Saturday, October 31, 2015


Bart Cummings

It’s that time of the year again – already!  I seem to be continually passing comment about how fast the years bolt by; but, strewth, I do not utter an untruth! Spring is well-sprung; even I have a hop in my hobble. This Saturday the Melbourne Cup Carnival is off and running with AAMI Victoria Derby Day. The following Saturday the fun culminates with Emirates Stakes Day as the 2015 Carnival gallops to a halt. It’ll be all over bar the thundering of hooves. Discarding their stilettos, reluctantly the ladies will hang up their finery, hats and fascinating fascinators.  

I love this time of the year, and although the only horse race I have a bet on these days is the Melbourne Cup, I watch every race from the first race to the last throughout the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.

The Caulfield Cup, a Group One handicap event over 2400m is the second of the big Spring Cups and is a good lead-up to the prestigious Melbourne Cup. 

Between the running of the Caulfield Cup, a three-day carnival, in October and the Melbourne Cup, which is always run on the first Tuesday in November, is the running of the Group One WS Cox  Plate hosted by the Moonee Valley racecourse.  The Cox Plate is run over the distance of 2040m, and is classed as the championship weight-for-age race.

The first Melbourne Cup was run in 1861; it was won by Archer.  The prize was 710 gold sovereigns (₤710), along with a hand-beaten gold watch. Archer won again the following year.

Before the Spring Carnival reaches its climax the highest point on the course, of course, is next Tuesday, Melbourne Cup Day.  The Melbourne Cup is run over 3200m (two miles).  

This post may not interest some of you; and some of you may not have a clue what I'm writing about...but in an attempt to clarify - the words in "bold" are the names of past Melbourne Cup winners...and my post is in tribute to the late, great Bart Cummings who passed away on 30th August, 2015, aged 87.
The late, legendary Bart Cummings will be sadly missed from this year’s events. Bart was Viewed with Saintly respect. Held in high esteem, not only by those in horse racing circles, but by the general public, too, Bart will remain forever a national treasure.

Along with Viewed and Saintly Bart trained nine other winners of the sought-after, prized Melbourne Cup e.g. Light Fingers, Galilee, Red Handed, Think Big (won twice – 1974 and 1975), Gold and Black, Hyperno, Kingston Rule, Let’s Elope and Rogan Josh. 

Bart Cummings may not have trained Efficient, but he certainly performed efficiently throughout the years.  Bart was the favoured odds-on favourite trainer of favourites. Thousands were prepared to take the plunge when one of his horses was running.  

Even though allergic to horses and hay, instead of saying What a Nuisance and cantering away, he was caught Red Handed; not from doing anything wrong, but from doing something Ethereal with horses in his care. Bart held the Might and Power of horse training by the reins. Rising Fast, he soon earned a well-deserved reputation, but not without more than Just a Dash of Hi Jinx along the way.   

Bart wasn’t a Windbag. He did, however, subtly lord over a Comic Court. Not always Sirius, Bart was the Comedy King.  Quick-witted, in his well-stocked Arsenal he had a Catalogue packed with humorous quips. With a twinkle in his eyes, he loved letting loose a jocular riposte when least expected. 

Bart’s life turned out to be more than a Gala Supreme.   

The elder Statesman of thoroughbred racing, he was a Mentor to thousands. It was not all about The Victory with Bart.   

His father Jim Cummings, an accomplished trainer, trained Comic Court, the winner of the 1950 Melbourne Cup.  As a lad Bart began as a strapper working for his dad. In 1953, aged 26, he received his trainer licence.  

Bart’s father was born in Ireland.   

There’s something horsey (not fishy) about the name “Cummings”.  My first husband’s surname is “Cummings”. Whoa! Shut the gate! Don’t go off on a wild horse chase! Use some stable thinking!  Apply some horse sense! Don’t ride off madly in all directions!  I didn’t do a Liz Taylor! By George! I’ve had only two husbands! 

