Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Beware the hare! There will be lots of dem wascally scwewy wabbits wunning awound over Easter weekend. One that won’t be wunning awound is my chocolate Lindt wabbit. He’s still enjoying west and wecweation in my fwidge. (Nods to Elmer Fudd)

Firstly, an update; or, perhaps, this is the first time you’ve heard about my chocolate bunny! If that be the case here is his tale.

My Lindt chocolate bunny remains intact in my fridge; his ears didn’t even droop during the lengthy power outage we experienced a while back. Nothing has changed in his contained world. Over his years in residence, my fridge has become his home away from home. Clad in gold with a dark brown ribbon wrapped around his neck more as a fashion statement than for warmth, he has no escape plans. He just chills out.

My “Peter Chocolate-tail” feels secure in the knowledge that I’m a big sook. He knows I’m a softie who hasn’t the heart to eat him; not after all this time! I’m sure he wriggles his whiskers, flaps his ears and gives me a wink each time I open the fridge! I think he has Stockholm Syndrome!

If you believe all of that, you’re as crazy as I am! But, go with the flow...humour me!

Colourfully-wrapped chocolate eggs; elaborately-decorated sugar eggs; myriad bunnies of all sizes and mouthwatering hot cross buns have been tempting us on our supermarket shelves in the lead-up to Easter. We may niggle about the lengthy pre-Easter sales-marketing processes; nonetheless, we still willingly indulge in the variety of delightful delicacies on offer. I confess...I do!

When we were kids, my brother and I waited impatiently for Easter Thursday to arrive. Bursting with excitement we were unable to contain, home from school we’d race, ripping off our school clothes upon arrival. Quickly donning our “gad-about” attire, we’d grab a couple of Mum or Nana’s hats on our way out to the yard to gather grass and leaves. We’d then build nests in the hats for the Easter Bird to deposit its multitude of colourful eggs. No wascally wabbits visited us in those days of old when we were young and bold and did as we were told! The bird was the word in our household! No money was expended on the bunny!

Our Easter bird was an early bird; he filled our nests on Good Friday. No waiting around for a tardy bunny to belatedly arrive on Easter Sunday for us!

Anyway, you pundits of restraint shouldn’t criticise our eagerness to receive our Easter treats. Nowadays, hot cross buns and other Easter treats appear, without excuse, rhyme or reason upon supermarket shelves before we’ve had time to discard our Christmas gift-wrapping paper and ribbons; long before we’ve had time to exchange Aunt Clara’s set of flying ducks for something useful; or use them as target practice! I’m sure hot cross buns sometimes arrive on the shelves before Santa has given his sleigh a grease and oil change, let alone found time to polish Rudolph’s nose; or change the bulb in that very nose!

When Hinchinbrook Island was my home, my chef, David ordered a whole suckling pig – it was a big fellow (both the chef and the suckling pig) - to feed the resort’s hungry guests as part of our Easter Saturday night’s fare. Come Saturday afternoon David and my second chef, Ken readied the spit roaster on the deck surrounding the pool. Donning their somewhat risqué barbecue aprons, the description of which I shall not give here at the risk of offending those of more genteel natures, the preparation of the suckling pig began.

With curious interest, many of the holiday-makers gathered around to watch the activity out on the deck.

David had/has a mischievously wicked sense of humour. The previous evening, returning to the restaurant after dressing for the evening festivities, I popped into my office before spending time with my guests around their dinner tables and at the cocktail bar. Entering my office, I received a surprise.

Hogging my office chair was the bald beast (again, the swine, not my chef) displaying a demeanour of piggish authority. David had dressed the Frau sow in a colourful T-shirt. Smugly, it sat with a sun hat on its head, sun glasses on its snout and a glass of Scotch taped to its front right trotter! Harumph! I burst out laughing; grabbed my camera and took a photo. I must go in search of said photo! It is here somewhere amongst all my memorabilia...

