Thursday, November 27, 2008

Lapin Aux Olives

REGULAR readers of this unmissable blog may have noticed that you can now listen to me reading it in an American accent. This, rather than my brizzle tones, must have come about after my trip to Boston and my fascination with all things on the other side of the Atlantic. On the other hand, it may be down to a fantastic piece of software that I was alerted to by Mr Sion "The Bizz" Barry. And very good it is, too.
I particularly like the way my American friend says "Wowy, wowy". In fact, so much so that I am going to say "wowy, wowy" again.
Apart from that it has been all quiet on the Meeja Wales front this week. The Prince of Darkness has been confined to his coffin this week, which is his way of making the most of his week off. I am reliably informed that the coffin also contains copious bottles of red wine, strong lagers and the odd measure or two of vodka. No doubt he will return to work in a week's time desperate for a rest.
Without my partner in journalistic crime it has left me to look after the letters for both the Daily Snail and the Eggo. It has been a monumental task and one I haven't enjoyed one little bit.
In fact, with the new hours, and no drinking buddy available by the time I leave work at 8, I have actually taken to driving in to work and home again afterwards. At least it should save some money with the Fat Kid and her mate about to descend on me this weekend.
Anyway, this gives me a chance to give you my rabbit with olives recipe. I will be interested to see how my American alter-ego copes with it.

A list of ingredients:
One rabbit, hopefully already prepared for cooking
1 small onion (coarsely chopped)
1 carrot (coarsely chopped)
1 celery rib (coarsely chopped)
4 garlic cloves (crushed)
2 bay leaves
a sprig of thyme and leaves from another sprig
a sprig of rosemary and leaves from another sprig
a sprig of parsley and leaves from another sprig
1 tablespoon of whole black peppercorns
1 and a half cups of white wine
salt and pepper
quarter of a cup of flour for dredging
plus 1 tablespoon of flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
half a cup of red wine vinegar
2 cups of chicken stock
Quarter of a pound of green olives

To do:
Prepare your rabbit by combining rabbit, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, bay leaves and the sprigs of rosemary, thyme and parsley, together with the peppercorns and white wine.
marinate this for two hours.
Then drain the marinade, saving the liquid and vegetables seperately.
Pat the rabbit dry, season with salt and pepper and dredge in quarter of a cup of flour.
Heat the oil over high heat in a thick based pan, then when hot add the butter.
Brown the rabbit on both sides until golden brown.
Remove it from the pot.
Add vegetables to the pot and cook on high heat until brown and caramelized.
Stir in the tomato paste and the rest of the flour and mix well.
Cook for one minute, then add the red wine vinegar and marinating liquid.
Cook until liquid is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Then stir in the stock and bring to the boil.
Return the rabbit and reduce to a simmer. If you are cooking all the rabbit you will probably need to cook it for about an hour and a half.
Then remove the rabbit and set aside, strain the liquid and return to the pot, discarding the vegetables.
Return the rabbit and bring to the boil, then stir in the green olives and chopped leaves. Season and serve.
I served up my bunny with some lovely mashed potatoes...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Roath farmers market

Friday night and The Yard was pretty quiet, considering the hordes of rugby wallahs who were descending on Cardiff in the misguided belief that Wales might actually be able to beat the All Blacks.
The roll call read Smashy, David "the Suit", Paps, Tapper, Withers and myself.
All pretty sane stuff for the first hour and a half before Wren turned up to join us and we ajourned to the City Arms for a few more beers and some mad dancing (well, mad dancing on my part, so I am told).
My own personal DJ actually had the affrontery to turn down one of my requests! I wobbled up to ask for the Ting Tings and he pointed out: "I don't play anything newer than the 70s and 80s." I don't believe him, mind. I am sure I have heard him play more recent stuff than that.
A few more drinks and I found myself in the middle of a Jagger impression to Start Me Up. So frenzied it became that I almost fell down of a heart attack after it and was left breathing heavily for the rest of the night.
Paps, as is his wont, was there to indiscretely capture the moments on his digital camera.
Then the Prince arrived, having been to see Primal Scream at the Students Union with some of the Boss's iffy mates - Griff, Diff, Jiff, Biff (and anything else ending in iff). At least one of them was there, anyway, as was our official wedding photographer Andy.
The Prince's appearance brought about a kind of tribal dance from the rest of us. We all got as low to the ground as possible, raised our hands in the air, wiggled them wildly like Kermit the Frog, then leapt three feet in the air shouting "wowy wowy". It's a move that even the best entrants on Strictly Come Dancing would find it hard to master.
Eventually Wren and I toddled off to chip alley and a rare visit to Dirty Dots. I went for risole and chips, while the bird opted for chips covered in grated cheese (an unusual little concoction, I think you'll agree - only to be attempted after eight pints of Fosters).

