Thursday, May 24, 2018

LET US WRAP IT UP – IF POSSIBLE!


Newry Island Foreshore
Bluespotted ribbontail stingray
Victor Creek
Victor Creek Boat Ramp

There are some things that can’t be wrapped, though.  Gifts can be wrapped, as can garbage; a long-running, or even short-running, television series can be wrapped up. Some wounds can be wrapped. And then, there are those wounds that cut too deep making wrapping impossible.

Many years ago when working in a Brisbane restaurant in the role as “Functions Coordinator” I donned a different disguise during the daily busy lunchtime trade, something I’d not expected when offered the previous position. 

Ever-ready for a challenge, I thought why not add another string to my imaginary bow. Being “imaginary” I had no idea how many strings it had, or if it even had one string!  

Once 11.30 am struck I operated the cocktail bar.  It became my domain for the next three or so hours.   

Those were the years of “long business lunches”.

I may not have been able to spin liquor bottles and cocktail shakers in the air with the expertise of the characters played by Bryan Brown and Tom Cruise in the movie “Cocktail”, but I was fleet of foot and flexible of wrist. 

Even if I am blowing my own trumpet (again - an imaginary trumpet), I was pretty good at mixing drinks for our clientele, most of whom members of advertising agencies, radio stations, corporations of varying descriptions etc; a suited, eclectic mixture of businessmen.  

When leaving home one morning, at the front gate, a wasp decided it didn’t like the look of my right hand, so it stabbed me with unwarranted vengeance.

Bees and I have a hive of admiration for each other, but the relationship between wasps and me is malicious.  They started it!

Wasps are a different kettle of stingers.  They are mean little critters that show me no mercy. 

As the morning progressed my hand grew in size. The pain was excruciating.  I’d done nothing to that wasp or its family to deserve the throbbing pain I was experiencing.   

It’s amazing how much discomfort a little prick can cause. 

Battling through, I mixed and served drinks to the drinkers, all the while with my right hand buried in an ice bucket filled with ice.  A one-armed bandit had nothing on me that day.

Around 10 am on a sunny day when I was running the small resort on Newry Island I waded out to the channel where my boat was moored.  The tide was low, but it was on the turn, and was on its way back in.   

The water out to the edge of the drop-off that alerted the start of the channel was rather shallow.  The further one waded out from the main beach the sand became quite muddy, making the water murky and the floor of the sea difficult to see.   

If the tide was in when I had to go out to where the 21 foot Trojan De Havilland was moored I rowed my little red “tinnie”, which was always tied to a tree on the foreshore, out to the mooring and the Trojan with its 175 hp Johnson outboard motor.  Once I’d secured the tinnie to the mooring, I’d jump aboard the bigger boat, and head off across the waters.

The particular morning, to which I’m referring, was similar to many other mornings. At the Victor Creek boat ramp over on the mainland new guests were eagerly waiting for me to pick them up. 

As I approached my boat, barefoot, of course, I was struck on the top of my left foot by a small coral stingray aka bluespotted ribbontail ray...a fairly small ray, not exceeding much more than 35cm/14-inches in width.

They may lack in size, but they sure can pack a whack with their stinging spine.  The pain in my foot grew by the second as I powered forth to Victor Creek, and my waiting guests.

Smiling through gritted teeth, I helped the folk climb aboard the boat.  They were none the wiser of the torturous agony I was enduring while ferrying them across to the island.   Making a big fuss wouldn’t have been a very welcoming welcome to them, I believed.

The first thing they wanted upon reaching their destination was to sit at the bar for a drink or two before settling into their cabins - of all days! 

If that wasn’t bad enough, some of my existing guests were already waiting at the bar - their tongues hanging out. 

While everyone was introducing themselves, I used the moment to excuse myself briefly.  I rushed through to the kitchen to boil some water.

I then proceeded to serve drinks to the thirsty guests with my foot immersed in a bucket filled with the near-boiling water.   The bucket was on the floor behind the bar, out of sight of the guests.  Keeping my predicament to myself, no one was aware of the pain and discomfort I was suffering.   

