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>It wasn’t supposed to be like this, surely?

25 April, 2010 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack:  Death Cab For Cutie – Studio X Sessions

So – back at work – aren’t the weekends then free for rest and relaxation?  Why is it, now I’m working for The Man again, that I ended up working harder round the home today than I have done for ages?

Because the jobs don’t go away, I suppose, and maybe also because I’m now back at a proper ‘working pitch’ that I’ve more enthusiasm and energy to actually do the things that I would ‘eventually get round to’ before.

First thing, it was off to the supermarket to do the weekly shop.  My turn this week – Mrs W has suggested that going forwards we alternate – her turn next week.  Big shop this week, we both need ‘cutting-up’ for worktime lunchtimes and the freezer has been running a bit low.  I did make a schoolboy error at the checkout though – standing in a queue, laden down with a full trolley, and one of the supermarket kids calls me over to a free checkout.  Result! I thought – until I realised he’d set me up on a self-service lane.  Fine (I suppose) if you’ve one or two items – but not a trolley-full, surely?  Anyway, I got on with it, getting crosser and crosser as I had to weigh (and find the price for) red onions (under ‘O’ rather than ‘R’ in the menu) and mini ciabattas (described as ‘rolls’ in the menu – who would have guessed?) and get the girl to confirm I was eighteen and ok to buy booze.

Sigh.

Mind you,. I still finished quicker than I would have done had I stayed in my queue, so not all bad.

Back home, and after a delightful lunch of BLTs on the small ciabatta rolls I’d struggled to buy in the supermarket, and after the ManYoo-Spurs game, it was out into the garden for more chores.

Firstly, the mower and strimmer made their first appearance of the year, followed by the garden shears as I trimmed back a bush that was encroaching from next door – and then it was the turn of the electric drill, some wood and a raft of wood screws as I finally got round to repairing the fence that had been falling down all year.  Lastly, the rake and the hose came into play as I cleared and re-seeded the bare patch of lawn that had been ravaged by birds and badgers over the course of last year.

You’d think that would be enough, wouldn’t you?  Well no, the work continued, this time in the kitchen.  Although this turned out to be a really pleasant surprise.  We’d struggled to fit all today’s food shopping into the freezer, so to make room, I’d taken out some bags of soft summer fruits that Mrs W had bought ages ago for reasons that are still unclear to me.  I had half-hearted plans to mush them up and make some smoothies or something, until inspiration struck.

Crumble!

Did a quick search on t’internet, found a recipe, and got on with it.  The fruit I simply drained and placed in the bottom of a dish.  The crumble comprised 150g each of plain flour, porridge oats, demarera sugar and butter, mixed together by hand in a bowl until it got all crumbly and sandy.  Crumble topping on top of fruit, in a hot oven (180 degrees C) for half an hour or so.  It made the kitchen smell delicious and, oh, it tasted good as well!  We had it with some fruit yogurt that was lurking, although I’ve now got some double cream in for tonight’s leftovers.

A pleasant little download ep from American ‘intelligent rockers’ Death Cab for Cutie this morning.  We saw Death Cab (named after a Bonzo Dogs song) a couple of years ago at Latitude, and enjoyed them immensely.  There’s always a place for good, melodic pop sung and played with a bit of wit and style, and the Americans seem to be particularly good at it.

Here’s ‘The New Year’ live on Soundstage from a few years back…

>Diddle Diddle Dumpling

22 February, 2010 Leave a comment

>

Today’s soundtrack:  Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint – Hot as a Pistol, Keen as a Blade

Well, I’ve given it a couple of days, but I think I’m still in shock over the weekend’s football.  It’s not just the fact that we won, it’s the way in which we won – with style and passion, playing the better football and even coming from a goal down.  Three great goals from open play as well.  Oh, and coming off the back of a similar win against Chelsea.  So in the space of around ten days, we’ve beaten (well) two of the best teams in Europe, and certainly the best two teams in the country.

Typically, after some pretty genuine compliments from United fans, all the comments are about Rodwell’s impending move to ManYoo and how Moyes is being lined up as Fergie’s successor.  Won’t happen guys.  If we can keep this squad together – and keep the majority of them fit and playing(!) – then we’ll be challenging next season.

