Sunday, April 28, 2013


I heard an interesting snippet of useless information on television a couple of months ago. It’s not an uncommon occurrence, I know, but this particular morsel of worthless trivia caused my ears to perk. I’m not sure how my ears perk; but they did; and often do. The next time I become aware that I’m about to hear intriguing snippets of valueless trifles I’ll stand in front of a mirror to witness the actions and reactions of my ears! I might even set up a camera to enable the phenomena to become general viewing. I could make a fortune on YouTube! The possibilities are limitless!

Failing that, it certainly will be an interesting pastime if any or all of the following meanings apply. I’ll be kept amused for a while, at least!

Perk meanings: 1. To stick up or jut out: 2. To carry oneself in a lively and jaunty manner.3. To percolate: 4. An incidental benefit awarded in employment; fringe benefit etc. 5. Gain or regain energy.

To simplify; My attention was immediately put on high alert when I heard the “interesting snippet of useless information” as described below – in my own words…

Apparently, being a Cougar is old hat nowadays. Count your lucky stars Demi Moore; you escaped before becoming old hat! No! No! I didn’t say “old bag!

The Cougar has been replaced by the ”Swofty – Single Women Over Fifty”!

I wonder what I am.

I fitted the Cougar mould back in the mid to late Eighties when I had my obligatory fling with a young Italian stallion who visited this wonderful Land of Oz from Italy's Emilia-Romagna area.

I could still be classified as a reasonably young filly back then, but,unashamedly, I must admit, he was just a colt.

However, cut me some slack; hold your horses; shut the stable doors! I was only doing what I was told I should do.

Back in the early Seventies when the Fiat 124 Sport Coupe was released the Fiat Motor Company urged everyone to have an Italian love affair. Actually, Fiat didn't "urge" one to do as they bid...we were ordered to do so!

I didn’t follow their sage advice at that time, but I made up for my 1970s’ inability to do so a decade and a half later. I just put my own slant on it…I chose a human over a car!

The Sixties might have been Swinging, but the Seventies were Sexy! And even though my enjoyable Italian interlude was during the Hiatus Eighties, the timing didn’t hamper a thing; it enhanced it, if anything!

Henceforth, when my Italian affair had galloped its course after 18 months or so, my penchant for being a Cougar didn’t dim. Although not purposely on the prowl, future paramours who crossed my path – and I theirs – were all younger than me. Some by a only couple of years; others by more.

With my mind going into overdrive as I write (and I imagine your minds are, too – I may have started an avalanche of thoughts), does all of what I mulled over above mean now that I’m in my sixties I can start swinging again?

What a wild thought; and one worth cherishing, and perhaps considering! I'll set aside the pondering for another day.

Hmmm…well…I’m cherishing the thought...and the memories (relishing even), even if you aren’t! I don't care - they are my thoughts. I’ll claim them!

Every young lady out “there” - those like you and me; we who still are capable of kicking up our heels, even if only in our minds; those of us who trip and fall into this category; every one of us in our sixties or thereabouts should now be known as a “Sswosy – Single Sexy Women Over Sixty”!

Okay! Okay! Calm down!

I know my imagination is running riot; this is nothing new; it’s not as silly an idea as you might originally have thought it was. Hang loose for a moment; chill out - give my whimsical whim time to sink in. After all, you and I (or some of you, and definitely me, and those others who can only wish) were part of the fabulous Swinging Sixties when the Revolution began – that has to mean something!

And let’s face it; the Sixties were lots of fun – if you can remember them!

Butternut Lasagne: Peel a couple of large butternut pumpkins; cut into ½-inch chunks (about 1-1/2 to 2 kgs worth); toss in x-virgin olive oil, 1tbs chopped sage leaves, 1tbs lemon thyme, 1tbs fennel, ground black pepper and salt; spread, single layer on lined baking sheet. Roast 40-50mins until begins to brown. Puree in processor with grated nutmeg. In bowl, mix puree with 2c ricotta, 1c grated parmesan and 2 large eggs; test seasoning. Grab 24 or so al dente spinach lasagne sheets; brush with oil. Make about 4 cups béchamel sauce - adding some minced sage, lemon thyme, garlic and nutmeg to the milk. Butter a 9x13-inch pan; spread sauce over base; place layer of lasagne sheets on top; spread with some puree; sprinkle with grated mozzarella and parmesan; repeat layers; finish with cheese and béchamel over noodles; cover. Bake in 190C oven, about 1 hour; remove cover; bake further 15mins.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage and Brown Butter: Cook 100g peeled red-skinned potatoes and 200g kumara, both cut into 3cm cubes until tender; set aside to cool slightly; let moisture evaporate; mash until smooth; remove any lumps; season; add 1c plain flour; mix together with rubber spatula; gather dough into a ball. On lightly-floured surface, knead gently until smooth. Divide into 2 portions; roll each into log, 2.5cm thick; cut into 3cm pieces. Shape the gnocchi by rolling a piece of dough down the outer side of the tines of a fork, using your thumb to create an indentation on the other side. Bring a large, wide saucepan of water to the boil. Cook gnocchi in batches until they rise to the surface, about 3 mins. Remove with a slotted spoon; transfer to a large plate. Melt 125g butter in pan; add 2tbs shredded sage leaves; cook until butter browns; add gnocchi; toss lightly to coat. To serve - drizzle with the butter; season with black pepper.

