Tuesday, 21 November 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Roasted Chickpeas (two ways)

Hello lovelies! My goodness, it has been a busy week. I have been rushed off my feet meeting deadlines and have needed some quick and easy meals to get me through.

I was so rushed, in fact, that I forgot to post a recipe last week. Shock! Horror! I only realised I had missed a week when it came time to write this week's recipe. My apologies, loyal readers. As repayment for my forgetfulness, I shall give you two recipes for the price of one (and since you don't actually pay anything to read this, that's a pretty sweet deal!)

Last week I tried out two new roasted chickpea recipes. You can't go wrong with roasted chickpeas. Throw on some oil and spices and roast for 30 minutes and they become chewy, slightly crispy and 100% delicious. There are a zillion combinations, depending on which spices you use. Here are two very different ones that were equally yummy

I adapted this first recipe from one that was meant to be a tempeh marinade. I have nothing against tempeh except the price. A packet of this fermented soya costs around £3 to £4 and a tin of chickpeas costs me 33p. You do the math.

The original recipe comes from {HERE}

Indian Roasted Chickpeas with Potatoes, Mango and Kale
Preheat your oven to 200C/400F

In your largest roasting tin add the following:
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 small onion, diced small
half a pepper, diced small
one small carrot, diced small

Marinade:
In a small bowl mix the following and pour it over the chickpeas mixture, stir well to coat.
1 TB oil
1 TB tamari or soy sauce
1 TB liquid sweetener (agave, maple syrup or the one I used golden syrup)
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp (or to taste) red chilli flakes
1 tsp ground ginger

Bake for 30 minutes stirring halfway. Serve with potatoes boiled in vegetable stock, a chopped mango and sauteed kale or other favourite greens. I used a heaping cup of frozen mango that had been defrosted over night in my fridge instead of fresh mango as frozen is cheaper.


Mediterranean Chickpeas with Lemon Potatoes
 I just used the spice profile for a recipe for Mediterranean chicken and used it in a cruelty free way. I often use lemon juice from a bottle, but this recipe really benefits from the brightness of a fresh lemon.

Preheat your oven to 200C/400F

In your largest roasting tin add the following:
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 small onion, diced small
half a pepper, diced small
one small carrot, diced small

Marinade:
In a small bowl mix the following and pour it over the chickpeas mixture, stir well to coat.
1 TB oil
Zest of one fresh lemon
Juice of half a lemon (save the juice of the other half for the potatoes)
1 TB red wine vinegar
1 tsp each dried basil, oregano and parsley
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves crushed garlic

Bake for 30 minutes stirring halfway. Serve with potatoes boiled in vegetable stock. After the potatoes are cooked and drained add the remaining juice of other half a lemon and some chopped oil packed sun dried tomatoes plus salt and pepper and a dash of mixed herbs.

I made it with potatoes as that is what we had, but the next time we eat this (and there will be a next time) I will make it with my Greek Salad with Feta mushrooms. you can find that recipe {HERE}

So, sorry for forgetting a week. Hope that having two roasted chickpea recipes makes up for that. They are both delicious and economical and as always cruelty free. 

Enjoy!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Murder ballad Monday--The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun (Julie Brown)

Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. Up until now, all of the ballads have been serious. I hadn't really thought about the fact that a song about murder could be funny (even silly) until I thought about this song.

So, for the next few weeks we will look at murder ballads with a humorous slant.

Last week we looked at a very serious song about gun violence. Working in a school in Louisiana, I saw my share of gun violence and how it affected my students. I am very serious when it comes to guns. I don't think it is clever or funny to pretend to shoot anyone. In the UK, I have always pulled a child aside and talked to them about the gun violence I have seen and how it is not a good way to play. They are often shocked when they hear true stories about real shootings. True stories about children I know who were shot.

So, why is this song an exception? Well, The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun is less about shooting and more about being part of those 1950's doo-wop Teenage Tragedy songs. You know, like Leader of the Pack or Tell Laura I Love Her. It is a satirical look at the shallowness of teenage girls rather than about mass shootings (even though it contains one.)
                     Image result for the homecoming queen's got a gun
I first heard this song on the Dr Demento show.  I fell in love with Julie Brown and her silly Valley Girl persona (see also: Cause I'm a Blond from the film Earth Girl's Are Easy) and Spiderman and I continually quote this song to each other, even now.

Julie Brown has said that after the Columbine High shootings, she doesn't feel comfortable singing this song in her live shows anymore and I understand that. In 1983, you could still make fun of things like this. These days, it just feels too tragic to do so.

The song was originally released as a B-Side to her self-released single I Like 'Em Big And Stupid and was later re-released in  1984 on her Goddess in Progress and re-released again on her 1987 album Trapped In The Body Of a White Girl. 

The video, full of Julie Brown at her Valley Girl best, was a huge hit with Spiderman and me. We still say things like Stop it Debbi, you're embarrassing me! whenever the other person does something outlandish in public As well as An hour later the cops arrived and I said . . . in her good ear. 

The video is a comic masterpiece, so you don't want to miss it. You do have to suspend your disbelief as she shoots around 24 times and never reloads, but it is a comedy so I can let it slide.  However, I have included the lyrics below if you'd like to follow along.

Did you see that bit at the end where someone steals her tiara? Priceless.

It was homecoming night at my high school
Everyone was there, it was totally cool
I was real excited, I almost wet my jeans
Cause my best friend Debbi was homecoming queen

She looked so pretty in pink chiffon
Riding the float with her tiara on
Holding this humongous bouquet in her hand
She looked straight out of Disneyland
You know, like, the Cinderella ride
I mean definitely an E-ticket


The crowd was cheering, everyone was stoked
I mean it was like the whole school was totally coked or something
The band was playing "Evergreen"
Then all of a sudden, somebody screamed
"Look out—the homecoming queen's got a gun"

Everybody run
The homecoming queen's got a gun
Everybody run
The homecoming queen has got a gun


Debbi's smiling and waving her gun
Picking off cheerleaders one by one
Oh, Buffy's pompom just blew to bits
Oh no, Mitzi's head just did the splits
God, my best friend's on a shooting spree
Stop it, Debbi, you're embarrassing me
How could you do what you just did
Are you having a really bad period?

