Relocation Relocation Relocation

8 09 2014

It’s been way over a year since I’ve posted anything on here, which is pretty appalling… so I highly doubt anyone will see this post anyway, but on the off chance that people are still following this blog, I thought I’d let you know that I have relocated! 

Over the past few years I’ve been producing content for a range of websites and I’ve decided to pull it all together into one place. So I’ll now be blogging at where you can expect semi-regular posts on a range of things I’m interested in: theatre, film, music, food, cookery, faith, theology and philosophy. 

If any of those things interest you too, it would be great to see you over there. 


Recipe: Chilli Con Carne

10 04 2013

So it’s been 8 months since I last updated this blog. Unforgiveable. But the arrival of a new batch of Cow Club beef reminded me that I’ve never typed up my chilli recipe. I know there are heated debates over what constitutes the perfect chilli, so offering my own version probably insults some sacred cows… but cows are there to be turned into chilli, and the ones from Cow Club are more sacred-tasting than most! So I’m pretty happy with this one… 

This recipe combines elements from a few that I’ve used over the years; in particular those in Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef and Heston Blumenthal’s Heston at Home (with the fiddly bits removed due to the lack of a pressure cooker!) with a good number of additions of our own. It makes a pretty big pot (which I typically serve to large groups, or freeze in batches), so you may want to shrink it down. And I prefer it done with diced steak, but it can be done equally well with mince – just make sure you drain off the fat well.

Chilli con Carne

1kg braising/stewing steak or beef mince
2 medium onions, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Olive oil
2 star anise
2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 fresh red chillies, de-seeded and finely diced
2 red peppers, de-seeded and cut into good-sized chunks
Small stick cinnamon
500ml beef stock
187ml red wine
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 x 540g tin/bottle passata/creamed tomatoes
30g tomato purée
Juice and zest of 2 limes
3 x 410g tins of kidney beans


Set the oven to 150c.

Add oil to a heavy-bottomed pan, over a high heat, and fry off the meat to brown it. Remove it from the pan and drain off excess fat. Deglaze the pan with a splash of water, and add the beef-bitty-water to the meat so you don’t lose the flavours.

Decrease the heat to medium and add more oil to the pan. Add the onion and star anise and cook for about 10 mins. If the idea of star anise puts you off, don’t worry, your chilli won’t end up tasting like liquorice. Star anise boosts the meatiness of the dish. (Check out the science from Heston here.)

Add the celery, and cook for another 8 mins. Celery isn’t necessarily a regular ingredient in chilli, but I like it. (And I also love the fact that if you cut it really quickly it sounds like you’re doing up a zip! Weird, I know…) Add the garlic and peppers – I personally prefer the pointy sweet ones, but regular peppers are fine – and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Add the chilli, chilli powder, cumin, cinnamon stick and tomato purée and mix in well. Cook it for another 5 minutes, until it turns a dark red colour. Of course, feel free to alter the chilli quantities if you wish. This version is about right for Helen, but I like it a little spicier… see my comments at the bottom about spiced butter.

Add the red wine and reduce it by 2/3. To be honest, I think it needs more wine than this – about 400ml would be ideal – but I often just use a miniature bottle, unless I have some spare wine to hand.

Remove the star anise and discard. Add the beef stock, passata and chopped tomatoes. If you don’t want to use passata, that’s fine; double the amount of tinned tomatoes. We just like the different textures that you get from the combination of smooth passata and chunky chopped tomatoes. And Cirio have just started doing 540g bottles of passata, which are really good.

Bring up to a simmer, season and stir in the meat. Pop it in the oven for about 2 hours. The longer, slower, and lower heat you can cook it on, the better. After 2 hours, mix in the kidney beans and return to the oven for another 30 minutes.

