Sunday, December 28, 2014


This is one of my landlords' ponds on this property - my cabin sits down to the left of the picture; down behind the trees by about 200-300 yards...and my landlords' home is up to the right of the picture by about 400-500 yards...or thereabouts - just to give an idea re some of my responses to comments given below.  Click to enlarge.

Christmas has been and gone; and 2014 is almost done and dusted. 

So far I've enjoyed a very quiet, relaxed Christmas period.  Everything has gone along as I’d planned and hoped.  The best gift received has been the rain.  Since Christmas night gently rain has been falling from the sky above.  If it was coming from any other direction I’d blame the garden sprinklers for the sprinkles, but – no – it’s coming from above and beyond. 

The precipitation spraying forth from the sky is most welcome, by me, anyway. Not only is it great for the earth, the trees, gardens etc., it’s also a very good excuse for me to be totally slothful with no feelings of guilt as I've lounged about like Lady Muck!  Will someone please peel me a grape?  No - nobody there? Okay...I'll do it myself.

With the third match in the cricket test between the Aussies and India having commenced on Boxing Day (and they're still at play as I write), as well as the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, which also commenced on Boxing Day (the race was completed yesterday and last night), my time has been well spent. 

And, of course, being very parochial I have to stick around here close to home so I can fly the flag!

I have never been and will never be a part of the madding hordes who descend like maniacs upon the stores, beating down the doors like wild banshees, males and females alike, to get their greedy hands on the Boxing Day/after Christmas/New Year sales.  I honestly do not understand those crowds of people who camp outside the major department stores from the early hours of Boxing Day morning, some as early as 3 am, if not before. When the stores’ doors open, in a panicked state, with the whites of their eyes glaring like LED lights, bright enough to light up a darkened sky and their nostrils flaring, they rush through the barely opened doors, desperate to beat the person beside or behind them to a bargain!   

I can’t think of anything worse to do on Boxing Day than to be a part of that kind of madness.  I don’t understand people; I don’t I want to.  I think they are the same crowd who frequent buffets/smorgasbords and pile their plates up to overflowing as if they’ve never seen food before and are fearful they may never see it again!  

I abhor greed in all its forms; it disgusts me!

2014 has raced by at a pace not dissimilar to leaves plummeting to the ground from their host trees when they become victims of gale-force winds. Unfortunately, the year has flown by without the fluidity of falling leaves.

This past year has been a very trying year on so many levels…not only here in Australia, but throughout the world.  If there are any signs that things will improve I’m yet to see them.  I hope my failure to see is because I’m not looking in the right places.

I never make New Year resolutions.  I know myself better than anyone else does; and I know myself better than I do anyone else. That being so, I know I’d break 99.9%, if not all frivolously made resolutions, so I don’t get caught up in the whirl of making them.  I guess I do have one resolution each year...that one sole resolve (it never changes) is to keep being myself; I’m the only person I can be.

In the words of Popeye:  “I yam what I yam, and that's all what I yam.'

I do love spinach, too; but, as yet, I’ve not gained muscles similar to those of Popeye!  If I did, they certainly would cause a few eyes to pop!

Not knowing what lays ahead in 2015 the best we can do is be the best we can be.

I wish you and your loved ones a Happy New Year…a year where the “happy” lasts throughout the whole year not just on the last night of the old year, and on the first day of the new.  

My wish; my hopes - even if they seem like pipe dreams - are for 2015 to bring peace throughout the world; for humans everywhere to use their energy for doing good rather than evil. 

Why waste energy on hate; why waste energy on trying to destroy freedom?  Why waste time; and why oh, why waste lives? 

Love the ones you’re with…and love the ones you wish you were with. 

May 2015 be a great year for us all.

And, in case you’re still feeling a little peckish after Christmas…here are a couple of recipes to tempt you.

Proscuitto-Wrapped Prawns with Bourbon BBQ Sauce:  Barbecue Sauce: In a medium skillet, heat 1tbs x-virgin olive oil. Add 1 medium onion, halved and sliced finely and 1tsp chopped rosemary leaves;  cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until the onion begins to brown, about 6 minutes. Add 1tsp chopped garlic; cook until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Stir in 2tbs bourbon, 1tbs brown sugar, 1tbs Dijon mustard, 1tbs apple cider vinegar, 1/2c prepared barbecue sauce, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, a dash of hot sauce (Tabasco or similar), salt and freshly ground black pepper. In a food processor, puree the barbecue sauce until smooth. Transfer the sauce to a bowl. Prepare Prawns:  Preheat oven 204C (400F). In medium bowl, toss 24 extra-large prawns, shelled, de-veined with tails intact with 1tbs x-virgin olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Wrap each prawn in half a slice of prosciutto; transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Brush prawns with some of the barbecue sauce; arrange them 1-inch apart. Roast the prawns, 5 minutes; turn over (the prawns, not you); brush with more sauce; roast for another 5 minutes. Don’t over-cook. Transfer to a platter; sprinkle with chopped parsley (or chives or coriander). Serve with lime wedges and remaining barbecue sauce for dipping.  The sauce can be prepared 3 days ahead; keep refrigerated.

Maple Bacon-Wrapped Scallops: Line baking sheet with foil. Fire up grill/broiler, or preheat oven 190C (350F). Wrap bacon around 20 uncooked sea scallops; secure with toothpicks.  Place scallops on prepared baking sheet. Drizzle some pure maple syrup onto the centre of the scallops; try not to get any onto the bacon (don’t stress if you do). Grill for 6mins on each side or until bacon is crisp; or bake 8-10 minutes in oven Don’t over-cook.

