Archive for January, 2014

Foodie Friday: Peachy Pork Steaks with Buttery Mash

Peachy_pork_steaks(Serves 4)

1 tbsp olive oil
4 thin-cut boneless pork loin steaks, trimmed of any fat
2 fresh peaches, de-stoned and cut into wedges
1 red onion, cut into wedges
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 x 400g packs ready mashed potato
A small handful of fresh basil, leaves picked, washed and torn

1. Preheat the oven to 200C, fan 180C, gas 6. Heat the oil in a large lidded flameproof casserole over a medium-high heat. Season the pork on both sides with black pepper, then add to the casserole and cook for 3 minutes each side until browned. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
2. Add the peaches to the casserole along with the onion, vinegar and 1 tbsp cold water. Season with freshly ground black pepper and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
3. Return the pork (with any juices) to the casserole. Put the lid on and transfer to the oven. Roast for 8 minutes until the pork is cooked through with no pink remaining and the peaches are just tender.
4. While the pork is in the oven, cook the mash according to pack instructions.
5. Sprinkle the basil over the casserole and serve with the mash on the side.

Cook’s Tip: Make a gravy from the pan juices by adding some fresh apple juice to the casserole and thickening with 1 tsp cornflour.


Ancient and Modern

How old does music have to be before it’s ‘early’? The London music societies of the late 1700s were in no doubt. To qualify as ‘ancient’, they said, it had to be at least 20 years old. It would seem that the instant obsolescence of the modern pop world, where two decades does indeed represent an age of geological proportions, is nothing new.

Up to the last few years, any music up to about the time of Bach, say the early 1700s, was early. Recently, though, things have moved back a little. Though there’s no generally agreed single boundary, only something written before about 1600, never mind 1650, would be seen by most people as early. J S Bach (1685-1750)? A mere Johnny-come-lately. François Couperin (1668-1733)? Wouldn’t have made last orders. Corelli (1653-1713)? Probably on the night bus.

No, in these pages we’re interested in modern pieces inspired by really Jurassic music: by Dowland (1563-1626), Palestrina (c. 1525-94), Tallis (1505-85) and so on, all of whose major work was written when the Mayflower was still a tree. So that rules out Stravinsky’s borrowing of Pergolesi (1710-36) for his Pulcinella, or Brahms’s Variations on a Theme of Haydn (1732-1809), any reworkings of Purcell (1659-95) by Britten or Maxwell Davies, and all other music that’s virtually on our doorstep.

Continue reading ‘Ancient and Modern’

Music Monday: January roundup

It’s been a rough month, with a lot of illness going about the house, and we’re not out of the woods yet, so I haven’t listened to as much music as I’d have liked to. Amy Lee is a surefire way to improve my mood, and it shows. Beyond that, I kinda retreated into the soundscape of my high school and university years, when things were so much easier and simpler. (Not really, but that’s how nostalgia works, natch.)

1. Evanescence (129)
2. The Mission (65)
3. The Alan Parsons Project (61)

Foodie Friday: Quick Fish Soup

Quick-fish-soup(Serves 4)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks
1/2 head broccoli, cut into small florets
400g carton chopped tomatoes with basil, chilli and oregano
800ml fish stock
320g pack fish pie mix
400g tin butter beans in water, drained and rinsed
A small handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, washed and chopped
White baguette, to serve

1. Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole over a medium heat. Add the onion, peppers and broccoli and fry for 5 minutes until softened.
2. Stir in the tomatoes and stock and bring to a simmer. Add the fish pie mix and simmer for 3 minutes, then add the beans and half the parsley. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes until the liquid has reduced and the fish is cooked through.
3. Ladle into bowls and scatter over the remaining parsley. Serve with the bread.

An Awful Lot of Questions

No titles, no composer’s name, no scoring – understanding early music scores can be a nightmare. Jeremy Summerly, director of the Oxford Camerata, describes the pitfalls involved in trying to make sense of the earliest music.

Broadly speaking there were two types of early musician. There are those for whom programme planning involves scouring the shelves of specialist music shops for reliable modern editions of early music. But there are also those for whom the atmosphere of a dingy library filled with the rich aroma of rotting parchment acts on the senses like a Class A drug: to these zealots, an encounter with code-named tomes such as W1 or Bologna 015 is equivalent to the steam enthusiast’s sighting of LNER 69523 or GWR L99.

So what are the sources of early music like? Frequently incomplete, ambiguous, and illegible. But one thing they all have in common is that they are extraordinary. Extraordinary because they have survived at all, and extraordinary because many of them are the only surviving source for the music that they contain. The feeling of leafing through decaying pages known to have been copied by the likes of Ludford and Purcell is not easy to describe – the distant musical past will never come alive, but this is arguably the closest that you’ll get.

Continue reading ‘An Awful Lot of Questions’

Month at a Glance

January 2014
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