Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Please tell me I’m dreaming! It can’t be THAT time of the year again! Surely not, Shirley! We’ve not had Easter yet, have we? Didn’t we just celebrate New Year’s Eve? I must have slept through my alarm! Does this mean I have to start planning my Christmas fare - again?

“Fare” - a word of various meanings, one of which describes what awaits us just around the corner following a few more sleeps! How come one little word is allowed many meanings? Is that fair? I might charge a fare for a place at my Christmas table, and then I’ll fare well. Will you feel it’s fair if you have to pay a fare to share my festive fare? I have to find a way to pay for the appetising fare, somehow! It’ll be a grand affair, I promise! Charging a fare may not fare well with you, however, if that be the case, I bid you farewell!

I believe I’m offering a fair deal! All’s fair in the fare game, or all fare is fair game!

My Christmas cake is already made. For the past few weeks I’ve pretended that it’s not sitting just over there on my table, its deliciously rich aroma torments me, say and night. It beckons me wickedly when I pass by! Desperately I’m trying to ignore its siren call, and not succumb to temptation. Unconsciously, my hand reaches out for the nearest knife, but I have to sit on it (my hand, not the knife) to stop me from attacking the cake! Oh! Willpower, do not forsake me just yet!

Already the licorice allsorts I bought have gone by the way of all delicious licorice allsorts! They just don’t keep these days, do they? I have to buy more, but I’ll leave that chore until Christmas Eve - to be on the safe side! It’s a sticky situation when I can’t trust myself!

I bought a pair of blinkers to wear each time I venture into IGA between now and Christmas! They were on sale after Melbourne Cup Day! If you run into me at the supermarket and I start neighing, just give me a nudge or a whack on the rump!

No matter how often I tell myself that I’m not going to go overboard on the fabulous fare on offer, my resolve dissolves when I spy the exquisite goodies - hence the need for blinkers!

Fare thee well my co-conspirators! Sweet dreams until Santa's visit - the countdown has begun!

Barbecued Mud Crab: Cut 2x1kg mud crabs into four; crack claws; place quarters in air-tight container with 190ml olive oil, 70ml lemon juice, 4 crushed garlic cloves, 1 sliced red onion, 1tsp chilli flakes, sea salt and freshly-ground pepper; toss to combine; cover. Marinate in fridge 1hr; toss occasionally. Heat barbecue to med-high; cook crab 10-15mins; turn regularly. When cooked sprinkle with lemon-salt: Combine 1tbl sea salt with 1tbl finely-grated lemon zest.

Seafood Salad: Remove and discard heads of 250g baby octopus; rinse well the rest of the baby octopus in saucepan over med-heat briefly. Bring 3/4c white wine to boil with 9 peppercorns and 6 parsley sprigs; add octopus; cook 1-2mins; add 300g peeled green prawns, tails intact and 10 scallops; cook 2-3mins. Remove seafood from liquid; cool in bowl; reserve liquid. Toss 12 oysters through seafood; drizzle with lemon juice, olive oil and 1-2tsp reserved liquid; serve with garlic-rubbed grilled sourdough.

Baked Pickled Pork: Ask your friendly butcher politely to pickle a 3kg rolled joint or leg of pork (give him a few days notice - it’s a cheaper substitute for ham). Put pork into pot with 2 onions, 2 celery stalks, 2 carrots, peppercorns, cloves; add a mixture of water, vinegar and dry mustard just to cover pork; cover pot; bake in 170C oven – 3 hours; turn after 1-1/2hrs. Cool in liquid 1hr; transfer to bowl; put greaseproof paper on top, then a weighted plate; chill until next day.

Walnut Ginger Shortbread: Preheat oven 135C. Cream 340g butter and 150g sugar until pale; add 420g plain flour, pinch salt, 150g very finely-chopped crystallised ginger and 200g very finely-chopped walnuts; mix until just combined; don’t overwork. Roll out to 4mm thick on lightly-floured surface; cut into shapes; place on lined baking trays; bake 15mins; cook without colouring; cool on racks.

