G'day! Pull up a chair! Join me at the kitchen table for a chat...let's toss a few thoughts around about the state of this crazy but wonderful world we inhabit. There's lots to discuss! Make yourself comfortable! Would you like a glass of wine?
Monday, December 19, 2011
ARE WE THERE YET?
2011 is sliding off the edge of the globe! I don’t like willing time away, but I’m happy to see the rear end of this year as it nears the horizon. Actually, I feel like giving it a boot in the butt to boost it on its way!
In 1992 Queen Elizabeth surprised everyone when she restored life to the Latin phrase “annus horribilis”. Liz had us diving for our dictionaries. Google had not yet arrived on our desktops. Kofi Annan, the then UN Secretary-General, resurrected the phrase in 2004; not one to miss the boat, Juan Carlos of Spain threw a spanner into the works by dragging it to the surface again in 2007.
Now it’s my turn!
It’s all Greek, Double Dutch and Latin to me - so in plain old, sometimes uncomplicated English, this year has been, minus embellishment or exaggeration, a horrible year; one filled with never-ending tragedies; devastating disasters and anxieties; one awash with tears. 2011 has been a year scarred by natural and unnatural disasters; blotted by man’s unconscionable inhumanity to man; pointless violence; senseless cruelty to animals; hate and prejudice.
I have one all-encompassing Christmas wish - for everyone to have a safe, happy, peaceful, stress and strife-free time; whether you’re with family, friends or alone.
Please ensure whatever you’re doing isn’t detrimental to the safety of yourself or others. Borrow the Hippie-Flower Child ideals - they won’t mind; they probably won't even know - spread love, goodwill, peace and happiness. Don’t cease when the Christmas season ends; continue through 2012 and forever thereafter. Everyone, including you, will reap the benefits!
After all the devastating, terrifying, horrific, heartbreaking events of 2011; the unending sadness, loss and despair suffered by far too many in our own country and elsewhere in the world, smooth waters upon which to sail are due; tranquil, serene conditions through which to glide are in arrears. Grief became an uninvited, unwelcome visitor far too often in 2011.
Once again I’ll be joining the Griswold family for their “Christmas Vacation”. Not a Christmas goes by without my doing so. What’s Christmas without Chevy Chase aka Clark Griswold and his crazy, dysfunctional family? They make me feel at home. I’ll enjoy their company as I always do!
And, as always, I refuse to be politically-correct! MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone! Happy New Year, as well!
May 2012 overflow with kindness and love. Stay safe; chill out; stay cool; be grateful for all that is good in your life!
Cheesy-Christmas Chick: Combine 150g garlic and herb creamy cheese, 1 crushed garlic clove, 25g chopped, unsalted pistachios, 1tsp chopped sage, grated rind and juice of ½ lemon, salt and cracked pepper. Carefully ease your fingers, then hand under skin of large chicken at neck end, freeing it from breast meat; smear mixture under skin; tuck in skin flap. Arrange 8 bacon rashers over breast; drizzle with olive oil; season. Place in roasting tin on top of some fresh rosemary springs; cover with foil. Calculate cooking time 16mins per 450g; remove foil last 45mins. When cooked, transfer to warm platter; cover; rest 20mins. Skim fat from pan; place on low heat; blend 4tbs dry sherry with 400ml chicken stock; bring to boil; season.
Christmas Left-Overs’ Macaroni & Cheese: To 1/4c butter; add ½ onion, chopped, minced sage leaves, 2 minced garlic cloves; sauté 5mins; add 1/4c flour; stir; cook 5mins; add 1.4lts milk; whisk until it boils and thickens. Whisk in 1c mascarpone, 1c grated cheddar and 1c grated gruyere. When melted and sauce smooth, fold in 450g shredded left-over turkey meat, 3c diced, cooked kumara, 1c cooked peas and 450g cooked macaroni; season; transfer to oven dish; sprinkle 2c grated cheddar on top; bake at 176C, 20-25mins; place 1tbs cranberry sauce in centre; serve.
Cream Cheese Christmas Biscuits: Cream 1c butter and 240g cream cheese; add 1c white sugar and 1/2tsp vanilla; beat until light and fluffy. Combine 2-1/2c plain flour and 1/2tsp salt; gradually add to creamed mix, beating until well-blended; add 1/2c chopped pecans; cover; chill 15mins. On 4 sheets foil, shape dough into 4x6-inch rolls, 1-1/2-inches in diameter; tightly wrap each in foil; chill over night. Line baking trays with foil; remove rolls from fridge one at a time; coat each roll with red or green sugar crystals (food colouring added to sugar); cut dough into ¼-inch slices; place on trays; top each biscuit with pecan half; bake 15-18mins in preheated 165C oven.
MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE!
Monday, December 12, 2011
YOU TALKIN’ TO ME? YOU TALKIN’ TO ME? YOU TALKIN’ TO ME?
The title is uttered in my impeccable “Travis Bickle” aka Robert De Niro voice!
I'm sure you, like me, have had those moments - you know the ones - trying to hold your tongue when listening to another person drone on and on endlessly. We’ve all been caught in that situation at one time or the other; and no doubt will continue being trapped in the future.
It made me stop and think for a bit! Uh-oh! I’m an offender! I’ve committed this sin, too. I plead guilty! Shame on me! I doubt one amongst us can claim innocence; no matter how much one protests! If they do, it harks of: “the lady protests too much, methinks” - (it applies to the “man” as well – let’s not be sexist here)!
Staying on this train of thought, there have been times when chatting with someone or another it’s become very obvious I’ve lost his/her attention and interest. The clue - his/her eyes glaze over! Have you ever noticed this intriguing phenomenon? Perhaps your eyes are already starting to glaze over as you read this! Have I lost you already?
It’s off-putting when glazing happens during discourse. It doesn’t always happen, but it does occur; and when it does, I find it very disconcerting! The odd thing is it normally happens when the other person is the one who instigated the conversation!
