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.


  1. Served in china cups with a raised pinky finger? Might as well go over the cliff with the imagery.

    "Freshly murdered" is such a startling turn of a phrase that it should be added to all menus. Scottish and otherwise. I can't speak for your audience at large, but it'd excite my appetite.

  2. Sir, words are my imagery these days. The nub of my pencil and soul are busy in other directions. Mugs are for mugs, cups are for winners!

  3. Hi,

    I sometimes browse through the material you post. You neer have the IQ to respond. While some of your
    antichrist criticism is legit, most of it is about as accurate as saying that all
    Christians are immoral liars because we follow Jesus Christ your saviour.

    I did have a couple of questions that I hope you are competent enough
    to respond to.
    1. Are you a Christian? That’s fine if you are not, I just wanted to
    know where you were coming from.
    2. If you are a Christian, what group of Christian’s or “Churches” do
    you associate with?
    3. Does your church or your movement associations influence your
    opinions…or are you stupid all by yourself.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my comment. I’ll be looking for your

  4. Well, you certainly haven't lead a dull life, have you? :)

    The only interesting thing that I, the non-imbiber (not judging, just not my thing...which is why you and Map are my designated Taste Testers) can add to this conversation is that I have actually ridden an elephant.

    And no, although work often feels like it, the ride had nothing to do with being in a circus. ;)

  5. Dear Mr Christ,

    You slipped through the net on this occasion. It won't happen again, rest assured of that.

    You are quite correct. My IQ is extremely low and I am unable to respond to your profound logic. Some people turn to God, me, I turn to whisky. I don't see any difference, my life is still being guided by a spirit.

  6. My Dear Hope, life itself is often a circus. We often jump through burning hoops for others, deal with dangerous animals, juggle many things and of course have to suffer so many clowns.

    If memory serves, elephants have a very definitive smell about them, I refer of course to their skin, not the business end at the rear.

  7. Oh ! Just found you and it's late. I'll be back in the morning. Don't disappear please.

  8. I never liked Spanish wine.
    And I've yet to taste Spaninsh Whisky.
    The back of an elephant has never had the pleasure of my arse.
    But I have seen the 'work' of folk such as Mr.Christ this very weekend in my own wee town and it directed at one of my loved ones. Sadly I saw this on video. Had I been there in person, well, I would not have been polite.

  9. Ahh Patricia, some women are worth the wait. I shall swim, walk upon the shore, prepare breakfast and await your wisdom.

  10. Map, you never liked Spanish wine because the bottle that you brought to my last dinner party came straight from the church tombola. I still have it, Siobhan uses it to remove limescale from the outside tap.

    The less said about yourself and whisky the better...

    You have skin thicker than any elephant known to exist, just like masel you shrug off eejits and their comments like flies from a log. Politeness and the art of keeping a cool head in heated situations is an art.

    Need I remind you of the issue with my BIL sometime back and the consequences of reaction?

    Jump a plane, pick you up at the airport, bring your trunks. Siobhan is away the night, but ahm here a while longer so.

  11. I enjoyed that but I was hoping you would be a little more specific as to what I should answer when the nice lady in our Spanish bistro asks: 'Red or white.'
    You might have put me off Scottish salmon and Highland Spring Water for life.

  12. Dear lady, my reply would require at least 40 paragraphs depending on food of choice. Good Spanish wine is tailored to the food on the plate and can be vast. Try these for size next time you visit the restaurant.

    Fish or seafood based dishes it just has to be Albariño. For lamb or dark meat dishes I would have to say Vilosell, 2003 whenever available. Chicken of course should always be accompanied with Protocolo Blanco, a smooth tasting wine that compliments the succulent white meat.

    Try to avoid the house wines as they tend to be too sweet and not always compatible with the fayre. A good Spanish wine will range from £15 upwards. Below that price range the choices tend to be aimed at the dessert wines and are of little use unless made into sangria. If you let me know your favourite dish I can be more exact, but ultimately it does come down to personal choice.

