Category Archives: Sharks

Live ones. With teeth and everything…

Bond… James Bond

Fun fact: Dr. No was released 50 years ago today.  That means that the James Bond film franchise is half a century old (holy shmoley).  That also means that today is James Bond Day.  How awesome is that?  (Correct answer: something along the lines of oh-my-gosh-so-awesome.)

I had intended to make James Bond-themed cupcakes for today.  In fact, I had a truly smashing idea for Bond-themed baked goods but had to put it aside because as much as I’d love to, I can’t really take an entire day off just to bake.  Even if it is for something as fabulous as James Bond Day.  In the end though, I didn’t even have time to make the cupcakes.  Gutted.  They’ll have to wait until the release of Skyfall, which apparently won’t be released in New Zealand until the 22nd of November.  Excuse me, what?  We have to wait a whole month after its release in the UK?!?!  Not on, chaps, not on.

So, no James Bond cupcakes today, but I’ll leave you with this utterly appropriate “James Pond” cartoon from one of my favourite websites, Shaaark!  James Bond and sharks.  Clearly a fantastic combination – what more can one ask for?

Have a marvellous James Pond Bond Day, wherever you are in the world!

Cartoon source

PS – I wanted to pepper this with awkward Bond quotes, but there were just too many to choose from.  I struggle to even pick a single favourite.  Do you have a favourite Bond quote?

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It’s Easter! It’s spring! No wait, autumn! Uhm what?

Happy Easter!   I must admit that I haven’t really been feeling particularly Easter-y this year.  As I’m not religious, Easter doesn’t have any particular significance to me, but I always associate it with spring.  If it’s Easter, then it means that spring is definitely here, or very nearly on its way.  Soon there will be super-cute (and delicious) lambs in the fields, ducklings in the ponds and daffodils in the parks.  Except it’s not spring here, it’s autumn.  Daylight Savings time has ended, the leaves are starting to change colour and fall from the trees, and it’s getting noticeably cooler at night.  That said, we seem to be having an Indian summer – most days are still warm and sunny, and everybody is still in shorts and skirts (one of the technicians told me the other day that by April she’s usually in jeans and boots) – so I can’t complain too much.  Confusingly, the Easter cards and decorations in the shops here are all spring-themed – little bunnies, chicks, daffodils.  New Zealand is, of course, famous for its sheep, but I can’t share any super-cute lamb photos since there aren’t any about.  I can, however, offer you a slightly fuzzy photo of some baby sharks that I took the other day when we delivered the eagle rays that I’ll be using for my MSc research to Kelly Tarlton’s (Auckland’s aquarium).  They let us go around the aquarium afterwards (it’s a serious business being a marine biologist…), so I only had my phone with me and apparently it’s not great at taking aquarium photos.  Everybody say awwwwww:

Aside from Jesus and cute baby animals, the other big thing about Easter is chocolate eggs (at least in the UK and it seems here in NZ, too).  Now I think I’m probably in the minority, but I’m really not a fan of this whole chocolate egg thing.  I’m not that much of a chocolate person to start with – I quite like (good) chocolate in things (like cake, brownies, etc.), but I don’t tend to eat chocolate on its own, and I certainly don’t enjoy cheap, bad quality chocolate on its own, whether in the shape of an egg or not.  They make me feel sick.  And I don’t really see the point of that.  I know that it stems from having given up rich foods for lent, but after 40 days of voluntary privation, surely you’d want to eat something decent and truly delicious?  Actually, the complete commercialisation of Easter really annoys me – and as I’ve already said, I’m not even religious.  Anyway, before this turns into a full-blown rant, I’ll move on…

I’d only planned on briefly mentioning my confusion over spring-themed Easter cards in autumn and the baby sharks before getting to the main point of this post: a plum and almond tart.  450 words into the post, I’ve only just mentioned it.  Woops.  Clearly being a post-grad has done nothing to help me write more concisely and keep to the point…  Despite not celebrating it, I felt a bit odd letting Easter slip by unmentioned.  In my family, it has always been an occasion that involved good food (ok, not so much if my grandma was cooking, but whenever my mum was in charge, everything was delicious).  Since it’s autumn, lamb is obviously not on the menu today for me, but it just felt so weird posting a recipe with butternut squash or venison for Easter.  So I thought I’d go for a dessert (you know, for a change).

