Bensoir! It's me, Benjamin. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You may have read stuff I've written elsewhere, but here on my own blog as Ben Viveur I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others, so pretty much anything goes.

BV is about enjoying real food and drink in the real world. I showcase recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. And as a critic I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended. Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Why the Internet is Bad and Seafood Risotto is Good

I’ve been playing a stupid-but-addictive Facebook game lately – Solitaire Blitz, which is basically a form of Patience, against the clock, with a bizarre nautical theme.

I logged on at the weekend, hoping to beat my highscore and accrue some more treasure… Oh dear - my score, my treasure, indeed my entire Solitaire Blitz history, had been erased!

Everything was reset to zero, as if I’d never played the game before. Everything.

Damn you, PopCap, if that is your real name!

And it’s not like this is the first time something of this shitty nature has happened on Facebook either - around Christmas time I decided I wanted to play Super Snowman, surely the most amusing drag’n’drop Flash application ever devised.

I’d played it the previous Christmas and the Christmas before that. It was cool.


'Unfortunately, we have ended development of this application. We apologize for any inconvenience.’

Damn you too, Spicerack Media!

And anyway, ending development of something has fuck-all to do with people being able to use it! Once something has been developed to the point of usefulness, it can be used for eternity with no further development necessary, surely?!? I guess in their ivory tower of Authoritarianism, they can breezily assume that we won’t know or care enough to make a fuss.

Super Snowman rocked teh bigley
More importantly, it denied me the simple pleasure of creating a priapic Yeti, smoking three small briar pipes.

Fortunately I exported some pictures from Super Snowman while it still worked – not that was any warning that it would stop working.

It doesn’t have to be this way

I still sometimes play the old games that I played 20 years ago, using the brilliant DOSbox. They still work, my old high scores are all still there because the files are stored on my computer and nobody can pull the digital rug from under them. 

They predate the www and haven’t been ‘in development’ for many years. In some cases the people who programmed them might now be dead. And, yet, lo! they all still run perfectly well - though unfortunately none of them are capable of rendering giant snow-cocks.

Sometimes progress isn’t always progress. The huge disadvantage of doing stuff online is that you’re completely at the mercy of those who develop and host it.

And if their incompetence or bloody-mindedness results in them wiping all your high scores, or pulling the game altogether, there’s fuck-all you can do about it. Our online lives are under constant threat of disruption at the whim of others. Pay attention, Popcap and Spicerack Media!

I also used to have a blog on the ‘Live Blog’ Facebook app. Guess what? It all disappeared one day without warning.

It’s quite awful, when you think about it, and I’ve been burned so badly by these things that I’d never entrust my documents, music collection or anything else exclusively to ‘online’ storage, as some folks seem content to do these days.


In their short lifetime, Facebook have themselves made many, many changes. Some popular, some despised.

On balance, I think they lost their way a couple of years ago, and however good ‘Timeline’ is, it doesn’t make up for not being able to have app boxes on your page. Back when you could do this, I had a ‘Super Snowman’ box of course, with a mutant snow-caterpillar in a mitten papoose or something.

They recently changed Facebook Groups, in the process removing all the members that had joined over the years except the people who set the groups up in the first place. Overnight, Groups became a colossal mass of ghost-towns with millions of groups with only one member.

Risotto also rocks, obviously
Several years ago, in the formative days of FB I set up ‘We love anchovies (especially on pizza)’ which grew organically to around 1000 members. Then one day a few months ago, it all changed and there was just me left in a little group on my own.

Thanks, Facebook. Thanks a big bunch of balls.

Feel free to (re)join that group if you happen to like anchovies – there are several of my recipes there, including this one: My Seafood Risotto, which has attained near-legendary status.

With all the rubbishcunt things that the internet does to us, it’s good to know that food is still good – though you might want to make a copy of the recipe before Google decides to obliterate all Blogger posts simply because it can.


Seafood Risotto

Ingredients - makes four big main courses or several starter portions:

King Prawns, several
Anchovy fillets in oil, several
Octopus chunks (optional)
Mussel meat (optional)
Smoked salmon trimmings (optional)
Arborio / risotto rice, one standard pack (500g)
Vine Tomatoes, 4-6, finely chopped
Red Onions, 2 large or equivalent, finely chopped
Sweet Red Pepper, 2, finely chopped
Shitake Mushrooms, a big handful, finely chopped (optional)
Pak Choi, roughly chopped (optional)
Rocket Leaves (optional)

White Wine, diluted 50/50 with boiling water, as much as needed
Lemon Juice, a couple of lemonsworth
Butter, continental style, quite a lot
Olive Oil, from the anchovies, a little
Garlic, several cloves, smushed
Black Pepper
Herbes de Provence



This is an extremely flexible dish - the optional ingredients can be added or taken away depending on what you have available, and if you used them all, you'd have a very large meal with possibly a bit too much going on!

Gently sautee some red onion and garlic in a mixture of the anchovy oil and butter, and after a couple of minutes chuck in the prawns, mushrooms and red pepper, and continue to fry it on a moderate heat. If you're including Octopus or any other fruits de mer, these can go in as well.

After a further couple of minutes, add the anchovy fillets, paprika and black pepper, and let the anchovies dissolve into a rich sauce, then it's time to add the tomatoes and herbes de provence.

Cook this lot for a while longer (until about 10-12 minutes after you first put it on heat). Now it's time to add a little more oil and butter, and get the rice in there.
If you're using rocket (which is brilliant in Risotto, whatever my wife says!) and/or pak choi, now is the time to add these as well.

Slowly stir all the grains of rice in, and then top up with wine/water and lemon juice. Don't worry too much about how liquidy it looks - this will all be rapidly absorbed by the rice, and you'll almost certainly need to add a bit more in due course.

Continue to cook until the rice is a perfect consistency - fat and creamy. If it needs more liquid, then 'feed it' with water, wine or a squeeze of lemon as required. 

A good risotto will require frequent feeding before it's done. And stir it occasionally, just to prevent the rice sticking to the pan.

The taste test will let you know when it's ready. Stir in a final generous knob of butter before serving, because, well, you're a decadent sort, aren't you?

Serve with a green salad and an Italian white that bursts with citrus flavours. Alternately, the dish works well as a starter if you can bear only having a small portion!


Extremely Decadent Seafood Risotto of Extravagent Opulence

I once cooked a variation on this dish which was, quite frankly, outrageous:

It's essentially the same recipe, but use vintage Champagne instead of normal white wine, add slivers of truffle when the mushrooms go in, and truffle oil at the end.

Cook each guest a whole Lobster tail and plonk these on top of the risotto before serving, along with a big spludge of Caviar.

Obviously not an everyday dish...

1 comment:

Comments are always welcomed and encouraged, especially interesting, thought-provoking contributions and outrageous suggestions.