Monday, August 22, 2016

FROM THE SAMBA TO THE ZUMBO!


Carmen Miranda
Croquembouche
Paris-Brest

Adriano Zumbo

To Rio I did go!  I’m still recuperating; sorely in need of sleep.

I went wild. I did the Samba, and then bam! Without much persuasion, I danced the Bamba; quickly followed by the Salsa!  What a blast! I thought I might’ve run across Barry Manilow at Copacabana, but I didn’t.  However, Lola, the showgirl, with yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there was at Copacabana. In that dress she was impossible to miss... the show-off!  

Lola, the showgirl tried to compete with me by doing her Merengue and Cha-Cha, but she didn’t dance a chance once I swung into my Carioca .  The Gold Medals were mine! My name was on all of them. 

The Silver Medals went to the Girl from Ipanema for her expertise in the Bossa Nova. After Flying Down to Rio, Carmen Miranda received the Bronze for the event in which we both competed.
  
Just before the competition fruit fell from Carmen’s flamboyant cornucopian headwear. She slipped on a banana.  If she’d not sprained her ankle I‘ve no doubt she would’ve won the Gold.  

That Night in Rio was fantastic. Carmen, The Lady in the Tutti Fruit Hat was in fine form – Chica Chica Boom Chic! (I guess it’s only we of enduring vintage who have a clue to what I’m talking about)! 

To clarify...I enjoyed watching the Rio Olympics; the ups; the downs. I ignored any curtains of negativity that some felt the need to draw \across Rio and The Games.  

Good on you, Rio!

And watch The Games, I did – as much as was physically possible.  I’m sorry it’s all over. So interested, intrigued and dedicated I was now it’s all over, I feel as if something is missing in my life.  

The Olympians allowed me to share many, many memorable moments in their lives.  I smiled; I laughed; I shed tears; I felt the competitors’ disappointment; empathised when mistakes were made; when hearts were broken.   I cheered for the winners and for those who didn’t cross the line first, second or third.  Other than for the cheats and the liars, I cheered for them all.  

I enjoyed the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. So many emotions were on display - joy, pride, hopeful anticipation and happiness. 

Wouldn't it be wonderful humans - were like that all the time, every day; every moment of our lives?  Humans joining together in happy celebration.- joined as one; respectful of each other and the lives of others - instead of forming together in armies/groups/forces fighting, killing and maiming; instead of being controlled/motivated by hate, greed, envy and violence. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all could live in happy, colourful, peaceful harmony....at all times – forever more?

I've loved watching the gymnastic events at Rio, both men and women's...but I think the best of all has been the brilliant Rhythmic Gymnastics! I sat enthralled throughout their performances. They took my breath away!  They were absolutely wonderful – fluid, skilful and graceful! So much focus is put on other events/competitors, but the talented young women who perform in the group rhythmic gymnastics are superb - stunning!

Yes...I’m sad The Olympics are over; and not embarrassed to admit to it.  I know not everyone feels as I do about The Olympics...but that’s okay...each to our own.  In this little household, between the walls of this little cabin, I’m in charge of the remote controls, the TV and my various recording devices.  (Shhh....don’t tell Remy and Shama)!

Who knows? I’m getting older – I may not be around in four years time to experience the excitement again...I made the most of the Rio Games.

Some hearts may have been fractured, but spirits weren’t. ..et deinceps sursum – onwards and upwards.

Now that the thrills at Rio have come to an end and the Samba has ceased, Zumbo has stepped into the frame. Adriano Zumbo, that is.  He’s sure to take us on a merry dance with his elaborate, decadent desserts, as will those attempting to match his prowess in the new TV show – “Zumbo’s Just Desserts”.  Aussie time, the show starts tonight.  I, for one, will be watching.. 

It has been said, often, that chef-patissier Zumbo reinvented the Croquembouche in Australia during Season One of “MasterChef” in 2009.  However, I was introduced to the spectacular Croquembouche a few years prior – back in 1975 when I worked part-time at night in Brisbane’s French-style restaurant - “Scaramouche”.  And a great restaurant it was.  “Scaramouche”, from its opening in 1975, soon became one of Brisbane’s most popular restaurants, if not the most popular.

