Wednesday, May 29, 2013


The old Shamrock Hotel Chinatown in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley Circa 2013View looking down Brunswick Street from St. Pauls Terrace, Fortitude Valley. On the left is the original Shamrock Hotel. I don't know the year this picture portrays, but it would be a long time ago.

My love affair with home preparation of Chinese food commenced, in earnest, in the early Seventies around about the time I discovered Mr. Sou San’s Chinese grocery store in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.

The company I was employed by had its offices, showrooms and warehouse in Fortitude Valley. Every time I ventured into The Valley’s main shopping hub I walked past Mr. Sou San’s small, hole-in-the-wall store. The little Asian grocery shop was situated at the top end of Brunswick Street, just a couple of yards down around the corner from the old Shamrock Hotel that guarded the corner of St. Paul's Terrace and Brunswick Street. In fact, I rarely walked by without entering the shop to have a friendly chat with its mild-mannered keeper. I enjoyed picking Mr. Sou San’s brain. He was a cooperative victim who always welcomed my presence. Never minding my inquisitiveness, he generously shared his knowledge.

Through the course of my visits, along with food items, I purchased a load of Chinese hand-painted porcelain soup/rice bowls, spoons, sauce dishes, an inexpensive, no-frills carbon steel wok, chopsticks, ladle and spatula. I also bought a recipe book of authentic Chinese recipes written by Mr. Sou San to add to my cookbook library.

The old wok remains in my possession. It’s travelled far and wide with me. Over the years it’s seen the workings of quite a few restaurant kitchens. It has also traversed the ocean to reside upon a couple of islands. Since I purchased the wok all those years ago many tasty meals have been prepared in the round-bottomed cooking vessel.

Back in the Sixties and early Seventies two of the most popular Chinese restaurants in Brisbane were The Oriental in The Valley and The Lotus Room in Elizabeth Street in the CBD. The Valley’s Chinatown as it is today didn’t exist back then. However, myriad Chinese restaurants and take-away shops were dotted throughout the city and suburbs. Some were good; some not so good.

Tennyson Lau, a Chinese-Australian, bought the block of units in which I lived, and also managed, at Toowong. I continued as manager under Tennyson’s ownership. Tennyson was born and raised in Charters Towers; and attended boarding school in Southport. When I met him he lived in Goroka, PNG, where he ran a trading company.

On a visit to Brisbane in search of further property investments Tennyson and his family were joined by a friend, Cedric Che. Cedric, the owner/operator of Che Airlines in PNG, a domestic airline that flew around and over the ruggedly treacherous New Guinea Highlands had just won a sizeable amount of money in the lottery. Cedric, a rotund,vertically-challenged Chinese fellow arrived in Brisbane eager to spend his winnings. As the saying goes – “money begets money”. In celebration of his win, I was invited to join Cedric, the Lau family and some of their business associates for dinner at The Lotus Room.

Our party arrived at the restaurant at 7.30 pm. After midnight we mutually called a halt to the evening. Three courses were yet to be served, but because of the lateness of the hour on a week night, and with each of us facing a busy tomorrow, we decided to relinquish the balance of our dinner.

Cedric, our host, had left the menu in the hands of the chefs. No orders were placed with the waiters. Our dinner consisted of a variety of many diverse, delicious dishes presented to our table at relaxed intervals. Only when a course was eaten did the next follow.

Dining in style, Chinese-style with Chinese friends; I was told it’s the Chinese way - good manners- to always leave a morsel of food on the serving platter.

Chia̍h hok!

Prawns Kung Pao: Mix together 500g peeled green prawns, 1tsp cornflour, 1tsp water, 2tsp soy sauce and 2tsp rice wine; marinate 10-20mins. Heat 1tsp peanut oil in wok; add 10 dried, halved red chillies (or to taste) and 1tsp toasted Sichuan peppercorns (or to taste). Fry 1min; add prawns; sauté 1min; add sliced white part of 5 shallots, 1tbs chopped garlic and 1tbs grated ginger. Add 1tsp each dark and light soy sauce, 1tsp sesame oil, 3tsp Chinese black vinegar (or un-aged balsamic), 1tbs chicken stock, 2tsp sugar and 1tsp cornflour; cook until prawns about 2mins and sauce has thickened. Garnish with handful of roasted, roughly-chopped peanuts and sliced greens of shallots.

Mapo Pork & Tofu: Brown 500g minced pork in wok; set aside. Heat 1tsp sesame oil in wok. Add 2tbs each chopped garlic and chopped ginger; sauté about 1min. Add 1tbs fermented black beans (soaked in water, 20mins and chopped), 2tbs each chilli bean paste and chilli sauce, or to taste, 1tbs toasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns, 2tbs soy sauce and 1/2c chicken stock; simmer 5-7mins. Add 500g firm tofu, cut into ½-inch cubes; cook about 2mins; garnish with chopped shallots. Replace the tofu with eggplant if you like. Sauté 1kg bite-sized pieces of eggplant with the garlic, ginger etc.