I was relieved when the group finally had had enough...I certainly had had enough, and was glad to see them head off to do whatever it was they wanted to do!  

Remember - ice is for wasp stings. Water as hot as you can tolerate for stingray stabs...no wrapping required.

Lettuce-Prawn Wraps: In med-bowl whisk together 1/4c chicken broth,2tbs soy sauce,1/4c apricot jam, 1/4c honey, 1tbs cider vinegar, 3tbs tom paste, 1/2tsp sesame- chilli oil, 1/2tsp each garlic and ginger powder, 1/4tsp black pepper, pinch of chilli flakes and 2tbs cornflour. Set aside. Preheat pan over med-heat. Add 1tb coconut oil; melt. Add 1 small onion, cut into ½-inch pieces and 1 red capsicum cut similarly; allow to soften 8-10mins. Remove from pan; set aside. Add 700g peeled, de-veined prawns; cook on one side, 3-4mins; flip; add the reserved sauce. Cook 2-3 more minutes. Add capsicum and onion back to pan; toss with prawns and sauce. Spoon into lettuce cups; top with chopped roasted cashews and thinly sliced shallots.

Beef Lettuce Wraps: In base of slow cooker combine 1/4c each soy sauce, honey and brown sugar, 2tbs rice vinegar, 2tbs sesame oil and 2tbs garlic chilli paste. Cut 1kg round beef roast in half lengthwise; coat beef in the sauce; arrange side by side in base of the slow cooker. Cook on lowest setting 6-8hrs. Keep an eye on the beef during the last 2hrs of cooking. Remove beef from cooker to large bowl. Shred with two forks. Toss with remaining cooking liquid to taste. Sesame Cucumber Salad – combine 3tbs sesame oil, 4tbs rice vinegar and 1tsp sugar until sugar dissolves. Toss 3c cucumber matchsticks, 1-1/2c bean sprouts and 3c thinly sliced radishes in dressing. Place salad and shredded beef in lettuce cups; sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Rapture Wraps: Melt 2tbs butter in pan over med-low heat until sizzling; add 240g boneless, skinless chicken; cook, turning once, 13-18mins or until golden brown on both sides and juices run clear; remove from pan; cut into strips. Mix together 1/c salad dressing and 1/4c shredded parmesan; spread onto 4 warmed tortillas; top each with shredded Cos/Romaine lettuce, sliced Roma tomatoes, fresh basil leaves and Italian-herbed flavoured, slightly crushed croutons. Wrap up burrito-style.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

MAY THE MAY BELLS RING JOYOUSLY FOR LOVE AND HAPPINESS


Four photos above of Gunabul Homestead Functions House/Restaurant
Eagle Heights Mountain Resort Hotel....Tamborine Mountain
Eagle Heights Mountain  Resort...and the view from the resort to the east to the Gold Coast


It was meant to be kept secret, but it doesn’t matter now.  I received an invitation to Harry and Meghan’s nuptials. Unfortunately, I had to graciously decline, not only because my passport is out of date - it’s also too far to drive.  With fuel prices the way they are...well, you understand. 

Physically I won’t be one of the guests on Saturday, 19th May, but I’ll be there in spirit.  I intend being glued to my TV not missing a minute as the couple make their vows in St. George’s Chapel (no relation, as far as I’m aware).  May Harry and Meghan’s future together be happy and fruitful.  

I don’t care if I’m slammed for making the above comment.  I speak for myself, and in this instance, as in other instances, it is my opinion...it is how I feel.  I’ve no one to answer to, or share my television-watching with other than Remy and Shama.
 
My two furry, much-loved mates told me that they are happy to watch, too, as long as I excuse them if they have a cat nap or two during the proceedings.  I said that would be just fine...I’ll try not to disturb them.
  
I’m a romantic at heart, and freely admit to being so.  I don’t like cynicism or sneering sarcasm - both are energy and time-wasters.  To put it bluntly - I abhor both.  There is far too much unnecessary nastiness being tossed around these days, in my opinion.   It flatters no one.

