I cooked for six at the weekend, and made too much. As a result, I am eating the following items for dinner every evening this week. Well, until Thursday at least.

Duck, chicken and pork tenderloin pate with spicy fruit mostarda

Originally the pate was served with a pear and saffron compote, which was very tasty, but I’ve got lots of mostarda in the fridge, it’s the nicest thing I make, and it goes beautifully.

Burnt Sheep’s Milk Yoghurt

This is basically a creme brulee made with yoghurt instead of cream, which gives it a slightly musky flavour, but it’s equally delicious.

I’m tempted to write out the recipes, but none of them are really mine, so I won’t. The pate is vaguely based on a dish by Gordon Ramsey, the mostarda 100% Mario Batali, and the yoghurt gleaned from the pages of the new St John cookbook, a work of triumphant, dizzying genius.

All this gastronomic grandeur was but a sideshow to the main event, some succulent, drop-from-the-bone slow roasted lamb shanks. Oh yes. But that’s all gone.

I will be printing out application forms for my next dinner shortly.

Kittenwar hits the Shops

It’s been out in the States for a few weeks, and reports of its presence on the new arrivals tables at Barnes & Noble have been creeping in, but today was what I’d been waiting for: being able to stroll into a shop near the office and buy a copy of the Kittenwar book.

And here it is, racked up at the Islington branch of Borders (disclaimer: I added the flashing arrow to the picture, it’s not real). Immediately I’m filled with concerns that have never bothered me about other books: why is it not discounted? Why is it on the bottom shelf? Why does the sign say that titles are cartegorised alphabetically by author when this clearly isn’t the case? What happens if I sign a few? Will people think I’m weird if I hang around for a while, waiting to see if anyone picks up a copy, before nudging them and introducing myself? Should I pick up a handful and add them to the new releases table?

Anyway, I’m very pleased. And so should you be. What’s more, you should immediately buy a copy. And if you’re American, you should immediately do the same.

Otherwise, I will be very sad.

Brian Damage

Brian Wilson returned to the Royal Festival Hall this week, scene of his much-lauded Pet Sounds and Smile triumphs, for the world premiere of his latest opus, That Lucky Old Sun.

Some observations:

1. A man can survive on good will for only so long: the venue was nowhere near full, and this was opening night.

2. The new piece is genuinely absorbing, easily the best work he’s produced for forty years.

3. If you think about it, this isn’t much of a compliment. In reality, he’s not come up with much of any worth since clambering out of the sandpit and into bed.

4. I’d be surprised if he actually had much to do with it. For a man who needs a teleprompter to remember the words of Surfing USA and appears as if he might require help tying his shoelaces, it’s a bit much to expect another ‘teenage symphony to God’ to drop from the sky. That the band-leader insists on introducing our hero as “the man who wrote everything you’ve heard this evening” only serves to reinforce the suspicion that he probably didn’t.

5. He surrounds himself with people who know exactly what they’re doing and, more usefully, exactly what he should be doing. His backing band contain members of Wondermints, a Los Angeles-based power-pop outfit more than capable of compensating for Brian’s shortcomings. From their 1995 debut album comes the following track, Tracy Hide.

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Can you see where I’m going with this?

Cat Insanity

This lady lives with over 100 cats in Novosibirsk, Russia. She feeds them like chickens, scattering dry food around the room. And I can’t imagine what the place smells like, or how long it takes to empty the litter trays, or how much it costs to keep her feline herd in cat-grub, or indeed what would possess anyone to believe that this might be a good idea in the first place.


Fela Kuti

This morning I discovered, completely by accident, that it takes precisely the same time to walk to work as it does to listen to Fela Kuti’s You Gimme Shit I Give You Shit from his (no-doubt seminal) Live in Amsterdam album.

Is this some kind of record?

Meat Meat Meat Meat Meat

Meat is murder: lovely, tasty murder.

When I left my job recently, my distraught colleagues rewarded me for seven years, 10 months and 19 days of unrelenting perfection by buying me an eighth of a cow.

The beast, butchered then hung for 21 days, is now in my procession. You can see all its bovine bits displayed below in the blogjam bedroom (I don’t usually photograph meat in the boudoir, btw, I just thought the blood matched the colour scheme quite nicely). Eagle-eyed readers may also have spotted the rather magnificent cat-shaped lamp, and be interested to learn the it’s the only feline-themed item I own (apart from the websites, of course).

