Tuesday, December 21, 2010

COUNTING DOWN! A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND AN EXTRAORDINARLY HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!!
















































Please tell me I’m dreaming! It can’t be THAT time of the year again! Surely not, Shirley! We’ve not had Easter yet, have we? Didn’t we just celebrate New Year’s Eve? I must have slept through my alarm! Does this mean I have to start planning my Christmas fare - again?

“Fare” - a word of various meanings, one of which describes what awaits us just around the corner following a few more sleeps! How come one little word is allowed many meanings? Is that fair? I might charge a fare for a place at my Christmas table, and then I’ll fare well. Will you feel it’s fair if you have to pay a fare to share my festive fare? I have to find a way to pay for the appetising fare, somehow! It’ll be a grand affair, I promise! Charging a fare may not fare well with you, however, if that be the case, I bid you farewell!

I believe I’m offering a fair deal! All’s fair in the fare game, or all fare is fair game!

My Christmas cake is already made. For the past few weeks I’ve pretended that it’s not sitting just over there on my table, its deliciously rich aroma torments me, say and night. It beckons me wickedly when I pass by! Desperately I’m trying to ignore its siren call, and not succumb to temptation. Unconsciously, my hand reaches out for the nearest knife, but I have to sit on it (my hand, not the knife) to stop me from attacking the cake! Oh! Willpower, do not forsake me just yet!

Already the licorice allsorts I bought have gone by the way of all delicious licorice allsorts! They just don’t keep these days, do they? I have to buy more, but I’ll leave that chore until Christmas Eve - to be on the safe side! It’s a sticky situation when I can’t trust myself!

I bought a pair of blinkers to wear each time I venture into IGA between now and Christmas! They were on sale after Melbourne Cup Day! If you run into me at the supermarket and I start neighing, just give me a nudge or a whack on the rump!

No matter how often I tell myself that I’m not going to go overboard on the fabulous fare on offer, my resolve dissolves when I spy the exquisite goodies - hence the need for blinkers!

Fare thee well my co-conspirators! Sweet dreams until Santa's visit - the countdown has begun!

Barbecued Mud Crab: Cut 2x1kg mud crabs into four; crack claws; place quarters in air-tight container with 190ml olive oil, 70ml lemon juice, 4 crushed garlic cloves, 1 sliced red onion, 1tsp chilli flakes, sea salt and freshly-ground pepper; toss to combine; cover. Marinate in fridge 1hr; toss occasionally. Heat barbecue to med-high; cook crab 10-15mins; turn regularly. When cooked sprinkle with lemon-salt: Combine 1tbl sea salt with 1tbl finely-grated lemon zest.

Seafood Salad: Remove and discard heads of 250g baby octopus; rinse well the rest of the baby octopus in saucepan over med-heat briefly. Bring 3/4c white wine to boil with 9 peppercorns and 6 parsley sprigs; add octopus; cook 1-2mins; add 300g peeled green prawns, tails intact and 10 scallops; cook 2-3mins. Remove seafood from liquid; cool in bowl; reserve liquid. Toss 12 oysters through seafood; drizzle with lemon juice, olive oil and 1-2tsp reserved liquid; serve with garlic-rubbed grilled sourdough.

Baked Pickled Pork: Ask your friendly butcher politely to pickle a 3kg rolled joint or leg of pork (give him a few days notice - it’s a cheaper substitute for ham). Put pork into pot with 2 onions, 2 celery stalks, 2 carrots, peppercorns, cloves; add a mixture of water, vinegar and dry mustard just to cover pork; cover pot; bake in 170C oven – 3 hours; turn after 1-1/2hrs. Cool in liquid 1hr; transfer to bowl; put greaseproof paper on top, then a weighted plate; chill until next day.

Walnut Ginger Shortbread: Preheat oven 135C. Cream 340g butter and 150g sugar until pale; add 420g plain flour, pinch salt, 150g very finely-chopped crystallised ginger and 200g very finely-chopped walnuts; mix until just combined; don’t overwork. Roll out to 4mm thick on lightly-floured surface; cut into shapes; place on lined baking trays; bake 15mins; cook without colouring; cool on racks.

Mango Daiquiri: Put 50ml white rum, 2tbs sugar syrup, juice of ½ lime and 2 pureed mango cheeks into shaker with crushed ice; shake well; strain into tall glass.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A BIRD IN THE HAND, ETC., ETC!





























































All the discussion, dissertation, commentary, criticism and banter presently going back, forth,lengthways and sideways over males wearing “budgie smugglers” are downright trite, a mite righteous and quite annoying!

If such arguments arose when I was a teenager, they were easily solved! My girlfriends and I just wouldn’t talk to or mix with guys who didn’t wear Speedos on the beach! It was as simple as that – no discourse necessary! Fellows who didn’t sport “budgie smugglers” we ignored. They were minor blimps on the horizon! Our interest lay elsewhere.

Obviously it meant they weren’t lifesavers, and therefore not worthy of our undivided attention. Such a fellow was of a different breed. He was the one portrayed as the “Before” in the Charles Atlas Exercise Programme advertisements!

When we frolicked along the golden beaches of Mooloolaba, Alexandra Headlands and Noosa Heads in our “itsy-bitsy, teeny weeny yellow polka-dot bikinis”; when we body-surfed while counting in wait to hitch a ride on the seventh wave, we knew our safety was in the capable hands of the lifesavers, all of whom confidently wore the now unfairly much-maligned “budgie smugglers”! The bronzed lifesavers were not only our heroes, but our friends, as well!

My brother was a Noosa lifesaver, as was my first husband. Both wore their “budgie smugglers” proudly and unashamedly, as did their fellow club members. None of them would be seen dead catching a wave, rowing the surf boat or parading in a March Past in anything less, or anything more!

Sure…such attire didn’t allow room for a packed lunch or wallet storage, but the Surf Club and the pub upon the hill offered meals, and surfing was no charge!

“Budgie smugglers” were first designed in 1960, and were a hit immediately. They are a functional garment, and shouldn’t be turned into something controversial or embarrassing, nor should they be feared!

Naturally, it goes without saying that there are some bodies that should never be allowed out on public display wearing “budgie smugglers”! Cast your eyes sideways, look upwards to the heavens, or run for cover if it’s your bad luck to stumble across such frightening, tasteless spectres!

Heavenly Quail: Crush 1tbl coriander root, 5 whole white peppercorns and 2 garlic cloves in a mortar & pestle; add 4tbls palm sugar and 3tbls soy sauce; transfer to plate. Lightly crush 2tbls coriander seeds. Open 2 quail along spine; leave legs and wings intact; take out rib cage bones. Rub coriander root mix over quail. Press quail into soy mixture. Crust quail with crushed coriander seeds; rest in fridge for 3hrs.Deep fry quail 5mins. Cut in half.

Place on plate; serve with Sauce: Finely chop 1 small chilli, 20 basil leaves, 1 garlic clove and ½ bunch coriander leaves; add juice of 1 lime and a little peanut oil.

Apricot Quail: Sauce: Heat 1/2c apricot jam, 1/4c finely-chopped dried apricots, 1/4c dry white wine, 1tbls honey and 1tsp Worcestershire sauce over low heat; stir until jam melts; set aside. Heat oven - 200C. Wrap a bacon rasher around each of 6 quails; place, breast side up, an1-inch apart on rack in roasting pan; roast, uncovered 30mins.

Brush generously with sauce; roast a further 15-20mins. Serve quail with remaining heated sauce.

Lemon-Roasted Quail: Cu down backbone only of 3 quail and “spread-eagle” the bird. Marinade: Combine 1/2tsp salt, 1/2tsp cracked pepper, 1tsp tamarind sauce, 1/2tsp fish sauce, 2tsp peanut oil, 1tsp honey or maple syrup, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1 finely-chopped spring onion and 1 stalk lemongrass, finely-chopped.

Rub quail inside and out with marinade; refrigerate 24-30hrs. Bring to room temperature before cooking. Preheat oven 180C. Place par-boiled potato segments into roasting pan with some oil; don’t season; put in oven. Heat frying pan; add a little butter and oil; heat until smoky; place quail in pan one at a time, skin side up; brown 1min either side; transfer quails to the roasting pan holding the potato segments; cook in oven 20-25mins.

Rest quail 10-15mins. Serve with potato wedges, steamed Asian greens and lemon wedges.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

"F" IS FOR EFFORT!











































Effort: noun. Strenuous exertion: display of power: something accomplished involving concentration or special activity.

