Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Nearly Chinese Pork Belly

If you are one of those namby pamby people who blanches at the thought of eating anything called “belly”, presumably out of some misguided sense of transference, body dysmorphia, or because you feel that eating a creature’s belly is any more unethical than consuming any other part (such as bacon), then look away now. The rich fatty pork meat of belly is ideal for making this kebab style dish. You could use another part of the animal, such as shoulder steaks, and I have. They are also quite delicious but don’t make such an eye catching title for a blog. I call this “nearly Chinese” because although I haven’t modelled it on any particular Oriental recipe, it tastes that way. You could aim to really Go Chinois  & try adding in Star Anise, Cinnamon, Cloves, even dessicated Coconut, and no doubt I will myself at some point. Below, however, is a perfectly good start. It’s particularly nice with rice, obviously.

1 tsp Cayenne
½ tsp Ginger Powder
1 tsp Garlic Granules or 2- 4 cloves
1 tsp Garam Masala powder
1/3 tsp Turmeric
½ tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 tsp Himalayan Rock Salt
1 tsp Fennel Seeds

Mix the dried herbs together in a small bowl.
3 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Tbsp Clear Honey

Mix the wet ingredients and add the dry ingredients above to them, whisking them in with a fork.
500g Pork Belly

Cut the pork into 1” x 1” cubes & add them to the above ingredients in a large bowl. You can cover this with cling film and marinade it in the ‘fridge for as long as you see fit; all day, a few hours, up to you.

Vegetables such as:
1 Pepper
1 Red Onion
2 Large (8 small) Mushrooms
Baby Sweet Corn
Green Beans
Once the pork has marinaded, chop the following vegetables into chunks and place them in a roasting dish. Pour the pork and marinade sauce out over the vegetables and put it in the oven at 200 degrees C for about 30- 45 minutes.

Because the marinade includes honey, if you don’t watch it, the pork will blacken quite quickly so watch out this doesn’t happen. You could put some protective aluminium foil around it for a bit, or whip it out just in time. I prefer to allow it to crisp up a bit because it adds wonderfully to the texture of the kebabs.

Serves 3-4

North Utsire

Hereford Pale Ale

Hereford Pale Ale

Wye Valley Brewery


4.0% (bottle)

Brewer’s Notes
HPA is a truly delightful pale ale. It’s smooth on the palate, and boasts a citrus hop aroma leading to a balanced bitter finish. Locally grown Target and Celeia hops play an important part in making this such a distinctive beer. With Maris Otter pale malt and malted wheat also being used, this is very much a pale ale with all the right ingredients.

This is without doubt the blandest beer I have ever “tasted”. I can’t even substitute the word “experienced” for “tasted” because it feels rather like a ghost has walked through you. I mean, I like a subtle, non gassy, easy to digest beer of moderate ABV, but bloody hell when a pint of Perrier becomes a serious candidate for a chaser, you know you’re onto a hiding to “nothing”. When I first poured Hereford Pale Ale into the glass, I felt I had to check if the bottom had fallen out of it & the beer drained away it's that anaemic. And forget any watery piss jokes, because that would be shaming a pint of piss by comparing it. This is probably great for Southern beer softies whose only other drink is champagne & would like to pretend they are drinking real ale, at the risk of making their hipster beards soggy.

You may order a pint of HPA in a pub in one of the following ways:
“Mine’s a pint of thin air landlord”
“A Pint of Bland please”
“Some Elfin water please”
or "I'm just going outside to take a deep breath".

