Marooned & Naked

For breakfast this morning I devoured tea, raisin cinnamon toast and an interesting article about a new documentary soon to be screened on the Discovery Channel. Ed Stafford, an Englishman, is undertaking an unusual and somewhat extreme survival challenge. He'll be washed up naked and alone on a desert island, south east of Fiji, with only his brain, bare hands, and a camera to keep him alive. He'll take no food, water, clothes, knife or tools. He will be completely naked and marooned for sixty days. Okay, I would definitely ditch the camera and substitute it for a case of good malt, that goes without saying, eh? I mean, there are only so many photies of palm trees you can take!

Call me a smidgen crazy here, but the thought of being alone for the best part of a couple of months on a tropical island, making things by hand, fishing and hunting for food using my wits and wandering around naked wearing little more than a couple of coconut husks on my feet by way of slippers, certainly appeals to my adventurous side. How about you? My only luxuries would be a box of matches, Irn Bru and of course my saucepans. So if you do hear about a large man with two months facial hair, found banging expensive copper saucepans together and what appears to be a python hanging from his waist, don't worry, it's either me or Ed Stafford just doing our thing.


1 Wild Boar
Small bunch each of wild sage, parsley, rosemary and marjoram
6 Cloves of wild garlic
6 fresh yams
Preheat your open fire to 200c -  gas 6. (put on more tree bark to get it nice and hot)

If you haven't all ready done so during the thirty or so attempts to kill it with a pointy stick, score the rind with a sharp rock or coral, then rub with sea salt, this will help to make excellent crackling. Do not be tempted to trim any fat at this stage, as the meat cooks this will naturally baste the joint keeping it succulent and moist. Place all the herbs and wild garlic into the centre of the coconut roasting dish  then place the meat on top of the herbs. Roast the meat in the centre of the fire for two hours then turn down the heat by peeing on the outer logs. Allow 40 minutes per kg + 40 minutes a little longer for shoulder or hand joints to ensure they are tender. The boars hands, not yours for heavens sake.

Top, tail and peel the yams, cut into ¼`s then 45 minutes before the meat is done, place into a separate conch shell roasting dish, add enough fat from the roast to coat the yam, season and place into the fire with the joints of meat. When the joints are cooked, remove from the roasting shell, put onto a warm stone and cover, then leave to rest. Pour off any fat from the roasting shell, reserving in a pot, this herb infused boar fat is excellent for roasting yams. Make your gravy by incorporating all the herbs and garlic, then strain into a warmed coconut and serve overlooking the ocean. Do be careful not to drop anything into your lap, especially if you are like me, naked.


Barking Mad

For breakfast that morning our quiet espresso moment was rather rudely interrupted by the busy-bodies from further down the hill. They meandered as far as the gates would allow before they discovered the intercom and took it in turns to press the tiny melodic buzzer. Back home in Glasgow it is considered bad form to disturb folk early on a Sunday unless by prior arrangement. I saw no reason to break with that tradition at our carefully chosen holiday citadel in the sun. I'm not a bad neighbour, I am not a bad man, I am however a man that has many acute angles and likes to keep his distance from those living around him. Nodding occasionally at the market or perhaps a fleeting wave as you pass by in the car is acceptable, but I do not welcome neighbourly interaction on a regular thrice daily basis. Surely that is what a holiday get away is all about? I do not have what you might class as a particularly friendly face. I'm too old to pass off the ragged scar tissue on my face as 'possible war collateral'. Wounds gained while defending ones country, keeping the Huns at bay while waving the national flag? No, that's not me. I fought a very different kind of Hun. I fought against bigotry and sectarianism, but am long since retired from retaliation. My broken glass accent betrays which city I am fae and probably answers a lot of unspoken questions as to why and how I look the way in which I do. People outside of my circle tend not to question me about my past. The people closest to me just accept me for the man they know rather than the beast that others often see me as.

As the years have gone by I have grown accustomed to people not ingratiating themselves when it comes to me personally. I am not known for my fondness of strangers. It took three years for me to accept the new postman. I am rarely comfortable with people unfamiliar to me, let alone life's oddities such as the Anglo (you will note I declined to specify the word English out of respect to my southern friends) couple dressed strangely identical and standing at the gates to my wee Shangri-La in the Spanish hills. I prefer peace and solitude to tend my gardens, prepare my own version of recipes gathered, and to be left to ponder not only my navel, but also the delicious blue skies about me. Besides, it had not gone well at the original meet and greet with the new neighbours. To be told that I resembled a 'bank robber' at our first meeting did not sit comfortably with my wife Siobhan for a start. The crinkling up of the noses when I declared which city I was from set back the Scottish-Anglo relationship from our side of the border by at least another century. All in all the chances of us being good friends is as likely as snow in July. We avoided them when we could. So it was with weary steps that I descended the rockery path to greet the matching anoraks now encamped, with arms impatiently folded, by my freshly white-washed entry way. I put on my best not-quite-a-smile-possibly-just-this-side-of-a-I-am-tolerating-you-but-only-just! look about my face as I opened the wooden gates. I was very conscious of the fact that my wife would not approve of me being outwardly rude to our new neighbours. Perhaps she was right, perhaps I should make an effort to actually be nice and polite to the execrable couple who stood so churlish before me.

