Elizabeth Daplyn

Sep 04

Final reel fandango

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Final reel fandango

Randomly turning on the telly on a lazy day at the home of your choice is a good way to catch the best bits (i.e. the last half-hour) of films that you can’t be arsed watching all the way through. As it so happened this last Bank Holiday Monday, we switched on to find MacGyver: Lost Treasure of Atlantis just edging into its gripping climax, followed by Jim being pursued up the mast of the Hispaniola by a murderous pirate in Treasure Island (recognisable immediately just from the creepy music) on the other side. This was, I think you’ll agree, a pretty hot combination of half-missed movies.

The latter had the advantage of being one of my most-favoured childhood films (none of your poxy Railway Children for me, I wanted blood and guts and piracy on the high seas. However I did enjoy the Sound of Music frequently) and also a really excellent (and indeed, the first) live-action Disney number, with lots of classy “Aharrrr Jim lad”-ing and the like. The only thing that mars it in my view is the corn-fed American brat playing Hawkins, but I suppose it was the time of the child star production line, and at least all the salty sea dogs are from excellently chewy places like Dorset and Suffolk. Half the cast were born in the late 1800s and many were dead before I was born (including the brat, who got involved with nasty old drugs as he grew out of adorable moppethood), which sends a bit of a frisson down the spine for some reason. Robert Newton, a cracking Long John Silver, was David Lean’s Bill Sikes in Oliver Twist and played a few other pirates in his time, which shows that typecasting can work out splendidly.

The first film we caught the end of didn’t have such a good pedigree, although it did, fantastically, have Brian Blessed shouting a lot, of course) and a bit of mystical guff about lost civilisations and cults, not to mention Richard Dean Anderson‘s spectacular mullet. We simply couldn’t believe (having marvelled at this follicular glory) that it was made as recently as 1994, even though it’s right there in undoubtable internet print. I was also wondering if RDA was Canadian, and his birthplace of Minneapolis is close enough for me to feel vindicated in my accent-spotting expertise. Anyway, there was archaeological skulduggery, ancient magnetic suspension locks, and a steam-driven altar thingy in the side of a volcano. Oh, and MacGyver powered a clapped-out jeep with missiles strapped to the back to get away from some evil Eastern European military types. Hurrah for TV movies with 80s stars veering dangerously close to the soup kitchen (this was before Stargate SG-1 kicked off, of course).

So, to sum up: I enjoy holiday television programming, and am increasingly reliant on imdb for my trivia junk. I wonder if it’s available on WAP?

Aug 04

y’k vagonu tekerlek

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y’k vagonu tekerlek

The above phrase is a (probably syntactically inaccurate) translation of ‘WagonWheel’ into Turkish. Which is what the Halley Pasta is, pretty much. Produced by snack manufacturing giants ‘lker, it’s a round marshmallow biscuit sandwich of approx. 8 cm. diameter, covered with vaguely waxy chocolate-flavoured stuff, and I was unreasonably excited to snap up a 5-pack (exotically stuck together along one side with the nutritional information label) from my local shop for local people at Archway the other week.

With great trepidation I opened the packet to find something that indeed, as the external picture had led me to believe, looked just like the Wagon Wheels I knew and loved in times passed into legend. When chomped into, however, a different story was told: the biscuit itself was disconcertingly crumbly, with a spicy hint of coconut, and the marshmallow filling was so overwhelmed by the strong personality of its surroundings that I barely noticed it. A strange sense of otherness swept over me, like being on holiday and eating a custard cream, only different and foreign. And as a novelty junkie, that’s the kind of sensation I live for, man.

Robster, who was my companion on this taste odyssey, says:
“I don’t remember much from my consumption of the Ulker biccie – other than that the filling didn’t have the chewy mallowyness that makes official Wagon Wheels so satisfying. But then it’s been ages since I had a proper Wagon Wheel.”

It’s all too true. Gone are the days when one could irresponsibly tuck into confectionery (bought with the last of the weekly pocket money) from an eye-wateringly bright wrapper; I could of course pop into the supermarket right now and buy (and indeed scoff) a packet of Wagon Wheels, but I’d feel excruciatingly infantile and would end up a bit sticky about the chops. As the actress said to the bishop.

Aug 04

Salad for Men

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Salad for Men

Home yesterday evening, bored of reading about subterranean London excursions and playing Snake 2, I decided to have some supper. It was hot and sticky despite soft rain finally clearing the atmosphere, and lukewarm food like Italian-style cous cous (with black olives, tomatoes, pesto, what have you et c.) goes down a treat in such conditions.