Marks /10
5.00 (right down the middle)

North Utsire

Minsterley Parade

Minsterley Parade used to be a shopping precinct & housing project in Wythenshawe, Manchester, where I was brought up. In the early 1990's, a failure of local government to step up to the plate, plus a central funding crisis saw the shops become vacant, unserviced, and fall down around the residents ears akin to something in Beirut. You might think such decrepitude had an element of planning about it, sweeping away the rot before the new investment came in, but the area stayed like that for years. It wasn't fenced off. There was no security or policing. Kids played in the rubble and broken glass amongst the junkie's syringes and burnt out cars. It was perfectly possible to climb stairs at the back of the shops into derelict flats with windows smashed through, holes in the floor boards, walls, etc. The bag lady in the last picture was looking for ciggie dimps. These photos I took were in the Dave Sinclair mould, and although this wasn't intentional, I was a reader of the Militant newspaper at the time so perhaps my camera lens was led by his example. If anyone says "Ohh you carry too much anger/ political opinion/ rage, we're all classless now" I'll think of this example from my youth and shall not fail to direct them to this blog.

North Utsire

Bill Mason Band: Billy & The Rotas (1979)

Dodging the brick busses labbed from Moss Side, we gloomed steadily into the metropolis; a rickety sweat room above Jilly’s Rockworld on Oxford Rd, cloaked in shadow & smoke as sweet & sickly as patchouli. Each step up the stairs was another beckoning increment of Elysium as riffs wafted to greet us, the doorway at the top was a throbbing mouth which greedily swallowed us alive. A young teenager in the early 80’s, I had never been to a gig before. And this was a special gig, clad in leather with wide hollow eyes darting each & every which way, keen as prairie winds. A petulant strobe punctuated the swollen red glow of the room. Christian punk? Incredulous though it sounds even now, The Bill Mason Band were that rarest of things; animal, organic and raw with a Medieval purity spewing baleful St. Anthony’s Fire in every lyric. The End Times were here, tonight. I had wagged it from school earlier just to see them on TV debuting Mr. G from their only album No Sham! On screen, in the born again clinique of white studio lighting, overexposed & immaculately buffed the BMB were a shimmering contrast with tonight’s hedonistic fervour. Here, in the dark, the primal sweat and orgy of irrepressible raw sound, strangers became one animal, the Body of Christ lashing frantically at invisible phantasms of Hell, finding redemption in the storm of the strobe & driven like hail in the razor sharp pulsar of Dave Rawding’s snare.

You can forget all your troubles in this place
Forget your name, forget your face
Feel y’ heart suddenly begin to race
I thought this was a dancin’ concert
You got me here under false pretences
What a swizz! Talkin’ ‘bout God & heavenly showbiz!


North Utsire

Be Here Now: Ram Dass

North Utsire

Monday, 1 June 2015

Jodorowsky’s Dune

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Alfred Wainwright

This is a great documentary about Alfred Wainwright. Apart from filling me with a sense of awe at his prodigious technical output and stoic mountain fortitude, it was also reassuring to know he was a merciless curmudgeon, eschewing crowds of school kids on the peaks, and bemoaning encroaching commercialization. It inspired me to get yet more of the major Wainwrights under my belt in future. This documentary is the opening episode in the Wainwright Walks Coast to Coast series, with soggy biscuit Julia Bradbury, notable as in this episode there are thankfully relatively few soft porn shots of her huffing & puffing uphill for the camera. One of my teacher colleagues relayed a story about his friend who was up walking on the West Pennine Moors near Blackburn years ago. On the tops he came across a myopic old man smoking a pipe, and they agreed to walk down together. It was only after the old man had gone on his way that my colleague's friend realised he had been in the modest company of Alfred Wainwright. To delight in anonymity; to feel alive only when wrapped in the solitary cool breezes of the mountain; Wainwright is someone from whom we all can learn.  

North Utsire

Meditations on the Peaks: Julius Evola

Meditazioni delle Vette (translated as Meditations on the Peaks: Mountain Climbing as Metaphor for the Spiritual Quest) is a work by Italian esoteric writer Julius Evola. A collection of articles from between 1930 and 1955 as assembled by Renato del Ponte. Published in 1974 by La Spezia: Ed. del Tridente; English translation by Inner Traditions, 1998. The excerpt is from pages 22-23. Images are from a walk I did around Dovesone Reservoir in April this year. The descent was treacherous; partly though white rapid river, partly through ravine. I had to hang at full stretch in places just to get down through the slippery rocks. The words of Evola echoed through my mind. If they are the last words to go through my mind before falling to my death I thought, they are good words and worthy of an heroic end.

