Sunday, 30 March 2008


I am sorry to report that the film adaptation of Love in the time of Cholera was as bad as feared.
No make that it was worse than feared. I know it is hard when a book that is special to you is turned into a film. There is always a danger of disappointment. As an optimistic person I always hope that a film like this will turn out like the film another one of my all time favourite books: The English Patient. Alas it was not to be and I could not wait for the film to end. C'est la vie and in a bizarre twist of fate I am looking forward to rereading Love in the time of Cholera as an act of claiming it anew.

The world is growing lighter and in a nod to that Saturday turned out to be a beautifully relaxed day dictated more by the enjoyment of spending time with friends and drinking a beer (or two!) than doing the jobs than needed doing. We introduced a good friend to Black Door and enjoyed a pint of real ale. Can I please go link crazy and suggest that everyone in the known universe checks out this page The boss & I ended up having a Chinese lunch/dinner at a place called Long Wall which was an OK experience. I think we ended up eating from the chinese menu and it was certainly a spicy experience. One I would think about returning to.

Today I have been at work which is boring but despite the rain this morning I decided to cycle. Now these days dressing in my cycling gear resembles the process a NASA astronaut goes through to prepare for a zero G space walk. I decided it was time to further complicate this process by adding my iPod to the mix. It was a great ride in (slightly more sedate on the way home) but made memorable by the inclusion of this gem from the Manic Street Preachers. I love the way that you can mishear lyrics, but that is another post.

Finally, the Helsinki beer festival is coming up and I'm looking for willing victims (I mean friends) to join know who you are, get in touch and the Monkey House Kitchen will do the rest!

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Hija de la fortuna

I have finally finished this book and while I love to read I find myself somewhat frustrated by it. It started with some kind of Gabriel Garcia Marquez magic and became a linear story that invested time in creating charcters and yet ultimately left them hanging while it tried to get itself to then ending that it had already signposted. However, I think it is very easy to use strong words to convey an opionion on a book and maybe it is better to speak with a softer voice.

This novel is unapolegetically episodic and is written strongly enough to propel the narrative to a conclusion. It is an enjoyable read. It would be a good holiday read. However it's problem is that it seems to be punching above it's weight as a piece of literature. It creates fantastical situations but does not invest time in making them wonderful. It is as if it is somehow a better book in a hurry. It seemed impatient to get to it's ending. Or was that me? If I can give an example, the Sommer's house in Chile seemed like a checklist of a fantastical south american house: English spinster with mysterious past - check. Indian cook whose cooking is amazing - check. Lead character who cannot be tamed - check. This kind of writing by numbers unfortunately comes off as sloppy when compared to the giants of the genre. The images it conjoured in my mind are stock hollywood cliches, which while revelaing a lot about my mind makes me realise that this book feels like it was written with a screenplay adaptation in mind that would create and oscar winning epic. That is perhaps a bad thing to wrtie about a book that entertained me. I should say that I never regret reading a book, however much it may annoy/challenge me (take a bow Gao Xingjian's Soul Mountain) and this is no exception. However I am not drawn to read another one of her books on this experience.

My next read was a recommendation from a friend and I am very curious to see what it brings. I have in turn recommened Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera. We are going to see the movie adaptation of the book on Thursday night and I am worried. I fear that it will be bad enough to destroy my friend's temptation to read the book. I am, definately, fearing the worst.

Monday, 24 March 2008


Where to begin?

Maybe with the confession that I started watching Norwegian seasame street last night after the kitchen closed up? Or should I talk about how that led me to finding REM's legendary performance of Furry Happy Monsters? I want to talk about how we've been out walking on a frozen snow covered lake under beautiful blue skies? I want to mention Moro, who provided the basic recipes for yesterday's gathering. And yet, and yet...I am going to go and play my guitar and finish writing these songs that have been sitting there while I've been lazy and doing other stuff.
What I will say is that we have a load of left overs from yesterday and I've had the idea to curry them up and we have some assorted vegetables in the fridge and it's going to be a good feeling to know that nothing will be wasted.

