Monday, June 30, 2008

This Record Is Bloody Great

Jimmy Hughes: Steal Away (Fame, 1964)
A really great record will grab you by the scruff of the excuse-me from what young people describe as "the get go" and never - not ever - let you go. Well, that's precisely what Hughesy (I call him Hughesy like he's an old pal where, in fact, he died eleven years ago and, surprisingly, we never met) does here. The tune has been written a thousand times before, but that great big pumped-up bass and the tinkling piano figures reset your ears beautifully, making Jimmy Hughes' entrance all the more welcome. "I've got to see you somehow, not tomorrow, right now, I know it's late, but I can't wait, so steal away..." Brilliant voice, brilliant song, from Take Me To The River: A Southern Soul Story 1961 - 1976 on Ace Records - a great album that doesn't exist on the internet yet but is out in October. October!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hello Old Thing, Hello New Thing: 33

Big Bill Broonzy: When I Been Drinking (Okeh, 1941)
I admire "Big" Bill's chutzpah, I have to say. The thrust of his complaint here is that his "woman" is always "raisin' sand" (ie, quacking on) every time he comes in after a hard night spent tipping ale and rye whiskey down his gullet. Frankly, he says, she ought to back off and let him "lay down and rest". Later on he delivers a rhyme based on "kissed" and "fist" that is so off-colour it might leave some of our more genteel readers needing a good old-fashioned wheeze on the smelling salts. I'm going to try a little bit of this when I get back from drinking (the very next time I'm allowed out).

Talc: The Out Of Work Clown (Wah Wah 45s, 2008)
I feel blessed to live in a time where Bread, Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers have gone all the way from being near the top of the long list of least cool people imaginable to being the sort of names that are dropped by those who are looking to secure their place deep within the unimpeachably groovy firmament. Talc are just such a band and their forthcoming album is a riot of hugely melodic, soft-rocking treats based around their "Wonderbar" concept - the perfect drinking hole, essentially. I could imagine an instrumental of this accompanying the testcard during the long hours that the telly used to go off in those summer afternoons of my golden youth. Which is high praise indeed...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Crispy Pork

Someone sent me a YouTube link of myself cooking crispy pork in 2002. I am shocked at what a young, care-free person I looked like, just six years ago.
Here's the recipe, it hasn't changed much in six years.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Boiled Crayfish

We accidentally ended up with some crayfish from Moxon’s on Saturday morning. I was buying bread from the stall outside when Scrap yelled for me to come in and look at ‘the naughty creatures’. And there were loads of them having a right old brawl with each other in a box on the floor. Anyway, they turned out to be quite a bargain as they’re a bit of a problem. Originally this variety of crayfish is from America, some fool released a couple over here and they’re now rampaging around our rivers, swallowing everything in sight, so us eating them is a very good thing. Bit like grey squirrels. Problem is, they’re sold live. They’re vicious, they fight, bite and try to escape. Well they had a good go at it when we got them home and the three us all stood around squealing when it was time to get them ready for the pot. Scrap shouting ‘kill them so I can eat them!’ so loudly the windows were bowing. So into a pot of boiling, slightly salted water they went for 4 minutes and out they came bright pink with juicy, sweet tails and claws. Our twelve cost about £6, they were yum and we helped save the planet.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Franco Manca

Despite the fact that there's a packet of Waitrose Four Cheese Ravioli in the fridge with today's date on, I thought perhaps it might be a good idea for me and Ben 10 to visit the pizza place in Brixton Market that's been getting spectacular reviews. I texted my dad-friend Michael and he and his daughter were on his bike and outside The Ritzy within half an hour. And it was properly bloody brilliant: a small selection of wood-fired, sourdough pizzas; zingy, organic, home-made lemonade at £1 a bottle; no pudding but Monmouth coffee.
Open 12 - 4pm, Mon - Sat.

Globe Artichokes With Lemon Butter

Cut the stems off each artichoke then trim a good couple of inches from the top. If you like, trim the tip of each remaining leaf with a pair of scissors. Pull a few leaves out from the centre then using a teaspoon, scrape out all of the choke from the heart, removing the central leaves as you go. Rinse well. Add the artichokes and a quartered lemon to a large pan of salted water and boil for 30 minutes or so until the heart feels tender when pricked with a skewer. Remove from the water and leave to cool a little. Melt together a good lump of butter with the pared rind and juice of a small lemon. Pour over and into the hollow of the artichokes. Best warm.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Petersham Nurseries

I've heard a lot about Petersham Nurseries and Skye Gyngell's restaurant. So, we looked out of the window this morning and thought we'd give it ago. We got there at 11am, just as the gates were opening, and headed straight for the Tea House where we had a choice of a least eight different home-made cakes, of which we chose two and one of the egg mayonnaise and rocket sandwiches (£3.95). We spent ages sat round one of the many gorgeous, rickety old tables in the green house eating our cake before looking in the restaurant and deciding unanimously to ask whether maybe there was a spare table for lunch. It was the tower of Champagne flutes and the sign for Apricot Prosecco that did it for me. But sadly, no room and currently booking four weeks ahead. Having looked at the prices, Roasted Wild Sea Bass with Borlotti, Chard & Salmariglio, £26.00, probably just as well. Scrap had a quiet snooze on a bench then we took a little walk along the river, back through the woods and finally headed home for our own seasonal British lunch of globe artichokes with lemon butter.

