Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Darn it! There was a lot of “darn it!” being said by me the week before last - from the Friday through to the following Tuesday morning..   I do admit my “darn its’ were uttered using more descriptive adjectives, though.   I’m sure you get my drift without my being more descriptively descriptive.

Darn it!  Sometimes "Darn it!" just doesn't cut the mustard!

I had computer problems. When I have computer problems magically the air turns blue.  I was steaming.  In actual fact, as it turned out, my computer wasn’t at fault, Microsoft was.  But no matter what was at fault, I couldn’t get into my tower.  I was forced to use my laptop and I hate using my laptop.  I bought the laptop purely to be a back-up for when or if I had a problem with my tower. It’s never used otherwise.  For a woman my hands are quite large; too big for comfortable use of my laptop keyboard.  For example, the distance between the tip of my thumb and the tip of my little finger when my hand is extended is a little over nine inches (a little over 23cm).

For the record, I freely admit I have little patience when things go awry.  And, on the Monday things did go even further astray when the damn laptop decided to play silly buggers and go out in sympathy with my PC!  When that occurred its bad behaviour caused the air around here to turn from blue to deep purple!

Fortunately, Kyle, my computer man has more patience than I have. To the rescue, like a knight in shining armour he came.  I was about to fix the problem with a sledgehammer, but, clever Kyle sorted both problems out for me....just in time! 

Does anyone darn these days? I bet the majority of the younger generations have no idea of the true meaning of the word “darn”, let alone give a darn about not knowing. 

To be honest, many years have passed and much water has flowed under and over many bridges, and many yarns have been spun since I did any darning.  I’ve a good memory, but darn it, I can’t remember the last time I darned anything.  I don’t envisage darning in the near or distant future, either. I think the art of darning probably faded into oblivion about the time my generation hit the scene and started kicking up our heels. 

My Nana darned. Mum did, too.  However, because Mum went outside the home to work, most of the darning chores fell within Nana’s jurisdiction. When our socks and underwear got holes in them, out came the yarn and darning needles.  Wearing darned or mended clothes wasn’t something to be ashamed of, but discarding perfectly good items that only required minor repairs to bring them back to scratch was. Wearing holey clothes on a Sunday or any other day just wasn’t done.

When a hole was spotted it was time for the darning needle and yarn to do their job. 

To be classed as a good darner was quite an honour. It was something about which to be proud.  Often, to the naked eye, one couldn’t tell if an item of clothing had been darned such was the expertise shown by the person waving the needle. 

Darning is another past skill that has disappeared in today’s “throw-away” society. Maybe I’m wrong and am making an umbrella statement.

I have a set of darning needles sitting here in one of my desk drawers.  I’m darned if I know why because I’ve never used them to darn my drawers, or anything else for that matter. 

One needle out of the pack has been used a couple of times in an effort to get my disc player to open on my computer tower. Kyle, my IT fellow taught me how to do that; and it worked. 

You never know - the rest might come in handy one day.  I’m a prime example of the “be prepared” mob.  I’m not sure what it is I’m prepared for, but prepared I am, nevertheless. 

I’ve admitted I let off a bit of steam every now and then; and this brings me to the subject of steam puddings. 

Once upon a time, in a world long gone, but not forgotten, steam puddings were regular features on our family’s dinner table, particularly during winter months.  Nana, the darner, was the maker of our steaming steam puddings, too.  Warm custard always accompanied the hot puddings, seldom cream, and never ice cream.

Does anyone make their own custard these days - not the commercially-made custard, poured from a carton variety? When I was a kid it was always custard made with custard powder; or, when eggs and time were plentiful, custard prepared with milk and/or cream and egg yolks at a consistency for easy pouring when easy pouring was called for.  Custard was a huge part of our dessert fare.

Darn it!  Now I’ve talked myself into it!  My taste buds have been alerted and are telling me (ordering me) to make a steam pudding and a jug of hot custard for my lunch!   

The temperatures have dropped here over the past few days...so it’s time to make steam puddings while the weather is cold – a small window of opportunity.  Too bad about making hay when the sun shines...the wind is too chilly to be outside doing such a foolish thing!