The soon-to-be-wed couple have had a load of both thrown at them from every angle; most being bandied around by members of Meghan’s family. The rock-throwers need to get over themselves.  They’ve had more than their 15 minutes of fame...move on...there’s nothing more to see here...there is nothing more we need or want to know.

However, the slime keeps coming like an endless lava flow.   

There’s more drama pouring forth hour after hour than “The Bold and the Beautiful”, “Days of Our Lives”, “The Young and the Restless”, and the rest of the soap operas mixed together!

Who needs Netflix, Stan, Foxtel Now and other streaming services at present when we can binge freely on all the drama?

One can almost see the joy oozing like putrid puss from the pores of the media...they’ve never had it so good!  They’re salivating.

No family is perfect. Mine certainly wasn’t.  Although, it is pretty near perfect now – with only three members – my two furry rascals and me.  They’re all I need.  

Meghan Markle’s family, other than for a few exceptions, are proving to be the family from Hell!  The individuals concerned are embarrassing themselves more than anyone else.  It’s time they just shut up and pulled their heads in.  It’s become a comedy of multiple errors.

On the other side of the palace fence, the Royal Family is not perfect, either.  It never has been going back centuries ago.

Even though born into a different circle to you and me, like us, they’re human, with the strengths and frailties that go with being human.  Not exempt from dramas, they’ve had their share, and much more. And, I’m sure there are myriad other stories they prefer to keep a lid on...well away from the prying eyes of the media, who are have a multiple of field days.  Unlike the Royal family, your life and mine has not yet been discovered by the impertinent nosiness of the media.  Let's keep it that way!

There’s always a shadow lurking, ready to pounce, eager to ruin the day, any day, with controversy, whether it be fact or fiction.  Gossip-mongers prefer the latter. 

I hope, as Harry and Meghan get hitched, there are no hitches.  Security is at all time high level.  Let’s hope those with evil intentions are stopped in their tracks before any harm is done, to anyone.  It’s terrible we have to think about such dire things occurring, but it is the world in which we now live, unfortunately.

Neither Harry nor Meghan had a choice as to who their parents would be, similar to you and me.  None of us get to pick who our biological parents, or who our siblings will be. Blame all the problems, if and when they happen, on the successful sperm that made it through without getting lost along the way.  It’s to blame, not Harry...not Meghan.  Same applies to the rest of us.  There’s no point whingeing...it is what it is!

I wish Harry and Meghan well.   I hope their future together is happy and fruitful....in all ways.

Through the years when I was cooking professionally I catered for many weddings, particularly when I was the cook (not chef...I wasn’t a qualified chef with papers. My qualifications were from years of experience cooking in commercial kitchens) at Gunabul Homestead Restaurant and Functions House in Gympie in the four years before I moved here to where I now live.   

Along with the restaurant-functions' facilities and retreat accommodation,  an 18-hole, par-three golf course completes the Gunabul Homestead experience.

Rarely a weekend passed without a wedding party enjoying the venue.  Some ceremonies were conducted in the garden, too.   Often, two wedding parties were held on the one weekend.  There was no time to spare for the faint-hearted!

Having to cater for two weddings a weekend, along with Friday night service, certainly kept me on my toes.   It’s little wonder my hips are now complaining!

When I left Gympie in 2002*** and relocated here to the mountain to live and work, I became one of three cooks (one of whom was a qualified chef...she had her papers.  All I had were the daily newspapers) at the Eagle Heights Mountain Resort.   

***  (I'd returned to Gympie in 1998 - after having left back in 1965 -  to be closer to my now late brother who was in a Brisbane hospital receiving treatment for cancer. I didn't want to go back to city living...the town of our childhood and teen years was the better option)

Each weekend at Eagle Height Mountain Resort-Hotel was also taken up catering for wedding receptions, all of which coincided with the regular restaurant trade, which began with breakfast, continuing through to lunch, and then to dinner.

Brides and grooms...I’ve seen many of them.  Some of whom raised an eyebrow or two, for one reason or another.  I’ve prepared the fare to satisfy hundreds of their hungry guests.  

Meghan Markle is not alone with renegade, out of control family members.  