Friday, June 20, 2008

This New Record Is Literally Quite Good

Pete Greenwood: Sirens (Heavenly, 2008)
Guitarist with The Loose Salute and Mojave 3 - one of my most favourite pop groups of, oh dear, all time - Pete Greenwood not only writes nice songs, he also has precisely the sort of hair I'd like to have if I could grow my hair like that (though, tbh, I might wash it a bit more). These things are important, I feel. Anyway, this is, literally, quite good (if you like gently thrummed acousto gripe-a-thons anything like as much as I do). I imagine Pete living in a farmhouse somewhere, smoking Golden Virginia (or perhaps Drum), drinking cider and sitting round open fires a lot contemplating stuff. Nice "work" if you can get it. Anyway, his album is also called Sirens and it's out in July. It doesn't exist on the internet yet, so here's some Homeric sirens and here's some more Pete.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What Do You Think?

I have been asked by The Children's Trust if I'd be interested in joining their team for The 2009 London Marathon. Obviously, it would be a great thing to do. But if I say yes now, then I will have to do it, there'll be no getting out of it later and I'll have to raise a good amount of money.
I currently run once or twice a week for 40 minutes or so. I am 5ft 2 so I have short legs. And I will be 40 by then.
What do you think? Bad idea?

Brandy Snaps Are Very Easy To Make

I was doing a food-styling job the other day and the recipe said 'Take the brandy snap baskets out of the packet, place on a baking sheet and warm in the oven for a few minutes until they open out to make flat discs'. I opened both my packets of 6 Askeys Brandy Snap Baskets (FROM WAITROSE!) and do you know, all but one of them were broken into at least four pieces! So I rummaged through the cupboards, all in a tizz, mixed some everyday stuff up and in 10 minutes had much nicer (and cheaper!) brandy snaps than you can get from Waitrose.
Try them, they're so easy! Then sandwich a stack together with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce and eat very quickly.
And don't buy anything made by Askeys because it might well ruin your dinner party.

Brandy Snaps
Heat together equal quantities of butter, golden syrup and sugar (50g will make about 8 snaps). Stir in the same amount of plain flour, a bit of ground ginger and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Spread out thinly on a non-stick baking sheet and bake at 190C for 6 - 8 mins until golden brown. Leave to cool into discs or while still warm, roll into tubes round a wooden spoon handle or drape them over the bottom of a glass to make baskets.

Hot Fudge Sauce
Place 170g evaporated milk and 225g dark chocolate in a bowl set over simmering water and warm together for about 10 minutes until smooth and fudgy. Use warm.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hands Across The Waters 2: Gedera

We have a visitor from Gedera pretty much every day. I consider Gedera to be the southern edge of central Israel, but we all knew that, right? Anyway, hello citizen of Gedera. I hope you're well. Thanks for being a regular. What's happening in Gedera right now?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dan Lepard's Carrot Cake

Scrap and I called in at Angela's yesterday just as she was cutting the scrummy carrot cake she'd made earlier (on a Monday afternoon!). From a Dan Lepard recipe she said. Here he is showing us how to make it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Broad Bean And Bacon Soup

I ate this in a Spanish restaurant recently and it was fab. My own version was not quite so spectacular but it's still well worth a go and bean and artichokes are everywhere you look this week.
Serves 6
Knob of butter
1 onion, diced
1 lemon thyme sprig
2 garlic cloves, roughly sliced
1 bay leaf
small bacon joint, abut 600g
2 white potatoes, peeled and cubed
11⁄2 litres hot chicken stock
800g small broad beans, shell as many as you can be bothered to
2 fresh artichoke hearts, cut into chunks
lemon juice and olive oil, to serve

Melt the butter in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion, thyme, garlic and bay leaf. Cook for 5 minutes util softened.

Cut a couple off thin slices off the bacon and set aside. Roughly cube the rest and add to the pan with the potatoes and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the beans and artichokes to the pan and simmer for a further 20 minutes. Take out a good few spoon of the beans and a few artichoke chunks out of the pan and set aside. Whiz the rest until very smooth then return the vegetables.

Grill the reserved bacon until crispy. Season the soup, adding lemon juice, to taste. Ladle into bowls and scatter with bacon and olive oil.

