Tuesday, February 02, 2016

ON A JARRING NOTE…





What a dilemma!   

To put it bluntly - I’m in a real pickle! If I could find a solution to my vexing problem I’d be a millionaire; a multi-millionaire even!  And if that were to come to fruition it definitely would be something worth getting pickled over.  The unopened bottle of Glenfiddich sitting on my shelf is safe (for the moment, anyway); however, that’s not the kind of pickled I mean in this instance.

I believe I can trust you with my money-making scheme; one I’ve not yet patented. Because of my immovable faith in our discretion I’ll let you in on my inspirational secret project.  I know you won’t tell anyone.

Surrounding me are piles of empty glass jars...everywhere I look, in every cranny and nook, and in between. I’ve been collecting them for the past year or more.  Cloaked in darkness, garbed in camouflage - even my car is disguised as a bandicoot to put those other night owls roaming the streets during the wee small hours off the scent - I do midnight runs raiding the neighbourhood recycle bins. I’ll soon be known as Ms Steptoe of the Mountain, if I’m not already.  I’ve become an adept creature of subterfuge.

It’s amazing how much grape juice is consumed here on the hill. The hordes of empty wine bottles I’ve gathered will be to my benefit. They’ll serve an important purpose in my plan. If my concept has a positive result the crates of wine bottles I haul home night after night will play a significant role in what I’m endeavouring to achieve. 

It’d be nice if the neighbours recycled a few full ones!  It’s thirsty work that I do!

I’m intend melting the bottles sadly depleted of wine to make handles for the myriad jars in my possession; jars from pickles, chutney, jams and various other product, which are also collected during my midnight runs. ‘Tis a busy life I lead under the cloak of darkness.

My plan isn’t working for me; not yet anyway, but I’ll soldier on. If and when I work out how to stick the handles on the jars I’ll be rich; either that or I’ll have missed the bus on “my moment” in reaping the benefits of my back-breaking efforts because people will have moved onto the next craze. I’ll be left holding the jars and wine bottles - empty wine bottles – dammit! 

That’ll be a jarring experience – one hard to get a handle on!

I find the current fad - one that’s lasted far too long, in my opinion - of drinking from jars very jarring. It’s one of the silliest fads I’ve seen.  I get so annoyed every time I see pictures in magazines, newspapers etc., of jars being substituted as drinking vessels.  I can see no point to the “popular fashion”.  It’s not even unique; everyone and their third cousins are doing it!  If an eatery attempted to serve me a drink in a jar I would politely decline and ask for my drink to be served to me in an appropriate drinking glass.

Everywhere I look drink-filled jars with straws plonked in them have taken over the planet!  I can see no rhyme or reason for them. The jars look clumsy and unattractive.  When I have a drink I prefer to skol from a glass; from a drinking glass suitable to the drink I’m indulging in - not a glass jar. Better still, with a lot of class and practiced finesse, I like to guzzle straight from the bottle. It saves on the washing up - no straws and no jars required!

To add insult to insult salads are plonked, in layers, in jars. Tiered desserts are served in jars!  To me, somehow, it’s a being a poseur...in reverse...how perverse!

I elect to keep my jars exclusively for jams, chutneys and pickles etc; never to be used as gimmicky, annoyingly gauche drinking vessels; or for serving salads and desserts.  I find this fad idiotically pretentious.

Once upon a time you’d be sincerely concerned about a friend’s financial welfare if he/she served you a drink in a jar. Similarly, if presented with a drink or food-filled jar rather than a glass or plate as the fare demands in an eatery, it would’ve prompted concerns their doors would soon be closing permanently. A jar could’ve been left on the counter for the generosity of strangers to help keep the doors ajar; a jar not only for tips for the serving staff!

I offer no apologies for preferring to have whatever it is I’m drinking served in a glass...a glass made for the purpose of drinking from (or from a cup or mug if the instance demands).  And I prefer to eat my salads off a plate or from a bowl; and desserts not from a jar!   

And, I know jars are the "In Thing" at the moment, but I'd feel I was insulting my guests if I served them drinks or food in jars.  I've never been one to succumb to the latest fads; to follow the crowd in the craze of the moment...particularly to ones that are, in my opinion, pretty damn stupid! 

I'll continue to beat my own drum; and if that means I'm not keeping up with the latest fads or "the Joneses - I suppose it should be "keeping up with the Kardashians" - not "keeping up with the Joneses" these days - but as I said...I'll beat my own drum...rat-a-tat-tat! 

Now how will I fuse these handles on to the jars?

Chilli-Pawpaw Chutney: Combine in saucepan - 7 black peppercorns, 1 whole nutmeg, 1 peeled, coarsely-chopped pawpaw, 2 peeled, coarsely-chopped apples, 2c light brown sugar, 3c white vinegar, 2tsp coarse salt, 3 fresh, deseeded, finely-chopped red chillies and 2tsp grated ginger; stir constantly over med-heat until sugar dissolves; simmer, uncovered, approx 1-1/2hrs or until thickened. Remove peppercorns and nutmeg; spoon hot chutney into hot sterilized jars; seal jars while still hot; chutney will keep up to 6 months.  (And I refuse to call "pawpaws" papayas, too....pawpaws are pawpaws here in Queensland)!

Pickled Broccoli: Combine 2c distilled white vinegar, 2c water and 2tbs pickling salt in saucepan; bring to a boil. Into a 946ml/4c jar, put 4c broccoli florets, 3-4 peeled garlic cloves, 1tsp mustard seeds, 1tsp black peppercorns and 1/2tsp red chilli flakes; pack the broccoli on top. Cover broccoli with the hot vinegar brine; cap jar; cool to room temp. Chill at least 3hrs before serving. It’ll keep 2-3 weeks.