"Hello hen" was my standard opening line.

"Rita" came back the reply. "Hens are something that lay eggs and festoon a wicker basket during a bar lunch, surely?"

"Right... what can I do for you this early on a Sunday, Rita?"

"Can you keep your dog from barking during the night?"

"I don't have a dog here Rita"

"You must have, it kept us awake every night this week!"

"No hen, we do not have any animals here, certainly no a dog."

"Not hen...Rita! You must have, it barks all night long"

(Deep breath) "No doll, just the two of us here, no dogs, just us"


"Nonsense? Excuse me here doll, but..."

"Please, my wife's name is Rita, not doll not hen, Rita. Be advised, we are going to stop by the other new people who live up the hill and get a petition to stop you barking"

"Away you go then pal, but see me? I never bark, but you be advised, I do bite on the odd occasion, especially when provoked by a couple of wee dafties trumpeting at me on a Sunday morning."

 Silence.... A stone cold lingering silence.

"Right hen, is that you two done then? I'll be away back to my coffee. Thanks for stopping by. You two be sure and keep an eye out for that wee dog, eh?"

"My name is..."

"Aye, that'll be about right doll, cheerio"

Strangely enough, our matching North Face friends fae down the way have no troubled us since the enquiry about the dog that we do not have. Our espresso moments continued unabated long into those precious Sunday mornings and the intercom never rang again before the back of ten. The other new-comers further up the hill do have a dog, a lovely wee thing by the name of Baxter. His owners, a smashing retired couple fae Oxford, called around one lunchtime with flowers and a bottle of wine to apologise about wee Baxter settling in. Not necessary, very nice people who are often to be found at our table enjoying a meal, a glass of wine and our company. Not once have they asked about my face or passed comment on my banking arrangements back home in Glasgow. They aren't to keen on the people further down the hill it seems, something to do with their dog and an early morning intrusion I believe. Och well, sometimes it's just nice to be nice, eh?

Barking Dog Cocktail

3 oz Tequila 
2/3 oz Crème de Bananes (banana liqueur)
Lime Juice
1 oz Vodka 
Garnish: Lime Slice

Fill a highball glass with ice. Add the tequila and banana liqueur. Fill with sweetened lime juice. If it is too sour, add some lemon-lime soda. Add the vodka, garnish with a slice of lime. Serve with friends, throw a wee ball and clap the dog.


A Terrible Beauty

For breakfast that morning we took our fresh dark roasted coffee to a more shady part of the lush green garden. The previous evenings entertainment had well and truly taken its toll inside of my head and I lay stretched fully upon the cool tiles that lined the slate pathway. Peace was upon me in my time of great suffering. And then they came. It was quite a daunting moment. The way in which they just appeared before us in our own garden was intimidating to say the very least. Their leader, a big ugly brute came at us without the slightest sign of fear. I registered the smallest of cries caught in the back of Siobhan's throat as they made a beeline for me as I lay prone and helpless beneath the Spanish sun. An old feeling deep down inside instinctively forced the adrenaline to prepare my body and mind for the imminent pain. I reached for the nearest weapon to hand, a pot of good black coffee splashed an expensive wave of liquid over the closest of the assailants. The effect was wasted, forcing the intruders back only long enough for me to scramble to my feet and take up an indignant stance. Again they came at us in waves, I withstood their advances as Siobhan scrambled to safety.

Romancing tales will have you believe that there is glory in battle, facing the enemy with the sound of military drums beating in rhythm with your own brave heart as you transform into a Hollywood hero while dramatic music fills your brain. In battle there is very little time for bravery. Survival becomes paramount at any cost. Deep in the moment I found myself strangely savouring the feelings of old as I thrashed wildly with my feet and hands. However, there was too many of them. My middle-aged body was being forced back due to the sheer number of the attackers. I began to feel that after all this time I had finally met my match. I looked helplessly around me, grateful at least that no one would see me being taken down by these relentless, fearless intruders as they grew ever more aggressive. And then through the stramash of it all she appeared. Like a beautiful goddess rising from a Celtic mist, she appeared. To hand she brought forth her magnificent weapon of which she took aim and blasted them with a force that devastated them entirely. She had no choice. It was them or me.

