London by Monet

Just about an hour by train southbound from London’s King’s Cross St Pancras station you will find an outer suburb of London called Lille, which happens to fall within French jurisdiction. One of the best things about this town, actually: THE BEST thing about this town is an art gallery called The Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, which houses the most important collection of fine art in France after the The Louvre in Paris.

Personally, I like the Palais des Beaux Arts far more than Louvre, because a) it’s do-able in one afternoon, and b) the building and galleries are full of magnificent sights to behold. It’s exactly what you expect an art gallery to be like: vast spaces, wondrous paintings and sculptures, and most important of all; a sense of solitude that is the very antithesis of the tourist-packed Louvre. No being shuffled fast and furiously past paintings of the great masters here; you can hang around as long as you like and contemplate at some amazing works by Delacroix, David, Goya, Rodin, Van Dyck, Reubens etc.

But bestest of all is a particular painting that warrants a pilgrimage on its own …

Le Parlement de Londres by Claude Monet
(Taken with my cameraphone at Palais des Beaux Arts de Lille.)

From a distance of a few metres, the object in the painting is recognisable to us Londoners in pin-sharp instantaneousness. But from a few centimetres away it looks like a hodge-podge mess of oil-paint randomness. That’s the wonder of impressionism. That’s Claude Monet. And that’s what makes Lille a “must visit” place.

(In the picture above you can see some French art students reproducing this painting. On the afternoon of my visit, at no other painting in the entire gallery was anyone else doing this.)

Moroccan Chicken

Haven’t put up a recipe for ages. So how about chicken in a slightly different style. Not Indian style per se, but can be put together in any kitchen equipped and stocked for Indian cooking. It makes a great change and focusses on the wonderful combination of chickpeas and chicken. This combo is popular in the Mediterranean regions of Europe and North Africa, where the chickpeas are used liberally in meaty stews as well as salads. Contrast this with the use of chickpeas in South Asian and Indian cuisines, where chickpeas are used as a “centrepiece” rather than an ingredient – e.g. in chole bhatura or channa masala etc. Anyway, this recipe is a Moroccan style one, so plenty of use of chillie, turmeric, cumin and coriander, but with a really fresh Mediterranean edge through the use of olives, lemon, parsley and chickpeas.

Moroccan style chicken bake with salad
(Pictures taken with my cameraphone)

Click here to learn how to prepare this tasty dish. Best eaten al fresco in your back garden whilst a semblance of summer remains.

Word Cloud

You know how you go to “Web 2.0” presentations in really swanky Covent Garden venues where “cool” people talk to their Powerpoint slides about endless mashup opportunities that arise from the wisdom of crowds and the power of the web as a platform for market disruptions and exciting user-experiences etc. etc. etc. ? Well, there’s always one slide they always throw up; one that such a presentation would not be complete without: the Word Cloud. So I was staring at a blank Powerpoint slide thinking I’d like to make a Word Cloud slide too. Click on the image below to see it build up:

A Word Cloud generated from this blog’s web-feed.
(Video of Wordle Creation taken with my cameraphone of course.)

Thanks to Paul Golding who showed me the way to this rather neat app.