Thursday, July 31, 2008
Descending onto stage like spiderwoman in her web, the diminutive pop princess embarked on a two-hour marathon of hits that included material from the new album, X, as well as many old favourites. The steep-sided auditorium and lack of leg room were rather prohibitive to dancing, but we did manage to bop around for a couple of numbers, including Love At First Sight - my own favourite Kylie tune. A veritable visual spectacular, the set included numerous costume changes and an impressive light-screen stage that made the 70s underlit dancefloor seem positively prehistoric. Flanked by a troupe of scantily-clad buff male dancers (she clearly knows her market), Ms Minogue exuded energy and charm throughout, leaping about deftly like someone half her age. Taking us all back in time, she finished on her first ever hit single, I Should Be So Lucky, which came out in 1987 - when I was in the last year of primary school. Back then, I wouldn't have been seen dead dancing to Kylie (I was on the verge of becoming a moody rock-chick), but have since realised that a slice of cheesy pop in the musical pie is well worth having. Apart from getting rid of the poodle perm and puffballs skirts, Kylie hasn't really changed much in over 20 years, and despite not having any real singing talent, has managed to sustain a successful career in the pop industry. You've got to respect that.
Photo from Mirror.co.uk
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
This weekend I am off to another music festival - Kendal Calling in the Lake District. I'm taking Ant with me this time, so I imagine that mealtimes will be much more regulated than my infrequent ad-hoc snack attacks at Latitude. And if the weather turns out to be as grim as predicted, we might even go off-site for a meal at one of the area's notable restaurants or gastro pubs at some point. Certainly a visit to the Lakes wouldn't be complete without a trip to the legendary Grasmere Gingerbread shop, whose distinctly moreish produce can only be bought (legitimately) directly from the shop, or via their website.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I've always thought that the herbal, faintly medicinal flavour of Pimm's would be well complemented by the sharp spiciness of ginger beer, but have never been bold enough to experiment with such a classic winning formula. Upon researching the precedent and etiquette of Pimm's mixology, I discovered that there were once many variations of the actual drink itself. The one with which we are familiar these days is Pimms' No.1 Cup, which is gin-based; but apparently they used to make other versions too, based on each of the popular spirits - including rum. Considering that gin is my least favourite spirit, and I still love Pimm's, it is probably just as well that you can no longer get hold of the rum variant, or I might find myself with a serious habit. Still, it can't hurt to dream about it....can it?
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Daytimes were filled with gig-going and walking between stages (it's quite a big site to get round, though the scenery makes it more bearable), with the headline acts coming on at about 9.30pm. There was still plenty to do after the bands had finished, and each night held its own unique magic. On Friday, Harry and I had our girlie bonding time, running around the woods, dancing, chatting to random people and sampling the interactive exhibits such as the Digital Funfair and the Bad Ideas Press (where you wrote down confessions and they published them). We were surprised to be the last back to the tents, as the sun was just on the brink of rising. I stayed out late (early) again on Saturday on my own (and had a ball) and on Sunday we managed to keep the whole gang together for a boogiefest in the cabaret and comedy tents that saw us dancing to Blur, INXS, The Gypsy Kings, Gloria Jones and Motorhead among other madcap tunes.
The whole weekend was a real adventure, and I couldn't possibly capture it all in a single blog, but here is a little taster...
My second gig of the festival, on the 'BBC Introducing' Lake Stage, was Kyte, a youthful bunch of pretty boys with pretty tunes to match. Somewhere between Explosions in the Sky and Sigur Rós, and right up my street.
Undoubtedly the buzziest gig of the weekend (everyone was talking about it afterwards) was former hobo Seasick Steve, who brought us all together with his mischievous banter and infectious blues riffs.
We already have most of Sigur Rós's albums at home, but I had mixed feelings until seeing them live on Saturday night. I'd anticipated pretentious downbeat dirge, but was pleasantly surprised to discover magical euphoric symphonies. The whole Steam Punk garb was rather amusing too.
On Sunday night, I'd intended to go and see Tindersticks as my final gig while the others were at Interpol (why?), but accidentally went to the wrong stage (it had been a long weekend, OK?). All was not lost though, as I ended up stumbling across a fantastic little jazz funk band playing in a gazebo outside the cabaret tent, and stayed watching them instead - a much more fitting end to the festival for me. I was unreliably informed (by an overexcited drunken dad) that the name of the band was Sweet Pea, although I haven't been able to verify this.
