Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Gympie Railway Station Circa 1930 (a little before my time!)
Gympie's old Railway Station Circa Heritage-Listed
Gympie North Railway Station. It replaced the old station shown above - proving new is not always best!

Boom Chicka Boom!  Easter is here – or is just around the nearest corner as I write.  If I type might arrive before I finish!  

Clint, my Lindt bunny is hippity-hopping and a hippity-haying with glee in my fridge comfortable in the knowledge, even though Easter is on its way he has nothing to fear.  Every day, not only Easter is a celebration for Clint.  After the many years residing in my fridge his tenure remains secure. 

I offered to take him to the “Peter Rabbit” movie.  He politely declined.  I promised I’d buy him a packet of Jaffas, but no amount of bribery swayed him from his determined resolve.  I even waved a carrot in front of him.                

When my band of girlfriends and I were teenagers as Easter Thursday came around we breathlessly counted down the hours and minutes, unable to contain our enthusiasm for 5 pm to arrive. 

From the age of 15...a couple of months shy of 16...unchaperoned, my weekends were spent at the coast. 

My friends and I didn’t need “Schoolies”.   We were mature and capable enough to spend our weekends at the coast long before we turned 18 years of age.

At first Mooloolaba or Alexandra Headlands were our chosen playgrounds, but after a summer or two we lost our hearts to Noosa Heads.  An extra enticement was - Noosa is only a hop, skip and a couple of jumps away from Gympie.

During our regular seaside sojourns we didn’t carry on like loonies, but we certainly enjoyed ourselves. 

The coast – the sand, the ocean and Easter went hand in hand - hence our excitement to hit the road, Jack, when Easter Thursday arrived. 

We weren’t leaving on a jet plane, but our bags were packed; we were ready to go.

From early morn to late afternoon we caught waves - and the eye of a lifesaver or three.

Our nights were spent hippity-hopping, stomping and twisting at the record hops. At the stroke of midnight, off to the midnight to dawn record hops we hopped. 

Sleep didn’t play a major role during our Easter weekends.  A nap here and there, in the sun, on the beach, in between surfs, sufficed.

En route to the coast we’d stop at a roadside stall to grab a few pineapples - something we did most weekends, not only at Easter.   

Sometimes we travelled by train...leaving the Gympie Railway Station at 6 am Saturday morning, and disembarking at Cooroy, a little country town a few miles/kilometres inland from Tewantin-Noosa Heads.  Somehow we always managed to score a ride back home to Gympie Sunday afternoons.

 (The old railway station is now a heritage-listed historical site.  The railway station served Gympie from 1881 until 1889.  Its replacement the Gympie North Railway station is further out of town and doesn’t compare in styling to the old station).

Fresh fruit and salad rolls of our own making were constants during those sunny, fun-filled weekends.  Eating healthily came naturally, with an added bonus of being far cheaper than fast-food.  We had no money to waste.  Fresh was best, in more ways than one. 

Like the rest of my friends, at the time, I still lived at home; paid board; made my own clothes; paid my own way, etc. 

Our respective wages weren’t massive.  I began working in late July, aged 15years. in I turned 16 a few months later, in the November.  

As previously written I gained employment as a Legal Secretary in a local law firm...starting of earning the princely, weekly sum of four pounds eight shillings and nine pence.  I felt as rich as the Queen, but far more independent!

I’m not a religious person, but I’ve always eaten fish on Good Friday...from when I was a little girl forth.  Never have I eaten meat on Good’s just a tradition to which I’ve always, willingly, adhered.

Seafood wasn’t limited to Good Fridays only when I took care of the little resort on Newry Island. 

Every day was a Good Day for seafood. 

The humble resort’s bar was the last (only) port of call for trawlers before they off-loaded their catch at Mackay Harbour, about 60-70kms south...give or take – more or less...I’m not sure of the exact distance. 

During my time on Newry Island fresh seafood was in abundance, to the delight of my island guests. Pushkin and Rimsky, my two cats were thrilled, too. 

Prawns, oysters, sand crabs and fish were the daily fare. 

Sadly, the resort no longer exists. National Parks took over in 2001. 

No money exchanged hands between the trawler men and me during our seafood transactions.  The barter system was in full swing e.g. a case of beer and/or a bottle of spirits was the more than fair exchange.  It was a trade that leaned heavily in my favour, I believe. 

