Friday, 21 December 2012

21/12/12 - The Miser's Cookbook

The festive season is upon us – a time for gluttony, slovenliness, drinking in the mornings and giving your digestive system a thorough workout.
To help you cope with the vagaries of yuletide catering and all of the complex political struggles therein, here’s a handy JuicyPips guide to Christmas cookery – I call it ‘The Miser’s Cookbook’: a list of seasonal dishes that you can throw together on the cheap.
…because you can’t spell ‘profligate’ without ‘rofl’.

Robin Skewers
I went to school with a boy named Robin Skewers.
Not really. That was a pointless lie.
The principle of Robin Skewers is a very simple one. You see, the holiday season is a social time; you’ll find that there are all manner of parties, get-togethers, mixers and what-have-you that necessitate a broad variety of finger foods. But you don’t have to slave for hours creating hoi sin duck canapés or making pâté de foie gras from first principles – this dish is one you can prepare (for free!) on the way to a party. Simply select a longish, straightish, sharpish stick and pierce a few festive songbirds as you go. The nature of the preparation - or assault, depending on your perspective - allows them to marinade gently in their own rich juices; a further benefit of this is that you don’t necessarily have to track down genuine Christmas robins for this dish. Any starling, thrush, chaffinch or tit will do – with a skewer through them, they’ll all be red-breasted. (To be honest, this is largely their own fault for forgetting to fly south for the winter. Easy pickings.)

Sprouts the way everyone prefers them
As Richie pointed out in the Bottom ‘Holy’ special, nobody likes sprouts but you have to have them at Christmas. So, here’s the best way to prepare them to make sure their inherent unpleasantness is minimised as much as possible:
Blanche 1kg of sprouts in a pan of boiling water for three minutes. Drain, then tip into a bowl of iced water to cool quickly, drain again, then set them aside. Sauté 100g of pancetta in goose fat until crisp. Add in the sprouts and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, sprinkling in sage to taste.
Then throw the whole sorry mess into the bin.
It’s Christmas, you made sprouts, well done. But no-one wants to fucking eat them.

Salt and pepper on toast
I hate it when the names of dishes make you work for the meaning. What the arse is Chicken á la King? Royalty-flavoured poultry? (Actually, I just Googled it – it’s got sherry in it. Eww.)
However, ‘salt and pepper on toast’ leaves little room for misinterpretation.
When I was a poor student, I used to have this for dinner quite often. It’s a quick ‘n’ easy snack that costs little, takes almost no time to prepare, and gives you a complex arrangement of flavours from across the globe.
Firstly, take two slices of bread and stick ’em in the toaster. Turn the toaster on, so that it’s ready to start toasting. Wait for the toaster to toast the bread until the bread becomes toast. Remove the toast from the toaster. Butter the toast (with real butter, if you’re feeling flush – otherwise Tesco Value Generic Yellow Spread Of Uncertain Origin will do). Sprinkle on a little salt, and a touch of black pepper. Eat the bastard.
Peppercorns are technically fruit, so this counts as one of your five a day.

Shit from Iceland
Everyone wants to make an ostentatious, rich, glorious meal on Christmas day. That’s what Christmas is all about. A huge turkey, roast potatoes, stuffing, parsnips, fucking sprouts, little sausages wrapped in bacon, honey-basted carrots, bread sauce, gravy, the whole shebang.
Unfortunately, many of us are absolute fucktards in the kitchen, and can barely knock up a microwave ready-meal without filling the house with billowing clouds of acrid, plasticky smoke. Christmas dinner is bloody hard to get right, and if you present a shonky spread to your family on what is supposed to be the happiest day of the year, they’ll all think you’re a wanker. And they’ll be right.
So if you’re resigned to the fact that everyone’s going to dislike what you give them anyway, you can save a lot of time and money by just buying some of the horrible festive shit that’s on sale in Iceland (the shop, I mean, not the country [In Iceland the country, incidentally, they eat hamborgarhryggur, ptarmigan, hangikjöt and möndlugrautur at Christmas – delicious, probably]). I’ve just had a quick squizz at their website and picked out a few options for you:
Beef Wellington: £10 – if you’ve ever tried to make Beef Wellington, you’ll know just how hard it is to get right. With this in mind, you can be damn sure that the ingredients Iceland have used here will be top notch. How could they not be? What could go wrong?
45 cocktail sausages: £1 – these may well be related to the sausages on offer at your local greasy spoon as part of the traditional Full English: reprehensible as an eat-at-home choice but, in context, actually kinda delicious. These cheeky little nubbins cost a little over two pence apiece, and are almost certainly made of eyelids and arseholes but still, there’s potential for deliciousness. Give ’em a go, see what happens.
25 chicken dippers: £1.50 - these claim to be 100% breast meat. Have a look at the price of an actual chicken breast in a proper shop. Make a weight-for-weight comparison. Draw your own conclusions.
Easy-carve three-bird roast - £10 – seriously? You can buy a turkey, a chicken and a duck, plus pork, cranberry & orange stuffing, for a tenner? SIGN ME UP! There’s no way that can go wrong.
12 bacon & sausage rolls: £2 – probably actually quite tasty, this. Although the description that the website gives (honestly, check for yourself) is ‘a mix of frozen button Brussels sprouts and chestnuts’. Bit odd.

