Thursday, 15 December 2011

''The weather outside is frightful'' however, Medieval mince pies and Victorian mulled wine '' is so delightful''........let it snow, let it snow, let it snow !!!


Victorian mulled wine
 The word "mulled" simply means heated and spiced. Many liquids can be mulled - mead, cider, and of course wine. Mulled wine is a traditional favorite in cooler locations, and goes well with the various celebrations that come around the end of the year. Mulled wines have a long history. In medieval times these wines were called Ypocras or Hipocris, named after the physician Hippocrates. They were thought to be very healthy, and indeed, with wine at the time being far more sanitary than water, these heated drinks probably did keep people healthy through the cold winters.

Moving forward to the 1500s, cookbooks listed methods of mulling "Clarrey", or Bordeaux. Recipes involved honey, cinnamon, cardamon, galingale and of course French wine. Mulled wine was a favorite in Victorian England, and Negus - a type of mulled wine - was even served to children at their birthday parties. 

Mulled wines today are as varied as sangria recipes. There are different styles in every part of the world - some favor using white wine, others red. Some add in only a few spices, while others pour in oranges, cloves, twelve spices and more fruit for colour! Your mulled drink is limited only by your own imagination!

Thing have moved forward in 500 years; rather than just sticking everything into ye pan and hoping for the best, this recipe is a favourite of mine.

Makes about 12 servings

2 unwaxed oranges
1 lemon, peel only
150g caster sugar
5 cloves, plus extra for garnish
5 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon stick
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 bottles of fruity, unoaked red wine
150ml ginger wine


1. Peel and juice 1 orange, and add to a large saucepan along with the lemon peel, sugar and spices. Add enough wine to just cover the sugar, and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally. Bring to the boil and cook for 5 – 8 minutes until you have a thick syrup.

2. Meanwhile, if you're serving the mulled wine immediately, stud the second orange with 6 vertical lines of cloves, and then cut into segments to use as a garnish.

3. Turn the heat down, and pour the rest of the wine into the saucepan, along with the ginger wine. Gently heat through and serve with the orange segments as a garnish. Alternatively, you can allow the syrup to cool, and pour it into sterilised bottles for use at a later date.

What do you put in your own festive punch – or what would you prefer to be offered instead?
Medieval mince pies
The mince pies we eat today have an ancestry reaching back to Medieval times. During the Medieval period meat and fish pies were often sweetened with dried fruits, sugar and spices. A small pie known as a 'chewette' was based either on meat or fish, depending on whether it was a fasting (non-meat) day or not. These pies were enriched with fruits and spices.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, mince pies, like lumber pies,
were also made in eccentric shapes and arranged in kalaidoscopic form.
They were sometimes called shred or secrets pies.

The Medieval cook had a fondness for using such ingredients as these fruits and spices, most likely because of their 'exotic' nature, just as we today like to seek out ingredients from across the globe. In the 16th century similar pies were known as 'shred', 'shredded' or 'minced' pies - names that described the preparation of the meat content. From the mid 17th century onwards the meat content of the pies gradually reduced, although Mrs Beeton writing 200 years later gave a recipe for mincemeat based on mutton. Now the majority of the mincemeat spooned into our mince pies is meat-free, but much still includes beef suet - and so we continue to eat the distant relations of the Medieval chewette, and the Tudor shred(ded) pie.

''Centuries ago the mince pie would have been a large dish filled with various meats such as chicken, partridge, pigeon, hare, capon, pheasant, rabbits, ox or lamb tongue, livers of the animals, and mutton meat mixed with fruits, peels and sugar. It was originally known as a Christmas Pye.'

During the Medieval Crusades the Crusaders returned to the UK with spices and these were gradually added to mince pies until over the years meat was fully replaced by the spices. At around this time it was thought that the shape changed from oblong to round and the size made smaller.

A great deal of nonsense has been written about the history of mince pies. For instance it has often been said that they were originally made in the form of Christ's crib, while the Eastern spices they contained were emblematic of the three Magi. There is no historical evidence to support these fairy stories.

This Victorian mince-pie recipe (1861) is from Mrs Beeton's cookbook
Mrs Beeton's Mincemeat
This adaptation halves the quantities of the original  but is still enough for around 40 average-sized pies. If you want to make meat-free mince pies, exclude the steak (the original recipe was with mutton) and add a few more currants and candied peel.

