Graybo’s moules marinières

Ok, so actually this is Anthony Bourdain‘s moules marinières with a dollop of cream and some garlic added – but since I modified the recipe successfully, I claim it as my own and you can all send your money now.

Serves 2 as a main course, just. Would probably be enough for three as a starter.

  • 1 kilogram lovely fresh mussels. We got ours from here. A bargain at three quid a kilo. For those that worry about this sort of thing, 1 kilo gave us 58 mussels. In hindsight, we could have used a little more, but that depends on what you serve it with. If you made some home-made frîtes, then this would be plenty. With just bread, then perhaps 1.2kg would be better.
  • 300 ml dry white wine. We had a cheeky Sicilian in the fridge, so I used that. Incidentally, how can wines be cheeky? This is more wine than Bourdain suggests and I think is justified when adding cream.
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced.
  • 25g butter.
  • 1 tbsp cream. I used extra thick single because we happened to have some, but normal single would do just as well.
  • 3 small cloves of garlic, finely chopped.
  • some parsley, finely chopped.
  • salt and pepper.

This doesn’t take long. The time-consuming bit is the cleaning of the mussels – say 20 minutes. The cooking takes just 15 minutes.

  • Firstly, clean those mussels. Bourdain gives a long examination of this subject in his Les Halles Cookbook (one of my bibles), but you can boil it down to this:
  • buy fresh. Don’t buy pre-frozen or rubbish.
  • use quickly and prepare just before you use them. Don’t store them if you can help it.
  • wash them in a colander.
  • pull the beards off – that fluffy bit that sticks out.
  • as you go, check to see if any are open. If they are, tap them and see if they close. This is fun! They actually do close quite quickly if they are open. Unless they’re dead, in which case they don’t shut and you can bung them in the bin. Out of our 58, we chucked one.
  • wash them again. And again. You can’t wash them too much, really. Leave them in the colander for the water to drain off.

Ok? Good. Have a glass of wine.

  • Next, in a big pan with a good lid (not a loose one – we used an Ikea casserole which was perfect for bringing to the table and eating straight from), melt the butter.
  • Add the shallots and scoot them around for a minute or two until soft and just beginning to brown.
  • Add the wine, garlic and cream. Bring to the boil (turn your heat up all the way) and season.
  • Throw in the mussels and put on the lid. Sit down and have another glass of wine for ten minutes (what did you think you do with the rest of the bottle?).
  • Check in the pan. The mussels should now be nicely open. Take the pan off the heat and, holding the lid on, give it a bit of a shake. Then add the parsley and shake it again.
  • Bring it to the table and serve with some good chunky bread to mop up the juices. Or frîtes.


Now, what should I write?

Canon have emailed me today. They’ve invited me to take part in a customer satisfaction survey regarding their online and telephone tech support.

I think I need a day or two to thoroughly consider exactly what form of words to employ. However, your suggestions are, as always, welcome. The comments await you.

Making a nuisance

I’ve been having problems with nuisance calls on my business line. They call, it rings, I pick up… *click*…. they hang up.

Ho hum. 1471. Telephone number: 0800 389 6818.

A quick Google search reveals that gazillions of people are having the same problem. This is a marketing company and they use a computer to dial zillions of numbers, including mine. It hangs up. You 1471erise the number and call back. They try to sell you something (mobile telephony, broadband, double glazing, whatever) – earning money as they go from their 0800 number (yes, they earn money from that).

But, the good news is that you can stop it. Well, in theory you can. There is a free service called SilentCallGard. You dial a number (0870 444 3969 – or go online), punch in your number and it subscribes you for two years (although the website says 12 months). It blocks all automated calls from these evil phone spammers, although be warned that it only blocks calls from companies that are signed up to its register and membership of the register is not obligatory.

So, we shall see if it works.

Printer update – better news

On Friday, I finally got a reply out of Canon tech support. They had decided that it was beyond them and that my machine required a service. A number was supplied in order to make an appointment.

Canon outsource their servicing to an organisation called CURA. Dealing with them is, after my experiences with Canon, a revelation. I called the number yesterday. I spoke to a human being. He gave me some instructions by email to reset the printer which I tried – but they didn’t work. They then called me to arrange for an engineer to visit – and I had in mind that I’d have to ship my machine to some servicing depot. The engineer came today and was here for two hours. He tried everything, of that I have no doubt. His conclusion is that the network card on the machine is faulty, so he has ordered a replacement part. Later this afternoon, I had another call to make a new appointment for him to come back and fit the new card – he’ll be coming Tuesday (I was offered an earlier appointment which I couldn’t do and we lose two days for the holiday). The engineer was genuinely sorry that he’d been defeated by the machine.

If only Canon tech support had the same level of service and same approach as these CURA people! If they had, I wouldn’t have got so annoyed with Canon and wouldn’t have bored you rigid with all these posts about my printer. As it is, I’m still not inclined to buy another Canon product because I don’t want to go through all this again. But I’ll be keeping that CURA number safe.

The only thing that isn’t certain is whether the repair will work. All we can do is keep fingers crossed. Inevitably, I will update the story here.

Printer news

I’ll keep this brief, as I’m sure it isn’t that interesting.

