Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stir Fried Lamb with Baby Onions and Peppers

THE tallest man in the world is now 30 - which is surprising really because the way he used to jump around the office playing pattacake with the girls I always assumed he was between 6 and 10. Still, it was a good night out on Saturday for Shuttsy's big bash in the Copa. I toddled up there with Paps, Wren and Jarhead (the p*ss artist formerly known as Roberts and The Fugitive) where we then met up with Wathanovski and the teacher, the Prince of Darkness and the wonderful Withers of WoS.
It was a good, relatively sober night until the Prince noticed that the bloke next to him at the bar had ordered a tray of Sambuccas - then it was all hell let loose. Well, not too bad but certain members of our clan certainly felt the affects of the aniseed flavoured shots more than others.
Shutts himself was off to the Prince's favourite club, Six Feet Under, and it wasn't long before the Prince himself, his cuffs flowing in the breeze like some Dickensian character out of David Copperfield, followed suit.
Meanwhile, Wathanovski was dragged off to catch the last train and the remnants of us ended up in the new old O'Neills. There was some decent music going on and the wonderful one was certainly taken by it. He was swaying away to the hip tunes until we realised that he was still swaying when the music stopped. Uh oh, tooth-smashing time!
He kept telling Paps "Am goona fixsh you oop wisha luvvly grill..." pointing at some elephant shaped beauty on the dancefloor. Paps, needless to say, wasn't too impressed. Then the Wonderful One wanted to impress the clientele in Six Feet Under but I had other ideas, on the basis that we were getting fitted for wedding suits on Sunday morning. So as Jarhead went off clubbing, Wren, Paps and I poured our inebriated friend into the back of the taxi and deposited him at his door.

Next day my pal "I can do it, I'll B&Q it" (his name has changed from Gareth the Builder since he went on the straight and narrow and gave up trying to be a self-employed layabout) walked into town where a glazed looking best man was there to greet us. But there was one person missing, my other usher Jarhead. The text arrived soon afterwards "Sorry mate, overslept. Late one last night."
Still, eventually he turned up and a very bossy young lady (fair play she had to be with the state we were in) measured us up for our wedding finery in Slater Bros. A job that would normally take about 30 minutes was closer to an hour as I had to debate the vagueries of which pink my tie was supposed to be. "I think its dusty pink, but god knows what that looks like" I told the patient attendant.
Anyway, the job was finally done and as the Wonderful One disappeared off to news edit the Eggo (relaunch day, an important one really to put an empty headed, recovering drunk in control of I would have thought) Jarhead, Mr B&Q it and I retired to the boozer for a relaxing few pints and Sunday lunch. Not a bad weekend really.

Made a nice little lamb dish the other day so without further ado here it goes...

8oz lean lamb, cut into strips
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp oil
8 baby onions
1/2tsp onion seeds
4 curry leaves
1 1/4 cups water
1 small red pepper
1 small green pepper
1 tbsp fresh coriander
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint

Mix lamb with cumin, coriander, puree, chilli salt and lemon juice. Set aside.
Heat wok and stir fry whole baby onions for three minutes.
Scoop out with a slotted spoon.
Reheat oil and stir fry onion seeds and curry leaves for 2-3 minutes.
Add lamb and spice and stir fry for five minutes, add water, lower heat and cook for 10 minutes until lamb is cooked through.
Add peppers, half the coriander and mint, stir fry for two minutes.
Return baby onions to the wok, heat through, sprinkle over remainder of coriander and mint and serve with brown rice.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Two large meateor pizzas

I woke up this morning and thought my intended had gone all Manuel on me. You know, Manuel, the Spanish waiter from Fawlty Towers.
We had been discussing Cuba for a while and she started going "Que?". Well, it sounded like "Que?" anyway. "It's a real shame," announced the light of my life, "that Que isn't out on video until after we get back off Honeymoon."
"Que? What?" I responded.
"Que 1," she said. "It is a film."
Ah, I thought, she is stringing me along. At any moment now she is going to tell me the sequel is called K2 and is about a mountain in the Himalayas.
In fact, that is exactly what she did say. There is a sequel called K2 due out in the cinemas. And she was deadly serious.
Then I thought deeply about it and gradually the pieces came together. We are going to Cuba, she wants to see a film called K or Que? And the other day Benicio del Toro was on Jonathon Woss talking about his new film, a sequel, called... Che! About Che Guevara, one of the most famous revolutionaries of all time.
I couldn't help it, I was falling around laughing. Poor Wren, looked exceedingly embarrassed. "What?" she asked.
"You mean Che... Che Guevara. Not K Guevara. What did you think the K stood for? Kevin?"

