4

Lazy Vegetarian Meal ideas #14 Potato, Aubergine and Chickpea Curry

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I’ve been trying to branch out in my cooking recently and attempt something new.  I’m always tempted to stick tomatoes in every single curry I make; tomatoes are my definite cooking comfort zone.This curry has no tomatoes and at several points during the creation of this dish I almost panicked and threw them in, but I’m really glad I didn’t. This is a tasty, versatile and filing dish that is fabulous with rice or as dosa/wrap filling. It does take a bit of time to prepare, but most of that is just boiling some potatoes and leaving them to do their thing whilst you watch Netflix.

What you need: Four chopped potatoes, half an aubergine cut into small chunks (make sure all the chunks have some purple skin on them), a tin of chickpeas, a quarter of a cup of vegetable stock (you don’t need much), olive oil, a large chopped onion

Spices: Mustard Seeds, Chilli flakes, Fenugreek, Asafoetida, Cumin seeds, Garam Masala, three Bay Leaves, a generous amount of Salt and Pepper, a sprinkle of Chilli powder, Cumin and Cinnamon (optional)

Note: As always the spices should be used to match your personal tastes. I like spicy food so I add a lot of chilli, but maybe your looking for a milder flavour in which case you could leave the chilli powder altogether. Don’t go too easy on the cumin seeds, fenugreek or chilli flakes though because they do kind of make this curry.

1: Chop and boil potatoes and leave for 20-30 minutes depending on how paranoid you are (I hate hard potatoes with a passion so tend to leave them boiling for a little longer than most). Whilst the potatoes boil, chop the aubergine and leave to soak in cold, salted water for around 15-20 minutes.

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2: Heat oil in a large saucepan and add asafoetida. When the oil has been heating for a few minutes (probably the amount of time it takes to chop the onion) add the mustard seeds. When the seeds have started to pop, add chopped onion and fry on a high heat for at least five minutes, then turn to a low heat and stir occasionally for a few more minutes. I normally add a sprinkle of fenugreek, garama masala, cumin and chilli at this point.

3: Add some more oil, turn up the heat and add chopped aubergines and fry for it all for a few minutes. Don’t be afraid to add some more oil as the aubergines lap it right up, but be careful not to saturate.

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4: Add the potatoes and fry for a few more minutes. Then add chickpeas, some more spices and a small amount of stock and turn down the heat.

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5: Stir occasionally for about 10-13 minutes

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Enjoy!

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5

Blaire’s ‘apology’ for the Iraq war and the rise of ISIS

The newspapers are very excited today with news that former prime minister Tony Blair has finally ‘apologized’ for the 2003 war in Iraq, despite the fact he still doesn’t regret the war and simply conceded that they made some ‘mistakes’ regarding the Weapons of Mass Destruction which, at the time, they claimed could attack the USA in as little as 45 minutes and which was quite soon after proven to be, quite frankly, utter bollocks.
The supposed WMD’s and alleged (and disproved) links to Al Qaeda were the main justifications for the war and were used as its main selling point; now we know beyond a doubt (although anyone with half a brain could see it at the time) that these were at best an error in judgement based on dodgy evidence and at worse a calculated and planned lie that was used to promote a war that the USA  had long decided to pursue (which is backed up by the fact that Tony Blair had agreed to go to war a year prior to its taking place, when at the time he was still publicly pushing for a diplomatic solution), and the tensions that existed from the 1990s with George Bush Senior. I read in one of the articles (See below) that the source that they used as evidence that Iraq could attack the USA using WMD’s in 45 minutes had been taken some years previously from a random taxi driver who could potentially have been joking, and was unlikely to have any real knowledge on the subject.
Blair is still trying to justify himself by saying that although all the reasons they gave at the time to promote the war turned out to be wrong, they still got rid of an evil dictator and gave the Iraqi people a shot at freedom, which would be okay if it was not undermined by the rise of ISIS and horrific conditions that Iraq has been in ever since. I do not deny that Saddam Hussein was a bad man who abused and sometimes killed his people, he was. He was a dictator, and conditions in Iraq prior to 2003 were unlikely to be great, and if there had been a strong Iraqi resistance who had enough support and strength to take over it would not have been a bad thing that he was ejected with western help, although I feel the roots would have to have lain in Iraq, not imposed from outside.
However, even if we overlook the fact that the USA actively backed Hussein in the 1980s (coincidentally one of his most brutal periods in power), the US actually helped him into power and only started to turn on him in the 90s, and (if my sources can be believed) Iraq was actually an okay place to live before the US helped Hussein to power. Even if we ignore the US’s direct role in creating the regime they then tried to dismantle, Saddam Hussein was not the only dictator in the world, nor was he the worst. We actively fund dictators all over the world through foreign aid, and the US has had close links to Saudi Arabia, which has a  (putting it mildly) questionable regime of it own, for years. The US and UK cannot abet and assist some dictators and then condemn and attack others and still pretend to be upholding human rights and morality, it just doesn’t make sense. Blair cannot pretend that we did a good thing in Iraq by getting rid of one bad regime and allowing an even worse one into power, and act like that somehow makes it all okay. If we are going to condemn ruthless dictators on principle, we cannot pick and choose the ones we like and don’t like based on our own interests unless that dictator threatens us directly, because even though conditions were probably not good prior to the war, the destruction and civilian casualties that happened both during the war and continue to happen just weren’t worth it. Even if this had been the justification for the war (which it was not) it was not, to my mind, justification enough whilst we still have friendly ties to some of the most brutal dictatorships in the world.

