Posts from 6th July 2004

6
Jul 04

Spicy thai rice and egg soup with pork

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 1,155 views

Spicy thai rice and egg soup with pork Just a recipe. For 2 hungry people.

Having written this out I think it’s one of those recipes that’s easier to do than to describe. This seemed like an absolute dream to make, and the result was a treat. Very more-ish, very filling, and it lends you a warm spicy glow of satisfaction.

Cut the skin off two chops-worth of pork loin. Smear chilli paste on the pork, score the fat so it’ll make nice chunks of crackling. Lay the fat back on the pork and roast for 45 mins at 200°C. (I also put the fat back in for another 15 minutes while the meat rested.)

While that’s roasting finely chop up 3 red chillis and 3 spring onions.

Get a pint or so of stock (I used chicken stock cubes), stir in a chunky spoonful of red curry paste and a teaspoon of shrimp paste, wait til it boils then add the rice and leave it simmering with no lid. How much rice? Well, use some less than a standard serving of rice per person, and just keep in mind that the more you add the thicker the soup will be OBViously.

With a few minutes left before the rice fully cooks you should have something getting on for gloopy. Crack in a couple of eggs. Wait til the white starts to form then break the yolks to spread the egg out in strands through the soup. Let the egg cook properly for a minute more, add the chillis and spring onion and stir through the soup.

Thinly slice the pork. Ladle/splott out the soup into bowls and dump pork on top, with any left over chilli/onion sprinkled on top.

Important Ingredients
Shrimp paste – key to the taste. Nasty smelly brown stuff, lasts for months. Num num.
Chilli paste – to roast the meat in. I’m sure you could smear it in any number of tasty things.
Thai red curry paste – making your own is mentalism. (I did it once. Fun, but really, who can be arsed?)
Chillis / spring onion / eggs / stock / meat

NETTLE KNICKERS!

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 196 views

NETTLE KNICKERS! A wonderful BBC science piece where the headline is needlessly gratuitous and fades away to a nice but less shocking piece on textile science. Of course nettle knickers could act as an appropriately natural defence against many predatory men. But equally they could give you a nasty rash down below, and unless you have a dock leaf bra relief may not be forthcoming.

This nettle mularkey is exactly the same one had about hemp. At Glastonbury I believe there is a whole stage made out of hemp or some such nonsense. The halfwitted hippy suggest that this is indeed a great thing, not realising that the cultivation of hemp for commercial, non-halluconogenic purposes will probably mean less weed for him. Or at least a crop which predominantly grown for its textile usefulness rather than psychotropic qualities. The winging about how hemp is a useful plant which is outlawed is not made from an agricultural point of view. And it seems the argument for nettles is even better. You can make a nice tea, a nice soup and now knickers out of it. And as anyone who has been a child in the English countryside knows, nettles are everywhere.

BEFORE PARKING BEHIND THAT

Do You SeePost a comment • 374 views

BEFORE PARKING BEHIND THAT DUMP TRUCK, MAKE SURE THAT DUMP TRUCK DRIVER ISN’T A DUMB TRUCK DRIVER! Ah yes. We saw that there Harry Potter film last night, it was alright, I suppose, even though Harry is about as scary as Dave Gorman wielding a feather duster in his be-marigolded hands, but anyway – when we got home we got to watch THE WORLD’S WILDEST POLICE VIDEOS! This was a pleasant surprise, as it is usually on on Sunday nights, I like to think of it as a WARM UP TO MONDAY special teat, but others may not, but they can watch Newsnight or something, quite frankly give me the Worlds Wildest Police videos and I’m fine. Last night’s “world” video came from China, and showed some policemen running over a bag thieves motocycle and throwing them across the road.

Sheriff John Bunnell said it was a cracking example of what happens when COPS ARE WILLING TO GET TOUGH.

Unofficial Sheriff John Bunnel website!

“What you’re about to see in the next 60 minutes is real”.

