Richard P Grant and his BioLOG (biolog); the wee blog, weblog, or web blog; things not necessarily biology related. The anti-blogger.


22 April 2019

2018 Vintage

One of the things I did manage to achieve this Easter holiday was to bottle the Bronte Estate 2018 wines… rose, white, cottage redcurrant, blackberry and cherry. In all, 54 bottles—4 with added sparkle.

The blackberry should be drinkable this year; experience shows we might have to wait until 2020 at least to open the rose and the white. We’ll see… and with the new vines Jenny bought me last week, very tempted to move as much production as possible to merret.

Because you need a USP, and because I can.

Filed under: wine — Tags: , , — rpg @ 21:01

8 September 2018


We’ve been to our secret hideaway in Tuscany a few times in the last several years, and one day I will post some photos, just to make you all jealous. But one of the things that I remember is the cantuccini we get from a little shop in Castiglione della Pescaia. We eat these delicious little bundles of almond and pistachio with the coffee our landlady supplies, and we have not been able to find a quite adequate substitute for either.

Making my own cantuccini has been preying on my mind for some time now, and this afternoon I finally gave it a go. Just as for tiramisu, there are no two recipes alike on the interwebs. And some call for Vino Sante, others call for butter (blasphemy); I even saw one recipe with olive oil. Some have sugar, others don’t.

So I decided to make my own. Again.

Caveat: I only had whole, blanched almonds—ideally we’d use ones with the skin still on, but we can’t always get what we want. But here’s the recipe I made up:

rpg’s cantuccini (Italian biscotti) recipe


  • Two eggs
  • 3/4 cup (6 oz) caster sugar
  • 1 cup (6 oz) OO grade flour and a little more
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 shot homemade redcurrant gin
  • zest of a small orange
  • 100 g (1 pack) whole blanched almonds, toasted
  • 3 oz (~1/2 pack) pistachio kernels, blanched for 2 minutes to enhance the colour


Preheat your oven to fan 190ºC or equivalent.

  1. Beat together the sugar and the eggs until light and fluffy, but not too much
  2. Stir in all the other ingredients, the gin going in last
  3. Mix to a dough
  4. Add a little flour if needed so you can handle the dough
  5. Roll/shape/squish into a couple of tubes and lay out on a lined baking tray
  6. Bake for 15 minutes
  7. Remove from oven and stand for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 170ºC fan
  8. Cut the mound into ~1/2 inch slices
  9. Bake for a further 15 minutes

Jenny tried the end slice before they went back in the oven. It was so good she took another slice to have with her coffee.

These are exquisite. Next time I might add some almond essence to the dough, and try harder to find whole, unskinned almonds.

Some things don’t come in convenient pack sizes



Ready for the oven

Bake one

Slice one


Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , — rpg @ 14:42

21 April 2014

Sea bream grilled in butter with dill

There is a fish restaurant not far from our favourite holiday destination in Tuscany. At the weekend we found some sea bream fillets in Waitrose, and this being one of Jenny’s favourite fishes I decided to try to replicate something we had at Da Remo.

Da Remo

Ideally what I wanted to do would have been achieved on the barbecue, but there were only two of us for dinner, and we currently lack a decent grill pan. What we ended up with was better than I could have imagined, so here’s the recipe.

  1. Warm a large jamie of butter in a non-stick pan. Grind a small amount of black pepper into it.
  2. Sprinkle the bream fillets with a little freshly squeezed lemon juice and scatter over a few grains of sea salt.
  3. When you’re ready to cook, turn the heat up under the butter to full. The butter needs to be really hot, but only just turning brown.
  4. Add a couple of sprigs of fresh dill to the pan (if it’s hot enough it’ll sizzle immediately), followed by the fish, skin-side to the pan.
  5. Leave the heat on high and fry for about 3 minutes, until you can see the inside of the fish beginning to cook.
  6. Flip the fish over and fry for another couple of minutes. The skin should already be crispy and starting to brown.
  7. Flip the fish back (skin side down) for another minute to make sure the skin is really crispy (and check that the fillets are cooked through).
  8. Don’t overcook! Really—if these babies dry out it would be a tragedy.
  9. Lift the fish onto kitchen towel to blot excess butter. Serve immediately (we had boiled potatoes and peas, and a glass of Oyster Bay sauvignon blanc).
Filed under: Recipes — Tags: — rpg @ 20:29

24 March 2014


So, I’m trying attract spam because of a suspected problem with my other hosting provider. How do we do that?

Viagra? Shoes? Handsome RSS brides that give me tips on design?

Who knows?

