Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Quick, Let's Go On Holiday!

We're off to the exotic east. Enjoy "winterval". See you all in 2009,
isn't it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Winter Collection: Yule Log

This is one of those really old-fashioned cakes that I've not made since domestic science at school and thought would be easy, but actually, there's a lot here that can go wrong.
But as we're going to be away for Christmas and we were having a little neighbours' tea party yesterday, I thought I'd give it a go. I like to have everything sorted the day before but this really has to be eaten on the same day. I didn't enjoy the risk of making it on the morning of the party and although it was a bit of a faff and me and melted chocolate don't get on so well, it was a big hit and the icing covers a whole lot of cracks! Have a go!

Serves 12
75g self raising flour
50g cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
100g golden caster sugar, plus a little extra for sprinkling
5 large eggs
FOR THE FILLING
250g mascarpone
icing sugar, to taste
splash of double cream
FOR THE ICING
200ml double cream, broken into pieces
200g dark chocolate

1 Preheat the oven to 190C / Gas 5. Line a 30x40cm Swiss roll tin with baking parchment and rub with a little butter.

2 Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder into a bowl. In a second bowl, whisk the sugar and eggs until thick and airy – they should roughly triple in volume. Sift over the flour mixture and gently fold in, making sure there are no pockets of flour hiding in the bottom of the bowl.

3 Pour into the tin as evenly as possible then bake for 10 – 12 minutes until just firm to the touch. Sprinkle some sugar onto a sheet of baking parchment and turn out the sponge. Peel off the paper then roll it up with the new sheet of paper inside. Leave to cool completely.

4 Make the icing. Pour the cream into a small and bring to the boil. Add the chocolate and stir to melt. Leave to cool completely then chill until thick enough to spread – keep your eye on it as it cools - it’s runny for ages then suddenly changes from runny to thick to too-thick-to-spread in quite a short time.

5 Make the filling: beat the mascarpone with a wooden spoon to soften a little then add icing sugar to taste – it may be a little to thick to spread so a little cream to soften.

6 Open out the sponge and spread with the mascarpone mixture, if you like, grate over some chocolate then roll up. Cut a diagonal slice off and place next to the log to look like a branch. Spread with the chocolate icing in a wood-like pattern and leave to set. Dust with icing before serving.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Vintage Magazine Joy Friday

Situated over this side of the internet, some kind soul has scanned in years and years and years worth of old Radio Shack catalogues. He - I'm assuming it is a "he" - calls them "catalogs" because he's out of the Americans, but let's not quibble. The point is this, if you can't get, say, an hour's solid pleasure from looking (adoringly) at 40 year old tape decks, then, frankly, there's something wrong with you.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Winter Collection: Soft Roast Potatoes

I like my potatoes roasted this way, they get a nice sticky bottom and some crunch on the top. They're best made with my current obsession, Bartlett rooster potatoes but desirees will do.
Enough for 6

small knob of butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2.5kg rooster potatoes, peeled and cubed
200ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic bulbs
1 tbsp dried oregano

1 Preheat the oven to 180ºC, gas mark 4. Heat the butter and oil in a large roasting tin. Add the potatoes, stock and lemon juice and cook for 30 minutes, turning once or twice.

2 Separate the garlic cloves but do not peel. Add to the pan with the lemon rind and oregano and toss well together. Roast for a further 30 minutes, without turning until the potatoes are golden brown, the garlic is tender and the stock has disappeared

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

This New Record Is Literally Quite Good

Baskery: Harsh (Glitterhouse, 2009)
I don't know what it was that first attracted me to the Bondesson sisters, the Swedish triplets that make up Baskery, but the fact the one on the right looks like Becky from Coronation St doesn't hurt. Anyway, my goodness, whatever it was, I'm pleased to report they play nice music as well. Harsh is from their rather wonderful album Fall Among Thieves. They play stand-up bass and banjos and snare drums and they holler sweetly and they seem like perfectly lovely young ladies. I hope I never hear of anything that will rob me of this illusion.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Paramount: Loving London All Over Again


Had a night out in Paramount last week. It's an absolutely amazing place 32 (and 33) floors up the Centrepoint tower. It looks good from Bedford Square:


and London looks so good from the viewing gallery that I - and everyone I was with - spent almost the whole night gazing out of the window going, "Blimey..." and cooing about how good London looked from, literally, the sky. This, I feel, can only be a good thing.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Winter Collection: Chocolate Brownie Cake

A bit squidgy in the middle and crumbly on the outside. With so many nut allergies around I swapped the usual chopped nuts for sultanas.
Serves 12
225g unsalted butter
350g dark chocolate
4 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla essence
350g light muscovado sugar
225g plain flour
75g small sultanas
small handful chocolate buttons
cocoa powder for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4. Grease a 23cm and line a 23cm loose-bottomed cake tin.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a small pan. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla until pale and airy. Stir in the chocolate mixture, flour and sultanas and pour into the tin. Scatter over the chocolate buttons.

