Monday, 22 March 2010

Pancakes, pie and hero worship

Ever since I first watched the breathtaking 'Pulp Fiction', I have wanted to try heroin  driving a taxi barefoot  being somebody's gimp  blueberry pancakes and at last I have.

They were well worth the wait.

I took Nigella's pancake recipe and as they sat cooking in the pan, as pancakes should, I dumped a handful of frozen blueberries onto each one. This kept the blueberries moist and possibly retained some of their nutritional goodness...not that that was a factor - it's all about the flavour.

These were sprinkled with sugar: obviously, if we'd had any, maple syrup would have been better, perhaps some bacon too, or just a splash of single cream, just to highlight its' treat worthiness, but the sugar did the job. We really should make more of breakfast: if only there was enough time to do so, as it really does set the tone for the day, all be it, in this instance, the culinary yearnings of a murderers' wide-eyed innocent love.

It was National Pie Week here in the UK recently, not that I need an excuse for pie. Pie's are deceptively simple: you can go crazy on intricate pastry and delicate fillings, but the best pies are robust, simple and thrown together with hungry aplomb, as are the best people.

Again, I used frozen fruit. So often do I buy a stack of delicious-looking fresh fruit, only to watch it slowly rot: frozen fruit negates that sad inevitability. This pie was made from the scrag ends-of-bags of a selection of frozen fruit, including cherries, blueberries and summer fruit. It is embarrassingly simple, but feel free to complicate matters with the finest unsalted butter known to very few people, the addition of fine spices of thine choosing to the fruit and / or the pastry, lacing the fruit with a splash or 5 of booze, a sprinkling of nuts and seeds, adding fine oats to the pastry or adding a handful of dried fruit for a cascade of flavours and textures. Or, just do this:

The 'Why the hell don't I make pie more often when it's so feckin easy?!' Pie

180g plain flour (this, being Nigel Slater's pastry, doesn't need sieving: Hurrah! He is wise.)
100g unsalted butter, straight from the fridge
ice-cold water (or at least damn cold water that you've added a few ice cubes to)

Filling (bask in the glow of its' preciseness):
roughly 5 or 6 handfuls of fruit (sorry: I just used what I had rather than followed a recipe)
approx 2 tablespoons soft brown sugar and possibly a sprinkling of cinnamon
a bit of milk, for glazing and sh*t
approx 1 tablespoon demerera sugar for pre-baking pastry sprinklage

  • Cube the butter and rub into the flour in a large bowl until it resembles breadcrumbs. 
  • Add enough water to the crumble to bring it together into a firm, soft dough. 
  • Pat it into a flattened round, wrap in clingfilm and thwack in the fridge for about half an hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 200oC / Gas mark 6 
  • With reckless abandon, plop your frozen fruit into a wanton pie dish (according to Mr Slater, it needs to be big enough to hold a litre of water, so, for God's sake! Just do as the man says!) 
  • Sprinkle with the sugar (and spices, nuts, seeds, bacon -it might work-) 
  • Remove your pastry from its chilly abode and, on a floured surface, using a floured rolling receptacle, roll your pastry out until it is big enough to hat the dish.
  • Moisten the edge of the dish with a little of the milk and place the pastry on top of the fruit. Don't bother faffing around trying to make fluted edges or poncy cut outs: for this pie to work, it must look as if it has landed straight out of the sky, possibly chucked out of the window of a floating castle by a bored but passionate (and now hungry) woman.
  • Brush with milk, sprinkle with demerera and then stab two air-holes in the top of the pie in an unprovoked fashion.
  • Bake for about 40-45 mins until the top is golden and enticing.
  • Slather in the jus of your choosing: double cream, ice cream, custard, Bailey's etc
 I've started going to the gym: this won't hurt...

