Thursday, August 29, 2013


In the mid-Nineties, as I’ve written before, I was the chef/cook at Collinsville’s Town & Country Hotel-Motel. As well as being a popular watering hole and feeding trough, the Town & Country regularly hosted a variety of entertainers. Well-known Aussie country artists from throughout the country who travelled the wide expanse of this land of ours often performed at the hotel; mostly on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights.  The back lounge bar was a large wide room with a slightly-raised platform where the bands and singers played and sang; and a small dance floor in front of the “stage” for those patrons who wanted to dance a jig or two. And there were many who loved to do the latter; including me!

For the nights when live entertainment wasn’t on the agenda, well-stocked jukeboxes blasted out popular tunes; mostly country-flavoured melodies; with a lot of alternate-country, Blues and country-rock thrown in to add to everyone’s musical enjoyment; again, including me. The main public bar had its own jukebox as did the lounge bar.

I’m sure Steve Earle made a fortune from “Copperhead Road” royalties. Not a day went by that it didn’t spin on either one the jukeboxes in the Town & Country; barely an hour, let alone half an hour went by, it seemed, without Steve belting out his tune and plucking his strings.  Not that anyone complained. Who could possibly get sick of  “Copperhead Road” - not I, for one!

And then, the Swedish band, Rednex showed up and shocked everyone (and probably themselves) when they released their cover of “Cotton-Eye Joe”. The Rednex version of old Joe set everyone’s feet a-hopping. The place was never the same again! 

To add to the confusion, 4 Non Blondes appeared on the scene with “What’s Up”.  There was no escape.  If you were a person who didn’t like music, the Town & Country Hotel-Motel wasn’t the place to be.  I love music; of all genres; I’ve a catholic taste in music. And, country music is way up at the top of my list.

George Strait kept Dolly company.  Kathy Mattea, Wynona, Patti Loveless, Reba and Martina watched on in envy.  That was until Alan Jackson, John Michael Montgomery, Clint, Garth, Travis, Vince, The Mavericks along with Brookes & Dunne and so many others joined the party.  Faith had faith in Clint. Dwight strolled in from LA; and strangely, he wasn’t treated as an outsider; he was made very welcome by the others.  Trish Yearwood had earlier declared “She’s In Love with the Boy”; and a few years later that “boy” turned out to be Garth Brooks; who in turn she married.  She didn’t care that he had friends in low places. 

Rodney Crowell only had eyes for Rosanne, but, I had eyes and ears for him, too. Rodney had stolen my heart and ears when I was living on Newry Island. But if I have to be honest…I’m not in any way monogamous when it comes to country music!  I love them all…well, a hell of a lot of them! 

And it would be sacrilegious to leave Willie or Waylon off my list; so I won’t even think about doing that; and Kimmie Rhodes and Iris Dement; Joe Ely and John Prine have to stay with the gang, as well; but I won’t get too carried away; you might get the wrong idea about me.  It’s difficult to stop…..

The locals, many of whom were miners at the nearby coal mine, along with graziers, ringers and jackaroos etc., from the surrounding cattle properties were never at a loss for entertainment in Collinsville.  To some, Collinsville might appear to be a one horse town, but it’s not; it’s a few horses town because, as well as the coal mine, the town is surrounded by beef cattle properties. 

And when I lived and worked in Collinsville it was a boot-scootin’, line-dancing, swinging, rocking little township!

One Wednesday night a massive mechanical bull was set up in the middle of the lounge bar. An excited crowd crushed through the hotel doors. On-the-spot meal orders as well as a hot and cold buffet were on offer for the hungry prospective bull riders. Ominously, the mechanical bull stood ready in the middle of the room; ready to take on all-comers; with its flaring nostrils and evil glint in its eyes, the bull knew it would always be the winner in the end!

Jody, a sometimes wild local lass decided to go “out on the town” that night.

To give you a little background on Jody –

When I worked in Collinsville the first time around; employed by Morris Catering as manager/chef of the Mess Hall/canteen and single men’s accommodation for the miners who worked for Collinsville Coal, I was also responsible for the rental of a house.  The house was down the other end of the street from where I lived; also in a house owned by Morris Catering. My house came with my job; it was part of the package deal.  

I was acting landlady of the house “down the road” on behalf of the company.

Jody and her then partner were tenants of the house.  The bloke she lived with was a very “dark” fellow – I mean “dark” in character.  There was something about him I didn’t trust.  I didn’t like him at all; he made my skin crawl. I could barely bring myself to acknowledge him when our paths crossed.  I found him to be quite sinister.  As it turned out later, I wasn’t off base in my assessment of him.

Whenever it was necessary, I preferred to deal with Jody, not her partner.

Jody, no matter how wild and erratic she appeared to be on the outside; and from the many stories that circulated about her, kept an extremely tidy and clean home.  I was very surprised, to be honest, the first time I had to inspect the house.  Often I had to chase them up for rent money. They always paid up in the end, but at times it was a battle extracting the money from them.  However, I could say nothing negative about Jody’s housekeeping.  Obviously, she was a perfectionist when it came to housework.

By time I’d arrived back in Collinsville to take up the position at the Town & Country, her live-in boyfriend had left town, with some encouragement, I was told, to take up residence in a building with bars, but not the kind of bars at the Town & Country Hotel!

Whenever Jody decided it was time to hit the town and kick up her heels the publicans of the town’s two pubs shook in their boots and readied themselves for her appearance in either’s pub.  

Both pubs – “the Top Pub” aka The Central and “the Bottom Pub” aka the Town & Country were diagonally situated on opposite sides of the town’s rather short main street.

Everyone knew a wild, crazy time was in store when Jody appeared on the scene.

Jody isn’t her real name for legal and obvious reasons.  She was in her late thirties, at a guess! 

Jody was from one of two long-established, well-known families in Collinsville.  The two families were a bit like the Hatfields and the McCoys; the two feuding families of the West Virginia-Kentucky area in the 1800s; or perhaps akin to the disunity of Shakespeare’s Capulets and Montagues.  With not as much violence – just the odd punch thrown throughout the years; along with a few suspicious glances every now and then; bandied to and fro also were cursory curses that’d make your grandmothers blush.  I’m sure you get the picture!

Jody had legs as long and as skinny as those of an emu. Urban legend was that when she was a tear-away teen the local cops could never catch her when they’d spotted her up to mischief. She’d take off at speed; at full flight across the paddocks, leaping fences, leaving the exhausted police in her wake.  Jody wasn’t bad; she had a heart of gold, really, if anyone cared to take a look; but, during “her moments” she liked to stir the pot!