Ravioli de Zucca: Preheat oven to 190C. Cut 1 small to medium butternut pumpkin (about 1kg or so) in half; scrape out seeds. Spread 1tbs molasses in the cavity; season. Place cut side down on roasting pan; cook in oven until very soft, about 1 hour. Cool to room temperature; scoop out flesh into food processor; puree until smooth; then spread on baking sheet; return to 190C oven to dry; about 10mins. The consistency will be like mashed potatoes; scrape into mixing bowl. Heat 2tbs unsalted butter in saucepan over med-low heat until it begins to brown. Immediately remove from heat; add 1tbs molasses and 2tsp balsamic vinegar. To the squash, add 1/4c mascarpone, 2tbs freshly-grated Parmesan, 1/4tsp each cinnamon and nutmeg. Season, to taste with salt and pepper; mix well. The recipe can be made ahead to this point (makes 2 cups filling,) Cover well and refrigerate 4 hours or up to 2 days. To fill the ravioli: Lay out a sheet of pasta dough on a lightly-floured board. Cut into circles with a 3-1/2 inch pastry cutter. Put 1 tablespoon squash filling in the center of 1/2 the rounds using either a pastry bag or a small spoon. Leave a 1/2-inch border all around the filling. Moisten borders with water; top with remaining rounds of dough. Press all the air out, and seal firmly by pressing all around with fingertips. Lay ravioli out to dry on a lightly-floured board or baking sheet and lightly flour the tops. Repeat until you run out of dough and/or filling. To cook: boil in lightly salted water until tender, about 3 minutes. Reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water. Sage Brown Butter: While raviolis are cooking, in a large sauté pan, melt 4tbs butter with 8 fresh sage leaves and a pinch of salt until it foams and becomes light brown; reserve. On med-heat toss the cooked ravioli in the sage butter; then transfer to a serving platter or dishes. Add the 1/4c reserved cooking water to the pan; swirl with any residual butter. Spoon the butter sauce over the ravioli; then finish with a generous grating of Parmesan and bittersweet chocolate (optional)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Since I ceased working (retired, I guess, is another word for what I've done) a few years ago one of the greatest pleasures I’ve gained are those first few moments upon waking. Moments when I can lie in peaceful harmony with the early morn, gathering my thoughts together; or not thinking at all, if I feel so inclined. Five minutes, maybe 10, or somewhere in between the two in total silence is all I need.

When I was slogging away in the workforce as soon as I opened my eyes, I’d leap out of bed. I had things to do; preparations to be made in readiness for the day, and more often than not, the night ahead, as well; a place to go to, or sometimes, places; people to see; others who needed attending to in so many ways, and, probably most important of all, people to feed! Impatient, empty, growling stomachs of diners aren’t prepared to wait for anyone!

To my way of thinking, there are many good things about living alone…and I really do enjoy living alone. I must do because I’ve lived by myself with only my furry rascals as my housemates, for the past 27 years since my marriage break-up.

One good thing about living alone is being able to spend, not only those quiet moments upon waking, but those moments after rising, as well. Not being inundated with unnecessary, pointless chatter first thing in the morning is something I cherish dearly.

My ex-husband, Randall, never understood my desire for only the sound of silence as I went about preparing coffee and our breakfast. I needed that hushed space in the morning, but he was the polar opposite. He found it necessary to jabber away incessantly with idle, joyful trivia!

Each to their own, of course; I understand. And, I’m not in anyway being unkind about my ex-husband. Randall and I are still good mates…but, no matter how often or how many times I tried to make him understand my wish for silence at that time of our mornings, he failed to have empathy. Natter away he would; and then wonder why I’d constantly get cranky!

Randall would say to me: “Why do you always get up in a bad mood?”

Exasperated, I'd glare and growl at him; “I don’t get up in a bad mood! After all this time, and after being told every day, you still don’t know why I get grumpy, do you?”

I became sure that he behaved that way on purpose just to stir me up; and as hard as I tried, his early morning joyfulness still made me grumpy! His efforts worked, time and time again!