Many of the delicious, decadent desserts presented at the restaurant were prepared by the patissiers at “The Eiffel Tower”; a French patissiere in Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley. 

The towering creation, the Croquembouche, was a popular item on the dessert menu, as was Paris-Brest, another indecently, delicious French choux pastry and a praline-flavoured cream dessert.

The only time I’ve made a Croquembouche was when I cooked at Gympie’s Gunabul Restaurant-Function House in the late 90s-early 2000s – before I moved here to Tamborine Mountain. 

A friend from long ago – from my childhood and teenage years (we’d grown up living around the corner from each other) - asked me if I’d make one of the fanciful high-rise structures as a special treat for her son. Said son was heading off to study at Oxford University (steering clear of Inspector Morse while there).

His mother, my friend, was hosting a special bon voyage dinner for her Oxford-bound son. She wanted a Croquembouche to be the evening’s main event - apart from her son.

Once I took some smelling salts to recover from the shock, I stood up to the challenge.

Fortunately, my Croquembouche remained upright, too; until, that is, the zealous, delighted diners attacked the crème patissiere-filled profiteroles all bound with spun threads of caramel/toffee! 

The things one does for friends; and the enjoyment gained therefrom - even if accompanied by a few whispered-to-self-out-of-earshot mumbles!   I guess that’s what friends are for.....

Corn Salsa: Brush 2 corn cobs with x-virgin olive oil; barbecue on low to med-heat, 20-30mins. Cut off kernels; mix with 1tbs x-virgin olive oil, juice of 1 lime, a large handful of coriander; finish off with 75-100g crumbled feta cheese.

Grape Salsa: Chop 2c red, seedless grapes; cut 1 small Roma tomato into small chunks. Mix together with 2 diagonally sliced 2 shallots, 1/3c chopped red onion, 1tbs red wine vinegar and pinch of salt.  Add chopped coriander, if desired. Chill before serving.

Spicy Banana Salsa: Combine 1 large red capsicum, chopped, 1 seeded, finely chopped jalapeño, 4 shallots, chopped, 1 eschallot, finely chopped, 1tbs fresh ginger, grated, 1tbs brown sugar and 2tsp olive oil in bowl. Chop 2 firm bananas into bite-sized pieces. Place in a separate bowl. Pour lime juice over bananas; toss to coat. Add bananas to rest of ingredients; season to taste; serve within an hour with corn chips.

Caramel Banana Meringue Pie (not Merengue, the dance); Pre-heat oven 200C. In pan, heat 2tbs brown sugar until it begins to bubble; add 2 medium ripe bananas, chopped; stir until well coated. Divide between 4 small ramekins. Custard: Heat 4tbs white sugar in a heavy-bottomed small pan until it melts and turns golden. Add most of 300ml milk; stir over low heat to dissolve the caramel.  Mix 2 egg yolk (reserve whites), 1tsp vanilla and 2tsp cornflour with the remaining milk; add to the caramelised milk. Heat gently until thickened; then spoon over bananas in ramekins. Set aside. Meringue; beat egg whites until soft peaks form; gradually add 3tbs caster sugar, one spoonful at a time. Beat until meringue is thick and glossy. Gently add 2tbs finely chopped walnuts (optional).  Spoon over custard layer; spread well. Bake 15mins until golden.  Enjoy hot or cold. It’ll dance on your tongue!  



Sunday, August 14, 2016

A NIP OR TWO – OR NIP IT IN THE BUD!



Crest Hotel, Inner City Brisbane Circa 2015


Everyone does it sometimes; some more often than not.  We’re all guilty even if we don’t recognise it to be so.  There are times we push our beliefs and tastes on others, even if, to the end of the earth, we deny being culpable.  Fortunately the earth isn’t flat (it isn’t, is it?) otherwise we’d fall off the edge because of the extremes to which we sometimes go.  At least, with the world being round (I’m taking your word for it) when we go to extremes, if we keep going forward we’ll end up back where we began.  I guess that’s why I stay put - why I firmly squashed the travel bug - I hate going around in circles.