Easy-Peasy Phyllo/Fillo Turnovers: Preheat the oven to 190C (375F). Lay one sheet of phyllo pastry on work area; lightly coat with cooking spray or melted butter; lay another sheet over top; and repeat with spray or oil; and then repeat the process one more time. Cut pastry lengthwise into thirds. Place 1 piece of Brie cheese and 1/2tspn cranberry sauce or fruit chutney about 1-inch from the bottom of one section of the pastry; fold the dough over top of the cheese and sauce to form a triangle. Continue to fold, maintaining the triangle shape until the end of the pastry is reached. Repeat with the other two strips of pastry. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pastry, cheese and sauce/chutney. Bake until the turnovers are golden, 12mins to 15mins.

Stuffed Mushrooms: Remove stems from some whole baby mushrooms; finely chop the stems for the filling.  Heat 1tbs olive oil in pan; add 1 small red capsicum/bell pepper, chopped finely, chopped mushroom stems, 1 finely chopped onion, 2 minced garlic cloves and 1tsp Greek or Italian seasoning; sauté  5-8mins, until soft. Add 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped to the pan; cook until spinach has wilted and cooked down. Set aside to cool.  In bowl combine sautéed vegetables with ½ cup panko bread crumbs, 1/4c crumbled feta cheese and 1/4c grated parmesan cheese. Preheat oven 190C. Line up mushroom caps on sprayed baking sheet; season lightly with salt and pepper. Carefully stuff each cap with stuffing. Place in oven; cook approx 20-25mins until mushrooms are browned slightly.

Poinsettia Cocktail: One part champagne; one part vodka and two parts cranberry juice.  Make it as a punch if you are serving a crowd.  Make ice cubes using cranberry juice with a few frozen cranberries added to it; toss the ice cubes into the punch; or if you prefer, serve it by the glass.  

I'm joining friends for drinks and nibbles late afternoon/early evening on New Year's Eve...and then I'll return back home to see the New Year in with my two furry rascals.  I always see the New Year just seems to be the thing to do.... 

Greetings from Shama for a wonderful 2015

And from Remy during a break from his laundry duties

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


I refuse to be politically correct – not now – not ever!  It’s the Season - you know which one - not only to be jolly, but to be absolutely, completely and totally politically-incorrect!  So, Merry Christmas to you one, two and all! 

As the Irish would say; “Nollaig Shona Dhuit” or “Nodlaig mhaith chugnat” to you; and, in their infinite wisdom and generosity the Scots would offer; “Share a wee dram with me!  Nollaig chridheil huibh!”  

I could go on and on and on, but I do believe you understand where I’m coming from!  

I won’t stop wishing everyone whose path I cross a “Merry Christmas”! (And even those I don’t…I can shout out very loudly when I need to do so – once I get rid the frog that sometimes takes up residence in my throat, that is) - 

Remy and Shama are not yet aware that I have a special gift for them; a shiny new stainless steel food bowl, into which I will add a few special, deluxe cans of fish; unopened, of course.  Naturally, they always have fresh meat for their dinner – nothing but the best will do for Lord and Lady Muck!  For breakfast, they of the furry variety have canned fish; never canned meats of any description!  Oh! No! Definitely not canned meat!  That just would not do!  Canned meat…yuck!  You must be kidding!

I have a feeling they know something is brewing.  To my readers in the Northern Hemisphere, as I write, it’s already Christmas Eve morning here in the wonderful Land of Oz.  As is the normal practice, I let Remy and Shama out for their morning run, but this morning they were back in a flash, within five minutes.  I think they’re taking turns…doing a little shift work…keeping their eyes on the fridge; they didn’t want to be away from it for too long.

On the subject of Christmas presents for my cats…here is a brief tale about Ruska, one of the stars of my ongoing story about the cats who (which/that if you insist on be pedantic) have played important roles in my life, and me in theirs - (my cat story will continue after the Christmas Season has passed).

Randall and I always opened our presents on Christmas Eve…late on Christmas Eve.  I’d prepare a special dinner for the two of us over which we'd enjoy some pre-Christmas good cheer, and late into the night we'd attack our Christmas gifts like two overgrown, impatient kids.

Our home was always open house Christmas morning.  Friends would flow in and out enjoying a glass or two of all that was on offer while they flowed, before going on their way to other predestined venues.   

Our Christmas lunch followed when the last transient visitor departed.  Lunch usually kicked off between 1.30 to 2 pm. Inevitably it always was a lengthy, leisurely affair. We usually had 14 or 15 guests at our Christmas table; and some others would pop in after they’d finished their own lunches, to partake in a celebratory drink or two before moving onto other grazing pastures. 

Our Christmas fare consisted of all the usual suspects…roast stuffed turkey, as well as roast stuffed chicken, along with roast pork, glazed ham, roasted vegetables, cauliflower and broccoli au gratin, green peas, rich home-made gravy; to be topped off with a rich Christmas pudding, brandy custard, ice cream, and…of course…trifle (topped with lashings of whipped cream aka Chantilly Cream aka Crème Chantilly)…and a fresh fruit salad, just in case I didn’t have enough food to cater to the hordes!  "The whole catastrophe" as Zorba the Greek would say.   

It’s a weakness I have; one I’ve never been able to shake.  I’ve always catered more than enough to cover not only the Army, but the Navy and Air Force included! So there was never any fear of not having enough vittles!

Come Christmas night food was the last thing on our mind!  And I'd had cooking up to "here"!

But…I’ve digressed, as usual…back to Christmas Eve and Ruska.  I know you probably won’t believe this., but it's okay - I’m used to that reaction.  The majority of times when I’ve told the story I’ve received strange looks…stranger than the ones I usually receive. 

Every Christmas Randall and I gave each other many presents, not just one each.  We were like big kids…we liked receiving lots of small gifts. (And between my birthday in November and Christmas I always received a year's supply of perfume)!   

With a glass of Scotch each, Randall and I would plonk ourselves on the floor in front of our Christmas tree ready and eager to begin opening our presents. Amongst the goodies under our Christmas tree there'd be a present for Ruska; and he knew it was there!  Ruska would sit with us and when I pushed across his present to him, he, Ruska would open it!  True…I do not lie.  He would tear at the wrapping paper with his paws/claws until it revealed what was inside.   