375g/12oz raisins
375g/12oz currants
200g/7oz minced rump steak
375g/12oz Atora beef suet
250g/8oz dark muscovado sugar
45g/2oz candied peel
grated nutmeg
375g/12oz peeled, grated apple
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of lemon
75ml/3fl oz brandy

Mix all ingredients up to the apple in a large bowl. Then add the apple, lemon zest and lemon juice and mix again. Add the brandy and give it a really good stir so it coats everything. Fill jars as full as possible, pressing down to exclude air. Cover and leave to mature, preferably at least two weeks, before encasing in shortcrust pastry to make mince pies.

.................and to finish, a brief history of the beautiful Poinsettia plant

Poinsettia plant - coloured pencils

Thousands of years ago, the Aztecs used a plant they called Cuitlaxochitl to make red dye and ease fever. Today that same plant is known around the world as the Poinsettia, a beautiful plant that produces bright red leaves during winter and is now closely associated with Christmas celebrations.
The plant is named for the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.  Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett, who introduced America to the Poinsettia in 1828, after discovering it in the wilderness in southern Mexico. Dr. Poinsett, who dabbled in botany when he wasn't politicking between nations, sent cuttings of the plant back to his South Carolina home. While it wasn't initially embraced, its caught on over the years, and by the 20th century it was a holiday mainstay. In fact, National Poinsettia Day is celebrated on Dec 12th, honoring both the plant and the man who brought it to America

So on this Yuletime note, I'd like to wish all my fellow bloggers and followers,
 a peaceful Christmas and  very Happy New Year


Monday, 21 November 2011


Wild game is a rich and flavoursome meat that includes pheasant, partridge, duck, quail,
 wood pigeon and grouse.
It's packed with vitamins and minerals.....and now is the season to eat it.

If you've not tried game before, Partridge is a good first choice. It has a subtle taste and can be used to make some beautiful dishes. There are two main types of Partridge available (depending on season), the French Partridge (also referred to as Red Legged) is the most common while the English (or grey partridge) is less common but can have a better texture.

Partridge à la Crème


Young partridge
1 small chopped onion
1 cupful cream
3 drops lemon juice


Season the bird inside and out and truss.
Fry with the onion in the butter until brown.
Cook in a covered casserole in a hot oven for 10 – 15 minutes.
Mix the cream and lemon juice and pour over the bird.
Cook for a further 10 minutes, basting frequently.

For those of you who feel a little more confident cooking wild game, the following
recipe is a firm favourite of mine.

Spanish red pepper stew

Chilindron is one of my favorite dishes, and it is so versatile that it stands outside the normal categories of venison, upland birds, etc. Chilindron (chill-in-DRONE) is a Spanish stew dominated by roasted red peppers, paprika and onions. Most recipes also call for rosemary, olive oil, garlic, some tomatoes, good stock and wine. The stew originates in Aragon, a part of central Spain.

As for what meat to use, the Spanish will typically make this with lamb or chicken. Even this hints at the range this stew possesses. I have made chilindron with good results from chicken, pheasant, rabbit, beef, venison and pork. When switching from light to dark meat, switch from white to red wine, too.
Serves 8.


3 pounds chicken, pheasant, lamb, venison or rabbit, in serving pieces
2 large onions, sliced in half-moons
10 cloves chopped garlic
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon hot paprika
1 jar (15 ounces or so) or 5 roasted red sweet peppers, chopped
1 cup crushed tomatoes
2 cups red or white wine
Stock if needed (chicken or beef or whatever goes with your choice of meat)
1/2 cup diced cured meat: Bacon, pancetta, ham, etc.
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
4 bay leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
Large handful of dried mushrooms (optional)


If using, put the mushrooms in a container just large enough to hold them and pour hot water over them. Cover and set aside.

Salt the meat and set aside for 10-20 minutes at room temperature. Use this time to chop the veggies.

Pat the meat dry and pour the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot that has a lid. Heat the pot over medium-high heat. Brown the meat on all sides in batches. Do not overcrowd the pot. Set the meat aside in a bowl when browned. Take your time and do this right. Add more oil if needed.

When the meat is browned, add the onions and stir to bring up some of the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the onions with a little salt. Cook until they begin to brown, then add the garlic, the cured meat and the mushrooms, if using. Cook until fragrant, then add the meat back to the pot and mix well.

Pour in the wine and turn the heat up to high. Stir and boil furiously until the wine is half gone. Turn the heat back down to medium and add the tomatoes, the roasted red peppers and all the spices and herbs (except the parsley). Stir well. The level of liquid should be about 2/3 the way up the sides of the meat. If it is low, add the stock. I typically need about 2 cups.