“In this way, beyond the natural symbol of the mountain, which is directly perceived by the senses, we can access its doctrinal and traditional symbolism, namely, the deeper content of all the previously mentioned ancient myths in which the mountain appears as the seat of divine natures, immortalizing substances, forces of solar and supernatural regality (for example, the solar mountain referred to in the traditions of the Hellenized Roman Empire and the mountain as the seat of Mazdean glory), as spiritual center (Mount Meru and the other symbolic mountains conceived as poles), and so forth. In fact, in all this we see the various depictions, personifications, and projections of transcendent states of consciousness, or inner awakening and enlightenment. These projects are said to be real when they no longer represent something vague, mystical or fantastic, but rather when they are perceived according to the evidence and normalcy of a superior order that regards as abnormal everything that was previously regarded as familiar and habitual.

“It is possible that the ancients, who ignored mountain climbing or only knew some rudimentary techniques (and therefore knew the mountain as an inaccessible and inviolable entity), were consequently lead to experience it as a symbol and as a transcendent spirituality. Considering that today the mountain has been physically conquered and that there are few peaks that man has not yet reached, it is important to keep the conquest from being debased and from losing its higher meaning. Thus, it is necessary that the younger generation gradually come to appreciate action at the level of ritual and that they slowly succeed in finding again a transcendent reference point. It is through this reference point that the feats of audacity, risk, and conquest as well as the disciplines of the body, the senses, and the will that are practiced in the immovable, great, and symbolic mountain peaks, lead men to the realization that all in man is beyond himself. In this way these feats will be justified in the context of the spiritual revolutionary movement that is currently emerging among our people.”

North Utsire

Peel Monument vs Darwen Tower



Holcombe Hill, Ramsbottom, Bury, Lancs

Darwen Moor, Blackburn with Darwen, Lancs
Peel Monument,
Holcombe Tower

Darwen Tower,
Jubilee Tower
Height above sea level

Architect/ Builders
William Grant

James Whalley
Sir Robert Peel, former Tory Prime Minister, textile capitalist, and founder of the modern Police force; “Bobbies or Peelers”
Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee and also to celebrate the victory of the local people for the right to access the moor.

Peel Tower is open to the public when the flag is flying from the top, but these occasions are limited. It was closed when I went.
Open all times. Access via an internal spiral staircase. The tower dome came off during strong winds on 11 November 2010. A replacement powder-coated stainless steel dome made by WEC Group of Darwen, which cost more than £35,000, was winched into place by helicopter on 13 January 2012.

Ramsbottom Moor, Manchester, into Cheshire basin, some of North Wales.
North Yorkshire
Morecambe BayBlackpool Tower,Cumbria, the Isle of ManNorth Wales,
 Derbyshire, elsewhere in Lancashire, and surrounding moorland.

65 stone + 17 iron = 82

£1000 by public subscription.
£650 devoted in aid of
the Nursing Association by public subscription.

Aesthetic Opinion
Manchester Evening News: Peel Monument is “not a specimen of architectural beauty"

James Jarret:
“The finest Prospect Tower in Lancashire

The Verdict
I’m all behind Darwen Tower in this architectural face off. Sure, its shorter, cost less to build, and looks like a 1950’s Pinewood Studios space rocket. But it was built to commemorate free access to the moor, which resulted from hard fought and bloody battles with greedy landowners. Plus the view from Darwen Tower is pretty phenomenal too. All Peel Monument can boast is testament to twice Tory PM Robert Peel, founder of the rozzers. No contest!

North Utsire