We had a bit of an internet crisis last night. Everyone swears by the internet, including Wren. "Oh, why don't we do it on the Net?" They are always saying. The whole thing is inclined to drive me potty, particularly when Wren's laptop struggles to get a signal at my gaffe.
Anyway the plan was to order a large meteor pizza, spicy chicken pieces and an extra hot sauce.
Of course, we had to go through the normal on line ordering process. Name, address, postcode etc etc, followed by all the credit card details. After that it was just a question of clicking the mouse and ... waiting... and waiting... and waiting... After five minutes hoping for the confirmation of our advert up came that well known page... This page cannot be displayed. Drat.
We decided to go right throught he same rigmarole again. Fortunately this time it worked.
Within two minutes of finishing our ordering there was a knock at the door. Wow, that was quick. The pizza man burst my bubble a bit though. "You guys have ordered two pizzas," he said.
"Bloody internet's fault!" I responded.
"You can still cancel," he told me.
Ah, what the hell. I love meateor pizza and so does Wren...

Friday, February 20, 2009

One lonely chip

THE wonderful Withers is back from his idea of heaven - a trip to the European parliament in Brussels. He talks about it as if he's been swimming with dolphins, watched a World Cup final and bungee jumped off Mount Everest. To be honest, the whole thing sounds like my idea of hell.
Still, he made sure all those Euro politicians had something to do for a change, spending hours in conversation with them about the EU (yawn).
His exciting week began in Crewe where he told his relatives that he was refraining from the booze because he had a big week coming up. As it was, he managed to go to the land of Stella Artois and Michelob and didn't touch a drop of alcohol. Yes, it was that exciting.
He did, however, manage to go to a thoroughly modern restaurant which totally flummoxed the wonderful one. As a starter, they were confronted with some contraption containing four test tubes. After consulting with his colleagues he came to the conclusion he didn't have the faintest idea what he was supposed to do with them and was forced to ask a waiter. Turned out they contained potato soup and you were supposed to drink from them.
But that was even surpassed by the second course, which contained one solitary chip in a puddle of Hollandais Sauce. Might attempt that one myself - you never know it could be a winning recipe if I ever appear on Masterchef.

Returning to the land of the living, Withers joined us at the new old O'Neills where, after a heated debate about the merits of the Welsh language, we wound our way home. I was still a bit upset, to be honest, England having failed to win a Test match in Antigua when they couldn't take the final wicket despite having 10 overs in which to do so. For we England cricket supporters, things just go from bad to worse.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The spicy German sausage hut

