Wednesday, February 20, 2013


I never had a burning desire to travel overseas. I lacked that particular gene! It was mislaid at birth…my birth, that is. I’ve always been just a broad who didn’t have a need to go abroad! As my peers boarded Qantas Boeings or queued for berths on ocean liners heading off to intriguing foreign shores, I blissfully bade adieu from the sidelines; tossing streamers, blowing whistles and kisses, not in any way envious of their wanderlust.

Later down the years I did trip (flew, actually) briefly to Singapore, Papua New Guinea and across the ditch to annoy our Kiwi mates. I’ve grappled an apple or two on the Apple Isle, but other than those enjoyable sojourns, my heart and feet have contentedly and firmly remained planted on Aussie (sorry, Tassie) soil, sand, and, once or twice, in mud, as well; and I’ve not forgotten the time I planted my hands in wet cement; it’s set like concrete in my mind.

And it is the concrete that is the impetus for the story I relate below.

The setting for the story of my concreted hands is Collinsville. Firstly, I must say, the Mafia had nothing to do with it!

My then employer, Morris Catering, held the catering contract with Collinsville Coal, a subsidiary of MIM. I’ve described my years dabbling with Morris previously, and if, perchance I’m boring you, I do apologise…but, please bear with me in deference to the uninitiated.

I was Chef-Manager of the single men’s mess and single men's accommodation quarters.

With the growing number of heads (stomachs) to feed and house more storage was needed to hold dry goods, etc. A free-standing shed was the answer to my problem, I decided. To execute my plan I hired a local handyman. A strange little man, he reminded me of that wonderful British actor of old, Edmund Gwenn aka “Kris Kringle” in the original (and best) “Miracle on 34th Street”. He also appeared in “Lassie Come Home”. Gwenn mostly portrayed kindly, gentle souls in his many movies. The similarity between the mild-mannered actor and my handyman proved to be superficial and short-lived. My “Jack-of-all-trades” became more like a cranky garden gnome than Mr. Gwenn.

When my odd, odd-job-man finished laying and levelling the cement for the shed floor he headed off to attend to another job elsewhere with the intention of returning the next day when the cement or concrete or both, perhaps, had time to set and dry.

The plan was that once the shed and the shelves were in place, the area would be loaded to the hilt with cartons of dry stores, crockery, bed linen, towels and the like, which were already waiting piled up in the existing store room and all other spare spots. Once everything was transferred to the shed, there would be little floor space left in said shed.

As soon as “Odd-Job” left to attend to his other chores, I expressed to my staff my life-long desire to leave my imprint in wet cement! I pointed out that we’d never get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but our chance at emulation lay begging at our back door! Like mythological sirens luring innocent sailors, the lure of the wet cement was impossible for us to ignore. With much gaiety, we not only imprinted our hands, we also wrote a brief message and left our autographs. Our boss-employee bond was cemented that afternoon. Any future relationship with the handyman was shattered!

“Grumpy” was not amused upon his return the following morning! Mumbling under his breath, but loud enough for all within hearing range, he begrudgingly redid the floor, destroying our artwork forever! Immediately the job was completed, cartons and all manner of other things covered the shelves and the floor making it nigh impossible to espy! After the shed affair, I shed the odd-job bloke! Some folk just can’t take a joke!

I left Collinsville and Morris Catering for a period of about nine months - (no - I wasn't pregnant! It just worked out that way!)- only to return to the township when I took up the position of chef/cook at the Town & Country Hotel-Motel in Collinsville's main street.

“Grumpy” and his wife, “Mrs. Grumpy” were a matching pair (dispelling any rumours you may have heard to the contrary…Snow White didn’t marry any of the Seven Dwarfs…and, she most definitely did not hook up with “Grumpy”)!

