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.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

I HAD A BALL!



Debutante Ball
Caledonian Hill, Gympie
Gympie's now heritage-listed Post Office at the base of Caledonian Hill
A Couple of Balls in Ruby Red - Beehive Hairdos were in fashion!!
A still from the movie "Rebecca"...starring Aussie Judith Anderson as the sinister "Mrs Danvers" who was devoted to the late "Rebecca de Winter" and Joan Fontaine as the second "Mrs. de Winter" who lived in the shadow of the first Mrs. de Winter..."Rebecca".
Programme from Miss Australia Quest...I'm top left...then known as "Lee Hill"

Ball Gowns Circa 1943 - the years when I was a little girl

Ball seasons in Gympie were the highlight on my and my friends’ already hectic social calendars when we were teenagers. 

And when I was much younger the debutante balls, in particular, were eagerly anticipated events of the year. They were grand “events”.  As a little girl, one who believed in Cinderella, fairy princesses and the handsome princes who swept them off their feet to live in a fantasy world of happily-ever-after endings, excitement filled my being when my Nana took me with her to become part of the admiring throngs; the gathering crowd of on-lookers watching the arrival of the ball- goers. We’d find ourselves amongst other half of Gympie’s population; those not actually attending the Friday night balls, but members the rubberneckers congregated around the entrance to Gympie’s Soldiers’ Hall where the balls (dances, and then later, record hops) were held. 

The madding crowd was there to marvel at the pretty young ladies glamorously dressed in lace, tulle, chiffon, silk or satin (sometimes of various varied combinations). Their partners, Gympie’s dashing young blades attired in their finery, stood proudly at their sides nervously fiddling with their bow ties or ties; a little embarrassed from all the attention they were receiving. 

For a little girl watching the young women in their beautiful ball gowns it was like being transported into a fairy tale. 

Debutante balls were very popular back in those days, too. To be presented into “society” was the dream of many a young girl.  It was never a dream of mine. Even as a kid I could see no point in it; I’ve never been able to discover the point of “making one’s debut”.  For one thing, I thought it was a waste of money.  Like big, frothy, over-the-top wedding gowns, the debutante’s ball gown could only be worn once in most cases.  I was never a fan of those types of wedding gowns, either.  Each to their own, I guess…it was how I felt about it, and still is.  We’re not all the same…thank goodness in many case…so it’s just my own opinion.  But, that's not to say I didn't enjoy being an on-looker when I was a young child.

However, I did borrow a friend’s debutante gown one year. I was 18 years old at the time. I’d joined the Gympie Drama group. Daphne du Maurier wrote three plays.  Her first was an adaption of her successful novel, “Rebecca”.  The play was also very successful. It first opened in London in March, 1940.

In 1963, our Drama Group’s latest production ready to be inflicted upon Gympie’s audiences was the dramatised play version of Daphne Du Maurier’s “Rebecca”.

Gympie annual birthday celebrations were due.  Decorated floats of all kinds and colours were put together for the parade through Mary Street, Gympie’s main hub of activity. 

The Drama Club committee decided to enter a float to advertise the up and coming play.  I was picked to represent “Rebecca”.  I wasn’t sure if it was an honour or not because Rebecca is actually dead, having died a suspicious death.  She never physically appears in the story, although the novel/play is built around the never seen title character. Even though dead, she lingers long and is the crux of the tale.  Rebeca, the first Mrs. de Winter is, of course, crucial to the story.   

I had to sit graciously and gracefully upon an elaborate arm chair on the tray of a truck, dressed is a flowing, white gown, looking very ethereal. 

I’d also been an entrant in the Miss Australia Quest that year; a nation-wide Quest sponsored by the lingerie manufacturer, Hickory.  The Quest raised important, much-needed money for the Australian Cerebral Palsy Association (originally referred to as The Spastic Centres of Australia), an association which began in 1954 The Miss Australia Quest/Awards first started way back in 1926.  However the title of “Miss Australia” had existed since 1908. 

