Tuesday, September 30, 2014

CHAPTER TWO - PASS ME THE MAYO, MATTEO!





So there I was in a “foreign” kitchen racing against the clock preparing for the night ahead; my first night as the restaurant's cook.  (I was a self-taught cook...not a formally-trained chef).

The sun refused to slow its descent, not even for me! It was rapidly disappearing over the western horizon.  There was no time to waste. 

Studying the restaurant’s comprehensive menu, I made quite a number of deletions to simplify that first service.  There was nothing else I could do.  I'd quickly whipped up a soup because there was no way I was prepared to serve the remains left in one of the fridges of what maybe had been a soup at one stage.  I'm prepared to bet I can beat any world record in the time it takes to make pumpkin! 

When the waitress arrived for her shift, I immediately took her aside and pointed out what she had to do; which items I’d temporarily removed from the menu for that evening’s service. I hated doing so, deleting dishes. It wasn’t something I enjoyed doing – having to tell diners that certain dishes listed on the menu weren’t available.  To my mind, it didn't shine a bright light upon the restaurant; any restaurant.  In any of the restaurants I cooked in throughout the ensuing years I hated having to do so, and 99.9% of the time I didn’t operate that way. Whatever was on the menu was available to the diners at all times.

However, that night I had no other choice.  And as it turned out, it was a practice I continued while cooking at “The Ebony Emu”; again, I was left with no other choices.

The menu was ridiculous.  It had far too many items on it.  For such a small restaurant whoever originally planned the menu needed their head read. There were about 10 offerings of chicken, done 10 different ways!  Similar applied to beef, fish/seafood and desserts.  There were even a couple of veal dishes on the menu, as well as pork!  To top all of the above off, there were five or six different duck dishes as well!   

For goodness sake! It was absolutely insane; and totally unnecessary.  The diners had about 20 entrees (“starters” for Northern Hemisphere readers) to choose from before they even got to the main meal orders! And then, of course, a multitude of desserts awaited!   I couldn’t believe it.  I still shake my head in wonderment when I think about it!

On that first evening by the time the clock ticked over and the restaurant doors were opened to the public, I was ready - somehow.  And I’d coached the waitress into what was required of her.

My bosses were milling about; the wife more than her husband.  He manned the bar while she wafted around the restaurant doing I knew not what.  Most of the time she just sat at a dimly-lit end corner of the bar. Every now and then she poked her head into the kitchen, but I was too busy to take much notice of her.  She had nothing constructive to offer, anyway!

I will never forget how concerned I felt that night when the first meals were taken off me by the waitress.  As Lisa (the waitress) headed out through the kitchen door to present the meals to the diners I felt as if someone had taken my baby from me.  An odd emotion flowed through my being. It was a really strange reaction; but it was how I felt.  I’d created what was on the plates.  I was proud of my creations…and once they were taken from me I felt had no further control over them.  It’s probably hard to understand unless you’ve been in a similar situation (within the restaurant trade, I mean)…but, in all honesty, it’s how I felt.

I had an overpowering urge to serve the tables myself; to greet and smile at the diners who were about to eat my food.  I didn’t know how the waitress dealt with the public.  I’d met her only about 30 minutes or so before the restaurant opened for the night’s service.  For all I knew, she could’ve had a gruff approach.  Eye appeal of the food on the plate is very important; almost as important as the taste of the food itself; and so is the person serving the food.  A meal can quickly be ruined by the manner of the person waiting on the tables. 

As it turned out I need not have worried.  Lisa was a very proficient waitress with a wonderful manner towards the diners.  All went smoothly in that department; and in no time at all, she and I worked together well. She was on my side; or in today’s vernacular –“we were on the same page”.  (However, the monstrosity of a menu had more than one page)!

Pointing out to Lisa that, in my opinion, the menu had far too many dishes listed for such a small restaurant/turnover, I explained what my intentions were until I could sway Ellen, my boss, the owner of the premises to allow me to produce a new, concise menu more suitable to the restaurant’s requirements and covers.  The existing menu was far too confusing.  Too much stock needed to be carried to cater to it.  Too much stock was wasted, and far too much stock was being frozen in the sparse refrigeration to cover the numerous, varied dishes.  There was no logic to how the kitchen-restaurant was being run. 

Against everything I believed in, and going against my grain, I consciously deleted certain dishes from the menu, informing Lisa of what I'd done each time she turned up for her shift.  I then got to work on Ellen, but that was like whistling in the wind.  Finally, she agreed to allowing me to put together a new menu, but with her final approval.  I worked conscientiously on a new menu; presented it to her and a day later, she refused to go with it!

Two can play the game.   

I didn’t argue with Ellen; there was no point.  It was kind of like the saying – “all the lights were on, but no one’s at home”.  So I just continued on deleting dishes off the menu, as I saw fit – by ruling lines through them.  It wasn’t a very attractive look on the menu; and I hated having to deal with the problem that way, but I wasn’t going to be held responsible for poisoning a diner/s because of the ignorance and stubbornness of the owners.  Nor was I prepared to use frozen produce all the time.  I wanted to use fresh produce; so I did.  She never looked at the menu, anyway.  And she was totally oblivious to what was going on around her.

I'd argued until I was purple in the face about the way the mayonnaise was stored; but I gave up on that, too.  It was a pointless argument.  Ellen never listened to what I had to say, let alone heed my suggestions. She had absolutely no clue how to run a restaurant kitchen, or even a restaurant.  Her people skills were non-existent.