As we would have been this year, had we not had such a horrendous start.

The Waring culinary spectrum continues to broaden – stew and dumplings after the match, with homemade dumplings (equal amounts of suet and self-raising flour, with a dash of horseradish and sufficient water to bind).  The beef stew had a beef and ale base, using a few bottles of Poacher’s ale (most of which went to lubricating the chef’s throat, I have to admit).  Absolutely delicious, and sufficient left over for tonight’s tea as well.

Take a look at these puppies!

Homemade pizza again last night, although this time I added some semolina to the bases, Dominos-fashion, which added a pleasing degree of texture to the bases.

Costello and Toussaint on the soundtrack today – an audio rip of a DVD of the two in concert, produced on the back of their ‘River in Reverse’ collaboration of a few years back.  Elvis has always chosen his collaborators well – Burt Bacharach, Bill Frisell, Anne Sofie Von Otter – and his collaboration with Allen Toussaint, one of the great New Orleans jazzmen – is up there as well, with added poignancy coming from the Katrina disaster that happened around the same time and which is referenced in their work.

Here they are on Jools a few years ago – “Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further”.  Who indeed?

>3D, or not 3D?

14 February, 2010 1 comment

>Today’s soundtrack:  Deep Purple – Fireball

Picture the scene.

A darkened room, curtains drawn so passers-by cannot see the ridiculous sight of two grown people sitting with pairs of cardboard glasses perched on their noses.  Plates of food balanced on their laps – food they cannot see owing to a combination of the darkness, and the disorienting effect of a strip of red plastic covering one eye, and a blue strip covering the other.

A film is playing on the television set in the corer of the room.  We realise we are having problems discerning any 3D effect – a problem caused by Mrs W. inserting the 2D version of the film into the player.  Finally the correct disc is in place and we settle back to enjoy the eye-popping visual feast on offer.

Whilst still struggling to get any food into our mouths.

Actually, it was quite good fun.  The 3D effect worked reasonably well, although inevitably the colours in the film were all a bit washed out.  Can’t see it catching on though – at least not until the technology allows you to dispense with the silly glasses!

The film was the latest in the ‘Final Destination’ series – entertaining old tosh, following exactly the same format as the other film in the series (big disaster, Death initially cheated, Death redresses the balance one by one in ever more imaginative ways).  Plenty of scope of course for things (generally sharp things) to hurtle out of the screen towards us – and, quite successfully make us flinch and duck.

A shame we couldn’t see our food though, as it was actually pretty damn tasty.  Moussaka today, not fully authentic but a nice recipe you should try.  Hard work though.

To be truly authentic, you should use minced lamb but I chose to go with a 50:50 mix of lamb and beef mince as all lamb can be a bit overpowering.  Brown the mince with some onion and garlic, and season with cinnamon and allspice.  Completely inauthentic, but I chucked some mushrooms into the pot as well.

When everything is browned, add some oregano, chopped (tinned) tomatoes and some passata and leave to simmer and reduce down.

While the meat is simmering, prepare the rest of the dish.  Slice three or four aubergines into rounds about half an inch thick, and spread onto some kitchen paper.  Salt both sides of each slice and cover with more kitchen paper – this will draw any bitter juices out of the aubergine slices.  Then peel and slice some potatoes into thin rounds and rinse in fresh water.  The potatoes need to be cooked briefly to ensure they are fully cooked in the final dish – this can be by shallow frying or by parboiling the slices.  However to save time and effort, I just chucked them into the deep fat fryer for a few minutes.  Don’t let the slices brown – we’re not making chips here.

When the aubergines are drained, they need to be fried in olive oil, in batches, until lightly browned on both sides.

Finally you need to make a bechamel sauce, using flour, butter and milk.  Add some grated gruyere and parmesan cheese to the sauce as well.

Now you can construct your moussaka.  A layer of mince in the base of a large casserole dish, topped with half the aubergine slices.  The add the rest of your mince to cover, and top with the rest of the aubergines.  Cover with a layer of potato slices, then pour the bechamel sauce on top.  Grate some more cheese on the very top, then stick in a hot oven for around 45 minutes for the flavours to mingle and the top to brown.

Look at that – Lovely!

