the dead harvest

2 Commentsby   |  03.20.10  |  news, Weblog

When I see these dismembered animals, from Albania, Spain, Sicily and France, not the developing ‘uncivilized’ world, I am pleased. Not because they are dead but because the communities that kill and eat them are being honest about where meat comes from. It is an unsentimental industry with lambs and goats, cows and pigs slaughtered and butchered with little more consideration than apples being picked. Yet if we did not harvest them, there would be no sweet farm animals to prick our consciences.
I eat meat, including hearts and testicles, it is in the nature of the work and to refuse would be almost coy. From choice I go for recognisable, unprocessed meat. I can taste the difference in organic and humanely killed animals. They tend not to have suffered a terrified, tissue-hardening adreniline rush just before their ineviatble demise. I ask myself if I would kill to eat meat, and I hope I would. Burgers, sausages, pies and ready meals take the pressure off. Eating the ear of a pig makes you think, it is somehow more barbaric than a rib or chop.
These pictures, I consider quite beautiful in their own way. If they at least make you conscious, aware that meat does not grow in packets, washed and ready wrapped, then I am satisfied. More »

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southall … a little india

0 Commentsby   |  02.01.10  |  Weblog, adventures, Weblog

Southall appears in the midst of suburban west London like a babbling oasis of spicy colour. Known as ‘Little India’ the district is the Indian capital of the UK, and lately hosts coach-loads of European tourists officially sightseeing the bustle. The first South Asians arrived here in the early fifties, believing that close to London is close to riches. Work was plentiful at the new Heathrow Airport and in the local factories. The community grew. By the seventies, most of the big high street names had left and the largely Punjabi 2nd generation had moved into business, providing the growing populace with all things Indian. Today around 60% of the population is of Asian heritage. The counter colonisation is thorough and for all its religious mix, it is quietly settled.
Many of the locals have never seen India though they clearly respect and maintain their cultural, business and culinary roots. People bargain here. They talk to each other; a lot and quickly. The Broadway is swathed in every colour of sari, shop windows glisten with intricate, bright gold jewellery that seems to have been spun by insects and everywhere is the tantalising aroma of jalebi, saffron and mystery. Here you can take in a Bollywood film at the luxurious Himalaya Palace then nip down to the gaudy Glassy Junction pub for a pint of draught Cobra and a real curry before settling up in rupees.
‘Everyone comes to Southall on a mission,’ explains Biljinder, the man behind Rita’s, a smart café attracting diners from all walks of life with its authentic Punjabi menu. ‘The market and streets are choc-a-bloc on a Bank Holiday weekend. We take for granted that we can get a salwar kameez (traditional dress) across the road but people travel hundreds of miles for these things.’ Shopping in Little India is a bespoke wonder. While you wait a tailor will nip and tuck or a jeweller will personalise your purchase. Yet there is no hard-sell; incongruous as it is vital, if this is a satellite of Mother India, it is without the constant hassle … and the monsoons.

Biljinder and his father, Kundan (both chefs) are there for ‘when the stomach rumbles.’ They specialise in Chaats; essentially street food, made in-house and daily with prime ingredients including homemade paneer (cheese) and garden fresh spices. Rita’s gets through half a tonne of potatoes each week, testament to the irresistibility of Alu Tikka Chaat – two potato cutlets with chickpeas, tamarind sauce and yoghurt — at under three quid. ‘This is raw Indian, not English Indian food,’ warns Biljinder, and he’s right, the two are continents apart. Here in sunny Southall are the untamed, raucous flavours of hot and tropical India, no cream to soften the bite. ‘And we rarely eat poppadoms,’ he sighs. More »

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teach a man a dish … and you feed him for life

0 Commentsby   |  01.31.10  |  news, Weblog

Food has become a national preoccupation, fed by the constant presence of Jamie, Gordon and other celebrity chefs on our screens. But for some of us, cooking is in danger of becoming a spectator sport as we sit back and watch rather than rolling up our sleeves to join in. Basic skills such as jointing meat, filleting fish and baking bread, which were once taken for granted, have gone by the wayside. I decided to enrol on three very different food courses in my quest to learn some fundamentals of food preparation. Not just cooking, but the whole process from choosing ingredients to preparing them. To understand meat I joined a course at The Ginger Pig in London’s Marylebone, a traditional butcher that specialises in free-range rare breeds with four stores in the capital and one in Yorkshire. For fish I headed to the Billingsgate Seafood Training School at the UK’s biggest inland fish market, and for bread making I went to learn more from the award-winning breadmakers Degustibus.

The Meat Class More »

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the parachutist — an interview

1 Commentby   |  12.21.09  |  news, Weblog

Black + White Photography magazine publish this lovely interview in the 2009 Christmas issue. To view or download a PDF click the link: | The Parachutist | More »

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jewish manchester

2 Commentsby   |  12.19.09  |  Weblog, adventures

_JWH0851The sun shines down on North Manchester’s small, well-established Jewish community, just a stone’s throw from Victoria Station, a couple of miles north of  the vibrant city centre. In a story that has parallels across Europe, the UK and The United States, this ‘quarter’ grew from its proximity to the railway station; emigrants fleeing poverty and persecution over the last century headed West, and settled where they arrived.

The proud black Homburgs of the Orthodox Jews on Leicester Road speak of another era. Outside Brackman’s Bakery, the place to meet and exchange news over a smoked salmon bagel for the last 84 years, they mingle amongst the constant flurry of activity. In the array of Orthodox to more liberal eateries between here and Kings Road (the two main streets that form the heart of the enclave), I have the thrilling sense of being an outsider in a strange land. There are signs in Hebrew, and subtler signs in the people. Many women wear wigs to hide their real hair. Under the kippah, (skullcap) young boys sport sparse, dangling ringlets in deference to a biblical injunction not to shave the corners of the head. Besuited men display tzissit (stringlets), hanging from ‘any four cornered garment’ to keep the wearer ‘on the straight and narrow.’ These are the clues to a people living by the Talmud’s dictate, following a 5000 year old religion that has honoured and kept its roots wherever it has found itself. More »

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