diumenge, 15 febrer de 2015

Absinthe / Food and drink (4)



Amb una mica d’Oscar Wilde i 4 pel·lícules, em vaig quedar amb les ganes de saber lo que era l’absenta però sabia que estava prohibit en molts països ja que es deia que era una beguda molt perillosa. Aquest perill és, però, una mica de llegenda segons una mirada a Wikipedia i per això es va tornar a fabricar i comercialitzar fa uns anys. I concretament a Tortosa és un dels llocs on es fabrica – per tant, l’any passat en vam comprar.
Bé, provat ja – diversos cops – he de dir que (a) m’agrada, i (b) no m’he convertit ni en artista ni en un borratxo. Té bon gust, em recorda una mica a begudes com les herbes de Montserrat, bàsicament perquè està fet d’herbes – el principal sent el donzell (o artemisia absinthium!).
Hi ha (almenys) dos maneres de preparar-ho. Pel que diu Wikipedia, la més espectacular – amb foc –es una “nova” manera de fer-ho, però els famosos artistes de Paris ho feien amb la segona versió, amb aigua gelada.
1.Amb foc, poses dos tarrons de sucre damunt la cullera especial dalt del got. Li fas passar l’absenta, i prens foc al sucre. Es desfà i cau a la beguda. Ho remenes i ho dilueixes amb aigua freda.
2.Metode més tradicional – poses un dit (o dos) de la beguda al got i els dos tarrons de sucre a la cullera. Tires aigua gelada poc a poc damunt el sucre, el qual es desfà i cau a la beguda. Remeneu i a beure! Sembla ser que una proporció bona, pels dos metodes, és una part absenta a 4 o 5 parts d’aigua.
En fi, ho explica tot molt millor a la Wikipedia. I aquí tens l’info sobre la beguda tortosina.
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So, thanks to Oscar Wilde and a couple of films, I always wondered what absinthe (the weird green drink all these artistic-type folk used to down by the bucketful) was – I say “was” as I was sure it had been banned thanks to all the crazy behaviour it led to. So, imagine my surprise when I saw it is made and sold in Tortosa! A bit of internet research soon showed up that it hadn’t been banned everywhere, and it’s fame was a little bit exaggerated and, in fact, it was/is now coming back into fashion. So I bought a bottle of the stuff.
I have to say I like it – it has a delicious “herbal” flavour (basically it is made from herbs such as wormwood) to it and goes down well on a night after a hard day’s work. It has not converted me (yet) into either (a) an artist or (b) a drunk. Despite the word cannabis blazened across my bottle, it no longer (if it ever did) includes any cannabis.
According to Wikipedia there are (at least) two ways to prepare it.
1.       1) With fire. Balance the special spoon you get when you buy the drink over a glass. Place two sugar cubes on it. Gently pour the absinthe over the sugar. Then set light to the sugar and it will gradually melt into the drink. Stir and add cold water.
2.      2)  The cold water method. Set up your spoon and sugar cubes again, having already put the drink in the glass. Pour cold water slowly over the sugar and into the drink. The sugar dissolves. Stir it in and Bob’s your uncle.
In both versions, it seems that a suitable proportion is one part absinthe to 4 or 5 parts water. Apparently, the “burning sugar” method is a modern idea, and the Bohemians and other drunkards who used to live it up in Paris used the second method. Me too, I tried the first, but prefer the second. Anyway, you read and I’ll drink. Oh, and here’s the local manufacturers’ web page.





divendres, 30 gener de 2015

Calçotada / Food (3)



Today’s Catalan food post is about a feast rather difficult to reproduce outside of Catalonia as you probably don’t have the basic materials – calçots (*see below*).