Char Siu Pork: Combine 5tbs light soy sauce, 3tbs dark soy sauce, 5tbs runny honey, 3tbs sugar, 1tsp five spice powder, ½ glass Chinese rice wine or sherry, 3tbs hoisin sauce, 1x2-inch piece of ginger, crushed and 4 crushed garlic cloves; warm until sugar dissolves. Pour warm marinade over 1 pork fillet; marinate overnight. Place pork, basted with some marinade, on rack over roasting pan with a little water in bottom. Roast in 210C oven, 20mins. Baste again on both sides; turn meat; reduce heat to 180C; roast 10mins; baste again; roast further 10mins. Remove from oven; place pork on foil-lined tray; baste with mixture of 2tbs honey, 1tbs each dark soy and vegetable oil. Place under grill, 5mins; turn pork; glaze again; put under grill until glossy and caramelized.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


The news came through in late May last year that fire destroyed one of Gympie’s historic houses. Learning about the fire saddened me; and memories of times long gone flooded my mind. I was further saddened and angered when I learned later the fire had been deliberately lit. Never will I understand the workings of the minds of some in our society.

The home was originally built in the 1880s for William Smyth. Restorative work had just been completed on the heritage-listed home. (The home is pictured above - after the restoration was completed - just prior to the fire)

Sydney-born Smyth travelled north to work in Gympie’s rich goldfield as an underground miner. At the height of his career he was director of the Phoenix Mine. Smyth held shares in various mines, making him the largest owner on the Gympie goldfield. From 1883-1884 he was town mayor; and from 1892 to 1899, M.L.A.

William Smyth’s stately Queenslander-style family home stood proudly on the high side of Lady Mary Terrace, Gympie for many years, gracefully watching the years come and go. Its walls protected many stories. All those stories, the walls, ceilings and roof went up in smoke on 22nd May.

Sadly, when significant buildings of advanced age are destroyed a slice of our history is lost forever. These old buildings are so vulnerable. This one was a grand old girl; a gracious Dame…not unlike me, if you must insist upon a comparison; a fossil of sorts!

During my childhood and teenage years, the house was the home and surgery of Dr. Lindsay, our family GP. Each December Dr. Lindsay hosted a party for his young patients. It was not only a generous gesture by him, but it was clever thinking on his part, as well! Dr. Lindsay’s Christmas parties made doctors less scary to us small children. Many special treats were on offer at the parties; not the least, endless supplies of Dixie cup ice creams packed in dry ice to keep them frozen while the children worked up their appetites participating in the many fun party games.

When I was a teenager, I caught the twinkling, flirtatious eye of Dr. Lindsay’s eldest son. Before tossing it back to him, I had the good fortune on a couple of occasions of being a guest at the family’s highly-polished dinner table in the expansive dining room of the magnificent old home.

It was late December, 1963. Billy, the elder son who went on to follow in his father’s footsteps by becoming a doctor invited me to join the family for dinner one night between Christmas and New Year.

Dr. Lindsay, large in stature, had a gruff manner in his day-to-day dealings with people. His gentle bedside manner while attending to his patients was a lot different to his interactions otherwise with people. It was if he had two personalities; one reserved for his patients; and the other for everyday people who, it appeared, tried his patience.

When in his presence, I always felt a bit, if not a lot, intimidated.

As a little girl I was very shy; and that shyness didn’t completely disappear as I ventured forth through my teenage years.

There were four children in the Lindsay family. Billy had two older sisters and a younger brother, Edward. Edward was what was called in those days – “a late child”; an “after thought”; perhaps “a mistake”, even. There were 17 years between Billy and his baby brother, Edward; and many more between Edward and his much older sisters. But if Edward had been a “mistake”, that was soon forgotten. He was quite a spoiled little fellow, doted on by his parents and old siblings alike. The older children lived away from home, but always made a big fuss over the “baby of the family” upon their return. Edward was wanting in attention…ever, it seemed; and, to me, he played on it and his hallowed position in the family.

The whole family, including me sat around the dining table. It was a hot summer’s night in December, as it mostly always is at that time of the year here in Queensland, and the rest of Australia.

To allay the heat and humidity, the large, heavy-duty pedestal fan from the doctor’s surgery was brought into the room in an effort to give us some relief from the oppressive conditions.

Everything was running smoothly around the dining table. I contributed quietly to the conversation whenever I felt it necessary; and when I was called upon to add my worth to whatever the current topic was. And then Edward decided the night had become a little staid and formal. He wasn’t receiving the attention he felt he deserved.