Deep Purple were one of my early musical loves and although time has possibly not been kind to them, I still enjoy hearing them now and then.  Fireball is probably slightly overlooked amongst their early ’70s canon, falling as it does between Deep Purple In Rock and Machine Head and suffering in comparison, but it is still worth a listen.

Excellent video here – the Purps miming to Fireball on some teeny pop show back in the day – everyone looks like they are dancing to an entirely different song for some reason!

>Keeping You Regular!

31 January, 2010 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack:  Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen we are Floating in Space

D’you know, it’s been a long time since I’ve given you a recipe, so let’s put that right today.  As the snow descends yet again, I think we could do with a rich, winter warming casserole, do you not think?

So I give you the Beef, Guinness and Prune Casserole.

No, come back, it’s great, honest.  Even if you think you don’t like either Guinness or prunes, you’ll love this.

Start off a couple of hours before cooking by soaking a pack of prunes (about 250g) in enough Guinness to cover.  You will probably be left with half a can or so of Guinness – I suggest you drink this straightaway.

Start your actual cooking about three hours before you intend to eat.  Cut up a couple of pounds of stewing steak into chunks and coat with some seasoned flour.  Fry in oil in a big stew pot until the meat has browned, then take the meat out of the pan and put on a plate to one side.

Chop a couple of onions and fry off in the oil and meat juices left in the pan.  Add a pack of button mushrooms, unsliced.  Then slice three or four carrots and a few sticks of celery and add those to the pan.  Finally chop some garlic finely and add to the pot.  Stir and fry until cooked through and browning.

You’ll probably be getting a bit thirsty by now so I suggest you open another can of Guinness and have a slurp (or two).

When the veg are sizzling nicely, return the meat to the pot and stir in until mixed through.  Then add your prunes, along with the Guinness they’ve been soaking in.  Add more Guinness, sufficient to just cover the meat and veg in the pan.  Drink any Guinness left in the can.

Leave to simmer on a very low heat for at least two hours, until the meat is cooked through, stirring occasionally to ensure the casserole doesn’t stick.  By this time all the prunes should have dissolved and the sauce should have thickened to a decent gravy-like consistency (due to the flour you coated the meat in at the start.  You did coat the meat in flour, didn’t you?).  If the sauce is too thin, thicken with cornflour.  Alternatively, if the sauce is too thick, simply add more Guinness, remembering to drink any that is left over.

Have a quick taste.  The sweetness of the prunes should have nicely counteracted the bitterness of the Guinness, but if it’s still a bit bitter for your taste, add a teaspoon of sugar.  When no-one’s looking.

Serve with rice or baked potatoes.  If you’re posh, serve some broccoli or another green vegetable on the side.

You’ll probably have loads left over, which is a good thing as the tastes do improve still further if re-heated the next day.  Or stick it in the freezer.

BLTs on mini Ciabattas for lunch today as well.  Oh my.

Spiritualized are providing the woozy soundtrack to this cold Sunday morning here – Ladies and Gentlemen… is a great album for slipping on in the background and drifting along to.  Which is the point, really.  When first released, this in-no-way-influenced-by-drugs album was available in blister pack form, the CDs packaged like a box of pills, complete with instructions (“Spiritualized is used to treat the heart and soul.  For aural administration only.  Use only as directed by a physician.  Keep out of reach of children”).

All I want in life’s a little bit of love to take the pain away.

>Day 200: Double Century?

1 October, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Led Zeppelin – In Through The Out Door

Two hundred days – and still counting! Where does all the time go? What have I actually done in those two hundred days?

Well you all know what I’ve done – I’ve spent most of my time writing about it here!

Today’s anniversary passed quite quietly I have to say – a bit of baking, a bit of chiselling, a bit of blogging and that’s just about your lot, I’m afraid.

But the baking – oh my. Looking for something tasty to go with my soup, I chanced across a recipe for some ‘tear and share’ bread rolls. Bread rolls with a ‘twist’ – quite literally.

Start off by preparing some white bread dough in your breadmaker of choice. Don’t do it yourself – far too much like hard work. When your dough is done, roll it out into a rectangle, about twice as long as it is wide. Spread a thin coating of mustard over the dough, then sprinkle grated cheese and chopped ham over the surface of the dough.

