MUNCHIES features: Shropshire fidget pie and Christmas pork pies


A couple of features I wrote for MUNCHIES UK

Shropshire, a sparsely populated rural county of under half-a-million people. What has it got? A.E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad, the majestic Ironbridge, the wonderful landscapes of The Stiperstones hill, and, of course, the world-renowned Shropshire fidget pie.

Except the Shropshire fidget pie is not that famous—not even in Shropshire.”

Read the full article on Shropshire fidget pie on MUNCHIES.


“Pork pies are big business in Yorkshire, especially in December. Walk past the Toppings counter in Doncaster’s Frenchgate Shopping Centre and you can see just how big: quiches, hot pies, and a plethora of pork pies are all piled high. Although Roger might want otherwise (“Pork pies are like puppies, they’re not just for Christmas!”), the festive season is his busiest time. In the week before Christmas, that stand will take around £15,000 just on pies.”

Read the full piece on MUNCHIES.




“”It’s an Asian taco, isn’t it?” says Frank Yeung of gua bao, the steamed buns after which he named his South London restaurant: Mr. Bao.

“I just love them,” he continues. “There are loads of places doing chicken satay or the Japanese yakitori-style, or sushi or ramen. It’s an underexposed bit of food that we wanted to show London.”

A few years ago, Frank left his job at Goldman Sachs after becoming disillusioned with working in the City. He started a burrito joint with a business partner but eventually had to sell his stake.”

Read the full article on MUNCHIES.

St Mary’s Church Brewery for MUNCHIES


“In autumn last year, St. Mary’s brewery in North London completed its first commercial brew: an American pale ale. Nothing odd with that—just more evidence of the capital’s “craft beer revolution,” right?

Not exactly. Look at the label on this particular bottle of pale ale and you’ll see a phrase that doesn’t fit with the image of a hipster brew: “Faith, Hops, and Charity.” That’s because St. Mary’s isn’t a trendy new Camden brewery, but a church in Primrose Hill that has recently begun brewing and selling its own beer.”

Read the full feature on MUNCHIES.

Sustainable fishing article for Norwegian Arts


“According to a report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the world share of commercial fish stocks at sustainable levels has drastically decreased – down to 68.6% in 2013 from 90% in 1974. Furthermore, in 2013 fully-fished stocks comprised 58.1%.

Europe has suffered its share of problems. Herring was so overfished on England’s east coast that a moratorium was announced in the 1970s.  Now even the fish for the famed Craster-kipper in Northumberland are imported from Norway.”

Read the full piece on Norwegian Arts.

Northumberland features for MUNCHIES


“Mention the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and a few things come to mind: the Viking raiders in 793 AD, the gospels, and a precarious causeway crossing. But this tidal island, situated a mile off the north Northumberland coast, has also become renowned for the production of one of the oldest alcoholic beverages in the world: mead.”

Read the full article on MUNCHIES.


“The butterflied smoked herring has been part of British cuisine for centuries but kippers—the name given to the fish when sliced and smoked in this way—from the small village of Craster in Northumberland are revered across the world.”

Read the full article on MUNCHIES.

Bedfordshire clanger feature for Munchies


“The Bedfordshire clanger is a curious beast. Originally a staple dish for the county’s many agricultural workers, it is a meal encased in an oblong suet crust: a savoury filling in one end and a sweet in the other. More versatile than the Cornish pasty, the clanger is the humble all-rounder of the pastry world.

Today, the Bedfordshire clanger is no longer widely made. I grew up in the county but didn’t actually hear of one until my twenties. Of my immediate family, who have lived here for generations, only my grandparents have ever eaten one. This is all about to change, though, as I visit the one place that still reliably sells them: Gunns Bakery in Sandy.”

Read the full feature on Munchies. 

An outsider’s guide to May 17


“On the other 364 days of the year Norwegians are a fairly self-effacing bunch (aside from bragging about winter sports prowess) but on syttende mai an entire country embraces its national romantic side. Flags are everywhere. Oslo’s main street, Karl Johans Gate, becomes an avenue of red, white and blue. The national colours fly from flagpoles and are draped elegantly over shop fronts. They are also waved in the hands of the thousands who line the route of the parade of school children and marching bands. The parade ends in front of the Royal Palace and with a wave from the royal family on the balcony.”

Read the full feature on Norwegian Arts.

