A collection of ideas for your interest and for the benefit of my mental health.

31 January 2012

Best Served Piping Hot: Harry's Monthly Recipes from the HQ Kitchen January 2012.

As a student who is constantly hungry, constantly entertaining ladies (little in joke there for anyone who has ever met me) and who enjoys making a meal rather than microwaving something or banging some fish fingers under the grill.  So when you too tire of the most basic ways to sustain yourself, and want to set a mood of hard, thorough loving  - do so through your food.  From now on I will be providing essential recipes on a monthly basis straight to you from a secret stash.

This is for you, N.

It is that moment you have all been waiting for, crab linguini! (or a not grab linguini if you are so inclined Mini).

For of all you will need a raft of fairly inexpensive ingredients. I'll tell you what I'm using to make a 2 person dish.
500g delicious linguini pasta (don't use it all at once, unless you're very hungry)
350g Seeds of Change Tomato and Chilli stir in sauce (other brands acceptable but 350g seems perfect for 2 people)
185g (or thereabouts) of tinned crab or a similar amount of fresh crab if you are moneybags
100g pine nuts
Candles to set the mood.

Now you've stocked the cupboard, let's get this dinner for two on.

1. Put your preferred amount of linguini into a large saucepan of boiling water and allow to cook for the selected time (mine says 11 minutes though depending on your tastes you might want it more al dente or more soft).
2. Meanwhile, pan fry those pine nuts! You won't need oil because they secrete their own as they cook. Pay close attention - you only want to brown these, not cremate them (that is when they are black). When done, swiftly remove from the pan to prevent further cooking and put in a nice bowl where they will hold their heat.
3. If your pasta is done, drain the vast majority of the water but retain a little as this is important to keeping a moist end product.
4. Stir in the pasta sauce thoroughly, adding the pine nuts to give it texture.
5. Finally, drain the brine from your crab can and mix it into the pasta carefully so you do not make the chunks too small.

Serve in a pre-warmed plate (5 minutes at 100 degree c should be alright but your mileage may vary) to preserve the heat of the dish so you don't have to rush through and spoil the dinner time conversation.


Alright gang, you feel like you need a little boost in the protein or just fancy a tasty, cheap and quick to make pasta meal? Then I hope you like tuna and mushrooms because this is gonna be difficult if you don't!

Get a tin of tuna, a jar of mayonaise, one of those boxes of mushrooms all the kids are raving about and enough pasta for one person. The pleasure will be all yours. If you want to keep all ingredients in stock, I'm sure dried mushrooms would be suitable too if you follow the instructions for moistening them before kicking off the cooking.

1. Put the pasta into boiling water and cook for suggested time (my penne from Sainsbury's suggests 11 minutes, which is too short).
2. In the remaining time you should put your mushrooms and a little oil in your pan and cook these until they're soft and juicy.
3. Next, turn off the heat on the mushrooms and add the tuna, having already drained the can, and mix together fiercely to aid overall distribution of the delicious catfood chunks.
4. Taking the pan off the hob altogether, add mayonaise to lubricate the affair with a dollop suitable to your mood. Mix well.
5. Finally, drain your pasta and add it to the mushroom and tuna mix in a preheated plate to finish the dish.

A healthy and nutritious meal. 


Here it comes, the secret to a successful bolognese Graham style.  I'm gonna give it to you in whatever way you like - mushrooms? Can do!  Some chorizo in the mix?  Oooh yeah.   Or, if you would prefer vegetarian, no sausage necessary.  I won't even demand a certain type of pasta, though I will suggest fusili tricolori because it is pretty.  Romance, however, is obligatory.  Let's get deep into this recipe.

What do we need?
500g bolognese sauce - I prefer Seeds of Change Classic Bolognese sauce.
390g chopped tomatoes (I use a pack from Sainsbury's what includes basil and oregano).
500g beef
One of those boxes of mushrooms I hear all about.
A Bovril beef stock cube (but other brands will do if you must).
Worcester Sauce (or at a push HP sauce).
A certain amount of chorizo if you're into it.
Enough pasta for 3 to 4 people. 

You and me are naked by the fridge, we are about to get sensual with food a la Flight of the Conchords.  Put on an apron because it is about to get hot (in a cooking way).

