Mary Donnelly (Mac Brádaigh)

For breakfast this morning I had very little. Luncheon was nae up to much either. Tonight I return to the land of the Godless. A land where proud men still repel those of the unjust, a land where the blackest of gold still shines bright in a mans hand. Our land of Glasgow Celtic pride.

Death again rears its ugly head for those who stood with bloodied hands upon the very lips of truth. For Cullen, Sweeney, Hayes, O'Hanlon and now our dear sister Mary. To the green of Dalnottar you will return with us by your side to take you home. To the earth you will rejoin the grand wan himself, of Tam, Sean, and your blessed nephew Cormac, my son. Give my love to the mammy and to my lost boy, for it will not be long afore we meet again, I fear.

Your voice forever singing Carrickfergus, I hear it in my mind as we all begin to mourn.

For you Mary-doll, may your god go with you.

My crime was being Irish
When I stepped onto Scotland’s shore,
My accent was mocked and ridiculed,
My culture and faith, arrogantly ignored.

I was an outcast on foreign soil,
Presbyterian pulpits condemned me to hell,
Jobs were few and I was victimised
For I could not read, write or spell.

Scotland was not the New World
That took me by the hand,
But offered poverty and starvation
That I had left back home in Ireland.

The grace of God shone in a man
Who enriched us with his dream,
As Brother Walfrid brought hope to the Irish,
With Celtic, Glasgow’s Irish team.


Sins of the Flesh

For breakfast this morning I enjoyed raw honey scooped out of a fresh honeycomb after being nurtured in the warm sunshine. I slathered it on a wee dod of fresh-baked soda bread and added a smidgen of warm butter, then washed it down with a cool glass of milk. This really is the true ambrosia of the gods. Strangely enough, the consumption of ambrosia was historically reserved for only the most divine of beings. Take Heracles for instance, upon his assumption into immortality on Olympus, Heracles is given ambrosia by Athena, while the hero Tydeus is denied the same thing when the goddess discovers him eating human brains. But you knew all that, right?

We've all eaten human flesh at some stage in our lives, haven't we? The odd chew on an ear during a bar fight, the inevitable nose or finger bitten off during a drunken scuffle, it's not only a Glasgow thing, say no more. It's no big thing really, let's face it, after a few months of sharing a small barred cell with an English heroin addicted gobshite who snores, the very least he can do is to give up a few of his toes for your supper, eh?

Just in case you are a law abiding citizen (there are a few of us left) and you are feeling hungry, but you cannae find any nice crunchy toes in the fridge to munch upon, try this on for size.

Glesga Spag Bol.

You will need the following.

Generous curl of Scottish butter
100g smoked streaky bacon, finely diced
2 red onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely shredded
2 sticks celery, finely diced
250g finely minced best rump steak
40g free range chicken livers, finely sliced
150ml full fat milk
Nutmeg, to grate
150ml Wolfblass red label Shiraz
400ml tin plum tomatoes
3 fingers of single malt

Melt the butter in a large flameproof casserole set over a gentle heat, and then add the bacon. Once the bacon fat has started to melt, add the onion, and cook gently until softened, then tip in the carrot, and cook for 5 minutes before adding the celery and cooking for a further 2 minutes.
Crumble the beef into the pan with feeling and brown, stirring occasionally to break up any lumps. Season, then stir in the livers, and let it cook for another 5 minutes while you savour the malt.

Pre-heat the oven to 125C. Pour in the milk, and grate a little nutmeg over the top. For the love of St. Patrick himself, do not catch your fingers on the grater. It hurts. Trust me.
Simmer gently until almost all the milk has evaporated, which should take about half an hour, just enough time to read the paper, do the ironing or even rescue the new sofa cushions from your pet goat.

Pour in the wine and the tomatoes and stir well. Put the casserole into the oven, with the lid slightly ajar, and cook for at least 3 hours (4 is even better) until the meat is very tender. Check on it occasionally, and top up with a little sparkling spring water. Serve with pasta or gnocchi, good friends, and a generous helping of grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese. For the love of all the holy saints, do not forget, only chop the fresh parsley and sprinkle it on top moments before you are ready to serve. Serve with a glass or two of the Shiraz to bring out the flavour of the food.




For breakfast this morning I enjoyed a bagatelle of mixed summer fruits smothered in a choice of natural yoghurt's and flakes of pecan heaven. My beverage of choice was a chilled glass of iced tea and pearly mint. It took me back to the days of Henry Africa's nightclub in Glasgow on a Saturday night. Iced tea is how we would describe the watered down blend of Algerian whisky on offer at 30 shillings a glass, of which would never fail to incite the animal often to be found in man.

