Friday, May 30, 2008

Brownies

I love chocolate with cherries. This is a basic recipe but the brownies turn out nicely.

150g good dark chocolate
100g unsalted butter
2 tbsp golden syrup
2 large eggs, beaten
few drops vanilla extract
100g self raising flour
150g icing sugar
25g cocoa powder
50g chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Break the chocolate into a small pan and add the butter and syrup. Heat gently, stirring until melted; leave to cool slightly.

Stir in the eggs, vanilla, flour, icing sugar, cocoa and chocolate chips, mixing until well blended. Pour the mixture into a 15cm square tin and bake for 25 minutes until set and crusty.

Cut into squares and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Donny Osmond Invented The Strokes

Donny Osmond: C'Mon Marianne (Polydor, 1976)
He did. I promise. Here's my proof. Have a listen to the above, the lead track from Mr Osmond's 1976 masterpiece, Disco Train (it really is a great album, by the way).

Does it sound familiar to you? Well, it does to me...

Bhopal: We Salute You!

I used to think of Bhopal as the city that suffered one of the world’s worst industrial disasters, a tragedy that devastated an entire city both physically and emotionally. Well, that was then. Now I realise Bhopal is a place where proud citizens read snarky LH entries about terrible BBC 3 programmes. God, literally, bless the intersquib!

Lemon And Cardamom Cake

This a dense, moist and very fragrant cake, not really the light sponge you might associate with birthdays but very good if you like your slice in the afternoon with a cup of tea.

Serves 8 - 10
175g butter
100g sugar
3 eggs, beaten
225g plain flour
11⁄2 tsp baking powder
1⁄2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g ground almonds
12 cardamom pods, shelled and coarsely ground
150ml carton soured cream
Finely grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
For the topping
200g soft cheese
2 - 4 tbsp icing sugar
grated rind of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2
2 tbsp lemon curd
sprinkles (if it's a birthday cake)

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

Whisk together the sugar and eggs until pale and fluffy then add the eggs, a little at a time until well blended. Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarb into the bowl and gently fold in along with the almonds, cardamom, soured cream and lemon rind and juice.

Spoon into the tin and bake for 45 – 50 minutes until firm and golden. Leave to cool in the tin.

Mix together the soft cheese, icing sugar, lemon rind and juice until sweet enough and shiny. Spread on top of the cake then swirl in some little dollops of lemon curd. Once cut, keep in the fridge.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Who Knows Where The Time Goes

I am making a cake for Rob's 39th birthday tomorrow. He’s so young! I am 8 months older than him which means that later this year I have to face up to my fortieth and the fact that I will soon be officially middle-aged. I suppose I ought to start thinking about a party – a barn dance and hog roast in the community centre maybe or perhaps or karaoke at the lavish private room at Dragon Castle? Anyone got any thoughts? And there’s a few other home-truths I need to be addressing:

I need to take the word 'young' off my CV.
I must join a salsa class.
I need to make anti-ageing, winkle-defence, proretinolphytoblinc eye-cream part of my regular routine.
I have to start joining in when Question Time is on.
It’s now very unlikely that there will be any new additions to Landcroft House.
I will never be able to wear a bikini.

What Are You Doing Here?

The Feedjit Live Traffic Feed is becoming something of an obsession. It is, literally, quite interesting to see how some people ended up here, especially when they didn't mean to. Like this person from Hyderabad in Pakistan. He Googled New And Good Looks House and ended up looking at this. Somehow, I think that's not quite what he was after. Sorry!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008

Fried Anchovies (Boquerones Fritos)

Behead and gut the anchovies but keep them whole. Rinse well under cold water. Arrange on a plate and drizzle with a little vinegar and scatter with salt. Heat a few centimeters of vegetable oil in a deep pan and when the oil is hot enough to brown a piece of bread in under a minute, dust each fish with a little flour a slip it into the hot oil for a couple of minutes until golden and crusty. Serve with a wedge of lemon and a tumbler of rough rosé and pretend you are on holiday. (If you want a marvellous rosé however, try the one produced by David Ginola's winery - it's almost as gorgeous as he is, and I should know.)

Oh :(

Blimey

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Literally, Hurray

Dolly Parton: In The Ghetto (RCA, 1969)
There is nothing to say about this other than it is head-spinningly good. If it makes you want a tremendous amount of other DP stuff then you might like this.