Everybody run
The homecoming queen's got a gun
Everybody run
The homecoming queen has got a gun

(Stop Debbi, you're making a mess
Powder burns all over your dress)

An hour later, the cops arrived
By then the entire Glee Club had died—no big loss
You wouldn't believe what they brought to stop her
Tear gas, machine guns, even a chopper

(Throw down your gun and tiara and come out of the float)

Debbi didn't listen to what the cop said
She aimed and fired, and now the math teacher's dead
Oh, it's really sad, but kind of a relief
I mean, we had this big test coming up next week


Everybody run
The homecoming queen's got a gun
Everybody run
The homecoming queen has got a gun

(Debbi's really having a blast
She's wasting half of the class)

The cops fired a warning shot that blew her off the float
I tried to scream "duck" but it stuck in my throat
She hit the ground and did a flip, it was real acrobatic
But I was crying so hard, I couldn't work my Instamatic
I ran down to Debbi, I had to find out
What made her do it, why'd she freak out
I saw the bullet had got her right in the ear
I knew then the end was near

So I ran down and I said, in her good ear
"Debbi, why did you do it"
She raised her head, smiled, and said
"I did it for Johnny"

Johnny
Well, like, who's Johnny
Answer me, Debbi, who's Johnny
Does anybody here know Johnny
Are you Johnny
There was one guy named Johnny
But he was a total geek
He always had food in his braces
Answer me, Debbi, who's Johnny
Oh god, this is like that movie "Citizen Kane"
You know, where you later find out Rosebud was a sled
But we'll never know who Johnny was
Cause, like, she's dead


Everybody run
The homecoming queen's got a gun
Everybody run
The homecoming queen has got a
Everybody run
Everybody run
The homecoming queen has got a gun.
  

 It was homecoming night at my high school
Everyone was there, it was totally cool
I was real excited, I almost wet my jeans
Cause my best friend Debbi was homecoming queen

She looked so pretty in pink chiffon
Riding the float with her tiara on
Holding this humongous bouquet in her hand
(Bouquet)
She looked straight out of Disneyland
You know, like, the Cinderella ride
I mean definitely an E-ticket


The crowd was cheering, everyone was stoked
(Was stoked)
I mean it was like the whole school was totally coked or something
The band was playing "Evergreen"
Then all of a sudden, somebody screamed
"Look out—the homecoming queen's got a gun"

Everybody run
The homecoming queen's got a gun
Everybody run
The homecoming queen has got a gun


Debbi's smiling and waving her gun
Picking off cheerleaders one by one
Oh, Buffy's pompom just blew to bits
Oh no, Mitzi's head just did the splits
God, my best friend's on a shooting spree
Stop it, Debbi, you're embarrassing me
How could you do what you just did
Are you having a really bad period?

Everybody run
The homecoming queen's got a gun
Everybody run
The homecoming queen has got a gun

(Stop Debbi, you're making a mess
Powder burns all over your dress)

An hour later, the cops arrived
By then the entire Glee Club had died—no big loss
You wouldn't believe what they brought to stop her
Tear gas, machine guns, even a chopper

(Throw down your gun and tiara and come out of the float)

Debbi didn't listen to what the cop said
She aimed and fired, and now the math teacher's dead
Oh, it's really sad, but kind of a relief
I mean, we had this big test coming up next week


Everybody run
The homecoming queen's got a gun
Everybody run
The homecoming queen has got a gun

(Debbi's really having a blast
She's wasting half of the class)

The cops fired a warning shot that blew her off the float
I tried to scream "duck" but it stuck in my throat
She hit the ground and did a flip, it was real acrobatic
But I was crying so hard, I couldn't work my Instamatic
I ran down to Debbi, I had to find out
What made her do it, why'd she freak out
I saw the bullet had got her right in the ear
I knew then the end was near

So I ran down and I said, in her good ear
"Debbi, why did you do it"
She raised her head, smiled, and said
"I did it for Johnny"

Johnny
Well, like, who's Johnny
Answer me, Debbi, who's Johnny
Does anybody here know Johnny
Are you Johnny
There was one guy named Johnny
But he was a total geek
He always had food in his braces
Answer me, Debbie, who's Johnny
Oh god, this is like that movie "Citizen Kane"
You know, where you later find out Rosebud was a sled
But we'll never know who Johnny was
Cause, like, she's dead


Everybody run
The homecoming queen's got a gun
Everybody run
The homecoming queen has got a
Everybody run
Everybody run
The homecoming queen has got a gun.

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a (not so) traditional Irish Ballad

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Law and Order SVU (Snail Victims Unit)

I had a dream last night.

This is not unusual. I dream vividly every night. A few nights ago, I had a terrible nightmare that I left bread baking in our oven and went off to Canterbury Cathedral with my in-laws who were here on holiday and our house burned down killing the Spiderbabes and the Bronte snail GALS.

No, this was one of my “crack-ass” dreams (as Spiderman calls them.)
                              Image result for law and order
I am a firm believer that your everyday life bleeds into your dreams. We have been watching DVD marathons of Law and Order  from seasons 3-7. The good ones—the ones with Jerry Orbach as Detective Lennie Briscoe. I have such a crush on him. 