Saturday morning and we were both feeling a little bit peaky, but managed to haul ourselves up and walked around to the Roath Farmer's Market by the bowling club and tennis courts.
It proved to be a winning idea. There are plenty of stalls including a specialist curry outlet which we resisted.
But at the meat counter I couldn't help feasting my eyes on the rabbit, having never cooked it before, while wild boar and venison were also on offer. I eventually settled for the bunny.
We also had some lovely burgers and I bought a hot chilli relish, a tub full of various olives and bags of spices, together with some very fresh looking spinach. Wren settled for some tea cakes and chocolate brownies.
Saturday afternoon I watched Wales start well before fading badly to the expected rugby union defeat against the Kiwis, and in the evening I cooked the rabbit before we watched a DVD. Vantage Point was thrill-a-minute stuff, most entertaining.
I'll put the rabbit recipe on this blog later in the week...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Teddy Bear's picnic

I GUESS I am like all go-ahead top newspaper execs.
I shout quite a bit, moan quite a lot, drink quite a lot, smoke too much...
and lately, at the tender age of 48, I have been going to bed alongside a big cuddly teddy bear called Fenway!
No, it's ok. I am not about to have a nervous breakdown, I think that started two years ago. But walking through BHS the other day with Wren she suddenly gasped, pointed and said: "I want one of those."
The upshot was that I bought the bear, originally called Benji, as an early Xmas present for Wren, but as she cannot have it until the appointed day it has been staying in my flat with me and, well, he IS pretty cuddly and I didn't want to leave him in the front room where he might become overcome with cigarette fumes and stink like an old ashtray.
So somehow he has found his way onto my bed.
That's my excuse, anyway.
He is called Fenway for obvious reasons, a tribute to our lovely holiday in Boston earlier this year. He has a woollen scarf around his neck and also a British passport attached to him.
I must admit I'll miss him when he is gone.

Last night The Prince and I managed to get time off for good behaviour and joined Roberts, Smashy and the Blair Witch (that's a new one, I know. One of our sports writers as it happens).
At one stage Roberts disappeared upstairs and seemed to be gone some time. First Blair when to check on him and when he failed to materialise, too, we thought maybe a black hole had swallowed them both.
Finally, traipsing up the Yard stairs, I uncovered the reason for the delay. There was Roberts, proudly taking charge of five Mojitas. And on a school night, too! Downing mine, I decided to go before the whole thing got wildly out of hand.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stir fried squid and ginger

More announcements across the newspaper industry of redundancies has got me thinking: If I need to change professions at this late stage in my career in which direction should I go?
Then listening to Snooze Radio (that's Radio Wails to you guys) it hit me. While the rest of the world seems to be diving headlong into a bottomless recession there is one job that seems to be thriving:
Somalian pirate.
Go out, steal the second-biggest oil tanker in the world then drive it back to a lawless country that hasn't had a government for 13 years and wait for the wealthy owners to pay the ransom. Job creation at its best, I say.

On Friday night the little Bowling Ball enjoyed his 200th birthday, or some such, in his favourite old haunt the Boars Backside. And fair play to the little man with the big beer belly, he had arranged for some "Brammy discounts" behind the bar. He was well ensconsed in his corner, waxing lyrical about the old days, by the time we wandered off for further beers at old O'Neills.

With a number of the regular crowd all off on Monday, we arranged a Sunday funday at the Yard. We just about made chorum with the Wonderful One, Paps and Smashy joining in the frivolities at The Yard. Mind you, it seems I was sensible to leave when I did on Friday night. Apparently Withers was in true teeth smashing mode (his own, not anyone elses), wandering around the City Arms with his eyes agog and arms stretched out in front of him like Frankenstein's Monster in search of his inventor.
Of course, the story can't have a happy ending. Although all his toothypegs remained intact, he did manage to lose both his jacket and his MP3 player. Now, as one who has lost a similar valuable item in the same establishment, I must say the City Arms has turned into a bit of a blackhole when it comes to portable music equipment of late.

