Saturday, October 14, 2006

Hello, Ducky


This is my first entry for a while. That's because I am too much of a cheapskate to have a phone line installed at home and I'm on a week off. And I'm also too lazy.
Even though I have all this time to myself, though, I'm not too lazy to visit the Yard and to share a pint in the company of my fellow scribes. On Tuesday, Withers was in full flow practising his new act as an impersonator. He has an impersonation for most of the staff.
The only problem with these impersonations is that they have absolutely NO relevance to the people he is supposed to be imitating. In fact, its all a bit of a cheap trick at our expense - particularly mine.
What he actually does is come up with a bogus catchphrase - never once uttered by the person in question - and build a whole comedy act around this. I, for instance, sound like the bastard offspring of Animal from the Muppets and Zippy from Rainbow in his full on "Mr Jeeffrey" mode. And I only ever say: "Grrrrr!"
He has added another string to my bow, though. I now also say: "I don't speak like that!" in the Animal/Zippy voice. A true comedian.
Other people are just confined to ridiculous catchphrases. The Boss, in some really strange mixture between Scottish and that big chicken (can't remember his name) out of the old Loony Toons cartoons, apparently always says: "Aaa, can make thaa' appen".
Probably best demonstrated in a phrase:
"Want to work for the nationals, Withers? Aaa, can make thaa' appen."
Then there is Agata, the lovely Polish barmaid. I've had the pleasure of speaking to Agata and she doesn't sound like some naughty fun girl from a Bangkok whorehouse. And she has certainly never said, with her eyelashes fluttering in full Withers mode: "Meeeester Reeepers, is inappropriate!"
Brammy doesn't escape this drole charade, either. He once said, according to Withers: "Never had a problem with the laydeez."
Another is Marc. Now Marc may enjoy the strange and wonderful world of the Golden Cross and mix with its rich and hedonistic crowd, but I have NEVER heard him say, in a high and rather irritating squeal: "I'm off to see Men dressed as Laydeeeez."
Actually, I've always assumed that was an impression of Marc, but perhaps its really the true Withers coming out.

Visited the 'Port, or Newport as its known to us non-Gwenties. My mate Pete's brought a rundown ruin (sorry, house) and is doing it up.
To be fair, Pete likes this sort of thing - it's like a big jigsaw puzzle that he has set his mind on completing. At the moment the pieces are scattered all over the place, there are iron-sheets across the windows and it sits in a dark and uninviting corner of a school playground, behind a wire fence which separates it from the actual school. Crack den, I thought at first sight.
But Pete is already busy inside, stripping walls and doors, re-wiring and installing a shower. He is living there at the moment, something I would find VERY difficult to do.
Still, he's put a deadline of Christmas on the job. If he manages that, I will be truly stunned.
He can't get the TV aerial to work properly either. Every time he wants to watch something he has to climb up a ladder onto the roof, wiggle it about, climb down, look at the picture, realise it hasn't worked, climb back up and wiggle it again.
This is why he was extremely grateful when I lent him the video of the first Sopranos series. Now he can sit in his crack den and watch how the real gangsters do it.

Didn't feel too well again. I've got moments of dizziness and decided the best thing to do was actually get the prescription for high blood pressure the doc has given me. High blood-pressure? Everyone who knows me will be surprised at that.
Decided to have a quiet day in and watch Extras and the Sopranos. Also customised a brilliant duck recipe I discovered in an old Observer magazine, given to them by top chef Giorgio Locatelli. When I say customised I didn't have all the ingredients he suggested, but I did have duck breast. For example, the recipe is called Duck Breast with Broccoli, but I didn't have Broccoli...

What you need for my version of Duck Breast with Savoy Cabbage

2 potatoes peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 butternut squash chopped into smallish squares.
Half an onion, chopped
A shallot, chopped
A carrot, chopped
A celery stick, chopped
Four whole garlic cloves
Mix them all up in a big oven tray, drizzle with olive oil and put this in the oven on gas mark 5 or equivalent.