I HAD one of those socially awkward moments on Saturday. You know the type, you are waiting to get served at the bar and you bump into a former friend from many moons ago, and can't remember for the life of you what their name is. So you get a stilted conversation which goes something like this...
FORMER FRIEND: Hello, Rippers, how are you? Lovely to see you (luvvies kiss, kiss)
ME: Yeah, and you ummm... And how are you these days? Haven't seen you for ages (Brain: What's her name? What's her name? What's her name?)
FORMER FRIEND: Well, we're just going to take our drinks outside (subtext: Come and see us when you've been served)
ME TO MY BRAIN: (What on earth is her name you alcohol soaked piece of sponge. Come on! You used to go out drinking with her on international afternoons. She's a former workmate of your friend Jane, she used to be best pals with Scooby's ex)
Nothing. Despite all the prompting.
By this time I've been served and take the drinks out to Wren in the beer garden of the Wig and Pen. Just by coincidence my former "friend" and her pals are on the next table to us. Which presents another Social catastrophe. How to introduce my future wife to this former "pal forever".
"Hi this is Wren, Wren this is gmfmgmgg (in very quiet voice)
WREN: "Sorry, dear, didn't catch that. What's her name?"
You wait for the former friend to help you out, but she just leaves it up to you to repeat the introduction...
This whole conversation, by the way, is taking place in my brain while I hide behind my fiancee and hope no one notices me. Wren says, "Shouldn't we go over and speak to them?"
"No, babe, we can't." I explain the dilemma.
"But they'll be expecting you to."
"I know. I think I'll text Scooby. Ask him who it is..."
Which I do, anxiously staring at the phone, waiting for the reply.
So I then have a brainwave. "I just need to go to the loo, babe."
Sneaking through the bar I emerge at the front door and quickly tap Jane's number into my phone. "The person you are calling isn't available at the moment. Please leave a message..."
I swear at the phone. Bloody Jane. Don't know why you have a phone. You NEVER answer it. What's the point.
Second brainwave. I ring her brother Peter. Another member of that crowd we used to go out with many moons ago.
Thank God. He does answer his phone.
I describe the "former friend".
"Sorry mate. Jane's slightly red-headed mate? Can't think who you are talking about."
By now, to Wren, this must seem the longest wazz in history.
"Yeah, you do. You know, used to go out with Scooby's ex."
"Oh, you mean Toni."
"YES, YES, YES. Toni, that's it. Thanks mate, brilliant. I owe you."
I walked back through the bar, pleased as punch. I envisage guiding Wren over to the table and making the introductions. "Wren this is Toni, Toni this is Wren my bride to be."
I emerge into the beer garden with a smile on my face... everything is fine now.
Except Toni and her friends have gone. They probably left cursing what a rude bloke that Rippers is, not bringing his girlfriend over to meet them. Aaaargh!

Anyone, it was a pretty good day. Wren and I walked into town and were delighted to find a German brockwurst concession stand in the middle of Queen Street. That solved the brekky problem. I had a spicy sausage in a bun with curry ketchup while Wren settled for the more traditional fare. Yummy. Glad to say it was still there when I walked in to work the following Tuesday, too, so I may be visiting again before long.
After that it was the aforementioned visit to the Wig and Pen, then back home with a juicy fat steak I bought from the market. We settled down to watch Wales beat England in a tremendous rugby game after I had first celebrated Valentine's Day with a terrific result for the Gas at high-flying Scunthorpe - a 2-0 win. Wren must have been delighted, no miserable boyfriend on February 14.
That night we had a lovely steak with saute new potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes and my own pepper sauce concoction. Very nice. We also watched the first episode of Cracker, having bought the whole 11 dvd series for just £35. Astonishingly, we counted up that we had bought 21 dvd's in all on Saturday morning, when I originally insisted that it wasn't to be a shopping trip.

On Sunday we drove out to Morrisons for some shopping then, it being the nicest day of the year so far, went down to the seafront in Penarth and walked around the lovely Alexander Park. After that it was off to the Odeon to watch the terrific Danny Boyle film Slumdog Millionaire. All the plaudits for it weren't exaggerated, a totally originally film with a real feelgood factor attached. We can highly recommend it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Meatloaf (two out of three aint bad)

SO the big stag do is all systems go. We're off to sunny Brighton at the end of March to stay in a hip little five-star hotel called the Blue Lagoon or, as Rosey commented, "Well done, Withers, it looks suitably awful!" Mind you, we can't all live in the lap of luxury in London's yuppyland, can we?
It looks like there is going to be 21 of us, so man-management will be key. Unfortunately, we've got the Wonderful One in charge who finds it hard enough to manage himself on any given day.
Still, should be fun and I'm really looking forward to seeing friends I haven't been in touch with for a while.
I am sure that, eventually, I will have sobered up enough to write about it on the blog, even though the portrayal might not be completely accurate due to the fact I have lost so many memory cells thanks to alcohol over the years that I must be in the minuses now. I won't, however, let the facts get in the way of a good story, you can be assured.
The Wonderful One has another take on the matter. "You'll have four pints, go into a rant and shout 'I'm going home'." I hope not, it's a costly taxi ride back from Brighton.
Wren's hen do, after some initial planning hiccups, also seems to be progressing nicely. They are booking in for a Spa weekend in Devon.

