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 The licence to M&G – Misbehave and Gorge – in parts exotic has been withdrawn for most.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

Robert Maxwell’s Funeral: Jerusalem 1991

Robert Maxwell’s Funeral: Jerusalem 1991

Written by Roger Allen The news of Daily Mirror proprietor Robert Maxwell’s death filtered out at about five o’clock on bonfire night, 1991. It seemed like the whole of Fleet Street was heading for the Canary Islands where Captain Bob had fallen off the back of his...

The Lion King – Woking 1974

The Lion King – Woking 1974

Written by Roger Allen My life in the world of newspaper photography started at a picture agency in Guildford Surrey. After a short stint on a building site I took a job in the darkroom of Southern News Service, aka Cassidy and Leigh, a news and picture agency serving...

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...

LATEST RECIPES

Spiced Lamb Kofta

INGREDIENTS 500g of lamb mince, a bit fatty is good 1 large onion diced finely 1 tsp turmeric ½ tsp ground cinnamon 2 tsp ground cumin 2 tbsp sea salt 50 g pine nuts, lightly roasted Large handful of currants 40g of flat leave parsley chopped 2 large eggs Olive oil...

Israeli Salad

INGREDIENTS 1 cucumber 6 vine tomatoes 1 red onion 3 pinches of sea salt A good grind of black pepper Juice of one lemon 2 heaped tsp of sumac 200g pomegranate seeds. HOW TO DO IT Wash and chop the cucumber and tomatoes. Peel and finely chop the onion. Add all the...

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Sumac

INGREDIENTS8 chicken thighs skin onOlive oil2 tsp of chilli flakes1 ½ tbsp of sumac2 tsp of cinnamon powder1 tbsp of cumin.HOW TO DO ITRub the chicken with 2 tbsp of oil and season.Mix the chilli flakes, sumac, cinnamon and cumin together then rub all over the oiled...