And, naturally, from baking, we move onto hero worship: Spaced, to be precise. People who love this wonderful series don't just love it, they absorb it. Phrases meld into their language and unleash themselves onto the unsuspecting uninitiated. Being the bad parents that we are, we introduced our kiddlings to the joy of Spaced at far too young an age. I am happy to report that my little (and not so little) nerds are familiar with pretty much all the cultural references therein, (and therefore my son thinks of David Walliams as a Vulva. ) It is quite simply one of the most imaginative comedies ever to be seen, with director Edgar Wright using techniques, previously only used on film, to produced a stylish visual smorgasboard of tasty televisual meat...or something. They (writers Jessica Stevenson -now Hynes- and Simon Pegg) only made two series, but they are utter perfection. Such is the respect that fans realise that a new series, so late in the day, would not work. far better to discuss what might have happened to our beloved characters than to be put through another Phantom Menace. Naturally, this adoration unleashed itself onto Facebook, culminating in an homage to the series that is itself doused in homage, and further proof of the unspoken telepathy between Spaced geeks. Oh yes, my friends: Spaced Flashmob! Naturally, I took the day off work (my assistant manager telling me that that was the finest reason anyone had ever given for a day off.) and dragged (that's a lie: they couldn't wait and had been practicing for weeks.) the family up to London for 2 minutes of sheer stupidity and joy. I mean, what else is there to do on a wet Saturday in Trafalgar Square?

Ok, I know we were supposed to have dispersed at the end as if nothing had happened, but we wanted to celebrate the madness of it all, and then disperse.

If you look carefully, you may be able to spot my blue-hatted self, using Mr Yump as a gun turret in the bottom lefthand corner, around 0.11...

May your week be just as tasty and foolish.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

A plea from my ears

Recently, the BBC announced proposals for a series of cost-cutting and streamlining manouevres sending me into a panic not seen since Roger and Andy Taylor first left Duran Duran, the major change being the culling of the utterly marvellous 6 Music.
Why is 6 Music so important? Firstly, it doesn't patronise it's audience but brings us in to the proceedings: 'We're passionate about music and we know you lot are cos that's why you're here, so help yourself to a biccie and tell me what you think of this'. It is ageless, catering for the music-powered teen, insulted by the banality of banter on Radio 1 (until after 7pm when all the interesting DJ's come out to play, including Zane Lowe, who's particular brand of intense enthusiam some find a little unpalatable, though I personally love it) and the over-30 muso, warmed by Radio 2 but not enthused by anymore, although the fabulous Mark Radcliffe and 6 Music's Stuart Maconie are definitely worth a listen. Yes, I may be wider and more wrinklier than in the prime of my youth, but my ears are still hungry for those songs that make my heart go 'Oh...yes!' that music that make us feel truly alive. 6 Music appreciates that this is different for everyone and its DJ's, being people rather than personalities, will say if they don't like something, although they will say it respectfully and not for bitchy needs. This station has introduced me to so many new acts of utter fabulousness, as my Facebook chums will know, as I am constantly blocking their news feeds with something I have just heard and have to share. (Plus it acts as a useful bookmark me for later.) 6 Music, however, isn't just about new music: it's just about good music. It is one of the only stations, be it radio or tv for that matter, that frequently plunders the priceless BBC archives of session material, left to gather dust by blinkered dj's on the hunt for the new sound. It therefore manages to educate and enlighten whole generations of listeners who would otherwise have to receive their knowledge from restrictive sources that believe sticking Tom Jones on the main stage at Glastonbury is 'edgy' etc. It provides a platform for new and established bands by allowing them to play live sessions.
6 Music also provides some of the most entertaining listening, from the glorious Adam & Joe (sadly, currently on a break: let's hope there is still a station for them to come back to...), to the sublime Huey Morgan (who broadcasts live rather than pre-records (by the way: have you heard the FLC's latest song? Delicious!) via the literary-doused Jarvis Cocker, just north of the original Blue Peter bad boy, Richard 'Love the show!' Bacon, side-stepping to the beautiful, intelligent and wry Lauren Laverne (who has, herself, partaken of some rather fabulous musical melanges herself: Kenickie and me and Mr yump's wedding song) and and and: oh it's all so damn good! Seriously, why aren't you listening to it now?!

Wit, wisdom, warmth and wicked tunes (and no adverts): please, tell me where else I can find this mix?!

Here are a few of my favourite tracks that I doubt I would have heard had it not been for my beloved 6 Music (please note, it's not all new, just good!):

Her Return

DON’T MOVE! | MySpace Music Videos

Peggy Sue - Watchman from Brittney Bean on Vimeo.

Please BBC: leave 6 Music alone. It is the best thing you have ever created, and that is truly saying something.
(Don't forget to have your say.)