Lured into a feeling of wellbeing, I’m invited in; the impression having been given that he/she wants my participation; their body language urging me to contribute my tuppence or thruppence, or perhaps a shillings’ worth. Soon after I’ve begun expending that worth (it’s akin to putting coins into a sideshow alley slot machine - it snaffles them up and giving little or nothing in return) I notice my co-conversationalist has lost interest. I’ve become invisible. He or she has drifted off into his/her own world, or reverted to doing whatever he/she was doing before instigating the conversation! What a quandary! I’m then left feeling uneasy; feeling like an intruder or an idiot; or worse, both!
Consumed by embarrassment, my voice dwindles to a whisper (or croak). Shuffling my feet in an almost indiscernible reverse motion, eventually I manage to blend back into the landscape once again! I don’t want to appear rude when trying to make my escape, even though the other person has already displayed his/her ignorance by glazing!
Glazing has been around a long time; long before planking became the craze of the day; and it’ll be around long after planking has been plonked!
So there I find myself; caught like a deer in the headlights, trying to escape a situation I didn’t want to be in, in the first place! An uncomfortable position made evident by the “glazing-over” of others!
It’s there, all right! I’ve seen it! I don’t need the assistance of a CSI team! There is no need to waste forensic experts’ time! Of course, I could stroke the “glazer’s” ego. He or she would soon bounce back to life; but I can’t be bothered! By that stage, I’ve lost interest!
Spicy Orange Glaze for Chicken/Duck: Put in saucepan, 3 crushed garlic cloves, 1tbs finely-grated ginger, 1/4tsp cayenne, 2tbs chilli paste, 1c marmalade, 1/3c rice vinegar, 1/4c hoisin sauce and 1tbs soy sauce; bring to boil over med-heat; cook, stirring, 3mins; cool. Marinate whole or butterflied chicken or chicken pieces a couple of hours; drain; roast or grill on barbecue.
Pork Roast with Spicy Maple Glaze: Preheat oven, 175C. Oil-spray bottom of shallow roasting pan. In bowl, combine 1c Maple syrup, 4tbs Dijon mustard, 2-1/2tbs each cider vinegar and light soy sauce, salt and pepper. Place pork roast in roasting pan; evenly spread with glaze; bake according to pork size; rest 10mins before serving.
Salmon Glaze: Combine 3tbs honey, 1tbs soy sauce and 1tbs sesame oil; spread over 2 salmon fillets; cook in 204C oven, 10mins.
Balsamic-Glazed Salmon: Combine; 3tbs balsamic, 1/4c vegetable oil, 2tbs brown sugar, 1tbs honey and 2-1/2tb soy in glass dish; add fresh salmon fillets, skin-on; marinate 1-3hrs; no longer. Grill salmon, skin-side down, covered, on oiled, preheated med-low grill, 7-9mins; cooking time varies with thickness of salmon and heat of grill.
Apricot-Glazed Ham: Combine 2c diced, dried apricots, zest of 1 orange, 2c sugar, 1/2c orange juice, 1-1/2c water and 2tbs honey; boil; lower heat; simmer 5mins. Add 12tsp each vanilla bean paste and cardamom, 14tsps each allspice and coriander and 1tsp minced fresh sage. Glaze ham with half mix; bake at 175C, about 45mins. Meanwhile, in saucepan, add 2c dried cranberries to remaining apricot mix; add 1c red wine. Simmer until thick. Serve this “chutney” with the ham.
Thursday, December 08, 2011
RETRO INDULGENCE IS ALLOWED THIS TIME OF THE YEAR!
Nowadays I’m a tortoise or perhaps a snail, even, when it comes to embracing the Christmas spirit! In retrospect, I think the decline in my not becoming overly excited set seed after Christmas 1990.
I was living on Newry Island at the time; alone with my two cats, and various other creatures of nature. For examples, koalas, echidnas, white-tailed bush rats amongst others; plus turtles, dolphins, coral rays and fish of many varieties. Visiting boats, trawlers, yachts and guests naturally were also part of my scenery and life. However, I savoured and loved the times I had the island to myself and my two furry, house-trained mates. I was very protected of my "alone" time...and I guess that hasn't changed over the years.
Newry Island is off the coast from Seaforth. Seaforth is approx 37kms north of Mackay. I managed all and sundry that was necessary in the running of the island's accommodation, bar, dining, boat transfers, generators, etc., etc., et al...and then some!
Life was going along smoothly leading up to Christmas/New Year, except that the island dam level was pretty low. No rain had visited my island paradise for quite some time and rain was needed. Be careful of what you wish for....
My island cabins were all booked out by families eager to enjoy the Christmas/New Year break. Two boatloads of day-visitors had booked wishing to partake in the island’s Christmas celebrations on the special day. It would necessitate my making two boat runs to the mainland early Christmas morning, and two return trips in the afternoon, but that was fine with me. My 21-foot Trojan de Havilland with its 175hp Johnson outboard motor was fueled and ready to do the deeds.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I'd planned my menu and festivities to the "nth" degree. I was readying everything for my guests to ensure a good time was had by all. No stone, including those of plums, peaches, cherries and apricots was left unturned! My pantry was stocked to the point of its groaning from major overload! Decorating the bar and dining area heightened my anticipation. I was like a child awaiting Santa.
High, sombre clouds obscured the sun at the dawning of Christmas Day. The swarthy heavens reflected lethargically upon an unruffled ocean. At that early stage in the morning the ocean was like a mirror. By 8 am I’d already made two trips to the mainland to collect my exuberant day-visitors. The bleak, yet windless morning wasn’t going to destroy our joyous mood! As soon as I'd deposited the day-trippers ashore, I disappeared back into the kitchen to do my final preparation for the planned buffet Christmas lunch. All was well in my island world!
Grudgingly, I thank Robbie Burns for the quote – “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft agley" - translation: The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry! Well, Bob, they go awry for women, too!
Just before noon I discovered an uninvited, unwelcome visitor had raced swiftly towards my island home; keen to cause havoc amongst my merry revellers. All hell was breaking loose outside caused by its abrupt,angry arrival. It was obvious it wanted to vent its spleen. Why this was so, I had no idea! I was perplexed because I'd done nothing to raise its hackles as far as I knew!