'Think you're a feckin wide-o pal?' shouted the crazed addict, using a large shovel of a hand to wave the open razor wildy in the face of the tall man at the bar. It was all over in seconds, most people in the company of the tall man rarely saw things happen. People long since remembered the glory days of old Glasgow with a fondness. With his arm bent up at an awkward angle the addicts razor was slowly reversed without effort to his own face, the now closed blade trickled slowly just below his left ear and came to rest at the point of his large wiry chin. It left a thin noticeable white line in its wake which gradually disappeared. The addict crumpled to the floor a broken man, the crotch of his trousers visibly wet with the tell tale trail of urine and fear.

The tall man thumbed the smooth handle of the well worn razor as the trace of a smile lifted one corner of his own scarred mouth. 'Old habits' he thought to himself as he slowly finished his drink and headed towards the door. His lust, an orgasm of violence, his own taste for blood, had long ago been satisfied.

Piemonte Carne Cruda

1lb fresh veal
6 garlic cloves
the juice of two lemons
extra virgin olive oil
crushed sea salt
white pepper
1white truffle

Most importantly, clean the meat extremely well, sear it on all sides for under a minute and then trim off the edges. This will eliminate any chance of unwittingly ingesting any still lurking bugs. Cut it in strips and hand mince it. The shortest the time between the cutting, the preparation and the serving, the better. Put it in a glass bowl, add the crushed garlic and the oil, mix it carefully so that the oil is well and truly massaged into the meat. It must not be too dry nor too oily, work at it to ensure it is moist. Around ten spoons of oil should be enough. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice: mix again and take the garlic cloves away before serving. The meat should be pink and bloody red in colour, that’s why it has to be served immediately before it becomes grey because of the lemon juice.

Cooking time.... 0.

Serve it on 2 thin slices of toasted bread, remove the crusts first and and cover it with very thin slices of truffle and a sprinkle of minced salted anchovy. I would recommend a good hearty real ale with this dish, preferably Bishops Finger or Old Speckled Hen if available.

Enjoy, you might just enjoy the unique taste of blood for yourselves.



Breakfast this morning consisted of fresh brambles, real honeycomb, and clotted cream atop a light pastry shoe. Our beverage of choice was a pleasurable cup of Irish Barry tea. Never let it be said that English tea can ever match the dry Barry leaf when it has been air dried and nurtured to perfection. When one considers that the East India company used to adulterate their tea with gunpowder, iron filings and god knows what else, I always find it hilarious that the English go on and on about tea being the ultimate morning beverage. Tea was being enjoyed by millions of people before they ever heard of it. It is false to assume that it is only the English that are the indisputable arbiters of what constitutes a good cup of tea.

These days I like to spend the first hour of my day frequenting various pavement bistros along the promenade. There is something deeply satisfying watching other people go about their day when I now have liberty and oul Faither Time as my guests.

Speaking of which, I must soon be swift of foot if I am to procure the perfect ingredients for my small dinner soiree this evening. I have decided to prepare a very intrinsic version of Brown Windsor soup.

To join in this evening you will need:

225g shin of beef, cut into 2.5cm cubes, no bigger please
225g lamb fillet, cut into 2.5cm cubes, as above
60g dripping or good rich butter
10g of Chefs secret ingredient (send money for clarification)
1 large Spanish onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots cut into small cubes
60g plain flour
1 marrow bone, sawn into 5cm pieces
2.25 litres of beef or chicken stock. No cubes, the real deal only or the flavour will suffer
bouquet garni of celery, bay leaf and thyme
salt and white pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
small glass of sweet sherry or Madeira
chopped chives, crème fraiche, horseradish to garnish.

In a heavy casserole dish, brown the meat in the dripping or butter. Add the sliced onion and carrots, lower the heat and fry gently until they wilt. Sprinkle over the flour; turn up the heat and brown, stirring.

Add the marrow bone, pour over the stock and bring to the boil. Skim, and then lower the heat to a simmer. Add the bouquet garni and season. Simmer for 2 hours, topping up with spring water when needed.

Remove the bones and the bouquet garni (Making sure to scrape the marrow out into the soup of course). Scoosh with a stick blender, then use a Mouli or push through a sieve using a wooden spoon into a clean pan. Adjust the seasoning and add the cayenne pepper and sweet sherry or Madeira.

Heat through gently before serving. If you fancy pepping it up a bit, as I do, add some crème fraiche mixed with horseradish and finely chopped chives.