I had a simple remedy - I just didn't use mayonnaise.  It was deleted from the menu and from my mind.  The buckets of mayo could rot as far as I was concerned.

And then there was her husband – Dudley.  He was another strange person.  They were kindred spirits; a good pair!

Each evening, no sooner had I sent the last main meal out Dudley, behind the cocktail bar, would start tallying up the night’s takings, as well as going around the empty tables, putting the chairs up on said tables to make it easy to clean the floor!   The clinking of coins and the scraping of chairs on the floor before they were put up on the tables echoed through the restaurant while diners were still eating.  It was comedy! The diners would still be there TRYING to relax over their meal.  Night after night, most had not yet finished their main meal, and they, at one stage, no doubt, had had thoughts of having dessert, followed perhaps by coffee and liqueurs – that is, until all the closing-up activities started going on around them!  It was unbelievable - and so very rude!

To my mind what Dudley did was disrespectful to the diners - and to me, the person cooking the meals! It was an insult of the highest degree!

His bad manners made me feel very embarrassed (and angry). I’d stop what I was doing in the kitchen, enter the dining area and go out around the tables talking cheerfully with the customers in an effort to appease the situation - trying to distract their attention from the stupidity of what was happening around them.

I tried to explain to Dudley what he was doing was the height of bad manners, but nothing sunk in.  I’m not sure what world he and Ellen lived in, but I didn’t want to be part of it.

I didn’t stay long at The Ebony Emu. I didn’t want my name linked with the place. Soon after I left so did they! Little wonder! 

It certainly was an experience…but one that didn’t put me off working/cooking in restaurants.   

Dudley and Ellen should never have entered the hospitality industry.  They didn’t have a hospitable bone between them – not even a chewed upon chicken bone! 


Lee's Pumpkin Soup: Melt 30g butter in a large saucepan; sauté 1 finely-chopped onion, 2 celery stalks, diced and 2 crushed garlic cloves, until soft, without colouring. Add a couple of pinches of ground cumin; fry very gently for a minute or so. Add 750-800g peeled Jap (or butternut) pumpkin, cut into pieces, 2 cups quality vegetable or chicken stock, 2c water and 1 can diced tomatoes. Bring slowly to the boil; simmer, covered for about 15 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender. Season to taste. Cool slightly and purée the mixture in several lots, using a food processor or blender (or, preferably, in the pot, using a stick blender). Check seasoning to taste. If you feel the soup is too thick add a little more stock…but don’t make the soup too thin.  Reheat gently; ladle into bowls.  Swirl a little cream on top, if you like; or sprinkle with coarsely- chopped parsley or torn fresh coriander (cilantro).

 Piri-Piri Chicken: Make the piri piri sauce; put 2 char-grilled capsicums/peppers, 1-2 dried chillies and 1 large, long red chilli, deseeded and chopped, 1tbs red wine vinegar, 4 chopped garlic cloves, 1/2tsp smoked paprika and 1/2tsp coriander powder into a food processor. Add enough olive oil to make a loose paste. Spread the piri piri over 2 chicken thighs (boneless if you like); marinate overnight. Heat barbecue or griddle pan to hot; cook chicken on both sides until crisp, brown and cooked through.  Heat the remaining marinade in saucepan; Serve with the chicken.  Sprinkle cooked chicken with chopped coriander, lemon/lime wedges, extra sauce and fresh, crusty bread. 

Potato-Kumara-Soy Mayonnaise Salad:Combine 1-2tbs soy mayonnaise and 1tsp Dijon mustard; set aside. Cook 2 large sweet potato/kumara and 2 large potatoes in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 12 minutes or until each are just tender; don’t overcook. Drain. When cool enough to handle, cut into 2cm pieces; place in large bowl; add thinly-sliced shallots, 1 red onion, diced; while the potatoes are still warm; add a little vinaigrette dressing; toss the salad; then add soy mayonnaise; coat the vegetables well; serve.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

PASS ME THE MAYO, MATTEO! CHAPTER ONE.....



"Old Man Emu can run the pants off a kangaroo!"


 
Peregian Beach

Play time on Peregian Beach

Peregian Square Circa 2014


On second thoughts – please don’t.

My comments herein are mine, and mine alone. They’re just my opinion. We all have our own opinions about things. My intention is not to sway anyone to my way of thinking about mayonnaise. The decisions we make are our own.

I’m not and never have I been a lover of mayonnaise. The pundits claim commercial brands of mayo don’t cause food poisoning because the commercially-made products contain an abundance of acidity, such as vinegar and other ingredients (as well as a stack of preservatives, the names of which make little sense to the lay person). Yet instructions on the label still advise us to “Refrigerate After Opening”.  Oh! Yes! Of course! That’s to preserve the flavour; not because of the chance of causing food poisoning.

It’s most important to be aware at all times that homemade mayonnaise is made by using raw eggs. Highly perishable homemade mayo should be consumed immediately after preparation. What is left-over must be refrigerated, and then the rest finished off as soon as possible…otherwise, if that’s not possible…toss it!

And don’t let salads with mayo as an ingredient sit out in the sun or at room temperate until next year!  Two hours is the maximum, if at room temperature.  It’s not a very smart or good idea to allow any food to sit for long under the sun; if at all!

Through the years I’d done a lot of cooking for one reason or another; and at various periods, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I worked tables in a few Brisbane restaurants on a “second-job-casual-part-time basis”. There were times I assisted in the kitchens when the need arose.  I loved watching what the chefs were doing – watching and learning as I followed their instructions.  