No one should be that cheerfully noisy first thing in the morning…other than the birds!

I’m not sure if it’s a male thing or not, but my older brother knew how and when to push my buttons, too. Sometimes he and Randall worked together in tandem against me when my brother visited. I’d grit my teeth in an effort to show them they weren’t succeeding in their endeavours to raise my ire! My ability to ignore their childish efforts grew somewhat over the years, but it still failed me at times, too; more often than not, if I must be honest! I found it best to walk away from their inane laughter; but more often than not, to my dismay and their enjoyment, that was difficult for me to do, too!

Another time I cherished silence was after a successful fishing outing.

When my husband and I first moved from the city to the Sunshine Coast, we stole a few weeks to ourselves, away from the madding crowd and workplaces to plot out our future.

I’d been working in the fashion industry, and had been employed in my job for 14 years. I had taken six weeks off at the most during those years. There were times, also, during those 14 years I’d worked part-time at nights and weekends in the restaurant industry.

Every other day throughout our chosen leisure, pondering time, we went fishing. Randall was always after the “big one”; his fishing gear was rigged, accordingly. He wanted to catch the biggest jewfish aka mulloway on the Sunshine Coast or beyond. Needless to say, he never did catch that elusive prey; but his determination in trying to do so was as potent as his determination to keep chattering in the early mornings!

Mulloway/Jewfish can grow up to 2 metres in length (6ft 6 inches).

So while Randall was up one end of the beach trying to snare his dream, I’d be down the other end rigged up to catch bream; and catch them I did! Our chosen fishing spot was the northern side of the mouth of the Maroochy River. Back in 1979, progress hadn’t progressed down that far to the river’s mouth. There were no buildings, no houses or people; just sand dunes, grasses and She-Oaks along the ocean front; and mangroves protecting the upper banks of the river. It’s a different scene today.

There was a perfect sand bar out just to the right of my preferred fishing spot. The bream fed off the side of the sand bar. I had a 12-foot surf rod with an Alvey side-cast reel. I’d cast out to the inner rim of the bank. Using fowl gut as bait, the bream were hungry little beggars; some were not so little! In no time at all, I’d be reeling them in, one after the other, filling up the ice-filled esky.

Randall, in the meantime, would still be in the hunt for the “big one” further along the beach! However, our pattern worked well.

Once we arrived back home, it was my job to scale, gut and fillet them. Sometimes, if I was in the mood to do so, I’d even skin some fillets. It was my choice to do all of this. I was happy to be the one taking care of the fish I caught. Meanwhile, Randall was in charge of cleaning our fishing gear and storing it in its rightful place.

I'd pack the fillets into meal-size portions etc.

Our neighbour was a lovely, gentle elderly lady. She'd been widowed a couple of years before our becoming neighbours. I used to love seeing her eyes light up when we gave her a few portions of the fish. Her meals were covered for the week; and we’d keep some also for my husband’s parents when they visited…and they visited every weekend. They were happy with their regular fish supplies, as well.

When we first moved to the coast, we lived for the first few months in my in-laws new home at Coolum, a Sunshine Coast beach area. They'd built the home they’d for their retirement, which was only a matter of months away. However, at that time of our own arrival to the coast, my father-in-law was still working; and they were still living in Brisbane. They offered their vacant new home to us until we bought our own house. We covered all costs, including utilities while living in their home, telling them to always arrive empty-handed in exchange and gratitude for their generosity. Staying in their home allowed us time to breathe. We welcomed their weekend visits.

Come dinner the nights of our fishing excursions, I’d cook up a feed of fresh bream fillets for Randall and me. Without fail, I’d just begin eating my delicious meal of freshly-caught fish when Randall would begin to describe, in detail, our fishing outing and the fish caught!

Every time he would go into minute details about this and that about the fish; how they were biting; how good the fowl gut bait was etc., etc., et al! And every time, he’d put me off my meal because I’d been the one, who had caught, scaled, gutted, filleted and cooked the fish that now graced his and my plate!

I didn’t want to discuss the ins-and-outs of the fishing side of it; that was gone; in the past. I wanted to block all of that from my mind and pretend that someone else had caught, scaled, gutted and filleted them! I wanted enjoy my meal. I wanted us to either talk about something else, or eat in silence, but Randall made it impossible for me to do either! No matter how many times I asked him not to discuss the fish while we were eating it, he never heeded my wishes! And every time, I lost my appetite for the delicious, fresh fish before me…but I found my crankiness with no trouble at all!

I think Randall had a death wish!!

While bream are silver – silence is golden!

