Baring all of this in mind, the real crazy thing is that I am trying to keep all this WMPC malarky under the hat and from the powers that be at work. Yes, ridiculous I know. You couldn't describe writing a blog on the Internet as a secret pursuit and let's face it, I'm hardly doing this anonymously now. I mean I'm not a second Belle du Jour in waiting (or am I? ooh la-la). And given my confession for being crap at keeping secrets well why am I trying to keep all of this quiet? Why shouldn't I just say to my colleagues right "I'm off to get my dinner for tonight that a total stranger has made me. See you in a bit suckers!"? Well I have thought long and hard about this and I can't really come up with any proper reasons other than it might restrict what I can write about and I'd feel odd knowing that my workmates can read about the food adventures I have on the outside world. I try to keep work and play separate you see and therefore WMPC is my guilty greedy secret. It's quite a buzz to pop back into the office and stash goodies in the fridge to be consumed later and it's amazing that no-one has noticed what I'm up to. Until now.
So far, most contributors have handed over their lovingly prepared meals, neatly stored in tupperware boxes, in nondescript plastic or paper bags. And as such I can waltz into the office as though I have just nipped to the deli up the road and bought a few bits, they're used to that in my office. However, Aaron of The Grub Worm decided to hand over his effort in a garish, tiger-striped plastic carrier bag, the kind you might get after buying some dodgy latex underwear from a sex-shop in Soho. Despite enjoying a very pleasant lunch and chat in The Jerusalem Tavern with Aaron, throughout the conversation my mind kept wandering back to one over-riding thought, which was how the hell am I going to sneak this into the office?! Grrrreat. Even his funny tales of redneck cousins who keep enormous arsenals in their wardrobes way down in Georgia in the good ol' USA couldn't distract me. After we bid each other farewell, my game plan was to stroll back into the office, casually slip the bag into the fridge in the tiny kitchen and calmly seat down in front of my PC. As long as I didn't draw attention to myself, I figured that I would be fine. Of course it didn't work.
"Bloody hell Dan, what have you got in there? You been out buying kinky underwear or summink?"
And then all eyes were on me.
All I could do was grin sheepishly in the doorway and utter a nervous giggle whilst gripping the Tony Tiger bag as tight as I could. I even broke out into a sweat and probably blushed too which didn't help matters.
"So come on what have you got there?"
At that point, I very nearly came clean and revealed all, thinking that all this sneaking around wasn't worth it anymore. Who cares if they know I write a blog about meeting people and eating their food. OK, so I am doing something that is a thousand times more interesting than anything that has ever remotely happened in this dump, so what. I am bored shitless here and feel immensely frustrated yet I lack the will or courage to find myself another poxy job. In fact the thought scares the bejesus out of me because I have a young family, a house and I need the fucking money. This is what I am up to because it sure as hell helps beats the humdrum of this craphole!!!
Luckily the off-tangent bullshit kicked in before I uttered any of those sentences so for the record I am taking part in a little Twitter experiment where people are swapping meals and there's some kind of chart system going on with participants going up and down depending on the points they score and it's a bit like Come Dine With Me and at the end of the year there is a cash prize (this is in fact, a bloody good idea!). All the garish Tony Tiger bag contained was food, no rubber y-fronts I'm afraid. The workmates just stared back blankly, shrugged their shoulders in bemusement and went back to their computer screens. I placed the bag in the fridge and then sat down with fingers shaking at the keyboard. I think I might just have got away with it but then again maybe not, for as long as this post exists in the blogosphere, the truth remains out there. There are no secrets on the Internet.
So anyway what the hell was in the bag that Aaron gave me and how did it fair? Well, it seems that he is a big fan of Turkish cuisine so for this installment of WMPC he prepared a lavish Ottoman feast of Baba Ganoush and Aubergine Salad with Pide Bread as a meze starter, Lamb Tagine with Dates, Almonds and Honey for mains and a dessert of Stuffed Apricots with Strained Greek Yoghurt and Chopped Pistachios. Now Aaron has already gone and posted in his blog that he felt that his baba ganoush didn't quite hit the spot and I've already told him that he shouldn't beat himself up about this. No I am quite happy to do it instead because yes this traditional Turkish aubergine dish did misfire somewhat. As Aaron explained in his post, the aubergine almost certainly would have benefited from a proper roasting on a gas hob or under a hot grill to impart that signature smokey flavour rather than baking in the oven. Adding a healthy blob of tahini would have also given it a nutty kick. But that is my only criticism that I have to offer here as everything else was fantastic. The aubergine salad with tomato and parsley was fresh and zesty. The tagine was surprisingly good as on paper I wasn't entirely sure that the sweet combination of honey and dates would compliment the strong flavours of lamb but they went really well together. And I enjoyed the texture and crunch that the almonds provided. Aaron's cous cous was still nice and fluffy with just a hint of saffron in the background. The big winner for me was the simple dessert of stuffed apricots. Not only was it pleasing to the eye with vibrant, mounds of orange flesh contrasting against little emerald shards of pistachio, this dish managed a fine blend of rich yet clean flavours. The creamy yoghurt was nicely set against a subtle backdrop of aromatics. I was convinced that he had extravagantly poached the apricots in rosewater but apparently lemon and cardamom was all that he used in his syrup. Very good indeed and a fitting end to a fairly rich and luxurious meal.
Thank you Aaron, I salute you sir for a marvelous meal though next time whack those aubergines on the bbq will you old chap.
Baba Ganoush Aubergine Salad
*No doubt if you are reading this and have told me a secret, you are now crapping yourself.