When we told Randall’s folks about our clever little puss, they didn’t believe us.  I think they thought we’d been smoking funny cigarettes or eating a brew of wild mushrooms.  However, the first Christmas we spent on the coast after relocating there from Brisbane, Mother and Father arrived up from Brisbane on the Christmas Eve, so come gift opening time, to their complete amazement they sat staring with their mouth and eyes agape as Ruska proceeded to open his present.  Not only did he open the outer wrapper, but he then proceeded to open one of the gifts inside. (He, too, received more than one gift).   The particular gift Ruska opened was a firmly sealed kilogram or so packet of dried food…cat munchies.  He tore open the packet and began eating a few of the pellets.  There is no way he could have picked up the scent; no aroma escapes from those well-sealed packets.

From then on, Randall’s mother and father believed us when we told them such tales!  They’d seen a miracle happen with their very own eyes!!  We didn't have to convince them any further.

My best wishes to you one and all for a very Merry Christmas; relax and enjoy the Season to the best of your abilities and beyond.  

My two furry rascals and I intend putting our feet and paws up, respectively (and respectfully) while we munch on some prawns and a half leg of ham.  Fortunately, they don’t like fruit…so I’ll have it all to myself! As for Christmas cake and trifle…Remy most probably will have a taste test – he, being a typical male, doesn’t like to miss out. Shama will no doubt turn up her nose while flicking her whiskers and miaowing – “You must be crazy, or you think I am!”

Have yourselves a very Merry Christmas with your family and loved ones…or, if you’re doing it alone…enjoy it your way.  Being alone doesn’t mean being lonely. And always remember the love you feel – be prepared to share it; and don’t be afraid to voice it.   Demonstrate you care.  There is strength in doing so.

I hope that your New Year is a happy and safe one…may it treat you with kindness, and with a little (or more) prosperity thrown in for good measure. 

Let’s hope 2015 treats us all kindly.  God knows (and so do I) the world surely needs it!  We need a break from all the hate; the evil and the anger. 2014 overflowed with far too many challenges; too many devastating, heartbreaking events; too much sorrow.   

Enough is enough already!!

In the words of a Burt Bacharach song – “What the world needs now is love, sweet love….” – and loads of it.

Perhaps Santa can drop off a few bagfuls of love, peace and goodwill while he’s doing his rounds.  And once all his bags are empty of gifts, he can fill his bags up again - he can take away everything that is evil in the world and dump it in the deepest part of the ocean…or under the largest ice cap, never to be seen again!


Christmas Turkey: Stuffing: Preheat oven 175C (350F).  On top of stove in a large pan, cook 375g bacon rashers, cut into ½-inch pieces until crisp. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Reserve 2 tbs. drippings in skillet; set bacon aside. Add 4c chopped onion and 3c chopped celery to drippings. Cook on medium-high heat 15 to 20 minutes or until tender. Combine bacon, onion mixture, 1 cup chopped dried apples, 6 cups chopped pecans, 1-1/2tsp dried thyme and 1tsp dried sage. Stir 454g sourdough or cornbread crumbs. Stir in2-1/2 cups chicken broth and ½ cup butter. Remove 7 cups of stuffing for stuffing turkey. Spoon remaining stuffing into glass or ovenproof ceramic baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Bake covered 30 minutes; uncover and bake 15 minutes.

For the Turkey:  Preheat oven to 162C (325F). Combine 1 cup apple jelly, 1 cup apple juice, 1/4c white balsamic vinegar, ¼ cup honey and 1/2tsp salt in small, heavy saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to 1-¼ cups, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reserve ¼ cup mixture for gravy.
Set remaining mixture aside for basting turkey. Remove neck and giblets from body and neck cavities of turkey. Refrigerate for another use or discard. Drain juices from turkey; pat dry with paper towels. Fill neck cavity with part of the stuffing. Turn wings back to hold neck skin against back of turkey. Fill body cavity with remaining stuffing. Place turkey, breast down, on flat roasting rack in shallow roasting pan (the juices will fall into the breast cavity keeping the turkey moist). Spray turkey with cooking spray. Place small pieces of aluminum foil over various extremities (skin of neck cavity and over stuffing at body cavity opening) to prevent over browning during roasting.  Brush turkey with some glaze mixture. Loosely cover the back and tops of drumsticks with aluminum foil to prevent overcooking. Put a little water in the bottom of the roasting pan. Bake 2 hours. Uncover turkey and turn it breast up; and brush turkey with additional glaze mixture. Continue roasting until meat thermometer inserted deep in thigh reaches 82C/180F. Let turkey stand 15 minutes before removing stuffing and carving.

Cheesy Cauliflower-Broccoli Au Gratin: Preheat oven, 180C. Make cheese sauce: combine in saucepan, 2c milk, 1 brown onion, coarsely chopped, 4 fresh parsley stalks, 4 whole black peppercorns, 2 whole cloves and 1 dried bay leaf; bring to simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat; set aside for 15mins to infuse. Strain through fine sieve into a large jug; discard solids. Melt 30g butter in large saucepan over med-high heat until foaming.  Add 2tbs plain flour (all-purpose flour) and a teaspoon or so (to taste) of dry mustard (or prepared English mustard); cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes or until mixture bubbles and begins to come away from the side of the pan; remove from heat. Gradually pour in half the milk, whisking constantly with a balloon whisk until mixture is smooth; gently add the remaining milk, whisking until smooth and combined. Place saucepan over med-high heat; bring to the boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 5mins or until sauce thickens and coats the back of the spoon; removed from heat.  Add ½ to ¾ cup coarsely grated tasty cheese and a tablespoon or so of grated Parmesan; stir until cheese melts; season to taste. Meanwhile, break 500g cauliflower into florets and 500g broccoli into florets. Cook cauliflower in salted boiling water for 5mins (or steam); add broccoli and cook further 2mins or until bright green - don’t overcook; drain.  Arrange the cauliflower and broccoli and put into a 6-cup capacity ovenproof dish.  Melt 60g butter in frying pan over high heat until butter is foaming; add 1 crushed garlic clove; cook, stirring, 30 seconds or until fragrant.  Add 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (made from day-old bread; cook, stirring for 5mins or until golden brown; remove from heat.  Pour cheese sauce over the vegetables; sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs and a little grated cheese. Bake in preheated oven, 15 minutes, or until golden brown and heated through. Serve immediately.

