Thursday, 5 February 2015

Classical Persian Tradition: Album Artwork

North Utsire

Erte meets Wilde

I was lucky enough to see a beautifully designed address book at a friends house the other day. It featured artwork by the artist Erte (Romain de Tirtoff 1892- 1990). On the back was a stanza from a poem by Oscar Wilde published/written in 1881 called Serenade for Music. The artwork (Byzantine, above) triggered a bit of a search & I thought why not include the whole Wilde poem amongst some other Erte classics.

The western wind is blowing fair
Across the dark AEgean sea,
And at the secret marble stair
My Tyrian galley waits for thee.
Come down! the purple sail is spread,
The watchman sleeps within the town,
O leave thy lily-flowered bed,
O Lady mine come down, come down!

She will not come, I know her well,
Of lover's vows she hath no care,
And little good a man can tell
Of one so cruel and so fair.
True love is but a woman's toy,
They never know the lover's pain,
And I who loved as loves a boy
Must love in vain, must love in vain.

O noble pilot, tell me true,
Is that the sheen of golden hair?
Or is it but the tangled dew
That binds the passion-flowers there?
Good sailor come and tell me now
Is that my Lady's lily hand?
Or is it but the gleaming prow,
Or is it but the silver sand?

No! no! 'tis not the tangled dew,
'Tis not the silver-fretted sand,
It is my own dear Lady true
With golden hair and lily hand!
O noble pilot, steer for Troy,
Good sailor, ply the labouring oar,
This is the Queen of life and joy
Whom we must bear from Grecian shore!

The waning sky grows faint and blue,
It wants an hour still of day,
Aboard! aboard! my gallant crew,
O Lady mine, away! away!
O noble pilot, steer for Troy,
Good sailor, ply the labouring oar,
O loved as only loves a boy!
O loved for ever evermore!

North Utsire


Makhani is a Hindustani word meaning "with butter". It is used in the names of several dishes from Punjabi cuisine:

1. Dal makhani, made from beans and pulses
2. Paneer makhani, made from the white cheese paneer, also known as "paneer butter masala"
3. Murgh makhani, also known as "butter chicken" or "chicken makhani"

It can also be made with lamb, potatoes, other vegetables, etc etc. Apart from the “with butter” connotations, it is generally understood that Makhani is a tomato based dish with cream. I am going to include a recipe for Murgh Makhani, and by way of illustration in order to show you some of the possible variations of this dish, also a Dal Makhani with Red Kidney beans. Despite the long list of ingredients - it's very easy to make, so don’t be put off.

100ml/3½fl oz plain yoghurt
1 lime, juice only
15g/½oz garlic, crushed
2.5cm/1in piece fresh root ginger, grated
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
pinch paprika
pinch salt

For the marinade (Chicken only)

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a bowl until well combined. Add the chicken breasts and make sure they’re well covered in the marinade. Set aside to marinate in the fridge for 12 hours, or overnight.

4 x 150g/5½oz chicken breasts
25g/1oz unsalted butter, melted
½ lemon

For the chicken

When the chicken has marinated, preheat the grill to it's highest setting. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade, shaking off any excess, and grill for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until the coating is golden-brown. Baste the chicken breasts with the butter and a little lemon juice.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 and roast the chicken for 10-12 minutes, or until cooked through.

100g/3½oz unsalted butter
1 onion, grated
2.5cm/1in piece fresh root ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 tsp Turmeric powder
100g/3½oz tomato purée
2 small red chillies
pinch chilli powder
200ml/7fl oz double cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce

Meanwhile, for the sauce, heat the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the onion for 4-5 minutes, or until softened. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for a further minute, then stir in the tomato purée, chillies and chilli powder and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Reduce the heat, stir in the cream and simmer for a further minute, then add the chicken breasts to the sauce. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

3 Diced Carrots
1 Large onion, chopped
2 Vine Tomatoes, chopped
1 tin Red Kidney Beans
Any other suitable vegetable such as suede, courgette, etc. can be added.

