Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hang On! This Record Is Quite Nice...

B For Bang: Julia (KML Recordings, 2007)
B For Bang are a group of (mainly) Italian artistes who have decided that Ver Beatles are a good stepping off point for their - and I quote - "discourse on the relationship between music and images". Well, that's what I thought! Anyway, Julia is a strong enough song to survive any onslaught - and this is one is, actually, rather nice. More stuff here...

People You Didn't Have Down As
Scooter Riders: 1

Alfred Hitchcock

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

People You Didn't Know Were Great Mates With Roy Castle From Record Breakers: 1

Eartha Kitt

Peckham Rye Cafe

I reckon - as usual - that I'm the last to know about the new cafe on Peckham Rye Park. And my, it is lovely! The menu is a bit limited with mostly just soup and sandwiches but it's so well done out and everyone's friendly and the waiters are handsome and my chickpea soup (£2.95) was delicious (and home made and came with organic bread) and Scrap's sandwich had very good ham in it.

So yes, the lovely park now has a lovely cafe. Like you didn't know already :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Records I Can't Stand: 14

Oasis: Wonderwall (Creation, 1995)

Obviously, I'm not saying I've not got a soft spot for Liam (I'm only flesh and blood after all) , but I can't stand this track. It's over-played, it's about Meg flaming Matthews and it's a load of soppy, wet nonsense.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mall Or Nothing

I'm just back from a quick dash to the rubbish cook shop on Lordship Lane for some star-shaped cutters and you know, they had them too, in three different sizes as well as many other festive shapes.
I was walking back up the road feeling quite pleased when a woman stops me with a flyer. "Do you know about the new indoor market?" she asks. No. I do not."Well it's just here behind Caffe Nero and my friend sells oysters at the back." Five seconds later I'm in there. I've picked up three cut-price books for Scrap for £7 from the first stall, tasted cheese, browsed jewellery and hand-made pottery and some nice old furniture and at the back is the oyster man. He's got three types of oyster: Falmouth Bay Natives, Fine de Claire and Rocks at one of each for just £3.50. He has shallot vinegar that he's made himself and glasses of Champagne and does eat in (no chairs yet) or take away. That's tonight's tea sorted then!

Shallot Vinegar
Very finely chop a shallot and mix with 5 - 6 tablespoons of red wine vinegar. Add brown sugar, salt and pepper, to taste.

Ed Warehouse, 1 Zenoria Street, East Dulwich
The Oystercatcher 07989 554536

Friday, November 23, 2007

Basement State:1

Frazier Chorus: Cloud 8 [Future Mix] (Virgin, 1990)
Landcroft House has a big basement. It's one of the reasons we bought the place eight years ago. Sadly, if understandably, it's always been a bit of a dumping ground. But, among the old pots and pans and books and video tapes and magazines and vases and glasses and plates and furniture, there is a lot of old CDs and vinyl.

I was at what can only be described as a music-biz party last night, This is rare for me, so I enjoyed it very much. I used to go to these things all the time, but now they're a proper treat. Anyway, while there I was talking to a few people about acid house (I know, very boring). All the usual suspects got named, but, thanks to sharing a cab home with a member of a previously very popular shoe-gazing foursome (and talking about their legendary, mid-tour after-party in King's Cross), I started thinking about the way acid house affected British indie groups. Suddenly, everyone wanted a remix, a new sound. Even the most unlikely. But this is a great one.

And, having said that, so is this one. Whatever happened to all the people?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

People You Don't Immediately Associate With West Yorkshire: 1

Louis Armstrong

Basement Crates: 25 & 26

Yargo: Bedtime For Rio (London, 1987)
Yargo were one of the first bands I really loved that I knew precisely nothing about. All I was sure of was that they were from Manchester, I loved the track Bodybeat and that Basil Clarke - that's him over there - had a really fantastic voice. They were a bit jazz, a bit reggae and a bit indie and, in 1987, that was more than enough. Later, I went with a few friends to see them at Dingwalls in Camden. I remember it for two reasons:
1. I wore a cap-sleeve New Model Army t-shirt, not a sight often seen at a Yargo gig I'm sure.
2: I got so drunk the bouncers didn't even want to let me in. Then, when I did get in, I nearly got chucked straight out again for, well, messing about... Oh the shame...