1. Brown your beef in a high heat pan, and as it browns sprinkle a crushed oxo cube onto it and enjoy the sweet smell of success.  If you are Mini, skip this step.
2. In the same pan, now turned down from high to medium head, add the pasta sauce and the tomatoes and stir well so the mix is even.  You should add a liberal lashing of worcester sauce or HP at this stage.
3. Put some chunky cuts of mushroom in at this stage, or whole button mushrooms and stir well making sure they are dispersed evenly and coated in sauce properly.
4. Leave this mixture on the hob for about an hour at low heat, stirring very occasionally, to create a mixture of flavours and lock in the moisture.  If you're Sting, you will want to hold this for several days to heighten pleasure.
5. At the end of the hour, cook your pasta to your liking and if you desire add the spicy Spanish sausage to the mix.  This is another opportune moment to drizzle in some Worcester or HP sauce for flavour.  Drain this, and mix in with the sauce in the pan rather than on the plate for perfect coverage.
6. Serve into preheated pasta bowls accompanied by Al Green on the stereo for maximum effect, and a glass of high quality red wine from your local Majestic wine warehouse or Polish Off-licence.  Breads optional.

Congratulations, you’re just created a delicious meal Graham style.  Enjoy responsibly.  Until next time.

23 January 2012

New Improved 30 Day Song Challenge... in 3 posts CONCLUSION

Back in action with the final part of this musical tricolon, emphasising something about me perhaps?  Rhetorically enhancing my recommendations for you?  Conveniently splitting the list into 3 parts?  You choose. Check the first two parts here and here, then stop to enjoy the view for a bit.

The final part is not as radical as this man, but close.
21. A Song With A Great Bass Rhythm - Superfreak by Rick James.  Forever known for its inclusion in the cheesefest U Can't Touch This by M.C. Hammer, Superfreak is actually a great punk funk song featuring The Temptations!  It definitely features a bass part to remember too.  For a great time check out the whole album Street Songs, a personal favourite of mine.

22. A Song You Can Deeply Relate To - Noticed by Mute Math.  Feel more things lately, my dreams have become far more vivid and the wakeup far more disappointing.  Note that, unlike the song which has just been ruined for me by songmeanings.com, I am not necessarily speaking about God.

23. A Song You Could Play Over And Over And Never Get Sick Of - ChamPain by Cee Lo. From his amazing Stray Bullets mix tape this one is just dynamic, fairly short, features a pretty amazing use of the falsetto from Lo.  Had a phase of this when the mixtape was released back in 2010.

24. A Song Played At A Memorable Event In Your Life - Everyday People by Sly and The Family Stone.  I don't remember if this was done by Larry Graham as well as P but Hop Farm was a great great day for the ages.  Cool song too, good vibes and old school sound.  New Sly Stone in the near future?

25. A Song You Don't Understand - Kiss From A Rose by Seal. Another Batman-related track, what is that about.  Like Batdance, it isn't really inspiring me with the lyrics.  In fact the lyrics here are I feel deliberately mysterious, whereas Batdance is just a poorly written commercial tie in.  Nevertheless you can get a sense of the mood here I think, it just doesn't help unravel the meaning.  Is there one or do the words just go?  I expect he will be breaking this one out now he's single again (which I am gutted about), on one of his mad partying outbreaks.

26. The Best Rock Song You've Heard - Won't Get Fooled Again by The Who.  Just iconic, not particularly original.  I would suggest this if someone said 'what is rock music'.  Attitude, instrumentation, CSI Miami association.  All there am I right?

27. A Song That Forces You To Reminisce - The Reason by Hoobastank.  On two levels I remember this: it takes me back to good times with Halo 2 where it appeared over a montage on the special edition dvd.  Second, it is eternally a reminder of my year 11 teenage angst.  Thank you to Hoobastank for managing to confine that to just their music.

28. A Song That Gives You Shivers - Destiny
by Zero 7.  Another one tied to memory, and a personal favourite song, this was the first song I heard before I joined the computer age.  And it is beautiful - still disappointing Sia Furler and Sophie Barker haven't stayed with Zero 7.  But we have some amazing examples of their work, here is its peak.

29. A Song That Helps You Live - Steppin' Out by Joe Jackson.  Captures excitment of life and exemplifies the beauty of night time world.  Songs like this (Shout to the Top by The Style Council, Good Love by Prince) play a great part in my belief in unadulterated happiness in the world.

30. Your New Current Favourite Song - Hello by Lionel Richie.  Does this need explaining?  It is both hilarious and meaningful, it has a very unsettling video featuring a stalker of a blind girl, it has a cool guitar solo.  And it conforms to the universal 'Lionel Time' theory I might blog on in the future.  Like the start of this list though, this is not my favourite song but probably got played a lot the past couple of days and really who is fresher?


That's the end of the journey friends.  I would like to note now that I reckon I could have used a Prince track for each of these (a list for another dimension).  Hope it has been insightful, and hopefully I can come back and do this again next year and see just what has happened to my rapidly declining taste in music.

Journey's end.

19 January 2012

New Improved 30 Day Song Challenge... in 3 posts PART DEUX.