Soup is always best served for the first course at every opportunity. It must of course be prepared lovingly by hand, never from a packet, carton or, may god have mercy on your soul, a can! It must be eaten with etiquette, nonchalance and of course, the correct implements at all times. A good Scottish host will ensure that only silver soup spoons fashioned by Paul Revere Jr are to hand, and this must in turn be rewarded by the diners correct protocol in reciprocation. Soup, taken from the sides not the tips, without any sounds of the lips and never sucked into the mouth audibly from the ends of the spoon. Should these guidelines not happen at my table I would expect your man to call upon my man and present me with your card and an apology within seven days of the meal being served.

Bread should always be served from a woven reed basket, never a porcelain or wooden receptacle. White bread must always be favoured foremost over brown bread whenever possible. Yeast, not to mention the rye husk found within brown bread may cause flatulence later on during the evening, which cannot always be disguised by the discreet cough from a lady, whereas a gentleman will always hang on until the cigars and brandy are served. A common young fellow in the next village was only last week taken outside, stripped to the waist and flogged severely for suggesting serving his fellow dinner guests brown bread in a Tupperware container. This was an extreme case, Tupperware unfortunately still does appear at dinner parties in the lower IQ areas of London, Reading and Guilford, but please, do not have nightmares, the chances of it happening in your area is very remote.

One must always ensure that bread is not broken into soup or gravy. Unless, of course, you have no front teeth and your best friend answers to the name of 'Gator'.  Never ask to be helped to soup a second time unless you are of Dickensian descent or suffering a tad with heatstroke, pleurisy or menstrual twangs. For the latter I recommend powders and a long lie down.  Fish chowder, a colonial dish, not often consumed in European households, is also to be served in soup plates. This is said to be the exception which proves this rule, and when eating it is correct for an American guest to take a second or third plateful, if desired.

Another generally neglected obligation when entertaining guests from abroad is that of spreading butter on ones bread as it lies in ones plate. The protocol is to slightly lift at one end of the plate; it is very frequently buttered in the air, bitten in gouges, and still held in the face and eyes of the table with the marks of the teeth on it. This is vulgar and certainly not altogether pleasant, it is far better to cut it, a small piece at a time, after buttering it, and put it into the mouth with ones finger and thumb. Never help yourself to butter, or any other food with your own knife or fork. It is not considered good form to do so in Scotland. It is written, to mix food on the same serving plate is a cardinal sin and will unleash the hounds of hell on your heels if caught.

Drink sparingly while eating good food as it is far better for digestion, but when you do drink, do it gently and easily and do not pour the wine down your throat as if you were a French ingrate. Never, for the love of all things holy, receive wine or water into your mouth before the food has been well masticated and swallowed. Do not talk loud or boisterously at the table about politics, financial downturns or military campaigns, but aim to be cheerful and companionable and join in the conversation. Never twirl your goblet, nor soil the cloth by placing bones or fish fragments upon it. A good host will already have placed a small dog within three feet of your chair for these unforeseen occurrences. Do please use it.

Buen provecho!

In tomorrows post we will cover the correct protocol for sophisticated European ladies riding over cobbled streets wearing long dresses and concealing their mysterious bicycle smiles.


Ponita Salad

For breakfast this morning I had leftover pizza. Och, there's no shame in that. I'm a man. I've done much worse than that, trust me. Besides, there was one hefty slice left in the box, no porridge oats left in the cupboard, and it was a shame to waste it. Have you any idea how hard it is to find real porridge oats in Spain? People are suspicious of trying different foods in some countries, so Scottish porridge to a Spaniard is definitely different.

The culture in Spain has on occasion appeared very different to many. For instance, I took Siobhan along to see a bull fight during her very first holiday in Spain some years ago. I must admit that we thought it would be fun, but I can honestly say that we have never been so appalled and upset by such an event involving animals and weaponry in years.
It cost 18 euros to get in, a can of coke was another 6 euros, and our seats were so far at the back that we could hardly see the cows getting stabbed.

Okay. Seriously, if you have ever had a very angry Viking amazon poke you in the chest and reprimand you over your stance on dried herbs, you will recognise my sheer terror last night. I have had to come up with something tasty, but non fattening for my lovely Pony-doll as she doesn't have access to fresh herbs during the 11 month winters in the snowy wilds of Manitoba. Too busy skinning buffalo's and walking across frozen rivers with tennis rackets strapped to her feet if you ask me.

Here goes.

To create the perfect Ponita salad you will require:

50g blanched hazelnuts
1 tsp olive oil (extra virgin if possible)
8 rashers dry cured, smoked, streaky bacon
1 crisp eating apple
10g butter
70ml red wine vinegar
1 tsp clear honey
120g blackberries or red grapes if blackberries are not available
100g baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F/gas mark 4. Scatter the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for around seven minutes, until just golden. Chop the hazelnuts roughly, swear if you have to.