Non- Dairy Alternative:
400ml coconut milk (for cream)
4 Tbsp Olive oil (for butter)
Dal Makhani variation

Dispense with the chicken marinade & grilling stage above & pick up the recipe using the sauce ingredients & method above. Substitute vegetables & beans for the chicken.

You can vary this procedure by substituting 4 Tbsp olive oil for butter (gosh) and 1 tin (400ml) of coconut milk for the cream (outcry). You can of course use these sauce substitutes for the chicken recipe too.

handful fresh coriander
naan bread
basmati rice

To serve

Serve with basmati rice and naan bread.
To serve, place the butter chicken breasts onto serving plates and drizzle over the sauce. Sprinkle over the coriander. Spoon the basmati rice alongside and serve with the naan bread.

Serves 3-4

North Utsire

Vegetable/ Chicken Lasagne, or “Feg”

Feg is a throwaway word depicting “junk”, “meh” or “stuff” which is applied to this traditional lasagne concept. All too often people reach for the steroid & antibiotic laden beef mince, and the proprietary jars of lasagne sauce, laced with high corn fructose syrup, vinegar, or trans fats. Apart from the health detriment, this is a shame because lasagne is quite simple to make and tastes much better using fresh ingredients.

I make no apology for using full fat cheese, soft cheese and cream to make the white sauce. Firstly, it doesn’t require flour as a thickener, and secondly, the all pervasive “cholesterol myth” doesn’t have much sway in my kitchen. Out of sheer respect to my palate, I have been disinclined to believe saturated fats are bad for you, and it seems my avoidance of wraith like “low fat” products is finally receiving some support by the food scientists. How can whole foods be bad for you where something engineered in a lab is good? I had my bloods checked only last year & my LDL came back clean as a whistle. Don’t believe the low fat, high sugar marketing of unnatural products. Educate yourself here and here.

Feg is made in two stages; a roasting stage, and a lasagne bake. I have called this a vegetable/ chicken recipe to distinguish it from beef mince, but the ingredients can be varied to suit your taste & budget. I’ll include some possible variations in the recipe list below.

Olive oil, 2 Tbsp
Salt, or Dark Soy sauce to taste
Balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp
1 tsp Cumin Seeds

1 squash, chopped
1 Pepper, sliced
1 large red onion, chopped
6-8 cherry tomatoes, whole but pierced
2 courgette, chopped

2-3 chicken breasts or equivalent cut thinly

Roasting Stage

Put the ingredients into a roasting dish & mix together, coating the ingredients in oil.

Roast the (optional) chicken separately if desired. You can spice it with 1 tsp garam masala or 1 tsp of a proprietary meat spicy seasoning available from world supermarkets.

Roasting requires 30-40 minutes at 200oC
Get the ingredients in the oven & start preparing the other stages below.

4-5 garlic cloves, peeled & crushed
2-3 green finger chillies
tight handful of Basil herb

Sweetcorn (from tin is fine)
1 tin peeled plum tomatoes
Tomato puree paste to thicken

Lasagne Bake

Combine the ingredients with the roasted vegetables/ chicken in a large pan. Heat them together.

When they are sufficiently warmed through (5-10 minutes) ladel them out into the baking dish as indicated below.
Whole wheat sheet pasta, or try pasta verde, or any combination

200 ml single cream
1 pack (150g) Boursin
300-400g Mature cheddar, grated

White Sauce & Lasagne Bake

Interlace layers of lasagne sauce with pasta sheets until you run out of sauce. Make sure you have a layer of pasta sheets at the top of the baking dish and add the white sauce for the top layer.

Pour in the cream to a saucepan or non- stick frying pan & heat but do not boil. To this add 150g of soft cheese such as Boursin & allow it to melt in. You can add any soft cheese as its function is to emulsify the mixture & prevent the hard cheese from sticking or burning. I find the garlic & herb Boursin adds a pleasant flavour.

Then in handfuls, add the grated hard cheese allowing it to melt before finally pouring onto the top layer of the lasagne. Sprinkle a bit of cheese on top.

