Culture, Food, Food & Wine

Hungry and Thursday – cook around the world

A sallow 17-year-old, I was sent away with a recipe book, and not a clue how to cook – that’s an Irish Mammy for you!

Of course, I was never afraid to seek guidance, knocking on my flatmate’s door to ask how to make an omelette.

When he had his girlfriend around!

Well, you can’t make an omelette without cracking eggs.

I’m still checking out how the experts do it: when the Scary One allows me into her kitchen.

Here are my cookery demos from around the world:IMG_0964

It’s got arms and legs

Pulpo; The driver transporting me from Santiago de Compostella on my Camino would repeat two words on our 100km drive.

Albergo (hostel) and pulpo (octopus) .

Eating pulpo with Galician tomato sauce (not the stuff out of the bottle) sitting on a high stool with a vase of Rioja…


My friends at the Spanish Tourist Board in Dublin took us to Cookery School to show us how it’s done.

It looks like just boiling: something I could master.

Visit CaminoWays and read A pilgrim’s prayer

And obvs salty pulpo was the first dish I ordered in Tenerife with CanariaWays

Where they taught us how to make mojo rojo, a fancy tomato sauce! A walk through the ages… Tenerife.

Ruby’s a gem:

Barbados Okra: Cooking in the Caribbean is a shared experience.

Which is why Ruby enlisted me as her assistant at Club Barbados

To make Barbados Okra.

This is how to do it… heat the butter in a saucepan and sauté onion and garlic until soft and nicely smelly.

Add okra, salt and remaining water. Cook for ten to 15 minutes on low heat or until okra is cooked. 


Of course Ruby had something to say.

Also see and

And here’s my misadventures in Barbados Let’s rumba in Barbados and My kiss with Rihanna.


Pasta masters

Pasta: Catherine Fulvio is Ireland’s pasta master.

And she’s now got me, of course, too whenever she needs some advice at her

Catherine and her kitchen were good enough to teach me how to make my own pasta and more.

When Top Flight, the Italian specialists, brought us along to showcase their new brochure

Italy is a culinary dream and everyone returns with tales of their favourite restaurant and dish.

Mine’s is a risotto ai piselli in Padua… Frescoes

Cooking with Auntie

Curry favour: Or more accurately Uncle…

The uncle in this case being Uncle Kenneth at the Blue Crab restaurant in Scarborough, Tobago http://www.tobagobluecrab.comand

Uncle Kenneth let me help him cook the chicken curry… there’s a big Indian culinary influence on the island.

Auntie Alison was the real entertainer (hilarious) though telling the womenfolk how to keep their men interested.

Auntie Alison was the real entertainment (hilarious) though telling the womenfolk how to keep their men interested.

Here’s a peek, and some of my ramblings on the island made famous by Robinson Crusoe and, er, Ainsley Harriott… ainsley.


How to boil an egg

Egg fried rice: The obvious one. But in the hands of a professional cook, and entertainer, it’s pure comedy.

And on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas they’ll do just that with their open kitchen.

What these guys can do with an egg… we’ll actually hatch a chicken in their chef’s hats.

While starting a singalong.

Visit And here’s a Royal party for you A Royal Party.


Hungry and Thursday – Pasta con Fulvio

The Scary One’s been laid low so I had to make my own meal!

Thank goodness then I’ve got Catherine Fulvio to call on.

At her cookery school up the road in Ballyknocken in Co. Wicklow

With Italian specialists Top Flight

Woah there! David lends there

Food is integral to Italian life with Catherine sharing with us tales of her Sicilian mother-in-law rustling up beautiful dishes when she visited.

From what was lying around the kitchen.

There was a pasta-making machine lying around our table top… the only thing though was we’d have to make the pasta.

Or rather Laura, an Italian on our table, would.

Shredding it

She did, of course, put me to work on the sticky stuff which is kneeding the dough and the egg.

The expert gets it into a nice ball, the amateur (ie. me) wears it on their fingers like a glove.

And that’s even before you learn how to use the pasta-making machine.

Now this one’s really got my brain scrambled (or should that be mangled). And the cup after cup of Prosecco wasn’t helping.

Maggie comes to the rescue

You’ve got to thread the strips through the machine which is kind of difficult when you’re turning the handle in the wrong direction.

And then change the settings on the side to make it thinner.

I could just hear Bruce Forsyth or Larry Grayson guffawing at my efforts (ask your parents).

Maybe I’d be better at the oven-baked Pancella & red pepper Risotto… the only trouble was that I was chopping my celery stalks too thick.

The wooden spoon

And Laura had to take over the garlic cloves because I was going too slowly.

The open Ravioli with Chicken Mushroom Sauce would have been a mush without Kevin’s help.

But I did manage to mix the Amaretto Truffle Torte in its bowl and lick the spatula and the Amaretto.

Time then to make my excuses and leave…

But not before giving you a sample of what Top Flight has to offer in its Italy brochure.

Old Sicily. Photo by Chiara Caldarola on

And in a nod to Catherine and the Sicilians… why not from the Top Flight brochure Taormina.

They are billing Delicious Sicily & Cooking Class as an excursion.

You can stay at the Hotel Ariston. Seven nights B&B two pps, flying from Dublin. From €999 to €1299. Visit

You’ll be near the centre of the old town, ten minutes’ walk to the cable car for the beach (an uphill walk from the resort centre) next to the bus terminal.

And here’s a Dad joke to lighten your day…

Patient, Doctor, I feel like an Italian island.

Doctor: ‘Don’t be Sicily.’


Germany leaves me gratified

One of the greatest national misstereotypes is that the Germans have no sense of humour.

When they have the funniest language in the 6,500 spoken around the world.

I dig it: The tunnel

English can be a hoot too, by the way.

And what is my yardstick?

Well, the rude words you find in the dictionary (schoolboys are the best judge of this I think you’ll find).

And I’m reminded here of when the Son and Heir asked me shortly after we had relocated to Ireland to tell him some dirty words.

I dare say because he didn’t want to be caught out st school.

Wank mountain

Which happens.

I recall being tricked on the bus home when I was asked if I was a homosapien…

To which the 10-year-old Jimmy obviously said ‘No’.

Different times.

Back to the Son and Heir and he could probably teach me some dirty words now.


Now what were we talking about again?

Ah, yes, those funny Germans.

I have been onto them ever since my first trip to Germany, for the Oktoberfest when I was 19, and I returned when I was 20.

I noticed straight off (I have a radar for such things) that they put fahrt at the end of many of their words.

And my eagle eyes honed in on the sign in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria.

Peaking: At the German-Austrian border

Wanktunnel… I didn’t see that coming.

But there it was, a big sign for the erection (warning, there will be plenty of this) of the tunnel.

Which is due to be finished off next year.

Now I did a few mountains on my Topflight trip to Ehrwald, Tirol and Garmische-Partenkirchen.

With Daniela in Ehrwald

I had a Zugspitze, a Berwang… but I didn’t have a Wank.

I don’t know why, I imagine you feel breathless after it.

Its 1780m climb.

Still you can relax at the peak in the Wankhaus.

Now the website is all in German but there are pictures…

Of a beautiful mountain hut where I dare say they boast any number of different-sized, coloured and shaped sausages.

Lie back and think of Germany: In the Coburger Hutte

And serve some meaty treats in the restaurant too.

Now that I’ve got a warning sign for surfing the net for Wank and am anticipating some dodgy emails, I’ll just leave you with this challenge.

Can you find me the Selbstbefriedigung Mountain in Germany?

They find this a lot funnier in Germany than we do their name.

Flushed: Austrian humour

If you like your toilet humour I’ll get to work on loo signs around the world.

But for now here are some Austrian loo thoughts… And


Hungry and Thursday – the worst bar none

Chocolate is better than men because… we’ve all seen those posters and mugs.

But sometimes it goes wrong.

Such as with the branding you sometimes get with sweets and chocolate.

My trip to Bosnia & Herzegovina with Marian Pilgrimages gave so much, an audience with Our Lady in Medjugorje, a history lesson in Sarajevo.

And an insight into the peoples of this region, the crossroads of East and West in the Balkans.

In Medge they are Croatians with the only thing vying for space with Our Lady in the shops Croatian flags and football tops. Medjugorje, what’s your story?

My old mucker from university, Davor, a Croatian-Scot was my first introduction to them.

But I have come to know them better through Croatia Tours on the River Liffey in Dublin…

And joining them before the World Cup final against France for wine and lunch (it was never a penalty!)

Thankfully there was none of the chocolate I found in a petrol station on the way to the airport in Split.

Name blame: Sweets in the Balkans

There’s just no amount of thumbs-up with Victorian dandy that makes this right.

I’m guessing they’re lozenges but I put them back on the shelf.

I can’t imagine for a minute that they meant any harm but…

Then there are those brand gaffes where there’s just been no quality control.

Not what you expect: ISIS chocolate

Such as this chocolate bar in Brussels Airport on my way back from my tour of the World War I Battlefields… In Flanders fields.

With GTI The Group Travel Specialists

Now the sentiment is right and before you think it’s cashing in on the War just remember that chocolate would have been a treat for the Tommies.

No, it’s just the acronym for the people who make it… ISIS!

It’s always an awkward one here, the quality control at TravelTravelTravel.

What to put in and what to leave out.

I think I’m on safe ground here though with this one which is a particular delicacy for Salzburgers.

And it was something that the indomitable Mrs M was particularly taken with…

Mozart’s Balls, or Mozartkugel on a Top Flight skiing trip to Austria… Soll Mates.

Send me the branding that goes wrong..

And in the Travel blog that brings you the best in toilet humour more to add to the annals of…

And Look out for the name of the Bavarian tunnel I never saw coming… coming soon along the tracks.

It would make Our Lady blush!


V for Vegan

No cheap digs here about Vegans… just me flagging up World Vegan Day next month.

Vegans get a bad name when it should be the very opposite.

And like all things which we don’t know we tend to sneer.

Elaine ‘Black Magic’ as I nicknamed her (I gave everyone on our walking trip a mantle as is my way) has her own look.

She wears black, likes piercings and is a vegan.

But she doesn’t shove it down your throat.

In fact the exact opposite. To quote the quietly-spoken and truly warm Black Magic: ‘I’m entering your world.’

Which is why she never kicked up once on our Topflight trip to Ehrwald and Garmisch-Partenkirchen about the food.

And, to be fair, mine host Daniella, did cater admirably for her at the Hotel Sonneburg

Which brings us back to World Vegan Day… which incidentally is on November 1.

With much else on lifestyle California leads the way.

West Hollywood is on point in so many ways so it comes as little surprise that it’s right up there for vegans.

Fine dining

Gracias Madre on Melrose Avenue http://Gracias Madre is the place to go.

It offers 100% organic plant-based Mexican cuisine.

And it’s chic too with hand-woven chairs, wrought-iron fixtures, embroidered fabrics and hanging fabrics.

I found WH one of the most embracing and chilled places I’ve been too.

I promised myself I’d return with our host Kate and my pals Jon, Helen and Heather.

To recreate the Beatles Abbey Road pic… on their rainbow zebra crossing.

Here’s what I thought of WH…

If California is all about fitness and health then here’s another state which I’d pitch as even more Outdoorsy… Colorado.

Where man-banned, tattoo-sleeved men called Brad or Dexter make vegan food at their eateries in the morning, climb a mountain free-style in the afternoon and then white-water raft before it gets dark.

Casual dining

Santana’s Vegan Grill http://Santana’s Vegan Grill is proof that these aren’t people from another planet where things are logical and they have pointy ears.

So we’re looking at the only vegan drive-thru in Colorado Springs.

