Tag Archives: chilli

In search of a sub’s dinner

I’m a sub-editor. The pesky one that watches out for errant apostrophes and such,  occasionally writes a vaguely ok headline and sets herself up for a fall when it comes to blogging mistakes.

It means I work distinctly odd hours – usually 2ish to 10ish, or thereabouts. And, the main consequence for this blog – and my life –  is that it has made dinner, in its lovely hot winey form, virtually extinct, apart from on glorious Saturdays. (Ok. It’s not the world’s greatest hardship, by any stretch. But this is a food blog. I’m allowed to moan about fripperies. For the much  less trivial, read the wonderful Unemployed Hack).

Us subs, and general shifters, deal with said situation in ways varied and numerous. The sensible way, nutritionally, would be to have a proper old-fashioned hot dinner at lunchtime, and then sandwiches for tea. Sadly, this means I may well slump on to my desk in an overfed haze at about 3pm – not so good professionally.

Go Away I'm Proofing

Ideal sub's lunch receptacle

Option two. Eat an ordinary person’s lunch, make it through the shift on a mixture of crisps, fruit and biscuits purloined from kind colleagues, and cook a proper dinner when you get home. Aside from the fact this would mean treating my long-suffering flatmate to my untidy and noisy cooking at about 11pm, I feel guilty eating late AND it takes a lot of biscuits to make it from 2.30 til 11. Trust me.

Three. Pret. And such. Given half the chance – and a lot more money – my laziness would kick in and I would buy a lot of takeaway. But thriftiness says no.

Sadly option four – take food in and microwave it – isn’t possible as we are microwaveless at work. We have a canteen, but it’s understandably frowned upon to drip hot lasagne over the chief sub as you explain the fourth paragraph of your story with an hour to go before first edition.

Sausage pasta #1

Which leaves the cobbled together – and heavily tupperware reliant – option five. If I’m being good, I’ll make soup for a week (thank you, dear flatmate and your blender) so I have at least one vaguely hot meal a day for lunch, albeit eaten precariously as I try to dry my hair and do my make-up at the same time.

Similarly I’ll cook something dinnerish for the week, carefully box it up and eat it cold at work. Which is why I came to be pouring red wine into three days worth of sausage and tomato pasta sauce* at about 10 this morning.

Aside from the inherent risks of early morning alcoholism and eating dinner for breakfast, things that make a good hot meal aren’t always so good cold – and it’s sad to watch it cool down when you know it would have made a delicious dinner. And, frankly, I’m also all too frequently lured into option three by being disorganised and forgetting to make things.

The bit where I want to add creme fraiche and just have it on toast

So it’s my new mission to find recipes that serve as dinner, are delicious cold, can be made in quantity, don’t cost the earth and aren’t sandwiches (packed lunch for dinner is sometimes beautifully reminiscent of journeys and school trips, but not every day).

So. Up with my poor, neglected blog, and on to pastures new – in search of a sub’s dinner. All ideas greatly appreciated.

*I fear giving you a very studenty recipe for sausage pasta would be like teaching many grandmothers how to suck eggs. But I took a couple of nice photos, so I’ve popped them in. My only word on the subject is it’s nice to de-skin the sausages and make them into mini meatballs by coating them in chilli powder/paprika and flour, to keep them together and give them a nice crunchy coating, as in sausage pasta #1 above.  And add some red wine. Just try not to drink it in the morning.

Ta da! Every student's dream/nightmare

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The food ghost and the best chips of my life

After three weeks of work experience I seem to have become a kind of food ghost, existing on a diet of Pret and M&S and Tesco Metro, with a helping of eating out which I really can’t afford. Not that I’m complaining.

Country bumpkin that I am, I still get a little bit excited about Pret (particularly their more-like-rice-pudding-than-breakfast porridge and their new rare roast beef baguette), and the  M&S food hall is, as I’ve said before, like getting a hug from my mum, even if I still haven’t quite adjusted to the incongruous sight of Cadburys and Cornflakes alongside the minibites and ultimate mash.

But none of this food really seems – real. It’s all so anodyne and plasticked and removed from anything vaguely arduous. Staying in other people’s houses and now at a B&B, I’ve no choice but to select the easiest thing, but it’s so dull dull dull. Especially Tesco. I hate the fact that, certainly in London and now increasingly in Cardiff , there’s one on every corner.

Each is equally tiny, with the same small and miserable selection of meals for one, drearily picked up by dreary food ghosts, sometimes with one of those miserably miniature bottles of wine for one, followed by a dessert. For one. All in several layers of plastic and at several removes from the field it should have started in.

