Visit to Iceland — Day 4

We did four full days in Iceland in November 2018. Here’re the write-ups for Day 1 and Days 2 and 3.

Day 4: South Shore

It felt significantly warmer on this, our last day of adventure in Iceland. Unfortunately, that meant also it rained cats and dogs. Really would have loved my rain pants here. It was too warm for the ski pants but not dry enough for just jeans.

Reynisdrangar rock formations and hexagonal basalt cliff walls

Apparently this is a similar kind of rock formation to the Giant‘s Causeway in Northern Ireland…but alas, we‘ve not yet been. We were warned repeatedly about the danger of “sneaker waves.”

Sólheimajökull glacier

This was so cool to see — one of my favorite parts of this trip. I think the dreary weather actually contributed to the mood.

Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss Waterfalls

These were the last two stops on our bus trip along the south shore, and the finale to the whole trip. At this point, after being cold and wet all day, I could barely be bothered to get out of the bus. I really needed those rain pants. At one of the waterfalls you are supposed to be able to walk behind the falls for a photo op. The walkway was closed during our visit. That‘s probably for the best.

Wrap Up

Iceland, as our first toe-dip into Scandinavia, was fascinating. In retrospect, winter is not such a bad time to go. Just be prepared to layer your clothing and make sure to save up for any incidentals. Like, you know, food.

Pumpkin Risotto

Pumpkin is pretty naturally sweet, so don’t be bashful with the salt and cheese.

4-5 c/1-1.25 L vegetable broth
2 T olive oil
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
500 g arborio or carnaroli rice
0.5 c/100 mL dry white wine
1 c/225 mL pumpkin purée
1 t dried thyme
1 t ground black pepper
salt to taste
2 T butter
1 c/225 g grated Parmesan, divided

Heat oil in large deep skillet to medium and bring broth to a low simmer. Sauté shallots and garlic until tender and fragrant. Add rice and stir until coated with oil and starting to smell toasty. Add wine and stir until mostly evaporated. Start adding broth by ladleful, stirring constantly. When the pan starts to look dry, add another ladle of broth. After adding about half of the broth, add the pumpkin, thyme and pepper. Taste and add salt, if needed. Keep adding broth until it’s gone. Once all broth is in, remove skillet from heat, stir in butter and half of cheese thoroughly, cover skillet and let stand for 5 minutes. Serve with cheese for sprinkling.

Visit to Iceland — Day 1

We met my parents, sister and brother-in-law halfway: in Iceland. We finally managed to get the six of us together on vacation in the same place, scratch off another country on our list (and crack into Scandinavia along with it), and see some really cool (and cold) stuff.

We opted for a travel company’s package instead of doing all these things ourselves:

  • accommodations and breakfast
  • car rental and driving
  • admissions, scheduling
  • POI-selection based on weather, etc.

We had a limited amount of time and the travel agency packed in quite a lot to see for the time available. I don’t think we could have done that better than they did. But that also meant a lot of time spent on the bus. Was it worth it? Continue reading Visit to Iceland — Day 1

Pasteis de Nata

While in Porto on vacation this month, we took a class on baking Pasteis de Nata, a custard tart we fell in love with in Lisbon a few years ago. This recipe is originally from our course instructor as part of the class, with our own notes and adaptations added.

Equipment

  • stand mixer with kneading hook, or a hand mixer with beaters (be prepared to knead by hand in that case)
  • rolling pin you can use to whomp on the butter through the dough
  • 2 sauce pans
  • whisk

Dough Ingredients

Makes a double batch of puff pastry, about 20-24 cupcake-sized pasteis shells in total.
* 500 g flour
* 250 ml water
* 250 g unsalted butter, chilled
* salt

Notes on Dough Ingredients

  • In the class we actually used margarine. Our instructor, Joana, explained that it works better than butter under less-than-optimal conditions, like at normal room temperature, or when you’re not rolling the dough out on a marble countertop. I’m thinking about making this dough outside on the patio next time.
  • Joana didn’t specify the amount of salt. Our first batch at home was with a half-teaspoon, and it didn’t seem like enough.