Roll up the dough from the short end, in a Swiss Roll stylee. Slice into chunks about an inch and a half thick, then turn onto their edges on a baking tray. More grated cheese on top, then leave to rise for half an hour, then bake for about fifteen minutes. When they come out they look like this –>

…and they are to die for!

Now you might think this cooking malarkey is something a red-blooded male like myself should refrain from dabbling in in case people, you know, talk. But let me tell you chaps – it makes you a real hit with the laydeez! Mrs W took some of yesterday’s soup to work with her today and gave a taste to one of the young ladies she works with. “What do you think?” she said. “I think I want to marry your husband” was the reply.

She’s taken some of the bread rolls in today for another taste test. She ought to be careful – she’s playing with fire here!

The boy’s still got it – if only in the kitchen!

Anyway, I did do some proper man work today, getting on with the cleaning-up of the old bathroom tiles. Just about there now – leaving me no excuse for not actually getting on with re-tiling the thing! Oh, and I did, finally, manage to gouge myself with the chisel. It was just a matter of time. Luckily, it was just a flesh wound.

Led Zep on the soundtrack today, and of all the albums/bootlegs iTunes could have thrown up, it gave us the runt of the litter. Actually, I don’t think ITTOD is as bad as it’s often painted to be – In The Evening and All My Love are as good a much of Zep’s work and, while the album is nowhere near the standard of Physical Graffiti or 1-4, I wouldn’t say Presence of Houses of the Holy are that much better.

And anyway, average Zeppelin is still 90% better than most stuff out there.

Here’s ‘In The Evening’, from Knebworth in 1979.

>Day 195: More Words about Music and Food

26 September, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: The Smiths – The John Peel Sessions

Given today’s blog title, the soundtrack should have come from Talking Heads (“…Buildings and Food”), or perhaps The Undertones (“…Chocolate and Girls”) – but no, it’s The Smiths (and about time!) instead. About whom, more later.

No, the title’s a cheeky reference to my mate Simon’s new blog, “Planes, trains & automobiles” which you can find here. It worries me that not are only are people choosing to read all the guff I post here of their own volition, but I’m now also inspiring people to start their own blogs! But you should read Simon’s stuff – he’s a top man and he knows how to write as well.

And badger him for recipes. You know he really wants to go there.

And speaking of recipes, I finally got round to the smoked salmon pasta dish I promised you a few days ago. Essentially a good way of using up some leftovers, it turned into a very tasty and filling (and calorific) meal.

No pictures, I’m afraid – it didn’t stay on the plate long enough.

Start by chopping and frying off some shallots in some olive oil. Add some mushrooms and garlic to the frying pan to colour and soak up the oil.

While this is going on, boil up a big pan of salted water and add a bunch of asparagus (trimmed at the bottom to remove any woody bits) – boil for about three minutes, chop into bitesize chunks and add to the pan. Then add your spaghetti to the water you’ve just cooked the asparagus in to cook, for around ten minutes.

Whilst all this is going on, chuck the best part of a pot of double cream into the frying pan, having turned the heat down first. If you have a calorie/cholesterol concern, use some creme fraiche instead. Stir around, and let it all warm through – keep the heat low and don’t let the cream boil. Cut your smoked salmon into strips, and add to the creamy mixture. Zest a lemon, and add the fine strips of zest to the pot. Finally grate a shedload of parmesan into the pot.

Season to taste with salt and black pepper. By now your pasta should have cooked, so drain and then throw into the pot as well. Stir it all round so the pasta and sauce are well mixed, then serve and enjoy with a crisp white to cut through the cream.

Stretch out on the sofa and expire.

But all that took place at the tail end of the day. The day started with a bit of necessary pampering at the hairdressers. I’ve gone to the same hairdresser for the last eight or nine years, with one of the same two girls cutting my hair each time. Imagine my dismay when I noticed they’d opened a dedicated Men’s hairdressers in the same village! Would they now refuse to see me and pack me off to the men’s bit? Happily no – I can still go and sit with the women, have a head massage and a coffee and have my hair cut by Debra or Alison.

