Monday’s Musical Musings – and a meaty meal!

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I want to continue to talk about musical pursuits on Mondays if I have something to say, so I thought I’d post a few pictures of the trip I took to Nice and Menton in March with my Pipe Band, the Reading Scottish.  There will also be a quick crockpot meal afterwards, to keep any of you foodies interested hahaha 🙂  Tomorrow in my Tuesday Trip Report, I’ll finish up the trip with more specific pictures of Nice and Menton, but today I’ll just post a few of the band itself.

There is so much silly string being sprayed at all the parade goers during Carnival – the performers and the spectators alike – that we can’t wear our “feather bonnets” (made Ostrich feathers) when we march or they would quickly be ruined.  Other than that, though, we did all the parades in what is called “Number Ones” – the full Scottish Regimental Dress.  It’s the outfit you might be used to seeing if you’ve ever seen a pipe band on parade — the big tall black hat (but not in this case), the fly plaid, that spats over black shoes, a doublet.  In the states, though, very few bands actually wear No. 1’s, so I was pretty excited to find a band close to me (about an hour drive) while I’m living in the UK that wears them, has a busy performance schedule, and still competes in the World Pipe Band Championships and other competitions during the year.  I hoped to play with them this August 12 at the Worlds up in Glasgow, but, unfortunately for me (and exciting for them) they are the band playing in the closing ceremonies of the Olympics in London on Sunday August 13, so they aren’t going to the Worlds this year.  I won’t be playing with them at the Olympics either, though, because there are mandatory rehearsals going on all through June, July, and August, and I am due with my baby July 14.  I don’t doubt that I’ll be up and piping just fine by mid-August — but I wouldn’t be able to make any of those rehearsals, and I normally don’t pipe on Sundays anyway.  On to the No. 1’s in action…

That’s me, to the right of the clown.  This is the nighttime parade we played in Nice for Carnival (the second largest in the world behind Rio de Janeiro)  — We played one in the hot afternoon sun earlier that day and then recovered (me, back at the hostel in my dark room resting in bed – the rest of the band at a local bar all day) and met back up for dinner at 7:30pm, with the parade starting at 9.  It was absolute insanity.  Our first parade of the trip was the first night we arrived at the Citrus festival in Menton, FR, and that seemed a little crazy.  But there were barriers up between the crowd and us.  Then there were barriers at the Nice afternoon parade, and the crowd was probably a bit more subdued because of the heat.  But at night they really let loose, and the silly spray never stopped.  The crowds were loud the whole time, but they absolutely went crazy for the bagpipes 🙂

Here’s one of the Tenor drummers on the left with the Pipe Major, waiting for our afternoon parade in Nice to start.

Here’s the afternoon parade in Nice — I’m the second piper from the right in the front row.  That will be my spot in every future picture 🙂

The evening parade in Nice.  That’s our Drum Major up front, and you can’t see it here, but the night before in Menton some tv news guy with a video camera wasn’t paying enough attention to where he was walking and backed into the Drum Major, breaking off the bottom 2 feet of his mace.  Needless to say, he was pretty mad, and a fight almost ensued right in front of us as the D.M. pushed the camera man back into the tightly-packed crowd, and we continued to march, almost running over the whole scuffle.  Strange happenings!

At night, turning into the main piazza really amped up the crazy-meter.  Lots of lights from the video cameras, giant screens, tens of thousands of people….

The people in red were responsible for hyping up the crowd even more, and as we gained center stage basically, they escorted our drum major into the limelight and wove in and out of our ranks.

A good shot of the huge crowd – but most of the people were along the parade route, harassing the performers 🙂

With no parade barriers, at times we were essentially marching through swarms of people, all armed with confetti and spray.

This was the end of a very long day since I had started it with a 5 mile run along the boardwalk and then marched the hot, long parade midday, and then this long crazy one at night, all 5 months pregnant.  By the time we finished up with an even hotter afternoon parade in Menton the next day, I was wiped out (as was the rest of the band) as seen here:

So that’s enough about piping in France for now 🙂  On to the food in a second…

Today I had to take one to the dentist for a filling and then myself to a midwife appointment (iron levels are good finally!), so I deemed it a non-cooking day and will get back to the regularly scheduled program of stocking my freezer tomorrow.  So for now, here’s a recipe from last week.  We ate this when I was wiped out from all the cooking I was doing and from heading to the midwife and for a long run, etc, etc.  Having dinner come from the crockpot that night was a Godsend, and thankfully we even had brown rice in the fridge from a few nights earlier!