The calçot-eating feast (calçotada) is a January-March outdoor fun barbecue feast thing with friends and family. It can be an Organized Event at a restaurant with an outdoor eating area, but, in my opinion, it is best when held at someone’s house – a house out in the wilds with a bit of land.
First, invite a few friends or family around. The days before, get all the ingredients or divide the chores up amongst your guests. The famous calçot sauce (see below) should be made if possible the day before to get it out of the way.
It’s a kind of romesco sauce made with roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic, ground hazelnuts (and almonds optionally), chilli pepper, ground toasted bread, vinegar salt, and olive oil. There are variations of course. The resulting sauce should be delicious, slightly vinegary or spicy, and thick.
On the day, you want your guests there nice and early (i.e early for lunch – about 11 o’clock is fine for a 2 o’clock meal) as most of the fun of the day is to be had searching for suitable wood for the barbecue, getting it lit, chatting, drinking beer, a few crisps, a bit more chatting, preparing the food.... you need two kinds of wood, one suitable for producing embers for barbecuing the meat and another one (e.g. dry olive tree branches is what we use, though in the area where this tradition started out - Valls - they use pruned branches from vineyards) for making a quick huge flame.
Done that? Start to clean up the calçots – scrape a bit of soil off, cut any roots or excessively long leaves off – and  get them on to whatever you’re going to use to barbecue them  - some kind of grill thing, a home-made wire contraption or even the metal springy bottom from a bed! Anything which allows them to get “burnt” quickly when you flare up the fire.
Have some more beer, and a few peanuts. Greet the latecomers.
Probably best to barbecue the meat first, and then try to keep it warm. People usually do sausages, lamb chops, black puddings. Then throw the quick-burning branches on the fire, and place the layer of calçots in the flames for a few minutes till the outsides go black – i.e. burnt. Immediately wrap them up in bunches in old newspaper. This keeps them warm and helps them to finish cooking on the inside – i.e. go soft.

Now, you usually all stand around a long table in the garden with a little dish of the sauce in front of you, the wine on the table in a porrò (see photo below - designed to pass around, pouring from the small hole directly into the mouth without touching it (with your mouth)), and remember (too late now) you should be wearing your don’t-care-if-I-make-a-mess clothes. Some less experienced calçot feasters also wear bibs. It has been said that in the urban capital of Barcelona they may even wear gloves but that’s nonsense ... the whole point is to make a mess. Get a calçot, hold it up by the leaves and peel the burnt skin down and off till you see the tender white calçot. Dip it in the sauce and hold it above you, and gently bite away at the bottom. You may need a few bites and a few sauce-dips to finish one, eating as far as the non-tender green leaves. Then repeat. You will soon see the sauce and burnt stuff gets everywhere, a very dirty messy meal! It’s said that a typical adult would eat about 10 of them. The calçots, and especially the sauce, are delicious but don’t overdo it as once this part of the feast is over, you tidy the table up a bit and dig in to all the other great stuff. Usually a plethora of barbecued meat, roasted artichokes, a variety of omelettes, olives, crisps, toast with allioli (like garlic mayonnaise, homemade also before lunch), roasted red pepper and aubergine, wine and/or beer and so on. When you’re well and truly stuffed you can sit around all day in the nice Mediterranean winter sun, chatting away, and having a coffee, or get dragged into doing games and sports by the kids who are usually fed up of just cooking and eating by now.
As I’ve said, difficult to reproduce this event in South Yorkshire or other places in the world, but no winter-spring visit to Catalonia is complete without trying one!

* The key to the question – just what is a calçot? Well, according to different English web pages or newspaper articles it could be a spring onion, a shallot, a scallion, a green onion, a sweet onion, looks like a leek... whoah, wait a minute! Having eaten many, I’d say it’s a kind of bland sweetish (i.e not really cry-your-eyes-out onion flavoured) onion but the trick is not so much what dodgy translation we can find in a dictionary, but more in how it is grown. The farming technique and soil is key to producing the "calçot". As the onion starts to grow, you pile the soil up around it, and again a few days later, and again, and so on. It’s a slow and careful process (my father-in-law used to do it) but if you do it well, and the weather is suitable, and the kind of soil right, eventually you get these long white 2 cm (?) thick “onions”. Try these links... Guardian , Wikipedia , another blog post on the subject by someone else.
Photos say more than a thousand words, they say...











dilluns, 26 gener de 2015

Thyme soup / Sopes de frígola / Food (2)



So, as threatened, here goes for a bit of food-blogging. The Catalan recipe I’ve chosen to start with should really be the last one to be posted, though, as it is perfect for an evening when you’re feeling stuffed, bloated, after pigging out on a plethora of other rich Catalan food. But, a promise is a promise – I rashly promised a friendly soup-blogger that I’d post a Catalan soup recipe and as I don’t know how many food posts I’ll be doing, I’d better get this one done now! Shut up Brian and get on with it...

