I’ve done one or two exciting things in my time, but one of the very bestest things I’ve ever done was to work for the late and legendary John Peel.
John was amazing. For a brief and splendid period I was his humble Broadcast Assistant, and was given the honour of compiling the festive fifty and helping out with the phones during his programme. He once heard me rowing down the phone to payroll about the late payment of a freelance colleague, and without giving the matter a second thought, immediately gave him a huge wad of cash to tide him over until payday.
We bonded over a mutual love of websites like http://whitehouse.georgewbush.org/index.asp and other such subversiveness. Although he’d frequently give me a proper telling off for smoking. He referred to his wife Sheila as his “better half” and never once acted as if he were a household name. Sometimes, he would come into the office and just lie on the floor for hours because of his terrible back ache. He was almost self-effacingly down to earth, had a sense of humour drier than a gin martini and opened all his own post.
Part of my daily routine on the way in to Clipstone Street would be a spinach roll from the Villandry food shop, just around the corner. He once strolled into the office and asked me what on earth I was eating. I let him try a bit and he loved it. After that I always made a point of getting an extra one for him.
Every Wednesday evening, before going on air he would take the team (Louise, Dave, Hermeet and myself) out for dinner and a bottle of wine and regale us with the most brilliant, fascinating stories from his life. He’d invariably have us in stitches or open-mouthed with disbelief. We’d beg him to write a book.
Although I moved on to far duller things, the others worked with him until the end and he became a bit of a father figure to my friend Hermeet.
I couldn’t eat spinach rolls for ages after he died. I happened to be in Villandry the other day but they didn’t have any; so in tribute to him I’ve decided to make my own using feta and Coolea cheese. I’ll be selling a load of these (amongst other things) at the forthcoming Covent Garden stall on the 13th August, and any profits I make will go to Amnesty International.
1 onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
450g pack of spinach leaves, chopped
A pinch of cayenne pepper
¼ tsp paprika
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp pine nuts
2 tsp capers, chopped
2 tbsp dill, finely chopped
1 tbsp parsley finely chopped
100g Coolea cheese
½ pack feta, cubed
Ready rolled puff pastry
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 egg beaten
- Heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic.
- Throw in the roughly chopped spinach.
- Grate over lots of nutmeg, glug in some Worcester sauce, the cayenne pepper, paprika and plenty of salt and pepper. Mix well.
- The spinach will have wilted by now. Take off the heat and stir in a tablespoon of pine nuts, the capers, dill and parsley.
- Allow the spinach mixture to cool and squeeze out any excess juice.
- Grate over the Coolea or other decent cheese.
- Stir in the cubed feta.
- Unroll the pastry and cut into 3 rectangles.
- Spoon the mixture down the middle of each rectangle.
- Join the pasty along the long seam and brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake at 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7 for 15-20 mins.