Dough Instructions

  1. Combine flour, water, and salt in a stand mixer with a kneading attachment and knead for 4-5 minutes. Alternatively, combine and then knead by hand for 10 minutes. You want a soft, not-very-sticky dough, that springs back at you when you poke it. Let it rest for at least 5 minutes after kneading.
  2. Roll out the dough on a large floured surface in as cool a place as possible. We opened our doors and windows (in November!) to drop the room temperature down to about 15,5 °C and that seemed to help. You want a rectangular shape, about 45 cm in the long dimension, with the dough a half-centimeter thick. Put the block of chilled butter (perhaps cut it into two skinny squares) in the middle of your rolled-out dough and fold the edges of the dough over it, like you’re wrapping up a present (and you are — the butter is the present to yourself).
  3. Beat the heck out of that butter-wrapped-in-dough package with your rolling pin. You want to flatten the butter inside its doughy sleeping bag. Try to maintain the rectangle shape; rotate the dough 90° every few whomps with the rolling pin. Sprinkle flour to cover up any spots where the butter might be leaching through. If the butter has warmed up during this process, stop and refrigerate your dough and don’t proceed until the butter is cold again.
  4. Fold it again, this time in thirds, like you’re mailing a letter of confession to your cardiologist. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes. Roll it out again to the rectangular shape. Do this at least two more times. On the last roll-out, sprinkle a little water onto the surface of the dough and then smooth it around with your hands.
  5. Starting on the long side of your rectangle, roll up the dough like it’s a treasure map (it is) you’re going to stuff into a bottle and set adrift on the open sea. Stop rolling when you get about half way and cut the roll away from the remaining flat dough. Put that roll aside in your freezer for another batch of natas. Roll up the remaining half of the dough in the same way.
  6. Cut the dough roll into about 1-inch segments. Each segment will become one pastel. Take a segment of the roll, rotate it onto its side (so the the layers inside the roll are visible to you), and with wet thumbs and fingers, squish the segment into the cupcake pan, drawing the dough up the sides of the cupcake mold from the center of the segment with your thumbs. It’s OK to have thinner pastry coverage at the bottom; you want it to be thicker around the edge at the top.

Custard Ingredients

200 g Sugar
175 ml water
1 lemon peel
1 cinnamon stick
17-20g corn starch (more starch = stiffer custard)
25 g Flour
250 ml Milk
5 egg yolks, scrambled

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water, lemon zest and cinnamon stick. Let it come to boil in at medium heat. You don’t have to stir (much). Just let it come to a healthy boil.
  2. When it starts boiling, count 1 minute and remove from heat. Set it aside.
  3. In another pan, first combine flour and corn starch and then add the milk. Whisk it before putting it onto the stove. Cook the milk, flour and starch on low heat, always whisking.
  4. When the texture thickens, take it off the stove. Remove the lemon peel and cinnamon stick from the infused syrup you made and discard them. Gently, add the syrup to the milk, whisking it until it’s fully combined. Let it rest a little while before adding the egg yolks, tempering first.
  5. Whisk everything together, pass it through a strainer (if you didn’t temper the eggs effectively and have scrambled bits) and pour it into the dough cups, about 3/4 of the way full.

Baking Instructions

You want it as hot as your (home) oven can go. We get ours up to over 250 °C. Make sure it has plenty of time to preheat — at least 30 minutes. We turned the convection fan on for the bake. Ours were done after about 12 minutes of bake time. Don’t touch them while they’re baking, and try to let them cool a little before you put them in your mouth. They should pop out of your cupcake pan quite easily (thank you butter!) once they’ve cooled a bit. You can sprinkle them with sugar, cinnamon, both, or nothing.

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

The soup place I used to work at had a couple of varieties that they offered every day. Chicken Pot Pie Soup was one of them and it was outstanding! Thick and rib-sticky, with a topping of pie-crust crumbles to really make it feel indulgent. This is an approximation of that soup with a few more vegetables thrown in for good measure. Leave out noodles and add 2-3 diced potatoes and this could work as pot-pie filling.