Walnut Pudding with Date & Ginger Sauce: Combine 250g ground walnuts, 1/4tsp mixed spice and 1c caster sugar; beat 4 egg yolks; gradually add to mixture. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; gently fold into mixture. Grease and line base of 5-cup pudding basin or 8 individual moulds; fill with mixture. Cover with greased, pleated foil; secure with string. Place a rack in large pot. Fill pot with boiling water to halfway up mould; cover pot tightly; steam 1-1/2hrs for large pudding; 45mins for individual.  Melt 60g butter in pan; lightly cook 100g whole walnuts until golden; add 1-1/2tsp kirsch; cool. Unmould pudding to cool slightly. Sauce; combine 1/4c redcurrant jelly, 2tbs orange juice, 1/4c dry white wine and 1tsp brown sugar; boil in shallow pan over high heat until coating density. Add 1/4c fresh dates, thinly sliced and 2tsp glacế ginger; simmer 1-2mins. Serve pudding with sauce, whipped cream and walnuts.

Fig Pudding with Mandarin Butter: Combine 250g finely chopped dried figs, 1c sifted plain flour, 125g finely grated suet, 2c fresh breadcrumbs, 1tsp baking powder, 1/2c caster sugar, 1/4tsp nutmeg and pinch of salt. Beat 2 eggs in 200ml milk; stir into fig mixture. Grease and line base of 5-cup mould; cover tightly with foil; tie with string; steam as for Walnut Pudding, 2-1/2hrs. Mandarin Butter; rub 4 sugar cubes over skin of 4 mandarins until cubes have absorbed the colour and flavour.  Beat 120g unsalted butter until soft and creamy; add 1/3c caster sugar; beat until fluffy. Crush sugar cubes; add mandarin juice and 2tsp Curaçao; mix well. Unmould pudding; serve immediately with whipped mandarin butter.

Vanilla Butter Pudding with Rosella Glaze: Grease a 5-cup pudding basin or 8 individual moulds; line base/s with baking paper.  Cream 175g butter and 1c vanilla sugar intil light and fluffy. (Store a vanilla bean in a jar of caster sugar for at least 2-3 weeks before using; top up with more sugar as needed). Add 1-1/2tsp vanilla essence and 3 lightly beaten eggs; beat thoroughly. Fold in 1-3/4 cups plain flour, sifted with 1-1/2tsp baking powder, alternately wih 250ml milk.  Gently spoon mixture into mould/s.  Cover tightly with sheet of greaseproof paper, which has been pleated to allow for the pudding to expand, and greased foil; secure with string.  Place a rack in a large pot (or a roasting pan for small moulds).  Fill with boiling water to come halfway up mould, lower pudding in; cover tightly and steam 1-1/4hrs for large pudding or 3—35mins for individual moulds.  Replenish with boiling water as needed to maintain level. For Glaze:  Combine 1-1/2c fresh rosellas with 3/4c sugar, 1tbls redcurrant jelly and 1/2c water; stir over a low heat until sugar has dissolved.  Simmer for 45-50 minutes or until rosellas have softened.  Rub through a fine sieve; return to saucepan; add 1/3c fresh rosellas.  Swirl to coat the rosellas evenly and to warm through.  Add a little extra water, if necessary, to achieve a shiny coating glaze.
Unmould pudding/s; serve immediately with the glaze.

Easy Egg Custard: Heat 570ml milk, 55ml cream and 1/2tsp vanilla to slow simmer. Vigorously whisk 4 egg yolks, 30g caster sugar, vanilla and 2tsp cornflour; pour milk into eggs, whisking. Return mixture to pan; stir until thickened.

Monday, June 20, 2016


White-Lipped Green Tree Frog

Writing about my mate Hieronymus, my in-house tree frog in my previous post got me thinking.  If you’re wondering...my ability to think started long before now.  I think I’ve thought often throughout my life, not only lately.  