The wedding suffered its first true test on Sunday afternoon. I got a text from Wren who was due to do a 60 second video newsclip on ThisisBristol, the Evening Post's website.
It read: "Aaaargh! I have to do the web video about that OTHER club. I am so sorry babe xx"
Now for those who know me that other club is commonly known by us Gasheads as the Sh**heads - Those hated fiends from the South of Bristol.
I tried to persuade her out of it, imploring her to tell her bosses she was a conscientious objector. If that failed I suggested she might be able to employ a speech impediment and read the word City with an S H at the front. But, loyal servant of the Bristol media that she is, she felt that wouldn't be professional.
Anyway, sorry Wren, but I will never see your work on video. Let us never speak of it again.

If you ever find yourself out with Smashy for the night, never leave him in charge of the seating arrangements while you disappear for a cigarette, or to use the facilities.
Spreading himself out in typical Smashy style he told us on Sunday: "Don't worry boys, I'll stay here and look after the seats."
By the time we returned they were taken up by guests attending a 40th birthday party. Priceless, Smashy.

On Monday night Withers and I went to see the interesting and worthy Baader Meinhoff Gang. I thought it was pretty good though a bit more explaining wouldn't have gone a miss.
Before that I cooked up a dish with squid.
It's always a bit of a chore preparing squid for what you end up with. They sell it half prepared at Morrisons and the rest is up to you.
To prepare the squid you pull the head from the body and then cut off the tentacles and keep them. Throw the head away.
Then pull out the spine from the squid, scrape away the outside pigment and slice up the rubbery body. It's then ready to cook.
4 0r 5 baby squid
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
2 tbsp soy sauce (I used dark soy)
1inch ginger - chopped
Juice of half a lemon
1 ltbsp granulated sugar
2 spring onions (chopped)

Heat oil in work
Fry garlic til golden brown but don't burn
Add squid and stir fry on high heat for 30 seconds
Add the other ingredients and stir fry for another 30 seconds
Serve immediately on a bed of noodles

Friday, November 14, 2008

Stagg chilli and rice

FOR the first time in living memory this blog holds its hands up and admits to a piece of glaring inaccuracy. How do I know? Because my former best man the Wonderful Withers of WoS has traitoriously put a video of my performance in the City Arms last Friday on YouTube. And there it is, for everyone to see... my Angus Young impression, which I believed was being acted out against the background music of ACDCs Highway to Hell, was actually performed to All Night Long. My apologies all.
The best bit of the video, though, for those who have never encountered the Prince of Darkness, is his brief appearance, wobbling past me and trying desperately not to spill the sambuccas he is carrying lovingly in his arms. For that alone go to

This week, having totally incapacitated myself on Friday and spent a lot of money in the process, I have been taking it very easy. To ensure there have been no impromptu pub sessions I have been driving to work and returning home immediately afterwards, settling down with a bit of TV and a quick and simple tea, like last night's Stagg chilli and brown rice.
Fortunately it's pay day today, I have left the car at home and it's Friday...

Monday, November 10, 2008

A whole chicken (in our hands)

I understand the big meeting of the two Princes didn't materialise on Saturday. I've no idea why HRH Prince William wasn't introduced to our own Prince of Darkness when he arrived to officially open the new Meeja Wales offices. But when I first heard of the apparent snub I did wonder whether the Sambucca fumes wafting across the office persuaded the powers-that-be it might be a good idea to steer His Royal Highness in the opposite direction.
Plenty of others turned up to bow and lig in front of the royal one, however, as the three-line whip was cracked. Many of those were making their first-ever appearances in the office on a Saturday - unlike those of us who have spent nearly every weekend since christendom shackled to our desks. Amazing what a little bit of royal fairydust can do.
You might expect that, when summoned by Royal appointment, the Dark Lord would take it a mite easy the night before. But he made his intentions clear shortly after we left a birthday party for Paul Magic Wakefield in Six Foot Under and made our way to a more austere venue, the good old City Arms. It was here, after a quick pint as a livener, that the Prince appeared with a tray of shot glasses and announced, in typical fashion, "Are we having a drink or are we having a f***ing drink". From that moment he had decided it was Sambucca time and, I must admit, I don't remember much more about it after doing my Angus Young impression to Highway to Hell and then acting like a lunatic in the bar (tie around head and throwing baseball cap to the four corners of the room) apparently to the tunes of my own personal DJ.
To be honest, though, I was so out of it that I eventually sloped off to get a taxi . That night Wren had also been out on the razz in Bristol and had managed to mix her drinks pretty well, too. I'm not sure who was more coherent when we discussed our nights out later.
In fact, Wren and I were supposed to be going to look at wedding cakes in Weston-Super-Mare on Saturday but neither of us could face it so we cancelled. Instead we watched Arsenal beat Manchester United 2-1 and then went for a bit of fresh air in Albany Road.
Feeling peckish, we popped into the Albany Fish Bar and ended up ordering a whole chicken, masses of chips, a carton each of mushy peas, curry sauce and were persuaded to try their new chilli sauce offering, too. It's fair to say we didn't go hungry on Saturday night, making routine trips back to the kitchen to pick at the chicken or dip a cold chip in the rather lively chilli sauce. Mmm!