Taking control of the fan, he switched it to the highest, strongest setting! All of a sudden it was if a cyclone had entered the room. A gale-force wind blew down along the table. In my mind, I imagined all of the dinnerware flying through the air! I kept my eyes lowered because I felt at any moment I was going to break out in a fit of the giggles; and that just wouldn’t do!

Five years old, Edward was in his element. He was having the time of his life. With his head placed in front of the large fan, his blonde locks were horizontal to his head…flying in the strong breeze, or should I say, wind! His eyes took on a slanted appearance, not unlike those of a dog with its head out of the window of a car travelling at high speed!

At the head of the table sat Dr. Lindsay; unperturbed it seemed to me.

Either that or he was sitting there tensely gritting his teeth in an effort to remain sane and controlled. I chose to ignore what was going on around me. I wasn’t game to look at Billy because that would have been my undoing; and his, too. He was sitting close at my side; I could sense his reaction to the activity going on around us was similar to my own. I decided pretty quickly my breaking down in hysterical laughter probably wasn’t quite the thing to do at that particular moment in time!

Dr. Lindsay, very quietly, without raising his eyes from his dinner plate, repeatedly said: “Edward. Edward. Turn the fan down. Edward…Edward…”

Edward went through a period of deafness that evening; of his own choosing, of course. That he didn’t hear his father’s monotone demands wasn’t a by-product of the force and roar of the fan. Edward was in his element. He was having the time of his life. I dare say, he did liven up the evening!

Eventually, the novelty wore off, and finally, Edward did as he was told; and our food, although fortunately remaining on the plates, was cold.

The cyclonic gale ceased, but my wanting to dissolve in laughter hadn’t. It took all my power to keep a lid on my laughter. Dinner was completed without further ado or comment on the little fellow’s behaviour.

Not wanting to be ill-mannered, I’d managed to keep my emotions contained. However, the moment I got into Billy’s car to be taken home, we looked at each other, and we both dissolved in laughter. Words were not necessary!

It was a heartbreaking loss of a part of Gympie’s history when the majestic old home became the fire’s victim.

However, out of the ashes a Phoenix did arise, in a way - because of the fire many friends from my childhood and teenage years have made contact. The fire that destroyed Dr. Lindsay’s once stately home certainly set alight memories for me; and, obviously, for many others, too. I wasn’t alone with my memories.

Kids really are social little creatures, aren’t they?

Over and beyond my own birthday celebrations and those of my friends, I attended many festive shindigs.

Miss Gidley, my piano teacher held a Christmas party or end-of-the-year party annually for her students. Along with the usual games and high jinks, pupils presented well-rehearsed musical performances, either as soloists or as the other half of a duo; or part of a larger grouping.

Our artistic renderings were not restricted to piano playing; the singing and play-acting of little ditties were a part of our presentations, too. “There’s a Hole in My Bucket”, with poor old Henry pleading with dear Liza to fix it is one happy reminder of Miss Gidley’s parties’ frivolities.

I wonder if Liza ever did fix that hole in the bucket; or did she decide it more prudent to star in “Cabaret”, instead? The latter probably was the easier option. The hole had been in that bucket for years, with no sign of every being repaired!

School break-up and Sunday School Picnics added to our childhood fun. Such fun events were eagerly anticipated; not only because they heralded a break from the tedium of compulsory attendances, but also for the bags of boiled lollies and stone fruits, and for the soft drinks, ice creams and cordial abundantly on offer.

Sack races, egg and spoon races, tug-of-wars and three-legged sprints were all part of the day’s energetic activities.

Along with those joyful pursuits, dates were set aside for many other social affairs. Some of which were various Brownies or Girl Guides gatherings. Those activities involved hikes, camping and outdoor evenings huddled around log fires entranced by our leaders’ entertaining stories.

Cubs and Boy Scouts had similar regular events. My brother and his mates were fully occupied learning how to tie knots and cook on an open fire. The boys went their way; and I went mine dressed in my chocolate-brown Brownie uniform; or later as I became a little older, in my navy blue Girl Guides uniform.

Our excitement over-flowed each November; and our patience tested as we waited for Guy Fawkes’ Night. It fell on November fifth. Guy Fawkes’ Night was a night filled with boisterous merrymaking. It always went off with a bang!

Vegetable-Bacon Slice: Grease and line 23cm square dish. Heat 1tbs oil in pan; fry 1 large, chopped onion and 4 bacon rashers, chopped, until onion is soft. In bowl, combine 2 large, grated zucchinis, 1 large, grated carrot. 100g thinly-sliced mushrooms, 1c S.R. flour, 1/2c oil, 5 lightly-beaten eggs and 1c grated cheese; season; mix well. Spoon into lined dish; cook in 180C oven, 30-45mins until firm.

Muesli Slice: Mix together 1c rolled oats, 1/4c sunflower seeds, 1/4c plain flour, 1c dried apricots, diced, 1/4c slivered almonds, 1c cranberries and 1/4c sesame seeds. Melt 60g butter, 1/4c honey and 2tbs brown sugar; add to dry ingredients; stir in 1 egg and 1/4c milk until well combined. Press into greased, lined lamington tin; bake 15mins at 180C. Cool.

Passionfruit Slice: Brush 16x26cm slab pan with melted butter; line base and long sides with paper; allow overhang. Use wooden spoon to combine 1c S.R. flour, 1c desiccated coconut, 1/2c caster sugar and 100g butter, melted (or replace Scotch Fingers for flour). Use hands to bring dough together in bowl; transfer to pan. Use metal spoon to press firmly into pan; bake 12mins in 180C oven; cool. Reduce oven to 150C. Whisk until smooth, 395g condensed milk, 1/2c fresh lemon juice and 2tbs passionfruit pulp; spread evenly over base; bake 15mins, until just firm. Cut into slices when completely cool.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


BudgerigarsMy Birthday on Hinchinbrook Island

Purposefully, I fly under the radar whenever I can; which is always if I can get away with it. It’s how I like living my life. I keep to myself as much as possible. I enjoy my own company; I cherish privacy and my own space. I never experience pangs of loneliness. Being alone is how I’m meant to be, I believe. If that is the case and my destiny, I can see no point in my bucking against it. Go with the flow is my motto; it surely makes life easier. I spent my working life dealing with people...many people, at all times. And, often - 24/7 - in many various situations.

Nowadays, when my minutes, hours, days and weeks are my own to play with at my own will and choice, there are times I fly so far beneath the radar I practically skim the ground. The grass beneath me stirs from the breeze caused by my gliding so close to it. I think I’m becoming a quail. Hang on for a second or two while I shake my tail feathers! Look closely now because quails don’t have much as far as tail feathers are concerned. If you blink you might miss the life-changing event!

I’m not fond of caged birds. Don’t misunderstand me - I’m very fond of birds. I love birds. It’s the cages I don’t like. I’m against the imprisonment, in cages, of free-spirited creatures, which include me!

When we were kids, my brother built a large, airy aviary, wherein he kept colourful budgerigars and a variety of finches. The aviary’s bottom-dwellers, keeping the area clean, were a family of quails. The birds were my brother’s responsibility; I had little to do with them. In those days, many people had aviaries in their yards; my brother wasn’t alone in his hobby.

An uncle, thrice-removed or even further away along the family tree (he was married to a cousin of our grandmother) who lived not far from us in Gympie converted his back garden into a magical wonderland. Stone-paved paths meandered through a multitude of blooming rose bushes, lush hydrangeas, daisies, chrysanthemums, lilies and a profusion of other flowering plants of denominations I’ve since forgotten; or of which I never did have knowledge.

In the midst of the kaleidoscopic garden well-trimmed, glossy-leafed hedges mimicked a maze. The mini-maze intrigued and thrilled all visitors to the garden. It created a world of fantasy to children and adults alike. Intermingled with the picturesque landscape large aviaries housed birds of wide and varied plumes. At their own free will, proud peacocks nonchalantly wandered around the garden, disdainfully ignoring the presence of all other creatures, human or otherwise.

Often I have difficulty eating small birds! Chickens, ducks, a goose, even, never deter my appetite, but if a small bird, cooked, of course, is placed before me, I tend to ponder a while…whether I should; or whether I should not…

Allow me to explain.

One Saturday night many years ago, I prepared a meal of Chicken in the Basket for my then husband and me. No sooner had I placed our meals in front of us on the table we both looked at each other rather gloomily; and then we looked back at the poor little golden-roasted poussins aka small, young, spring chickens surrounded by crisp French Fries in their napkin-lined baskets.

Simultaneously, we removed the ill-fated birds from the baskets and returned them to the kitchen; our dinner that blighted night consisted of hot potato chips and side salads.

Sunday arrived. I disguised the chickens by de-boning them and turning the flesh into a curry.

For a while in 1969 and 1970, I worked part-time at night at a little eating house on St. Paul’s Terrace, Fortitude Valley. It was called “The Pelican Tavern”. The tavern no longer exists, but it hosted many, many fun-filled nights of eating pleasure from the late Fifties through to the Seventies. Every Sunday afternoon at the tavern a popular trad jazz group of the time, “The Varsity Five Plus Two”, entertained the tavern’s happy, satisfied patrons. The trad jazz band consisted of a group of university students…as the name gives clue to.

The Pelican Tavern’s builder-owner-chef, Kyriol Wypow originally came to Australia from Kiev in the Ukraine, having left the country of his birth after the turbulent years following the Russian Revolution. When Kiev became part of the Soviet Socialist Republic in 1921, Mr. Wypow decided it was time for him to leave and seek his life adventures elsewhere. He trekked south, down through Turkey, finally ending up in Australia; the country that became his home until his death. I still feel honoured and fortunate having known Kyriol Wypow. Back during the time I worked for him, he and I became great mates.

Saturday nights at the Tavern were always busy. Many patrons returned week after week, having fallen victim to the tavern’s ambience; and to the good, simple food it offered.

It was a busy Saturday evening - a first-time diner ordered Chicken in the Basket. When his meal was placed before him, he proceeded to pour the contents of his finger bowl over the chicken while the others at his table and beyond looked on aghast! Not a word was uttered as he tucked into his tucker! Everyone put their heads down and acted as if nothing out of the normal run of events had occurred. No one wanted to embarrass the poor fellow. I often wonder to this very day, if he ever did realise his blunder!

Back in the mid-Eighties, when I was manager of the resort at Cape Richards on the magnificent Hinchinbrook Island in tropical north Queensland, my staff successfully planned and pulled off a surprise birthday party for me. I hadn’t a clue what was in store.

I dined out on the deck surrounding the resort’s pool that evening; beneath the twinkling stars with the sounds of the ocean lapping the shore. Dome of my island guests and members of my staff joined in on my unplanned-by-me birthday celebration.

With a wide smile on his face, one of my island chefs presented me with a specially-prepared meal of Brandied Quail with Apricots.

The meal and evening were both memorable; and highly enjoyable!

Roasted Quails with Apricot-Mustard Glaze: Season 4-6 semi-boned quails; place skin-side in pan; drizzle a little brandy over birds; bake 15mins in 230C oven. In saucepan, stir together 1/4c apricot jam, 1/4c brandy, 2-1/2tsp dry mustard and 1/4tsp each salt and pepper; stand 10mins; then put on med-low heat; simmer 2-3mins; reserve half of glaze. Brush quail with glaze; bake 10mins or until rich golden; don’t overcook. Add 1/3c brandy and 1/4c diced dried apricots to reserved glaze; simmer 6-7mins; spoon over quails.

Grilled Quail with Couscous & Winter Carrot Salad: Preheat indoor or BBQ grill, med-high. Toast 1tsp each coriander and cumin seeds in pan until they begin to pop; grind in grinder or mortar and pestle. Combine 3tbs honey, 2tbs orange juice, 2tbs lime juice, 1tbs sherry, 1tsp minced ginger, 2 minced garlic cloves and the toasted spices; add 4 butter-flied quails; toss in marinade; marinate 1hr. Remove from marinade; season. Place on grill skin side down; cook 5mins; flip; grill another 5mins or until cooked; don’t overcook! Boil any leftover marinade; drizzle over the quail. Winter Carrot Salad: Heat oil in pan, add 8 blanched baby orange and purple carrots halved lengthwise; add 2tbs honey and 1tbs butter; toss; stir until caramelized; season. Couscous: Melt 1tbs butter in saucepan; sauté 1/2c chopped onion until it begins to caramelize; add crushed garlic clove; sauté 2-3mins; add 2c chicken stock, 2tbs lemon juice, 1ts ground cumin, 1/2c dried apricots and 1/4c currants; bring to boil. Add 2c couscous; season; stir well; cover; remove from heat. Stand until all liquid is absorbed; fluff with fork; add 1 chopped green onion/shallot, 2tbs each chopped mint and parsley.

Chicken in a Basket: Place two poussins in roasting tin; throw in a few unpeeled garlic cloves to add a bit of flavour, if you like. It’s up to you. Brush with oil; season. Roast in preheated oven 200C (400F) for 30 minutes or until juices from the legs run clear when pierced with a skewer. Meanwhile, par-boil some potatoes; when cool, cut into chips; heat oil in deep-fryer, saucepan or deep-sided frying pan; fry chips until golden; drain well. Arrange napkins in two small baskets. Place chips in the folds of the cloth. Place poussins in basket, surrounded by the hot potato chips aka French Fries. Serve with bowls of side salad. Grab to other bowls – place a wedge or slice of lemon in each bowl; top up with lukewarm water. Serve the finger bowls with the chicken in the baskets…so you can dip your fingers in them between pulling the chickens apart! This is an “eating with fingers” dish! Don’t pour the contents of your finger bowls over the chicken!!!!!

Monday, May 06, 2013


My mother, Elma...aged 18 yearsElma...18 years oldMum modelling in a fashion parade in the early FiftiesMy Nana on her wedding day; Ivy aged 16 and my mother taken on her third birthday...17th February, 1922.
A Flamin'Redhead

When I started thinking about what I’d write in honour of mothers – it being Mother’s Day this coming Sunday, 12th May - like a bolt out of the blue it suddenly hit me that I’ve lived longer without my mother in my life than I did with her in it!

My mother passed away unexpectedly 39 years ago. She was far too young at the age of 54. I was unprepared for such a massive loss.

Very few amongst us are prepared for the passing of a loved one, even in cases when served notice of pending consequences. Knowing that nothing, and no one, lasts forever makes no difference when one is confronted with one’s own personal, individual loss and grief. Hours aren’t spent practicing beforehand learning how to cope with the emotional rollercoaster of losing a loved one.

There is no time limit on grief. It’s my belief that grieving is endless. However, as time passes, we learn to compartmentalize; but, in my humble opinion that doesn’t mean we cease grieving.

No matter how much we scream, scratch, kick and complain about change, change happens. Nothing remains the same.

I’ll be eternally grateful to my Mum. She gave me the two greatest gifts of and love.

As is the case for many of us, I’m sure; I rue the hugs in which I was deficient; for the too many words left unspoken; for the hasty, harsh, at times, sarcastic utterances; the thanks I negligently forgot to bestow; the sacrifices I selfishly failed to recognise.

A mother’s love is unconditional. It’s wonderful that one day out of 365 or 366 at a leap, we celebrate mothers; but the celebration should continue throughout every day of the year; not just for one day.

Many of us leave it until it’s too late to say the words we wish we’d said; when it’s too late to say “Thank you” and “I love you”.

My mother wasn’t perfect, but, to be candid, who amongst us is?

Mum did her best in raising my late brother and me. Times were tough, but she and her “Mumma”, our Nana, instilled within us good values and manners.

When we were children, my older brother and I were taught to acknowledge the absurdity and futility in many of life’s situations. Our Mother and Nana taught us not to be ashamed of our tears or fears; they opened our hearts and minds to laughter.

Our pantry was always well-stocked. We were never without clean clothes on our backs, nor were we ever without shoes on our feet; except, of course, when tearing about the yard barefooted!

In their heydays, Mum and Nana were tall, attractive women.

Both Elma, my Mum (maiden name “Hay”) with her deep auburn hair and Nana aka Ivy Hay (maiden name “Hose”) with her rich chestnut-coloured hair had no need for henna enhancements. The names “Hay” and “Hose” are of Scottish origin.

A source of constant amusement and teasing within our small family troupe was Mum’s harmless superstitions. She never wore green unless it was accompanied by red, whether it be a concealed red thread sown into the underside of her dress hem or a red button hidden somewhere; either would suffice to ward off whatever needed to be warded off. Spilled salt caused more salt to be tossed over her left shoulder – just in case - better safe than sorry!

I miss my Mum, even after all the years since her passing. We’ve a lot to talk about and much laughter left to share. You may not always see eye to eye – but honour and love your mother - you’ll have no other.

And I miss my mother’s mother, my Nana - who passed away two years after my mother.
It was too sad to watch her sorrow of the death of her daughter – my mother.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers.

Fluffy French Toast: Slowly whisk in 1c milk to 1/4c plain flour; add pinch salt, 3 eggs, 1/2tsp cinnamon, 1tsp vanilla and 1tbl sugar; whisk until smooth; saturate 12 thick bread slices in mixture. Heat lightly-oiled pan over med-heat; cook until golden on both sides. Serve drizzled with Maple Syrup, strawberries, sliced bananas or other fresh fruit.

Streusel-topped Stuffed French Bread: Melt 2tbs butter over med-heat; add 2tbs each sugar and water; stir to dissolve; stir until foamy; add 2 bananas, sliced into ½-inch thick rounds (or 1c sliced strawberries); cook until tender; cool. Combine 50g cream cheese and 2tbs butter; fold fruit through cheese (if using strawberries, mix strawberry jam into cheese). Cut a 2-inch slit ¾ way through 6 x 1-1/2-inch thick bread slices; spoon cheese into bread; gently close pocket; chill. Whisk 2c full cream milk, 6 eggs, 1/2tsp cinnamon, vanilla and 1/2 cup sugar; saturate bread in egg mixture, 10mins; turn occasionally. Place 1-1/2c toasted almond flakes on plate; coat both sides of bread with almonds; place on baking sheet. Combine 1/4c brown sugar, 1/4c quick oats, 2tbs plain flour and 2tsp cinnamon; using fingertips, rub in 1/4c butter to make crumble; sprinkle over bread. Bake in preheated 175C oven until golden, about 25mins. Serve hot with maple syrup.

Berry-Ricotta Pancakes: Combine 1/2c whole-wheat flour, 1/4c plain flour, 1tsp sugar, 1tsp baking powder, 1/4tsp bi-carb and 1/2tsp nutmeg. Whisk together until smooth, 3/4c ricotta, 1 large egg, 1 large egg white, 1/2c buttermilk, 1tsp lemon zest and 1tbl lemon juice; stir dry ingredients into wet until just combined. Place oiled non-stick pan on med-heat. Pour 1/4c batter for each pancake, 2 at a time into pan; sprinkle each pancake with un-thawed or fresh blueberries. Cook until edges dry and bubbles begin to form; flip! And flipping great served with vanilla yoghurt and berries on the side!

Flamin’ Redhead: Pour 3ml cranberry juice into shot glass; add 3ml maple syrup and 24ml vodka. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 02, 2013


When I was a little girl sporting plaits and a sprinkling of freckles across my nose, the family washing was always, reliably done on a Monday. Never on a Sunday; Saturday was never considered because Saturday, religiously, was movie matinee day. Tuesday morning was devoted to the ironing, and Tuesday afternoon was set aside to go “down town” to do the weekly shopping. Wednesday was for completing the ironing that didn’t get done on Tuesday, along with other household chores that needed attending to. Thursday had its designated activities – housework never goes away, not even back then; so Thursday's activities were a bit of the same, I imagine; but quite often on Thursday nights we went off to the “pictures” again, because it was Family Night at Gympie’s Olympia Picture Theatre; and Family Night was not to be missed, not if we could help it. Friday was spent tidying up loose ends in preparation of the weekend ahead - so, Monday, without argument, was set aside for the washing.

If we ever lost track of time and days, we’d always know when it was Monday because the family washing day would be underway! No doubt Monday was chosen because it was thought ideal to start any given week off with not only a clean slate, but clean sheets, pillowcases, towels and clothes, as well!

This natural phenomenon wasn’t just confined to our household; the activity went on in 99% of the households throughout the country and in other parts of the Western world, as well – and probably, even further afield!

Our mother, whose name was Elma, was the main income-earner in our little family unit; a unit that consisted of Elma, her mother Ivy, our grandmother, whom we called “Nana”; my older brother, Graham and me. Graham beat me into this world by two and a half years. A fact he was keen to often remind me about!

Nana maintained our humble home, attending to all the relevant chores pertaining thereto; other than gardening. Gardening was our mother’s domain. Mum enjoyed getting soil under her manicured, polished nails. For her, gardening, along with fishing and mud crabbing, was a relaxing pastime during her time off from work. My brother Graham also took an interest in gardening. I took an interest in the garden; but my enthusiasm was mild. My keenness was more directed to the picking of flowers; and to the eating of fresh, juicy tomatoes off their gangly bushes; and the enjoyment of munching on succulent, crisp, green peas straight from the vine.

Our backyard didn’t resemble a bowling green by any stretch of one’s imagination. The ground was uneven; grass grew, but a smooth, lush lawn was non-existent; its length was mostly controlled by our family of guinea pigs; those that didn’t escape, that is! Every other day there was a lot of scurrying going on as my brother and I went in hunt like hunters in an African safari to recapture the escapees before the neighbourhood dogs and cats (or ours) laid claim to them. Sometimes the hand-mower was run over the wayward grass, but it wasn’t the main chore uppermost in our minds. Graham and I had more important things to do.

Important occupations such as climbing the two healthy camphor laurel trees growing along the fence line in our backyard. The roots of the trees were set firmly in the ground. Both sheltered sturdy tree-houses amongst their strong branches. Each tree-house was built by the skilful, industrious hands of my brother. My girlfriends and I were allowed in the tree-house in the smaller tree of the two. The grander house (or palace) in the larger camphor laurel was designated “Boys Only”. Woe betide any girl who dared venture forth into that sanctified realm!

Beneath and between the two trees was a fowl house that accommodated mainly bantams, with the odd chicken if it dared to cross the road to our yard! Joseph, the cocky, titian-feathered bantam rooster ruled the court, the roost and all who roamed and perched within. Up the sides and over the roof of the bantams’ resting and laying house grew an obligatory choko vine.

On the other side of the yard, and to the rear of the property stood an open-fronted laundry shed,which consisted of three walls; a concrete floor; a sturdy, leak-proof roof and three concrete laundry tubs with cold-water taps feeding into each. Out front and to the right of the laundry shed where a lot of the action took place, stood an almighty copper/boiler!

The laundry shed also doubled as a theatre; a stage upon which my girlfriends and I re-enacted the Saturday matinee movies (or pictures as we called them during those days of the Fifties). So many times Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson or Audie Murphy, amongst other heartthrobs came to my rescue like gallant knights in sparkling white suits of armour.

Every Monday morning, Nana stoked up the fire beneath the copper’s belly. Sheets and pillowcases were the first victims to be boiled, followed by towels and tea towels. In turn, the washing loads, after draining for a few minutes in a laundry basket, were transferred to the water-filled wash tubs that patiently waited in line for their turn. The washing was then rinsed, with the whites going into a final blue rinse using Reckitt’s blue bags to keep the whites white.