Grumpy and Grumpier used to come to the hotel only during “Happy Hour” on Friday and Saturday evenings; I could set my watch by them – if I wore a watch, that is. At the same time the free bar foods landed on the bar for the drinkers to enjoy during “Happy Hour”, Mr. and Mrs. Grumpy would appear for their free snacks; every time, without fail! Once the snacks and “HH” were over…they’d disappear out into the darkness to go and haunt their own home, no doubt!

I can’t stand greed…I can’t stand cheapness…and I can’t stand greedy, cheap, grumpy people!!

Pickled Pork with Stewed Apples: Stir 1/2c caster sugar, 1/4c cider vinegar and 1/2 cup water over med-heat until the sugar dissolves; bring to the boil; add 3 delicious apples, cut into wedges; cook until just tender; set aside. Place 1kg pickled pork in saucepan; cover with cold water; toss in some peppercorns, whole cloves, 1/2c cider vinegar, 1 cinnamon stick, 1tsp dry mustard, 2tbls brown sugar, 1 whole onion, 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk. Bring to the boil; reduce heat; simmer 2hrs. Drain. Serve sliced pork with apples, syrup.

Apple Coleslaw: Combine 380g thinly-sliced white cabbage, 4 coarsely-grated red apples, ½ small red onion, finely-chopped, 1 finely-chopped celery stalk, celery salt, 1tsp finely-grated lemon rind and 2tbs lemon juice. Whisk together 1/4c crème fraiche or sour cream and 1tbl natural yoghurt; add to slaw; gently toss to combine; season.

Sweet Potato-Apple Tart: Preheat oven 200C; line baking tray with baking paper. Cut 2cm border around edge of 1 sheet thawed puff pastry, cutting only halfway through; transfer to baking tray. Combine 300g fresh ricotta and pinch cinnamon until smooth. Spread over pastry leaving 2cm border. Cut 150g kumara into 5mm-thick slices; cut 1 pink lady apple similarly; arrange slices over ricotta; brush with melted butter; sprinkle over 1tbl brown sugar. Scatter over 2tsp fresh rosemary leaves. Bake 30mins until golden. Serve warm.

Apple-Mint Sauce: Combine 6 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, coarsely chopped with 2/3c sweet white wine, 2tbs sugar over low heat; cook 5mins. Increase heat; boil, covered 10mins; puree; add 3tsp chopped mint; serve warm or chilled with roast pork.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013



I intended writing about love; and, I guess it could be suggested that in a roundabout, convoluted way I am fulfilling my intention. With me, one thought invariably leads to another, and then, a few more pop up; the roaming begins; and, like happy wanderers, my itchy-footed thoughts decide to join in as I skip along my mind’s highway. I’m consistent, if nothing else!

A couple of Sundays ago as I was gently stroking the digits of Edgar, one of my great loves, while simultaneously gazing lovingly into his eye suddenly, with little warning, the lights went out; and Edgar shut down! Romantic candlelight doesn’t turn him on!

Edgar is my beloved computer. We are more than kissing cousins; more than a one night stand; more than besties. Speaking on behalf of us both, we’re the centre of each other’s universe. On my part it’s a hands-on relationship; but there’s no hanky-panky! Ours is a pure, platonic love. However, I’m sure there was a lot of hanky-panky going on during the extended power outage in some quarters! Maternity wards come October will be very busy!

Getting back to Edgar and me - as our relationship blossomed he introduced me to his associates, both of whom became great loves of mine, as well. I fell hard! My heart was theirs for the taking and keeping. Fortunately, Edgar’s not the jealous type. He doesn’t mind not being the sole recipient of my affections. The other parties close to Edgar’s heart, and now mine, are - Mr. Google - I’m lost without Google; and, of course, the wickedly seductive Wikipedia.

When planning what to write for Valentine’s Day all that came to mind were lights going out and Edgar & Co; and then, out of the blue, I remembered a riddle from my childhood. The joke floated about our home for years. I never “got it” – ever! Today, thanks to my sweethearts, Edgar, Google and Wiki, I discovered I wasn’t as dumb a kid I thought I was because I never “got” the joke! It’s taken me until now to learn the answer/s to the riddle.