Filed under: bugger — rpg @ 21:34

23 February 2013

Standard Model

As Tyrant for Life at Occam’s Typewriter one of my responsibilities is to keep an eye on the goings-on over at our outpost in the Gamma Quadrant. So it was that on Thursday lunchtime that I was catching up on the comment thread of Stephen’s latest post. Something there caught my eye, and in five or ten minutes I’d used that inspiration to scribble the following poem.

Standard Model

When a proton
   In desperation
First grabbed an electron
   And gave unwittingly
To an undiscovered country
   Stars and water and airships
Did it feel
   In some quark-like fashion
The same primal urge
   That keeps my heart
In orbit
   Around the sun of you?

Filed under: Poems — Tags: , , , , , — rpg @ 20:13

27 January 2013

Ode to a haggis

Great steaming lump of sausage meat
It’s you we’ve all come here to eat;
Your oats and pepper, something sweet—
   What is that smell?
Perhaps a hint of runner’s feet?
   I cannot tell.

The neeps and tatties on the plate
Are our two veg, it is their fate.
But you’re the course for which we wait—
   We’re all agog
As on a nervous lover’s date
   With lots of grog!

Mister MacSween has done his best;
We went to Waitrose for the rest:
No need for a genetic test
   Of any course:
No GMO or turkey breast
   Or Tesco horse.

Forget your sorrows and your woe
And let the amber liquids flow:
There really is no need to know
   What the bag is.
I’ll end it now, my tell and show:
   Eat the haggis!

Filed under: Poems — Tags: — rpg @ 9:17

9 January 2013

A Christmas Fantasy

In the post-Christmas languor
    Approaching the New Year—
Heart and belly sated
    Full with seasonal cheer—
While bagging up the gift-wrap,
    Under a pile of mail
I glimpsed a red-trimmed postcard:
    Orvis having a sale.

Under the pizza leaflets,
    Envelopes for the poor,
Local IT repair firms—
    All offered through my door;
Proclaimed the Orvis postcard
    (I’m sure it said, I swore!),
For sale: hundreds of poems,
    All “at half-price or more.”

“What are these wondrous tidings?”
    I said, and in my haste,
Pulled on my boots and raincoat,
    “There is no time to waste!
I’ll go straight to Dover Street
    To find this sacred store,
There to buy us some poems
    All for half-price or more.”

In my granddad’s day, he got
    A sonnet for his daughter.
Even then they were not cheap—
    Sixpence for a quarter.
But he would be shocked to see
    At the Orvis store,
Poems of all size and shapes
    For sale; half-price or more.

In my mind I saw it clear:
    New poems by the pound!
Finely graded, freshly picked,
    In spoonfuls heaped and round.
Or, perhaps, they’d sell by length,
    Laid out across the floor:
I’d get three yards of sonnet
    And pay half-price or more.

I’d try all their limericks
    And even haikus too—
And to the fair assistant,
    I’d say, “And one for you?”
I’d hurry then, and take the card
    (‘Cause it would be a mess
If what they really meant to say
    Wasn’t “half-price or less”).

As I reached to take the card,
    My hand upon the door,
A pizza leaflet shifted;
    I saw the line once more:
An ‘i’ and ‘t’ were covered—
    Not ‘poems’ at the store—
It read “Hundreds of items
    All at half-price or more.”

Dashed was my Christmas vision—
    There was no sacred store
With yards and heaps of sonnets
    And verses on the floor.
Curse your eight-pointed snowflakes!
    (Your grammar’s also poor.)
Yet still I’ll dream of poems
    Hundreds: half-price, or more.


Bah humbug.

Filed under: Poems — Tags: , — rpg @ 9:59

23 August 2012

Les science blogs d’antan

Hello world!

Filed under: meta — rpg @ 19:09

10 September 2011

Paper Plane

This is a test. Nothing to see, move along please.

Created with flickrSLiDR.

Another test

Filed under: photos — rpg @ 17:39

16 December 2010

On moving on

After Nature Network shafted me and a few others over our blogs there (they locked us out without warning, meaning we couldn’t make a a graceful transition), I launched a new blog network, called Occam’s Typewriter.

All my ‘serious’ and ‘not-so-serious’ blogging will henceforth be at Confessions of a (former) Lab Rat,

Please do the thing with your bookmarks and RSS feeds.

Praise for Occam’s Typewriter


we need to pay you more

I will happily buy you a pint

grumpy old scrotum

hope wikileaks isn’t hacking us

When did Richard ever *not* ask for trouble? Trouble is what he likes. Trouble with a capital T.

Would just like to mention that @rpg7twit is a genius :) #occamt


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