Prepare the duck by cutting slashes in the skin and rubbing with salt. Roast some peppercorns in a dry saucepan for a short while, put in a napkin and hammer/crush with a rolling pin or anything hard you happen to have at hand.
rub the peppercorns into duck as well.
Heat a non-stick frying pan WITHOUT any oil.
When it's hot put the duck skinside down in the pan

Meanwhile boil salted water in a saucepan, cut some strips from the savoy cabbage (maybe a third of the cabbage) and blanch in the boiling water. Remove from heat.

Fat should now be oozing from the duck so it will cook in its own fat. Make sure the skin is nice and golden brown, then turn the duck over and cook for another minute or so on the other side.

While all this is going on regular check and turn the vegetables in the oven.

Turn the oven down to about gas mark 2 and add the duck to the baking tray.

Meanwhile drain some of the fat from the pan, but not all of it, add two tablespoons of worcestershire sauce and three tablespoons olive oil. Bring to the boil and stir. Then turn it off.

Heat another saucepan, add olive oil, get it hot and add 2 sliced garlic cloves and a deseeded and sliced red chilli, cook gently without allowing to colour until the garlic softens then add the savoy cabbage and cook until just soft, mixing it with the garlic and chilli. Turn off the heat.

The duck and veggies should now be ready. Remove the duck and cut into slices.
Pile the veggies on a place and put the savoy cabbage around it (don't forget to remove the whole garlic cloves).
put the duck on top then cover with the Worcestershire sauce mixture.
Absolutely outstandingly tasty.

Feeling a bit better, but had to put off a visit from the Fat Kid, Vinman (who has just had a grommit fitted in his ear - wonder where Wallis is?) and the Big Boy. I don't think I could handle a full on weekend with the Vinman chasing me around and hanging off me like a big lead weight that bites and scratches. Sorry, that's not fair on my wonderful Grandson. True, though.
Went into town to buy niece Sophie's Christmas present and some books. I have just read Anthony Boudain's Kitchen Confidential, a fantastic book about the life of a Chef and the terrible things that go on behind the restaurant's swing doors. It took me two days so I needed more reading material.
After that popped into my favourite deli for some zitoni pasta (used in ziti) and some Italian sausages. Oh look, its 5pm and the time all the WoS crew wind up in The Yard.
Though I'm feeling a little tired and dizzy, I want to feel I'm still part of the real world so I take my seat and soon am joined by Withers, Rosey, the Prince of Darkness, The Voice and Marc.
Withers now looks like Rosey's evil twin and is even dressing like him. I don't know what happened when they went to the World Cup in Germany together, but it really is quite scary.
They have both decided the V neck sweater is in. Withers bought one with his birthday money and Rosey followed suit a day later. They look like two schoolboys fresh out of Eton. Tarts.
I must be careful though. Withers has been advising Rosey to sue me, insisting that my portrayal of him in the blog is totally fabricated. So I would like to say now: Rosey is not a womanising, money-grabbing rogue. He's a nice boy. So there.
Mind you, as he tells me about the case of an American chap who sued another over his portrayal in a blog, his eyes are turning around like fruit-machine reels. I'm half expecting him to say ching, ching and coins to come pouring out of his mouth. No I'm not. Honestly.
Anyway, sweaters. The conversation gets around to how many times you wash a sweater. The Thompson Twins (my new name for the Rosey-Withers partnership) laugh haughtily when Marc suggests you can wear a jumper 12 times before washing it. I'm with Marc, though. If I had a V-neck sweater, and unless they come back into fashion that's highly unlikely, I think wash after 12 wears because once you start washing it pulls, fades, bobbles and never looks the same. Mind you, if you wear one 12 times I reckon its about time to throw it away and get another.
Wonder what the Thompson Twins will turn up in next: Open-toed sandals and Headbands?


Matt Withers said...

No, no, no.

It's "Never had a problem with the women" and "Men dressed as women".

Not ladies. I am not Little Britain...

Matt Withers said...

Actually, with hindsight it IS "Never had a problem with the ladies"...