Sunday, 19 January 2014

A True Professional

Unfortunately DS2s gig was cancelled by the promotor at the very last minute due to lack of publicity; he just hadn't gotten around to advertising it although the pub had paid him to. We didn't find out until DS turned up at the pub. In fact the staff didn't know until no one arrived to watch and they rang the guy to find out what was going on. The act that was supposed to be headlining, going on after DS, left in a fury, but DS was a true professional got out his guitar and perfomed a few songs for the 5-6 people who were there. They were very grateful and hopefully he will now stay in their minds and they will want him to perform there again. DS knows the promotor so instead of demanding payment (which, again, the other guy was going to do) he's going to ask to be put at the top of the list for future gigs, which will hopefully have better promotion.

He's taught himself to play guitar and has loved singing since he performed in musicals at school. He played the lead in 2 of those (Sweeny Todd and Jesus in Godspell) and got to travel to Siberia, Croatia, France, Belgium and the USA with the school who had links with schools in those countries. He even got to perform with the Red Army Band in Siberia. He's played in a couple of local rock bands and had a few gigs singing heavy metal but this was to be his first paying solo acoustic gig. He's currently studying for an HND in Music Performance and is hoping to do the top up year in September to make it into a full degree.

So, we did get to see him play a little and he was really good. We had a nice time revisiting a couple of our old drinking haunts from when we were younger and both lived in Deal, and reminisced about pubs we knew and loved that have now closed down. We rarely go to pubs now and when we do its generally a daytime visit to have coffee, but it made a nice change. I stuck to diet coke, you'll be pleased to hear, and DH didn't drink because he was driving, but it was a good evening despite DS's disappointment. In my opinion he took the disappointment really well.

Right, I've been promising to post the Hoppin John and Chilli Cheese Cornbread recipes. They are both really simple to put together. In fact the Hoppin John is basically just rice and beans that you can add extras to if you like. I generally do a vege version, but the typical American version has bacon or a ham hock added.

For Hoppin John you need black eye beans either dried or canned. I use dried, soak them overnight and cook them for 10 minutes in my pressure cooker the next morning, or you can soak them and cook them as part of the meal if you do it in the slowcooker (unlike red kidney beans they do not need to be boiled rapidly for 10 minutes to kill any toxins). I prefer to prepare them in advance and then the whole recipe only takes about 20 -30 minutes to cook in my huge deep-sided frying pan (you can do it in any pan that allows enough room for the rice to expand).

So, the ingredients are:-

1/2 lb dried or 1lb cooked or canned black eye beans (drained weight)
1 lb long grain rice
2 tins chopped tomatoes
Large onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, chopped finely or squished
2 tomato cans full of water (helps rinse the tomato juice out of the cans)
Salt, black pepper, a pinch of chilli flakes (to taste)

That's it. You can just bung everything in together and cook until all the water has been absorbed or you can fry the onion and garlic first in a little oil, then add the rice for a moment or two and toss all together, then the spices and seasoning and tomatoes, heat through and add the water.  If you heat everything first you can add boiling water to the rice mix, if not add cold water and bring to the boil.

I like to add the chilli flakes to give it a little kick but you could leave them out or add chopped fresh chilli or paprika instead. The beans give it this a lovely earthy flavour. As I said you can add extras to it, ham etc. if you like. 

This makes a big pan of Hoppin John so you could halve the quantities or freeze some for another day. Also the ratio of rice and beans can be altered with more beans to rice or vice versa. I actually added some leftover rice to mine as well as the original 1lb, so it's slightly rice heavy, but you really don't need to be too careful about the amounts. If it starts to get too dry before the rice is fully cooked just add a bit more water.

I generally serve it with Chilli Cheese Cornbread for a sort of American meal.

Chilli Cheese Cornbread

Gas 4 for 35-40 minutes. Greased 7inch square or equivalent capacity baking tin.