Rockmelon Jam: Prepare boiling water bath and 3x240ml jars. Place lids in small saucepan; cover with water; simmer over very low heat. Combine 2-1/2c peeled, chopped rockmelon, 1-1/2c sugar, 1 split and scraped vanilla bean and the seeds in pot; bring to boil over high heat; cook 8-10mins. Add zest of 1 lemon, 1tbs lemon juice and 85ml packet liquid pectin. Return to vigorous boil; cook 3-4mins, until bubbles look thick. Remove vanilla pod. Ladle jam into prepared jars; wipe rims; seal jars; process in boiling water bath, 10mins. (And a rockmelon will always be a rockmelons to me...not cantaloupe).

Berry Winey Jam: Combine 3c mixed berries and 2c red wine in saucepan; simmer uncovered to jam consistency – about 30mins. After berries break down add sugar to taste; less if using a sweet wine. You can use champagne instead; spoon into jars; chill.  

Banana Berry Smoothie:  Place 1 large banana, ½ cup frozen or fresh mixed berries (add grapes, if you like), 2tsp wheatgerm, 1/2c milk, ½ strawberry or natural yoghurt and 2tsp honey in a blender; whizz...drink...straws optional! As well as not using jars other than for the purposes they're meant for,  I always go for the no-straw option, too!   

If you find your bananas are ripening quickly and you prefer eating bananas that aren't very ripe – slice the bananas into pieces and freeze the pieces in portions to be used for your smoothies at later dates. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

GIDDAY MATES! ’OW YOUSE GOIN’? WHAT YOUSE BIN UP TO?



A wonderful way to wake up on Australia Day morning...watching the sun rise over the ocean (Acrylic painting by me)
Damper
 
Kidney bean rissoles/patties


I’m typing slowly. I suggest you follow suit - read slowly. The madness behind my reasoning for unhurried writing and for you reading at a snail’s pace is both might succeed in making 2016 slacken in tempo; for 2016 not to rush by like a maniac. I want to at least be able to eat my leftovers from the Festive Season just past before the next one begins! Let’s leave the breaking of speed records to Daniel Ricciardo, Valentino Rossi, Lewis Hamilton and other motor aces. Strike me pink! 2015 is cactus! 2016 is already off to a flying start.

I must’ve been away with the fairies...or is that not politically-correct these days!  Okay then – I must have been away with the pixies (either which way)  – ‘aving a good time, I hope.

I woke up to discover Aussie Day, 26th January, is only one sleep away!  I’ll ‘ave to make sure I crack a few tinnies or skull a Glenfiddich (the bottle)! I let the side down by ‘aving only two Crownies on Chrissie Day.

Fair dinkum! What kind of true blue Aussie does that make me? 

Don’t get ya knickers in a knot! Fair suck of the sav! Ya can bet ya bottom dollar I’ll make up for draggin’ the chain somewhere along the way. Holy-dooly! Go ‘ave a cuppa; take a Bex and ‘ave a lie down.  She’ll be apples, mate!
On Chrissie Eve morning I got the shock of me life.  Like a stunned mullet I was! About to step into me car to head off to IGA, the local supa supermarket, I sensed something behind me. Lost in me own thoughts, thinkin’ about all an’ sundry, I ‘ad a humdinger of a rude wake-up call!

Bloody oath! I almost hit the ground runnin’ leavin’ me car in me wake.

I turned around, and blow me down - there I found, lookin’ me square in me eyes, two Great Danes!  

And I don’t mean it was Fred and Mary of Denmark. I ‘ad asked Fred and Maz to swing by for Chrissie drinks seein’ they were just down the road at the Gold Coast, but they said they were a bit nackered after havin’ lots of fun all day long on their boogie board.  They’d run out of time.  They ‘ad to pack up an’ shoot through down to Tassie to spend Chrissie with Maz’s rellies!  No worries – no dramas. I didn’t do me block. I was kinda relieved really. As the day turned out to be a scorcher.  Our Mary might soon find herself parked on the Danish throne, but she’s still an Aussie sheila.  She’s a nice lookin’ broad, too. She done good for herself; I reckon Fred done good, too. He knew straight away he was oto a good thing that night he slipped into the Slip Inn in Sydney for a drink and cosied up with our girl!

But I've drifted off the beaten track - so I'd best be gettin' back to me story about Chrissie Eve mornin' and the Great Danes of the four-legged variety.

Dinky-Di! Of course I got the shock of me life!  Wouldn’t anyone? First thing in the mornin'... mindin’ me own beeswax I hadn’t expected to come eyeball to eyeball with two mammoth dogs breathin’ down me neck!. 

They were almost as big as me car.  One of ‘em, in particular – the big white one that had a few patches of black on ‘im was as tall as I am!  I kid you not!  I’m not yanking ya chain!

Both were as ‘appy as two ‘umongous Larrys; big smiles on their faces; tongues flappin’ in the breeze, keen to lick me to death with kindness. They bounced around like two excited ankle-biters on Chrissie morn.

Me two cats, Remy an’ Shama were inside snuggled up in their chosen pozzies for the day.  They didn’t have a clue what was goin’ on outside.  Although, they probably were wonderin’ what all the bangin’ on the wall was about.  The tails of the dogs were waggin’ so much they kept whackin’ the wall of me cabin.  And I tell ya...they were fair whacks – enough to wake up the dead!  Well, enough to wake up Remy an' Shama, anyway...you know.

