Saturday, 28 January 2012
I'm back and I'm better than ever, after an inexcusably long hiatus, BloodyGoodChap is back to give you regular fixes of eccentric lifestyle and leisure! What can I say but that I've been lazy and unmotivated, but with a new year comes the opportunity to turn a new leaf and what better than to start now.
As an introductory post this one is a little longer but I will now be posting more regularly but in shorter, more manageable bursts offering my usual range of cookery, drinking, smoking, travel, reviews and general musings. I do hope you enjoy my first outing of, I hope, many in 2012…
Worth it's salt - My review of Cured by Lindy Wildsmith
Lindy Wildsmith has written a fantastic book that makes the art of curing, smoking and general preserving incredibly accessible to a layman like myself. I am the proud owner of a number of books on this subject and some of them are so complex or fiddly that, whilst i am entranced by the recipe, I am immediately turned away from making it in the confines of a home kitchen without the heavy duty gadgetry and access to specialist ingredients that some of these cookery writers have!
I have tried a couple of recipes already from this accessible book full of sumptuous photography and interesting asides. The pork belly worked wonders in a stripped down cassoulet that I made with plumptious Toulouse sausages and velvety haricot beans. I also tried her reproduction of the famous Franco Taruschio salt beef with fantastic results, it was especially delicious on a freshly baked soft white roll covered with slices of gherkins, mild sauerkraut, French's American mustard (a delicious but hideously ersatz condiment!). This book passed my golden rule of cookery books, do the recipes work and are the quantities stated correct. Plenty of cookery books (and I mention no names) have very exact and frankly bizarre levels of certain flavourings which can kill the recipe if followed! In particular this bizarre fascination of covering everything with lemon juice. Anyway, I am pleased to say that Wildsmith's recipes - at least the ones that I've tried - have passed and have spurred me on to try some more, I will keep you posted.
Lastly, Where this book builds on pioneering charcuterie and delicatessen writers such as Jane Grigson through innovation. There are a number of recipes in this book which I would never have conceived, nor would I have found in any other book. This of course is juxtaposed by her fantastic homages to classic recipes such as Taruschio's salt beef as mentioned above and also Lady Llanover's famous recipe for the Hermit's salted duck.
This book is a must buy and the perfect starting point for anyone embarking upon the delicious and mysterious art of smoking, curing and pickling. You can purchase it at any good book shop or on Amazon:
For want of a nail
On the whole I do not rate 1989 as a year of fantastic music. There were certainly some fantastic albums such as the Stone Rose's eponymous debut album, Chris Rea's Road to Hell, Bob Mould's (of Husker Du) Workbook and Todd Rungren's entrancing Nearly Human.
'Who's Todd Rundgren?' many will cry as they are reading this. Mainly acknowledged as a fine producer with credits such as Meat Loaf's Bat out of Hell, XTC's Skylarking and the Tubes' Remote Control, Rundgren was also a brilliant musician in his own right releasing a large range of eccentric and occasionally impenetrable albums. However there were occasions when he hit the pop-rock nail on the head and for me it is on Nearly Human that it is most realised.
If you can look past the sometimes overbearing arrangements and production you find vulnerable lyrics, strong vocals and brilliant playing consolidated in some great pop tunes; one track, 'The Waiting Game' is a good example. However the power of this set comes from the fact that Rundgren recorded the album with a live band, according to AllMusic guide this was something of a gimmick; but then again wasn't that merely the by-product of the excessive 1980's and also of a musician who revelled in pomp and differing studio techniques to achieve his artistic goals. There are a few dark moments on the album and the very raw 'Parallel Lines' is one good example focusing on lost love and the point of no return. This album finds Rundgren is digging deep into his emotions and the results are pleasing.
A word of warning is that this album is not for everyone and some might find it too clean cut and a little plodding. True there are weak moments, I do not deny this but on the whole the strengths out-weigh them. Personally, I would give this album a solid 8/10 but then again I'm a generous marker and, with this in mind, I would love to know your thoughts on the album, Nearly Human by Todd Rundgren
Winter Warmer from Down Under
When looking for something to warm the cockles of your heart on a cold January weekend Australia seems the last place one would look to find a brilliantly warming liquor that penetrate the bones and reinvigorate the senses. I would say that you should wipe away those illusions that Australia is all new world reds, oak-laden whites and clean Rieslings for they make fantastic liqueurs as well, in particular the fantastic Muscat that comes from Morris of Rutherglen.
