Archive for August, 2005

cats in sinks

Great news: I made a new thing.

Once again it’s cat-related, this time highlighting a particular fetish that our feline friends seem to have. Or maybe it’s a fetish of mine. This is an increasingly grey area.

I hope it delights you. It’s called Cats in Sinks.

Incidentally, I should point out that Rob, the flamed-haired despot behind b3ta, had precisely the same idea more than two years ago, but failed to act on this rare moment of glittering genius. My version, obviously superior to his childish sketchings, simply took a little longer to conceive.

Slight Return

Blimey. Have I been neglecting this blog that long? Yes, I have. Shame on me, etc.

Even now I haven’t really got anything too exciting to add, so I’ll go through the motions instead, with a few links, loose ends, thoughts and queries.

1. Where in London can I buy a two-litre bottle of groundnut oil? I’ve tried Tescos, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s, plus a plethora of local food emporiums. All to no avail.

2. Note to self: If you’re devising your own recipe for Laksa, don’t go overboard on the shrimp paste. You”ll only end up tainting an expensive pot of fresh scallops with a broth that tastes like the unwashed floor of a downmarket fishmonger.

3. Dealaz has launched. This is the UK version of the excellent Dealazon service, and although it’s looking pretty beta at the moment (What? No kitchenware? Are you mad?), it’ll be worth keeping a close eye on.

4. Try out Protopage. It’s a very nice homepage tool. I wish it supported XML feeds.

5. I’ve finally decided that Konfabulator is a piece of crap. Great idea, but let’s try and build something a little less processor-intensive next time, shall we?

6. I thoroughly recommend the wines of the Mount Rozier vineyard in South Africa.

7. I tried another of HFW‘s recipes, this time for Herb Roast Chicken. Highly recommended and great fun, kind of Blue Peter cooking. In a nutshell, you rub butter and a few English herbs all over a chicken (inside and out), roast for 20 minutes at a high temperature, baste, add a glass of wine to the roasting dish, reduce the temperature, cook for another half-hour, then turn off the heat, open the oven door and leave for twenty minutes. After this you carve the chicken roughly, letting the pieces fall into the buttery sauce. Then eat. Lovely crispy skin. Works well with mash.

8. Someone else made a Scotch Ostrich Egg.

9. On Google UK, blogjam is the sixth result if you search for Pork Pie, and the second for Steak Tartare. This is higher than Delia Smith. Or Ainsley Harriot.

10. Unfortunately, I’m also the third result if you search for small penis blog. And they say Google knows everything about its users…

11. A friend of mine asked if I’d like to cook something using her breast milk – she had some frozen away. I declined.

12. As I write, there have been over 56,000 comments left on blogjam over the years. I have deleted more than 48,000 as spam.

13. Kittenwar got recommended by a saucy-looking reporter at the BBC. Perhaps I can use use the magical power of kittens to woo lovely geek ladies. Or any lady, for that matter.

14. If I ever make my fortune from that site I’m going to start referring to myself as a pussy magnate.

Boom boom.

old threads

Today I’m starting a new series on blogjam, “When Old Posts Go Nuts”. This occasional feature will concentrate on old entries that, instead of dropping off the radar altogether, seem to have covered themselves in some kind of magic google dust, attracting a steady stream of largely inappropriate traffic well past the point where the original post has any relevance to anyone.

Part One: Nigerian Football Agent Confusion.

big in chile

Recently I was quoted in the Independent, espousing the virtues of Chilean meat culture. It seems that the piece has been picked up in Chile, where one of that country’s leading news sites has based an article on the original feature. They’ve quoted me directly (albeit without mentioning my name), and rather than explain that I’m some some desperately lonely blogger with a tragically limited social life and a penchant for bizarre cooking challenges, they’ve referred to me as a friend of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, and proclaim that I’m responsible for the great man’s interest in meat. Indeed, as a badly translated version of the page explains:

Fearnley became addict to the savage knife after one of its friends traveled to our country and it told his experience him. “For the Chileans to buy meat it is an event, in the supermarkets have lengths containers and a staff of 7 to 8 butchers, all experts in the subject. In my first week of visit I went to five roasted. This it is a tremendous event of males, where the woman only feels to talk”, she summarizes the writer on the experience of its companion.

I like this new development. From now on, when people talk about HFW (as I’ve decided to call him) in my presence, I shall blithely explain how I’m the sole reason for his success, offering this article as proof. And I shall strut around like Francis Drake must have done after bringing potatoes back from the New World, as if I were responsible for some seismic shift in British culinary culture.

And then I’ll bring out my own savage knife, and slaughter something. Probably.

bush meat bbq

Yesterday I held my annual BBQ. This year’s menu was as follows:

Pisco Sour

Fois Gras with Honey and Sauternes Jelly
John The Baptist Locust Stir Fry
Slow Roast Pork with Chinese Five-Spice Crackling

Bush Meat Tasting Menu

A Kudu, yesterday.

