Great Pussy Bake Off: the results

Good science here!

Another angry woman

This post appeared last month on my Patreon, as a Patron-only post. Sometimes, I post patron-first content. If you’d like to read this work before anyone else, become a patron

Originally posted August 4th 2016.

Content note: this post discusses food

Tragically, my original, controversial sourdough starter passed away recently, due to me being such a good pet owner that I forgot to feed a bloody sourdough starter for over a fortnight. On the fortunate side, this presented me with an ideal opportunity to undertake the more-scientific approach I’d wanted to take since pretty much 24 hours after I first mixed flour, water and a vaginal sample.

So, this time round, I decided to do a head-to-head comparison. The question I wanted to address was:

Is the growth of my sourdough starter due to the vaginal yeast, or would it grow anyway with just wild yeast?

The tl;dr answer…

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Mother Teresa: The biggest Con Job of the Twentieth Century.

Very interesting, saddening and annoying.

STOP The Missionaries of Charity

Join us:

Mother Teresa: The biggest Con Job of the Twentieth Century.

What does it take to create a sensation? An icon who perfectly fits the image that an overwhelming majority of the populace is willing to believe in, a public relations agency (read propaganda team) willing to work to build a brand and a powerful organization to provide the social network and the financial services required to manufacture a favorable image of the ambassador you are pinning your hopes on. Thus, it happened that one Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, born into an ordinary family in an ordinary city went on to become the Mother Teresa that we all know today and most people cherish. But amidst all the hullabaloo and the attempt by several institutions and organizations to brand any criticism of her as bigotry, the truth that lies beneath the carefully constructed image that was presented and projected…

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Another Couple of Veggie Recipes with Pulses

The first is toor dal with corn, and it’s from Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Easy book. The second is msa’aa, from the Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook by Salma Hage. Both are reproduced here with no permission at all, and of course I will delete them if asked to by the author or publisher.

Toor Dal with Corn

Serves 4-5

210g toor dal or similar, washed and drained
.25 tsp ground turmeric
1 fresh corn cob, cut crossways into 1″ pieces
1.25 tsp salt
.25-.75 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp olive oil, rapeseed oil or ghee
.125 tsp asafoetida
3 cloves
.5 tsp whole cumin seeds
.5 tsp brown mustard seeds
2 red dried chillis

Put the dal and 1 litre of water into a medium pan, bring to the boil and skim off the froth that rises to the top. Lower the heat and add the turmeric. Stir, cover partially, and simmer gently for 1 hour.
Add the corn, salt, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and sugar to the pan. Stir, cover partially again, and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Heat the oil in a small frying pan When it is very hot, add the asafoetida, cloves, cumin and mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds pop, pour the contents of the frying pan into the dal. Stir and serve.

I’m cooking the dal for this just now. I haven’t tried it before, but it looks great.



Serves: 4
Preheat the oven to 400ºF/200°C/Gas Mark 6.

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2-inch/5-cm chunks
2 courgettes, chopped into 1-inch/2.5-cm pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 aubergines, chopped into 1-2-inch/2.5-5-cm chunks
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1½-inch/4-cm chunks
2 onions, finely chopped
7 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Lebanese 7-Spice Seasoning (buy it ready made or find a recipe to grind your own)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 sprig thyme or rosemary
6 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 (14-oz/400-g) can chickpeas, drained
scant ½ cup (3½ fl oz/ 100 ml) vegetable broth (stock)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
sea salt and pepper
brown rice, to serve (optional)

Arrange the sweet potato and courgette chunks in a large roasting pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Toss well, then roast for 10 minutes.

Add the aubergine and bell pepper to the pan and roast, stirring occasionally, for another 15 minutes.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet or frying pan over medium heat, add the onions and garlic, and gently cook for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the spices and the thyme or rosemary and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, vegetable broth (stock), and balsamic vinegar and cook for 10 minutes.

Take the pan of roasted vegetables out of the oven and add the sauce from the pan. Stir to combine in the roasting pan. Wrap the top of the pan in aluminium foil. Return to the oven and roast for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to let the vegetables to soak up the sauce.

Remove the foil, stir, and return to the oven to cook for another 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven, stir again, and let cool for a few minutes. Remove the thyme or rosemary sprig and serve piled on top of hot brown rice, if desired.


I made Msa’aa for the first time yesterday and it is absolutely delicious.