One wedding reception at the Eagle Heights Resort included a potent aunt of the bride - “potent” not in a positive way.  The woman was like a rabid dog!  

Under the delusion she controlled the whole show like a deranged, crazed conductor, she almost ruined the wedding and reception for everyone, particularly the young bride and groom.   

However, before succeeding in doing so, the aunt was taken aside, and quietly, but firmly, told to sit down and shut up...or else....

Meekly, she did what was requested of her.

I’ve a few funny stories from weddings I catered for through the years.

Cheese Bites: Beat 2-1/2c shredded Cheddar, 1/2c butter, 5tbs evaporated milk and 1tsp salt at med-speed until blended. Gradually add 1-1/2c plain flour, 1-1/2c grated Parmesan and 3tbs finely chopped basil; beat just until combined. Turn dough onto floured surface. Divide into 3 equal portions; roll to flatten each to ⅛ inch thickness. Cut with star shaped cutter. Place 1-inch apart on paper-lined baking sheets.  Bake at 190C, 11-14mins, until golden; cool on sheets on racks.

Feta-Covered Olives:  Drain 250g pitted black olives; pat dry.  Combine 240g cream cheese, 1c crumbled feta and 1-2tsp finely chopped dill. Place 1/2c finely crushed hazelnuts or nuts of choice in a dish. Mould 1tsp mixture around each olive; shape into ball; roll in chopped nuts; set on serving platter; chill until firm.  

Lemon-Elderflower Cake: Preheat oven 180C/160C fan. Sift 75g SR flour and ½ level tsp baking powder into a bowl, add 175g butter, 175g caster sugar, 3 med-eggs, 1tbs elderflower cordial and zest of 1 lemon; beat with wooden spoon until smooth.  Spoon into 2 greased and base lined 20cm cake tins. Bake 30-40 mins or until cooked; turn out on to wire rack. Place juice of 1 lemon, 1tbs elderflower cordial and 55g caster sugar in saucepan; heat gently until sugar has dissolved. Whilst cakes are warm, make a few deep holes with a skewer; drizzle elderflower syrup over both cakes so it soaks in.  Place 115g icing sugar, 40g butter and 1-2tsp elderflower cordial into bowl; mix well until smooth. Sandwich the two cakes together by spreading with icing mixture, and then 2-4tbs lemon curd. Decorate the top of the cake with a thin glace icing made with the icing sugar and a little lemon juice. Finish with edible flowers.

Blushing Bride: Combine 1 bottle rosé, 1c lemonade, 1/2c peach nectar, 1/2c vodka and 1c raspberries; let sit overnight. Before serving add 3c club soda and crushed ice. Garnish with mint.

Elderflower Cocktail: Add 6 ice cubes to shaker; add 60ml Bacardi, 20ml Elderflower cordial, 25ml hand-squeezed fresh lime juice; shake vigorously; pour straight up into a glass. 

      

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A MOTHER IS ALWAYS A MOTHER – SHE WILL LOVE YOU NO MATTER...






When Thumper first encountered the young Bambi, he commented, “He’s kinda wobbly!”  Thumper’s wise mother gently reproved him by saying, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”  (Poetic licence allowed in the use of the double negative).  There was nothing negative about the friendship formed between Thumper and Bambi, though. Thumper heeded his Mum’s words of wisdom. 

At the age of four years I went with my mother to view Disney’s “Bambi” movie.  My tears flowed like monsoonal rain when Bambi’s mother died.  

At that point in my life I didn’t care about double negatives; I’d not a clue what they were; but the thought of losing one’s mother I understood.

I’ve read “Little Women” (and its sequels) numerous times; similar applies to the movie.  June Allyson’s portrayal of “Jo March” remains my favourite film characterisation.  “Marmee”, the patient mother of the four March sisters was the quintessential mother – an embodiment of hope and love.

 
Faced with adversity, the tough determination of Francie’s mother in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” inspired. 

The bond, respect and love between Lorelai and her daughter, Rory, in the “Gilmore Girls” made for pleasurable viewing. 

