|Shenzhen, Southern China|
|Warrior Goddess Athena|
|Exterior of Miner's Lantern Restaurant and Conference Room, Cedar Creek, Thunderbird Park|
|Cedar Creek, Tamborine Mountain|
|A local resident of Cedar Creek Lodges, Thunderbird Park...known as "Kooka" both to friends and visitors.|
We’re lucky up here on the hill in many, many ways. For one, it certainly is a beautiful area in which to live. Seeing it through the eyes of others, of visitors to our piece of paradise, we’re very often re-awoken to the fact of how stunning it really is. Again, I’m speaking for myself, of course. A thump or two is required every so often as I do have a tendency to snooze off when least expected, and in the most unlikely spots. This happened to me at IGA yesterday, but the staff just tossed me into the trolley with the rest of my purchases and pushed the trolley in the direction of my car. Groaning under the extra load, it automatically knew its way because I always park in the same spot.
Albeit unconsciously, at times everyone is guilty of taking things for granted, there’s no point denying it. For example, we become blind to nature and all that abounds within its wide and varied realm; to the (mostly) wonderful inhabitants (of the two-legged variety) who roam this mountain, as well as the many cafes and restaurants dotted here there and everywhere around the place.
Previously I mentioned I was attending a wedding on Valentine’s Day. Everything went according to plan, even better, I think. It was one of the happiest weddings at which I’ve been a guest. I’ve a sneaky suspicion I’m not alone in my thoughts.
When the wedding ceremony, which was held in Brisbane, was over the wedding party and guests ascended the range road to congregate at the groom’s family home to glory at the setting sun; and for the catching of breaths and a “getting-to-know-you” interlude.
The groom’s parents are my landlords, so the gathering of the clans and friends was held on the verandah of my landlords’ home which is just up the other end of this three acre block of land from my cabin.
Tristan, the son and groom lives and works in China, and has done so for the past six or more years. He teaches English - on mainland China. He and Palas, (his Chinese bride, also known as “Yang” – pronounced “young”) live in Shenzhen. Shenzhen is a major city in the south of Southern China’s Guangdong Province, situated immediately north of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Shenzhen is so far removed from Tamborine Mountain in every way possible.
During the late afternoon soiree here on the property I asked Palas from where she derived her name …seeing “Yang” appeared on the wedding invitation; and is her “true” name.
Listening carefully to her explanation, I gathered it all came about when she was attending university, studying, amongst other subjects, Ancient Greece when she stumbled across a someone from history who inspired her.
“The Greek goddess Athena was also referred to as “Pallas Athena”, as well as “Athene” and “Athina”. Pallas Athena is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, arts, crafts and many other wonderful attributes and is portrayed as a shrewd companion of heroes.”
A far better person/image to aspire to than Kim Kardashian, in my opinion.
As an aside, Palas is a tiny young woman...I think I could pick her up with one arm, with my other held behind my back...or in front.
At dinner and drinks with my landlords on New Year’s Eve I met Palas for the first time. At that stage, the young soon-to-be married couple was visiting Tristan’s parents for a couple of days over the festive season. Palas and I got on like a house on fire. She’s a lovely lass.
Attending the wedding on Saturday, 14th February were six members of the bride’s family. It was their first visit to Australia’s fair shores. Obviously none were Tristan’s students because they didn’t speak English, nor did they understand it being spoken to them.
However, as I’ve found many times throughout my time working within the hospitality industry; also in life in general, happiness, smiles and good manners have no barriers, no boundaries; no guard-protected borders; when and if the above are implemented any language barriers quickly disintegrate. Sure, lengthy conversations trying to solve or make sense of the world’s mysteries won’t be conducted, but we have enough of those during our day to day lives. And, too often, such discourses can become tedious and boring, and no matter how long or how in-depth we converse we never do, or will, solve the problems of the world...time wasted. Such discussions definitely do not have a place during times of joyous celebration.
Not knowing what to give the young couple, who appear to have “it all” (they both are earning a good living doing what they do. Palas works for a company in some kind of executive position; and are off to Paris for their honeymoon) as a wedding gift, I decided that I’d supply the food; do the catering for the “getting-to-know-you” soiree at the family home after the wedding ceremony and the evening’s dining at a local restaurant.
There were about 27 guests (plus a toddler and a three year old). Also a few more friends of the Aussie family called by to partake in the relaxed late afternoon interlude on the verandah.
I prepared a couple of large antipasto platters; a large cheese and fruit platter; bowls of marinated champignons and artichoke hearts and Chinese pickled cucumbers. I also made two different chocolate slices (double quantities of ingredients in both recipes). Enough, of course, to feed the Australian Army and the Chinese Army combined! What’s new? I alway over-cater, but I’d rather have more than not enough. It all got eaten…even if it took a couple of days to do so!
After everyone mingled, relaxed, regrouped, sipped and snacked a while, with our happy mood intact we descended upon a local venue for the wedding dinner – off to The Miner’s Lantern Restaurant at Thunderbird Park we headed.
Some restaurants/restaurateurs have that special potion – the “it factor” – and some don’t. Some appear not to care too much about their clientele, their diners; their guests, at times treating them as inferiors. This doesn’t apply to Thunderbird Park’s Miner’s Lantern. The service was swift; the staff efficient and pleasant.
And then there was the food. What can I say? The food was absolutely delicious! Without a doubt; without hesitation, the food was brilliant.
The Chinese guests enjoyed their meals because I noticed their plates at the end of each of the three courses left little evidence of food. That’s a sign of approval, isn’t it?
There was nothing inferior about the fare presented. It was first class. The lamb was the tenderest, most succulent lamb I’ve had in a long, long time. The chicken must have grazed on the same pastures because it was tender and juicy, too. Don’t let me get started on the entrée and desserts! I’ll be here for a week if you do!
I rarely go out at night. Boy! Oh! Boy! Were my eyes opened! There was a whole other world going on at Thunderbird Park on Saturday evening! Of course, it was Valentine’s Day and that would’ve accounted for the crowds, but apparently they were catering for three weddings as well as the romantic couples celebrated dear old Val.
All venues were a hive of activity, a-brim with happy joyous people in celebratory mode. Obviously, the folk who run the establishment are doing something right. The proof was there to be seen and savoured – it was in the pudding, too!
Apple Pudding: Preheat oven 180C. Lightly grease 6-cup ovenproof dish. Place 4 large peeled, cored sliced golden delicious apples, 1/4c caster sugar and 2tbs cold water in saucepan; stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium. Cook stirring occasionally, 10-12mins, until apples are just tender. Pour into prepared dish. Beat 2 eggs until pale; gradually add 1/4c caster sugar; beat until thick. Sift 2tbs each S.R. flour, plain flour and custard powder together over eggs; fold in until just combined; spoon over apples; bake 20mins, until light golden. Dust with icing sugar.
Rhubarb Steamed Pudding: Cook over low heat 350g fresh rhubarb, cut into 4cm lengths with 75g caster sugar and 1tsp ground ginger, 2-3mins; remove from heat. Grease 900ml pudding basin. Cream 125g caster sugar and 125g unsalted butter; add a few drops of vanilla; beat in 2 lightly beaten medium eggs, a little at a time; sift in 175g S.R. flour; carefully fold in. Spoon rhubarb into bottom of basin; pour in the mixture; level surface; butter a piece of greaseproof paper slightly bigger than top of pudding; make pleat in centre; secure over top of pudding; repeat with foil; secure the lot with string. Place in a pan half-filled with simmering water. Cover; cook 1-1/2hrs. Don’t let it boil dry. Invert onto plate; lift off basin.
Baked Pear Pudding: Preheat oven 180C. Put 6 peeled, cored and quartered pears, 4tsp brown sugar and seeds of 1 vanilla pod into saucepan with 4tsp water; simmer 5mins. Place fruit mixture into well-greased ovenproof casserole. Beat together 1/2c butter and 1/3c white sugar; beat in 2 large eggs until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in 1c sifted S.R. flour until well-combined. Pour mixture over pears; bake for about 35-45mins. Serve with custard, cream or ice cream.
A Long and Winding, Dark, but Tasty Rocky Road: Grease an 8cm x 20cm bar pan; line with baking paper, leaving some overhanging on all sides. Place 50ml Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur or any Irish Cream liqueur (drink the rest while preparing slice), 200g quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped, 20g unsalted butter and 1/3c sweetened condensed milk in heatproof bowl over pan of simmering water (don’t let bowl touch water). Allow to melt, stirring gently until smooth. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Stir in 50g chopped unsalted pistachio kernels, 75g roughly crushed shortbread biscuits, 200g mini-marshmallows and 100g roughly chopped white chocolate (throw in some dried cranberries if you wish). Spread mixture into pan; then chill the mix for 2-3 hours until firm. Melt 50g white chocolate as before. Drizzle over the set mixture; leave for 3 to 4mins to set; then cut into squares. Keep in airtight container in fridge for up to one week.