The answer we received to the ridiculous, riddling riddle when we were kids was incorrect! No wonder we never got it! The blank stares of my brother and I when we heard the joke brought laughter to Mum and Nana; much more than the joke itself! Eventually, after hearing the riddle a million times my brother and I began laughing at its answer; just to humour our elders; and also to disguise our ignorance, no doubt!

The riddle: “Where was Moses when the lights went out?” Answer: “Under the bed looking for the matches.” Wrong!

With dear Google’s help I’ve discovered when the lights went out Moses was in the dark.

Also, the next time you’re asked (if you ever have been) where Moses was when the lights went out - you wouldn’t be incorrect if you replied: “Down the road eating sauerkraut!”

There’s more – in Tennessee Williams’ 1944 play, “The Glass Menagerie” the joke was referenced; and numerous times the question was asked in the 1934 movie, “The Richest Girl in the World”.

And that, dear friends, is why I love Edgar, Google and whacky Wiki!

It’s true! There is no point my denying it - I’m not the monogamous type!

In the words of Crosby, Stills & Nash: “Love the One You’re With”.

Have a fun Valentine’s Day!

Easy Sauerkraut: Grab a cabbage, approx 1kg in weight; remove core; cut in half; shred finely. Place in large bowl; sprinkle 1tbs sea salt on top. Using hands, knead salt in, squeezing firmly to help release liquid, until it begins to break down; when volume has reduced by half, add 1tsp caraway seeds; work them in. Pack cabbage into large sterilized jar in layers; firmly press down each time; press down firmly so liquid bubbles over jar surface. Cap loosely; place in cool, dark spot. Check every other day; remove any bloom; press down each time (it will be stinky)! After 2 weeks, taste; leave longer if you prefer stronger taste; then refrigerate.

Pork Chops with Fresh Sauerkraut: Heat 1tbs veg oil in pan over med-high heat. Season 4x175g pork chops; sauté until browned, about 3mins per side; set aside. Lower heat to medium; to pan, add 1 thinly-sliced onion, 1c coarsely-chopped carrot and 2 sliced garlic cloves; sauté until onion is softened; add 1c dry white wine; bring to boil. Stir in 6c shredded cabbage, 1 bay leaf and 3 cloves; cover; simmer on med-low, 20-30mins. Stir in 2tbs white wine vinegar, 1tsp sugar and salt to taste. Add chops; cover; simmer until chops are cooked, about 10mins.

Baked Moses Perch: Combine 1/4tsp basil, 1/2tsp each shrimp powder, turmeric and chilli powder and half a fish stock cube; set aside. Chop ¼ a tomato, ¾ onion and one garlic clove; throw in blender; blend to very fine paste; add powders to paste; blend again. Place in small bowl; add 1/2tbs vinegar and 2-1/2tsp sugar. Catch, scale, gut and de-fin a Moses Perch, approx 40cm – or buy one! Cut criss-cross slices in the fish sides with sharp knife; place whole fish on foil; coat fish with paste. Chop remaining tomato; slice remaining onion; add to top and sides of fish; wrap fish well in the foil. Bake in pre-heated 220C oven, 30-40mins; turn fish parcel halfway through baking process.

And chocolate is a must for Valentine's Day in whatever form you choose!

