Monday, 12 July 2010

Chilli tacos

The internet is a funny place for an old print hack like me. I don't really understand the concept of "networking" with other blogs in order to increase my "traffic", although other people seem to, because I get an awful lot of comments these days that leave a random compliment, followed by the address of their own blog.

I mean, don't get me wrong - I'm not annoyed by it or anything, but is this what we're all doing now? And why? So that Highland Spring will email us offering to advertise on our sites? Is that the dream?

It's not like that in newspapers. In newspapers you only have to please one person: your commissioning editor. I have four commissioning editors at the moment: Hannah, Amy, Nicola and Vanessa, (I do not believe in working for men), which is a 400% increase on the number of commissioning editors I had this time last year. They are to me what volcanoes are to small, sun-worshipping island communities in the South Pacific, in that if they asked me to toss a virgin into a furnace, I would.

Here, the reader is everything. I can measure my popularity (or at least, how often I post) by a weekly mail-out, which tells me how many visits I've had, from where and how long they stayed, and by the quantity and enthusiasm of my comments. And I do it all for free.

But in newspapers no-one cares about the readers. The readers don't matter and they never really have. Anyone who writes to or emails a newspaper, even someone with a legitimate point, is a "green inker", most probably an escapee from a mental asylum, and readers never, ever know best. They are like naughty schoolchildren who need to be told what they like - Summer Reads AGAIN, some feature on how to get a good night's sleep (my God insomniacs must gnash their teeth at those) and 10,000 items a week on working mothers.

It never helps my attitude towards newspaper readers that they're always mean about whatever I've written in those "Have your say" boxes at the end, whereas on blogs, everyone is nice. And anyway, the reader has probably bought the paper to read someone else anyway, and stumbled across my piece on horseshoe making in southern Ukraine (p.56) quite by accident.

So all that considered the reader can get stuffed, as long as my comm ed likes it. Because if they like it, there's a chance they'll remember to put through my 15p per word payment to finance department, so that an undercover Russian spy, who doesn't want to give herself away by ever speaking intelligible English, (in an elaborate double-bluff), can lose my payslip, delete my account and then deny all knowledge of the piece when I ring her in six months' time to complain.

And that, ladies and gents, is why newspapers are going to die.

I made chilli tacos last night for my husband, because he was watching the World Cup final and I thought that chilli tacos and beer were suitable football food.

I've never managed to make chilli really taste like chilli, only like extra tangy bolognese, so I consulted a Tomasina Miers recipe and ripped it off. It went something like this.

500g ground beef
2 small onions
3 garlic cloves
1 red chilli SEEDS IN - don't be such a wuss for god's sake
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp soft dark brown sugar
1 tbsp cider vinegar
25g chorizo, chopped
2 bay leaves - don't panic if you haven't got these
2 cans of plum tomatoes

1 Brown the meat and the chorizo in a pan and then set aside

2 Put the onions, garlic and chilli in a blender and whizz until chopped. I've never done this before, always instead painstakingly chopping everything up. I am never chopping onions again - it's going to be blended garlic and onion for everything from now on

3 Cook the blended onion mixture in a frying pan for about 10 minutes over a very low flame with the cumin, bay leaves and spices. Season with a pinch of salt and a few turns of pepper.

4 Add the plum tomatoes, the ketchup, vinegar and sugar. Mess this around for a bit and then pile the meat back in. Cook this up for about 5 minutes and then taste. If you want more or less of anything chuck it in now. You'll probably find you need more salt. If you want this really fucking spicy, wham in some tabasco.

5 Cook all this for about 40 minutes over a low heat.

6 Serve with tortilla wraps (Waitrose), guacamole (mash up some avocado and add lemon and salt - you don't need to add any chilli because the chilli ought to be hot enough as it is), shredded lettuce and sour cream. Sprinkle over jalapeno peppers - if you're a glutton for punishment - while pondering whether or not the paywall is going to work.


