Thursday, July 10, 2008

2 Ys U R
2 Ys U B
2 Ys 4 Me
Written in my Autograph Book in 1959 -years before TXT/SMS messages; whatever happened to autograph books?


James Lee Burke is a much acclaimed American crime writer. His most famous creation is the maverick detective Dave Robicheaux who left the New Orleans Police Department to work for the police in New Iberia a smaller town some miles away from the Big Sleazy as New Orleans is called.

The Tin Roof Blowdown is the 16th book featuring Robicheaux, and I suspect it is the one which will be most remembered. The action all takes place in New Orleans and its surrounding areas before, during and after Hurricane Katrina hit the city on 29th August 2005. In the ensuing chaos, with over 80% of the city flooded, Robicheaux is tasked with investigating the shooting of two looters, and tracking down a third. It would seem that they are also being hunted by the local mafia boss whose house they had inadvertently ransacked.

This tale of ruthless greed and cruelty would be quite enough for most crime novels, but to my mind the real story is that of the violent wasteland that New Orleans became in the aftermath of the hurricane. James Lee Burke is a native Louisianan and he lives in New Iberia, so his knowledge of what happened during Hurricane Katrina and the weeks that followed is close-up and personal. The scenes of devastating destruction and the terrifying breakdown of law and order are more powerful than anything a mere novelist could dream up.

Burke does not pull any punches in describing the political chicanery and the failure of local and national government in either preparing the city for such a calamity, or dealing with it after the event. His descriptions of what happened to the people of New Orleans who were unable or unwilling to evacuate are absolutely horrifying – and this in the USA, the richest, most powerful nation in the world - 1836 people dead, and $115 billion in damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure.

The Tin Roof Blowdown is much more than the crime novel it purports to be, it is the story of an apocalypse, and a piece of reportage which conveys what happened to New Orleans better than any journalist could have done.

Rated 4.5*


I have decided to instigate a new award. This will be given, from time to time, to the individual or group who gets my goat* – therefore it will be known as The Gets Herschelian’s Goat Award.

The very first recipient of this dubious new honour is none other than our Prime Minister Gordon “Clunking Fist” Brown.

He deserves this award for his condescending and patronising attitude in telling us how we could help the economy by not wasting food. Moreover, (and this makes him exceptionally deserving) by lecturing us all on this and then partaking of the following delights on a single day whilst on a G8 jolly to Japan, d’you think he scurried round to the kitchens after it all to make sure that no left-overs were wasted – I suspect not.

Who does he think he is? Mrs Beeton? Can we now expect Gordon Brown’s Book of Household Management with a special recipe section on using potato peelings and onion skins?

*get(s) my/our/your goat is an idiomatic expression used in English meaning to be cheesed off** or to be very annoyed.

** to be cheesed off is an idiomatic expression used in English meaning
to be fed up*** or to be very annoyed.

*** to be fed up is an idiomatic expression used in English ….
oh for goodness sake, this is getting ridiculous, just look it up…


In Morocco we enjoyed some fabulous meals; sometimes the dishes were very sophisticated, but at other times they were very simple and homely. This was a dish I ate in three different places, Fès, Chefchaouen and Meknès. Each time it was more or less the same, and yet subtly different as each cook varied their spicing slightly.
I came back to London laden with little bags of spices bought in Souk Atriya, the food and spice market in Meknès, and at last have used one of the spice mixtures in my version of Kefte Mkaouara. Although I have mixed beef and lamb mince together (because that was what I had available in the freezer) you could use just lamb or just beef, I don't think it would make much difference.

KEFTA MKAOUARA (Moroccan Meatball Tagine with egg)

Serves 6


500g lamb mince
500g beef mince
3 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
3 teaspoons ground cumin
Salt & pepper
Olive oil for frying


2 onions finely chopped
2 fat cloves garlic finely chopped
3 teaspoons mixed Tagine spice or
1.5 teaspoon hot paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tins chopped tomatoes or 500ml tomato passata
Salt & pepper

3-4 fresh medium sized eggs

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C

Put all the ingredients for the meatballs into a bowl, using your hands work them together so that everything is well combined.
Shape the mixture into small balls about 2.5cm wide. You may find it easier to do this if you wet your hands first.
Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large sauté pan and brown the meatballs. Set aside.

In the same pan, gently sauté the chopped onion and garlic, adding a little more oil if needed. When soft and starting to colour slightly, add the spice mixture and cook for a few moments stirring well before adding the chopped tomatoes. Stir to mix all together.

Place the meatballs into a tagine or other lidded ovenproof dish, pour the sauce mixture over them. Cover the dish and bake in the oven for about 30 mins.
Remove from the oven, and carefully break the eggs into the top of the sauce, keeping them separate.
Return to the oven for 15 minutes or until the whites of the eggs are set.

Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with buttered couscous, rice or crusty bread.


MaryContrary said...

I couldn't agree more on the hypocrisy of our glorious leaders, on both sides of the Atlantic, enjoying that sybaritic menu while discussing the problems of hunger. But then that goes hand in hand with the recent comments from the dean of Republican economics over here that we are a bunch whiners and the economic problem are all in our poor little heads.

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Mother of the Bride said...

By hook or by crook I"ll be last in your book .... I remember collecting autographs from friends. Sorry to appear to ignore your request about Bridezilla mags, but I've been away. And sorry too that I can't really help - not my area of magazine expertise. I'll ask some of the brides I know.

Jeanne said...

Yes, what DID happen to autograph books? "Rich girls wear bras, poor girls ewear strings..." etc etc, It was a more innocent time...

And yes, admirable as the campaign against waste is, it is a marvel of hypocrisy. And a bit like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic!!

The Moroccan tagine looks wonderful, and the book is going on my reading list.