Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Meal or no meal

I think I've uncovered a terrorist plot. The PPF, or Powys Popular Front, have infiltrated right to the top of the British establishment - in short, Brammy tells me his brother has landed a job as a driver for the Royals. It's all cloaked in secrecy and I don't know which Royals (most probably the King and Queen of Sheppey), but when you consider Brammy's political leanings I would suggest the screening process has gone a bit awry again.
Quite often you will hear "proud Welshman" Brammy blurting on about the injustice of being under the English yoke, of how everyone should be speaking their own language, of how we English should be kicked back over the bridge and of how the likes of Cardiff City, Wrexham and Swansea City should quit the abomination that is English football and join the Welsh Premiership, where they would conquer Europe in about 50 years time.
As he rants about all this he neglects to mention some extremely salient points. 1. He was born in Gloucester. 2. He can't speak Welsh despite numerous efforts to learn, and 3. He supported the English football team until his late teens. So maybe I'm wrong. Maybe, just maybe, Brammy is a double agent, having infiltrated the highest levels of the Owain Glwndwr network. Or perhaps he's just a babbling idiot who puts on this act just to see what reaction he will get. Whatever, if MI5 find out the Brammy connection, there could be a full-scale inquiry.

Brammy, by the way, is walking around with a huge smile on his face at the moment. He's in demand. He has been making thousands of pounds out of the company on a freelance basis, while having paid off his mortgage with a nice big wedge of redundo.
But that isn't what is making him smile. It is the fact that his two favourite boozers, the Old Scroat and the Boar's Backside, are both re-opening for business after refurbishment. And they are both fighting for his custom, though Lord knows why.
The Boar's Backside was Brammy's original favourite. He could sit in the back bar and regale his tales of daring do to a wierd assortment of foreign students, steaming drunks, 6ft 8ins Brazilian transvestites, ageing gay council workers and psycotic glass collectors. They even allowed him to play his guitar, for God's sake. And he used to be allowed to participate in the student offers which, at the age of 50-plus, isn't a bad gig.
Still, the novelty wore off when they tried to make the place more popular. This to Bram is sacrilege. Once, having visited his local in Newport, The Engies, every day for about 10 years, he stormed out when someone who "wasn't local" was given the last order of faggots, peas and chips. He hasn't been back since.
From the Boar's he travelled 50 yards down the road to the Old Scroat where he immediately made good friends with the manager and staff - on the basis that a lot of the time he was the only person there for them to talk to.
But the Scroat was closed down for refurbishment, as mentioned elsewhere on this blog. So Bram, since then, has been a wandering soul.
At the weekend, though, he went up to "do a bit of business" in the Boar's. This usually means collecting a free pint off some poor unfortunate who lost a bet with him on who would win the rugby. Brammy's technique is simple. Welsh team wins, he wins; Welsh team loses, he loses. He has lost a great deal of money over the years.
While supping his pint the landlord materialised to tell him that they are putting the old bar back to what it had previously been and he was welcome to the proud unveiling on Wednesday.
Chipper about this, he strolled down the street only to bump into the Scroat's manager. "Hey, Brammy," said the bar-keep. "We're re-opening on Wednesday. We expect to see you back in situ."
What a dilemma. He will probably get a free pint or two in both.
One thing is for sure - he won't be working Thursday.

I'm feeling very old today. Must be down to Becks' 26th birthday party I attended yesterday. In the good old days, when I was still in my 20's, a birthday used to involve going out, getting horribly drunk, ending up at some grab-a-granny night, grabbing a granny, getting beaten up by the Grandad who was actually going out with her, spending a bit of time down the Infirmary getting stitches, sobering up to a terrible hangover, getting home half an hour before having to set off for work, getting a taxi to work, turning up at work and then trying to somehow sleep throughout the day without the boss realising. Not any more, it appears.
No, folks, now you sit around in someone's house and attempt to play the electronic boardgame version of Deal or No Deal.
I say, attempt to play Deal or No Deal, because the first thing you have to do is fit the batteries into the cheap imitation plastic phone from which a Noel Edmonds sound-a-like tells you what is going on. Removing the battery cover to fit the batteries was attempted, in turn, by Withers, Marc, Becks, Posh Lins, Rosey and Marc again, who finally declared: "Bugger, I think we've mutilated the screw head".
It was then left to Rosey and his super-human, Universal Soldier Army-training strength to break off the cover. Then there was the mad scrabble for batteries. "We need three!" shouted Becks despairingly before raiding all his other electric gadgets to find the necessary. His landlord Kiwi could be in for a shock, or not, when he tries to use his electric toothbrush this week.
After finally getting things together, and dispensing with the difficult task of having to make 22 identical boxes out of small flatpacks (this was more like B&Q the Boardgame, by now), the game eventually started an hour and a half later. And it was pretty crap, to be honest. And the electric voice didn't even sound like Noel Edmonds (although it did sound MORE like Noel Edmonds than John Culshaw, who was actually imitating the great quiz show host on the Anniversary programme of the same name that everyone, bar me, wanted to watch that night).
Truthfully, Becks, I did enjoy it. It was certainly different, and at least I got home without a visit to the Infirmary.

I know I can't cook like Anthony Bourdain, or ever hope to for that matter, but it won't stop me customising and ripping off his recipes. And last night's meal actually turned out to be fantastic...

Tournedos Rossini with cream and red pepper mash and garlic spinach. Mmmm.

Three or four thick slices of beef. I cut them from a nice beef joint
Vegetable oil.
Butter or marge
2 sliced Shallots
1/4 cup red wine
3/4 pint beef stock
Cornflour mixed with water
Potatoes peeled and cut into big chunks.
Red Pepper burnt skinside up and then the burnt skin peeled off and the pepper diced.
1/4 cup of double cream
Two sliced garlic cloves
A good portion of spinach

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan until it is hot. Add the butter or marg and when foam subsides put in the seasoned Beef. Don't overcrowd the pan - if necessary cook in stages.
Make sure the beef is brown on all sides before transferring to a roasting dish and putting into a preheated oven, gas mark 4, for between 5 and 10 mins.
Meanwhile boil the potatoes for 15 minutes until you can push a fork into them, then remove from the heat and add pepper and salt. Mash and put the lid on the pan.

From the pan which had the meat in, put in the shallots and cook for 4 mins before adding the red wine. Bring this to the boil then add most of the stock, keeping a bit back. Boil vigorously, stirring regularly, then as it is reduced put through a sieve and strain. Throw the shallots away and reheat the wine sauce, adding some cornflour to thicken.

Put the pepper under the grill, burn the skin and then scrape off, dice the cooked pepper and add to mash.
Bring some butter and a little cream to the boil and also add to the mash. Mash again.

For the spinach, fry the garlic cloves with some salt for 10 seconds, add the spinach leaves and toss around in the frying pan until they start to reduce in size. Add the remaining stock to this and cook on for 4 mins.

Pile the mash on the centre of the plate, surround it with spinach, put the beef Tournedos on top and then pour over the red wine gravy. Absolutely fabulous.

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