The Hungry Hacks

High living in hard times.
Great food on a budget that won’t break the bank.

Introduction

For almost a century between us we have lunched at the expense of others.

Around the world the Press barons of Fleet Street paid the not inconsiderable dining bills of Roger Allen and Allan Hall, run up in the pursuit of tabloid glory.

Underpinning the headlines, captioning the photographs, fueling the insatiable lust to get the story at any cost were magnificent meals few mortals get to savor.

You see, in the good old days of newspaper excess, before the Internet made the wheels come off and nourishment in gastro-temples was traded for flaccid sandwiches consumed at office desks, mad dog proprietors viewed expense account living as an acceptable perk they were gladly willing to pay for.

It was almost as if the tycoons considered brief luxury living for their journalists as wholly necessary if they were to mine and exploit human failings for the pages of their sensational organs.

BUT NO MORE . . .

The Street of Shame is now home to mortgage brokers, banks and acupuncturists. Large living for its erstwhile denizens, now scattered in pot-plant strewn, neon-lit, no-smoking hutches across the capital, gone the way of the carriage horse and the match girl, the wheeltapper, the shunter and the lamplighter.

A LOST WORLD

The Michelin starred, Gault Millau cosmos we once navigated is now denied to all but a few cossetted, highly paid columnists and editors.

Most newspapers now will pay for little more than an industrial-grade cheeseburger and a soft drink for dinner for the hacks still toiling at the coalface. The licence to M&G – Misbehave and Gorge – in parts exotic has been withdrawn for most.

Man cannot live on memories alone, mouthwatering though they may be. So it is through the prism of recall, together with remembrances of repasts past, that we bring to you our guide for high living in the age of low rent, made entirely possible by our devotion to the cause gourmet.

For while many colleagues and enemies during the glory years only focused on the next mission, Allen and I – black and blue from the times we had to pinch ourselves to realise how privileged we were – always had an eye on the only way we could live as millionaires.

THROUGH THE STOMACH

It was with this future vocation in mind that we set out, at an early age, to chronicle what Charles Dickens never wrote: the best of times and the best of times.

After our gargantuan slap-up feeds and fermented grape-juice benders we would eke from proprietors, chefs, waiters and street food sellers the secrets of their recipes, those culinary twists and turns which transform food from mere nourishment into something ambrosial.

Along the way we honed our kitchen skills with cooking courses and a collection of books from which one could create fine dining for 1,000 years.

So this is it. High living in hard times, great food on a budget that won’t break the bank.

This is our time-travel log, one where the Tardis of taste is guaranteed to always land somewhere gastronomically worthy, to bring you a smidgin of the table glories we once enjoyed.

ADVENTURES

Flags, Fromage & Les Frolics Francais – Marseilles & Limoges 1999

Flags, Fromage & Les Frolics Francais – Marseilles & Limoges 1999

Written by John Troup “We’re in mate – they’ve fallen for it again!” I gleefully announced down my Nokia trumpet to photographer Marc Giddings. It was October 1999 and moments earlier one of the ‘grown-ups’ on the news desk had called me to confirm they did indeed...

Fashanu – Toronto & London 1990

Fashanu – Toronto & London 1990

Written by Allan Hall The door to the suite opened wide, its bed reflected in the mirror of a large wardrobe which stood on the wall at its end. Two pairs of feet poked out from beneath the sheets. Entering the room I saw Justin Fashanu - Britain's first one million...

The Cannibal Files: 1991, 2002, 2013

The Cannibal Files: 1991, 2002, 2013

Written by Allan Hall There are some for whom regular recipes will never be enough.... In July 1991 I first stepped into the dark, unfathomable world of eating humans when based in New York as the correspondent for The Sun. A man called Jefrey Dahmer had been arrested...

Congo 2003

Congo 2003

Written by Roger Allen Goma airport is the only one in the world with a lava flow six feet high splitting the runaway in two with commercial airliners stranded outside the terminal building, never to fly again. It was from the, now extended, grass strip, that Anton...

Seoul Olympics 1988

Seoul Olympics 1988

The Hungry Hack’s guest eater this month is Dick Durham, former reporter on the Daily Star I love dogs, but couldn’t eat a whole one. I discovered that in South Korea, a land where mutt-munching is no more unusual than scoffing a beefburger is in the west. It was...

LATEST RECIPES

Menemen

INGREDIENTS (Serves 2) Two eggs (whisked until smooth) 2.5 teaspoons of chilli oil (or olive oil) An eighth of a small onion (very finely chopped) An eighth of a red pepper (deseeded and chopped) A quarter of a tomato (roughly chopped) A quarter of a green chilli...

Spaghetti Puttanesca

INGREDIENTS Serves 2 Good quality spaghetti (150g) Olive oil (or chilli oil if you like things spicy) One large clove of garlic (peeled and finely chopped) One red chilli (stalk removed, sliced into rings - with seeds) Eight anchovy fillets (from a jar, finely...

French Onion Soup

INGREDIENTS (Serves 4) 30g of butter 1 tbsp sunflower oil 675g onions (thinly sliced) 1 tsp sugar Salt and freshly ground black pepper 120mls of red wine 2 tbsp plain flour 1.5 litres of hot beef stock (or vegetable stock) 4 tbsp brandy 8 croutes (cut a day old...