Since coming back from Portugal this summer Cataplana has probably been my favourite dish to make.  It’s so delicious and the kids will eat it!.

In case you don’t know – a Cataplana is a copper ‘clam-like’ cooking vessel hinged on one side that is a traditional cooking vessel in Portugal.  You can of course use a ‘Big Pot’ which is exactly what I will continue to do until someone kindly buys me a Cataplana for my birthday or something!


My favourite version of Cataplana (and there are many varieties) goes like this.

Make up an onion and tomato sauce base with two tins of chopped toms and a couple of onions, plus Bay leaf and garlic (cook for 40 mins or so) add green peppers x2 chopped (obviously) with half a chorizo, about a pound of pork tenderloin, cubed, a couple of ounces of chopped proscuitto and a couple of slices of smoked ham along with a slug or two of chilli sauce to taste (you won’t need any salt in this dish) and a load of white wine.

Then it’s up to you.  Finish off with 200grammes or so of a fish of your chioice.  Smoked Haddock and monkfish are both good, half a dozen king prawns and finally add in the piece de resistance – a bag of mussels or clams, whichever you prefer.  I prefer clams but they’re not to everyone’s taste and they’re fairly pricey.

Add some water so that the whole shooting match steams  and cooks the clams/mussels and Prawns.  Serve immediately with bread to mop up the delicious meaty tomatoey sauce.


berlin.jpg stalingrad.jpg

I read Antony Beevor’s seminal book, Stalingrad, a few years ago and it’s taken me a while to get round to reading Berlin (the Downfall). But I’m currently 100 pages in and loving it. Am I turning into a second world war bore I wonder? I’m not even over 60 yet either!

Beevor has a neat line in ‘Ronsealesque’ book titles but don’t let that fool you into thinking the content is not engrossing, educational, involving and unputdownable.

Both books are fairly technical and you’ll get pretty acquainted to the maps that he uses to demonstrate the various troop movements and battle strategies that come into play, but both are magnificent.

If anyone’s read his others I’d be interested in your views. In particular I might read his Spanish Civil War book one day.

The crossing


I went to a very interesting public meeting last night aimed at widening awareness of the options for a new crossing of the River Forth.  Clearly it’s a political minefileld as representatives of all three major parties (but not the Greens, interestingly) were there, including Fergus Ewing for the SNP.

Three options were aired…

A Causeway.  Very interesting proposition from Bruce Skivvington

A new Bridge. not surprisinglyt put forward by current Bridge Master, Alistair Andrews on behalf of the Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) and

A tunnel.  Proposed by ex Civil Engineer John Carson.  Very much the favoured approach by the majority in the room.  John has an excellent website which I’ve put in my blogroll.  It’s the Forth Tunnel Action Group (ForthTAG) and deserves your support.

Clearly there are pros and cons for all three but for me a bridge is the least convincing argument.

 Whichever wins the day we must put pressure on The Executive to at least make a decision.

Heart in mouth movie moment


“I thought I was going to have a heart attack watching that!” Jeana exclaimed as she emerged from the cinema after this heart in mouth movie. I’m sure many millions of Ugandans at the time of Idi Amin’s sick rule would empathise with that emotion.

The really insightful thing about Kevin MacDonald’s film is how effortlessly he dramatises the seductive charms that so many dictators like Amin impose on their subjects. You almost like Whittaker’s Amin. He’s cheeky, funny, charming – even vulnerable at times.

Power is a very powerful thing. It’s when people get close to that power that their behaviour can be seriously affected. And the depiction of that is what lies at the heart of this great movie.

You just about get as far as thinking that Amin is a more likable character than Dr Garrigan (James McEvoy)- his willingly co-opted personal physician. Just about.

Garrigan is never complicit in any of Amin’s crimes, but the movie brilliantly demonstrates how Amin (played beautifully and Oscar winningly by Forrest Whitaker) corrupts him. His arrogates towards the British Ambassador, his disposal of the rural missionaries he came to Uganda to help in the first place and his sleeping around (even with one of Amin’s wives) are all utterly selfish. And fuelled by his close personal relationship with Amin.

The film winds itself up into a crescendo of violence to the that’s like sitting in the launchpad in Space Mountain (believe me that’s a scary moment).

Thought provoking and authentic, thanks partly to shooting on location and partly due to Whittaker’s performance this is a very good movie indeed.

Latest Viewing

Apart from the sublime ‘Can Gerry Robinson Save The NHS’  (The best thing on TV for a month).  We’ve seen Perfume at the pix (more on that later (but naturally a disappointment as we’d read the book) and Snakes on a Plane which is about snakes…on a plane; and is barry.

Latest listening

Jeana bought me the Tom Waits ‘Orphans (Bawlers, Brawlers and Bastards)’ CD box set for Christmas.  What a long suffering (especially with her current ‘sore-back’ situation) woman she is.

I don’t know if he’s got a ‘Best of’ out yet, but he doesn’t need it because surely this is the first ever ‘Best of’ record purely made up of outtakes and cutting room floor material.


It is better than the critics say it is.  It is peerless.

Three albums.  All completely different.

‘Bawlers’ is his difficult stuff (his late career material).  Tough but good – not easy listening.

‘Brawlers’ is his Asylum Years stuff (unquestionably the only blues singer in the world that I love; and kind of Burlesque too).

‘Bastard’ is mad.  It’s a sort of Frank’s Wild Years’ gone mad.  Insane. 

Oh, what a Smorgasbrod of delight.

Latest reading

I am engrossed in this


A truly remarkable account of hell on earth.  Brilliantly researched and pretty well written.  Very scary indeed.  How would Britian have coped with the Final Solution?  Questions are raised about both France and The Channel Islands who were faced directly with the issue.  Frankly the whole thing beggars belief, but to read such a compelling insight into it is really a very powerful experience.

For fun I am reading this


Louise Welch is a great chartacter writer and loves a bit of seediness.  Bring it on.  Looking forward to the movie of the Cutting Room and this won’t be far behind.