A restaurant in which I cooked years ago - before I came to live here on the mountain - the female owner (a husband and wife owned and ran the property) liked to poke around the kitchen, putting her two bob’s worth in.  Without invitation, she stepped up to the plate, bench and kitchen sink.

After applying for the job and conducting the interview in front of the mirror she hired herself and became my kitchen-hand.  I didn’t appoint her; she appointed herself.  Having no say in the matter I couldn’t tell her where to go.  Without hesitation she would’ve told me where to go if I had.  Given no choice but to gather up my knives I would’ve had to hit the road.

Of course, she was a help. On the other hand, more than often enough she was a hindrance.  Mainly, her attitude was the obstacle.  It was as tight as a straightjacket – fish had nothing to do with it – if you understand my meaning! 

Every day I bit my tongue, not from munching on peanuts, but from stopping myself from saying something she wouldn’t have understood!  Along with greed, I hate meanness.

During buffets, much to my chagrin, she’d stand by the tables watching what the diners put on their plates.  I was sure she counted the oysters and prawns, one by one!  I’ll never forget one afternoon while preparing for a seafood buffet I asked her to put the oysters (oysters on the half shell) onto the large stainless steel tray that would sit in the refrigerated bain-marie. I looked up from what I was doing and there she was daintily placing one oyster at a time on the tray, taking a month of Sundays to do what was a simple, quick job.  

I couldn’t help myself.  I blurted out, “Oh! For God’s Sake!  Just tip them all onto the tray....pile them up!  It’s supposed to be a seafood feast...not a famine!”

When buffets were the feature of an evening, whether for weddings or other functions, I loved to present decadent trifles as part of the array of desserts on offer. Luscious trifles regularly held pride of place on the dessert table.

Unlike her husband, my kitchen offsider wasn’t fond of a tipple of liquor in any shape, form or flavour; and that was okay. If she didn’t like to drink that was her choice - but a tipple or two of a tipple of choice might’ve helped lighten up her approach to life a little....I’m just saying!  

Her husband enjoyed a glass or two of wine, or maybe a spirit or beer at different times, or when the situation suited, as did their adult children, but Madame pursed her lips and twitched her nose at the mere thought of indulging!

Whenever she prepared trifles she never added any tipples of any kind to the trifles.  It might be a trifling matter, but what is a trifle without a healthy dribble of a tasty tipple over the cake? I never quibbled over a few dribbles; and never will I quibble of a dribble or two!

Using every skerrick of diplomacy I could garner, so as not to offend, I suggested to my “little helper” that I didn’t need her assistance with making trifles; for her to go water her roses; to spend time smelling them, or do some weeding.  Her absence would allow me to run wild adding triple tipples to the trifles.

Yes...I know...when called for coffee can be used to drench – moisten - a trifle’s cake, but the flavour is better enhanced if Tia Maria or Kahlua is added to the coffee! 

And what, pray tell, is a Rum Baba without rum – an Ali Baba, perhaps? Can you imagine classic Crêpe Suzettes without Grand Marnier and Cognac, or a red wine sauce without red wine?  Steak Diane is a faux Diane if saucy Diane hasn’t set the place alight while flirting with Remy Martin! 

(Back in the early 70s, when I was living in Toowong, Brisbane, a fine elderly gentleman by the name of Robert Wright used to take me out to dine once a week. Robert was Brisbane born and bred. Robert was a World War 11 veteran.  He was also the first ever Doctor of Dentistry in Queensland; and, on top of all that, he was the Chilean Consul.  Long story...one I’ll relate at a later date.  We always dined in the same restaurant...”The Matthew Flinders Restaurant” at Brisbane’s then Crest Hotel.  The hotel, opened in 1971, was Brisbane’s first international hotel.  It’s since changed ownership and name and has been totally refurbished.  The same table was always reserved for us; and the head waiter always served us. And, although  it might sound boring to some, I always ordered Steak Diane...not only because it was delicious, but Lucky, the Italian head waiter always the dish at our table.  I loved watching Lucky display his cooking prowess. His Steak Diane, to this day, remains the best I’ve ever eaten.  And then, just to finish off with flare...Lucky would prepare Crepe Suzettes for me at the table).

