Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Boeuf Bourguignon


I HAD another Hannibal Lecter moment yesterday. By that I don't mean I dined out on Flautist's gonads like Hannibal the Cannibal did in Red Dragon. We cordon blue cooks call them sweatbreads, actually.
Anyway, let me explain...
About four years ago I was riding on a tube train, taking a lady friend to see the sights in London, when suddenly the world started spinning around. The floor became the ceiling and the ceiling became the floor and a 100 people crowded in on me, their bizarrely shaped faces peering at me from all angles. Apparently, though I don't recall it because I was actually delirious, I swore at a number of strangers who were only trying to help. Oh well, you know me.
I wish I could say it was the after-effects of some pretty hot drugs, but unfortunately not a dodgy tablet had passed my lips.
To be honest, at the time it wasn't a laughing matter. My friend Laney persuaded a fellow traveller to pull the emergency cord and the train screeched to a halt at St Paul's underground station. From there fellow passengers grabbed me by the arms and took me out onto the platform. As I sat on a bench feeling dizzy and nauseous the driver got out of the train and informed me the emergency services had been called. It was all pretty scary.
Eventually the paramedics turned up. To get me from the platform to above ground they had to strap me into a chair, a bit like one of those things porters use to carry papers around on, and then wheel me to the escalators.
One of them said: "Tell us if you feel sick and we'll stop."
One move of the wheel and that was it: "Sick" I blurted, then decorated the platform with a multi-coloured yawn.
I felt even more humiliated though as I was being taken up the escalator in my strap-on chair, people looking at me from the descending stairs opposite and whispering behind gloved hands. All I needed then was some fava beans and a nice chianti, chchchch...

Anyway, Saturday and I had a brief relapse, coming over all giddy, losing my balance and having to lie down. I couldn't drive my car home, so Owenov gave me a lift and I waited to see the doc on Monday.

DID very little all day. Managed to walk into town and pick the car up but I was nervously awaiting the next attack. The thing is that this strange feeling comes on suddenly, without any kind of warning. Since that first attack I have heard of loads of people with similar symptoms but when it comes to a diagnosis we are all left in the dark. Anyway, went home and chilled, watching a bit of football, the return of Robbie Coltraine as Cracker (not as good as the original yet, but let's see where it leads) and the final game of the baseball regular season.

What is it with doctors? As far as I can tell there is only one true remedy for anything these days: Give up smoking.
"Doc, I've broken my leg being knocked down by a car."
"Do you smoke?"
"Well, yes, but..."
"There you are then... it's bad for you."

"Doc, I've got radiation poisoning from working at Sellafield."
"Only yourself to blame then."

I don't know why it takes doctors five or six years to qualify when the only textbook they need is "How to diagnose an illness and relate it to smoking".
I lost my rag a bit with the registrar. "Ah, so you had a dizzy spell?"
"Well, it was more than a 'dizzy' spell, world turned upside down, I couldn't stand up and went very grey, there was a cold sweat on my brow..."
"Oh, don't bloody start..."
Anyway, my blood pressure turned out to be a bit high. Not surprising. I'd just blown a gasket with the doctor. In the end I was told to return next week so they can check it again.
What the doctor didn't do: Examine me in any way, ask me to remove any item of clothing, check out the neck and shoulder pains I've had over the last week, give me any advice on whether I should be resting, working, sitting up, lying down, show any kind of concern or consider at any stage referring me to a hospital/specialist/anything. So reassuring.
The rest of the day I stayed in, but needed some comfort food so I went for the Boeuf Bourguignon in a new cookbook given me by the very generous Mr Withers (who got it for free, but I shouldn't grumble). The cookbook featured a poncy French chef who takes 12 hours to make stock, but I took some short cuts and added some veg.

I used:
Half a beef roasting joint, cut into 4 cms pieces.
salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
a sliced onion
2 tbsp plain flour
1 cup red burgundy wine (or red wine in general)
2 carrots and a stick of celery, chopped into big chunks
1/2 butternut squash cut into big chunks.
1 garlic clove
1 bouquet garni
chopped parsley.

To do:
Dry off the meat and add salt and black pepper. Lave to stand.
Put the oil into a big non-stick cooking pot with a thick base. Heat until nearly smoking then cook the meat so that it browns, not just goes grey.
Remove the meat and then add the onions, cooking until brown and soft
Add the flour and mix around, then cook for further five minutes.
Add the cup of red wine, scrape all the bits up and stir, bringing to the boil.
Return the meat to pan, add the veg and enough water to cover half the meat.
Put on a slow simmer for two hours.
Add parsley and serve with a nice, fluffy mashed potato.
I boiled potatoes for 15-20 minutes, drained them, returned to the pan and added a small amount of single cream, marj or butter and some white pepper. Left them under the lid to melt then mashed them.

Then I had a cigarette and broke eight ribs falling down the stairs because I had smoke in my eyes.
Uh... that last bit... not true. Sorry, Doc.

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