The Quest is no longer alive (although I still am). People like Germaine Greer started burning their bras and drinking Scotch straight from a 40oz bottle, and then political-correctness became the “in thing”. Those flag-wavers are more interested in their own agendas than raising money for worthy causes!

Anyway, I guess because I’d been an entrant in the Quest I was the likely volunteer to sit on the back of the truck!

Gympie, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the town, is very hilly. 

As the truck, with me sitting precariously on its rear tray, slowly crawled down Gympie's Caledonian Hill towards the entry into Mary Street we had to pass the now heritage-listed Post Office (as pictured) at the base of the hill.  Just before the truck came to the Post Office, suddenly its driver appeared beside me.

Standing on the road to my left, he’d jumped out of the cabin and nonchalantly strolled back to have a few words with me!  I asked him if anything was wrong. 

His reply was: “Not really.  I’m just checking the brakes to see if they’re okay.” 

That sure gave me a lot of confidence!  

I told him in no uncertain terms I thought it probably would be a good idea for him to get back in the truck!  I imagined me flying through Mary Street, white, wispy, frothy ball gown flowing in the wind while I hung on for dear life as we tore along the street wiping out a few of the unsuspecting spectators!

Back to making one’s debut into society…

As far as I was concerned, the moment I started working in my first job after leaving school I’d already made my debut into the big, bad, but, in those years, mostly absolutely wonderful world.

Within a week of commencing my job as a legal secretary in a local law firm I attended my first “grown-up” dance. It was a Wednesday night.  I tagged along with a co-worker and her friends, all of whom were a couple of years older than me. I was only 15 at the time; three or so months short of turning 16. 

Selflessly they took me under their wings. My introduction to Gympie’s “society” was done and dusted, then and there.  I didn’t have to be “presented” to the mayor, a priest, a church minister or whomever else to prove I’d be able to pass muster!  I didn’t need anyone’s permission or acceptance.  Already I had a fairly good grip on what the world was about; of how to behave and how not to behave.  My grandmother and mother were fairly astute tutors in that department; including deportment!  The proof is in the pudding…I’ve never been deported. 

A local dressmaker made my first ball gown to my own design. Back then, short ball gowns were as acceptable as long, so I my first gown was short; just below my knees.  It was a beautiful gown of ruby red satin. The sleeveless bodice, with its boat neckline at the front, had quite a low v-back, almost to waist level. 

I wore it to many balls.  All my friends did similar. None of us had the money to spend on a new gown for each ball!  We didn't care if our one gown served many balls!  After wearing my red dress to a few balls, I then  made a sheer red "coat" to add to the ensemble. Once I arrived at the balls, I removed the coat.  I made most of my own clothes back in those days.

I can’t say I felt like a fairy princess in the dress because it wasn’t frilly or flouncy. Froth or meringue was never my “thing”…not in clothing, anyway; they still aren't.  I felt more like Audrey Hepburn from “Roman Holiday” or “Sabrina”.

I loved my ruby red ball gown.

I was pretty cranky (read – “very cranky”) when a work-mate’s older sister decided to have a dress made along very similar lines for her to wear to the balls! 

It is said “imitation is the highest form of flattery”; oft times it can be the highest form of annoyance!

My next ball gown, which fell almost to the ground, was made by the same dressmaker who made my first gown. Again I felt like a million dollars in my second ball gown. It was the colour of pale apricot; the colour of (dry) custard powder. 

I had a ball attending balls; the pre-ball and post-ball parties were lots of fun, too!

Orange Frothy: Blend until smooth 1-1/2c fresh orange juice, ice, 2tbs vanilla yoghurt, 1tbs honey and 1tsp vanilla.  