Warm half a teaspoon of oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat and fry the bacon, until just crisp. Be sure and drain off the excess fat.

Quarter the apple and core it; halve each quarter and lay length ways, they must face east to west, never north to south. Don't question me as to why, just do it, okay?

Remove all but two tablespoons of fat from the frying pan. Add the butter and sauté the apple slices over a medium-high heat for four minutes, until golden on both sides. Remove to a warm plate, not tepid, not cold, warm...

Put the vinegar and honey in the pan and allow it to bubble and scoosh for 30 seconds. Add the blackberries, stir and remove from the heat.

Dress the spinach in the remaining teaspoon of oil, divide between two plates or place on a large platter. Scatter over the bacon, apple slices and hazelnuts, then trickle over the blackberries (or grapes) and hot salad dressing. Serve immediately with a glass or two of chilled Pinot Grigio.
Next week, buffalo stew... (if she manages to lasso any)


Bread of Heaven

For breakfast this morning I had fresh strawberries drizzled in balsamic vinegar and just a smidgen of toasted almonds. My beverage of choice was iced tea with a hint of mint on the side. Waiting in the cool pantry was a slab of salt cured bacon and a huge wad of sausages parading themselves from the rafter by their string as only the cheekiest of saucey wee sausages can. Too be honest, last night was a tad heavy on the swally, my first course was a full pint of Alka-Seltzer and a good half hour on the lavvy until the rosy glow had returned to my cheeks.

It started with a kiss...

Actually, no. It didn't. It started in the kitchen in the back streets of a dirty wee midden which goes by the name of Roscommon, back in the day when the little singing fella and I were no more than probably knee high to the mammy's apron. One of us, sadly, still is.

In the early 80s, back when Map still had the type of face you could only find in the reflection  on the back of a tablespoon, his bright mop of ginger hair mottled and tightly curled. We would both sit in the mammy's kitchen praying that between her kind self, the co-op and the good lord we would have our bellies filled by something nice and wholesome to stave of the cauld. Me, with the good book open in front of me, himself with a drippy nose and freckles the size of the pennies upon a dead mans eyes.

We were seldom disappointed. Money was always in short supply, there were no many treats for two such wicked Catholic boys growing up in rural Ireland. The staple diet was the humble, traditional dish of tatties, and by jingo we loved them. Our favourite was of course the nourishing Murphy bread. Made in the traditional Irish way, with freshly mashed potatoes, this soft, light bread has a superbly rich flavour and moist texture. It’s at its grandest when thinly sliced and used for delicate sandwiches, or toasted and spread lightly with goose liver pate. The potatoes greatly improves the keeping qualities of the loaf and there was always plenty left for the faither when he got home fae his work.

Time marches on and trends as well as postcodes have changed. I never quite realised my boyhood calling as a priest. A boys dreams rarely came to fruition in an impoverished rural Ireland. As for the little fella, well.. he did make it to being a masseuse for a wee while, but the incident with his maths teacher just didnae add up. 'Practising', as it is still referred to by the few that know, but only when he is out of earshot or drunk, usually both, normally by his fifth pint of the black, or his second sniff of the gold.

Right so. To bring a wee bit of Irish culture into the lives of you non-Celtic heathen hordes fae the both of us, here's the recipe for you to hopefully enjoy.

You will need these.

400 g (14 oz) floury,waxy potatoes, scrubbed and cut into large pieces

700 g (1 lb 9 oz) strong white (bread) flour

1 tsp salt

good handful of easy-blend dried yeast, about 7g

wee pinch of rosemary
a rosary or crucifix (just for authenticity you understand?)
Put the spuds in a pan of boiling water and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain, reserving the cooking water. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins. Mash the potatoes until smooth, then leave to cool.


Good Egg's Bad Egg's

For breakfast this morning I devoured 6 locally produced free range soft-boiled egg's, lightly gathered with the exposed ends all dispatched with a cunning zeal using my hosts favourite butter knife. It is often asked as to whether the correct etiquette dictates the 'end caps' containing the first sliver of milky white goodness should be left untouched whilst eating in public. I will admit to a slight reticence when in company, however within the constraints of my own breakfast room I am inclined to slurp at will.
Soft-boiled egg's are always to be served in an eggcup made with a wide rim and a bowl that is narrow at the bottom. Place the egg's most pointed end in the cup, never, for the love of all things holy, should the pointy end be placed uppermost as this will surely evoke the divil and his winged hordes of demons condemning you to an eternal life in purgatory. Crack the shell with a knife in a horizontal movement, all the way around the egg. The tip of the knife is used to lift the shell from the egg and place it on the side of the plate. May Jaysus himself take your eyes should you even consider smashing its heid with the spoon. That method is strictly reserved for people who wear odd socks and follow fitba teams in the Scottish third division.