This post also answers a question put forth by a couple of my readers in my earlier post re my cats showing interest in their housemate.  For whatever reasons, my cats, not just Remy and Shama who share my life, but other cats that played major roles in my life throughout the years never showed interest in any interlopers who loped into their and my territory.  They, my cats, appeared to take it in their stride....they'd just give a sigh and go back to sleep.

Hieronymus’ tale triggered recollections of frogs that have hopped in an out of my life over the years; and there’s been quite a few.  Silly me! I failed to kiss even one of them! No wonder no prince has made an appearance. On second thoughts, I do now have Hieronymus aka Harry in my life.

I don’t understand why some people hate frogs, or are scared of frogs.  What’s to fear?

When I was kid a floorboard on our front verandah had a piece broken off it where the floorboard was attached to the supporting beam at the top of the stairs. The gap caused by the missing piece allowed us a view of a fat, glossy green frog that lived on the beam beneath the boards. 

Each day my brother and I checked to see if the frog was still there; and for a long time it was. We’d chat with our green mate, but we never disturbed him.   Each night he hopped out to do whatever frogs do at night. Every day we found him back safely ensconced in his protected sanctuary, pretending he’d not moved. No matter how many questions we put to him he wouldn’t divulge what he did during his nocturnal ramblings.

One of our favourite pastimes when we were kids was collecting tadpoles.  We built a little free-form pond under the front stairs. It became their home.

Do today’s kids still go in search of tadpoles?

With keen interest we’d watch the metamorphosis the tadpoles underwent; the growing of limbs, development of lungs, of how the tadpole’s body absorbed the tail. The process fascinated us...the circle of life.  Once the adult amphibian developed, without a backward glance, it hopped off to greener pastures.

That’s gratitude for you!

When I had my greengrocery/healthfood shop in Noosa often, while unpacking cartons of lettuces often I found cute little green tree frogs hiding in the produce.  Fortunately for the frogs, strategically placed about the shopping arcade where my shop was situated were solid, inbuilt garden pots. I’d place the frogs in the foliage out of sight of birds.  After the vast distances they’d travelled to reach me, to end their adventurous lives on a bird’s dinner plate was not on the plate!  Perhaps in the cloak of darkness they hopped across Hastings Street to go for a swim in Laguna Bay when no one was looking.  Skinny-dipping is lots of fun!  I wouldn’t have blamed them one little bit for doing so.  I’ve done it myself!

At the resort on Hinchinbrook Island there was an abundance of plump green frogs and white-lipped tee frogs. A few claimed the cabins as their own. I left them alone.  There was no point telling them to hop it. They’d return before anyone could say “Kermit Robinson!”   After all, it is Tropical North Queensland.

The magnificent white-lipped tree frog, a giant green tree frog, reaches 11-14cm in length.  They lived in perfect harmony with the regular green frogs and tree frogs. There was room enough for them all, including the guests.
And then, Grofế hopped into my life when I was living in the house at Yorkeys Knob, the beachside suburb north of Cairns.  On the large rear deck, as well as throughout the interior living area of the house many potted plants and palms enhanced the atmosphere and decor.

When I relocated from Yorkeys Knob to Clifton Beach my plants went with me, and so did Grofế, I discovered soon after I’d settled in. 

Grofế, a well-rounded green frog hitched a ride in one of my potted plants

I named my new green housemate after Ferde Grofế , the composer of The Grand Canyon Suite.
There the pot in which he’d set up home sat on top of my fridge. Grofế was comfortably content in his spot in the pot. From there he had an ocean view. 

At night I’d hear a “plop” as he landed on the kitchen floor.  From there he would hop through my unit, out the front door across the small patio onto the lawn and garden out front.

My two cats, Pushkin and Rimsky, ignored him.  When they heard him land on the floor from his elevated site they’d half open their eyes, but they never bothered to stir much more than that before nonchalantly drowsing off once again.  Knowing Grofế was part of the family, they were familiar with his nightly habit.  He didn’t interfere with them and vice versa.