My first husband’s late brother, Kevin Cummings, taught top jockey Glen Boss how to ride horses.  
Bart Cummings’ spirit will be at Flemington, not only on Cup Day, but throughout the Carnival - for years to come. Bart Cummings’ legacy and our memories of him will stay with us. A humble man, Bart was a legend in his own lifetime. His passing won’t diminish his light. 

Melbourne Cup 2015 is for Bart.  Bravo, Bart! Always The Melbourne Cup Protectionist, you were Tawrrific!

Monday, October 26, 2015


Gympie's Memorial Park
Bullnose Awning
Gympie's Central Primary School...the school I went to...up around the corner from where I grew up

The other day I spoke with a good friend of longstanding. We lived across the street from each other throughout our childhood and teenage years.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned my friend Darry previously in past posts. Although she and I may talk via the phone only two or three times a year, time lapsed between communications makes no difference whatsoever.  Darry and I pick up from where we left off; not a beat missed. We’re never out of tune.  Darry doesn’t own a computer; so emails aren’t in the equation, unfortunately.  Our banter remains the same – the same as it has done through the years; our shared insanity will never alter. We’ve always been close; we always will be.

Darry was six years older than me when we first met; she still is; that hasn’t changed either!   

When we first entered each other’s life, I was four and Darry was 10.  The difference in our ages didn’t matter then; it doesn’t matter now. 

Actually, we first met in April, a few months before I turned four.  Darry came to my fourth birthday party.  She didn’t have to travel far…just across the street. It wasn’t only the thought of my ice cream birthday cake that lured her to cross the street, either.  Until Mum, Nana, my older brother Graham and I moved into Fern Street, Gympie there had been no other children Darry’s age or thereabouts living nearby.  Even though Graham was closer to Darry's age then than I was, somehow, Darry and I just clicked…ice cream cake or no ice cream cake!

The evening before Darry phoned I had a dream; one I have periodically, but with minor variations each nocturnal visit. I can never remember the name of the shop in my nightly visits. When I’m awake I can’t remember its name.  To this day the building, now renovated, remains at the top of the hill at the junction of Mellor Street and the street where we lived in Gympie – Fern Street. 

I asked Darry if she could remember the shop’s name. As far as she can remember she believes it never had a name, as such, but people called “Wilmott” lived on the premises and ran the business. If one insists on being pedantic, perhaps it was called “Willmott’s”.

My lingering memory is the building’s physicality. It’s a two-storey timber construction.  These days the building houses a carpet store, called "Dodt's Floor Coverings".  (I went to school with a Ken Dodt).

Living quarters in the building as I knew it were on the top level when we were kids. A bullnose awning covered the length of the front verandah on the upper area with its protective railings supported by decorative posts at measured distances. The floor of the verandah doubled as an awning over the footpath below. 

The ground floor housed a shop. Actually, it was more a café than a shop; a clearer description would be to define it as a tea shop, I guess. The store was a mystery to me then; and obviously the enigma remains if I keep dreaming about it. 

I can count on one finger, maybe three, how many times I entered the dismal, uninviting establishment. With a young child’s active imagination I probably believed it housed an ogre or witch, or both! Or maybe it just didn't have enough interesting goodies on display to rouse my attention and desire to partake in same.

Two full length bay windows on either side of the main doorway shed little light into the shop’s dreary interior.  The protruding windows were canted with flat fronts and angled sides. There was nothing ornamental about them.  I doubt any practical use was made of the protuberances.

Drab curtains draped limply at either side of the fixed-glass panes.  I can’t recall ever seeing the windows open.  A dark-stained timber counter ran along the right side of the shop. A rear door led to I know not where, and I wasn’t eager to find out.

Four or five tables, maybe one or two more, were sporadically placed about the room without rhyme or reason. Again, I don’t remember ever seeing anyone seated at the tables. No doubt customers did frequent the tea shop; but just not when I passed by.  Perhaps they did when I was as school or, later, at work.

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and enter the shop, as it was in those days of yore, if only to satisfy my curiosity; then I may never dream about that cheerless place again!

And if that did occur, it wouldn’t be a loss because I have an endless supply of dreams as back-ups, all in CinemaScope, surround-sound and technicolour - and a re-wind button!

