Friday, January 30, 2009

Winter Collection: Chicken Pie

Scrap's pal came for tea yesterday and I made a nice pie. Sadly his little friend couldn't face it and then got violently sick at the table. Turns out she had the winter vomit bug and is feeling much better today, so don't let that put you off.
Serves 4
1 large onion, thinly sliced
400g baby carrots, scrubbed and trimmed
1 chicken
600ml hot chicken stock
200g frozen peas
100g crème fraiche
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp cornflour
500g pack puff pastry
milk, for brushing

1 Preheat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6. Arrange the onion slices and carrots in a large casserole dish or small roasting tin. Sit the chicken on top then pour over the hot stock.

2 Cover and roast for an hour then add the peas and cook for a further 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Lift the chicken out onto a board.

3 Sit the pan on the hob and stir in the crème fraiche and mustard. If you want to thicken the sauce, dissolve the cornflour in a little water and stir in.

4 Shred the meat off the chicken and stir back into the pan. Leave to cool.

5 Preheat the oven to 200C / Gas 6. Spoon the mixture into a pie dish, then roll out the pastry and use to cover the filling. Brush with milk, decorate with any pastry trimmings and make a couple of holes to let out any steam. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes until piping hot and serve with mash.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

John Martyn: RIP

Last year I was lucky enough to go to Ireland to interview John. What happened next can be read here...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Winter Collection: Cardamom Rice Pudding

We like rice pudding but not the wrinkly skin that settles on the top when you bake it, so I do ours on the stove top. Add a handful of sultanas half way through if you like them and serve hot or cold with a good a spoonful of honey (or jam).
Serves 4

Knob of butter
100g short grain rice
600 - 800ml milk
50g vanilla sugar
6 cardamom pods, cracked
2 – 4 tbsp honey

Heat the butter in a non-stick pan and cook the rice for a couple of minutes. Add the milk, sugar and cardamom then bring to the boil. Lower to a gentle simmer and cook for 40 minutes or so, stirring regularly so it doesn't scorch on the bottom, until the rice is creamy and tender. If you want to add more milk while it is cooking, warm it up a bit first.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sound The Definitive-Reading Alarm

Keith Mansfield Orchestra: You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling (CBS, 1970)
We've dealt with Mansfield before, but this just cropped up on my iTunes and it, literally, made me laugh out loud. To myself. That trombone... Genius.

Basement Crates: Quickie Edition

Sanchez: Leave Out A Babylon (Digital B, 1994)
I was messing around with a pile of record sleeves - looking for some arresting ones for the wall - when I found an old Bobby Digital compilation - this one, in fact - poking out. So I had a squizz down it and remembered how much I liked this Sanchez track that's pitched sort of perfectly between dub and dancehall. He's not 100% complimentary about all the world's people, "Why would you want to be with the Babylonians?", he asks, quite understandably, but it certainly has a tune you can whistle...

Blur: Berserk (Parlophone, 1991)
... Which is more than you can say of Berserk. Track Four (of four) on their Bang single, this is the sort of extended-groove, 'Goodness me I'm woozy' psychedelia that young people all over the country thrilled to 18 years ago. They did, honestly. Maybe I'll start one of those hilarious on-line petitions to get them to play this during their shows in the summer! Hahaha! Then again, maybe I'll get the Hoover out instead.

Monday, January 26, 2009

This New Record Is Literally Quite Good

The Long Lost Colour (Ninja Tune, 2009)
Here's one to split the vote. The Long Lost are from California and appear to be living inside some sort of Victorian fantasy world where they get to dress up oddly and sing songs like Colour - note the English spelling, these things are important - in a manner that will either have you smashing your computer to pieces on contact or realising your life has been fairly pointless up until this moment ("What is 'yellow'? Pears are yellow, rich, ripe and mellow..." etcetc) Should you feel the latter, head here to buy their tremendous record. Amazing.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Tune For Friday Afternoon

Groove Armada: Paris (feat. Candi Staton) (Columbia, 2007)
Despite what the file name might say, this is not called Come Back Home, it's actually called Paris, but, y'know, who cares, really? Point is, it's a chooon. Friday afternoon really is The King Of Afternoons, isn't it?

