Friday, May 15, 2009

Day 61: Cash and Costello

Today's soundtrack: Elvis Costello - When I Was Cruel

Out early this morning to do Big Shop, picking up all the ingredients for the weekend's culinary adventures. It's (almost) a pleasure doing the shopping early in the morning - very few customers and freshly stocked shelves, and ladies on the till with time to chat and to help you pack your bags.

Tonight we're having a Beef Stroganoff, a really simple dish that's very difficult to get wrong. Although I have managed to get it wrong in the past, my enthusiasm for black pepper sometimes getting the better of me. Mrs W has warned me that she does not expect a repeat performance tonight...

The quality of your Stroganoff really depends on the quality of your beef. So don't skimp. Fillet is best, but any decent frying steak should also be ok. Cut your beef into thin strips and dust with flour that has been seasoned with salt and ground black pepper (but go easy on the pepper...). The easy way to do this is to stick your flour and seasoning in a plastic freezer bag, chuck your meaty strips in as well, twist the bag to seal and shake everything about until the individual bits of meat are coated and not sticking to each other.

Then fry off your seasoned meat very quickly on a very hot flame, in some olive oil. You want your meat to fry, not boil, so make sure it is as dry as possible before seasoning. You should also fry in batches if necessary - don't overload your frying pan.

Take the cooked meat out of the pan and put to one side. They fry some chopped onion - at least one medium onion, more if you want. Then add loads of mushrooms - whole button mushrooms for preference, but sliced if too big. Most recipes would pass on the garlic, but you won't go far wrong adding a sliced clove or two at this stage.

Fry it all up, then return the meat and juices to the pan. If you're flash, add some brandy and set fire to it. If you're not, don't bother! Finally stir in some cream - sour for authenticity but regular will be fine, creme fraiche if you're on a diet - and serve with rice. You could sprinkle a touch of paprika on top as well (or better still, add the paprika to the 'dusting' flour).

That'll be us tonight, with a nice healthy bottle of red and a crappy film. Tasty!

Bit of admin today - bought the car and was pleased to get a tax disc in the post which I'm not expecting to pay for. Also pleased to see that my final monthly lease payment was a month earlier than I thought, saving me a few bob too.

The agency I spoke to on Monday continues to pull out the stops as well - firstly contacting my ex-boss for a reference ('glowing', I'm assured) and then calling me about a potential project role. Got a good feeling about this bunch...

Having finished Human Traces, I needed to start a new book and at the top of the unread pile was a biography of Johnny Cash, the Man in Black. I'm not a great country fan, but have a lot of time for Johnny Cash's work - there are three key phases of his career that I really enjoy; his initial recordings for Sun (I Walk The Line, Ring of Fire, Folsom Prison Blues ("I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die")), his 'Prison' albums at San Quentin and Folsom (the audience reaction to the song 'San Quentin' at that prison is absolutely chilling) and finally the 'American Recordings' he did with Rick Rubin at the end of his career, particularly his reading of Nine Inch Nail's 'Hurt'.

Here's San Quentin and Hurt. If Hurt doesn't make your eyes itch, you've got no soul....

More Costello on the soundtrack today - it's probably fair to say that over the years, Elvis has given me more pleasure than any other artist and, although When I Was Cruel is not one of my favourite Costello albums, an 'average' Costello album is generally still miles better than most other peoples' best. When I Was Cruel is a 'rockier' album than most of his recent stuff, harking back to his Attractions days. If I could find it, I'd post it, but there is a great clip (from Jonathan Ross I think) of two of my favourite bands together - Elvis performing 'Tear Off Your Own Head' from this album, backed by Liverpool's mighty Amsterdam. I've got it on an Amsterdam DVD, but can't find it on YouTube, which is playing silly buggers at the moment...

Found it!

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