I also really enjoyed Ken Campbell doing improv in the Theatre tent; Nic Dawson Kelly, Slow Club and Soko (all new discoveries) at the Sunrise arena; Beth Orton, The Breeders, Grinderman and Foals on the main (Obelisk) stage; and Howling Bells, Martha Wainwright and Noah & the Whale in the Uncut tent.
The Cardiff crew
Most fondly remembered though are the entertaining Cardiff gang who invited me into their fold for the latter part of Saturday night, when all my friends were either MIA or asleep. What a lovely bunch.
Being called "pretentious and gay" by a total stranger whilst taking photos of artwork in the woods on the first night.
Joining a spontaneous chorus of Bohemian Rhapsody with about 40 other people, all packed into a small gazebo with a piano.
Giving Nick my star-spangled vest to wear for the Julian Cope gig.
Moshing and air-guitaring to Guns n Roses at the woodland stage during Friday night's DJ set.
Coming up with the notion of a Jean Michel Jarre vs George Michael tribute band called George Micheal Jarre.
Having a good cry to the ephiphanic sounds of Sigur Rós.
Being surprised to find myself dancing to one of the more upbeat Sigur Rós tunes.
Writing a story in the woods with my new friend and fellow note-keeper, John.
Playing table tennis (badly) outside the Digital Funfair with Sheldon.
Cat lady, Harriet in headphones and father-son moment - © Rowan Stanfield
"You could ride a badger with a worm on a stick"
"I'm scarred and hard on my mental insides"
"Watch my guy ropes, bitch."
"Rowan is a mentally insulting frisbee"
"She's like a sassy combination of PJ Harvey and Rolf Harris"
"Why don't you be Kirsty?"
"Don't get me started on poached eggs"
"I thought I was at Latitude but I'm on the fucking Death Star"
Buzzcocks playing during Mark Lamarr's DJ set on Saturday night. The tent was full when we got there, so we went to the woods instead.
Photographing Nick Cave - my camera battery died just as Grinderman came on, and we only had one song in the pit.
Tindersticks. I went to the wrong stage, dur! There was so much else going on that I also annoyingly missed Anya Marina, Ida Maria, I Am Kloot, Mark Thomas, Emmy the Great, Sebastien Tellier (who I heard was amazing), Phill Jupitus, Marcus Brigstocke and Midnight Juggernauts all of whom I had planned to catch, but somehow didn't.
But Latitude was only festival two of five this summer, so there are plenty more musical delights to come over the next few weeks. Next stop, Kendal Calling...
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
I'm off to Latitude festival this weekend, so needed to use up all the fresh veg in the fridge, which would otherwise no doubt be neglected in favour of toast/chips/takeaways in my absence. Luckily the combination of little gem lettuce, baby courgettes and cherry plum tomatoes worked really well as a delicate salad, bulked out with butter beans and new potatoes. I tossed the whole lot in a dressing made from leftover humous with balsamic vinegar, pesto, fresh tarragon and olive oil. It made enough for last night's dinner and my packed lunch today. The mobile blogging seems to be working OK, apart from the shonky formatting which will have to be tweaked on my return. So as long as there is a signal out in the wilds of Suffolk, and I am not too distracted by all the excellent entertainment going on around me, I should be able to provide regular updates while I'm away.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
This outstanding table of cakes (beautifully photographed by Ant) was discovered at Café BeanGoose (I know - brilliant name!) on Holy Island during a tour of the North East a couple of years ago. The beverage selection was just as abundant, making for one of the best cup-of-tea-and-a-cake episodes in our ongoing saga. At the very opposite side of the planet, Zippy's of Nelson (New Zealand) comes in a close second with its cool hippy vibe and artistically served coffees. The Haga area of Gothenburg in Sweden is the epitome of European café culture, awash with mellow little venues full of yummy mummies and their bright babies, it's where we first discovered that it is perfectly acceptable (if the Scandies do it, it must be ok) to have a cinnamon swirl and a bucket of tea for your lunch. A trip to Belgium wouldn't be complete without scoffing at least one lot of waffles a day, and the best we have encountered so far (I challege you not to salivate) were in a little backstreet, not very touristy, place in Bruges.
