About 3 weeks into my internship, I started to notice something missing from my life that had been present before. A new gap had opened up from deep within; there was a synaptic pathway somewhere in my brain that was falling into disuse and beginning to fade away, leaving a neurological abyss only to be filled with my frustration at not knowing what that synapse was. It wasn’t a sleep synapse (although pretty sure that must have shrunk too). It wasn’t a cooking synapse (I’m more than making up for that at the weekends – at this very moment I have a sticky prune and date cake in the oven and veg in the fridge being prepped for pickling – goodbye salary, hello 4kg jar of pickles. Good trade off in my opinion). It certainly wasn’t the synapse that enables me to scroll mindlessly through Facebook and Instagram, occasionally stopping to watch a video or like a recipe (that synapse has grown to the size of a small tumour in the past month, both work and the commute to and from work have guaranteed that).
No, it was something far more primal than scrolling or cooking or sleep. Something much more fundamental to my functioning as a young adult. The other day, it clicked. It was my Jezza K synapse. Key to the daily functioning of the adolescent/young adult, the Jezza K synapse is the part of the brain that allows one to watch episode after episode of Jeremy Kyle, preferably sprawled on a sofa/beanbag with a large mug of tea and a multipack of biscuits and/or crisps, taking immense pleasure in the ridiculousness of topics such as ‘prove I’m the dad, then I’ll prove I haven’t slept with my mum’ and ‘is my fiancé having sex with other women at the funfair?’ (both genuine examples, I’m tempted to Youtube them now). The Jezza K synapse, however, takes time to build, and, once built, is a fragile pathway. It thus must be maintained by regular Jezza K top ups – something that a 9-6 job, to my dismay, cannot accommodate for
But rather than let my carefully nurtured Jezza K synapse go to ruin and waste away, I’ve found another way to satisfy it, allowing me to maintain it between my now rare Jezza K binge sessions – like those incubators you can keep bird eggs in to keep them warm until they hatch. My Jezza K synapse incubator. This Jezza K incubator, I have discovered, takes the form of bitchy TripAdvisor reviews.
It’s just so simple. Pick a restaurant, go straight to the reviews, scroll down until you get that juicy 1* review with a 4 paragraph account of how miserable one snooty individual’s dining experience was, and feel that little synaptic pathway begin to buzz with life. Even juicier is when that snooty 1* review is returned by an even snootier response from the restaurant owner, pinning the blame of the corked wine and cold dishes and the waiter who, God forbid, didn’t know the origin of the lamb canon or the farm that grew the asparagus, directly on the ignorant and clearly bigoted troll who left the review. If you think I’m exaggerating, you need only to take a look at a prime example of TripAdvisor Jezza K gold on the page of my favourite Cornish restaurant, The Blue Tomato, home to the sassiest cafe owner in the South West.
An example to wet your appetite: in reply to a review accusing the cafe of producing a monkfish ‘with as much imagination as McDonalds in Truro’ with ‘heavy use of the freezer and deep fat fryer’ (oh God the Jezza synapse is tingling), the fiery respondent who I can only assume must be Mat (the epitome of what a flamboyant, loud, Mediterranean waiter and own should be) retorted that ‘you chose a ‘battered’ fish dish. It comes with batter. Battered. That was very clear on the menu. Described as ‘Thai marinated battered monkfish, sweet chilli dip and mixed salad…. (Incidentally, it had been marinated in kaffirlime, lemongrass, galangal, garlic, chilli and tamarind, freshly whizzed up by my own fair hands and slathered on it before we lovingly battered it) with no contact with a freezer, but I admit yes a deep fat fryer as it was battered’. Ding ding ding, round one to sassy restaurant owner. Onto the next restaurant.
So there you have it, if your Jezza K synapse is feeling a little underused and you have no time to remedy this, have a scroll through your local eating establishment for an affirmation of how truly pernickety and miserable people can be (yes, I am aware of how sad it is that I’m getting my kicks from reading about bad dining experiences on a famously unreliable website, but when your train is delayed for 20 minutes with no reason you have to entertain yourself somehow).
FYI The Blue Tomato is the only place I’ve ever been to where I can get a ludicrously big plate of perfectly scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and a doorstop slice of toast with a view of the sea and even a choice of dog treats for the dog I wish I owned. 5* from me.
In keeping with my recent theme of doing dinner in the space of half an hour, I’m sharing a recipe for baked cod loin, quick romesco a la Rocket and Squash’s On The Side (if I haven’t said already, best book ever), and blistered tenderstem and broad beans. Don’t be lazy and skip the broad beans, they may be fiddly with all the peeling but they look so damn vibrant out of their skins and taste 100% better.
Baked Cod Loin, Romesco and Blistered Greens for 2
2 cod loins
A small bunch of coriander
1 Jar of chargrilled peppers
1 large handful of blanched almonds (if your blender isn’t very powerful, go for half a bag or so of ground almonds, or even flaked
1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
A glug of oil from the jar of peppers
1 bunch of asparagus
1 bag of broad beans in their pods (annoying that you can only get these fresh in the summer, I’m sure frozen would be fine as long as you still skin them)
- If using fresh broad beans, open the pods and put the beans into a pan of boiling water to blanch. If using frozen, do the same, without the pods. After a few minutes take the beans off the heat, drain and rinse with cold water before peeling and popping the beans out of their skin to reveal a bright green, creamy bean that does NOT taste like farts.
- Preheat the oven to 180 fan. Place the cod loins on a baking sheet lined with tin foil and tear on some coriander, before seasoning and adding slices of lemon on top. Bake for around 12 minutes depending on the size.
- Meanwhile, throw the jar of peppers, the almonds, oil from the papers, paprika and white wine vinegar into a blender and blend until smooth. Season to taste.
- Heat oil in a frying pan until hot and add the asparagus, tossing to coat. Fry until blistered before adding the broad beans. Season, toss around the pan, and serve once cooked to your liking. Top the asparagus and beans with the roasted cod, and spoon on the romesco.
Note: the sauce is also great with some roasted new potatoes, so they would make a great side dish.