Rhubarb Dream Bars: Process 2c plain flour, 3/4c icing sugar and 1c butter. Press into 15x10-inch pan; bake at 176C, 15mins; crust will be very light coloured. Beat together 4 large eggs, 2c sugar, 1/2c plain flour and 1/2tsp salt; fold in 4c thinly-sliced rhubarb; spread onto hot crust; bake 40-45mins. Cool; cut into bars.

White Christmas Dream Drops: Preheat oven 120C. Using whisk attachment beat 2 large room temp egg whites and 1/8th tsp cream of tartar in deep bowl until soft peaks form; add 1/2tsp vanilla and 1/8th tsp salt. Grab 3/4c sugar; with mixer on high speed, add 1tbs sugar; beat 10-15secs; repeat until all sugar is added. Scrape inside of bowl; beat another 15secs. Straight peaks should form when beaters are lifted. Using flexible spatula, fold in 1c white choc chips and 1/3c coarsely crushed peppermint candy sticks. Line 2 baking sheets. Drop meringue in rounded 1tbs portions slightly apart onto sheets. Sprinkle with 1-1/2tbs crushed peppermint candies. Bake until meringues feel dry and set when touched, but still pale, 30-35mins; switch pan positions halfway through. Turn off oven; open door; let the drops stand 10mins; cool on pans. Make up to 2 days ahead; store airtight.

Irish Cream Dream: Line 4x237ml ramekins with wrap; leave long flaps to cover ingredients later. In processor pulse 20 ginger-nut biscuits with 3tbs melted butter until small crumbs form; press half crumb mix, divided evenly, firmly into ramekins. Reserve other half for the topping. Whisk 1c heavy cream with 1tbs sugar until soft peaks form. In separate bowl blend 2tbs instant espresso and 1x14oz can condensed milk; blend until coffee dissolves; whisk in 1/2c Baileys; fold in whipped cream. Pour into ramekins; top with remaining crumbs; cover with wrap; press to compact; freeze until set. Release from ramekins to serve. 

Tropical Dream: Fill large glass with 2oz Malibu, 1oz Blue Curacao, 5oz pineapple juice; garnish with Maraschino cherries,152.6671723,3a,75y,271.23h,90t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1s6IF2Zm52j3cBPTUylauJvg!2e0!5s20140601T000000!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1 (Fern Street, Circa 2015)

The two-storey building I refer to (now renovated and a floor covering business) is pictured here - situated on the right of the picture on the corner of Mellor and Fern the top of the hill.....,152.6681245,3a,75y,271.23h,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1szpNzRjEcpOjWkxkoSz4qsg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0xba1444ae72baa934!6m1!1e1

Monday, October 19, 2015


Cape Gooseberry

Many a mulberry tree was raided when we were kids, including our own.  When we’d stripped it bare of leaves and berries our relentless scavenging branched off to the rest of the mulberry trees in the neighbourhood.  After we’d feasted on mulberries until we’d had our fill; long after our mouths, lips, tongues and fingers had turned deep purple, almost black from the luscious juice of the berries, not to mention the mess we made of our clothes (but I did make mention of it), we made our way back home again to be greeted by some “tsk-tsking” from Nana or Mum; or both.   

They never really scolded us, though.  To get into a mess was par for the course of being a kid, I guess.

I wonder if the stains ever did come out of our clothes.  Perhaps the tie-dyeing craze of the mid-Sixties/early Seventies originated from the messes caused by mulberry eating.

The reason we kids rid Gympie’s mulberry trees of their leaves was to feed our families of silkworms. Silkworms love mulberry leaves.  Just about every kid had silkworms in those days.  Much trading went on throughout the neighbourhoods. 

Is the keeping of silkworms still popular with today’s kids (yesterday’s and last week’s, too)? 

Not only were silkworms fun to nurture, but good use was made of shoe boxes.  Recycling began right there! Shoe boxes were never thrown away. They became houses and factories for our industrious silkworms.  The busy little Bombyx mori caterpillars needed somewhere safe to spin their silk. 