2 T olive oil
5 T butter, divided
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
75 g all-purpose flour
1.5 L chicken stock
300-400 g shredded cooked chicken
1 t Brathähnchengewürz (rotisserie chicken seasoning; poultry seasoning should work here)
1/2 t thyme
1/2 t tarragon
200 mL boiling water
250 g (1/2 lb) short noodles
200 g frozen peas
50-75 mL cream
salt and pepper to taste

In a deep pot over medium-high heat, warm oil. Add 2 T butter, heat until starting to foam, then add onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender and fragrant. Add 2-3 more T butter and cook until butter is deep golden and nutty smelling, then sprinkle flour over vegetable mixture. Lower heat to medium, stir until all flour is incorporated and roux turns dark blonde and nutty-bready smelling. Whisk in chicken broth in gradual additions to avoid lumps (3-4 additions will do). Add chicken, poultry seasoning, thyme and tarragon and bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer for 6-8 minutes.

Turn heat back up and add boiling water. When boil is steady, add noodles and cook until about 2 minutes short of done. Add peas for final 2 minutes of noodle cook time. Remove from heat and stir in cream. Adjust seasonings and allow to sit covered for 5 minutes before serving.

3 problems upgrading to Ubuntu 18.04 LTS “Bionic Beaver” on an old Mac mini (2007 model)

The upgrade from 14.04 LTS to 16.04 LTS a few years ago was unproblematic, as I recall. So I was hoping this latest upgrade would go smoothly. It did not.

TL;DR: 3 big problems came up, but were fixable, thanks to solutions and ideas published by earlier adopters.

First I did the upgrade on my Kubuntu computer, a full-tower desktop machine which is also getting long in the tooth. That upgrade was slow, but mostly due to the WiFi situation upstairs in the home office. The throughput is not great, but good enough for work. After the slowness of that upgrade, everything else seemed to run pretty smoothly — just a few config file questions for me answer and it did everything else by itself.

So I set about upgrading my 2007 Mac mini from Ubuntu 16.04 to 18.04, and was quite pleased with the download speeds (duh…it’s connected directly the cable modem via ethernet). After the downloads completed in a third of the time or less, a quick reboot and I’d be in business. Or so I thought. I encountered one problem after another. Fortunately, others found these problems before me and published them. I am paying it forward for you here.

Wayland

It would hang on the startup screen and never let me log in. I mostly run this box headless, but every now and again I like a GUI for it. So I googled.

https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/gdm3/+bug/1767606

There’s some incompatibility between Wayland and the GNOME desktop manager and the integrated graphics card on my Mac mini’s motherboard. Solution: fall back to Xorg instead of Wayland. Edit the /etc/gdm3/custom.conf file and uncomment the line WaylandEnable=false.

DNS

After I got the display manager working, I quickly saw that no internet stuff dependent on domain names was working. Hard-coded addresses, like for the machines on my LAN, seemed to work fine. More googling led me to comment out the line:

dns=dnsmasq

… in the file /etc/NetworkManger/NetworkManager.conf so as to not use the systemd DNS-stub thing from systemd pointing to 127.0.0.53 or whatever. After a reboot, domain name resolution starting working again.

apt and $LANGUAGE in my locale

OK, DNS resolution was working again. I wanted to get the freshest versions of the packages (maybe fixing the previous problems). Reading the package lists with sudo apt update was running extremely slowly — several minutes just to advance from 1% to 2%, whereas this part of the task is over and done with normally quite quickly. I googled some more and found something to try here:

https://askubuntu.com/questions/251781/reading-package-list-takes-forever/327444 (kinda far down on the page)

Apparently the $LANGUAGE variable needs to be in the form of a two-character lower-case ISO code, like “en”. Mine had been set to something like “en_US.UTF-8” and it had never caused problems for me before. But I used localectl set-locale LANGUAGE=en to update it, and after a new login, things were working normally again.

Conclusion

I wonder when that old mid-2007 Mac mini will no longer be supported by the likes of Debian and Ubuntu. 11 years later though — it’s still chugging along with maxed-out RAM and an SSD HD upgrade along the way.

I’m the Keymaster. Are you the Gatekeeper?

It’s time for another of my modern electronic communication security and personal privacy appeals! Catch up on previous episodes here, here, here, or here.

Sometimes I feel like the dude in the clip below (minus the supernatural stuff, natch): I have a lot of keys, and I’m always looking for people to use them with. 1 Continue reading I’m the Keymaster. Are you the Gatekeeper?

  1. Thinking of you, Snooker. []