Thyme soup / Sopes de frígola
Ingredients – a nice ripe tomato; dried wild mountain thyme – especially good if you collect it at the right time of year, the magical summer solstice; a “spring garlic” (i.e like a spring onion in shape but really a young garlic stem/plant before the bulb starts to grow to its usual size if that makes any sense); stale bread (we use yesterday’s baguette); salt; olive oil; and water.
1.       Put some sprigs of thyme in about a pint of water (I’m guessing numbers here from watching the missus making it in the following photos). Bring it to the boil and keep on a low boil for a few minutes till the water goes golden-coloured, i.e thyme-flavoured.
2.       Meanwhile, as that’s boiling away, chop the “spring garlic” thing up into really small bits and place in a bowl.
3.       Get your tomato and “roast” it on an open fire – i.e. hold it in tongs and burn the outside while it hopefully goes soft on the inside over embers.
4.       Peel off the burnt skin (the tomato’s, not yours) and chop the tomato up nice and small into the bowl.
5.       (If you don’t have an open fire, skip points 3 and 4 and open up a tin of tomatoes from the supermarket and chop one up!)
6.       Bang a bit of salt into the tomato and garlic mixture.
7.       Chop up your stale bread (e.g. 3 inches of baguette should do the trick – as the actress said to the bishop), and heap it into the mixture.
8.       Lashings of locally produced (unless you’re living in the north of England) extra-virgin olive oil over the mixture. Mix it all up.
9.       Your thyme “broth” should now be ready. Sieve it and pour this liquid over the bread-tomato-garlic mixture. Mix well.
10.   Enjoy it!
Especially recommended as a light meal to help you digest on an evening, and/or to keep the winter blues away. This quantity should serve one or two people depending how much you like it! Now for the photos....














Food (1)

Per si no s'ha notat, amb 5 anys de blog sense cap entrada sobe menjar, no sóc un foodie (persona interesat, i molt, en el tema del menjar). M'agrada menjar bé, però també m'agrada menjar malament. Xalo amb la gastronomia catalana i anglesa, però xalo igual amb una torrada de pa amb baked beans (el menjar que faria jo si em demanesseu de cuinar). No sé cuinar gaire, ni entenc tot el que es diu sobre temes gastronomiques. M'agrada comprar coses de qualitat i de producció, però no perque tinc un gran recepta al cap, sino per motius de salut (fisic i mental)....
... havent dit aixo, però, ja va sent hora que intento transmetre alguna cosa de la cuina catalana pels lectors "internacionals". Per tant, aquest any intentaré posar algunes receptes o explicacions de temes foodie!
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Let's get this straight before we start - I ain't no foodie. I do like to buy good quality food, if possible locally produced, and from small locally-run shops but it's more of a question of health (physical and mental) than because I have some major cooking plan in mind. I love eating great food cooked by somebody else, and I love going to all the different Catalan outdoor eating feasts, but I also love cheese sandwiches, crisps, and beans on toast. And if I'm cooking, that's probably what you're going to get!You may already have guessed this as I've blogged for 5 years now without talking about food. It's just not a big thing with me - much to my wife's annoyance when she turns out delicious things every day which I gobble up with the same enthusiasm as the chips and eggs I cook when it's my turn...
Having said that, I've decided it's about time I tried to pass on to my "international readers" the thrill and pleasure Catalan cooking does offer, so this year may feature a few culinary delights on the blog - watch this space!

diumenge, 25 gener de 2015

Raluy and the human cannonball (2)

About the previous video / sobre el video anterior....

Fa uns anys vam anar al gran Circ Raluy per primer cop i, a més a més, vam tenir la sort de coneixer al payaso Lluis Raluy (fill), un dels fills del fundador i un gran artista - Lluis Raluy (pare). Vam acabar traduint un parell de llibres per a Lluis (fill) i vam quedar emocionats i impactats per les histories que contava sobre l'historia del circ i la seva familia. Una de les coses que conta és que son pare era un dels primers en fer de "bala humana", i el primer en dissenyar el doble-persona-canyon! Ara hem vist aquest video a la pagina Facebook del Circ. Impressionant!
 ...