The curious case of Daara J

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 136 views

The curious case of Daara J: Daara J, Senegal’s biggest-selling hip-hop crew, provide a neat illustration of what Alex below (and Marcello in the comments box) are complaining about. We stumbled on Daara J at Glastonbury, playing late on Sunday afternoon to a foolishly small audience in the Dance Tent. I don’t think I saw anyone with more energy and presence all weekend. Led by a big man in white robes, flanked by bare chested dancers (one draped in the Senegal flag) and with a backup DJ playing gleeful pop-dancehall beats, Daara J bounded and shouted tirelessly, high-stepping back and forth across the stage, grinning all the time. Their sympathetic beat magic turned sodden and weary legs into motorised springs and set me up for one of the most riotously hedonistic evenings I’ve had in years. They were marvellous and modern, a sharp reminder of what the soggy fusion-food music on the Jazz/World Stage had been missing all weekend.

So of course as soon as I got home I typed the name into a file-sharer – there was a recent album which a few people had, and I decided to download a few tracks and head to Amazon if I liked them. The result? Extreme disappointment – the lilting lite-hop tunes weren’t bad exactly, in fact they were endearingly hooky, but where was the energy? Where was the dancehall? What had happened?

The difference is pretty plain: the live version of Daara J makes party music. The studio version makes world music. Party music has a function that is pretty much universal. World music has a function which is highly specific: provide musical tour packages for more-or-less discerning Western listeners who are not, let’s face it, generally there to dance. The world music brand performs this function very well – I have piles of Rough Guide and Nascente CDs and even a few Putomayo ones and they are almost always interesting, relaxing, often very beautiful and I wouldn’t like to lose any of them. But they are hardly ever thrilling, hardly ever life-changing, hardly ever inspiring. (Nobody is inspired by ‘world music’ anymore, are they? Byrne and Eno got turned on to African sounds and made two of the best pop albums ever; Adam Ant heard Burundi drumming and made three of the best pop singles ever. That isn’t going to happen to Radio 4 or !!! or McFly.)

The Daara J experience suggests what we’d all already twigged. World music is a brand; brands have an image and values – hence world music the brand includes a filter that (rightly, if the term is to have any marketing use) excludes certain sounds and styles – in other words, in music a successful brand becomes a genre. This filter is internalised – consciously or not – by any act canny enough to get as far as the studio and the major distribution deal.

My solution would be to fight branding with branding. World Music is a success, but the limited terms of its success exclude a lot of music (at a guess I’d say they exclude 90% of music made by under-25s in non-Western countries). Currently anything outside the World Music fence will either not see release or get judged as an inauthentic or inferior version of the ‘real thing’. So a new music brand could be created specifically to market this excluded music – claiming a different kind of authenticity (younger, more urban, cheaper, fresher, disliked by ‘world music’ fans). ‘Street Music’, maybe. Or what Matt Ingrams calls it, ‘Shanty House’ (see his superb 27th June entry, which covers a lot of this territory but I’ve written 90% of a post now so I’m not going to can it. Anyway Baile Funk is exactly what I was thinking about.)

I am the Dutch football team of pub quizzes.

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 289 views

I am the Dutch football team of pub quizzes.

Now and again, on my fairly infrequent trips to pub quizzes, the team I’ve been playing for has tied for first place. Hurrah! What an achievement! Split the winnings! Everyone’s happy!

Not a chance. There’s nothing a quizmaster likes more than a tie break to add a little tension to the proceedings. And I always lose, I’ve never won a single tie-break, it’s all very frustrating.

Until last night! Like the proud sons of the Netherlands last week, our duck was broken and our hex unhexed. Our guess was a single year closer to Chris Isaak’s true age than theirs! We win!

This was at the weekly Monday night pop quiz at the Rosemary Branch, by the way. It’s a good quiz with a genial quizmaster and a very pleasant pub. Can’t say fairer than that.