I demanded the both of 'em to go back ‘ome; wherever that was!  I’d never seen ‘em before.  They ignored me order, of course.

Ridgie-didge! I ‘ad a sneakin’ suspicion they might’ve been Rudolph and Prancer in disguise, muckin’ around, checkin’ out the place.

In case me suspicions were spot on I was polite when I told ‘em to stop playing sillybuggers and to rack off!

Dead set! I began to think I ‘ad a few roos loose in the top paddock, if ya know what I mean!

Rudolph an’ Prancer ‘ad nicked off when I got back ‘ome.  Just in case they were still hangin' about, I ‘ad a quick Captain Cook about the place, but by then they’d shot through like a couple of Bondi trams.

I felt a bit of a galah when I ‘ad another squizz around later in the arvo; but I didn’t chuck a wobbly when I found they’d given me the flick. I was on me Pat Malone.

I’m gunna throw a couple of snags on the barbie on Aussie Day an’ a lamb chop or two.  I’ll bury a few tinnies in ice in the esky.  Can’t stand warm beer!  That’d be the last gasp!

For brekkie I’m gunna make a damper, an’ while it’s still hot, spread lashings of butter and Vegemite all over it. For lunch I’ll smother the rest in garlic butter.

Maybe while I’m coppin’ an earbashin’ from me cobber who’s a real dag, I’ll make a batch or two of lamingtons for smoko.  We'll both be as full as a googsafter that lot!

I’m not knockin’ me mate. We’ve not seen each other in yonks. He’s a larrikin; always good for a laugh. Once he gets wound up he never knows when to stop. He’s as mad as a two bob watch! He’s got more stories to tell than the bush telegraph; with not one porkie amongst them. Who am I tryin’ to kid? 

We’ll have a rip-snorter of a chinwag, yabberin‘ our ‘eads off until the cows come home. You betcha we will! He got the rough end of the pineapple a few times, but ‘is blood’s worth bottlin’. 

Never one to slacken off or back away from a job, he’s done a lot of hard yakka over the years.   

Some drongos who don’t know 'im from a bar of soap think he’s a sandwich short of a picnic, but they’re talkin’ through their hats. They wouldn’t ‘ave a bloody clue. Blindfolded, me mate could run rings around the lot of ‘em, an' they'd still be tryin' to catch up!  He ain’t the no-hoper some dipsticks think he is; an’ that’s for bloody sure!   

An’ that, me friends, is the drum. Take it from me!

As ya can tell, I get real cheesed off when others try to sell ‘im short.  I stick up for me mates!

A word of advice - don’t be a ratbag by gettin’ aggro on Aussie Day.

Here’s the goss; make love, not war.  Sweet as!

Ya little bewdy!  See youse round like a rissole!

Damper:  Using a cast iron pot (with a lid) such as a Le Creuset or Le Chasseur, put it in the oven and pre-heat to 220C (428F). Sift together 375g white bakers flour, 125g wholemeal flour, 4tsp baking powder and 1tsp salt in large bowl. Using your finger tips rub 30g unsalted cold butter, cubed, into flour; you can cheat and do it in a food processor, if that is how you like to do it. Make well in centre; stir in 375ml milk; mix until well combined. The mixture will be sticky. Turn dough onto a well-floured work surface; knead well for 2-3mins until smooth. Form into a tight ball. Cover with clean tea towel; let rest 20mins. When ready to bake, gently brush milk over damper as a glaze. Using a sieve, gently dust the top with some extra flour. Using serrated knife, score the top of damper, about 2cm deep. Remove hot cast iron pot from oven; slide damper into pot using large spatula. Put the lid back on. Place into oven for 20mins. Remove lid; drop the temperature down to 180C (356F); bake further 20mins.  Remove the cast iron pot from oven. Use spatula and tongs to remove damper. Cool on wire rack about 30mins or so before cutting into it.  Great with loads of butter and golden syrup, too!!

Vegemite-Sausage Rolls: Cook 16 chipolata sausages until light golden; cool. Heat oven, 200C; lightly spray baking tray. Place 2 sheets frozen puff pastry (thawed) on work surface; spread with 2tbs Vegemite (or BBQ sauce if you prefer) right to edges. Cut pastry into 3 even pieces; sprinkle grated cheddar along centre of pastry; place one sausage at end of one pastry piece; roll pastry to enclose sausage; then cut pastry; place cut side down on tray; repeat process; glaze with a little milk; sprinkle with grated parmesan if you like; bake 25mins/until golden. 

Aussie Day Lamb: Combine 1tbs Vegemite, 1/4c honey, 2tbs finely-chopped rosemary leaves and 2tbs olive oil; pour over 12 trimmed lamb cutlets; chill 2hrs. Barbecue cutlets over med-heat, 3 to 4mins per side, or until cooked to your liking; serve with barbecued corn cobs and tossed salad.

Rissoles & Brown Onion Gravy: Combine 1 finely diced onion, 300g quality beef mince, 200g pork (or lamb) mince, 1 egg, 3/4c fresh breadcrumbs (preferably made from day or two-day old bread), a in a bowl. Do this is with clean, wet hands so the mixture doesn't stick. Add 1 medium carrot, grated, (or zucchini or 3 to 4 finely-chopped mushrooms,) too if you like; add 2tbs Worcestershire sauce, 3tbs tomato sauce, 1 crushed garlic clove, a teaspoon or so of mixed herbs or Italian herbs, a packet of dry mushroom soup powder (or French Onion Soup); add pepper.  If you like you can add a couple of finely-diced, rindless bacon rashers. Combine the mixture well until it isn’t very sticky; add a few more breadcrumbs to get the right consistency, if needed.  Roll the mixture into balls, each about 2-1/2 inch to 3-inch diameter (6cm to 7.5cm). Lightly coat in plain flour if you like Press them gently into flat shape. Put a little olive oil into a pan. Turn rissoles over once you can see the meat has cooked up halfway.  (You can cook them in the oven, too, if you prefer). Set aside and keep warm when cook. Leave a little oil in the cooking pan.  Slice a couple of large brown onions into rings; separate the rings; add to pan; reduce heat to med-low; cook until onions turn translucent and brown; 20-25mins.  You can add sliced mushrooms, if you like (or sliced tomato...whatever/whichever or none-ever). Sprinkle 2tbs plain flour over the onions; stir; cook a few minutes until the flour has browned nicely, scraping the tidbits left over from the rissoles into the mix; then stir in 2c beef broth (or 2c water plus 2 beef stock cubes). Put the rissoles back to the pan and spoon a little gravy over each; bring to the boil; reduce heat; cover; simmer about 15mins.  Serve with creamy mashed spuds and whatever greens you like...green peas, are always a good choice...yum...yum! 

I won’t give a recipe for mashed spuds. I’m sure everyone knows how to make great mashed spuds; mash that suits their individual tastes.  I don’t peel the potatoes, even for mashing (the only vegetables I peel are onions and garlic...all others I cook and eat, unpeeled, no matter what the dish is I’m preparing). I love crushed garlic added to my mashed spuds; or finely-chopped onion/parsley/chives or shallots, depending on the mood of the moment.  Butter, milk (and cream, if you have some handy) are integral parts of a velvety mash, of course.

Kidney Bean Rissoles: Make marinade: Combine 1/4c balsamic vinegar, 2tsp x-virgin olive oil, 1tsp minced garlic and 1tsp oregano or basil. Drain and rinse 2-1/2c canned kidney beans. Place in bowl; mash; add 1/2c rolled oats, 2tbs tamari, the marinade (or BBQ sauce, if you don’t make the marinade), 1 minced garlic clove, 1 small onion, minced, (or very finely-chopped shallot), a shake of Italian seasoning, ½ to 3/4c baby spinach torn into small pieces, 2-3tbs nutritional yeast and a handful of sunflower and pumpkin (pepita) seeds. Mix well. Heat non-stick pan with a small amount of oil; heat to low-med. Form patties with bean mixture; heat on pan for few minutes on either side until crisp and brown; add a little more oil if pan becomes dry; or add a small amount of the marinade to the pan, instead of the oil, if you prefer.

Lamington Tiramisu: Combine 1c strong espresso and 1/4c Frangelico or Amaretto liqueur. Whisk 2 egg yolks and 3tbs caster sugar until thick and pale; add 250g mascarpone; beat until just combined; add 3tbs of  liqueur; fold in 250ml whipped thickened cream.  Beat egg whites until soft peaks; gently fold into cream; try not to lose volume. Cut 2 packets Lamington fingers into sizes to just cover base of serving glasses; dip half of fingers, one at a time, into coffee-liqueur; drain; arrange in bases; spoon mascarpone mix over cake; repeat steps until glasses are full to top. Chill at least 4hrs before serving.

Straya Day Cocktail: Place few drops of bitters in a glass; add 30ml Bundy rum, 3tsp fresh lime juice and 1tsp caster sugar; stir to dissolve; add ice cubes, chopped fresh mango or pineapple, mint leaves; add mango nectar or pineapple and a little sparkling water
.   

By the way...I was fair dinkum about the great danes...they really did rock up.....hooroo!

Monday, January 18, 2016

IT WAS ALL GREEK TO ME - EVEN WHEN I WAS UP A CREEK WITH OR WITHOUT A PADDLE!



 
Macushla Beach, Hinchinbrook Island

One of the many creeks running off from Missionary Bay, Hinchinbrook Island.

Creeks running inland from Missionary Bay

Cardwell by the sea...photo taken by ex-staff member who remains a friend to this day. He took this about 2 weeks ago. The motel I managed was up beyond the jetty which you can see in the distance.  It was from that jetty the "Reef Venture" went to and from the resort at Cape Richards, dropping off provisions and guests. Click on the picture to enlarge.

 
Inspector Morse and Lewis

Like most folk there have been times I’ve felt like I was up a creek without a paddle. Having large hands (for a woman) is an advantage when floundering in troubled waters. Mine aren’t the most genteel, ladylike hands in the world, but if ever needed they would've shone brightly as surrogate oars.

However, other sticky situations can create problems of their own. There’s more area to cover if you’ve large hands; more area of stickiness. I gave myself a fright the other day. I was super-gluing the handle on a coffee cup.  For a moment I panicked.  I thought I’d be spending the rest of my life walking around with a cup stuck to my hand!  I considered sitting at the front entrance to our local supermarket, cup stuck to my hand, humming a tune while tap dancing to the beat. I’d not have been able to strum an instrument because of the stuck cup, but it could’ve been an enterprising way to make some extra money.  The downside is, my humming is as bad as my singing. As for my tap dancing – I wouldn’t force it upon anyone! 

By the way, the handle on said cup has since broken off once more!  I knocked a jug, and the domino principle immediately toppled into gear.

Drat! I’ve done it again! I’ve managed to go off paddling up a different creek from the original thought that prompted this narrative. What’s new?
Yesterday during a chat with a friend who once worked with me at the resort on Hinchinbrook Island, as always, our conversation turned to happy reminiscences about our magical time on the island.  He reminded me of an exhibition I’d made of myself one crazy afternoon when I tried to paddle a canoe. “Tried” being the operative (unco-operative) word!

A guest (the one I referred to in a previous post re our attempted dining at the Hotel Windsor prior to his paddling off to Oxford to meet up with Inspector Morse) asked me to join him on canoe ride. We were both virgins in the art of canoeing.  To my dismay, I became aware of his lack of experience when we were less than halfway en route!

Sticking reasonably close to shore we paddled westward in the direction of Macushla Beach, and further on to Missionary Bay; in the direction of the mainland.
With every stroke of the oars the more drenched we both became. Fearing death by drowning I morphed into Fletcher Christian and mutinied. I took a stance while remaining seated, demanding we row back to the jetty. 

There upon the jetty waited Johnno, my barman. On his face was a strange look on that said: “Are you two crazy or something?”  I readily agreed with his thoughts.  The sun was descending over Cardwell in the west, on the mainland.  I had to get cracking.  The resort guests would soon be turning up at the bar eager for a drink or three to start off their evening.

Once my feet returned to dry land and I’d had time to reflect I realised I’d enjoyed my spontaneous moments of hilarious, hair-raising nonsense.  I then raced quickly to my house to shower and get ready for the night’s entertainment in the restaurant.  The show must go on; and on it did go!
A few years later I again sat in a canoe out the front of a motel I managed. (Well, the motel on the beachfront; not the one I managed that faced the main highway.  That could've proved fatal if I'd sat in a canoe on the highway)!

The property, owned by a Greek family, was a large expanse of land at Cardwell. I managed the motel on the highway end of the property; a property that ran through from the highway through to another motel (and a restaurant) situated on the beachfront at the other end of the block of land. In between the two motels were holiday villas, on-site caravans and caravan sites.

My second stint in a canoe was stationary. The canoe was securely tied to a palm tree on the foreshore. Other than gentle rocking, the canoe was going nowhere, and neither was I. No paddles or oars were required; nor were my hands needed as substitutes.

Sitting there pondering the meaning of life and Hinchinbrook Island in the distance, I had the awesome pleasure of watching dugongs nonchalantly grazing on the seagrass as they cruised by completely oblivious to my presence. 

At times, when the motel restaurant’s chef was unavailable for whatever reason I cooked in his stead. Dugongs were not on the menu! 

I learned a few handy Greek recipes from the owner of the establishment.  The matriarch, a few years older than me, was quite a humourless woman, with no sense of the ridiculous. I think I was given her portion, doubling my quota.

She treated life far too seriously, but she was willing to share her ethnic food knowledge with me; and I was willing to watch, listen and learn.
Some of it might’ve been double Dutch, but it all ended up being Greek to me.

Zorba’s Salad: Whisk together 2tbs red wine vinegar, 1tsp Dijon mustard, 1/2c x-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, 1/2tsp oregano, 1/4tsp marjoram, 1 crushed clove garlic and 1tsp lemon juice. Add Cos lettuce, spinach, chopped red onion, bite-sized pieces of red apple, dried cranberries, sliced/diced cucumber, feta pieces and crispy walnuts to salad bowl; toss gently with dressing.

Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce: Cut 500g skinless chicken into 1-inch cubes. Whisk 3tbs lemon juice, 3tbs olive oil, 2tsp crushed garlic, 1/2tsp salt. 1/4tsp pepper, 1tsp dried oregano; add chicken; cover; chill and marinate 1hr. Alternately thread chicken and ¾-inch pieces of zucchini on skewers; place on hot grill; cook 9-10mins, until chicken is cooked; serve with Tzatziki Sauce: Slice 1 unpeeled English cucumber lengthwise; scrape out seeds; grate cucumber into bowl; press out as much liquid as possible; add 1-1/2c Greek yoghurt, 1/2c sour cream, 1 or 2tsp crushed garlic, 1-1/2tbs lemon juice, 1tbs white wine vinegar, 1tbs fresh dill, minced; season. 

Couscous Dolmades with Lemon Yoghurt Sauce: In large heatproof bowl, combine ½ cup whole wheat couscous and 1/3rd cup currants. Pour in 1/2 cup boiling water; cover and let stand until absorbed, about 5 minutes. Fluff with fork. Let cool. Meanwhile, rinse 20 drained grape leaves; remove tough stems.Add 170g minced lean beef or lamb, 1/4c toasted  pine nuts, 1/4c chopped fresh dill or mint, 2tsp grated lemon rind, salt and pepper to taste, to couscous; mix with fork to combine. Roll by 2 tbls quantities into cigar shapes, pressing lightly to hold together. Place in centre of grape leaf; fold in sides of leaf and roll up tightly. Place snugly in single layer, seam side down, in 11- x 7-inch glass baking dish. Pour in 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock; cover and bake in 180C/350F oven until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 1 hour. Serve hot or cold with Lemon Yoghurt Sauce for dipping. (Make-ahead: Let cool for 30 minutes; cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.)  Lemon Yoghurt Sauce: Combine 1/3c Greek natural yoghurt, 3tbs sour cream (or mayonnaise if you like mayo), 2tbs lemon juice and pinch of salt.