Leif Ove Andsnes feature for Norwegian Arts


“When the LSO announced Leif Ove Andsnes as the subject of its 2016 Artist Portrait, it should not have been a huge surprise. The Norwegian pianist has achieved plenty in his career, including eight Grammy nominations, being inducted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame, winning the Royal Philharmonic Society Award, and much more. But Andsnes has done it all on his own terms. From his epic Beethoven Journey – where he toured the world with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, performing the German maestro’s major works for piano and orchestra – to working as the co-creative director of the Festival of Chamber Music in Norway, many of his projects have been bold undertakings. This summer, he once more joins the LSO for a series of performances, including one recital evening, running over three nights at London’s Barbican.”

Read the full feature on Norwegian Arts.

Photo by Chris Aadland.

Album review: Susanna – Triangle


On her eleventh sole studio album Triangle, Susanna (previously of/as/with the Magical Orchestra) takes no half measures. The Norwegian goes all out in exploring spirituality in its broadest sense, through a variety of styles and tones from electro-pop, to twisted and distorted vocal lines and short and echoing laments. The end result, in its entirety, is gigantic. This impressive and brave effort happens over the course of 22 tracks and 70-odd minutes.

Although Triangle is sometimes so otherworldly that you cannot do anything but escape yourself, it is hard to escape the album’s themes. The clues are in many of the titles: ‘Holy Sacred’, ‘For My Sins’, ‘Before the Altar’ and ‘Born Again’ are just four, but there are others. And that is even before you look at the lyrics. Opener ‘Holy Sacred’ ushers us in with a modulated, layered doom-laden voice and the words “Nothing is holy / Nothing is sacred“. The tone is set. This record is not necessarily profoundly spiritual— that implies something worryingly vague — but it is profound in the way it approaches the spiritual. A concept album it might be, but that concept is not particularly concentrated; there are pieces here and pieces there to pick up on and to pick out, looked at from different angles. Susanna has stated that much of the inspiration for the album has come from her own experiences with religion and spirituality, going back to her childhood. Many of the moods really show this, and the emotions they elicit in the listener are similar. Her voice, light and airy or foreboding when it suits, is still recognisable but is occasionally heavily processed. Here she walks a more ambitious and unconventional path. Some outstanding, softer melodies remain but are contrasted with more primal sounds and are presented in a more disconcerting setting.

Triangle can also be viewed in the context of the great amount of contemporary and avant-garde music that Norway is currently producing. Susanna has collaborated and worked with a great number of members of that particular scene. Meshes of Voice with Jenny Hval was a powerful and experimental reminder of both its creators’ talents as well as a fascinating insight into their working processes. Other collaborators appear here too, no more prominently than Jessica Sligter on the penultimate, minimalistic ‘Death Hanging’, rich, deep strings holding up the duo’s morose melody.

So much here drips with darkness. The bleakness is amplified when the voices become disembodied, distorted and altered as they often do. The pulsating ‘This Phenomena’ is at the more lethargic end of this scale and ‘Burning Sea’ at the opposite end; concentrated and intense once it reaches full flow. Sometimes the message of the voices is indecipherable, and at others crystal clear. Constituent parts can make up a complex textural whole. But it doesn’t matter, the mood is the important thing. In some ways, Triangle is a collection of 22 moods. There are tracks which light breaks through, though. The low-key electro-pop ‘Hole’ shows Susanna in a more straight-up three-and-a-half-minute pop-song. But there isn’t too much of this. Arguably the biggest and catchiest track is the spiky, staccato ‘In The Need of a Shepherd’, (not to be confused its low-key partner ‘Shepherd’, which uses that particular phrase as its centrepiece) with its repetitive ear-worming high-end melody coming against an increasingly dense backing that reaches a concluding critical mass of abrasive synth play.

Yet, with so much happening, is there a danger that Triangle is too much to handle, too large for its own good and even overlong? Somehow, no. The way it is structured and paced has to be deliberate. The contrasting movements, the peaks and troughs, the brightness and darkness and the intensity and calmness allow you room to think and to breathe. Triangle is truly massive and mesmerising. Every minute of it is worthy of your time, at the very least once. Pick it apart, listen to it in one go, or in a few sittings, change the order, make it the only album you listen to for a whole day or even a week. Do with it what you like, but take no half measures.

Review originally published on Drowned in Sound, April 2016.