A minor Battle Royale over the trifles ensued for a brief spell between my boss and me.
  
Determined, holding fast to my major section of the kitchen floor the conflict came to an abrupt, somewhat passive end when, using every ounce of diplomacy I could mobilise I declared desserts were my domain, along with entrees and mains.  An armistice was reached without any blood-letting.  Although, there was a short period of sulking by Madame! However, I wasn’t perturbed by the sulking. If anyone sulks around me I have a tendency to ignore them.

I concentrated on the job at hand and quietly went about the preparation of desserts, which included tipsy trifles; and busied myself setting up the mise en place in readiness for the evening’s onslaught.

Always up for a bit of fun, I couldn’t help myself one day.  A buffet was planned for the following evening.  

To add to the list of desserts I decided to make layered, multi-coloured jellies set in parfait glasses; layers of red, green, yellow and blue.  I flavoured the red jelly with Kirsch; the green with Creme de Menthe; yellow with Cointreau and the blue with Blue Curaçao.  I gave the waitresses the head’s up.  They, plus Debbie, my evening kitchen-hand (not my boss) were sworn to secrecy; to not reveal my wicked ways to anyone - more particularly, Madame! The additional flavours were to remain our secret. 

The rainbow, gently-flavoured jellies were the most favoured dessert on the night. They were a massive hit!  Rapidly, they disappeared from the chilled display cabinet like jellies sitting out under a summer day’s high noon sun! Diners came back for seconds and thirds!

My boss commented on how popular they’d been; that, perhaps, I should make them again. Agreeing, I managed, somehow, to maintain a straight face. The waitresses and my kitchen-hand, Debbie, remained true to their end of the bargain, too.  My boss was never the wiser! 

Shhh!  Secrets are secrets...as are secret ingredients...

Steak Diane:  Pound 2 beef fillet or rump steaks (preferably beef fillet (about 160g-180g each) with flat side of meat mallet until each are about 3/4cm thick. Heat 2tsp oil in pan; cook steaks over med-high heat until done to your liking.  Remove pan from heat; remove steaks to a plate; season them with salt and pepper; loosely cover with foil; set aside. Place pan over med-heat; add 2tbs brandy, 1tbs butter, 2 minced garlic cloves, 2tbs Worcestershire sauce, 1tsp Dijon mustard, 1tsp lemon juice; flame; then, if desired, add 3tbls cream. Stir until well combined; simmer until sauce reaches desired consistency; stir occasionally. (You don’t have to add the cream...the sauce is delicious without it).  Return steaks and any juices to pan; reheat, gently and briefly; turn to coat in sauce; place steak on serving plate; pour sauce over steaks; serve.

Tiramisu Crepes: In bowl, beat 4 large eggs, 3/4c milk, 1/4c soda water, 3tbs butter, melted, 2tbs strongly-brewed coffee and 1tsp vanilla extract. Combine 1c plain flour, 3tbs sugar, 2tbs cocoa and 1/4tsp salt; add to milk mixture; mix well. Cover; chill 1hr. Heat a lightly greased 8-inch, non-stick pan over med-heat; pour 2tbs batter into the centre of pan. Lift and tilt pan to coat bottom evenly. Cook until edges brown a little; turn and cook 15-20 seconds longer. Remove to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining batter, greasing pan a little as needed. When cool, stack crepes with waxed paper or paper towels in between. For filling: In bowl, beat 240g mascarpone cheese, 240g softened cream cheese and 1c sugar until fluffy. Add ¼ coffee liqueur or strong-brewed coffee and 2tbs vanilla extract; beat until smooth. Spoon about 2tbs of the filling down centre of each crepe; roll up.  Top with chocolate syrup, whipped cream and sifted cocoa, if desired.

Crệpe Suzettes:  Batter: whisk until smooth, 6tbs plain flour and 6 eggs; add 6tbs milk and 3tbs cream. Strain into bowl, cover; chill 2hrs or overnight.  Prepare sauce:  Remove rind from 2 of 3 oranges, no pith; mince rind. Juice the 3 oranges; set aside.  Beat 16tbs butter and 12c sugar on high speed until fluffy. Add rind; beat 1min.  Gradually drizzle in juice and 3tbs Grand Marnier; beat until very light and fluffy.  Heat a crêpe pan over med-high heat until hot. Grease pan with a little butter; pour in 14c batter; swirl batter to just coat pan; cook until edges brown. Turn with a spatula; brown other side for about 30secs. Transfer to plate; repeat with remaining batter, grease pan only as needed. To serve: Melt orange butter sauce in a 12-inch pan over med-heat until bubbling. Dip both sides of one crêpe in sauce, then, with best side facing down, fold in half, then in half again. Repeat process with remaining crêpes, arranging and overlapping them around the perimeter of pan. Sprinkle with a little sugar. Remove pan from heat, pour 6tbs Grand Marnier and 5tbs Cognac over crêpes; carefully ignite; spoon sauce over crêpes until flames die; serve immediately.

Banana Butterscotch Trifle: Using a home-made sponge,( or bought), coarsely tear the cake into pieces. Butterscotch Sauce; dissolve 320g brown sugar, 300ml cream, 80g butter, 40g golden syrup and 40ml brandy; bring to boil; cook until syrupy; add pinch of salt; cool 5mins. Brandy Crème Fraîche: Whisk together until soft peaks form, 750g crème fraîche, 40g brown sugar, 40ml brandy and vanilla.  Slice 5 bananas. Layer ingredients in serving bowl; start with brandy crème fraîche; then scatter with some banana slices; drizzle with butterscotch; then a layer of torn cake, drizzle with brandy cream fraiche and butterscotch; continue layers. Finish with peaks of brandy crème fraîche and sliced banana; drizzle with warm butterscotch sauce; scatter salted peanuts over top. 

Ginger-Orange Rum Baba: For the babas: Mix 110g plain flour, 7g sachet fast-action yeast, 15g caster sugar and zest of 1 orange in mixing bowl with a couple of large pinches of salt. Stir briefly to combine; add 100ml warm milk and 2 medium egg yolks; stir vigorously to form loose dough. Pour in 55g melted, cooled, unsalted butter; then add 2 pieces of stem ginger in syrup, finely chopped. Using wooden spoon or hands, mix well. Knead dough in bowl for around 15mins by pulling it out, then slapping it down until it become elastic, shiny and a lot less sticky (I used to feel like doing this to my boss!). The dough should begin to come away slightly from the inside of the bowl as you pull it. (Spend the previous week at your local gym getting yourself fit to do the above)! Once you can pull the dough out to a length of 15-20cm without it tearing, it’s ready. Transfer to a cleaned, lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film; leave to rise somewhere warm for 45-60mins or until doubled in size. Have patience waiting. When the dough has risen heat oven 190°C (fan170°C).  Push dough down in on itself and give it a quick knead in the bowl (very lightly oiled hands will help). Divide dough among 4 well-buttered 175ml metal pudding basins (weigh the dough; divide by 4 to make sure they’re even); cover the basins lightly with cling film;leave to prove for another 20mins until puffed up. Bake for 20 mins until risen, golden and springy to the touch. Cover with foil after 15 mins or so if they’re getting too brown.