Liked or hated part one?  I'm flattered you had an opinion.  Coming at you, through the sky, the second batch.

Nothing but blue skies.

11. The Best Love Song You've Ever Heard - Why Should I Love You? by Kate Bush.  This track is not in fact my favourite long song, that could be the aforementioned A Case of You by Joni Mitchell or This Guy's In Love With You by Burt Bacharach (as performed by Faith No More).  But since those have appeared in my previous lists this song shares a similar frank and fresh sentiment.  I think it cuts to the root of matters - in a week where my studies have subjected me to total analytical disorientation perhaps I think we need to just accept things sometimes without looking for reasons.  For what it is worth, this song also comes Anne Graham approved!

12. A Song That Ends Too Quickly - Get It To Go by Ben Kenney.  I'm feeling the groove.  2.15 is too short for this level of neo-soulishness.

13. A Song With A Great Drum Rhythm - 777-9311 by The Time.  Say what you will about the rest of the song, Prince's drumming here is exemplary and Jellybean Johnson successfully matches it live without the use of drum machines (which I suspect are present on the album).  Slammin'.

14. A Song By Your Favourite Singer - Mirror of Venus by Brandon Boyd.  All around brilliant effort.  Love the ethereal feeling.

15. The Craziest Song You've Ever Heard - Batdance by Prince.  I don't even know what this is, and here we're only getting the shortened version. Apart from being a horrendous track (with a hell of a gaudy video) it is just so anarchistic in its samplings from Tim Burton's Batman movie and its tonal shifts.  As a medley of the album, I can totally see why this was such a mess.  Dischordant sound, crazy that it was made (and bought!).

16. A Good Song That Does Get A Little Repetitive - Robot Rock by Daft Punk.  Undeniably interesting but does repeat.  The whole album does.  But it is hard to hate it.

17. A Song From Your Childhood - If You Love Somebody Set Them Free by Sting.  Definitely heard this a lot of times in the car as a wee boy alongside, I'm not ashamed to say, my Spice Girls casette.  But we all love Sting more than them.  Even so, you can't understand how tempted I am to replace this with 2 Become 1 by Spice Girls.  There is a particular bit with some bass strings occupies a legendary moment in my personal soundscape. 

18. The Greatest Guitar Work You've Heard - Air Tap by Erik Mongrain.  Going against the grain here, this probably isn't my favourite use of the guitar but it is probably the moment where I lost my mind in amazement that a guitar could do that.  I posted a live video so you can appreciate the technique (and the acoustics on this one are streets ahead).

19. An Exceptionally Sad Song - Halfway Down The Stairs by Robin The Frog.  My goodness I am distraught just thinking about this song, and now I have played the first forty seconds I am straining to contain tears.  I can't think of anything more depressing.  It may not be sad to you, and I don't know why it is sad to me: is the fact a song by a frog is the saddest thing I've ever heard more distressing than the song itself?  Never in a million years.

20. A Song By An Artist No Longer Living -Ride On by AC/DC.  Obviously the majority of the band survive, but Bon Scott evidently rocked way too hard to remain alive (watch those nights out).  Ride on Bon.

Sombre note to this post I feel.  Don't worry I'm already getting amped for the catastrophic conclusion.

15 January 2012

New Improved 30 Day Song Challenge... in 3 posts.

Before this happens again and tells me everything I didn't care about on facebook yet again, I'm going pre-empt and record some of my thoughts much as I did early last year. And in lazy fashion I shall break it into 3 posts.

Surprise or excitement?  Both, advertising man.

1. Your Current Favourite Song - Keep Together by The Brand New Heavies.  Not my favourite song, that doesn't really change, but definitely keep coming back to this one dailyish.  Solid message and the chorus backing vocals are just so good.

2. A Song That Can Always Calm You Down - Aqueous Transmission by Incubus. Definitely imagine a boatride staring up until night falls and I sleep.  Carefree.  Purity and healing.  Words.  Biscuit.

3. A Song You Like That No-One Else Seems To - Drinkin In LA by Bran Van 3000.  Just an amazing sound, would love to enact this one. Perhaps I won't wait until I'm 26.

4. A Song That Uses Weird Noises Well - Supersonic by Jamiroquai.  One of those strange tracks with the digeridoo sampled.

5. A Song You Believe Has Great Lyrics - A Case of You by Joni Mitchell.  I'm a lonely painter... heard the cover by Prince but it doesn't feature the whole thing, where do the lyrics come from.  I could drink a case of you and still be on my feet is one of the most amazing sentences I have ever heard.

6. A Song You Would Like Played At Your Funeral - Of Nature by Faunts.  Peaceful and uplifting.  One of the most beautiful things you can hear in my opinion.