When I worked for 14 years within the fashion industry as well as assisting in the organisation of in-house promotion evenings launching new lines to the retailers; choreographing the how the products would be present, I also hands-on handled the catering.  My reason for doing so was I loved to cook.  I loved to cook for a crowd.   (Perhaps I should have been locked up then and there)!

All of this I’ve written about previously, I know...please bear with me...as it leads into the rest of this tale....

However the first restaurant in which I was actually the sole cook/chef - in charge of my own kitchen - was a restaurant in Peregian Beach, circa 1983. 

 “The Ebony Emu” was its name. It was situated on the David Low Way that runs south from the junction of Noosa/Sunshine Beach at the northern end and links to the Sunshine Motorway, west of Mudjimba about 35kms away.  Peregian Beach is approximately halfway between the two points.

The Ebony Emu was part of the Peregian Beach Motel.  It serviced the motel guests as well as the general public.

A piece of trivia worth noting - Peregian is a local Aboriginal word for emu.

One special afternoon, the first Tuesday in November - after celebrating the iconic race that “stops a nation”, the Melbourne Cup - my ex, Randall and I along with a couple of friend somehow ended up at the bar in the restaurant at the Peregian Beach Motel.

Full of bravado and cheek (and liquid refreshments), I mentioned during an animated chat with the owner that I loved to cook, and, even though I was self-taught, I had a pretty good grasp on what commercial cooking was all about, having worked in a few restaurants, one way of the other, in the past; and if she was ever looking for a cook/chef, I was ready, willing, and somewhat able. 

It’s marvelous how confident one is of one’s abilities when fueled with champagne and Scotch!  A magical potion!        

Out of the blue a couple of weeks later (I'd filed away in the rear, dark recesses of my mind the fearless speech I'd made on Melbourne Cup Day) at around 2.30-3 pm the phone rang.  I answered the call and heard an anxious, somewhat pleading voice on the other end asking if I would start work immediately at the Ebony Emu Restaurant - in the kitchen!  Apparently, their chef had gotten his nappy in a knot over something or other, and had thrown off his apron, grabbed his tools of trade and walked - straight out the door - without notice, leaving them in the lurch.  The restaurant was well-booked for that evening and time was of the essence.  Hit the panic button!          

What did I have to lose?  I jumped into action immediately and said I’d be there within a blink of an eye.  Grabbing my set of knives…I always like good quality kitchen knives and had a collection of German steel knives of varying sizes for various purposes…I raced downstairs and outside.  Randall was cleaning the pool.

“Where are you off to, honey?” He asked somewhat quizzically.  We’d made no plans to go out; I’d made no plans to go out.  I quickly filled him in what was happening; raced off to my car and left him with his mouth agape!

As soon as I entered the restaurant kitchen I did a rapid reconnaissance of the lay-out, stock and the whole situation at hand.  I couldn’t believe what I found.  There was food in the fridges that had longer growths on them than Santa Claus!  Without favour or fear, I started tossing stuff away, left, right and centre.  I’d wing it; play it by ear and by my way.

The restaurant seated about 30 diners, max.

I soon discovered it had the strangest owners; and even more strange, the kitchen didn’t have a cold room. Four domestic fridge/freezers did the job; or didn’t do the job! 20-litre buckets of mayonnaise, seals broken (with “Refrigerate After Opening” clearly written on the labels) sat on the kitchen floor where they were permanently stored. No matter how many times I pointed out the problem to my boss, the restaurant’s owner, my pleas were ignored. Needless to say, I came up with my own solution.  

I kept my mouth shut, but I swiftly deleted all items from the menu that required mayonnaise; in the few dishes that couldn’t be deleted, I replaced the mayo with sour cream or natural yoghurt, using smaller containers. If the contents weren’t used immediately, what remained was covered and stored in one of the fridges, to be used up as soon as possible; and so on. The clock was ticking (it was a time before digital clocks). 

From when I set foot into the kitchen for that first afternoon I had approximately three hours for preparation until the restaurant doors opened to hungry diners!

It wasn’t only the mayo that the owners were weird about; but more about that in Chapter Two.  

Simple Soy Mayonnaise:  Place 1c natural, unflavoured Soy milk into deep jug; blend with stick blender for a few minutes; using 1/4c olive oil, add oil a little at a time while blending.  Add 1/4c lemon juice, salt or honey to taste, 1/2tsp crushed black pepper, 1/2tsp crushed mustard seeds and 1 teaspoon of any herb as desired. Add any herb of your choice; dill, oregano, rosemary, parsley, thyme, or even Basil will go well. A sprinkling of garlic flakes can be incorporated, if you wish, to add extra flavour and taste. Put into glass jar; refrigerate.

Eggless Mayo: Mix together slowly with a whisk, the following ingredients:  200g condensed milk, 4tbs salad oil, 4tbs white vinegar or lemon juice, 1/2tsp salt, 1tsp mustard powder and 1/2tspn white pepper.