I know I’m perilously close to food-snobbism, or worse still, poor-me-ism, but it’s just all so – sterile.

However. I was saved, at approximately 7.30pm on Thursday, April 15, by the best chips of my life.

I had just spent 5 hours outside the Oakington Detention Centre near Cambridge, helping to cover a rumoured “disturbance” there for the Cambridge News. It was a great experience but, also, as the April sun faded and the gates stayed quiet and closed, very, very cold.

By the time I got back to my B&B, I was frozen to the bone, absolutely starving and far too tired to make any kind of food decision. I did my dutiful ghost wandering around the Co-op, but somehow the prospect of a day-old chicken sandwich with a red reduced sticker slapped over the top didn’t fill me with joy.

My stomach was asking for only one thing. Chips. It wasn’t a want or a craving or even a fancy. It was, I swear, a genuine need.

So, having garnered a strange look from the man behind the counter in the Co-op for buying a solitary can of Grolsch (I’d just spent ten zombie-eyed minutes staring at the beer section trying to decide), I headed to the Viking fish and chip shop, next door to my B&B.

It smelt good. It looked good. It didn’t also sell Chinese and/or kebabs (a Crwys Road special). And, best of all, one of the options was ‘chips with homemade chilli’. I waited the five minutes extra, handed over my £3.10 (less than a Pret baguette, for a start…) and had to stop myself running back to my B&B.

I smuggled them in illicitly and there, on the floor of my bedroom, wantonly spread out the golden chips in their paper. God they were good. Covered in salt and vinegar, they were crispy on the outside and just the right balance of creamy and fluffy in the middle. Hot and satisfying and beautiful. And the chilli was gorgeous – chunky tomato and onion, good quality beef and spicy enough to need the calming stodginess of chips as a balm.

With nothing more than yesterday’s Cambridge News, a chip fork and the spoon from the morning’s coffee cup for accompaniment, it was perfect. At that moment, had someone offered me a Michelin-starred meal, you wouldn’t have moved me from my chips and my B&B floor.

This was food with a bit of soul and not a hint of plastic. Circumstance is all. So, tired and hungry and cold ghosts – abandon Tesco, and head to the chippy. It might just give you a smile like the woman above…

p.s. When I nipped outside to throw out my illicit chip paper, I went back to the fish and chip shop and raved about them to the owner. You can’t do that at Tesco. Although she did look a bit confused…

Goat’s cheese and galettes – Madame Fromage review

Madame Fromage is the kind of restaurant a small, malicious part of you doesn’t want to live up to the hype. Homemade pies, locally-sourced food, a deli you can drool over as you wait for your lunch to be prepared – it ticks too many boxes.

Unfortunately for my malicious side, at the third time of trying, Madame Fromage has yet to disappoint.

Tucked away in Castle Arcade, this famous Cardiff haunt combines Welsh classics like bara brith and lamb cawl with French-influenced galettes and traditional rib-sticking comfort food.

Part-deli, part-cafe, you’re greeted by a table piled high with freshly-baked bread and a deli counter filled with an impossible choice of cheese when you first walk in. The scent of homecooking and garlic more than makes up for the fairly limited seating area, tucked just inside the deli itself.

The menu is huge, but only because the range of ingredients on offer is so broad. Last time I visited, my friend waxed lyrical and loud about her galette (a savoury crepe) filled with melting goat’s cheese and homemade red onion marmalade, so this time round, after much deliberating, I followed suit and went for one with chilli cheese and chorizo.

The wait seemed interminable, not because of poor service but because in the closely-confined space you are surrounded on all sides by gorgeous food and It’s impossible not to stare.

When it finally arrived, my galette was light and crispy at the edges, little more than a vehicle for the cheese which oozed out at the first cut. The chilli and firm, meaty chorizo cut through the richness perfectly, and a generous side salad doused with balsamic vinaigrette stopped the cheese from being too overpowering.

My friend’s lamb cawl was a bowl full of goodness, tender chunks of lamb and winter vegetables in an aromatic broth, served with huge chunks of fresh bread from sundried tomato to wholemeal.

Despite homemade chocolate fondant, brownies and cheesecake tempting us from the counter, we were too full even to consider dessert.

It’s slightly pricey for a cafe – the baguettes jump from £3.50 to £6.50 if you choose to eat in – but it’s an ideal weekend treat, especially for cheese lovers.

Reposted on Capture Cardiff