I finally received a reply from Canon on Friday, eight days after submitting my complaint/support request. The reply was clearly a template, telling me that they were sorry that I had a problem and asking me to define the details of the problem "including any error codes" and to ensure that I was using the correct drivers.

No mention of a response to my comments demanding a refund.

So, I hit reply and cut-and-pasted the section from my original email that described the problem whilst adding more complaints about the shoddy level of service, repeating my request for a refund and make a not-so-subtle threat to take the matter to Trading Standards. And guess what? I got an email back telling me that my email could not be dealt with and thanks for trying to contact them.

Rummaging through the fine print at the bottom of the email, I found a link to a webpage where I could submit my reply using a form. Which I duly did on Friday afternoon. Monday night, still no reply.

So, Canon, why can’t I reply to your email request for more information by the simple step of hitting "reply" on my mail client? And why can’t you reply quickly?

I’d seethe, but I can barely bother.

How to fix a faulty HP PSC 2110 all-in-one

Me and printers. It’s just a never-ending tale of woe, lately.

Given the total failure of my new Canon machine (no, still no word from Canon support), I pulled my old Hewlett Packard machine out (it hasn’t yet been sold/FreeCycled) so that I could print some urgent and vital colour documents. The fact that I’ll also have to get out my old laptop to do this is an aside.

Upon putting it back on the shelf and powering up, the printer began its normal initialisation sequence. However, this didn’t seem to go normally and resulted in a rather unpleasant grinding noise from under the cover. Not good. A quick look revealed that the scan head was moving all the way to the right and banging against the casing of the machine. Repeatedly. It only stopped when it over-heated and cut out. Hmm.

A quick look at the HP support pages (which are generally pretty good) revealed that this can occur if the lamp is not reaching its correct operating temperature or is not bright enough. They give a set of possible causes, mostly related to the power supply. Well, since the machine is plugged in in exactly the same way that it has been for the last five years, I wasn’t convinced, but I checked anyway. Nothing doing.

So, as usual, Google is your friend and I found my way to this site. The problem with this sort of site is that you have to work your way through lots of discussion in order to extract a workable solution. Essentially, what was happening was that the scan head was looking for its zero-position marker and not finding it. This marker takes the form of a white strip on the underside of the glass, just to the right of the visible section. So, in order to assist others, here is a clear point-by-point method to fix the problem:

  • disconnect the printer from the mains and USB.
  • using a small screw driver, pry off the control panel cover from the end nearest the LCD display.
  • using the screw driver, depress the tab found in the square hole (centre front) under the panel and slide the panel forward to remove it.
  • unplug the ribbon cable from the circuit board on the underside of the control panel, making a note of its orientation as you do so (so you know which way to plug it back in later!)
  • remove the two star screws exposed by the panel removal (one at the front, one right rear) and the screw near the rear left corner of the printer. (This third screw is described as being at the rear right on, which set me hunting around for something that wasn’t there for five minutes. Also, if you don’t have a star screw driver, a small flat screw driver might just work. Otherwise, head for your nearest electrical specialist for the correct tool – I got one for £1.26).
  • look through the glass with a torch at the center front of the printer and you will see a U-shaped tab sticking down from the top cover that engages a projection on the main cover. Using a thin blade inserted between the covers (I used a very small screw driver which marked the case a bit, but I’m not that bothered), push the U-shaped piece gently towards the rear and carefully lift off the cover complete with the glass.
  • you can separate the lid from the glass assembly by simply popping the hinges out (obvious when you look at it).
  • carefully clean the glass on both sides, paying particular attention to the white strip. Yes, I know that it looks clean, but clean it anyway. Mine had a thin greasy residue across the entire underside surface which came away nicely using those tissue computer screen wipes.
  • VERY carefully, using a cotton bud, clean the mirror that is underneath the lamp in the scan head assembly. Some users of said that they used an alcohol solution to do this, but I just used two clean dry cotton buds. Be very careful, as that lamp would be expensive to replace and is fragile.
  • now to reassemble: place the glass assembly back on the printer, taking care to feed the ribbon cable back through the slot that it goes through.
  • reconnect the ribbon cable to the circuit board on the control panel.
  • now test that the printer works. Reconnect the mains (not USB yet) and switch on. Hopefully, it will initialize correctly. If it doesn’t, disconnect the mains, remove the ribbon cable and control panel, lift the glass assembly off and have another go at cleaning – you missed something and might need to use alcohol to get it really clean.
  • assuming your initialization went well, turn the machine off and disconnect the mains again (better safe than sorry).
  • replace the three star screws, taking care not to over-tighten (I actually haven’t tightened mine all the way in order to facilitate any future removal).
  • replace the lid (the hinges just pop back in).
  • replace the control panel by pushing it towards the back (taking care not to catch that ribbon cable).
  • replace the control panel cover by inserting the front tabs first and then pushing down at the back (you may need to use a screw driver to gently help the tabs on their way).
  • reconnect the mains and USB and you’re ready to go.

I shouldn’t be surprised if this trick doesn’t work for other scanners and all-in-one machines, although of course the assembly/reassembly will be different for every machine. However, it seems from that these instructions hold true for several models of HP machine.