Beer-Battered Bream Fillets: Grab 1kg bream fillets, skinned or otherwise. Beer Batter: In a bowl, add 1 egg, 1tbs olive oil and pinch of pepper; whisk together. Add 375ml of cold ale; whisk again. Gradually add 1-1/4c self-raising flour (or plain flour with 2tsps baking powder added). ¼ cup cornflour and salt to taste; whisking all the time; the consistency of the batter should be like cream; don’t over whisk, a few lumps don’t matter. Lightly coat the bream fillets in flour, shaking off excess; and then dip into the batter; drape fillets on edge of bowl so excess batter drips off. Cook fish in preheated oil (180-190C) in small batches, until golden; allow oil to reheat between each batch. Drain on paper towels; serve with lemon wedges (or vinegar, if you prefer), crunchy hot chips and fresh salad!

Tarragon Butter Jewfish Provencale: Blend together until light and fluffy - 250g softened unsalted butter, 1tbs chopped fresh tarragon, 1tbs lemon zest, 1tspn lemon juicel season with salt and white pepper; cover and chill until firm. Place 8 garlic cloves, 8 chopped anchovy fillets and 2tsp fresh thyme leaves into a pestle and mortar; pound until it forms a smooth paste. Stir in ½ olive oil and 1tsp mashed roasted red capsicum; mix well. Place 4 mulloway-jewfish fillets and marinade in baking dish; coat the fish evenly in the marinade; cover and chill, 3 to 4 hours. Preheat barbecue on high; turn down to almost the lowest heat. Brush grill with oil. Brush the solids of the marinade off the fish; grill fish 3 minutes; turn over (the fish, not you); cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove fish from the heat, keeping it warm, loosely covered with foil for about 5mins to rest. Serve fillets topped with a spoonful of the tarragon butter. Serve with steamed new potatoes and a tossed salad.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


The Gouldian Finch, also known as the Lady Gouldian Finch, Gould's Finch or the Rainbow Finch are unique to Australia.

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even it it's sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there's never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

Poem - courtesy of e.e. cummings

Painting by Lee

Monday, April 15, 2013


Some feel the need to embellish their past. I have neither the desire nor the need to do so as far as my own is concerned. My past is embroidered by myriad threads of multiple tones; more colours than a thousand assembled rainbows; or Joseph's multi-hued cloak, even.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m a “black and white” person, but my hair lets me down. Nowadays, it adds more than fifty shades of grey to the mix. It’s a bit rich, I know, but I’ll call my present hair colour “silver”.

My life’s palette consists of more greens than vast verdant vistas; from forest to apple green, inter-weaved with all variants in between; reds from amaranth to wine entwine with cerise, crimson and vermillion. Variations of violet, purple and puce mingle with more than a few blue hues. My personal colour wheel abounds in sunny lemon, mellow yellow and chartreuse; included in the range, an intense diversity of enthusiastic orange. I’ve more than enough diverse aspects to keep me occupied and amused; and others, bemused!

The grandiosity of my description could be considered a contradiction to my stating I have no need to embellish; but, if you think about it, it is clarification no such superfluous adornment is necessary when the truth itself is its own kaleidoscope. The danger of being caught out spinning a fanciful, colourful yarn constantly lurks within dappled shadows. Therefore, it’s more attractive to remain true to you. yourself; or in my case, me to myself; and to the truth. Tell the facts as they are; by doing so, one's integrity is retained; and one's believability.

It was my first day in a new job; in a new town. I had lived and worked in Collinsville previously when I was chef/manager at the Mess that catered for the coal miners; not only in the filling of their bellies, but also managing their accommodation requirements. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I was then employed by Morris Catering. So, in truth, Collinsville wasn't "new" to me; I was revisiting ground previously trodden.

I'd left Collinsville for a few months, relocating to Townsville, but for whatever reason, I was drawn back to the coal-mining town by a job offer to become chef in the kitchen of the Collinsville Town and Country Hotel-Motel. Perhaps I felt I had unfinished business in Collinsville...who knows? I do know that I had a lot of fun times in that little town.

Arriving at my new workplace at the predetermined time, the departing chef and I chatted casually as he showed me the ropes of the kitchen.

As we set up our mise en place (preparing the night's menu requirements), he asked questions about my past experiences, that is!

I regaled a lengthy, humorous tale about a crazy Saturday evening almost 20 years previously that occurred at a Brisbane restaurant in which I was working part-time in the mid-Seventies. "Scaramouche" was its name; a French-style restaurant in a magnificent, historical old building on the corner of Turbot Street and Coronation Drive. "Scaramouche" was the "In" restaurant during the time I worked there. It was owned and run by Peter Fluckiger, later to become Peter Hackworth. Peter, during the early days of "Scaramouche", also owned another restaurant, "Manouche", situated on Milton Road, Toowong. She was and still is a legend in Brisbane's restaurant industry. Manouche is French for "Gypsy". The restaurant then became known as "Two Small Rooms". However, sadly, after operating for 20 years under that name, it closed its doors for the final time in March this year...2013.

Peter (female - her mother had believed she was going to have a son, and when a daughter appeared on the scene, the mother decided to stick with the name she'd chosen, as well as the spelling of that name) married Colonel David Hackworth...the most highly decorated US soldier. Peter and David met through a mutual friend.

Sadly, David passed away, eight years ago, 4th May. He had returned to the US, the country of his birth, after he and Peter divorced.

David Hackworth was an outstanding man. I will always be grateful that I was fortunate enough to get to know him. He was fun to know; but he wouldn't have been fun to cross!

He had spent much of his R & R here when he was in Vietnam. After David quit the US Army during the Vietnam campaign, he decided to settle in Australia. He'd begun questioning the US involvement in Vietnam; he lost belief in the war; arriving at the belief the US shouldn't be there. David had been a career soldier, like his father before him and his father's father before him. David and I shared the same birth date...but all of this is another lengthy story for another time; not today.

In the meantime, a little bit of interesting trivia to whet your appetites: Two of the major roles in Coppola's "Apocalypse Now" - Martin Sheen's Captain Willard. and Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz were based on David Hackworth.

Now that I've given you a bit of background...the chef in the kitchen of Collinsville's Town & Country Hotel-Motel listened without interruption (an unusual phenomenon in itself) until I completed my story.

Standing side by side at the vast commercial 8-burner gas range, he turned to me.

A smile spread across his face as he declared; “I know that story! I remember it well!”

“Really! How on earth...?” I exclaimed in disbelief.

“That story spread throughout the trade – restaurant to restaurant. It became part of the Brisbane’s restaurant folklore!” He laughingly replied.

Dumbfounded, I stared at him.

He and I were strangers. We’d met for the first time only a couple of hours before; and yet, he was familiar with the story I’d just described in detail.

He left town the next day. We never met again. I hadn’t exaggerated nor had I gilded the night’s events in any way. I related it as it had unfolded.

After the chef’s reaction, my belief that embellishment isn’t necessary was consolidated.

Because I’ve probably already taken up more than enough of your precious time, I’ll tell you the story I told my newly-met co-worker another day...another story to be related on another day, along with the one about David Hackworth; or perhaps I'll separate the two to be told on separate days!

Blame my grey matter if I forget to do so

Roasted Rainbow Trout: Preheat oven to 225C (205C - Fan). Get a hold of 4 whole rainbow trout, cleaned and gutted. Season trout inside and out with salt and pepper. Combine 90g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature, 1-1/2tsp chopped sage and 1-1/2tsp chopped flat-leaf parsley in a small bowl; blend until smooth. Divide mixture between trout cavities; then close. Brush a large baking dish with 1tbs extra-virgin olive oil. Arrange fish in one layer; pour over 1/2 cup dry white wine. Bake fish, 10mins, adding another 1/2 cup of the wine after 5mins. Drain liquid into a saucepan; tent trout with foil to keep warm. Pour about 1/4 cup of wine into saucepan; stir over high heat until mixture reduces and emulsifies. Transfer fish to heated plates; pour sauce over the trout. Meanwhile, place 500g red and yellow cherry tomatoes on the vine in a lightly-oiled baking dish; season; drizzle with oil. Bake 10mins or until tomatoes start to burst. Serve with the trout.

Rainbow Cake: Preheat oven 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Grease 3x7cm-deep, 20cm round cake pans or 3x 4cm-deep, 20cm round cake pans; line bases and sides with baking paper. Grab 2x340g butter-cake mix (or 2 quantities homemade butter-cake). Prepare 1pkt as per directions; divide batter between 3 bowls; tint one lot blue; one green and remaining lot yellow; spread one portion into one cake pan. Repeat with remaining 2 portions and pans. Bake 25mins; rotate halfway through. Cool 5mins; turn onto racks to cool completely. In clean, greased, lined pans, repeat the above process using 2nd cake mix: Meringue Frosting: Place 8 egg whites, 4c caster sugar, 1tsp vanilla and ¼ cold water in heat-proof bowl; whisk to combine; place bowl over saucepan of simmering water. Beat 15mins with electric hand mixer until stiff peaks form; remove from heat; beat until cooled. Place blue cake on board; spread with 1/2 cup frosting. Top with green cake; repeat with remaining frosting and yellow, pink, orange and red cakes, using 1/2 cup frosting for each layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and side of cake. Sprinkle with 100s and 1000s.