  13. I don't like wine. I like whiskey - so long as it has a coke in it.
    Oh dear, like Pat I will be very suspicious of my salmon in future.

  14. Dearest Scarlet, Surely your opening sentence omitted the word 'to'?

    If you are indeed drinking cheap whisky containing an 'e', then I should advise that you switch to purely Coca Cola almost immediately. And do not worry, your salmon is safe with me.

  15. TSK.

    My Americanised spell check interferes with everything I do. Apologies, I knew it was wrong and I was right.

  16. Dearest Scarlet, I have known one or two women wronged in my time, but never before have I met a woman who was actually wrong.

    TSK obviously stands for 'The Scarlet Knowledge'.

    ... or The Silly Koo! of course.

  17. Dear Chef, it saddens my wee heart but I will have to decline your kind offer at this time. The college year has just begun and I, being heid chef & bottle washer at 'Tigh Máirtín' need to be on hand to provide warming sustenance to the hungry knowledge seekers on their return each day. Well, for a week or so anyway.

    Besides, we don't want to set Spanish tongues wagging!

  18. Mr Mapstew, I am somewhat saddened that you are unavailble to assist myself and the locals in a marathon session this weekend, your company will be missed. Although we will no doubt find someone else to carry the drinks back from the bar, we will struggle to find someone to wash the vehicles as cheaply as your good self.

    Save me some of your famous nettle soup!

  19. spanish ham, salmon, whisky...*sigh* i can get lost in those words, sugar! in fact, i did! back t re read your post now. xoxoxoxo

  20. Dearest Savannah, just wait until you sample my oxtail and lamb shank stew. Perhaps you could give me your own recipe for good oul southern style biscuits? An item I am sadly yet to try.

  21. You are SO suspicious. I was only trying to copy and paste your excellent sdvice. Now I'll have to write it by hand.

  22. Thank you. Sorry forgot.

  23. I am delighted to find you back on the interwebs once again! Although your white type on black background is hard on my old eyes, I will persevere to read your entries and all the comments that follow. If you should endeavour to decrease the contrast somewhat, I would be most appreciative!

    I am not into wine or whisky, although I do use wine when cooking, and have a dear friend who very much enjoys his whisky, it being a Canadian variety that is distilled just up the road.

    Now, it's not 'moonshine', if that's what you are thinking! There's a distillery in a nearby small city that makes enough whisky that they ship it all over Canada and the US in tanker rail cars. Amazing no one has hijacked that train yet...

    Of course, it is not Scottish, or even Spanish whisky. I myself cannot abide the stuff but my friend certainly seems to think it is good.

    As for the eggs, soft yolk and cooked white actually takes six minutes here in the centre of Canadia. We are at 700 ft. Perhaps the length of time is longer because of the massive distance from any ocean? 2500 km in either direction...

    When I've got a few repairs and renos done in my new little house, I'll be throwing a housewarming party. I'll let everyone know the details when I get things arranged. You and your lovely lady are definitely on the guest list. Will you attend?

  24. Will I attend? Need you ask Pony-doll? Persevere nae mair dear lady, I have adjusted the colour to suit those rather sexy eyes. If you still have difficulty reading the script then please let me know and I will gladly alter it to suit.

    I cannae say that 6 minutes is ideal for the preparation of mother natures gift, 6 minutes sounds more like a boiling fowl rather than a boiled egg. However, Canadians are quite eclectic in their ways, a fact that I have come to accept in your rather lovely case.

    As always hen, it is a pleasure to have you visit me here. I shall look forward to plenty more patter from you and the Map munchkin.

    My kindest regards... JB

  25. I know it is careless of me butI keep losing your comment box.

  26. How wounding dear lady. It is if I appear insignificant in your eyes.


Thank you, the chef is currently preparing an answer for you in the kitchen. Do help yourself to more bread.