7. A Song That Gets Your Heart Racing - Mein Land by Rammstein.  I enjoy the trumpet bit, it's quite unusual in Rammstein tracks and is frantic enough to fit.  Incredible video too.

8. The Song That Changed Your Mind About Music - Halo by Marty O'Donnell.  Theme tune made me interested in buying/listening to music again.  The game that launched a thousand obsessions.

9. A Song By A Band You Stopped Listening To, But Started Again - Long Is The Time, Hard Is The Road by Chris Rea.  Not really a band but an artist, this is a hell of a blues song.  Downer of an album though.

10. A "Classic" Song Everybody Seems To Like But You - Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.  Very well done to everyone for making this song be on everything.  Fair play, it is a unique sounding song but it is about nothing and you can't even read into it.  What kind of emotions does it seem to provide?  Does it set a mood?  Can you interpret some kind of identifiable feeling?  To me he's talking loud and saying nothing.

Go have a break, you earnt it.

See you further down the river.

05 January 2012

Just fun, nothing ethereal: the best of 2011.

I felt inspired to write a few things I quite enjoyed about last year.  A lot of this has been covered before, so treat it as a greatest hits of my year and of this blog.  And what a(n ok) year it has been.

1. At one point during the year I managed to hold down decent grades, a fledgling relationship and gym going.  It has since become clear that this was a temporary, superhuman feat that I can't accomplish.  Nice to dare to try.  That was the zenith of my existence so far, normal person wise but also the bottom of my being 'myself'.

2. Crossed off another 2 of my top 5 artists first by attending Incubus as o2 Islington and within 2 weeks seeing Prince and the NPG over at Hop Farm Festival.  I must admit, it wasn't until halfway through my second Incubus experience back in November that I really got it, but to be part of such an early show and with such good company was a privilege. It totally turned me around on the new album though, promise. On the other hand I think Prince could have sat and played exclusively Gangsta Glam remixes and Graffiti Bridge filler songs and I would have trumpeted it as a top experience.  Not only was it a beautiful greatest hits trip but one of those life-affirming experiences, like the one I felt at Jamiroquai in the o2 Arena earlier in the year.

He's obviously never heard those Gangsta Glam remixes before.
3. Went to Kapow Comic Con, second convention ever and definitely the best one.  Felt good to be among common man and rekindle my geek cred after a period of disillusionment and rejection.  Got to meet some industry giants and saw some excellent things like James Gunn's Super.  Out of the 2 rape scenes I witnessed in 2011, Mini was quite right to say that Super was definitely the best and if that isn't a criterion for an excellent movie I don't know what is.

4.  Completed first year of university, of course very proud of that.  Not much more to say than 'onwards and upwards' and to wish readers the very best in whatever sort of job or studies they might be up to.  What the year to come holds is a terrifying mystery.

5. I flew in an aeroplane!  All the way across the sea to Edinburgh, which didn't make sense to me but I was asleep the entire time so wasn't able to use my keen pilot skills.  Without a doubt my new least favourite method of transit not because it is worrying (it was all painfully mundane) but because a 1.5 hour flight costs you about 5 hours of time.  Never-mind the plethora of 'we're doing business' taxes they try and attach to you. On the flip side, trains are now way up high on my list since I did my massive travelling splurge mid-term.  I got everywhere.

6. After my well publicized falling out with nightclubs due to some horror stories and some generally poor experiences and opinions, November saw me fall into a sort of love affair in which I would plead for company on a Thursday night.  I was shocked to the core that I could finally break that mental block, finally go by that addage 'if you don't like the music, love it', and all without as much as a hangover the next day.  Pretty excited for next Sunday, gonna be a stunner just you see York.

7. My stint on URY has been a pretty big success to me on certain levels.  Finally involved meaningfully in a society, finally got something to say apart from 'yeah history student' and also finally being able to express my love for music beyond just playing it to myself and saying it's great.  I also started a crusade to become knowledgable on Acid Jazz, difficult for a man who was a toddler during it's popularity.  I hope anyone who has listened to The Specialist will continue to do so this year, hopefully at a more 'I can play sweary songs' timeslot in the evening.

2012 has so far been a little confusing... magnificent unexpected rally on New Years Day, I may actually have a heart after all (suck on that, devil who I did a deal with), feeling woefully unprepared for my exams a week away.  But on the other hand I looked on my friends list and found out that there are so many nice people I have met, 2012 will be a decent year after all full of excitement and the universal age of majority if we speak our minds (tactfully) and share the warmth.  What have I become?  I'd better wrap up before the blog melts.

Stay c-o-o-l.