Sometimes I feel that writing a blog is a bit like being that guy at a party. You know him. He takes a corner of the room to himself and, tweaked out on plant food & bad coke, draws anyone near him into interminable conversations about his family, his future, his frustrations. His face is drawn and lined with the stress of his habits and he hasn’t shaved or slept for days. Consequently, he looks a bit like a pinched ballsack.
I know how she feels. Trapped between the "I'm just kind of crazy" guy and the one who reads Baudelaire aloud from his beanbag in between bong hits
I try to avoid the trap of solipsism and listen to my friends, family and food-loving acquaintances in the interests of self-improvement. Sometimes, however, I’m delighted that I’ve stubbornly taken my own route despite all nudging and directing. Cooking salt and pepper squid was one of those times. I’ve been toying with the idea of putting actual photographs on the blog. Of the food, that is, rather than painted dogs and testicle-shaped fish.
I was walking to the tube from my house in Archway the other day and passed a perfectly formed little turd perching on top of a takeaway pizza box. It felt like an omen – a symbol of neglect and its inevitable consequences. I’ve been too busy for this sweet, bulbous little blog. This ray of culinary sunshine that kept boredom from the door during interminable hours in west London and that I have neglected in the interests of a trifling little thing called a career. Never again. The two can work alongside each other. I will force them to be friends. Pinky promise.
Pinky promise is a binding agreement
I suppose I probably owe you another apology, too. Generally I’ve been cooking food that each and every one of you can cook and afford. This doesn’t really fit into that category – not because it’s too difficult but because I doubt many people would be willing to make the kind of effort this dish requires. Unless you’re going to get laid because of it, which is practically a certainty with this one. Continue reading
I have a friend called Patrick who I think my girlfriend might be a little jealous of. Patrick and I have developed a tendency to go on man-dates during which we eat, drink and ultimately end up dancing in Soho attics or East End basements. The most recent of these escalating soirees took in a criminally unregarded Georgian restaurant on the Caledonian Road called Iberia.
Mine and Patrick's relationship isn't quite this close, but we're getting there
The first time he pointed out Iberia to me, the restaurant’s streetside smoking area was clogged with corpulent men in ill-fitting silk waistcoats from whose arms stick insect blondes hung like so many limp washcloths. The sight didn’t fill me with hope, but Patrick assured me that the food was worth any number of second rate mafiosi.
I once sat in Wagamama’s and listened to the girl next to me describing in lurid detail the day she lost her virginity to a 14 year old in the back of a bus. On another occasion, at a different noodle bar in Oxford, I had to put up with a man who sneezed between every mouthful and turned to me with a sheepish grin and lisped out his apology.
Mr Sneeze, as I call him, shared numerous attributes with this man - most prominently those come hither eyes
I think it was probably that final experience that broke me. I decided at that point to no longer put up with the hotbed of nutters that most noodle bars seem to be and instead invite my own, special nutters round to eat homemade noodle soup.
My friend Julian once told me that I was a good cook but that I always have to put a thing inside a thing. This was either a veiled suggestion that I should retreat to a monastery in the hills and live an ascetic & celibate life or a comment on my culinary habits.
On this evidence one probably shouldn't take anything Julian says too seriously
He told me that in Croatia, in blazing sunshine and under the influence of the 70% raki we were given (I assume) to strip any paint that might have developed in our throats overnight. At 10am. It was either that or the totally delectable honeyed liquor Medica, which is like mead but from the Balkans and therefore heinously strong.
The best present I’ve ever unwrapped is the deep fat fryer I was given a couple of years ago. Though it’s only big enough to make enough chips for one small person, I’m barely ashamed to admit that I’ve spent entire afternoons eating tiny portions in my pants whilst watching T4.
This man has posed a photograph of himself eating bacon tempura. Hence the light sheen of grease on his skin
There’s a perception that everything that comes out of a deep fat fryer is automatically junk food. Whilst in many cases this is true (one of my unhealthiest habits is Scotch eggs. I’m thinking of having hypnotherapy), there are a few genuinely healthy and delicious things that emerge from the cauldron. Vegetable tempura is one of them. And don’t worry if you don’t have a fryer, a pan half full of cheap oil will do the job equally well.
Mostly I cook with one aim – to convince people that I’m magic and/or make them happy. This is down to my fantastic narcissism and a feeling that somehow friendships sealed at the dining table are better and more true.
This is Rocky. Rocky knows how we roll.
This, though, is a different matter entirely. I first made it in a terribly under-equipped kitchen in a salmon pink house in Oxford, and have refined it every time I’ve needed something warm and comforting since. Its little dose of spice combined with the tenderness of the meat and crispiness of the skin contributes to an indispensable dish for those freezing sunny days of spring.
First time I made tofu in satay sauce, it was a disaster. The satay was fine, with the required balance of heat, peanut saltiness and lemon zest, but the tofu was a whole different kettle of fish. Or fungus, or whatever the fuck it is.
Whilst not strictly relevant, this blowfish does look like a testicle, which is pretty much my only criterion for inclusion
My mistake was not coating the individual pieces of tofu in cornflour, a fact which kind of pisses me off because cornflour is one of those ingredients that I know sits unregarded at the back of most cupboards for years. I had vowed never to ask anyone to use those kinds of ingredients (also included: gelatine, star anise and preserved lemons. The lemons I’m not too bothered about because they taste exactly like petrol smells anyway), but in this case it’s genuinely necessary so don’t miss it out.
I know I wrote with some conviction about how great vegetarian roast vegetable burgers are, but then I remembered these beauties. Though I do still believe that roast vegetable burgers are better than your average garden variety beefburger, these apple and blue cheese beefburgers rather take the biscuit overall.
He's feeling that beef's burgers hurr hurr hurr
I understand the backlash against “posh” burgers. I know that some people just want meat and bread, but if that’s what you’re after you’re much better off going with a steak sandwich or something similar. At least then it’s all one cut rather than the anatomical run-off of the abattoir. That’s actually quite unfair, but the food standards agency did once find a sample of mince that contained 32.3g of fat for every 100g, which is frankly nauseating. I’d recommend sticking with either stuff from the butchers or, at the very least, the lean or extra lean mince you can pick up in supermarkets.
Posted in Food
Tagged apple and blue cheese beefburgers, apple and blue cheese burger, apple and gorgonzola beefburgers, apple and gorgonzola burger, beef, beef burger, burger, cheese, food, garlic, gorgonzola, mince, oregano, recipe, sage
Honestly I find potatoes pretty amazing. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of a boiled potato, and mash sucks balls in my humble opinion, but roasted, fried, baked, croquetted, frittered, wedged, chipped or sauteed the most basic of vegetables becomes a god and a monster.
"He stared into the oven. Terror glazed his eyes like honey on a prize ham and he whispered 'Cthulhu?'"
I don’t eat a lot of potato, though. I rarely think about them except for with roasts, preferring pasta or rice as my source of carbs, but the other day my stores were looking a bit sparse (my fridge contained the ingredients here plus a plastic mug with what might have been parsley in it, a sandwich bag containing a piece of cheese harder than any rock and a fork) and I needed to eat something that would soak up the copious amounts of Morgan’s Spiced I was going to drink at Wetherspoons.
Posted in Food
Tagged allspice, cheese, chorizo, egg, food, frittata, omelette, potato, recipe, spanish, spinach