Our eyes met in such a way that was terrifying yet intimate at the same time. A man knows every look upon his partners face. Every expression is embedded into his memory for life, it is how men learn to read their wives ever changing moods. I saw regret in her eyes as I was accidentally caught in the line of fire, yet a determination to quell the furor made me proud as I saw the terrible beauty light her extraordinary violet eyes. For the first time in her life she had glimpsed into a world of vengeful fury. She had revelled in her moment of power. There could be no turning back for her now. Minutes later as I dried myself off with a large fluffy towel, I relished the fact that the battle was indeed won at the cost of so many at the feminine hands of so few. Her words rebounded off of my still slightly vodka fuddled mind as she rewound the hose to its original place on the large plastic reel. "Remind me to add ant powder to the list next time we visit the market please James."  "Aye hen, I will, that was a wee bit too close for comfort, eh?"

Chefs Surefire Hangover Cure

1 large spoon of honey
1/2lb red grapes
300ml Vodka
12ml fresh lemon
1/2 pint Irn Bru
(no ants)

Blend together on max speed. Strain out the debris. Pour into chilled glass. Drink steadily until pain in temples recedes. Nap gently in hammock until sun reaches the yard arm. Resume position with fresh alcoholic drink in hand. Repeat all of the above until you feel better or are too swallied to care. Enjoy.


Lambs To The Slaughter

For breakfast this morning we sat down to poached eggs and bacon on wheat toast served with black tea laced with something old and gold. Joining us at the table was the local priest. Worry yourselves not, tis no the religious fervour that has come about me since my return. No, it is more a condition of which I had to agree to on the purchase of my property that I must maintain the attached graveyard for those relatives wishing to visit their loved ones. Considering that the last poor sowl was laid to rest here in 1703, I haven't been too troubled by those overburdened with flowers. For those of you who are likely to tiptoe around the subject of churchyards, think for a moment about how I felt when we first looked at the ancient headstones and discovered my own full name on four of the markers. I stopped eating takeaway food for nearly a fortnight with the shock of it all.

Now, I am a busy man, so nipping out twice a week with the oul Flymo to keep the grass from licking the edges of poor missus O'Hoolihan's monolith was never gonnae happen. The little singing fella is always too busy entertaining the living down at the bingo hall to assist me in my quest, while my own brood are too busy keeping me in early retirement by laying bricks and building things because I no longer have the desire to do so. There was only one surefire solution open to me. Sheep! Now sheep are stupid animals, they have a brain the size of an Englishman's penis and tend to shuffle about leaving their droppings where people have to tread. I have good solid wooden floors, sheep shite and wood floors do not good bed-fellows make.

I currently have hens, geese, goats and the odd bedraggled llama to keep the place looking aesthetically pleasing to the untrained eye. Of course you lot are more than aware that I am a city boy at heart and I bought the animals only to justify the Range Rover parked in the driveway. The only animal ever to occupy space in that by the way is a wee ass who lives across in Limerick. Even then we put down newspaper on the upholstery. So the whole idea of purchasing a flock of baa-baa's just to munch the grass was the original plan of attack, they ticked all the right boxes and kept the man of god fae my door for twelve months of the year.

I wasn't surprised when he offered to 'lend' me his own small flock to graze freely in the field enclosure as this would kill two birds with one stone. With hindsight a man of the cloth could have used a better phrase, surely? So much for thou shalt not murder a living thing, eh? So, with the deal done the oul fella drops by once a year for his breakfast, a bottle or two of my private stock and a quick swatch over the wall at the condition of the grass. He doesn't preach to me about his boss, I don't necessarily point out that a couple of his flock disjoint themselves and end up laying in my freezer. After all, is it not said that god helps those who help themselves?

Roast Lamb with Parsnip Mash

1 rack of fresh lamb (about 8 chops)
4-5 parsnips (depending on their size)
8 medium potatoes
Fresh horseradish
Scottish Butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to get things started, then heat up a bit of oil in a heavy pot or frying pan. Brown the rack of lamb for a minute or two on all sides, but for the love of all things tasty do not brown the ends. Transfer to an oven-proof dish and cook for around 20 minutes. Vary the cooking time depending on your personal choice of pink or brown meat, but your thermometer should read 120 when it’s done. Unfortunately the auld wooden barometer that hangs in your hallway will not be sufficient for this dish. (Little singing fella please take note) Next step, de-glaze the pan the lamb was browned in by pouring in a bit of the jus, and then returning this mixture to the pot where the jus is simmering. Remove it from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes while you ponder the outcome of your accompaniment of traditional Celtic mash. I would suggest at least three fingers of single malt and a browse of the newspaper while you mentally prepare yourself for the delights of tonight's dinner idea.

Boil a medium-sized saucepan full of water, peel and roughly slice up the parsnips and the potatoes to prepare for boiling. The snips will take slightly longer to boil than the tatties will, so either place them in the boiling water a few minutes before you put the potatoes in, or cut up the snips into smaller pieces than the spuds. Boil for 10-15 minutes or until the largest pieces are tender enough to stick a fork in. Drain the parsnips and potatoes and transfer to a large glass bowl for mashing. Make as you would normal mash, although with a bit less milk since the parsnips tend to take on more water. Peel some of the skin off the fresh horseradish, and using the fine side of the grater, grate about a tablespoon of horseradish into the mash. You might want more than this, or you might find yourself incapable of achieving the one tablespoon because of the agony to your eyes. Stir thoroughly, add salt and pepper to taste before turning out onto a large rectangular dining plate along with fresh minted peas.


The Gathering

For breakfast that morning I had delicious black coffee and what I thought was a good idea. Serving up 15kg of prime, plump Mallorcan pig  for a ravenous horde of invited family and friends seemed like a grand idea at the time. Then again so did standing up on the way down the giant water slide in front of the weans. I still have the bruises needless to say. It was never going to be easy and since purchasing professional cooking equipment would have insulted our Glaswegian manliness, not to mention being more expensive than the pig itself, a DIY roasting occasion was deemed the suitable answer. An existing, extra-large BBQ was soon converted and knocked up using sticky-back plastic and oul bottles of washing up liquid. A spit and rotating device procured, a few local bricks were located to prop up the spit and the knees of the rotating thingy drilled to the bricks. The spit knees that is, I haven't drilled the other kind for many years. A stainless steel hotplate (roofing membrane) was wheeled out to heat the cooked pork and extra charcoal was placed in the main BBQ. The prepping of the pig wasn't entirely easy, the spit not going in as perfectly as we had planned. Let's be honest here, how many people are skilled in the art of inserting a thick broom like handle up a pigs rear end, eh? Okay... the English gents out there with your hands up, relax, point taken. Quite literally it would seem.

At this particular moment of writing I should also apportion part of the blame for the poor workmanship on the arrival of many members of our elderly Glesca clan as they had seemingly been practising their swally abilities long before they had even left Glasgow airport. Even my usually top notch craftsmanship fell by the wayside and was somewhat to be desired. Don't blame it on sunshine. Don't blame it on moonlight. Don't blame it on good times. Blame it on the whisky. I digress... The pig was brushed inside with sweet paprika, dark rum and sea salt, filled with sweet red onions, scallions, tatties, bell peppers and sage stuffing before being sewn up using the pull cord from my shorts. Clean ones they were, before you start!  A large batch of basting liquid was prepared, with goose fat, lard, calvados, sweet cider and bay leaves. With all fingers tightly crossed for the contraption to hold together, the pig went over the coals an hour behind schedule. The first barrel was tapped and the gathering had officially begun. The spit and turning device were only originally intended for a few chickens to be placed on it, so the 4 hours of waiting for the pig to cook were slightly nervous ones as our family and guests tucked into the tapas and tequila while the wee beastie cooked slowly in front of them.

The basting and the rotating went well despite the groaning turning device that made us all take bets on when it would give out, but it held up and the pig started to look tantalising only a couple of hours into the cooking. Luckily, Siobhan's mammy and her sisters had arrived a few hours earlier than expected on their broomsticks due to the warm air currents circulating directly behind the flight path, so cranking the spit was their gracious contribution to the day while the menfolk got stuck into the swally. Siobhan's brothers arrived late in the day, they had only decided to leave Belfast behind at the last minute due to the fact that they would be getting a free holiday despite actually having to break bread with the totally unsuitable barbarian their sister (the good looking one) had married some years before. Several hours after their arrival we discovered them indoors watching a Spanish documentary on their hero, Oliver Cromwell. We left them to it. You can take the Protestant out of Northern Ireland, but you cannae take the Norn Irn out of the proddy, eh?