We weren’t as enterprising. Instead of spinning yarns we should’ve turned the results of their efforts into fabric. Think of all silk blouses, dresses, shirts and ties we could’ve had! A choice opportunity slipped through our fingers.

Silkworms love mulberry leaves; I love mulberries.  I also love gooseberries.

Many years have passed by since I’ve had even a single gooseberry, let alone a gooseberry pie or tart. 

Donkey years ago when my late mother-in-law’s Cape gooseberry bush (not to be confused with “gooseberry” was in full production mode she’d have a Cape gooseberry pie waiting for me each time I paid a visit, even in the years before she became my mother-in-law when Randall was still living and working in New York City.  She knew I loved gooseberry pies.  I’m drooling at the memory of her delicious Cape gooseberry pies.

The Cape Gooseberry isn’t related to the Gooseberry. Cape Gooseberries are native to Peru; associated with the lost Incan Civilization and Machu Picchu.

Gooseberries are native to Europe, north-western Africa, west, south and south-east Asia.

I’ve never played at being a gooseberry, but I was an easy mark a few times in years long gone when someone often played “gooseberry”, ruining what could possibly have turned out fun times; and, maybe, a fine romance or two! 

My brother, Graham was the chief (and only) perpetrator/someone.  Older brothers can be such a pain at times!

Expertly proficient at playing the game of “gooseberry” when I was a teenager, he extracted extreme pleasure from it.

Graham ruined a couple of budding romances.

Be assured, I blew raspberries at him behind his back, and a few more in his face! He didn’t completely get away with his underhand methods.

I often wish I’d be allowed a few “sliding door” moments to see the “what ifs”; but maybe it’s better I don’t know - because I might become berry blue!

We didn’t have strawberry fields forever, however, in a dedicated garden patch our mother grew strawberries.  Down on our haunches, Graham and I regularly feasted upon the berries straight from the plants. Our strawberry eating rarely caused staining to our clothes.  I doubt many, if any, of the berries made it up the stairs to the kitchen, but that wasn’t a bad thing.  We were never reprimanded for our grazing along the rows, as long as we didn’t step on the plants.  After much practice, we were experts in the field of strawberry-picking-eating.

A bit of trivia for you to store away – just in case - strawberries aren’t actually berries; pineapples are; tomatoes are berries, too; as are avocados. 

On the subject of berries, my mother grew a pineapple once; a single pineapple.

After waiting forever for the crown to bear fruit (over two years), unfortunately, the sole pineapple finally ripened when Mum was on holidays, staying with me in my unit at Toowong, Brisbane. Nana, who’d remained behind in Slade Point (via Mackay) ate the long-awaited pineapple rather than let it go to waste. Having waited forever for her fruit to come into fruition Mum was not amused!  Nana did report to us how delicious the pineapple was.  Mum was still not amused!

Berry-Kale Salad: Remove leaves from stems of 1 kale bunch; tear into bite-sized pieces; put in bowl; drizzle over 1tbs x-virgin olive oil and 3/4tsp sea salt; massage a few minutes with hands; set aside. Combine juice and zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange. 1tbs x-virgin olive oil and 1tsp honey; season; pour over kale. Just before serving add ½ avocado, cubed, 1c fresh blueberries, 2tbs toasted pepitas and dressing.

Red Wheat Berry Salad: Soak 1c red wheat berries overnight in cold water, drain. Boil wheat berries (unprocessed wheat kernels) in 6c water, 50-60mins, until tender; drain. Boil 2c water in another pot; add 1c wild rice; simmer 45mins; undercook a little to retain some structure; drain. Combine wheat and rice in bowl. Whisk 3tbs lemon/lime juice, 1tbs each honey and Dijon mustard, salt, pepper and a little olive oil, if desired. Add dressing to wheat/wild rice; add 1c dried cranberries, 2/3c toasted, chopped pecans, 1/2c each chopped parsley and shallots and 1 finely-chopped celery stalk.

Mulberry Pudding: Spread 4c mulberries in greased, floured 9x9 pan. Combine 3tbs sugar and 2tbs flour; sprinkle over berries. Cream 3tbs softened butter and ½c sugar; mix in 1 egg and 1/4tsp vanilla. Combine 1c plain flour, 1tsp baking powder and 1/2tsp salt; add to creamed mix alternately with 1/3c milk. Drop spoonfuls of batter over fruit; all fruit may not be covered. Bake in preheated 175C oven, 30-40mins.

Berry Balls: Blend together until fine 1/2c oats, 1/4c each raw almonds and cashews; add 1tbs Acai berry powder, five fresh or frozen berries of choice; when mixture begins to clump together, add 1tbs each of goji berries, cranberries and raisins; mix with your hands; roll into balls; chill 45-90mins.

Cape Gooseberries and Strawberry Flaugnarde: Place 1-1/4c milk, 1/3c sugar, 3 large eggs, 1tsp vanilla, pinch of salt and 1/2c plain flour in bowl. Using hand mixer, mix ingredients until free of lumps. Grease a 9-inch baking dish; pour in 2/3rd of batter. Place dish in 180C preheated oven; bake 10mins. Remove from oven; place 2c Cape gooseberries and 1c strawberries on top; sprinkle with 1/3c sugar; then carefully pour over the remaining batter. Place back in oven; bake 50-60mins or until it’s all puffed up and brown on top. Just before serving sprinkle with icing sugar.

Pineapple Pudding: Process 55g chopped fresh pineapple until pureed. Scrap into a pan; add 2/3rd cup caster sugar; cook about 5mins until reduced by 1/3rd. Mixture should be thick but not as thick as preserves/jam; add a little water to thin it out, if necessary. Meanwhile, make caramel by placing 4tbs sugar in a heavy pan and cook to start to caramelize; shake pan, but do not stir. Remove from heat once sugar has dissolved and is golden brown. Carefully stir in 1tbs lime juice (it will splatter and spit…so there is no need for you to spit the dummy). Divide caramel between 6 ramekins. Preheat oven 180C. Lightly beat 4 eggs and stir into the cooled pineapple mixture; divide this mixture evenly among the ramekins. Place ramekins into a roasting pan; pour warm water into pan so that it comes halfway up the pan.  Bake 45mins, until set. Let cool, then invert ramekins onto dessert plates.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


To me there’s something incredibly seductive about restaurant kitchens.  I fell under their spell years ago. Willingly, I was seduced by the unique aroma of cold rooms and glistening stainless steel bench tops; the heat emanating from sturdy, solid ranges laden with simmering hot pots filled with mysterious ingredients. Even the challenges of surviving slippery oil-splattered floors didn’t deter my infatuation. I knew I had to be part of that weird, wonderful world.  When I stepped into commercial kitchens – restaurant kitchens - I felt alive! A thrill ran down my spine. Like the power of Niagara Falls, my adrenalin started flowing! I was charmed,intrigued and captivated!

Hours spent setting up the mise en place; getting all the ingredients needed for service ready, close at hand; set out in order on the work bench for easy access.  Chopping, par-cooking, trimming, making sure nothing is left to chance or forgotten as the countdown begins.

Akin to curtains rising upon a stage show, the doors of the restaurant open. The diners stream in.  Their orders take over the kitchen, glaring at you, hanging off spikes above the ranges. Docket after order-filled docket demanding your attention.

The spell is broken.  Reality hits, waiting for no one! It’s all systems go!  If you don’t have the preparation completed, the mise en place in place, the restaurant may as well remain closed.  All hell will break loose otherwise!  You’ll be so behind the eight-ball, you’ll never catch up.  Disaster lies ahead – just beyond the kitchen door! 

One’s focus remains intent, unbroken until the last meal is served.

After a few years of dangerous manoeuvering kitchen workers unconsciously adopt a special kitchen gait. I’m sure I did, even if no one else did!

It’s an extremely stressful, but rewarding job - one not for the faint-hearted.  When the pressure is on, the pressure is on; not dissimilar to a pressure cooker!

I loved my years spent cooking in restaurants, and also the time I spent waiting tables in restaurants.  I'm not a trained chef.  Because of my interest, I taught myself by watching, reading, listening, asking questions of the chefs I worked with when I waited on tables.  The hospitality industry intrigued me. I wanted to play a part in I did...on many different levels.

These days I prefer to watch from afar…from my sofa, as competitors on “My Kitchen Rules” or “MasterChef” battle it out, trying to beat the clock and each other. Sometimes watching the pressure they put upon themselves brings back many memories and at times, I can feel the knot in my stomach beginning to form, until I tell myself...I'm here...and they are there!!

And I also prefer rare occasions like the one I enjoyed yesterday.  Hassle-free, I sat back sharing a leisurely lunch in the company of a good friend. We spent a couple of hours at a busy local eatery enjoying the restaurant’s fare where, no doubt, behind the scenes the pace was far more hectic than that at our table.

My friend and I sat a little way away from the madding crowd, outside overlooking a free-form pond surrounded by rolling, verdant fields. A gentle breeze barely disturbed the leaves on the trees and the clear blue sky above, unsullied by powder puff clouds dotted here and there framed the scene. A family of wood ducks floated upon the pond’s surface looking as if they didn’t have a care in the world.  Their mood was contagious!

Music from the Sixties played softly in the background. It caused fond reflection on the days of our youth.  The Sixties were a magical mystery tour; it was such an enjoyable ride that took us into the Seventies. (And now I really am in the Seventies)!!

To quote Bob Dylan: “People today are still living off the table scraps of the Sixties. They are still being passed around -- the music and the ideas.”

In the Seventies more great music flowed freely…and some wonderful recipes were discovered and became fashionable. 

Coquilles St. Jacques: Boil and mash 500g potatoes with butter and a little milk/cream. Simmer large scallops in milk for a couple of minutes. Put scallops in their shells; pipe mashed potato around edges of shells.  Melt a little butter in pan; stir in 28g plain flour (making a roux); cook gently, stirring, 3mins; gradually add milk for scallops and a little more if required; cook until sauce thickens; add 1tbl white wine or dry sherry; season. Mask scallops with sauce; sprinkle with dry breadcrumbs and grated cheese; place under grill until crisp and brown on top. Garnish with parsley and lemon.

Coq au Vin: Heat 2tbs x-virgin olive oil into heavy-based ovenproof pot over medium heat; add 2c chopped bacon and 1 chopped medium onion; cook, stirring, until both are softened and then remove, draining well.  Cut 2x2kg chickens into 8 pieces each. Fry the chicken in batches until all the pieces are evenly browned, then return them all to the pot with the bacon and onion. Remove the pot from the heat and add 5tbs brandy. Carefully ignite, standing well back until the flames subside; then return the pot to the heat.  Preheat the oven to 140°C. Tie a few sprigs of fresh thyme, rosemary , 2 bay leave and parsley into bundle; add to pot with 3 crushed garlic cloves, 1tbs tomato puree, 1tbs lemon juice, 1tbs sugar and 1 bottle of full-bodied, dry red wine. Cover with lid; cook in oven for 2 to 2-1/2 hours until chicken is very tender.About 30 minutes before the chicken finishes cooking, melt 1tbs butter and 2tbs oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add 350g pickling onions or shallots; fry for 10 to 15 minutes until they are golden brown and soft; transfer to a plate. Add 350g button mushrooms to the pan; toss so they are just cooked and coloured.  Blend the 2tbs butter and 2tbs flour together in a small bowl. Remove a few pieces of the cooked chicken to make room to stir in the beurre manié. Add this in small amounts, stirring after each addition so that the sauce remains smooth.  When all the beurre manié has been incorporated return the chicken together with the onions/shallots and mushrooms. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle the top generously with the parsley and serve from the pot.

Sukiyaki: Cut 250g rump or sirloin thickly. Mix together 3tbls beef stock, 2-6tbsl soy sauce, 2tbl sugar and 1/2tbl saki or sherry (add soy sauce gradually, tasting frequently to get desired taste). Cook 170g rice separately; keep hot. Heat 1tbl oil in large frying pan; brown meat on both sides; add half the sauce to meat; push meat to one side of pan; add 1 sliced onion, 1 sliced leek and 113g shredded cabbage; cook gently for 3mins. Add remaining sauce, 113g finely-shredded mushrooms and 113g spinach; cook further 3mins. Beat and season 2 eggs; heat in separate pan, stirring until slightly thickened, but not set. Add hot meat and vegetables to this; serve with rice; serves 2-3.

Crêpes Suzette: Sieve 113g plain flour, pinch salt; beat in 2 eggs, and then enough milk for thick batter (about 235ml); beat hard; stand for short time (the batter, and you, if you like); add a little more liquid if too thick. Add 1/2tbs oil or melted butter just before cooking. A little sugar can be added to flour for a sweet crepe. Fill each crepe with a filling of: 113g butter, 113g sugar, grated rind of 2 oranges and a little curacao or Grand Marnier. Fold crepes into four over the filling; place them onto a very hot dish. Mix together juice of 2 oranges, 1tbls curacao or Grand Marnier and a little sugar; heat in pan; pour over hot crepes; ignite before serving.   (Along with Creme Brulee and Creme Caramels, these are still a favourite dessert of mine).

Monday, October 05, 2015


I’ve a nose for these things. 

I love perfume, but it wasn’t until I broke free from the shackles of high school when, without a backward glance, bravely (and excitedly) I bade farewell to my childhood. It was then I was able to purchase my own scent, not from the cents I earned, but from the pounds, shillings and pence.  

Shortly after I stepped inside the front door of the solicitor’s office in Upper Mary Street, Gympie to commence my first job at the tender age of 15 years, four months shy of turning sweet 16, I had the good sense to regularly use cologne of any scent. 

From my earnings I purchased my own perfume.  My starting weekly wage was the princely sum of four pounds eight shillings and nine pence.  It was nothing to sneeze at – I thought I was rich!  I may not have been rich in one sense of the word, but I did feel independent; free to spread my fledgling wings.

Out of my stipend I paid board; bought my own clothes for every occasion, or the material to make them myself (in those ancient times, I sewed); spun a few shillings on the side to buy 45 rpm records. The first record I bought was a 45 rpm of Gene Krupa.  I loved Krupa - still do.  A glossy photo of him adorned my bedroom wall throughout my childhood, along with one of Tony Curtis and a glossy, autographed photo of Gene Autry. I’d written a request to Autry’s Fan Club in Hollywood to achieve that special signed black and white photo.  I was very proud of it.  It could appear I had an affinity with the name “Gene”…I didn't really…it was purely coincidental!

Shoes were placed on lay-by. Bikinis were purchased.  Jamaican hip-hugging shorts were made from colourful materials; and mid-drift tops were sewn on our old Singer pedal sewing machine to match the hipster shorts. Every weekend the coast beckoned loudly; dutifully, I obeyed its call.  Surf's up!

In other words, I paid my own way, and was proud to be finally able to do so. 

Shortly after I’d eagerly stepped into the wide, wonderful “adult” world I attended an evening make-up class. The session was conducted by a well-groomed consultant from Revlon who paid a visit to the local pharmacy in town that carried Revlon products.

In those days – I commenced my working life in July, 1960 - Revlon was “the name of the game” in cosmetics.

Bringing her expertise along with her, the meticulously neat, elegant consultant was keen to teach the young ladies of Gympie (me included) how to grasp the foundation of applying make-up skillfully, not heavily; on how to apply and wear make-up without ending up looking like painted dolls or, worse still, clowns. 

From that night of charm forward I was an avid fan of the company’s products.  Not only was I introduced to Revlon make-up, but I became intimate with “Intimate”, the very feminine perfume first launched by Revlon a few years earlier in 1955. There was something sensual and grown-up about “Intimate”. I immediately fell under its spell.

“Intimate’s” original slogan was - “Even in the dark…he will know its YOU”!

At the age I was then the only “he” with whom I would’ve been in the dark would’ve been a dance partner when asked to join him in a Twilight Waltz, but the majority of times such a request was made of me, I declined the Twilight Waltz would-be hopefuls.  I didn’t have a desire to share what I classed as a romantic, intimate dance with anyone about whom I didn’t feel romantic – no sense in pretending was my belief! My belief hasn't altered.

Twilight Waltzes were good opportunities; perfect excuses for me to visit the “Ladies’ Room”…alone. I always refused to join the pack of girls who would march off together like a force to be reckoned with to “spend a penny”, or, if the truth be known, to gossip about all and sundry. I never wanted to be a part of the mob of girls departing en masse like lemmings over the edge of a cliff.  I could never understand why they headed off together in a herd; I never wanted to become a member of said “herd”.  So I didn’t!

In my youthful opinion I felt it was embarrassing, and overtly obvious. 

I’d be the last girl standing, sitting or dancing in our group (and others). While the rest of the girls were absent I was never a wallflower, though. I’d be tripping the light fantastic across the dance floor; probably because I was the only girl left in the hall! Maybe there was a method to my method!

Revlon also produced Aquamarine, which was more suited to spring and summer.  I preferred Intimate - all seasons. Both are now discontinued. 

Lentheric’s Tweed Eau de Toilette was a very popular in those days, too.  Tweed was a safe “all-rounder” – elegant and sophisticated, yet young and fresh. Tweed was my preferred perfume for day to day usage...during my days in the office.

 In 1973 Revlon’s Charlie entered the scene.  I fell in love with Charlie.

When I was married to Randall he always gave me a couple of bottles of perfume among my birthday and Christmas gifts. (We gave each other many gifts come our birthdays and Christmas…probably because we enjoyed the opening of them and the surprises within more than any other reason - it was just our way).

With only a few weeks separating the momentous event of my birthday and Christmas I’d end up with a wonderful supply of fragrances.   

I had Opium a-plenty, along with a supply Yves Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche.  There was nothing Gauche about it! Chanel had the good sense to pop her nose in, too! Charlie politely moved along the shelf and made welcome the newcomers. I sensed even Tabu wasn't taboo.

I always found room for perfume to match each costume.

Bouquet Garni: Leave long stems on fresh herbs e.g. 3 sprigs parsley, 2 of thyme and 1 bay leaf (2 sprigs rosemary, optional). Tie into bundle or in cheesecloth; or gather together dried herbs; wrap in cheesecloth; tie with kitchen string.

French Onion Soup: Peel and slice thinly 6 onions. Toss 3tbs butter, 3tbs olive oil, onions and a splash of water in pot with a little salt; cover; soften onions over med-high heat, about 10mins. When water has evaporated, remove lid; on low heat slowly caramelise onions; stir often; takes about 1hr. When onions are deep golden, add 1/2c brandy, bouquet garni and 6c preferably homemade beef stock (or quality store-bought); season; simmer 15-20mins. Ladle into ramekins; fit a toasted thick round slice of sourdough bread over each; sprinkle with grated Swiss, Gruyere or Emmenthal cheese. Place under grill until soup is bubbly and tops golden.

Aromatic Rub: Toast 2tbs coriander seeds, 3tbs cumin seeds, 1tsp fennel seeds and 2tsp black peppercorns in pan over med-heat; stir often. In pestle and mortar, bash 4 dried red chillies until broken and seeds are released. When seeds are toasted, bash them, too. Stir in 4tbs brown sugar, 3tbs sea salt, 1tbs smoked paprika and 1/2tsp cinnamon. Use within 3 months. Rub on meat or mix with oil for a marinade.

Aromatic Pork-Prawn Balls: Finely chop 100g peeled raw prawns until almost minced; add to 250g minced pork, 1-1/2tbs finely chopped chives and 1.5cm piece fresh ginger finely diced; season;  mix until sticking together. Roll into small balls; chill until needed. Make broth; heat 1ltr chicken stock; add 2 star anise, 1-2tsp oyster sauce, 1-2tsp soy, chopped shallots and 2cm piece chopped ginger. Add chopped chilli to taste; simmer 10mins; season. Add a dash of oil to fry pan; fry balls, 6-7mins. Transfer to gently simmering broth; cook 5mins; add 2 handfuls spinach; cook 1min.