Something chocolate-y would have been the obvious choice, but it just feels too warm outside for chocolate.  I want to eat fruit!  I was going to go down the apples and pears route, since they are very much in season at the moment, but then I got distracted by what must be the very last plums of the season.  As soon as I saw them, I knew exactly what I was going to make: plum and almond tart.  I adore tarts (har har har, etc.) – they’re so basic to make that it’s difficult to go wrong.  And their simplicity is what makes them so delicious.  I would almost always pick a fruit tart over any other kind of dessert (except perhaps crème brûlée).  This tart is no exception.  Pastry.  Sugar.  Ground almonds.  Plums.  A bit more sugar.  Oven.  Boom, done.  Simple as (good Kiwi expression that – though simple as what, I have no idea).  Oh and I threw a few slivered almonds on top, too, just for effect.  The plums turn all juicy and delicious in the oven, the ground almonds soak up any overflowing juices, and the sugar adds just the perfect balance of sweetness.  This would make a perfect end to a huge meal, or just an afternoon snack.  It’s a little difficult not to make a bit of a mess of the plums when serving the tart, but it’s so delicious that you’ll quickly be forgiven!

Plum & almond tart

Serves 6-8
Adapted from Le Larousse des desserts

The amount of plums required obviously depends on the size of the plums and the size of the tart tin that you’re using, but as a rough guide, I used a dozen medium-large plums.  This tart is best eaten the same day that it is made as the pastry will start to go a little soft if left out for too long.  Add more sugar if you are using particularly tart plums.

Ingredients

Tart pastry (click for recipe – it’ll make twice as much as you need)
About 900g of plums
80g light brown sugar
20g ground almonds
Handful slivered or flaked almonds

Directions

1.  Butter a 24 cm fluted tart tin and dust with flour.  Roll the pastry out to a thickness of about 4mm and line the tart tin with it.  Trim the edges and prick the pastry with a fork.  Leave to rest in the fridge for about 30 mins.  Pre-heat the oven to 190°C.

2.  Meanwhile, cut all the plums in half and remove the stone.  Set aside.

3.  Line the pastry case with a sheet of baking paper and spread baking beans evenly over the paper.  Blind-bake the pastry for 10 mins.

4.  Remove from the oven, remove the baking beans and baking paper, and sprinkle the base of the pastry case evenly with the ground almonds and about 20g of the sugar.  Add the plums cut side up (so the round bit is against the pastry case), as tightly packed as possible.  Sprinkle with about 40g of the sugar and bake for 15 mins.

5.  Sprinkle the slivered almonds over the top of the plums and bake a further 10-15 mins (the plums should bake a total of 25-30 mins).

6.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool fully on a wire rack.  Sprinkle with the remaining sugar just before serving.

Enjoy!

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A big toothy sharky grin for 100 posts!

I can’t quite believe that this is my  100th post.  I can’t quite believe that I’ve published 99 rambling stories, recipes and anecdotes, and that people have actually been reading them.  I find that amazing.  To celebrate my  100th post, I was originally going to share what I’d learnt from blogging, or something along those lines, but my blog’s birthday is next week, so I’ll save my ground-breaking insights for that occasion (don’t hold your breath).  So instead, I thought I’d do something a little different.  If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember that to celebrate my  50th post, I introduced you to my oven gloves, the inspiration for my blog’s name.  As might be obvious from the name Sharky Oven Gloves and the fact that I have two shark-shaped oven gloves as well as a shark mug (which crops up in photos occasionally), I love sharks.  So I thought I’d share three of my favourite photos of real live sharks that I took whilst doing an internship at a research lab in South Africa about three years ago.

Apparently this shark didn’t get the memo that there’s no recipe today.  She ate the entire bait rope.  And tried to eat the buoy as well.  (By the way, the bait is used to bring the great whites (Carcharodon carcharias) as close to the boat as possible to get photos of their dorsal fins, as each one is individual which allows identification – rather like fingerprints, but a bit more difficult to obtain.  The sharks aren’t supposed to get the bait, but sometimes they’re stealthier and faster than the person operating the bait rope, and once they get hold of it, they have a tendency to not let go.  And have you ever tried to play tug-of-war against the tonne of muscle that is a great white?  My guess is no, and my advice is don’t try it.  This shark was clearly of the distinctly uncooperative variety as she kept showing us her belly rather than her back.)

