An introduction by Zoë Sharp.
By the time you read this, I shall be in Northern Ireland on a series of photoshoots and, as I'm going to be out of email contact until next week, Stuart MacBride has very kindly offered to come to my rescue and step in as guest blogger.
If I say that Stuart is huge, that's not a comment on anything other than his literary status. He's been topping the UK bestseller lists since his first book, COLD GRANITE, hit the shelves. He is the recipient of the CWA Dagger in the Library and the Barry Award, and has also just won the ITV Crime Thriller Award for Breakthrough Author of the Year for BROKEN SKIN (BLOODSHOT in the US). All in all, he is a gentleman, a scholar and an acrobat – not necessarily in that order. (See, he searches out the most embarrassing bit he could possibly find from one of my books, and proceeds to read it out loud in front of 450 people at Harrogate, and what do I do? Say nice things about him. Mutter, mutter ….)
Without further ado, please welcome the Bearded One, and all being well I shall return in a fortnight – Zoë
And now that Zoë's disclaimer for any responsibility is out of the way, let's talk dirty*…
Something strange began to happen to me the moment I went full time as a writer: as Zoë says, I became a much bigger man. By which I don't mean that I became important, or special, or even taller… actually, I've been getting shorter for the last fifteen years. Shorter and rounder. For some God-forsaken reason I'm slowly turning into a pasty bouncy castle with a beard. A podge.
A sexy podge, but a podge nonetheless.
I never used to be — I used to be slim and fit and a bit of a hottie — it's the writing that's done it. Back when I worked full time for THE MAN I'd get back home from work and sit down to indulge in my dirty secretive hobby: writing. So that's all day sitting in an office, followed by all night sitting in the study making up lies about people who don't exist. Not the most active of lifestyles, but at least back then I was getting a bit of exercise walking to the shops for lunch. Now the only things that get exercised are eight fingers and the lump of gristle between my ears.
Worse yet, I came up with a new hobby: cooking. Well, I couldn't keep writing in my spare time, could I? That would just be silly. You don't take up professional dentistry, spend all day traumatising people by drilling holes in their teeth, and then go home and start hacking away at your neighbour's mouths with a hammer drill, do you? Well, not unless you want to feature on the evening news in a couple of years time. No, you find yourself a decent wholesome hobby, like drinking heavily, or line-dancing dressed up like Barney the Dinosaur.
And as my purple Tyrannosaurus Rex costume is still in the dry-cleaners after an unfortunate semolina-related mishap, I took up cooking. It started out small, just the occasional pot of mince and tatties… I thought I could handle it. I could stop any time I wanted. Then I started dabbling with more exotic things like stews, roasts, and, to my eternal shame, fondue. And then I tried the hard stuff: soup.
What could be more distracting than soup? It's like sex in a pot… Well, maybe not sex, not unless you're into scalded genitals and finding bits of diced carrots in your intimate crevasses. But there's something strangely hypnotic about the alchemical nature of combining random stuff you find in your fridge and transforming it into SOUP!
I suppose soup is a strange obsession for someone who writes police procedural thrillers that often get described as gorier than shoving a rabid weasel down a haemophiliac's trousers. But there you go, we all have our dark secrets. And the darkest of my dark secrets is the infamous MUSHROOM SOUP.
When my editors decided to take a punt on my first book, COLD GRANITE, they asked me to write a small bio to go with the photo of the thin tall bloke on the cover. So I did:
"Stuart MacBride has scrubbed toilets offshore, flunked out of university, set up his own graphic design company, worked for some really nasty marketing people, got dragged into the heady world of the Internet, developed massive applications for the oil industry, drunk heaps of wine and created the perfect recipe for mushroom soup…"
That bit at the end has got me into more trouble than pretty much anything else. As soon as I realised I was getting more emails about the damn soup than the damn books I dropped the soup thing from the bio, but by then it was too late. Four years later and I'm still getting mushroom-soup-related queries. Seriously, these people aren't asking about recurring themes, metaphors, or the importance of cannibalism in modern crime fiction. No, they want to know about bloody soup.
Up till now I've always played the 'it's a secret I'll take with me to other people's graves…' card, but as I'm guesting here I thought, why not? Get it out in the open. Plus when Zoë asked me to fill in for her here at Murderati, she said it would be bad form to bang on about my books, and I can't think of anything further removed from tales of bloodshed and mayhem than publishing my until-now secret recipe for mushroom soup.