While they’re proving, peel and thinly slice 4-5 oranges, depending on size. Put 250g caster sugar in a large, heavy-based saucepan with 250ml cold water; heat gently, without boiling, until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a rapid boil; cook until a deep golden caramel – don’t let it get too dark or it will be bitter. Once it has reached the right colour, quickly pour in 80-90ml dark rum (to taste) with another 70ml cold water; remove from heat – be very careful as the caramel will spit quite fiercely. Swirl the pan to mix the liquids and melt any solidified caramel (return it to a low heat if needed). Leave to cool for 2 mins; add orange slices; stir gently to coat. Leave to cool.

When the babas are ready, remove them from the oven, prick a few holes in the tops with a skewer, then immediately pour over a few spoonfuls of the syrup, making sure you have plenty left for a generous serving each. Leave briefly to soak in, then run a knife round the edge of the moulds; carefully remove the babas onto a cooling rack.
Mix 300ml double cream and 3tbs ginger syrup (from the jar of ginger in syrup) together. Grate thumb-size piece of fresh ginger into a clean muslin cloth or unused Chux; wrap it up and squeeze hard to push all the juice out into the cream. Whip the cream gently until pillowy. To serve, divide the orange slices among bowls, add a baba; then spoon the syrup over the tops of the babas so it pools in the bottom of the bowl. Serve the ginger cream on the side. The babas are best eaten on the day they’re made but will still be delicious the next day.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

AND THAT’S THE WAY IT IS....

Finger Wharf, Woolloomooloo Circa 2016
Woolloomooloo  Circa  2016


Woolloomooloo Back When....

Harry's Cafe de Wheels, Woolloomoolo, Sydney
Harry


The El Alamein Memorial Fountain in Darlinghurst (Kings Cross) - Jus Across the Road from the Hotel I Stayed At

Gazebo Hotel, Elizabeth Bay, Sydney - above and below

Purposely I fly low beneath the radar, flying so close to the ground I’m considering attaching a set of blades around my middle.  Come summer I’ll hire myself out as a lawn-mower to make extra money on the side...or on my stomach.  I won’t try putting the money in my pockets, though.  I could lose a hand or two in the process if the blades are still in motion.

Mostly I keep to myself.  I like it that way.  I enjoy my own company. I understand and laugh at my own jokes; something which pleases me greatly. I’m easily amused. If I don’t get the joke I don’t feel insulted.  When talking to myself, I listen; so much sense is being made! I don’t interrupt; and I don’t get talked over. 

Those not accustomed to a life lived alone believe one who lives a solo life must be lonely.  I don’t know how to spell the word “lonely”.  I had to look it up in “Spell Check”.  I doubt I’ve ever felt lonely at any time during my years on this earth, when alone or not alone. 

A few weeks ago, an acquaintance lost her husband (as in he passed away; she didn’t misplace him. It’s the second husband she’s lost; perhaps she should consider investing in name tags with a return address imprinted thereon).

Anyway, the other day my acquaintance told me about the empty, overwhelming feeling that engulfs her at meal times since her husband’s passing. She explained how much she misses not having someone sitting across the table with whom to share those moments while chomping on a chop bone. 

Suddenly enlightened as if she’d a light bulb moment, she blurted out; “But, of course, you understand that feeling!” 

Too often people presume to assume. 

Without hesitation I answered I don’t. I never have. And this is true...I do not lie.  I found it to be a strange statement for her to have made...in reference to how I felt, anyway.

If I saw someone sitting across from me at my table I’d be phoning the police to inform them an intruder was in my midst, eating my food, rudely infringing my boundaries; asking them to get here pronto; not to spare the horses!  (Either that or I’d put together a doggie bag and send the uninvited, unwelcome visitor on his way. Needless to say, if it was George Clooney the scenario would be different.  Hold those horses!).

Eating alone has never bothered me. It doesn’t make me feel ill-at-ease; it never has, whether at home or out in the untamed world with strangers aimlessly or purposefully milling about. 

Often I’ve dined solo in restaurants, cafếs etc.  I’ve no idea how many times I’ve dined alone in public - always in an eatery of sorts, of course.  I don’t eat in the streets, if that’s what you’re thinking.  Although, once because I had to; I had no choice; meaning I wouldn’t allow me another choice.  It was when I was doing the Sales/Marketing for the resort on Hinchinbrook Island.   