Frequently on rainy, frosty mornings snuggled warmly in bed under my feather doona, I forestall rising. I have to exert an excessive effort to extract myself from its fold!

I have a weakness – “Only one!” I hear you declare flabbergasted! At times I flounder at holding my tongue. I fail to bite it or foreclose its flourish when in the presence of some folk. In my favour, most times I force myself to grin and bear it!

I do experience embarrassing times when it’s an effort to keep a straight face! It happens at the most inappropriate times and places! What is a “straight face”? Faces are made up of protuberances, curves and slopes! By the time we “keep our tongue in our cheek”; “keep our chin (or chins) up”; try not to “lose face” or “keep a stiff upper lip”, one’s face would certainly be very animated and active! It would definitely take an effort to keep it “straight”!

Fostering and forging friendships should never be an effort, nor should it be an effort to be pleasant. However, as mentioned above there are some who make it hard for one to be forever felicitous!

We’ve all fidgeted and feigned attention when forced to attend boring seminars! We’ve wrestled to listen to never-ending laborious speakers. Those times we’ve found ourselves furiously fighting our feral eyelids in faltering attempts to fend off falling asleep! Those efforts, fervently directed at keeping said eyelids open are usually fruitlessly feeble! The well-meaning/self-indulgent emissions of the orator are wasted upon our otherwise occupied feverish, fitful selves!

Christmas is fast approaching! A few amongst us shall be in a flap when confronted with that other “F-word”- “family”! If forced to become a fellow- participant in such a frazzled family festivity/fiasco, attempt to forage all efforts to keep a lid on festering feelings of angst created by past fracture-causing misconceptions or fetishes, whether they be one’s own fault or the fault of others (mostly it’s “the fault of others” - they’re the ones fraught with foibles who are failures at making an “effort”)!

Don’t fret! No need to fabricate - there are many favourable “F-words” - like “fun” and “food”, for instance!

Fortunately, you can have your fill of both!

It’s no folly or fallacy!

Fennel Seed Dip: Beat 1/2tsp fennel seeds and 1c softened cream cheese together; add 1c sour cream; blend in 1/4c minced onion, salt, pepper and 1tsp paprika; cover; chill.

Falafel Burgers: Put 1/4c fine dry breadcrumbs in dish; set aside. Process 450g can rinsed, drained chickpeas, 1/2c chopped onion, 2 garlic cloves and 1tsp cumin until coarsely ground; add 2tbls plain flour and 1/4c chopped parsley. Shape mixture into 4 patties: brush with milk; coat in breadcrumbs. In nonstick pan, cook patties in hot oil over med-heat, 8-10mins or until lightly browned. To serve; Cut pita breads in half horizontally; fill halves with patties, cucumber and tomato slices; drizzle with Ranch dressing.

Feta-Prawn Linguine: In pan, heat 2tbls olive oil over med-heat. Add 500g prawns, 5 minced garlic cloves, 2tbls chopped shallots, 1/2c red capsicum strips, cracked black pepper, pinch of dried chilli and 1tbl dry white wine; cook 5mins; remove prawns; set aside. Cook 2 chopped tomatoes with 1tsp oregano and 2tsp torn fresh basil in wine mixture for 10mins. Cook 450g linguine until al dente; drain; toss hot pasta with prawns and sauce; add 180g crumbled feta.

Farmhouse Honey Fruit Cake: Cream 175g butter, 175g honey and zest of 1 lemon until light and fluffy; gradually add 3 lightly-beaten eggs; fold in 2c wholemeal flour, 2tsp baking powder and 1tsp mixed spice. Stir in 300g mixed fruit, 50g chopped dried apricots and 25g ground almonds. Pour into greased, lined 20cm cake pan; make slight hollow in centre; arrange blanched almonds around edge; bake in preheated 160C oven 2-2.5hrs; cool in pan 10mins before turning out.

Fine & Dandy Cocktail: Over ice, shake 1 dash Bitters, ½ nip Triple Sec, juice of ¼ lemon and 1.5 nips gin; strain into cocktail glass; decorate with a cherry – fabulous!

Friday, August 06, 2010

WHAT CAME FIRST – THE MOLECULE, THE ATOM, THE EGG OR ADAM?


“MasterChef” kitchen doors are bolted. The curtains are drawn. Its blinds are shuttered for another year. The freezers have defrosted; its refrigerators de-chilled. Overworked gas ranges are switched off; cluttered stainless steel benches bare and cleaned to glistening new again; the oil and food-splattered floor, swept and mopped. The pantry, finally devoid of stock, takes a breather before the next influx of contenders.

Matt dispatched his cravats to the dry cleaner, and, in the meantime, has joined Jenny Craig. Gary and George were last seen riding off on the red scooter to “The Press Club” for dinner! Elvis has left the building - and we’re left with a gap in our television viewing!

Like millions of others, once again I became engrossed in the show. Night after night I experienced jaw-dropping moments and edge-of-the-seat panic as the clock mercilessly ticked away, considering no one. I growled in frustration when Callum let the custard boil over and burn; couldn’t believe my eyes and cringed at Aaron’s scone-making efforts; laughed along with Alvin’s humorous comments (he’d make a fortunate marketing his white-rimmed glasses); empathised with the tears and disappointments; shook my head at the “accident-waiting-to-happen” Jake. He shouldn’t be allowed near a knife - ever! I shuddered every time I saw him pick up a knife or tried to shuck an oyster! And he wants to open a seafood stall (or has done so, I read somewhere)! That's a worry!

I felt the pride of achievement and the thrill of the challenge. A lot of what this year’s contestants had to produce the majority of us wouldn’t even dream of attempting in our home kitchens, me included! However, it was interesting to learn about molecular gastronomy. I felt it an honour to watch one of the geniuses of that method, Heston Blumenthal, the self-taught chef and owner of “The Fat Duck”. I can imagine how the contestants felt being in his presence. Jonathan’s reaction with a smile as wide as the Great Australian Bight said it all! “The Fat Duck” is a three-Michelin star restaurant in Berkshire. It was voted the Best Restaurant in the World in 2005, followed by the Best Restaurant in the UK in 2007 and 2009 – not bad for a cook! Many of the best cooks aren’t chefs! Two excellent examples are the iconic Maggie Beer and Stephanie Alexander!

Scotch Eggs with Hot Relish: Relish: Heat 1tbl olive oil in saucepan; add ½ red capsicum, finely chopped, 1 finely chopped small onion and garlic; cook until soft, not brown; add 400g diced canned tomatoes, 1tbl Worcestershire sauce, 1tbl tomato sauce, splash of Tabasco, 1/2tsp marjoram, 1tbl wholegrain mustard, 2tsp brown sugar; season; bring to boil; reduce heat; simmer 30mins or until thick. Scotch Eggs: To 650g minced pork or chicken, add 1tbl each chopped parsley and sage, 2tsp tomato paste, salt and pepper. Divide mixture into 6; dry 6 hard-boiled eggs with paper towels; roll in a little flour; with floured hands, flatten sausage meat into a round; place an egg in centre of each round; wrap meat around it; shape neatly. Lightly coat eggs with flour; dip into beaten eggs; roll in Panko breadcrumbs. Heat oil in deep pan; fry eggs, 10-15mins; drain well; cut in half; serve with relish. Egg Curry: Heat 3tbs oil; fry 1tbl grated ginger, 3 chopped garlic cloves, 2 chopped onions and 3 chopped tomatoes, 10mins; add 1tsp chilli, 1/2tsp turmeric; season; fry 5mins. Add 1c beaten yoghurt; bring to boil; reduce heat. Add 6 boiled eggs and 1tsp Garam Masala: cook until thick. Snow Eggs: Bring 2-1/2c milk to boil with 1 vanilla bean plus seeds and 6 ground green cardamom pods; stop heat; cover; infuse 30mins; filter; discard pods and vanilla bean; reheat to simmer. Separate 4 eggs; beat whites with a pinch of salt until almost firm; add 2tbls fine light brown sugar; beat 1min; drop large spoonfuls into simmering milk. Poach on each side 1min; remove; place on paper towel; set aside. Beat yolks with 1/2c light brown sugar until light and white in colour. Slowly pour in the warm milk, stirring; transfer to pot again; heat on med-low heat; stir constantly with wooden spoon until thick; don’t boil. Pour into serving goblets; cool; refrigerate; serve snow eggs on top; sprinkle with chopped, unsalted pistachios; top with spun sugar (if you want to fiddle about making it)! Lee George

Friday, July 09, 2010

HEARTS OF DARKNESS



















In South Africa a child is raped every three minutes and AIDS continues to spread with epidemic ferocity.

http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2010/s2913893.htm


It was with disgust and much anger I read a story in today’s magazine “QWeekend” which is issued with Saturday’s “Courier Mail”. The article was headed “Hearts of Darkness”…and I can assure you the subject matter is very, very dark…and very, very tragic.

Tears streamed down my face as I read the article – not only tears of sorrow, but also tears of sheer anger and frustration. For God’s sake, this is 2010 we are living in and such atrocities are still going on with no signs of abatement!

Today I feel very guilty because I watched our Socceroos play their couple of games in the 2010 World Cup competition being played in South Africa. I should have known better! I was going to watch the final between Spain and The Netherlands, Monday morning, our time. I was quite prepared to be awake at 4 am to watch the final, but I won’t be doing so now in respect for all those innocent young children who have been raped, and continue being raped.

I’m not a fan of soccer, anyway! It’s a stupid game, made even more stupid by those idiotic vuvuzelas annoying the shit out of everyone! “Dumb and Dumber” personified!

The thought that amongst the spectators are evil perpetrators of these horrific crimes; these crimes of great magnitude make my stomach turn. I’d be a hypocrite if I watched the final. In some way it would be as if I condoned the actions of these bastards!

If you really want to know how I feel about them….if I had my way, I wouldn’t be erecting sports’ stadiums….I’d be lining the bastards up in front of a firing squad! Is that clear enough?

It’s beyond my understanding why South Africa was allowed to host the World Cup! They spend billions of dollars building sporting arenas etc., and yet they can’t fix this horrendous problem.

"Children have no voice. That's also why you'll still see the crime called "child molestation" instead of rape. Many people have a difficult time imagining a child being raped, but that's exactly what it is. Activists like Carol Bower claim the government is effectively complicit in these crimes. Quote: "We have a great deal of misogyny in government and, from what we can see by the lack of ANC investment in clinics and training programmes for a new generation of rape counsellors, a profound lack of will to tackle this nightmare head-on" End Quote.

She points to the personal life of South African President Jacob Zuma, a proud polygamist with five known wives who was acquitted of rape in 2006, but only after he acknowledged having unprotected sex with the HIV-positive daughter of a family friend. Zuma's remarks about women, sex and Zulu culture caused controversy and there were ugly scenes outside the courtroom, with his supporters setting fire to pictures of the women involved."

Another woman outside the courtroom during that trial was stoned because she was mistakenly thought to be the victim!!!!!!!!!

‘Tis a strange world we live in, Master Jack!!!!!!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

CH...CH…CH…CHANGES!








































David Bowie sang about it, and achieved it, time and time again. A leopard won’t do it, no matter what. Some say it’s inevitable. Others say we should welcome it. Many don’t want it, and would rather stick in the mud.

There’s nothing wrong with change if it’s in the right direction,” mused Winston Churchill.

And then, Lao Tzu came up with one that was a bit of a conundrum just to confuse us (pun intended…did you get it?)- Quote: “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading”! This one makes me scratch my head! What if where you’re heading IS the right direction? Did he consider that scenario?

And, of course, old Benjamin Franklin had to put the kybosh on everything by thoughtlessly sprouting – “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished!” Didn’t he ever read “The Power of Positive Thinking”?

Freud changed our attitudes towards the family couch.

Jung came along shortly thereafter to alter what we thought of Freud’s changes by consciously advising us how to unconsciously change our dreams.

Dylan reckoned the times were a-changing; we all listened intently and began to change our minds about a lot of things.

The Who were determined to change when they belted out “Won’t Get Fooled Again”!

Boyz ll Men fought against change when they discovered “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday”! So did the Kinks because they went “All Day and All of the Night” without a change in the beat!

Cream wanted to change colour so they entered the “White Room”!

The Rolling Stones achieved complete “Satisfaction”, so obviously they didn’t want to change. The Doors suffered from the winter chill and asked us to light their fire!

Some think change is as good as a holiday, but that not always the case. Some holidays can be failures!

Is the key to change hanging off my key ring, I wonder?

Does one really change? I mean....deep within...does one change within? I don't think so. We grow - we mature - we learn as we walk life's path, but our inner self remains the same. I know mine has. I can't and won't speak for others.

Is the Wind of Change one’s destiny or just seasonal?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

IT’S A MEATY ISSUE, BUT IT’S THE OFFAL TRUTH!


































The other day I had a cheerful chat with our local butcher up here on the mountain. That’s nothing new - I love butchers! They are a special, unique breed of humans.

When I took over the management of the resort on Hinchinbrook Island all the resort’s goods came from either Brisbane or Townsville. It didn’t require too many brains to realise that situation to be illogical and inconvenient. Being a keen supporter of local businesses, I approached the traders in the sleepy township of Cardwell across the waters from the island with the suggestion I purchase the resort’s livery from them. My idea was welcomed with open arms.

From the butcher to the hardware store, to the supermarket and all others in between, they were more than willing to oblige; happily promising to supply me with everything I needed, from paint brushes to kidney beans! To everyone’s mutual satisfaction, structures were quickly set into place. It was a two-way street (or waterway)! Cardwell benefited from the deal. In return, the townsfolk willingly spread the “good word” about the resort, so the resort reaped the rewards from “word of mouth” as many visitors followed the Yellow Brick Road from Cardwell across Missionary Bay to the island. It was a convenient and fruitful arrangement for all parties concerned.

The Cardwell butcher who gave exemplary service even at a moment’s notice was all heart. I’ve found that to be true of our butcher up here on the hill, too. A number of times I’ve asked for something special, or for them to attend to a special chore for me. Not once have they hesitated or let me down, ever willing to bend over backwards with continuous smiles on their faces. How do they do that? Butchers are so flexible! They could be competition gymnasts!

All it takes is a little commonsense….the more we shop locally, the more prices can be held at bay or lowered! That’s better than a kick in the kidneys - simple mathematics really! It’s tripe to think the grass is greener elsewhere!

I know a lot of folk don't like offal - they think its awful.....but the following recipes are for those who think offal is awfully nice....and that's the offal truth!


Tripe Italianne: Cut 1.5kg boiled tripe into thin strips. Put 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped carrot, 1 stick celery, chopped and 1-2 finely-chopped garlic cloves into pan; add 30g butter; fry well; add 2tbls extra virgin olive oil and tripe. When golden, add 500g chopped, peeled tomatoes, chopped basil and chopped spring onion; season. Reduce sauce over low heat; sprinkle with parmesan; serve with cannellini beans.

Crispy Sweetbreads: Soak 450g sweetbreads 2 hours in cold water; drain; place in saucepan; cover with fresh water; add 1tsp salt. Slowly bring to boil; drain. Remove membrane without tearing sweetbreads. Rinse pan; add sweetbreads, crumbled chicken stock cube and water to cover; simmer gently 15-20mins until tender. Drain; chill. Cut large sweetbreads in half at an angle, leaving smaller ones whole; coat in beaten egg; roll in fresh breadcrumbs. Melt butter in pan; fry sweetbreads gently until browned. Serve with bacon and lemon wedges.

Sweetbreads with Mushrooms: Soak 700g sweetbreads in cold water 4 hours; change water often. Place in a pan of water; slowly bring to boil; boil 2mins; drain; pat dry; remove membrane; cut crosswise into slices. Melt 2tbls butter in pan; add 1 chopped onion and 225g button mushrooms; cook until tender. Add 2tbls butter to pan; add sweetbreads; sauté 5mins. Add 100ml brandy; heat; ignite; cook gently 10mins. Combine 3/4c cream with 2 beaten egg yolks; add some hot pan juices to egg mixture; return to pan; add onions/mushrooms; heat gently; do not boil; season.

Middle Eastern Brains: Soak 4 sets lamb brains in water with 2tsp vinegar 1 hour; rinse; cut into large pieces; sauté 3 crushed garlic cloves in 1/4c olive oil; add 1 can drained tomatoes, 2tbls chopped parsley, 2tbls chopped coriander, 1tsp paprika, pinch cayenne, 1tsp cumin, pepper, salt and 1tbl lemon juice; cook gently 15mins; add brains; cook 10-15mins.

Kidneys in Port: Cut 6-8 sheep kidneys into 4; remove gristle; toss in seasoned flour. Fry gently in butter with a little chopped onion and a few sliced mushrooms; cook 5mins. Add 1/4c beef stock, 1/2c port; season to taste. Bring to boil; reduce; add a 1/3c cream; cook until thickened.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS – With a Nod to Ms Andrews














































Balmy spring showers laying dust as they pass; the intoxicating scent of freshly cut grass on crisp, clear morns; succulent buds proudly adorning tall trees as patiently they await their debut at summer’s dawning; thistledown clouds caressing cobalt skies; shimmering cream sand thresholds to aquamarine oceans are some of my favourite things!

Rainy days; moonlit nights; a forest eclipsed by an eerie, misty veil; an iridescent rainbow with its fanciful promise of a pot of gold at its elusive end; the contagious mirth of jocular kookaburras; the unique warbling of a magpie; the cheeky mimicry of butcher-birds!

And then there’s Gregory, my favourite nephew who invests time to telephone me regularly, even if to persistently torment me with tales of his prowess at prawn abduction, mud crab-napping and fish filchering! He’s fully aware they’re my favourite edibles! Just as well I’ve got a sense of humour!

The aroma of onions frying - that’ll draw crowds from afar! When living in Noosa, I was advised by a wise old sage to always fry onions in my shop around lunch time - it wasn’t a fashion boutique, by the way! Being one to heed advice from wise old sages, I was mindful of my mentor’s sagacious counsel! Frantic Pinocchio-nosed crowds laid siege upon my shop wildly demonstrating, demanding food! “Give ‘em cake!” Marie-Antoinette declared! The people hankered for more than cake, Marie-A! Ummm…they did salaciously devour my carrot-pineapple cakes, though!

My favourite things? I have many favourite things, most of which are simplistic and cost little. My two cats, books, particularly my Oxford dictionary and Roget’s Thesaurus, television (I'm not too proud to admit it) and computer head my list!

Here are a few of my favourite meals.


Beer-Battered Fish ‘n Chips: Preheat oven 200°C. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Cut 2 large, unpeeled potatoes into wedges. Place wedges on tray. Drizzle with olive oil; season - (sprinkle with paprika, if desired....or other spices/herbs of choice). Cook in oven, turning occasionally, for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Place 1-1/2c S.R flour in a bowl. Add 1 egg; stir to combine. Gradually whisk in 375g chilled lager until batter is smooth; season. Cover; place in the fridge for 30mins. Add vegetable oil to a large saucepan to reach a depth of 8cm. Heat to 190°C over high heat (when oil is ready a cube of bread will turn golden brown in 10 seconds). Dust 4 fish fillets with flour; - dip 2 pieces of fish, 1 at a time, into batter to coat; drain off excess. Deep-fry for 3-4 minutes until golden brown and cooked. Transfer to plate lined with paper towel. Repeat with remaining fish and batter, reheating oil between batches. Serve with potato wedges.

Lemon-Garlic Squid: Grab 450g cleaned squid, reserve tentacles; cut body section into ½-inch rings; wash under cold running water; pat dry. Place squid in a shallow dish; add reserved tentacles. Squeeze over juice of 1 lemon; toss; stand about 5mins; drain squid in colander; shake to remove excess liquid. Heat 75ml olive oil in a large frying pan/wok; add 3-4 finely chopped garlic cloves and grated lemon zest; cook very slowly as it comes up to heat. When it is really hot, add squid; sauté in the hot oil, keeping it on the move so it just slightly takes on colour at the edges – it will only take about 1-2 minutes to cook; season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and 2tbls chopped Italian parsley; serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Veal/Chicken/Pork Schnitzel: Lightly beat 3 eggs. To 1c quality breadcrumbs, add 1/2c parmesan and 1tbls finely chopped sage; set aside. Coat 8 schnitzels with flour; dip into egg, then breadcrumbs. Heat 2tbls olive oil and 1tbl butter over mod-heat in frying pan; add 4 schnitzels; cook 1-2mins each side; remove; keep warm; add more oil and butter; cook remaining schnitzels; serve with lemon wedges or Paprika-Sour Cream Sauce: Dice 4 bacon rashers; fry until crisp; add 2tbls chopped onion; brown; season with salt, pepper and 1tbl paprika; stir in 1c sour cream and 2tbls tomato paste; cook wide, flat noodles; serve sauce over noodles with schnitzels.

P.S. Acrylic painting done by me.

Monday, May 03, 2010

k_d_lang-Hallelujah-Full.mov





Fortunately, that clown Bert Newton's faulty commentary has been wiped of this viewing of k d Lang's brilliant performance at Sunday night's Logie Awards....she is superb and I'm not too proud to admit that every time I watch her perform Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", she brings tears to my eyes and leaves me in awe of her performance and amazing talent. Cohen has said that Lang's version is his favourite of all versions of his song...and I can understand why. As Tony Bennett stated...."she is a singer's singer".

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did and do.

I couldn't believe my eyes/ears when Newton twice incorrectly said that Lang "performed the song at the Montreal 2010 Olympics"! Why he wasn't corrected, beats me. This man is way, way past his use-by date, and I really don't understand why we have to be continuously tormented by his face on our television screens!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

ALL TOGETHER NOW - LET’S DO THE HOKEY-POKEY!




































Nowadays, one has to be a contortionist to survive.

Constantly we’re told we have to “buckle up”; “knuckle down”; “tighten your belt”; “put on the brakes”; ”bounce right back”; “toe the line”; “keep your head down”; (or “pull it in”), “brace yourself”; “bite the bullet”; “keep your eye on the ball”; “keep your chin up”; “keep your nose to the grindstone”; “pull your socks up”; “put your best foot forward” (I don’t know which is my best foot – they both look much the same to me and appear to do similar jobs); “broaden your horizons”; “keep your head above water”; “sink or swim”; “take a deep breath; “exhale” (I wish they’d make up their minds!); “don’t jump into the deep end”; “think twice before you leap”.

Personally, I prefer to think more than twice before taking a leap!

If we attempted to do all the above tasks, we’d have no time to spare, not to mention the total confusion trying to follow so many commands! Perhaps it’d be better to go out on a limb and play it by ear! Or it would be best to twiddle our thumbs to decide if it’s thumbs up or thumbs down while taking one step forward and ten back; all the time rolling our eyes, raising our eyebrows and shrugging! Of course, we could spin in one spot and go nowhere!

It’s important to remember, however; if you can’t jump that pesky hurdle, go around it, or dig a hole and crawl under it! Whew! Now we need a nap, but before you go, here are some budget-friendly ideas to chew on.

Cajun Beans: Cut 2 bacon rashers into ½-inch pieces; cook until brown; drain: set aside. To pan, add 1 chopped onion, 2 chopped celery stalks, 1 chopped capsicum, 1 zucchini, diced, 2 chopped garlic cloves, 2tsps Cajun seasoning, pinch of cumin, 1/2tsp thyme; season. Cook 10-12mins, stirring occasionally. Add 2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained; cook 10mins. Stir in 2-1/2c cooked kidney beans and 1-1/2c of bean cooking water (or canned beans) and the bacon. Cook 3-5mins. Serve over brown rice.

Macaroni Tuna-Cheese: Cook 250g macaroni until tender, drain; rinse. Melt 4tbls butter in saucepan; add 2 chopped onions and 1 small chopped capsicum; sauté over low heat 3-4mins, until tender. Add 2tbls plain flour, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until smooth and bubbly. Add 1c milk and 1 can of mushroom soup; stir over low heat until smooth and thickened. Add cooked drained macaroni, 250g canned tuna, drained, 1/2c thawed frozen peas and 1/2c grated cheese to sauce mixture, stirring constantly. Pour the mixture into buttered casserole; top with grated cheese and some buttered, soft bread crumbs; bake at 175C about 40mins.

Chicken in Puff Pastry: Cook 4 bacon rashers until crisp; drain; crumble; set aside. Drain pan; don’t wipe out. Add 1tbl olive oil to pan; add 3 boneless, cubed chicken thighs and 1/2c chopped onion. Cook together until chicken is no longer pink. Remove with slotted spoon to a bowl. Add 125g softened cream cheese and bacon to chicken; mix well; add some chopped fresh herbs. Cut a sheet of thawed puff pastry into 4x6-inch squares. Divide chicken between squares; fold in half. Seal edges; press with fork. Place on baking tray; brush with beaten egg. Bake in preheated 200C oven 20-25mins.

French Onion Pork: Slash edges of 4 pork loin chops. In pan fry 2 chopped bacon rashers until crisp; drain. Add a little oil to pan brown chops; transfer to plate. To pan, add 2 sliced onions, 1tspn Italian herbs; season. Cook 10mins. Sprinkle 1tbl plain flour into pan, cook, stirring 1min. Add 3/4c chicken stock; bring to boil, stirring and scraping. Return bacon, chops and juices to pan, turn chops to coat. Cover, reduce heat; simmer until cooked. Stir in 1tsp cider vinegar.

Seven-Layer Casserole: Layer thinly-sliced potatoes, carrots and onions in buttered casserole. Sprinkle 1/2c uncooked long-grain rice over vegetables. Add 2 undrained cans of peas; arrange 500g pork sausages over peas. Dilute 1 can tomato soup with water; pour over sausage; season. Cover; cook in 175C oven, 1 hour – then uncovered a further hour.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

IN HONOUR OF OUR BRAVE DIGGERS - PAST AND PRESENT



































It’s beyond my comprehension the gung-ho behaviour that's displayed by certain elements of our society. I’m constantly disgusted and angered by the violence and lack of respect perpetrated by some sections of today’s youth; despicable, intolerable actions that are insults to human intelligence. I have momentary flashes of optimism, but these disappear rapidly when I hear another report of a shameless, cowardly act.

If it was within my power, my punishment for these louts would be to send them off for a long weekend to Afghanistan to stand beside our troops, and if they re-offend, I’d send them off again for a week-long stay! And if they’re eager for more…a month! If these numbskulls are so keen to fight they should walk in the boots of our fine men and women who have fought in past wars, and of those who are still representing this county on today’s battlefields! Perhaps then they’d fully understand what fighting is all about! Instead of being two-pot screamers or bar-room cowboys they might learn the value of life; their own and that of others.

Thousands upon thousands of our brave Diggers have given their lives, and thousands upon thousands of others have forfeited their souls for their fellow Aussies to have the right to stand tall and be free; strong, proud men and women whose deeds and memories deserve much more from us all…the clowns especially! These brainless cowards who roam our streets bashing, robbing and worse have no idea of the true meaning of “standing by your mate”!

One of the most sobering and emotive times in my life was the day I visited the Bomana War Cemetery, Port Moresby on PNG’s Remembrance Day, 23rd July, 1987. On their way to Afghanistan, perhaps a visit could be organised for the morons who terrorise innocent others. They could also be given a guided tour of the Kokoda Trail! That would surely get rid of their pent up angst and ignorance!

Can You Hear Australia's Heroes Marching? Lest we forget – lest we forget!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

THAR'S GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS!

































There’s an amusing story tied up in the title, however, until I get to know you better it shall remain untold! Suffice to say that because of the misguided politically-correct world in which we dwell these days it would go down like a lead balloon or worse! Sexual harassments cases would be rife if one was so inclined! More the pity when something innocent and fun can be contorted into something evil and defamatory. Speaking of “gold”; time spent reading is golden.

As children growing up in the gold town of Gympie, my brother and I were encouraged to read, receiving books as gifts for birthdays, Christmas and times in between. Also, our fertile, impressionable imaginations were nurtured by our Nana whose fascinating tales of her “golden olden days” growing up in the Gympie area kept us enthralled night after night. There’s a lot of history emanating from Gympie.

This morning I was struck by a bug...a violent bug! I started cleaning out the drawers of my computer desk and those of a nearby chest of drawers. Boy! I'm a hoarder of paper; paper with many notations upon it! So far I've managed to fill five bags full of rubbish!

However, on going through my many jottings and other bits and pieces, I came upon "The Beadle", a little Gympie newsletter published in February, 1918! "The Beadle", apparently, was published by the Gympie Presbyterian Church. Reading it, I came across the following:

"We regret to record the death of Mr. Robert Hose, who was killed in the Scottish Gympie Mine (gold mine...at the time acclaimed to be the biggest in the southern hemisphere) by the fall of a rock. He was buried on the 24th, the Rev. W.J. Taylor officiated.

Mr. Hose was just over 50 years of age, and within a few days would have left the mine to take up land at Goomboorian."


Said Robert Hose was my great-grandfather. He usually didn't work underground but that particular day he was covering for another workmate who had called in sick.

Reading an article a short while ago I learned that Tom Bath, the grandfather of Clarissa Dickson Wright, one of the famous “Two Fat Ladies” was born in Gympie. “Bath Terrace” in Gympie was obviously named after him, a fact of which I was unaware.

Judy Cornwell who played Daisy, Hyacinth’s daggy sister in “Keeping Up Appearances” came from the Gold Town. I knew Judy’s brother, Max quite well when he and I were members of the Gympie Drama Group. Their father, Barry was a writer with the “Gympie Times”. And, of course, I come from Gympie…there has to be something golden in that, don’t you think? No? Okay…perhaps that’s a load of bullion!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

THROUGH ROSE-COLOURED GLASSES....








































Who wants a pink world, anyway? I, for one, don’t!

The other day a wild thought rattled the door to my mind. Out of curiousity I reacted to the summons, of course! What would happen, thought I, if I put my glasses on upside down? Would all around me be inverted? Naturally, I tried! Hey! Presto! Regretfully, I report everything remains the same! Well, it was worth trying – you never know until you try! Nothing else requiring my attention was on my schedule at the time!

One must never assume that all is what it appears to be. One should never be so presumptuous! Think about it - until my experiment and revelation you might never have known! It could have been otherwise, and you would have missed out in a lot of fun if it had been other than what it is! Stop scoffing! You could’ve been marvelling instead, if my experiment had proven successful!
You should be commending my convoluted musterings; a laborious labyrinth that works in intricate, mysterious ways; and that I dare to dip my toes in where others fear to tread!

I proffer no shame or embarrassment when revealing the methods by which I keep myself amused while whiling away my days! In contrast, my evanescent musings would vanish in a vacuum; my non-resident truant thoughts hidden in a void, eclipsed by an obscure veil of slothful inertia! An uninhabited mind depleted of thoughts is like a freighter with non-existent cargo or a deserted island with an absentee Robinson Crusoe; vacated by Friday, as well!

Friday Tuna Quickie: Preheat oven 190C. Roll and shape 1sheet puff pastry to fit quiche dish. Defrost and drain 1 packet frozen spinach. Place 2-3 eggs, 1/2c cream and 1/2c milk in bowl; mix well; add 425g well-drained, canned tuna, 100g grated cheese, salt and pepper. Pour into pastry; bake 35-45mins.

Friday Night Spaghetti: Process 2 garlic cloves and 2tbls Italian parsley with salt in processor. Cook 500g spaghetti. Heat 2tbls olive oil in pan; stir in garlic-parsley mix and 2tbls diced onion; cook about 3mins; don’t brown; blend in a little chicken stock; reduce to nil; stir in 2 drained, rinsed canned anchovies and 1tbl tomato paste together with 1/3c chicken stock; stir over heat 1min. Blend in 1 can drained tuna in oil; season. If it needs more stock, add a little to moisten bottom of pan. Toss in drained pasta, 2 more tablespoons diced onion, 1/3c coarsely chopped black olives, and 1tbl drained capers. Toss over medium heat a few minutes to thoroughly coat the spaghetti with sauce.

Mini Meatloaves: Preheat oven to 190ºC. Lightly spray a 12 capacity muffin tin with oil. Line each muffin hole with bacon slices so bacon hangs over the sides. Place 500g mince, 1 minced garlic clove, 2tsps chopped ginger, 1tbl Worcestershire sauce, 1tbl rosemary, salt and pepper, 1c breadcrumbs, 1c frozen peas, 1c chopped parsley and 2 lightly beaten eggs in a bowl; mix well. Press on top of bacon then fold bacon over to enclose. Place in oven; bake 25-30 minutes. Refrigerate until needed, if serving cold with salad.

Chicken a La Friday: Heat oil in pan; cook 2 chicken breasts, cut into chunks with 1 chopped garlic clove and 1 chopped onion until chicken is cooked through. Season with 2tsp ground ginger, chilli, 1/2tsp each cinnamon, turmeric, cumin and white pepper; set heat to medium. Mix in 250g canned, chopped tomatoes and 4tbls chicken stock; simmer; stir in 2tbl slivered almonds. Stir in 4tbls each cream and yoghurt; cook gently 2 to 4mins; serve on rice.

TGIF Egg Pita Pizzas: Preheat the oven to 180C. Place pitas onto 2 oven trays. Spread with bottled pasta sauce; arrange shaved ham, drained pineapple pieces and grated tasty cheese onto pitas; leave an 8cm round space in centre. Break an egg into centre of each pizza; bake15mins, until eggs have set and base is crispy.

TGIF Cocktail: Blend 1/2oz each Frangelico, Baileys and white Crème de Cacao with 2oz cranberry or strawberry sauce, 2 scoops vanilla ice cream and 1/2c crushed ice; blend until smooth: pour into tall glasses; garnish with aerosol whip and finely chopped pecans.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

EGGSELLENT! I’M SO EGGSITED! YOU KNOW EGGSACTLY WHAT I MEAN!



























My goodness! I blinked! I just couldn’t control my errant eyelids! Honestly, I tried to harness them! Truly, I did!

Easter is already here...well, almost! It’s entirely my fault because I blinked! Vent your anger now! Rid yourself of the ire within! Go on! I can handle it! However, you’ll soon forgive me once you get stuck into your cache of chocolate! I won’t notice your tantrum, anyway! I’m too busy laying out a trail for the Easter Bunny to follow. Also, I’m constructing a few nests just in case the Easter Bird remembers me from days of old and decides to fly in for a swift visit! When we were kids it was the Easter Bird who laid the luscious eggs and deposited them to my brother and me. The Easter Bunny didn’t exist in our household.

By the way, I apologise (not really) to all you pedantic folk out there whom I may upset with my following words. I can’t quite wrap my head (or mouth) around an Easter Bilby. The bilby just doesn’t fit into my whole scheme of Easter feastings. I think it’s taking eco-political correctness a little too far over and beyond the rabbit-proof fence!

(I suppose it’s not in good taste to put rabbit on the menu for Easter Sunday lunch!}

The Easter Bunny isn’t a modern creation. He’s been hopping around since the pagan festival of Eostre (y’oster), the great Germanic/Teutonic Mother Goddess of Fertility. Perhaps that’s why bunnies breed like rabbits or vice versa! But, of course, way back in Eostre’s day it wasn’t the rabbit that was so highly revered – it was the lowly hare! So when Easter Sunday dawns, look out your back or front windows - side ones, too, for that matter. Steal a moment of reflective gratitude. Doff your garden hats at our most humble, regular visitor who has no idea when Easter is, least of all, the role he plays in it. Each day rolls into the other as far as he’s concerned. He needs no calendar. From now on, I’m going to conduct daily searches under the rhubarb and in my vegetable patch. Maybe I’ll find chocolate eggs there every day of the year. Wow! Just ponder that thought! Hares abound up here on the mountain!

As legend goes, my brother and I weren’t too far off the mark with the Easter Bird.

The tale is that Eostre was late in coming once. A child found a bird close to death. She went to Eostre for help. The Goddess turned the wounded bird into a snow hare, which then brought rainbow eggs.

Ancient cultures decorated eggs in celebration of spring as far away as 3000 years ago, or further. The word “Easter” was adopted by the Christian religion much later. The Goddess of Spring and Dawn or Our Mother God was in the form of a bird - ‘twas she who created the Great Egg!

No males (or rabbits, hares or bilbies) figured at that point in time!

What a peaceful, harmonious world it must have been! Oops! Sorry, you menfolk out there! I got a bit eggcited at the image! The myths and sutras from that time are all feminine! I could rave on forever about this one! The bra-burning ladies of the Seventies’ revolution were right - God is a woman, after all!

My fridge remains the safe sanctuary for my Lindt bunny from a couple of Easters past. There he sits; secure in the knowledge that he and I are lifelong friends. He has nought to fear from me!

Be like him - stay safe and enjoy your Easter!

Seeing that rabbit is off my Easter menu, I’m now even looking quizzically at the chicken!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

HERE'S A CLUE! TAKE A HINT!














Will people ever start accepting responsibility for their own actions? It’s disheartening, but “probably never” is the realistic answer!

Reading a “Hints and Money-Saving” article the other day, I had a little grumble (as opposed to my many major grumbles). One bright spark wrote in saying that years ago toothpaste companies made the holes in the toothpaste tubes smaller, whereas these days the holes are larger forcing the consumer to use more! What a lot of hogwash - or tooth-wash! When cleaning my teeth, I’m the only one squeezing the tube, which places me in charge of my individual destiny, and of the amount of toothpaste that oozes onto my toothbrush!

There are many, too many, who find it much easier to blame others if something breaks or goes wrong. Will some never cease passing the buck?

Many parents hand parenting onto teachers. If their child falls behind in class or misbehaves in the schoolyard, it’s the fault of the teacher or the education system.

If a car thief is being chased by police, it’s the fault of the police if the criminal (and yes, folks, car theft is a criminal action) crashes the stolen vehicle. If the political correct “do-gooder-civil-libertarians” jumping up and down waving their arms around and sprouting hot air get their way, soon they, the thieves will have free rein to do whatever they like! It’ll be legal to steal a vehicle! Ummm...I do need a new car!

After the recent Chilean earthquake tsunami warnings were issued. Fortunately, no tsunami eventuated on our shores or elsewhere; instead, those who issued the warnings copped the lashing! If no warnings had been issued and a tsunami hit all hell would’ve broken loose! It’s a case of “damned if you do - damned if you don’t”! That "between a rock and a hard place" does get over-crowded at times.

People have to be accountable for their own actions; for behaviour that causes harm and/or distress to others!

In the home, parents must teach their children well; teach their young to face their responsibilities from an early age; to own up when in the wrong; to face the consequences.

Stop casting blame like the sun casts shadows! When did commonsense go out of fashion? Can anyone tell me?

(The "Alice" theme in this post and my previous is purely coincidental, although some people do appear to live in their own "Wonderland"!)

Friday, March 19, 2010

FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN!














Forsaking discretion in a previous post, openly I disclosed the theft of my heart by Insp. Morse. Henceforth, I’ve put him aside and moved on to other pastures. Please don’t reprimand my fickle, flirty vagabond heart. After all, to be a cougar is fashionable these days!

Morse shall forever remain dear and near, but one rainy day in February Insp.Thomas (Tommy, to his friends) Lynley, eighth Earl of Asherton entered my life. The tall, handsome, blonde-haired, brown-eyed Lord has barely left my side since! He’s a prisoner in my covetous grasp! Kudos to our mountain library! Over the past weeks I’ve fallen under the spell of author Elizabeth George’s brilliant tomes. Sadly, only a couple of volumes of the Lynley sagas remain to be engorged by me. I rue the day I turn the final page of the final book! The thought of releasing my beloved Tommy makes me shudder!

Falling in love (or is it mere infatuation?) with fictionalized characters is not uniquely a weakness of the young. An ancient like me can become a witless victim, as well! Mr. Darcy is not the sole protagonist capable of setting one’s mollient heart a-fluttering! You find me a real live Earl of Asherton (or Darcy), and we’ll discuss the matter further – okay? Until then, please keep your opinion to yourself!

Have you noticed as you grow older the mirror becomes heartlessly less kind to you?

Upon reflection, one would think that after years of gazing into each other’s eyes, and, on the surface, after all the diligent polishing of the relationship, the situation would be otherwise! Years of familiarity and close inspection make no difference whatsoever! The saying “familiarity breeds contempt” appears to be true in this instance; on both sides of the looking glass!

As my mirrors grow older and crankier, and my pace increases when passing one, I’ll continue to hitch a ride on the turning pages. Therein, my true love, or loves lay! I won’t find him (or them - I’m greedy) walking the aisle of the supermarket! Or could I?

Another painting by me for a niece's little girls...painted and presented late 2009.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

WITH A SHILLELAGH UNDER ME ARM AND A TWINKLE IN ME EYE!



















I’ll be off to Tipperary in the morning; although, hopefully not on this train:

“Incomprehensibly, the last coach of the train to Tipperary kept getting vandalised. Paddy, the porter came up with a bright idea. "Why don't we just leave the last coach off?"

The Irish are a resilient mob! Not only are they able to take the mickey out of themselves, but they take little, if any, offence at being the brunt of the myriad jokes at their expense.

It’d be a dull old world without the Irish! Without the Irish, we’d be sadly lacking in jokes for one thing! (Where would I be? My gene tree is a blend of Irish and Scottish – not denim as you thought)!

I’ve sorted through my mass collection of Celtic music; polished my dancing shoes to a mirror sheen in readiness for a dose of “Riverdance” to get my heart a-pumping and feet a-tapping; spruced up my Donegal tweed jacket, and sent a text to my leprechaun mate! And I’ve just remembered I have an LP of bagpipe music somewhere! Did you know the Irish invented the bagpipes, and then they gave them to the Scots as a joke? The Scots haven’t seen the joke, yet!

As for St. Patrick – it’s legendary that he chased the snakes out of Ireland, but what the Irish don’t tell us is that St. Pat was the only one who saw the snakes!!! I wonder what he’d been drinking! I’ll hazard a guess by saying too much Guinness or Bushmills! The tenacious Irish are a lyrical mob, poetic by nature, musical by instinct; inherently comical!

"Mulligan gets on a bus and asks the conductor how long the trip is between Limerick to Cork. "About 2 hours," says the conductor. "Okay," says the Mulligan, "then how long is the trip between Cork to Limerick?" The irate conductor answers gruffly, "It's still about 2 hours! Why'd ya think there'd be a difference?" "Well," says Mulligan, "It's only a week between Christmas and New Year's, but it's a helluva long time between New Year's to Christmas!"

“Molly followed her husband to the pub. Taking a sip of his pint of Guinness, she said, "How can you come here and drink that awful stuff?" "See!!" Shamus cried, "And you always said I was out enjoying meself!"


If you’re lucky enough to be Irish – you’re lucky enough! May your troubles be as few and as far apart as my grandmother’s teeth!

Irish Stew: Grab some meat; some potatoes and lots of Guinness. Drink the stout; forget about the stew.

St. Patrick Day Guinness Cupcakes with Expresso Topping

Makes 24 cupcakes: Prep: 25 minutes Cook: 28 minutes

For cupcakes:
½ cup unsalted butter
360ml Guinness
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups plain flour
2 cups granulated sugar
¾ c. natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
1 ¼ tsp. baking soda
¾ cup sour cream
3 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 175C. Fill two 12-count muffin pans with paper baking cups.

2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, Guinness and vanilla. Stir occasionally until butter is melted. Pour into a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes.

3. In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, gradually combine with the Guinness mixture in three additions. Beat in the sour cream, then beat in the eggs one by one.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling each cup about three-quarters full. Bake for 22 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Leave in the pan to cool for 5 minutes; finish cooling on a wire rack. Frost when cooled completely.

For frosting:
3 cups icing sugar
1/3 cup butter, cut into cubes and softened
1 ½ tsp. instant espresso coffee, dissolved in 3 tbs. water

1. In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter with an electric mixer on low speed to combine. Pour in the espresso mixture and continue beating on medium-high until frosting is smooth and creamy. If frosting is too thick, add water a couple drops at a time to reach desired consistency. Makes enough for 24 cupcakes or an 8-9 inch two-layer cake.

Monday, March 08, 2010

THE RHYTHM OF LIFE IS A POWERFUL BEAT!















We’ve all experienced an embarrassing moment or three. I admit I’ve gone over my quota! Far too many inglorious disasters to list!

You know those episodes –you’re as red as a beetroot, standing on one leg amongst a group of people! You’re posturing on one leg because your other foot is placed securely in your mouth! With eyes bulging, it’s quite a balancing act, particularly if you’ve got a drink in one hand and a canapė in the other, with no where to hide! Where is that rock when you desperately need it? Moments of major embarrassment when we feel sure that we could glow in the dark!

Humans are colourful beings. We are creatures of many hues, and I’m not referring to race. Homo sapiens can be green with envy; purple with rage; cowardly yellow. Some are black and white; some are grey; and others blue! Many are brown as berries; tanned as leather (or orange from artificial tanning gone wrong)! And, at times, flushed more than that porcelain bowl in the bathroom! The human palette is a kaleidoscopic spectrum greater than the variegations of a rainbow!

Mingled with our mosaic patchwork, we seethe, simmer, boil, rage, rant, laugh and cry, interspersed with periods of calm, peace, empathy, love and mellowness. We humans are a potpourri of ever-changing, mobile ingredients. We go white from shock; ashen with sorrow; scarlet in shame; blush crimson at flattery. When we want to become invisible, we can’t; but we can become transparent when lying – or become dim when unable to understand the punch-line of a joke or when attempting to decipher a mathematical equation!

On top of all of those talents, we’re also adept at making spectacles of ourselves.

What a feat - it’s hard to beat!

Painting by me - for a niece's new baby girl!

Monday, March 01, 2010

THE SIXTIES ON MY MIND! WHAT A DAY FOR A DAYDREAM


































To me there has always been something incredibly seductive about restaurant kitchens. I fell under their spell many years ago. Seduced by the unique aroma of cold rooms and glistening stainless steel bench tops; the heat emanating from sturdy ranges, simmering hot pots filled with mysterious ingredients and slippery oil-splattered floors, I knew I had to be part of that weird, wonderful world. I was alive! Like Niagara Falls, my adrenalin copiously flowed! I was charmed, intrigued and captivated! I’m sure many would question my sanity, but don’t worry, I’ve been insane for years so save your time!

After a few years of dangerous manoeuvering one adopts a unique kitchen gait, one that’s even more contagious than the Hokey-Pokey! Without it, danger lurks in every step and corner!

Akin to curtains rising upon a stage show, the doors of the restaurant open, and the show begins! Eager diners stream in, and their orders take over the kitchen, staring at you from spikes above the ranges…the spell is broken in a blink! It’s all systems go! If you don’t have all the preparation done, the restaurant may as well remain closed. All hell will break loose otherwise! You’ll be so behind the eight-ball, you’ll never catch up. Disaster lies in ambush! One’s focus must remain unbroken until the last meal is served. It’s a very stressful, but rewarding job - one not for the faint-hearted.

These days I prefer a leisurely lunch spent with a good friend like the one I had over the weekend here at my personal dining table, or the one I shared at same friend’s home a couple of weeks ago. Both were lots of fun, just kicking back over a wine or two, simple, but excellent food, while being entertained by music from the Sixties, causing much reflection on the days of our youth – a time of mental growth; a time of taking both tentative and brash steps towards discovering our respective place in life. The Sixties were a magical mystery tour!

I’m glad I was part of it all – and can remember that I was!

To quote Bob Dylan: “People today are still living off the table scraps of the Sixties. They are still being passed around -- the music and the ideas.”

Friday, February 26, 2010

A FEW PORKIES!


























Presently a delicious-looking piece of shoulder pork sits patiently in my refrigerator defrosting in readiness for roasting, and impatiently, I sit here drooling over the thought of its end outcome.

My appetite already whetted and tormented, I have a desperate desire to share my torment with you.

Every time I open my fridge door I'm confronted by the glorious piece of meat sitting there tempting and tormenting me, waiting to be altered to a culinary delight! Perhaps I should stop opening my fridge door so I don't succumb too early to its blatant enticement. Like a seductive siren, it beckons me forth! I can’t wait to get my teeth around its crisp, golden crackling!

It's constant presence reminds me of a particular episode when I was living on Newry Island, north-east of Mackay. Upon taking over the island (I sound like a pirate, don't I?)I discovered a couple of very large legs of pork, together with some frozen, cooked mud crabs in the freezer. Not knowing how long they'd been in the freezer, and not willing to take a chance on their longevity, I decided to discard them.

Not one to litter, I pondered the situation over a chilled beer as I decided their fate. Digging a monstrous hole was one option. Another was to throw them into the ocean. Adopting the latter option, with the sun departing the western sky, I tossed the frozen consignment into the bay, knowing they’d eventually be carried out to sea where they'd become fodder for the abundant sea creatures. Earth to earth, dust to dust, food to the fishes of the great blue yonder!

Ignorantly, I discounted the fact that the first incoming tide during the night would return my bountiful donation to shore!

Early next morning, I heard the sound of a boat motor. Rushing down the beach to greet my unexpected visitors, with a group of island guests hot pursuit, you can imagine my panic and embarrassment when I spotted, gaily bobbing up and down on the gently rippling waves in front of me the errant legs of pork and bright orange, cooked mud crabs!

