Monthly Archives: August 2011


I made this a couple of weeks back but didn’t have time to write it up at the time – it was good, though. I adapted it from a Jamie Oliver recipe and used some unexpectedly expensive giant Merguez sausages from the Covered Market, but they added a lot to the end result, so if you can buy some proper butcher’s sausages I’d recommend it.

Here’s what I’ve got – I’m a bit vague on quantities.

Serves 4

6-8 regular sized pork sausages (or 4 giant ones)

8 thick slices of smoked bacon, chopped into small bits

2 red onions, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

Some garden herbs, fresh if you can manage – ie. thyme, sage, oregano etc

1/2 celery heart, chopped

Some red wine (about half a bottle, maybe)

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

2 tins of beans (I think I used borlotti and cannelli)


Basically, you get a decent-sized roasting tin, pour some olive oil in and then put it across your hobs. Chuck in the bacon and fry it until it gets crispy, then add your onions, carrot, celery, garlic and herbs and cook slowly til they soften. Add the red wine and let it reduce down for a bit, then chuck your tins of chopped tomatoes in with a splash of lemon juice to reduce the metallic taste.

Put your oven onto 200 degrees celsius and then add both tins of beans to your roasting tray, bring to the boil, simmer for a little while and then season according to how you like it – you’ll probably need to add some salt and some additional herbs. I think I put some smoked paprika in, and then also some harissa paste, but the latter was a definite mistake – it’s not meant to be a hot dish, this. Then add your sausages in no particular pattern and sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top.

Shove the whole thing into the oven and cook it for about 40 minutes, or at least until the top gets crispy, and eat it with mashed potato. It was a bit hearty for the summer, but it would be brilliant for winter – it was good and filling, and pretty easy too.

Feel free to scrimp on bacon if you can’t afford it, but make sure you buy some herbs to add to the taste instead or it will feel a bit lost. Apparently you can also put fresh green spinach in at the last minute before serving up too…

Leave a comment

Posted by on 31/08/2011 in Food



If you’ve not yet been introduced to American hip-hop label Humble Beast, consider this your introduction. You’ve probably never heard of the names Odd Thomas, Braille or Propaganda, but on the site (which is here, by the way) you can download their albums free of charge.

I’m kind of new to hip-hop, but I gather that there’s a level of honesty in their rapping that’s pretty rare, and they couple amazing wordplay with powerful testimony. My personal favourite is Art Ambidextrous, a collaboration between Propaganda and Odd Thomas that you can download here, but Braille has also just finished a new album called Native Lungs that I’ve got playing as I write this, and it’s pretty awesome.

Check out Feel It, the lead single, below:

I’ve not got to it yet, either, but A Music Manifesto from the late Citizen Aim – also available free on the site – is reportedly incredible too.

Leave a comment

Posted by on 31/08/2011 in God, Music



I know about Mat Kearney mostly because a whole bunch of authors who I respect – including Donald Miller and Jon Acuff – have mentioned him lately, and that’s usually a good sign.

I can’t stop playing his latest single, which is entitled Hey Mama – the video for it is here or you can listen to it below. It’s a joyful thing:

Also worth a look is Ships in the Night, a gloriously cheerful spoken word piece which is pretty irresistible. If anything, I think I like it even more than the single. That’s below as well:

Mat’s album is called Young Love, and it’s on Spotify and Itunes already. It’s great summer music, and so it’s worth listening to before the summer’s gone…

Leave a comment

Posted by on 22/08/2011 in Music, Other



Today I’m listening to Randy Fuller, another discovery who comes courtesy of the good folks over at NoiseTrade, who just love to give away free music.

Heartfelt and melancholy songwriting that admittedly isn’t going to change the world, but, given that it has been chucking it down with rain in Oxford for the past six hours, also curiously appropriate in Small Talk‘s assertion, “let’s forget about the weather for now”, and oddly warming, like a mug of hot tea. Recommended.

You can listen to (and download, if you like) the album here. Let me know what you think of it.

1 Comment

Posted by on 18/08/2011 in Music



I mentioned Josh Garrels‘ superb album Love & War & the Sea In Between a few weeks back, but I wanted to flag up one track in particular which has grown on me throughout that time.

The track is Ulysses, and it feels to me as though Garrels is working from Tennyson’s image of Ulysses, who concluded

Though much is taken, much abides; and though

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will,

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Josh Garrels’ Ulysses is a man sailing home for love, weary, bruised and tempted on all sides – different from the original, perhaps, but I like his perseverance and tenacity.