I’m not sure what to make from all this meat – apart from some kind of beef igloo – so I’d like suggestions for recipes. Here’s the list of cuts and weights.

Cut Weight (grams)
Topside 1475
Topside 1427
Top Rump 1350
Silverside 1221
Silverside 1145
Rib 1125
4 x Burgers 955
Stewing Steak 719
Braising Steak 700
Mince 668
Rump Steak 623
Fillet Steak 586
Skirt Steak 571
Stewing Steak 569
Mince 563
Rump Steak 550
Braising Steak 512
Braising Steak 501
Mince 499
Stewing Steak 458
Mince 402
Sirloin Steak 394
Stewing Steak 377
Braising Steak 372
Braising Steak 314
Total Weight: Shit-loads

Any ideas? I already have the skirt steak marked out for a serving or two of Uccelletti Scappati, but the rest is awaiting your input. Go mental.

Slab Attack

I’m beginning to think that the nice people at Hotel Chocolat are out to kill me.

Not content with forcing me to eat a mammoth easter egg a few months back, this week the company elected to torment me further, posting a Rocky Road slab and a goody bag to the blogjam mailbox.

First: the goody bag.

Keen-sited readers might notice that the bag is empty. This is because I’ve already eaten the contents, which comprised: a selection of six deliciously creamy truffles; a 100g chunky slab of delicious milk chocolate with delicious cookie pieces; two delicious chocolate dippers to swirl into a delicious hot drink and nibble; 180g of deliciously creamy caramel drops; and some entirely average chocolate flakes ready to melt in hot milk.

Why is it that you can’t buy quality drinking chocolate? Charbonnel et Walker make a half-decent version, but you can’t find anything of the standard found at the brilliant Paul chain of bakeries, the otherwise catastrophic Apostrophe, or the excellent Caffe Vergnano. Why? WHY? Hotel Chocolat, I demand that you rectify this cowardly cocoa chaos – I need my nightly dose of top-end phenethylamine, and I need it now.

The chocolate slab is the real treat here. As well as being most toothsome it’s enormous, about the size of a medium sheep’s head.

Note: not actual size.

It’s so vast, and so chunky, that I’m convinced Hotel Chocolat are missing a trick or two. As well as selling it as food, why not also offer the slabs as building material, or as sporting equipment, or indeed as some kind of alternative weaponry?

There are endless variations on this theme, of course. Hotel Chocolat, while making sumptuous artisan fare, are in many ways naive, and the slab offers a myriad of opportunities they’re quite obviously not taking. This is perhaps why they send me these samples: they appreciate my lateral thinking, and the degree of hard-nosed business acumen I bring to the table, an attribute that the firm so sorely lacks in-house.

I hope this entry helps.


At first glance, Auschwitz is not what you expect. You’re so used to seeing those chilling, horrific, black and white images of the camp, it’s almost a surprise when everything doesn’t shift to bleak monochrome the moment you arrive. Instead, it actually looks quite beguiling, Butlins dressed up in barbed wire. The sky is a brilliant blue, silver birches line the avenues between the red-brick barracks, and it’s flooded by camera-happy travelers in brightly-coloured clothing. It’s almost impossible to reconcile what happened here with present-day reality when the site is so dominated by coach-trip tourism: at lunch I overhear a British guest uttering the familiar, ‘we must never let this happen again’ line, before moving on and complaining about the coffee she’d just been served, all without missing a beat.

It’s only inside the barracks that you really get a flavour of the Nazi brutality – the vast cabinets full of human hair and empty suitcases and discarded children’s shoes; or the grim pictures of emaciated twins, victims of Mengele’s grotesque experiments in human fertility; or the corridor lined with thousands of individual portraits of prisoners, each given two dates: deportation, death.

After lunch we’re driven a couple of kilometres to Birkenau, where the Nazis ramped up the killing as the Allies drew closer. I talk to our guide, a nice Polish lady with a soft, sad face, who tells me she’s been showing tourists round the camp for seventeen years. Originally she found working at Auschwitz hard to cope with, and now forces herself to stop thinking about the dayjob when going home to her children. It’s not that she’s become inured to what happened here, but it does probably explain why she delivers the appalling story with all the detached formality of an air-hostess revealing the location of the emergency exits. It’s the only way to cope.