Anyway - they were great! Now, sadly, there's nothing on You Tube, Wikipedia or Myspace. Basil did a great one off single in about 1993 that I have somewhere, other than that, there's almost nothing.

Lewis Parker, Supa T, Braintax & Profound: Easter Island Heads (SSR, 1999)
Londoner Lewis Parker is a bloody genius and this, fairly obscure track, from a fairly obscure compilation (I think) neatly shows why. For one, it's absurdly funky. For another one, the production (by Braintax) is fatter than a fat woman's fat bits on a particularly fat day of an otherwise hugely fat month. For another, the rappers are all straight from the top drawer. Look, just have it, listen to it, enjoy the lyric about having a "coke'd up twat yapping in my ear" and tell me it's not fantastic... And it is! So don't bother even trying...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sharks, Spaghetti and The Captain of The Starship

We went to The Aquarium this morning and had a lovely time. The highlight for Scrap was when a very big shark swam right in front of us and then did a poo. Why do little boys have such an obsession with poo and burps?
After that we walked along the southbank and met Heidi and her boys for lunch in Strada. I liked it very much actually. They were extremely friendly, the boys shared a pizza, I had a respectable, if not quite hot enough, seafood linguine and the pink Prosecco was on special at £3.50 for a full-to-the-brim flute. The highlight for me was when the lady-friend of Captain Jean-Luc Picard (who was eating a big pudding on the next table) came over to say what lovely, well-behaved children she and The Captain thought our pizza-smeared mob were. I've seen him before you know, buying a very large pan in John Lewis using a very loud actors' voice. And I once saw Andrew Ridgeley (when Wham had just split up) reading a copy of Motorcycle News in a Soho paper shop.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Taste For Advent-Ure

Scrap's grand-parents gave him an advent calendar at the weekend. It's very lovely but it's got no chocolate in it. When I was a child I didn't get a single advent calendar and would have been delighted to open a little window and find a picture of little robin on a snowy branch. Not so sure about Scrap though. He's already learned to expect a foil compartment with a tiny Mars bar in it...

Pot Roast Lamb

A bit like cooking lamb shanks but using a whole leg...

Serves 6
whole leg of lamb, at room temperature
500ml cider
100ml cider or wine vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
few thyme sprigs
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced or a handful of whole shallots
cheesy mash and roasted carrots, to serve

1 Preheat the oven to 170C, Gas 3. Place the lamb in a large roasting tin and add the cider, vinegar, sugar, thyme, garlic and red onion. And some salt and pepper.
2 Cover with a lid or foil and cook for 5 hours until the lamb meat is very tender.
3 Carefully lift the lamb out of the pan and leave to rest for 5 – 10 minutes. Carve and serve with the cider gravy.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Landcroft House: Behind The Scenes

Silvana, Rob and Scrap (in glasses) prepare exciting new content on state-of-the-art blog-o-matic Computatron950.

Hang On, This Record Is Good Too...

The Autumn Defense: Feel You Now (Broken Horse, 2007)
I know you don't spell "defence" like that, but these people are from Chicago and they don't know how to spell there. Anyway, this record is fantastic, lushly produced and full of hugely lovable pieces of what is best described as melodic soft rock. To be honest, it makes me wish I had some Bread albums. There are - at least - another five tracks as good (or, if you prefer, bad) as this on the album. I think it's great, but you probably worked that out for yourself already.