Anyway, in this dream Charlotte Bronte the snail was on trial for murder of a homeless man. I missed all the Law part…I did not dream of her arrest, only the Order part where she was actually on trial. She was being defending by Jack McCoy (played by Sam Waterston) and the prosecutor was Tovah Feldshuh (she is on many episodes as a lawyer). I think of all the lawyers that have repeat parts on the show my dream picked her because she is also in another favourite show Crazy Ex Girlfriend playing Rachel Bloom’s mother.

Interestingly, as I write this I have just realised that the roles were reversed—on the show McCoy always is the prosecutor, not the defence. In the dream, he was the defence.

Much of the dream is lost into the ether, but a few fragments remain which I will try to recreate them for you.
                      Image result for african land snail lettuce
They had Charlotte in her little terrarium on the witness stand.

Tovah Feldshuh: Where were you the night John Doe was murdered?
Charlotte: (eats lettuce)
Tovah Feldshuh: I ask you again, where were you?
Charlotte: (eats lettuce)
Jack McCoy: Your honour, she’s a snail. She can’t talk.
Judge: Sit down, Mr McCoy. The witness must answer the question.
Charlotte: (eats lettuce)
Jack McCoy: The witness can’t answer! She’s a snail, for God’s sake!
Judge: Pipe down, Mr McCoy or I will find you in contempt.
Tovah Feldshuh: Permission to treat as hostile, your honour?
Judge: Permission granted.
Tovah Feldshuh: (takes lettuce leaf away)

I don’t remember what else happened here, but the next bit I remember was this.

Tovah Feldshuh: You claim your name is Charlotte but isn’t it true you are both male and female. A hermaphrodite!
Jack McCoy: Objection! Irrelevant!
Tovah Feldshuh: Goes to credibility, your honour. If the witness lied about this, then we can show she lied about other things.
Jack McCoy: The witness can’t lie. She’s a snail!
Judge: Overruled. I’ll allow it. Answer the question, Miss Bronte.
Charlotte: (eats lettuce)
Tovah Feldshuh: Isn’t it true that as a Giant African Land Snail that you are a menace to society, eating everything that gets in your path?
Jack McCoy: Objection!
Tovah Feldshuh: Giant African Land Snails have been known to decimate crops. Is that what you did to John Doe? Did you decimate him, too?
Jack McCoy: Objection! She’s badgering the witness! Snails don’t eat people! They are vegetarians! Besides, that’s not even what happened to the victim.
Judge: Calm down, Mr McCoy. I’ll allow it.

The rest of the trial is a blur, but the ending I remember clearly.

Judge: Madame forewoman, you have deliberated for three days. Is there any indication that if you have more time, you will be able to reach a verdict?
Forewoman: No, your honour. We are deadlocked.
Judge: Then I have no recourse, but to declare a mistrial. (bangs gavel) The jury is dismissed.

The last bit of the dream took place in Adam Schiff’s office. In the show they always end with him saying something pithy in his trademark gruff way. God bless Steven Hill who was a wonderful character actor in this role.

Adam Schiff: Well, you got the snail off. Until the next trial.
Jack McCoy: I heard it was eleven to one. Eleven people could clearly see that a small snail couldn’t have possibly stabbed a homeless man 37 times. Snails can’t hold a knife. They’ve got no arms!
Adam Schiff: One holdout, eh? Must have been a gardener.

So, this is what happens when you watch too much crime drama from the 1990’s.


You get crack-ass dreams.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--I Don't Like Mondays (The Boomtown Rats)


Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. Last week we took a small detour into the land of disco, but this week we look at a more serious murder ballad that is based on a true story. 

These days, sadly, there are many incidents of school shootings. This was one of the first to really make headlines due to the senseless nature of the shooting--a crime with no real reasons.  

On January 29, 1979 in San DiegoCalifornia, 16-year-old  Brenda Spencer fired thirty rounds of ammunition into the schoolyard of Grover Cleveland Elementary School from her house across the street, killing the principal and a custodian as well as wounding eight children and a police officer. She then barricaded herself in her house.

A reporter reached Spencer by phone while she was still in the house after the shooting, and asked her why she did it. She answered: "I don't like Mondays. This livens up the day."

Prior to the shooting, Spencer had been a pupil at a facility for problem students due to issues with truancy as well as burglary and shooting BB guns to kill birds in her neighbourhood. A psychiatric evaluation arranged by her probation officer recognised Spencer as suicidal and recommended she be admitted to a mental hospital for depression, but her father refused to give permission For Christmas 1978, her father gave her a Ruger 10/22 semi-automatic .22 caliber rifle with a telescopic sight and 500 rounds of ammunition. Spencer later said, "I asked for a radio and he bought me a gun." She speculated that her father had wanted her to kill herself. 

She was clearly very disturbed and in need of help. Spencer was tried as an adult and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison and as of June 2017, remains incarcerated. 

On the day of the shooting in 1979, Irish rocker Bob Geldof, lead singer of The Boomtown Rats (later to star as Pink in Pink Floyd’s film The Wall and to be the co-founder of Band Aid and Live Aid) was being interviewed at a WRAS (Georgia State University's campus radio station) when he heard the news come over the telex machine.
                             Image result for telex machine
Telex machine: It was a bit like sending a fax as it was connected to the phone. It was like a print version of sending a Morse code telegraph communication.

According to Wikipedia, Geldof explained how he wrote the song:

I was doing a radio interview in Atlanta with [Johnnie] Fingers and there was a telex machine beside me. I read it as it came out. Not liking Mondays as a reason for doing somebody in is a bit strange. I was thinking about it on the way back to the hotel and I just said 'Silicon chip inside her head had switched to overload'. I wrote that down. And the journalists interviewing her said, 'Tell me why?' It was such a senseless act. It was the perfect senseless act and this was the perfect senseless reason for doing it. So perhaps I wrote the perfect senseless song to illustrate it. It wasn't an attempt to exploit tragedy.


Spiderman and I first heard this song in 1990 when we were exchange students on our home-stay experience. We bought a double cassette from Woolworth’s in Pinner entitled Milestones and this was the second track on side one.