6 oz medium yellow cornmeal
4 oz plain flour (white or wholemeal)
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 oz soft brown sugar
1 medium egg
1/2 pint milk
4 oz grated cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons oil or melted butter
small onion, finely diced or 1 oz dried onion
1/2 can sweetcorn, drained (I use a can of creamed corn; you could use frozen corn, no need to defrost)
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of chilli flakes (or to taste)

Measure all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well to combine. Measure all the wet ingredients in a jug and beat until well mixed. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour in the wet ingredients and add the sweetcorn and cheese. Blend together with a spoon or spatula until just mixed and no dry flour etc. is visible. Do not overmix. The mixture will look lumpy. Pour into the prepared tin and bake just above the centre of the oven for around 30 minutes until risen and the top is brown. Serve warm or cold cut into squares. Best eaten the day its made but can be refreshed by a short burst in the microwave.

I haven't priced any of this because I've had a lot of the ingredients for ages and can't honestly recall what I paid for them, but most were from Approved Foods.

Oh, and I have to make apologies about the Bacon Roly Poly pricing for anyone buying the Morrisons Savers bacon packs. I went in there today to buy yogurts and the bacon pack I bought a month ago for 89p has now gone up to £1.04. These packs used to contain full rashers too, but now they are just chopped up bits. It's still good value for 500g of bacon, but even so that's a 15p rise in a month!

I also made Almond, Coconut and Raspberry muffins using some of the yellow stickered raspberries I froze and sent DS back to his student digs with some for him and some for his flat mates since they always ask what I've been baking when he returns. As usual DH insists on custard with his.

Thankfully for my diet I still don't have much appetite so I didn't eat any of the above goodies. I'm mostly sticking to fruit, yogurt, soup and crispbreads. My dinner tonight was a tin of Scotch Broth followed by raspberries in sugar free jelly with an Aldi lemon greek-style yogurt poured over. The yogurts are 99p for a 4 pack and are absolutely lush. I'm really hoping for a good weight loss this week, and if so the stomach bug will almost have been worthwhile. I suppose every cloud has a silver lining as they say.

I am much better, though, and thank you once again to everyone who sent me get well wishes.


  1. My daughter taught herself to play the guitar, she has singing lessons and takes part in plays. She also sings at several churches. It's so lovely to hear them isn't it. She's off tonight singing at our local church. Glad you managed to see him play x

    1. I'm lucky to have kids with either singing ability or musical talent or both. My youngest daughter also has a lovely voice as does her boyfriend. They're playing Mary Magdelene and Jesus in a local amateur dramatics production of Jesus Christ Superstar in May. They sure didn't get their ability from me, I love listening to music but sing like a strangled cat. I hope your daughter's evening went well.

  2. How disappointing for the young man when he should have been singing his heart out. I`d change the promotions team if I were him. They didn`t do their job and should be sacked! I hope he has better luck next time.
    I`m not so sure about these American recipes, but I do like the look of those muffins!

    1. Hi, Sarina. The American recipes I knew by heart so I could just write them out; I'll post the muffin recipe another time when I have time to copy it from the book. DS does some classes at Uni with the guy responsible for the promotion so he's having a word with him today about it. They're not a professional comapny or anything, its just word of mouth, but he did fall down on his obligations. He has another gig arranged through Uni soon, so hopefully we'll get to see him perform then.

  3. Thank you for the recipes Helen, I have all the ingredients and will be making a half batch during the week. I picked up on the scotch broth, I haven't made it for ages and as I have 2 lamb breast joints in the freezer (RTC £1.10 each) that will also be on the menu, oh yum.

    1. The amount of Hoppin John I made this time served 2 people with a great piled up plate and also filled 2 big plastic tubs for the freezer. The cornbread was cut into 12 large pieces. The scotch broth I had was just a tin from Aldi, but I also have some scrag end of lamb in the freezer so I might have a go at making some myself. It would be lovely with dumplings, methinks. I'll post the muffins recipe another time.

  4. Your son must have been disappointed, what a shame the gig didn't come off, but hopefully, he'll get another paying gig soon and you'll be able to go and watch him then. My daughter sings and performs with a youth theatre, it's wonderful to watch them, isn't it? Well, I say wonderful, it's nerve racking at times too. I've never heard of Hoppin John before, and those muffins look delicious.