Wednesday, March 27, 2019


The other night I had some of the best squid I’ve ever tasted.  It was at a Japansee restaurant in London, called Fushan, in New Oxford Street.  It looked like this:

It was deep fried and coated in a spicy batter, and it was mostly tentacles, but I can’t really tell you what made it so special – just, you know, the crunchiness and the taste (of squid).

And it appeared on the menu like this:

Karaage, I now discover means “Chinese fry” in Japanese, which confuses matters a little, though only a little.

So next day, filled with optimism and mild obsession, I went into the local Waitrose looking for more squid that I’d cook myself.  There was some to be had and it was reduced, though it was just the tubes with no tentacles. I also don’t currently have a deep fat fryer, so the squid was pan fried with garlic, lemon and parsley, and it was perfectly fine but not fantastic.  Looked like this:

And then a couple of nights later in Efe’s in Brick Lane, I had squid breaded and deep-fried Turkish-style, and at this point it started to occur to me that maybe I only really like the tentacles.  They're certainly the bits that crisp up best.

And here is another less than fantastic squid dish that I had in Tokyo; a tube again, and filled with something inscrutable and really not all that appealing.  I’m sure regular readers will explain to me what’s going on here:

And then I thought about Thurston Moore and one of his early meetings with Mike Watt.  He quotes Watt saying, “All I eat is squid.  If I’m going to go to a booze joint, they’d better have squid. So he ordered all this squid and he was shoveling all this squid into his mouth.”  This is Thurston doing his impersonation of Watt eating squid – you can find the  interview, not all of it about squid, on Youtube.

This is Mike Watt apparently eating Euros.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


Sometimes I wonder when the gin bubble will burst and it’ll stop being cool.  Not any time soon I expect since, as my pal Jonathan and I were discussing, gin is essentially so very easy to make.  You take some neutral spirits (which are more or less vodka), add various flavors, historically juniper but these days take your pick – hyssop, frankincense, strawberries, whatever - mix ‘em up and there you have an artisanal uniquely flavored gin.  The possibilities are endless.  Exhaustingly so.

I was having this conversation in the Port House House on the Strand in London, a Spanish wine and tapas bar where they have a gin and tonic menu (of course they do).

What you see above on the left is made with Aviation Gin, which I thought was a basic  gin that I bought in California in supermarkets, but I guess I may have been wrong about that. There’s some lavender in there too. I forget the name of the gin in the one on the right (which is the same as the one at the top of this post) but there’s orange peel in the glass and it tasted vaguely of marmalade. 

And these were just fine but they weren’t the real reason I was there.  When I’d been there before I’d had the morcilla con heuvos cordones, black pudding from Burgos with a fried quail egg on top, which was spectacular - the morcilla rather than the egg - so I had to go back and have it again – and I did – and it was every bit as good as I remembered it, though now I’m thinking I could do it myself if I found a source for the right morcilla.

Also on the menu were Papas Arrugadas, Canarian wrinkled potatoes with a mojo sauce, which seemed irresistible but they were a disappointment – a bit soggy I’d have said, but maybe they were meant to be that way.  

Here’s something similar I made earlier, in fact years back. 

And as if my gin ruminations had come back to haunt me today I got some targeted advertising (yeah right) for non-alcoholic gin and tonic.  I mean, really, why would you? Really.

Sunday, March 10, 2019


In the run up to Burns Night I overbought haggis.  At first I couldn’t find a big one so I bought two small ones and then I did find a big one so I bought that as well, and that was the one I cooked.  

The packaging said it served ten, and since there were only four of us at my humble Burns Night shindgig, I had some leftover.   As with so many things, not least Christmas turkey, and quite a few roasts, the leftovers sometimes seem better than the thing itself.
 So I made a haggis shepherds’ pie, and it was a blast

And then last week, stuck for something for dinner, I defrosted one of the small haggis’s which had been lurking in the freezer,  That was fine but again I had some leftovers and made a haggis breakfast scramble, which was ok but not fantastic.

Anyway as I was doing all this kept thinking about the great Calvin Trillin’s fantastically surreal line: “The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.” 

Growing up in the Nicholson household we only ever had leftovers on Mondays, which were the remains of the Sunday roast.  My mother wasn’t good at roasting meat - she kind of boiled it in the oven.  She’d probably have done better with a haggis.

Friday, March 8, 2019


I've said it before so it must be true: there is no end to what can be done with a sandwich:

The attempted murderer, identified only as Klaus O., had a basic chemistry lab in his basement, which the Judge Georg Zimmermann described as "more dangerous than all combat agents used in World War II." I'm not sure I exactly know what that means, or what exactly a "combat agent" is in this context, but it does sound like a bit of unnecessary exaggeration.  Maybe it lost something in translation

Klaus O didn’t speak at his trial but prosecutors said they believed he wanted to see his colleagues’ physical decline.  Really?  You think?

Monday, March 4, 2019


And speaking of hippo foot jelly, as we were, this image just surfaced from the depths of the interwebs:

It’s lamb rather than hippo, but as I often say, I think that losing our taste for aspic has been a huge detriment to western civilization.  But who listens to me?  Of course when you think of jelly you think of Bompas and Parr, who used to be known as jellymongers, but are now described as “the leading expert in multi-sensory experience design.”

I read this on a leaflet accompanying an exhibition in the crypt of St Johns, Bethnal Green, titled The Scent of Other Worlds, sculptures by Lucy Hardcastle, smells by Design in Scent, and the whole thing sponsored by Virgin, designed to give you a sniff of what other planets in the universe might smell like. Mars was my favorite:

There was no jelly at the opening party but there were cosmopolitans that came in plastic pouches, like space cocktails, I suppose.  And when I got back home, I found that his image had surfaced too.  

There’s more that one way to jelly your lamb.

Friday, March 1, 2019


If you find yourself in, let’s say, South Woodford and you see a shop called Transylvanian House, well obviously you’re going to go in there, poke around and probably you’re going to buy something, aren’t you?

Yes, you are.  I bought a pack of smoked pigs' trotters- aka Picioruse Afumate:

And call me a fool but I thought, well they’re smoked so they’re already cooked, so all I need to do is warm them up and serve them with some sauerkraut and Bob (or perhaps Vladimir) is my uncle.

Turns out that neither Bob nor Vlad is my uncle.

The trotters may have been cooked hut they were hard, low on flesh, boney of course, and in the final analysis inedible.  Disaster: and all my own flair.

Poking around on the interwebs the correct method seems to be to stick ‘em in water in a pot and boil them for four hours and eat ‘em with beans.  I’ll know better next time, if there is a next time.