                               Image result for milestones cassette

Just like Bob Geldof, we were struck with the senselessness of it all. There was no reason behind it. These days, with every tragedy that unfolds due to gun violence, I find myself thinking of this song. 

I have included the lyrics below if you’d like to follow along.



The silicon chip inside her head
Gets switched to overload
And nobody's gonna go to school today
She's going to make them stay at home
And daddy doesn't understand it
He always said she was as good as gold
And he can see no reason
'Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to be sure

Oh, oh, oh tell me why
I don't like Mondays
Tell me why
I don't like Mondays
Tell me why
I don't like Mondays
I want to shoot
The whole day down

The Telex machine is kept so clean
As it types to a waiting world
And mother feels so shocked
Father's world is rocked
And their thoughts turn to their own little girl
Sweet sixteen ain't that peachy keen
Now, it ain't so neat to admit defeat
They can see no reasons
'Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need oh, woah 

Tell me why
I don't like Mondays
Tell me why
I don't like Mondays
Tell me why
I don't like Mondays
I want to shoot
The whole day down
Down, down
Shoot it all down 

All the playing's stopped in the playground now
She wants to play with her toys a while
And school's out early and soon we'll be learning
And the lesson today is how to die
And then the bullhorn crackles
And the captain tackles
With the problems and the how's and why's
And he can see no reasons
'Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to die, die

Oh, oh, oh and the silicon chip inside her head
Gets switched to overload
And nobody's gonna go to school today
She's going to make them stay at home
And daddy doesn't understand it
He always said she was as good as gold
And he can see no reason
'Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to be sure

Tell me why
I don't like Mondays
Tell me why
I don't like Mondays
Tell me why
I don't like, I don't like, I don't like Mondays
Tell me why
I don't like, I don't like, (tell me why) I don't like Mondays
Tell me why
I don't like Mondays
I want to shoot, the whole day down

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a very different sort of school shooting. 

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

What We Ate Wednesday-- Last Minute Coconut Brownie Balls

Hello lovelies! The day has somehow gotten away from me. It's nearly time to cook dinner and I realised I hadn't done a What we Ate Wednesday.

So, I thought I would write about a quick treat  that saved my butt a few weeks ago. (In fact, I just made some right before typing this and I can attest they are super easy to make when you want a treat, but are time crunched.)

Anyway, a few weeks ago we were invited out to dinner with non vegan friends. They are really nice people and are all curious about veganism. I like to bring a vegan dessert to these sorts of gatherings as it is good publicity for the vegan diet. When you show people that food tastes good and you are not missing out on things, people are more willing to embrace change.

Normally, I bake. But I realised a few hours before the meal I didn't have the ingredients for brownies. Yikes! I thought about some raw chocolate brownie balls I used to make years back that were really good. I hoiked my enormous  recipe binder up on the table and flipped to the pink section which is desserts. And yes, before you ask....all my recipes are in a D ring binder and they are divided into categories with colour coded tabs for ease of use because I am organised.

So, I find the recipe. Alas! It uses 1.5 cups of  nuts--3/4 cup each almonds and walnuts. I don't have 1.5 cups of nuts. Nuts are expensive, people! Now that we stick to a food budget, we just don't eat nuts in those quantities anymore. I'm not saying it is not a good recipe. it is. You can see it {HERE}
I'm just saying, it is too expensive to make. These days the rule is half a cup of nuts or less or we don't eat it.

So, what do I do?  I don't want to let people down by not bringing a dessert, but it needs to be made with stuff already in my kitchen. Time is flying.

Tick-Tock.

I run to the computer and I google nut + free+ chocolate + balls + food + processor and lo and behold {THIS} pops up.

Hallelujah! We have a winner!

I quickly threw everything in the food processor, rolled 'em up into balls and rolled those balls in desiccated coconut. Done. Sorted. Finished. Boom.

They were a HUGE hit. Everyone liked them because they were portion controlled, but rich tasting. I had two people ask for the recipe.

As I said, today had sort of gotten away from me and I wanted to make us a treat, but hadn't had time to bake. I made these lovely treats and while I was rolling them up I thought to myself, "Hey! You haven't posted a recipe today!"

So, here we are. Full circle.

Here is my adaptation of Wallflower Kitchen's recipe. She used medjool dates which are big and soft and expensive. i used slightly less sweet semi-dried deglat noor dates that I bought at Lidl which are smaller and cheaper. You do need soft dates for this to work, but they can also be cheaper dates. I added a little extra sweetener to mine to help out.


Last Minute Coconut Brownie Balls
Makes 20.

In a food processor pulse until oats are broken down:
1 cup (GF) oats
3 Tb cocoa powder
pinch salt

Then add the following and blend.
8 medjool dates or 15 deglat noors
1 TB liquid sweetener (I used golden syrup) Omit if you can afford to use medjools as they are sweeter. 

Stop and add a TB of water a time until it sticks together when you squeeze some in your hand. This was 2 TB on a rainy day and 3 TB on a dry day. 

Roll into balls and roll in unsweetened shredded coconut.

Store in the fridge.

I had the whole lot done in 15 minutes. They are perfect when you want a quick treat that is healthy.

Now I'm off to make dinner. Tally-ho! Until next week!

Monday, 6 November 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Copacabana (Barry Manilow)

Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday.

 Loyal reader, I had not intended to include this song in my list of favourite murder ballads. It had completely slipped my mind. As I was writing last week's entry I was completely prepared to move straight into a song about a school shooting. I had the next seven weeks of murder ballads planned out.

Then last week, I was listening to the radio and this song came on. I boogied around our kitchen pretending to be a sexy showgirl until the part of the song comes on and you don't know who has been shot and I suddenly realised--This is a murder ballad. 

