By Zeus I love crispy stuff. There’s something about a salty, brittle crunch which carries enormous appeal. Maybe it’s the feeling of shattering something beautiful, maybe it’s the flood of flavour that almost always accompanies that moment. Maybe it’s just that everything crispy is usually fantastically unhealthy, appealing to my self-destructive side.
This woman probably went through a delicious crackling stage before becoming a kind of profoundly unsexy organ wallet
These spring rolls are a compromise between that most base of desires and my almost-but-not-quite-unashamedly metrosexual desire to not become a cratered doughball, drowning my promise in deep-fried goodness. Therefore they are baked. This method takes a little longer, but consider that to be time you’d lose to high cholesterol if you’d gone the deep-frying route.
To run the risk of sounding like a perfume advert, I believe in simplicity. My wardrobe is essentially black and white, with the occasional splash of colour a grudging nod to society’s loathing of mimes. Though I play up the hedonistic aspects of my lifestyle in an attempt to seem rock ‘n’ roll and unapproachable, I actually appreciate the simplest things in life the most. The kiss of a cold pillow or the moment you take off your socks rank just as highly for me as a Hawksmoor steak or a Hendrick’s G & T.
There's something quite meta about writing at length about simplicity. Blows. My. Mind.
This doesn’t always translate into food. I love to cook the likes of duck confit and decadent venison, and I’ll never order something basic in a restaurant. I want to be dazzled and surprised by other people’s food and by extension hope to do that with mine, sometimes at the expense of the pure satisfaction of a good nourishing plate of grub.
In my hometown, there’s a club called the Bridge. It stretches over two floors. On the top floor are the beautiful rich boys and girls, racing back and forth from bar to dance floor to smoking area and kissing in the corridors. On the bottom floor you’ll find a seething, humping mass of sweaty bodies, writhing desperately to thumping (and shit) R & B.
I love & support hip-hop. I don't blame it for society's problems. However, I do have to admit that this guy probably wouldn't have happened without it. Sorry about that.
Nights at the Bridge inevitably end with inexplicably sticky hands and the lingering aftertastes of aniseed, body odour and regret. Most people wash them away with a sea of grease from one of the less salubrious kebab vans that dot Oxford’s streets, but to me the lumps of gristle and animal tubing that make up the average kebab could never quite cut it. I needed something which could help fight off those feelings of guilt and self-loathing. Something, god forbid, vegetarian.
In my parent’s front garden there is an old tree, thick and gnarled with age. It serves as a kind of landmark for me, the first piece of home I see as I walk down the old red brick street. It’s also a bloody nuisance as it has become incontinent in its old age and leaks sticky sap over anything parked too close.
The great thing about getting really old is that you can do whatever you wish, no matter how disgusting, and simply laugh it off
Of more interest to me, however, is the enormous mushroom that has sprouted from one of the crooks in the tree’s trunk. It’s a brown, flat thing, about the size of an average fish platter. Huddling under its cap are colonies of smaller white mushrooms, nuzzling the gills in King Mushroom’s underside. It was a fantastically unsettling sight the first time I dragged my shattered body and mind up the drive at 6.50am and it loomed from that lovely old tree.
I’m not exactly the paradigm of good health. I smoke, I drink too much, I eat pretty much constantly and the extent of my exercise is an occasional late-night splash about in the kid’s pool (I like the floats and sometimes – when it’s empty – I’m allowed to go on the slide.) But my greatest vice is bad Chinese food. I readily admit to loving the MSG packed staples: sweet and sour pork, black bean and crispy chilli beef rank highly – but nothing beats crispy duck. I once ate it three times in a week and then found a duck’s leg bone under my bed, like some kind of Native American curse.
The lizard king has followed the lead of George VI in going for a more understated bowler hat rather than the traditional crown
You would have thought this would mean I’d be chomping at the bit to get my hands on Royal Dragon. Regularly rated highly by both public and critics, it’s unanimously thought to be Chinese done right – or at least as right as it gets 5000 miles from Beijing. As the flagship London eatery of restaurant group Royal China, Royal Dragon has a reputation for value, quality and service.
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Thus far I’ve steered clear of fruit. For the despicable likes of me fruit is a minefield of lewd cliches and sexual analogies, and I want to avoid becoming a poor caricature of myself.
My ancestor Joseph Harding invented cheddar cheese. His earlier experiments were significantly less delicious.
I couldn’t continue to ignore the syrupy delights of cooked fruit and its place in the savoury canon. I knew someone once who couldn’t stand the combination of fruit and cheese, considering it to be akin to that picture of the rat with an ear on its back – each element good, useful & natural in isolation but abhorrent when combined.
On the east coast of Corsica there’s a little holiday village called Cappiciolo where you’re woken each morning by the bleat and fart of the three wheeled baker’s van trundling down the treacherous gravelled path. He sold the clown-faced Corsican loaves* alongside the ubiquitous pain au chocolat & baguette, and the smell that rose from his little wagon’s open back doors made 8am not seem so bad.
Proud Corsicans will often sing the praises of the various clown-shaped delicacies of their small island
On the beach there was a little dip where the sand drifts had subsided. It was coarse with brush and teeming with mysterious little beach insects but for a week and a half every year it became a battlefield, a race course, an ocean or a mine. That little dip was fuel to the fire of infant imagination.