Friday, September 01, 2006

ham and cheese nibbles and all-in-one balti rice


The day after the night before, and it's off to the one-day international cricket with our news editor Kempy. Though it sounds like I'm talking about another sports desk lackey, Kempy is in fact female. She's also the paper's news editor. She backs herself where sport is concerned, and likes lots of boysie things like football, cricket and going on the lash (she also won the summer's fantasy football tourney, and won't let anyone forget).
But there's an early setback. Kempy hasn't turned up for work. Mass panic and phone calls to local hospitals in the area. We know she was out on corporate hospitality at the Rolling Stones the night before. Alarm bells are ringing.
Then comes the news flash - she fell asleep on the bus and missed her stop, tottered the half mile home and then promptly fell down the stairs. She's made of stern stuff though, and won't miss the cricket I am sure.
Kempy got into cricket two summer's ago when we went to Edgbaston for the Sunday of an England v West Indies Test match. Spending a relaxed day outdoors drinking while having very little else to think about appealed greatly, and the banter was right up her street, too, especially the Ashley Giles fan club singing G-I-L-E-S to the tune D-I-S-C-O.
I thought cricket might just be a Kempy fad. She's a bit of a faddy girl. Over the last few years she's tried skiing, golf, women's football, camping, army training, arm wrestling and penny farthing riding. The fad becomes the no 1 occupation in her mind and she goes and gets all the gear. Two weeks later and you ask something like: "How's the golf going?"
"Oh, I've given that up now. Can't be arsed."
The cricket's lasted a long time in comparison and it was her idea to go to England's first-ever one-dayer in Cardiff.
I'm a Test match purist and hate this one-day pyjama game - no decorum. People might see that as a bit of a paradox coming from a bloke who, a few hours earlier, was dancing around to the Stones in a high state of inebriation with a pair of shoes in one hand and a pair of socks in his jacket pocket. Well, life's full of contrasts as Johnny Cash might tell you if he was still alive.
In my rucksack I've packed the essentials - three-day old lasagne, two pepperami firesticks and a packet of cheese n ham nibbles. Kempy looks a bit green when she arrives but she has all the gear - England international cap, sun glasses etc.
First stop is the beer voucher hut where we make a sound decision and buy enough for three beers each. No queuing up later in the day. Unfortunately the ground resembles a festival sight and I half expect Hawkwind to turn up and play an impromptu set outside the rows of chemical toilets that have already attracted a long line of admirers.
You've got to feel sorry for the guys in fancy dress. It's not so bad for the blokes dressed as netball players but the mutant ninja turtle is going to have a hell of a job fitting his shell in there.
Kempy, meanwhile, is attracted to the latest freebie - free sunscreen. Never mind the fact that it is grey and overcast and likely to rain at any moment.
After watching another woeful England one-day batting display, skittled mostly by Pakistan's Shoaib Akhtar bowling at 94mph after spending almost two months out of the season out injured, we dig into the rucksack and out come the cheese and ham nibbles.
Then the rain starts, but it's all right because it gives Kempy the chance to indulge a new fad -prancing around in a free blue rain poncho advertising the name of a high-street bank.
It's a must have fashion accessory and before long we are both dolled up in these fantastic reusable shawls. We retire to the bar but its hammering down and no chance of play resuming so we decide to call it a day. As I leave the ground I am forced to weave my way down a street made dangerously slippy by a thin covering of ripped up blue polythene. The poncho fad is over.

A day off, and I'm excited. I am going to do nothing today. The real cause for my excitement, though, is the start of the new Sopranos series on E4, which begins that night. To mark the occasion a day in the kitchen is called for. I get out the remaining meatballs, sunday gravy and Italian sausage and decide on Baked Ziti from the Sopranos cook book. They are always making Ziti or eating Ziti in the programme and although it sounds quite awful (I doubt whether the English translation of the word Zit every reached the Italian community of New Jersey) it is basically just a different type of pasta - one that you are more likely to find in a specialist delicatessen than a high street supermarket. It's a "tube" pasta like a longer version of penne.
But I'll leave my ziti recipe for tomorrow as once it's cooked I leave it in the fridge for another day.
I've got some pork that needs eating up. So I decide on an All-in-One recipe from the Balti cookbook, with personal adaptations along the way.
After payday every month I go shopping and always buy more than I need. Mostly I cram the cart with vegetables and then get really teed off when they have turned into a soggy, unusable mess in the fridge within a week. If anyone has tips on keeping veg fresh I'm all ears.
This recipe requires onions but because my remaining onion has turned a dark shade of mouldy purple I have to settle for spring onion instead, chopping up the bulbs finely. I'm able to cook the whole thing in a karahi - a kind of Balti wok - which is another big advantage. I guess a wok would do equally well, though.
So here's my All-in-One balti pork meal
You need:
chopped green chili
one clove crushed garlic
vegetable oil
8lbs fresh tomatoes (vine, but kept in cupboard - not refridgerated)
garam masala
red peppers
a few mushrooms
pint and a half of water
A cup of rice (soaked in warm water for 30 mins)
Chopped up hunks of cooked pork (I used pork belly on discount from the cooked meat counter at Sainsbury's, minus the crackling)
salt and pepper

1. HEAT the oil, then add the onions and cook for a couple of minutes till turning a golden brown.
2. ADD green chillis (the amount depends on you) and one clove of crushed garlic. Cook for a minute then stir in a good two spoonfuls of garam masala
3. COOK for another minute then add tomatoes and bring to boil.
4. Simmer covered for 10 minutes.
5. Add the water and bring back to the boil.
6. Add the rice, pork and salt.
7. Bring to the boil and simmer for 7 to 10 mins.
8. Put foil over the wok/karahi and put a lid on top.
9. Heat on lowest setting for another 10 mins to cook the rice. Turn off heat and let stand for 5 to 10 mins.
10. season to taste and serve.
Nice and filling and keep the foil on so that you can dip back into it all day.
That night in the Sopranos, Carmela announces: "I'm making Ziti for dinner".
Me too, Carm, me too.

No comments: