Countries, Europe, Food

Pile in on World Paella Day

For the day that’s in it and because I fear The Scary One is leaving us with ‘heat-ups’ (her word for leftovers) tonight, let’s pile in on World Paella Day.

It’s a date on the calendar I should have marked in her diary alongside our anniversary which was three days ago but didn’t.

So it’s just as well that my old amigi Sara and Kathryn from the Spanish Tourist Board in Dublin flagged it up.

And a wee Rioja: With Sara

By inviting the cream of Irish Travel (I’m confined to barracks just now) out for a big paella.

Which is paella round-grain rice, bajoqueta and tavella (varieties of green beans), rabbit, chicken, sometimes duck, and the lima or butter bean garrofo, cooked in olive oil and chicken broth.

Mellow yellow

Man v Paella: And the paella always wins

With the yellow colour we know and love infused by saffron.

Paella, meaning frying pan in Spanish, has come to be the city and the country’s biggest food export.

But foodies will tell you that the dish derives from Valencia, while historians will point to the Moors from North Africa who introduced rice cultivation.

Paella is of course international now and the Valencians even host a World Paella Cup with the best chefs from around the world.

And thankfully without those ubiquitous ‘celebrity chefs’ we have all come to loathe.

Less Oliver: And more Paellaman

You know the ones who pimp their paellas like mock cockney Jamie Oliver who uses chorizo by Jamie Oliver or the rice, chicken, squid, chorizo ​​and clam version by chef Gordon Ramsay.

OK, I don’t have anything against you putting in whatever the heck you like into the pan to make your paella because after all anything with rice in a paella, or pan, is eh, a paella.

It’s just Oliver’s fake chumminess and Ramsay’s fake fecking puts me off my food.

Although writer Ana Vega ‘Biscayenne’, citing historical references, showed that traditional Valencian paella did indeed include chorizo.

And he exclaimed: ‘Ah Jamie, we’ll have to invite you to the Fallas.’

Paella on the pounds

No need for plates… just dig in

And what we all want to know in these straitened times is can it feed the masses?

Well Valencia restaurateur Juan Galbis claims to have made the world’s largest paella with help from a team of workers on 2 October 2001.

He claims to have fed about 110,000 people and this is even larger than his earlier world-record paella on 8 March 1992, which fed about 100,000 people.

Galbis’ record-breaking 1992 paella is listed in Guinness World Records.

So pile in on World Paella Day, there’s enough for everyone.






Caribbean, Food, Food & Wine

Kabawe Libre in St Lucia

The beauty of the Caribbean is that they all have their own take on island life and we can put our own mark on each which is why we give you Kabawe Libre in St Lucia.

And if that sounds like Cuba Libre then that’s deliberate.

And because the St Lucians hosted me so well on their trade show in Dublin you can have that pitch for free.

Apt really because that’s what Libre is and because the rum flows liberally throughout the West Indies.

When in rum

All shapes and colours: Rum in the Caribbean

Kabawe is the Creole word for Rum Shop.

And the St Lucians value theirs just as much as the birthplace of rum just down the water in Barbados.

Which is why the exotically-named St Lucia Tourism Authority CEO Lorine Charles St Jules is promoting the Kabawe Krawl experience.

Best explained by the woman herself:

“The aim of the Kabawé Krawl is that visitors to our shores experience the unique Bar, Rum, and Culinary adventures in Saint Lucia.

“This will allow for the tourism dollar to be spread through our smaller communities and local hot spots nationally.”

She explained that there was a process.

And that all interested bars will undergo an onboarding process.

Domino dancing

Happy chappies: Dominoes in Barbados

And they will be trained in customer service and safety management.

Of course the first starting point for me would be a bunch of oul’ fellas in the back room.

Slamming down dominoes and stamping down on a floor with sand on it.

And not the type we get in my own homeland of Scotland to mop up the slops.

But authentic grains from the beach outside.