Mint Meringues: Preheat oven 93C. Grease 2 baking trays. Beat 2 egg whites, 1/4tsp cream of tartar and 1/8th tsp salt until foamy. Add 1/2c sugar; beat on high speed until sugar dissolves and stiff peaks form. Mix in 1/4tsp mint extract; gradually add 3 to 5 drops green food colouring to desired colour. Spoon meringue into piping bag; pipe into 1-1/2-inch puffs onto greased baking trays; sprinkle with green-coloured sugar, if you like. Bake 2 hours. Remove immediately from oven; and then trays; cool on wire racks.  

Meringues with Lemon Cream: Line 2 baking trays. Whisk on low speed 4 large egg whites and pinch salt, 1min; increase speed to medium; whisk 2-3mins or until stiff peaks form. Continue whisking while gradually adding 200g caster sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Using metal spoon, spoon free-form shapes onto trays; add a drop of pink colouring to each meringue; use skewer to gently swirl through meringue. Bake in 140C oven, 40-50mins; alternate trays after 20mins. Cool in oven with door slightly ajar. Stir150g lemon curd through whipped cream; serve with meringues.  

Yo-Yo Cookies: Whip16tbs butter and 1/2c icing sugar until light and creamy. Sift 1/2c custard powder, pinch of salt and 1-1/2c plain flour over the mixture; mix well. Form small balls; gently press with fork to form cookie shape. Arrange an inch apart on lined baking tray. Bake in 190C oven, 10-12mins. Cool on tray, 5mins; then on wire rack. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

WHEN YOUR NUMBER COMES UP….



http://alvey.com.au/fishing-information/beach-and-surf-fishing/
Alvey Reels, in my opinion, are the best reels for surf fishing.
You've Gotta Have Sole!
Map of Peregian Beach/Coolum Beach and Yaroomba


As far as my Lotto numbers are concerned one number once in a while bounces out of the barrel; most times, however, none escape. I think they take one look at me and leap back into the barrel!

On rare instances a couple of my numbers exuberantly pop up like toast out of a toaster, but all my numbers never come up in the one draw; not yet, anyway. I live in hope!  I might be the one who is toast!

Years ago I erroneously registered my numbers. You know…the usual…birthdays, street addresses, that sort of thing. It wasn’t a well-considered decision for anyone as superstitious as I am. In truth, I’m not overly superstitious, but I am when it comes to looking at the winning numbers when I’ve not placed an entry.  On such occasions I never check the winning numbers. What would be the point? It’d be my luck that would be the time all my numbers spun out of control, and spewed forth from the Lotto barrel; then I’d be the one spinning out of control! The agony would be too much to bear. Being the quavering coward I am, I’d rather not know. 

My sparse winning history is…

In 1979 I won $300 plus change. I spent my winnings on a new, you-beaut 12-foot surf rod for myself, along with an equally-new, you-beaut shiny side cast Alvey reel (both of which I no longer have). When in my possession the rod and reel served me well. They helped me catch a lot of fish…a lot!  On the scale of things, I mostly caught bream with a quite a few tailor, flathead, whiting and dart thrown into the esky for good measure; and then, on one bright early morn, to my surprise I landed a flounder when surf fishing at Yaroomba.

Yaroomba is about 3kms (1.8 miles) south of Coolum Beach.  After we left Brisbane to live and work on the coast back in early 1979, my husband and I lived at Coolum for the first six or so months until we bought our house at Sunshine Beach. Sunshine Beach is about 15kms (nine miles) further north of Coolum; close to Noosa Heads.

On the particular morning I refer to, my husband (now ex) and I had been surf fishing from around 4 am.  We were packing up, ready to head back home for hot showers and a hearty breakfast when I cast out my line for one last try while Randall, my husband gathered together our gear. I started to reel my line in, when, right at the water’s edge where the water was shallow, I felt something on the end of my line. At first I thought my hook and sinker were stuck in the sand as the waves were rushing back out to sea...but lo and behold….I’d picked up a nice-sized flounder, probably around 30cm, just as my rigged line was about to hit the shore. 

We enjoyed fresh flounder cooked gently in butter and lemon juice for breakfast that morning.  It was the first and only flounder I’ve ever caught.