A Nice Record I Got In The Post Yesterday

Dan Arborise: Take Heart In Your Hope (Just Music, 2009)
I'm in a bit of a hurry, so I'll keep this short. I've been going through my post - most of it - and I'm not much taken with any of it. I have to be honest, I don't have any space in my heart left for "scratchy Josef K guitars" or "cinematic rock-scapes" or all that other nonsene. But I do have space - quite a lot of space, in fact - for someone who can write really, really good songs and sing them in a way that makes you want to listen to them Quite A Lot. Like Dan Arborise. I was listening to this (it's the "B-side" of his new "single") and thought, "He's like John Martyn playing the songs of Nick Drake." Then I went to his Myspace page and it said, "John Martyn sings the songs of Nick Drake" or something. So, amazing. Anyway. This is great. As is this, though it could do with a bit more Dan, tbh. (Let's not talk about the hair, OK?)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Basement Crates: 40 & 41

Michael Garrick: First Born (Argo, 1972)
I found this in a box under an unpleasant old suitcase. So I threw away the suitcase - I'm ruthless like that, and dug my way through the box. This is a proper beauty, the sort of thing you will waltz around the kitchen to - possibly on your own - when you're feeling like really getting into chopping those vegetables and searing that streak (or, y'know, wevz). Garrick is quite a fellow and should you be lucky to find any of his records, then snap them up. You could do a lot worse than start with this one my friend Jonny put out a year or so ago...

Kings Of Convenience: Leaning Against The Wall (Bamboo Soul remix) (Source, 2001)
One of my great, "Aren't I hilarious!" stories (there aren't many, tbh) concerns the time I went to Norway to interview the Kings Of Convenience for Sleaze Nation (RIP). S and I had only got back from (getting married in) Sri Lanka 48 hours earlier when I was suddenly in Bergen in January. The rain came down in waves and the only thing to do was drink and eat reindeer. One of the band - Erlend - and I got off to a bad start when I proposed the notion that their music was so spectacularly soppy because he'd never actually even kissed a real girl. He took this very badly and stormed off the play the piano (we were in a hotel bar, while he played his bandmate Eirik confirmed his pal had kissed more than one girl - on the lips and everything). They suggested dinner at Bergen's finest restaurant with lashings of wine and vodka. A lovely idea until the bill arrived and they mentioned they had no way of even helping me pay (the press officer's card "malfunctioned" too). Later, in another bar, Erlend amused himself by going outside and wandering across the pelican crossing again and again and again. Anyway, by the third day we sort of liked each other again and we went for a drive and listened to A-ha, something they clearly still like (Erlend's on the right, Eirik, on the left, was lovely. But then, he had a real girlfriend). You're right, that wan't very hilarious at all, was it?

Friday, January 16, 2009

New Music Friday: Double Edition

DM Stith: Morning Glory Cloud (Asthmatic Kitty, 2009)
DM is an interesting fellow for sure. His official record company biography notes that, "his father is a college wind ensemble director and former church choir director; his grandfather is professor emeritus in the music department at Cornell University; his mother is a pianist; his sisters sing opera, play piano, tap dance, play timpani and are excellent soft ball players." I hope that at least some of that is made up. Lies do decorate the truth so, don't they? Anyway, this is a fantastic track from his album (that doesn't exist on the for sale part of the internet yet, but this is good to be going on with). Try it, you'll like it (probably).