Irie Barbados: With Jevan and Donna

We know what a rum shop should look like from limin’ with the locals in Barbados earlier this year and on previous trips.

And we’re keen to explore our old pal Marc’s new Island Time Rum Tour.

While we’ve been down this trail too with Antigua and Barbuda.

They clued us in on their Beach Bar Trail at that Dubin roadshow.

Best bar none

The best greeting: The Irie Bar

We imagine then that the Kabawe Krawl will follow a similar route which checking out a map of the isle might mean:

Starting in the north at the Irie Bar it has all the features we love…

A bamboo structure with plants, flags, local crafts and fishing elements and reggae.

In the pink: The Pink Papaya

The Pink Papaya at Point Seraphine is another which sells itself on its name…

And its jerk chicken and cocktails on the patio.

A rum, a therapy: The Rum Therapy Bar and Treatment Centre

The Rum Therapy Bar and Treatment Centre echoes Soca star King Bubba’s mantra on life… rum is mi only medicine.

And we’re told that owner Nicole will encourage you to do a little number at the karaoke.

All after you’ve lubricated your throat with her spiced rums.

Now whenever I’m out in the Caribbean I’m briefed by The Scary One to pick sea shells at the seashore.

She sells Seashell: At the Seashell Beach Bar

And The Seashell Beach Bar, the still resort, has the taste of the sea about it.

Jump in (literally) but maybe before your fruits of the sea and rum cocktails.

Drink it in: St Lucia

Finish off at The Hustler’s Beach Bar, a watering hole that looks named for me.

And it has been named in places as the best hideaway ever.

Situated in a very recognisable name place too, Londonderry… and I’m sure the locals will give you its history over a cold one.


America, Countries, Food, Food & Wine

The Streets of Boston

Now I’ve experience of the streets of Boston and the difference a turning can make, albeit 35 years ago.

So when I’d overshot Chinatown in Washington Street yesterday.

And found myself crossing the Mass Turnpike bridge I knew I was off course.

Way to go Shojo

Chop, chop: Shojo

I had been personally waited on by restaurant manager Jim at Shojo on Tyler Street.

And licked my lips and fingers tearing through his Wu-Tang Tiger Style Ribs, Jasmine rice and Japanese Saison Du beer.

And heavy of tummy had decided to take a walk down Memory Lane to my old workplace, the Black Rose, on State Street.

Now the proliferation of Asian spellings and smellings ought to have alerted me that I was on the wrong scent.

The Black Rose

Get on your bike: The Godfrey

So I doubled back, span into a vortex and was suddenly back in 1987.

With the singer, Irish Terry, singing The Dubliners’ standard Fiddler’s Green.

I waited patiently, cradling my Guinness, for the favourite when I tended door and bar here in the Eighties.

And was glad to put bread in his jar for a rendition of Black Velvet Band.

Filled with the best type of fuel I rolled home and let the tiredness of a three-country, 17-hour Aer Lingus journey drift me to sleep.

And dream of days gone and to come on The Streets of Boston.

Before hitting the Streets of Boston again and checking out its famous T trams.

And a tea party.


Countries, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Mum’s bread and butter puds

We put our family’s height down to big meals and steam desserts little knowing the Spanish secret of Mum’s bread and butter puds.

She was doubtless putting sherry into it… with the rest going into her!

Bunny business: Easter is coming

Mum has got lazy in her mid-90s and the best I get now on my visits are digestives or Irish bran cake.

Easter has always been a very personal time for us when the two of us would go back to her homestead in Co. Donegal.

Apart from the one year when we flew to Ibiza, little knowing it was a recce to lure my Dad over for our summer holidays.

A Spanish Easter

Ola Madrid: Fast city

Back to Espana, as so many of us are and this most traditional of Catholic countries really does do Easter.

From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, spectacular Semana Santa parades – including the Cristo de Medinaceli procession on Good Friday – draw huge crowds.

To the exuberantly decorated streets of Madrid.