Greek Custard Pie (Galaktoboureko): Preheat oven, 190C. In saucepan, stir 5c whole milk, 1c fine semolina, 1/2c sugar, 1tbs unsalted butter and 1tsp vanilla over med-heat; stir gently and constantly until thick; cool 5-10mins. Beat 3 eggs with 1/4c sugar; stir into mixture; add zest of 1 orange. Brush base of 10x13-inch lasagne dish with melted butter; layer with 6 phyllo sheets, liberally brush each layer with melted butter; lightly press sheets into sides and corners; let edges hang over the top. Pour slightly cooled custard over sheets; spread to sides; layer 6 phyllo sheets on top as you did with the base, melted butter etc. Brush overlaps; roll edges down to create a rim. Brush liberally with butter. At this stage, if you like, you can lay thin slices of orange over the top.  Bake, 30-45mins until golden; cool 15mins. Upon removing the pie from the oven and while it’s still hot, pour syrup over entire pie (Syrup - 1-1/2c sugar, 1c water, 1/4c orange juice and 1/2tsp vanilla boiled for 5mins). Let pie sit for 1hr or so before serving.  

(I have no idea why the font is in different sizing...oh, well....)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

RESOLUTE, BUT NO RESOLUTIONS; IT’S BEEN RESOLVED!



Sand Crabs aka Blue Swimmers
Cooked Sand Crabs

My latest selfie taken on New Year's Day!



Even though I resolved never to do it again, I failed miserably. I did it again!  Will I ever learn?  Will I never learn? Apparently not if my past performances are anything to go by!

I should learn to contain myself.  I’ve got a million litres of pea and ham soup contained in containers in my freezer!  Hold on!  Don’t run away screaming in fear!  I’m not going to offer you any!   Not because it means I’m mean because I’m not mean. What I mean is I know all of you have gallons of your own buried in your freezers now that the Festive Season has come and gone.

I’m not even going to give you a recipe for pea and ham soup. I’m sure you have thousands of recipes for the soup stuck away in places you’ve forgotten existed. Most of said recipes were probably handed down from your grandmothers and mothers-in-law!

I lower my head in shame as I confess this, but confess I must.  I’ve no other choice!  If I don’t own up it will play on my mind throughout 2016!  If that were to happen I’d be even grumpier than I normally am!  I know some of you are probably thinking that would be impossible, but I assure you it is possible; and it’s not a pretty picture!  Take my word for it; I know!  I live with me every day and I have to put up with it. 

A week or two prior to Christmas just past I decided to make some room in my freezer knowing I’d need space in the days and weeks ahead.  While scrimmaging through my freezer with unidentifiable things going left, right and centre I felt like an archaeologist on a dig amongst the pyramids of ancient Egypt or the Yucatan.  I was in awe of the mysteries I unfolded. 

To my surprise, I discovered a container of pea and ham soup from Christmas before last! Mumbling to myself, it ended up in the “use-by-date-long-passed” pile. In other words, into the garbage bag it promptly went, finally ending up at the rubbish tip.  Ready-made pea and ham soup is probably sprouting up everywhere at the dump.  Recycling is good.

You see, another reason I had to get all of the above chores over and done with was the “Summer of Tennis” was looming. (All the lead-up tournaments to the Australian Open have commenced...and the Australian Open itself commences today week...18th January, culminating on January 31st).

For me, the month of January is set aside watching tennis sets on my television set.  I settle in for the duration, happy to shut out the rest of the world. Sometimes I feel like doing similar (shutting out the rest of the world), not just during January. It sounds like a good plan for the rest of the year!

This fact about my shameless tennis habit/addiction I’m sure I’ve disclosed I’ve in previous years, but a year is a long time (even though 12 months race by faster than the speed of light). I'm not ashamed of my addiction. Even though I do suffer withdrawals at month's end...I've not yet been carted away to rehab.

In the meanwhile, you’ve no doubt forgotten about my addiction.  If you have I don’t blame you one little bitty bit.  I almost forgot to mention it again, even though I’d remembered I’d mentioned it before. 

I do hate repeating myself.  I’m sure others hate it even more when I do so.

I also hate it when some choose to finish off my stories for me even though they don’t know anything about the story I’m in the midst of telling, and played no role in it!  Some folk have the bad habit of talking over the other, even though, in the majority of cases they’ve not a clue where the storyline is headed.  

I keep my feelings and thoughts hidden, but I become very annoyed when I’m relating a story that is known only to me and the person to whom I’m telling the story decides to talk over me as if he/she had actually participated in the event.  

Nowadays, I’ve grown a little wiser when this happens (it might be the only thing about which I’ve gained wisdom, so it is worth noting). When someone over-talks/interrupts me I just shut up these days and let them finish the story their way.  Obviously, they know better the details of what occurred than I do!

On the subject of repeating one’s self. I guess I’m no different to anyone else.  There are times each of us adopts the repetition habit. Don’t we?  Don’t we? 

I never make New Year resolutions. I’ve probably told you that before, too.  2016 is no different.  I resolved not to make resolutions - I guess it could be classed as a resolution, if one chooses to be resolutely pedantic.

Perhaps I could’ve resolved to be more patient. However, knowing I’d fail within the first few hours of the brand new year I didn’t bother. It's already the 11th day of January, and I've failed 11 times at the very least!

I could’ve resolved to stop repeating myself. There was really no point in that, either because I will repeat myself...often; more than often.

On second thoughts, I’ll resolve to continue being grumpy, though. I can’t help myself; it comes naturally to me.  You never know...another TV show might be made about me. It’s food for thought. I’ll remain crabby!