Lemon Shortbread: Beat 10tbs unsalted butter, 1/4c icing sugar, 1-1/2tbs white sugar, 1/4tsp salt and 1tsp lemon zest until very fluffy. Gradually sift in 1-1/2c plain flour; mix well. Sprinkle over 1/2tsp lemon juice; lightly knead until dough holds together; if too dry, add a little lemon juice; don’t over-moisten. Press into 8x8-inch pan; pierce deeply with fork in a pattern; bake at 162C, 40-45mins. Turn out of pan while warm; cut into bars; sprinkle with sugar; cool.

Rainbow Orange Wedges: Halve 9 oranges; remove segments; set orange “cups” in muffin tins. Prepare 6 flavours of jelly (use a little less water than directed). With each colour, fill 3 orange cups up to the top; repeat until 6 flavours are used. Chill 5hrs/overnight. Remove orange cups; use sharp knife to slice each into 3 wedges. Place wedges on serving platter – light to dark. Chill.

Addendum: For many years I lived just around the corner from the original "Manouche". Before it became the restaurant it was a second-hand furniture store. I purchased an old Bentwood chair there that I had for years. The original building was a little, quaint old weatherboard shop, built in the early to mid-1900's, I imagine. When Peter turned it into a restaurant the outer facade remained as it had been throughout its early years...and the interior dining area was just one room for dining and the restaurant's kitchen was at the rear left-hand side of the premises, looking at it from the street. "Manouche" had a warm, intimate feeling about wasn't wide open like shown in the picture after it had morphed into "Two Small Rooms".

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


What a pretty little bird the Chickadee is. The vocal, pint-sized songbird is native to North America and parts of Canada. It’s also the state bird of both Maine and Massachusetts; all of which is probably useless trivia you’re not remotely interested in; but then again, may be you are!

My only prior knowledge of chickadees was 1940’s most successful film after “Gone with the Wind” - “My Little Chickadee” that starred the cleverly-inspired pairing of Mae West and W.C. Fields. So my previous image of a chickadee was one of Mae West! How wrong could one image be?

“My Little Chickadee” ran second to Scarlett and Rhett’s blockbuster; and that must have blown the producers, director and actors away!

As an aside, and, perhaps, this is just another piece of totally futile, ineffective trivia, I was named after Vivienne Leigh aka Scarlett O'Hara...with the different spelling of "Lee" tossed into the mix. I prefer my spelling of the name...but that is by the by...gone with the wind!

Just so you are aware...1940 was a bit before my time; but that doesn't lessen my interest and liking of old movies, stories (as in books), music etc., etc., et al.

I always have one foot firmly planted in the present, but I do enjoy waving the other one around in the past, as well, while trying to remain evenly balanced and upright in the meantime. If I had a third foot, I’d plant it in the future in an attempt to discover what it has in store. The future is a cagey, secretive critter. It never wants to divulge much of what it has planned, believing surprise to be its best strategy. I don’t wholly agree with that policy, but, unfortunately, there’s little I can do about learning what undetermined events of the earthly hereafter lay ahead.

A few clues wouldn’t go astray!

“My Little Chickadee”, the movie, is set in America’s Old West. Buxom, tightly-corseted, shamelessly impudent Mae graces the screen as “Flower Belle Lee”; gruffly enigmatic, button-holed, top-hatted Fields is con man, “Cuthbert J. Twillie”.

The movie grossed upwards of $20m in the US alone; an extraordinary amount of money at the time; an extraordinary amount these days, too, I might add! I wouldn’t say “No” to such a sum! Without hesitation, I’d swallow my pride and accept it with thanks - thank you very much!

Scarlett O’Hara would have declared, if she’d been aware: “Fiddle-dee-dee! I do agree! That’s a mighty fee, Chickadee!”

The movie’s stars remain at the heart of cinema history; and in the hearts of their millions of fans, young, old and in the middle; the unique talents of West and Fields will long be remembered; as will their many witty quotes.

Some might say Mae unintentionally let her guard down, setting aside her fruitiness to display a tender, somewhat Christian aspect of her nature when making the statement: “Love thy neighbour – and if he happens to be tall, debonair and devastating; it will be that much easier!”

And that she was an adroit mistress of perception is clearly discernible when she mocked: “Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often!”

Mae West's insightfulness leapt boundaries previously unconquered when she declared: “I wrote the story myself. It’s about a girl who lost her reputation and never missed it!”

A diva to beat all divas, West never attempted to disguise her brazen honesty: “I only read biographies, metaphysics and psychology. I can dream up my own fiction.”

Crusty W.C. was also a reservoir of witticisms.

I’ve flushed out a few of his quotes, as well - such as: “I’m free of all prejudices. I hate everyone equally!”

Along with: “I never worry about being driven to drink; I just worry about being driven home.”