Reader, I made a salad:

a smallish aubergine, thinly sliced, brushed with olive oil and grilled to smoky brownness;
slivers of a cheeky boar sausage (purchased recently in Greenwich at the travelling Bruno’s French Market: there was perry available and indeed drunk on this occasion, for the information of all you Glasto boozehounds) fried off gently while the aubergine was cooking;
a few halved cherry tomatoes and a finely sliced spring onion, added to the sausage and joggled about a bit for a couple of minutes once it had released some fat;
a generous splash of lemon juice sloshed into the frying pan to form a dressing with the sausage juices;
all the above tumbled in a large bowl with a big old load of ripped up iceberg lettuce leaves and seasoned with some freshly milled black pepper.

The result was interestingly savoury, the sausage and aubergine slices in particular combining well, and the lettuce and tomatoes providing a salient reminder of health and efficiency. It was a proper no-effort manly salad, and yet I had no man to share it with, because he lives in Portsmouth. So I scoffed it all myself, oh yes.

Aug 04

Indie Chicken

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Indie Chicken

An occasional series that I hope all and sundry will contribute to. The varied quality of independent chickenmongerers has been of interest to me for some time and so I would like to solicit reviews of your local fried goods vendors, in the interest of the general populace. The meal consumed should preferably contain chicken pieces, hotwing(s), fries and an optional drink. I’m not overly given to scoring, but if you are, please feel free to indulge yourself.

#1: Chicken Cottage*, High Holborn, London WC1

Opposite the Princess Louise and handily placed for a mid-session filth fest last Saturday, we were dazzled by the brightness of the lighting and pleasantly surprised by the non-slashed state of the red pleather banquette seating. The chicken purveyed here is halal, which is nice, and also very common in central to north London. The breast piece and large drumstick I was given as part of my Cottage Meal (the name of which made me giggle for some reason, probably the same as the reason I regularly snigger at the Chicken Cottage logo) were tasty although a little dry, and definitely passable according to my drunken-scoffability meter. The fries (and these were definitely fries rather than chips) were skinny and crispy, but required an artery-flogging amount of salt to make them interesting. There was a sachet of tomato ketchup, but I was having no truck with that. The hotwings, or rather hotlegs (the disparate sizes of the various chicken legs in this meal would have been food for thought if it had not been food for hangover-aversion) were the outstanding feature of the meal, being a whole lot spicier than the corporate average, so much so that several gulps of the proprietary lemon-lime fizzy pop (surprisingly fruity) were required to assuage the burning thereby induced. There was a complimentary (also proprietary, they’re a classy bunch) lemon-scented freshening towelette, and then we went back to the pub. It did the job and was overall a pleasant fast-food experience.

More reviews please! Otherwise I’ll be forced to eat more filthy chicken myself, oh no.

* Whoa! You too can become part of the franchise.

Jul 04

Mystery meat

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Mystery meat
So the other day I had tongue for lunch.  It was helpfully labelled ‘lunch tongue’ on the deli counter in Safeways, as opposed to the slightly larger variety also available, which one could presumably slice up for use in delicate canap’s or incorporate into a souffl’ rather than snarfing in a sandwich.  I hadn’t had tongue for a good while, probably since I was a child on (a rubbish excuse for a) holiday at my (less good) grandma’s.  She was queen of the suspicious lunch product, what with her terrifying beetroot and Red Leicester combo and brown bread with butter scraped infinitesimally thin across its knobbly surface, but for some reason I never got the willies when presented with a platter of tongue and the even more mysterious ‘luncheon meat’ and/or corned beef.  This was probably because I was not a fussy child and they’re actually very tasty, even when paired with a not entirely delicious Golden Vegetable Cup-A-Soup.  Tongue’s just another eminently scoffable animal muscle and has an interesting close-grained texture, going nicely in a chewy fresh baguette sandwich, and yet I bet if offered to oooh, 80-90% of today’s (Western) youngsters they’d turn up their horrible little noses and demand some mechanically recovered chicken formed into amusing shapes and covered with breadcrumbs.  Meat that looks like more or less like it did when it was walking around scares people, and yet beats the processed sort any which way you like for taste and generally value (unless we’re talking grim own-brand sausages).  Bah humbug.

Speaking of cheap rubbish, I note that classy supermarket chain Netto are officially dissing offal.  Mind you, even I don’t particularly fancy beef genitalia in my lunch.

