eets: Snacks For The Internet
Dragon Stout Lamb Stew with Rice ‘n’ Peas, Plantain Chips, BBQ Pork Balls and Jerk Chicken.
Television got to me. Ainsley Harriott’s shiny, bald head of food knowledge and Jamie Oliver’s fat-tongued enthusiasm influenced my mind at a tender age. Here I am, years on, in a world saturated with food TV, blogs, fetishism, all kinds of bullshit, creating my own brand of food-based entertainment. My tales are of feeding the crowd and the people in my living room, with something delicious enough for them to Instagram it. In short, eets.
Fortunately, I’ve been brain-washed enough to ensure that everything I make has ample texture and colour and needless drizzlings. I thank cookery for helping me relax, teaching my tongue the meaning of taste and getting me laid on various occasions.
“You should become a chef.”
“Thanks, I’ll, er, give up the writing then.”
It’s just a hobby, something to report on, because war journalism just seems a bit FAR. Tonight’s occasion is this: a friend is leaving to go back to Berlin after a temporary job selling programmes at the Olympics and I’ve made him wild promises of Dragon Stout jerk lamb. I made this promise in the company of most of the gang so it’s farewell dinner for 10.
The shambles assemble at my place and garden football breaks out. My kitchen has no concept of timing or urgency, dinner time is generally 10pm. When I start sweating from my teeth, however, I retire from football and get to work. Joining me in the kitchen I have Davey, who will tonight be my right hand man, and The Director, who will mainly skin up and make loud suggestions.
Earlier in the day we met up in the local mass-market-mega-mart and danced the aisles, buying thematically and frivolously. We left with all of the requisite things, cocktails, and stuff we barely needed at all. At some point it was decided that into the Dragon Stout stew will go some Mighty Malt, which is described by its biggest fan as tasting of ‘Weetabix and Marmite’. All good.
In the kitchen it goes like this: Davey’s making dumpling mix, I marinade lamb in jerk spices, get some rice ready to go, open various cans and bottles and try to imagine how I can get this all to look wanky enough to be fit for The Internet.
Another couple of arrivals add more ingredients to the mix, a bunch of chicken thighs and a packet of sausages. Jerk chicken is the immediate obviousness so the chunky chicken bits are marinating before I’ve even thought what to do with the sausages. Pork is SO hot right now.
Remembering my Ready Steady Cook training from my youth, I squeeze the meat out in a bowl and throw in some smoked BBQ seasoning, and a touch of most of the things I can see. I want honey but there is none, so I settle on using Figella, this weird fig jam spread I found in a shite shop nearby. And so I make BBQ pork balls, an injection of flavour and texture to the whole thing.
I’ve got a crowd to please here and the cooking is frenzied in my eyes but probably slow for those with munchie conditions settling in. The Director keeps things rolling and my mind is foggy but somehow I keep it together; Piña Coladas are very important at this point. We got a bottle of pre-mixed stuff from the supermarket and it’s a really delicious drop, going down smooth as milk, but at a healthy 15%.
So there’s a lamb stew that’s come together, with Dragon Stout and stock and onions and garlic and all of the other crap that a decent cook would remember in detail. The lamb is finished with a squeeze of Guinness HP, a can of callaloo and an extra slosh of Dragon Stout to reinforce that mad syrup booziness. Dark deliciousness spiked with green to sit on white fluffy rice with a cluster of glossy balls next to it and piece a jerk chicken to top everything off.
Final details come in a couple of strips of patty (got a load from the fridge at the supermarket, I ain’t that fancy) and finally some slices of fried plantain. Three plantains were the contribution of a friend who’s currently sleeping on a mattress in a dusty garage and traveling London mainly on foot, so I’m not sure where the fuck he got them. The Director offers his services and I ask him to slice them on an angle, so it looks all pretty and shit. It’s not long before he’s in trouble.
‘They just keep going straight.’
Davey and I are on hand to show him how to keep those slices unnecessarily elegant in their shape. They’re stacked in sketchy towers; height is key in making food look elaborate. As are drizzles of sauces, so I pour a little hot pepper sauce over the plantain so it falls down the tower, finishing things with a burst of colour and an affront to arseholes everywhere.
It takes some time for me to realise I’m missing the closing ceremony of the Olympics and even then I don’t give a shit. I had this conversation recently:
“How did Britain do so well!? It’s amazing!”
“Money. Loads of money.”
“But how does that make great athletes?”
“Money allows people to buy time. Time allows people to get really good at exercising.”*
Speaking of, there’s an inordinate amount of cash being splashed all over the place, prick popsters in Rollers feeding the machine. When people escape the hyperbole and bullshit they’ll have to realise that they’ve gotten overexcited by an unnecessary spectacle of sport that has no consequence and an awful lot of games that wouldn’t be out of place on Takeshi’s Castle.
Oh, and dinner is served and the crowd go wild.
(In writing this, I found in my notes that I initially planned to make ‘Buckfast Sangria’ to wash everything down. Maybe next time.)
Season with filters.
*Props to Kenny Powers.