When one of the publicans had had their fill of her, he’d politely and firmly nudge her on; pointing her in the direction of the other pub up the road.  This went on back and forth until she’d finally go home; and then, we’d not see her again for another couple months or so. Most times where possible, the publican and the bar staff…speaking for those I worked for, would only serve Jody beer.  They did their utmost to keep her off the spirits as much as they possible were able to do.  They weren’t always successful.  Once she set foot out of our doors, she was out of our control.  People still are responsible for their own choices.

Returning to Collinsville after my short stint in Townsville, I purposely got to know Jody a little.  At first she didn’t like me at all.  In her eyes and mind, I was the “evil landlady” who was always chasing her for rent money; but in time I wore her resistance down.  Every time I saw her, I greeted her pleasantly by name, asking how she was and how her children were. 

She had a daughter of whom she was rightly very proud.  The daughter had won a basketball scholarship to the US; and the daughter was living and studying in the States.  Jody showed me photos of her daughter and she was a beautiful-looking young lady.

Jody’s teenage son was in the custody of the children’s father, Jody’s ex-husband (not the fellow behind bars).  And again, her son was very bright and a handsome, clean-cut lad. From what I could tell, Jody loved her children dearly.

So she and I became passing acquaintances. I could see her walls regarding me were gradually disintegrating.  I had no intentions of being her best friend, but I felt there was a certain amount of vulnerability about her; and I thought she suffered from lack of self-confidence; both of which made her act up after she’d had a few too many drinks.  There was more to Jody than many folk gave credit.

Some of the local barflies made her the butt of their pranks at times, knowing they could get a “rise” out of her.  And because she always took the bait, they continued with their thoughtless stupidity. I thought it was unfair. The behaviour of some of the fellows made me feel ill-at-ease. I never joined in with the laughter when they played their games.  I felt they were being very childish and quite cruel; and I told them as much.

A lot of it, of course, Jody had brought on herself because of her wild behaviour at different times when she’d had let her hair down after having a bit too much to drink; but Jody was Jody. She meant no personal harm to anyone else.  She wasn’t a bully; nor was she vindictive in any way. 

A few times when chatting with her, and not meaning or wanting to offend her, I’d quietly suggest that she not rise to their occasions; not take the bait when the fellows started teasing her and playing their tricks on her; for her to try her best to ignore them and their childishness; to look in the opposite direction and let their idiotic antics run off her back like water off a duck’s back. 

It was because Jody always reacted, the fellows continued acting like little, naughty boys.  The thing was, if Jody was a bully and a nasty person she probably could have taken any one of them out with a single punch.  She was pretty fit; she was fiery; but that was not her style!  She allowed herself to be their prey.  I do believe, however, that as time went by she did follow my advice, perhaps a little; things did start to settle down quite a bit….after a while!

Let’s be honest…it takes every one of us time; it can’t be done overnight - to make our own personal, individual changes if and when they are needed…Jody was no different.

Jody loved country music. 
In those days I had a friend who was an ABC radio announcer, operating out of the Townsville ABC studios.  Stuie had his own country music programme every Friday night; it was a “ring-in-a-request” show. What Stuie didn’t know about country music and country artists wasn’t worth knowing. 

I always had the kitchen radio tuned to the ABC; and on Friday nights whenever I could sneak a stolen moment I’d ring Stuie for a request or two. Even without my calling in, he would always play a couple of songs for me. Stuie knew the songs and artists I liked.  

I loved having music playing while I cooked in the hot kitchens, no matter where I worked. Music helped me get through all the busy, hectic, stressful times in the kitchens; and I can assure you, there were many; usually every service!

Quite often, I’d ask Stuie to play a song for Jody.  As I mentioned, she wasn’t out and about on the town every night of the week. The majority of Friday evenings (and the rest of the week) she was at home, alone, listening to the radio – to Stuie’s popular Friday night country music programme.   

Sadly, Stuie McInnes passed away in February, 2010.  But I’m happy in the knowledge that he’s still spinning those turntables up there in radio Heaven.

The first time Jody heard a request on the radio made on her behalf, she couldn’t believe her ears; she couldn’t fathom that someone would do that for her. Jody got such a thrill out of my simple little gestures; and it was just a simple gesture.   I got a thrill just seeing how happy a small action like requesting a song for her made her feel. 

It is the simple things in life…..

I felt that throughout her life Jody had really been misjudged; and probably misunderstood; that no one bothered to take the time to discover who she really was; the inner Jody. There was a lot more to Jody than some folk believed.

People are keen to pre-judge another; and I felt too many pre-judged Jody without looking beyond some of her behaviour…her wildness; and, facing the facts; the reality; it only reared its head once in a while; but that was all that some people saw or wanted to see.  They didn’t want to delve deeper; that would take too much of an effort. 

Sometimes folk enjoy seeing the worst in others; or what they perceive to be the worst. All some people need is one, slight little glimpse of what they think to be a fault in another and off the ball starts rolling….

And, I must be honest here; when I first met Jody; when she was a tenant in the Morris house; when I was her “acting” landlady; I, too, was guilty of being prejudiced. 

It was after I saw how clean and tidy she kept the house, that I started seeing Jody in a different light; and then later, when I returned to Collinsville, the light became clearer and brighter as time passed.  There was more to Jody that met the eye.

However, the night the mechanical bull was in bucking mode, so was Jody! 

I didn’t stick around for long once I’d finished up in the kitchen. It had been a long day and night.  The evening service had been extremely busy and full-on for me. I was pretty exhausted; contented, but exhausted.  All I felt like doing was to sit down in a quiet spot at the end of the bar as was often my wont to do at the end of a busy shift; to sip on icy cold beer before seeking the peace and quiet of my own four or more walls; away from the smells of food, grills, deep-fryers, hot plates, bars and people.

I wandered out to the lounge bar to watch the activities of the “bull riders” from afar while I enjoyed a cold beer. I had only the one chilled, most welcome beer; a VB aka Victoria Bitter, and then I headed for home to my two cats, Pushkin and Rimsky;  and one dog; Missy, a cocker spaniel; my three very spoiled pets!

From the colourful stories I was bombarded with the next morning when I turned up for work, I’d missed out on a wild night!  The wildest night in the West!

Jody, spurred on by spirits of the liquid kind; and by a spirited encouraging audience, decided she was the best bull rider in the north, the west, and the south combined!

She commandeered the mechanical beast as her own, allowing no others near it or atop of it!

As was her habit to do more often than not, when she’d imbibed than her share of alcoholic beverages, off came Jody’s habit.  Jody became a flasher!

So there was Jody, astride the bucking bull; her tee-shirt up around her head; bra-less!

Oh! Yippee-i-o-ki-ay! Yippee-i-o-ki-oh! Oh! Give me a home where the buffalo roam!

And I was roaming at home, missing out on the show!

Bone-In Rib Eye: Preheat grill to high. Well season 2 thick, bone-in rib eye steaks, about 700-750g each, with coarse salt and freshly-cracked black pepper. Set on grill; turn from time to time; 7-9mins per side or as desired. Remove from grill; let steaks rest 10mins. Arrange thick slices of beefsteak tomatoes on plates; top with chilled, blanched asparagus spears; sprinkle over crumbled blue cheese and crumbled, crispy-cooked bacon. Drizzle with vinaigrette; add steaks to plates.

Rump Steak with Stilton Sauce: Grill 2 thick rump steaks to desired doneness; let rest 10mins. Sauce: to drained, but not cleaned steak pan, pour 75ml port; stir quickly to incorporate the caramelized meat juices. Cook on high, 30-45sec; stir until port reduces and becomes a little syrupy. Reduce heat; add 150ml cream; once warmed through, add 100g crumbled Stilton or any blue cheese; stir until cheese is melted through sauce. Pour sauce over steaks; serve. 

Roasted Sirloin au Poivre: Preheat oven 260C. Place 1 whole sirloin on rack in shallow roasting pan, fat side up; sprinkle with salt; spread Dijon mustard over top of beef; sprinkle with crushed black peppercorns; add some unpeeled garlic cloves to the pan. Add a little water to pan; roast 15mins; reduce heat to 160C; cook to desired doneness; don’t over-do it. Transfer meat to platter; keep warm. Pour pan juices into cup; don’t clean pan; freeze juices, 10mins; spoon fat off top; drop fat into pan to melt; add 1/3c minced shallots; sauté, 2-3mins; remove from heat; add 3-1/2c beef broth and 1/3c brandy. Return pan to heat; boil until reduced; add reserved juices and 1 to 2tsp crushed peppercorns; add 1c thick cream; reduce 1/3rd; stir in 1tbs butter. Serve roast with juice on platter and the sauce.

Monday, August 26, 2013


An old Hobart pub, similar in appearance, if not in colour to the one described in my story 

A Spencer similar to the one I purchased, but mine was white.

I had a hankering for beef rissoles a few weeks ago. Once the seed has been planted in my mind for a certain food, whether it is rissoles, seafood or whatever else, if I don’t satisfy that yearning, the seed will grow into an oak tree; and that can become very uncomfortable!  My mind is capable of expanding from all the ideas and thoughts I lumber it with, but an oak tree?  Come on!  That’s asking a bit too much of it…

After the rissole seed had sprouted, but before it had a chance to grow into a fully-fledged oak tree, I made myself a batch of beef rissoles, with enough mixture to also make a meatloaf. After cooking the loaf, I froze it for later ingestion. 

While preparing, and then devouring the rissoles with relish (over a two day period), I was reminded of the time I visited Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania. My Tasmanian sojourn was in July, 1987, the year Aussie Pat Cash won Wimbledon. 

Coming from the tropics - I was managing the resort on Hinchinbrook Island at the time - a rude awakening lay in store for me.  A vast change in temperature to what I was accustomed from living in North Queensland was just around the corner and across the Strait waiting for me.

I was born and bred in Queensland, so the colder climes are not what I’m used to; however, in saying that, I wasn’t totally unprepared. 

When in Melbourne the day before I was due to board my flight across the Bass Strait to the nether regions of this country, I bought myself a pair of soft, black leather gloves; a black woollen cape (making me an ideal wingman/woman to Batman when Robin was off-duty) and my first ever spencer.

For those of you shaking your heads over the word “spencer”; a spencer is otherwise known as thermal underwear.  Never before in my life had I owned or worn a spencer. 

When I rang the resort on Hinchinbrook to speak with Johnno, my barman, I told him about my unusual, unique purchase. Johnno was a loyal, honest staff member. I could always trust him to tell me the truth; straight up; no embellishment; no covering up or lies. Every day when I was away from the resort handling the sales/marketing side of the business, I’d check in with John to find out how things were going in my absence. On the day of my spencer purchase, I told him upon my return to the island my intention was to have the garment framed, to be then hung on full display on the back wall of the cocktail bar!  I never did do that; and I never wore the spencer again once I returned to the warmth of North Queensland. 

To refresh your geographical memory/knowledge, Hinchinbrook Island sits in the waters of the Coral Sea, fringed to the east by the Great Barrier Reef - in tropical north Queensland - halfway between Townsville and Cairns.

Tasmania is an island state of Australia; the furthermost southern state of Australia.

  “Tassie”, as the little island is affectionately known, is moored 240 kilometres (150 miles) to the south of the southern mainland state of Victoria; across the Bass Strait.  The population of Tasmania at time of writing is somewhere around 600,000, at a guess; almost half of that number reside in Hobart.  Hobart is situated at the south end of the island, which makes it, in the whole scheme of worldly things and locations, pretty close to the Great Southern Ocean aka Antarctic Ocean; South Polar Ocean and the Southern Ocean; an ocean that surrounds and laps the shores of Antarctica!

These pertinent details are being explained because being in Tasmania in the month of July can be a shock to one’s system; particularly if that “one” comes from Queensland; and more particularly, Tropical North Queensland!

I’d been doing a Willie Nelson – having been “on the road” for about three weeks by the time I arrived in Hobart; and I was still looking down the barrel of another week or so of being “on the road”. I’d been attending travel/tourism expos/conferences/seminars in Sydney and Melbourne before renewing my visa; stamping my passport to enable me to enter Tasmania in a continuation of my job at hand.

(To those of you reading this in the North Hemisphere…the visa/passport comments are a joke…in case you are wondering otherwise)! 

After my departure from Tasmania, I still had another show to attend back in Queensland, in Brisbane; and then one in Biloela before I could swim back to Hinchinbrook Island to rejoin my cast and crew! 

Having to attend all the various tourism shows etc., I was like a travelling circus when I was on the move. I had to take so much promotional gear along with me. My baggage included display posters; pamphlets; booklets; videos and all other types of advertising data necessary for whatever event I had to attend in representation of the resort. 

As well as all the promotional paraphernalia, my own personal luggage needed a camel train to get it from one place to another.  I had to cover all types of events, from the day-to-day dealing with tourism/travel operators at the seminars/conferences; and, also, at the travel expos, catering to the public who were keen to plan their future holidays. 

Often, in the evenings formal and semi-formal social gatherings were on the agenda, too. It was advantageous to one’s individual commercial enterprises to attend such affairs, and, of course, to dress accordingly to suit the occasions.  Often, along with the professional engagements, some of us as a group would go out for an evening, free from business matters. 

The Kardashian sisters would have had nothing on me as I was back then!  Hitting the cities en route was a temptation impossible to ignore for one like me; one who loved shoes of all colours and styles; along with, of course, the clothes and accessories to accompany them!  I admit my weaknesses…I crumbled and fell into many traps along the way – having to, at times, purchase an extra suitcase to be filled with my new clothing purchases!  It was a never-ending cycle!

It was a Friday when I reached Hobart.  By that time, I was already sick and tired of restaurant food.  Throughout my trip I stayed at the best hotels and dining in the best eateries, but after a while of doing similar day after day; night after night, the glamour and gloss rubs off.  In fact, it doesn’t take long at all to become tarnished.  Continuously living out of suitcases isn’t a lot of fun, either. I was not only craving my own bed, but I was also craving a home-cooked meal; maybe three or more home-cooked meals – ten even!

The Holiday-Travel Show in Hobart was held in a vast, sturdy, old brick building with high, high ceilings down near the waterfront where the marina is; and where the finish line is for the yachts that participate in the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.  

In its day the building probably would have been a government building of some sort.

The tourism/travel show was due to commence the following day, Saturday; opening to the public at 9 am; and to close again at 6 pm. The same basically applied to Sunday; except the doors would open at 10 am, and close again at 4 pm.   

I’d been allocated my area in the huge, lower level room amongst all the other operators, but I couldn’t set-up my stand because all my gear had been delayed at the airport for whatever reason. I was advised it wouldn’t be delivered to the venue until after 2 pm.  The room where the event was being held was spread over the whole length and breadth of the building.  Standing around twiddling my fingers in the cold expanse of the large room, I watched the other people run around like busy bees as they set up their own display stands etc.  The standing; the waiting and the watching drove me insane; and I grew colder and colder. 

Through a window I spotted a pub on a corner across the way.

The fellow setting up his booth next to mine represented the Gold Coast Tourism Bureau.  Graham was his name.  In the past we’d met quite a few times at various events. Attending show after show; conference after conference on behalf of our respective companies, resorts etc., all of us attendees soon got to know each other, if not by name, by face, at least.

In need of some hot food and a couple of warming beverages of the alcoholic persuasion, I decided rather than standing around being useless waiting for my display material to arrive I would be better off using my time having lunch to while away the time. 

I beckoned to Graham.  He didn’t take long to drop tools when I explained my desperate predicament and my plan to him.  Without hesitation, he accepted my invitation for him to join me for lunch at the pub across the way.  

In tandem, off we trotted to the pub.  As we boundered along, I vividly described, in minute detail, my urgent need for some “good old home-style, home-cooked tucker”. I told Graham I’d soon expire if I didn’t find some to feast upon. He readily agreed he felt similarly.

The pub was an old stone building. It harboured a long track record of memories within its sturdy walls, no doubt.  The building, painted purple, embraced the corner where three streets merged.  The pub’s interior didn’t disappoint.  Wood-panelled walls and high ceilings already exuded an atmosphere of homely warmth the moment we set foot inside.  With the central heating, the old stone working fireplace at the end of the dining area in the main lounge bar and being greeted with the most enticing aromas wafting throughout the pub, the scene was set as if put together by the best mood-sensitive movie director.

I was in urgent need of a warming rum and coke, but more urgent was my need for a hot lunch that tasted like food from home. 

To my delight on the “Specials of the Day” blackboard was “Beef Rissoles in Brown Onion Gravy served with Mashed Potatoes and Green Peas”! I could have leapt for joy! All my Christmases and lunches had come at once!  I started to salivate just at the thought!  I pointed to the blackboard menu, drawing Graham’s attention to what was on offer.  His eyes lit up, too. 

Orders were being taken at a little window that looked out upon the main lounge with the kitchen at its rear.  Food, being our utmost, immediate priority, we went straight to the window to place our orders for two servings of rissoles before ordering our drinks.  The fellow who greeted us with an order book in hand was, in fact, none other than the chef himself.

I couldn’t hide my clearly visible dismay and disappointment when he said to me: “I’m very sorry, but I’ve sold out of rissoles!”

My world crumbled around me. My mouth fell open in disbelief.  My mind went blank!  All my dreams had been shattered by those few words uttered by the chef! 

Life can be so unfair at times….

The blameless chef couldn’t help but notice my spontaneous reaction; Blind Freddy would have noticed it.

Looking at me with undisguised pity in his eyes, the guileless chef said: “Look, I’ll tell you what…if you don’t mind waiting a little while, I’ll put together a new batch of rissoles for you.  I promise you…it won’t take me long.  How about that?  Would you mind waiting?”

“Really!” I gasped in surprise, after finally retrieving my voice.

 “No! No…it’s okay. Thanks very much, but no.   It’s just that I’d worked myself into a frenzy thinking how delicious they’d be.  I’ve been on the road, living in hotels for weeks…years, it seems…and when I saw rissoles on the blackboard menu, I thought I’d landed in Heaven!”  I laughed; and he joined in with my laughter.

The friendly, obliging chef was more insistent than I was.  He told us to go to the bar to order a drink or two; find ourselves a table by the wood-burning fire while he prepared our much-desired rissoles. True to his words, a while later - not long in the overall picture, Graham and I were each presented with a plateful of steaming hot, freshly-prepared and cooked rissoles; served with lashings of brown onion gravy, accompanied by creamy mashed potatoes and green peas. 

Talk about Heaven!

I will never forget that chilly July day, nor will I ever forget my hot meal of delicious rissoles; and my memory of one kind-hearted, empathetic chef, a total stranger, at the purple-painted pub in Hobart shall remain forever.

The rissoles had started something flowing within me.  It was like a tsunami on the rise.

My yearnings for similar foods; food that reminded me of home; meals my grandmother used to make; not fancy or “in vogue” fine dining – just good, old-fashioned fare; my cravings ate at me even more voraciously after our trip to the pub for lunch. 

All I could think about was tucking into a roast dinner; but it had to be a special roast; one special kind of roast meat.  I wanted nothing more than to sit down to a meal of roast leg of lamb. Roast lamb leg served with all the obligatory roasted vegetables and green peas, and, perhaps accompanied by a hot side dish a cauliflower or broccoli au gratin with loads of cheese melted in the topping, if I was lucky. Of course, a sauce boat generously filled with freshly-made mint sauce to pour over the lamb goes without saying.  Roast lamb is not roast lamb without mint sauce…not in my opinion, anyway!  And my opinion was all I cared about at that stage!  And furthermore and further to, just to tease my own taste buds, if not yours, too, perhaps…a tasty, rich gravy is a must, as well as the mint sauce!

I’d reached the stage of desperation!  If the men in white jackets had found me they would have swiftly carted me away. 

Everyone I came across I asked the question of them – were they aware of any place in Hobart that had roast leg of lamb on their menu.  I asked all my fellow participants in the travel show if they’d stumbled across any eateries…anywhere…that had roast lamb on the menu.  No one had! 

However, I did succeed in starting an avalanche!  All my tourism buddies manning their stands at the travel show had looks of hunger and desire on their faces.  They, too, by that point in the proceedings after listening to my desperate pleadings craved a roast lamb meal! 

I’d almost started a mutiny.  No sheep or lamb in Tasmania was safe!

Come the Saturday night, I was invited to go out with some of my fellow travellers, but I opted to stay in my hotel room, alone, preferring to be away from the madding crowd for a change.  I needed a break from talking and from people. The Wimbledon finals were on; and I thought a night of tennis watching and room service was what I needed.

Settling in for the evening, I opened up the room service menu.  Perusing it, to my delight, I discovered a roast turkey dinner was on offer.  It wasn’t the roast lamb I’d been hankering for, but it was a roast meal!  Without delay, I reached for the phone to place my dinner order.  I’d made the right decision to stay in for the night!  I felt very self-satisfied.

I leapt off the bed when I heard the knock on my hotel room door.  It had been a long, long wait from when I’d placed my order until the knock came; but I wasn’t concerned.  The tennis had not only held my attention; but also had held my appetite at bay,  I was content in the knowledge that a roast meal was on its way, even if it was taking ages to come. But, once I knew that only a closed door separated me and my much yearned for roast dinner, tennis was suddenly the last thing on my mind!  Tennis was put on the back burner!

Thanking the room service waiter, I took the tray of hot food from him.  My mind was whirling in sheer joy; and my stomach was tumbling in anticipation!

I’d never cried over a meal before, nor have I since; but I did cry over my meal that night.

Lifting up the silver cloche, I found on the white dinner plate before me an insipid wafer-thin slice of white, pressed turkey roll “meat” (that imitation “plastic” garbage you find in the deli sections of supermarkets).  The meager portion of gravy covering the scant slice of imitation turkey was a pale imitation of the colour beige.  Accompanying this pallid disaster was half a steamed, peeled white potato and four overcooked French beans tied together with a green shallot!  On a side plate was a doughy white roll and an individual, foil-wrapped butter portion.  No salt or pepper had been supplied; and I can tell you, even the most powerful advocate against the use of salt would have been on my side that night if presented with a meal like that!  Salt and pepper was needed in an effort to add some flavour, no matter how minute to the meal in front of me.  There was no point ringing room service…I’d already experienced a lengthy delay in receiving the mess before me; and by then, I was in no mood to face any member of the human race.

So, yes…I cried when I discovered what was on the plate under the cloche.  The meal I’d been presented with was a disaster. I’d never been so disappointed with a meal.  Not only that, I felt insulted.   I began mumbling away out loud to myself! 

If I could have opened the windows in my room, I would have tossed the so-called "meal" out to the street below!  However, I doubt even an alley cat would have shown interest in it!

I couldn’t believe a commercial establishment could “cook” a meal such as what I was presented with that Saturday night, let alone allow it to leave their kitchen.  I wouldn’t prepare a meal like that at home; and most definitely I would never do so professionally.

There is such a thing as having pride in what one does!

I buttered and ate the bread roll.  Watched some more of the tennis and then pulled the bed covers over my head and went to sleep!  Tomorrow was tomorrow and tomorrow would be another day!

There is a happier ending to my tale about my visit to Hobart and Tasmania…but I’ll tell the tail end of my tale on another day!

My wish is not to give you indigestion!

Rissoles with Onion Gravy: Mix together in a large bowl - 500g beef mince, 250g pork mince, ¾ -1 cup soft breadcrumbs, 1 egg, pepper, 1 minced garlic clove, 2tbs Worcestershire sauce, 2tbs tomato sauce/ketchup, 1 packet mushroom or French onion powdered soup mix, add some mixed dried herbs/Italian herbs, finely-chopped parsley. Combine all ingredients very well. Shape into round patties about 2-inches thick. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Sear rissoles about 6 minutes per side, or until a brown crust forms. When rissoles are cooked, make gravy.  Remove rissoles from pan; drain off any excess fat/oil.  Add 2-3 large onions red or brown, thinly-sliced. Cook onions over medium-high heat until onions begin to brown; then add 2tbs plain flour; stir until flour begins to brown and is cooking; add 1/4c beef stock.  Reduce heat; cook, adding more stock as needed; add ½ dry red wine if you like; cook, allowing the grave to reduce and thicken.  If you like you can even add 1tbs tomato paste.  Make your gravy to suit your own tastes. Add the rissoles to the gravy; cook for an additional 10mins over low heat. Serve with mashed spuds and green peas or beans.

Roast Leg of Lamb with Mint Sauce and Gravy: Grab a 2.5kg lamb leg (smaller if you like…whichever, whatever). Make quite a few incisions into the top of the lamb with a small sharp, narrow-bladed knife. Stuff the incisions with slices of raw garlic and sprigs of fresh rosemary; season with salt and pepper.  Do the underside as well; and the lamb hock.  Pour some water into a roasting pan.  Place a rack into the pan; put the lamb leg on the rack; roast in preheated 180C (355F) oven, 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours for medium; or to your desired doneness.  Don’t overcook the lamb, though. Remove the lamb from the oven; allow it to rest, loosely-covered with foil, for 30 minutes.

A rule of thumb for lamb is cook 15 minutes; and then calculate 15 minutes of cooking for every 500g of lamb. Drain some, but not all of the fat from the roasting pan after the lamb is cooked; use the pan juices to make the gravy.

Lamb Roast Gravy: Stir ¼ cup plain flour into roasting juices left in the roasting pan; stir over low heat until there are no lumps. Increase heat to medium; slowly add up to 2 cups beef stock, a little at a time; stirring continuously; add a little vinegar, if you like, and perhaps even some of the mint sauce; the vinegar, if find, enhances the flavour of the lamb gravy. Bring gravy to the boil; cook a few minutes until thickened; adjust seasoning; serve with the roast leg of lamb and roast vegetables etc. Mint Sauce: Combine ¾-1 cup finely-chopped fresh mint leaves and 2tsp raw sugar in jug or bowl. Add ¼ cup boiling water; stir until sugar dissolves.  Add ½ cup cider vinegar or white wine vinegar; mix well. Let the sauce stand for 15 minutes or longer for the flavour to develop.  I usually leave it on top of the oven…the warmth coming from the oven helps enhance the flavour; and the mint sauce is always warm or lukewarm when I bring it to the table.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013



Teewah Beach, North of Noosa Heads
The Coloured Sands

View from atop of Double Island Point
Randall, Lee and the "Fire Truck" at Teewah Beach

Troy (chef) and me at Teewah
Randall and me at hard at rest on the beach in front of our block of land at Teewah

Still on “The Laguna Belle”…I’m unable to disembark without telling this story…

After firing the owner’s daughter that fateful Friday afternoon described in a previous post, we never set eyes upon her again.  If the truth be known, she probably was happy not to be working; preferring to spend her time with her deadbeat friends, sharing pipes and needles rather than battering fish; slicing potatoes and standing over hot deep fryers in the fish shop.  She preferred her crumby mates to crumbed fish fillets, prawns and squid rings.

Things were going along smoothly.  “The Belle” was making her way; old and new bills were being paid.  The debt outstanding was diminishing at a very satisfying rate of knots.  The locals had started filtering back through the doors.  It was smooth sailing or cruising; nothing was rocking the boat other than the wake of a passing speed boat once in a while.  However, the peaceful ambience of the Noosa River didn’t encourage many thoughtless speed boat operators, or jet skis.  Once upon the river, everyone soon fell under its calm, harmonious spell.

After closing the doors on Sunday afternoons following the luncheon cruises, time was ours to play with as we wished until around 8.30 am Tuesday mornings when once again, willingly, we were back in business and work mode.  It became a habit on Sunday afternoons when the last guests departed and everythin was back in order in the restaurant, our staff joined Randall and me at the “Banksia Lounge” for a few leisurely drinks where a lot of high-spirited laughter and nonsensical conversation filled the air; sometimes late into the evenings. 

The infamous “Banksia Lounge” was situated under what is commonly known as a Coastal Banksia Tree. The hardy tree grew to the side of our land upon which our cottage sat at Sunshine Beach. The tree stood at the start of the track that led down to the shops at Sunshine Beach as described in an early post.

Relishing the sea breezes and sunny skies, the Banksia’s roots were set firmly in the sandy soil. The nectar produced by the tree’s uniquely beautiful flower spikes attracted the cheeky, boisterous lorikeets and various honeyeaters.  Our large, round barbecue table sat beneath its leafy limbs; a perfect spot for an outdoor lounge bar.

The botanical name of the Coastal Banksia is “Banksia Integrifolia”; it’s one of many in the Banksia species. The species of Banksias were named after Sir Joseph Banks, the botanist who was travelling with Captain Cook on the “Endeavour” when they bumped into the land Down Under.

There were the odd times, too, when one or another, or more, of our staff, at a loss what to do on his, her or their day off turned up on a Monday at our small cottage. It didn’t take much persuasion for us to drop tools and step outside to our “watering hole”.  It soon became our oasis, to be shared with friends. 
On other occasions we’d load up our old 1948 Land Rover and head off up to our vacant, beachfront block of land at Teewah Beach for a day’s outing, fishing or just lapping up the sun; whatever we felt like doing or not doing.  There were days some of our staff went along with us for a day’s fishing or just to cop out and laze on the beach or under a shady She-Oak. 

Our days spent on the beach at Teewah were free of stresses and pressures.

Teewah Beach is just north of Noosa…north of the mouth of the Noosa River.  Teewah is the only developed area of a lengthy expanse of beach that runs from the river mouth at the southern end north to Double Island Point.  The distance between the southern point and the northern is around 51kms (31.6 miles).  The Teewah end of the beach, the southern end, oddly enough is referred to as “the north shore” by the people of Noosa.

Randall and I, at the time, owned one of the very few beachfront blocks of land at Teewah   There were either only nine or eleven beachfront blocks available; I forget the exact number. There were no plans in place for any more land to be legislated for development.  We ended up selling our piece of paradise a few years later when our marriage broke down.

Further north along the beach from Teewah; between Teewah Beach and the Freshwater camping spot at the Double Island end is an area known as the “Coloured Sands”; high, wind-sculptured sand dunes; vibrantly-coloured cliffs that stand like beacons looking out upon the ocean, while, in the meantime, staunchly protecting the inland lakes, paper-bark swamps and natural forests.

Randall and I bought the old Land Rover specifically for the purpose of going to the “north shore”. We had two other cars, but the old Land Rover was for driving along the sandy, saltwater-washed beaches and for fishing purposes, only. It didn’t matter if the vehicle got covered in sand, inside and out; or that it came in contact with ocean. 

Once we arrived back home, we’d just hose the car down, and then let the garden sprinkler run for a while on the vehicle’s underside to wash away the day’s effects.  The body was aluminum; and once the sprinkler had fulfilled its duty spraying water all over and through the chassis underneath, all was well in the land of the Land Rover; it was ready for its next beach adventure.

Upon purchasing the old Rover Randall removed its top/hood and painted the body bright, fire-engine red!  We referred to it as being our high-rise sports car.  Tongue-in-cheek, we also named our fishing transporter the “Fire Truck”; which was a playful anagram!  At some stage, a re-conditioned Holden motor had been put into place; our high-rise sports car performed well. Never once did it let us down. It was an ideal vehicle for driving along sandy beaches.  It had a winch on the front and one at its rear end, too.  There were times our humble little red “Fire Truck” pulled much fancier and more expensive 4WDs out of bogged situations along the beach.

I’ve digressed from the core of this story, but I wanted to give a bit of background into what comes next.  I veered off the beaten sandy track, but now I’ll step back onto it!

Friends of ours had twin boys who, at the time, were attending the Peregian Beach Kindergarten.  The father of the little boys was one of the people who asked Randall and me to take over the management of “The Belle”.  Peter was a Chartered Accountant; and he was the accountant handling the restaurant’s accounts etc. 

Peter and Randall were good mates, and had been for quite a while.  Both shared a common love of fishing and mud crabbing.  Over dinner one night it was decided that “The Belle” would play host to a fashion parade on a Sunday afternoon lunch cruise along the Noosa River. The purpose and intention was to raise money for the Peregian Beach Kindergarten Association.

Plans were put into place. Local boutiques owners were approached regarding their fashions and if they’d be willing to put them on display at our parade. I contacted some local models asking if they’d partake in the event.  Surprisingly, and fortunately for the kindergarten, the girls generously offered their services for the afternoon free of charge, believing the parade was for a worthy charitable cause.  We promised them lots of good, pictorial and editorial coverage in the local newspaper - “The Noosa News”; it was a win-win situation for all parties concerned.

Having had previous experience putting together similar shows when I was employed by The Kolotex Group of Companies in Brisbane, I took over the reins in the planning of the fashion parade, and all that was needed to make the afternoon a success.