Throughout the preceding 10 days, Cyclone Joy had teased the Cairns area, which was way north of Newry Island' around 570kms. Tiring of the Far North, Cyclone Joy did a rapid turnaround! Getting herself into a spin, she gathered speed and headed south to where I was innocently minding my own business.
Obviously she’d gotten wind of the feast I’d prepared, and of the fun my guests and I were having! There is an unintended pun there...
Over-confident, with blustering bad manners and garrulous gusto, Joy landed on my doorstep without an invitation. She turned the outside world into turmoil! Low, metallic-hued, threatening clouds hung heavily in the sky. The ocean had transformed into an angry, swirling, unforgiving monster. Without further ado, the clouds began depositing their load - relentlessly. Torrential rain pounded the island with no signs of ceasing
Inside the bar and dining area I had 30 stranded guests, but food in abundance - fortunately! "Fortunately" because "stranded" became the operative word. No one was going anywhere! I made it very clear that I would not be taking my island boat anywhere until after the mayhem had diminished...completely!
I gathered everyone together and calmly informed them of the situation and for them to prepare themselves for a hectic few days. I laid down rules to ensure that everyone remained safe, and told them to gather just what was necessary from their respective cabins because until the big "blow" was over, everyone was to stick together in the main building that housed the bar, restaurant, kitchen etc. I didn't want anyone wandering about outside alone. The threat of injury etc. was far too high. The cyclone raged outside; inside my guests mingled together, playing cards, darts, reading; they kept themselves entertained and I was left free to keep a keen eye on everything else and the exterior perimeters; making sure that everything was battened down so not to become dangerous missiles. I'd not had time to safely anchor my boat away from the raging seas. All I could do was hope and pray that it remained safe on its mooring. Breathlessly, with fingers crossed, I watched it buck like a wild, unbroken horse, straining at its mooring ropes, but I was helpless to do anything, but hope!
I didn't sleep for three nights. The whole time Cyclone Joy pounded the island I was clad in my bathing suit. It was the most sensible attire because I was in and out of the rain all the time - continually soaked! The pumps feeding water to the cabins and main building weren't doing their job, so I handed my guests cakes of soap; and, much to their delight, they showered under the drainpipes at the outside corner of the building...clad in their bathers, of course!
Also, I had to conserve my diesel usage for the generator because I had no idea when all the madness would be over, or when I'd be able to organise for fuel to be ferried across to my holding tank! I ran the generator for a couple of hours a day only; just long enough to make sure the status quo of the fridges and freezers remained. Candles and flashlights were used at night. My stranded guests understood the seriousness of the situation; and all, but one, settled in and made the most of the predicament; a predicament over which I, or they had no control.
There's always one amongst a crowd who doesn't want to conform, but that's another story; one I will relate another day!
Three days after Christmas I transferred my first boatload of relieved, bedraggled guests to the mainland. Around the same time, a tornado hit Mackay, whipping up the ocean again just as I was about a quarter of the way back to the mainland! Pursuant to the abrupt change in weather conditions, upon depositing my first boatload of folk, I became marooned in Seaforth. I had no other choice!
I was unable to return for my remaining guests until the next day. Eventually, and NOT without drama, I managed to get everyone safely ashore!
Torrential rain continued through to late January. Until the weather abated, there was little I could do other than snuggle up with my two furry rascals and my books! Mould grew on everything, including on me!
This, of course, is the abridged version! One day I will write a book about the experience - I have enough data to fill a novel!
Christmas Aspic: Sprinkle 1-3/4 envelopes gelatine over 1-1/4c tomato juice; on low heat stir until gelatine dissolves; chill until consistency of egg whites; add 1/4c seeded, chopped tomato, 3tbls each finely-chopped seeded cucumber, finely-chopped celery, finely-chopped capsicum, 1/2c chopped cooked prawns; gently combine. Spoon into mould (pre-coat with cooking spray); cover; chill until firm; unmould onto lettuce; top with Avocado Dressing: Process until smooth; ½ avocado, 2tbls sour cream, 2tbls yoghurt, 2tsps lime juice, and 1 small garlic clove; season.
Beetroot-Feta Mould: Place 2 trimmed bunches beetroot in saucepan with 1-litre each dry white wine and water, 65g sugar, cloves, mace, juniper berries and salt; bring to boil slowly; cover, simmer 1hr. Cool beets in liquid; strain; reserve 1-litre liquid. Peel beets and cube; process until smooth half the cubes with 500ml reserved liquid. Soak 30ml gelatine in 170ml reserved liquid until soft; dissolve over boiling water. Combine puréed beetroot with remaining reserved liquid and gelatine. Pour half into a wet loaf tin; set aside until almost set; add 125g cubed feta and cubed beetroot; pour remaining mixture over this; chill 8hrs; serve with vinaigrette.
Rhubarb-Strawberry Mould: Add 3 gelatine envelopes to 1c cold water; dissolve. Boil 2c water, zest of 1 orange and 3/4c sugar; add 1/4c lemon juice and 455g ½-inch rhubarb pieces; simmer 4mins; remove from heat; add gelatine; stir gently; pour into mould/s; add 3c sliced strawberries; cover; chill; unmould
Monday, December 05, 2011
A WORLD OF CONTRADICTION, CONFUSION AND DECEPTION
Life is awash with contradictions! Constantly we’re force-fed contradictions.
On the one hand we’re told not to laugh at our own jokes; and on the other, we’re told to laugh at ourselves! We’re advised to keep a stiff upper lip; then we’re told to release our emotions!
It’s written: “the only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing”; but then our lives are spent studying, learning, observing, researching and absorbing in an effort to gain wisdom in all things! If, at the end of a life spent expending such effort nothing is achieved, why bother?
Napoleon Bonaparte advised: “The best way to keep your word is not give it”! Was he trying to confuse his enemies - as well as the men of his own forces?
Mark Twain told us to never put off until tomorrow what we can do the day after tomorrow! That would make the day after tomorrow very busy!
Who was the confused idiot who came up with this thought: “Sometimes you have to let go of the one you love to find out if there is really something there”?
It’s understandable why Confucius was named “Confucius”. He composed confused sayings! For example; “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart”. One thing of which I’m certain; my whole heart always goes with me wherever I venture! I never leave any part of it behind! Where would I leave said piece – in the fridge; under my pillow; on the table?
Here’s another one of Confucius’ ditties (or maybe in a world of confusion he has to tote the burden for its creation): “Man who waits for roast duck to fly into mouth, must wait very, very long time”! Should that be “velly, velly wong time?
Confuse-Us also said: “A cannibal is person who likes to see other people stewed”!
Some academics have far too much time on their hands! The other day I read this report: “After much research academics found that switching to organic produce could help us live longer as well as keeping us healthier and slimmer – fruit and vegetables grown without artificial fertilizers etc., can extend one’s lifespan - by 25 days for men and 17 days for women!” My! Oh! My! That’s worth consideration!
When shopping at my local supermarket, it’s my wont to start at the greengrocery section. I’m never confused, nor am I deceived when I step into the store because, at volume, I’m greeted with: “How are you today you old bag?” I reply to that amicable, hearty salutation with; "I'm great, thanks! How're you, you old tart?" There's no confusion!
Voltaire wasn’t confused 300 or so years ago when he vehemently declared: “I hate women because they always know where everything is!”
How right he was! You’ll get no contradiction from me!
Confused Mashed “Spuds”: Cut 1 cauliflower into pieces; cook to well done; drain well; quickly pat dry; puree hot cauliflower with 1tbl softened cream cheese, 1/4c grated Parmesan, ½tsp minced garlic, pinch of salt or powdered chicken stock and pepper until almost smooth; garnish with chopped chives and butter pats.
Mediterranean Lamb Stew: Chop 500g lamb, 1 onion, 1 large red capsicum and 2 small hot chillies (or crushed chillies to taste). Heat 3tbl x-virgin olive oil in casserole; add lamb; seal; remove to bowl to keep the juices. Add more oil; fry onion 2-3mins; add capsicum and chilli; cook 4mins; season. Return lamb and juices; add 2 bay leaves and a splash of Worcestershire; add 1/3-1/2 bottle dry white wine; keep heat high; reduce wine; add 1 can chopped tomatoes; cook 6mins; reduce heat; cover, simmer 1hr. Add 1 can drained chickpeas; cook 30-45mins. Sprinkle chopped mint and crumbled feta cheese over top just before serving.
Beef Stew & Dumplings: Pat 1kg beef, cut into 1-inch pieces, dry; heat pan; add oil; brown beef in batches; set aside in bowl. Fry 3 large sliced onions and 150g sliced bacon; cook 6mins. Add 3tbls flour; cook 3mins, scraping bottom of pan; add 2c beef stock, 345ml beer, bay leaves, 1tbl brown sugar, 1 can crushed tomatoes,1/4c tomato paste, 300g button mushrooms and 1tbl Worcestershire; bring to boil; cover; cook on low heat, 1-1/2hrs. Dumplings: Combine 50g melted butter, 1 egg and 50g grated cheese; add to 100g S.R. flour, 1tsp baking powder; add a little water if needed; add some chopped parsley, or other herbs of choice, if desired; roll into 8 balls; place on top of stew 15mins before end of cooking; cover; cook 15mins or so!
Saturday, December 03, 2011
I’LL PRE-EMPT BEFORE YOU LEAP TO CONCLUSIONS!
I've just realised I've not written a word in here since August! I'll have to do some "pre-empting" of my own towards myself with harsh reprimands for my slackness! I do apologise...but I'm probably apologising to an invisible, absent audience because I guess I've lost all my readers! I've just rapped myself across the knuckles in punishment! And I leave you with this promise...I will attend to my blogging more frequently in the future! I've missed it, and I've missed you!
My mind often works in mysteriously weird ways! By “often” I mean it probably goes into odd mode every second second. A thought is triggered without warning or choice; usually by something obscure, inconspicuous (it doesn’t discriminate). Something grabs my attention and sets my faculties, senses, consciousness, brain, noddle, grey matter (I’ve lots of that stuff now that my hair has changed colour to match my “organ of thought”) into overdrive. My brain snaffles the fodder tossed its way. Without a backward glance, it scampers off into sometimes previously unexplored territory. Mindful that not always will a sensible outcome ensue, the potential is ever present. With that probability in mind, curiosity becomes a powerful motivator.
The word “pre-empt” instigated this current train of activity. Out of the blue, arriving without an invitation, let alone a knock on the door, the word appropriated my thoughts. I consulted my trusty, ever-present Oxford Dictionary. My Oxford wordsmith has been a trustworthy, ever-present presence in my life since my high school shenanigans. These days it’s well-worn, battered, bruised and slightly torn, showing as much wear and tear as its owner. The description of my love for it maybe concise, but my adoration has never waned. It shares desk space with my equally-loved and utilised Roget’s Thesaurus. “Thessie” (please excuse my lisp) is of similar age and appearance. Actually, “Thessie” is slightly more tattered and torn, but she still does her job admirably.
After my lengthy patter, the point I’m trying to make is how can one “pre-empt” something or someone (although many do try and frequently succeed, which is unfortunate and very annoying) when there is no such word as “empt”?
Stop! Hold the horses; shut the gates; lock the doors – don’t even dare attempt to pre-empt what I’m going to say next! “Emption” is a word, but - horror upon horror - it doesn’t appear in the Oxford Dictionary; not in my edition, anyway! It is in the Thesaurus, however.
“Emption” means – purchase; buying; purchasing; shopping; procuring; investing etc., etc., et al. All of which appear to have little to do with “pre-empt”. It does proves, though, that my Oxford Dictionary and my Roget’s Thesaurus are akin to that old song written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, made popular by Frank Sinatra; “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage – you can’t have one without the other”.