Come Easter Saturday night everyone was in high spirits; guests and staff alike. When the suckling pig was cooked to perfection, my two chefs became engrossed in a battle royal as they tried to dislodge it from the shaft or vice versa. There were bits of pork flying everywhere! Who said pigs can’t fly? Often we put on free entertainment for our guests; it was part of the package deal; one they weren’t aware of when making their bookings.

After much hilarity dinner was served. Peace descended; appetites were sated.

7 am each morning on the island, from the end of the jetty, we tossed our perishable food scraps out into the ocean; excellent burley for the fish population. Like clockwork, a wide variety of fish gathered, having synchronised their watches to meet daily at 6.57 am; scales ironed; fins polished. They never disappointed they always turned up, with their friends and neighbours in tow.

Sly, the resident 300lbs-plus Groper, cruised regally among his fellow Pisceans.

That particular Easter Sunday morning following the previous night's festivities, with no fuss and one big gulp; and nary a sound of a burp, Sly swallowed the carcass immediately it hit the water. I then tossed Sly a packet of Quick-Eze, figuring he might need them for being such a pig!

A safe, joyful Easter to you all!

Pecan Pork with Balsamic Pears and Onions: Process 100g pecan until coarsely chopped; add 1/3c fresh flat-leaf parsley, 1-1/2c fresh breadcrumbs, 2tbs fresh sage and 2 garlic cloves; process until combined; season. Grab 2kg boned loin pork; score rind. Turn pork over; cut slit into thick end, not all the way through; open end to sit flat; place pecan mixture down centre of pork; roll, starting at thick end; tie securely at 2cm intervals; rub cut lemon over rind; and then rub salt into rind and cuts; place rind side up in pan; roast in 220C oven, 25mins; remove from oven; reduce heat to 190C. Toss halved 4 red onions; cut into 3 wedges, 3 pears halved, stems intact in 80g melted butter, 1/4c balsamic and 1/3c brown sugar; place in single layer around pork. Roast hour or so; rest pork before serving. Add spinach leaves to pear-onions; gently toss until spinach wilts; serve with pork.

Broccoli-Cauli Salad: Combine - 1 small cauli, broken and cut into small pieces, 1 large head broccoli, broken into small pieces, 1 punnet cherry tomatoes, 185g pitted black olives and 220g crumbled feta; add enough Italian dressing to coat; toss; chill overnight.

Hasselback Potatoes: Thinly and evenly cut through unpeeled potatoes; don’t cut all the way through. Place on baking sheet; drizzle liberally with olive oil and melted butter infused with garlic; fan out slices to get in between layers; sprinkle with Italian herbs and seasoning; sprinkle salt and pepper on outside of potatoes. Roast at 200C until golden; drizzle with oil and butter as needed. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan the last 10-15 minutes of baking.

Easter Lamb with Feta Dressing: Roughly chop 1 rosemary sprig, 1 bunch of oregano, chopped, 2 bay leaves and 8 garlic cloves. Pulverise in mortar and pestle with a little oil, zest of 2 lemons, pepper and salt; add 3tbls Dijon mustard and 1/2c almond meal; transfer to bowl; mix in 1/4c olive oil and juice of 2 lemons. Massage mix into boned leg of lamb; marinate 2hrs; bring to room temp before cooking. Cook in preheated 230C oven 25mins; reduce heat 180C; cook until desired doneness; rest lamb 20mins before carving; serve with this hot feta dressing – combine 120ml red wine vinegar, juice of ½ lemon, 250ml ex-virgin oil, 1tbl Dijon mustard, salt, pepper in pan; warm; pull off heat; add 1250g drained feta, crumbled and fresh oregano; spoon over hot lamb.

Green Beans with Hazelnuts: Coarsely chop 1/3c hazelnuts; in pan, stir over med-heat until lightly toasted; season; set aside. Melt 1/4c butter in pot; add 700g cooked green beans and 2tsp rice vinegar; toss to coat and heat through; season; transfer to serving platter; sprinkle with hazelnuts. Easter Brunch Punch: Combine 4c cranberry juice, 2c orange juice, 1c pineapple juice, 1/2c lemon juice, 1/2c water, 1/3c sugar, 1tsp almond extract; stir until sugar dissolves; add finely-chopped punnet of strawberries or other fruit of choice; chill.