This Old Record Is Also Quite Good

Joe Tex: Looking For My Pig (Dial, 1964)
Two interesting things about Joe Tex: he had a long-term feud with James Brown after the later "stole" his wife, Bea Ford. This suggests that Mrs Tex had nothing to do with it, which seems a little unlikely, no? Secondly, less than two years after this odd ode to swine, he converted to the Muslim faith - he became Yusuf Hazziez - and, presumably, never sang this again. Which is a shame, as Looking For My Pig is not only a wonderful song, it's also one of the finest titles for a pelvicular-pointed pop stormer it's ever been my pleasure to come across. Tex died in 1982 just days shy of his 49th birthday.

More great Texual healing here...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Don't Tell Scrap...

... but this place is streaming Kung Fu Panda (and a load of other new films). It's naughty, so it won't last long - but if you have a spare few hours...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

*Rallies A Little*

The Apples: Debil's Dream (Freestyle Records, 2008)
The Apples are a 9-piece jazz-funk band from Israel. This is a great, great record. You can - ahem - source more of their stuff here...

Landcroft House Is A Bit Poorly...

... Normal service will be resumed tomorrow (unless, y'know, we die).
*sneezes loudly*

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hello Old Thing, Hello New Thing: 32

Bud Shank: All This And Heaven Too (Capitol, 1956)
Yes, I know, it's a jazz record. Sorry about that. However, this is a lovely record, a proper slice of button-down, suits 'n' sneakers, west coast cocktail-hour loveliness from the days when rock and roll only just existed and was, clearly, destined to die on its bony arse within months anyway. There's lots more of this sort of caper here.

Sigur Ros: Fljótavík (EMI, 2008)
I'm not the world's biggest fan of Sigur Ros by any stretch of the imagination. I reviewed them live once when they were third on the bill to a bunch of really rubbish indie groups. They were very good (I can't recall if my original review was this in-depth), but our paths have only crossed a few time since. They tend to be one of those bands whose biggest fans sort of put off everyone else, but, woteva, this choon is, literally, nice. There is a chance I might get lined up against the wall and shot by an angry and vituperative EMI for posting this, so I should probably point you here and say that this recording is available in all good record stores - and a whole heap of crappy ones - in just under three weeks. Oh yes.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Nice Day For A Barbecue

Our old gas barbecue is on its last legs. The holes are rusty and blocked with debris so it has patchy hot spots but still, it made nice work of our David's barbecued rump and these potato skewers.

New potato and pancetta skewers
1kg baby new potatoes
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp olive oil
4 rosemary sprigs
100g sliced pancetta
1 garlic bulb, broken into cloves

Add the potatoes to a pan of boiling water and cook for 15 minutes until just tender. Pass each potato through a skewer then place in large bowl. Add the paprika, olive oil and some sea salt and toss together.

Cut the pancetta slices in half to give 20 short slices. Wrap a piece of pancetta around 20 of the potatoes and push a small sprig of rosemary through the holes of remaining potatoes.

Thread the potatoes onto 8 skewers with the whole garlic cloves, alternating them as you go. Cook over for medium coals for 15 – 20 minutes until crisp and golden.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

This Old Record Is Quite Nice

Ernie K-Doe: Fly Away With Me (Janus, 1971)
He was born Ernest Kador, you know. Changed it to K-Doe as no one in, oh yes, the crescent city knew how how to pronouce it. Anyway, this little belter comes from an album Ernie made with the none-more-legendarily-legendary Allen Toussaint and, frankly, it's quite good. If the piano intro alone doesn't make you feel just that bit better than you already do, then the Staples-esque verse almost certainly will do. Personally, when the tambourine arrives at 0:56 it makes me want to burn all my other records, but that's just me. Ernie died in 2001 and was buried in a 200 year old New Orleans cemetery. Who knew there even were 200 year old NO cemeteries?

Hands Across The Waters

I'd like to extend a personal hand of friendship to our reader in Doha, Ad Dawah. How are you? How did you end up here?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Oh Dear, This Is A Bit Good

Our Broken Garden: Anchoring (Bella Union, 2008)
Someone's been reading my mind again - this is precisely the sort of thing that I always hope to find when I rip open my post in the morning (but rarely do). Our Broken Garden is Anna Brønsted from Efterklang (keep up!) gone all solo and stuff. Basically, if you've ever held a "torch" for far Northern European ambio-belly-button watching, you'll love this. I do and I do, if you see what I'm driving at. By the by, I went to college with someone who swore blind he helped smash up the Blue Peter garden. We were all quite impressed at the time. If he told me that now I'd want to smack his silly legs...

Monday, June 02, 2008

Is This The Greatest Record Ever Made?

Keith Mansfield & Salena Jones: Am I The Same Girl (Soulful Strut) (CBS, 1970)
No, probably not. But, my goodness it's close. Proof, if proof were needed, that some of the best funk records ever made are put together by slightly nerdy white people from Slough, here's Mansfield's brass 'n' breakbeat monster from the days when Saturday Night TV meant The Three Degrees dodging slightly off-colour remarks from Hughie Green. I don't have empirical evidence, but I have a feeling this (or a version of) might have been sampled on Pete Rock and CL Smooth's One In A Million. So, a choon then. Much more of this sort of thing here...