Mango Daiquiri: Put 50ml white rum, 2tbs sugar syrup, juice of ½ lime and 2 pureed mango cheeks into shaker with crushed ice; shake well; strain into tall glass.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


All the discussion, dissertation, commentary, criticism and banter presently going back, forth,lengthways and sideways over males wearing “budgie smugglers” are downright trite, a mite righteous and quite annoying!

If such arguments arose when I was a teenager, they were easily solved! My girlfriends and I just wouldn’t talk to or mix with guys who didn’t wear Speedos on the beach! It was as simple as that – no discourse necessary! Fellows who didn’t sport “budgie smugglers” we ignored. They were minor blimps on the horizon! Our interest lay elsewhere.

Obviously it meant they weren’t lifesavers, and therefore not worthy of our undivided attention. Such a fellow was of a different breed. He was the one portrayed as the “Before” in the Charles Atlas Exercise Programme advertisements!

When we frolicked along the golden beaches of Mooloolaba, Alexandra Headlands and Noosa Heads in our “itsy-bitsy, teeny weeny yellow polka-dot bikinis”; when we body-surfed while counting in wait to hitch a ride on the seventh wave, we knew our safety was in the capable hands of the lifesavers, all of whom confidently wore the now unfairly much-maligned “budgie smugglers”! The bronzed lifesavers were not only our heroes, but our friends, as well!

My brother was a Noosa lifesaver, as was my first husband. Both wore their “budgie smugglers” proudly and unashamedly, as did their fellow club members. None of them would be seen dead catching a wave, rowing the surf boat or parading in a March Past in anything less, or anything more!

Sure…such attire didn’t allow room for a packed lunch or wallet storage, but the Surf Club and the pub upon the hill offered meals, and surfing was no charge!

“Budgie smugglers” were first designed in 1960, and were a hit immediately. They are a functional garment, and shouldn’t be turned into something controversial or embarrassing, nor should they be feared!

Naturally, it goes without saying that there are some bodies that should never be allowed out on public display wearing “budgie smugglers”! Cast your eyes sideways, look upwards to the heavens, or run for cover if it’s your bad luck to stumble across such frightening, tasteless spectres!

Heavenly Quail: Crush 1tbl coriander root, 5 whole white peppercorns and 2 garlic cloves in a mortar & pestle; add 4tbls palm sugar and 3tbls soy sauce; transfer to plate. Lightly crush 2tbls coriander seeds. Open 2 quail along spine; leave legs and wings intact; take out rib cage bones. Rub coriander root mix over quail. Press quail into soy mixture. Crust quail with crushed coriander seeds; rest in fridge for 3hrs.Deep fry quail 5mins. Cut in half.

Place on plate; serve with Sauce: Finely chop 1 small chilli, 20 basil leaves, 1 garlic clove and ½ bunch coriander leaves; add juice of 1 lime and a little peanut oil.

Apricot Quail: Sauce: Heat 1/2c apricot jam, 1/4c finely-chopped dried apricots, 1/4c dry white wine, 1tbls honey and 1tsp Worcestershire sauce over low heat; stir until jam melts; set aside. Heat oven - 200C. Wrap a bacon rasher around each of 6 quails; place, breast side up, an1-inch apart on rack in roasting pan; roast, uncovered 30mins.

Brush generously with sauce; roast a further 15-20mins. Serve quail with remaining heated sauce.

Lemon-Roasted Quail: Cu down backbone only of 3 quail and “spread-eagle” the bird. Marinade: Combine 1/2tsp salt, 1/2tsp cracked pepper, 1tsp tamarind sauce, 1/2tsp fish sauce, 2tsp peanut oil, 1tsp honey or maple syrup, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1 finely-chopped spring onion and 1 stalk lemongrass, finely-chopped.

Rub quail inside and out with marinade; refrigerate 24-30hrs. Bring to room temperature before cooking. Preheat oven 180C. Place par-boiled potato segments into roasting pan with some oil; don’t season; put in oven. Heat frying pan; add a little butter and oil; heat until smoky; place quail in pan one at a time, skin side up; brown 1min either side; transfer quails to the roasting pan holding the potato segments; cook in oven 20-25mins.

Rest quail 10-15mins. Serve with potato wedges, steamed Asian greens and lemon wedges.