Cover and cook at a bare simmer — just barely bubbling — until done. How long is that? Depends on the meat. Rarely is any meat done within an hour, but I’d check a store-bought chicken then. I find pheasants and rabbits take about 90 minutes, boar, pork and hares about 2 hours, and venison and beef up to 3 hours or more.
Right before serving, test for salt and add some if needed. Add black pepper and the parsley and stir well. Serve with mashed potatoes, rice, polenta or bread. Simple sauteed greens are a good accompaniment. A big red wine is also a must, ideally something Spanish, like a Rioja.

Now where did I put my painting of that Bird?????

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Oyster, Brie and Champagne Soup

This is a  little gem of a restaurant, hidden amongst the back streets of Amsterdam that I came across this week. It's a barbecue restaurant that has won international recognition for its excellent atmosphere. It is this atmosphere with (famous) guests enjoying a glass of good wine or a carefully prepared cocktail which gives you the feeling of being "out" but "at home" too. The scent of charcoal and spices will perhaps persuade you to select a fine steak, award winning oysters or an appetizing lobster tale from te menu. The wonderful but delicate flavour of their famous oysters, inspired me to create this soup

A favorite among exotic foods, oysters are large shellfish loaded with many health benefits. They have rough, fluted shells that are soft and fleshy in texture, influenced by the water they come from. Sweet and sometimes salty, oysters have a unique dusky flavor. Oysters can be consumed in variety of ways such as half shelled, raw, smoked, boiled, baked, fried, roasted, stewed, canned, pickled, steamed and grilled. They are rich in various vitamins and minerals and hence, benefit the young and old.

On my childhood visits to Ireland, I lived off oysters, freshly caught by my Irish, fishing family. As I grew up I was introduced to the black stuff - Guinness- which accompanied the oysters a treat. Now it's that time of year when we all like a winter warmer - soup -  this recipe is an unusual blend and fusion of flavours that bring back all those magical, memories of the Emerald Isle

Serves 6-8

1/2 lb. unsalted butter
1/2 Cup flour
1 pint of  fish stock 
i tub of whipping cream
1 1/2 Teaspoon sweet paprika
1 1/2 lbs. Brie cheese (remove rind and cut into cubes)
2 Cups dry champagne
3 Dozen fresh oysters
1 bunch spring onions (finely chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter over low heat, add flour and cook 3 minutes constantly whisking. Add stock and cook and whisk until flour is absorbed, about 3 to 4 minutes. Bring to boil, return to simmer for 10 minutes. Add cream, simmer 5 minutes, again whisking constantly. Add paprika and cheese. Cook and stir until melted. Add Champagne, oysters, green onions. Simmer 3 to 4 minutes. Cover and let stand 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste, stir and serve.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Can we thank the Irish for Samhain?

Most holidays commemorate or celebrate something. But what about Halloween? What is Halloween actually a celebration of? And how did this peculiar custom originate? Is it, as some claim, a kind of demon worship? Or is it just a harmless vestige of some ancient pagan ritual where folks get together for parties, dress up in Halloween costumes and bob for apples?

Halloween originates from the ancient Celts' celebrations and is based on their 'Feast of Samhain'. The Catholic church attempted to replace the Pagan festival with All Saints' or All Hallows' day, followed by All Souls' Day, on November 2nd.

The eve became known as: All Saints' Eve, All Hallows' Eve, or Hallowe'en. All Saints' Day is said to be the day when souls walked the Earth. In early Christian tradition souls were released from purgatory on All Hallow's Eve for 48 hours.

Literally translated, Samhain means "Summer's End". At this time, the hours of nighttime were growing significantly over the hours of sunlight. Hence, Lord Samhain reigned over the long winter months as the influence of the Sun god and the summer season (Beltaine or Beltane) preceded. Samhain's influence grows with the increase in the hours of darkness, as he can only roam the earth during hours of darkness.
The Druids believed that on their New Year's Eve, all of the people who died in the past year would rise up and search for the passageway to the netherworld. On this night the passageway or "veil" between both worlds was it's thinnest. Lord Samhain would roam the earth in search of these souls to capture them and take them to his world of darkness. To this day, some people put lights in their windows to help the dead find their way, and keep Lord Samhain away from taking them.