Outside of Europe (and some English-speaking ex-colonial countries), the tea and cake culture is harder to come by, though if you are prepared to experiment, there are some interesting variations around. A mug of steaming spiced chai accompanied by teeth-achingly sickly sweets on a beach in India can really raise the spirits, as does a cup of stimulating Brazilian maté tea with a slice of the wonderfully named bolo de rolo, or something equally soothing. But you can travel the world in search of the best cup-of-tea-and-a-cake combo, and find, like Dorothy before you, that there really is 'no place like home' to enjoy a freshly baked bun and a brew.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Dandelion & Burdock disappeared off the scene for a while, becoming something you would only find in healthfood shops, by virtue of its supposed detoxifying properties. It's been making a subtle comeback recently, popping up alongside ginger beer in more upmarket pubs and cafés. I found this Fentiman's-branded version at the Blackboys Inn on Sunday. Though it lacked the syrupy texture of its undoutedly additive-laden ancestor, the robust herbal flavour was as strangely alluring as ever. I've never tried using D&B as a mixer, but would be tempted to try it with something aniseedy like Sambuca or even Absinthe - is that wrong? I think the reason this combination springs to mind is that I automatically associate Dandelion & Burdock with another distinctive childhood flavour, Army & Navy Sweets. Again, these are something you don't see around so much these days, except in vintage confectionery shops where they still sell sweets from jars by the quarter.
Monday, July 14, 2008
The knee-weakening creation you see pictured here was one of three puddings offered at our first barbecue of the season over at Jo and G's place on Saturday. There was also a classic Victoria sponge with fresh cream and jam filling and a deliciously dense chocolate cake (which you can see in the background). I thought it only polite to at least sample the vegetable and haloumi kebabs first, but really I would have been happy just to gorge on dessert. Luckily everyone else had stuffed themselves with burgers and sausages, so there was plenty of pud for me when the time came. They were all delicious, but the (apparently very labour-intensive) cherry clafouti was definitely the best of the three - the light crumbly franzipan and juicy fresh cherries complemented each other beautifully. The recipe that Jo used was from an unknown cutting, but I found this one online, which sounds close enough. I might give it a go myself when I have a free afternoon, but if you should beat me to it, be sure to save me a slice.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
We didn't want to miss the start of the gig for which we'd specifically come to this neck of the woods, which was being held in the barn (the red one), known as 'The Room', next door to the pub. We'd come to see Ben Parker (left), of Ben & Jason fame, who was doing an acoustic set as part of a monthly programme (called 'Second Sunday') at the venue. After a couple of excellent warm-up songs from the host, DrBoKarma, and his daughter, Ben started his set with an old Ben & Jason number - reducing both Ant and I to tears instantly. B&J's second album Emoticons was very much the soundtrack to the 'courting' era of our relationship, and hearing music from it evokes some deeply emotional memories for us. The rest of the show was a mixture of new solo material and other B&J stuff, all delivered with the same spine-tingling gusto that we've come to expect from this incredibly talented and charismatic musician. It was wonderful to see Ben on top form in such an intimate setting, and his breathtaking performance more than made up for the bad lunch beforehand. He also very kindly gave us a (now quite collectible) 7" single of 'Romeo & Juliet' after we told him that it was 'our song' - what a sweetie. Come back again soon please, Mr Parker.
For more info on Ben Parker, visit his myspace page: www.myspace.com/benparkermusic. And if you don't already own Emoticons, go and buy it now from Amazon - every record collection should have a copy.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
I ordered the red pepper and sweet potato soup (pictured), which came with lovely hunks of freshly baked french bread. Also pictured here is Ant, tucking into his mackerel with chilli sauce, salad and rice - which I'm told was very good. We both treated ourselves to a beer, and sat reading the paper for a bit before popping across to Bona Foodie to pick up some cakes for afternoon tea later. I love wandering down to Kemp Town on a Saturday, because you can get most things you would need without all the hassle of ploughing through town, and you usually bump into some familiar friendly faces along the way. Today our lovely dentist was on the table next to us in the TK. He looks so much younger in his weekend clothes, it was quite perturbing!
Friday, July 11, 2008
These days I tend to pore over the more luxurious illustrated volumes, finding inspiration and comfort from the mouth-watering pictures and florid descriptions from foodie-evangelists like Nigel Slater and Nigella Lawson. Nigella is a particular heroine of mine and her How to Be a Domestic Goddess is my absolute bible for baking. Her cupcakes (p. 39) are virtually foolproof, quick as you like to make, and always a crowd-pleaser at parties. Being, as I am, an aficionado of trifle making, I can also particularly recommend her unconventional but wondrously indulgent 'Passion fruit, Mascarpone and Meringue Trifle' (p. 151), which was the original inspiration for my own banana, rum and chocolate variation. Speaking of unusual variations, I couldn't mention Nigella without thinking of her 'Nonconformist Christmas Pudding', as featured in Feast (p.69). Don't tell people it's got chocolate (and a LOT of booze) in it beforehand, just enjoy watching their faces as the blissful realisation arrives.
