Tuesday, February 09, 2010
THOSE WERE THE DAYS, MY FRIENDS! (Recipe included)
Most of us hold onto fond memories of the towns in which we spent our tender years.
My late brother and I were raised in Gympie, a regional town a couple of hours north of Brisbane, the capital of Queensland. Times were much simpler when I was a child. In those days of “old” locking one’s house was an unknown; when walking everywhere was the norm, even at night; a time when soapboxes careered freely and wildly down the neighbourhood streets. Gympie is a town known for its hills! Computers were creations only in the imaginations of science fiction writers and movie makers. Reality TV was the spanking new black and white set in front of which one sat glued keenly watching episodes of “Wanted: Dead or Alive” while drooling over Josh Randall played by a deliciously young, sexy Steve McQueen!
After spring rains, my brother, our Nana and I, armed with buckets, often would stroll through town, and then across the river to the Southside to gather dew-covered field mushrooms, always under the disinterested brown-eyed gaze of nonchalant cattle grazing on lush green paddocks fringing the verdant banks of the Mary River.
Frequently, with an empty jam tin converted into a “billy”**, long strands of strong cotton, homemade hand nets and pieces of raw meat, my brother and I headed off to the nearest waterhole to catch “lobbies” aka freshwater crayfish. Eagerly we’d scamper home to cook, and then devour our haul while planning and anticipating our next adventure.
** (For non-Aussies – it’s commonly accepted that the term "billycan" is derived from the large cans used for transporting bully beef on Australia-bound ships in the early days of settlement, or during exploration of the outback, which after use, were modified for boiling water over a fire.
In Australia, the billy has come to symbolise the spirit of exploration of the outback. To boil the billy most often means to make tea. "Billy Tea" is the name of a popular brand of tea long sold in Australian supermarkets. Billies feature in many of well-known poet/writer Henry Lawson's stories and poems. Banjo Paterson's most famous of many references to the billy is in the first verse and chorus of ’Waltzing Matilda’: "And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled...")
After school and at weekends our time was filled with many activities. Saturday afternoon matinees that we never missed, Brownies/Girl Guides, Cubs/Scouts, piano lessons, cowboys and Indians in the backyard; my brother and his mates firing arrows at and lynching my dolls on branches of an orange tree; on the sidelines; me, in tears, fruitlessly screaming at them (that’s big brothers for you!); building tree houses and cubby houses, running bare-footed and carefree. Sing-a-longs around the piano; Nana relating tales of the “olden days”; window-shopping on Saturday evenings as we strutted in tune to the Scottish Pipers' Band who proudly wore their melodiously swaying kilts while expertly playing and marching through the main street of Gympie (Mary Street) to the town's Memorial Gates; burning our fingers on hot chips wrapped in newspaper from Nick’s Café; joy at finding that one final crunchy chip hidden in the folds of the paper.
After spending my teenage years enjoying weekends and holidays spent at the sunny Sunshine Coast’s Noosa Heads the bright city lights temptingly beckoned. Succumbing, I left the “nest” a few months shy of my 21st birthday.
Those were the days, my friends!
Let’s sit back and reminiscence under a shady tree while munching on:
Crostini with Stuffed Mushrooms:
Remove stalks from 12 small button mushrooms; chop stalks finely. Set aside with caps.
Heat 60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil in frying pan; sautė 1 medium red onion, chopped finely and 2 crushed garlic cloves, for 5 minutes. Stir in ¾ cup wholemeal breadcrumbs; cook 3 minutes or until crisp. Add 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley (flat-leaf), 125g (4oz) finely-sliced prosciutto, ½ cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, mushroom stalks, salt and freshly-ground black pepper; mix well.
Spoon some filling into each mushroom cap; drizzle with olive oil; place them in lightly-oiled ovenproof dish. Bake in a preheated 150C (302F) oven for 20 to 30 minutes.
To Make Crostini: using a 2.5cm biscuit cutter, cut out rounds from a sliced loaf of Italian bread. Heat some olive oil in frying pan; fry the bread rounds over low heat until they’re golden on both sides. Set aside on paper towels to drain.
To assemble: spread a little patė (if desired) on each crostini, arrange a stuffed mushroom on top; press down to secure (not too hard, though)! Drizzle with olive oil; serve garnished with Italian parsley.
Enjoy the memories! And the crostini!