It was Alison today – normally Debra cuts my hair and the original plan was for her to see me at two. However my interview (see below) had been arranged for four-thirty, so I was a bit concerned about rushing and being interviewed with an itchy neck – so I brought forward the cut, which meant going with Alison instead of Debs. And which felt awfully like cheating on your girlfriend, when I saw Debs in the salon later…is that a normal reaction?

Anyway – the interview. Got there in plenty of time, and was there for a good hour and a half, interviewed by two senior members of the finance team. How did it go? Who knows. I thought it probably went well, and I think I got across all the points I wanted/needed to get across – but inevitably they have other people to see and who knows how I’ll stack up against them?

Pretty well, I would hope. But now we wait.

As I said above, The Smiths today – an album pulling together all their Peel Sessions in one place. Don’t look for it in the shops – it’s not there. Some of the tracks have appeared on legitimate releases, including Hatful of Hollow, but you’ll have to search the outer reaches of the internet if you want to find them all together in one place.

The Smiths are, of course, wonderful. You don’t need me to tell you that. Accusations of miserabilism are just lazy cliché. Anything built around the wonder that is Johnny Marr’s guitar could never be anything other than joyous.

This just might be my favourite Smiths song. ‘There is a Light that Never Goes Out’.

“Take me out tonight – to where there’s music and there’s people and they’re young and alive”.

See? Pure joy. (We’ll gloss over the rest of the lyrics, I think.)

>Day 186: Happy Birthday!

17 September, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Stevie Wonder – Hotter Than July

Son No 1 is 22 today, so a quick phone call to wish him a happy one – I couldn’t get through to him initially, turns out he’s been sitting (and passing!) literacy and numeracy tests as a precursor to an interview next week with the Civil Service. Good for him, at least one member of the Waring family is having some success on the job front!

I left him to ponder on his plans for the evening and turned my thoughts to the day’s activities. However with a stone of tomatoes provided yesterday by the aged parents, I had some cooking to do – pay attention, recipe fans!

I’d already done a quick supermarket run first thing to pick up the other ingredients I wanted for today’s recipe – a sweet pepper and tomato soup, basic recipe courtesy of the New Covent Garden soup company – included in their cook book, which Mrs W has kindly bought me at Christmas. The site’s got plenty of recipes, but not this one – but no matter, this is how it breaks down:

Take six red peppers, cut in half and de-seed. Place cut side down on a baking tray (or probably two).

Skin your tomatoes by putting them in a bowl of boiling water for a minute or two. If you then pierce the skins with a knife, they will come away easily from the tomato. (Really – I had my doubts about this process but it does work like a dream).

Now the recipe calls for eight tomatoes, but I ignored that. Quite apart from the fact I had twenty-odd tomatoes to get rid of, eight tomatoes vs. six red peppers just didn’t seem like the right ratio.

So all twenty-odd tomatoes went onto the baking trays with the peppers, cut in half with the cut side up, this time.

Splash of olive oil over the veg, spoonful of sugar too, salt and pepper. Oh, and a scant handful of fresh basil leaves and stems, chopped.

Stick in a hot oven (190 degrees C) for about an hour. Bits will go black but don’t fret.

In the meantime, chop up an onion or two, a garlic clove or two, and fry gently in your big soup pot for about 15 mins. You want them to go soft, but not brown.

When your veg are roasted, throw the red (and black) gloopy mess on top of your onion/garlic mixture. Bring to the boil then take off the heat for a while. Whizz them up with your whizzy tool of choice into a smooth paste. Add a litre of vegetable stock (proper ready made stock please, not a couple of Vegetable Oxos) and stir thoroughly. Bring to a slow simmer and cook for a while and serve or freeze as you choose.

Some more fresh basil added at this stage would also be very nice.

Apparently you can serve this stuff cold, but really, it’s crying out to be eaten hot, with lots of white crusty bread dipped in, isn’t it?

There are very few people who really deserve the epithet of ‘genius’, but in my humble opinion, Stevie Wonder is one of the people who does. Almost twelve months ago to the day, I saw Stevie in Manchester. He was magnificent, as you would expect, despite a penchant for audience participation I could have done without. I came to hear you sing, Stevie, not 14,000 tone deaf Mancs!