Bake for about an hour until risen and craggy. Shake the tin gently, a slight wobble in the centre is good. Leave to cool in the tin for a while. Dust lightly with cocoa before slicing.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

It's Indie-Pop O'Clock

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart: Young Adult Friction (Fortuna Pop, 2009)
It has come to my attention that The Pains' new album is, literally, the greatest record ever made (as long as your idea of truly great records hovers around the greatest hits of The Razorcuts and very early Slowdive). It's like acid house never happened! Happily, on mornings like this one - - that combination works for me just fine. Their album doesn't really exist on the internet yet, but here's a handy Amazon link to check sometime in January (it's out in February - the one on this link is an import copy).

Monday, December 01, 2008

Winter Collection: Afternoon Apple Cake

Serves 6 - 8
150g golden caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
150g butter, room temperature, pus extra for dotting
2 large eggs, beaten
250g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground mixed spices
2 Bramley apples
100g small sultanas

Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4. Grease and line the base of a 1kg loaf tin.

Whisk together the butter and sugar until creamy then beat in the eggs, flour, baking powder and spices – it’s quite a stiff mixture.

Peel the apples and dice one and half of them. Thinly slice the remaining half. Stir the diced apple and sultanas into the cake mix then spoon into the tin. Smooth the surface them arrange the apple slices on top. Dot with butter, sprinkle with sugar and bake for 50 – 60 minutes – turn the oven down a bit if it starts to get too dark.

Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Inaugural Religious Friday

Funkadelic: Talk About Jesus (Westbound Records, 1971?)
George Clinton's Funkadelic were known for many things, but keenly-felt religious hymning wasn't one of them. Perhaps that's an oversight on all our parts, as they clearly had "it" in them - "it" being a love for the lord as well as a head full of eyeball-scouringly powerful chemical enhancers. Exemplary work from Bernie Worrell on the old joanna to "boot". Much more of this sort of think here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

This New Record Is Literally Quite Good

Andrew Bird: Effigy (Bella Union, 2009)
Mr Bird is "a Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist, lyricist and whistler." He is also a writer of brilliantly mournful songs like Effigy that are a little like Leonard Cohen had the venerable Canadian gloomster spent a little less time on remote Greek islands and a little more time inside with the curtains closed watching vintage Scooby Doo reruns and listening to ancient sea shanties. If you have an un-scratched itch for twenty-one year old Momus records then, frankly, you'll love it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Winter Collection: Cheese Scones

Makes 8
450g plain flour, plus extra for kneading and dusting
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g mature Cheddar, coarsely grated
284ml buttermilk or low fat natural yogurt
3 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard

1 Preheat the oven to 220 C, gas mark 7. Mix the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and Cheddar in a large bowl.

2 Mix together the buttermilk, milk and mustard then add to the bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon then using your hands, bring together to make a soft dough. Knead lightly until smooth then shape into a 22cm round loaf.

3 Cut the round into eight wedges then transfer to a non-stick baking sheet. Sprinkle with a little flour and bake for 20 – 30 minutes until browned and crusty. Cool a little and eat warm or split and toast the next day for breakfast.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Music Wednesday In Dub

Peter Murder Tone: Paper Tiger (Jahtari, 2008)
Peter is a middle aged social worker chap from Australia who now lives in the UK. He has no reason to make digital dub records this good. I half-inched this - wholesale - from this marvelous record on which many other knob-twiddling types make merry with the delay units and cavernous reverb settings. Thanks to my old pal Bill at Cargo for this beauty.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Basement Crates: The "Pot Roast" Year(s)

Gravediggaz: Diary Of A Madman (Gee Street, 1994)
My very good friend Billy and I used to DJ as Pot Roast. I know, but it was a long time ago. Our reasoning was, we played the sort of music that sounded quite good if you'd inhaled and our regular gig was at The Albany on a Sunday night (what a night...). Anyway, I found a few of our most beloved tunes while looking for some cutlery the other day. I actually felt a little choked up as I pulled out what young people used to refer to as "the jizz-ams". So, The Gravediggaz were a huge hit with us, I remember seeing them play an amazing showcase at a club in Ladbroke Grove, and this tune was always somewhere near the front of "the box" (you see how I remember the lingo?).

