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Kate Miller-Heidke: Comedienne

It’s a bloody cold night and I’m not in the mood to coat-up and leave the house to to see Ben Folds’ support at the 02 Hammersmith but I’ve got a ticket and I said I would.

I’m glad I did. Winding through the barrier system I get inside and couldn’t have timed my arrival better. I take my place on the sloped incline and instantly a man and a woman walk onto a stage full of instruments. Kate Miller-Heidke is an Australian. She comes on, opens her mouth, and gets massive support from what would seem a crowd who already know her – but we are in West London and it is a second home to many antipodeans. I don’t but am greeted with a slight blonde – pretty in pink – who has a voice which would smash glass. Her guitar accompaniment is, in fact, it turns out – after I whip through the press release – her husband Keir Nuttall – and from what I’ve seen on You Tube she’s without a full band – I would never have known – the acoustic guitar, keyboard, tambourine, and shaker work very well and with that one very wide vocal range I’m not left wanting.

Politics in Space was first up – a take on the sixties and how we should “all get over it” as it happened fifty years ago. Her vocal range borders on the operatic here and she breaks into a style that is demure then angsty – bizarrely it all comes together. After reading her bio, it becomes clear why this is – she’s had operatic training and loves musical theatre.

But it’s not all giggles. There are serious and very emotive moments.

Caught in The Crowd is her tale of a lingering childhood regret – no ironic twist here – a simple story about her time at school with an underlying anti-bullying message.

Between songs she speaks anecdotally about her music and tells us how the Chinese government ‘censored’ her choice of song when she was invited to sing at the opening of the Australia Pavilion – she chose something very risque – they heard it – she was asked to change it and of course, she obliged.

A tragic tale of unrequited love Dreams (I Love You) transported (certainly me) to a Parisian speakeasy. There were plenty of operatic vocals here with a note which lasted for what seemed minutes but in reality it was more like thirty seconds, so where she found the breath for the throaty ‘I love you’ immediately afterwards sums up that training.

Can’t Shake It probably was one of the funniest of the set – tackling her inability to dance and again a song which resonated with the crowd – ‘somebody called the nurse thought I was having a fit. I execute the moonwalk like I stepped in shit’

It’s her wit and sense of fun that keeps the crowd enthralled – of the five hundred on the floor I’m taking a wild punt that they’ve not come to watch musical theatre but someone singing about an ex who suddenly got in touch via a popular social networking site. The tale of a former love who treated her badly, and who left her broken hearted, suddenly wants to be friends with her on Facebook and her response is “are you fxxxxxx kidding me?”

As her set came to an end there were rapturous whoops of cheers and as Ben Folds band tuned up Kate was on the Merch desk signing her new album Curiouser (sic) – the £15 price tag didn’t put punters off either – there was a steady stream who were willing to pay for the CD and her signature – who said buying music was over?

Kate Miller-Heidke at the 02 Hammersmith, Sunday 20 February 2011.

If you fancy seeing Kate she’s back in London on 24 March playing the Water Rats, Grays Inn Road.

http://www.katemillerheidke.com/


http://www.katemillerheidke.com/katemillerheidke/gallery/1.jpg

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Breast Milk Ice Cream

What do you get when you put Madagascan vanilla pods, lemon juice, milk and cream, egg yolks and golden caster sugar together?  Usually pretty good ice cream – but then what is the result when you add human breast milk?  Well, nothing much more – but it’s sure to split the room like a beginner’s Hollandaise.

The world’s first breast milk ice cream has been developed by the “Icecreamists” – you could call them the Sid and Nancy of the ice cream world – and at the helm is founder, Matt O’Connor.

Icecreamists, Maiden Lane, Covent Garden

They’ve opened a new ice cream parlour in Covent Garden and one of the flavours he developed – and one which has generated a mass of publicity and visitors is “Baby Gaga” .  He calls it “a wonderful celebration of motherhood” – but priced at an icy £14.95 – will it go down well?  “Its “pure, organic, free range and totally natural”. So what’s not to like?

Well this is the bit that people just can’t seem to get their head around.  “Baby Gaga” is made with a milk pump-expressed on the premises by over-producing lactacting women who get paid £15 for every ten ounces. It takes eighteen ounces to make one batch and each serving is 200mls.  All the ice cream served in the shop is made on the premises every day.