It's been a pretty quiet week, to be honest. Went out on Sunday with Paps and the Prince of Darkness to watch the Wales v Scotland rugby match, a convincing win for the Welsh at Murrayfield. We saw the game in the new old O'Neill's and then went on to the the City Arms where we bumped into the Boss's Disney pals Biff, Griff, Jiff and... well, only Biff really. Paps and I, having supped a leisurely few beers, decided it was time to head for the hills but I understand the Prince and Biff went on to a private party in the Hilton with a free bar. That's what I call stamina.

On Wednesday I joined the Prince and Withers for a beer after a very busy day at work. It was back to old O'Neil's where the Little Bowling Ball was holding court with some of his dodgy pals while a couple of musicians strummed away in the background. During the day I had paid for our 10-day honeymoon to Cuba where we will spend three days in Havana and seven days at a beach resort. Sounds great.

My opportunities to cook these days have been severely impinged upon by my new working hours at Meeja Wales, so I have to dig back into the past to find a recipe for you. I had a nice meatloaf from the hot counter at Morrisons on Tuesday but thought I would give you my own meatloaf recipe. The first time I cooked it I got it slightly wrong but since then I have done it twice and it has come out nicely. As the song goes "two out of three aint bad" (had to write that to tie in with the name of this blog entry!)

You need:
70g white breadcrumbs
dried porcini mushrooms
two leeks
Chopped parsley (handful)
400g ground beef
75g smoked bacon (chopped)
2 cloves diced garlic
grated parmesan cheese

To do:
Set oven to 200c/gas mark 6.
Tear bread into chunks and put into a dish with milk to cover.
Leave until the break is saturated.
Put mushrooms in bowl with warm water.
Slice leeks in half lengthways then into small dice.
Wash in colander.
Melt butter in deep pan.
Add leeks and parsley
Leave to soften but don't brown.
Remove leek from the pan. Add the beef and bacon to the pan
Leave to brown before stirring.
Return leeks to pan then add garlic and mushrooms drained of their liquid and chopped.
Wring out breadcrumbs and stir into the mixture with salt, pepper and parmesan.
Put meat into a casserole dish and smooth flat.
Then put the tin inside a baking dish and fill the dish up with hot water to come half way up the casserole dish.
Place in oven and leave for an hour.
Leave to settle for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Mighty chilli weather

IT'S been an eventful week weather-wise, both Severn bridges were shut on Friday due to heavy snowfalls and thousands of Welsh rugby fans were stranded at Bristol airport because flights to Edinburgh were grounded as they tried to get to the opening Six Nations match.
Closer to home and the Prince of Darkness was thinking of warmer climes. He and the Wonderful One having bumped into a couple of fun-loving Antipodean Laydees in the new old O'Neills.
The Prince described their first meeting thus. "This blond girl was being hounded by a drunk and I went to the rescue."
I wondered about this a great deal. Could it be that the dark Lord was actually having an out-of-body experience and it was looking down on himself badgering the poor lady? Then again, maybe he had caught sight of himself in the mirror. But that wouldn't be possible. According to all the folklore, you cannot see a vampire's reflection.
Anyway, having escaped the clutches of one drunk, the poor visitor to our shores fell into the hands of another. She and her friend soon got chatting to our pair of ne'er-do-wells. The girls explained that they had been staying in London and fancied a trip to see some other hidden treasures of the UK. I'm not sure if the evil Lord and the miserable Withers really fit into that category.
Having hired a car they drove until they could drive no more and ended up in fair Cardiff, where they unsuspectingly fell among thieves. At three in the morning, having been promised the best nightlife the city had to offer, they ended up in the Prince's crypt - or rather, his favourite boozer Six Feet Under. Apparently an enjoyable night was had by all.