See what you think here:

Leave a comment

Posted by on 17/08/2011 in Music



I picked this up for a couple of quid in a second-hand bookshop the other day. It caused quite a stir when it came out, but in case you missed it, the basic premise is that Jesus, a wise teacher, had a brother called Christ, the “spiritual” one, who followed his brother round twisting his teachings into the form we have them today. Supposedly Philip Pullman came up with the idea for the book after a conversation with his friend Rowan Williams, and it’s a fascinating and compelling read.

Much of the book is lifted wholly from the Bible, with some of Jesus’ words written out in slightly more contemporary form to make them more accessible. However, it’s written through the eyes of his brother Christ, and so there’s a few moments of savage comedy where Christ rewrites his brothers actions or words into a more appealing form. Some of these rewrites are old and well known, like the feeding of the 5000 being an instance of mass sharing, and some are less convincing – like people being healed by the warm atmosphere created by having Jesus around them.

It’s worth saying that the book is brilliantly written, which I can understand will offend a few people, especially due to its subject matter. As a Christian, I found that there were passages that were hard to stomach, but in spite of that, I had to marvel at Pullman’s skill as a storyteller. His Jesus, in particular, is an incredibly appealing figure, revolutionary and compassionate and human all at once, and in many ways a much more comprehensible figure than the Jesus of the gospels. I’d like to believe in Jesus as Pullman sees him, as he is a truly good man, but I do have big issues with his character (more on that later). That said, his speech in the garden of Gethsemane, in particular, is incredibly powerful – an amazing interpretation of what Jesus might have gone through in facing the silence of God, and a deep critique of the church.

The book is deeply opposed to the church, which is unsurprising for anyone who’s read Pullman’s other work. The church is attacked for its structures, for its inability to live out the revolutionary life that Jesus lived – it’s seen as fraudulent, a body of believers united together by a shared lie about a risen saviour and the myth of a holy spirit. Its existence is attributed to the untrustworthy Christ and the mysterious stranger (an image of Satan) who suggests the idea to him. If anything, it’s this that is most offensive about Pullman’s book, and also where it falls down.

Like I say, Pullman’s Jesus is incredibly appealing. He’s also a caricature – as you’d expect from somebody who’s made up of only the bits that you like about them. Pullman praises his revolutionary qualities, but strips away his divinity, ultimately stripping away his significance. To Pullman, Jesus is simply another teacher, which I know is his point, but by saying this he ultimately puts himself in an awkward position. The thing is, Jesus is surrounded by idiots. His followers are weak, cowardly, whipped up into a revolutionary frenzy by his actions but unable or unwilling to live like him. So after he dies, there’s no implication that anyone will live any differently – in fact, the book repeatedly states that his followers do nothing at all until Christ lies to them about the Holy Spirit and pretends to be his risen brother.

So what use it having a great man at the centre of your faith if your followers can’t or don’t follow him? That doesn’t make him great, that makes him meaningless.

Pullman is a brilliant commentator on the church, and he’s right that a lot of evil has been done in its name. He clearly admires Jesus, and he’s got a point that if the church wants to live like he did, it’s structured in the wrong way and its people have their priorities wrong. He’s also right that Jesus didn’t lay out any of the structures of how church was to be done, just told them to live like him. But the implication of Jesus’ ministry was always that people would live like he did, and the rest would come naturally out of that kind of life. Belief in Jesus means becoming part of a body of believes who are known by his name, and that’s inseparable from being a Christian. It can never just be an entirely individual thing. It feels like Pullman would rather the church fell apart, and maybe it would be more effective if it did, but all the same, Jesus called the church – for all of its flaws.

Much like A.C. Grayling’s recent (and unintentionally hilarious) recent attempt at a secular bible in the form of The Good Book, Philip Pullman has constructed an attempted rehabilitation of the Christian faith to make it the story of one good man, but it doesn’t quite work. As thought-provoking as it is, it doesn’t have the power to change lives. I read Mark’s gospel immediately afterwards, and maybe it’s the years of accumulated commentary blinding me, but the gospel has a power, an authority, that’s distinct and undeniable.

So for all of that, what The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ adds up to in the end is commentary. Good commentary, too, timely and worth reading by anyone who calls themselves a follower of Jesus and has a strong stomach, but nothing that’s going to change the world.

Oddly enough, though, Pullman seems to acknowledge this in a bleak and memorable ending that lingers long after the book is put down. But then again – who said he was trying to change the world anyway?


Posted by on 16/08/2011 in God, Other


Tags: , , , , , , ,