Samhain Traditions and Beliefs

Samhain is considered a time to eliminate weaknesses - our Celtic ancestors slaughtered weak animals that were not likely to survive the winter and their meat was salted and stored for the dark months, this has evolved into the custom of writing your own weaknesses onto a piece of paper then burning them.

It was customary at Samhain to leave an empty chair and a plate of food for any dead guests, so that they would not be offended.
 At the stroke of midnight - believed to be the hour the dead visited - all remained   silent  in respect.

When a candle flame flickers on Halloween night it is being touched by the spirits of dead ancestors.    

Those born on All Hallows Eve are believed to have the gift of second sight.

If you catch a falling leaf on Samhain before it touches the ground it will bring you good luck and health for the coming winter.

Halloween lanterns
The tradition of face-carved pumpkin lanterns is thought to be derived from the Celts' placing of ancestors' skulls outside their doors at this time. Others see it as originating from using lanterns to ward off any evil spirits, which may be wandering through the thin veil into the living world on this All Hallows Eve.

The lit pumpkins also symbolise that in the darkness of winter the light continues within the seeds, tubers and bulbs dormant under the earth - they are still full of life and glowing like the candles within the pumpkins.

The name Jack O'Lantern derives from an old Irish tale of a villain who after he died could not enter heaven or hell - a damned soul. So he was condemned to wander the land with only a candle to see his way (some say it was a hot ember from the devil), which he placed inside a gouged out vegetable to act as a lantern. Others believe Jack-O-Lantern was a mischievous spirit who carried a light at night and lures night travellers into bogs or marshes, which were the dwelling places of fairies.

The Jack O' Lantern used to be made from a turnip, but Irish emigrants to America adopted the plentiful pumpkin since it is much easier to carve. In the Isle of Man they still carve turnips to make lanterns and call the night 'Hop To Naa', not Hallowe’en, or Trick or Treating.

The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes," made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expeditea soul's passage to heaven. 

   In Greek mythology, goddesses of the underworld were often used to invoke the Samhain. Popular Greek Goddess costumes portray Hecate and Medusa. Hecate was the most favored goddess by Zeus, and mptiness between the worlds of life and death looking for souls of the dead. Both were considered serpent goddesses, and their ancient dark legends spawned myths such as vampires, who fed off the living using venom and snake-like fangs. Ritualistic dress includes snake adornments and three headed masks. Today, Hecate is often referred to as the goddess of witches.

So, although some cults may have adopted Halloween as their favorite "holiday," the day itself did not grow out of evil practices. It grew out of the rituals of Celts celebrating a new year, and out of Medieval prayer rituals of Europeans. And today, even many churches have parties complete with Halloween costumes or pumpkin carving events for the kids. After all, the day itself is only as evil as one cares to make it.

Colcannon - A Halloween Recipe

Here's a wonderful little Irish recipe that I've grown up with.

Colcannon is an Irish dish that is rich in tradition and history. It was traditionally made and eaten on Halloween, as the eating of meat was not allowed. Some families would leave out a plate of colcannon, with a lump of melted butter in the centre, for the fairies and the ghosts.

It was also used as a way of telling someone’s fortune. The idea was to wrap a miniature thimble, a ring, a miniature horseshoe, a button and a silver sixpence in white paper, these items were then dropped into the prepared dish and stirred in through the mixture. The Colcannon was then served and whoever got a little parcel would  know their future, as each item had a meaning as follows; the ring-you will marry or if already married will continue to be happy, silver sixpence-wealth, horseshoe-good luck, thimble-you would be spinster and the button- a bachelor.  

Ths is my mother's recipe.....enjoy!

Serves 4-6
1 small, finely shredded, Savoy cabbage
6 potatoes
1 onion, finely chopped
1 leek, chopped
1/4 litre milk
1/4 lb melted butter
6 rashers of lean bacon (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Cook potatoes in a pot of boiling water until tender. Drain and reserve the water. Place the hot potatoes in a large bowl.

Add chopped cabbage to the reserved potato water. Cook 4-6 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, fry the onion and leek in the butter. Remove from pan and add diced bacon, cook until crispy.

When they are cool enough to handle, mash potatoes with a hand masher or fork. Add the fried onions, leek, bacon and cabbage.

Add milk, salt and pepper and beat until fluffy.

To serve
Serve in soup bowls, making a little well in the middle for the melted butter

Add caption

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The World of Medical Photography

I'm frequently asked 'What is a Medical photographer and what do they do?'
So here's a little insight into just that.......