And this is another Salma Hage recipe, from the same book. I’m going to make this as soon as I’ve done this post, so fingers crossed it’s as tasty as it looks.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Serves 4

120g red or mixed quinoa, rinsed
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 yellow pepper, seeded and diced
1 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or approx 115g dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked)
1 tsp ground cumin
4 red peppers, halved and seeded
handful chopped parsley leaves  :sick:
salt and pepper

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
100g tomato puree
1 tsp Lebanese 7-spice seasoning (buy it ready made or grind your own)
salt and pepper

Cook the quinoa in 250ml water for about 12 minutes or until the quinoa is tender and the water is all absorbed. Drain, rinse, squeeze, set aside in a large bowl
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and yellow pepper together for a few minutes. Add the chickpeas and cumin, and cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then tip it all into the bowl with the quinoa and mix everything together.

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C/GM5.

Heat the oil in a saucepan, then add the onion and cook until slightly golden. Add the tomato puree and 800ml boiling water. Cook for 10 mins on a rolling boil, then add the 7-spice and salt and pepper. Pour the sauce into an ovenproof dish and set aside.

Fill the red pepper halves with the stufffing and sink them into the sauce in the ovenproof dish. Any leftover stuffing can be added to the sauce to help it thicken. Cook in the oven for 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, add parsley and serve.

The Smell of Bullshit, part 73: Fire Hazards and Sexual Harassment – What a Place to Work!

Another email from an ex-employee of Lush, who worked at a shop in south-east England. I’m not going to reproduce it here whole because I don’t want the woman identified, and also, some of what she says could well entice the trolls who think women are asking for it. There is some discussion of sexual harassment in this post.

The Smell of Bullshit, part 72: So.Much.Fail.


A couple of emails from  two ex-employees of everybody’s favourite ethical employer, Lush. The people have asked me to only use excerpts rather than the whole emails, so I’m picking out the worst bits, some of which are a) despicable, b) unlawful and c) cruel. Some of these issues could have been dealt with by a union, or a decent HR department, or a competent, well-trained manager who understands employment law and has a soul.



Who You Gonna Call?

Just back from seeing new Ghostbusters. Loved it. It’s more or less the same plot as the first Ghostbusters (in the same way that The Force Awakens is more or less the same plot as A New Hope), and it’s just as enjoyable. And, the Ghostbusters themselves are four women who are intelligent, funny, brave, loyal, determined, and completely kick-ass while remaining fully clothed and avoiding cat-fights. A film like this was well overdue.

The Smell of Bullshit, part 71: Mica Morals Missing

Two years ago, this blog reported on a Guardian investigation into the use of child labour to produce mica for cosmetics companies. The Grauniad reported that Lush had committed themselves to removing all mica from their products as they were unable to guarantee it was produced without child labour.

Two years on, how are they getting on with that pledge?

Surprise surprise! The Guardian says “the company has been unable to eradicate the mineral from its supply chain.” Lush say they haven’t knowingly bought any materials containing natural mica since 2014, but they also say “as a direct ingredient it would be easy to identify, but unfortunately mica remains as part of a complex mix of materials that are used to make colour pigments and lustres.” The article also says that Lush say they don’t have the local knowledge or purchasing power to stay and make a difference, but given that several other companies are working in the area to get children to school instead of mines, you’d think they could join in. Several companies, according to the article, have committed to only buying mica from legal and fenced mines, where child labour is less likely to be involved, as well as ending relationships with mines where audits showed child labour was used. But they all acknowledge it’s impossible to be 100% sure child labour was not involved. But, here’s the thing.

Which is more moral? Continuing to produce products even though you’re not 100% sure they didn’t involve child labour? Or discontinuing the products until you can be sure you have a child labour-free option?



They’re happy to crow about their ethics though.

BIG thank you to the reader who let me know about the articles.

Scottish Women’s Hospitals

Tales of One City

Part five in our There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding Series

When war broke out in August 1914, the people of Britain clamoured to do what they could to support the war effort. Men volunteered for the army and others set about establishing relief units to help the army or provide assistance to civilians and refugees. The Scottish Women’s Hospitals were one of those – yet they were also very different, because, right from the beginning, they were set up with two very specific aims: firstly, to help the war effort by providing medical assistance and secondly, and equally importantly, to promote the cause of women’s rights and by their involvement in the war, help win those rights.

The SWH’s original idea was set up a hospital in Edinburgh to help treat the war wounded.  However this was soon abandoned in favour of setting up hospitals in the field, close to…

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