Interestingly, a couple of days later one of the young ladies got in touch by e-mail. Having thanked the Prince for his hospitality she went on to ask about the well-being of the Wonderful One. "He strikes me as a person who needs some lovin'" she said.
Later, it was the wonderful one who got an e-mail, this one describing the Prince as looking like "a rundown Hugh Grant". What a perceptive judge of character she must be.

Meanwhile, poor old Wren has been off work with the lurgy this week. I have been quite good, really, though I did go out and sink a few cheeky ones on Wednesday and Friday night. I left the usual suspects in town last night, though, and was intrigued to learn that the Prince of Darkness had taken to the karaoke in the Model Inn late on Friday night, warbling his rendition of "Like a Rolling Stone". Keith Richard, I would humbly suggest.

Paps has been pushing the merits of his homemade Chilli Sauce this week, and a pot of the stuff duly landed on my desk. Since then I have been having it on cold meat sandwiches and even used it to accompany a tin of Stagg chilli I lazily heated in the microwave the other night. Top stuff.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Cheesy nibbles

WELL, it's been a right royal knees-up this weekend. On Friday night Bad Manners left Meeja Wales for the final time, having had a three-month stay of execution over the Christmas period. Poor old Manners is going from being on a part-time contract with our hard-up organisation to a mega bucks deal as a press officer - a bit like Kevin Keegan's transfer from Scunthorpe to Liverpool, really. We shall all miss her because she was a very good pair of hands to have in the building.
Strange, too, her choice of new career. I remember vividly her chastising one press officer after another when desperate to get quotes for stories she was doing when on WoS. One lot, the NSPCC, particularly wound her up and you quite often heard the phone slammed down followed by a stream of unprintable expletives. Boot will be on the other foot now, though.
Anyway, we all adjourned to the Copa for a drink. It was a small gathering, the credit crunch seeming to bite hard into Cardiff's usually vibrant nightlife. Still managed to rock home feeling well oiled later in the evening.

Next day and Wren joined me in Cardiff. That night we were going to Kempy and Coggsy's belated wedding party, so in the afternoon we took a trip into town to get Wren's shoes re-heeled. Well, what we actually did was buy her a new pair of shoes for the occasion, then book a mega luxurious two-centre honeymoon in Cuba, spending a few nights in historic Havana before moving on to the beach resort of Varadero where we will be spending our time on sun-kissed sandy beaches in 80 degree heat while staying in a five-star hotel. Can't wait.

Anyway, on to the evening do and Wren, the Wonderful Withers and I grabbed a taxi to make our way to the posh sounding Penarth Yacht Club at just after eight. "We won't be too late, it was only starting at 7pm," I pointed out.
"Kempy will be hammered then," was the Wonderful One's reply.
When we finally got there we almost missed the venue - a ropey old building being lashed by the winds coming off the coast and not a yacht in sight. We had to ring a dodgy doorbell to get in.
Inside, though, the great and the good were there in abundance. Coggsy's uncle Chris, who I had worked with on the Indie, was there holding fort in all his grandure, while my old mate Stu and his wife Anna had made the trip from London for the occasion.
It was great to see the old boy again and eventually we were reminiscing about the good old times, like the one where I interviewed him for a job and we spent the entire night pogoing on the Queen's Vaults dance floor after a shedful.

Wren, meanwhile, was enjoying the local wine. Bumping into Sandra "Hoypa" Loye, one of our other executive editors, she proceeded to wish her all the best in her new job. Sandra was beginning to wonder if Wren knew something she didn't. Her bemused expression triggered something in Wren who then inquired a might sheepishly: "You are Sarah Manners, aren't you?"
Loye, I am pleased to report, saw the funny side.
Later on, and we were all dancing to some particularly cheesy music on the dancefloor before heading off into the night. Reaching the bottom of the stairs, however, we suddenly found ourselves bombarded from above. It was Kempy, standing on the balcony shouting "Cheesy nibbles, anybody?" and raining them down on our heads from a great height. She may be a wife and mother now, but it's nice to see she hasn't changed a jot.