me about this movie is how beautiful and detailed the interiors are; for example this scene in Shizuki's kitchen.

The city scenes are also incredibly rich, with subtle details bringing everything to life. The animation of cars, trains and especially the bike riding of Shizuki's friend Seiji is extremely convincing.

Whilst there is no actual magic in this movie, there are some really beautiful moments. It's not just a story of high school sweet hearts; it's about ambition, artistic endeavour and whether to risk it all for your dreams or take the safer path.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Chili soup

Didn't have a lot of time or ingredients, but this turned out quite well since we made some fresh bread to go with it.


6 cups water
1 tsp ground cumin
4 tbsp chilli powder
salt and black pepper
12 oz can of crushed tomatoes
3 bulbs of garlic, thickly slice and crushed
12 oz can of red kidney beans
1 cup of white long grain rice
1 cup frozen peas or corn
Splash of cooking white wine


Pretty much stick it all in the pot; bring it to the boil and simmer for 40 minutes.

Except the rice is best cooked separately then added near the end to stop it getting too soggy.

I made this in the morning with the bread, so that it could be just reheated when we got home after our day out.

Jamie (age 8) wasn't too keen but my wife, Corbey loved it, at least after I had dumped a fistful of shredded cheddar cheese on the top.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Making ginger beer

Having never made ginger beer, and casually mentioning to my friend that I was going to "make ginger beer" at the weekend, last Saturday I decided to give a go. The first google hit for "making ginger beer" is here:

Well the website is awesome; it had all the info I needed. I did intend to read the web page, then go out shopping for the ingredients and any equipment I didn't have. In fact I was able to put everything together that I needed with a couple of modifications.

I've also changed the ingredient measurements to be metric, since I'm up in Canada. eh.

What on Earth is Ginger Beer?

It's a drink made from ginger; yeast is added to make it fizzy. It's about 1% alcoholic; so not at all really.

How long does it take?

Only a couple of days, you can do it one day if you get up early.

What are the ingredients?

2 cups of white granulated sugar
1 piece of ginger size of an apple core (probably needed twice as much really, I added a tbsp of powdered ginger)
1/2 tbsp Bread machine yeast
4 litres of water
Few drops of lemon juice
1/2 tsp of cream of tarar (this is a powder you'll find in the spices section in the grocery store)

What equipment do you need?

Large pan
Plastic drink bottles (enough to hold 4 liters. In my case I used two 2l bottles, but I think 6 330ml would be better)


Fill your bottles to the top then pour them into the pan, add an extra cup of two of water to allow for what gets boiled away.
Chop the ginger up into 1mm thick slices, including the skin, then mash it up with a fork and stick it in the pot to boil
Add the cream of tartar and lemon juice, and the sugar

Put the yeast in a 1/4 cup of lukewarm water. Sprinkle it on the top and let it fizz happily. Added a few grains of sugar too.

Boil it for about 15 minutes to get all the flavour out of the ginger root.

Then I took the pot and stuck it in my kitchen sink filled with cold water and big ice packs, so it cooled down quick.

Once the water is just warm again, throw the yeast in there and stir it around. I put a loose fitting lid on the pot.

Come back in about 2-3 hours. You should have the start of 'activity' on the top. Froth basically. Now you can pour the liquid from the pot into another pot through a sieve to get the big bits of root ginger and so on out.

Then pour the liquid into the bottles. Don't fill them all the way, you need 6-7 cm at the top.

The ginger beer can now brew overnight. In the morning stick it in the fridge. Once chilled you can drink it!

In my case it turned out really tasty and fizzy. Apparently the bottles can explode, so when brewing I would make sure they are somewhere you will find easy to clean up. Also check the pressure every 20 minutes or so by squeezing the bottles.