The Jason Bourne School of Toastie-Making

The Toastabag 500 from Lakeland gets tried and toasted, Hollywood-style.

If you’ve seen the 2004 blockbuster The Bourne Supremacy, you’ll already know that the easiest way to create a timed explosion at short notice is to disconnect a mains gas pipe and shove a rolled-up magazine into a toaster.

This gives you just enough time to scarper before the smouldering copy of Country Life blows your enemy’s gaffe sky-high. Neat.

Now, although I haven’t had cause to set off incendiary devices in kitchens recently, I have had the urge to make a deliciously toasted cheese sandwich. So it was with some trepidation – and memories of Matt Damon’s kitchen-based bomb-making – that I read the instructions on my new Toastabag 500: “Just prepare a sandwich as normal, put it in the bag and then pop the bag into the toaster.”

How could this be? Could I really stuff a small plastic bag into a hot toaster? Surely it would be a matter of seconds before I was engulfed in acrid smoke and left to watch in vain as my iroko worktops were reduced to a pile of charcoal.

With a steely nerve that would have impressed Agent Bourne himself, I slid my limp cheese sandwich inside the Toastabag, dropped it into the slot and shoved down the button.

Lo and behold – minutes later a perfectly formed cheese toastie popped up. Such is the miracle of the toastabag – and all without the need for an unsightly Breville contraption or a special agent in a flame-retardant pinny.


Writers’ strike goes international

The writers’ strike in Hollywood may be drawing to a close, but could it have impacted writers in other industries?

Take a look at the two Chinese fortunes I received on Friday.

The first one was kind of lazy:
Sunday is your lucky day

But the second was just sloppy:
a sitive change in life

Having said that, I guess fortunes found inside edible snacks have always been a bit grammatically dubious – just take your average Thai fortune roll.

Back to telling it like it is

You turn your back for one blog posting and before you know it six months have whirled by and lots has happened.

Still, that is all by the by, as my mission here – which I have woefully neglected recently – is to tell it like it is. And this I will endeavour to do from now on. It’s good for the soul (not yours, mine).

I will merely recap my past half a year in pictoral form. Here’s a selection of what went down:



parc des princes




That’s that – normal service will be resumed shortly.

Sewing a dolly peg lady

dolly peg bagIn recent weeks I have regressed somewhat. About 50 years in fact. I seem to have taken on the guise of a 50s housewife. I create baked goods! I make my own soup! My latest creation is lemon drizzle muffins. Yum! And before that, pea and mint soup. Mmm.

Just goes to show, anyone can cook – as long as you can read a recipe. Thank goodness I learned to read! Thanks teachers and parents!

If I carry on like this though I might turn into one of the devotees of The Brocante Home blog whose readers have “a scrummy house, too much laundry and a child (or two) attached to your ankles”. Here’s a typical extract:

Chop up some old vintage scraps of embroidery and string together some bunting to hang along your washing line. It’s there. You might as well make it pretty. Oh and while we are on the subject keep an eye out for 50’s floral plastic covered hangers to leave swinging on your washing line for drying shirts and blouses without those bothersome peg imprints.

Informative! Inspirational! And – at long last! – a solution to the problem of vintage embroidery scraps clutter.

Oh – and if you want to know what a dolly peg lady is and how to make one, it’s number four on this list. (Surely by number 21 you’d be spouting nonsense like some kind of deranged stencil-the-driveway Martha Stewart…?)

Fat dogs addicted to spaghetti hoops

BBC3What’s going on at BBC3?

Here’s a selection from this week’s line-up at our national broadcaster’s third TV channel, helpfully sorted into its three main areas of focus:

1. Dog-related:

Help! My Dog’s as Fat as Me
Dog Borstal Unleashed

2. Food and dental:
Britain’s Worst Teeth
Freaky Eaters: Addicted to Chicken (Following last week’s Freaky Eaters: Addicted to Spaghetti Hoops)

3. Tourette’s:
F*** Off, I’m Ginger (Last week: F*** Off, I’m a Hairy Woman)
The Bulls*** Detective

Are we a nation of swearing, hairy, dog-obsessed TV watchers with questionable dietary habits? I’m moving to Kazakhstan.

Somerfield rebels go underground

A few weeks ago there was some hoo-ha in the press about Somerfield employees messing around at work and filming the results for YouTube. Of course, if Somerfield had any sense they would be trying to make the most of the until-now hidden talents of its warehouse staff. Predictably, they are instead “looking into the incidents and will take any necessary action where appropriate.” Yawn.