Friday, 21 March 2008


Joy Division's Atmosphere, while beautiful was never an easy listen and for me is forever linked with Rick Slater's suicide.

I know there are some people who knew Rick better than me and were more deeply affected by the absolute abruptness of his death. Yet listening to that song tonight I have been taken back to those days from long ago. I still remember that morning, sitting bored in my class looking out the window to the train line and wondering why the train had stopped where it had. When we were finally gathered and could feel the bad news in the chapel (because these kind of gatherings never happened if everything was normal) the worst thing was the sheer helpless fear that overtook me when I realised it had to be Rick before the headmaster said his name because his seat next to mine was empty.

I couldn't listen to Atmosphere for a long time after that and yet I had loved it as a song before that tragic event and I have always kept some Joy Division in my CD collection. Depending on where I am I have been able to listen to it or have needed to avoid it.

Last night was a second late night on the trot with some very good people, silliness abounded, we laughed and the beer flowed. We went and saw Hallam Foe at the cinema and retired to a bar for a good night. Today has been quiet and pleasant. Some food is being prepared as I type and I will write about it on Monday. So it was quite a surprise to be in such a good place and suddenly to find Atmosphere pop up randomnly on my iPod. It was a bittersweet tug that pulled me without hesitation into my own past. It may sound strange to say so but that it can do that is a very good thing.

Monday, 17 March 2008


The Kitchen relocated over the weekend to the Finnish seaside town of Hanko. Well to a small 20m2 hut on a beach about 6km out of Hanko. It was fantastic to just relax for a few days, cook some nice food, drink some good wine (and a few Finnish beers) and indulge in crazy activities like swimming in the Baltic in March, naked.

This was our fist experience of a Finnish Möykki and it was excellent to cook in what the tourist office described as a well equipped "Kitchenette" which the rest of us understand to mean very basic! As I have mentioned before on this blog (here) that these holiday cottages can be good for cooking and so it proved here. Our menu was

Lingunie puttanesca a la Hanko
Beef curry with jasmine rice and naan bread
Steak and crispy baked potatoes with cream cheese

Needless to say the point here is that you never know what you are going to find in the way of cookware and utensils and you just have to enjoy improvising on the spot. Once again we came up trumps with a cast iron frying pan that did the steaks proud. The lack of running water or sink didn't seem to hamper the operations and the curry turned out to be the winner of the weekend in terms of flavour in return for the most basic cooking.

Cubed beef
Garam Masala
Coriander seed ground
Cumin seeds
Red Chillis
Tinned tomatoes

Heat the oil in the pan.
Brown the onions and then add the beef. Cook for a minute or two and add the garlic, chilli and ginger.
Add the vegetables (except the spinach) and continue to cook. Add the tinned tomatoes and a good dash of beer.
Bring to the boil.
Add spices. I have to say that as this point I used my judgement. I had some home made garam masala so I used that as the main spice and added lesser amounts of Coriander seed, cumin seed and tumeric (getting less with each one).
Reduce to a simmer and leave for as long as possible.
This is the perfect time go for a sauna, swim in the sea (if mad enough) and then have a beer on the veranda before going back to the kitchen and
Add spinach
Cook rice and Naan.

We also had some kiwi fruit with ricotta for breakfast which was divine.

(Please note that not all the items behind the plate were used in making the dish!!!)
The best bit here was the kiwis have been begging to be eaten at home and somehow always managed to get overlooked. Here nothing was wasted and all leftovers came back to Helsinki to be turned into a lunch this week.


It was also a chance to read a bit and while I continue with Isabel Allende's Daughter of Fortune I am not gripped by it. Yes it is well written but it seems to be a story trying to be fantastical rather than something fantastical been told as a story. Maybe my next book will be something special, I've had a run of duds recently so my luck is due to change.


Until next time, waste nothing...I'm off to make the left overs from the Hanko trip into something interesting....pasta, cabbage and ham...where to begin??

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Hee Haw!!