Chase & Status feat. Kano: Against All Odds (Ram Records, 2009)
I'd like to first say that I'm thrilled Drum and Bass artists still do photos like this. I'd assumed that era was over - but no! Also, when I first heard this I nearly fell over with both surprise and delight. Surprise because I didn't think people made records like this anymore, then delight because, oh yes, they do! I'm not entirely convinced about the amazingness of the four-to-the-floor middle-eight, but then, I'm not "off" my "chump' at some rave-o-drome, am I? So, literally, what do I know? Anyway, it goes back into the breakbeat after a while, so who's counting? More of this sort of thing here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Make A Donation

I'm a regular blood donor. I'm not bothered by needles, I quite like lying down in the mobile unit in the Sainsbury's car park in Sydenham and getting 20 minutes or so of peace. I even quite like the tepid squash and digestive biscuit afterwards.
I do it because it's a good thing to do and blood stocks are always low. I don't do it because it takes 650 calories to replace that pint of blood. According to my Nike Plus that would take me about 12km to otherwise use up, that's about an hour and 15 minutes of running through the cold streets of Dulwich while the wind inflates my jacket. That's a Pizza Express Frutti Di Mare Pizza and a glass of wine, that's five large vodkas with tonic, that's four Mars Bar ice creams or a whole bottle of wine and a bag of Wotsits for free. Give Blood.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Home Made Pasta

Making pasta at home is probably more expensive than buying it from the supermarket and it certainly takes longer, it takes bloody ages in fact. But it tastes a billion times better than anything you could buy and is one of the most calming, hypnotic things you could ever make, quietly and alone in your own kitchen. I love it and it makes me a nicer person.
You can only ever eat pasta for lunch though as 8 stone Kerry Katona points out, carbs after 6pm are strictly banned.

Enough for 4
300g pasta flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling
pinch of table salt
3 large eggs

1 Place the flour and salt in a food processor and crack in the eggs. Pulse until the mixture forms sticky-looking crumbs. Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and bring together to form a firm dough.

2 Cut it into quarters then pass each piece through the widest setting of a pasta machine, folding it over and passing it again a few times until it feels smooth. Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.

3 Working with a quarter at a time, pass the dough through the machine, moving down a notch each time and keeping it lightly dusted with flour if it starts to stick. If it gets too long, cut it in half to keep the lengths manageable.

4 If you are filling your pasta, use it right away. If you are using the pasta as a plain ribbon, leave the sheet of dough to dry on a clean tea towel for half an hour or so before cutting. Pasta will dry out completely within 24 hours if spread out loosely and can then be stored until ready to use.

5 To make ribons: roll out the dough into thin 25 – 30cm long sheets - any longer than this and the ribbons can get a bit difficult to handle. Leave the sheets to dry for about half an hour so they’re still pliable but no longer sticky. Loosely roll up the pasta then using a sharp knife, cut across the length of the roll. Start with 1cm wide strips for tagliatelle, cut a little thinner for fettucine and even thinner for linguine. Shake out each roll into a ribbon then pile loosely on a floured tea towel. Leave to dry for at least 30 minutes before cooking.

6 Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water for 3 – 4 minutes until tender.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Winter Collection: Crock Pot!

I've had this Slow Cooker squashed up next to Rob's crates and crates and crates of vinyl in our dusty old basement since the Christmas before last and decided it was high time it saw some daylight. Anyway, as it turns out, I like it very much, it looks nice and it gives the kitchen a warm and cosy hum. Unfortunately, I'm not doing all that well with it. Mostly I'm using too much liquid and we have been eating 'chilli soup', 'lamb-shank dhansak soup' and 'smoked rib and yellow pea soup' this week. Also my attempts to make overnight yogurt have so far failed, first time it didn't set, the next time I scorched it and it set beautifully but tasted like burnt cheese.
By coincidence I have been asked this week to go on GMTV and talk to Lorraine Kelly about the benefits of Slow Cooking (this Thursday, if you're watching) so I am determined to become an expert asap. Any tips, post them here.
In the meantime, here's a recipe from my friend Katie B's lovely book Slow Cooking. Now she is an expert so I'd rather you spent your ingredients on one of her dishes than risk them on one of mine. And if you are thinking of buying a Slow Cooker may I recommend you invest in a Cuisinart - it's more expensive than my Crock Pot but that cook and hold is worth every penny.

