Sunday, 19 October 2014

Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music

The changes arrive slowly. First it’s the early morning chill that makes you realise all of a sudden that it is not enough to don just a Lycra vest and shorts to cycle to work. Next it is the jumper one throws on to nip out to the shops or the tweed jacket bought in Brick Lane for a tenner that becomes our companion on informal outings. Tea goes back to its usual hot state instead of the iced variety favoured in summer (either way I am not a tea drinker, so that one does not apply to me). Hot chocolates and mochas, on the other hand, become my poison of choice.

It's autumn again.

Autumn is nature’s way of frowning upon the landscape. An auburn, orange, golden and red type of frown. A multi-coloured mist that descends upon us all. All the merriment of summer is drowned out by the early October showers. This is swiftly followed by an ankle-deep swamp of fallen leaves on the ground. By early December the autumn brown becomes winter brown until eventually it turns a winter white with the first snowfall.

But this year autumn has not shown its face in my part of London. We have had the washouts, oh, yes, we’ve had those. However, leaves remain a stubborn green, the seasonal crimson not yet a reality. I wait patiently until the front wheel of my bike parts the sea of leaves on my way to work turning me into a Moses for the day, as I do every year. I long for the dramatic sunsets, earlier, yes, but still dramatic. I feel jealous of you, country dwellers, witnesses to berry-gorging birds and filling up your lungs with the scent of heather.

Autumn is a season of longing, or as the Portuguese would put it, a season of saudade, one of my favourite words ever. My preference for this time of the year does not stem from the date on my birth certificate. No, even if I had been born in a different month of the year I would still have willingly changed the date in my certificate to September, October or November. I’m an autumn sign, regardless of the Zodiac. Central to this is the question of nostalgia, melancholy and remembrance. The way tree branches, pregnant with green leaves, grow thin in a matter of weeks reminds me of loss. Autumn’s music is a bandoneón, a fiddle, Bach’s “Italian” period and the wind softly whispering in my ear. What is it saying, you might wonder? Nature’s frown is on its way, kid, fret not.

So, I wait. Still, I wait.

© 2014

Photo taken by the blog author

Next Post: “Let’s Talk About...”, to be published on Wednesday 22nd October at 11:59pm (GMT)

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Food, Music, Food, Music, Food, Music... Ad Infinitum

While still the colour of the leaves hasn't changed, nor have they fallen to the ground en masse, autumn is here. And with autumn comes comfort food. If you are a veggie, please, scroll straight down to the music. This post smells and tastes of bacon. As soon as I read the Cook supplement that comes with The Guardian every Saturday last weekend I knew I had to post this recipe. The music to go with it was easy to find. It's music with soul because this is a dish with plenty of soul. By the way, you can eat this as a mid-week light meal or as weekend lunch. All credit goes to Jason Atherton, author of Gourmet Food for a Fiver (Quadrille)

Grilled sardines on toast with bacon, basil and tomato

8 butterflied sardine fillets (opened out flat, bones removed)
A bunch of basil, leaves picked, stalks reserved
400g cherry tomatoes, about 35-40, halved
2 tbsp finely diced red onion
4 tbsp sherry vinegar
120ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1½ lemons, in halves ready for squeezing
Sea salt and black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
4 rashers of streaky bacon
120g tin sardines in tomato sauce
4 slices of thick country bread (such as ciabatta or sourdough)
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
Put the basil leaves (reserving a few for garnishing) into a bowl with half the cherry tomatoes. Add the onion, vinegar, oil and the juice of ½ a lemon. Toss and season with salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a little vegetable oil in a small wide pan and fry the bacon rashers until crisp. Remove, drain on kitchen paper and set aside. Into the same pan, tip the tinned sardines, basil stalks and remaining tomatoes. Simmer over a medium heat for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are cooked, stirring often. Remove from the heat and stir in the juice of ½ a lemon. Puree in a blender until smooth, press through a sieve into a bowl and season. Char the bread under a grill, drizzle with olive oil and rub with the cut garlic clove. Heat a good splash of vegetable oil in a large frying pan. Pan-fry the sardine fillets, skin-side down first, for 1–2 minutes on each side until cooked. Season and add a squeeze of lemon. Drizzle a little sardine sauce on each plate and lay a slice of toast in the middle. Top with the tomato salad, followed by the sardines, bacon and basil. Finish with a drizzle of the sardine sauce and a little olive oil.

I mentioned music with soul. You don't get much soul than The Wailin' Jennys' Storm Comin'. I like to think of this melody as synonymous with the colour of bacon as it turns crisp. Love the way the song builds up. Enjoy

Second track up is this beautiy which I discovered recently on the KCRW channel to which I am subscribed. What half-nelsoned me to the ground immediately was Hozier's honest delivery. Did I say soul at the beginning of this post? Just like honest comfort food (all that simmering) Take Me To Church is pure musical bliss. Soak up.

Rough, earth-shattering, raw. There are many ways to describe Koko Taylor's singing. And they all go hand in hand with that bread you charred under the grill. And the tossing and drizzling that tonight's recipe requites.. Waaaaaang Dang Doodle for you, ladies and gents! Happy eating.

Next Post: "Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music", to be published on Sunday 19th October at 10am (GMT)


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