Never underestimate the pure pleasure of dipping warm, toasted, golden yeasty soldiers into the richness of a well-timed soft-boiled egg. One must always start with a porcelain eggcup. Plastic, silver or various composites of tin will not suffice and in certain unsophisticated western countries usage of banned breakfast alloys can be punishable by a cereal substitute known as 'Cheerios'.
Avoid these at all costs, people who buy these usually practise satanic rituals involving roosters.

My sisters and I once went a full 3 days without acknowledgement after I discovered them using a wooden cradle to holster a 'supermarket egg'. Needless to say the faither soon married two of them off to Englishmen to spare the family from further shame. The third is firmly ensconced within the New South Wales/Victoria areas of southern Australia where ex Irish conscripts prepare egg's cooked on builders shovels or across the swage lines upon the bonnets of rough terrain vehicles in the small rural townships of both Albury and Wodonga.

Because the exposed part of the egg is relatively flat, if a dab of Scottish butter is placed on it, the butter melts and flows over the egg. If the butter slides off then you have failed and will surely end up in a fiery hell of liquid fire.
A mound of salt and pepper is best made on the side of the plate supporting the eggcup. With a small metallic spoon, such as an after-dinner coffee spoon, a soup son of egg is scooped from the shell and dipped into the seasonings. Alternatively, a pinch of salt and white pepper may be sprinkled over each bite by hand. On this occasion cracked black pepper may be used.

The height of the egg's used in the production of perfection is as crucial to the meal as the timing of the wee fellas themselves. When I want a soft boiled egg I want the yolk soft and the white firm. The boiling time has a lot to do with your elevation. 3 minutes is perfect for an elevation of 1100 ft (330 metres) if you are nearer sea level decrease the boiling time, if at a higher elevation increase the time. So simple as it may be I am sure there are many French chefs that struggle for the perfect soft-boiled egg. Invest in an egg pricker, a wee tool that will prick a small hole in the bottom of the egg allowing the air to escape, preventing the egg from cracking as it boils. Adding sea salt to combat cracking is an auld wives tale and should not be trusted. If it was true it would be in the bible, correct?

Please note, air escaping can continue to manifest itself from small holes after the consumption of the egg has taken place. Avoid theatres, long train journeys or libraries where possible.

Of course, if you are unsure of your height and elevation level and you still insist on the perfect soft boiled egg, ask a man to do it. Ladies have warmer hands and may effect the temperature of the egg's prior to boiling as they stand gossipping for long periods in the garden with their mothers about the fertilisation of their own egg's. These are deemed inedible and are not advisable for consumption.

Moving swiftly on...

After our first soiree into the seemingly innocent restaurant business we engaged the services of a tall Glaswegian gentleman who was famed for seeking out those charmless characters blighted with clumsiness when it came to dinner plates, dining chairs and a rather large ornate glass tank displaying the catch of the day. It was irony at its best considering his prey were masters at seemingly dropping everything they were paid to touch. Every debt has a life of its own. At every twist and turn in the debtors journey, people change sides and squirm, manipulate and wriggle their way deeper into the collectors pockets.

Clarity eventually prevailed, the clumsy were punished, payments realigned themselves with the original terms and the Glaswegian gentleman perfected his tastes for fine cuisine as he dined out frequently on braised lamb, vine leaves and haloumi salads without so much as ever having to raise another fork in anger. Everyone has a dark side. His was just darker than most.

Disagreements were often settled between other restaurateurs in the area with a discreet change of  Glaswegian pleasantries, while a swift stroke of a cleaver signalled the perfect out for those who wished to explore pastures new. It was never personal he once explained, purely business of course.
Other lessons he learnt was 'to make hay while the sun shines'. Eating out in swish restaurants in Glasgow back in the early eighties was still in its infancy and ripe for exploitation. A well known Scottish bank in the west end of Glasgow, of which shall remain nameless, was stunned to find that its staff eating area had been plundered of its 20 or so intricately carved ornate table and chair sets whilst undergoing an overnight cosmetic change.