As the Chilcot report should (hopefully) be released fairly soon, Blaire’s ‘apology’ can be seen as an attempt to save face by apologizing before he is forced to when the report finally comes out. If you have read my earlier posts, you will know that whilst I am not anti war in principle, I believe the war in Iraq was a cold-blooded and utterly pointless catastrophe, that the US used the tragedy of 9/11 to justify it, and that Blair and Bush should be tried for war crimes. I was ten years old during the build up to the war, I remember going on frequent anti war demonstrations and it seemed very obvious at the time that the war was not justified, that they were grasping at straws and that they were basically set on war no matter what, that they would spin anything to their advantage and make up evidence to justify the war. I hope when (and if) the Chilcot report does come out, George Bush and Tony Blair will have to answer to their crimes. Realistically, they won’t go to trial, and it will be up to the history books to condemn them for their actions, but at the very least we should acknowledge (if they won’t) that the war was not just a mistake, the evidence wasn’t just incorrect, but it was manipulated and spun into a massive lie intended to hoodwink the public into supporting an illegal and unjust war. We cannot keep taking this approach where dictators are our friends until we decide to attack them, and thinking that completely turning a country on its head and then leaving it

Reading
http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/oct/25/tony-blair-sorry-iraq-war-mistakes-admits-conflict-role-in-rise-of-isis

http://www.cato.org/commentary/foreign-aid-simply-wont-reform-dictators

http://time.com/23075/william-easterly-stop-sending-aid-to-dictators/

http://www.businessinsider.com/foreign-aid-dilemma-dictators-on-our-dole-2011-3?IR=T

https://www.quora.com/Living-in-Iraq/Is-Iraq-a-better-place-or-worse-to-live-since-the-fall-of-Saddam-Hussein

http://www.businessinsider.com/foreign-aid-dilemma-dictators-on-our-dole-2011-3?IR=T

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/16290-iraq-is-worse-than-ever-before-so-what-was-the-invasion-and-war-all-for

https://www.globalpolicy.org/political-issues-in-iraq/justifications-for-war-wmds-and-other-issues.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3287982/I-m-sorry-Blair-takes-blame-Iraq-War-admits-conflict-caused-rise-ISIS-astonishing-apology-TV-show.html

https://news.vice.com/article/the-cia-just-declassified-the-document-that-supposedly-justified-the-iraq-invasion

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34630380

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rationale_for_the_Iraq_War

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/tony-blair-apologises-for-mistakes-over-iraq-war-and-admits-elements-of-truth-to-view-that-invasion-a6707776.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-26116868

http://www.politico.eu/article/blair-says-sorry-for-iraq-us-cnn-saddam/

http://www.thenational.scot/news/blairs-iraq-war-tv-apology-rejected-as-spin-before-chilcot.9205

1

ZSL London Zoo

Here are some pictures from ZSL London Zoo to perk up your Sunday afternoon and remind you that animals are awesome, the natural world is fascinating and butterflies are pretty.

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Giraffes!

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Spot the monkey..

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Am I the only one who thinks this Eel is adorable?

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Lonely Penguin

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Sitting Llama

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More Llama

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I love a good Llama

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Okay enough now

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3

The transformation of MeadRiver and why immigration can be a very good thing

Home Secretary Theresa May’s October  speech on immigration has attracted a lot of attention, and whilst some people are openly appalled by her statements, a lot of other people are rallying behind her. Here is a quote from the speech, in which she states that immigration is not in our national interest, is bad for local communities and increases poverty: “When immigration is too high,” she said, “When the pace of change is too fast, it’s impossible to build a cohesive society. It’s difficult for schools and hospitals and core infrastructure like housing and transport to cope. And we know that for people in low-paid jobs, wages are forced down even further while some people are forced out of work altogether.” There is, she added, “no case, in the national interest, for immigration of the scale we have experienced over the last decade.”
Julia Hartley-Brewer, a reporter for the Telegraph, appeared to agree with May, and in an article published yesterday she claimed that:”  New arrivals don’t immerse themselves in the language and culture of their new home, they simply move to an area where there are many others from their motherland and set up separate communities. ” and then went on to say: “A study of the latest census by the Demos think-tank found that nearly half of ethnic minorities – four million people – now live in communities where whites are a minority. Is this what we really mean by a multiracial, multicultural society?”