To finish the chilli, stir in the lime zest and juice and season with salt and pepper. The lime adds a nice fresh zing to it. You may also want to stir through a square of dark chocolate too… but I don’t very often. I find it can sometimes make it a little musty, and I prefer the lime-freshness. And if you’re serving it all in one go, add chopped coriander (though if I’m freezing it, I tend to leave that out, as it goes a little odd in the freezer). Then serve however you wish; with rice, on nachos, on jacket potatoes, with bread/salad/soured cream/guacamole… This chilli is best a day or two later, so if you can, make it in advance and leave it to allow the flavours to develop.

One of the elements of Heston’s recipe that I rarely do, but which makes a really nice difference, is the addition of spiced butter. He adds some into the recipe part way through, and also allows people to stir in more at the end if they want to customise the heat of their chilli. This is a great idea if you are cooking for people who appreciate different heats (though the added butter makes it considerably less healthy!), and it gives it a nice smoky flavour and glossy shine.

Spiced Butter

2 tbsp olive oil
1½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
1½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp tomato ketchup
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp Marmite
125g butter, softened to room temperature


Heat the olive oil in a pan and lightly fry the cumin and chilli powder for 90 seconds. Pour into a bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Mix it together and once it’s cool you can either pop it in the fridge to set (if you’re planning to use it that day), or roll it into a log in parchment paper and keep it in the fridge for a week, or in the freezer for a month.

Getting my junk together

31 08 2011

I have an annoying habit – which may well be on account of my gender – of leaving items such as keys, my wallet or loose change scattered in random parts of the house. I walk into the house, and tend to just put down the items on whatever flat space happens to be available at that part particular moment in time.

Having been irritated by this for quite some time, my wife has devised a simple but brilliant solution: a small rectangular plate, approximately 12x5cm, which resides permanently on the bookshelf. This is my space, and we have an agreement that all my random items are to be placed on this plate, and on this plate alone. Not every possession I own, of course, just those little things that I’m tempted to dump on windowsills and promptly forget about. And it works the other way round too; if I fail to put my keys there and instead place them in some unhelpful location, upon finding them, Helen relocates them to the plate. Thus my junk is confined to a 60cm² piece of porcelain.

In recent months I have been scattering thoughts in too many locations around the web – an article here, a blog post there – and I’ve tried not to duplicate material too much for fear of boring absolutely everyone at every juncture. But now even I’m losing track of what I’ve written and when, and so I think the time has come to put all my junk in one place.

So consider this blog something of a porcelain plate!

When I write articles elsewhere, I’ll link to them here as well. That way, everything I say, do and write is in one searchable location, and perhaps I’ll remember where I’ve left my thoughts, should I ever have need for them again.

And so I start with something published today… This is a talk I gave at Newday 2011 called God’s Plan to Change the World, which can be found at the Everything Conference website along with an interactive presentation, my first foray into the wonderful world of prezi.

It was a fun challenge to try to articulate something of the Everything concept to 14-18 year olds… you can be the judge of whether I succeeded! At least, if nothing else, it was amusing making everyone look as stupid as my sister did:


Out of office…

26 07 2010

So, I am well and truly out of the office… Emails shut down, talk completed, and now two weeks of holidays await…

If you require me at any point in the next two weeks you can find me doing one of the following:

  • Hiding and reading in a caravan park (from where I am currently updating) surrounded by the sounds of Coronation Street wafting through perspex windows, and the unmistakable aroma of BBQs, clearly flouting the over-zealous campsite rules
  • Eating fish in one of my favourite little seaside restaurants, and no doubt cooking a bit of fresh sea-produce myself
  • Relaxing in a cottage in Brighton, with friends, food, wine and perhaps the odd whiskey and cigar
  • Watching a couple of football games back to back: Arsenal vs Celtic and A.C Milan vs Lyon at the beautiful Emirates Stadium, with the bearded members of my family.
  • Doing a number of touristy things in and around London
  • Watching Inception at the Imax in Waterloo

Of course, when I say ‘you can find me’ doing these things, that is neither an invitation nor a challenge. In the nicest possible way, I don’t want to see any of you for the next two weeks!