  1. So does that mean you're going to start sharing this blog with Giles? Especially as all his stuff ends up behind the dastardly pay wall.

  2. Really? Lemon in the guacamole? I've never tried that before but I will now.

    Thanks for commenting on my blog the other week by the way. That was really nice of you. If I'd have known you were going go read it I'd have put more effort and less swear words in it!

    I've read a few of the things you recommended and they were really good...I still think you're better ;)


  3. Yes lemon in the guacamole adds a nice tartness and has the added benefit of stopping the avocado from going brown, which is does alarmingly quickly

  4. Those crazy 'Mericans will tell you to use Lime in the Guacamole.
    Of course, some of them are bat-shit crazy and tell you to use tomatillos and cilantro too. Can't trust them, I tell you.

  5. More intriguing inside information on newspapers, thanks. I hope the tacos were tastier than the football.

  6. don't know what you mean?

  7. Before I knew about the green ink brigade, I used to write all my essays in green ink. I thought it vastly elegant. My tutors very sweetly hid their smiles.

    Have given you a special award. It's over on my blog here -

  8. I made these last night after reading this blog. I also added sweetcorn to the chili mix which was super yummy. Thanks Esther and Tomasina

  9. This is completely unrelated to this post, but as this is my favourite food blog I wanted to ask you - do you have a recipe that involves 5 kilos of sweet potatoes??! sainsburys online and I had a misunderstanding...

  10. Ha! This is definitely in my all time 5 top favourite comments. Jesus Christ 5 kilos?!

    the answer is this: you need to have a party and make them into sweet potato wedges, which are v easy. for recipe see inside/outside living in my June blog posts.

    and maybe switch to Ocado?

  11. I have similar misunderstandings with Mr Ocado... however it was Birds Eye Potato Waffles I got inundated with...

  12. Another GREAT blog post! I'm definately retweeting this blog on my twitter page! It really made me laugh when you said, "1 red chilli SEEDS IN..." and told people not to be a "wuss"!

  13. Sweet potato wedges = yum

    Now I just need to find some friends interested in a potato party...

  14. I'm so glad you wrote that. I was told that same thing about having to comment on other people's blogs to get people to read yours. I guess that blogs are like fun-writing rather than work and it shouldn't feel like work. I won't un-dignify this comment by posting a link to my blog.

    Concerning chilli, it is well worth adding cinnamon and chocolate. Plus I would rather save the chorizo for something else. Seems a bit wasted in chilli.

  15. Harriet Addison27 July 2010 at 11:47

    no no NOOOO you'll give us a bad name! I love the readers, I really truly do. I do wish that more readers would write us letters though, sometimes it does feel like we're just sending articles out into the world and have no idea whether people are sitting there scoffing at our nonsense over their cornflakes, or whether it inspires fantastically intellectual debate and praise.

  16. Oh dear, Sorry old Hadge. It must have just been me...

  17. I comment on peoples' blogs because I like them, and also I'm hungry, and also your recipes actually look do-able for someone like me who really isn't a particularly cheffy cook, doesn't have a lot in terms of Things To Cook With, and is a bit 'don't panic if you haven't got these' about, well, most concievable ingredients. This is my mother's fault for; thinking that my sister's uneaten cottage cheese sandwiches, back in our thankfully long-gone schoool days, constituted a reasonable substitute for a cheesy breadcrumby topping for something-or-other; referring to the slow cooker as the 'slow rotter' for a thankfully non-fatal incident with some fish; and having a pretty Free Love attitude to herbs and spices in jars. I will also obsessively fill in the 'Comment as' form with my blog address and whatever other details it asks for because I'm way too Germanic not to fill in a form properly as and when requested. Don't feel that this means you have to click on my name and see what my blog is like, currently it's spectacularly tripey with the odd but not-worth-hunting-for speck of genius.

    That sounds like reverse psychology. Oops, sorry.