Bonus Chicago Fact: Silvana and I went to Chicago once. We had a Chicago "pizza pie" in what was recommended as the best "pizza pie" place in the city. It was revolting.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Classic Apple and Blackberry Crumble

Serves 6
Knob of butter
2 Bramley cooking apples, peeled, cored and cubed
4 eating apples, peeled, cored and cubed
1 vanilla pod, split
200g fresh or frozen blackberries
2 tbsp caster sugar
For the crumble
100g unsalted butter, finely diced
100g plain flour
100g Demerara or light muscovado sugar
3 tbsp porridge oats
100g pecans, roughly chopped
custard or ice cream, to serve

1 Preheat the oven to 180°C / gas 4. Melt the butter in a pan, then add the apples, vanilla pod and a splash of water. Cook over a high heat for 5-8 minutes until softened.

2 Stir in the blackberries and the sugar. Cook for 2 minutes until the sugar has dissolved, then tip into a pie dish.

3 For the crumble rub the butter into the flour then stir in the sugar, oats and pecans. Scatter over the fruit and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Roasted Salmon Pate

Robert has disappeared off on a stag do and is due back tomorrow, about an hour or so after his parents and siblings arrive for lunch. I need to get organised. I've tried to get Scrap busy with the potato peeler but it's not going so well.

This is a nice and easy, prepare-ahead starter.

Serves 6
2 fillets lightly smoked salmon, about 300g in total
150g soft cheese
75g crème fraiche or Greek yogurt
2 - 3 tsp creamed horseradish
2 tbsp snipped chives
thin slices of lemon to decorate
hot bread rolls, to serve

1 Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas7. Roast the salmon for 10 minutes or so until nicely browned and cooked through. Leave to cool.

2 Beat together the soft cheese, crème fraiche, horseradish and plenty of black pepper. Flake the fish and stir into the creamy mixture. Spoon into a large serving dish or individual pots.

3 Decorate with slivers of lemon and a good grinding of black pepper then cover and chill for a least a couple of hours. Eat within 2 days.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Smoking: Not Bad For You At All, Honest.

Here is a fantastic collection of vintage American pro-smoking and tobacco ads for you to enjoy at your leisure. Perhaps with a cool smoking, non-irritating, packed-with-pleasure Chesterfield burning in your fingertips. It really is a crying shame cigarettes are so bad for you, isn't it? These ads make puffing on a tab look like the best thing ever...

Scooby Don't

Don't buy anyone this as a Christmas present.
The ghosts are not scary enough.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

It's New Music Wednesday

Lacrosse: Let's Get Old (Tapete, 2007)
Here's a surprising thing. This here record is made by a bunch of attractive young Scandinavians and it's really good. Like this and this and this. Not that I'm tiresomely predictable or anything.

Oh no.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Roast Onions and Bacon

I did a food photo shoot for a magazine in Dulwich Woods yesterday. While it was a logistical nightmare with the heavy props, camera equipment, models and all my food not to mention the freezing cold, patchy sunlight and having to wee in the bushes - it was so enjoyable! The keepers of the woods let us light a small fire to cook our sausages on and it's made me quite desperate for a week of autumnal camping. Still not got a tent though..

As I only had a fire in the woods, I did most of the cooking on Sunday and turned some of the onions and bacon I was roasting for tarts into a lovely side dish for our lunch. Place some shallots or small onions (I used some pretty red borretanes from Sains) in a large bowl and cover with a kettle of boiling water. Leave to cool so the skins soften and then peel them. Drizzle a little oil in a shallow baking sheet and add the shallots and few whole, unpeeled garlic cloves. Lay rashers of dry-cure streaky bacon on top and roast at 200C/Gas 6 for 8 - 10 minutes until the bacon is nicely cooked. Lift off the bacon then season the onions with salt, pepper and some fresh thyme sprigs. Continue roasting for 20 - 30 minutes until the onions are browned and softened. Snap the bacon into pieces and mix with the onions then drizzle over a splash of balsamic vinegar. Very good with a roast chicken.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dulwich Mirror Pictures Gallery: 5

Another belter from the Daily Mirror's picture archive. The lad on the left - Terence Taylor - has such a great haircut - rarely seen from that day (my guess is about 1954, but no date is given) until Barney Out Of New Order resurrected in 1983. Nice fish too.

