Archive for March, 2011

Black pudding sandwich

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Half Hour Meals

This is a version of the Fernandez and Wells sandwich that I would scoff for breakfast when I worked near Soho, in London, years ago. The quality of the black pudding is crucial as that cardboard-like stuff with the texture of sawdust just won’t work.

8 baps or rolls or barmcakes or 8 slices of sourdough
softened butter
6 duck eggs, boiled for 5 minutes, then refreshed in cold water and peeled
4-6 tbsp top quality mayonnaise
salt and freshly ground black pepper
400-450g top quality black pudding
vegetable or corn oil for frying

Slice the black pudding into 1cm thick slices if they are the large cylinder types or into 2 or 3 lengthways if they are the Bury-style puddings.

Chop the duck eggs and mix with a good amount of mayonnaise and season well. Pan-fry the black pudding for about 2-3 minutes on each side.

Spread the butter on to the bread then spoon the egg mayonnaise on to one half with the black pudding on top and the other half of the bread on top.

Give the bread a light toasting on each side and serve.

Brown Bread: Elizabeth Taylor

Posted in Culture, Obituaries with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

“It’s the end of an era. It wasn’t just her beauty or her stardom. It was her humanitarianism. She put a face on HIV/AIDS. She was funny. She was generous. She made her life count.”
(Barbra Streisand)

Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, arguably the last great female star of the Hollywood studio system, has died at the age of 79.

The Oscar-winning star died in the early hours of the morning at Cedars-Sinai medical centre in Los Angeles, from congestive heart failure, according to her spokeswoman Sally Morrison. She said Taylor’s children were at her side.

A stunner, back in the day. But she wasn’t the kind of stunner that would have made her an actress today. Funny how Hollywood’s concept of beauty changes over the years. A lot of today’s starlets wouldn’t have made it in the 1950s because they’re too scrawny. Elizabeth Taylor was … voluptuous.

R.I.P. Elizabeth Taylor 1932-2011

Elizabeth Taylor: best and worst films

The five best:

1. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)
2. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
3. A Place in the Sun (1951)
4. National Velvet (1944)
5. Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)

Russians

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Think of the Askenazys, Mravinskys, Petrenkos, Kondrashins, Luganskys, Gergievs of this world.

Do you think they find a hidden voice in Russian classical music that no other musician can hear?

Many experts would dismiss any suggestion that nationality has any relevance whatever when it comes to performing music but then you think of all those Russian musicians and orchestras and you have to think again. There is no question in my view that the Russians seem to have a direct line to the composer’s soul (especially apparent in Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich) that no other nationality seems to possess.

At the same time, I also wonder if the St Petersburg band and other Russian outfits get fed up with playing their compatriots’ music when on tour. Wouldn’t they like to let rip with a little Mahler, or Strauss, or Elgar, occasionally?

If you talk to Russian musicians there is a real sense of respect when they tell you that “I studied with X who was the favourite student of Oistrakh” and this kind of thing. One often gets the impression of how seriously they regarded the handing down of the flame in terms of teaching – obviously with a strong emphasis on Russian music – and this did impart a tradition in performing their native composers.

Alhough in earlier times, the results of this lineage could be surprising. From the early professionalisation of music-making with the founding of the St Petersburg Conservatory in 1862, and that in Moscow three years later, Russian instrumental pedagogy was for several decades heavily staffed by foreigners (especially in St Petersburg, somewhat less so in Moscow). One of these was the Jewish-Hungarian, Leopold Auer, himself a student of Joseph Joachim. Now Auer, whilst heavily influenced by Joachim’s teaching, modified the so-called “Joachim grip”, with the arm very close to the body, somewhat locked in (which was taught quite extensively in the Berlin Musikhochschule, which Joachim founded). Both Auer and Joachim inveighed vociferously against the use of continuous vibrato. Yet three of Auer’s most important students – Mischa Elman, Efram Zimbalist and Jascha Heifetz – played a very significant role in establishing this practice towards its becoming the norm in the 1920s and 1930s. Within two generations of teachers we have gone from Joachim to Heifetz – a pretty major transformation in my opinion. Auer has been characterised as the most important teacher of the violin in Russia prior to the Soviet era (I know more about Russian pedagogy between 1862 and 1917 than afterwards, but certainly various people have suggested there was a very significant shift after the later date with the new types of politicisation of musical life), yet his own style of playing and teaching seems very far from those that developed at a later date.

Similarly the Polish Theodor Leschetizky, a student of Czerny and a teacher at St Petersburg from the very opening of the Conservatory (then later in Vienna), could teach Ossip Gabrilowitsch, Mark Hambourg, Ignacy Paderewski and Artur Schnabel – all extremely different players.