Another week has passed in snowy Helsinki and the days are getting longer which makes me happy. However my workaholic tendencies seem to be getting more extreme and not less. I have been doing crazy things like agreeing to extra meetings at both ends of the day and then bringing work home and carrying on. I'm not happy with this and spoke to my boss yesterday about it and while it is up to me to sort out at least I'm not sitting on it and letting it fester. Off to Sweden today with work and back on Wednesday morning, found out yesterday that one place we're going to visit is 4hrs drive each way from where we are staying. Time to pack the iPod and a good book I think.

Having basically said "oh woe is me" in the paragraph above I must confess to being a glass half full kind of person. Therefore it should not surprise anyone that after an excellent movie, a beer (or two) and a good night's sleep this boy's view of the world is back to super positive. I'm all boyscouty this morning and ready for whatever insane challenges may come. I have a worrying tendency to spout positive claptrap in English and unsurprisingly most of the Finnish I seem to be learning seems to be in this vein as well. Time to seek professional help!!! I digress, so back to the beer and movie. Unfortunately I didn't make the Thursday Night Movie Club this week but am definately going next week. Instead the boss and I settled back and watched "It's a wonderful life" instead. It's not one I would watch everyday but once in a while it's excellent to let it's magic work on your tired bones.

Pad Thai Noodles a la Monkey House Kitchen.

This week I managed to get into the Kitchen and make a Pad Thai Noodles my style (for this week at least). I hope you try it and that it tastes good.

If I have never spelt it out before I do believe that recipes are guidelines only. They are there to be adapted, pushed, pulled, bullied, loved but not necessarily obeyed. So never be afraid to wing it. After all, that way you will waste less and things will be tastier.

Thai fish sauce
Lime Juice
Palm Sugar
Dried prawns (in boiling water)
Onion (or spring onions)
Vermicelli noodles
2 beaten eggs
Bean sprouts
Unroasted peanuts crushed in a pestle and mortar

Make sure everything is prepared before you start this - you will not have time to do it once the cooking starts!

Soak the noodles in boiling water for 10 minutes, then drain and have ready.
Put some oil in a wok
When hot add some of the chilli
Fry the prawns and mushrooms and set aside
Put in the rest of the chilli plus the garlic, onions, dried prawns (and water), fish sauce and palm sugar and lime juice.
After a short while add the noodles, mushrooms and prawns
Mix well
Add the beaten egg and leave for 2 minutes or so for the egg to set
Garnish with peanuts and bean sprouts

Until next time waste nothing and have fun!

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Sushi, spaghetti and sleep

I love sushi. I like the idea of it. Something so simple and so, well, small can be fulfiling tasty and complex. So I dabble. I make no claims for expertness but I dabble and here are some photos from my latest play.

The much heralded courgette and cream cheese nigiri didn't really work because when the courgette is cooked it goes very thin and moist which isn't good for sticking to the outside of the rice.


In other news we have had some great success in roasting fresh beetroot and jerusalem artichokes which we made into a simple spaghetti supper.

Serves 2
1 large beetroot
250g jerusalem artichokes
Olive Oil

Put the oven on at 200C
Skin the beetroot and then chop into thin wedges
Wash and chop up the artichokes into small pieces
Place both in the roasting tin, season with salt pepper and herbs and cover with olive oil.
Put in the oven for 20 minutes and then turn them over.
Leave for a further 30 minutes.
Chop the mushrooms and garlic.
Fry gently.
In the last ten minutes put the spaghetti into boiling water and cook until al dente.

Mix together and eat!

I actually used some garlic that I had roasted before and put that in with the mushrooms and it was really good but it doesn't matter if you have any!


"My candle burns at both ends
It gives a wondrous light
But oh my friends my enemies
It will not last the night."

This poem was one of my sister's favourite when we were growing up. I forget the author but it has stuck with me. Last week was such a week although rather than been a libertine I was burning both ends at work. I had no sense of the balance needed and felt dog tired for more than a few parts of the week. Even though I was being a sad work monkey I went to see "There will be blood" as part of the Thursday Night Movie Club and it was amazing. I was so glad to have made the effort to go and see it but the point is that I need to be better at enjoying life as well as working hard at it.

Finally I have to confess to loving the song "When do I get some sleep?" by Bic Runga and am going off to play it at high volume.