This Record Is Quite Nice, Actually: 9

Ragga Twins: Spliffhead (Remix) (Shut Up And Dance, 1990)
Back in the old days when people really wanted to spend actual cash on actual records, Shut Up And Dance and Ragga Twins were properly massive. I remember when this came out - the shop I worked in simply could not order enough to cope with the demand. We would easily sell 200 copies over a weekend, people would come in with half-smoked joints in their mouths and count out every penny they had in their pockets so they could own a copy because it was one of those records that was so unutterably perfect that it made every other record on the shelves seem sort of hilariously pointless. A great compilation of their stuff is out in June...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Basement Crates: 34, 35 & 36

Flora Macneil: Craobh Un Ubhal (Tangent, 1977)
I found this bag of LPs I used to DJ with downstairs. When I say "DJ", I think it's clear from the records themselves that I was never going to get a gig at, well, anywhere really. Perhaps a very lenient pub on a particularly quiet Tuesday lunchtime, but that's about it. I mean, there's some Herbie Mann in there, there's Jimmy Ponder's Mean Streets, No Bridges for the breakbeat afficionados, there's some swinging Jimmy Smith soundtracks, but other than that it's Scottish folk song, English madrigals and a groovily toothsome Tom Jones Live LP from 1971 that I remember buying in a charity shop in Dortmund. Anyway, this is lovely, an unaccompanied piece (it translates as The Apple Tree) that is, and I quote from the extensive sleevenotes, "a journey to an ancient pagan world where the cult of the tree held a central position." So now you know. I am available for hire, btw.


Red Garland: Please Send Me Someone To Love (Prestige, 1956)
I don't think I've listened to this album in 15 years, but I used to play this track - a version of the Percy Mayfield belter - every single day without fail. No one plays the joanna like Red, there's something about the way his fingers seem to sort of brush the chords rather than actually play them (hark at the twot from Downbeat) that's always made my hair stand on end. And 15 years ago I had a lot of hair. Now you'd barely notice, but it is right on end, trust me.


St Etienne feat Q-Tee: Studio Kinda Filthy (Heavenly, 1991)
This reminds me of a pub in Kingston that I can't remember the name of. We would stand outside in the sunshine on Thursday nights and listen to Shuff and Tarby play Expansions and Talkin' All That Jazz and Donald Byrd's Flight Time and Tribe and Moody Boys and Palm Skin Productions and C.R.E.A.M. and Photek and all that sort of thing. Strangely - though entirely naturally for the time - bowl-headed indie-pop overlords St Etienne fitted right in. This is exemplary summer-time dub-pop.

PS: Yes, you're right, the pictures do look horrible in the middle. I won't be doing that again, I can assure you...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Kefalonian Meat Pie

The food in Kefalonia is a bit limited - not much fruit, veg or fish but plenty of good meat. The local pie was the highlight for me, packed with chunks of slow-cooked meat and nicely spiced rice with a crisp pastry top. I shall have a crack it myself soon but in the meantime, here's a real Greek recipe.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Landcroft House is off...

... We'll see you in a week (unless we can locate a squinterweb connection where we're going, in which case, look fwd to some over-excited posts about grilled lamb and odd mineral water discoveries).

Friday, May 09, 2008

Best Chips Ever

While I was in Spain this week, I had some really great chips (that's them there).
Truth is, I will eat pretty well any chip, as long as it's hot and has got salt on. I like the ones they do in Ken's on Half Moon Lane a lot (and so, clearly, does he). TimeOut say Comptoir Gascon make the best in London, which may be true but my most favourite ever come from The Hinds Head pub where Heston Blumethal has spent years perfecting them. This is how he does his:

With the right variety of potato, these chips are crisp on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. The beauty of this method is that the potatoes can be cooked twice and kept in the fridge until required.
Ingredients
1.2kg/2lb 8oz potatoes, such as Charlotte or Belle de Fontenay
1 litre/1¾ pints groundnut oil
salt

1. With a sharp knife, square the potatoes into rectangles and then cut them into chips about 1cm/½inch thick. The length of the chips is not so important, but try to keep them the same thickness so that they will cook at the same rate.
2. As soon as the chips are cut, put them into a bowl under cold running water for 10 minutes or so to rinse off some of the starch, then drain them.
3. Next, bring a casserole of unsalted water to the boil and plunge in the drained potatoes. Bring back to the boil and simmer very gently until the point of a knife will penetrate the chips easily.
4. Very carefully lift the potatoes out of the water, using a slotted spoon, and place them on a tray. Allow them to steam until they are cool, then place them in the fridge. The chips will harden when cold.
5. Heat the groundnut oil to a temperature of 130C/250F (CAUTION: Hot oil can be dangerous. Do not leave unattended) and carefully plunge in the chips as they may splutter. After a while, they will take on a drier appearance (do not let them brown at all). When this happens, they have finished their second cooking process; drain them, let them cool to room temperature, and put them into the fridge. When cold, they are ready for their final cooking.
6. Heat the groundnut oil to a temperature of 180C/350F (CAUTION: Hot oil can be dangerous. Do not leave unattended). Carefully plunge in the chips and cook until golden brown. This may take 8-10 minutes.
7. Drain and season with salt only; they will take quite a lot. Serve.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Paella

This is from a new Tapas book (out next year) I've been working on by the people from the restaurant El Parador. The method is still a bit of a work-in-progress but I like the way it's written.