In Sydney for whatever reason one night I dined with Rosemary, our publicist who was a Sydney-ite.  She and I got on well. 

Rosemary spoke with a distinct “plum in her mouth”; and sometimes her attitude matched her manner of speaking; and to some she came across as being "hoity-toity". But she and I clicked from our first meeting when she’d visited the island to see what was what; to have some knowledge of the subject about which she would be writing at different times.  Rosemary was a “true” city girl.  

We’d dined at leisure and at length in an upmarket Sydney restaurant somewhere near Woolloomooloo, an inner-city, harbourside suburb.  I forget the name of the restaurant.

Don’t you just love the name Woolloomooloo?  It’s derived from the first homestead in the area, built by the first landowner, a John Palmer.  It is thought the name could be derived from Aboriginal place names...either “Wallamullah”, meaning “place of plenty” – or “Wallabahmullah” – meaning a young black kangaroo.

Rosemary and I lingered long over our coffee and liqueurs. We had a table near a window so watching the passing parade of Saturday night revellers was a fun pastime while we dined and conversed.

The hotel in which I was staying...the same one I always stayed in during my visits to Sydney, the Gazebo Ramada Hotel in Elizabeth Bay (it now is owned by a different hotel group)....was only a little over a kilometre from where we dined.  One time when I was a guest of the hotel an American basketball team was staying at the hotel, too.  I thought I was tall, but I was midget next to those fellows!

After we’d finished our pleasant, lengthy interlude at the restaurant Rosemary and I decided to stroll back homeward. Hailing a taxi seemed pointless.  Having a unit overlooking the waters of Sydney Harbour at Rushcutters Bay, she lived close by.
Woolloomooloo, Rushcutters Bay, Elizabeth Bay and Kings Cross (Darlinghurst) are all within easy striking/walking distance of each other.  In the mid-Eighties it was still safe to walk at night in those suburbs; or, at least it felt that way.  Same applied to Melbourne during those days.  I wouldn’t feel safe doing similar nowadays.   

Finding myself in Woolloomooloo close on midnight I had to do what any self-respecting Aussie would do – even if they had been out dining amongst the elite!  I had to pay a visit to Sydney’s (and Australia’s) iconic venue..... Harry’s Café de Wheels.  Harry’s has been a Sydney tradition since 1938.

*** The story of ‘Harry’s Café de Wheels’ goes back to the depression years of the late 1930’s. With the world on the brink of a devastating war, an enterprising Sydneysider by the name of Harry Edwards opened a caravan café near the front gates of the Woolloomooloo naval dockyard. Word spread quickly with Harry’s ‘pie n’ peas’ and crumbed sausages soon becoming a popular part of the city’s nightlife – keenly sought by sailors, soldiers, cabbies, starlets and coppers alike. Harry operated the caravan until 1938 when he enlisted in the AIF during WWII.

During Harry’s time in the Middle East, he was nicknamed “Tiger” due to his boxing prowess and the name stuck. Upon his return in 1945, Harry realised that Sydney hadn’t changed much and it was still almost impossible to get a good feed late-night, so he reopened and the caravan has been operating continuously since.
The phrase ‘Café de Wheels’ came about as the city council of the day insisted that mobile food caravans move a minimum of 12 inches a day. Harry dutifully obeyed and thus the name was expanded to Harry’s Café de Wheels. Before the councils ruling, the caravan was known simply as ‘Harry’s.’

  “Never-Let-a-Chance-G- By-Lee” those in the know call me!

When I suggested we have a pie, Rosemary thought I’d taken leave of my senses.  I could see it by the look on her face. The look, along with her protests, immediately gave away what was going on in her mind. 

Not to be deterred, I was going to do what I wanted to do whether Rosemary liked it or not; or whether she joined me in the bit of fun.  

 I said I just had to have one of “Harry’s” pies...and, dressed in my dining-out-finery, I had to stand on the footpath, near the gutter to eat it.  That is what one should do when devouring a pie from Harry's Cafe de Wheels! 