Braileys
My mum invented this in the early nineties. There’s a lot of Baileys-related hoo-hah around Christmas time – Baileys coffee, Baileys cheesecake, Baileys sauce to pour on your Christmas pud, that kind of thing. Forget all that shit. Mix a sizeable measure of Baileys with an equally robust slug of brandy. Knock it back before it curdles or separates. Boom.
(Now, I know that mixing two pricey spirits is not really in keeping with the ‘miser’s cookbook’ idea, but look at it this way: Tesco Value Baileys [that’s not exactly what it’s called, but it is a real thing] is £4.50. Your nan’s probably got some brandy hanging around. Bingo.)

Christmas Crackers
This works on two levels: firstly, it’s a cheap and easy Christmas dish (which is what we’ve been talking about this whole time, obviously. Pay attention), and secondly it’s an amusing prank to play on your guests.
Ingredients required:
- one packet of Jacob’s Cream Crackers
- that’s it.
Leave one biscuit at each place setting, near the water glass. People will probably notice them, but won’t mention it. When it comes time to pull your crackers, they’ll notice that there aren’t any crackers to pull. Aha! Make them eat their biscuits instead! Oh, the japery. Cream crackers are bloody awful too, so they can use the bits they can’t finish as a rudimentary crumb hat. You’ll seem so whimsical and mischievous.
Actually, no, that’s a crap idea, don’t do that.

Mince Pies
Come on now, admit it – you don’t actually like mince pies, do you? No, nobody does. They’re like sprouts, you just have to have the bloody things. The best tactic is to smother them in double cream or brandy butter so that you can sort of forget what you’re eating, by gumming up your jaws with artery-busting dairy produce.
This is no way to live. The time has come to reclaim the mince pie for purposes of actual festive pleasure.
Imagine this. Say it’s July, or another month that is far away from Christmas. (April is another. Or September. Use a calendar for tips.) You go into a branch of Gregg’s or some other deep-fried filth den and ask for a mince pie. They may well assume that you want some kind of savoury pie that has minced beef in it. BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT THE NAME IMPLIES. So that’s what you’d get.
The “mince” in a festive mince pie comprises such disappointingly un-meaty fare as chopped dried fruits, distilled spirits and spices. This is wrong.
Eat meat pies. You will be happy if you eat meat pies. My robust physique and cheerful demeanour are evidence of this. Eat meat pies. Eat them. Meat.

Snowballs
If we’re honest, Christmas is basically an excuse to take a load of time off work and spend the whole time drunk. So why bother with food at all?
Here’s what you need to do. Forget all of those robins and bits of toast we were talking about, and just blow your festive catering budget on a bottle of Advocaat. (If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a rich, creamy liqueur made from eggs, brandy and sugar. It’s basically alcoholic custard.) It’ll cost you twelve or thirteen quid but hey, you’ve just saved most of that by not buying the Iceland three-bird roast, right?
Now, you can use your Advocaat to make a tasty holiday cocktail called the Snowball. The ingredients are as follows:
- Advocaat
- lemonade
- that’s it.
So that’s basically your whole Christmas catering taken care of in one quick hit - you just need those two bottles, and ideally a glass (although this isn’t essential). Mix ‘em together, smash it all down your gullet, and push on through to 2013. Merry Christmas!


Mistletoe Kissing

That's one hell of a slap he takes there. A real jaw-loosener.

Crapping Paper

Not everybody likes surprises. Why not remove the tension from Christmas with this giveaway wrapping paper? Click here.

Slo-mo Fire

Google Zeitgeist 2012

Click here for Google's 2012 review.

Merry Christmas from Kim Wilde

The Big Internet Museum

Here's a handy little thing, and very nicely put together. Never again need you feel out of the loop when people reference PBJT, Lycos or the Numa Numa guy. Click here.