Eggless Tofu Mayonnaise: Combine 240g tofu, 1/4c canola oil, 1tbs lemon juice, 1tbs sugar, 1-1/2tsp prepared mustard, 1tsp apple cider vinegar and 1/2tsp salt; blend until mixture is smooth.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

EVERYTHING IS COMING UP ROSES; BUT A ROSE ISN’T JUST A ROSE



A section of Moray Street, New Farm, Brisbane...circa 2014
Brisbane River bank at Oxlade Drive, New Farm
Another view of riverbank at Oxlade Drive
Brisbane's Warana Festival, 1968

Brunswick Hotel, New Farm
Similar style of house to that in which my Oxlade Drive flat was
Glenfalloch...and the New Farm Ferry


One Saturday morning in September 1968 my first husband Mervyn and I went for a reasonably short stroll along Moray Street, New Farm from our point of departure, the unit we’d shared for the previous two and a half years. Down around a bend and then around a corner into Oxlade Drive we went with Mervyn lugging a six-foot, maybe six and a half foot bookcase  – what’s a half inch or two between shelves – across his shoulders.  It was his pride and joy.  He’d built it for me during our marriage.  After his first time effort of creating such a masterpiece he gave up cabinet-making and carpentry forever, I think.  My comments are not in any way nasty.  Both of us joked about the one-off (in many ways) bookcase then; and still do if it comes up in our conversations of today.

The Saturday I write about is the day Mervyn and I separated.  Our decision to part wasn’t a spur of the moment decision.  We’d discussed in depth the direction in which we were headed; and what each of us wanted out of life.  For us to go our separate ways was the logical solution. I believe we handled it amicably and with maturity.

Up bright and early, I cooked a hearty breakfast for the both of us.  A busy morning was in store.

Mervyn assisted me in my move.  I wasn’t going to leave the bookcase behind…it was mine; and it had been made for me with love – and lots of laughter.  At that stage in my young life it was the only piece of furniture I owned.  The unit we’d lived in was furnished.

 The bookcase was too big to it in our car, a Volkswagen Beetle, so hence its manually transportation. Once we’d deposited the famous bookcase in my new abode we walked back to our unit, chatting all the way.  Mervyn intended to remain living in the unit after my departure.

My destination that sunny spring morning was a fully-furnished, one-bedroom flat on the banks of the Brisbane River. The rear section of a house had been converted into the roomy flat. From the bedroom was an expansive view across the river to Norman Park and East Brisbane.

On our return to the marital unit for me to gather up the rest of my belongings, which were ready to be loaded into the “Beetle”, our upstairs’ neighbours called out to us.

We’d kept our intentions to ourselves.  Our parting was nobody else’s business but our own. 

We got on very well with young couple who lived in the unit above us. They were around the same ages we were.  In the November I was turning 24 years of age; and Mervyn had turned 29 years in the June of 1968.  

Often the four of us shared dinner and/or a few drinks, in either their unit or ours.  Sometimes we hit the town together.  Terry (husband) and Chris (wife) had migrated to Australia from the UK two or three years previously. They were a nice, fun couple and we shared many good times with them.

Noticing activity going on down below, Terry and Chris called out to us: “Are you two going to watch the parade?  We are!  Why don’t you guys come with us?  It’ll be fun!”

What could we say?  Mervyn and I looked at each other; burst out laughing and said: “Sure! Okay!  Why not?  Hold on for few minutes so we can get changed into other gear.”

So we stopped what we were doing; raced inside to change into clothes more suitable for public parade-viewing.

Brisbane’s Warana Festival came into being in 1961.  It was a community festival where people from all walks of life and interests participated.  It was Queensland’s first Arts Festival. It included an eisteddfod, a Writers’ Week, a harmless Miss Warana pageant (no apologies to the Feminists Movement who were burning their bras back then; the women’s underwear manufacturers were making a killing because behind the scenes, the bras were being replaced with a new lot), a Colonial Fair, amongst many other events, sporting and outdoor activities of a wide variety.  Eventually it morphed into the biannual Brisbane Festival; and later a joyous annual celebration, River Festival came along as an entirely separate event.  It didn’t want to miss out on all the fun.  Now all that’s left is River Festival with its impressive, brilliant extravaganza of fireworks called “Riverfire”. On the Saturday night of the Festival “Riverfire” lights up the sky above the inner city and the Brisbane River.  “Ooohs” and “aaahs” compete with the noise of the fireworks.

Terry and Chris waited patiently for Mervyn and me to ready ourselves, but before too long the four of us piled into our sturdy, grey-coloured Vee-Dub.

As we went on our merry way, which wasn’t far to go because New Farm is only a hop, skip and half a jump and hardly a change of gears from Fortitude Valley our viewing point of the parade, Mervyn and I disclosed what we were doing before we'd downed tools to join in with the Warana Festival celebrations.

It really need not be said that Terry and Chris were surprised when the heard our “news”.  “Surprised” is putting it mildly; but they accepted it philosophically. So we continued as normal, keen to enjoy our interlude, not letting a marriage break-up spoil the fun.

After the parade was over we headed homewards, but stopped on our way to pay a brief visit to the old Brunswick Hotel situated, oddly enough, in Brunswick Street, New Farm.

I’ll never forget Terry chuckling over his beer; “This is the weirdest break-up I’ve ever heard of!  What couple stops in the middle their “moving-out” to go and watch a street parade?”

Mervyn and I laughed along with him.  I guess it was a bit unusual when we thought about it. It wasn’t something the majority of people would do; but it was a fun interlude; an enjoyable interval. 

We only stayed at the pub long enough to have two drinks each; our shout and their shout; and then we returned back to our respective units; and me, to my new home.  

Mervyn and I hugged each other farewell when he’d dropped me off.  Later in the afternoon he paid a brief visit just to ensure I had settled in and was okay. He then went on his way; I on mine; and that was that. Five years later we were divorced; and about a year later, Mervyn remarried.  Eight years later I married Randall.

For about 18 months the flat on the bank of the Brisbane River was my residence.

Owned by Mrs. Smith, an elderly widow, the home itself wasn’t new; but it was well-maintained.  The house no longer exists.  These days a high-rise apartment block stands upon its hallowed ground.

Erected in the 1930s, it was a sturdily-built Federation-style house of the era. Many still decorate the streets of New Farm and other Brisbane suburbs.

The house was situated about half way between New Farm Park and Glenfalloch, one of Brisbane’s first apartment complexes. Glenfalloch, when it was built in 1959, was Brisbane’s tallest residential skyscraper. However, Torbreck in Highgate Hill beat Glenfalloch out of the blocks. Torbreck was the first high rise block of apartments to be built in Queensland. A very close second, Glenfalloch rose high in the sky; beating Torbreck in the height stakes. They both were the early runners in the race to erect skyscrapers in Brisbane.  These days they’re dwarfed. To the right of Glenfalloch apartments is the Sydney Street (New Farm) ferry terminal which makes access to the CBD a breeze, without the expense and worry of inner-city car parking. 

Back at the ranch…flat….most of the time Sasha, my beautiful ginger cat and I had the whole property to ourselves because Mrs. Smith was almost always away visiting her brother in Port Moresby.

The French doors in my bedroom opened onto a small porch.  Four or five steps led to the back yard, which soon became one with the river bank.  I rarely closed the doors when I slept at night. Before falling asleep, from my bed I loved to watch the lights across the way and the lights of the river traffic as it went by. You couldn’t safely do similar nowadays! 

The front garden boasted an abundance of rose bushes. When they came into bloom it was of picture-book, multi-coloured beauty, like something I’d never seen before. I rarely, if ever picked any blooms for interior decoration, preferring to enjoy the stunning beauty of them in their natural surrounds.  Going to and returning home from work having to walk along the rose-fringed path were daily pleasures I relished.
With a view of the river from one side of my flat to the views of the fragrant rose gardens of myriad hues from my kitchen and lounge room windows I rose to the occasion, enjoying the ambience that surrounded me.

Never again did I see such beautiful roses until I was living and working in Collinsville.

Loretta, a friend of mine, who was also a member of my staff when I was manager/chef of the canteen and accommodation catering for the Collinsville Coal miners, lived across the street from me.

Loretta certainly had a green thumb; two green thumbs. From the look of her bountiful garden that produced not only her heady, romantic, stunning roses, but also a lush, varied array of vegetables, fruit and herbs, I think she might have had two green big toes as well as her two green thumbs.

The block of land upon which Loretta’s home was built was probably about half an acre in area. Her rose garden ran the full length of one side of the expansive property. Her roses were a sight to feast upon (as was her vegetable gardens and fruit-bearing trees). I was in awe when the roses came into bloom. 

No one ever promised me a rose garden, but I’ve been fortunate to have been surrounded by a couple of in my lifetime.

Pink Grapefruit in Rosewater Syrup: Remove skin and white pith from 3 pink grapefruit (or blood oranges/mandarins/navels/tangelos/ regular grapefruit – or combinations). Over a bowl to collect juice, cut the segments from the fruit. Squeeze the juice from the membranes before discarding. Strain juice into saucepan; add 1/2c caster sugar; stir over low heat until sugar dissolves; add more to taste; cool. Stir in 1tsp rosewater; pour syrup over fruit segments. Chill.

Rose & Almond Sweetmeats: Process 250g blanched, lightly toasted almonds and 1/4c icing sugar until nuts are finely ground. Trim the yellow “heel” from the base of a large handful of deep red rose petals; add to almond mixture; process until petals are finely chopped and mixture is light pink. Put 1c caster sugar, 1tbs water and 2tbs glycerine into a small saucepan; slowly bring to boil; stir occasionally until sugar dissolves. Boil until mixture reaches “soft ball” stage. Remove from heat; pour into almond mixture; add 2-1/2tsp rosewater; process until mixture forms a paste. When cool enough to handle knead until pliable; roll small pieces into balls; roll in caster sugar; place in mini cupcake holders; or as is on a serving plate. 

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

I MIGHT CHOKE, ARTY!



My first wedding day...6th April, 1966
From left...Mum, Nana, Me, Mervyn, Mervyn's father and Graham, my brother
The Bride & Groom...I was the ripe old age of 21 years.







Part of Fortitude Valley, Circa 1968  (Brisbane trams ceased running in 1969)

Many years ago which, for me in lots of ways, could be referred to as the Enlightened Age of 1969-1970 while working within the fashion industry I also had a casual, part-time job a couple of nights per week at The Pelican Tavern, primarily waiting on tables.  

My first husband, Mervyn and I had separated, amicably, in September, 1968.  I moved out…my choice…to a flat/unit not far from where we’d shared the previous two years of our lives. Mervyn helped in the move…not because he was happy to get rid of me…but because he was a nice guy.  We knew our run together had come to an end.  We’ve remained on good terms ever since.  That’s the way life should be, in my opinion.  Spite, hate, vindictiveness and all the rest of the nonsense that some people carry on with is wasted emotional energy.  Relationships break down…it’s a fact of life.

Wanting to earn a bit of extra pocket money over and beyond what I was earning in my five-days-a-week-full-time job I started working, at first, only two nights a week at the Pelican Tavern…Friday and Saturday nights, but before long I was working sometimes up to five nights a week; never less than three. 

The Pelican Tavern was situated on St. Paul’s Terrace, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.  Don’t choke!  I know I’ve written about the Tavern and my times spent there in previous articles throughout the years, but bear with me…please allow me to write another one.  As you see, no matter what you say - I’m going to continue writing this, anyway. 

I enjoyed working for Kyriol Wypow, the owner of The Tavern.  Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Mr. Wypow didn’t like what was happening in his country of birth after the Russian Revolution. He wasn't a big fan of Communism - I can't say I blame him!  (If he was still alive, he’d hate what's happening in Ukraine today even more).

As a young man in his early twenties, Mr. Wypow high-tailed it out of there as soon as he was able to do so.  He trekked down through Turkey, eventually arriving in South Australia; and then, after a few years, he moved to Queensland where he lived until his death in the Eighties.  He built the Tavern with his own hands, blood, sweat, and tears, even if the tears remained invisible.  The Tavern was as strong a structure as he was a man.

Unfortunately, The Pelican Tavern no longer exists; and unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of it.  The floor of the tavern was slate. Sturdy wooden tables, some built to seat two; others to seat four; and some to seat eight were strategically placed throughout the interior.  Empty Raffia-clad, melted wax covered Chianti wine bottles along with empty Mateus Rosé bottles bearing candles sat on the table cloth-free tables. They lit the dining area during service giving it a “bohemian” feel.

Kyriol Wypow and his wonderful Pelican Tavern were probably to blame (in a nice way) for heightening my interest in the hospitality industry; in cooking and in all areas pertaining to the industry. 

Mr. Wypow was a self-taught cook, and proud of it.  Come Saturdays he’d pick me up on his way to the restaurant. We lived only a couple of suburbs apart; and he didn’t have to detour out of his way to collect me.  He and his wife lived at St. Lucia and I lived in Toowong.  Their next door neighbours were Sir Raphael and Lady Phyllis Cilento…the parents of the now late Diane Cilento – the well-known Australian actress of the Fifties and Sixties, and one-time wife of Sean Connery (the best James Bond, in my opinion).  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raphael_Cilento


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diane_Cilento

On those Saturday afternoons I’d help Mr. Wypow prepare for the evening service.  I learned a lot from watching him.  He didn’t like to give away any of his tricks of the trade – but I had my antennae on high alert.  Nothing much got by me.  He was cagey, not wanting to let go of too many of his secrets, but I was cagier!  He wouldn’t give me the recipe for his Lamb Shashlicks, which was his own, put together from when he lived in Turkey; but by power of elimination, I gleaned the ingredients out of him.  If he was aware of my craftiness, he didn’t let on.  He probably was, but enjoyed the game of cat and mouse; and he willingly played along with it.  Nothing much, if anything, got passed Kyriol Wypow.

I loved serving the diners who enjoyed the food and the ambience the Tavern offered

Sometimes the behavior of diners caused me to lose interest in them, but that’s another story (or stories) for another day. Overall, to be fair, good customer percentages over-ruled the bad.

One fellow visiting from Sydney spat the dummy one Saturday night.  The rest of Brisbane and I learned he was from Sydney because when I confronted him, while in the meantime purposely blocking his escape route, he declared the fact clearly, proudly (read “arrogantly”) and loudly for the rest of the world to hear. 

He tried to leave the restaurant without paying for his meal; a meal he’d devoured.  His plate was bare with not a skerrick of food, not even a crumb, nor a scraping of sauce left on it when I cleared the table.  To make matters worse he left his knife and fork skewiff; not that I should’ve been surprised from such an ill-mannered person as him.

Remaining at high volume, he said he’d never set foot in the place again.  To which I calmly replied, with a slight smile on my face: “That’s the best news I’d heard all night.”

Before departing never to darken our doors again, he paid his bill. 

Mr.Wypow looked on, amused, from the kitchen; his monocle placed comfortably over his left eye. He didn't use his monocle all the time, but he did wear it always securely attached to his jacket or shirt; and used it when the occasion suited.

Another evening I walked past a table of two diners; not an unusual occurrence. They were lost in an intimate conversation as they enjoyed their juicy, thick steaks. Without warning, the male diner began spluttering and acting like Mel Gibson after a night out on the “turps” (as is said here in the land Down Under).

Stopping dead in my tracks, I asked the female of the two how well she knew her date. Had she known him long; did he have a medical history of taking fits, perhaps; but she was useless. Like “Fawlty Towers’” Spanish waiter, Manuel, she knew nothing! She was less than useless. While she sat there gaping, her date’s face went from red to a darker shade of purple.

Remember - this was circa 1970 – four years before the Heimlich Manoeuvre was created by Hank Heimlich. Time was of the essence.

Taking a punt, I figured the bloke was choking on his meal; not from his dinner being bad in any way, but from the way he’d ingested it.  Perhaps he’d gotten a little over-excited while talking with his date, dreaming about what might lie ahead, and he’d forgotten, for a brief moment, where he was and what he was doing. 

Cat Woman to the rescue! With all the force I could muster I gave him a humongous thump in the middle of his back.  I didn’t hold back; I whacked him good and hard!

Out of his mouth flew, not a surprise engagement ring, but a huge hunk of steak!

Fortunately, the projectile missed his date, the surrounding diners and me.  Reasonably controlled applause echoed throughout the Tavern.

I’ve never seen a diner abscond from a restaurant so quickly…after paying his bill.  He had no reason to be embarrassed. After all, Cat Woman had saved his life! Following my life-saving good deed I hung up my leather outfit, mask and claws.

I was never asked, nor did I have the opportunity again to come to anyone’s aid, so there was no point in getting around in my Cat Woman outfit.  It only drew unwanted attention.

If you find yourself choking…don’t call me…I might choke!