Now bake the lasagne for 30 minutes or so, keeping an eye on the uppermost portion of the bake to ensure it doesn’t burn.

Allow to cool slightly before serving. This should help with preserving the structure of the lasagne stack as you scoop it out.

Serves 4-6

North Utsire

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Samurai: More Rain (1971)

The Web were a British jazz/blues band, with a style simultaneously related to America’s West Coast groove and UK’s proto-prog movement. Hailing from the British psychedelic scene, their style is often described as atmospheric, moody, melancholy, and dark. They were originally fronted by African-American singer John L. Watson, with whom they released two studio efforts, Fully Interlocking (1968) and Theraposa Blondi (1970). The band increasingly delved into a progressive rock sound with which Watson's vocal style was incompatible, so they set Watson up with a solo career and replaced him with keyboardist/vocalist Dave Lawson. Shortening their name to simply "Web", the band fully embraced their new jazz-prog sound on their third LP I Spider (1970). Following the departure of saxophonist/flautist Tom Harris, the band changed names again, to "Samurai". A final, self-titled album followed in 1971. With the band losing steam due to financial struggles and lack of recognition, Lawson accepted an invitation to join Greenslade.

By North Utsire

Hölderlin: Requiem für einen Wicht (1972)

From their first album: Hoelderlins Traum. Hoelderlin is a German prog- rock band that was formed in 1970 as Hölderlin by Joachim and Christian von Grumbkow with Nanny de Ruig. They are influenced by rock, jazz, and folk music. They changed their name to Hoelderlin in 1973. They are apparently, still going!

The name Hölderlin is derived from the German romantic poet, so things would be a bit incomplete without a contribution from the great poet:

Ages of Life by Friedrich Hölderlin (1770- 1843)

Euphrates' cities and
Palmyra's streets and you
Forests of columns in the level desert
What are you now?
Your crowns, because
You crossed the boundary
Of breath,
Were taken off
In Heaven's smoke and flame;
But I sit under clouds (each one
Of which has peace) among
The ordered oaks, upon
The deer's heath, and strange
And dead the ghosts of the blessed ones
Appear to me.

North Utsire

Monday, 2 February 2015

The Free Talha Campaign

From Green World, the official magazine of The Green Party.

North Utsire

The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976)

The Man Who Fell to Earth is a 1976 British science fiction film directed by Nicolas Roeg. The film is based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, about an extraterrestrial who crash lands on Earth seeking a way to ship water to his planet, which is suffering from a severe drought. The film maintains a strong cult following for its use of surreal imagery and its performances by David Bowie (in his first starring film role) and vivacious Candy Clark.

Bowie, who was heavily abusing cocaine at the time of production, admitted later that he was in a fragile state of mind when filming was underway, going so far as to state in 1983 that "I'm so pleased I made that [film], but I didn't really know what was being made at all". He said of his performance:

I just threw my real self into that movie as I was at that time. It was the first thing I'd ever done. I was virtually ignorant of the established procedure [of making movies], so I was going a lot on instinct, and my instinct was pretty dissipated. I just learned the lines for that day and did them the way I was feeling. It wasn't that far off. I actually was feeling as alienated as that character was. It was a pretty natural performance. ... a good exhibition of somebody literally falling apart in front of you. I was totally insecure with about 10 grams [of cocaine] a day in me. I was stoned out of my mind from beginning to end.

Bowie and director Roeg had a good relationship on set. Bowie recalled in 1992 that "we got on rather well. I think I was fulfilling what he needed from me for that role. I wasn't disrupting ... I wasn't disrupted. In fact, I was very eager to please. And amazingly enough, I was able to carry out everything I was asked to do. I was quite willing to stay up as long as anybody."

Erm… that’ll be the coke then, Mr. Bowie.