St. Valentine's Day Chocolate Hearts:
You will need six 10cm (4in) heart-shaped cake tins. The number of cakes this makes will depend on the depth of your tins. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Brush insides of the with melted butter; dust with 1 tbsp plain flour, tapping out any excess. Melt 200g (7oz) chopped dark chocolate, either in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, or in a microwave on low setting. Stir until smooth; set aside to cool slightly. Cream 150g (2/3rd cup) butter and 150g (5-1/2oz) sugar until pale, light and fluffy. Add 4 egg yolks (retaining whites); stir until combined; add the cooled melted chocolate; stir again. Mix 2 tbsp plain flour with 75g (2-3/4oz) ground almonds, 2tbls freeze-dried raspberries (if using) and a pinch of salt. Add to the chocolate mixture; mix thoroughly. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks. Stir one quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen; and then, using a large metal spoon, fold in the remainder.
Line bases of the cake tins with baking paper; divide mixture between them. Arrange on a baking-sheet; bake on the middle shelf of oven for 20 minutes, until risen and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then carefully run a small palette knife around the edges and turn the cakes on to a cooling-rack and leave until cold.
To make ganache: Melt together 200 (7oz) dark chocolate (70%), 75g (2-3/4oz) unsalted butter and 2tbls thick cream either in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water or in a microwave on a low setting. Stir until smooth. Set aside to cool and thicken slightly. Using a palette knife, spread the ganache over the top of each cake; leave to set before decorating with fresh berries. Stored in an airtight box or cake tin, these will keep for about four days.

Thursday, February 07, 2013


Laguna Bay, Noosa Heads

Here on the hill upon which I dwell (actually, it’s a plateau) we have it pretty good – in the Aussie vernacular.

Situated about an hour from Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, and about 45 minutes away from the Gold Coast (less to some areas of the coast), we sit just on the outer rim of the thick of things; or on the Scenic Rim as the area is now called. Tamborine Mountain is close enough to - but far enough away from the madding crowds…just how I like it. Very rarely do I go off the mountain. These days I don’t enjoy or like the hectic pace of the cities; the hustle and bustle; or the impatient pace on the motorways. If the truth be known, I never much cared for it; I left the frenetic city-style of living a long, long time ago, with barely a backward glance, when, early 1979, my ex-husband and I escaped the city for the sunny shores at Noosa Heads on the Sunshine Coast. After seven years living on the Sunshine Coast, I bade it adieu, and I headed further north to the islands and other areas beyond the Tropic of Capricorn.

I could, however, happily live back on the Sunshine Coast, around the Noosa-Sunshine Beach area. I love that part of the world...always have; and I always will.

I ended up back in south-east Queensland after many years and here I am these days, perched atop Tamborine Mountain. I’m reminded of that old song “Wolverton Mountain” recorded by Claude King; released in 1962. Yes! I’m dating myself! On that thought, or, on another concept of “dating myself” – something that would be difficult to do, I imagine - I’ve not been on a date in years – and I have a feeling the status quo shall remain…thankfully! I’m not into “dating”; I don’t think I ever was. As a teenager I never dated just for the sake of dating…and that philosophy has continued throughout my life….but I do digress…’tis a habit of mine – so please bear with me – or not!

Tamborine Mountain is an 11 square miles aka 28 square kilometers plateau; 8kms in length by 4kms in width; 600 meters or 1,968 feet above sea level; the mountain's population as at the time of the 2011 census stood at 7,030; some could have been sitting.

The origin of the name “Tamborine” is an Anglicised version – “Jambreen” - of an Aboriginal word. The meaning of the word is “wild lime”. Finger lime trees have grown on the mountain and its surrounds long before European settlers. The first European settlers ventured forth upon the plateau in 1878. The first white settler was John O’Callaghan. He cleared his portion of land for agriculture; but much of the timber and native plants – the rainforest - were left alone, fortunately for future generations to enjoy. A road allowing tourists to visit the mount was opened in 1924.

The first time I tried Finger Limes (pictured above) was at the dairy farm of relatives in Canungra, a small country town at the base of Mount Tamborine on the western side. I was around nine years old at the time.

A lava flow from a volcanic eruption 22 million year ago was the origin of this plateau. Mount Warning as it is now known erupted; and because of that wonderful overflow we have fertile red volcanic soil; a gardener’s dream. Avocados, kiwifruit, rhubarb, amongst much, much more grow in prolific, healthy abundance. Our climate here on the hill is sub-tropical with a relatively high annual rainfall; normally, our temperatures are four or five degrees cooler than the surrounding lower grounds. Tamborine Mountain is a spur of the McPherson Range.