Easter Pie: Process 3/4c icing sugar, 3 eggs, 2tsp vanilla, 1tbs orange zest and 450g ricotta until smooth; stir in 1/2c cooked short grain rice and 1/3c toasted pine nuts; set aside. Lightly butter 9-inch pie dish; lay 1 phyllo sheet over base and up sides, let pastry hang over sides; brush with butter; layer another sheet in opposite direction; repeat process using up 6 sheets. Spoon in ricotta mix; fold the pastry over top of filling, enclosing it completely; brush with melted butter. Bake until golden and set. When cool, sift icing sugar over pie.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Yorkeys Knob
YorkeysKnobClifton BeachEllisBeach near Port Douglas

Oops! Sorry! I bet you’re singing “It’s Amore” now! The song will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day! I hope you’re not smartin’, Dean Martin!

In the late Eighties while living at Yorkeys Knob (and later at Clifton Beach) I worked in a real estate office during daylight hours; and, at one stage during that time, I spent my nights operating a small pizza eat-in-takeaway eatery in Yorkeys’ piazza for a lady who owned two others; one in Cairns and another at Machans Beach.

Yorkeys Knob was named after George “Yorkey” Lawson, a beche-de-mer fisherman who originally hailed from Yorkshire. “Yorkey” gave up fishing and “beche-de-mering” for farming. In other words, one could perhaps say he became beached! As it happened, his agricultural venture failed because hungry rampaging bandicoots and wild pigs stormed across his fields, eating and destroying most of his crops; what was left over the crocs finished off!

Yorkeys Knob is one of the northern beach suburbs of the tropical city of Cairns, Far North Queensland. When I first arrived in Yorkey's I rented a townhouse a few metres from the beach; and just around the corner from the yacht club. Everything that end of Yorkey's Knob Road was within easy walking distance; the small shopping centre; the yacht club and the beach. After living in the townhouse for a time, I then moved to the other end of Yorkeys Knob Road....it was long stretch of road.

The renovated "Queenslander" (a name given to the architectural style of older Queensland houses) I moved into was situated on a parcel of land that had been portioned off from a cane farm. The cane farm had been in existence on that area of land for many, many years...from when the land across the road had been turned into cane fields. Before the land was converted into sugar cane fields ithad been wetlands; and the home of many crocodiles. Tom Mason, the owner of the land had been a cane farmer all his life; as was his father before him. Tom had been born and bred in the house that he and his wife lived in. They raised their own, now grown family in the same house.

The house I was renting had been moved onto land adjoining Tom and his wife's house for their son and his wife to eventually live in, once they finished their studies at an agricultural college down south. In the meantime, I was the house's paying tenant.

The Bruce Highway, Queensland's major highway commences at the Pine River on the northern outskirts of Brisbane, Queensland's capital and passes northwards through areas along the eastern coast from its starting point to Cairns in Far North Queensland. The Bruce Highway is 1652 kilometers or 1,027 miles in length, from whoa to go! From Cairns north the highway becomes known as "The Captain Cook Highway" - it runs from Cairns north to Mossman (75kms or 47 miles in length). The Captain Cook Highway passes through the northern beaches between Cairns and Mossman, of which there are about 13 named beaches along the way (not all inhabited).

Mossman is situated a little less than 20 minutes drive north-west of Port Douglas.

I only give these intricate details to help you gather together an image of where I was living at the time of this tale that I tell.

I'd moved to Yorkeys Knob after leaving Hinchinbrook Island. My desire and need to be close to the ocean remained strong.

A group of young lads started hanging around outside the pizza shop in Yorkeys Knob each night, riding their skateboards up, down and around about the parking area, night after night. Their numbers ranged from six to eight; sometimes as high as 10. There, of course, was a leader of the pack; a brash young blade, quite tall for his age; dark of eye and hair; handsome in a youthful way. Totally aware of his presence and appearance, his charm matched his looks.

When the young fellows first started hanging around I kept a discreet eye on them from afar, but it soon became obvious to me they were just kids out to have a bit of innocent fun. In those days the area really had nothing to offer teens. Trouble was begging to happen. I never heard many stories of havoc being caused, but there were some minor problems.

I befriended the lads, believing it best to have them on my side than not; and, every so often I’d give them a couple of subs filled with tasty ingredients, “on the house”, to share amongst each other.

They didn’t expect the freebies; and they never took them or me for granted. The lads were appreciative.

Although I copped a dressing down from the owner when she found out about the free subs, I continued with the practice.

Unspoken, the lads had become my junior Lord Protectors. Through my giving them a free sub or two every so often, I knew they kept an eye out for my safety, and also an eye on the shop. It was cheap payment for protection, I believed. Woe betide anyone who would dare try to do harm to either me or the shop! The lads were my skateboarding guardian angels. They were good kids who shared with me many of their dreams and aspirations. I hope they fulfilled those dreams. Most of my customers were regulars; all pleasant people.

One night there was a power outage just on opening time. The pizza oven and range were both gas, but I was otherwise engulfed in darkness, making it impossible to successfully prepare food. However, a knight in a large, shining four-wheel drive came to my rescue. With his headlights beaming, he drove his vehicle up onto the footpath, right to the doorway of the shop, leaving enough room for patrons’ access and egress. The vehicle’s lights lit up the shop. I didn’t miss a beat, a pizza or a customer (nor did I beat a customer) all night!

Ultimate Italian Sub: Lay out an assembly line consisting of 240g each: mortadella, coppa, salami and prosciutto, 150g provolone, 1c pitted green and black olives, 2c giardiniera (Italian pickled veges), 1 jar marinated artichokes, drained, chopped. Slice 1 large round loaf, 10-inch diameter in half; scoop out insides, top and bottom to make cavity. Evenly layer the ingredients in order; ensure to use all meats and cheese. Once loaf is filled and topped, wrap tightly in wrap; put heavy pan on top to weigh it down; chill at least 4hrs; unwrap; slice in wedges; drizzle with balsamic.

Rocket Chilli Prawn Pizza: Grab a pizza base; place on lightly-greased tray. Heat 1tbs olive oil; add 2 crushed garlic cloves, 2tbs chopped red onion and 2 fresh red chillies, seeded and chopped; cook, stirring, 1min. Add 10-15 medium green prawns; cook 2mins. Spread 3tbs tomato paste over base; top with prawn mixture, crumbled feta or goat's cheese and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese; season; bake 10-12mins at 220C. Top with baby rocket; serve.

Artichoke-Goat Cheese-Chicken Pizza: Sprinkle 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts with dried oregano; season with salt and pepper; place chicken in pan; grill 2mins per side; set aside. Preheat oven 230C. Mix 125g goat cheese and 1/2c ricotta in a bowl; spread evenly over 12-inch pizza crust, leaving a 1-inch border. Top with chicken, ½ a chopped red onion, 10 small olives, sliced (optional), 1 c halved, drained artichokes, and 2 large plum tomatoes, diced; sprinkle with 2tbs parmesan. Bake until parmesan turns golden, about 8mins. Sprinkle with fresh oregano; serve.

Similar style and vintage of the house I rented in Yorkeys Knob

Monday, March 18, 2013


That's me on the left in the fair isle jumper

Being a teenager can be awkward at times; oft times; particularly in the early to mid-teen years.

At the beginning, being a teen is akin to a fish out of water. One thing is certain about the water analogy; there's a lot of dipping toes in H2O happening amongst adolescents as they enter the slippery stage between puberty and maturity. There's much metaphorical closing of eyes and pinching of accompanying nasal protuberances by juveniles as they, sometimes blindly and misguidedly, jump into the deep end.

It's obvious and you've no doubt discovered by now that I’m no longer a teenager! Don't worry...I'm as disappointed, even more so, as you are at this bleak discovery!

I'm probably what you call a "premature baby boomer"...I missed out by a year or two, unfortunately, to fit into the "BB" mould! I refuse to divulge a more detailed description than that, so you'll have to be content with doing the math yourself. A clue - I was a teenager in early Sixties.

And remember those words of wisdom: "You're only as young as you feel"; a misleading statement, I do declare! Sometimes I feel as if I'm 100! But, there are many more times I don't feel I'm much older within my mind than I was way back then!

All that aside, my memories of the enlightening times of my teenage years remain vivid even after all the years in between then and now.

Gympie, a regional town in Queensland, had a population in the Sixties of around 10,000 - give or take; more likely "take".

Back in those days of innocence there was a feeling of freedom and security. Rarely did anyone lock their doors. I know we, in my small family unit didn't. The door locks didn't work! If our family was going anywhere for an extended length of time (of more than two or three days) padlocks had to be found and placed on the doors.

There was no fear about walking alone at night, no matter what the time. I, for one, always walked to and from the dances, record hops, parties and all other social activities alone; perhaps sometimes with a girlfriend, but more than often, alone. For most, to be a teenager living in Gympie in the early Sixties was to be footloose and fancy-free. It certainly was that way for me and my circle of friends. Employed within a local law firm as a legal secretary, I enjoyed my job and I worked alongside people I liked. Life was good.

And on the subject of water as I was in my first paragraph...I spent a great deal of my spare time immersed in water.

Never one who cared for dating just for the sake of it, I preferred to spend my leisure time with my group of friends. Weekends were spent at the beach; with the local public pool second choice if the surf was inaccessible.

Friday night dances were ticked on my calendar and unfailingly attended - come Hell or high water (see, there's that liquid stuff, again).

For the first couple of years after I started working, my Monday evenings were taken up with basketball. Casual gatherings listening to vinyl discs of folk, blues, pop and jazz with some rock 'n roll music thrown into the mix for good measure while battling bowls of Spaghetti Bolognese or picking over experimental mixed platters of tasty tidbits, and regular rehearsal or play-readings at the Gympie Drama Club took care of the rest of my week nights! (And I wrote all of the above-mentioned without taking a breath!)

Dating wasn’t part of the equation; not my equation, anyway.

There was a particular young fellow who, at one point, thought he had a “crush” on me. At the time, I was 16 going on 17 years of age.

Whenever I was at Gympie's Olympic pool, he’d sidle up, keen to chat. He was a bit of a “nerd”! I wasn’t interested in him or his efforts at conversation. However, I did do my best at all times to be polite; to not hurt his feelings; but I never encouraged him. My hopes were my restrained responses to his overtures would help him understand my unspoken message.

While preparing to head off to the pool one day, a knock on our door announced an uninvited visit from “The Nerd”.

As large as life he stood at the top of our front stairs, smiling, looking like a long-lost friend or relative who'd just returned from a lengthy overseas sojourn. Speechless from shock, I froze on the spot; I was lost for words. Finding no humour in the moment, I was incapable of returning a smile to match his own. My mother and grandmother came to the rescue when they noticed my stage fright! Greeting my unexpected caller, Mum and Nana ushered him inside. Undisguised mischief danced merrily in their eyes; their amusement at my discomfort patently obvious to me, but not to “The Nerd”.

Graciously, he accepted their offer of a cold drink. Without hesitation, he set about making himself comfortably at home.

In quiet desperation, I tried to catch either Mum or Nana’s eye - or both - eyes and persons! However, Mum and Nana, like a well-rehearsed duo, purposely ignored my attempts. They were thoroughly enjoying my uncomfortable predicament.

Just to clarify the situation - my family had a weird sense of humour!

Still in shock at the surprise visit, I’d only uttered a word or two, but that was no deterrent to my unwelcome would-be-if-he-was-given-an-inch-suitor!

Full of bravado, he conversed with my mother and grandmother as if he’d known them all his life! Meanwhile, ever so slowly he sipped his lemonade, sarsaparilla or ginger beer - whatever the chilled refreshment was that day. He had all the time in the world. It was blatantly apparent he was in for the long haul!