As I jumped about waist-deep in water with a pole in one hand trying to hold down the rampant crustaceans and pork and my other arm flailing in a frantic attempt to drown the returned reprobates out of the way of prying, inquisitive eyes, a little boy yelled out excitedly;

“Look Mum! Mud crabs! Lots and lots of mud crabs!”

“Yeah,” I replied, dementedly. “I’m lucky. They come already cooked here!”


Balsamic Roast Pork:

Preheat oven 180C; season 1.5kg boneless pork loin with freshly ground black pepper. Heat a large pan to smoking point; add meat; seal on all sides for 3-4mins until golden brown. Transfer to roasting dish. In pan, melt 50g unsalted butter; add 2 red onions, cut into 8 wedges and 15g fresh, chopped rosemary. Sauté for 5mins until onion has softened. Tip into the roasting tin; pour over 125ml balsamic vinegar. Make sure the pork is well coated. Place in oven; cook for 40-45mins, stirring onions occasionally and basting the pork. 40mins before pork is ready add 6 small green apples, halved and pour over another 125ml balsamic vinegar. When apples are tender and pork is cooked, remove pork from roasting tin; allow to stand 10mins before carving. Place apples in serving dish; cover and keep warm until read to serve. Stir some dry white wine into roasting juices; simmer 3-4mins over medium heat. Serve with pork and apples.

Roast Pork Loin with Horseradish Crust:

Preheat oven 220C. In heavy skillet, cook 1c fresh breadcrumbs in 1tbl olive oil, salt and pepper over medium heat until golden. Transfer bread crumbs to a bowl; toss well with 2tbls bottled horseradish. Pat 2kg piece boneless loin pork dry; season with salt and pepper. In skillet heat 1tbl oil over moderately high heat until hot, but not smoking; brown pork on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer pork to a shallow baking pan. In a small bowl, mix 1.5tbls each Dijon mustard and mayonnaise; coat top and sides of pork evenly with mixture. Press bread crumb mixture evenly onto mustard; roast pork in middle of oven 25-30mins (if bread crumbs begin to get too browned, arrange a sheet of foil loosely over pork). Transfer pork to a cutting board; let stand 5 minutes.

Lemon Pork Scallopini:

Brush 2 pork scallopini on both sides with 1/4c Italian dressing; season with lemon pepper; set aside. Mix together 1/3c each plain flour and grated Parmesan cheese on shallow plate. Coat pork generously; shake off excess. Heat 1-2tbls butter and a dash or two of lemon juice in large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Quickly cook scallopini, about 3 minutes per side. Serve with garlic mashed potatoes, buttered broccoli spears, sliced tomatoes with blue cheese vinaigrette.

Monday, February 22, 2010

FEAR AND LOATHING ON HINCHINBROOK ISLAND!















Living and working on an island paradise was a dream come true. After taking care of the daily whims and requirements of the resort guests (and my staff), I’d escape to my haven, my little house positioned at the end of the track leading up to Cape Richards on Hinchinbrook Island. Without lifting my head off my pillows, each morning I woke to commanding views of the ocean and islands beyond. My house, distanced from the guest accommodation, the restaurant and staff quarters, offered well-earned privacy at the end of my days; days that commenced as the sun made its first dazzling bow on dawn's horizon. Regularly, the curtains drew towards a close on my nights around midnight, and many, many times much later.

At the start of the track leading to my home, hidden amongst trees, stood a cabin that housed the resort’s chief maintenance man, Ted. A “man’s man”, Ted was a 'true-blue' Aussie bloke. He was a man of few words. I was a woman, and his boss, and because of that I knew, from the beginning of our working relationship that subtlety would be required if I wanted to gain his trust, respect and loyalty. I never questioned Ted regarding his duties. I had total faith in his abilities. At the end of his working day, I’d make a point of sharing a beer with him. It was my secret plan to gain his trust. Over a chilled can or two, our conversations covered all subjects, but I never pointedly asked him questions about his job. Eventually, Ted relaxed and opened up freely. I learned what was happening out in the 'field' without being his “boss”. I was the first, and probably the last, woman for whom he has worked. We gained a mutual respect of each other, and of the individual roles we played in the successful operation of the resort.

Early mornings before my staff and guests stirred, the resort office demanded my undivided attention. Daily rosters, sea plane and boat arrivals, orders, bookings and general clerical duties commandeered my time. My daily “uniform” of casual attire, comprising Jamaican shorts or long t-shirts ensured comfort and coolness in the tropical heat. Every afternoon around 5pm, I went to my dwelling for a refreshing shower, before changing into 'smart casual wear” for the evening. My evenings were spent mingling with, and enjoying the company of the island’s guests. I treated my guests as if they were dinner guests in my home. Many interesting, fascinating people from various walks of life, and from all parts of the world holidayed at Hinchinbrook Island Resort.

One busy Sunday I was unable to escape the resort during the day. Sales/Marketing representatives from the now defunct Ansett Airlines, a national airline arrived by seaplane that afternoon to conduct a familiarization of the resort, visits that were regular procedures by airlines or tourist operators to enable an assessment of the resort and what it had to offer to the potential clients.

Exhausted after a busy week, I felt I’d talked enough, smiled enough to last me two lifetimes. I wanted to become a hermit, even if only for one night. Rarely, if ever, did I take time-out for myself. Because the airline representatives were staying for two days and nights, I excused myself from dining with them the first evening of their visit. With fingers crossed, and a white lie formed, I confessed that I had "paperwork to catch up on”, promising I’d dine with them the following evening. Finally, I fled the madding crowd and the restaurant at 7.30 pm, returning to my abode for the first time since early morning.

Relieved and weary, I climbed the spiral staircase to my open-plan bedroom. Without turning on the lights, I discarded my clothes before reaching to turn on the television. I'd not watched television for months. Reaching to switch on a wall light next to the television set from the corner of my eye I noticed movement on my bed. I turned and discovered "George", the 18-foot long python that had been named by my staff! I’d never set eyes on "George" before that night, although I’d been told many stories about him. To say I wasn't thrilled to meet him up, close and personal, is an understatement! He definitely was the wrong “George” to find lounging on my bed! (Where’s Clooney when you need him)?


I froze,unable to move or think. Blasphemous words and worse (but appropriate) issued rapidly from my mouth.

In shock, I stumbled about looking for the clothes only moments before I’d abandoned! Locating a long t-shirt, I grabbed "Ruska", my twelve-year old ginger cat. He was a house cat, rarely wandering outside other than for his daily ablutions. I placed Ruska into the bathroom, locking the door behind me. I then rushed down the spiral staircase, my feet barely touching the stairs!

I scrambled along the rough track to Ted's cabin, calling out in a strangled voice, “Ted! Ted! Snake! Snake!”

Ted appeared, laughing, an affliction that continued all the way to my house. I followed up the rear scolding (and cursing), telling him it wasn't funny.

“George” in all his massive glory was still squirming and slithering over my bed when we arrived!

Gripping a broom, I was ready for combat! Ted’s enjoyment continued unabated.

"Get the camera! Get the camera!" Ted spluttered.

Using all the descriptive language I could muster, I informed him the @#*#$@# camera was in my @#*#$@# office over at the @#*#$@# restaurant, (you get the general idea of the state of my mood, I'm sure) and that there was no way I was leaving while “George” insisted on being my house guest - an uninvited, unwanted house guest!

Our lively exchange continued for minutes that seemed like hours; me, shouting at Ted, and Ted laughing hilariously at my panic and distress. As “George” tried to slide under my bed, my shouts became more frantic and much louder.

Eventually, Ted grabbed "George". Manhandling the monstrous reptile, Ted flung it off my deck to the bushes and rocks below. I looked on, a trembling mess.

Weeks later, I spent a night on the mainland. Returning to the island the following day, Ruska was missing. Broken- hearted, I never saw Ruska again. To this day, lovingly he remains in my thoughts.

The mistake we made was not transporting "George" by boat to another side of the island, far, far away. A lesson well-learned; a lesson I wish I'd never had to learn. Everything appears easier and clearer in retrospect.

If I've told this story before, please forgive me...you've probably forgotten it, anyway! Just a refresher!


Painting by me of Orchid Beach on Hinchinbrook Island...the main beach of the resort at Cape Richards.