RECIPE: Okonomiyaki (Japanese Pancake)

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If I were to pin my hopes on the next big thing, it would be BBQ food, in Dublin. But there’s a little hidden trend kicking off and it’s a little known Japanese dish called Okonomiyaki, a savoury pancake. It’s very simple, quick and easy to make – but hasn’t quite hit here yet. There’s a place in London where you can get a good version, I’ve also given it a go on my travels and it’s such a satisfying dish.

 

Literally, Okonomiyaki means ‘What you like’ so the combinations are endless, and every region in Japan has it’s own version – filled with everything from seafood, to vegetables or pork. This is a simple, year round kind of recipe which can really wow, but doesn’t break the bank, or wreck your kitchen!

 

Perfect on its own as you can make them quite big, and they’re deceptively filling, if you really want, a simple bowl of fried noodles and some veggies is a great side, gyoza would be more traditional.

 

What you’ll need (Serves two generously);

½ a large cabbage (White looks best)

1 Onion (white or red work)

150g button mushrooms

100 – 150g prawns (I used frozen, pre-cooked but you can use raw – just add some time for them to pink)

6 large eggs

150g of plain flour, you can also use self-raising

olive oil

tomato ketchup

Soy Sauce

Mayonaise

 

1 Large Mixing bowl

1 frying/large pancake pan

 

First off, peel and slice the onion, mushrooms and cabbage (a small blender to roughly chop will make quick work of the cabbage). If using frozen prawns, leave them out to defrost in a bowl of water, if using raw  give them a quick fry to just cook them (we prefer to err on the side of caution).

 

In the mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and flour together until you get a nice, smooth batter. Then fold in the vegetables and prawns until well combined. You really can use any vegetable though, just make sure you choose something not too big and won’t be too crunchy, you can also use any meat you want, we also threw in some bacon.

 

Put a good glug of oil into the pan on a good medium heat. Once nice and hot, pour half the mixture into the pan, cooking about 5 minutes on either side, until browned and steady enough to flip. Just make sure that it’s cooked through.

When cooked and browned on either side, slide out onto a plate and drizzle with ketchup (or brown sauce) and mayo. If you’re a traditionalist, you’ll have to sprinkle with fish flakes, but that’s a bit too fancy.

 

To add some spice to the dish, which is solidly flavourful – but sometimes needs an oomph, get a tsp of Harissa Paste and mix well with a small bowl of yoghurt, adding more/less of each to taste.


Serve with some nice fried noodles.

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Why Facebook is walking a paid v. organic tightrope

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What many social and digital marketers will know, is that Facebook have been making some serious algorithm changes which will quite seriously affect how users interact with brands and exactly how that relationship works. One of the specific changes in recent weeks, is the auto-playing video ads on mobile newsfeeds. Ultimately, Facebook wants more tailored and more relevant content for its users, helping it to challenge its great rival, Google. Mostly, in the interim, however, it wants companies to pay more to be seen.

 

This is a particular problem which leaves Facebook between a rock and a hard place. Users need more relevant content to engage with a site, content is more than, and should be more than the number of likes a post can receive. To prioritise content like this, means that the same posts from the same pages will constantly show to the user, this adds little or no value to the page, or the like – making engagement meaningless. Brands however are spread across a wide range of activities, many rely on memes and ‘light’ content to survive and to engage with their fans. While Edgerank tries to remedy this, it still means more money needs to be pumped into a page.

 

So while on one hand you have users show the beginnings of Facebook fatigue, for want of stronger, more relevant content, on the other hand you now have brands who suddenly need to pay more to be seen. While this does force brands to become more relevant and enforces some kind of content optimisation, the problem is that Facebook offers no ‘organic’ alternative, in the same way to Google. There’s no guarantee that good and optimised content will go to the top, and even if it does, it’s finite. Google organic search means that a page can remain at the top for quite some time, based on the relevancy of its content.

 

While as a marketer, it makes my job more difficult, requiring me to dig down much more into my analytics to make sure that content is constantly relevant, and reduces the ability and latitude to post in a more ad hoc manner for engagement, as a user, it ultimately benefits. The harsh reality is, that while many brands are funny and do rely on engagement on short posts or ‘memes’ there’s a badly needed exercise within Facebook to clean up the newsfeed. Google might be the big competition in Facebook’s mind, but increasingly younger users are going to other platforms, like Twitter and Kik to find answers and network. These are not spaces where relevant content is more rewarded, but places where it doesn’t always matter so much.


While brands and agencies might not like it (the idea of asking for more money is never nice), Facebook is changing its algorithm to stay as relevant as possible in a market increasingly moving towards a more contextual and content oriented search method. Users when loading Siri or Google Now, expect content to be relevant, they expect that the first page or the answers these apps come up with to be exactly what they wanted and have content that relates to this. In order for Facebook to stay competitive in this space, it has to make brands think about what they say and better understand who their users are.