Brazilian Picanha
Brazilian Fillet Mignon
Scottish Aberdeen Angus Rib-Eye

Baby Leaf Salad w/French Laundry Staff Dressing
New Potatoes in Parsley Butter

Rhubarb and Ginger Cheesecake with Syrup
Pear and Chocolate Pie
Lemon Sabayon-Pine Nut Tart with Honeyed Mascarpone Cream
Bacon & Egg Ice Cream with Maple Syrup

All very nice too, except for the egg & bacon ice cream, which I forgot to remove from the freezer, and thus remains untasted and untested. While the safari selection of meats proved popular, most controversy was reserved for the Locust stir-fry, which polarised opinion like no other dish. These crunchy creatures were cooked in a little sesame oil with spring onion, diced green pepper, dates, orange juice and honey. Quite delicious, in my opinion, although they do take a fair bit of chewing.

I obtained my locusts (and the other unusual meats) from Osgrow, an excellent Bristol-based exotic meat consortium. They deliver anywhere in the UK, and are recommended. Most of the meat came from South Africa, but I like to think they could be sourcing their produce from Bristol Zoo, sneaking into the compound after hours armed with little more than a crossbow and a hunter’s cunning, stalking and slaying their prey to order before the zookeepers turn up for morning feed.

On the downside, one unfortunate side-affect of all this recent culinary experimentation is that people have started to view anything I make with great suspicion. At one point I handed someone a small jug of salad dressing, and they responded by looking at me with trepidation and asking what it contained, as if otter urine or breast milk were probable constituents.

Hmmm. Otter urine. I wonder if you can buy that online…

Garden Snail Risotto

It’s time. A week ago I collected my snails, and after five days of banqueting on the finest of Waitrose greens, plus an extra two on a starvation diet, my slimy pals are purged of all impurities and ready for the pot.

The slaughter is made more difficult than expected because over the last week I’ve grown attached to the little fellas, humanising them somewhat by giving them names. In the picture above, Valentino Rossi can be seen clambering over a couple of the less dominant members of the family (middle right), while Chandler is the alert looking creature (top left) about to give Princess B a ride. What Princess B doesn’t realise, of course, is that this ride will surely be her last.

And into the pan they go. Reluctantly ignoring their silent snail screams, I boil them gently for ten minutes. Rather strangely, the water turns yellow, but I can’t find any reference to this on the Internet – I’m hoping it’s not some kind of toxic gastropod secretion, but only history will tell. Cooking time over, I’m able to extract the fleshy morsels from their homes using a corkscrew.

I’ll admit that at the moment they don’t look too appetising, especially the ones that seem to have some kind of vibrant green slime adorning their nicely plump exteriors. I can solve this, however, by sautéing them for a couple of minutes in butter and finely sliced garlic after a quick wash. In the picture below, this process is documented in the rear saucepan, while the foreground wok bears all the hallmarks of a wild mushroom risotto about 14 minutes into its alloted cooking time.

A few short minutes later, and everything is ready. I’ve added the snails and some Parmesan to the risotto, and we’re ready to eat.

It’s not bad. The snails actually taste like the ones I’ve had in professional restaurants (i.e. like a slightly rubbery, garlicky version of yes, you guessed it, chicken), and they go well with the risotto. It’s a success.

Would I do it again? Well, there’s a lot of work involved. You need to stalk the snails under cover of darkness, keep them fed for the best part of a week (they got through nearly £2 worth of salad), clean death row regularly (you don’t want them to start snacking on their own poop if they get hungry), then lead them guiltily to the killing floor. This bit, although mildly traumatic, wasn’t nearly as hard as I expected, and I’m proud of the fact that I’ve hunted, slain and cooked my own dinner.

Next up, polar bear.

Or dog. I don’t like dogs much.

tapestry report

I was racking my brain in order to come up with an innovative and useful reviewing tool for this year’s Tapestry Festival, and eventually settled on a suitably western ‘Good/Bad/Ugly’ judging criteria. Originally this was going to take the form of a venn diagram, as one band might be as good as another, but a lot uglier, and this subtle difference could be made quite clear. But in the end I couldn’t be bothered, so you’ll have to make do with a simple list.

The Good The Bad The Ugly
Alan Tyler Ciruclus Circulus
Archie Bronson Outfit Peter Bruntnell Leaf Hound
Simple Kid The Pipettes
The Rosinators Salty Dogs
Swearing at Motorists
Tokyo Dragons
Red Army
Loose Salutes

As you can see, Circulus appear in two lists. This is because although their unique fusion of medieval English folk music and 60s psychedelia is a dandy proposition in theory, the fact that they’ve neglected to write any halfway decent tunes counts again them. Bad. And ugly. And embarrassing, if I’m honest. But I didn’t have a column for that. Or dogshite.

Anyhow, the weekend was a great success, despite almost constant rain and sub-arctic temperatures at night. There’s a much fuller write-up of the weekend at Wendywire (including a rare photograph of yours truly wearing my trusty stetson), while here at blogjam you’ll just have to settle for a single picture.

Stuff with prunes, roast at 180ºC, serves many.