While on the subject of crabs, and all things crabby....as with all seafood, I personally prefer to prepare and eat seafood as simply as possible...with no bells, whistles, streamers or balloons necessary.  All I need is a bowl of vinegar, pepper, salt, fresh, crusty bread and butter (always butter, never that horrible other stuff called "margarine") and a finger bowl or, better still, the kitchen sink nearby to wash my hands as I devour the feast before me...but in case other methods are preferred...here are a couple of recipes for you to ponder over throughout 2016 and yonder.


Pepper Mud Crabs: Mix together 1tbs oyster sauce, 1/4tsp white pepper, 1/2tsp sesame oil, 1/4tsp fish sauce, 1tsp sugar, ¾ cup water and 1/2tbs cornflour in the bowl. It should taste slightly sweet; adjust to taste. Clean 2 uncooked mud crabs; cut into segments. Crack crabs claws; coat the cut parts of the crabs with cornflour. Heat up a wok; add about 2 cups of peanut oil; when oil is heated, deep fry the crab pieces. As soon as they turn red, remove from oil; strain the excess oil; set aside. Heat up a clean wok; add 2tbls of peanut oil. Add 2tbls minced ginger and 4 chopped garlic cloves; fry until fragrant; add the crab; stir few times and then add the sauce. Add 4 stalks of shallots, cut into 2-inch lengths; stir a couple of times until the crab pieces are well coated with sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Crab Fritters: Melt 15g butter in saucepan; add 3 peeled, finely chopped eschalots; cook 2mins on low heat; set aside. Whisk 5 egg yolks until frothy. Stir in 300g fresh crabmeat, 1c fresh breadcrumbs, 2tsp baking powder, 1/3c roughly chopped Italian parsley, 2tbs finely grated lemon zest, the eschalots, salt and pepper. Whisk egg white to soft peaks; fold through mixture. Add vegetable oil to 1cm depth in non-stick pan; place on med-heat. When hot but not smoking, add 1/4c mixture; cook 1-2mins per side until golden and puffy; drain on paper towel. Repeat process; serve immediately.  

Crab Taglierini: Add 500g taglierini to large pot of boiling salted water. Cook al dente; drain; reserve about 1tbs of cooking liquid in pot. Return pasta to pot; set aside. While pasta is cooking, place 125ml x-virgin olive oil, 3 eschalots, sliced, 1 crushed garlic clove,  65ml lemon juice, 4 ripe, seeded, diced tomatoes, 2 seeded, sliced red chillies, salt and pepper in small saucepan over med-heat. Simmer 3-4mins; add 40g cubed butter, one cube at a time; swirl to amalgamate. Stir sauce through pasta with 1 bunch trimmed rocket and 250g fresh crabmeat; serve.  

Crab-Asparagus Omelette: Lightly blanch 5 asparagus stalks; keep warm. Whisk 3 egg yolks lightly; stir in 1tbs finely chopped chives, 1tbs chopped chervil, 2tsp grated lemon zest, salt and pepper. Whisk egg whites to soft peaks; fold through yolk mixture. Preheat grill; melt 20g butter in omelette pan over low heat. Pour mixture into pan; shake to level. Cook 2-3mins on stove top; then place under grill for 2mins or until just firm when pressed lightly with fingers. Place asparagus and 59g fresh crabmeat just off centre; season; gently fold omelette over filling; sprinkle with chervil.

Sand Crabs with Tomato-Garlic-White Wine: Prepare 4 uncooked sand crabs by removing the carapace, the soft internal bits and pieces and the feathery gills. With a heavy knife cut the bodies (the crab bodies, that is!) into quarters.  Heat 3tbls olive oil in large pan; add 1 finely-chopped medium onion, 4 finely chopped garlic cloves and 1 to 3 finely chopped red chillies (optional); cook over med-heat, 2-3mins.  Add 1c dry white wine, 400g can diced tomatoes and crab; mix together; cover pan with lid or foil; simmer 8-10mins, mixing occasionally until crab is cooked. Add 2tbls chopped parsley, 3tbls fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste; mix through. Serve.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

THE ROYAL HOUSE OF WINDSOR IS NOT FOR ME!



Windsor Hotel...and Windsor Hotel Lobby
Lunch, anyone?


A foreword...some thought my previous post a little lengthy to waste time upon reading, believing it to be more a Reader's Digest version of "Gone With the Wind" than a blog post...so to ease the pain...this post is much shorter...even shorter if you don't read the recipes; or if you read the recipes and not the content...whichever is to your taste!  

(By the way...don't mistake the pictures to the right of this page...I'm the one shown in the lower picture)!

The Royal House of Windsor may not be for me, or them for me (we mix in different circles, squares, rectangles and piazzas); and neither is the noble, luxury, notable, exalted Hotel Windsor in Melbourne, but that didn’t stop me from entering its elaborate doors during a business trip to the southern city in the mid 80s.

It wouldn’t have felt right to frequent Melbourne’s nightlife and not have made an appearance at the Hotel Windsor.

After all, the legendary hotel had been the hang-out of previous illustrious, celebrated guests such as Maggie Thatcher, Meryl Streep, Gregory Peck, Larry Olivier and Vivien Leigh.

Those other three Dames - Melba, Sutherland and Fonteyn graced its halls...why not me? 

The Duke and Duchess of York (both of whom unexpectedly had to change outfits and their address when he became King George Vl, and the Duchess, having little other choice, eventually the “Queen Mum”) also sipped and supped at the Windsor.

As did Rudolph Nureyev and Sir Robert Helpmann in between doing high leaps and arabesques; and, so help me, did Katharine Hepburn and Lauren Bacall, as well many other famous people.