Katie's Slow Cooker Chinese Red Braised Beef
Serves 4 - 6
1.5kg brisket joint
2 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
150ml light soy sauce
100ml dry sherry
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp shredded fresh root ginger
1/2 tbsp Chinese five-spice powder
pred rind of 1 orange
150ml cold water

Place all of the ingredients in the slow cooker dish and mix well.

Cover with the lid and cook on low form 8 hours, or up to 12 hours, until the meat is meltingly tender.

Remove the meat from the slow cooker dish and carve into thick slices. Dizzle with the sauce and serve with noodles and steamed green vegetables.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Lily And Me: The Truth

I did an interview with the delightful Lily Allen just before Christmas. Apparently, some people have got a little upset by some if what she had to say, which seems silly to me, really. But as I write, there are 167 different news outlets that have picked up on it. My personal favourite is this one. I think they've got it about right.

Booze Ban: Reinstated

Pete Greenwood: Wine & Rye (Heavenly, 2008)
So, I'm doing it again for reasons I can't quite figure out (though we could start with a mixture of puritanical self-regard and ludicrously misguided catholic guilt). I'm a week in, but the euphoria of last year's ban hasn't materialised, I think, probably, because I came back from Thailand feeling so good already. However, my productivity is going through the roof. This morning I had got dressed (in a smart shirt), made breakfast for everyone, tidied away after everyone, sorted out the washing and the tumble-dryer, tidied the front room (while listening to The Prodigy's excellent new album at a very high volume - sorry neighbours!), packed S off to Borough Market and changed some lightbulbs that had been dead for about a year. What a life I lead! Then I looked at the clock and it was 8:12. So, clearly, not drinking has its upsides. But, as you can see, it has a tendency to make you spectacularly boring. Already, one good friend has initmated that, all things considered, he'd actually prefer to wait until February so we can "get really drunk together", rather than enjoy my sparkling conversation (if not my sparkling water) while he gets legless. More fool him, eh? Ha ha! Hahahahahaha!!
*Manically Hoovers curtains for tenth time in attempt to mask the yawning futility of life sans grape*

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Basement Crates: 37 & 38 (& 39)

King Sun: Coming Soon (Profile, 1989)
I've been having a good root around down there (the basement) and found a stack of stuff which, as far as I can make out, I've not played since the last time someone asked me to DJ. As you can imagine, that was a tremendously long time ago (with no major bookings on the horizon, either). So, I think I bought this at HMV in Guildford back when the very idea of owning a hip-hop LP was exciting. It's hard to imagine feeling like that now, isn't it? That craving for more, buying stuff that you know almost nothing about, but you're willing to take the risk because you might just luck out. Anyway, King is still banging away, working for his next break. Someone more cynical than me might say that he should have got over it all by now and found something else to do, but I feel rather generous, so, good luck to you KS. And, if you're reading, can I just mention that while I like Coming Soon's "I'm acting silly, she's just a lady...", a lot, I think "A nice dinner, on the spaghetti tip..." might just be my favourite lyric of all time. So thank you!

Isla Cameron and Jack Armstrong: My Bonny Lad / O Can Ye Sew Cushions (Concert Hall, 1970)
I remember buying this on eBay when I used to work at a rather downmarket dance music magazine. All the people who worked there were lovely, but the people who ran the gaff were utter, utter, um, something else. Anyway, I instigated Folk Music Fridays there and I would play Pentangle and Barry Dransfield and Toni Arthur records. How the young people screamed with joy when this collection of traditional Northumbrian folk music slipped from the envelope. Anyway, it's full of nice tunes, so why worry? And, while we're at it, why does no one write songs called O Can Ye Sew Cushions anymore? What's wrong with people? All this nonsense about cars and jewellery and the like when the real question is, what are your needle skills like? Can you handle a whole sheet? Apparently, Isla learnt this song from a Mrs Mackay - a Scots lady. It's an ancient Scots nurse's lullaby. I think it's safe to say Isla had a fairly sweet set of "pipes" on her.

