Archive for April, 2009

Chilli Jam

Posted in Food with tags , , , , on April 29, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


This is good with so many things – lamb, beef or just a grilled cheese sandwich.

2kg roasted tomatoes
1 tbsp mustard seeds
150ml red wine vinegar
75g fresh ginger, peeled, finely chopped
7 cloves of garlic, peeled, finely chopped
5 red chillies, deseeded, chopped
140g caster sugar
4 tbsp fish sauce

Place the tomatoes in a large saucepan. In a separate pan, toast the mustard seeds until they pop. Remove from the heat and grind with a pestle and mortar. Add the seeds and all the other ingredients to the tomatoes and cook over a very low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring every now and then. Remove from the hob and allow to cool before spooning into jars and placing in the fridge. You will now have a rich jam – sweet and sour, hot and slightly salty all at the same time.

Katherine Jenkins: Idle Thoughts

Posted in Music with tags , on April 29, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


She’s a pleasant enough personality, despite her Barbie doll appearance, but it’s maddening when newspapers describe her as an opera singer. As far as I know, she has never appeared in an opera or performed without a microphone. What’s more, her strangulated vibrato is the sort of unpleasant sound that the uninitiated associate with all opera. Luckily for her, though, she has found a market and evidently makes a very good living, and I suppose we can’t criticize her for that.

I think it’s worth pointing out that Katherine Jenkins doesn’t describe herself as an opera singer. It’s purely an invention of the media and her record company.

I don’t really have a problem with Katherine Jenkins as a popular entertainer but I do have a problem with her being promoted as an opera singer. After all, this is at the expense of genuine musicians who have laboured for years to achieve something.

We can all have a joke at her expense but the way she (and others of similar ilk) is promoted is extremely harmful. It says to millions of record buyers that “normal” classical music performed by genuine classical artists is not for the general public.

This is a shame when the music we listen to is, for the most part, so attractive and approachable anyway that if the record companies invested a fraction of the money they do on crossover to promoting classical music instead, they might find that elusive new audience they claim to be after. After all, what’s not to like? Instead, they teach potential music lovers that the real thing is not for them – and that’s criminal.

I was told this by a musician acquaintance of mine, only a week or two back. He had recently been in the orchestra (I won’t say which instrument) and only a foot or two away from the soloist (La Jenkins). All she was wearing under her dress was her G string and Chanel No. 5. When she bent forward for her bow, it was, he told me, about as much as he could do to restrain himself from putting down his instrument and wrestling her to the ground.

Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending

Posted in Music with tags , , on April 24, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


The Lark Ascending is not by any means one of RVW’s great works, nor would he have thought so. But it is unique in its post-1918 evocation of a pre-1914 world, and has a fascinatingly hypnotic effect towards the end in a good performance.

It’s had an interesting history on record. Many RVW collectors will have several versions, as it tends to keep cropping up as a filler on discs of his music. But when the famous Bean/Boult version appeared there hadn’t been an available recording for some time. And though it’s justly regarded by many as definitive, Hugh Bean admitted that he didn’t know it and had to ask Boult for time off to learn it.

I think my favourite recording is still the one by Jean Pougnet, though there have been many wonderful digital versions, and Sarah Chang’s is one I admire very much.

It’s an incredibly dark work. Listen to those brooding orchestral clouds, and then that horribly ominous drop of a third at the end. If you listen to it in that context, it has a lot more to keep one’s attention than if one views it as some sort of pastoral idyll. It sets up a curious emotional world – it’s not some simple bucolic romp, but it has a deep elegiac quality, brooding and dark, musing over things gone. In my opinion, the closest work to it in RVW’s output is the Symphony No. 3, which is an elegy for the First World War.

Of course it’s overplayed, on the other hand, it is also very popular, so it is understandable why it gets played so much.


Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


I went to HMV in Manchester’s Market Street on Friday – the big one nearer to Piccadilly Gardens. There’s a sale on and they are selling the Brilliant Classics complete Beethoven, on 85 CDs, for £40. Actually, that is dreadfully expensive compared with the complete Bach, 155 CDs, also for £40.00. The complete Mozart, on 170 CDs, is also £40.00.

The recordings are mostly re-issues of top-class ones by major companies, e.g. the Beethoven symphonies are by Masur and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and the piano sonatas are by Gulda.

I assume that the other major HMV stores will have these too – there were plenty there when I went.

Good value, I couldn’t resist, but normally I like to pick and choose who is performing what, and not get a lot of things I might hate. I’ve just got the complete Beethoven symphonies and overtures conducted by Eugen Jochum with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, wonderful. But it cost over £30 (£31 including postage).

I do buy complete recordings by a certain performer occasionally, and I did buy the complete Webern, but that is not a huge number of CDs.

We all like a bargain, and I can understand the need to budget, but it does rather reduce exploring music to stockpiling. Of course, I’ve done it myself buying Eloquence issues from Australia online, but they were items that were otherwise unavailable.

Jarvis Cocker was interviewed on Channel 4 News the other night, speaking up for independent record shops as part of a special day celebrating and hoping for their survival. He stressed the importance of accidental discoveries, and the fact that it’s not easy to do that on the internet. I think he’s right, and I’d hate the opportunity for happy browsing to disappear.

St George’s Day: Roast rib of beef

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


2 x 800g fore rib of beef cutlets
1 small picked sprig of thyme
1 small picked sprig of rosemary
75g beef dripping
½ tsp Colman’s English mustard powder
½ tsp Maldon sea salt
½ tsp freshly milled or ground white peppercorns
2 tsp cornflour
1 bunch of English watercress

For the gravy:
150g of finely diced onions
150g finely diced carrots
150g finely diced leeks
500ml homemade beef stock or boeuf bouillon stock cube
300ml good red wine

Preheat the oven to 240°C. Calculate the beef’s cooking time at 7-10 minutes per 800g for rare, 13-16 minutes for medium and 20-25 minutes for well done. Allow 15-20 minutes for resting.

Mix the milled pepper, mustard powder and sea salt, rub over all sides of the beef.

Put the dripping in a metal frying pan (no plastic handles) on full heat until it slightly smokes.

Place the beef cutlets in the pan and brown quickly on all sides, sprinkle the herbs and garlic over the beef and place frying pan on the middle shelf in the oven.

Lower the oven temperature to 190°C after the beef has sizzled for 8 minutes and cook as required.

Remove the beef from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 220°C for the Yorkshire pudding. Drain the cutlets on a cooling rack, covered with foil with a tray underneath to collect the juices and allow to rest.

Make the gravy by draining most of the dripping from the frying pan (reserving it for your roast potatoes). Place the diced vegetables in the pan and brown on top of the stove for five minutes until slightly caramelized. Stir in the cornflour and mix well with the vegetables, gradually adding the wine and stirring well until the mixture thickens. Bring to the boil and reduce by half before adding the stock. Stir well and simmer the gravy for 15 minutes. Pass through a sieve to remove the vegetables and keep warm until needed.

Tip juices from the beef into the gravy. Place the beef on a chopping board and carve across the grain, placing the slices on a warm platter. Drizzle around some of the gravy, garnish with watercress and serve with Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes.

Der Erlkönig by Franz Schubert

Posted in Music with tags , , , on April 21, 2009 by Robin Gosnall

Rosemary roast potatoes with olives and garlic

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , on April 20, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


1kg Jersey Royals, halved, or quartered if large
100ml olive oil, plus extra
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
100g pitted dried black olives with herbs, roughly chopped
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated

Heat the oven to 200°C. Put the potatoes in a roasting tin with the olive oil, rosemary, some sea salt and freshly milled black pepper. Mix well, then roast for 40 minutes until the potatoes are tender, adding the whole garlic cloves halfway through the cooking time.

Remove from the oven and stir in the olives and lemon zest. Serve hot, drizzled with extra olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and fresh black pepper.

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