Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Ian MacCulloch, Artist


North Utsire

Tryfan Walking Weekend

Some photos from a great walking weekend I had at the end of August.

North Utsire

Swiss Army Man (2016)

I recently went to the cinema (Home; the posh ‘new Cornerhouse’ in Manchester) to see a film called Swiss Army Man (dir. Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert), a précis of which reads;

“A hopeless man stranded on a deserted island befriends a dead body and together they go on a surreal journey to get home.”

Daniel Radcliffe was the dead man. Some would say he acts better as a corpse than someone alive, but I am not that cruel. I thought it was a bloody brilliant film, making imaginative use of minimal props and cast to explore some deep emotional currents. In fact, I have seen it twice now. First time I saw it I was struck by the clever use of absurdism using the forest as a backdrop. It reminded me of a couple of other films that had tried a similar thing; the Jean Luc Godard classic Weekend (1967), and the more recent Yorgos Lanthimos film The Lobster (2015). I think Swiss Army Man tore strips off both, although I think it would have been better titled Swiss Army Dude.

Swiss Army Man is one of three 2016 films I have seen recently with some powerful wilderness themes, concerned with emotional liberation. It seems, ecotherapy has landed big style in the indie cinema world. The other two were the NZ film Hunt for the Wilderpeople (dir. Taika Waititi), and Captain Fantastic (dir. Matt Ross), both of which were also excellent. 

North Utsire

Farm (album, 1971)

Tasty rural boogie blues rock with Crazy Horse influences, this lone album from Illinois’ sextet Farm is an air-guitarist’s delight. Intricate, dual guitar interplay is the order of the day, with lots of meandering solos full of those West Coast druggy vibes. If you’ve worn out all your bootleg outtakes of David Crosby and The Pure Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra’s Wally heider sessions, then this is the next logical step for your musical mind expansion.

* Del Herbert (lead guitar),
* Gary Gordon (vocals, guitar, bottleneck guitar),
* Jim Elwyn (vocals, bass),
* Steve Evanchik (percussion, harmonica),
* Roger Greenwalt (keyboards),
* Mike Young (drums).

01. Jungle Song (instrumental)-
02. Let That Boy Boogie -
03. Sunshine In My Window  -
04. Cottonfield Woman  -
05. Statesboro Blues -

"Formed in 1969, Farm was a band from Southern Illinois, whose bluesy, country rock style was very similar of that of The Allman Brothers, and Canned Heat. Recorded at Golden Voice Recording Studios in South Pekin, Illinois and released on a small (500 copy pressing) record label from Flora, Illinois, this Farm released a very obscure and rare album of heavy garage psych with fuzz guitars, congas, mouth harp, organ, bottleneck and timbales. They thank a certain George Leeman on the sleeve notes, as their friend and spiritual guide. The band disbanded in 1973."  *

* From Fuzz, Acid and Flowers: Comprehensive Guide to American Garage, Psychedelic and Hippie Rock (1964-75) by Vernon Joynson (Author) Borderline Productions 4th Edition (1997)

North Utsire

Turkish Aubergine (Imam Bayildi)

Aubergines are known as “poor man’s meat”. The Turkish imam who, legend has it, fainted with pleasure after tasting a stew of aubergines and other vegetables would certainly agree. The dish in question, imam bayildi (which translates as “the imam fainted”), has gone on to be a classic of Turkish cuisine, as has the 17th-century Ottoman sultan’s treat of smoked aubergine puree topped with diced stewed lamb or lamb meatballs, or hünkar begendi (“sultan’s delight”).

Best eaten the day after it’s made, and served at room temperature. I don’t routinely salt aubergines (modern varieties tend not to be bitter, which is what salting was designed to counter), but in this case I do because it’s a time-honoured way to ensure they’re properly seasoned.

4 aubergines, long, slim ones, ideally
1 lemon, halved
Salt and black pepper

120ml olive oil
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 red peppers, core and seeds removed, cut into long 1cm-wide strips
2 big garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin
1½ tsp ground cumin

1 tsp paprika
400g tinned tomatoes

2 sprigs fresh oregano OR Basil
¾ tsp dried oregano (Greek, ideally; or fresh oregano, picked and chopped) OR  large handful of fresh Basil.

Shave long, alternate strips of peel off the aubergines, top to bottom, so they end up striped, like zebras. Starting 2cm from the top, make an incision halfway into the flesh and cut down to 2cm shy of the bottom.

Put the aubergines in a large bowl and cover with two and a half litres of cold water. Squeeze in the lemon, drop in the skins and stir in two teaspoons of salt. Put a plate on top, to keep the aubergines immersed, and leave to soak for 45 minutes. Drain, then dry in a clean tea towel.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan on a medium-high flame. Fry the aubergines for eight to 10 minutes (take care, because the oil may spit), turning regularly, until nicely browned on all sides. Remove from the pan, turn down the heat to medium-low, add the onion and peppers, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often, until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and spices, cook for a minute, then stir in the tomatoes, two tablespoons of water, the sugar, fresh oregano, half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Turn the heat to low, put the aubergines on top of the veg, cover the pan and cook for 45 minutes, until the aubergines are steamed through.

In the meantime, heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Carefully lift out the cooked aubergines and place them cut side up in a 20cm x 30cm ceramic baking dish; they should be nice and snug. Prise open the aubergines, so they look like long canoes, then sprinkle the insides with a generous pinch of salt. Discard the oregano from the sauce, then spoon it into the aubergines, filling them as much as you can; don’t worry if some sauce spills out around them – it’s kind of unavoidable. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and leave the aubergines to cool to room temperature. Serve topped with a sprinkling of dried oregano.

This recipe is almost identical to the one for Afghani Aubergine, except the Afghani version uses coriander in place of oregano/ basil, and the aubegines may be chopped up rather than keeping them whole in their jackets. I often just mix and match between the two. The Afghani recipe is mentioned in Madhur Jaffrey’s book Veggiestan where she includes a recipe for a delicious yoghurt garnish:

450ml (scant 2 cups) of thick yoghurt.
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
Handful fresh chopped mint
Salt & pepper

Madhur calls the Afghani recipe Burani bonjon (eggplant with yoghurt sauce). She also mentions that the name Burani is popularly thought to have originated with the queen of Ctesiphon, Pourandokht, in Mesopotamia, who apparently was fond of yoghurt so her chefs made a variety of such recipes for her. In Iran, the ingredients of burani are blended and served cold. In Afghanistan, they are layered whilst still warm.

North Utsire