Now I do believe one can talk of schools of playing, especially centered around particular teaching institutions (certain ways of playing have been predominantly taught in London, Paris, Vienna, St Petersburg, Moscow, New York, etc.) and also the aesthetic norms and demands of various localised musical scenes (certain types of player or styles of playing tend to be favoured depending upon who is awarding prizes, running concert series, radio stations, etc.). And the same for composition. But I’m not so convinced about how much the lineage counts with the best players, many of whom often move in a quite different direction to their teachers.

Celeriac and Lancashire cheese pie

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Half Hour Meals

If this sounds like some kind of vegetarian main course at a dinner party, well it pretty much is, and most vegetarians would be really happy to be served a slice of this. You could even get away with serving non-vegetarians this dish – or just make it to take in a packed lunch for work or a spot of fishing.

a couple of good knobs of butter
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 celeriac weighing about 350g
salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g Lancashire cheese, grated
about 250-300g puff pastry, rolled to cm thick
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Melt the butter in a pan and gently cook the onion without colouring for 2-3 minutes; remove from the heat and leave to cool. Cut the celeriac in half and slice it as thinly as possible with a very sharp knife or a mandolin. Blanch the slices in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes.

Cut the puff pastry into two discs, one about 20cm across and the other about 25cm. Lay the smaller one on a tray and prick holes in it with a fork. Arrange layers of the celeriac on the pastry, leaving a 2cm gap around the edge; scatter with some onion, a little cheese and season.

Continue layering up the rest of the ingredients in a dome fashion until you have used them all up. Brush the edges of the pastry with egg and lay the larger one on top, pressing the edges together with your fingers. Brush the top with egg and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Bake for about 30-40 minutes; test with a knife to ensure the celeriac is cooked.

Woody Allen

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

With nearly 50 movies behind him, the veteran director says his latest film took ‘years of disillusionment’ to make. Here he talks with Carole Cadwalladr about his controversial marriage, the three children he lost in a custody battle, and his desire to work again with Diane Keaton.

The reason for the interview is the UK release this week of You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, the fourth film he’s shot in the UK.

Woody Allen: ‘My wife hasn’t seen most of my films… and she thinks my clarinet playing is torture’

(Source: Observer)

In Woody Allen’s universe there is no reason why some things happen and others not. His atheism allows no delusions of that kind, but what about age, I ask him? Do you resist hearing that you’re old?

“I do, I resist. I feel the only way you can get through life is distraction. And you can distract yourself in a million different ways, from turning on the television set and seeing who wins the meaningless soccer game, to going to the movies or listening to music. They’re tricks that I’ve done and that many people do. You create problems in your life and it seems to the outside observer that you are self-destructive and it’s foolish. But you’re creating them because they’re not mortal problems. They are problems that can be solved, or they can’t be solved, and they’re a little painful, perhaps, but they are not going to take your life away.”

John Adams

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

I’m not sure that he’s a composer I could listen to a lot. It takes too much work to listen to (if that makes sense). But I’m reluctantly reaching the conclusion that I’m quite a fan of John Adams.

Reluctantly? Yes. A few years ago I would have told you I didn’t like any “minimalist” music.

I must be getting more tolerant in my old age.

Sunday Brunch Salad

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Half Hour Meals

This is one of those salads that comes into its own when you have a load of bits and pieces to use up in the fridge.

You don’t need to use all of the ingredients I’ve used here – it all depends on what you have to hand. Cold potatoes, mushrooms, chickpeas, anything really.

a few handfuls of small winter salad leaves and herbs such as rocket, baby spinach, bittercress, pennywort, whatever
2-3 thick slices of bread, cut into rough 1cm chunks
150g lambs’ liver, trimmed and cut into rough 1cm chunks
150g calves’ or lambs’ sweetbreads, trimmed and cut into rough 1cm pieces
vegetable or corn oil for frying
a couple of good knobs of butter
6 thick rashers of streaky bacon
4 duck eggs

For the dressing:

1 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
4 tbsp rapeseed oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a frying pan and cook the cubes of bread for 3-4 minutes on a medium heat, stirring them as they are cooking until nicely browned; then transfer to some kitchen paper on a plate.

Whisk all of the ingredients together for the dressing and season to taste. Season the sweetbreads, heat a little vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan and cook the sweetbreads for 3-4 minutes on a medium heat, turning them as they are cooking then add a knob of butter and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove the sweetbreads with a slotted spoon and keep warm.

Meanwhile, grill or fry the bacon in the same fat until crisp. Season the liver and fry in the same fat with a little more butter just for 2-4 minutes, keeping it pink, then remove and mix with the sweetbreads.

To serve, poach the eggs, arrange the winter salad leaves, offal and bacon on serving plates or in a bowl with the egg in the centre and spoon over the dressing.

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