Table For Three

For breakfast this morning I had some explaining to do. She took it all in, but I could see by her eyes that she would probably continue to give me the silent routine for the rest of the day. My past has a habit of revisiting me in the most unlikely of places. I should have known by the insecure little steps he took as he approached our table clutching the chilled bottle of wine so firmly by the neck in his proferred soggy palm. Our eyes met in a mid-mouthful moment of recognition. Siobhan had just asked my opinion on which movie had the worst of endings. He stammered a nonsensical greeting of stuttering fluffiness. I had once adjusted his kneecap and three of his toes over an unpaid debt and then given his wife the money for a taxi to Gartnavel hospital. I have always been one for the manners. He had invented a gimmicky device which had been sold via door to door catalogues. The kind you came home to find laying wet and soggy within their unsealed clear plastic wrapping beside your door. The kind you left, unopened. He was now broke, balding, divorced and living with his mother in a small house on one of the cities moderate housing schemes.

I could see Siobhan was trying very hard not to stare at the way in which his brown toupée didn't quite meet what was left of his oyster grey thatch. I admired the way she lip-synced her way perfectly through the full fifteen minutes of his success story monologue while remaining agog at his field of carefully coiffured hair. I'm always wary of be-wigged strangers you haven't seen in twenty years pouring out their hearts as you politely endeavour to carry on eating your Wiener Schnitzel. It took him a while, but eventually he trotted out the obligatory faux pas for the inconvenience he had caused me back in the day. The silence was nearly as loud as the original scream when I had altered his shoe size and trouser length forever. I took my final look around at the elegant decor of my favourite restaurant as I decided the size of the tip. I would miss the fayre, I would miss the ambiance, but most of all I would miss the taste of those delicious veal cutlets I had grown so fond of. I left him a twenty. As I helped Siobhan on with her coat I couldn't help but think that the answer to the movie question may have been 'Kismet'.

Wiener Schnitzel

8 slices brown bread
small cup of mixed flour
2 large fresh free range eggs
2 tbsp full fat milk
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 veal cutlets (scaloppini) patted dry and flattened evenly
55g of unsalted Scottish butter
lemon wedges

In a food processor, pulse the bread into fine crumbs. Put them into a shallow bowl, covered. Put the flour into a shallow bowl or a lipped plate. Break the eggs into another bowl and whisk with the milk, season with salt and pepper to taste.

To bread the cutlets:

Dredge a cutlet in the flour, shaking off the excess, then dip it into the eggs and coat evenly with the breadcrumbs. Set aside on a piece of waxed paper or baking sheet. Continue with the remaining cutlets. Heat the butter in a non stick skillet over a medium heat. Pour yourself a large glass of chilled white wine. You deserve it for getting this far without making any mistakes.(I saw you drop a wee bit of shell into the bowl. Fish it out and I'll pretend I never saw it)

While the butter is still foaming add the breaded cutlets and cook, swirling the skillet in a tight circle until golden brown and cooked all the way through. I usually do 2 minutes for the first side. Turn the meat using wooden tongs and cook for 1 minute to crisp the breading. Transfer the cutlets onto plates, sprinkle with the lemon wedges and serve with fluffy mash and minted peas. Alternatively, serve with potato salad, chunky bread and fresh rocket. Enjoy.


Mayan Over Matter

For breakfast this morning we munched on wheat toast spread thickly with raw honey straight from the hive. Tiny pools of Scottish butter bubbled to the surface as I passed a hot flame across the honey glaze. Black coffee, bitter and dark as only real coffee can be, complimented the definitive flavours that tangoed upon our tongues. Together, as a family, we devoured the morning papers for more news of the impending doom that awaits us next week. Just like all rational people living in the 21st century, my own personal religion stems from an interpretation of a single set of tablets discovered in the 1960s at the archaeological site of Tortuguero in the Mexican state of Tabasco. I would be foolish to ignore the warnings by leading Epigraphists who say the prophecy foretells the beginning of a new era, The world as we know it... is doomed. Before the cock has crowed three times we shall join the rag-tag brigade of intelligent human beings scurrying to the uppermost peak of  Pic de Bugarach where we will be greeted by Bono, Sarah Palin and no doubt Elvis Presley, as we await salvation by way of an alien space craft. I hope they serve lunch.

I might not go. I still have a side door to hang on the garage, not to mention the bottles of red wine vinegar that I am supposed to be preparing on Friday for Missus O'Flaherty at number 63. She doesn't get out much, not with her varicose veins and this cold weather an all. Besides, who would feed the llamas, collect the eggs from my chickens and milk the goats in my absence? Not bloody Bono, that's for sure. Perhaps I'll just give this decades doomsday prediction a miss. Maybe join the bandwagon on the next one. Isn't the next worlds end due in a phone box somewhere in California at the hand of Colin Farrell and a plague of sniper trained locusts or something? It might be my tired oul eyes, but I could swear that the new postman is Samuel L Jackson and in his sack he is delivering hundreds of snakes. I'm starting to lose track, too much Fox News and egg nog seems to have scrambled my memory. I must also give the more stronger of Gorgonzola cheese a miss at bedtime, the dreams are becoming more lucid with every bite of the cracker.