Rocky Road Pudding: Line an 8-cup capacity metal pudding steamer with plastic wrap Line an 8 cup-capacity metal pudding steamer with plastic wrap, allowing a 2cm overhang. Break 10 chocolate biscuits into 2cm pieces. Combine 1.25 litres quality vanilla ice-cream, softened, biscuit pieces, 1 cup vanilla custard, 1 cup mini marshmallows, ¼ cup desiccated coconut, ¼ cup granulated nuts and 1 cup fozen raspberries, roughly crushed, in a bowl; spoon mixture into prepared steamer. Smooth top. Top with another 6 broken chocolate biscuit pieces. Freeze overnight or until firm.  Stand pudding at room temperature for 5 minutes to soften. Turn out onto a plate. Carefully peel away wrap. Drizzle with melted white and dark chocolate. Top with sprinkles and cachous. Serve with custard and fruit salad.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Christmas Eve is a blink away. Stockings will be hung.  I’ve got a pair of never-worn, ladder-free pantihose. Will they do?   (The ladder is free because it’s needed for Santa’s use to climb up onto the roof).

Aussies don’t celebrate Thanksgiving; but every day we should nudge ourselves as a reminder to give thanks for every day. Easily we fall into the trap of complacency, taking too much for granted; including each other. Instead of a “pinch and a punch for the first of the month” - how about; “A daily nudge and a yank in thanks”? 

2014 has been a challenge-filled year throughout Australia and the rest of the world. We’re living in a world filled with hate, prejudice, intolerance and greed; and all mostly in the name of religion.  What a joke!  Unfortunately the joke isn’t funny, it’s tragic.

Whether the statistics prove it or not there appears to have been more “downs” than “ups” this year; more tears than laughter.  Unfortunately, the “downs” tend to remain in our mind more than the “ups”.  Decency of self; respect for one’s self, and for others, in far too many instances and areas have flown out the window.  They seem to no longer exist or be of importance in some quarters; by some folk; too many folk.

I lost a dear friend during the year. It causes me sadness; but I smile, too. My memories of the good times shared stay with me; and we did share many memorable, fun times.

With Christmas drawing nigh at a rapid rate of knots and because my cabin doesn’t have a chimney I’ve been busy chopping a hole in the roof so I can climb through it on Christmas Eve while toting a bag filled with a present for me from me and a couple for my two furry mates slung over my shoulder . I’ve thoughts of installing a fireman’s pole so I can slide down it for easy access.  A much better method than jumping I would think; far kinder on my hips that already scream out for mercy.  I guess once Christmas is over I can stick some clear plastic over the hole in the roof, turning it into a skylight.  I wonder if bubble wrap will do.  I’ve lots of bubble wrap.

I was halfway through cutting out the hole when I realised I do have a key to my door, not that I’ll need it on Christmas Eve because I will already be inside, in my bed, asleep, particularly around the bewitching hour and the wee small hours of Christmas morning when I'm meant to be depositing said presents.  I suppose I could utilize the pole. I could take up pole dancing as an exercise routine.  If I get good enough I could put on performances at the local Lawn Bowls’ Club and the Old People’s Home. 

Rather than set an alarm clock to wake me so I can stumble around outside in the darkness of night as I try to locate the non-existent ladder to enable me to climb up onto the roof etc., etc., my best plan would be to leave the Christmas gifts to me, Remy and Shama, the beverage and slice of Christmas cake on the coffee table before I go to bed. That would be the logical thing to do.  So I think I’ll go down the sensible path; the interior path.

I didn’t put up a Christmas tree, which was the rational thing to do because I don’t have a Christmas tree. And because we’ve been experiencing some wild and woolly storms of late, if it rains overnight it wouldn’t be a good idea to put the three presents and treats outside beneath one of the many trees on this property.  The wandering wood ducks, guinea fowl, bandicoots, echidnas, bower birds, foxes etc., – every diurnal and nocturnal creature combined would think all their Christmases had come at once!
As I’ll already be inside (because that’s where my bed is) I won’t need a key to get inside; and it won’t be necessary for me to leave any food and drinks out for myself.  I can just raid my fridge if the mood takes hold!

So that’s all settled then.

In the meantime, here are some more recipes to get your taste buds a-kicking!  That’s my goal!

And, no doubt, I’ll be back between now and Christmas, but just in case you won’t be…I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas, no matter what you're doing or who your doing it with!  If you’re writing to Santa please ask him for loads of love, peace and goodwill.  Don’t feel greedy about it…ask him for heaps and heaps of it! 

The percentages are that I will make another appearance before Christmas Day.  I'm just warning you!

Roasted Beetroot and Scallop Salad: Preheat oven, 180C. Place 1 bunch baby beetroot on a large sheet of foil; then enclose to form a parcel (and put it under your Christmas tree!  No…don’t do that…I’m joking)! Roast the beets for 1 hour or until the beetroot is tender; cool; then peel and cut into wedges. Make dressing: Whisk 1/4c olive oil or walnut oil, 2tbs red wine vinegar, 1tbs honey and 1tsp Dijon mustard together in a bowl; season with salt and pepper; lighten with a dash of water. Core and quarter 1 green apple; then thickly slice the apple; toss in the dressing with 2 red witlof (Belgian endive) leaves, separated and 100g rocket (arugulo) leaves; set aside.  Heat a dry fry pan over medium heat; toast 1tbs roughly-chopped walnuts; remove from pan and set aside. Brush 8-12 shelled, cleaned scallops with oil; season well with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.  In batches, sear scallops in the pan for 30 seconds on each side until caramelized on the outside, but still opaque in the centre. Divide salad among plates; tuck in the scallops, beetroot and walnuts; drizzle with any remaining dressing; serve.