Hotter Than July my be Stevie’s last great album, coming off the back of a run of albums that just might be the greatest series of albums ever – from Music of my Mind through to Songs in the Key of Life. Hotter…is not quite up to that standard, but would be most other artist’s best ever.

Master Blaster (Jammin’) is the track the album is probably best known for, although every track is a winner really. However on my son’s birthday, the only track I can really give you is ‘Happy Birthday’. Credited with introducing a national holiday on Martin Luther King’s birthday (and so not really that appropriate for a personal birthday celebration!) it is possibly one of the few songs that has actually had a real impact on the ‘real’ world.

But that’s not all the Stevie you’re getting today. I can’t take the chance on ‘Talking Book’ coming up anytime soon on the soundtrack, so here’s a bit of ‘Superstition’ for you.

Not just any old Superstition though. Superstition played live on Sesame Street. I came across this on another blog (the excellent Dust on the Stylus) some time back, and can do no more than copy the original poster’s comments before playing you the track…

“It’s the song as we know it but with – is it possible? – even more funk. Then it goes into an uber-funky jam for two minutes, then a false ending. Then – you fucking what? – a minute of Stevie singing ‘Sesame Street’! Over Superstition! Bear in mind that, ten years into a career of classics, the guy was only 22 or 23 here; he has the kudos, the track record, the long-term immersion in music that make it seem to be something he breathes. Set free from the bonds of this earth, he’s adrift in funk heaven. At the same age ‘young’ pop stars like Noel Gallagher and Morten Harket were still years away from making their first records.”

Go on – play it – all the way through. It is the funkiest seven minutes you’ll have all year!

Categories: Andrew, recipe, soup, Stevie Wonder

>Day 161: Chapati Party!

23 August, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Various Artists – The Best Disco Album in the World…Ever!

Some more minor culinary triumphs today, again involving the breadmaker – the invention of which must be the best thing since, er, sliced bread, and which clearly represents the pinnacle of human achievement. Apart from the iPhone, of course.

Highlight was probably luncheon, BLTs made with grilled back bacon, iceberg lettuce and vine tomatoes on freshly baked bread spread with mayonnaise – bread so fresh it couldn’t be cut with an ordinary bread knife, only an electric knife was capable of dealing with the loaf’s combination of crustiness and squishiness.

BLTs were eaten whilst watching qualifying for the European Grand Prix. It should be an interesting race tomorrow, Hamilton on pole in a McLaren that now appears to be competitive again. The Brawns and Red Bulls are there or thereabouts, with Button a rather lacklustre fifth on the grid, behind Vettel. The resurgence of McLaren is probably the best thing that could happen for Brawn, if it stops Red Bull from dominating the second half of the season. McLaren are too far off the pace to catch Brawn themselves, but they could do enough to stop Red Bull gaining the points they need to overhaul Button. It should be a very interesting second half of the season!

My second minor culinary triumph came at teatime. Not so much with the main meal itself, a Sainsbury’s curry just flung into the oven (hugely tasty though said curry is), rather with the accompaniment – the chapatis. I realised that I’d forgotten to buy any chapatis so, if our feast was not to be chapati-free, we either had to haul ourselves down to the supermarket to buy some or – genius! Make our own!

So that’s what I decided to do. The breadmaker could take care of the messy mixing stuff, and I would do the rolling and cooking. I eventually found a recipe on t’internet since my own cookbooks were silent on the subject – no easy task since most recipes were either American (measuring quantities in ‘cups’ – no use to me) or were vague about quantities. No use for me – it was only the quantities I was interested in, there’s hardly a massive list of ingredients for a chapati (flour, water, salt, if you’re interested).

So everything got chucked into the breadmaker and I decided to go with the pizza dough programme. No rising to worry about, just mix it all up and give me a lump of dough to play with. While all that was going on, I got chatting to my old colleague Noordad on this new-fangled Windows Messenger thing I’d decided to switch on today – he kindly offered advice if I needed it, but thought I’d best make my own mistakes first. I may be wrong but I think it’s Ramadan at the moment, so it was probably a bit cruel to be talking food with the lad while it was still daylight!