A few years ago we saw the Raluy Circus for the first time and were lucky enough to get to know Lluis Raluy (son), clown, author, mathematician, and son of a great circus artist and founder of the circus, Lluis Raluy (father). We ended up translating a couple of books for Lluis (son). One of them relates the fascinating history of this traditional family circus - and explains that his father was one of the pioneers in Europe of the human cannonball circus act, being probably the first to design a double-cannonball cannon! This amazing video is up on the circus's Facebook page.

Raluy and the human cannonball (1)


Fa uns anys vam anar al gran Circ Raluy per primer cop i, a més a més, vam tenir la sort de coneixer al payaso Lluis Raluy (fill), un dels fills del fundador i un gran artista - Lluis Raluy (pare). Vam acabar traduint un parell de llibres per a Lluis (fill) i vam quedar emocionats i impactats per les histories que contava sobre l'historia del circ i la seva familia. Una de les coses que conta és que son pare era un dels primers en fer de "bala humana", i el primer en dissenyar el doble-persona-canyon! Ara hem vist aquest video a la pagina Facebook del Circ. Impressionant!
...
A few years ago we saw the Raluy Circus for the first time and were lucky enough to get to know Lluis Raluy (son), clown, author, mathematician, and son of a great circus artist and founder of the circus, Lluis Raluy (father). We ended up translating a couple of books for Lluis (son). One of them relates the fascinating history of this traditional family circus - and explains that his father was one of the pioneers in Europe of the human cannonball circus act, being probably the first to design a double-cannonball cannon! This amazing video is up on the circus's Facebook page.


dijous, 22 gener de 2015

Catalonia update - January 2015

After all the fuss of the Catalan "vote" on 9 November, why the blog silence since then Brian?
Well, apart from the usual finding-time-for-blogging problems, I try to just post when there is some news or something new and relevant. The fact is that there has been an intense debate and much toing and froing since then over what to do next but no "news" till now.
Given that the November vote was a success, but "merely" a non-binding expression of  public opinion, and the fact that the Spanish government are still refusing to permit a proper referendum, the pro-independence camp decided that the next step must be elections. Autonomous elections for a new Catalan parliament/government cannot (?) be prevented by Madrid. If parties standing on a promise of making a unilateral declaration of independence win a majority, the next step would be tough but necessary - declaring the independence of Catalonia, ignoring Spain and the international community and then see what happens.....this week, the two major political parties in Catalonia (both pro-independence) finally agreed on the method and date for this election. That is, they decided that pro-indy parties should stand separately as usual - there'd been talk of some kind of grand coalition, or a single "list" of pro-indy names which would have been voted on ignoring traditional party names - but with a common road map for independence laid down in their political programme. The elections will be on 27 September. Seems a long way off, but it's to give more time for a debate, and is not that long in the overall scope of things - Catalans have been trying to reclaim independence on and off for the last 300 years.

Meanwhile, the Spanish courts are going to press charges against President Mas and other Catalan ministers for organizing the non-binding 9 November "public consultation". He's accused of disobedience (the Constitutional Court had suspended the vote while they investigated whether it was constitutional or not), perversion of justice, abuse of power, misuse of public funds, and could face jail. If he goes to jail, Catalonia's independence is guaranteed as this would sway over the hundreds of thousands of doubters!
*previous Catalonia posts - click here*
And for a more detailed, serious and objective summary, check this out.

dimecres, 21 gener de 2015

Behind the Rainbow, the story of Eva Cassidy

Ahir vaig acabar el llibre "Behind the Rainbow", la biografia d'Eva Cassidy. Afegeix moltes dades i anecdotes al que ja sabiem, i que vaig intentar resumir en una serie de posts fa un parell d'anys. No és una obra literaria magnific, però tampoc cal - amb només saber l'historia detras d'aquesta tragedia, n'hi havia prou. Si us agrada la seva veu, i en voleu saber més, ho puc recomanar. Ja tenia 5 CDs de l'Eva. En acabar el llibre, he encomanat 3 més.
....
Finished another Christmas present yesterday. Behind the Rainbow, the biography of Eva Cassidy. This book is not a literary masterpiece, but then again, why should it be? Just adding more detail to the story I think we all know by now is sufficient. I tried to summarize her tragic life, and magical talent, in a series of posts a couple of years back and have little to add now. If anyone wants to know more, I'd recommend this book. But, as usual, it's her voice which is the most important thing in the story. Sit back and listen.

