Tag Archives: chris harding

Feature | Fast food goes Gourmet

This piece originally appeared in the Guardian.

International pizza delivery chain Domino’s last week started selling its new “gourmet” range – three pizzas which, according to a breathless press release have “been specially developed to appeal to a different type of pizza-eater who is looking for a lighter pizza and more distinctive flavours, which are akin to those you might find in a traditional pizzeria”. That is to say, the pizzas are an effort to appeal to those for whom Domino’s is usually only a last or drunken resort.

Domino's have fully embraced the trend for unusual and experimental cooking

For the majority of food lovers, high street fast food chains like Domino’s have become a byword for poorly-sourced, soulless and generally unpleasant food. Insipid burgers, rubbery cheese and Dead Sea levels of salt have all contributed to an overwhelmingly negative view of fast food. A request for one word descriptions of Britain’s fast food was met with a barrage of ire, ranging from “pointless” “unsatisfying” and “beige” to “greasy” “sticky” and, most damningly of all I reckon, “rancid“.

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Grilled Poussin

“Darling,” she said, and arced her back, pushing her belly button towards an imagined sun. I catch a glimpse of a small white breast and look away, concentrating fiercely on my wine. “It is really very difficult for those poor souls who are both beautiful AND intelligent. Rejected by both tribes. So sad.”
“I disagree.”
“You would. So contrary.”
“I think it’s like having the best from both tribes. Half eagle, half lion. Those ‘poor souls’, you included, might be a little more alone, but you’re griffins. Mythical beasts. Forgive me for not shedding a tear.”
“That may be the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me. But it will not offset you burning the poussin. Pay attention,” she smirks. And she’s right, of course. The skin is perhaps a little more than desirably charred already. I flip it and swig.

Griffins are the second best mythical animal

Lucy’s is the only mouth I know in which “darling” is not an unbearable affectation. She has a boyfriend called Pony and together they run a photographic studio in between forays to Essex and Middlesborough in search of trouble and life. She has been, by turns, a font of adventure, opportunity, mischief and solace. I owe her much. Right now I’m making a gesture of repayment by cooking her a meal, but she’s distracting me with statements absurd in their scale and scope.

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Roast rack of lamb with my dad’s roast potatoes

I had a dream last night that I was in Fascist Italy, cresting limestone hills on a brown Harley-Davidson in flight from my oppressers. In my sleep I felt the surge of power as the bike kicked and roared beneath me. I heard pebbles spit and skitter from the wheels. But what I dreamed clearest was the smell of fresh wild thyme as the thick tyres surfed over tiny green buds of the herb that covered that imagined hillside.

Asian squid porn is equally evocative of cherished memories but that's a story for an entirely different website

That smell, for me, is redolent of a lazy summer evening in Malta. My friends and I rolled up to a cliffside perch, drunk on hot sunshine and bad wine, and lay there smoking cigarettes as the sun set amongst chattering dolphins. Every time one of us so much as lifted our smoking arm the air filled with the fresh, earthy aroma of thyme.

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Salt and Pepper Squid

Sometimes I feel that writing a blog is a bit like being that guy at a party. You know him. He takes a corner of the room to himself and, tweaked out on plant food & bad coke, draws anyone near him into interminable conversations about his family, his future, his frustrations. His face is drawn and lined with the stress of his habits and he hasn’t shaved or slept for days. Consequently, he looks a bit like a pinched ballsack.

I know how she feels. Trapped between the "I'm just kind of crazy" guy and the one who reads Baudelaire aloud from his beanbag in between bong hits

I try to avoid the trap of solipsism and listen to my friends, family and food-loving acquaintances in the interests of self-improvement. Sometimes, however, I’m delighted that I’ve stubbornly taken my own route despite all nudging and directing. Cooking salt and pepper squid was one of those times. I’ve been toying with the idea of putting actual photographs on the blog. Of the food, that is, rather than painted dogs and testicle-shaped fish.

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Haunch of Venison with Pomegranate Syrup, Parsnip Crisps and Cabbage Fried in Cumin

I was walking to the tube from my house in Archway the other day and passed a perfectly formed little turd perching on top of a takeaway pizza box. It felt like an omen – a symbol of neglect and its inevitable consequences. I’ve been too busy for this sweet, bulbous little blog. This ray of culinary sunshine that kept boredom from the door during interminable hours in west London and that I have neglected in the interests of a trifling little thing called a career. Never again. The two can work alongside each other. I will force them to be friends. Pinky promise.

Pinky promise is a binding agreement

I suppose I probably owe you another apology, too. Generally I’ve been cooking food that each and every one of you can cook and afford. This doesn’t really fit into that category – not because it’s too difficult but because I doubt many people would be willing to make the kind of effort this dish requires. Unless you’re going to get laid because of it, which is practically a certainty with this one.  Continue reading