Big Daddy Kane: Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now (UPSO mix) (Cold Chillin', 1989)
In 1989 this was the sound of The Future. UPSO were Blacksmith, the late 80s and early 90s remixers of choice for nearly everyone. Sounds ridiculous now, but in a good way.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Holidays: Whose Good Idea Was That Then?

Hello! Are you back at work? It's cold, isn't it? Right after the last post we jumped into an Addison Lee cab and made for Heathrow. Scrap and S were full of "beans", while I felt completely bloody awful. Sick, tired, full of cold and thick with late-December London booze-fuelled poison. I was looking forward to the 11-plus hour flight as it meant I could sit in a chair for hours drinking Lemsip. You're right, I really was a barrel of laughs. Anyway, that was Tuesday morning. By Wednesday morning we were at the hotel, just about the single best place ever. Instead of wind and rain and grey skies it was hot and bright and quiet and calm and the sun felt good on our mottled, milk-white skins. By tea-time we were enjoying a Singapore Sling and watching the sun - now a blood-red ball - dip down into the Andaman Sea. We looked at each other - quite a lot - either just smiling widely and wondering whether we really were here, or whether it was some sort of waking dream. In fact, thanks to the jetlag - we're still dealing with the return journey's dose - it actually was some sort of waking dream.

We'd be first to breakfast (at 6am) for fruit and noodle soup (sometimes fish ball, sometimes chicken, sometimes white ear mushroom) and coffee. To be to honest, we had noodle soup for breakfast every single day. I generally had a version of it for lunch and dinner too. We were also first to bed (at 9pm at the latest) after a couple of drinks and, possibly, a single delicious gasper on the balcony (although Thailand's policy of plastering it's cig packets with autopsy snaps did take the shine off the moment a little). We usually squeezed in a couple of hours nap in the afternoon too.

So the days began to take shape. We swam, had ten minutes in the sun and got back under the umbrella. Scrap met up with his pals at kid's club for an hour or two meaning S and I could actually read books and relax for the first time in four and a half years. I read Gomorrah and S read The Road Home. S even had to buy more books from the hotel gift shop. She described Second Chance as "by far the worst book I have ever read", but she read it all the same. I tried to work my way through David Simon's Homicide, but after the sharp brilliance of Roberto Saviano's book it seemed a bit ponderous and heavy. Scrap watched Wall-E and Scooby Doo Aloha. Best of all, we watched no telly and ate no cheese or wheat.

After a refreshing nap we drifted down to the beach for a swim or build a sandcastle or to just lie in the warm surf. S had a massage every single day. One afternoon she spent wrapped in something amazing at the spa and came back smelling of amazing oils. I got so lost in the moment I agreed to a pedicure (I can fully recommend the experience). We all got a little colour. The black bags under my eyes began to shrink (that might have been the Clinique products). We got used to never wearing more than swimming costumes. On Christmas Eve there was a party. It was interrupted by a huge downpour, but no one cared. Rain's warm and it feels nice on your head. I took the opportunity to slip back to the room for an unbrella, hoiking down two glasses of champagne on route. The Bangkok Symphony Orchestra played and there was a bizarre dance performance entitled "The Miracle Of Christmas". Santa came by to say hello. We drank wine for the first time in a week (it was horrible).

There was a little row of shops and restaurants outside the hotel where we bought drinks and snacks and had our lunch and got our laundry done (S got a bit obsessed with this service). I got a black pinstripe suit made by a lovely woman in an incense-perfumed tailors. I tried it on for the first time with my bare, brown feet poking out the bottom and liked it very much. We developed a taste for Nori Seaweed crisps and put lime juice on everything. In the evenings we ate steamed crab and the soda or tonic for your gin or vodka was served in its own tiny jug. This was, literally, the best holiday of all time. We came home to weather so cold it made our hair hurt.

Fabio starts school next week. I have "gone freelance". There is snow on the ground. It's always good to be home, but this morning we woke up and said to each other, "Wouldn't you like to be back at the Katathani?" and the answer was, "Yes. Quite a lot, actually."