Christmas Wreath Salad: Slice 455g plum tomatoes. Halve some cherry or grape tomatoes. Arrange the tomatoes and 455g bocconcini around outside of large round platter to create a wreath. Spoon some fresh basil pesto** over it; season; dreizle with x-virgin olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar in the centre; garnish with fresh basil leaves.

** Basil Pesto: (You will have more pesto than needed for above recipe): Wash basil leaves; discard stems; dry thoroughly. In blender, add 2 peeled garlic cloves, 2tbs pine nuts and 1/4tsp coarse salt; process about 15 seconds.  Add 3 cups fresh basil leaves; using pulse technique, turning on and off, to shred the basil.  With machine on, drizzle in 1/2c x-virgin olive oil to create a coarse mash’ add 1/4c grated Parmesan cheese; pulse to combine.  Makes about 1 cup.  The pesto will keep up to 4 weeks, covered, in fridge. Pour thin film of olive oil on top of pesto to prevent discoloration. For longer storage, don’t add the parmesan until ready to use.  You can freeze it in ice cube trays or zip-lock bags, too.  Add the parmesan after thawing, just before serving. Pesto is great on toasted breads, baked potatoes, pizza etc.

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts: Preheat oven 218C (425F). Combine 455g trimmed, halved Brussel Sprouts, 1tbs olive oil, 1/4tsp salt and 1/4ts pepper in large bowl; toss.  Spread sprouts (loose leaves as well…they crisp up nicely) in single layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet; roast for 10mins. Add 1/4c coarsely-chopped pecans (or any other nuts as desired); stir. Roast 5 to 7 more minutes or until Brussels Sprouts are tender and lightly browned and the nuts are golden.  Meanwhile, combine 1/2c balsamic vinegar and 1/2c 100% apple juice in small saucepan. Bring to boil over med-high heat. Then reduce heat to medium; simmer 15mins or until thickened and reduced to about ¼ cup.  Remove from heat. Transfer the Sprout mixture to a large bowl; add 1/4c dried cranberries. Drizzle with balsamic glaze; toss until blended well; serve immediately.  (You can add diced, crisp bacon or pancetta, if desired….as a substitute for the cranberries….there’s lots of room for experimentation)!

Christmas Beef Rib-Eye Roast: Preheat oven 175C (350F). Combine 2tbs minced fresh rosemary or 2tsp dried rosemary, 4 minced garlic cloves, 1tsp salt, 1tsp dry mustard and 1tsp freshly-cracked black pepper. Sweet talk your butcher into giving you a well-trimmed small end of a beef rib-eye roast (about 2kg/4lb)…or buy one off him, if he insists!  Press half of the seasoning firmly onto the rib-eye.  Combine remaining seasoning with 2tbs oil in large bowl. Add 3 medium-sized potatoes, quartered, 2 large kumara (sweet potatoes), halved and quartered, 4 small onions, halved, some small carrots, unpeeled Jap pumpkin chunks…add whatever vegetables you feel like.  Place roast, fat side up, on rack in shallow roasting pan.  If using a meat thermometer (I never have or do) insert it into the thickest part of the beef, not resting in any of the fat on the beef. Do not add water or cover. Roast in preheated; 3/4hrs for med-rare; 2 hours for medium. After 15mins of cooking time, place vegetables on rack around the roast; roast 1-1/2hrs or until tender. Remove roast when meat is done as desired; tent with foil and let stand 15-20mins. Slice and serve with a good, rich brown gravy and vegetables. 

Christmas Orange-Maple Glazed Ham: Preheat oven 200C/180C-fan. Line large baking tray with baking paper.  Place 1/4c orange juice, 1tsp finely-grated orange zest, 1/2c maple syrup, 2tbs brown sugar, 2tbs Dijon mustard and 1tbs English mustard in saucepan over high heat; whisk to combine. Bring to boil, and cook 5mins until thickened, stirring occasionally.  Remove rind from 4-4.5kg half leg ham by pushing your fingers in between the meat and the rind, leaving a generous covering of the fat on the meat. Pull rind back as you continue to work your hand over the ham. Cut the rind off at the bone (if using that end of the ham….no need to do so if you have the rump end of the ham leg). Score fat and stud with cloves…about 50 in all. Place ham onto lined baking tray; brush liberally with the glaze. Bake 25mins; brush with remaining glaze and back a further 20-30mins, until golden brown.

Festive Fruit Salad: Bring 2/3c fresh orange juice, 1/3 fresh lemon juice, 1/3c packed brown sugar, 1/2tsp each grated lemon and orange zest to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in 1tsp vanilla extract. Set aside to cool. Gather together 2 cups cubed fresh pineapple, 2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries, 3 peeled, sliced kiwi fruit, 3 sliced bananas, 2 firm, but ripe mangoes, peeled and diced, 2 oranges, sectioned, 1c seedless grapes (green or black or combination), 2c blueberries; layer the fruit in a large, clear glass bowl in the order as given above; pour the cooled sauce over the fruit; cover and refrigerate 3 to 4 hours before serving.

