Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What's Cooking With Guards! Guards!?

Around these parts, Sunday night is sacred. That’s the night that me and my semiprofessional karaoke crew make their rounds. This Sunday we paid a visit to one of the most popular local stages and caught something truly amazing happening. Behind the microphone, in front of dozens of Tampanians, was none other than Rihanna. Her song of choice? Daft Punk’s “Pentatonix”.

I left the karaoke club later that evening thinking nothing could ever top the Rihanna experience I had just witnessed. On my drive home I popped “That Spring” by Guards! Guards! into my stereo and, wouldn’t you know it, Monster Bobby (The Pipettes, A Little Orchestra) and Lisa Bouvier (the Flatmates, the Proctors, Satan & Megastar) were dead ringers for Rihanna singing Daft Punk. While it might not have topped what happened at the karaoke bar, it certainly enhanced it.

One of the themes in “That Spring” that becomes apparent after repeated listens is the idea of making things happen. That seems like appropriate material for Guards! Guards! as their entire existence is all about making it happen. I say this because Bobby and Lisa face the unique challenge of making music while living in two completely different countries. Lisa hangs out in Sweden, Monster Bobby makes his living in London. How do they make it work? Skype. Lots and lots of Skype. In fact, their video for “Last Spring” was created completely by the band using shots of their Skype conversations and Quicktime.

Check out the recorded version:

The Skyped Video:

So now that we know what is musically cooking with Guards! Guards!, let’s find out what is being
whipped up in Bobby and Lisa’s kitchen:

Part One: Lisa Bouvier’s Recipe for Swedish Rårakor (as told by Lisa Bouvier)

The thing I missed most about Sweden when I lived in the UK – apart from Marabou milk chocolate–was actually lingonberry jam. Which is interesting, because since I moved back to Sweden last year, I haven’t eaten it at all! But fear not all you non-Swedes out there, you can buy it in any IKEA worldwide. This is one of my favourite dishes involving lingonberry jam and it’s called rårakor (Swedish for beginners: raw-rachore). The traditional way of doing it is just grated potato and some salt, but I decided to make it a bit more exciting than that.

-6 grated potatoes
-1 grated onion
-1-2 grated carrots
-2 eggs
-salt, black pepper and other exciting things you can find in your cupboard. How about some grated
cheese as well? Cheese is tasty. Put it in everything. Anyway, grate everything as fine as you can be bothered, stir together in a mixing bowl. Shape rakor, they can be round or at least round-ish, and about 8-10 cm in diameter, maybe 2 cm thick or as big as you’d like. Fry them on mid heat until they’re golden. They might look a bit like this when they’re done. Serve with crispy fried bacon and lingonberry jam.

No salad. There is carrots in the rårakor, right?

Part Two: Monster Bobby’s Chicken Curry

To complement Lisa’s homegrown potato pancakes, I decided I should make something very typically English – and what could be more typically English than curry? I spent much of my childhood in Indian restaurants, always ordering the hottest thing on the menu out of some perverse infant machismo and wolfing it down, eyes streaming. To this day, nothing really tops a good curry for me and I have been gradually perfecting my own recipe over many years.

-2 large onions
-4 cloves of garlic
-1 large chunk of ginger
-1 tin of tomatoes
-Turmeric (plenty)
-Paprika (plentier)
-Chicken breasts or thigh fillets
-tandoori masala
-1 sweet pepper
-2 or 3 green chillies
-Ground cumin (shit loads)
-Ground coriander (plenty of that too)
-Methi / Fenugreek leaves
-Basmati rice
-2 whole cloves
-1 stick of cinnamon
-5 or 6 green cardamons
-Cream (one dollop)
-1 tomato
-Fresh coriander

Chop up a couple of big onions and chuck them in a saucepan with plenty of oil. Fry until they start to soften, then add a fairly large quantity of ginger and garlic (say four cloves of the former and about
the same volume of the latter?).

Once that’s all good and fried, chuck in a little bit of water, a good dash of turmeric, a hefty splash of paprika, and a tin of tomatoes. Keep that bubbling for a bit – what? maybe half an hour? – then liquidise it with a handheld blender.

Next: Heat some oil in a big frying pan, chop yr chicken into bitesize chunks and put them in the pan with some tandoori masala spice mix and a big spoonful of the whizzed-up onion and tomato mix.

Once that’s cooked on the outside, add some sweet pepper and a couple of roughly chopped green chillies, then throw in the rest of the sauce with some ground cumin, ground coriander, and some fenugreek leaves (I tend to favour the frozen packets of Methi you find in Indian supermarkets). Let that cook away for a good half hour. Meanwhile, get the rice on. Wash a teacup full of rice in boiling water and put a cup and a half of water in a saucepan with a bit of salt. Once the water starts to boil, put the rice in, with two whole cloves, a stick of cinnamon, the seeds from inside maybe five or six green cardamons, and a bit of butter about as big as your thumb. After about two minutes of that all boiling together, put a tight lid on the pan with a sheet of silver foil under the lid and whack it in the oven on gas mark one. After 15 minutes turn the heat off,2 but leave it for another ten.

Just before you serve the curry, put a dollop of cream on top, a big dash of garam masala, and some chopped fresh tomato and coriander leaf. Maybe one or two more chillies if you’re hardcore. Some chopped up mango or julienned fresh ginger can also be a pleasant addition at this stage. Mix. Eat. Serve with beer.

There you have it. Lisa is embracing her inner Swede in her kitchen and Bobby is paying homage to the English. That’s called making things happen.