I didn’t want a catwalk as such. We needed as many “bums on seats” as we could possibly seat to make the afternoon profitable for the kindergarten (and us, of course); so no tables were removed to add a catwalk to the area. Instead, I choreographed it in a way that the models would walk around the aisles between the tables and diners. Their change-room was a cordoned off area upstairs where the cocktail bar was.  The models gracefully descended the spiral staircase to the lower dining level.  I chose Grace Jones and David Bowie tracks for them to strut along to in rhythmical motion; good strutting music, I believed – and, it all did blend together well.  Fashionable outfits befitting the coastal atmosphere and lifestyle were shown accompanied by music that put the models and the spectator-diners in the mood for a pleasant interlude.

It turned out to be a wonderful, fun-filled happy afternoon on “The Laguna Belle”; and a profitable one, too; not only for us, the operators, but also for the Peregian Beach Kindergarten Association. And, in turn, further down the line…for the boutique owners.

Randall and I planned a picnic/fishing/leisure day on the Monday following the charity fashion parade.  Jill, our kitchen-hand and Troy, our new chef who had replaced Phil (another story for another time) asked if they could come along with us.  We told them we’d pick them up at “The Belle” as a central point of collection at 9 am  Monday morning. 

Randall and I arrived at the restaurant earlier than the arranged pick-up because we wanted to do a couple of chores on board “The Belle” before the appointed meet-up.  So we arrived before 8 am to attend to whatever it was we needed to do.

We entered “The Belle”. Everything was in place on the lower level of the boat where the dining room and kitchen were; but when we went upstairs to the bar area both of us picked up on a strange vibe, simultaneously. 

The bar had been left neat and tidy with everything in place when we’d closed the doors the previous day after the parade was over; and after everyone had left.  On the shelves behind the bar that usually held bottles of spirits and liqueurs were many gaps; empty places where bottles had once stood.  The drawer to the cash register was open wide; and one of the windows on the riverside…the outer side away from the street and jetty side of the restaurant…was ajar!

The cash register hadn’t been forced open because after every shift, once we removed the takings and the float for the next service, the drawer was never locked; it was closed, but not latched or locked.  And, of course, we never left any cash on the premises.  We weren’t that silly!  Or if we did, there would not be a thief in this world who would have found it!

We were hit immediately with the thought of who had conducted the heist.  Randall instantly laid the blame on the owner’s daughter, perhaps done with the help of a drugged-up mate as her partner-in-crime.  I agreed with his suspicions.

Randall’s reasoning was because all the sweet spirits and liqueur were the stolen goods. After his years managing a bar in the Upper East Side of New York City, he was familiar with the tastes of “junkies”.  Apparently, their taste leans towards sweet things.  (And I don’t mean me)!

We called the police; they arrived on the scene post haste.  Inspections were done; questions were asked.  They asked us if we had any suspicions as to who we thought may have perpetrated the crime.  We answered we did have an idea; but we named no names; however we did make clear inferences.  The police knew who and what we were talking about without us needing to go into further minute detail. They weren’t fools; neither were we.

It was all was sorted out in the end; and dealt with accordingly.  Our suspicions proved to be correct. 

As I mentioned earlier, we never set eyes on the daughter again from the afternoon of her sacking forth; but we did feel her presence in the bar area that Monday morning. 

We figured she thought it was her way of getting back at us.  We believed also that she and her dumber-than-dumb assistant in the robbery thought, wrongly, that after the huge event we’d held at “The Laguna Belle” the previous day…Sunday’s fashion parade…that there would be a lot of takings for the taking!

As it turned out, there were a lot of takings, but the takings were not theirs for the taking

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Whole Moreton Bay Bugs

Everglades, Upper Reaches of the Noosa River

Moreton Bay Bugs in Garlic Butter

My unexpected, unprepared for first experience at en masse fish and chips’ cooking may have been a lesson quickly learned; one that was akin to jumping from the frying pan into the hot oil - to steal a slice of poetic license – but with time ticking away rapidly, and the shop’s opening time drawing closer by every passing minute, I was faced with no other choice than to jump, head first, into the fray, come what may; and worry about it all after the fact!  Time was of the essence.  

 It may have been a case of the blind leading the blind, but somehow Jill and I made our way through without too many casualties, other than that concrete block of potato chips!  It was a lesson well-learned; and after that, I had no further problems preparing fish and chips for the masses.  Jill refused, as was her individual right, to step through the doors of the shop again for fear of a possible future nervous breakdown!

Because the restaurant was the centre of our attention, our aim and reason for being there was to get "The Belle" back into the black so we could start paying off the many debts the owner had incurred.  The fish and chips outlet was put on the back-burner to a degree.  I grabbed the fish by the tail, and took over its operation.  The shop was open two hours during the middle of the day to catch the passing lunch trade.  It's doors closed again at 2 pm; and the fryers turned off; and then it was re-opened for business again at 4 pm until 6 pm.  The restaurant opened to the public at 6.30 pm. 

The locals soon got to know the shop's operating hours, so everything began to fall into a satisfactory place. 

Originally, when we first took over "The Belle", the restaurant didn’t open for lunches other than the Sunday lunch cruises.  However, I decided to train Ken, our chef’s brother and our kitchen-hand in the art of fish and chip cooking to free up my own time. Ken’s introduction to the fish and chips’ shop was much calmer than my own. Even though, Ken travelled at a snail’s pace, he was conscientious and he quickly cottoned onto his newly-added task.  His wages were increased accordingly, of course; so did is speed!  His increase in wages was incentive enough in itself for a young surfer lad!

Ken was happy in his new role. I think being handed the responsibility and his understanding we believed in him - that he could do the job - boosted his confidence. He handled himself and the shop with aplomb. 

Also, Ken had somebody to keep him company.  Every morning and afternoon shortly before opening the shop as he organised and arranged his ingredients, utensils, switched on the hotplate and deep-fryers etc., like clockwork, a pelican arrived.  The pelican would perch itself on a mooring posts attached to the jetty just to the rear of the shop. And there, the beautiful bird would patiently wait, knowing a free feed would soon fill his bill.

Once Ken was confidently at ease in his new role, the restaurant again had my full attention.  Randall and I decided we’d open "The Belle" one day during the week for lunch.

Wednesday was our day of choice. We wanted to capture the local trade as well as the tourists. Locals are the bread and butter, or, perhaps, the full cup of milk; tourists are the cream on the top; that was our belief, anyway. I still believe it to be true.  The locals are always “there”; tourists are transient.  In saying that, I don’t mean that tourists are of less importance. 