If I’m being pre-emptive, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it! Maybe I’m being presumptuous! It’s possible to have one without the other – love and marriage that is; not my dictionary and “Thessie”!
I’m being cheesy…I know!
Tim Tam Cheesecake: Process 250g Tim Tams to fine crumbs; add 80g melted butter; blend to combine; press into spring-form pan; chill 30mins. Dissolve 3tsp gelatine in 1/4c boiling water; cool. Beat 375g cream cheese, 1/2c caster sugar and 1tsp vanilla until smooth; beat in 1c thickened cream. Stir gelatine and 200g grated white chocolate into cream cheese. Chop 100g Tim Tams; stir into mixture; pour over base; cover; chill to set.
Ricotta Cheesecake: Preheat oven 190C; place rack in centre. Spray 9-inch spring-form pan; sprinkle with flour to lightly coat sides and base. On med-speed, combine 454g ricotta, 1tsp salt, 3tbs sugar, 1tbs plain flour and 3 room-temp egg yolks for 2mins; don’t over-beat. In another bowl, at high speed whisk egg whites, approx 1-1/2mins until stiff peaks form; using spatula, gently fold through cheese mixture until blended; pour into pan; give a good tap on bench to level. Place in centre of oven rack; bake 35-40mins or until just set and doesn’t jiggle; midway into baking, turn pan to browns evenly; remove from oven; cool completely before refrigerating. Top with fresh fruit of choice.
Ginger Cheesecake: Process 250g gingernuts until fine; add 75g melted butter; mix well; press into 20x30cm slice pan; chill. Beat 500g cream cheese, 1/2c honey and 2tbs caster sugar until fluffy; beat in juice and zest of small lemon; add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating between additions; fold in 1/4c finely-chopped crystallized ginger; fold in 125ml whipped cream. Spread over base; bake in preheated 170C oven, 25mins or until just set; turn off oven; leave cheesecake in oven with door ajar; cool; chill at least 4 hours. Decorate with chopped crystallized ginger and whipped cream if the mood suits!
Sunday, August 21, 2011
IF THE SPIRIT IS WILLING, THERE’S ALWAYS A GHOST OF A CHANCE
There are a couple of spirits lurking around my home. They’ve haunted my place for a while! I tend not to worry about them, though. In fact, most of the time I ignore them. I’ve lost interest. Hence, I forget their presence. To be honest, it’s ages since I’ve given them my attention. They remain contained. They don’t bother me, so I don’t disturb them. However, the bottles are gathering dust from disuse (not misuse) over the years!
Talking about spirits, when I arrived on Hinchinbrook Island the existing staff descended, impatient to relate their stories about the escapades of the island’s resident ghost! For the faint of heart the tales they regaled would’ve caused many to swoon (or run for the hills), but I found the stories to be intriguing, if not a little humorous! The hairs didn’t stand up on the back of my neck when I learned of the ghost’s frolics. Not being a Hirsutism sufferer, I’ve very few hairs there, anyway! Perhaps my lack of wariness (not hairiness) was because I’d fallen under the mesmerising spell of the island the moment I’d set foot on it.
It wasn’t a conscious decision, but immediately upon my arrival, I referred to the island as “she” or “her” as one does a ship. I felt a kindred spirit with the island. In my moments of peaceful solitude I conducted quiet, one-sided conversations, telling “her” everything would now be all right because I was there. I know it sounds weird, and it probably was, but it was how I felt about my new home. I believed if, in fact, there was an island ghost, the reason it had been disturbed and active prior to my arrival was that all who went before me erroneously referred to the island and the spirit as being male. If, indeed, such a ghost existed, I believed it to be female!
For what it’s worth, during my tenure on Hinchinbrook no further ghostly. unexplainable episodes occurred. Lots of spirits in bottles rattled about, though!
To put lie to my previous statement of not being a “sufferer of Hirsutism”, every time I visited Fraser Island, which once was often, (each time staying for a week or longer) the hairs on the back of my neck stood upright! They grew especially for those visits, I’m sure! I know thousands love Fraser Island. I’m not one of them. For reasons unknown, the island spooks me. I ceased visiting Fraser because of how it made me feel. Poona, a sleepy seaside village on the mainland adjacent to the southern tip of Fraser causes similar reactions within me; as do areas along Marlborough Road, between Rocky and Sarina - strange, but true!
Cue the theme music of “The X-Files” or “Ghostbusters”! Don’t give up the ghost!
Spirited Steak: Combine 1/3c Scotch whisky, 1/4c brown sugar, 1/3c soy sauce, 2tbls Dijon mustard, 1tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 finely-chopped onion and 1 crushed garlic clove. Place 4 sirloin steaks/rump/scotch fillets in marinade; refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temp; remove from marinade; grill as desired.
Jamaican Chicken: Combine 1/2c dark rum, 2tbls lime or lemon juice, 2tbls soy sauce, 2tbls brown sugar, 4 minced garlic cloves, 1-2 hot chillies, seeded, minced, 1tbl minced fresh ginger, 1tsp thyme, 1/2tsp black pepper. Put 6 boned, skinless chicken breast halves in bowl with marinade; coat well. Refrigerate overnight. Drain chicken; reserve marinade. Place chicken on grill, uncovered, over med-hot, 6mins per side or until cooked. Bring reserved marinade to boil in saucepan; boil until reduced by half; serve chicken drizzled with marinade.
Penne alla Vodka: Process 2 un-drained cans tomatoes until just finely chopped; don’t over-process. Heat 1/4c cup x-virgin olive oil in pan; add 10 garlic cloves, smashed with flat of knife blade; cook 3mins; add tomatoes; bring to boil; add 1 crushed hot chilli (or to taste); boil, 2mins. Add 1/4-1/2c vodka; simmer 7mins. Remove garlic; add 1/2c cream; add 2tbl butter; season; add 500g cooked penne to sauce; allow sauce to thicken; toss in 3/4c parmesan; serve sprinkled with parsley and parmesan.
Ghost in the Graveyard: Combine 1/4c black vodka, 1/4c crème de cacao; set aside; place scoop vanilla ice cream in highball glass; slowly pour over liquor; garnish with nutmeg!
Monday, May 02, 2011
Luckily, Easter was an extra long weekend - five days with Anzac Day at the tail-end of it - allowing me time to complete the finishing touches to my outfit and find coordinating shoes, hat and handbag before shuffling off, not to Buffalo, but to the London wedding!
Much time was spent on my ensemble because I didn’t want to clash with Julia or Quentin (respectively our Prime Minister and Governor-General), and I certainly did not want to clash with Eugene or Beatrice!
I stayed well clear of those two; fearful Beatrice was emitting radio rays, microwave rays, gamma rays, ultra-violet or X-rays, stingrays, even, from the weird antennae upon her head! Obviously someone mischievously told her it was a hat!
With only minutes to spare, I ripped off my Easter Bunny outfit, pulled on my trackie daks, hoodie and uggs and jumped on a jet to the land of the Union Jack.
Generously, Liz and Phil found a spare room in their palace to house me for a couple of days! Granted it was a turret up where the snipers held vigil, but that was all right; it didn’t rain and I felt protected!
I managed to sneak into all the parties; the one hosted by dear Lilibet; the one tossed by Chuck and Cammie; followed by the all-nighter; and then I finished off by staggering into the recovery breakfast hosted by Harry!
My flowing adrenalin didn’t allow room for exhaustion. Tiredness was placed on the back burner because immediately upon putting my footing back on Aussie turf, I raced off to the Logies! (Aussie TV awards to the uninitiated)! The well-positioned Labor Day weekend helped to squeeze it all in!
Life is never dull!
All joking aside, the union of William and his beautiful Kate was a spectacle to behold! Will was resplendent in his scarlet tunic of the Irish Guard. Kate dazzled in her stunning, understated, stylishly gown; Pippa almost (operative word “almost”) eclipsed in her exquisite, slim-fitting creation. The cute flower girls and pages completed the picturesque picture.
Who else in this world could command such worldwide interest and attention? No one! There’s not a celebrity, sportsperson, nor politician who could draw such a crowd! The whole event was expertly orchestrated and controlled. The police, like a thousand sheep dogs were awesome in their control of the massive crowd converging upon the palace eager to greet the young couple upon their balcony appearance; a crowd hungry for the vision of the young couple's first public kiss as husband and wife.
The royals magically managed to allow billions across the world to participate in a family occasion. Amongst the pomp and ceremony there was an innate sense of intimacy. It’s proof to all that the Free Western World is alive and well!
It’s now time for some R and R after Britainna Ruled the day!
And I'm not even a Royalist (I'm not a Republican, either - it's pretty comfortable here on the fence)!!!
But let's face it...they really did capture our imagination! There is no denying!
Right Royal Rosemary Crown Roast: Combine 3/4c warmed quince or fig jam, 2 finely-chopped garlic cloves, 1/4c white wine; season. Grab 2 lamb racks, rib ends Frenched, tied into crown; brush with jam mixture; don’t get it on the bones. Place crown in roasting pan; insert long branches of fresh rosemary in centre of roast at regular intervals; fold branches over top and down outside; slip under roast to hold in place; pour remaining sauce in centre of crown; refrigerate 4hrs. Roast in preheated 200C oven, 25-30mins for med-rare. Rest crown 10mins; serve.
Ricotta Ravioli: Pile 3-1/2c plain flour on bench-top; make crater; add 4 eggs to centre; partially incorporate flour into eggs with a fork; then knead to form dough, 4-5mins. Set aside, covered. Cook 450g spinach in salted boiling water until tender; remove from water; cool; drain well; chop roughly. Combine with 450g ricotta, 1 egg, 2tbls cream, roasted pine-nuts or chopped walnuts and 4tbls grated Parmesan; season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Assemble: cut dough into 4 pieces; roll each to 1/8-inch thickness; place 1 spoonful filling onto 1 sheet, ½-inch from edge; continue placing filling along dough 1-inch from each other; place other pieces of dough on top; pinch dough around filling to form ravioli, expending air; cut out raviolis; pinch edges with fork tines; set aside on floured plate; don’t pile on top of each other. Add raviolis to boiling water; when they float, they’re cooked. Sauce: melt 125g butter; add 1/4tsp nutmeg, a dash of lemon juice and 1tbl chopped sage; simmer 1min. Just before serving sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan over top.
Royale Coffee: Add 2/3c black coffee and 2tbls cognac to Irish coffee cup; sweeten to taste; gently float whipped cream on top; sprinkle with grated chocolate.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
WEDDINGS! INDULGENT FANFARES! THE WHOLE CATASTROPHE
Whether a Monarchist or a bearer of the Republican flag, it matters little when it comes to a royal wedding.
It seems like only yesterday that we watched in awe as Charles and Di tied the knot (although many cringed, me included, at Diana's over-the-top, all-engulfing monstrosity of a gown). I guess we forgave Diana for that choice as she was only 19 years of age at the time...such an innocent child, really, thrown into a den of lions!
In the ensuing years Princess Diana stole our hearts with her stylish beauty and generosity of spirit. Those same hearts were broken by her untimely death. Transfixed in front of our television screens, our tears flowed as we reluctantly and sorrowfully bade her farewell to the haunting strains of “Candle in the Wind”.
We’ve watched her two sons grow and blossom into young men of whom she would have been very proud.
The years have flown by; once more we’ll sit in wonderment as we witness Wills and his lovely young bride, Kate walk down the aisle. Let’s hope everything goes smoothly for them on their special day with no disruptions from the radical idiots of this world!
Funny things, weddings - they’re capable of fracturing the most cynical of hearts! Personally, I’ve never been one for the ostentatious pomp, fuss and ado, or for the excess expenditure, or the frilly, fussy, frou-frou gowns.
In the four years before moving to this hilltop I was the chef at a restaurant-function house wherein weddings were major weekend activities! (And I continued this practice for some time after relocating to my present address, before coming to my senses!!!)