From Clifton Beach I headed southwards to live on Newry Island to take care of the accommodation cabins, bar, dining, boat transfers etc., etc. , and all else that needed taking care of in that capacity.  Pushkin and Rimsky joined me on the island, but sadly Grofế didn’t. He remained at Clifton Beach.  I’m sure he was happy to do so.  

So you see, having Hieronymus in my life isn’t that odd!   Remy, Shama, Hieronymus aka “Harry” and I live harmoniously in this humble abode.

Lettuce & Rocket Soup: Warm 1tbs olive oil in pot over med-heat; add 1 thinly sliced onion; cook about 4mins; add 750g diced potatoes and 4c chicken or veg stock. Bring to simmer over high heat; reduce heat; simmer, covered until potatoes are almost tender; add 2 cups rocket or spinach leaves and 1c torn lettuce leaves; simmer uncovered 3mins; transfer vegetables to blender; pour in enough stock to cover; add 1/4c cream; season. Blend carefully. Pour soup back into pot with remaining stock; stir; pour into bowls; top with sliced goat cheese.

Lettuce Wraps: Put 800g green, peeled, deveined prawns, salt and pepper into pot; add enough cold water just to cover; bring to boil; reduce to simmer; cook about 1min. Transfer prawns to colander; cool. Put about 100g cellophane noodles in a bowl; cover with hot water; set aside 15mins; drain; cut into 2-3 inch pieces; return to pot; drizzle with 2tbs rice vinegar; toss.  In bowl, mix 3/4tsp chilli flakes and 2tbs lime juice; let sit 5-6mins; add 2 minced garlic cloves, 1tbs sugar and 4tbs fish sauce; whisk until sugar dissolves; transfer to serving bowl. Arrange noodles in middle of lettuce leaves; top with prawns; garnish with finely julienned carrots, sliced basil leaves, coriander leaves, mint leaves and finely chopped roasted peanuts.

Pasta, Lettuce & Prosciutto: Cut 85g thinly sliced prosciutto crosswise into ½-inch wide strips. Put 1tbs olive oil in pan over med-high heat; cook prosciutto until crisp. In boiling, salted water cook 455g pasta al dente; drain; reserve a little liquid. Melt 2tbs butter and 2tbs olive oil in pan over med-heat. Add 1 small onion, finely chopped; cook 5mins. Add 2c fresh or frozen peas, leaves of 1 butter lettuce, 4 chopped shallots and 1/2c chick or veg stock; cook 5mins; add pasta; stir until just heated through; add more stock or reserved liquid if needed. Toss with 1c finely grated Parmesan; garnish with prosciutto.

Green Delight:  Put 2 celery sticks, 2 green apples, 1 cup of honeydew melon, diced and 1 lime through juicer; then place in blender with ¼ cup fresh mint and 1 peeled Kiwi fruit; blend; serve garnished with fresh mint.

"Feeling Groovy"....acrylic painting by me

Monday, June 13, 2016


Surveying Things From Great Heights
One of Hieronymus' relatives

This morning I unexpectedly morphed into Alice’s White Rabbit.  I’m running late.  I’m not sure what I’m running late for, but nonetheless, I’m running late.  I’m not literally running. Running isn’t a present day pastime of mine. Not that it worries me because I never enjoyed running, anyway.

I loved ball sports at school, and I participated in them, but I hated foot races.  I could see no point to running from Point A to Point B without an obvious purposeful need to do so.  That’s how it appeared to me, anyway.  Perhaps I, more than anyone else, knew my limitations, and preferred to heed my instincts.

Dawn Taylor, a school mate held similar beliefs so we formed an alliance. Every sports day Dawn and I hid in the school locker room until the races were over...that is until we got sprung by a teacher who’d gotten wise to our game.  Seeing our escape method would no longer work we made a pact that we’d take turns in being the last one to cross the line and, of course, who would come second last. Sometimes, when our mischievous moods couldn’t be denied, we crossed the finish line in a tie, holding hands.  Our rebellious streaks knew no bounds!