I had never considered it that way before, but it fits. It has all the hallmarks of a murder ballad. It tells a story. A jealous lover. Someone dies. A mystery. It just does it to a disco beat. It's from Barry Manilow's 1978 album Even Now.
                              Barrysixthalbum.jpg

This was a favourite song from my childhood, precisely because it tells a story that could be easily acted out. I spent a great portion of my childhood dressing up and acting in front of a mirror. I preferred characters who were sad or downtrodden or bravely dying so I could try to make myself cry. I played orphans, teens with a drinking problem or unwanted pregnancy as well as Beth from Little Women and Lenny shooting George from Of Mice and Men.

Lola the showgirl was perfect for me as she showed character progression. One minute she was doing the cha-cha, the next she was a faded alcoholic. I had this yellow sparkly outfit that I had left over from a dance recital that had some yellow feathers on it. I used to put it on and reenact this song in front of the mirror. It was also the perfect song for me as I loved (still do!) disco. Spiderman says this tells you everything you need to know about me.

I loved the very precise descriptions--they worked from eight til four. I used to ponder over that. Was that eight at night until four in the morning? Surely not! But it was a club . . . so perhaps so. We get a good description of Lola's clothing (yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there) but we never find out about Tony's appearance. He tended bar, so I always pictured him in one of those half aprons and looking like Isaac the bartender from The Love Boat as this was my entire frame of reference for bartenders at this point in my life. Now Rico, he wore a diamond. I spent many hours contemplating this fact. Where did he wear it? As a pin on his lapel? In a ring? I asked my father where men might wear a diamond and he suggested cuff links and then explained what cuff links were. I rejected this theory because cuff links come in pairs and the song only mentions a diamond in singular. My father then suggested it was on his tie-pin.  I also loved the mystery element to it. You know that Tony and Rico had a struggle and as the song says, But just who shot who? 
Then you find out that Tony was killed which caused Lola to sit there so refined and drink herself half-blind and you are left to wonder--what happened to Rico? Was he charged with murder?

Sound effect fact: I adored the bit where Rico called her over and whistled. I used to act this bit too as I knew just what sort of "c'mon" gesture that was required.

Silly fact: My friend Tammy and I used to occasionally sing the lyrics She lost her youth and she lost her toenail, now she's lost her mind.

So, here I leave you with the only disco murder ballad I am aware of. If you know of another one, please let me know.

I have printed the lyrics below in case you would like to follow along.


And to double your pleasure, here is Liza Minnelli singing Copacabana on the Muppet Show.


Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl
With yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there
She would merengue and do the cha-cha
And while she tried to be a star, Tony always tended bar
Across a crowded floor, they worked from 8 till 4
They were young and they had each other
Who could ask for more?

At the Copa (CO!), Copacabana (Copacabana)
The hottest spot north of Havana (here)
At the Copa (CO!), Copacabana
Music and passion were always the fashion
At the Copa....they fell in love

(Copa Copacabana)

His name was Rico, he wore a diamond
He was escorted to his chair, he saw Lola dancin' there
And when she finished, he called her over
But Rico went a bit too far, Tony sailed across the bar
And then the punches flew and chairs were smashed in two
There was blood and a single gun shot
But just who shot who?

At the Copa (CO!), Copacabana (Copacabana)
The hottest spot north of Havana (here)
At the Copa (CO!), Copacabana
Music and passion were always the fashion
At the Copa....she lost her love

(Copa. . Copacabana)
(Copa Copacabana) (Copacabana, ahh ahh ahh ahh)
(Music and passion...always the fashion)

Her name is Lola, she was a showgirl
But that was 30 years ago, when they used to have a show
Now it's a disco, but not for Lola
Still in the dress she used to wear, faded feathers in her hair
She sits there so refined, and drinks herself half-blind
She lost her youth and she lost her Tony
Now she's lost her mind!

At the Copa (CO!), Copacabana (Copacabana)
The hottest spot north of Havana (here)
At the Copa (CO!), Copacabana
Music and passion were always the fashion
At the Copa....don't fall in love

(Copa) don't fall in love
Copacabana
Copacabana

That's all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a murder ballad about a school shooting. 

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Autumn Spiced Rice with Roasted Parsnips and Carrots

Hello lovelies! Autumn is definitely in the air. It makes me crave warm spiced food in autumnal colours. How about you?

I recently borrowed a cookbook from the library. It was a weighty tome, the latest from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall entitled Much More Veg.  There was this interesting recipe that was an orange spiced barley.  It took an hour to prepare and was made to feed six people. I liked the idea, but didn't want to feed a crowd (just two greedy vegans), plus I wanted it gluten free.

So, I copied the spice profile, made it with rice and chickpeas to make it more of a meal and served it with some roasted root veggies. I think Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall would approve.

It was delicious and had a real autumnal taste--like an orange pilaf. And the flavour of the rice was greatly enhanced by the carrots and parsnips.


Autumn Spiced Rice with Roasted Parsnips and Carrots
Preheat your oven to 220C/425F and put your roasting pan in the oven while it heats up. This is secret to making good roasties.

For the roasties:
Slice two carrots and two parsnips into long batons and place in a large bowl with one TB oil and salt and pepper and set aside for oven to heat.

For the rice:
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp EACH turmeric, smoked paprika, cinnamon and chilli flakes
zest and juice of one orange
1 1/4 cup hot vegetable broth
1/2 cup easy cook brown rice
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 TB raisins
6 semi-dried apricots, snipped into tiny pieces
1/2 cup defrosted frozen peas

When the oven has preheated, carefully take out the hot roasting pan and throw in your roasties. They will sizzle! Spread them out so they are all in one layer and put in the oven for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, start the rice as soon as the roasties go in the oven.

In a large pot, cook your onion and garlic in a splash or oil or water for a few minutes until softened. then add your spices, rice and raisins and stir to coat.

