Archive for December, 2012

December 15, 2012

end of year noises

As the end of the year approaches, tradition dictates we look back upon the past twelvemonth, reflect and ruminate, then pick out some of the highlights of that year and edit them into an audio package.

This we have done with Answer Me This! – the Best of 2012 part I is out now, and part II will follow on Thursday 20th. Embedded above is one of my favourite passages; drunk-dialling can be strangely moving.

Olly and I also run through the year’s biggest online events on Saturday Edition, BBC 5 Live 8pm 29th December or available shortly after as the Let’s Talk About Tech podcast; and you can hear us discussing Christmas gadgets and songs on Steve Wright in the Afternoon on BBC Radio 2 on 20th December.

Not finished yet! I crop up on BBC 5 Live’s Radio Review of 2012, which will be on at 11pm on Christmas Eve, repeated 4pm on Christmas Day, or, if you want to listen at a more sensible time, available on the 5 Live website straight after. There’s some very interesting stuff on it, and it’s co-hosted by Jane Garvey – any show with Jane Garvey on it is a show worth hearing.

Lastly, Olly and I also wrote some bits for the Celebrity Juice Christmas Specials; part one is already on ITV Player and part two will follow on Thursday 20th.

And now, having provided a thorough summation of 2012, I’m taking the rest of it off. See you in 2013, assuming that apocalypse is another let-down.

December 11, 2012



Four vol-au-vents,
Three duck spring rolls,
Two for one Pringles,
And a Tex-Mex snack banquet!

Or so the TV ad breaks tell me I ought to be serving people, because Christmas is coming so suddenly their stomachs don’t care what lands in them.

I don’t know about you, but I like most people too much to feed them an oven-ready variety pack of items that look like deep-fried used tissues. Instead, for a simple but highly effective substitute that takes only a few minutes to prepare, may I recommend stromboli.

I made it the other night and my friends went absolutely apeshit for it, even though it is essentially a classy version of a McCain’s Pizza Roller.

Stromboli sounds Italianate, but my Italian friend Rachele says it was invented by Americans. She doesn’t know why they named it after the volcanic island Stromboli, so I venture a guess that it’s because stromboli erupts with volcanically hot cheese if you’re not careful.

Here’s the recipe, which should make one a bit bigger than a Pringles tube or about the size of Santa’s calf.


For the dough:
225g strong white bread flour
7g quick yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1tbsp dried herbs – I usually use some combination of thyme, rosemary and/or oregano
filling – see below

To make the dough:
• In a large bowl, mix together the flour, yeast, salt and herbs. Make a well in the centre and pour in 150ml (1/4 pint) warm water and 1tbsp olive oil. Stir together.
• Tip out onto a floured surface and knead for five minutes until smooth.
• Return to the bowl, cover with a tea towel, then leave it in a warm place to rise for a couple of hours or longer until such time as you need it. You don’t have to knead it a second time, but if you pass by, punch it down in the bowl.

While it’s rising, decide a filling. You could try:
• one torn mozzarella ball, five or six slices of ham and a couple of cubic inches of grated gruyere or cheddar
• a mozzarella ball, 500g chopped fried mushrooms, torn sage
• a paste of slow-roasted tomatoes with garlic, capers and black olives (one of my favourite flavour combos AND vegan-friendly!)
• roast onions, gorgonzola, pine nuts
• or any combination of ingredients that would be at home on top of a proper pizza ie NOT PINEAPPLE YOU MONSTER.

To assemble:
• Heat the oven to 200c.
• Use the heels of your hands to gently stretch the dough out into a square about 1/4 inch thick. Use a rolling pin if you need, and if holes appear, pinch them together.
• Distribute the filling evenly over the square, leaving about an inch margin on all sides.
• Roll up into a bolster shape. Pinch the edge shut and place on a baking tray. Brush with beaten egg if you want it to be shiny. Mine remained matt, which ruined nothing.
• Bake for 40 minutes or so until puffed-up and brown.
• Leave to cool for a few minutes then slice and serve. The slices will look like spirals. Sorry, I forgot to take a photo as proof.
• Enjoy the the fact that everybody thinks you put in far more effort than you did.

Incidentally, you can use the same dough recipe for pizza or focaccia:

For pizza, just leave it to rise for as long as possible – you could make it in the morning then use it in the evening – so when you come to cook it the crust will be very snappy.

For focaccia, leave to rise for 45mins-1 hour, then shape it into a roundish square or squarish round 1 inch thick on a baking tray and leave to rise for another 30ish minutes. Just before baking at 200c, poke it with your finger all over the top and drizzle olive oil into the holes, sprinkle with more herbs and salt flakes, and bake for around 30 minutes.
You could also add chopped olives, onion, capers, roast garlic etc during the poking stage.

December 3, 2012

Noises on: know your rights

That’s me trying to compensate for Olly’s absence during BBC 5 Live’s Saturday Edition at the weekend. Download the podcast from HERE (1st December episode) if you wish to hear me talking solo about that daft Facebook copyright notice that you shouldn’t fall for, as well as the sweet ‘Dumb Ways To Die’ video below.

Last Friday I turned up on MacAulay & Co on BBC Scotland, discussing the ingrate 1/2 man off Two and a Half Men, and superspy Dean Gaffney. The podcast is available HERE – 30th November episode.

Somehow Kim Jong-Un cropped up on both shows. Hubba hubba.