RipIt is an easy-to-use DVD ripping tool for Macs. It rips DVDs onto your hard drive (whether internal or external) into a format that can be read by the DVD player app just like any other DVD, which means it preserves the whole DVD structure, including menus, chapters, and bonus material. (I’ve yet to try it out for Easter Eggs, though.) At only $18.99 it’s an absolute bargain.
When I first embarked on The Great DVD Project (making hard drive backups of the family’s DVD collection and converting them to Apple TV format), I used the setup you’ll see mentioned in a lot of blogs: Mac The Ripper (MTR) to rip the DVD to hard disk then Handbrake to convert MTR’s output into Apple TV format.
This served me adequately for a while, although I found MTR’s interface somewhat inscrutable at times, until I came across a few DVDs with copy protection that couldn’t be read by MTR. Without wishing to get into a debate about copy protection’s rights and wrongs, I spent a fruitless few hours on various sites and a scary-looking MTR forum, but nothing I tried could get MTR to work on these DVDs.
That’s when I stumbled across RipIt. It’s a simple app to use – once installed, you insert the DVD, ask RipIt to do its stuff, and you end up with a DVD image that can be played just like any other DVD. RipIt will even look up the DVD’s name in an online catalogue for you so you end up with a filename that’s vaguely intelligible (results are variable, though).
So far 2009 has been mixed, with regards to the quality of my food intake. A quick glance at the food diary shows a distinct lack of home cooking, partly due to the fact that the family are still trying to get over the Christmas cold/flu that’s affected practically everyone we know, and partly due to the leftover Christmas snacks available for easy, but bad, appetite suppression.
Since we are now back into the realms of normal routine – back to work A.G.A.I.N. – it’s time to try and get back into good habits. Today, I decided to make cottage pie for dinner. To be more accurate, I’d decided to make shepherd’s pie, but lamb mince was unavailable at Waitrose this morning, so beef was used instead.
I make no claims for authenticity or otherwise of my recipe (although I’m not convinced anyone could reasonably claim to have the definitive recipe anyway):
- 500g minced beef (I went for the 10% fat option)
- 2 carrots, chopped finely
- 1 onion, diced finely
- 1kg King Edward potatoes (I suspect you could probably get away with 25% less, and other mashing spuds like Maris Piper would be perfectly acceptable)
I took my largest Le Creuset saucepan, got some olive oil up to a pretty hot temperature, and browned the minced beef. Given the quantity involved, I did it in batches to keep the temperature nice and hot, so that the beef didn’t just stew.
After tipping the beef out somewhere safe, I used the same pan to sweat the carrots and onions until nicely soft but not mushy, then added the beef back in. I sprinkled about a tablespoon of plain flour onto the mixture, let that cook for a good minute or two, and then poured, ooh, about 500 ml of water freshly boiled from the kettle. I let that bubble away until I got a lovely unctuous gravy with the meat, then poured that into my pie dish. I let it all cool down before sticking it in the fridge, to ‘set’ the mixture. It makes whacking the mashed potato on top that much easier.
Speaking of which, obviously you need to do some mashed potato to top the pie. It’s hardly rocket science, but for the record, peel and chop your spuds into small cubes, then boil that in salted water until soft and mushy (but not completely falling apart). Drain, then return to the pan for a little bit more heat to drive out any excess moisture, then mash it up. I added a generous knob of butter to my mash and glug of extra virgin olive oil. I was going to stick a handful of grated cheddar cheese into the mash, but the missus wasn’t keen on the idea. (If I was making mashed potato as a side dish, I’d also add a good few glugs of full fat milk to make it lovely and creamy, but for a pie topping, I want it fairly stodgy.)
When your mashed spuds are done, stick them on top of the pie, and smooth out with a spatula. If you’ve cooled your meat mixture, it should be a piece of cake, er, pie, to do this bit. I realise now I should have made a video to show the technique I use to get my mash topping right, as I’m struggling to find the words to describe it. Ho hum.
Stick your completed pie in a hot oven for about 25-30 minutes. Finish it off under a hot grill to get a lovely crispy topping. I’d recommend putting the pie dish on a baking tray, by the way, in case the meat mixture bubbles over, like mine did.
I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but there’s no getting away from the psychological impact of the change from one year to the next.
2008 was, for various reasons, something of a ‘lost’ year as far as the allotment goes, and I’m determined to use 2009 well and get the allotment into a good state. There’s a lot of work to be done, but at least if I cut stuff back now, it’s not going to spring back even more vigorously before I get to it again. (One my mistakes last year was trying to tame the allotment during the summer.)
Anyway, one way of being productive about the allotment when I’m not even there, is to make sure my planning is all in order. To that end, I’m signing up for Growveg.com*.
As the website neatly puts it: “GrowVeg.com is an innovative garden planning tool which helps you grow fruit and vegetables to the best of their ability, whatever the size or shape of your garden or plot.” There’s also useful articles on the site to read through, so you’re not just left with a pretty online version of graph paper.
I’ve signed up for the free 30-day trial, and I’ll report back regularly as to how I’m finding it. I’m pretty sure I’ll end up paying for the full account (only £15 per year, or £25 for two years), but it’d be stupid not to take advantage of the free trial first. If you’re feeling generous you can always buy someone else a Growveg.com gift certificate*.
*These links are affiliate links – if you click them and end up paying for a Growveg.com account, I’ll get a little bit of money for referring you. It won’t cost you any more to use this link compared to going to Growveg.com directly. I promise I’m linking to Growveg.com only because it’s interesting.
Two thousand and nine
Time to revisit the blog