Ingredients — you'll need:
- 400g (14oz) Mushrooms sliced really thinly
- 150g (5oz) of dried porcini mushrooms
- 85g (3oz) of finely chopped leek
- 2 pints full-cream milk
- 150 ml double cream
- 2 cloves of garlic, mashed
- Thumb-sized lump of butter
- 2 slices of bread, or a stale roll
- 1 palm full of finely chopped fresh parsley
- Loads of finely chopped fresh thyme
What to do:
Start off by rehydrating the dried porcini in a small bowl of hot water, they'll take about 20 mins to plump up and soften. 3oz seems like an odd amount, but it's about half a little packet.
Next, melt the butter in soup pot, chuck in the sliced fresh mushrooms and season with salt and pepper (the thinner you slice them the more surface area they have to ooze out mushroomy goodness). Sweat down the mushrooms until they're soft and all the moisture has come out of them. Then add the chopped thyme, leeks, and garlic. Let them heat up in the mushrooms for a couple of minutes, then pour in the milk and bring it up to a very gentle simmer. Thyme and mushrooms go incredibly well together, trust me on this…
Tear or slice up your bread and stick it in a heatproof jug. Chuck in the rehydrated porcini and a couple of ladles of the warm mushroomy milk, then liquidise it all up with hand blender. If you don't want to throw out the soaking liquid, make sure you strain it before you add it to the soup or it'll be full of grit and sand and bits of dead bugs.
Blending it all up should give you a jug of very tasty, intensely mushroomy moosh: tip it back into the pot. Add the double cream, chopped parsley, then check for seasoning — mushrooms and cream are both sponges for salt and pepper, so don't be shy about it — then serve.
If you're feeling all summery, leave out the bread and substitute a good quality, free-range chicken stock for the milk. It won't be quite as rich, but it'll be a lot lighter. You could add a slug of brandy or a couple of glugs of white wine to the mix, but for God's sake make sure you add them after the rest of the liquid or the mushrooms will soak up all the booze. This might seem like a good thing, but it'll just make them all bitter and nasty. Like an OAP with a septic leg and a colostomy bag full of second-hand chilli. You really want to be eating that?
See — I get the chance to plug my books to hundreds of new readers and instead I witter on about soup and finish with a sodding recipe. How noir am I?
* This is, of course a lie. There's no dirty talk at all in this post… Well, except for the gratuitous use of the word 'fuck' right here in the footnotes. But we're all grownups right? It's not like I'm advocating you all go out and have sex with badgers, is it?
Oh, now, Stuart – that’s not podge, that’s some nice meat on those sexy bones.
I have to say that I’d find sex with badgers preferable to anything involving mushrooms. Except for those mushrooms that – well, never mind that.
So hang the recipe – I’ll just have to remain a rabid fan of your books.
Thanks for being here!
Mushrooms are the devil’s tagnuts.
I don’t know Stuart, I’ve always had a problem eating fungus. And the sex with badgers? Well….that’s another story.
Well, this is just a hoot.
I jumped in so I could tell Zoe that I received her “Third Strike” for my birthday and can’t wait to read it. But she’s off photo shooting and there’s some very sexy guy here wanting to cook for us in her place. Oy.
I loved this post from beginning to the very f’in’ end.
Wish I had some mushrooms – This recipe would be added to today’s menu.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!! and “rati folks? please have this cute OOPS! ‘scuse me! sexy guy back again – he’s a delight!
“that’s not podge, that’s some nice meat on those sexy bones”
Ah, Alexandra, you’re obviously a woman with excellent taste. In need of a pair of glasses, but excellent taste nonetheless…
James: that’s coffee you’re thinking of. Everyone knows they make it by scraping the Devil’s enormous bumcrack. I mean, it stands to reason, doesn’t it? Why else would the beans look like that?
Welcome to Murderati,Stuart!
And thanks for the recipe. Mushrooms are a particular favorite of mine. I’ve been looking for a good mushroom soup recipe, and plan to try this next week. So double thanks.
Randy calls me Podge. It’s one of his most endearing nicknames.
Happy Thanksgiving, all!!!
So what’s wrong with fungus, RJ? How are the poor mushrooms going to flourish if you’re too busy writing stories about hot badger-on-badger action to eat them?
Actually, I’m willing to bet money there’s a website out there somewhere in the sweaty, dark crevices of the interweb devoted to that. Probably with woodland footage to back it up.
Hi Kaye, and a belated happy birthday to you – you don’t look a day over 24.
I too have a copy of Zoë’s THIRD STRIKE sitting on my TBR pile and I’m really looking forward to it: she’s a terrific writer.
I’ve recently managed to introduce the owner of my local pub to her work, and now he’s pushing her books on anyone and everyone that goes into the place for a quiet pint.
Which is nice.
Thanks for the welcome, JT.
I completely forgot it was Thanksgiving over there in America today. I think we should initiate a similar holiday over here, only suitably modified to fit the current national psyche. How does ‘Grumpymoaners Day’ sound?
We could all gather around a table groaning with food, and complain that we’re all going to get terrible wind and indigestion from eating it all.
Now I just have to figure out a way of getting a Post Office queue to feature in the proceedings somewhere and we’re good to go.
Ah, it takes a Brit to do the proper Thanksgiving Day post, recipe and all. And I hereby name today Grumpymoaners Day worldwide.
Nice to see you here, Toots.
And now I’m stuck with an image of badgers who’ve got bits of carrot stuck in their intimate crevasses. On Thanksgiving.
Pass the turnips…
“Actually, I’m willing to bet money there’s a website out there somewhere in the sweaty, dark crevices of the interweb devoted to that. Probably with woodland footage to back it up.”
Give it enough time Stuart and I’m sure it’ll pop up on YouTube eventually.
Charmed, I am absolutely CHARMED! I’m tempted to try the soup and I don’t like mushroom soup!
Hail and well-met, Stuart!
I do like the idea of Grumpymoaners Day. Once you’ve established it over there, do let us know and we’ll celebrate a sympathetic Grumpymoaners Day here, I promise. I’m tempted to celebrate it on a weekly basis, just in solidarity.
Happy Thanksgiving/Grumpymoaners Day, everyone!
Oh, and here’s the link to the infamous badger video, complete with snakes and mushrooms.
Sounds far too complicated for me, a simpleton in the kitchen. And then I’d have to convert grams to ounces and that’s high-math or an internet search . . . maybe it’s just me, but cannibalism in crime fiction sounds like a very interesting subject . . . 😉 When I quit the day job, I took up video games in my spare time . . . not that I have much of that.
Thanks so much for being here today and sharing your deep dark secrets . . . now I’m off to toil in the kitchen to make a feast for the Brennan clan . . .
And gentlemen in England now-a-bedShall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaksThat stuffed rabid weasels and badgers down their pantsto feast with us upon Grumpymoaners’ Day.
Good to have you here, Stuart. Now mind that badger and its bumcrack!
Welcome to Murderati, Stuart!
We’ll be trying that mushroom soup recipe.
Like you, I love to cook and have suffered the same podgy predicament.
Last night, we spent a couple of hours peeling the chestnuts; we’ll be making pumpkin soup soon. My husband is working on the carrot spice cake right now.
And, as far as fungi go . . . I have a real love-hate thing going with them. Try living in Hong Kong for a year; you’ll eat more fungus than you’ve ever heard of. My least favorite has a glorious name: Silver wood fungus. But it looks and tastes like, um, snot.
On that note: Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who celebrate.
Darn, I didn’t change my name there. Otherwise the Branwen would read Fran. But then again, after the Badger-Badger link, maybe I want to be incognito.
Grump. Now let’s see if I’ve fixed it. Last time, I swear!
Grumpymoaners Day – love it.
And, thanks for the Thanksgiving chuckle, Stuart 😉
Ah yes, Tom – those naughty Englishmen do indeed hold their cheap and cursed manhoods. While we natty Scotsmen let ours dangle curse-free and reasonably priced beneath our kilts!
Oh yes, what they say about the Scottish is completely true. Especially the thing about us deep-frying anything and everything…
I wonder if anyone’s ever deep-fried soup?
“Welcome to Murderati, Stuart!”
It’s odd isn’t it – once you become a writer the fridge seems to develop critical mass and collapse into some sort of white-goods black hole, dragging in any writer unfortunate enough to be caught in its gravitational pull.
“And now I’m stuck with an image of badgers who’ve got bits of carrot stuck in their intimate crevasses.”