In the meantime, I can exclusively reveal that the Somerfield rebels have been forced into using new, subtle methods to “give all senior management the finger.”

Somerfield checkout receiptExhibit A: my checkout receipt from last night, where a jar of Lloyd Grossman’s Smoky Bacon Pasta Sauce has been christened “LLOYDS GROSS SAUCE.” Curses, Somerfield massive, you’ve done it again!

And just incase you somehow missed it, here’s one of the original YouTube clips posted from a Somerfield employee with a bright future in advertising:

Burritos and bathrooms

View from the Empire State Building on 16 February 2007Phase one of the gastronomic world tour (GWT) completed. Phew. Spending ten days in close proximity to your immediate family can be tough, especially when some of them – sorry dad – are not experienced travellers. Seems it is possible to run a successful business yet not be able to use a hotel key card or calculate a tip. Still, it was a lot of fun and I will be posting highlights here over the next few days. Two quick bites:

On the food front, the US really is the land of plenty – and variety. I reckon good old Bennys Burritos in New York’s East Village is hard to beat. I had a delicious chicken chipotle burrito and some very nice mojitos. The 24-hour Skylight Diner was a great find too – a huge menu, great service, bargain prices and mammoth portions. The diners are a mixture of NYPD’s fattest finest and local crazies. Brilliant.

One thing that did strike me, between chugging bottles of Miller Lite (only 3.6 grams of carbs according to the label), is that American engineering has really let itself down when it comes to their bathrooms. They may have made incredible skyscrapers (see above view from top of the Empire State Building taken last week), huge bridges and miles of continent-spanning freeways but it seems creating a proper toilet cubicle door is a step too far.

Why is the door always a foot too short at the bottom and so low that you can see over the top? Why is there a 2cm-wide gap all the way round the door frame? You might as well hang a scrap of net curtain in front of each cubicle. Strange.

Carbon forkprint

press-amrc-airplane-big.jpgIn the next six weeks I am flying to New York, Switzerland and Cuba. Three round trips and plenty of CO2 emissions. What I should really be concerned about is that fact that I will soon have a carbon footprint the size of a yeti, but all I can think about is the food.

In the US, it’s all about volume. And, with the Game of Life dollar bills plus the strong pound, it’s all free anyway, right? Roll on the hot dogs and burritos.

Ten days later, Zurich. I assume I will have to pay some kind of fuel supplement having gained twice my own bodyweight during my time in the U.S. of A. Luckily, we are staying next door to a Swiss cake shop so I can stock up there after troughing on fondue and chocolate.

Then Cuba, which is apparently not known for its culinary attractions, but surely you can get all your five a day from seven mojitos and a cigar.

Thai green worry

thai.jpgHosted a small dinner party last week that included three of my favourite things: wine, poker and Thai food. The Thai delicacies were followed by a box of Thai Fortune Rolls.

Now, these are similar to Chinese fortune cookies except they are actually edible. The other main difference is that the fortunes aren’t really fortunes. Some seemed more like mild threats designed to make you question your sanity. Here’s a selection that range from the harmless…

You have a curious smile and a mysterious nature.

…to the funny…

Please someone at work by remaining clam and impartial.

You have so much to be thank you for.

…to the alarming:

Schizophrenia beats being alone.

But this one has to be the winner – if you’re not already trying to keep ‘clam’ despite concerns that you are in fact a schizophrenic, this might just tip you over the edge:

If the enemy is in range, SO ARE YOU.

Kebab Institute

hen_cottage.jpgThe names of kebab shops are getting a bit highfalutin if you ask me. Chicken shops have got it right – simple variations around a theme give you Chicken Cottage, Chicken Spot, Chicken Hut, Kentucky Chicken, Tennessee Chicken, Dixy Chicken…you get the idea. All quality establishments.

Then you’ve got your crossover restaurants like Dallas Chicken & Ribs. And good old kebab places like Gizel Kebabs and Kebab Feast. But now, just round the corner from my own home, I give you Kebab Centre. It’s not just a takeaway – it’s a centre for all those interested in kebabs and furthering our collective knowledge of the kebab world. What next?

Two further establishments deserve a mention:
-Again, near my own home: Tower of Pizza and Chicken
-Somewhere between my home and IKEA Croydon: Jerk Chicken Centre

Any more for any more?