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 The licence to M&G – Misbehave and Gorge – in parts exotic has been withdrawn for most.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

Rambo on the River: 2008

Rambo on the River: 2008

Written by Roger Allen The Freedom Bridge spanning the Salween River loomed up in front of us. Random checkpoints had started some way back and now the line of cars and lorries slowed to a halt. This was the way into Myanmar from the Thailand side, the official way -...

Hunting a Killer – Washington/London July 1992

Hunting a Killer – Washington/London July 1992

Written by Allan Hall Tabloid newspapers liked, in the pre-Leveson days, to think themselves above the law. And as well as flouting it on a daily basis, they also liked to play the policeman when it came to particular whodunnit? crimes. So when a beautiful 23-year-old...

Disco Diana: Portugal, Switzerland – February 1987

Disco Diana: Portugal, Switzerland – February 1987

Written by Allan Hall It was a most bizarre form of Mexican standoff, conducted sitting down at a bar in the overpriced Swiss ski resort of Klosters. The clock was ticking around desperately slowly to 3.00am as I struggled to stay awake with rival newshound Clive...

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...

LATEST RECIPES

Thai Rice Soup

INGREDIENTS 6 cups chicken stock 1 small cooked white fish shredded 2 kaffir lime leaves, 1 tbsp. lime juice 1 thumb-size piece ginger, grated 3 cloves garlic, chopped 1 stalk celery, sliced thinly 1 cup oyster mushrooms, left whole unless very large 3/4 to 1 cup...

Massaman meat curry

INGREDIENTS 2 1/2 cups good-quality chicken or beef stock 1 to 2 pounds beef 1/3 cup diced onion 3 bay leaves 1 to 2 potatoes, sliced into chunks A handful of fresh coriander Curry Sauce: 1 thumb-piece ginger, grated 4 to 5 cloves garlic 1 stalk lemongrass, minced...

Jungle Fish Curry

INGREDIENTS 500g boneless fish fillets, firm white fish monk, cod, salmon. 1 tbsp vegetable oil 250 ml of chicken stock 1 tbsp fish sauce 2 tsp palm sugar 2 tbsp lime juice 4 tbsp crispy fried shallots Coriander leaves (handful) roughly chopped. The woman behind the...