Now, some of you lovely readers probably already know that I am in favor of immigration. You may have seen from some of my recent posts that I believe we can and should allow far more people affected by the refugee crisis into the UK, but it goes beyond that. I like immigration. I want to have the opportunity to move to different countries, both in and outside of the EU. I want live and work in these countries, and I believe other people should be able to live and work in other countries as well. I understand that we cannot have completely open borders, but I also disagree very strongly with the far too popular idea that immigrants are coming here to scrounge off benefits and steal jobs. This has never been proved,  and studies show that a very, very small amount of non UK Nationals claim benefits, whereas the percentage of UK Nationals do claim them is much higher.  (also see http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/the-facts-behind-theresa-mays-speech-about-immigration-a6685791.html)
Whilst some employers can and do employ immigrants illegally or pay them less than they would a UK national, it is also true that many people born in the UK are not willing to do some of the jobs migrants, for various reasons, will accept. Also, if the employer is actually paying an immigrant less than a UK national, this is surely taking advantage and not giving the equal rights that a UK citizen may find it easier to demand, and would only really work for cash in hand or illegal employment. Whilst I don’t deny this does happen, I do have to question if it is nearly as widespread or common as is often assumed, or that when it does happen it is for a long period of time, as often someone may start out in an low paying job and the progress or seek new employment.Today I read a comment in the Metro newspaper by a couple who run a retail company, and they claimed that the majority of applications they receive are from migrants who work very hard, as many UK nationals are not interested in this kind of work. As recent Tory measures now mean that immigrants will have to wait four years to claim benefits, surely if they cannot claim benefits, they cannot be benefit scroungers. Whilst it can be hard for UK born adults to gain employment, especially as there is a catch 22 situation where you cannot gain employment before you have experience and cannot gain experience without employment, it is also true that a lot of people are not willing to accept bad pay or a bad work environment (which they shouldn’t have to) and a lot of places (like the office I work in) have quite a high turn over. If someone, for whatever reason is used to poor wages or urgently needs money, this may be why they are willing to accept conditions others are not, which may be the reason why some people who have newly immigrated to the UK may take lower paid jobs.
It is also wrong to assume migrants only take low paid, illegal jobs. Without immigrants, the NHS would collapse. Our economy would suffer. The government would have to raise taxes because we would lose out on all the money these people contribute to our economy each year. Whilst a small number may come here because they hear we are a generous society, it appears that far more come here to work, to provide for their countries, or because they think the UK looks like quite a nice place to live and work, and I have never found any of these anti immigration arguments convincing because they all seem to stem down to unfounded fears and prejudices that don’t actually seem to apply to real life.
I strongly disagree with the idea that immigration is a bad thing for communities or that it encourages poverty. People seem to assume immigration has to have a negative impact on a town, that it will change it for the worst and the town will end up worse off then it was before. Based on a due to my personal experiences in the town I have lived in for 17 years, I would argue that yes, it will change the town, but it does not have to be a bad change, and it may well change the area for the better.  In light of my experiences, I am going to tell you a story about my home town and how immigration, whilst it cannot be seen as the only or perhaps even the most important factor, has a definite positive correlation with the transformation of this town from a crime ridden, BNP centric, isolated ghost town into a comparatively affluent, well connected and, for the area, reasonably safe and pleasant place to live. This is a true story, but in the interests of privacy I am going to call this town MeadRiver.