Bowie being roused from a drugs binge 
before hair & sunglasses were added for filming 

Clip Synopsis
Humanoid alien Thomas Jerome Newton (aka Bowie) gets xenosexual with his favourite Candy treat by ripping off his nipples, eyebrows, fingernails and any other sticky-out bits including his nasal septum to her evident hysterical distress. It doesn’t take long before she’s after a bit of action-man shaped genital bump (it is David Bowie after all) only for it to go horribly wrong in a bit of a misunderstanding about application of KY jelly. Newton then starts remembering his presciently Tellytubby-esque alien family & feels a bit guilty as he reflects on his departure from them in a large piece of yellow toast in the desert. I have tried emulating this scene by ripping off my own nipples whilst keeping a straight face & I advise you get some nipple adhesive in advance from B&Q in order to put them back on again. I found I was also able to make women piss themselves with this technique, but it was through derisory laughter rather than fear. I had much more success with manufacturing a giant yellow triangular transport out of paper mache & Wheetabix boxes but sadly got pulled on the A617 just as I was achieving a good escape velocity. Should've gone to work on an egg.

Once again, the Google robots have been at work and slaughtered my creative endeavour by deleting my montage, so you are left with a meagre trailer. This of course makes my clip synopsis above look like the rantings of a mad man. Ah well, we live in a bland world where only the prescribed movies, music, and literature are allowed, purely for the sake of profit. Sod the fact I could have recorded this on a VCR in 1976, stuck the tape together physically myself expertly with latex glue, and be able to upload it that way. Now technology is a hindrance. The music that accompanied the original clip was a 1972 track called Black Snake by a prog- rock band called Atomic Rooster, from the album In Hearing of Atomic Rooster. That at least is available on Youtube. See any absurdities there?

North Utsire

Imbolc Trees

Photography from the Lincolnshire Fens, Imbolc 2011.
When the threshold hour is upon us, the numinous draws near...

North Utsire

Little Malcolm: It Wasn't Corduroy!

Little Malcolm is a 1974 British comedy drama film directed by Stuart Cooper. It was entered into the 24th Berlin International Film Festival where it won the Silver Bear. The film is based on the stage play Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs by David Halliwell. The full name of the play is used as the film title on the BFI Flipside DVD, released in October 2011, and pur-chased by your truly. The booklet is charming & detailed, as are the extras.

As an Apple Films project, Little Malcolm was the first feature film produced by former Beatle George Harrison. The film was shot primarily in Lancashire, in the north of England, during February and March of 1973 which enabled some great snow scenes amongst the almost saturnine quality of the cobbled dereliction. Harrison supplied incidental music for the soundtrack and, after being introduced to the duo Splinter by their manager Mal Evans, produced their song "Lonely Man" for inclusion in a pivotal scene.

Like many of Apple's film and recording projects, production on Little Malcolm was then jeopardised by lawsuits pertaining to Harrison, John Lennon and Ringo Starr's severing of ties with manager Allen Klein. Speaking in 2011, Cooper recalled that Harrison "fought for a very long time to extract Little Malcolm from the official receivers"; its entry in the Berlin festival was only possible because the festival was an artistic forum and not finance-related. After what Cooper described as an "incredible" reception at Berlin for "this very British film", Little Malcolm went on to win a gold medal at the Atlanta Film Festival in August 1974. Once the Beatles' partnership had been formally dissolved in January 1975, the film received a brief run in London's West End. The play has been aired in several versions & locations.

The erudite banter & deft wordplay conjoin with a naive political dynamic to make this film engaging viewing. It is one of those painful examinations of tortured working class male psychology contained within a bleak northern post- industrial landscape.  The argument between John Hurt (Malcolm) and David Warner (Nipple) in the 'corduroy scene' above illustrate the hilarious dialogue. It has a kind of innocence & rhythm similar to the much later Withnail & I (1987) which begs the question why, despite the problems surrounding its release, it hasn't become more of a cult classic. I am saying this with one caveat; and that is the somewhat macabre violence of the surprise finale, which I think is totally out of keeping with the thought- provoking whimsy of the film. More than that I will not say for fear of laying a spoiler upon your head. Despite the odd finale, perhaps more suited to the theatre than a film, its well worth a view though.

By North Utsire