And then there’s this piece of good advice from the irascible rogue; “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again; then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it!”

And another of Fields' many, indisputable, truthful disclosures: “I cook with wine; sometimes I even add it to the food.”

Red Wine-Balsamic Chicken: Combine 1/4c balsamic, 1/4c red wine vinegar, 1tbs olive oil, 1tbs honey, juice of half lemon or orange, 1 minced garlic clove, 1tsp minced onion, 1tsp salt, 1tsp dried thyme and cracked black pepper. Pound 5 boned, skinned chicken breasts/thighs to uniform thickness – about 1-inch; add to marinade; coat evenly; cover; chill 2hrs or overnight. Bring chicken to room temp. Heat grill, med-low; place chicken on grates; cover; cook, untouched, 5mins. Flip; cook about 10mins; flip again; cook further 2mins.

Strawberry Chicken with Red Wine: Hull and slice 3c strawberries; set aside. Heat 2ts olive oil in small saucepan; add 2/3c sliced shallots, 1 chopped garlic clove, 1 bay leaf and 1/2tsp dried thyme; stir 2-3mins. Add 3/4c sliced strawberries; cook 1min; stir constantly; add 2tbs balsamic; simmer 1min. Add 1/3c red wine; simmer until reduced by half; add ¾c chicken broth; simmer 5mins. Whisk 1-1/2tsp cornflour in 2tsp water; add to saucepan; boil 1min; stir until thickened; strain; season. Reheat just before serving. Lightly coat 4 boneless, skinned chicken breasts with oil; season; grill 4-5mins per side; serve chicken over combined long-grain rice and wild rice; surround with remaining strawberries and warmed sauce.

Dry-Rub Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken: Grab 1 whole chicken; split down the middle...spatchcocked. Season the chicken with ample dry rub. Dry Rub Ingredients: 1tbs ground black pepper, 2tsp cayenne (optional), 2tbs chilli powder, 2tbs ground cumin, 2tbs brown sugar, 1tbs granulated sugar, 1tbs dried oregano, 4tbls salt, 1tbs white pepper, 3tbls celery salt, 1tbs garlic powder and 3tbs dried parsley. Store leftover rub in container; keep in the fridge. When barbecue is at an even temperature, lay opened/spatchcock chicken on grill; cook with cover on; turn occasionally...about 1-1/2 hours or until the centre of the thickest parts are cooked through.

Spiced Wine with Dried Fruit: Place 2 chamomile tea bags in cup; pour over 2c boiling water; let stand 4mins; discard bags. Combine tea, 750ml semi-dry white wine, 1/2c sugar, 1/3c orange juice, 1/4c light rum, 2tbs lemon juice, 1tbs raisins, 1tbs chopped mixed dried fruit, 1 bay leaf, 1 cinnamon stick and 1/8tsp nutmeg in saucepan. Stir over med-heat until sugar dissolves; bring to just simmer; remove from heat; cover; steep 20mins. Re-warm over low heat; don’t boil. Discard bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Ladle into mugs; serve.

Enjoy yourselves, my little Chickadees!

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


Oh! My Gourd! It’s a-maizing! I think I’m going bananas, particularly when everything around me is going pear-shaped; but no one else appears to give a fig; so, why should I?

It gives me the pip when my voice gets husky from sprouting forth too much; or, more appropriately, from not having spoken to a fellow being for a while. There are times my eyes feel a little grainy; there are even moments I feel a bit seedy. My wild oats were sown years ago, during which time I stumbled over a few forbidden fruits; and enjoyed the stumble! I didn’t need a gooseberry as chaperone.

When the last mangoes at season’s end I’m distressed; but I blow a raspberry; and then, move on.

Don’t upset the apple cart by misguidedly prejudging me. I might appear to be as withered as a raisin in the sun or as a dried prune, but nuts to that idea! My pulse continues ticking over at a regular rate proving there are still signs of life in this old sugar plum.

I’m as cool as a cucumber. I’m no damson in distress.

I have no fear of turning into a pumpkin because I’m never out late nowadays; nor am I out late now at night. Come to think of it, I’m not out late afternoons, either. In other words - I yam what I yam; and I don’t give a jackfruit!

I always turnip early! I’m not a bad apple, and, if you must split peas rather than hairs, I’m not a tough old chick. I’m not always an angry old broad, either; only when I get cranky; and then I’m as prickly as a prickly pear!

There are times I’ve a few sour grapes, but I’m no melon collard, baby! I can have my cake and eat it, too. I use my coconut, and triple the quantity; and then, everything is just peachy!

The point is - I love fresh vegetables, fruit, raw nuts, pulses/legumes/lentils, sprouts and grains. I have done so since I was a kid; nothing has changed in that department. All have starring roles in my day-to-day menu.