“Baby Gaga” comes on a silver tray in a Martini glass, and is surrounded by two rusk, Bonjela gel and a shot of Calpol.  The ice cream has a Jelly Baby garnish. Initially I think this is all to take the taste away but it’s an unnecessary and expensive gimmick.

The ice cream is dense and creamy but far too sweet for me.  I have never tried human breast milk in its natural form but some say it’s oily with a bitter after-taste – that could explain the sugar.   It looks as if customers aren’t put off by the price tag or the sweetness either. When I arrive to take some photographs it’s all gone.

Interestingly enough a mother was offering her milk whilst I was there so I’m sure there will be a fresh batch on the way soon. By the way all donors are screened to the same standards as those donating blood.

Of course Matt’s not the first to experiment with breast milk – a New York chef made eight different kinds of cheese last year after his wife began freezing her excess milk.  From Ricotta to a cheese with a cheddar-type texture and quality.  The Health Department prevented him from selling it to his customers.

Matt’s really passionate about what he’s doing and his philosophy “is to push the boundaries of what ice cream’s all about”.  Isn’t it about time ice cream got a makeover -and with flavours like chilli and lemongrass to quote just one of the dozen they’re making – it looks like it is.

So, if you’re looking for something different in the frozen desert department, you’ll definitely get it there.  They’re also experimenting with cocktails – some I’m told take up to 15 minutes to make and involve quite a bit of theatre – the words blow and torch were mentioned – and priced between £10 and £15 it sounds like you’ll be paying for the whole experience.

Knickerbocker Glory Hole anyone?

£14.95 is the most you’ll pay for ice cream but if you’ve not got the budget or time to eat in, you can also takeaway – cups are £5.90 and cones too at £3.95 – no pun intended – I promise.

Since writing this post, the Icecreamists have had the ice cream removed by Westminster Council officers to make sure it was “fit for human consumption”.

And Matt’s been told to change the name of the desert to something which is not aurally, visually or conceptually similar to Lady Gaga’ or court action will be taken.  The poker face singer is claiming it’s ‘detrimental’ to her image as it is ‘deliberately provocative and, to many people, nausea-inducing’.

I’ll keep you posted about the outcome of both.

The Icecreamists, 15 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, WC2E 7NG
10am to midnight, 7 days a week.

 

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Tate and Lyle Factory

It’s the time of year when food writers wheel out as many ‘flipping’ clichés as their copy – and conscience – will allow.

Shrove Tuesday or as it’s now commonly known, Pancake Day, is the first day of the season of fasting and prayer or Lent.

Back in the day, the idea was to use up rich ingredients –eggs, sugar and flour – before a forty day abstinence kicked in.  Made from batter and fried in fat, the ingredients symbolise four crucial points of significance.  Eggs for creation, flour for the staff of life, salt for wholesomeness and milk for purity.

These days unless you’re religious, have kids, a decent calendar or trip over the promotional display in the supermarket, Pancake Day will probably pass you by.   Well dear reader, not this year – not if I have my way.

A basic pancake batter is probably one of the easiest things you’ll ever make – no real technical skill or equipment needed.  You can make savoury but because I’ve got the sweetest tooth in the capital I’m going for desert pancakes.   Which brings me nicely on to my favourite topping.  It’s a glorious, gloopy, wasp-attracting jaw-sticking, toffee-tasting nectar and it’s a staple ingredient for flapjacks and goes very well in a steamed pudding.  There is no better than glorious ribbons of golden syrup free-falling onto a pancake.  And if it’s good enough for Her Royal Highness then it’s good enough for me.   As I prized off the lid to the all familiar gold and green tin I wondered where and how it’s made?  Well, for 128 years they’ve been making it in Plaistow so of course I had to get myself a visit to the factory I had no idea existed.  Ian Clark’s in charge of the site and he’s something of a syrup-afficianado.  I get the full tour, feeling more than a little privileged knowing that the factory is not open to the public.

Cue rivers of flowing gold accompanied by something soothing by Debussy.  Scratch that.  There are no huge open vats being worked on by hair netted white booted workers. This is a closed production site.  A series of pretty clever machines do the job.  The tins are made on the premises from scratch, given a base, sent through a sorting machine which checks for leaks.

