Nothing Going On

Saturday 2/7/2005

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Diary and Notes

It was a quiet day in the world. Apparently there was some sort of 'pop' concert thingy going on and a march in Edinburgh, but nothing important.

It's easy to be cynical. Every time I have seen a report on the news or in the paper they always manage to get a 'balanced' view of the Make Poverty History campaign. By balanced this means they report the plus side and the negative side equally. Equal airtime is given to the "lets end this inhumane madness" and the "whats the point of trying to do anything about anything" side of the stories.

If I suddenly discovered a method to end alll suffering for ever, allow everybody to live in happiness, peace and harmony and make the weekend a day longer it would be easy for journalists to find people who would think this is a bad idea and to interview them and make some people believe it is a bad idea too. OK so the rock concert is not going to end all suffering in the world, it wont end poverty in Africa, stop corrupt governments there draining off the wealth of the continent for their own gains, nor end war, drought, famine or AIDS, but it's better than the option of doing nothing and if it raises awareness (which is the aim of the exercise) then how can you sit and sneer.

I've seen a lot of news about this event and they always end by interviewing somebody who thinks that it's patronising or that the people who make music have no right to be saying these things and should just keep on making music. The next time you see a news report with somebody whineing on about how a group of rock stars aren't going to change the world in a day, ask yourself what this person's agenda is, why don't they want people to try to do something to help, why do they think it's wrong for people to say that it is insane for an entire continent of nearly a billion people to be poorer now, more likely to die from disease or hunger and to have a higher rate of child deaths than they did twenty years ago. I don't doubt that there are celebrities massaging their own egos, that there should have been African musicians at every gig to highlight the cultural heritage of the continent and to show us all that they too are human beings, but for an imperfect event, you would have to be a cold and hard hearted bastard not to be moved.


I was going to talk about food and how top restaurants manage to make excellent sauces by reducing things over and over again to concentrate flavour, but if you want an example cook the dish described below. The idea is based on what I imagined a French chef would do with the ingredients in my cupboard, if it were 1967 and the 'pied noir' were coming home and influencing the cuisine of the country. I'm going away for a few days so had a few things to use up and the dish below is a sort of Algerian inspired French creation. It was damnably fine.

Cake Blog

Luscious Lemon Licious: It's a stupid name but was quite good. Lemon mousse, marshmallow, sauce, white chocolate and lemon muffin bits. From M&S, where else?


  • Boeuf a la Pied Noir
  • Sweet Potato Bake
  • Braised Leeks
  • Braised Celery


    Boeuf a la Pied Noir
    1 Piece Rib Eye Steak
    2 Tbsp Olive Oil
    1/2 Onion
    1 Stick Celery
    1 Carrot
    1 Leek
    1/2 Green Pepper
    1/2 tsp Black Peppercorns
    2cm Cinnamon Stick
    2 Cloves
    2 Rashers Bacon
    1/2 Glass Sweet White Wine (Sauterns)
    Knob Butter
    Sweet Potato Bake
    2 Sweet Potatoes
    100ml Single Cream
    25g Butter
    1/4 tsp Nutmeg


  • Boeuf al Pied Noir: Reduce reduc. I'm getting smaller but bigger at the same time. That's the order of the day. It may seem wasteful but this is how you win a Michelin star (along with great presentation, top notch cutlery and snooty waiters). All these ingredients and most of them going in the bin, this is why people don't make sauces like the top chefs do, it's too much effort and nobody wants to be throwing such things away. Anywho, the plan is, make a super reduced sauce; finely chop the onions, leek, bacon, carrot, celery and pepper. Sweat in a little olive oil until soft then add the peppercorns, cinnamon and cloves. Add about 1 litre of water and bubble away with the pan lid on for about two hours. Remove the lid and begin to reduce the sauce down, very gently, until about 1/3 volume. Strain the sauce and thrown the solid bits away, you only want the juice. Keep reducing this until you have about a little drizzle of sauce left in the pan which when tasted should be super concentrated. Griddle the steak on a really hot griddle and allow to rest for ten minutes. Tip the juices from the steak into the saucepan. Add a knob of butter to the pan you cooked the steak in and deglaze the pan, then add the wine and reduce again until you have just a drizzle left. Pour the sauce into the deglazed pan and stir well. Serve the sauce drizzled over the steak and vegetables.
  • Sweet Potato Bake: Peel and thinly slice the sweet potatoes. Blanch in a little boiling water (for about 3 minutes) then arrange neatly in an ovenproof dish. Mix the cream with the nutmeg and pour over then top with a few knobs of butter. bake for 20 minutes.
  • Vegetables. Simmer these in the sauce pan (when it's reducing) for about 10 minutes then quickly fry in a little butter before serving.


    *All quantities are very approximate and for a single person