Pressure Drop: Back 2 Back (Main and Dub mixes) (Big World Records, 1990)
I used to play this record so much that it actually haunted my dreams. It had everything I wanted from music in 1990, ie, it was a bit hip hop, a bit funk, a bit abstract and a bit weirdly ambient. The lyrics sort of make your eyes water now (although I like the way the guy says, "ray-shism"), but this is nearly 20 years old now - let's cut ourselves some slack, eh? Pressure Drop got signed up in the great post Coldcut / Massive Attack goldrush of 1990, but it never happened for them (that makes a nice change for Landcroft House, doesn't it?) This is the sort of record that (and here's another popular DJ phrase from the time) really "turns around" loud (ie, it has a walloping big bassline which sounds good if, perchance, you have inhaled / ingested and hear it on huge speakers). I've included both mixes because, frankly, they're both incredibly good.

E-Z Rollers: Believe (Foul Play remix) (Moving Shadow, 1994)
There was a school of drum and bass in the early to mid-90s that wasn't exactly "intelligent" and wasn't exactly whatever the other thing was (whither, "jump up") and this E-Z Rollers tune sort of typified that sound. Foul Play's drum programming is ludicrously tight and there's this full-on, proper head-spinning dance-floor diva vocal (to this day, Billy and I will sing, "Be-Leee-Eeeave" to each other for no clear reason and we have a combined age of 82) to "boot".


Bob Andy: Dubbing Home (I-Anka Records, 1989)
This is the one we used to play when we were, well, going home. A deed that, in itself, used to raise a few cheers. If there's a record in the world that makes you want to raise your lighter to the sky and sway slowly and drunkenly more than this one (bearing in mind you're not allowed to raise your lighter to the sky in clubs anymore), then I, for one, have never heard it. Fantastic record. Happy days!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Basement Crates: "Jazz" Tuesday

Jimmy Smith: In Search of Truth (Delta, 1980)
Neither of these tracks are really jazz at all. This wonderful Jimmy Smith track is, basically, a done-in-one-take blues vamp and the Emperor's New Clothes choon is consensually funkual, breakbeat dub with some silly noises on it. But I love both of them dearly, despite not having heard either of them for a Very Long Time indeed (hang on a minute, that's probably why I lo... etcetc). Eagle-eyed readers will notice that this is the later Milan pressing from 1989 - oh yes. Anyhoo, this was originally from the Lalo Schifrin soundtrack to Battlecreek Brawl (also the title of a fantastic track by Brit hip hop chaps, Gunshot) and it is, literally, really good.

The Emperor's New Clothes: Nature Never Repeats Itself (Acid Jazz, 1993)
I think I might start a strand where I just collect together vintage press releases. Then again, maybe I'll just throw myself out of a window and be done with it. 15 years ago, this sort of thing was - to my ears - incredibly wonderful and strange. It still sounds pretty good to me, but this sort of ambient dub has, sadly, been cheapened by being whacked on every TV ident between here and a thousand years in the future. Whatever, this is still a great record. It never really happened for TENC - if you're out there, get in touch...

Friday, November 07, 2008

London Sky: Not Boring

This New Record Is Literally Quite Good

The Monocult: A Sign (Pink Liquid, 2008)
This is a record has a boring sleeve. But the music is fantastic. Like, really quite surprisingly fantastic. I had moved The Monocult's record (quietly) to the Not Today pile (I blame the boring sleeve), then got a call asking me give it a listen. Thank you caller. No, really, thank you, as I have now played the damnable thing about twelve times and it has received the office accolade of being known as "The Single Greatest Record Ever Made", a title previously bestowed on the last Burial album and Tony Lamezma's remix of Biology - so it's in exalted company. Anyhoo, A Sign makes me think of Talk Talk and Pentangle and the Amplive mixes of Radiohead and, frankly, that's goood enough for me. The album - Maybe We Should - doesn't exist on the internet yet, so if you like this anything as much as I do, why don't you email them and ask them where you can buy it? Or send them links to filthy websites. Your choice, innit.