You can always tell my favourite recipes from where the pages have stuck together from having ingredients spilled on them, and the 'Lime and Chocolate Cheesecake' (p.145 - great dinner party dessert) from Nigella Bites is probably the most amusing example of this. Nigella's mentor (and mine) Nigel Slater, reads more like philosophy than cookery - you can dive into his Kitchen Diaries or Appetite and salivate over the passionate descriptions of every day dining for hours, without any intention of making something. Even his (excellent) autobiography, Toast, tells of a fairly traumatic childhood in which a love of food provided constant consolation. As well as converting me to the ways of frittata-making (p.54), Nigel's Real Fast Food can be credited as the originator of my now legendary (in Ant's eyes anyway) Welsh Rarebit (or 'Rabbit' as he calls it, p.272).
Being a near-lifelong vegetarian (25 years and counting), many of the books in my collection are unsurprisingly meat-free. A fairly recent addition, and quickly becoming the most frequently used, is Leiths Vegetarian Bible. Unlike many of my favourites, this isn't heavily illustrated, but is a brilliant reference when you need to know what do do with an unusual vegetable, or have to conjure something at short notice from what you have to hand. The original veggie guru, Rose Elliot, has numerous volumes available, of which the quaintly retro Rose Elliot's Vegetarian Kitchen is the most comprehensive. Helpfully organised by season, it also includes an entire section on how to 'do' a complete vegetarian Christmas, from nut roasts to party finger food. I have used the Christmas cake recipe (p.280) for the last few years, and found it most satisfactory.
Even Dame Delia (she isn't, but it sounds good) has published a collection of all her meat-free recipes, which includes some excellent soups (try the 'Tuscan Bean & Pasta with Rosemary' on p.37) and a 'Food for Friends' section which is ideal for dinner parties. The 'Warm Lentil Salad with Walnuts and Goats' Cheese' (p.46) is especially good for that ever-growing contingent of wheat/gluten intolerant guests. For something a little more exotic, I tend to reach for the World Food Café Cookbook (mentioned in my previous post) - a sort of travel diary-come-recipe book, with beautiful photography from all corners of the globe, and a wealth of colourful veggie food to match. Madhur Jaffrey's Eastern Vegetarian Cooking covers everything you could ever need to know about curries and the like, and for a more homely approach to global cuisine, Linda McCartney on Tour has some interesting and easy to follow recipes, such as the Vegetable Kichdi on page 101.
Long out of print, but still available secondhand is Alan Hooker's Vegetarian Gourmet Cookery, a 70s classic passed down to me by my biggest culinary influence, and maker of the best cakes ever - my mum. I love to picture her conjuring up perfect soufflés, dressed in some billowing floral batwing ensemble (á la Margot from The Good Life), and serving them up on one of those kitsch hostess trolleys. I'm sure nothing of the sort ever occured, but the idea amuses me. After several deflating attempts, I gave up on soufflé-making years ago, but have occasionally made use of the many nut roast recipes in this vintage tome.
I love receiving cookbooks as gifts, especially from those fellow-foodies with whom I regularly exchange cooking tips and recipes. The lovely Jo (who could give Nigella a run for her money in both glamour and baking stakes) recently added the delectable Green & Black's Chocolate Recipes to my shelf, from which I have already had some success with the 'Cape Ginger Tipsy Tart' (p.105). Michel Roux's extremely useful Eggs was a Christmas present from my brother, who also incidentally taught me that the best way to make a decent chilli is to pour a whole bottle of beer into it. At the other end of the kitchen shelf is a selection of food magazine back issues - mostly Waitrose Food Illustrated, with the odd delicious and all 12 issues of my gift subscription (thanks Ant!) to New Zealand magazine Cuisine, which we discovered when travelling there several years ago. It's a brilliant mag, and I would have kept the subscription going, but found it frustrating reading about recipes for the wrong season and restaurant reviews for places I could never visit.
The kitchen is overflowing with cookbooks, but there are still so many more I desire. I guess it's time to put up another shelf...
My kitchen shelf, as a handy Amazon widget: