BudgerigarsMy Birthday on Hinchinbrook Island
Purposefully, I fly under the radar whenever I can; which is always if I can get away with it. It’s how I like living my life. I keep to myself as much as possible. I enjoy my own company; I cherish privacy and my own space. I never experience pangs of loneliness. Being alone is how I’m meant to be, I believe. If that is the case and my destiny, I can see no point in my bucking against it. Go with the flow is my motto; it surely makes life easier. I spent my working life dealing with people...many people, at all times. And, often - 24/7 - in many various situations.
Nowadays, when my minutes, hours, days and weeks are my own to play with at my own will and choice, there are times I fly so far beneath the radar I practically skim the ground. The grass beneath me stirs from the breeze caused by my gliding so close to it. I think I’m becoming a quail. Hang on for a second or two while I shake my tail feathers! Look closely now because quails don’t have much as far as tail feathers are concerned. If you blink you might miss the life-changing event!
I’m not fond of caged birds. Don’t misunderstand me - I’m very fond of birds. I love birds. It’s the cages I don’t like. I’m against the imprisonment, in cages, of free-spirited creatures, which include me!
When we were kids, my brother built a large, airy aviary, wherein he kept colourful budgerigars and a variety of finches. The aviary’s bottom-dwellers, keeping the area clean, were a family of quails. The birds were my brother’s responsibility; I had little to do with them. In those days, many people had aviaries in their yards; my brother wasn’t alone in his hobby.
An uncle, thrice-removed or even further away along the family tree (he was married to a cousin of our grandmother) who lived not far from us in Gympie converted his back garden into a magical wonderland. Stone-paved paths meandered through a multitude of blooming rose bushes, lush hydrangeas, daisies, chrysanthemums, lilies and a profusion of other flowering plants of denominations I’ve since forgotten; or of which I never did have knowledge.
In the midst of the kaleidoscopic garden well-trimmed, glossy-leafed hedges mimicked a maze. The mini-maze intrigued and thrilled all visitors to the garden. It created a world of fantasy to children and adults alike. Intermingled with the picturesque landscape large aviaries housed birds of wide and varied plumes. At their own free will, proud peacocks nonchalantly wandered around the garden, disdainfully ignoring the presence of all other creatures, human or otherwise.
Often I have difficulty eating small birds! Chickens, ducks, a goose, even, never deter my appetite, but if a small bird, cooked, of course, is placed before me, I tend to ponder a while…whether I should; or whether I should not…
Allow me to explain.
One Saturday night many years ago, I prepared a meal of Chicken in the Basket for my then husband and me. No sooner had I placed our meals in front of us on the table we both looked at each other rather gloomily; and then we looked back at the poor little golden-roasted poussins aka small, young, spring chickens surrounded by crisp French Fries in their napkin-lined baskets.
Simultaneously, we removed the ill-fated birds from the baskets and returned them to the kitchen; our dinner that blighted night consisted of hot potato chips and side salads.
Sunday arrived. I disguised the chickens by de-boning them and turning the flesh into a curry.
For a while in 1969 and 1970, I worked part-time at night at a little eating house on St. Paul’s Terrace, Fortitude Valley. It was called “The Pelican Tavern”. The tavern no longer exists, but it hosted many, many fun-filled nights of eating pleasure from the late Fifties through to the Seventies. Every Sunday afternoon at the tavern a popular trad jazz group of the time, “The Varsity Five Plus Two”, entertained the tavern’s happy, satisfied patrons. The trad jazz band consisted of a group of university students…as the name gives clue to.
The Pelican Tavern’s builder-owner-chef, Kyriol Wypow originally came to Australia from Kiev in the Ukraine, having left the country of his birth after the turbulent years following the Russian Revolution. When Kiev became part of the Soviet Socialist Republic in 1921, Mr. Wypow decided it was time for him to leave and seek his life adventures elsewhere. He trekked south, down through Turkey, finally ending up in Australia; the country that became his home until his death. I still feel honoured and fortunate having known Kyriol Wypow. Back during the time I worked for him, he and I became great mates.
Saturday nights at the Tavern were always busy. Many patrons returned week after week, having fallen victim to the tavern’s ambience; and to the good, simple food it offered.
It was a busy Saturday evening - a first-time diner ordered Chicken in the Basket. When his meal was placed before him, he proceeded to pour the contents of his finger bowl over the chicken while the others at his table and beyond looked on aghast! Not a word was uttered as he tucked into his tucker! Everyone put their heads down and acted as if nothing out of the normal run of events had occurred. No one wanted to embarrass the poor fellow. I often wonder to this very day, if he ever did realise his blunder!
Back in the mid-Eighties, when I was manager of the resort at Cape Richards on the magnificent Hinchinbrook Island in tropical north Queensland, my staff successfully planned and pulled off a surprise birthday party for me. I hadn’t a clue what was in store.
I dined out on the deck surrounding the resort’s pool that evening; beneath the twinkling stars with the sounds of the ocean lapping the shore. Dome of my island guests and members of my staff joined in on my unplanned-by-me birthday celebration.
With a wide smile on his face, one of my island chefs presented me with a specially-prepared meal of Brandied Quail with Apricots.
The meal and evening were both memorable; and highly enjoyable!
Roasted Quails with Apricot-Mustard Glaze: Season 4-6 semi-boned quails; place skin-side in pan; drizzle a little brandy over birds; bake 15mins in 230C oven. In saucepan, stir together 1/4c apricot jam, 1/4c brandy, 2-1/2tsp dry mustard and 1/4tsp each salt and pepper; stand 10mins; then put on med-low heat; simmer 2-3mins; reserve half of glaze. Brush quail with glaze; bake 10mins or until rich golden; don’t overcook. Add 1/3c brandy and 1/4c diced dried apricots to reserved glaze; simmer 6-7mins; spoon over quails.
Grilled Quail with Couscous & Winter Carrot Salad: Preheat indoor or BBQ grill, med-high. Toast 1tsp each coriander and cumin seeds in pan until they begin to pop; grind in grinder or mortar and pestle. Combine 3tbs honey, 2tbs orange juice, 2tbs lime juice, 1tbs sherry, 1tsp minced ginger, 2 minced garlic cloves and the toasted spices; add 4 butter-flied quails; toss in marinade; marinate 1hr. Remove from marinade; season. Place on grill skin side down; cook 5mins; flip; grill another 5mins or until cooked; don’t overcook! Boil any leftover marinade; drizzle over the quail. Winter Carrot Salad: Heat oil in pan, add 8 blanched baby orange and purple carrots halved lengthwise; add 2tbs honey and 1tbs butter; toss; stir until caramelized; season. Couscous: Melt 1tbs butter in saucepan; sauté 1/2c chopped onion until it begins to caramelize; add crushed garlic clove; sauté 2-3mins; add 2c chicken stock, 2tbs lemon juice, 1ts ground cumin, 1/2c dried apricots and 1/4c currants; bring to boil. Add 2c couscous; season; stir well; cover; remove from heat. Stand until all liquid is absorbed; fluff with fork; add 1 chopped green onion/shallot, 2tbs each chopped mint and parsley.
Chicken in a Basket: Place two poussins in roasting tin; throw in a few unpeeled garlic cloves to add a bit of flavour, if you like. It’s up to you. Brush with oil; season. Roast in preheated oven 200C (400F) for 30 minutes or until juices from the legs run clear when pierced with a skewer. Meanwhile, par-boil some potatoes; when cool, cut into chips; heat oil in deep-fryer, saucepan or deep-sided frying pan; fry chips until golden; drain well. Arrange napkins in two small baskets. Place chips in the folds of the cloth. Place poussins in basket, surrounded by the hot potato chips aka French Fries. Serve with bowls of side salad. Grab to other bowls – place a wedge or slice of lemon in each bowl; top up with lukewarm water. Serve the finger bowls with the chicken in the baskets…so you can dip your fingers in them between pulling the chickens apart! This is an “eating with fingers” dish! Don’t pour the contents of your finger bowls over the chicken!!!!!