Tipsy Christmas Trifle: Egg custard: place 473ml (1 pint) milk and 30g caster sugar in saucepan; bring to the boil. Separate 4 eggs; then mix the 4 egg yolks with 2 egg whites; pour the hot milk over them, stirring immediately and well. Temper the eggs by adding a little mill at first or they’ll get angry and scramble! Return to the saucepan; and stir over gentle heat with wooden spoon. When the custard runs in ribbons down the back of the spoon, strain into a big bowl; cover with dampened greaseproof paper or cling-wrap to stop a skin from forming. (That doesn’t work if you cover yourself in cling-wrap, by the way).  Grab 6 individual jam-filled sponge rolls/fingers. Spread them each with a little extra raspberry or strawberry jam.  Warm the jam to make it a little gooey/runny for easier spreading. Place in a glass dish. Crush some Amaretti biscuits or coconut macaroons/meringues; scatter on top; sprinkle over some finely-grated lemon rind. Mix together1/4c sweet sherry and 1tbls Drambuie; pour over the sponges; leave to soak. Pour the cooled custard over the sponge etc. Whip ½ to ¾ cup whipping cream until stiff; sweeten a little with icing sugar; spread over the trifle.  Sprinkle lightly toasted flaked almonds, crumbled Amaretti/coconut macaroons or meringues, some crushed pistachios and fresh raspberries or strawberries over top for garnish. Refrigerate overnight.  Silver “hundreds & thousands” can be sprinkled over the top, too, just before serving, for a bit of extra Christmas cheer.

I'll write and post Chapter Five of my cat stories when Christmas has passed....

Wednesday, December 10, 2014



Here is the truth, in red and white, in case you remain uncertain.  On the off chance you’re still asking the is the porky of all porkies that Santa is a porky.  Santa might be a bit on the porky side; more than a bit portly, even, and in some quarters there are some – those who enjoy being picky - who believe he should seriously consider going on a diet, but saying Santa doesn’t exist is a big fat porky.  If you fall into the latter category - cut it out… stop being a party-pooper! 

Santa doesn’t follow any of the new-fangled fad diets. Seriously, who can blame him?  New diets appear as regularly as the morning sun.  Most of them go out fashion before you (and me) have time to write a shopping list for the special ingredients!  On the other hand, personally, I take little notice of diets, new-fangled, old-fangled or otherwise.  Everything in moderation is the way to go, I believe; and fresh is best whenever and wherever possible. And the few processed foods and those filled with preservatives the better...but enough of that for now....

Don’t stop leaving out a can of beer, a Scotch or a wine (a soda, if you must) for Santa.  He needs as much hydration as he can get, and you have to offer, to help him battle through a long, long night.

Santa’s taste is as broad as he is; and, let’s face it, he’s always got the Christmas spirit. He won’t knock anything back. On second thoughts, he’ll knock back whatever is offered so as not to offend.  He’ll graciously accept whatever you leave for him. Santa’s like that. It’s how he was brought up; and, of course, he does have Mrs. Merry Claus on hand to remind him daily of his manners throughout the year.  He’s naturally a good-natured, well-mannered gentleman; one with a generous frame of mind.

And, as well as hydration, Santa needs sustenance.  Whatever you do or don’t do, please don’t forget to leave him a thick slice of Christmas cake.  Rum Balls, White Christmas; maybe a couple of Fruit Mince Tarts wouldn’t go astray, either. Don’t go all health-conscious on him. Any gesture and all gestures will be gratefully accepted. 

Being Santa at Christmas is hard, tiring work, travel-wise, anyway; and particularly during the heat of summer down here Down Under.  Put yourself in his boots.  Try getting about in a fur-trimmed red suit while lugging a heavy, loaded bag over your shoulder! You’ll soon understand what I’m saying. Yet, we never hear a word of complaint come from his mouth, but who knows what he says to Rudolph behind our back! Maybe that’s Santa grumbling up high in the sky beyond and not thunder after all.  Nevertheless, whatever is said between Santa and Rudolph stays between Rudolph and Santa.  They share an everlasting bond and understanding.  If Rudolph broke their secretive pact the light bulb in his nose would explode! Perhaps he's using LED these days.

Santa isn’t politically-correct.  How could he be when he goes around the world shouting out at the top of his lungs - “Ho! Ho! Ho!”?  He may offend some as he goes about “Ho-ho-ing”, but words are often misconstrued and taken out of context to the point of becoming totally ridiculous, aren’t they?  Some folk are overly-sensitive. They need to grow a tougher skin (and some commonsense). Santa means no discourtesy, nor does he discriminate. So don’t take umbrage when you hear him calling out “Ho! Ho! Ho!”  Wave and smile back at him. It’s not personal - it’s his way of spreading goodwill to one and all.

If St. Nick is on a diet and doesn’t partake in what’s left out for him someone else will drink the beverage and eat the cake…just you wait and see.

Even if Santa is trying to lose an inch or two from his waist he won’t let the goodies go to waste. 

Let’s not kid ourselves - Santa wouldn’t be Santa if he wasn’t on the portly side of porky.  Who would want a skinny Santa, anyway? Not me!  He’s lasted this long without having a heart attack. He’s infallible.  Santa will be around until eternity. After all, he only works one night a year, and even then he’s chauffeured about.  The rest of the year he sits back with his feet up, tossing directions at his elves. The elves do all the hard yakka.*

*(Hard yakka:  Aussie slang for hard work; or bloody hard work; strenuous labour)

Because early indications hint many areas in the Land of Oz are in for a hot Christmas perhaps it would be advisable on the off chance Santa has forgotten where the fridge is - (after a few thousand houses they all begin to look the same – particularly after sundry liquid refreshments here and there along the way) to leave him a note with a map showing directions to the kitchen so he can help himself to a glass or two of ice-cold water.  He might only need some ice cubes, of course; in case his preferred drink is scotch on the rocks or rum and cola.  Every base needs to be covered.

Seeing Santa’s too porky to slide down chimneys these days, I’m sure he has a master key to the front door. Using the front door saves on the laundry bills, too.

It would be a good idea to leave some food and water out for the reindeers, as well. After all, they have quite a heavy load to tow around; including a sleigh full of gifts!   I suppose the grass on the front lawn and the bird baths and swimming pools come in handy even more so on Christmas Eve.  Just remember to fill up the bird baths before dark on Christmas Eve. Don’t mow the lawn the week before Christmas.  That should do the trick!