Which serves up plant-based alternatives for bacon cheeseburgers, hot dogs and buffalo chicken strips. Visit

And here’s how I got on with the hipsters in Colorado… and

Sweet stuff

You want some sweet treats. Well Portland, Oregon where some of us Murty’s live is the place to go.

Doe Donuts Doe Donuts is the city’s first dedicated vegan donut (they spell it without the ‘gh’) shop.

Look out for the house-made strawberry soy milk and a signature chocolate raised doughnut topped with gold pearls, chocolate shavings and ganache.

Portland is also home to the world’s first vegan mini-mall where visitors can enjoy dining, shopping and even vegan tattoos.


Get your skis on – on the slopes

It’s all downhill from here… and tobogganing and snowboarding and ski-jumping.

The snows were gathering on the peaks in Ehrwald in the Austrian Tirol on the last day of my Topflight walking trip last week.

Heralding the changeover when we start planning for the winter.

At the same time Topflight were dropping their winter brochure on my doormat.

Now while the holiday providers obviously go across the board with group ski and family ski as well I’m going to focus for now on first-time skiers.

I’ll zero in on the others in the coming weeks, it’s just that despite first strapping on the skis more than 30 years ago I must confess…

I haven’t come very far from being a first-time skier.

Now the best bit about Topflight is that they’re there to help and cut your costs.

And they don’t want you throwing money at a whole wardrobe of clothes and ski equipment.

Instead they advise you borrow clothes at the start until you know that you’ve got the bug.

I’m with them on that and also on the need for layers, good ski gloves and sunglasses and sunscreen.

Topflight offers a range of resorts for beginners including my old fave Soll where myself and the Scary One fell for each other…

Or was that fell out with each other?

You can read all about it here… Soll Mates.

Knowing that Andorra remains many people’s first ski experience let me look at Arinsal & Pal.

It has 63kms of piste and you’ll be wanting to get a Vallnord_Pal Arinsal pass.

This resort has built a strong reputation for getting newbies on their feet into their bindings and down the slopes.

I’ve picked out the Hotel Sant Gothard with half-board, massage facilities and a lively apres-ski bar and live music.

It’s just 800m from the resort with all its food, drink and entertainment options and 800m from the nearest lift.

The guide price is €729-€1329, based on two sharing and flying from Dublin.

The all-inclusive ski bundles are a good way to go with the first-time skier bundle from €339 for an adult and €160 for a child.

The bundles include six-days standard ski/board and boot hire, five days tuition (three hours a day) and a six-day lift pass.

So get your Topflight Ski & Snowboard brochure.

Try it, you’ll have bundles of fun.



Holidos and don’ts – saunas and hammams

Reini thought nothing of seeing his parents in the nude when he was a kid… after all he was starkers too.

Sorry, before you have to gouge out your eyes and rinse your brain, let me explain.

We were walking the hills and the mountains of Austria and Germany on our Topflight trip to Ehrwald, Tirol and Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

When the conversation got round to the sauna at our hotel

Photo by Breakingpic on

Where I had spent 20 minutes the previous evening in the company of Cork Sean and Cork Mick.

Who had kept their swimming shorts on, as did I.

We’re Scottish and Irish after all.

Put a Cork in it

Reini couldn’t understand though. After all don’t we all come into the world in the nude, he enquired, with his Austrian vertical smile.

Not, British or Irish people I argued.

Still, I am making progress and the following evening I went into the sauna again in the nude and if Cork Sean and Cork Mick had come in and seen me with my Mickey out then so be it.

I had overcome some of my reservations on a previous trip to Soll.

When I went to the sauna and saw everyone else was in the nude so I dispensed with said shorts.

I was blindsided a bit when a bulky Austrian Thirtysomething came in and sat down between me and his girlfriend.

Eyes forward and behave down there.

But at least it did give me the opportunity for a breakfast set-up the following morning.

When the Austrian couple sat down at the table next to us.

Did I have the nerve to say to her within earshot of the Scary One?: ‘Sorry, I didn’t recognise you with your clothes on?’