And then, he spied our piano!

My mother was an excellent pianist. She could play any melody of any genre; from classical to pop and all those in between; she executed all genres brilliantly, with or without sheet music. The piano was an extension of her heart and soul.

The conversation swiftly turned to piano playing.

The last I saw and heard of “The Nerd”, he was surrounded by sheet music as he thumped away on the piano; oblivious of all others!

'Twas then I took my leave.

He could be still there sitting at the piano for all I know!

To the beat of a barely-recognisable version of Fats Domino's “Blueberry Hill”, off to the pool I stealthily escaped, leaving "the piano boy" to Mum and Nana!

“That’ll teach them to think it's all a big joke!” I thought.

I was certain “The Nerd” was a duck in disguise! All hints to get rid of him ran off his back!

On reflection and with twenty-twenty hindsight; and all other similar cliches - his youthful bravado was probably a ploy to disguise his lack of confidence in the world of wooing.

Ours was an age of innocence. And I, like "The Nerd" was just as naive and unworldly as he was; and I, no doubt, just like him, had my own ways of disguising my inexperience in the ways of the world.

Oh! The joys of youth! I wouldn't mind jumping into a time capsule to recapture some of those carefree days and years....

Duck Bolognese: Sauté 5 whole garlic cloves, 3 sprigs rosemary, 3 sprigs thyme, 3 sprigs marjoram, 3 of sage and 1/2tsp nutmeg in 1-1/2tbl x-virgin olive oil, 1min; add 1 finely-chopped large carrot, 3 finely-chopped celery stalks and 1 finely-chopped large onion; sauté until softened; add 1 large, quartered duck, excess fat removed, skin side down. Increase heat; sear duck, making sure vegetables don’t burn; add 1c red wine when duck is browned; stir until wine evaporates; add another cup red wine; repeat process until duck is dark brown. Reduce heat; add 1tbl tomato paste and 2 cups chicken stock. Cook 7mins; remove from heat; remove duck from sauce; cool duck; cut flesh into bite-size pieces. Remove herbs and garlic from sauce; return meat to sauce; place over med-heat; add 1 can crushed tomatoes; season; simmer until sauce reduces and thickens, about 10mins.

Blueberry Duck: Combine 2c port, 2c water, 1/4c sugar and 1/4c honey; boil. Season cavity of 1 large duck, minus wing tips; truss duck. Remove sauce from heat; add duck; marinate at room temp 20mins; turn occasionally. Remove duck from marinade; place on rack in shallow roasting pan; bake in 175C oven, 1-1/4hrs; stand at room temp 10mins. Heat 2tbls olive oil in skillet; add 1/3c diced shallots; cook 3-5mins; add 1/2c sugar; stir over low heat until sugar is dark brown; add 1/2c cider vinegar, 1/4c brandy, 1c blueberries and 1-1/2tsp chopped tarragon; cook on med-high, 5mins; add 2c chicken stock; bring to boil; reduce by half. Serve sauce over carved duck

Thursday, March 14, 2013


This St. Patrick’s Day I’m not dressing up as a leprechaun; I washed my outfit; it shrunk. Neither am I going to emulate Michael Flatley and Riverdance my way along Main Western Road up here on the mountain upon which I dwell. I did that last year. The hunt for a four-leaf clover isn’t on my agenda, either. Although, after all the rain there’re probably thousands of multi-leafed green shamrocks flourishing in the dense grass carpeting our very own front, side and back yards up here on the hill; down yonder in the dale; in the meadows and leas. I’m definitely not going to don green. If I do, I won’t be setting either my left foot or my right foot outside my door. Being dressed in emerald these days could be a dangerous pastime. With the mountain’s verdant vegetation being so lush I’m fearful if I go outside dressed in green I’d blend into the landscape so much so my landlord could mistakenly mow me down on his ride-on. There’s living on the edge…and there’s living dangerously on the edge of the lawn, I do declare! I’ll be steering clear of pastures.