An easily scared man

It's not bullying because he seems to enjoy it. So that's OK.

The 1987 Innovations Catalogue

Goodness, the future (or, at least, the present) looked exciting in '87. Click here and see.

Girlfails

James Bond Travel Map

This is pretty cool - Empire have created a set of James Bond travel maps so you can see where he jetted off to in each film. Click here.

A festive message from Victoria’s Secret

Muller Corner XL

Another classic from Pimp That Snack - click here for a seriously large yogurt.

Friday, 14 December 2012

14/12/12 - Doubles & Triples

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the grand and swooping double album released by The Smashing Pumpkins in 1995, was a tricky thing to absorb. It was (and remains) a thoroughly listenable work, with moments of true brilliance throughout, and it’s one of the key musical touchpoints of my youth. Maybe it is for you too? But at twenty-eight tracks, it was just too complex and serpentine for me to take in at the age of thirteen.
Gish and Siamese Dream were slightly before my time, but Mellon Collie was a must-buy simply on the strength of lead single Bullet With Butterfly Wings. (If you don’t know it [why not?!], click here - http://youtu.be/8-r-V0uK4u0) I remember hearing it on Steve Lamacq’s Evening Session on Radio One – which, at the time, was the place for cool new music – and him talking about the single’s video which was due to debut on television that coming Friday night. My friend Chris and I (musical buddies from an early age) made sure we were home from swimming in time to see the opening of Top of the Pops when the new video was to be shown, and being blown away by the staggering intensity of it. I don’t mean that in a pretentious, artwanky way – I’d just never seen anything like it. And I still bloody love that song. (I also clearly remember Chris and I doing the same rush-home-from-swimming thing when we knew Oasis’ new D’You Know What I Mean? video was coming… we were supercool.)
But I had a short attention span. The album, split into two discs - Dawn to Dusk, Twilight to Starlight - was simply TOO MUCH AWESOME for my little brain to cope with in one hit; I’ve subsequently learned that the vinyl version was split into six sections, with the songs in a totally different order, which would have been a whole order of magnitude more confusing for me. My system wasn’t primed for such an onslaught, I was still young and green and simple. So I did what I did in response to pretty much any situation at that age: I made a mixtape. All of my favourite songs from Mellon Collie, smooshed together into a more easily digestible chunk. I forget the exact order I put the tracks in, but I can tell you for certain which tracks they were: Bullet With Butterfly Wings, Zero, Fuck You (An Ode to No-one), Jellybelly, X.Y.U., Tonight Tonight, Bodies, 1979, Where Boys Fear to Tread, Tales of a Scorched Earth.
So I know those ten tracks really, really well – I listened to them over and over and over. The other eighteen songs… not so much. I mean, I know them, but they’ll always be filed in my brain, somewhat unfairly, as ‘those songs from Mellon Collie that I didn’t think were good enough to go on my mixtape, for some reason’. What a peculiar child I was. What a peculiar child I still am, really.

There’s something in my brain that wants albums to be relatively short, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. This harks back to my teenage days when I was obsessed with making compilation tapes – the shorter the songs are, the more you can squeeze onto a C90. Obviously this could be circumvented if the songs were good enough; The Wildhearts’ album Fishing For Luckies is one of my all-time favourites, and that begins with a seven-minuter. (It also contains one of the greatest songs ever written, Sky Babies, which weighs in at a muscular 11m36s - http://youtu.be/rU9Ep4zYM40) And that other pivotal double-album of the era, Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion I & II, is a massive musical menagerie that I know every second of by heart. But on the whole, brevity was key. This is what my brain tells me is right, even though it’s totally illogical, so the prospect of a new double-album by a band I like is both exciting and daunting in equal measure. On the positive side, it’s loads more new music by a band I like. On the negative… how will I learn it all?!

Like I say, peculiar.