We have spectacular views across the lowlands to the coast on the east; and across the valleys to the mountains of the Great Divide on the west.

When I first came to Tamborine Mountain, I was one of the chefs/cooks at the Eagle Heights Hotel/Resort...a photo of the complex is shown above. (I'm not a qualified chef, but I've cooked and been the head and sole cook in many restaurants and resorts through my travels along life's path) The story regarding the original owner of the resort (then home/manor, in a manner of speaking) has it that the building was originally built for Mel Gibson...and was to be a retreat for him and his large family. I'm not really sure if that's myth or reality; but it makes for a good tale!

Like a magnet, Tamborine Mountain’s natural beauty draws creative folk into its fold; and soon after discovering Tamborine’s many features, they set up camp; well, homes! Artists, writers, poets, potters and sculptors find the mountain’s ambience starts their creative juices flowing; and to the hill they flow.

Judith Wright, the well-known and respected writer/poet/environmentalist/campaigner for Aboriginal Land Rights made Tamborine Mountain her home in 1948; and here she remained until 1975, nine years after her beloved lover and then later, husband, Jack McKinney, philosopher and writer, passed away. Their daughter, Meredith, was born here on Mount Tamborine in 1950.

Born in 1915, Judith Wright passed away in June, 2000. The home of Wright and McKinney - “Calanthe” (the name of a white orchid that blooms on Tamborine Mountain) remains in Long Road to this day as a reminder. Judith Wright was the first President of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland.

Lyrebirds - Judith Wright

Over the west side of the mountain,
that’s lyrebird country.
I could go down there, they say, in the early morning,
and I’d see them, I’d hear them.
Ten years, and I have never gone.
I’ll never go.
I’ll never see the lyrebirds -
the few, the shy, the fabulous,
the dying poets.
I should see them, if I lay there in the dew:
first a single movement
like a waterdrop falling, then stillness,
then a brown head, brown eyes,
a splendid bird, bearing
like a crest the symbol of his art,
the high symmetrical shape of the perfect lyre.
I should hear that master practising his art.
No, I have never gone.
Some things ought to be left secret, alone;
some things – birds like walking fables –
ought to inhabit nowhere but the reverence of the

Woman To Child - Judith Wright

You who were darkness warmed my flesh
where out of darkness rose the seed.
Then all a world I made in me;
all the world you hear and see
hung upon my dreaming blood.

There moved the multitudinous stars,
and coloured birds and fishes moved.
There swam the sliding continents.
All time lay rolled in me, and sense,
and love that knew not its beloved.

O node and focus of the world;
I hold you deep within that well
you shall escape and not escape-
that mirrors still your sleeping shape;
that nurtures still your crescent cell.

I wither and you break from me;
yet though you dance in living light
I am the earth, I am the root,
I am the stem that fed the fruit,
the link that joins you to the night.

Grilled Prawns with Finger Limes: Grab 1—12 large king prawns, unpeeled with heads left on. Preheat covered grill or grill pan to medium-high. Using a sharp pair of scissors, cut down the middle of the king prawn tail shells to reveal and remove the central vein. Season prawns liberally with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill about 2 to 3 minutes per side, until just done. Transfer to a platter to rest a few minutes. In a small mixing bowl, combine ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, juice of half lemon, and half a bunch of basil, roughly chopped. Cut one end off 5 finger limes and gently squeeze the tiny juice pellets ("lime caviar") out of the rind into the bowl; season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Drizzle the dressing over rested prawns and serve immediately.

Raspberry-Hibiscus Flower-Finger Lime Sorbet: Pour 500 ml stock syrup (equal quantities of water and sugar and a little glucose, brought to the boil for 2 min on the stove), 1tbs Wild Hibiscus syrup and 1 punnet rasperries into ice cream machine; allow the mixture to churn until it becomes thick. Leave sorbet in freezer to set 1 hour. Garnish with finger limes.