This morning I slept in far later than I have in a long time; much later than usual. No amount of running is going to make up the time lost. Perhaps the cooler temperatures, which I love, are to blame. Content to remain snuggled up with me my two bed mates didn’t mind. They got a bit cranky when I disturbed them. Like me, they prefer the cooler weather. Familiarity breeds similarity. My roomies’ calendar is always free of appointments so they weren’t running late for anything. 

Every night my two besties and I enjoy a ménage à trois. There’s nothing strange in that; we’ve done so for years. Calm down!  Before you go off half- cocked there’s nothing hot and heavy going on 
My two bedfellows are my two cats, Remy and Shama, both of whom have shared my life for the past 14 years as of December next.  Brother and sister, they’re the luckiest two cats in the world.  Not keen to get their paws dirty, they’re inside moggies. Unfortunately (purposely), they’ve not yet learned how to do housework. They are experts at pretending they haven’t a clue.  When I suggest they should change their attitude all I get in return are smirks that say – “Yeah, right!” And then, promptly and guiltlessly, they go back to sleep.   I’ve given up wasting my breath, so I just keep on knitting vests from their discarded fur. 

And now I’ve a third housemate. Uninvited, he’s settled in, showing no signs of leaving.  Our ménage à trois might soon become a ménage à quatre. I’ve told him to hop it, to no avail.  A couple of times I’ve stooped to remove him, (gently, of course), but like a boomerang he comes back.   I’ve given up in that quarter, too.

This cabin is just that, a cabin, pure and simple; and not large. Is there room enough for the four of us?

At least my new housemate travels light. 

Actually, he moved in a couple of years ago. In no time he stole my heart. He hides during the day; re-surfacing at night.

I named him “Hieronymus” after both the Early Netherlands painter of the 15th-16th Century and crime writer Michael Connelly’s Detective “Hieronymus ‘Harry’ Bosch.

My Hieronymus is a little brown-speckled tree frog who, one day, turned up out of the blue. No - I don’t have any trees growing inside.  Hieronymus prefers indoors to outdoors.

As I’ve mentioned I’ve put him outside a couple of times. However, I’ve stopped doing so because each time I did so I felt terribly guilty, fearful the birds that hang around my cabin knowing their get the meat scraps every afternoon when I’ve cut up the meat for Remy and Shama’s dinner might think they’re getting a special treat.

Frogs are territorial creatures; and Hieronymus has made his decision. His mind is made up. Inside my cabin, living with me, Remy and Shama is his territory; and there is nothing I can do about it other than welcome him with open arms.  

It’s obvious he loves living here.  He knows where he wants to dwell. Who am I to argue? My furry overlords don’t listen to me – why should Hieronymus? He does no harm; I would never harm him. 

Hieronymus knows his way around in the dark.  He has his own private route. No doubt discovered the first time he decided this is where he wanted to set up camp. I think he slips out each night to go clubbing. Hieronymus probably has a lady friend, perhaps more, with whom he shares nocturnal visits.  He’s of age. I’ve no say in his private life.  I might give him “the talk”, though.

Frogs are wonderful creatures. With all the nightly activity going on around here it’s little wonder I slept in. Because I’m running late this morning I’ve failed to squeeze two lemons for my daily, early morning kick-start, and that’s not good.  No time to do it now, though - I have to put up the “No Vacancy” sign.

Lemon and Asparagus Pasta: Cook 1-1/2c penne pasta in boiling salted water, 6mins. Add ½ bunch asparagus, cut into 2.5cm pieces; cook until just tender; drain; return to pot. In bowl, whisk 3/4c whole milk, 2tsp Dijon mustard, 2tsp plain flour, salt and pepper. Heat1tsp x-virgin olive oil in small saucepan on med-high heat; add 2tsp minced garlic; cook about 1min; pour in milk mixture; whisk; continue stirring as its brought to simmer. Cook until thick, 1-2mins. Stir in lemon zest and 1-1/2tsp lemon juice. Stir sauce into pasta; cook over med-high heat until sauce is thick and creamy; mix in 1/3c grated Parmesan to pasta. To serve, top with 1/3c shredded Parmesan.