Another Semana Santa tradition, torrijas are a dish born of frugality.

Pass the Sherry

Listen to the shrink: Frasier

Much like bread and butter pudding or pain perdu, but with an added spike of sherry.

Guests can benefit from 20% off their accommodation.

And those booking an Easter break of two or more nights at The Pavilions Madrid from 8-24 April will enjoy complimentary torrijas awaiting them in their room.

Prices start from €153 (approx. £129) per room per night including breakfast.

Mum’s the word

Raisin d’etre: The bread and butter pudding

Yes while calling something bread and butter has come to mean ordinary, in expert hands it is anything but.

And to think that I have a lifelong gagging reflex to bread and butter but in a raisiny dessert with custard.

And yes, the sherry that makes Mum’s bread and butter puds.


America, Countries, Europe, Food

One’s a pancake and the other’s crepe

So for the day that’s in it a deep dive into why one’s a pancake and the other’s crepe.

The infantile smirking of English-speaking schoolboys at the similarities between human refuse and the continental delicacy aside it’s worth restating.

That pancakes are made with a leavening/raising agent such as baking powder while crepes do not.

Crepes are traditionally made with buckwheat flour.

All of which is just a roundabout way of flagging up this old dosser’s favourite pancake places and the crepe de la crepe of their near cousins.


Minnie break: With Minnie in Orlando

My, oh my, what a beautiful day that was, and is, in the Disney Four Seasons Resort Hotel in Orlando.

When Mickey, Minnie and Goofy bounce into breakfast.

And greet you over the top of the mountain of pancakes you are scaling.

And for snow effects you can go for icing sugar.

I prefer an avalanche of golden lava syrup.

Pancakes on the sea

You’re twisting my melons, man: Get me some pancakes

Flippin ‘eck, those cruise holiday buffets with Celebrity Cruises off Florida.

And the racks of pancakes you just can’t pass over.

Even if you have just hoovered up every cut of meat brought onto the ark.

And don’t be fooled by the fruit in the picture… that’s just for show.

A Dutch too much

Merci bien: The crepes

Now the Amsterdammers often have a special ingredient which lifts their crepes, and you, to a higher plane.

I don’t know what they had on theirs that freezing November day when the-then Miss F took me on a magical mystery tour.

After we found ourselves at a fork in the road and took the long way to Edam only to find it was their half day.

I reckon though I had cheese though maybe it was the sprinkles that made it a high old time in Old Amsterdam.

Nutty about Nutella

Spread it on: Nutella on your crepe

And for many the go-to spread for a crepe is Nutella but did you know that it is from Alba in Piedmont in the north of Italy.

It is, of course, a hazelnut spread but it also has 20 per cent palm oil.

You’re never far from either in Italy particularly when you’re hiking through the Lazio region on your way to Rome.

On your Via Francigena pilgrimage and you get stuck in an olive grove looking for small sticker signposts to La Citta Eterna.

Pancakes and crepes

Sweet: Pour the syrup on

So today being Shrove Tuesday, it is of course about pancakes.

Because that was the day back when we were all holier that you used up your eggs, milk, and sugar before your Lenten fast.

And around the world people will be munching, flipping, racing, getting dressed up and dancing (Mardi Gras in New Orleans).

I can’t vouch how good crepes are for flipping or racing but they are celebrated too on February.

La Chandeleur

Cut to the chase: The pancakes


By the French (you didn’t think we’d get through this without them).

National Crepe Day, or La Chandeleur, is a celebration that originated in the Land of the Gauls.

And it also originated in the Catholic church, landing exactly 40 days after the celebration of Christmas.

So yes, we are celebrating Pancake Tuesday today, but a word too for the not-so-humble crepe.

Yes, one’s a pancake and the other’s crepe.


Africa, America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Food, Ireland

Pie are squared and round

Excuse the grammar but the gag doesn’t work otherwise so on today’s National Pie Day let’s say Pie are squared and round.

And we’ll pick out six pies from around the world.