ENOUGH TO MAKE YOUR WEE GREEN

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 367 views

ENOUGH TO MAKE YOUR WEE GREEN: yes, dear reader! I have been caught in the snare of ASPARAGUS yet again. In a surfeit of asparagus, one might add! To those who despair at the weedy and thin specimens of asparagus available down your local Kwik Save, or the ridiculously priced “Asparagus Tips” which are somehow even MORE EXPENSIVE (how does this work Mr J. Sainsbury’s Finest?) – I have the solution, and it’s called the fruit stall outside Goodge Street tube station. A nice big wodge of asparagus for a mere ONE ENGLISH POUND.

But yesterday Mr Fruit Stall was selling EVEN BIGGER bundles for ‘1.50! I of course, took advantage.

Then I got home and thought… what the f#ck am I going to do with ALL THIS ASPARAGUS? Smaller amounts I put in scrambled eggs, and t’other day I just fried some up in olive oil* to go with our chicken kiev sandwiches but now I’ve got a bundle too big to be grasped in one hand! How do you turn asparagus into a… MAIN?

Publoggers: you’re needed!!

FWIW: my ideas:

1. Roast the sparrowguts with salt and pepper for a while. No idea what will go with this.
2. Er, put em in scrambled eggs
3. Oh… lor.

*plz to be telling me what is the POINT to boiling or steaming asparagus??? Anyone who boils/steams asparagus must be an MENKO!

The last ten minutes of The Return are very uneasy for the viewer.

Do You SeePost a comment • 157 views

The last ten minutes of The Return are very uneasy for the viewer. Up to this point the film has had one intention, ratchet up the suspense and tell the very simple story. Two brothers return home to find in place the father they never knew. He then takes them on a journey which gets increasingly tough, the accepting brother is pitted against the cynical angry brother. It is simple, streamlined storytelling: barely an extraneous character appears. It all about the brothers, the father and the sometime harsh Russian landscape.

And then the conclusion is reached, shocking yet fitting. And the film does not tend. I expected a couple of minutes maybe of reflection. Perhaps a conversation about the events. Instead the film keeps going. This is no bad thing, the reminder that life goes on, that things are not as neat as the movies is not unwelcome. It sticks out though since the film had, up to this point, been so single-minded in pursuing its narrative objectives. With no narrative left to unwind the suspense actually increases. Something else even more serious has to happen is the thought which slowly drifted through my mind. And, in its own small way, it does.

I am in two minds about this final section. I was fidgeting I have to say. It did not provided the reflection that perhaps it was supposed to, since the suspense in the rest of film is derived from the juggling in the viewers mind of the three or four possible conclusions to the situation. Admittedly the last section contains the biggest (gratuitous) jolt of the film, but there is a point when I feared the thing would never end and just meander. Yet thus section also helps redress the balance of the previous ?perfect? storytelling, showing what happens to characters who previously have been locked into a narrative. And the characters were almost as uneasy and confused about where the film was going as I was.

So I’d bought basil.

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 463 views

So I’d bought basil.

More to the point: for two dollars, I bought a grocery sack full of fresh basil; by comparison, a small plastic pack of basil with enough for pesto for two, or a dish of Thai basil chicken, costs between $1.50 and $4.00 at the grocery store, depending on discounts and whether it still has the roots on. This was easily ten times as much.

And it was becoming less fresh. I woke up with a migraine today that required medication, which meant getting any work done was probably out of the question. So it was a good day to deal with the basil, especially since I intended to buy more this coming Saturday, whether I’d found anything to do with the first batch or not. I mean, it’s really fresh! And that price! It’s hardly the basil’s fault if I don’t know what to do with it.

(1) The basil sandwiches I mentioned.

(2) Pesto. Boy, it takes a lot of basil to make pesto. No, I didn’t use a mortar and pestle. I know. I know. But I didn’t. Making it with the stick blender still makes better pesto than I’ve had in half the restaurants that offered it when it was The Big Thing (and more than that, now that pesto has become a sort of greenish cream sauce so many places) and all of the grocery stores. The only better pesto I can buy is the jarred olive-green stuff I find inconsistently, from … Roland, I think. I know it when I see it.