Just in case the Mayans do get it right and after receiving a synchronising ray coming from the epicentre of the galaxy, a ray that will originate a gigantic radiant flaming that will bring the destruction of the planet through cataclysm to a fiery burning end, I have to get this secret off my chest. I am responsible for the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, his body is entombed within the concrete column at Giants Stadium. I also shot JR, but that was just for fun. I also kidnapped Shergar, he lives on in my barn, we ride him every Sunday, the grand weans love him. I also have a secret wee twin brother who goes by the name of Map. We were separated at birth after my da threw him in the river tied up in a sack (obvious reasons) and sure enough, a movie was based on our life story. The actors of course being Danny De Vito and Arnold Muscledlump. I am sure you can figure out exactly who played who! However, for those of you not planning on making the trip to Bugarach next week, I thought I might occupy your time with a winter warmer to put a smile back on your face. Enjoy.

Apocalypse Pie

675g (1 1/2 lb) diced braising steak

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2 heaped teaspoons of plain flour

olive oil (good stuff please)

1 red onion, peeled and diced

1 carrot, peeled and diced

4 sticks of celery, diced

1 small handful of fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, bay leaf)

1 (500ml) bottle of Guinness

4 chopped tomatoes

1 (500g) packet of puff pastry (if you are a heathen or just plain lazy)

1 free range egg, beaten

Season your beef well with the salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with flour and toss around until coated. I use a plastic bag, it works better than anything else.


Paint It Black

For breakfast that morning we consumed nearly our own body weight in fried eggs, beef sausages, bacon, mushrooms and enough toast to keep a small country's wheat farmers in profit for a whole year. The English chef prepared the food exactly as we like it, tasty, non greasy, full of flavour and with just the right amount of seasoning in the black pud. He must surely have Scottish blood...  Our beverage of choice was of course good old fashioned PG Tips, several pots of it in fact. I do believe the hotel may soon expunge the 'eat-as-much-as-you-like' policy later today after our departure. Sitting in the dining room was also a welcome respite from the rain after four continuous days of inclement English weather. At least it made the city look cleaner.

That night we took in a truly legendary performance by the Rolling Stones. Words cannot do justice to the entertainment provided by Mr Jagger and co. Needless to say they were sensational, the lyrics to each track still continue to buzz through my head as we speak. It was well worth the trudge through the rubbish strewn streets of England's grim capital to see such iconic members of quite possibly the worlds most successful band. Nice to see the city of London got into the mood by painting everything in sight - black! Och well, it was worth the journey just to see that there is still life in many an oul dog over the age of 40. They definitely chalked one up for the auld wans, make no mistake about it!

We began our week away with a sumptuous meal in a fabulous fish restaurant in the west end. Each course just got better and better until the pièce de résistance itself arrived positively packed with all sorts of amazingly fresh fish. This dish approaches perfection - creamy seafood chowder. If a food utopia truly exists, this fantastic tasting course is what they would serve on an hourly basis. After our second helping (and fourth bottle of wine) I requested a copy of the recipe from a very friendly waiter who had worked his way towards a well earned tip. The fact that he was originally fae Scotland may have influenced me a tad.

I was delighted that the chef, an extremely amiable guy fae Amerikay, (NYC to be exact) came to the table towards the end of the evening and thanked us for our praise. He very kindly assisted us in putting away another few bottles of wine before we introduced him to some proper man size measures of 30 year old Whyte & Mackay prior to helping him back in the direction of the kitchen. So much for Jack Daniels being the daddy, eh? My thanks to him for sharing his own slant on his grandmothers original recipe. My apologies to his fellow countrymen for allowing him to believe that a New Yorker could keep pace with a Glaswegian when it comes to putting away the swally. All that whooping and hollering fae him to start with, but when it came down to the nitty-gritty he drooped quicker than the stars and stripes in heavy rain.

Do try the recipe for yourself, and also do spare a thought for our friendly American chef and his extremely unsociable hangover. Strangely enough, when we called in this evening for our farewell meal we were surprised to hear that he was STILL off work due to a blinding headache.

"I say can you see...."  In Cory's case, seemingly not.

Cory Finkle's Seafood Chowder

1 tbsp olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
2 medium yellow onions, chopped (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 large waxy potatoes, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 cups oyster stock (fresh for the love of all things fishy)
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of cayenne
1 1/2 to 2 lbs cod, or other firm white fish, pin bones removed, fillets cut into 2-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups fresh clotted cream
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
12 mussels
large handful fresh peeled prawns
12 oysters (fresh, steamed in their shells first, add the juices)
4 rashers smoked bacon, grilled then finely diced
1/4 cup of sweet corn (cooked first in butter)
Heat oil and butter in the bottom of a large pot (6-qt) on medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and turn up the heat, cook, uncovered until the wine reduces by half. (If not using wine, add 1/4 cup of water with the oyster juice.)
Add the potatoes, oyster juice, bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper, and spice. (The potatoes should be just barely covered with the liquid in the pot. If not, add water so that they are.) Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to medium and cook, covered, until the potatoes are almost done, about 10-15 minutes. In a separate pot, heat the cream until steamy (not boiling).

Add the fish to the pot of potatoes and slowly for the love of Jaysus add the heated cream. Return to the stove. Cook on low heat, uncovered, until the fish is just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Keep your eye on the heat! If you are using straight heavy cream you should be more easily able to avoid curdling, even if the soup starts to boil. But if you are substituting light cream, half and half, or milk, the mixture will likely curdle if it gets near boiling point. Keep the temperature so that it barely gets steamy, but not simmering. When the fish is just cooked through, remove from heat.
Mix in the parsley and bacon. The flavours will improve if the dish rests in the pot 30 minutes before serving. Serve with white wine and whisky.