In the early hours of Sunday morning I managed to wake up just in time to see Joe Calzaghe's last-ever fight (we think). It was a tremendous performance against the great Roy Jones Jr, particularly as Joe was on the seat of his pants after barely a minute following a ferocious assault by Roy.
Yet he somehow got through the round and in the sixth he produced a bad cut on Jones Jr's eye which many suggested would have brought an end to the contest in a British ring. To be honest, after the first round it was all one way and undoubtedly one of Joe's finest performances, though he does worry his fans with his increasing tendency to showboat.

On Sunday Wren and I went to see W. the new film by Oliver Stone about the presidency of George Bush. It was terrific stuff, with some great portrayals. Josh Brolin was excellent as Bush, and those who appeared as Condoleeza Rice and Dick Cheney were equally good. It was a well spent few hours.
Last night, after Wren's departure, I also saw a film on ITV4 called the Beast, a story of a Russian tank being tracked through the Afghan dessert by the Muhajadeen. Excellent.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Simply bananas

PAPS must be the most well-paid tour guide in Britain. Even those poor blokes at the Tower of London would wince when comparing themselves to our very own Media Wales operative. In fact, we are preparing to club together to buy him the customary hat and jacket.
Look around for our esteemed Head of News and more often than not you will see him surrounded by a group of visitors to the Hub, waxing lyrical about the history of journalism. Come to think of it, by the time he actually gets back to send over the stories for that day's edition of the paper, they already ARE history.
And protest? Methinks he does it a bit too much. "If someone put there hand up and wanted to take our visitors around the building, I would quite happily step down," he opines.
But we've heard that one before.
Only recently he moaned that it was likely to fall on him to organise the Christmas party and what a complete bind that would be. Yet when Rowley and The Body took it upon themselves to sort it out, Paps could barely conceal the hurt look that crept across his face. A bit like Richard Briers used to be in ever-decreasing circles, Paps thinks he should always be at the Hub of the Hub.

Meanwhile, the local fruit seller has taken it upon himself to feel sympathy for the Prince of Darkness. Mistakenly believing his pale complexion was down to a lack of healthy eating, rather than the fact the Prince is actually the master of the undead, he handed over two bunches of bananas and a bucketful of grapes to the Lord of the Night. Then when the Prince rustled through his pockets to find the required payment, the caring feller told him: "You can have them all for £1.50."
If I was the stall owner I think I'd put in an extra order for garlic the next time the Prince comes a-calling.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Posh grub