Anyway. The dough came out a bit too sticky, but with a bit more flour I got it into a manageable state. Breaking off golf ball-sized lumps, I rolled out a batch of very thin circles and dry-fried them in the frying pan. And they were pretty good, actually. I thought they’d puff up more than they did, but what came out of the pan was recognisably chapati-ish and did a grand job of mopping up the curry sauces. Typically, Mrs W preferred the ones I’d cooked for slightly too long and had gone a touch crispy in places, but I think I got the balance right with most of them. No pictures, I’m afraid.

Mrs W has regained the will to live, with the return of X-Factor. I remain unmoved. For the first few weeks we are in the ‘care in the community’ phase of the competition, which I am always slightly uncomfortable with. It’s the modern day equivalent of going to see the inmates at Bedlam, in my view. At least child abuse is less of a concern here, unlike Britain’s Got Talent, as there are some age guidelines in place to prevent really young competitors being traumatised by the stress of the competition and the bullying of their parents.

Ahem. Rant over.

Bit of disco on the soundtrack today. I’ve got quite a few of these “The Best……Album…Ever!” compilations and the hit to miss ratio is actually pretty good. And there’s nowt wrong with a bit of disco, whatever I might have thought back in the day when I was busy fighting the Punk Wars.

The highlight of this album for me is the wonderful Candi Staton’s “Young Hearts Run Free”, which I secretly liked when it was originally released, although I’d never have admitted that to anyone.

I saw Ms Staton at Glastonbury last year and she was ace. Me standing at the front grinning like a loon and singing along like a good ‘un. I had a horrible feeling I was captured on film doing this, but luckily the BBC chose to spare the nation the sight of me, unwashed and hirsute, giving it large on the big screen.

I can’t find any original clips of Candi doing ‘Young Hearts’, but here’s her re-recording of the track back in 1999. Still a very fine version sung by a very classy, sassy lady.

>Day 144: To the ‘hood in Hudd!

7 August, 2009 1 comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Various Artists – The All Time Greatest Movie Songs

Off to Huddersfield today, to drop off some stuff for Son No 2, in advance of his trip back down south. As I mentioned the other day, he’s found himself a ticket to Reading Festival, which he is well pleased about. I had a quick look at the website and felt a slight twinge, but I suspect Reading will be a bit lairy for a man of my advanced years. Anyway, I am SO grounded at present!

Nice relaxing drive over the Pennines, sun shining and all relatively fine in the world. I picked up Son No 2 at the student house (which still looks in pretty good order) then we drove into town, via the snooker club, where he dropped off his CV in respect of a bar job that had been advertised there. We then headed into the town centre for a spot of lunch, which had us pitch up at what was obviously a Weatherspoon’s, although it was not advertised as such outside! No matter, a couple of pints and a chicken burger-type thingy slipped down nice and easy!

We then had a bit of a browse in the main shopping centre, inevitably ending up at HMV, which disappointingly seems to have turned into a DVD store with a few CDs lurking down one side. Temptation thus averted, I dropped The Boy back at home then headed back to Cheshire.

And despite my tasty and filling lunch, looking forward to my tea!

In the knowledge that I’d be ‘dining out’ at lunchtime, Mrs W had suggested light bites for tea tonight and had raised the idea of a steak and onion baguette each. Excellent idea, but gave me the idea to push the boundaries a little.

One of the staple festival repasts is the ‘Aussie Steak Combo’. Simon, Matt, you know what I’m talking about here.

The Aussie Steak Combo comprises the following:

Freshly baked baguette.
Fried onions.
Bacon.
Steak.
Cheese.
And as much ketchup/mustard as you can squeeze on top.

Top scran indeed!

So that’s what we had. And very nice it was too, although the baguettes that Mrs W pitched up with were too big, even for us. Suitably downsized, they just about had the capacity for the various ingredients listed above. The only change I made to the standard festival approach was to stick the things under the grill to melt the cheese – definitely an improvement our festival caterers should consider.

Not really the healthiest days’ intake of food – I suspect my ‘five a day’ quota was missed by some distance – but my, it all hit the spot!

Today’s soundtrack is definitely from Mrs W’s collection, but it’s still worthy of a listen from time to time. It does what it says on the tin – collects together a raft of songs over two CDs that are lifted from various movie soundtracks. Some better than others, obviously, but still some gems in there. Yes, there’s some Boyzone and Celine for the ladies, but there’s also stuff by The Doobie Brothers, Van Morrison, Al Green and Edwyn Collins as well.