As a child I needed no cajoling, coaxing, blackmailing, duping or tricking into eating the wide variety of food types placed before me. My brother and I had absolute, unfailing faith in our mother and grandmother. We knew they had no evil intentions of poisoning us. Our little family unit may not have had a lot of money in the coffers, but our cupboards were always full (as were our stomachs); there was always food on our meal table.

Refrigeration and refrigerators were what other folks had; in our home, we had an ice-chest. The "iceman cometh" every other day. Protecting his shoulders from the hessian sugar bags filled with the cold, damp block ice was a piece of leather. One important chore for us kids was to keep an eye on the tray underneath the ice-chest that caught the melting ice water. If our diligence slipped we all were in danger of slipping on the water-drenched floor!

Always, during our formative years, there were healthy productive vegetable gardens out the back and down the side of our house, along with a few fruit-bearing trees. In the backyard, an orange tree grew at one side of the laundry shed; a lemon tree on the other. Of course, a choko vine crept over the chicken coop. The chicken poop fed the vegetable garden; the vegetable scraps fed the chickens; around and around cycle cycled. As well as the backyard orange and lemon trees was a mulberry tree; and keeping it company was a peach tree. The peaches were hard little bullets. My brother and I ate them, anyway. Our silkworms ate the mulberry leaves. In the front yard was a loquat tree; the fruit flies’ favourite. A war continued between the pests and us to see who’d get to the fruit first. I think it was a draw each loquat season! My brother and I were fair combatants in the battles.

Loquat jam and chutney, as well as loquat crumbles and tarts were constants on our table.

Now I pine for an apple. Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana. On that note, I’m going to make like a banana and split…bye!

Chickpea-Corn Rainbow Salad: Steam 240g green beans, chopped into thirds, 2-3mins; immediately place under cold water to stop cooking process; put in salad bowl. Sauté 340ml drained corn kernels (or fresh) until browned; about 8mins; add to beans. Add 1 can drained, rinsed chickpeas (or cook your own), 1 large red capsicum, diced, 1/2c diced red onion, 1 diced avocado, 10 torn spinach leaves, 2c halved cherry or grape tomatoes, 4 sliced shallots and a 6-8 torn basil leaves. Add 1c cooked quinoa – optional. Whisk together 2tsp lime or lemon zest, 3tbs lime/lemon juice, 3tbs olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper; pour over salad; toss gently. Toss in some sliced, pitted black olives if you like.

Grilled Vegetable-Chickpea Salad: Cut 1 eggplant and 2 zucchinis lengthways into slices (not too thin); core and quarter a red and a green capsicum so pieces are relatively flat. Toss vegetables in olive oil; season. Heat a grill or hot pan until quite hot; cook the vegetables until just tender and caramelised. Cut vegetables into equal-sized pieces; toss with well-drained can of chickpeas, crumbled feta, to taste, 1 crushed garlic clove, sliced fresh parsley; season; drizzle over olive oil and juice of 1 lemon.

Kale & Sweet Potato Salad: Cut 450g sweet potato into 3/4-inch cubes; toss cubes in a little olive oil, 1/4tsp thyme; season. Spread cubes on lined baking tray; roast in 200C oven until light golden on edges. Grab a bunch of kale; tear leaves from stems. Chop a few at a time into thin strips; place in colander; rinse and drain well. Put into bowl; add dressing; toss to coat, making sure all the curly bits are dressed. Pile roasted cubes on top; sprinkle 1/4c each sunflower seeds and dried cranberries over top; serve.

Sprout-Spinach-Rocket Salad: Combine 4c sprouts (any combination e.g. mung, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, alfalfa etc.), 3c spinach leaves and rocket, 1 small red onion, diced, 4 carrots, grated, 3 mushrooms, sliced and 1 sliced red or yellow capsicum; toss with dressing; top with 1 cucumber, sliced, and 1 diced tomato.

Loquat-Srawberry-Macadamia Nut Crumble: Preheat oven to 175C (350F). Toss 2c peeled, seeded, halved loquats and 1c halved strawberries with 2-3tbs chopped crystallized ginger, cinnamon, 1/4tsp ground cloves, 1tbs lemon juice and 1/4c raw sugar. Place in oven-proof pie dish. Combine 3/4c raw sugar with 3/4c plain flour, 1/2c or so of chopped macadamia nuts aka Queensland nuts. Using your fingers, rub in 1/2c cold butter (or use processor on pulse); until mixture resembles semi-moist breadcrumbs. Add some dessicated coconut if you like...and balance out the butter etc. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit in the pie dish. Bake around 35 minutes. Serve warm with custard, whipped cream or ice cream (or all)!!