I AM delighted to tell my avid reader(s) that rumours of the death of this blog have been greatly exaggerated. The truth is I couldn't be arsed to write anything until now having been away from the bearpit that is Meeja Wales for a whole glorious week. Sadly, I'm back and it was with a heavy heart that I dragged myself into the Hub of Welsh journalism this morning.
So let's recap. When I left the claws of this unruly beast a week ago on Friday it was straight off to the City Arms for a well-earned drink, hoping to wash away the memories of my last week of early starts on the Echo. From now on, it has been decided, the paper will print overnight and my hours will be adjusted accordingly. Apparently, the Prince and I will be working from 11.30 to 8pm from now on, which will fit in well with his desire to see as little sunlight as possible.
As Withers put it... "Rippers will have four pints, do some shouting, then go home." I think he had it about right.
On Saturday it was over to Bristol to pick up Wren and then enjoy a gloriously happy afternoon watching the Gas destroy Southend United 4-2 at the Mem with the rampaging Rickie Lambert nabbing all four goals. That didn't tell the full story either because at 4-0 up Rovers still managed to throw away two goals and leave me biting my fingernails for the last 15 minutes.
After that we visited my Dad on his birthday to present him with a card then went out on the tiles in Clifton for a few bevvies. We began in the Roo bar, a typical Aussie bar as the name might suggest, where we were immediately surrounded by about 30 loud 20-somethings on a birthday binge that involved drinking jugs of cocktails through a straw. Enough of that, we thought, knowing the evening was destined to end in tears.
So it was off to the Jersey Lilly, one of Bristol's oldest pubs, at the top of Blackboy Hill where we spent an entertaining evening watching what I believed were a group of Uni structural engineering students having one of the longest games of Jenga I have ever seen. They were all helping each other out until they had almost built an exact replica of the Sears Tower. When it collapsed it sent everyone scurrying for cover.
Sunday was a lazy day, returning to the boozer to watch Liverpool gain a shock win at Stamford Bridge (Chelsea's first home defeat in about four seasons) before lazing about on Sunday night before visiting the scene of the big day (our wedding) on the Monday morning.
It was all very useful for giving us some insight into our plans for next May.
From there it was back to Cardiff for a couple of days and on Tuesday we went shopping, managing to load up on CDs and DVDs for the roadtrip planned for later in the week.
So, a quick precise from here on in...
Tuesday night: Watched the highly entertaining film Juno.
Wednesday: Travelled to Birmingham (a late surprise for Wren) with plans to buy the wedding rings. Evening Meal in Pizza Express on a freezing cold night. Nearly managed to go flying across someone's table after retrieving the chilli flakes to spice up my dinner.
Thursday: Off to the Jewellery quarter where Wren and I struck lucky, getting a matching pair of rings from Marlowe's (the same jeweller, incidentally, that Wathanovski and the Teacher went to for their rings).
After that took a good three quarters of an hour trying to get out of the motorist hell that is our second city, before heading down the M40 to Marlowe for a freebee night in a luxury hotel, the Compleat Angler. Apparently the family tree has strong connections with the town, but I didn't manage to bump into any Rippers relatives while I was there.
We did manage to bump into the local pub conversationalist in the George and Dragon, however. As we waited to buy our drinks he regaled us of the Great Lard disaster of the previous day.
"This lorry went over and spilt its entire contents of lard all over the M40 yesterday," he told us. "Took three hours for them to clean it up."
I was waiting for the punchline, but it never came. He then set off to remove his frostbitten laundry from the washing line where he had left it in the snow for two days. I think he was then planning to return to the planet Zog.
Thursday night we had a lovely complimentary meal in the hotel and on Friday morning took some nice pictures of the Weir from our hotel balcony before the next leg of our journey.
Friday afternoon: Lunch with Wren's folks in Lavenham in Suffolk followed by a trip to Southend where we arrived with minutes to spare before the Fat kid went off to camp out for the night at the local fishery. Mad? She must be. It's all to do with a new boyfriend I gather.
Two hours later she was back. "I'm not camping in this weather it is madness!" she said.
Saturday: Spent the day cussing Christmas shoppers at the Lakeside Shopping Centre at Thurrock where we went, you've guessed it, Christmas shopping. Got the Vin Monster and Big Boy a new winter coat each and treated everyone to a Burger King in the heaving food court.
By the time we got home we were shattered which, given the fact we were off to a fancy dress party to celebrate the 31st birthday of Evans, was bad timing, really.
I had already sorted the fancy dress though. You could say it was a variation on a theme. Evans had chosen DVD covers and so it wasn't difficult to wrap a tie around my head, put a bit of smeared mascara on my cheeks, and attend as Robert De Niro in the Deerhunter.
Wren's outfit took a bit more effort - a blond wig, white dress and button badge which said: "Off the record, on the QT and very Hush, Hush".
For those who don't know films, Withers, she was Kim Bassinger in LA Confidential.
The party, once we found it, was very good. Evans was in top form as Evita and her bloke Matt had somehow managed to staple two suits together in a splendid portrayal of Two Face from the Batman movies. One of their mates, Dan, was the one who fooled everyone. Turning up in a red check jacket and knee-length skirt having walked the entire length of Leigh-on-Sea town centre (he also had a strange, old womanly bonnet on his head) he defied everyone to actually guess who he was. Miss Daisy? No. Miss Marple? Uh, uh. By the end we worked out he had just come as himself. Very entertaining it was, too.
Woke at 6am on the Fat Kid's sofa with Wren shaking me and inquiring: "Are you coming to bed?" For some reason, having returned home after a bellyful of Kronenberg I had suddenly found great interest in the results of the X Factor. As it was, I missed them all.
Sunday morning: No phone, no tobacco, no car keys and no toy gun. Typical. Managed to establish that I'd left the keys at the party and found the phone under the Fat Kid's car seat. The others were to turn up later.
Retrieved keys and drove home, dropped Wren off after a cup of tea, some food and a kip, and then headed off across the Severn Bridge.
Monday: Washing, ironing, cleaning, watched the awful Transformers movie and Fringe before an early night and anticipation of a return to the Hub.
I have a new bedfellow. He has soft fur, is about two-and-a-half foot tall and his name is Fenway. He is a teddy bear I bought for Wren and he has already settled in nicely at the flat.