Lemony Spaghetti: Whisk to combine, zest of 1 Meyer lemon, 3tbs lemon juice, 1/2c mascarpone, salt, freshly-ground pepper and 1/4tsp nutmeg. Cook 240g pasta, al dente; drain; reserve about 1/2c of the water. Return pasta to pot; set over low heat; stir in the mascarpone sauce; add 5c fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped; toss until spinach begins to wilt; add 1/4c pasta water; cook and toss until spinach is cooked; add ½ chopped toasted hazelnuts; serve.

Crab-Lemon Tart: Roll 300g shortcrust pastry onto lightly-floured bench; line 24cm loose-based tart tin. Chill until firm. Bake blind in preheated 200c oven, 20mins. Reduce oven temp to 180C.  Remove baking beans/rice and paper; bake tart case further 5-7mins until golden; cool. Put 2 eggs, 1 crushed garlic clove and 200g crẻme fraỉche in bowl; gently whisk to combine. Don’t over-aerate. Using ¾c grated Parmesan, add half the Parmesan, finely grated zest of 1 lemon, grated nutmeg, 2 finely chopped shallots, 2tbs finely chopped chives and 300g crab meat; season. Pour into tart case; scatter over other half of the grated Parmesan. Bake 30mins or until set; cool 30mins before removing from tin. Decorate top with chives.

Lemon Curd: Place 100g unsalted butter, chopped, 1-1/2c caster sugar, 1tbs finely grated lemon rind and 1/3c lemon juice in heatproof bowl.  Place bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water.  Cook, stirring constantly with wooden spoon for 5mins, or until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat.  Whisk in 2 lightly beaten eggs. Return to heat. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 8 minutes, or until mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Remove from heat. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool. Strain into hot, sterilised jars. Secure lids. Refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Meyer Lemon Lava Cakes with Raspberries and Cream:  Preheat the oven to 218C (425 F).  Grease 8 (4-ounce) custard cups with softened butter or non-stick baking spray.  Place them onto a rimmed baking sheet; set aside. Melt 8tbs unsalted butter and 125g white chocolate in bowl over water (don’t let bowl touch the water, stirring every 15 seconds until melted and smooth.  Remove from heat and whisk until smooth.  Add 2/3c unbleached plain flour, 1/2c icing sugar sugar and pinch of salt; mix well.  Add 4 extra large, lightly beaten eggs, 4 extra large egg yolks, 3/4c lemon curd, 2tsp freshly grated lemon zest, and 1/2tsp vanilla; whisk until blended.  Divide the batter evenly into the prepared custard cups. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until the edges are just starting to turn golden brown and the centre is puffy and just beginning to set.  Transfer the custard cups to a wire rack; let cool for 5 minutes.  Run the tip of a knife around the edges of the cakes to loosen.  Invert the cakes onto small dessert plates or dishes.  Dust the top with icing sugar.  Garnish with fresh raspberries and serve with whipped cream and/or raspberry coulis.   

Dark Chocolate Lava Cake with Lemon Caramel: Preheat oven 190C/375F. Grease ramekins with butter, then set aside. In metal bowl, whisk 3/4c sugar and 6 eggs vigorously, 3-5 minutes until sugar is suspended in egg mixture. Over a double boiler, melt 240g dark chocolate and24og  butter over low heat. Remove from heat and continue stirring until lukewarm. Slowly mix chocolate mixture into egg mixture, whisking continuously. Pour into ramekins, filling them 1/2 way, then place in oven.  Cook for 12-14 minutes. Remove from oven; allow the cake to separate slightly from the side of the ramekin, then with a knife, gently go around the side. Invert onto plate then garnish with caramel sauce. Lemon Caramel Sauce: In medium saucepan, combine1c  sugar and 2tbs lemon juice over med-heat.  Stir constantly until mixture reaches a light brown. Reduce heat to low and slowly add 1/2c heavy cream, stirring constantly.

Froggie went a courtin’ and he did ride. Mhmm.

Froggie went a courtin’ and he did ride..

A sword and a pistol by his side. Mhmm