I hope a few of Santa’s heavy, huge bags contain rain for our many drought-stricken areas to enable them to can get back on their feet again. Some bundles of cash to help carry our farmers through their tough times until they’ve got their heads above water again wouldn’t go astray, either; with extra as a back-up to see our people on the land through their future hardships. They face many, year after tiring year. Our hard-working farmers/graziers deserve such gifts from Santa.  They should never be forgotten, nor should they be neglected; they should always be protected.

It’s no porky I thought Billy Bob Thornton made a bad Santa.  I reckon he was pretty good Bad Santa, actually.  And it’s true - I’m looking forward to spending time over Christmas with the Griswolds. What’s Christmas without the Griswolds?  It’s just not Christmas, I tell you!  For many years now I’ve spent a couple of hours over Christmas with Clark, Ellen and the rest of the Griswold family.  They’d miss me if I ceased doing so; and I’d miss the laughter. It wouldn’t be a wonderful life if that were to happen!

And as my gift to my Vegan friends out there in Cyber Worlds (that includes you, Riot Kitty)…and for those of you who aren’t Vegans….the Vegan recipes I’ve given here are to all tastes…Vegan or not.  If the truth be known, I guess I am a part-time Vegan.  I’m a sometimes meat-eater and a sometimes Vegan…the percentage probably leans more towards Vegan these days.  However, I will never give up eating meat, but it doesn’t appear daily on my own personal menu.  I will always enjoy a thick juicy steak; a succulent piece of pork or lamb, golden roasted chicken etc., et al – but not every day.  I've almost joined the Raw Food Brigade, too...particularly in summer.

Either which way, I hope you enjoy the recipes given below.  I hope I’ve covered most tastes/choices.  And I hope you enjoy them, too, Carol.

Stuffed Pork Loin: Use 1.5kg boned middle loin of pork, skin scored (or more depending on numbers). Combine 1c fresh breadcrumbs, 1/4c dried cherries/cranberries, 1/4c pine nuts, 1 chopped onion, 1tbs finely-chopped fresh rosemary and 2tbs oil (increase quantities where needed). Lay pork out flat; place stuffing along length; season. Roll neatly; tie with string. Brush skin with oil; rub in well with sea salt. Place pork on rack in pan; pour water into pan to cover base, ¾-inch deep, Roast in preheated 200C oven for about 90mins.

Roast Pork with Brown Pears: Grab a boned loin of pork, about 300g per person. Remove and retain skin.  Marinate the skinned pork overnight in 2c dry white wine. Preheat oven 240C. Dry pork well; rub meat and skin with olive oil, salt and pepper. Put pork, fat side down. Lay ½ bunch Italian parsley (not chopped) and 1tbs capers down the centre; roll up and tie.  Roast pork 30mins with the pork skin placed on top. Reduce heat to 160C; cook a further hour. Drizzle 6 small Beurre Bosc pears with olive oil; add to baking dish for last 30mins of cooking. Rest pork 10mins; then slice meat and crackling; drizzle with cooking juices; serve with pears.

Perfect Crackling: Score skin or have your kindly butcher do it for you; diagonally or diamond pattern; just through the skin not through to the meat.  Pour boiling water over skin to open up the cuts; dry thoroughly; then rub the skin with half of a cut lemon; massage very well with sea salt and, (optional) Chinese Five Spice powder. Put on rack in roasting pan; place in preheated 220C oven, 30mins; then reduce heat to 200C for balance of cooking time.

Vegan Furphy Turkey Roast, Stuffing & Sage Gravy: (Furphy – Aussie slang for rumour, fictious story):  Bring 3.7lt water to low boil. In large bowl, whisk together 2-1/2c wheat gluten flour, 1/2c yeast flakes, 1tsp thyme, 1tbs onion powder and 1tsp salt. Add 2c vegetable broth, 1/4c light olive oil and 1tbs soy sauce; stir just until combined. Form into a loaf shape.  Place loaf on cheesecloth and roll up – not too tight.  Tie each end with string.  Place in the simmering water, covered for 1 hour (if making a double batch…two hours).  Preheat oven to 163C (325F). Take loaf out of water; cool briefly; remove the cheesecloth. Pour a little olive oil in baking dish; place loaf in baking dish with the stuffing you’ve made while the loaf was simmering (or put stuffing in separate baking dish - suggested). Bake loaf, covered, 30 minutes. Onion, Celery & Mushroom Stuffing: In a large skillet, heat 2tbs x-virgin olive oil and 4tbs vegan butter over med-high heat until melted. Add 1 large chopped onion and 4 chopped celery stalks; cook until softened, but not brown, about 4 minutes. Add 240g (8oz) chopped button or Cremini mushrooms; cook until softened and browned, about 5 minutes. Mix in 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 bay leave, 1tbs chopped fresh sage or 1tsp dried sage, 1/2tsp dried rosemary, 1/2tsp oregano, 1/8thtsp nutmeg, 1tsp salt amd 1/2tsp freshly-ground black pepper. Add 1/4c chopped parsley and 8c gluten-free bread cubes to skillet; mix well; moisten cubes with low-sodium vegetable broth until soft, but not wet; remove bay leaf; let the mixture cool. Transfer the stuffing to a large, oiled casserole dish; bake until the stuffing is set and crisp, 15-20mins.  Then turn the dish around; cook further 5mins until browned to your liking.  Sage Turkey Gravy: In saucepan, combine 1/4c light olive oil, 1/3c gluten-free flour, 1tsp sage and 1/2tsp thyme.  Cook on stove top at med-low heat for 2mins, stirring constantly.  Add 3c vegetable broth and 1/4c yeast flakes (optional).  Increase heat to medium.  Cook until thickened, stirring frequently; season to taste.  Serve with Vegan Turkey and stuffing…accompanied with roasted vegetables of choice.