During those four years barely a weekend passed without a wedding reception being the main event on my catering agenda. There were times, too, that I had to feed the madding wedding crowds of more than one celebration on a weekend. Much to my annoyance, I even had to show up for one such performance on the millennium - 1st January, 2000! Ouch! That one hurt!
I’ve lost count of how many weddings I’ve catered for over the years. Some are more memorable than others; some unforgettable, but not in a good way! On one occasion two over-zealous, bossy (think “arrogant”) bridesmaids prefaced the ceremony by insisting on dancing (?) down the garden path that led to the arbor! I still shake my head when recalling that apparition! And this was performed long before the current rush of wedding party members cavorting down the aisles that we are seeing on YouTube etc., these days!
Many couples chose to conduct their ceremony beneath the jasmine-clad arbor set romantically amongst the beautifully-manicured garden; its lavish green lawns embraced the banks of Gympie's Mary River in the background.
As in all things - each to their own – but I’m the “less is more” kind when it comes to weddings. However, it goes without saying really, if you’re looking for me on the 29th April, you’ll know where to find me!
Now - where did I leave my trumpet?
Smoked Salmon Boats: Combine 150g smoked salmon,chopped, 150g mascarpone and 1/2tsp chopped dill; season with lemon juice and ground pepper; spoon into pastry boats. Garnish with strips of smoked salmon and dill or capers.
Pastry Boats: Process 185g plain flour and 90g butter with pinch salt until resembles breadcrumbs. With motor running, add 1 egg yolk and about 1tbl iced water to make dough. Turn onto floured surface; knead lightly until smooth; wrap; chill 10mins. Roll out 3mm thick between 2 sheets greaseproof paper. Remove paper; place pastry over lightly-buttered boat moulds; cut excess pastry away; prick bases; place on tray; bake at 190C, 10-12mins.
Avocado-Oyster Boats: Mash 1 avocado; season with lemon juice, salt and ground pepper; spoon into pastry boats; top each with an oyster. Sprinkle with finely-chopped chilli and coriander.
Prawn Bloody Mary: Drizzle 15 large prawns with 1tbl olive oil; season; place on baking sheet; roast in preheated 200C oven, 6-8mins, turn once; cool. Sauce: combine juice 1 lemon, 1 can pureed tomatoes, 2tbls horseradish, 2tbls Worcestershire sauce, 2tsp Tabasco, 1/2c ice-cold vodka, salt and ground pepper. Serve; put tablespoon sauce in ceramic Chinese serving spoons; top with a prawn and julienned celery stick.
Brie Puffs: Preheat oven 200C. Cut 1 sheet puff pastry into 16 squares; put squares into cups of mini muffin tins; prick bases; bake until puffed and golden; cool. Whip together using beater, 240g brie, 1/4c cream and 1tbl honey until fluffy; put in piping bag with star tip; pipe mixture onto pastry cups; drizzle with little honey; serve at room temperature.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
IN YOUR EASTER BONNET WITH ALL THE FRILLS UPON IT!
Please don’t tell me you’ve put rabbit on your Easter menu! The chocolate variety is permitted, of course! My Lindt bunny remains unsullied in my fridge, his safe haven for the past three years. He’s pretty chilled knowing he’ll live out his days unmolested! I’ve not the heart to upset his apple cart!
Once upon a time when I was young and carefree it was a given that Easter weekends were spent at the coast. My friends and I high-tailed it at the end of work on Easter Thursdays armed and ready for sun-blessed, fun-filled days and Record Hops that went all night long! Between sunbathing/baking and wave-catching we managed to squeeze in a little sleep!
I’ve enjoyed wonderful Easters; some more interesting than others!
One Easter on Newry Island brought not only boatloads of guests, but also a koala! Unperturbed by the holidaymakers, he sleepily set up camp in a tree fork at the start of the track that crossed the island.
Back in the early Eighties I spent an Easter in Biggenden -
(Biggenden is a town situated on the Isis Highway in southern Queensland, Australia, 339 km north-west of the state capital Brisbane, and 84 km west of Maryborough. At the 2006 census, Biggenden had a population of 644.
Primary production is the most significant industry in the Shire with beef and dairy cattle being predominant. Other agricultural pursuits include grain crops, piggeries, peanuts, citrus and timber. The area is also rich in minerals. Biggenden Mine is located eight kilometres out of town off Ban Ban Springs Road. Gold, bismuth and more recently magnetite have been extracted from the mine. The township is also close to Coalstoun Lakes National Park and Mount Walsh National Park.
Biggenden was founded in 1889 as a service centre to the short-lived goldrush towns of Paradise and Shamrock; and for coach passengers travelling west from Maryborough. The township, including the intriguingly named Live And Let Live Inn, moved to a new location alongside the railway station when the rail line arrived in 1891.
Opting for a tree change, friends sold their Peregian Beach business. Executing a 180 degree turn, they became country publicans after purchasing the last standing pub in Biggenden;(as per pic above) the town’s other pub burned to the ground shortly before their arrival! Within weeks, their cook unexpectedly abandoned them. Left stranded, they called upon my services to assist in the interim; the “interim” expanded to four weeks!
Eager to take the bull by the horns, I grabbed the opportunity, thinking it’d be for a few days at most. I had a ball in Biggenden, and had no regrets about my extended stay!
ANZAC Day fell during my tenure. With breakfast completed, lunch preparations under control and apron discarded, into the main street of Biggenden I raced to watch the parade. To my dismay, I was the lone spectator with not another in sight! The marchers generously showed their gratitude by rewarding my attendance with their bright smiles. I reciprocated with applause!
Another year, when driving north from Townsville I managed to get caught in the middle of Ingham’s ANZAC parade!
During Easter and ANZAC Day, let’s not forget their true meanings. As we enjoy family gatherings and other pleasures let’s take time to reflect upon those who’ve suffered this year at the destructive hands of Mother Nature, both here and overseas. Let’s also not forget the men and women of our Armed Forces, present and past.