All because we’re an island here of pie lovers in Britain, and Scots up and down the country have grown up on Scotch pies and beans.

Then long before American fast food pork pies were the go-to snack in England, and not just for ploughmen.

Mr American Pie

Eat your heart out Prue Leith: In Colorado

Apple Pie: National Pie Day was started in the mid-1970s by a nuclear engineer, brewer and teacher (talented man) Charlie Papazian.

It was then that he declared his own birthday, January 23, to be National Pie Day and it took on.

So now fast forward to a Can’t Bake, Won’t Bake visitor to Ginger & Bake in nearby Fort Collins under the watchful eye of the ever-patient Deb.

Say it loud and say it stout

More please: Jamie Oliver’s Steak & Guinness Pie

Beef and Guinness Pie: If you’re like me (and the Irish) and feel that drink is the food of life then read on.

You see this variation on the British steak and ale pie in Ireland naturally is enriched with Guinness and bacon and onions.

And it s on every bar menu in Ireland… and inevitably in the ubiquitous Jamie Oliver’s cookbook.

Custard with that?

Bobotie on the menu: In South Africa

Bobotie pie: It’s a different world in the one-track town of Cradock in the Eastern Cape In South Africa.

That’s where the owner of the Die Tuishuise & Victoria Manor has put on a buffet of Karoo food that fuses easy.

So let me give you Bobotie pie, a curried raisin-infused Shepherd’s Pie with a savoury custard topping.

Pie Irie

Ruby, Ruby, Ruby: Cooking and baking in Barbados

Macaroni pie: And something from the Old World embraced by the new in the Caribbean.

It is known there just as pie or Bajan Pie in Barbados this is island comfort food.

This tubed pasta with creamy cheese sauce is served either as a main dish in Bim.

Or more likely to the side of their favourite chicken and fish. Irie?

Pizza and understanding

Slice of life: Pizza pie

Pizza pie: So when we first got a taste for the Italian staple on this island we would call it pizza pie.

The best pizzas which we know are in Pizza City, Naples.

But a tip here for those who might otherwise be stung dining out near the Spanish Steps or Pantheon in Rome.

Instead pick up the long miniature pezzos from stores scattered through the Eternal City.

Sweet pie

The Key to good living: Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie: Now just as many pies are sweet as are savoury.

And in the land of American pie there are as many variations as there are numbers after 3.14.

But as it’s darn tasty and the Florida Keys are on the radar.

For a long rescheduled road trip it’s Lime Key Pie for me.

And so whatever your pick it’s good to know pie are squared and round and make the world go round.

Countries, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Toasting Veganuary with a Vegan and Tonic.

A popular meme for a vegan’s favourite meal shows a tray of ice but that’s a cheap shot and I’m toasting Veganuary with a Vegan and Tonic.

The Vegan and Tonic is the creation of Fentimans… well, the Indian tonic anyway.

Tonic for the troops: Fentimans

Whether this was the oul Greek Pythagoras’s tipple of choice when he was working out his theorem this shows Veganism isn’t a modern fad.

Ancients’ way of life

Laying out your stall: Kythera

The ancient world is a good place to start.

It’s accepted that they would eat fish, eggs from quails and hens, and cheese but they hoovered up veg too.

Legumes, olives, figs arugula (no, me neither), asparagus, cabbage, carrots and cucumbers.

So it isn’t a big jump to think that Pythagoras who philosophised and expounded about human rights as well as hypotenuses was a vegan.

After all his followers weren’t allowed to wear wool either.

So long before Briton Donald Watson is said to have coined the word in 1944 the ancients were going vegan.

All around the world 

Veggies rule: Turkish Airlines Business Lounge, Istanbul Airport

The Indian Subcontinent has historically been the bedrock of vegetarianism.

With the likes of philosophers Parshavnatha and Mahavira preaching what we would consider to be the vegan life.

We know, of course, too that what the Greeks started the Romans took on and ran with.