Not a single note of money was stolen during the clandestine refurbishment, however takings elsewhere rose dramatically and were very kindly deposited back in the bank vaults by way of a paying in slip. I'm sure the bank that likes to say yes would vehemently nod its wealthy head in agreement at the poetry and symmetry of the unofficial loan. These avant-garde table sets are still in residence and are still classed as extremely bohemian, if not slightly "Rive Gauche" by the many rich bankers that gather to sit around them for their business lunches. Although, I am not sure whether the Marcel Duchamp's or Peggy Guggenheim's of the eighties would have been as comfortable if they knew the origin of such finery.

Och.. c'est la vie, eh?


The Grapes of Roth

Thin smooth flashes of lean smoked-over-oak ham, thick rustic slices of pumpkin seed bread and peppered spinach eggs for breakfast this morning. More of a brunch than a breakfast, but tasty and satisfying after a hectic late night of dancing, drinking and laughing. Breakfast tea, nothing else will suffice, it has to be Twinings original, served in china cups, fresh from the depths of my very own suitcase all the way fae back across the water in rainy Glasgow.

Suitcases and rainy Glasgow. Just the thought brings back memories of silent midnight rowing lit only by macabre moonlight and the reflection of drizzle on the hypnotic silver surface of the Loch.

There have been a few ex-colleagues that have journeyed far across various oceans in suitcases over the years. Two in particular departed Glesga via the River Clyde and a certain well known picturesque salmon Loch up in the highlands, some 150 kms away on the same night, with nothing but coils of rusty chain for company. No wonder free range Scottish salmon is so widely famed for its unique flavour. It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase 'ecological food chain'.

Next time you are in the market choosing fish for supper do spare a thought for some old friends that sometimes surface for dinner.

The secret is always in the cutting and the preparation. Sliced and diced is always better than chunks and lumps. These days you simply cannae put your hands on an axe with such a quality keen head that sharp. I blame it on the downturn in the global economy, that and the miracle of DNA profiling.

What's written above? I joke of course.... except maybe for that one time.

For the spinach eggs feast you will need:

4 large brown free range eggs.
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon, crumbled, but for the sake of the holy mother herself, never broken, gently crumbled...
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, Scottish of course, the other muck on offer will just not do.
3/4 lb baby spinach, coarsely chopped to the sound of your favourite tune being played on the wireless.
2 oz cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, previously chilled, just like the frosty withering look of your mother-in-law discovering that the 3 remaining sheets of toilet paper cost you less than the Easter TV times supplement. 

Whisk together eggs and tarragon in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over a moderate heat, then cook spinach, stirring occasionally, until just wilted.
Add the egg mixture and cream cheese as delicately as a young Catholic Nun tinkling in a fresh water stream high above the Grampians mountains on a winters morning and cook, stirring slowly, until the eggs are just set, about 3 minutes.

Serve and enjoy with perhaps a generous round of black pudding seasoned with white pepper and a sprig or two of lollo rosso. Be really adventurous and add a mid-morning glass of crisp white wine, to hell with what the neighbours think.

Which reminds me.

As even the most erstwhile and erudite of Glasgow schoolboy scholars will testify, the legendary Hannibal, a mere Carthaginian achieved the impossible in a surprisingly short period of time. One of his most famous achievements was at the outbreak of the Second Punic War, when he marched an entire army, which included war elephants, from Iberia over the Pyrenees and the Alps into northern Italy on a quest for the holy grape purely on a diet consisting of little more than yak's milk, aged duck eggs and stale bacon grease.

An army marches on its stomach some of you will cry. Absolute pish?  Not so, will be my staunch reply.

Picture the scene if you will.

After a hearty lunch of succulent Spanish hog, freshly murdered, smothered in garlic, rosemary and basted with an aromatic apple based glaze before being slowly spit-roasted for three mouth-wateringly long hours.
We, that is the Chef, the brother-in-law, the asthmatic taxi driver who brought us fae the airport and never left, as well as the big ugly Glaswegian fellow decided to embark on a wine seeking quest of our own to the mountainous regions above the holiday isle of which we are currently encamped.

When  I say camped I should really ask you to think villa, not a canvas contraption held together by boy scout knots and pieces of stiffened string, situated by a roaring fireside made fae auld dry twigs and hand rolled bear feces. Old bones and hard ground do not a good match make. Don't even get me started on the appalling lack of toiletry requirements needed by gentlemen over the age of 50 with bar-room bowels that are to beer what the Hindenburg was to gas.

Wine is the nectar of the Spanish Gods, a humble grape ripened in the sun, fertilised by only the most exact science of soils before being crushed and bruised without the danger of suppuration setting in, to make the most rewarding elixir of all the vines, including Tempranillo, Albariño, Garnacha, Palomino, Airen, Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel·lo, Cariñea and Monastrell.