This shark was far more cooperative, and even grinned for the camera (anthropomorphism?  What anthropomorphism?) – clearly a diva shark.  Her fin isn’t quite entirely out of the water, so it’s not ideal for identification, but if you look closely, you can see that there are a few notches along the straight edge, and those are what make the fin individual, along with colour blotches and scars (those this shark has no examples of those).  Contrary to Jaws, great whites don’t usually swim along with their fins sticking out of the water, which is why a bait rope is used to try and get them to the surface and close to the boat (wait, what, that film wasn’t an accurate portrayal of Great White behaviour???  No way!).

As for this shark, well, she literally jumped for joy at the prospect of being featured on my blog.  Her little five minutes seconds of internet fame.  That is an actual great white somersaulting out of the water, by the way (before anybody tries to tell me that sharks don’t do that, and am I sure it’s not a dolphin?).  Have you ever seen the footage of sharks hunting seals by ambushing them from below in documentaries?  If not, you can find a clip from BBC Planet Earth here (it involves seals getting munched on by sharks, so don’t watch it if that will upset you), narrated by the amazing Sir David Attenborough, who graduated with us in June as an honorary graduate.  So we’re practically the best of friends, Sir David and I (I wish).

So on that exciting note, thanks for indulging my shark over-enthusiasm (I know it’s not shared by everybody…).  Enjoy the rest of your day!

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May I present… My oven gloves!

Would you believe it, this is actually my 50th post!  Yes, 50th!!  For some reason, I feel that this is some sort of milestone and that I should post about something special.  So I thought I’d introduce you to my amazing oven gloves, the inspiration behind my blog name: Sharky Oven Gloves.  (Yes, I’m writing about my oven gloves, and no, despite the past few weeks of intense dissertating, I haven’t completely lost the plot, I promise!)

I’m sure I’ve previously mentioned my love of sharks, but in case you’re not up to speed on it, basically, I’m fascinated by them.  Ultimately, I’d like to go into academia and study sharks.  My friends have realised that anything shark-themed makes me totally happy, which makes buying presents for me fairly straightforward (aside from the minor detail of actually finding shark-themed gifts).  About three years ago, my flatmate gave me a shark-shaped oven glove for my birthday – a truly amazing present!

Through a series of totally unexpected circumstances, Kat ended up living with me last summer (2010) and Craig, who was also in St Andrews over the summer, spent quite a lot time with us.  Our summer involved baking a lot, eating a lot and drinking a lot totally responsibly.  Craig and I introduced Kat to the old James Bond films (we worked our way through the entire set).  We also discovered that a shark-shaped oven glove has a lot of potential for hilarious photos.

By the time we watched The Man with the Golden Gun, shark oven glove photos were a fairly permanent feature of our evenings (not as sad as it sounds…), and we’d decided that we wanted to name the oven glove something Bond-related.  Christopher Lee plays Scaramanga (the “bad guy” with the golden gun), and he’s just a fantastic actor and we also happen to be Lord of the Rings fans, so we decided to name the oven glove Toothamanga, or Toothy for short.

I don’t know how familiar you are with the James Bond films, but they contain a lot of dreadful innuendo, which is, of course, incredibly hilarious (did I mention that we’re all really mature, ahem). We paired a few of the photos up with various Bond quotes (hover over the photo for the quote), and just in case you weren’t sure about our (im)maturity level, here is one of my favourites:

In case you think your eyes might be deceiving you, yes, there is an actual street in St Andrews called Butts Wynd.

Here’s another, rather more mature photo-quote pairing:

Kat and Craig took Toothy on a proper tour of St Andrews one day, made him a facebook profile and put all the photos up whilst I was in the lab – I didn’t know about it until I got a friendship request from my own oven glove.  It must have taken me about 10 minutes to stop laughing (thank goodness my professor wasn’t in the lab at the time).  Here are some of my favourites (it was difficult to choose!):

Now, it’s all very well having a shark-shaped oven glove, but sometimes you need two oven gloves.  Most times, actually.  Since we spent a lot of time baking, I complained about this a lot over the summer.  So Kat, being the amazing friend that she is, gave me a second shark-shaped oven glove for my birthday (it’s in September, so at the end of the summer).  We named it Toothy-Two, or Twothy (see what we did there?)  Being working oven gloves, they have of course accumulated various stains, and that’s how we tell them apart (though Twothy also seems to be made of slightly thinner material – possibly on account of the recession?).  So there you have it – the rather long-winded story behind Sharky Oven Gloves!

Here’s a final selection of photos, all golf-related – after all, I hear that St Andrews is famous for it…!

Hmmmm…  Perhaps I have lost the plot!

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