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Pair Of Entertaining New Pop Records

Ray Lamontagne: Winter Birds (14th Floor, 2008)
A good friend of mine is In The Crazies for Roy The Mountain. He can't help singing along - especially when drink has been taken - and one evening he played me about six albums on the trot which, actually, is a bit cruel. Anyway, he got me in the end. This is a great song from Mr Mountain's new record which also contains a song dedicated to thirsty White Stripes drummer, Meg White. I hear you, Ray.

The Killer Meters: Black Mountain (Dub) (Breakin' Bread, 2008)
When Silvana and I were Young People we used to go to "niteclubs", sometimes even to dance. I know, I can't believe it either, but it's true. These days I am in bed asleep before most nitespots have pulled up the shutters and emptied the drip-trays, but that's life, innit? Anyway, one of the places we used to enjoy was the very excellent Breakin' Bread which is now in a smart central London location, but used to be in a slightly grotty pub in Camberwell. There was lino on the floor, there were amazing breakdancers, there were fantastic hip hop and funk records, pints were drunk, cigarettes were smoked (indoors!), we went home in the "wee hours" (about 11ish). The Killer Meters are, sort of, the Bread's house band. And this mix is from the top drawer. I wrote something nice about Breakin Bread for a magazine about eight years ago and they were kind enough to send me an invite to their 10th Birthday Party. Which I missed. Maybe me and Silvana should lead the charge to their next special party?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Hello New Thing That Is Also An Old Thing

Vetiver: Miles Apart (Fat Cat, 2008)
Pulled, gently, from the band's wonderful new EP thing, Miles Apart was originally performed by the very excellent A.R. Kane. This new version is a whistle-along kerlassic. And, on a day as brilliantly over-loaded with crisp winter sunshine as this one, what more could you want?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

New Music Thursday

Bill Laswell: Broken Toenail Gland (Innerhythmic, 2008)
Bill Laswell: literally interesting. This fantastic track is taken from his marvelous new record what he did make with some other chaps. It is a bit hip hop, a bit abstract beat poetry, a bit funk, a bit dub and, well, a bit great. It is definitely grown-ups music, but, while it knows how to eat a piece of grilled fish without dropping the majority of it over its freshly-pressed trousers, it is still alive to the very real possibility of a spot lunacy. And who wouldn't want a piece of that?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mellow Rating: High

Django Reinhardt: I Cover The Waterfront (Columbia, 1953)
I love this bit of information about "Django" - he was actually called Jean - that I learned off of the intranot this morning: "... After returning to France, Django spent the remainder of his days re-immersed in gypsy life, having found it difficult to adjust to the modern world. He would sometimes show up for concerts without a guitar or amp, or wander off to the park or beach, and on a few occasions he refused even to get out of bed. Reinhardt was known by his band, fans, and managers to be extremely unpredictable. He would often skip sold-out concerts to simply "walk to the beach" or "smell the dew"..." Sure, that might prove annoying if you and your beloved planned on seeing him knock out the tunes at Le Grosse Pamplemousse, or woteva, but, what a legacy...

Much more of this sort of thing here...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Baba Ganoush

I know it's the wrong time of year for aubergines but I had a load left over from work and wasn't in a creative mood so rather than leave them to slowly shrivel in the bottom of the fridge, I made baba ganoush. Predictable I know but blooming gorgeous. Especially with some warmed up lavash bread from Sophocles.

Prick the aubergines in several places then roast at 200C / gas 6 for 30 - 40 minutes until collapsed and wrinkled. Leave to cool a little then peel off and discard the skin. Puree in a food processor then mix some Greek yogurt, salt, lemon juice, olive oil and a little bit of chopped fresh mint.

Monday, October 20, 2008

This New Record Is Also Quite Good

Million Dan: Inner City Got Plenty Cases
I like to think of Million Dan as The Artist Previously Known As Mike J from his time with the brilliant Demon Boyz. Anyway, "Million" is now out there on his own making great records, that often feature incredibly odd samples. This one, however, is the sort of properly good hip hop record that people who don't like hip hop actually like. Though there is some swearing, which is hardly ever necessary, is it?