This song is on the CD in its Boy George incarnation, but here’s the actual film version. Great film, with a fairly well-known twist that I’m not going to give away here. Great song as well.

>Day 142: Fish and Cats

5 August, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Various Artists – Doo Wop Dynamite

Got some cooking for you today! Mrs W came home from work with a couple of pieces of salmon that needed turning into a tasty yet nutritious tea – my mission, if I chose to accept it!

So what to do? Mrs W reminded me of a rather nice ‘teriyaki’ glaze that we have used before, based upon treacle and soy sauce – but unfortunately the jar of treacle had long since been pitched (sell-by date was probably 1993 or some such). So I improvised, devising a glaze that combined soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce and maple syrup with some crushed garlic and a touch of sesame oil. Poured onto the salmon fillets (which were by now sat in a pair of tinfoil parcels) and baked in a hot oven for about twenty minutes, they were very tasty indeed. The salmon was accompanied by some potato croquettes and some stirfried vegetables (mushrooms, sweetcorn, sugar snaps, spring onions and bean sprouts) and a crisp young sauvignon blanc.

Very nice too, and a pleasant end to a rather busy and productive day.

Took an early call from a recruitment agency – remember the conversation with my ex-boss a couple of days ago? The agency got in touch with me and after talking through the situation with them, they now have a copy of my CV for consideration – basically they will only submit my CV to the company if it does not reach them by any other means, so hopefully I have avoided compromising any exclusivities or confidences. It’s a minefield, this recruitment thing!

Spent all afternoon on one of my allocated chores – a long time ago, I bought a couple of ‘multi-frame’ picture frames with the intention of identifying, and printing and framing, a few pictures of cats past and present for Mrs W. Naturally, the picture frames have sat on top of the stereo (do we still call them stereos?) for about three months and I have finally been shamed into actually doing the picture thing with them. Once I started, it was actually quite an enjoyable (if long-winded) task and Mrs W was suitably appreciative of the end product. As she should be.

Oh, and I’ll get onto the shower and the garden later this week, I promise. The ironing’s piling up, as well…

Had a long chat with Son No 2 as well today – he’s landed a ticket for the Reading Festival over the bank holiday (to which he’s welcome – wild horses wouldn’t drag me to Reading) which he’s naturally delighted about. However I’ve got his tent here, and he wants to borrow my (voluminous) rucksack – and he needs the sunglasses he managed to leave here last weekend, so I’ve got a trip to Huddersfield to do a bit of dropping off in the next couple of days. Be nice though – get a spot of lunch in while I’m over there I feel! I’ve also got a visit from Son No 1 next week, en route to a holiday in Skye with his girlfriend’s family – be good to spend some time with the lads in the coming week. Special request for home-made pizza from Son No 1 as well – news of my prowess is spreading!

We’ve not had any Doo Wop before on the soundtrack, but I’m right partial to a bit of doobeedoobeedoo from time to time. ‘Doo Wop Dynamite’ is a cheapo compilation on an obscure reissue label but it’s got some lovely stuff on it, from the likes of The Dells, The Orioles, The Platters and The Moonglows. Songs from a more innocent time, when the suits were sharp, the shoes were polished, the hair was processed – and the harmonies were tight!

Doo Wop was, primarily, a black art form but as with so many elements of black culture, it got purloined and ‘cleaned up’ by white artists for the (primarily white) mainstream American marketplace. For ‘cleaned up’ most often you could read ‘watered down’ but occasionally the copyists got it right. I have to say this, because The Skyliners ‘Since I Don’t Have You’ is one of my favourite tracks on the album – and it’s only when I searched for the track on YouTube that I found out they are/were a white band. Preconceptions eh? Sounds obvious to me listening now, but what a great song. Love the bit where he breaks into falsetto at around 1:40 into the song…

And just how sharp are those haircuts? The less said about the jackets the better though…

Oh, and did you know that Guns ‘n’ Roses covered this? Oh yes they did…

Not sure they’d have got away with the video in 1958 though!