Anyway, I didn’t have pine nuts and am more focused on using up odds and ends around the house this week than I am on shopping, so I used pistachios — and semifirm sheep’s milk cheese instead of parmesan, a substitution which made much less difference than I expected. Also used fried garlic, largely because I had fried a bunch of garlic, and realized anything I didn’t hide by putting into the pesto was going to be eaten because my fingers and teeth were acting against my will.

I now have a pesto so dark green it looks like something a pine tree shat out after eating the Emerald City of Oz. I had been worried I might confuse it with the roasted green tomato puree on the same shelf; no such danger.

(3) Basil cream sauce. My girlfriend periodically craves this cream sauce a roommate introduced her to, made simply from basil and scallions steeped in cream and slightly reduced. Made a batch of that, which will probably be part of her lunch all week.

(4) Basil-chile, um, syrup.

See, I read about these nectarine conserves Steingarten made. You make a thick sugar syrupy type deal, and you pop the fruit in there, and the juices thin the sugary candy stuff so that it isn’t candy.

“Well,” I thought. “Basil doesn’t have juice the way nectarines do. Neither do these serrano peppers I’m using up. So really, I better add some water at the same time, if I want basil-chile conserves,” which is what I actually wanted. So I added the water. And the sugar, of course, seized up into a big lump of caramel. And as I tried to cook it down, it got darker and darker, and caramellier and caramellier, without actually not being syrup anymore.

I grew up in a household that made its own maple syrup, boiling down giant tubs of sap all day to make tiny jugs of syrup, and I knew that I was pretty bad at it.

“Cool!” I said, steeping the basil and chiles in the syrup, “Basil-chile syrup! There are like a BILLION uses for that!” I meant the British billion, too, in honor of Freaky Trigger. Somebody’s pancakes are probably going to hate me.

(5) Thai basil chicken. I know it should be made with actual Thai basil when possible, but regular basil is what I had, and I’ve found it’s good with anything but lemon basil. (It probably could be good with lemon basil, it just hasn’t been when I’ve made it.) Leftover roast chicken, a little Thai caramel sauce, a little soy sauce, a lot of sriracha, a lot of scallions, a lot of basil. Probably twice as much basil as I usually use, since I had it to spare.

(6) Basil-infused olive oil, with a whole crapload of basil leaves: enough so that a few hours later, the oil is already very noticeably green. I wonder if there’s a ceiling, a saturation level, a … what’s the chemistry term, equilibrium? is that the one applicable here? … to how much basil oil can seep into olive oil, or if this could actually come out strong enough to need dilution when it’s done.

And finally, I was done with the basil! Except it turned out I had twice put aside the basil for the basil chicken, and only remembered the second time, so I had enough left for another batch.

If I didn’t have work to do tomorrow, to make up for today, I’d try to figure out a way to make Thai basil chicken sauce, for those times when you want to make Thai basil chicken but don’t have fresh basil and can’t get it at the supermarket: chile sauce, basil leaves, and maybe some soy sauce would help keep the leaves not-tasting-like-crap-ish.

Local vegetable gardens are high-maintenance right now

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 443 views

Local vegetable gardens are high-maintenance right now. In the cool of the morning, it’s picking time: today might be the butterbeans and the corn, tomorrow the rattlesnake beans and the purple hull peas, then back to the beginning with the corn and butterbeans. In the meantime, the yellow squash, zucchini, okra, melons, cucumbers, bell peppers, hot and mild chilies and (especially) the tomatoes need daily attention. Afternoons are for putting up the morning’s pickings, which, if you’re growing enough to keep you through the winter, will definitely take the rest of the day, whether it’s two five-gallon buckets of beans to snap or ten dozen ears of corn to shuck and silk.

The payoff is in dinners like tonight’s: the corn, squash and cucumbers were photosynthesizing their little hearts out this morning, and the purple hull peas were the last of last year’s crop (with pepper sauce from last year’s hot chilies). With a big wedge of cornbread and a glass of milk, it was heaven. And even a confirmed carnivore like me knows that meat or fish would have been foolish and gluttonous.