Add your orange juice and zest, plus the boiling vegetable stock. Bring to the boil then reduce heat, cover and simmer until rice is nearly cooked. (It will take longer than normal due to the orange juice)

When the timer goes off for the roasties, take them out and stir. Then drizzle with liquid sweetener like maple syrup, agave or golden syrup. Put back in the hot oven until the pilaf is ready.

When the rice is nearly ready, add the chickpeas, defrosted peas and apricots. Let it continue cooking until all the liquid has absorbed and the peas are warmed.

The warming spices and delicate orange flavour really are enhanced by the sweetness of the dried fruit as well the caramelised roasties. Definitely a meal we will have again throughout the autumn.

It was also economical as there were lots of dried apricots left for snacking as well as putting in a cake (I used my standard vanilla cake recipe, but subbed orange juice for the plant based milk and added warming spices like cinnamon and ginger and threw in some diced apricots). 

Happy autumn!

Monday, 30 October 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--The Wedding List (Kate Bush)


 Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. We've recently been exploring many ballads based on dashing Highwaymen which have a more classical feel to them. Today, I would like to introduce you to murder ballad based on a Western.

The Wedding List by the stunning Kate Bush is everything you'd expect in a song by her--sky high vocals, enormous wide-eyed looks, angular mimes, over the top performance and unusual-never-before-done subject matter. The song was inspired by the 1968 Western film The  Bride Wore Black  by Fran├žois Truffaut.
                                   Image result for the bride wore black
If you don’t know the film, basically the plot is this: {SPOILER ALERT}

A groom is accidentally murdered on the day of his wedding by a group of five people who shoot at him from a window. They were members of a hunting club and were horsing around with the gun when it went off. The bride succeeds in tracking down each one of the five and kills them in a row. The last one happens to be in jail, so she lets herself be arrested for killing the others and manages to kill the last one in prison.
                                        Image result for never forever kate
The song was premiered during the Christmas Special in 1979 and appeared a little over eight months later on Kate's third album, Never For Ever.

It is a masterpiece of story-telling as well as a perfect reminder of what the 80’s looked like—all frizzy crimped hair and way too much makeup.

Kate Bush is a bit Marmite—you either love her or you hate her. Personally, I adore her and her creativity. She never does anything by halves, and this song is no exception.

I love the story element of it,

I love her crazy, jerky almost marionette style dancing on the chorus that perfectly matches the discordant tone of her voice.

I love that her brother Paddy plays both the Vicar in the filmed wedding scene and the “baddie” in the live portions.

I love her perfect breasts in that wedding dress.

I love the way she appears to either bite a blood capsule or manage to smear her lipstick all over her teeth, so at the end as she’s singing her heart out all wild eyed and crazy and her mouth is filled with red.

I love the way her voice goes up in the stratosphere at the end and she does that little hop—it reminds me of Yosemite Sam, for some reason.

I also really love that this premiered on a Christmas special. Only in Britain.

The video is a masterpiece--like a mini film-- but I have also included the lyrics below if you'd like to follow along. And if you are one of the people who don't like her voice (it can be sort of shrill), then skip the video and listen to the video below it. It is an early demo of the song, just Kate and a piano, and it is more melodic and less jarring. Lyrically, it is slightly different. It is fascinating to me to see her editing process and see how the lyrics changed over time. I am so pleased that she altered it to include my favourite line 
You got what you gave by the heel of my bootie.

Bang-bang--Out! like an old cherootie.



And now the earlier demo:



No, I'll never give the hunt up,
And I won't muck it up.
Somehow this is it, I knew.
Maybe fate wants you dead, too
We've come together in the very same room,
And I'm coming for you!

Do you think I'd ever let you
Get away with it, huh?
He swooned in warm maroon.
There's gas in your barrel, and I'm flooded with Doom.
You've made a wake of our honeymoon,
And I'm coming for you!"

"All of the headlines said 'Passion Crime"
'Newlyweds Groom Shot Dead
'Mystery Man.' God help the bride
She's a widow, all in red,
With his red still wet. She said--"
I'll put him on the wedding list!
I'll put him on the wedding list!
I'll get him, and I will not miss.

Now, as I'm coming for you,
All I see is Rudi.
I die with him, again and again.
And I'll feel good in my revenge.
I'm gonna fill your head with lead
And I'm coming for you!

And when it's all over you'll roll over
The butt of my gun:
One in your belly, and one for Rudi.
You got what you gave by the heel of my bootie.
Bang-bang--Out! like an old cherootie,
I'm coming for you!

"All of the headlines said 'Passion Crime:
'Newlyweds Groom Shot Dead
'Mystery Man.' God help the bride!
She's a widow, all in red,
With his red still wet. She said--"
She sure got him on the wedding list
I'll got him on the wedding list!
I'll got him, and I will not miss.
I'll put him on the wedding list!

"And after she shot the guy,
She committed suicide.
I'm coming, Rudi!
"And later, when they analysed,
They found a little one inside.
"It must have been Rudi's child."
I shot, I shot, I shot him honey!
"Never mind, she got the guy."
He hit the ground, Rudi!

"An eye for an eye."
Ashes to ashes
"Eye for an eye."
I hit him, hit him
Rudi!, Rudi!
I'm coming coming, coming honey
"Eye for an eye."
Rudi!


Stay tuned next week for a murder on the dance floor. 

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Apple Streusel Cake

Hello lovelies! Autumn is definitely here! Temperatures are dropping, we've had the portable heater on at night (but haven't turned the radiators on yet) and leaves are beginning to turn.

Also, I know it is autumn because people keep giving us apples.

Lots of apples.

Bags and bags of apples.

Eaters....cookers....lots and lots and lots of apples.