Chilled it makes a fantastic end to a dinner working wonderfully with cheese in place of port and to my mind is even better when poured over a scoop of well made vanilla ice cream - of course these are the two cliche combinations for Muscat but I entirely agree that they are the best pairings.
Don't get me wrong, I love my port but sometimes one needs a bit of a change and muscat offers a welcome alternative. It has the weight of a tawny port but with a refreshing tang that you do not get from its Mediterranean cousin, and as such is well worth a try. It can be purchased direct from Morris of Rutherglen but that would require rather a long wait in order to receive it. However, I am sure that you can pick it up in the UK and if you do see a bottle in the wine shop or the supermarket I would highly recommend buying a couple for you wine rack/cellar.
Laid back & leisurely
'Beautiful' I proclaimed the other night as a smooth stream of smoke cascaded from my mouth and diffused into the air. I was sitting at home on one of those rare evenings where I had managed to escape the office without committing myself to any social engagements. I had the whole evening to myself and so I had decided to sit down with a serious cigar, a few gin & tonics and a couple of films and let the tides of extreme relaxation wash over me, forgetting all the cares of the office and of feeling anti-social. this was 'me' - a rare thing in society these days - and I was set on enjoying myself.
I had been given a box of the finest Montecristo No.2s by my father for my Birthday a few months ago, and they had been sitting majestically in my humidor, waiting for precisely a moment like this to savour - to be fair I had sampled a couple over a very boost Christmas but who's counting!
A well kept Cuban cigar is one of the finest treats in the world and I can see why they are a desert island choice of so many people, I was disappointed that the Deputy PM, Nick Clegg, chose a supply of cigarettes on his appearance over a well kept stash of these beauties! But I suppose all of use make errors sometimes.
It is hard to describe how they smoke as I profess that I am no expert on the subject, I just like what I like. They have a lighter feel than other Cuban cigars like the incredible rich Cohiba and the incredibly dense Bolivar (a personal favourite) and make for the perfect cigar to have without committing too much effort and too many hours to.
Again, as with my album review I would love to here your comments on this cigar if you have smoked it yourself, perhaps you have something you want to recommend to me on the back of this? just let me know and I will be sure to give it a go and post about it afterwards, with the relevant acknowledgements of course.
That's all for now but it's great to back and I hope I can keep you entertained with more food, philosophy and general noodlings from the mind of the Bloody Good Chap.
Friday, 6 January 2012
I think that AllMusic can sometimes be accused of being quite uncharitable, in fact, snobbish on some occasions. This is especially true when it comes to the music of Joe Walsh, the brilliant axe-man who penned such hits as 'Rocky Mountain Way', 'Life's been Good' and wrote the grinding riff to The Eagle's 'Life in the Fastlane' (which he also played). Whilst the Confessor is by no means Walsh's finer efforts it is not as bad as the critics would have you believe.
The cover (a pastiche on Caspar David Friedrich's 'Two men contemplating the moon') is laughably outdated and not a good reflection of Walsh's idiosyncratic, driving rock tracks looking more like a sleeve from a Caravan album. Whilst admittedly it is patchy and there are a few tunes that I am not mad keen on 'Problems' or '15 Years' which are quite rightly regarded as dross, I really like oft panned tunes like 'Broke my leg' (submerged in layers of Walsh's trademark ARP synthesiser and vocoder) and the quirky lilt of 'Bubbles' (which could have been lifted from the Dave Lee Roth EP Crazy from the Heat). The lyrics are really not up to much but then again I have always listened to this artist for his music rather than his word-smithery. The stand out cut is the title track, a true power ballad straight from the golden age of the genre with building synthesisers, great guitar licks and wistful vocals.
Whilst the Confessor is no way near the heights of So What? and the sublime But Seriously…Folks? it is not a bad cut and as such should be given the benefit of a good listen. I will award this one a 6/10, not quite good enough for the premier league but a pleasant enough album in any case.