The last time I won a semi-reasonable amount in Lotto was in 1985. Once again, my windfall was three hundred dollars plus change; and then, a couple of weeks later I won a similar amount.  

Back then $300.00 was nothing to scoff at; neither was it a bag of peanuts; it still isn’t.  A pattern formed for a brief moment in time. It became apparent I had something going for me with the number three, but it didn’t last. It fizzled out like a candle in the wind, and never reignited. My luck is no match for Fate. Since then I’ve only won the change; here and there; once in a while. 

In 1967 I won a chicken in a raffle; the first and only time I’ve ever done so. Chicken trays are safe when I’m around.  As for meat trays - I’ve never won a meat tray, either. And, of course, to keep my clean record, I’ve never won a seafood tray from a Lions Club or a Rotary Club raffle; or from any other raffle run by an organisation, for that matter. I wouldn’t want to be starving, would I? With my winning history, or lack thereof, I should be skeletal. Thank goodness I’m an adept hand at food shopping. 

I may have mentioned somewhere along the line that I won a mountain bike in 1994 when I was living and working in Townsville; but as there is only one hill in Townsville, Castle Hill, and the fact that I wasn’t, and still am not into bike riding I gave the bike to a friend, a local 4TO radio announcer, and asked him to give it away to a worthy child listener by whatever method he saw fit, leaving my name out of the play. 

It was a Coca-Cola competition. I bought a ticket when fueling my car at the service station down the road a bit from the restaurant in which I was cooking at the time.

From memory that’s about it as far as my winning streaks are concerned.  I can’t even win an argument these days. Things are bad.

Taking all of the above into account, I must be due for a big win soon.  Perhaps, it’d be easier to buy a bag of raw peanuts.  Some I’ll roast; others I’ll boil; and the rest I’ll eat raw. While watching the Lotto draw - one I’ve entered, of course, I can throw peanuts at the TV screen when my numbers don’t come up.

Eggplant-Peanut Salad: Peel 2 eggplants, about 700g each; cut in ½ to 1-inch cubes. Put in colander; salt liberally; set aside 30mins. Rinse, drain and dry cubes.  Heat 1/2tbs oil in large pan; sauté 2 onions, cut in ½-inch cubes, 1-2mins; add 2 chopped garlic cloves; cook 1min; remove from pan; add eggplant in one layer; add more oil if needed; cook 5-7mins. Remove while eggplant still holds shape, soft but not mushy. Whisk together 1/2c red wine vinegar and 1tbs Dijon mustard; slowly drizzle in 3/4c olive oil while whisking; continue until emulsified; stir in the still warm vegetables; cool; cover and chill. About 30mins before serving add 1/2c raisins (plumped in water 10-15mins, then drained), 1/2c halved or chopped peanuts, chopped fresh thyme, and/or basil or marjoram to taste.  

Nut-Crusted Salmon: Place rack on baking sheet; put salmon fillets on top of rack; drizzle with a little oil; gently rub it in; season lightly; set aside. Process 1/3c unsalted peanuts, 1/4c cashews, 2tbs breadcrumbs, 1-1/2tsp Dijon mustard, juice of ½ lemon and some fresh parsley; pulse a few times until coarse. With processor running, drizzle in about 2tbs olive oil. The mixture should remain somewhat coarse. Press mixture onto top of salmon fillets; press down; cook in preheated 204C oven, 20mins, or until tops are golden.  

Kale-Cabbage Peanut Salad: Combine thinly-sliced bunch of kale with 1c chopped red cabbage, 1 carrot, julienned, 2 thinly-sliced shallots, and ½c roasted or raw peanuts. Dressing; combine 2tbs rice or cider vinegar, 1tbs lime juice, 1tbs soy sauce, 1 minced garlic clove, 1tsp honey and pinch of chilli flakes. Slowly drizzle in 1/4c sesame oil while whisking; add to salad; mix well. Garnish with chopped peanuts.