And so for every Pythagoras and Plutarch there was an Ovid and Pliny the Younger.

All of which permeates the Med, Aegean, Middle Eastern (note the Arab poet al Ma’ari poet), North African and Subcontinent diets to this day.

Brand new

Veggie heaven: Jordan

Fentimans is the go-to provider and guide for eating, drinking and clothing yourself in Veganism.

And as we all know when you’re drinking you always get the nibbles.

And so you’ll want to try these snacks:

Co-op Bacon Rashers.
McCoy’s Ultimate Sizzling BBQ ChickenUltimate Chargrilled Steak and Peri Peri McCoy’s.
Walkers Prawn Cocktail.
Smokey Bacon Hula Hoops.

Student life

Dig in: Pot noodles

While for students everywhere…

Bombay Bad Boy

Brazilian BBQ Steak 

Chinese Chow Mein 

Piri Piri Chicken 
Beef and Tomato
BBQ Pulled Pork
Jerk Chicken
Sticky Rib
Sweet & Sour
Asian Street Style Japanese Miso Noodle Soup

Wear it well

Packet in: Crispaholic
And, yes, I promised you vegan fashion…
Well, what about the Dr Martens vegan collection they launched in 2011.
Now, I’m not one myself but I know more and more and it’s you I’m thinking of toasting Veganuary with a Vegan and Tonic.

Matthew’s Canaries

Canaries life: With Matthew in Tenerife
And while we’re here let’s give a shout-out here to my old mucker and vegan evangelist Matthew Hirtes from my Tenerife trip.
And Canaries-based Matthew has forgotten more about vegan life in those islands than we’ll ever know.
Thankfully he and the Dreams Abroad team where I was Editor continue to show us a world where veganism has an exalted place.


Caribbean, Countries, Food, Food & Wine, Music

Let the bells parang out for Christmas

Let the bells parang out for Christmas in Trinidad & Tobago and from the Caribbean to the world.

West Indians are all about family and senior members of the community deserve the respect of being called Uncle or Auntie.

And so when you visit Tobago you return with a unique souvenir… no, not the goat you’ve raced.

Feast: The Blue Crab

And in my case that’s Auntie Alison.

Ali and her husband Uncle Kenneth run the Blue Crab restaurant in Scarborough.

And we all got on famously with Kenneth even allowing me to help out cooking the meal, island chicken curry.

Party time: At the Blue Crab

Kenneth and Ali are the ideal double act.

While he cooks she entertains the room with tales of their marriage.

With tips of how she keeps their long marriage fresh…

Culture trip: And Tobago and Irish fusion

She demonstrates how she keeps her knickers in the bottom drawer.

And she even wiggles her behind to show us.

This old girl has the moves and a laugh that fills the room.

Uncle Kenneth: A wizard of food

It’s that kind of spirit which underscores Trinidad and Tobago’s special Christmas parang music.

It’s Soca and South American-infused party music with cheeky end-of-the-pier entendres.

And it’s all the better for having the sun, a beach and a steel band at your back.

Can I help: With Uncle Kenneth

This is how Christmas should be.

Full of laughter, music and full to the belly with Auntie Ali’s Christmas dinner

Countries, Europe, Food, Pilgrimage, UK

World Porridge Day

Someone’s been eating my porridge but I’m no grumpy bear… after all it is World Porridge Day.

The idea is the brainchild of Magnus and Fergus MacFarlane-Barrow.

And it is designed to shine light and raise money for Mary’s Meals.

Mary’s Meals is a real Scottish success as it has helped to raise money for starving children in developing countries.

It has its origins in Argyll on the West Coast of Scotland.

And in Medjugorje in Bosnia & Herzegovina where pilgrims pay homage to Our Lady.

Medge to shout home about

On pilgrimage: Medjugorje

The Mother of God having interrupted a group of children, some of whom had been watching the big basketball game on TV.

The MacFarlane-Barrows were so inspired by Medjugorje and the spirit engendered by Our Lady and the devotees as to take action.