All our bed linen was white in those days; coloured bed linen was still a thing of the future; or something seen in a Hollywood movie only. And all our laundry was done by hand. Much heavy lifting was incurred. No doubt, our mothers and grandmothers of the Fifties, Forties and earlier decades were strong of wrists, arms and shoulders.

After years of use, the wooden washing stick used to not only stir the items in the copper, but to lift the heavy wet articles out of the boiling, sudsy water, also, gained a “soapy” soft grey appearance. The end that spent most of its time in the hot water grew soft around the edges from years of hard work; however, after a few days rest between washes, it toughened up again before the next Monday arrived.

Clothes that needed boiling were the last cabs off the rank. The copper would be refilled with fresh, clean water. Those items of clothing that needed boiling would simmer away above the heat of the fire while the rest of the washing was attended to in the tubs in the laundry shed. One tub was used for starching. Not everything required starching, but a lot did.

Our clotheslines, unglamorously attached at each end to solid wooden posts buried into the ground, were strung width-wise across the yard. The lines sagged under their burdens of wet clothes, sheets and towels, but once the washing was pegged, the lines were held aloft by wooden props, which, until we “caught up with the times”, were made from trimmed, forked tree branches. Eventually, my brother made new props out of planed timber.

We thought we were very flash and up-to-date when we got those new fancy-dancy props! Forget the Joneses! They were running to keep up with us!

The washing was secured to the lines with wooden dolly pegs that defied the strongest winds.

Once dry and smelling so clean from the sunshine and fresh air, the washing was brought in. Items not requiring ironing were immediately folded or hung, and then put away into their rightful places. That which needed ironing was dampened by water spray…meaning lightly splashed on by hand. Spray bottles came much later.

Washing day was an event; a day-long event.

Monday night dinners were always prepared from Sunday lunch leftovers.

The following feasts were part of our Monday night fare: Corned beef fritters; Shepherd’s Pie made with leftover leg or shoulder of lamb; Beef Curry from the remaining beef roast. Monday night dinners were always eagerly anticipated and highly enjoyed.

Often for breakfast on Monday mornings after we’d enjoyed corned beef or silverside for our Sunday lunch, the leftover vegetables were turned Bubble and Squeak. The humble old B & B was a most delicious breakfast before we headed off to school.

Bubble & Squeak: In a frying pan, heat 2tbs oil; add 1 chopped onion; sauté over med-heat until soft but not brown. In a bowl, mix the onions with leftover potatoes, cabbage, sprouts, swede turnips, and whatever other leftover vegetables; season to taste. Heat 2tbs oil in same frying pan over med-heat; add the vegetables to pan; press mixture evenly into large patty. Cook until bottom is brown, 10-15mins. Holding a large plate over pan, flip the pan and plate over, turning patty onto plate; add a little more oil to pan; when hot, return patty, browned side up. Cook until the bottom is brown, about 10mins. Cut patty into wedges; serve with fried eggs, sausages and/or bacon.

Shepherd’s Pie for Two: Preheat oven, 200C (180C fan). Heat 1tbs oil in large frying pan; when hot, add 1 finely-chopped onion and 2 carrots cut into 1cm thick discs; sauté until onions are soft and carrots softened. Add leftover roast lamb, chopped into bite-size pieces; cook for a few minutes. Add 1tbs plain flour; stir through. Add 200ml stock, 1tsp tomato puree, a handful of frozen peas, a good splash of Worcestershire sauce and seasonings. Simmer for 10mins. Add a little more stock if mixture is too dry, or flour if the gravy needs thickening. Adjust seasoning as desired. Transfer to oven-proof dish; spread mashed potatoes on top. Scratch the surface of potato with a fork. Bake until potato is browned, and the gravy is bubbling around the edges – about 30 minutes.

Leftover Roast Beef Curry: Dice 2 onions, 1 or 2 peeled Granny Smith apples; sauté in 2tbs oil. Add 1tbs curry powder (or to taste); OR make your own curry paste - by sautéeing in peanut oil - 3 chopped garlic cloves, 3 chopped green chillies, 2 inches fresh ginger, crushed or grated, 1tsp garam masala, 2tbs medium curry powder, 1tsp ground coriander, 2/3rd tablespoon cumin seeds and a dash or two of turmeric) and ground black pepper. Add 1-1/2tbs plain flour; fry gently 1 minute. Blend 1-1/2 cups beef stock with 1 cup coconut milk or cream; add to onions, apples and spices; add finely-sliced celery and carrots (add chopped kumara, pumpkin or potatoes, too, if you's all up to you): bring to boil. Add 2tbs fruit chutney, 1/3rd cup sultanas or raisins and 2 thinly-sliced bananas. You can add a drained can of tomatoes, if you like. Simmer 30 minutes. Dice cooked beef into bite-size pieces; add to sauce; season; simmer gently, 15-20mins.