Before you know it, hey presto -  vino español. The good stuff, not the cheap dessert stuff that the most beautiful woman in our circle recently spat into a flowerpot while dining out with friends. No one else saw you do it Pat, your secret is safe with me.

Five hours later, with a flat tyre and a taxi driver by the name of Roth, who speaks very little of any language apart from something that sounds guttural enough to be Turkish but is probably East Anglian, and lost in the black hole of a monastery town somewhere up the side of an uncharted section of our 1976 bi folding map, we begin to lose our ardor for the grape. In fact it has just dawned on us that the Scotland game kicks off in less than forty five minutes and the bar of the villa is stocked with a full host of ice cold bottles of German lager with our names on them.

Okay, probably not our real names. McFadyen, McInerney, Kavanagh and Brady are hardly your average baronial surnames festooned on the side of cold-sweating beer bottles, made in Deuffle Strasse just outside of München Hauptbahnhof by the war memorial, opposite the small traditional Austrian brasserie, where schnitzel and beer dominate the conversation. Not unless this wee tale was being rewritten of course by Tim Burton's Corpse Bride brigade after a hefty lunch of German sausage and bratwurst fillet. It's not. It is being cobbled together by a tall Glaswegian with good teeth, but a bad attitude, who quite fancies himself as a chef with a hankering for a good bottle of wine with his supper. 

So... as I was saying earlier, Hannibal may well have made it down the mountainside with his baw-bag hordes of rapscallion warriors aboard their dusty elephants, ears flapping, great grey arses dropping steaming piles of dung and trumpeting for all the world to hear in only three calender months.

We, however, made it down fae the top of a very steep hill in fourth gear, with an overheated radiator, a flat tyre, a couple of weary bladders, one hell of a thirst and five cases of exceptional plonk in 35 minutes flat. Not one lumbering creature in sight and not a drop of anything spilled. Not unless you count the incontinent cab driver of course, but that's another story still to be told.


On The Other Hand

Breakfast this morning consisted of deliciously sweet torrijas, cafe con leche and fresh orange juice squeezed over crushed ice and swallied with a mere pinch of cinnamon for taste. Served in a small reed basket beneath an oven-warmed cloth of muslin, it doesn't get much better let me tell you. The recipe can be found here.

4-6 slices of stale white bread.

3/4 cup of full fat milk, for the sake of all the Saints in Ireland, semi-skimmed is a big no-no.

1 egg, brown if possible, if it is speckled then even better.

Vegetable oil for shallow frying such as corn oil, NOT for the love of all things holy, olive oil. Olive oil is acceptable for baptisms, confession, last rites and not bad drizzled on warm tomatoes with a pinch of white pepper. Do not use it to fry, you will regret it.

1/8 tsp vanilla extract, bottle stuff is acceptable on this occasion.

A pinch of brown sugar and a smidgen of cinnamon.

Fresh honey, do not use supermarket or fuel station varieties unless you truly loathe your partner.

In a large pottery bowl, beat the eggs with the milk and vanilla.

Pour just enough of the oil in a large frying pan or skillet to cover the bottom completely. Set the pan to medium-high heat. (To test if the pan is hot enough, drip a drop of the egg mixture in the pan. If you can see it start to cook after a few seconds, the pan is ready). Not rocket science, but all the best chefs are men, say no more ladies eh?

Place each slice of bread in the eggy mixture and flip it over so it's completely coated. The bread should be soggy but still firm enough to handle.

Transfer the bread slices to the frying pan.

Turn the slices over when the undersides are golden brown (2 minutes at most, do not go over the time otherwise a truly religious experience of the taste bud variety will pass you by)  Flip the slices with a spatula and cook the other side until golden brown (again, about 2 minutes).

Remove bread from the pan and transfer to a serving plate.

Sprinkle each piece with cinnamon and sugar. Drizzle honey over the top and serve warm under the cloth. You will thank me for bringing you closer to the kitchen God of your choice, believe me.

Where was I?

I have been quite taken with my early morning pasear along the Mediterranean shore these last few days. So much better than trying to avoid the fresh dog shite on the pavements on my way to collect the newspapers back in cold Glasgow. Nothing can soothe a mans soul more so than the warm waters coursing between his toes as he contemplates the sun rising on another beautiful day.

Perhaps Bo Derek running in slow motion I hear you shout?

No, that would be just plain greedy and probably a sin according to the holy mass that I so cleverly managed to avoid again this morning. (4,843 consecutive days so far)
Speaking of Catholicism, the Catholic Church here in Spain are protesting at the remake of 'The Exorcist'. It's about a woman who hires the divil to get a priest out of her son.

I'm thinking out loud again eh?