My guests and my two furry mates were grateful beneficiaries. 

The family of one of the trawler skippers had booked into a cabin for the Easter weekend with the intentions of enjoying the island’s ambience.  On the Thursday prior to Good Friday, I collected the family (mother and two children) from the boat ramp at Victor Creek, Seaforth, and then ferried them, along with other guests, in my boat, the Trojan De Havilland, across to the island.

On Good Friday morning, the husband and father of said family motored into the channel between Newry and Outer Newry Island, and there he set anchor.   He was spending Easter with his family on dry land. 

Because he wouldn’t be tying up at the Mackay Harbour until the Tuesday, he presented me with a large plastic container, about 90cmx60cmx60cm in size, filled to over-flowing with fresh, juicy, sweet sand crabs aka blue swimmers, saying, "These are yours, Lee, to do with as you wish!"

I gave the crabs to my guests to feast upon - no charge.   They couldn’t believe their eyes, or good fortune.  I gained much pleasure from witnessing their pleasure.

Who needed Easter eggs when fresh sand crabs were on offer?  

The Easter Bunny didn’t visit the island, but the resident koalas did, arriving on cue over the Easter weekend.   They were an added enjoyment for my guests.

Hop to it!   This is one weekend when it’s okay to be a bunny!

Happy Easter, everyone....stay safe...relax and enjoy whatever way you choose to spend your weekend!

(A courier has just delivered to my door an Easter parcel from my ex, Randall....upon opening it I discovered therein...12 blocks of dark chocolate of various descriptions, four packets of mini-dark chocolate Easter eggs of a variety of sorts, a bottle of anchovy fillets (he knows me well)...Remy and Shama haven’t been ignored....for them are eight small cans of fancy treats!  All of this should last us through the weekend! )

Cod & Corn Chowder: Cook 125g bacon until crisp; drain and crumble when cooled. Add 1tbsbutter and 2 chopped onions to pan; cook over low heat, until onions, about 5 minutes. Add 2c water, 1c liquid from bottled oysters, 2 large, peeled, potatoes, cut into chunks, 1 chopped celery stalk, 1/4tsp dried chilli flakes; season; bring to boil; reduce heat; simmer, 20-25mins. Add bacon, 2c corn kernels, 1c milk and 1c cream; simmer10mins. Stir in 700g cod fillets, cut into 2-1/2cm chunks and pepper. Bring back to a simmer; cook until just done, about 3mins.

Lamb Racks with Goat Cheese Sauce: On a large, rimmed baking sheet, season 2x1.5kg to 2kg frenched lamb racks generously with salt and pepper.  In food processor, combine 1/4c olive oil, 4 grated garlic cloves, 1/4v fresh oregano, 1tbs cumin seeds, zest of 1 lemon, and 1tsp crushed red pepper flakes. Pulse until combined. Rub mixture evenly over both racks. Arrange 450g halved carrots (or small carrots) around lamb. Let stand at room temp 30-60mins; or cover and chill overnight. Preheat oven, 220C.  Roast lamb for15mins; then flip; roast another 10mins for med-rare.  Stand 10mins before slicing.  Meanwhile, make sauce. In blender, combine 180g goat cheese, 1/4c crème fraîche or Greek yoghurt, 2tbs honey, and 1/4c fresh basil or mint until smooth. Stir in zest of 1 lemon; season to taste.  Slice lamb in between the bones; serve with the goat cheese sauce. 

Vegan Savoury Easter Pie: Preheat your oven. 175C. Slice 300g mushrooms.  Finely dice 1 large red onion; crush 2-3 garlic cloves. Add a little olive oil in large pan; add chpped onion; cook 6-8mins on med-heat until translucent and being to brown slightly; add crushed garlic; cook 1min. Add mushrooms; cook 6-10mins, and until a lot of the moisture has evaporated. Add 200ml vegetable stock, 1tbs balsamic glaze, seasonings and small bunch thyme; simmer gently, 15-25mins until rich, thick sauce has formed; adjust seasoning. Add 1can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained with 1tbs olive oil to blender; blend to thick puree. Wilt 2 large handfuls spinach; squeeze out excess liquid; unwrap spinach; set aside. Grease pie dish/es; line with 2-3 layers of Filo pastry; brush with oil or vegan butter between each layer; then spoon in some bean puree; smooth down with back of spoon; then top with wilted spinach, arranged evenly to cover; top with mushrooms. Scrunch up side of pastry; brush or spray with oil; cook in oven, 25-30mins, until golden brown. Serve in pie dish.