Just so you know - I have no intention of being a bride any time soon (or later) - but, did you know, according to superstition, the unluckiest colour for a bride to wear is green?

Oh! I also refuse to kiss the Blarney Stone; even if I knew where it was. I haven’t a clue where the Blarney Stone is and I have no idea who or how many have kissed it. I don’t want to catch their germs! According to legend, whoever kisses the Blarney Stone is gifted with eloquence and persuasiveness. Does that mean only the persuasive, eloquently gifted are the ones who kiss the stone; or is it only those who flirt with danger by kissing a rock who are thenceforth gifted with persuasive eloquence because they recklessly placed their lips on it? Only the Irish could invent such an ambiguous saying. Whether I kiss a stone or not will make no difference because no one listens to me now when I attempt eloquence; and my powers of persuasion are pretty pathetic; a stone won’t alter the situation. The Blarney is baloney! I might go looking for a green frog, instead!

I won’t be dyeing any rivers green in celebration of St. Paddy’s Day, either, like the folk in Chicago did back in 1962. Our waterways remain muddy from the copious rainfalls. Attempts at dyeing them green would be impossible tasks. If you use your imagination you can get away with calling the present colour of our rivers “khaki” - just for old Pat’s sake! Khaki is a drab green; a dull olive - if you squint; but vivid viridity they are not!

While on the subject of colour; for a long time St. Patrick’s hue wasn’t green, it was blue. Paddy’s intimate association with the shamrock aka purple field clover supposedly is the reason for the colour change. The flowers are purple; the plant, green – to diffuse confusion.

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!

Young Patrick wasn’t even 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 throw a barbecue if you rid us of all snakes here in the Land of Oz! I don't mean I'll throw the barbecue at you (although I should), but I'll throw a barbecue feast fit for a saint 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 throwing Paddy a party. It surely was a long time between drinks from the 400s until 1737! This snippet of information 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 widened further in shocked horror! His naïve expectations were crushed by one foul morsel! He’d thought it was lime ice-cream on his plate, the poor misguided little tyke! It was his introduction to life’s disappointments! He had to start somewhere! I was happy to oblige!

The story of St. Paddy continues - if you eat shamrocks you will become speedy and nimble of strength. I guess all those Irish step-dancers must eat shamrocks. The secret of their prowess, strength and endurance is out!

Here’s to being single; drinking doubles; and seeing triple – Sláinte!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day; everyone’s Irish on Paddy’s Day!

Colcannon: Preheat oven to 180C. Place 10 unpeeled Desiree potatoes on tray lined with 500g rock salt; bake until tender (45mins to 1 hour. Working quickly while spuds are hot; hold them in clean tea towel; scoop flesh from skin; pass through mouli or potato ricer into saucepan. Add 1 small bunch of kale, stalks removed, leaves coarsely chopped (or green cabbage), 3 small spring onions, thinly-sliced, 200ml warmed pouring cream and 50gm softened butter; stir over low heat to warm through. Add 1/2 cup firmly-packed flat-leaf parsley, coarsely-chopped; season to taste; dress with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil; serve hot with crusty bread.

Leprechaun Mash: Cut 500g spuds into wedges; steam 10mins; place 4c chopped broccoli crowns on top; steam until both are tender. Transfer broccoli to bowl; coarsely mash; add spuds, 3/4c shredded gouda, edam or gruyere and 1/2c warm milk; season; mash to desired consistency.

Shamrock Soup: Croutons; toss 2c cubed sourdough in 2tbs ex-virgin olive oil, 1 minced garlic clove and 1tbs finely-chopped rosemary. Spread in on tray; bake in 190C oven until golden and crisp. Meanwhile, melt 1tbs butter in saucepan; add 1 chopped onion, 1 minced garlic clove, 1tbs finely-chopped rosemary; season; reduce heat to med-low; cook, stirring, 5mins. Add 2c diced, peeled spuds; cook 3mins; pour in 4c chicken or veggie broth; bring to simmer; cook until potatoes are soft; stir in 6c spinach leaves - no stems; simmer. Puree in batches; serve garnished with nutmeg and croutons.