Go figure.

I love saunas and hammams, one of the best of the latter is in Istanbul where Florence Nightingale, Rudolf Nureyev, John Travolta, Kate Moss and East 17 go when they are in town.

This is what I thought of it all…

And you’ll get a nice cup of sweet, sweet Turkish tea after or if you’re so inclined a glass of Marmaris wine.


Holiday Snaps – Yoga around the world

I’ve just returned from Austria and Germany, as you know, after a Topflight hike around the Tirolian hills, with a 20-strong walking party which included some yogi.

No, not the smarter than the average bear type, but yoga teachers.

And take a bow Red Flash, below, Black Magic and Hot Yoga Hilary. Which, of course, is something that they can do better than the average Me who can’t even touch his toes.

Here were my thoughts on some Austrian food at the time…

I’ll tell you more about this intrepid trio when I share with you my full grown-up review but for now let’s have a look at a yoga retreat in Croatia.

Courtesy of my friends at Travel Department

All you aspiring yogi will be spending your first night in Split on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast where I’ll be landing into God, and your accidental traveller willing, later this month. On my way to Medjugorje.

The remaining four nights of your TD holiday will be at Senses Resort on the relaxing, remote island of Hvar.

Aerial view at Hvar town in Southern Croatia, famous luxury travel destination in Europe, Mediterranean.

You will be based in a secluded resort in the charming village of Vrboska, close to pine forests, pebble beaches and the crystal blue Adriatic Sea.

There will be a total of seven yoga sessions, three every morning and three every evening, as well as a welcome Slow Flow and Guided Meditation.

It’s a stretch

I’m already feeling relaxed.

You will start each day by opening up the body/mind and getting energy flowing from tip to toe.

The morning classes will build to a relatively strong flow class, incorporating breath work and mindfulness throughout.

Evening sessions will focus on a particular section of the body, moving more deeply into it through specifically targeted postures.

And we are assured that all yoga sessions will be led by a yoga teacher from MOONSyoga.

And what’s more a yoga mat will be provided for all yoga sessions. 

Prices are from €829pp including return flights from Dublin, with five nights’ 4* B&B or half-board hotel accommodation.

You will get all your transfers, seven yoga sessions with an expert yoga instructor, daily breakfast and four evening meals. Departing May and October 2020.

For more information or to book, click here or call 01-6371633.

Yoga in Quinta

And I’ll maybe also tell you about the time I passed up World International Yoga Day in India to send a former yoga fan colleague of mine.

But in the meantime here’s a random pic of a couple of colleagues of mine in Quinta da Lago sports complex, The Campus, being stretched by a beautiful yoga teacher.

She got onto me too as you can see in the main pic. And

It’s a hard life!


Holiday Snaps – Save money on Italy

A man goes into the doctor: ‘Doctor, I feel like an Italian island,’ Doctor: ‘Don’t be Sicily.’

Dramatic: Sicily Photo by Mauro Reem-Itchy on

You obviously need more than a morning and afternoon to spend in Sicily but alas that is all we had on our day trip from Malta.

Of course we could easily put that right with award-winning Italian holiday specialIsts Topflight.

Their Italian sale is up and running from today with savings of up to 30%.

There are discounts for the remaining summer season (August – October) on every date across all their featured resorts including on a selection of family holiday options.

There is also a raft of Italian escorted tour experiences on sale.  

Topflight’s Italian Holiday Sale offers holidays from Dublin, Cork & Belfast. It ends at midnight on Thursday, 15th August. 

As a sample, Topflight offers seven days in Sicily on August 24, staying in the 3* Villa Linda (B&B), Giardini Naxos was €871 now €599pps.   

Or leaving on the same day, 4* plus RG Naxos (B&B), Giardini Naxos was €1255 now €869pps

And from Cork why not try out Lake Garda? Seven nights departing August 17 and staying at the 3* plus Hotel Garda Bellevue (H/B) was €1037 now €699pps.