It was Siobhan's idea, no, not the movie, we've moved on from that. The visit to the infamous palm reader, Gypsy Petulengro. She who sits in judgement of us wee mortals on the pier, the alleged Romany palmist who claims to have blood ties to the famous Gypsy Xavier Petulengro. The one who first cut the hands of a newlywed couple to mingle their blood, and bound their wrists with a silk cord, as part of the ceremony. The groom bled to death before he could get around to consummate the marriage on his wedding night.

So much for buying anymore lucky heather eh?

All was well until it came to my turn. The girls were all destined for tall dark strangers and riches aplenty. Not one to be a spoilsport, what could possibly go wrang with the reading of my giant right paw?

Now, my Spanish is not as good as it perhaps should be after all this time, but body language in any dialect is very plain. My daughter-in-law reluctantly translated the auld woman's shrieks to declare that she apparently did not like looking into my eyes. I didn't really warm to the auld lady's one good eye and a bloodshot pickled onion myself, let alone take in too much more of her rancid breath, but having being brought up by the mammy to be polite I declined to comment further at the time.

I have the look of the divil about me, the stain of sin upon my demonic right hand and an aura which was seemingly frightening enough for her to consider me worthy of a refund. I do seem to recall when I was a wee boy that I did sin rather a lot with my right hand, but that was before I took up with Siobhan and hardly ever never on a Sunday.

Talk about give a guy a complex!

It would seem that the lines of my hand show up a very prominent letter 'C'. This defined letter means in Romany parlance that I am one of the  much whispered about 'children of the dark'.
Shillings for the gas were short back in the day I will admit, our one room and a kitchen in that murky auld Glasgow tenement was lit mainly by the flames under the oul kettle on the hob. And that wasn't more than twice a day at best. Perhaps she was truly onto something?

Me... I like to think that the 'C' really meant to her that I was too strong minded to listen to anymore spouted gobbledy-gook Crap!

However, only time will tell.

If you do start to hear the audible babble of sin-soaked divils as you read my words then it might be time to turn on the big light as you take down the recipe with your spit-licked stump of HB pencil on grease proof paper....

Either that or you did use the olive oil we talked about above, even though I told you not to.

Ahhh, the wee divil is in us all.

Sleeping Dogs

This morning I sat down to breakfast with an old friend. We enjoyed square sausage and potato scones. He is rather keen on his blended tea between the hours of 6 and 10am. After that, anything goes. I upset him once over a spilled drink in the school playground a long time ago. He whispered in my ear that he had wired my calculator to an explosive device.

I wasn't sure, but I refused to count on it.

On the outside looking in, the big ugly Glaswegian who is often seen tinkering in the front garden with his trellis fences and flowers probably doesn't live the kind of life from which you expect scandal to bloom. On an ordinary weekday in his middle-class village he is often found to be chatting with the postman, walking the dogs and occasionally hosting dinner parties of which he prepares the food himself for those closest to him.

But suddenly this week, at the age of nearly 50, his past may have caught up with him and he must now cope with the possible devastating effects of a darker time that has resurfaced after 20 years.

Last week, a piece appeared in a Scottish newspaper identifying him amongst others as being a former money lender from the notorious Blackhill area of Glasgow. Over twenty years ago as a young man in Provanmill he and a friend had been involved in collecting monies owed and frequently dealing out punishments to people who took money from other such lenders. At 25 he was detained on remand at Her Majesty's pleasure in a very grim place indeed. He was released five and a half months later after he was acquitted of all charges and has gone on to form a new life and career, most notably as a successful builder. Never has he glorified or boasted about his former life. The stories about the scars to his face have always been assumed, never confirmed.

"I've done my best to put it out of my mind," he says. "Once you have admitted you are at fault, and I was, you have said 'I'm sorry, I'm utterly, totally sorry', without excuse, and paid your price, then you have to put it behind you."

The effect on this mans life after this disclosure of his past life could have been damaging. His wife is a pillar of the local community and a long-serving member of the Scottish Law Society. Intelligent, happily married, dignified, she would obviously have relied on her strength and Irish humour under normal circumstances. However, satisfied that her husband of 24 years has buried his past, she is concentrating on holding on to the fact that although sleeping dogs do occasionally wake, this latest juicy new bone is in fact old and with not enough meat for his friends to make a meal of.

In the past, the bitterness and bigotry at this mans past has been a decider in the multiple blogs that have sprung up decrying him and his family for what happened a long time ago.
Not anymore. This time he will stand his ground and be the solid brick wall he was in his youth. These days his good deeds far outweigh the bad. It is time to stand up and say enough!

Besides, who really knows what secret fertiliser he uses to grow his fabulous roses....