Serves 6 as a main course
olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
2 ] onions, finely sliced
2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped (you can seed and skin them if you wish, but it isn’t necessary)
2 large red peppers, finely sliced
1kg skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
225g squid, cleaned and cut into rings (
200g raw, shelled tiger prawns
400g fresh mussels in their shells
300g monkfish fillets, cut into thin medallions
Maldon sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
100ml white wine
1 tablespoon tomato purée
300g calasparra rice (or paella rice of your choice)
1.5 litres vegetable, fish or chicken stock (or water, depending on what you have available)
pinch of saffron strands, soaked in a cup of hot water [this sounds like a lot of water]
2 bay leaves
74g frozen garden peas, defrosted
4 lemon wedges, to serve

Heat 12 dashes of olive oil in a large frying pan (or large, shallow casserole pan) over a low to medium heat. Add the garlic, onions, tomatoes and peppers and stir-fry very gently for about 20 minutes, or until the onions and garlic are caramelized, and the peppers are soft. Remove everything from the pan with a slotted spoon and place in a dish on one side.
Return the pan to a medium heat, add the strips of chicken and stir-fry for a few minutes until light golden brown all over. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a dish on one side.
Return the pan to a medium/high heat with 3 more dashes of olive oil. Add the squid, prawns, mussels, [Insert: monkfish?] and 2 pinches of salt and pepper. Pour in the wine, cover and cook until the mussels open. Remove the fish/seafood with a slotted spoon and place together in a dish on one side.
Keep the pan on the heat and stir in the tomato purée. You can now start putting the cooked ingredients back into the pan. The purpose of frying everything up separately first was to build up the flavour of the paella in layers – if you had put all the ingredients in at once, they would have ended up boiling, rather than frying, and then they wouldn’t have released as much flavour into the dish.
Put all the cooked ingredients, except for the [fish?/]seafood, back into the pan and stir well. Now add the rice and stir it around to coat it in the oil. Pour over the stock (or water) [should this be heated first?], and add 2 pinches of salt and one of pepper, [Insert: the saffron, along with its soaking water,] and the bay leaves. Bring everything to the boil, [Insert: give the rice one final stir, and then turn down the heat and simmer very gently for 20–30 minutes (or however long it says on the packet), or until the rice is just cooked and the liquid is absorbed. Halfway through cooking, give the pan a couple of gentle, circular shakes to ensure the rice isn’t sticking. Do not stir with a spoon. When the rice is cooked, take the pan off the heat and stir in the peas and the fish/seafood. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and then cover with a lid and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Serve with some lemon wedges on the side.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

It's Called "Work", Apparently: 2

Poor old Silvana. She's stuck up this mountain with only grilled lamb chops ("loads"), a driver, a person whose job it is to pay for stuff and a selection of local liqueurs for comfort :(

The View East From Landcroft House...

... At 6am today. I bloody love this time of year, me.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

It's Called "Work", Apparently

Silvana's gone to Pamplona for some jolly-up job for Delicious. She sent this this morning. Looks nightmarish, doesn't it?

New Music Tuesday

Micah P. Hinson: Throw The Stone (Full Time Hobby, 2008)
The sun is shining, the winter appears to have finally retreated, me and Scrap even enjoyed an ice-cream in the park yesterday. Put all those things together and you have what I consider to be the perfect conditions for some back-woods croakery, some guitar-stroking, some fiddle-plucking, some double-bass thumbing, perhaps even a few crispy banjo croutons. What a lovely day. What a lovely record.

Friday, May 02, 2008

This Old Record Is Quite Good


The Isley Brothers: It's A Disco Night (Rock Don't Stop) (T-Neck, 1979)

As a rule, I don't like records made in 1979. It's a fatuous, unworkable rule, but it's one I try to stick to. Except for this which makes the whole prospect of Friday flaming night somehow more exciting and marvelous just by existing. I purloined this from this 2008 version. Have a lovely evening...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Hello Old Thing, Hello New Thing: 31

Syreeta: Come And Get This Stuff (Motown, 1974)
Syreeta was originally a secretary at Motown who ended up being considered as a replacement for Diana Ross when she upped and left The Supremes. Oh, and then she married Stevie Wonder, which was good work. This is taken from her second album which is, rather oddly, called Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta when he sort of already had via her first album and the marriage was going belly up. Anyway, this is a great tune so we shouldn't "sweat" the "small stuff" as our American friends would have it.


Young Coppers: Pleasant Month Of May (Coppersongs, 2008)
This is new in the very loosest sense of the word - the song itself is, oooh, 150 years old? Anyway, this lot are the latest generation of the uh-mazing Copper family and this is a wonderful song - any choon that mentions "ale" that runs "so brown" is OK by me - and, well, it is the pleasant month of May, isn't it? I ripped this off - wholesale - from this brilliant album.