Have a nice fortnight, whatever you do with it…

Reading Analysis (ii)

21 07 2010

Since I was asked… here’s the list of the books I’ve completed this year. Enjoy:

Beale G.K. The Temple and the Church’s Mission
Bell Rob Drops like Stars
Bell Rob Velvet Elvis
Blomberg Craig Neither Poverty nor Riches
Blumenthal Heston The Fat Duck Cookbook
Campbell Alexi Kaye Apologia
Camus Albert The Outsider
Carson D.A. Exegetical Fallacies
Carson D.A. How Long, O Lord?
Collins Francis The Language of God
Crouch Andy Culture Making
Eaton Michael Genesis 1-11
Esslin Martin The Theatre of the Absurd
Flew Anthony There is a God
Garnett Dameon Break Away
Green Michael I believe in Satan’s Downfall
Greene Graham Brighton Rock
Hague William William Wilberforce
Hays Richard The Moral Vision of the New Testament
Hays J. Daniel From Every People and nation
Ionesco Eugene The Chairs
King Stephen On Writing
Lewis C.S. The Problem of pain
Lindsay D. Michael Faith in the Halls of Power
Mamet David Glengarry Glen Ross
Marin Andrew Love is an Orientation
McGrath Alistair Doubts in Perspective
McGrath Alistair The Dawkins Delusion
Miller Donald Searching for God Knows What
Miller Donald A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Nevin Norman C Should Christians Embrace Evolution
O’Brien Peter Ephesians
Obama Barack Dreams From My Father
Pawson David Defending Christian Zionism
Piper John The Supremacy of Christ in the Postmodern World
Pollock John The Billy Graham Story
Ravenhill Mark Over There
Rookmaaker H.R. Modern Art and the Death of a Culture
Sizer Stephen Zion’s Christian Soldiers
Stott John God’s New Society
Tharp Twyla The Creative Habit
Virgo Terry Does the Future Have a Church?
Wade Laura Posh
Wink Walter Naming the Powers
Wittgenstein Ludwig Philosophical Investigations
Yoder John Howard The Politics of Jesus

Dealing with Doubts (ix)

1 07 2010

These final posts of the series are looking at 6 encouragements that Jesus offers to Thomas in dealing with his doubts.

4) Thomas didn’t even need to touch Jesus

In verse 27, Jesus says ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.’ And what does Thomas do? There is no indication he actually touches Jesus at all. He just answers ‘My Lord and My God!’ That was enough.

Only moments before, Thomas had been so adamant: ‘I will only believe if I touch the scars’ and yet when presented with the risen, scarred Jesus, he doesn’t even need to do that. His unbelief crumbles.

So often, when we are wallowing in doubt, it is easy to think we know exactly what we would need to be convinced out of it. I remember feeling miserable and doubt-ridden, presenting God with lists of my criteria thinking:

‘If you just do this and this… cause this sequence of events to occur… provide this bit of evidence, that’ll be enough to convince me.’

In the end, none of my lists got ticked off! But God knew what I needed: An encounter with Him that bypassed my criteria.

Was it wrong for me to seek evidence? No. Was it wrong for me to pray for revelation in specific areas? No. But what I’ve learnt is that when you are doubting, you are really not in the best position to know what will resolve your situation. Sometimes simply being in the presence of God is enough. God will do something unexpected, impossible to anticipate, and totally transform your situation.

Don’t prescribe to God the 12 steps of your recovery programme. Work diligently to find evidence, and wait on Him.

Dealing with Doubts (viii)

30 06 2010

These final posts of the series are looking at 6 encouragements that Jesus offers to Thomas in dealing with his doubts:

3) Jesus already knew what Thomas needed

Get this – Not only does Jesus provide Thomas with the evidence he needed, one look at his hands, bearing the nail marks, but he did it before Thomas even said a word!

Jesus didn’t walk in and say:

‘Thomas… why the puzzled look on your face? What can I do to convince you.

He already knew.

We have a God who knows us, who cares about us, who hears our pleas and cries in the night, who hears the deep questions we have even before they form on our lips. He knows what evidence you need, what will tip the balance to convince you and bring you back to Him.

We have a personal God who is for you. Take comfort.