Vegetable Lentil Loaf: Preheat oven 175C (350F). Rinse 1c dry lentils; add 2-1/2c water to pot; add lentils (don’t add any salt at this stage); bring to a boil; reduce heat; cover and simmer 35mins, stirring occasionally. Once done, remove lid; set aside to cool, 15mins. In small bowl, combine 3tbs ground flaxseeds (linseeds) and 1/3c water; set aside in fridge for about 10mins. Finely dice the following - 1 small onion, 1 small capsicum (bell pepper), 1 celery stalk, grate 1 carrot and mince 3 garlic cloves.  Heat 2tbs olive oil in pan; heat over med-heat.  Sauté the vegetables for about 5mins; add 1 heaped tsp dried thyme, ½ heaped tsp cumin, 1/2tsp each garlic powder and onion powder, ¼-1/2tsp ground chipotle pepper (smoked chilli powder), cracked pepper and sea salt to taste, mixing well to incorporate; set aside to cool.  In blender or processor, blend ¾ of the lentil mixture. Combine sautéed vegetables, the rest of the lentils, 3/4c oats, 1/2c oat flour or finely-ground oats (or any flour of choice) and flax egg**; mix well; season to taste. Place mixture into lined loaf pan; leave paper overlapping for easy removal later. Press down firmly filling in along the edges. Prepare GLAZE: In small bowl, combine 3tbs organic ketchup/tomato sauce, 1tbs balsamic vinegar and 1 tbs pure maple syrup; mix until incorporated; spread over top of loaf; bake loaf in oven, 40-45mins.  Let it cool a bit before turning out and slicing.

*** How To Make Flax Eggs (or Chia Eggs):  Equivalent to 1 egg: Whisk together 1 tbs ground flax or chia seeds and 3tbs water until well combined; then place in fridge to set for 15mins. Use as you would an egg in many of your favourite baking recipes.

Christmas Cajun Prawn-Avocado Salad: Preheat bbq grill or grill pan to high. Combine 1kg green banana prawns, peeled, deveined, tails intact, 1tbs chopped Italian (flat-leafed) parsley,  2tsp Cajun seasoning and 2tsp olive oil in large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Cook on preheated grill or skillet, 2mins each side or until changed in colour and just cooked through; don’t overcook. Transfer to bowl; cover loosely with foil to keep warm - (don’t cover tightly…you don’t want to “stew” the prawns). Make avocado salad: place 200g mesclun mix, 200g halved grape tomatoes, 2 avocados, halved, peeled, stoned and chopped and 3 chopped green shallots in bowl. Drizzle with x-virgin olive oil and 1tbs fresh lemon or lime juice; season to taste; gently toss to combine. Serve the Cajun prawns with the salad and lemon or lime wedges.

Lemon-Bulgur Salad with Prawns and Spinach: Place 1-1/2c coarse bulgur in bowl; cover with warm tap water; let stand until grains are tender; about 2hrs. Rinse and drain well.  In another large bowl, whisk 1tsp finely-grated lemon zest with 1/4c fresh lemon juice and 3tbs chopped dill; then whisk in 1/2c x-virgin olive oil.  Add the drained bulgur, 500g large, peeled cooked prawns, 3c baby spinach leaves, 4 thinly sliced radishes, 1 medium red onion, finely diced and 2tbs pine nuts; toss to coat; season with salt and pepper, to taste; serve.

Warm Duck Salad with Beetroot Vinaigrette:  Trim stems and leaves from 1 bunch of beetroot, leaving 2-3cms of the stems attached; wash well. Don’t cut off the root. Set aside some unblemished leaves for later use. Place beets in saucepan; cover with salted water with a couple of splashes of vinegar added; bring to boil; simmer approx 30mins or until tender. Cool the beetroot in the cooking liquid; drain; peel and cut into 1cm cubes. Vinaigrette: Whisk together 2/3c peanut oil, 1/3c rice wine vinegar, 1/4c mirin, juice and zest of 1 orange; set aside.  To cook duck: Preheat oven 180C. Season 4 trimmed duck breasts with ground Szechwan salt and pepper. Over high heat, in a frying pan with a little olive oil added sear the breasts until they are golden on both sides; then transfer the breasts to a roasting dish and cook for about 5mins in the oven.  They should still be soft to the touch. Set aside, covered for 5mins, to rest.  To serve: Put some trimmed rocket (arugula) leaves and some of the trimmed beetroot leaves onto serving dishes; toss beetroot cubes in the vinaigrette; place on top of leaves. Slice the duck breasts and fan out over top of salad.  Crumble goat cheese or feta over top; serve.

Vegan Mint Choc Chip Biscuits/Cookies: Preheat oven 175C (350F). Place 2c spelt flour, 1c vegan chocolate chips (or carob chips or dried fruits), 1c chopped walnuts (or toasted pecans or macadamia nuts), 3/4c rolled oats, 1/2tsp sea salt, 3/4tsp baking soda, 1/8th tsp cinnamon and a pinch of ground nutmeg in bowl’ mix well. In another bowl, combine 2/3c pure maple syrup, 2/3c safflower oil, 2tbs water and 1tsp peppermint extract.  Add the wet to the dry; and mix well. Refrigerate for 15mins.  Place 8 scoops on a well-oiled or lined baking sheet; flatten them slightly with your hand.  Space them evening so the biscuits/cookies have room to spread.  Bake until golden brown, approx 10 minutes.  Allow them to cool before you get stuck into them!  Variations on a theme:  You could add 2tbls of cocoa or carob powder, too, if you so desired…and 1tbs of spirulina if you have some!  The decisions are yours to make!

And…Yes, Virginia! There is a Santa!  

And Chapter Five of my cat tales isn't too far away!

P.S....If the robot numbers annoy anyone...I apologise.  I didn't change my blog for that to show up; it just happened overnight a couple of nights ago...and I can't for the life of me change it back, even though others have said how to do it!  D'oh!  It doesn't worry me, but I'm sorry if it's annoying to you. 

**And I've discovered you can post a comment without having to type in the Word Verification just ignore them.