St. Paddy’s Pasta: Toss 1 bunch trimmed, halved asparagus and 2 minced garlic cloves in 1tsp olive oil and vegetable seasoning; bake 20mins in 200C oven. Process asparagus with garlic, 2tbs chicken broth and ½ shredded parmesan cheese until smooth. Toss sauce with 4-1/2c prepared pasta of choice.

Irish Boxty: Place 1 cup raw grated potatoes in clean cloth; twist to remove excess moisture. Combine 1c plain flour, salt and 2tsp baking powder; mix into raw potatoes; add 1c mashed spuds, 2 lightly-beaten eggs and about 1/4c milk; just enough to make a batter. Heat pan; add butter or oil; drop tablespoons of batter in hot pan; brown on both sides; butter each boxty; serve hot with or without sugar.

Green Velvet Cupcakes: Preheat oven 180C; place 10 paper liners into muffin tray. Using electric mixer beat together 3/4c each sugar and veg oil, 1 egg, 2tsp white vinegar, 1/2tsp green food colouring and 1tsp vanilla until combined. In another bowl, combine 1-1/4c plain flour and 1/2tsp baking soda; add to egg mixture alternately with 1/2c buttermilk, in 2 or 3 lots, beating well after each addition. Spoon batter into liners; bake 20-25mins. When cool, decorate with green-coloured cream cheese icing; top with green sprinkles or shamrock-shapes cut out of green jelly jubes.

Rumpledethumps: Peel and coarsely chop 5 large spuds; cook until tender. Steam 2-1/2c chopped cabbage, 2 chopped leeks and 2-1/2c coarsely-chopped broccoli. Melt 2tbs butter; add 1/4tsp mace or nutmeg. Add the greens to the butter. Mash spuds with 1/4c milk and 4tbs butter; add to other vegies; season; spread mixture into oiled 9x13 pan; sprinkle with grated cheddar. Place under grill until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.

Paddy’s Cailín (Colleen): Put a shot each of Baileys, Irish whiskey, Kahlua and espresso into blender; blend until creamy; pour into margarita glass; decorate with chocolate curls or cinnamon.

Monday, March 11, 2013


Hours spent pondering the future and now

The vanishing past extends a reluctant bow

My present is spent discovering me as a whole

Peaceful harmony gradually envelops my soul

Once I was torn into a maze of small pieces

However as I come together the pain decreases

Lee's Musings.....

Saturday, March 02, 2013


My mind often works in mysteriously weird ways! By “often” I mean it probably goes into odd mode every second second. A random thought is triggered without warning or choice; usually by a distinctly obscure event; an inconspicuously indiscriminate event or thought. 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; and then it scamper off with to sometimes previously unexplored territory. Mindful that not always will a sensible outcome ensue, the potential is ever present - I'm not keeping score or percentages - but, with that probability in mind, curiosity becomes a powerful motivator.

The word “pre-empt” instigated my current train of brain 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 admiration for the tome maybe concise, but my adoration has never waned. It shares desk space with my equally-admired 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. It's comforting that both volumes resemble me...that speaks volumes for their generosity of spirit!

After my lengthy digressing prattle, 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; put the dogs out; shut the gates; lock the doors; bolt the windows; 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 proves, however, that my Oxford Dictionary and my Roget’s Thesaurus are akin to the song written many years ago by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, and 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; and only then because it would be impossible to cross before coming 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!

My above ramblings are probably testament to my suffering from a mild dose of "Cabin Fever". It's still raining here - pouring. I kid you not...I can see the grass growing!

Since around the 24th or 25th January we've had probably two fine days...if that! Two days is a very generous assessment of the situation! I think the hammering, thumping and activity I'm hearing in the background is from all the present-day Noahs building their arks. Remy and Shama, my two furry, four-legged rascals already have their suitcases packed and their boarding tickets at the ready not far from their paws.

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 ginger nuts 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