Too bad if my diner companion felt ashamed or embarrassed, I said she didn’t have to stick around she could move on; I’d catch up with her after I fulfilled a long-time desire.  I believed I may never get the chance to do so again...and I never did get the chance to do so again.  And, boy, oh, boy...what a great, delicious, hot meat pie it was!  A memorable feast!  I can’t remember what I ate that night at the fine-dining restaurant.

By the way, Rosemary, to her credit...joined with me in having...and enjoying...one of Harry’s legendary pies.  We laughed....we had fun.  And I'll bet she still remembers that evening, particularly the last part.

Never once have I felt awkward, conspicuous or out of place dining alone; except for the time I fell off the table I was dancing on, causing steaming soup to spill over a nearby couple who had been, up until then, enjoying a romantic dinner (I think he’d been about to propose – either that or break-up); or the time when I was animatedly waving my arms about descriptively relating a story. I whacked an unfortunate, shocked waiter in the belly causing him to drop four plates of hot food; but I won’t mention any embarrassing moments.

If I allowed inner insecurities, which at times have a wont to sneak in,to take control I’d be in dire straits without a canoe or paddle.  Being embarrassed by dining alone is not part of my make-up (although, Revlon, Estếe Lauder and Maybelline are. So, you see...I’m never alone...the whole gang are here. One or the other or all come along with me on such occasions). 

Let’s face it...who better for me to have as a dinner companion than me?  There’s never any argument over the menu.  I always get my own way; I eat what I want to eat. I don’t mind sharing with me or eating off the same plate or using the same fork.  And, I do prefer paying my own way.

For instance (or a couple of instances, as examples) - if I’d waited for someone to take me to dine at Mietta’s, the once legendary Melbourne restaurant, or be my companion at various venues in Singapore’s Raffles Hotel those wonderful places would never have had the pleasure of my company; or me, theirs!

That’s the low-down on flying solo, close to the ground.  It’s a lot of fun if you allow it to be.

 So, you see...one isn’t always the loneliest number.

Mac & Cheese for One: Place 1/2c macaroni, 1-1/4c milk, salt and pepper in pot; bring to boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring until pasta is soft and only a couple of tablespoons of milk are left. Reduce heat to low; stir in 1/3c shredded cheddar, 2tbs shredded Colby, a sprinkle of grated Parmesan and 1/4tsp Dijon mustard; stir until cheese is melted.

Naan Breakfast Pizza: Preheat oven 175C.  Fry in a little oil a few thinly sliced onion rings; set aside.  Cook one naan or flatbread in pan, lightly, on both sides; then place naan on baking sheet; spoon pizza sauce of liking on top; cover with grated cheddar, parmesan (or mozzarella) and onions; (add finely-chopped bacon, if desired) crack an egg gently on top; season. Bake 8-10mins.

Poached Salmon Salad: Bring saucepan of salted water to gentle boil. Poach 1 salmon fillet, 10mins. (If skin on, score skin first). Dressing – 2tbls Greek yoghurt, zest of half lemon and squeeze of lemon juice; set aside. Make salad with 12 mint leaves, 2-3 radishes, thinly sliced and 1/4tsp capers; set aside. Remove salmon from pan; season; drizzle with x-virgin olive oil; set aside while you cook 1c green peas; drain peas; cool under running cold water; drain. Place a handful of watercress/rocket on plate; top with salad; sprinkle with 1tbs crumbled feta; top with salmon; pour over the dressing.

That’s How the Cookie Crumbles: Preheat oven 200C. Toss together ½ cup fresh/frozen berries, 1dsstpn fruit liqueur (optional) and 1tsp cornflour; put into a ramekin. Combine 1tbs room temp butter, 1tbs brown sugar, 1tbs rolled oats and 1/2tsp cinnamon in bowl; add 1 crumbled chocolate ripple biscuits and a few choc chips. Pack crumble on top of berries; bake 20mins.