I made this recipe up with a bit of knowledge from previous recipes floating around in the back of my head and with the desire to use some organic cubed stewing beef that I had bought a while back and had in the freezer (and needed to thaw so that there’d be room for all my recent freezer meals!)  It turned out to be a yummy addition to my crockpot repertoire (there are very few things that we really like that come from a crockpot, so new recipes are always welcome.)  It wasn’t everyone’s favorite necessarily, but all five children and John approved enough to finish their food without much encouragement, so it’s a keeper.  The full recipe will follow the pictures as usual 🙂

If it’s not already cubed, cut up your stew meat into cubes.  Then you need to brown it in some hot oil before putting it into the crockpot.  For this step I first dipped (and let it sit maybe five minutes) the beef into a mixture of 

buttermilk and soy sauce, and then into a bowl with flour, salt, and a blend of red pepper and black pepper called “Hot Shot.”  The pieces cooked about 3 minutes and then I flipped them gently.

I then placed the meat into the crockpot and softened up the onion and garlic in my skillet with the drippings.  I also added 1/4 cup of sherry, some tomato paste, 1 beef bullion cube, all the spices, and 1 1/2 cups of hot water.  I let that simmer down a few minutes while I loosened up the meat chunks on the pan.

In the meantime I was chopping up a few carrots which I placed into the crockpot on top of the meat. I also added a drained can of black olives (another thing it’s hard to find in England – American style black olives.) Now it was ready for me to pour the “sauce” on top.

I’m going to kill some space here while I add the other pictures and say that this will end up being a saucy meat topping that you serve over rice (or, I suppose, pasta, but brown rice is the thing we used.)  So it won’t be a “stew” to eat in a bowl with a spoon.

Perhaps if you wanted to eat it more as a stew you could add potatoes to the crockpot before dumping the sauce over it, but either way, the sauce will have enough flavor that it needs a starch or it will taste too salty on its own.

Pour the skillet mixture over the crockpot, adding an additional 1 cup water, and cook on low 6-8 hours, or until your meat is tender.

I wanted to put broccoli in it as well, but I didn’t want it to cook all day long.

After I deemed the concoction “cooked” and had given it a stir and a taste test, I turned it to High and added the broccoli, cooking it another 25 minutes.  I stirred the broccoli in as well, so it boiled in the sauce a bit.  Here’s what it looked like before we served it:

I realize that the broccoli looks lifeless and overcooked, so I was worried until I took a bite and found it still as firm as I like it.  It was just the sauce giving it that dim color 🙂

Here is the recipe, for which I must now devise a name….

Sherry Stewed Beef and Broccoli

Prepare about 1 pound of stew meat:

Cube meat

Dip into mixture of 1/2 cup buttermilk with 1 Tbsp Soy Sauce

Dip into flour mixture of 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 tsp “Hot Shot” (ground black and red pepper), and 1/2 tsp salt.

Brown the meat in hot olive oil about 3 minutes and then turn and cook another 3 minutes.  Transfer the stew meat to the slow cooker.

Add to the meat skillet and cook until softened:

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

Add remaining “sauce” ingredients to the skillet with the onion and garlic:

1  1/2 cups hot water

1 beef bullion cube

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1/4 cup sherry

1/2 Tbsp toasted cumin seed

1/2 Tbsp coriander seed

1  1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp Oregano

1/2 tsp pepper

Bring this mixture to a boil and simmer for a few minutes.

Layer these on to the meat in the crockpot:

4 carrots cut into chunks

1 can black olives, drained

Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables in the crockpot along with an additional 1 cup water.

Cook on low 6-8 hours until the meat is tender.  Then add ad cook on high for 25 minutes:

1-2 heads broccoli, cut up

Serve over hot rice or pasta.

If anyone else gives this a try I would really love to hear what you thought!

Be honest – bagpipes  – like ’em or hate ’em??

Ever been to Nice, or to Carnival somewhere else?



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