I don't really mind. We've had crumbles by the score, more stewed apples and custard then you can shake a (cinnamon) stick at, apple and butternut squash soup...you name it we've had it. I was getting a little appled out, if you know what I mean. I was down to just a few apples left and then I had a dream.

Not just any dream. An apple dream. A dream about a way to finish off that last apple in a blaze of glory. A vanilla cake with a swirl of caramelised apple, topped with that crumbly topping like you get on a coffee cake. A streusel topping. Mmmmmmm.......

I woke up and knew I had to make it. it is slightly higher in both fat and sugar than I normally do, due to the streusel topping...but it is worth it.

Side note: Every time I type the word streusel it gives me a red squiggly line and asks me Do you mean lustreless. No. No, I do not. This cake is the opposite of lustreless.

This cake has a few more steps than a normal cake, but it tastes *amazing* so it is well worth the effort.

Apple Streusel Cake
Preheat your oven to 190C/375F
Grease an 8 inch square cake pan

Firstly, make your caramelised apple.
1 eating apple, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 TB non dairy vegan "butter"
Drizzle liquid sweetener (I used golden syrup)
Melt the butter and stir in the apple and the drizzle of sweetener and cook until apple has softened. Set aside to cool.

Secondly, make your streusel.
 3 TB non dairy vegan "butter"
4 TB demerara sugar
6 TB (GF) flour
Hefty shake cinnamon
Melt the butter and then add the rest of the ingredients and stir until it is all mixed and bit like wet sand. Set aside.

Thirdly, make the actual cake.
2 TB non dairy vegan "butter"
1/4 cup plus 2 TB soya yogurt or 2 TB butter in place of the extra yogurt if fat is not an issue for you
1 cup demerara sugar (or half a cup sugar with stevia)
1 cup non dairy milk
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and yogurt with the sugar until the sugar has broken down a bit and is less gritty. Then add the milk.

Sift directly into the liquid ingredients:
1 3/4 cup (GF) flour
1 tsp xanthan gum (ONLY if using GF flour)
2 TB custard powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking SODA, not baking POWDER)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp each allspice and nutmeg
Mix the wet and the dry together and then fold in your caramelised apples and spoon into the greased pan.

These next steps need to be done QUICKLY so get everything ready.
Add 2 TB apple cider vinegar to the batter and stir quickly to combine. then smooth out the top and using your fingers quickly sprinkle the streusel topping over the cake. It doesn't matter if you miss bits, it will spread in the hot oven.

Get that cake in the oven ASAP and bake for 25 minutes.

I know the vinegar thing seems weird...but trust me. it makes your cakes (especially gluten free cakes) rise like a dream and be melt in your mouth tender without an egg in sight.

This was a perfect way to end the deluge of autumn apples.

Until next year.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Whiskey in the Jar (Thin Lizzy and Metallica)

Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. Last week we looked at a dashing Highwayman and his sweetheart Bess from the poem by Alfred Noyes put to music by Loreena McKennitt. This week, we continue with the theme of the Highwayman, but from a different source.

Whiskey in the Jar is a traditional Irish song about a Highwayman who is betrayed by his wife or lover. What a contrast to last week's ballad where the lover gave her life to try to save her sweetheart!  It is set in the southern mountains of Ireland as many versions mention the counties of Cork and Kerry, specifically. The song originally comes from a song entitled The Highwayman and the Captain, but was adapted into the version we know today in 1967 by the Irish folk band The Beasley Brothers and later became the signature song for The Dubliners.

I first heard a version of this by Peter, Paul and Mary entitled Gilgarra Mountain. In their version, the Highwayman robs Colonel Farrell and takes the money home to his sweetheart Jenny who betrays him to Farrell's men and puts him at the disadvantage when they arrive by stealing his rapier and filling the charges of his gun with water.  He is then taken before a judge but escapes through some fancy fist work (the songs says They didn't me fists, so I knocked the jailer down and bid a farewell to this tight-fisted town.) There is no murder in this version. Nor are there murders in versions entitled Kilgary Mountain.

The version I want to highlight was the one recorded by the band Thin Lizzy off their Vagabonds of the Western World album in 1973.  This version was slightly different to the ones that follow the fisticuffs mode of Gilgarra Mountain and the like. This version was a murder ballad.
                             Image result for whiskey in the jar
In 1998, hard rockers Metallica did a cover version of Thin Lizzy's Whiskey in the Jar on their album Garage Inc. I had never heard the original by Thin Lizzy, but this version made me investigate the band. While I appreciate the Thin Lizzy version, I adore the Metallica one. Lead singer James Hetfield's trademark sneer goes well with the arrogance of the Highwayman.

This one doesn't just have the protagonist knock the jailer down, it has him shooting Colonel Farrell with both barrels of his gun after he was betrayed by his sweetheart Molly. The song ends with him lamenting all the things he misses as he rots in prison--especially sleeping with Molly (even though she betrayed him.)

I have included the lyrics below if you'd like to follow along.

And if you'd like to compare it to Thin Lizzy's version, then you can watch it here:



As I was goin' over
The Cork and Kerry Mountains
I saw Captain Farrell
And his money, he was countin'
I first produced my pistol
And then produced my rapier
I said, "Stand and deliver or the devil he may take ya"

I took all of his money
And it was a pretty penny
I took all of his money,
Yeah, and I brought it home to Molly
She swore that she loved me,
No, never would she leave me
But the devil take that woman,
Yeah, for you know she tricked me easy

Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da
Whack for my daddy, oh
Whack for my daddy, oh
There's whiskey in the jar, oh

Being drunk and weary
I went to Molly's chamber
Takin' Molly with me
But I never knew the danger
For about six or maybe seven,
Yeah, in walked Captain Farrell
I jumped up, fired my pistols
And I shot him with both barrels

Yeah, musha rain dum a doo, dum a da, ha, yeah
Whack for my daddy, oh
Whack for my daddy, oh
There's whiskey in the jar, oh

