Recipe for BBQ sauce with chipotle, for steaks; I chickened out over a whole fore rib of beef

Championing as I do, the barbecuing of larger cuts of meat, I felt semi-triumphant, coming home from Waitrose with a well-marbled boneless fore rib of beef, and a half-conceived idea of a Thai glaze to give it a little zip. The triumph of actually finding properly marbled meat at Waitrose was tempered by my rapidly diminishing confidence that I could go the whole hog with the joint, so to speak, in the time I had left before the guests arrived. So yes, I chickened out. Cutting it into steaks would slice the cooking time, and I reasoned it would be a way of getting more glaze per square inch of cow.

I pulled out Eat The Heat, an old favourite Swedish cook book of chili-fueled sauces, salsas, chutneys, and glazes. Couldn’t find a Thai-type glaze that I had ingredients for, but I did find a tasty-looking barbecue sauce that appealed to the Maltjerry half of the brain: “Whisky-Corn Barbecue Sauce”. Now, (sweet)corn I find as useful and tasty a cooking ingredient as cushion stuffing, so that was cut, and I used Jim Beam bourbon. With a few other tweaks, I had my own recipe. No longer on the glaze trail, I could have done the joint en pi??ce, but it’s tricky to unslice steaks – I billed them as rib-eye.

So here it is, a Maltjerry adaptation: “Whiskey and Roasted Garlic Chipotle Barbecue Sauce”.
Enough for 4 large steaks, or indeed, a whole joint.

2-3 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
oil for shallow frying
1-2 tbsp light muscovado sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar; cheapo is fine
2 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar
3 dl of good chicken stock
Half a bulb of roasted garlic (or 6 cloves)
1 tsp chipotle paste (yeah, wake up to the glories of chipotle, UK! Morrisons do small jars of chopped chipotles that are OK.)
A Jamie-type glug of whisk(e)y

Gently fry the shallots and garlic in the oil, taking care not to burn the garlic.
When soft, add the sugar, vinegar and stock and simmer with the lid on for about 15 minutes. You might need to add some water if it gets too syrupy.
Empty into a blender, squeeze in your roasted garlic and add the chipotle.
Whizz until smooth.
Return to the saucepan, add the whiskey and boil until has the consistency of BBQ sauce.
Add salt to taste.

Do remember to rest your steaks well before serving; you knew that already, of course.
We drank a really nice, not-too-fruity Aussie shiraz
On the beer front, I think Garret Oliver would approve of an American pale ale, an IPA, a brown ale, or a smoked beer.
Say, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Thornbridge Jaipur, Brooklyn Brewery Brown Ale, BrewDog Punk IPA (or maybe Hardcore), Alaskan Smoked Porter.

Three Friends: All Saints Centre, Lewes. Why do they put themselves through this?

Having written a preview to tonight's gig, I can hardly not do a review of the gig itself. It's billed as Three Friends playing the music of Gentle Giant. It's hard to write this, though. Not because I can't be objective, but who am I writing for? Everyone interested in music has a band they feel is theirs, and Gentle Giant is (one of) mine. And as I am part of the online Gentle Giant community of fans, it would be natural for me to write for them. "Great to see 3F live again in an intimate venue… Gary on great form… They played "Proclamation/Valedictory" for the first time…" All true, but not what I am about here. I'll save that for the On Reflection gang.

I find myself thinking, "What would Sid Smith do?" Sid is the music writer who wrote an acclaimed bio of King Crimson. But even that doesn't work for me. I am not Sid. When I let all those thoughts pass, what I am left with is wonder, if not downright astonishment. Why on earth do Three Friends do this? It's a thought that occurred to me midway through the concert. But as I took my seat, in what used to be a church; formerly All Saints, Lewes, I suppose, I made a small connection with the guy next to me.

"Is this Steve Reich?" I say, commenting out loud on the before-gig music. My fellow audient says, "It's Terry Riley." I immediately turn to my friend Chris and say, "I just said that, you did hear me, didn't you?" My excuses don't matter, we have made contact and start talking about Gentle Giant. It's a conversation familiar to me; "When did you first hear them?", "Did you ever see them live?", "How come you are here tonight?" And that's the one that interests me. Why are a couple of hundred souls gathered here together to see what might be called a tribute band. The objects of their musical offering a cult progressive rock group that finished playing in 1980?

My new concert buddy admits to knowing the bass player: Roger Carey, having accidentally met in a pub where Roger had been playing recently. He admitted to being knocked sideways during innocent enjoyment of a quiet pint when he recognised a Gentle Giant number the pub band was playing. The previous song had been a Van Morrison song, nice to hear, but not unusual. He was totally unprepared for this: Gentle Giant?! He had to investigate and saw it was his old friend Roger, who revealed that he was in a Gentle Giant tribute band who were playing next week in Lewes. And now he was chatting to me. Gentle Giant fans connecting in the UK is a bit like recognising a fellow mason.