One time or the other while in Melbourne on a business trip I arranged to dine with some resort guests to whom I’d played “hostess with the mostest” on Hinchinbrook Island a few months earlier.  My dinner guests had, in their own ways, been lots of fun during their time spent lazing leisurely at the resort.

On the particular night of the Windsor escapades my companions were husband and wife, David and Margaret; and Dennis, a clever chappy who was heading off for a stint at Oxford University shortly after our dining sojourn. David was a plastic surgeon.

One morning, while he was a guest at the resort David proved his knife skills when he operated on a couple of fresh fish he’d caught only an hour or two earlier. 

He asked my permission for him to use the resort’s kitchen. In turn I asked my chef for his permission for David to step foot into his hallowed domain, because he, David, wanted to prepare ceviche.  My chef, also named “David”, said it was peachy for guest David to make ceviche.

Dennis was academically-inclined in one direction or another.  Not being academically-minded myself I can’t remember in what field Dennis roamed; but it definitely wasn’t a wheat field, that much I do remember.

Dressed up to the nine and halves the four of us entered the Hotel Windsor’s stately, rejuvenated lounge bar. Once comfortably seated around a table we placed our drinks’ order with an appropriately-attired drink waiter. I swear he clicked his heels to attention when he reached our table. 

The atmosphere in the lounge was pompously “stiff-upper-lip”. Perhaps the staff had been patients of David’s and had received a few jabs of Botox or ear tucks.  Even the slightest hint of a smile was indiscernible.

Befitting the sedate atmosphere in which the other patrons whispered as if planning a heist, when placing the order in a hushed tone, I’d asked for a top-shelf single malt Scotch for me.

Looking at the whisky placed before me it was obvious there wasn’t a water shortage in Melbourne that year! My Scotch was swimming raised eyebrow-deep in water!

Without making a fuss, I subtly slipped money to the waiter as I politely and quietly asked him to add another nip to my glass.

In the spirit of the occasion my aim was to taste the spirit, not have only a puny hint of a whiff waft past my nostrils; particularly seeing the whisky (that I couldn’t see) was a quality aged single malt. 

Red alert! You’d swear I’d morphed into Rasputin!

The waiter’s already rigidly formal demeanor stiffened even further; something I’d thought would’ve been impossible to have achieved! 

It was obvious housekeeping was missing a broom - it was glued to his spine (or elsewhere, but I’m too polite to say where)!

With pursed mouth, his nose turned even higher towards the Windsor’s lofty ceiling. I cared not for his puckering and pursing.  He could pucker, huff and puff all he liked, but payment of my drink and those of my guests came from my purse - I expected to receive what I’d paid for.

 My guests and I had many anecdotes to share. Lively laughter emanated from our table. As soon as we finished our drinks we decided the Windsor’s staid ambience and our happy, animated mood didn’t blend.  We headed off to somewhere more receptive to our festive spirits.

I think even the Windsors of Buckingham Palace would’ve been less reserved than the Hotel Windsor and its staff!

The majestic old hotel, built in 1884, has had many facelifts over the years, not unlike some of David’s clients, I imagine. 

Scallop & Kingfish Ceviche: Place 16 scallops, without roe, very thinly sliced, 220g kingfish or other firm-fleshed, fresh white fish, very thinly slice and ¾ cup lime juice in a large bowl; toss gently to combine. Cover with plastic wrap; marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes. Drain seafood through a sieve; discard marinade. Place seafood in a bowl. Add 1 long green chilli, seeded, very thinly sliced, ½ red onion, very thinly sliced, 1c baby coriander leaves, 1 Lebanese cucumber, very thinly sliced lengthways and 2 radishes, very thinly sliced. Season to taste with salt and pepper; toss gently to combine. Divide ceviche among plates, then drizzle with a little ex-virgin olive oil. Serve with toasted sourdough baguette..

Victoria Sponge: Grease and line 20cm round cake tin. Set aside 225g S.R. flour and 4 eggs.  Cream 225g butter, 225g caster sugar and 1/4tsp vanilla until fluffy. Add 1 beaten egg and 1tbs of the flour to the butter/sugar; beat together until all eggs are used; fold in rest of flour with metal spoon. Pour into tin. Bake in 180C oven, 40-50mins until cake springs back when pressed gently. Turn out onto rack. Slice cooled cake in half horizontally; fill with raspberry or strawberry jam, and then Buttercream:- beat 110g icing sugar into 50g softened butter until well combined; add 2 drops vanilla. Put other half of cake on top; sprinkle with caster sugar.

Windsor Wedding Cake: Grease and line 9-inch tin (or spring-form). Crush Rich Tea Biscuits to almond-size and crumbles; add chopped glacé cherries, 56g raisins and chopped nuts, if desired; set aside. Melt 110g butter, 400g condensed milk and 150g chocolate over low; pour over biscuit mix; stir to combine; pour into tin. Freeze 2-3hrs; take from freezer 2-3hrs before serving. Melt 150g chocolate; spread over cake. Flavour cake with whisky, peppermint essence or whatever, if you like.

Royal Raspberry Cake: Combine 2c plain flour, 1/2tsp salt and 1tbs baking powder. Cream 1/3c butter and 1c sugar until fluffy; beat in 1 room temp egg, 1c room temp milk and 1tsp vanilla; add dry ingredients alternately with milk mix; beat well after each addition. Spread into greased 13x9-inch dish; spoon 3-1/2c fresh or thawed frozen raspberries over top. Bake at 175C, 30-35mins. Cool 5mins. Combine: 1-1/2c icing sugar, 2tbs cream, 2tsp melted butter and vanilla; spread over cake; leave berries exposed.