Saturday, February 27, 2010

A different approach to music making

A couple days ago, Melissa and I attended a master class given by Parmela Attariwala on improvisation. This technique is usually only in the realm of popular music, especially jazz, but also blues, rock, and similar genres. However, this class focussed on improvisation in art music. It was fascinating! An entirely new way to approach performance. The main exercises that we did were mostly about completely ignoring the sound you're making and concentrating instead on the sounds your fellow performers are making. A pretty foreign concept to those of us who view sheet music and virtuosity as mother's milk. Aside from that, the improvisation is completely free. We had people playing their various instruments, people vocalizing, some took their instrument apart and played on individual parts, one even used his chair as an instrument! It was all about simply making a sound that reacts to what you hear. An area of music making that I really hope to explore in more depth later on!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chicken Stew with Tomato Sauce

Melissa's dad gave me a gorgeous cookbook for Christmas, the "Bible of authentic Greek cooking". It is an incredible thing; I'm really obsessed with Greece, its culture, its history, its language, and especially its food. I've tried a few recipes from it so far, the first, a sort of really heavy pancake, didn't work out very well, but the second, a braised pork dish, was delectable (I'll probably share it with you soon). This one too was a fantastic dish, although I did modify it pretty liberally. It didn't actually end up turning out as a stew; all the liquid evaporated leaving just intensely flavoured chicken. Still fantastic!

Chicken Stew with Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Vefa's Kitchen

5 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 to 2 lbs chicken, cut into pieces
1 small onion (I used a shallot)
500g fresh tomatoes, pureed; or 400g canned tomatoes, pureed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups orzo
3 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the chicken and cook over medium heat, turning frequently for 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned all over. Remove and set aside.

Add the onion to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until softened.

Return the chicken to the pan, pour in the tomato puree, add the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper and oregano to taste. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for another 20 minutes, or until the sauce has reached the desired consistency (mine was pretty much gone).

Meanwhile, add the orzo, stock, and butter to a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in parmesan cheese.

Serve the chicken with the orzo.

Monday, February 8, 2010


We're back from our long absence! We've been living in the Pit of Despair for the last few weeks:
You see, it has been opera time here at the University of Western Ontario for the past few weeks, and both of us were playing in the pit orchestra for Mozart's Don Giovanni.
It was, above all, an exhausting experience, hence the complete lack of energy for anything else (eg A Tree and Its Leaves). But now it's all over
(the last performance was yesterday) and we're allowed to get back to our more or less regular lives.