Yeah, whiskey, yo, whiskey
Oh, oh, yeah
Oh, oh, yeah

Now some men like a fishin'
But some men like the fowlin'
Some men like to hear,
To hear the cannonball roarin'
Me, I like sleepin',
'Specially in my Molly's chamber
But here I am in prison,
Here I am with a ball and chain, yeah

Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da, heh, heh
Whack for my daddy, oh
Whack for my daddy, oh
There's whiskey in the jar, oh, yeah

Whiskey in the jar, oh
Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da
Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da, hey
Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da
Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da, yeah

Stay tuned next week for a tale based on a Western.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

What We Ate Wednesday-- Cheesy Chickpea and White Bean Soup with Bacon Mushrooms

Hello lovelies! As I said last week I was revisiting cookbooks and looking for recipes that we had not tried. I saw this one which was labelled as a kid friendly recipe and thought we would like it. I hadn't intended to try it quite so soon, but I had run out of a crucial ingredient for another meal and then forgot to go to the shops to replace it, so it was squeaky bum time when it came to cook dinner.

Did I panic? Only slightly. But then I remembered this soup recipe and thought "We have everything in the pantry!" so I decided to make it.

I had 100g button mushrooms languishing in the fridge, so I thought "Why not make bacon mushrooms to throw on top?" 

This is adapted from a recipe from Dreena Burton's cookbook Let Them Eat Vegan. I left out the celery and the bay leaf as tiggers don't like them.

I would *highly* recommend you check out her cookbooks. The earlier ones are more budget friendly, the later ones use more nuts and expensive maple syrup than we can afford, but they are still great cookbooks.

Cheesy Chickpea and White Bean Soup with Bacon Mushrooms
Preheat your oven to 220C/425F.
Start by marinating your mushrooms for the bacon mushrooms in  a small bowl.

Marinade:
100g button mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 5 mushrooms) 
1 TB tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Then work on getting your soup ingredients ready.

The soup:
1 onion, diced
half a carrot, diced (gives it a lovely orange colour)
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 a tsp dried rosemary
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tin white beans (I used haricot, but navy or cannellini beans would work), drained and rinsed
2.5 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup unsweetened non dairy milk
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 TB lemon juice

In a large pot over medium high heat, cook the onion, carrot and garlic in a splash of oil or water.

When they have started to soften add your salt, basil, rosemary and stir to coat.

Add the beans and the vegetable stock, bring to the boil and then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile make your bacon mushrooms. Line a large roasting pan with parchment paper and using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms (SAVE THAT MARINADE!) and lay them in a flat layer and bake for 12-15 minutes. They will shrink and dry up and concentrate in flavour. When they come out of the oven, just set aside to cool.

When the soup has simmered for 15 minutes, add the reserved marinade, milk, nutritional yeast and lemon juice. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. She suggested super smooth for picky kids, we left ours a bit chunky. Then reheat on low until piping hot.

Serve the golden, cheesy soup with a spoonful of bacon mushrooms on the top.

This really ticks that umami box I talked about a few months ago. It was delicious and was made from things we *always* have on hand. It will definitely become part of the winter soup rotation.




Monday, 16 October 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--The Highwayman (Loreena McKennitt)

Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. I have been exploring some Southern Gothic ballads in the last few weeks, but now want to move onto more traditional ones. This one is actually a poem written by Alfred Noyes in 1906. 

According to Wikipedia:
The poem was written on the edge of a desolate stretch of land in West Surrey known as Bagshot Heath, where Noyes, then aged 24, had taken rooms in a cottage. In his autobiography, he recalled: "Bagshot Heath in those days was a wild bit of country, all heather and pinewoods. "The Highwayman" suggested itself to me one blustery night when the sound of the wind in the pines gave me the first line." The poem was completed in about two days.

It is a tale of a dashing 18th century highwayman and his sweetheart Bess. It is a great poem with beautiful imagery,  a fashionably turned out gentlemen thief, a beautiful, brave woman, heartless soldiers, jealousy, suicide and murder. It is a cracking good poem, and if you don't know it, you can read it {HERE}

Spiderman once write a quiz for a literary magazine where you had to match the onomatopoeia sound effect to the literary work.  This poem was featured for its use of TLOT TLOT! as the sound of horse's hooves. 
Image result for the highwayman charles keeping
illustration by Charles Keeping
                                                 
As a child, I dreamed of being as brave as the Landlord's daughter Bess. Anytime I was ever in the presence of a four poster bed, I used to ask to be tied up with a broom handle which I pretended was a gun and mimed shooting myself in the breast as I bravely saved my sweetheart by warning him with my death. 

I was beaten up a lot as a child.
                                               
It also never occurred to me that perhaps I should not be dating a Highwayman (no matter how elegant his coat of claret velvet was) because he was a HIGHWAYMAN. I just wanted to be brave and save him. Not that she saved him as he gets shot down like a dog on the highway, despite the lace at his throat. 
Image result for the highwayman charles keeping
illustration by Charles Keeping

I was thrilled when I heard Loreena McKennitt had recorded a version. It is a long poem and so she had to make some cuts. They don't *really* effect the overall story all that much. Even with cuts it runs 9 minutes 32 seconds.

You know he is betrayed by someone as the redcoat soldiers appear at the Inn with information that he will return and tie up Bess with a musket beneath her breast as bait. She kills herself to warn him. He hears the shots and doesn't go to the Inn because he didn't who stood drenched in blood. But when he did find out it was her, he went mad with grief and got himself shot. 

In the poem you know who betrays him--it's Tim the osler who works at the Inn and is secretly in love with Bess as he listens dumb as a dog to the dashing Highwayman and his true love make plans in the dark of night. 

I have not put the lyrics below as someone has helpfully included them on the video. 



Stay tuned next week for a tale of a different Highwayman and thief.