dimarts, 20 gener de 2015

Pulp - a film about life, death and supermarkets

La setmana passada vam mirar el DVD, "Pulp, a film about life, death and supermarkets" - un documental sobre el seu, probablement, ultim concert a Sheffield al 2012 amb entrevistes amb membres del grup, però a més amb gent i fans de Sheffield. Una petita joia. Aquesta setmana ho tornaré a mirar. Per mi, com he dit alguns cops, Pulp són un dels grups millors del pop/rock. Tant per la musica com la lletra com l'actitud. Pocs grups m'arriben a dir tant amb la lletra, parlant de les coses del dia a dia sense usar els clitxes del pop happy-flowers, el teu amor és com una estrella .... etc. No, parlen d'anar pel carrer en la pluja i bruticia, dels embolics de veritat que senten els joves (i grans), de les cases i feines que jo vaig coneixer creixent a South Yorkshire... en fi, tal com he dit algun cop, el Common People només es pot entendre com una de les millors cançons de l'historia si realment has viscut al nort d'Anglaterra.
Bé, alguna cançó que ja no havia penjat anteriorement: Cocaine socialism (o sigui el socialisme de pijos de fantasma i de enganys que practiquen alguns politics malanomenats "socialistes").
................
Saw the documentary about Pulp's "last" (hope not!) concert in Sheffield in 2012. "Pulp, a film about life, death and supermarkets" reaffirmed what I already knew - few groups have been able to really describe life for "common people" in South Yorkshire, describing their (our) everday lives, or write about love without falling into "you are like a star to me" cliches. I've said it before (especially with this run of blog posts), Pulp are one of the few groups whose lyrics I actually pay attention to. They may seem simple at times, but they hit home and many a tremble down the spine has been felt....
Anyway, this film is highly recommended, with concert footage interspersed with interviews with the band and many Sheffield folk. 
So, looking for a song by them I haven't already posted, what about this one and it's indictment of mainstream politicians...




dilluns, 19 gener de 2015

A most disgusting song - Rodriguez #ChristmasGifts

Uf, 2015 ja! En fi, a veure si puc tornar a usar el blog una mica aquests dies. Ara tots estem treballant i nadal ja és historia, però com que vam rebre CDs, DVDs, i llibres relacionats amb la música a nadal, pos, aprofitarem per repassar alguna. CDs: Coming from reality, del Rodriguez; Anthology, Kirsty MacColl, Paris, Zaz; Ghost, Kate Rusby; two Christmas albums, Kate Rusby; 50 words for snow, Kate Bush; Producto Interior Bruto, Juan Colomo. DVDs: Northern Soul, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Enemy Within (sobre la vaga de miners), i un documental sobre el grup Pulp. Llibres: Victus (en anglès), els biografies de Eva Cassidy i Kate Bush.
Ja fa temps que vaig escriure una entrada sobre Rodriguez i la pel·licula Searching for Sugarman. M'agrada molt el seu primer disc i per aixo vaig demanar la segona per nadal. Aqui en teniu un tast.
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Wow, a new year already... and 'nowt said on t'old blog! Let's see if I can shake off the lethargy and find a bit of time to get this up and running again. So, Christmas came and went and as usual I got loads of socks, but also loads of CDs, and books and DVDs with a music theme. Here goes:
CDs: Coming from reality, by Rodriguez; Anthology, Kirsty MacColl; Paris, Zaz; Ghost, Kate Rusby; two Christmas albums, Kate Rusby; 50 words for snow, Kate Bush; Producto Interior Bruto, Juan Colomo. 
DVDs: Northern Soul, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Enemy Within (about the miners' strike), and a documentary about the pop group Pulp. Bookwise I got a novel based on the fall of Barcelona in the 1714 War of Succession, and biographies of two of my favourite singers: Eva Cassidy and Kate Bush.
So, here's a bit of Rodriguez.