Finally, a good few hours into the roasting, the piggy was done. The skin was a wee bit more blackened than envisaged, but the meat inside was beautifully succulent. The flavour of the basting juices and paprika were just noticeable and it was wonderful tasting it as it fell away fae the bone. Roasted meats are a great comfort food to me. They remind me of much leaner times when, as a child growing up in Drumchapel, the mammy trying to feed us all on a meagre budget, used to borrow next doors meat to make our gravy before passing it around the corner to her sister to do the same. Perfectly cooked pork has a supple squishiness to it, the way you do not have to chew but can ease it apart with your tongue as if it were as soft as stewed peaches. Some parts did come out slightly dry, but we all acknowledged that a many-hour long roast is a very difficult things to pull off when you cannot regulate the heat. The crispiness of the fresh salads and lively pasta on offer complimented the delicious meat and huge piles of wonderful foods on the oaken tables were soon reduced as our guests got stuck in. I played the perfect host and pretended I didn't notice that Siobhan kept topping my glass up with alcohol-free lager as I put carving knife to steel and honed a keen edge on the blade.

Ahh, all those heady Friday nights in Glasgow came flooding back...

All in all, everyone had a good time without any squabbling, even though we had more guests than actual beds we still got a smile or two out of the Belfast eejits boys and the craic was indeed mighty. Siobhan's mammy sang a few songs and we kicked up our heels and sang along with her. We had invited a few Spanish friends along, their first time mixing with full blown Glaswegians in fine fettle didn't seem to phase them. Although, I did see trepidation in their eyes when my uncle Tam explained to Señora Herrera that a true Scot wears nothing beneath his kilt. At the age of 76 I can only add that we were also grateful that he didn't raise his hem line and lower the overall tone. There was already enough meat on offer thank you very much. Kudos to everyone involved and though at times the girls felt slightly sad to be cooking an animal similar to my wee pets at home, I think that we did manage to put it's sacrifice to a very good and tasty use. Now, considering that there was over forty hungry people getting stuck in to the piggy, not one soul went hungry and there was still enough delicious leftovers to make up a wee snack for the following day (see below).

For those of you who do not advocate the taking of pork, my apologies, no insults were / are intended. Trust me, if we could have strung up a cow and had a beef roast we would have done it. Maybe next time we have a wee bash, eh? Do keep in mind that it has only been the last decade or so since we natives of dear oul Glasgow ceased the consumption of human flesh. Or so the red top tabloids would have you believe!  Buen provecho!

Porky's Revenge

Extra large roll wraps
3lb fine loose pork
5 large white onions sliced
8 large vine ripened tomato's (chopped)
12 scallions (chopped)
6 Habanero peppers sliced wafer thin
5 red onions finely diced
2 large carrot (grated)
20 fresh button mushrooms (sliced)
4 cloves crushed garlic
1 large thumb of fresh ginger (grated)
A good scoosh of tomato paste
2 tb of soy sauce
1 large handful of fresh garden peas (3 if you have small hands like the little singing fella)
1 heaped tb of cornflour
Paprika and cayenne to taste

Place a wee smidgen of good quality virgin oil in a large wok and place it over a high heat. Stir the pork until brown and sieve thoroughly to remove any grease. Pat it down to ensure that it is free of all fatty deposits then sprinkle with a good pinch of paprika and cayenne. Remove and cover. Add the sliced onions and start to wok fry them turning them over with a slotted spoon all the time. After a couple of minutes add the sliced mushrooms and grated carrot and continue stir frying for a couple more minutes. Next add the garlic, scallions and ginger and allow it to hit the bottom of the wok so it gets a chance to fry a little in the oil. I know that the traditional Spanish method would be to fry the ginger and garlic in the oil from the beginning, but doing it my way works well and allows the flavours of these wonderfully pungent roots to stay more in the forefront of the final taste of the dish. Cook this for a few more minutes while you swally a few glasses of wine.

Add the tomato's, tomato paste, soy sauce and then the peppers and peas. For the love of all things holy, if you are susceptible to excruciating pain then take extreme care not to have too much contact with the divil's own Habanero. The vapours alone will knock out a donkey, so do be careful. Try to keep your donkeys outdoors during the food preparation. Much safer. I am aware this may of course be difficult to do in certain parts of Limerick and a certain wee ass we all know so well. As this bubbles merrily away mix the cornflour with a little water to form a smooth paste and add it to the wok with the meat and mix it through well. The cornflour will thicken it. When the mixture is cooled fill the wraps with the mixture and roll up. Seal the end of the rolls with a little of the cornflour mixed with water. Deep fry until they are crisp and light brown. If you want to make the funky triangle shape that real chefs use in their restaurants then play around until you perfect it. It takes a wee bit of application, but it is worth the effort, especially if you are having guests and want to show off your skills.

Serve up with a crisp salad, plenty of olive oil and a generous helping of mint and lemon juice. A half dozen bottles of chilled white wine will help to put out the flames, but I would also recommend putting a few toilet rolls in the fridge for later on, just in case, eh?