And as “Thumper’s” mother sagely advised: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say ‘nothing’ at all!” She was one positive bunny even if she did believe in double negatives! Have a safe and Happy Easter, everyone!
Easter Brunch Eggs: Preheat oven 200C; line tray with baking paper. Cook diced bacon until crisp; drain. Slice end off tomatoes; scoop out flesh. Place 1tsp butter inside; bake 3mins; place bacon in each tomato; crack 1 egg into each; sprinkle 1tbls grated cheese over each egg; return to oven approx 10mins.
Baked Eggs & Bacon: Liberally grease ramekins with butter; place 6 quartered cherry tomatoes in ramekins; season lightly. Sprinkle grated sharp cheese on tomatoes; break 2 eggs into each ramekin; sprinkle over chopped parsley and herbs of choice; drizzle 2tbls cream over eggs; top with grated cheese and crisp, chopped bacon; bake at 175C, 20-25mins.
Easter Lamb: Grab 2 boned lamb breasts; lay breasts, skin side down, on work surface; cut in half lengthways. Preheat oven 220C. Stuffing: cook 1 chopped onion, crushed garlic, 1tsp thyme, 1tsp chopped rosemary in 2tbls olive oil, 4mins. Transfer to bowl; add 100g lamb mince and 100g fresh white breadcrumbs; season; mix well; spoon stuffing down centre of 2 breast halves; lay other halves on top of the stuffed halves; tie with string at 4cm intervals to make 2 sausage shapes; season; place in oven tray; roast 20mins; lower temp to 180C; cook 1-1/2hours; rest 15mins before carving.
Bunny Hop: Combine 2tsp cherry liqueur, 1tsp choc syrup, 40ml dark Crème de Cacao, 10ml vodka; add crushed ice; garnish with mint leaves.
Monday, March 14, 2011
PADDY, MULLIGAN, GUINNESS AND “COL CANNON’S” PARTY DAY!
St. Patrick’s Day was first observed in Boston in 1737 by Irish immigrants, not in Ireland as one would imagine!
Paddy was too busy ridding Ireland of snakes to party! His thoughtless actions impress me not, to be sure! Not having the good manners to ask us if we wanted them, he expelled all the Emerald Isle’s snakes to our shores! It isn’t what I’d call a saintly act! Erroneously Patrick gave no thought to his careless tactic - extremely antagonistic! You can’t even blame the Irish sense of humour for such an antic! Patrick wasn’t Irish! Therein folks the problem does recline!
Paddy, prove your goodwill is genuine! A favour is owed! Come on Down Under, Paddy! Repeat the deed once again, but in reverse this time! Paddy, me lad! Another miracle is overdue!
I’ll even throw a barbecue! Not at you (although I should), but in your honour! It’ll be on the house - well, on the verandah! I dislike heights almost as much as I abhor snakes!
The Irish were slow off the mark in giving you a party, Paddy! It surely was a long time between drinks from the 400s until 1737! This surprises me! Such a lengthy delay is out of character for the Irish!
Not to Harp on it, but perhaps Jameson Whiskey had to come of age first! Couldn’t Cooper find enough trees to lop to make the barrels? Was old Guinness so stout he needed to trim down before celebrations could begin? Maybe Mulligan was too busy practicing his golf swing (golfers will understand), or “Col Cannon” was too engrossed in pickling his cabbage and shallots in cream before tossing in dollops of butter at completion to consider wasting his energy on frivolous pastimes? Whatever the reasons, the Irish worldwide (and those who become Irish for this one day of the year) have since made up for the lack of celebrations prior to those conceived by the Bostonian-Irish who swilled swags of Smithwick’s and kicked up their heels in an inaugural jig!
One day celebrating old Paddy I added green mashed potatoes to the restaurant menu. When presented with his meal an excited little boy’s eyes lit up like beacons. Upon taking his first mouthful, his eyes sprung open in shocked horror! His naïve expectations were crushed by one foul morsel! He’d thought it was lime ice-cream, the poor misguided little tyke!
It was his introduction to life’s disappointments! He had to start somewhere! Happy to oblige!
Never iron a four-leaf clover; you don’t want to press your luck!
Back-To-Front Irish Beef Kebabs: Cut 1kg beef into cubes; heat oil in pan; add beef; add 2 tbls plain flour, 20 whole garlic cloves, salt and pepper. Add onions, cut into eighths. Cook until onions are translucent and beef browned. Add 1 can of Guinness and 2tbls tomato puree. Place in 175C oven, 15mins or so. Skewer cooked beef, onions and garlic. Serve with Green Goddess dressing/dip – blend 1/2c mayo, 1/2c sour cream, 1/4c chopped shallots, 2tbl chopped chives, 2tbls chopped parsley, 1tbl anchovy paste, 1tbl lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Cabbage Nests: Boil whole cabbage leaves until just limp; remove; dip into cold water; dry. Prepare mashed spuds; add cooked, crisp bacon pieces, crushed garlic, grated cheese and chopped shallots. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners; spray with oil; wrap cabbage inside liners to form a nest; cut smaller piece of cabbage; lay on bottom of liner; add mashed spuds; sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake at 175C until crispy.
Guinness Honey-Glazed Pork: Put 300ml Guinness, 100ml honey and 250g brown sugar in pan; reduce to almost half to a syrupy glaze; cool. Season 2kg skinless, boneless loin pork; roast 20mins at 180C; reduce heat 140C. Remove pork from oven; brush with most of the glaze; cook 40-50mins; baste. Remove from oven; rest. Pour remaining glaze into pan; add splash of white wine or water; boil; simmer 4-5mins. Serve pork slices on colcannon; top with syrup.
Irish Eyes: Shake with ice, 30ml Irish Whiskey, 10ml Crème de Menthe, 60ml cream; garnish with Maraschino cherries. The Shamrock: Mix ½ shot Irish whiskey, 1 shot of Vermouth, 3 dashes each Crème de Menthe and Green Chartreuse.
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