Saturday, September 7, 2013

Experimenting with coulis

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I am always finding something on MasterChef that looks lekker,  but that I’ve never heard of and haven’t a clue how to make.   Fruit coulis recently fell into that category.   Basically a fruit jam, I first made one to use up some overripe blueberries, composing a parfait with yoghurt and chocolate. 

Unfortunately it rapidly devolved to an unappetizing brown and purple stew.

The main problem was getting the three layers to set ahead of spooning them into the jars.  The trick is to both cook a bit more and cool a bit more, especially for the coulis.  Now, I can grind them out quickly1, 2, 3, from any fruits on hand:

  1. Put 1-2 cups of ripe fruit, diced to blueberry size if larger than that, into a saucepan with a tablespoon of liquid (water, wine, brandy).  Heat over low heat until the fruit starts to soften.
  2. DSC09956 (853x1200)Add 1 tblsp sugar, squeeze in the juice form one lemon, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, as the fruit breaks down and the juices thicken.
  3. When the sauce is the consistency of syrup, remove from the heat and pour through a strainer into a bowl, using a spatula to press the liquid out.  Turn and scrape the bottom of the strainer into the bowl as well, discard the  remainder in the strainer.

An hour’s refrigeration and it’s good to go: I’ve been layering meusli, greek yogurt, and coulis for breakfast all week.  I’m starting to experiment with berry mixtures and different liquids; the basic recipe seems really adaptable and reliable  now.  I still need to mix it with a chocolate fondant recipe as well to be truly MasterChef caliber.

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DSC09448 (1193x1200)Last month it was leeks: I thought the soups were better than the ‘leek and cheese’ and ‘creamed leek’ casseroles (several tries and it never really came together).  I’ve been doing a wonderful tomato soup from scratch that is  even better cold, and got wondering if the same trick might work with leeks.

And that would be Vichyssoise soup.

Basically leek and potato, cream and onion, it goes together quickly and was great as a cold side in the heat of the afternoon.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Pompeii in London

pompeii The British Museum is in the last month of it’s exhibition “Life and Death in Pompeii”, depicting everyday life in 79 AD.  Tickets have been hard to get: I booked mine online a month ago and then angled to be in London with some free time on the appointed date.

I visited Pompeii during a trip to Naples several years ago.  It’s an amazing experience: streets and plazas to stroll, houses and shops to peer into, and the omnipresent hump of Vesuvius lurking around every corner.  It feels very alive and immediate, even though there is nobody there, because the buildings and frescoes, cooking and living areas, are all so well preserved.

I wasn’t sure how the Museum could top the first-hand experience, but it really complements it well, focusing on everyday life arranged around a tour of a typical upper-class home of the period.  Starting in the street, moving to the atrium, bedrooms, kitchens, and dining areas, the artifacts are arranged and described in the context of how they were used by people living there.  I was surprised to see how recognizable everything was 2000 years later, how much glass was used, the foods and fabrics (charred black by the volcano’s pyroclastic heat), the whimsical fresco’s.

pompeii  (2)  pompeii  (3)

My favorite was an admonition to dining guests: Don’t soil the cushions; don’t make passes at other people’s partners; take your quarrels home with you.  ‘good advice in any century. 

There is a lot of frank sexuality on display in the bedroom and garden scenes, nothing overly embarrassing or shocking, but surprising for the time.  There are some really lovely carvings of people in robes that look absolutely soft and alive, ribald depictions of drunk gods and grossly distorted males whose sexual organs support bells and candles.

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It takes about an hour and a half to see it all, and it ends with a series of life casts made by filling voids in the ash where people were consumed by the superheated clouds. 

pompeii  (1)It’s a very sobering display, parents holding children, bodies and faces contorted as death arrived.  Jewelry glistening next to the blackened bones of the noble women who owned them, surgical tools carried to shelter by a doctor, good luck charms that failed to protect the servants clutching them.

It’s very saddening to look into the faces across the millennia, seeing so much that is familiar, so much of ourselves in their lives.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Making the pitch

PitchAfter 15 months, I’m back on the road.

Pitching.

Startups live on dollops of funding, ladled out by syndicates of investors as milestones are reached, where the company’s value is enhanced and the risks are reduced.  Cash from the prior fundraising round defines the runway, the time available to achieve the next milestone before the accounts run dry.  Canny entrepreneurs keep a weather eye on the burn rate, how fast resources are consumed, month by month, to stretch the investment as far as possible.

And when problems occur, the ground can come up very fast.

The past six months have been an enormous challenge, but we’ve arrived at a point where both of  my startups are back in the market, raising next-round funding after meeting their milestones. It’s no mean accomplishment: few startups progress round-to-round, fewer still with increased valuation, and very few that overcome the personal and technical challenges that we’ve faced.

So it’s a bit of a victory tour as well as pitch.  I’m proud of what the group has accomplished and the story we have to tell.

The slides are done, I’ve rehearsed the 7-minute patter until it’s second nature: I don’t even glance at the screen any more.  The swing through Guernsey, London, Yorkshire, Cambridge lasts all of this week: planes, trains, and automobiles, formal presentations in stuffy boardrooms and breakfast meetings on windy terraces, a suit and a smile at every stop.

Sept 2013 ChTunnel  (1) 1 DSC09915 (1200x900) 3 DSC09901 (1200x901)2 DSC09863 (1200x849)

The responses so far have been good, ‘every hope that we bank the next round in short order.

‘Every hope that we’re good for another year to get to revenues.

‘Life in the big leagues.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Pitching Guernsey

Sept 2013 Guernsey  (4)Today’s an overnight trip to the Channel Islands from Southampton to pitch the tax-expatriate angels who populate the island.  I like Guernsey a lot, ‘no way that I  can afford to live there, but it’s like the San Juan Islands: well  heeled, successful, laid back.

The difference this year over 18 months ago was that the weather was gorgeous.  That means crab at the Boathouse Restaurant, harbourside, crab bisque or Thai chicken.  It means walking the seawalls at low tide, idling with the folks working on their beached sailboats.   It means walking the High Street jewelers, sunning on the terraces, hob-knobbing with the angel investors.

Sept 2013 Guernsey  (14) Sept 2013 Guernsey  (13)

We actually did very well.  It’s been 18 months since my last formal pitch for funds, and we were squeezed into a 5 minute slot, followed by 5-minute Q&A.  I hit the marks,  the questions were thoughtful, and we landed two new investors.

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All to the good, and then some.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Scoping out MosArte 2013

The euregionale kunstmarkt visited Maastricht this weekend, and  I joined friends for a tour of the stalls in search of something new and insightful.  For the most part, the works were uninspiring: more colour than flavour, meer warmte dan licht.

For me, three artists stood out.

Arjin2Arjen van Prooijenn specializes in colorful works depicting my beloved Sint Servaasbrug, the symbol behind my company, Stone Bridge Biomedical.  Most of his works are reduced to postcards, but there are some nice full-sized works on display

.Arjin3 Arjin1

bertus1Peter Bertus executes technically exacting works in many media, but his etchings (etsen), the prints  from the plates, are the most intriguing examples for me.  Again,  local scenes but done with deft accuracy and feeling.  I’m starting to feel like I should commission something.

bertus3 bertus2

Schipholt3Wilma Schipholt is a sculptor (beeldhouwer) who makes figurative works (beelden) of great emotional intensity.  They are rough hewn, almost like a Giacometti, but  less ethereal and more solidly rooted in the earth off their feelings.  It resonates strongly with me as I close out a difficult summer and feel the first brush of herfst in the mornings.

Schipholt1 Schipholt2