Glad to be able to help, Cornelia, but now I’m a bit worried about what you’re going to do with those turnips…
You know what, Fran/Branwen, I think there’s an untapped market for Grumpymoaners’ Day cards. Hallmark could make them with a dismal picture of something on the outside and when you open it up it just says, ‘Bugger off!’, ‘Get stuffed!’ or ‘What the hell are you smiling at, you idiot?’
I should copyright this stuff, shouldn’t I? I’d make a fortune.
“When I quit the day job, I took up video games in my spare time . . . not that I have much of that.”
You know what, Allison, I tried that, but it just doesn’t work for me. I bought myself a PlayStaion and a couple of games thinking that if every other male of my generation is busy wheeching around in imaginary racing cars, or shooting imaginary bad guys, I should too.
And just ended up with terrible motion sickness. Which isn’t the most manly condition in the world, is it?
Still, at least the thing works as a pretty good DVD player.
Podge? Surely it’s just a nice bit of cushioning.
I’ve probably gained at least twenty pounds while working on my first book. However, since my first book is all about being fat, I tell everyone that it’s a marketing tactic. No word, yet, on if anyone has fallen for my ruse.
Stuart, after reading this post, I can’t wait to read your book.
I can’t eat mushrooms, but my Dh loves them, so I will give your recipe a try.
Happy Grumpymoaner’s Day to you, and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone on my side of the pond.
Have to say from seeing you recently – there is no podge there… looking damn fine Mr MacBeardie!
We were still chuckling over Helen Mirren today… and Mrs MacB has a fan here too – she was being complimented highly in the pub at the weekend.
Will try the mushroom soup recipe when my podge becomes less podge and more screaming wee one in the corner!
I would pay big money for a greeting card that shouted “Bugger off!” when you opened it.
“Podge? Surely it’s just a nice bit of cushioning.”
Seriously Kathleen, I don’t need any more cushioning. I could jump out of a 30 story building and bounce for about three miles at the moment. BOING, BOING, BOING…
And Fiona, you should totally treat your Dh – it’s like an expression of love, and bound to throw the police off the scent when you finally kill him and stuff him down the waste disposal.
Ah, Insch stalker, I remember you too – you saucy minx you. And I shall have to think about letting She Who Must know about her burgeoning fan club – she’s bad enough as things are without fanning the flames.
But in the meantime we wish you all the best with your upcoming unpregnantising. Apparently a hot curry eaten atop a spin-cycle washing machine is a good one. Then you can name your newborn ‘Vindaloo McHotpoint’. No one could possibly pick on them in school after that!
Mr. MacBride,Thank you so much for stopping by today and telling us about…
Eww, what the hell man? The badger-sex thing was okay, though! 😀
Oh, and since Tom had the wrong country, perhaps we’ll have to set Grumpymoaner’s Day and rabid weasels at separate ends. Ah, “that but this holiday might be the be-all and the end-all, here, but here upon this bank and shoal of mushroomy goodness, we’d jump the soup to come. But in this complaint-fest, we still have interest.” So cook on, brother!
Hi Stuart–great to have you here. I love a good mushroom soup, but like Allison, will not attempt the math transfer. (And my family just sighed in relief, as I am abysmal cook.)
The bugger off cards would be good–though this site may have one of those, since they seem to have nearly everything else. (I particularly like their company motto):
Do you sweat the leeks with the mushrooms? Do they have some other secret use? Or are they to be tossed over the shoulder as payment to the soup gods?
Oh! Why is it that LAST time you visited you COOKED for us yet THIS time you did not? Hmm??
Grilling steaks don’t count. 😉
What can I say, Jake – I guess I’m just a fungi to be with… *ahem*
Oh come on, you knew that was going to come out at some point.
And you know what, Toni, I guess I’m just going to have to do the math for you. Let nothing stand in the way of your potential for mushroomy goodness!
Technically, Tammy, I didn’t even grill the steaks – that was Bill’s job as man of the house. Anything involving cooking meat over an open flame is the man of the house’s job. Especially if he’s hunted, killed, and butchered it.
OK, so in this case you and just I went to the shops, but it’s the thought that counts.
And I don’t know what you mean about the leeks. They were there in the recipe all along… I mean, I certainly haven’t just added them in now because you pointed out I screwed it up. No, no, no.
I just happen to really like leeks. Unlike the rest of my family. And I perk up at the mention of them, as always, only to be let down like a girl who hears the phone ring but it’s always for her sister and she’s sure she’ll never be asked to the dance.
Mmmmm. Leeky mushrooms! 😉
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