What is a Medical Photographer?
Medical photographers, also known as biomedical photographers, are those rare individuals who have both a demonstrated artistic ability and a detailed knowledge of scientific processes. They use their skills and abilities to document scientific information that relates to biology, chemistry, medicine, and other health-related subjects. These photographic representations of medical and biological subjects are sometimes used in textbooks, pamphlets, exhibits, instructional films, civil/criminal legal procedures, and teaching models.

They may also document surgical procedures, record a patients medical progress over a period of time, or photograph an autopsy. A major function of the medical photographer is to assist in education and research. They make prints of charts and graphs, digitize images, use photomicrography to allow microscopic objects appear in full detail, and process photographs of many different anatomical areas in an effort to increase understanding of the human body and the diseases that affect it. Medical photographers are increasingly using technology to help them perform their duties. They use the most up-to-date computers and photographic design software, such as Photo Shop, to clarify a variety of complicated medical concepts and processes.

What do you do?
I take pictures of operations and also of patients with particular medical conditions. The pictures are used for teaching publications and for patients' notes, so that consultants can track how a medical condition is developing. These images can include original wounds, progressing conditions like rashes, and surgical procedures. I also work in the pathology lab, photographing autopsies, specimen samples from patients and also specimens on the microscope.

What are your main responsibilities?
I take pictures during operations and at specialist clinics. I do a lot of ophthalmology work which involves taking pictures of people's eyes using a special fundus camera. (A fundus camera or retinal camera is a specialized low power microscope with an attached camera designed to photograph the interior surface of the eye, including the retina, optic disc and macula.)

Fundus camera

Fundus photo
What qualities do you need for your job?
You've got to be friendly and good at dealing with people. Patients can feel very intimidated about having their photograph taken. Confidentiality is vital too and you have to respect the patients privacy. You need to work well under pressure because there are always deadlines to meet.

Why did you choose this type of work?
I have always loved photography but Medical photography is different. I find it fascinating, so I decided to specialize in this field of work. Although the photography definitely comes first, an interest in medical matters is a close second.

Do you need a degree for your job?
Yes, in photography or illustration.

What equipment do you use?
As well as cameras, computers play a big part in our work, especially now that most of the pictures we take are digital. You need to know how to download the pictures onto PCs, and understand the main media computer programs. All the images are stored on a computer database and we have to colour correct them and often put them into computer presentations for consultants.

What are the particular challenges in your work?
You never know exactly what you are going to be photographing and that's what makes it interesting. As with all forms of photography you've got to be on top of all the technical aspects. Lighting is especially important and the pictures need to be as natural and clutter free as possible.

What do you like/dislike about your job?
I love the fact that no day is ever the same and that I use a camera everyday, because that's what I trained to do. Sometimes things can be upsetting and a lot of people will open to you and talk about their illness. But you need to be able to distance yourself.

 Like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get!!!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A quick and easy Damson Relish

Damsons, gages and plums are all stone fruits that thrive in sheltered, warm gardens. Although they all bear the same basic type of fruit, their taste varies from tart and spicy, to sweet and perfumed. All these have their uses, so the final choice is usually a personal one. Damsons are used for a variety of products - from jams, jellies and chutneys to wine and Damson Gin.
Originally damsons came from the area around Damascus, hence the name. Some say the Crusaders brought back damson stones to try in England. Damson trees are often found around sites of Roman camps - perhaps the Romans introduced them to Britain. Damson stones were found in a bag round the waist of a 4000 year-old 'Ice Man' uncovered recently in the Alps. 
Damson stones have been excavated at the Viking Yorvick centre at York. I came across this  damson relish in a very old, recipe book that I found in an antique shop.
Damson Relish
450 g damsons
8 tbsp light soft brown sugar
100 ml water
6 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, juice only, or to taste
1 large red chilli, finely chopped
1 medium red onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 vine tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
3 tbsp finely chopped coriander3 tbsp red wine vinegar

 Wash and remove stalks from  the damsons
Tip the damsons into a large saucepan, sprinkle over the brown sugar and the water
 Bring to a simmer over a medium heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the damsons are tender.
 While the damsons are simmering, mix all of the remaining ingredients together in a bowl.
Season with salt and black pepper and mix well.
When the damsons are cooked and cool enough to handle, remove the stones. 
Discard the stones and tip the damsons into the bowl with the other ingredients and stir to combine
Serve warm or cold with hot or cold meats, cold roast chicken or cheeses.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Haunted 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
Paul Flanagan

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.