Reference Number WA452232
"... Parents can bring children to family services at St Peters Church Dulwich regardless of how young they are The Reverend Norton recently announced that he would be holding these services monthly and that children could bring pets if they wished. Twelve year old Michael Pickup of Dulwich brought his goldfish in a jam jar in the first of these services and is seen with fish Peter and John and friend Terence Taylor at prayer..."

I wonder if this is Michael today? Or maybe this is? As for Terence Taylor...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Cake On Me

So, the vote says make a Christmas cake, and here it is! I don't much like candied peel so I've left it out and used ginger instead and I'll be feeding it with Courvoisier until it's time to it ice it.

Makes 1 family-sized cake
250g sultanas
250g raisins
250g currants
100g glace cherries, halved
100g chopped glace ginger
4 tablespoons brandy, plus extra for dowsing
250g salted butter, room temperature
250g light muscovado sugar
250g plain flour
1 tsp ground mixed spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
5 eggs, room temperature
100g pecans, each snapped into 4 - 6 pieces
grated rind of 1 lemon and 1 orange

23cm round tin or 18cm square tin, greased and lined

1 Place the fruit and ginger in a bowl and stir in the brandy. Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside for 3 – 12 hours.

2 Preheat the oven to 140C / Gas 1. Whisk the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Sift over the flour and spices from up high to get some air in then carefully fold into the mixture. Finally, stir in the fruit mixture, nuts and rind.

3 Spoon into tin and level out the surface. Cover with a sheet of buttered baking paper and bake for 4 ½ hours. Leave to cool in the tin for 1 hour then take out of the tin and transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

4 Pierce the cake with a bamboo skewer in lots of places then wrap in baking paper and then foil. Drip a tablespoon of brandy over the surface once or twice a week until you’re ready to ice the cake. Keep it in an air-tight container.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Best Restaurant In London

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall: Piggy-raising, chicken-loving, fish-catching, corkscrew haired pin-up chap for the back-to-nature generation in a Landcroft House exclusive!

"My favourite place to eat in London is definitely St John. I’m not in London that often, so when I am I tend to want to go for a definite hit rather than risk something new. That doesn't make me sound terribly exciting or adventurous does it? But it’s true. I like Scott’s too – Mark Hix has a reverence for seafood that I really relate to. But I’m a great admirer of Fergus Henderson and his idea of nose-to-tail eating. St John has been – and continues to be – an inspiration to me..."

© our lawyer is watching (telly)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Kelly's Heroic

R Kelly is many things - a lot of them, apparently, dreadful - but one thing he definitely is is entertaining. Here he is, in the studio, doing a song called Real Talk. If Bret and Jemaine Conchord haven't seen this already they may want to learn it pretty damn quick...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Oh, Hang On, This Record's Really Nice

Tom Waits: Burma Shave (Elektra, 1977)
I was out the other night - out! imagine! - and, for reasons I can't quite remember we got to talking about Tom Waits. Now, I've loved TW for years and years and years, but he's one of those people who you know you love with such certainty that, often, you don't feel like you actually need you need to listen to them very often. Well, having got home I decided to change that and - a little unsteadily - made for Foreign Affairs. And then headed straight for this track, a total beauty recorded at the point where Waits was moving from the jazz-bum troubadour to the more eccentric character we now know (and some of us love). This track is utterly beautiful, so simply realised yet brilliantly delivered.

Thanks Tom...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Green Cuisine

When Green Cuisine opened up on Lorship Lane about six months ago I was half disappointed as I'd always fancied opening a shop on that stretch myself and half very excited, lets face it, I was never going to do it and blimey, do we need a cookware shop in East Dulwich.