M’Lynn and her daughter, Shelby, from “Steel Magnolias” offered no apology for their behaviour. They just went ahead and ripped out our hearts, leaving us distraught in the meantime. 

The three mothers in “Big Little Lies” made us want to join their coffee circle. 
Dorothy’s mother, Sicilian Sophia, in TV’s, “The Golden Girls” frequently caused Dorothy, Blanche and Rose to wish they could send her back to Sicily. 

Imagine living across the road from meddling Marie Barone, Ray’s mother in “Everybody Loves Raymond”.  Although irritatingly intrusive, she did make us laugh.

Indomitable “Roseanne”...so charismatic and always right...just ask her!

Let’s not forget Mrs. Bennett, the mother from “Pride and Prejudice”.  She may have wanted the best for her daughters, but she was enough to scare the most ardent of admirers away. 

It’s all very well to tell someone to “get stuffed”, but to actually take it to the literal extent like Norman Bates did with his domineering mother, Norma, is really going overboard. 

Stepping into modern day, while taking myriad paces back in time to a fantasy world of ancient dynasties vying for what looks like a very uncomfortable throne, the violent, no holds barred game played in “Game of Thrones” by the vicious, conniving, game-playing, evil mother, Cersei Lannister, who constantly schemes, tossing principles aside, not caring who gets hurt, or killed takes the cake.

The above are just a few of the fictional mothers who have kept us entertained through the years.  However, let’s pay homage to the real mothers; our real-life mothers - without whom you and I wouldn’t exist!

Agatha Christie wrote: “A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity.  It dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.”

Jackie Kennedy said: “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.”  

Happy Mother’s Day to all Mums, grand and great...Sunday, 13th May....

Make every day a Happy Mother's Day.....

Almond Berry French Toast: Spray 9x13 dish. Cut 1 whole wheat baguette into 1-inch cubes; arrange in single layer in dish. Whisk 8 large eggs, 8 large egg whites, 2c milk, 1tsp vanilla, 1/2tsp cinnamon and 1/3c pure maple syrup. Pour over bread; make sure liquid saturates the bread. Scatter 2c fresh blueberries or berries of choice on top; sprinkle with 1/3c sliced almonds and 2tbs brown sugar; cover; chill overnight. Place, uncovered, in 175C oven; bake 40-50mins.  

Mamma Mia Quiche: Grease bottom of 9-inch pie dish.  Peel 2 medium kumara; slice into 1/8th inch rounds. Layer dish with rounds, base and sides to form “crust”; halve slices for sides of dish, if needed; spray slices with oil; season. Bake 20mins in 190C oven. In pan over med-high heat, add 1tsp olive oil; add 1 small chopped onion. Sauté 1min; add 2 minced garlic cloves and 1c halved cherry tomatoes. Cook 2mins. Add 4c spinach; cook until fully wilted. Remove from heat; set aside. Tofu filling; blend 374g tofu, 3tbs nutritional yeast, 1tbs olive oil, 1 garlic clove and ground sage in a food processor/blender; season. Blend until smooth. Add filling to vegies; mix gently. Once crust is cooked, add filling; smooth out top. Bake 30mins, or until filling starts to brown.

Mum’s Muffins: Spray muffin pan. Heat 1tbs x-virgin olive oil in saucepan; add 1-1/4c raw quinoa; sauté 3-5mins; stir often; add 1-1/4c water and 1tsp salt. Bring to boil; cover; simmer15-20mins until water is absorbed and quinoa tender, but not mushy. Set aside.  Cook 240g sliced mushrooms and 3 shredded zucchini in pan with olive oil, salt, pepper and crushed garlic. Sauté 10-12mins until liquid is gone; set aside. In bowl, combine 6 large beaten eggs, salt; add 1c shredded cheddar; add vegetables and quinoa; mix well. Fill muffin pans about 3/4 of the way. Sprinkle crumbled feta on top of each muffin. Bake in 190C oven 20mins, or until eggs are cooked.  Makes 18. 

 
My Late Mother at the age of 18 years - Always in my heart...

My Nana...Mum's Mother...at age of 16 years...Always in my heart