Three Cheese Artichoke Bites: Preheat oven 162C. Spray mini muffin tins. Sauté 1 chopped onion and 1 minced garlic clove and 1tbs olive oil until just tender; remove from heat. In bowl, combine 1 can marinated artichokes, drained and chopped, 6 beaten eggs, 1c each shredded cheddar, mozzarella and grated parmesan, 1/2tsp Italian seasoning, 1/4c chopped parsley, 1/4tsp pepper, 1/8tsp Worcestershire sauce and 1/8th tsp chilli sauce; stir in onions and 1/4c Italian-seasoned dry breadcrumbs. Scoop mix into muffin tins; fill almost to top; bake 15-20mins, until firm and golden. Remove from pan; serve warm.

Artichokes on Horseback: Drain 2 jars artichoke hearts. Place each heart on one end of bacon rasher; sprinkle with a parmesan and pepper; roll up; secure with toothpick; deep fry in 2-inches of hot oil, 3mins.

Prawn-Artichoke Pasta: Cook 240g linguine al dente. Sauté 1 chopped onion, 1 crushed garlic clove in 2tbs olive oil, about 5mins. Remove to bowl. To the pan drippings add…1-1/4c artichoke hearts (or fresh artichokes*), 1/2c dry white wine, 2tbs lemon juice, 2tsp lemon zest, salt, pepper and cooked onion. Heat over high heat; reduce to simmer, covered, 4-5mins. Toss with the pasta and chopped parsley. *If using fresh artichokes rather than canned; Trim and halve lengthwise about 10 baby artichokes with stems; discard outer tough leaves. Put artichokes, 2tbs lemon juice and 6c water in saucepan; bring to boil; reduce heat; simmer until crisp-tender, about 5mins. Heat grill pan over high heat; place chokes cut side down on grill pan; cook 6mins per side.  You could also add sun-dried tomatoes to pasta, if desired. 

Thursday, September 04, 2014

THE DADDY OF THEM ALL!



My late father-in-law...Lloyd George taken the day Randall, his eldest son and I married.
Randall and I, on our wedding day...and me with Father's mother
Again...on our wedding day...I said in my previous post I wasn't into the "normal white wedding dresses". We got married in denim



Father & Mother at our house in Sunshine Beach circa 1981

A Christmas lunch with family & friends at our house at Coolum. Father is in the navy & white striped shirt. Circa 1984

A Decadently, Delicious Paris-Brest

Prawn & Mango Salad





Father's Day Down Under....7th September, 2014



Come around Father’s Day…no…that’s not an invitation! What I mean is – when Father’s Day comes around I’ve rarely, if ever, written about the celebration honouring fathers. Usually, to be honest, nothing is farthermost from my mind. Put simply, I forget.  In no way is it my intention to offend.   

You see, I never knew my father. I grew up in a fatherless household. When I was still a wee baby my parents were confronted by a number of insurmountable hurdles and a few fathomless potholes; all of which caused them to part. They went their separate ways and, in due course, divorced. As often mentioned, my older brother and I were raised by two good women, our mother and our Nana; therefore, we had no reason to celebrate Father’s Day. Father’s Day came and went without fanfare throughout my childhood and beyond.  I never gave it a second thought until I married my ex (who wasn’t my ex when we married).

My father-in-law, Lloyd George, was a wonderful man. That’s correct – his name was Lloyd George. He wasn’t the British Liberal politician and statesman, but he could very well have been.  A fine man he was; as fine a man I’ve yet to meet; a gentle man and a gentleman.  I never heard a bad word said about him; nor did I ever hear him utter a bad word towards anyone else. I called him “Father”, not “Dad”. Brought up in the era I was I could never have referred to him by his Christian name, even though on the day I married Randall, his eldest son, he asked me to do so. Up until then I’d always called him “Mr. George”. Switching to “Lloyd” wouldn’t have sat comfortably with me. For me to do so would’ve felt disrespectful. When, instead, I christened him “Father”, his eyes twinkled and his face bore a proud smile. He liked it. The title suited him. 

At the same time, I also christened Randall’s Mum, “Mother”…again for the same reasons given above.                                                                   


Randall and I were married by a Marriage Celebrant in Father and Mother's home...on a Sunday afternoon - 21st March, 1976.  It was a very relaxed, leisurely event. After the ceremony a party ensued outside on their back deck and garden, shared with immediate family and a few close friends .  It was a fun afternoon.


Father also liked his sweets.  No…he loved his sweets! 

Every birthday, Christmas and Father’s Day amongst our gifts to him, without fail, we included a box of dark chocolate-covered ginger.  To see his face light up in child-like pleasure was thanks enough; include a packet of Licorice Allsorts in his presents on Christmas Day and he out-shone the lights on the Christmas tree!

I’ll never forget one particular Father’s Day lunch we held for him when we lived at Sunshine Beach.   

Around the corner from our home was a French patisserie. Father’s special treat that Father’s Day was a delicious Paris-Brest, the celebrated French pastry dessert. The dinner plate-sized circular, wreath-like shape of choux pastry is filled with praline-flavoured cream; sprinkled with icing sugar; sometimes also topped with toasted flaked almonds. If it had been night when his eyes fell upon the decadent dessert, forget the Christmas tree lights, Father’s face would’ve lit up the sky brighter than a floodlight could ever have done.

Many enjoyable lunches and dinners, followed by spirited games of Bolivia or 500, were shared with my father and mother-in-law; either at their home or ours. After a while, Father and I became partners in the card battles, and continued being so - never the twain would be separated thereafter.  