You want more Italy. Here’s how to make the best of Rome.

Dominican followers

Your own beach? Photo by Leonardo Rossatti on

My old work buddy Scott spent his honeymoon on a community centre floor in the Dominican Republic because of the hurricane.

Tropical Sky will ensure you spend your holiday in a 5* hotel at a great price.

They ( / 01 664 9999) have some of the best savings on the market.

With savings of up to €850 per person on seven night stays at Casa de Campo for travel completed by November 6, if booked by August 31.

The offer means that your holiday will cost from €1,509pp.

Among the features are 50% off access to three championship golf courses; 20% off Spa treatments pp.

You’ll have complimentary non-motorised water sports, tennis, horse riding, golf cart and teen-only activities, including billiards tournaments, air hockey and movie nights.

Based on two sharing on all-inclusive basis and including flights from Dublin and transfers.

Licence to chill

Toe the line: Hemingway’s six-toed cats

It’s obligatory as a Scot (and many others) to say that Sean Connery was the best James Bond but I’ve always been different and like my own childhood Bond, Roger Moore.

Pearse Brosnan is the best modern-day Bond while Timothy Dalton is the most underrated. Daniel Craig? Pat!

This year is the 30th anniversary of one of the best Bond films, Dalton’s Licence to Thrill when Bond went rogue.

The opening scene takes place on the Seven Mile Bridge with other segments filmed at Key West International Airport and on Whitehead Street at the Key West Lighthouse and Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum.

Pappa Hemingway is a template for journalists, and not just his adventurous life.

And he was also a cat man.

He had a penchant for polydactyl cats. That’s six-toed cats. Check out the 40-50 polydactyl cats who live on-site.

Tours are priced from $14 (approximately £11.50). visit: and

Aer Lingus flies to Miami. Visit We found a return trip Dublin to Miami from €457.63.

See you in Tenerife

Old fishing boat at the Mirador de El Archipenque. La Gomera island in the distance

I’m counting down the days to my trip to Tenerife in September.

Travel Department has a Tenerife Coast & Cuntry seven-night full-board guided holiday.

Excursions will include a full-day guided tour of the highlights of the island, a trip to the UNESCO World Heritage colonial city of La Laguna and a visit to Mount Teide National Park.

Prices start from €659pp for seven nights including return flights, full-board 4* hotel accommodation, all transfers and fully-guided excursions with an expert local guide, departing regularly from September – November 2019.


The last days of summer

I always associate the Shelbourne Hotel with travel functions and balmy summer nights.

The iconic Dublin hotel are billing their latest package as The Shelbourne Swan Song.

It is a special occasion but you deserve it.

Running from August 18 until September 5 it’s an an overnight stay that includes breakfast and a Summer Spritz cocktail on their new Terrace for €299 for two people sharing.


Slieve Donard’s grand plan

Golden vision: Slieve Donard

You’d think it would be plenty plush enough – Hastings Hotels’ Slieve Donard Resort & Spa in Co. Down.

But they’re making it even better.

Their €1.2m renovation has included a refurb of its kitchen including all new equipment, as well as the redesign of the hotel’s drawing-room.

The final stage of the programme is due to be completed in September when 16 of the Slieve Donard’s luxury bedrooms will be upgraded.

Visit for Slieve Donard and Hastings’ other hotels.

Christmas is coming

He’s getting ready: Santa in Lapland

It’s only 137 days until Christmas and Santa and TUI are getting ready.

TUI will fly you out and back to Lapland on the same day with departures from Dublin on December 7 and 14. 

All guides, visits to Santa and outdoor activities like sledging and snowmobiling are included.

All your thermal wear is included in our winter wonderland too; just bring your normal warm day clothes to wear underneath and you’ll be toasty and warm.

Adult price from €719 and child price from €599. Visit Call 1850 45 35 45 .

And I’m beginning to look a lot like Christmas too. Another opportunity to see what can be done with a green beard and some baubles.

Where are those baubles now?

And look out for a new feature today.