There have been two triple (yes, triple!) albums this year that neatly illustrate this idiotic mental hurdle I’ve set for myself: one is Ginger Wildheart’s 555% project, and the other is Green Day’s triumvirate of ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tré!.
We’ll start with Green Day.
I was hugely excited when I learned that they were to release new material at the end of 2012, and not just one album but THREE. This is shithotawesome news, particularly given that the early reviews suggested they’d withdrawn from the grandiose likes of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown to record some stuff that was more akin to the Dookie/Insomniac era. What’s more, they were staggering the release; ¡Uno! came out in late September, ¡Dos! arrived in early November, and ¡Tré! was released a month later.
Now, this does mean that the lifecycle of each album is truncated, denied its usual gestation and absorption period as any regular album might enjoy. Think of a great album you bought, say, a year ago: you’d have a frenzied listening period when it was the best thing you’d ever heard, you’d listen to it over and over. Then you’d rest it for a while, so as not to over-expose it. Then a snippet of a song would pop into your head a few weeks later and you’d remember how much you loved it, and you’d go back to the euphoric listening-to-it-all-the-time stage. And so on. After a time, much of the album is second nature to you, you’re filling in and pre-empting as you go.
With this machine-gun frequency of album releases, you have to compress the story of each album, the manner in which you learn it and integrate it into your psyche, into a very short timeframe. Does this necessarily work? Well, time will tell. They’re bloody good albums though, and I’m extremely pleased by that.

555% is an ambitious and exciting project that Ginger Wildheart crowdfunded and promoted via social media. Using PledgeMusic as a platform, the recording of the album was funded by fans (me included) who paid for the record in advance before a single note had been recorded; the creation of the album was then drip-fed via Twitter, YouTube and email groups, with snippets of songs, footage from the studio and what-have-you all teasing and tantalising throughout the process. The name 555% refers to the amount of capital that was raised; Ginger set out a funding target which was quickly smashed, and as the money kept rolling in it was decided to curtail it when it reached a nice round number – 555% of the original target - so that the album would remain a relatively limited edition thing, and all of the extra money was used to tour and promote it. (He’s currently working on two similar projects – Hey! Hello! and Mutation. He’s the hardest-working man in music.) Now, I’ve been a Wildhearts fan for as long as I can remember, and I was chuffed to learn that a vast chunk of new Ginger material was being recorded. But a triple album? Was this going to be Mellon Collie all over again?

As it’s turned out, yes, kind of, but also no. The release of the album in its digital form was similar to Green Day’s approach; 555% consists of thirty tracks, and they were released for download in batches of ten on three consecutive weeks. But I’m an old-fashioned bastard, set in my ways, and am deeply cynical about downloading. I just can’t be arsed. Why spend my money and/or time on something so intangible? Particularly when so much effort has gone into the creation of a beautiful album sleeve? I’m very much of the mindset that if I want to listen to an album, I want to physically dig it out of the collection and feed it into the stereo, rather than keeping it all as files in an anonymous box. So I didn’t bother downloading 555%, I just waited for my magnificently presented triple-album to arrive in the post.
This, I maintain, was the correct thing to do. But thirty tracks is a lot to absorb in one go. Where do you start? Is the most sensible thing to treat it as three separate albums, and listen to them as freestanding entities? Probably, as it’s a real investment in time to power through the whole lot in one sitting each time; you find that you know the first twelve or thirteen tracks really well but then your attentiveness starts to wane.

This is, as yet, an unresolved issue. I don’t make mixtapes any more. Because I’m still basically a teenage wally at heart, my brain tells me that 555% needs to exist as a holistic offering rather than in fragmented, bite-size form, meaning that I don’t listen to it as much as I should. Which is something I’m going to work on, as it’s very good indeed. The Green Day triple, however, is rapidly weaving itself into my mental jukebox, simply because I’ve had slightly longer to separate it out and work through it at a logical pace. Does that make sense? I guess what I’m getting at is that I want to have loads of new music, but I can’t be trusted to manage my time and expectations correctly in order to breathe it all in at once. I need to have it doled out in neat little parcels, then be given time to inhale it at leisure. In a way, this is a metaphor for life itself.

Actually, no it isn’t.

Same Dress Disaster

Harvey Nicks' Christmas ad is really rather good.

Extraneous Lyrics

Budweiser Flash Fans

A beautiful, heartwarming idea from Budweiser Canada.

Disgruntled Brighton Christmas

Obviously not real, but very funny nonetheless.

Mario Warfare

Lovely little project - click here to see the full details on Kickstarter.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Bird Up

A great little ad for Wild Turkey.

Missed High-Fives

Without the ability to embed gifs, it's hard to explain quite how incredible the Missed High-Fives Tumblr is. But I implore you to click here and experience it for yourself. You won't regret it.

Snowman Surprise

Frightening people for the sake of it. This will always be funny.


Spurious Planning Notices

A wonderfully pure style of mischief, this. Click here.

Radioman

All the slebs love Radioman.

Bad Kids Jokes

A rich seam of peculiar comedy here.

Yoko Ono - Firework

It hardly needs reiterating that Yoko is as loopy as a vole's friend. This is very odd indeed.

The Stanley Steemer Variations

A good idea, brilliantly executed.