Our card games were played more peacefully with he and I partnering  we soon discovered. In secret consultation Randall and I decided it was better that way than when Father and Mother partnered against he and me…less the “War of the Roses”. Father, as my card partner and not Mother’s suffered no reprimands when he made a thoughtless move; or didn’t make a move I thought he should have.  I kept my thoughts to myself; a smile on my face and took another sip of Bundy rum and Coke.

For years, once a week we’d meet for dinner and cards; one week we’d host the evening at our place; the next week Mother cooked dinner at their home with Father in charge of the bar, and so on, week after week; year after year.  The four of us had a lot of fun during those evenings.

And, on days such as Father’s Day and Mother’s Day we’d host a special lunch at our home.  Same applied on Christmas Day when Randall and I opened our home for Christmas morning drinks to all and sundry of our friends; morning drinks and canapés were always followed by an expansive hot Christmas lunch for those who remained to share our table. Father and Mother were always our most important Christmas lunch guests.  Our lengthy Christmas lunches, with the decorated table sagging beneath the abundant array of hot and cold Christmas fare, always continued throughout the afternoon until after the sun had set in the west.

Father loved mangoes.  When I had my greengrocery-health food store in Noosa gift-giving time was made easy. Along with Father’s chocolate-coated ginger, a tray of Kensington Pride aka Bowen mangoes were a much-appreciated gift.  Fortunately for Father mangoes were still in season when his birthday came around in January.

Father also loved fishing. His catch rate wasn’t worth writing home about; but he didn’t care; that was a mere bagatelle; a trivial trifle.   

One Saturday afternoon he and I went surf fishing at the northern side of the mouth of the Maroochy River, the spot where I used to pull in bream after bream.  For an hour or so he contentedly stood at the water’s edge, lost in his own world of thoughts; casting out, and then pulling in his line to check his bait. He’d barely got a nibble, let alone a bite - when all of a sudden his rod bent and his reel began to spin. 

I’ll never forget Father’s face that afternoon.  It was a joy to behold.  His eyes became invisible as his cheeks crinkled up to meet his eyebrows; a smile spread across his face in childlike excitement and delight.

When he landed his catch, a just legal-sized bream one could swear he’d landed “the big one”.  It was such a special moment, the memory of which I’ve cherished to this day.

Sometimes Randall and a mate took Father along with them when they went fishing, by a powered, half-cabin motor boat, to an outer reef off Sunshine Beach.  Father would be as sick as a dog throughout the trip, but as soon as they set foot back on land he’d ask if he could go out with them again the next time; and he meant it. He was keen to do it all over again! 

I was fortunate to have had such a wonderful substitute father as Lloyd George.  He was a lovely man; and I loved him.

Happy Father’s Day on Sunday, 7th September! Be kind to your kids - teach your children well!

Prawn Mango Salad: Slice ½ an unpeeled continental cucumber into thin rounds. Combine with 1 sliced red capsicum, 250g quartered cherry tomatoes, 2 large sliced mangoes, 16 cooked, peeled, deveined king prawns, leave tails intact, and 150g mixed salad greens in bowl. Dressing: Mix together; 1 crushed garlic clove, 1tbs chilli sauce, 2tbls olive oil, 4tbs lime juice and 3tbls chopped fresh mint. Gently stir into salad; pile salad onto individual serving plates; season.

Filet Mignon with Herb Butter: Mash 1tbs butter until soft and creamy; stir in 2tsp olive oil; add finely-chopped chives/shallots, 1tbs chopped capers, 1tsp minced oregano or marjoram, 1/2tsp each lemon zest and juice; season. Place in freezer to chill. Combine 1tsp oil, 2tsp marjoram/oregano, 1/2tsp lemon zest, 1tbs minced rosemary and 2 minced garlic cloves. Rub into both sides of 4x1-1/2-inch thick eye fillets. Rub both sides of 4 thick slices of whole-grain bread with halved garlic cloves. Grill steak 3-5mins per side for med-rare; grill bread until toasted. Divide 4c watercress between 4 plates; top with steaks; top steaks with chilled herb butter.

Baked Herb-Parmesan Potatoes: Preheat oven to 190C.  Rinse 2 whole medium-size russet potatoes and 2 whole large red potatoes; don’t peel; dry with a paper towel; slice the potatoes at a slight diagonal. Try to keep the slices at a similar width (1/4 of an inch would be on the thicker side; about 1/8 of an inch is a nice size or even smaller if you like them more crispy) so they cook evenly. Add the potato slices to a large bowl. Add 1/4tsp each onion powder, dry chicken stock powder, garlic powder or crushed garlic, dried oregano, dried thyme, pepper, dried parsley and dried rosemary; add 2tbls olive oil. Mix together well, so the oil and herbs evenly coat both sides of potato slices. Layer slices in shallow ovenproof dish, sprinkling some grated parmesan in between the layers. Pour over ¼ to ½ cup of liquid chicken stock over the layers. Sprinkle grated parmesan over the top. Bake for 20-25mins, or until the potato is cooked and the top golden; serve hot straight from oven as a side dish.

Chocolate-Ginger Trifle: Cook a batch of brownies having added chopped crystallized ginger to the mix. When cool, break brownies into 5cm pieces. Melt 150g dark chocolate; beat cooled chocolate with 500g room-temp mascarpone. Whip 350ml cream. Place half the brownies into glass serving bowl; sprinkle over some chopped crystallized ginger; spread with half choc-mascarpone and half whipped cream; repeat layers. Grate chocolate over top and sprinkle with chopped crystallized ginger, for garnish; chill.