They’re then sent through to a machine which fills them up with syrup,

they’re lidded, packed and put straight on pallets and dispatched all around the world.  Simples.

But how do they do it?  Well the sugar molecules are continually refined throughout the process – the sucrose molecule splits in half to give glucose and fructose sugars.  This inverted syrup is blended back with the original syrup to give a partially inverted syrup.  The final blend of sucrose, glucose and fructose allows the syrup to be thick without crystallising.

Of course I was allowed to try every syrup flavour they make from squeezy chocolate to the particularly good maple syrup but how I left that place without sending myself into a diabetic coma is beyond me.

Thank you to Ian Clark for his time and patience and to the well organised team at Epicurus.

You may hate syrup and if you do you can’t beat fresh lemon and caster sugar.  A guilty pleasure of mine – which harks back to my childhood ‘Little Chef hankerings’ – is cherry pie filling with ice cream.

I’d really like you to try making your own pancakes – you could buckle and buy the just-add-water-can’t-be-arsed- shake-to-make pancake mix but making your own will be tastier and a lot cheaper.

Here’s how

PANCAKE RECIPE

Makes around 12 using an 18cm frying pan.

110g/4oz plain flour sifted

A pinch of salt

2 medium eggs lightly beaten

200ml/7fl oz milk mixed with 75ml water

50g butter

Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and hold the sieve high to give the flour an airing.

Make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it
Begin whisking the eggs – a whisk or a fork will do – making sure you get all the flour from around the edge of the bowl

Add the milk mix gradually – still mixing – don’t panic if you see lumps – they will disappear

When the liquid has gone use a scraper to get the bits of flour stuck to the bowl incorporated

Whisk again so the mix looks like single cream.

Melt the butter into a frying pan and spoon 2 tablespoons into the batter and whisk it in, pour the rest into a bowl and use it to grease the pan.  Use kitchen paper (or a napkin) to smear it round before you make each pancake.

Get the pan really hot, turn it down to medium and do a pancake “test” to see if you’re using the right amount of batter.  A couple of heaped tablespoons for a regular sized (18cm) frying pan is usually enough.

As soon as the batter hits the pan swirl it round to cover the base.  It should take half a minute to cook and you can lift the edge to check it’s going golden – as it should.

Flip the pancake over with a fish slip or palette knife – giving the flip side only a few seconds.  Slide it out of the pan onto a plate.   The pancakes can be stacked between greaseproof paper on a plate over simmering water to keep them warm while you finish the batter.

Apply golden syrup liberally (if you’re me) or add just a little lemon and sugar.

These are suitable for freezing and I suggest you store them in between greaseproof paper – so they don’t stick during the freezing process – in a large freezer-suitable bag.

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Borough Market, London

I went for a wander around Borough Market yesterday. It changes every time I visit.  Now you can see the Shard rising from just behind.

Monmouth Coffee

Had a very creamy coffee at Monmouth Coffee, probably the only time I drink full-fat milk but they don’t do any other.  It’s always a compulsory visit, probably not the best coffee the capital has to offer, but it’s certainly rich and strong. Quite a lot of people complain about a bitter after-taste but I personally don’t get that. Yesterday I got cherries and chocolate. It’s always busy no matter what the time and the queue is often out of the door and snaking around the corner.

Neals Yard Dairy

How I love Borough Market.  Although is it just me who thinks you need to take out a Borough Mortgage to shop?  Neals Yard Dairy is an absolute pleasure to visit (if you like cheese).  Yesterday’s free taste of Lincolnshire Poacher was an added bonus.  I even got a £1.00 off my piece of Stichelton because the nose broke off.  Collingthwaite Farm, close to Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, is where a team of merry men (and they’ve got to be – it just tastes too good to have been made by anyone with the grumps) make this creamy, dreamy cheese.  The makers can’t legally call it Stilton so they borrowed the name from Domesday Book. Stichelton is the name Stilton was back in the 11th Century.  It’s complex and sets my taste buds into overdrive,  You get salty, sweet, fruity and creamy all in one bite. It hasn’t been touched yet but it’s at the front of the fridge and I know it won’t last too long.

Borough Market, London Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

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