For fear of drowning myself here and being in need of a lifeboat or life-jacket…I shall move on…

Because we’d operated our own real estate agency we knew a lot of people in different walks of life and businesses in the Noosa area and its surrounds. Word passed around fairly swiftly that we were managing the restaurant.  The tom-tom drums had started to do their job; and soon, those who previously had been hesitant to frequent "The Belle" before our arrival on the scene because of the crazy behaviour of the owner and his equally crazy daughter began again to bravely walk the plank onto the floating/cruising restaurant.

Like busy bees we and the staff buzzed around doing what needed to be done to be ready when the door opened and service began.  We all had our jobs; we knew what we had to do.  The tables were always re-set the night before after the evening guests had left.  There is nothing worse than arriving to a mess the morning after, whether it is the kitchen, the dining area or the cocktail bar. To face a mess the next day is far worse than being greeted by an unmade bed.  At least, a quilt or doona can be pulled up to cover the untidy sheets beneath, but that is impossible to do in a restaurant. No matter how busy the night and how tired one felt, the restaurant had to be cleaned, tidied and tables re-set before leaving for home.

During the day I helped our chef Phil in the kitchen.  We’d put our heads together and composed the menu as I wrote earlier.  While he attended to his own mise en place, I had my corner of the kitchen wherein I made seafood chowder, a staple on the menu because we were primarily a seafood restaurant.  When purchasing our seafood supplies from the local seafood wholesaler, I’d buy fish carcasses for making of the stock to be used in the preparation of the chowder. I did prepare various other soups, to satisfy the non-fishy diners. There was always a choice of two soups on the menu.  Also, we had a couple of meat and chicken dishes on our bill of fare to cater for those who perhaps were allergic to seafood, or for those not in the mood for fish, Moreton Bay Bugs or prawns on any given night or day; but our menu consisted mostly of seafood dishes. 

When strawberries were in season and supplies were prolific I made fresh strawberry ice cream generously loaded with whole or halved strawberries for one of the dessert choices; no ice cream maker was abused during the making thereof! I prepared all of the desserts, taking the load off our chef; allowing him to concentrate on most of the entrees and main meals.  Once Jill began her shift, she became the chef’s right hand.

Because I enjoyed cooking and willingly wanted to learn as much as I could about restaurant cooking a lot of my time during the day was spent assisting in the preparation.  The rest of the time I acted as hostess, greeting guests on their arrival and attending to their needs throughout service; and I waited tables; all of which I enjoyed.  I loved the whole “restaurant experience” from top to bottom, and back again.

As I mentioned previously, Randall tended the bar and all chores pertaining to the bar. He was very efficient at being in charge of the bar as he had managed a bar in New York’s Upper East Side before returning to Australia.  He also competently looked after the financial side of the business; again, he was very good when it came to figures, book-keeping, accounts etc. et al; the latter were jobs I had absolutely no interest in at all.

Briefly, during the warmer months of the year in the upper reaches of the Noosa River, an area fondly known as “The Everglades”, freshwater bass ran (or swam) through the tranquil tannin-stained water.  The tea colour is caused by the Paperbark trees that grow prolifically along the banks of  the river. 

The area, with its mirrored reflections of melaleucas on the calm water, and its silence broken only by bird sounds makes visitors to The Everglades respectful of their surrounds.  Boat motors are switched off; voices are lowered.

And because of the brief appearance of the bass, for a short time only we presented their beautiful white fillets on similarly white plates to our diner..  The bass was always popular with the diners.

We didn’t personally catch the bass; we bought our fresh stock from a local supplier, shortly after it was caught. 

However, there were times we did catch fish from “The Belle”.  Sometimes during quiet moments Randall and/or Phil tossed a baited line out through one of the restaurant or galley’s windows; and sometimes they got lucky!  I can’t say the same for the fish!

Often, a weird noise emanated from the kitchen (a weirder noise than the usual ones that flowed out of that busy environment inhabited by a few insane people – I was one of them, of course)!  The unusual sounds that raised curious interest would be thumping and thrashing coming from one of the stainless steel sinks. It would be proof that a fish had been caught and hauled onto the boat through whatever window the baited line had been cast.

One Wednesday, moments before we opened the door to the lunch time trade, Phil hauled on board through a kitchen window, a little estuary Black-spotted Rock cod; it was of legal size, but only just! The fish was doing a lively dance in the sink as our first customer arrived.  The entrance door to the restaurant was nearby to the kitchen.  Our guest was a man who intended dining alone. 

As I greeted him at the door, I noticed he raised his eyebrows in a quizzical way.  The flapping noise coming from the kitchen was the reason for his querulous look. 

With a wide smile across my face, I explained the situation to our first guest; and after doing so, I asked him, if perhaps, he would like the freshest fish meal he’d had in many a long day for his lunch.  He didn’t hesitate in answering  a resounding “Yes!”   The chef cleaned and filleted the fish; and that gentleman felt like a king as he enjoyed his very fresh lunch.  He thanked me profusely upon leaving.

I’d willingly lay a bet our diner never forgot his lunch on the “Laguna Belle” that fine, sunny Wednesday.  And I‘d also bet he was not only grateful he’d dined alone that day, but he was also very thankful he was the first person to set foot on board “The Belle” at noon.  It meant he had the freshly-landed fish all to himself! 

It was very easy to excuse the gloating look upon his face! He looked like the cat that not only drank the milk and cream – but the fish, too!

Seafood Chowder: Cut 500g green prawns (retain shells and heads for stock), 250g sea scallops and 250g skinned fish fillets into bite-sized pieces; place them in a bowl with 250g crabmeat. In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt 125g butter; add 1 cup diced carrots, ½ diced onions, 1c diced celery, 1c diced  potatoes, and 1/2c frozen or fresh corn kernels; sauté over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are barely cooked, stirring occasionally. Add 1/4c plain flour; reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add 4 cups seafood stock; bring to a boil. Add the seafood; reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 7 to 10 minutes, until the fish is just cooked. Add 1-1/2tbs heavy cream, if desired, and 2tbs finely-chopped parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crusty bread.

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream: Wash and hull about 40 strawberries; puree into a blender. You should end up with about 2 cups worth.  In bowl, add puree, ¾ cup condensed milk, ¾ cup cream, 1/4 cup evaporated milk and 3 to 4 cups sugar.  Adjust sugar to your taste. Mix gently with hand blender until well incorporated.  Pour mixture into a freezer bowl; freeze 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove from freezer and blend gently in a mixer; freeze again for 1 hour; repeat this exercise two more times. After the third time, before freezing add some halved, quartered or whole strawberries, depending on size; and depending on how many you reckon is a fair quantity, without going to crazy; mix well; freeze for 7-8 hours