In the second set, I catch myself with that thought, questioning the very existence of Three Friends, "Why are they doing this?" Well, on the face of it, it is an interesting gig; to play for an audience of locals and friends, but to then see it grow into a few gigs in Europe, Japan, North America. But jeez, you've got to really want to do this. This is hard, hard music to master, and on top of that, Gentle Giant fans are very picky. As they finish Schooldays, and on receiving genuinely rapturous applause, the faces of the band betray triumph and delight. Gary Green admits to us that it had been "crap" in rehearsal. Their reward is their satisfaction in their accomplishment, partly. But also they get the acknowledgement that they nailed it in front of this audience. From that moment, Three Friends flew. What had up to then been very enjoyable – accomplished, even, became something extra.

And maybe that's getting near the why; It's the love of the music, no doubt, but that's not the whole story, I'm sure. I wonder, if perhaps Gary Green and Malcolm Mortimore – the only two Giant alumni in this band – along with the other superbly accomplished musicians (themselves Giant fans) get a sense of Three Friends putting right some of the injustice that the music of Gentle Giant didn't quite get the appreciation it deserved in the band's lifetime. Three Friends becomes bigger than the band members. If that's anywhere near what's driving them to learn the almost absurdly complex rhythms, the bonkers melodies (and their counterpoint), then isn't that the real tribute? Otherwise, why do it? Sticking to Van Morrison covers or jazz standards, or whatever they all do in the rest of their musical lives, is surely a much more sensible choice. Not merely a cover band, but a band on a mission.??

Three Friends Preview: Tonight Sussex, tomorrow the World!

Tonight, June 8 2010, a small town close to England’s South Coast becomes the centre of my musical world. Lewes in East Sussex might well be home of one of the finest of Englands traditional small breweries, but even for a beer lover like me, this malty fact is insignficant compared to the knowledge that the music of the mighty Gentle Giant will be played live at the unlikely venue of of the All Saints Centre. And I wouldn’t miss it for all the mild in Harveys.

OK, Three Friends are not Gentle Giant re-united, but they do boast actual former members in guitarist Gary Green and drummer Malcolm Mortimore. The Lewes gig is the only one in the UK before the band heads off for a couple of dates in Canada and a couple more in America, including the progressive rock festival NEARfest. The final date listed on the band’s website is another progressive rock festival date in Germany. (I do hate the term “prog”.)

So if only two band members are ex-GG, even if keyboard main-man Kerry Minnear was in the band (more of that later) does that make 3F a tribute band, and if so, why get so excited about them?

Now, I don’t have a problem with tribute bands. I don’t even have a problem with bands trading on an ancient famous name, with only one original member left (not the case with 3F). As long as the music is true to the spirit of the band they are covering, it’s fine by me. I find it odd that some tribute bands want to dress up and look like their heroes, as seen on the very dodgy “I’m in a Rock n Roll Band, Live” on BBC2 last Saturday.

Three Friends play the music of Gentle Giant, and more than do it right. And, if any further reason were required to gain my approval, they play songs that the original band never played live. So I don’t have a problem with them; fine musicians serving the music. In fact I rejoice in their very existence. Thankfully, the white jumpsuit and satin Robin Hood gear are nowhere to be seen. However, if I, and a huge part (if not all) of the remaining fans of Gentle Giant don’t have a problem with Three Friends, Ray Shulman, clearly DOES have a problem with Three Friends’ existence.

Ray Shulman was not only the bass player and multi-instrumentalist, he was one of the main composers of Gentle Giant’s revered cannon, along with Kerry Minnear. He maybe feels affronted by Three Friends making money off his work, I don’t know. What I DO know is this music deserves to be heard live. See for yourself, and if you can’t make one of the live dates, there are some cracking vids on YouTube taken both from concerts and live in the studio.

Three Freinds website

Gentle Giant official website

Just the Same Three Friends Live at the Ropetackle Shoreham, with Kerry Minnear in October 2009

School Days Three Friends in the Studio

Buy the newly-released 180 gm direct metal vinyl versions of two classic Gentle Giant albums: The Power and the Glory, and In a Glass House, direct from the band.

Vinyl Open Mic Night

I've created a Spotify playlist from Wednesday's sesh at The Star in Dorking. The Star 20100602
I think the opening Wham was ironic. The new Jeff Beck had a terrific sound, My choices were Iggy, T Heads, Tom Waits, Teenage Fanclub.

Not very many missing pieces, some surprising, I've substituted The Byrds version of Chimes of Freedom. Humble Pie Black Coffee not there, nor Nick Cave's version of Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart from the excellent Kicking against the Pricks (one of mine). Perhaps not so surprsing absences from a collectors' double Skunk Anansie LP that had a dance/metal remix thing. Also a double 12" from The Damned Is it a Dream (?), with a rousing version of Pretty Vacant.

I'm not aware of anywhere else that does this, and thought it would be fun to document. Works better if you have Spotify, of course!