I moved to MeadRiver with my parents in 1997 when I was five years old. We moved into a housing association rented flat with two bedrooms and a communal garden. The flat we moved into had previously been occupied by a crack dealer who fled in the middle of the night and burned down part of the flat in the process, and for the first few months we were there people would bang on the door and demand money and/or drugs. Our flat was in the ‘nicer’ part of MeadRiver, meaning it was not in a massive grey tower block and didn’t have as many nearby gangs, but it was not by a long shot a good place to live. The town did not have good transport links, there was no nearby tube station (only a train station about fifteen minutes away), it did not have many shops (I only remember a Safeways, most of the businesses are fairly new), as it was filled with massive 1960s style concrete tower blocks it had been used as the set for various Dystopian films that called for a disturbing landscape, and there was a lot of violence, gangs, racism, segregation of the ethnic minorities that lived here, and MeadRiver was a classic BNP ridden impoverished area.
Now, I’m not going to say the transformation of MeadRiver was solely because of immigration, or even that immigration was the most important change that has happened in the last 17 years. The most important change was better transport links, first in the form of a new tube station built about ten miles away (accessible via bus) and later another tube line opening in a nearby town. These transport links made the town more appealing to commuters, and therefore people who earned more money started to move there. This had a knock on effect of more businesses opening to satisfy the needs of the newly fairly well off commuters, and therefore the layout of MeadRiver started to change. New houses also started being built, which tended to be more up market and designed for key workers, rather then being built for social housing. These changes all contributed to slowly change MeadRiver into a safer, richer, more accessible and more active neighborhood.
However, immigration does also appear to have played a part as well. When MeadRiver was first built in the 1960s, it was one of the most homogeneous estates in London, and even though it did experience immigration before we moved, from what I (and my parents) recall, in the first few years it was still a largely white working class area.  Then in the 1990s, there was an influx of immigration from non EU countries (largely from Nigeria and Ghana) which has transformed the ethnic makeup of MeadRiver. Starting out as a homogeneous, BNP centric town, MeadRiver is now one of the most multi cultural places in London and, although it is by a very small percentage, there are slightly more people of African origin living here than UK nationals (White British 33.3%, Black African 35.6%). Therefore, MeadRiver is one of the areas Teresa May and Julia Brewer must be referring to. And yet, far from the influx of immigration changing MeadRiver for the worst, with increased poverty and lack of social cohesion, my experience suggests quite the opposite.

MeadRivers higher affluence coincides with higher immigration levels, and this may well be because a large number of those of African origin who moved to MeadRiver got themselves jobs, seemingly fairly well paid jobs. The part of town I live in, which is still one of the nicer parts of MeadRiver, has a large African population, and from what I have seen more than half of the people who have the nice cars, live in fairly nice accommodation, and share my daily commute to central London are non white (and as MeadRivers used to be fairly homogeneous, I have to assume that most of them immigrated in the last two decades).  This is obviously not true of everyone who lives here, and the greater transport links and  more upmarket housing has simply made the town more attractive to more people regardless of their race, but the fact still stands that the influx of immigration has not, in any way, made MeadRiver a worse place to live, and has a positive correlation with the positive changes that have occurred in this area during the last 17 years. Those who immigrated here also appear more likely to have a decent job, live in a nice house and presumably pay taxes. Whilst I am not suggesting that the majority of white british born adults in MeadRiver don’t work, live off benefits and belong on Jeremy Kyle, to assume the opposite is just plain wrong.
Crime, whilst still a problem on the estates, also appears to have decreased and you feel fairly safe walking around this town at night, indeed safer then you do in the nearby, bigger towns. There are several African supermarkets around the area, and some churches which tend to be fairly dominated by black people have sprung up around the area, but I don’t see this as a bad thing. Call me crazy, but I would take a few churches over crack dens any day. And whilst white BNP supporters do still exist, they tend to stick to this one pub in the town center and not really bother anyone. I never hear about high levels of violence anymore, and as far as I am aware muggings and theft are quite uncommon in my area. As far as cohesion is concerned, it doesn’t appear to be an issue. There is a strong black community, but I don’t see why that should threaten me, or why I should have a problem with it.
I have been to our local NHS services and they are as fast as you would expect from an NHS doctor, I have managed to get tests and check ups quickly after booking and have never had to wait that long for an appointment. As far as housing is concerned, the influx of people seems to have encouraged more and better housing being built, as MeadRiver is still quite far out of London (although the Crossrail may change this somewhat) prices still tend to be cheap for a London borough, and whilst it has expanded out to accommodate its growing population, I am not aware of any substantial housing shortage in the area as compared to other areas with less immigration. There are quite a few primary and secondary schools in the area, and I am not aware of overcrowding being an issue. As more people moved to MeadRiver, more local businesses opened up in the area because there was a need for them, and these businesses employ local people.
As far as I, as an almost life long resident of this town am concerned, all the changes that have occurred have been for the better, and the influx of largely non EU immigration has helped contribute to this town in a positive way. I see no signs that immigration has had a negative effect on MeadRiver. I appreciate this may not be the experience of all towns effected by high immigration, particularly those out of London area, but as my personal experience and observation is concerned, immigration is at worse a neutral influence, and at best a positive contributor to raising levels of affluence, safety and transport. Everyone always seems to assume immigration can only have a negative impact, and I would like to hear about other peoples experiences because I really do not see why immigration is always painted as such a bad thing.

Articles on Theresa May’s immigration speech

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/11915376/Theresa-May-saying-what-everybody-thinks.html

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/oct/06/reality-check-is-theresa-may-right-about-immigration

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/11916438/Theresa-May-is-right-Britain-does-not-need-more-immigrants.html

http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/12-things-theresa-may-immigration.html

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/oct/06/reality-check-is-theresa-may-right-about-immigration