That and the travails of the Balkans people through their renewed conflict turned the brothers’ minds to charitable deeds.

Visitors to Medge will find the Mary’s Meals hut as a centre-point of the village, just up the main street from the church.

What the Butler saw

Answering the call: For Mary’s Meals

You’ll hear the history of the movement, watch Gerard Butler endorse the efforts of the Mary’s Meals helpers and get a feed.

Now my old friends at Mary’s Meals have been in touch this week to flag up who else they have got on board to promote them.

Mother’s Pride: Ferne and Sunday

TOWIE’s Ferne McCann is a star of ITV programme First Time Mum.

And she has taken part in a cooking challenge ahead of today and also brought out a recipe.

Salt of the earth

You put sugar in mine… when it should be salt

Porridge, of course, has been a hearty favourite in these parts and around the world for ever.

Traditionalists (guilty) swear by making your oats with water.

And then serving it with milk and salt.

Although the more sweet-toothed modern diner will add almost anything.

Sweet enough: But if you want to sweeten up your porridge

All of which blinded my eyes as I eyed the blackboard in my cafe when out for my Sunday breakfast.

Of course the best place to have your porridge is Medjugorje.

And, of course, I raised a spoon to World Porridge Day and my pals in Medge from my pilgrimage there with Marian Pilgrimages.



America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Food, UK

World Ice Cream Day

If you’re slurping an ice cream on World Ice Cream Day you’re in good company with King Tang of Shang, Marco Polo, Nero and Ronald Reagan.

With temperatures in the UK the hottest for 45 years ago ice cream vans are doing a roaring business.

China ices

And even Chinese bears love them

Our favourite cool treat dates variously back to ancient China, Greece and Rome.

But it is now a truly global obsession which should be on your to do list when on holiday.

Here’s some of the best to mark World Ice Cream Day:

Made in Japan

Little balls of fun

Mochi ice cream, Japan: And the adventurous among the Olympic athletes in Tokyo will be digging into Mochi.

As we are with Little Moons Creamy Coconut and Passionfruit & Mango mochi desserts, drawing in 45 million TikTok followers.

The Tesco mochi bites are gluten free. You wrap blue-sized balls of gelato in soft mochi dough.


Let’s split: Banana splits

Banana Split, USA: One banana, two banana, three banana, four… the sundae which spawned a cult kids’ TV show and punk anthem.

We owe it all to 23-year-old Pittsburgh pharmacist David Strickler for giving us…

The Banana Split… a scoop of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate nestled between a sliced banana with cream, chopped nuts and a cherry.

And the Pittsburghers have honoured David with a statue and plaque.

Gelato spirit

Ice one

Gelato, Italy: And I know the burning question you’re asking while you burn: how is a gelato different from an ice cream?

I’m indebted here to website Healthline for filling us in… and what I took from them is that there’s more air and milk in a gelato.

Anywhere in Italy is good to eat gelato but I’m channeling my inner Nero in the Eternal City.

Yes, with a tang in it

You’ll want some ice cream for afters

Tang, China: Yes, ice cream with a tang.

Ice cream is said to date back to 200BC (Before Cornettos?) when a milk and rice mixture was frozen by packing it in snow.

Tang, who reigned from 1675-1646, had 94 ice men help to make a dish of buffalo milk, flour and camphor.

Porty time

And you can have yours on top

99, Scotland: And who would have thought our little corner of Scotland gave us the 99.

Our old homestead of Portobello, Edinburgh’s town beach, spawned the 99.

When Stefano Arcari broke a flake and inserted it into the ice cream at his shop in 99 Portobello High Street.

Next year is the centenary of his breaking of flake… just saying!

Reagan’s scoop

Sundaes are on us: Ronnie and Nancy

And as for World Ice Cream Day we have former US President Ronald Reaganj to thank.

The Gipper championed Ice Cream Day in 1984 and it just snowballed after that.