This New Record Is Literally Quite Good

Nightjar: Lady Of The Calico (Toad Records, 2008)
Toad Records are based in Edinburgh which, happily, is also where Nightjar are from. So that's cosy. Anyway, this is a lovely tune from a very nice record indeed. Were you thinking of slamming the door shut and not leaving the house again until spring, then this would be a fine companion.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hello Old Thing, Hello New Thing: 38

Reggie Stepper: Cu-Oonh (Techniques, 1993)
I remember this record from "back" in the "day". I have strong memories of waving a beer bottle to it while trying to look nonchalant in a "fashionable" bar. That's not an easy look to master, I can assure you. Anyway, this little beauty can now be found - complete with the sort of deeply authentic crackles that only recycled vinyl Jamaican pressings can deliver - on this marvellous record that you can enjoy in your own home (raised container of "Stripe" optional).

Jesca Hoop: Murder Of Birds (acoustic) (Nettwerk, 2008)
This is one of those happy accidents where I actually played something that I'd sort of decided I didn't like (which is ridiculous). The thing I particularly like about Hoop is she is just the right side of annoyingly kooky. She's also makes interesting noises on her guitar, though I can barely believe I've just written that. But you'll see what I mean when you listen. The rest of this sort of thing is here...

Wanted: Local Sloes

Have you tried sloe gin? My word, it's the best thing ever! Our friend Ronnie gave us a bottle he'd made last year and we drank it with our plum crumble at the weekend. AMAZING!
I've got my recipe and I know the sloes are about ready for picking but I can't find any apart from a couple of sparse bushes in Crystal Palace Park. Who knows where the sloes are? Quickly, before I buy a case of the stuff that calls out to me every time I go to Sainsburys (that's twice a day).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

Valentine Warner's Plum Crumble

I've been hearing a lot of good things about BBC2 new boy Valentine Warner lately and one of our lunch guests even requested his plum crumble for pudding yesterday. I watched him make it here and got the recipe here. The filling was nice enough but a bit straightforward so I livened it up with some creme de cassis, a couple of star anise and some plump blackberries but the topping itself was spot on. I must start watching the series!

Friday, October 10, 2008

New Music Friday

Extrawelt: Homing (Cocoon Recordings, 2008)
I get sent a lot of electronic music, most of which I try to listen to and a lot of which just leaves me a bit, ahem, cold. I've done my time in the electronic dungeon and, to be honest, I'm quite happy up here with the beard-wearers these days, but this is a bit good. Extrawelt are two blokes from Germany and their record is, literally, quite nice. This track is even more than quite nice tho', it makes me want to stand in a dark room, very late at night, feeling tremendously woozy and I don't often get that feeling anymore. Thank you Extra chaps.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

An Old Record With A Secret Message

Johnnie Temple: Lead Pencil Blues (Vocalion, 1935)
I like this song - and the album it comes from - very much. But I don't claim to actually understand it...

The Cure: New Album News

As you can see from this stunning montage it's called 4:13 Dream and - here's the professional bit - it's really, really good. If I didn't mind the idea of going to prison for a long time I'd post The Only One which is, literally, the Greatest Pop Song Ever Written. But it's out soon anyway, so who could ask for more?

EDIT: Amazing!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

This New Record Is Literally Quite Good

Avrocar: Soft Lightning (Make Mine Music, 2008)
I should probably point out that that isn't what the band Avrocar look like, that would be silly, wouldn't it? No, that's an actual Avrocar, a device which was intended to exploit the Coandă effect to provide lift and thrust from a single "turborotor" blowing exhaust out the rim (we've all been there, right?). No, this Avrocar are some English chaps who love Kraftwerk and My Bloody Valentine and Nick Drake and are - oh yes! - signed to the same label as Epic45 and July Skies. The album is rather nice too...

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Bun Fight News

Yes, it rained and yes, it was windy but the people of Pecs didn't let us down. This year's Bun Fight was a triumph. We had veg sculptures galore including daleks make from peppers, miniature farms with broccoli trees, teeny, tiny rainbow carrots, elegant savarine ring cakes loaded with fresh fruit, toffee apple cup cakes and Charlie Fox with his award winning Victoria sponge. Sadly, Scrap didn't win anything with his 'horror' biscuits but he did come second in the vegetable hat parade with his Robin Hood hat of sugarsnaps to no 1, Loveday and her spectacular 'cavolo nero and radish crown' !