Friday, February 26, 2010
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
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.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Other than stubbing a toe, slamming a door on a finger or peeling onions, there are many things that cause a monsoon to emanate from my eyes! A song; a sad movie; a happy movie; a book; animal documentaries; man’s inhumanity to man; man’s inhumanity to animals: the soaring voice of Pavarotti; a beautiful sunset or sunrise; some trips down memory lane; an unexpected kindness; insensitive remarks; anger; frustrating people; inspirational people and moments. The list goes on and on - at this rate, it sounds like I’m crying all the time! There's never a drought around here!
Of course, movies such as “Out of Africa”, “The Way We Were”, “Message in a Bottle”, “P.S. I Love You” and “The Notebook” (also, the endings of “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” and “Roman Holiday”, naturally; both I’ve seen a million times), for instance, cause an avalanche of tears - no light precipitation there; more like the “wet season”!
With clarity, I remember the first time I watched “Imitation of Life” starring Lana Turner, Sandra Dee and Susan Kohner. The year was 1959. Mum took me along to see it one Tuesday night…a school night. Once my tears began to flow, they couldn’t be dammed. (It was I who was damned!) It was such a sad, sad movie! Walking home, I cried all the way, still distressed! I think that was the last time my mother took me along with her to see a movie! She wasn’t game to attempt it again! I’m sure you, like me, have slunk out of the movies desperately trying to hide red, swollen eyes! Unfortunately, I viewed both “Beaches” and “The Horse Whisperer” at afternoon matinees!! I’ll never fall into that trap again! Hang on! I did! Back in September, I went along to a morning matinee to view “Mao’s Last Dancer”. All was going well until a scene in which his parents arrived to watch him perform with the Houston Ballet Company! That moment was enough to open my floodgates!
My Nana, who was a gentle, calm lady of Scottish heritage always said: “We, in this family pee out of our eyes!” Oh! Dear! I fear that is true…in my case, anyway!
Watching Olympic skaters Evgeni Plushenko and Evan Lysacek perform their stunning routines in the men’s figure skating definitely left me misty-eyed and in awe. Their performances made me speechless (something that doesn’t happen often even though I live alone – I do talk to myself – often (and answer) – and to my two furry rascals equally as often – and they answer me as well…so it’s a pretty gabby household on all accounts, but you know what I mean!
Plushenko performed to “Concierto de Aranjuez” by Spanish composer, Joaquin Rodrigo. This concerto alone causes me goose-bumps whenever I listen to it. It’s been a favourite of mine for many, many years.
Where was I? Oh, yes…tears. Back to onions…wipe those tears from your eyes…use a very sharp knife for chopping onions, peel under water (the onions, not you), or store onions in the crisper – that works in stopping the flow of tears - or have someone else chop them!
Onion & Artichoke Salad:
3 red (Spanish) onions, finely-sliced
75g (1/3rd cup) caster sugar
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
400g can artichoke hearts in brine, drained and quartered
Place onions in a bowl, cover with boiling water and stand 10 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water and drain on absorbent paper.
Combine sugar, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt and cracked black pepper to taste in a bowl. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add drained onions. Stir to combine and stand for at least 2 hours. Stir in artichoke quarters, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Beef with Onions (Chinese Cuisine):
500g (1lb) round, blade or skirt steak
½ teaspoon bicarb soda
3 tablespoons hot water
3 teaspoons cornflour
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese wine or dry sherry
1 egg white
2 large onions
2 tablespoons beef stock
Freeze meat until just firm enough to cut into thin slices; cut slices into strips about 1cm (1/2 inch) wide and 4cm (1.5 inches) long; put into a bowl. Dissolve bicarb soda in hot water; pour over meat; knead or beat with chopsticks or fork until meat absorbs the liquid. Leave overnight or at least 4 hours.
Combine the cornflour, soy sauce, wine or sherry; lightly beat egg shit and mix in well. Quarter the onions; cut into quarters crosswise into halves; separate the layers.
When needed, drain the beef strips; add to the cornflour mixture; stir well. Meanwhile, heat enough oil in wok or pan to deep fry the beef. Add the beef strips, a few at a time; fry for 1 minute, remove; drain. Pour oil from pan, leaving about 2 tablespoons. Add the onions; stir-fry until tender, but still crisp. Add the beef strips; fry, stirring for another minute. Stir in stock; cook, stirring for another half minute. Serve with rice – or noodles.
Stuffed Onions: (Or Stuff the Onions)!
4 medium onions; peeled
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup finely-chopped walnuts
½ cup wheat germ or bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley for garnish
Preheat oven to 176C (350F). Slice about a half inch off the top of each onion. Hollow out a bowl shaped space to hold about 1/4 cup filling. Slice enough off the bottom to let onions stand upright. Combine remaining ingredients, except parsley. Place about 1/3 cup of water around onions. Bake 30 minutes, adding water, 1/4 cup at a time if needed. Stuff onions. Bake another 30 minutes or until softened. Garnish with parsley Serve warm.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
The other day when being busy at not being busy while busily reading a book, at my leisure I worked out that I probably read, watch, hear and catch glimpses of the world’s news on a daily average of four hours! It would be similar for many of us, I suppose. Every which way we look, we’re inundated with news – the good, the bad and the ugly - and there’s far too much of the latter two!
However, amongst all the mayhem and horrors are the positive, inspirational stories inordinately abounding with goodness, bravery and empathy. Individuals reaching for the stars, fulfilling their dreams, win or lose; some pushing themselves beyond the point of human endurance. Unselfish actions and random acts of kindness touch our hearts, often making us question our own values in life.
Unique individuals like Moira Kelly of the Children’s First Foundation whose unfaltering love and support of separated conjoined twins, Krishna and Trishna, together with the work she’s done elsewhere through the years is humbling to a mere mortal such as me. The powerful team at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital led by neurosurgeon, Wirginia Maixner, are the real “celebrities” of this world in which we flounder.
And let’s not overlook our young competitors in the Winter Olympics being held at Vancouver – Brittney Cox, the 15 year old mogul skier; 15 year old snowboarder Scott James and 16 year old figure skater Cheltzie Lee. Sure, it would be nice if they won a medal, but what’s more important is their dedication in following their dreams.
Let none of us forget our warrior of the high seas, Jessica Watson, either. This brave, adventurous young woman is attempting something that is beyond the imagination of the majority. I follow her blog, and each day I’m inspired by this 16 year old. She is an extraordinary young lady. We should all be proud of her. Get behind her; barrack loudly! When many of her peers are out binge drinking, causing harm and havoc, not only to others, but to themselves, as well, Jessica is proof the future is in good hands!
It's so easy to become weighed down by the heavy burdens the world thrusts upon us. Also, it's easy to become cynical, if we allow ourselves to be. We must train ourselves to look beyond all the evil-doers, and open our hearts and minds to those inspirational people who each moment of each day selflessly give themselves to the betterment of others.
We should learn to give praise where and when praise is due. We should not allow ourselves to fall into traps filled with derision and harsh criticisms.
Unfortunately, many find the latter easier to do than the former!
P.S. Sketch done by me a couple of years ago.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Most of us hold onto fond memories of the towns in which we spent our tender years.
My late brother and I were raised in Gympie, a regional town a couple of hours north of Brisbane, the capital of Queensland. Times were much simpler when I was a child. In those days of “old” locking one’s house was an unknown; when walking everywhere was the norm, even at night; a time when soapboxes careered freely and wildly down the neighbourhood streets. Gympie is a town known for its hills! Computers were creations only in the imaginations of science fiction writers and movie makers. Reality TV was the spanking new black and white set in front of which one sat glued keenly watching episodes of “Wanted: Dead or Alive” while drooling over Josh Randall played by a deliciously young, sexy Steve McQueen!
After spring rains, my brother, our Nana and I, armed with buckets, often would stroll through town, and then across the river to the Southside to gather dew-covered field mushrooms, always under the disinterested brown-eyed gaze of nonchalant cattle grazing on lush green paddocks fringing the verdant banks of the Mary River.
Frequently, with an empty jam tin converted into a “billy”**, long strands of strong cotton, homemade hand nets and pieces of raw meat, my brother and I headed off to the nearest waterhole to catch “lobbies” aka freshwater crayfish. Eagerly we’d scamper home to cook, and then devour our haul while planning and anticipating our next adventure.
** (For non-Aussies – it’s commonly accepted that the term "billycan" is derived from the large cans used for transporting bully beef on Australia-bound ships in the early days of settlement, or during exploration of the outback, which after use, were modified for boiling water over a fire.
In Australia, the billy has come to symbolise the spirit of exploration of the outback. To boil the billy most often means to make tea. "Billy Tea" is the name of a popular brand of tea long sold in Australian supermarkets. Billies feature in many of well-known poet/writer Henry Lawson's stories and poems. Banjo Paterson's most famous of many references to the billy is in the first verse and chorus of ’Waltzing Matilda’: "And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled...")
After school and at weekends our time was filled with many activities. Saturday afternoon matinees that we never missed, Brownies/Girl Guides, Cubs/Scouts, piano lessons, cowboys and Indians in the backyard; my brother and his mates firing arrows at and lynching my dolls on branches of an orange tree; on the sidelines; me, in tears, fruitlessly screaming at them (that’s big brothers for you!); building tree houses and cubby houses, running bare-footed and carefree. Sing-a-longs around the piano; Nana relating tales of the “olden days”; window-shopping on Saturday evenings as we strutted in tune to the Scottish Pipers' Band who proudly wore their melodiously swaying kilts while expertly playing and marching through the main street of Gympie (Mary Street) to the town's Memorial Gates; burning our fingers on hot chips wrapped in newspaper from Nick’s Café; joy at finding that one final crunchy chip hidden in the folds of the paper.
After spending my teenage years enjoying weekends and holidays spent at the sunny Sunshine Coast’s Noosa Heads the bright city lights temptingly beckoned. Succumbing, I left the “nest” a few months shy of my 21st birthday.
Those were the days, my friends!
Let’s sit back and reminiscence under a shady tree while munching on:
Crostini with Stuffed Mushrooms:
Remove stalks from 12 small button mushrooms; chop stalks finely. Set aside with caps.
Heat 60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil in frying pan; sautė 1 medium red onion, chopped finely and 2 crushed garlic cloves, for 5 minutes. Stir in ¾ cup wholemeal breadcrumbs; cook 3 minutes or until crisp. Add 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley (flat-leaf), 125g (4oz) finely-sliced prosciutto, ½ cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, mushroom stalks, salt and freshly-ground black pepper; mix well.
Spoon some filling into each mushroom cap; drizzle with olive oil; place them in lightly-oiled ovenproof dish. Bake in a preheated 150C (302F) oven for 20 to 30 minutes.
To Make Crostini: using a 2.5cm biscuit cutter, cut out rounds from a sliced loaf of Italian bread. Heat some olive oil in frying pan; fry the bread rounds over low heat until they’re golden on both sides. Set aside on paper towels to drain.
To assemble: spread a little patė (if desired) on each crostini, arrange a stuffed mushroom on top; press down to secure (not too hard, though)! Drizzle with olive oil; serve garnished with Italian parsley.
Enjoy the memories! And the crostini!
Sunday, February 07, 2010
It’s with feelings of immense remorse that I sit here writing this post, but I shall endeavour to forge onwards and upwards…Per ardua ad astra.
My latest love affair commenced on Christmas Day; one that unexpectedly, though pleasantly, continued through the ensuing days and weeks into January. Not often am I so openly expansive about my personal life, but at times it helps to share with others. This is one of those “times”. Utterly beyond my control, I lost my heart to a special character who, with little warning, entered my life; albeit too briefly. Henceforth, however, his presence shall remain long in my memory. For those few precious weeks he shared my life, my bed; almost all of my waking hours and thoughts. With the passing of each day his grip upon my heart grew stronger and stronger until one fateful day in late January his personal “Angel of Death” swooped down, whisking him away to a place unknown.
Like a deluge, a torrent of tears cascaded down my face. My heart wrenched at his loss; at my loss. My days grew dispiritedly long; my nights despairingly longer.
It’s with heart-felt gratitude that I embrace deservedly acclaimed author Colin Dexter for introducing me to the complicated, intriguing machinations of the mind and life of “Chief Inspector Morse”. Of course, like a myriad others, I fell under “Morse’s” spell (expertly portrayed by John Thaw) in the television series, but Dexter’s skilful ability as a dexterous wordsmith and crafty story-teller transports the reader far beyond the realms of television. Now I look around me like a child lost, in a quandary wondering what next I’ll read. Who, pray tell, will be the future plunderer of my heart? There is room enough on my bedside table for another, or Morse…oops…I mean “more”!
I've just noticed I last posted in 2008!! I'll go and sit in the corner!
Where has the time gone? And have I done anything worthwhile to report? Give me a moment or three while I think about that! I'm sure I have somewhere amongst all thos lost months!
It's still raining here. We received 400mm (16-inches) in an eight-hour period on Saturday. The most rain this area has received since the 1880s! Wow! It came down in bucket loads, large buckets! I don't mind though. I love the rain and I love being snuggled up inside with a good book and my two furry rascally mates! (Of the four-legged variety, of course...as depicted above!
I suggest that you all hop onto Jessica Watson's Blog...the brave 16-year old Aussie lass who is attempting to sail around the world, solo. Brave young lass and I wish her well! http://www.youngestround.blogspot.com/ I know I couldn't do what she doing...I'm not brave enough to even think of doing it!