I don't complain often, in fact nowhere near often enough - we've all been trained to accept poor service or badly cooked food as speaking out rarely gets a satisfactory outcome and you know, we don't like to cause a fuss. But that shop is so absolutely rubbish I feel ready to go in and take that bloke on for a proper barney. It is so poor! For a start he answers the phone like a grumpy adolescent so you think you have the wrong number, it doesn't open until 10am, if you go in the shop, the girls don't even stop their chat to look at you and baring in mind that I'm probably the only 'customer' that's walked through the door for the last 2 hours, you'd think they could make a tiny bit of effort but most irritatingly of all, it doesn't actually sell any of the things a cook might need. "I need a 2 litre pudding basin, do you have one?" Nope, will a soup bowl do? No, it won't. Next time I go in, my scales have broken during a baking session. I'll take any style, don't care how much. Nope. No scales. In a cookware shop. Today, first week in November and it's time to make the Christmas Cake. I can't find my tin, could be anywhere so I give them a call. "Do you have a square 18cm cake tin?" No. "No square tins, some rounds ones but not very big" Brilliant! Because no-one round here will be baking cakes, not in November eh??
A cookware shop that doesn't sell cake tins, pudding bowls or kitchen scales!!! Not good enough by a long long way.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Bonfire Night

Lettsom Gardens

Proper good bonfire dressed with locally-produced guys.

Local Food Heroes

The new series starts tonight, 9pm UKTV Food. My episode, the Midlands, is on Wednesday at 9pm. Can anyone Sky+ it for me as we've only got rubbish Freeview?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Starter For 12

Our friend Angela had us over for a big birthday lunch day today. And it was lovely. She does the same as me - has a board of bites waiting on the table and glasses ready so you can put something in your mouth the second you get your coat off - that is how it should be done. Doesn't have to be much - I often do a salami ring with a knife or a whole cheese and a dish of chutney or a slab of paté and some gherkins. I can't stand it when you've been there half an hour before anyone gets you a drink or opens the crisps. Or if after an hour they then start peeling the potatoes! I think it should be drink, nibble and then meal on the table all within 45 minutes. The only problem with my get-it-on-the-table method is that people are often late and I end up serving burnt roasties or dried-up dauphinoise .
Anyway, when we got to Angela's she had a giant board with two delicious warm tarts on it already cut into mouth-sized pieces. Good girl!

Angela's Ham & Spinach Tarts
Serves 12 - 18 as a starter
500g plain flour
250g chilled, diced butter
chopped fresh herbs: rosemary, thyme
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large leeks, thinly sliced
2 large onions, thinly sliced
500g spinach, wilted and and drained
8 large slices of cotto or other good, thin ham
500g creme fraiche
6 eggs
150g Comté, grated
handful freshly grated Parmesan

Make up a classic shortcrust pastry with the flour, butter, herbs and a little water. Use to line two standard Swiss-Roll tins. Prick with a fork and bake blind for 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan and soften the leeks and onions.

Spoon the leeks and onions into the tins, spreading them out to make a thin layer. Cover with the spinach and then the ham.

Beat together the creme fraiche, eggs and both cheeses. Spoon over the ham and bake for 20 minutes until set and golden brown.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dulwich Mirror Pictures Gallery: 4

Another Dulwich classic from the Daily Mirror Picture Library. This picture was taken exactly 20 years before I was born, yet it seems strangely ancient. This sort of places me in the waiting-room of the ancients. I wonder if either of these two lovely ladies are still around?

Reference Number MP_1063438
Nurses at Dulwich Hospital had a preview today of uniforms they will wear in the future as soon as their present ones wear out. The uniforms are completely new and may be adopted by every hospital in Britain. May 1949

This Record Is Quite Nice, Actually: 4

Buck 65: The Beatific (WEA, 2007)
This is rather nice. I've never been much taken with ol' 65's book-learning hip hop before, but this tale of Beat Poetry and general boho behaviour is a wee bit good. The new album is - oh yes - a sort of concept affair about how amazing 1957 was. And a quick glance here only seems to confirm that. My favourite 1957 factoid: It was the year that "the Africanized bee was accidentally released in Brazil." What's yours?