Jul 04

Double, err, thingy

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 353 views

Reading two or more books at once is an often confusing but interesting thing to do, particularly if the two inform each other in amusing and/or startling ways, or if you can make a funny title out of combining them.

At the moment I’ve got Anno Dracula by Kim Newman and London Orbital by Iain Sinclair on the go (mainly because the former is too large to fit in my handbag and therefore is living on the coffee table).  ‘Alternafictihistory’ is the genre that I have just invented to describe Kim Newman’s trilogy (of which this is the first book) based on the premise that Dracula survived to marry the widowed Queen Victoria and play merry hell with social structures and the British Empire by turning a load of people (hilariously including many fictional characters) into vampires and promoting them over the ‘warm’.  Throw in Jack the Ripper (in the form of Dr Seward from Bram Stoker’s Dracula) offing vampire prostitutes messily in Whitechapel and this gels quite nicely with Sinclair’s characteristic London-centric spiel and atmospheric ramblings.

However, I’ve nearly finished Anno Dracula and am still plowing through the density of Sinclair, so my current peculiar mental synthesis will soon end, as London Orbital is just getting properly going, what with bitching about the Millennium Dome squatting on the prime meridian and tales of circumnavigating the M25 with Bill Drummond’s crazy white van man friend.  What should I now read at home to further enhance my enjoyment of the bearded psychogeographer?

Chips, cheese, gravy: what’s not to like?

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Chips, cheese, gravy: what’s not to like?
For all London-based or visiting fans of Canadian cuisine not involving moose steaks, the Lyceum Tavern on the Strand serves poutine (attempted to post a picture, am fule and cannot make it work, sorry). 

(Ed: Here is the pic, but follow the link too)

According to a genuine Canadian who happened to be available to our research team, the dish provided by this fine Sam Smith’s establishment was lacking in authenticity.  It’s all about the curd cheese, apparently, and plastic Cheddar just don’t cut the moutarde.  It was, however, quite tasty, and a good safety blanket for standing around drinking beer and listening to bands play later in the evening. 

Jul 04

Frogspawn for the new millennium

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Frogspawn for the new millennium

So anyway, there I was yesterday afternoon, having got home from work and aimlessed around for a bit. I then recalled the intriguing pack of semolina pearls that I’d picked up from my favourite supermarket in Chinatown a few weeks ago.

Now, I didn’t experience that much of this famous British school cuisine because I spent a lot of my childhood abroad and thus never got put off semolina as a kid. Furthermore, I loved the can of milky sweet bubble tea (I know every hipster went through this phase years ago, but I don’t care as it’s new to me) that I tried recently, so was interested in having a go at making my own.

First off, I emptied a paltry amount of the tiny unpromising beads into a heavy-based saucepan and added a good whack of boiling water. Standing over the merrily chortling and increasingly gluey pan for 20 minutes and stirring every so often wasn’t really a chore, as I was talking to my flatmate, who was constructing avocado salad and refused to even look at the substance I had produced.

I rinsed the pearls in a bit of cold water and bunged them in a bowl with some sugar syrup to keep them nicely separated while they cooled, as advised by my cooking instructions (from the interweb not the packet: my ideographic interpretation skills start and end with musical annotation). So far so good, and it really does look like frogspawn!

A while later, I mixed up a concoction from coconut milk powder and a packet of instant ginger tea and cooled it down with a lot of milk straight from the fridge. Adding the reserved semolina and stirring it all together in a large chunky wine glass, I congratulated myself on the creation of a fine-looking beverage and then swigged the lot. One of those fancy super-wide straws would have aided the experience somewhat, but overall it was satisfyingly chewy and tasty.

Verdict: time-consuming but not onerous, and jolly good fun for the amateur kitchen chemist.

p.s. I placed a small portion of the pearls in their syrup in a jar in the fridge to see how they keep. Results to follow via comments.

Small pleasures

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Small pleasures

I suppose I should introduce myself as a contributor rather than assuming everyone knows me from ILX:

I like cooking and eating but am no Heston Blumenthal. I am very easily bored and thus a novelty junkie, but always return to old favourites that my granny (the nice one, not the witchy one that nearly everyone seems to have) taught me as a mere spawnling in her terribly English country kitchen. There really is no equal to gorging oneself on toast spread sumptuously with fresh guinea-fowl egg lemon curd that contains not a little of one’s own fingers, grated finely and enthusiastically along with the zest.