Facebook buying WhatsApp, the ‘Sink or Swim’ strategy

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Heads are still swivelling from the monumental sum of money which has been put against WhatsApp in the last 24-hours by Facebook ahead of their purchase of the company.

To put it in perspective, as I touched on in a previous post; WhatsApp has been valued at $19billion, with 50 employees is now worth more than both Sony, United Airlines and Gap all of whom have significantly more resources. Not only that, but it’s 450 million users now send more messages per day than the global population send SMS. It’s also comfortably now bigger and more valuable than Twitter.

But there’s some key things to take out of this purchase, Facebook is facing a tough future, one in which smaller more niche social networks are starting to steal its thunder and most importantly, revenue base. The giant now, more than ever is facing a battle to remain relevant in this new social landscape. Part of the strategy to remain relevant is nothing new, Google, Apple and Yahoo! have been doing it for a long time; go on a spending spree.

Mark Zuckerberg made an intelligent move when he bought Instagram, it was an investment which is still to bear fruit – but one which ensures that Facebook has a future separate to its own platform, continuously able to target the young consumers that are spending online and communicating there natively. The purchase of WhatsApp is the next step in marketing to an audience which just never took to Facebook Messenger, or the Facebook phone.

Ultimately, Facebook aren’t just trying to reach users, they’re trying to reach people like me, those who spend money advertising to the users, to make their $19billion investment back and turn a tidy profit. There’s an argument that such huge investments can be harmful to small networks, but WhatsApp has the benefit of already turning a profit. The prospect of this marketing opportunity isn’t exactly unappealing.

Facebook already allows a hugely granular method of advertising and promotion, largely there’s still a problem of reporting and results – simply put, investment from large brands in social advertising is still in its infancy and the idea of paying for your content to be seen by fans doesn’t always appeal, especially compared to a more robust AdWords by Google, who allow for much more detailed tracking and reporting, as well as revenue where that’s important.

WhatsApp from the point of view of brands who want to advertise is pretty cool, there’s a lot Facebook could do with the service, beyond integrating it with pages, perhaps even allowing for a Snapchat like broadcast from pages – it would have to be carefully managed, but I suspect that the WhatsApp user base won’t be as ardently opposed to this as the Instagram community is, simply because its a younger market and to a large degree are less affected by advertising on an app. Facebook is following Google into the idea of contextual search and advertising, WhatsApp could fit in quite neatly with that.

Ultimately, we won’t see for quite some time what will be done with the messaging service. It could be expected that it will remain fairly separate for the time being, like Instagram – Facebook doesn’t want to rock the boat, but they will eventually look to unify their services when the buy-in exists; a customer base who are used to the idea of these services being interlinked – rather than the current mature users who are more comfortable with the idea of separate apps for separate networks.

5 Things the Samsung S5 should have

With the release of the new iPhone 5S and 5C, all eyes have turned to Apple’s new arch-rival, Samsung to see exactly what they’ll pull out of the bag for their new flagship phone, the S5. Just as the headlines of Apple’s huge success in shifting their latest smartphone begin to ebb, reports have surfaced that the S5 will debut in January.

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Why Apple making a watch would be the ultimate Shark Jump.

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There have been plenty of rumours flying around about Apple designing a new watch; sites up and down the web are suggesting that Cupertino may be about to shake up a market which has stood for over a hundred years. More than likely a massive Red Herring, these rumours have annoyed me; completely ignoring the nature of Apple, a company that traditionally doesn’t pander to flights of fancy.

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[OPINION] Why Google have started the Real Tablet War

Since the launch of the iPad, about three years ago now, competition has been springing up from every corner. Sony lunched their tablets which, while elegant were certainly the more unusual in the design spectrum. Samsung also threw a half dozen tablets into the market, with names no one can really remember and no discernible strategy of formula (The Note seems unsure whether it’s a phone, or a tablet). Amazon was the first real competition to the market, with the Fire. A low price point helped it clean up the Android tablet market. But, enter Google and everything changes.

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[REVIEW] HTC One S and Ice Cream Sandwich

Recently I decided to make the jump over to Android, leaving my iPhone 4 to the storage bin that is the zip pocket in my satchel. As someone who loves pretty much everything Apple, I was hesitant about making the leap. However, I was pleasantly surprised by my changeover. The HTC One S is part of a range of One phones, including the larger brother the X and the smaller V. I opted for the S as besides the screen size and resolution, there isn’t a huge amount of difference to the X, and I prefer a smaller, slimmer phone.

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