Vegan Stuffed Tomatoes: Preheat oven. 190C. Lightly grease a casserole dish with olive oil. Slice tops of tomatoes off 4-6 ripe, but firm tomatoes: chop up usable part of tops; set aside. Using a spoon scoop out the inside but, keep and put it aside (not the seeds); drain any excess fluid.  Cook 2c brown rice or quinoa according to package directions (cook in veg broth for more flavour).  Mix together in bowl 1 can drained, rinsed black beans, 2 thinly sliced shallots, 1/2c each diced red and green capsicum, 1/2c chopped carrot, 1c frozen corn, 1tsp chilli powder, cayenne to taste, 1/2tsp ground cumin, 1/2tsp garlic powder, 1/4c nutritional yeast; season to taste.  Add the scooped out tomato flesh; add the rice/quinoa; adjust seasonings.  Stuff the tomatoes with the mixture. Put tomatoes in casserole dish; cook in oven, 30mins. Once tomatoes are soft they’re done.  Remove from oven; sprinkle grated non-dairy cheese on top. Set oven to grill/broil; place tomatoes under grill for 5mins, until cheese has melted; serve.

Easter Nests: Melt 1-1/2c choc chips on low heat; stir often. As soon as completely melted, remove from heat. Stir in about 2c sweetened shredded coconut. It needs to be thick, for the chocolate to completely cover coconut mixture. Lay out baking paper on bench. Drop heaped tablespoonfuls onto paper.  Make a small well in centre of each to create a “nest”. Add Smarties, mini-Easter Eggs, jelly beans, or choice, into centre of nests. Let sit for to allow the chocolate to harden. This makes about 6 to 8 nests

Thursday, March 22, 2018


Dimitri Shostakovich

The Three Tenors...with Maestro, Zubin Metha at the helm

(Unintentionally, I appear to be carrying on the musical theme from my previous St. Patrick's Day post)

Bread is the staff of life it has been said.  In Asia more than trice – the advice has been - rice is the staff of life.  In Ireland, spuds were the staff of life until the potato famine blighted the landscape in the 1840s. 

Music, too, is the staff of life.  Music played a key role in my childhood; music of all genres from classical and opera, through to jazz, country, pop and rock ‘n roll, and all in between.

Our piano held pride of place in our home. Used daily, it wasn’t a piece of furniture sitting idly, just for show.  The piano wasn’t our only music source. 

Daily, the radio air waves were filled with the magnificent voices of Caruso, Lanza, McCormack, Tucker, Gigli, Donald Shanks, Donald Smith, John Charles Thomas, ,Jussi Björling, Jan Peerce etc. The ladies - Price, Callas, De Los Angeles, Sutherland, Tebaldi and others sang along, as well.

And then later, I was wooed and readily fell under the spell of the truly wonderful Luciano Pavarotti, and his co-conspirators, Guiseppe Stefano, Placido Domingo, Josế Carreras, Andrea Boccelli and others.   Willingly, I remain enraptured. 

Instrumental classical and romantic symphonies performed by the world’s best orchestras painted musical pictures in my mind, transporting me to a fantasy world filled with beauty and emotion.   Such wondrous music still affects me so.

The staff is the fundamental latticework of music notation upon which the quaver sits a-quivering. The crochet, the little hook, rests briefly in silence until a few strings are attached; then it can turn into a semi, a demi or a hemi. It can become a semihemidemisemi quaver, or even – God forbid - if it isn’t careful, a demisemihemidemisemiquaver! 

Common accidentals occur, too, like having a flat.  If you don’t dodge a sharp you could have a double flat.  It becomes more complicated if you land a flat-and-a-half.  Without warning, a sharp-and-a-half happens. 

The cause of my current apparent insanity is - I’ve just finished bingeing on the quirky, intoxicating, captivating, heart-warming series, “Mozart in the Jungle”.   When I finished watching the four seasons, I suffered a case of severe withdrawals.

An encore was urgently needed, so I immediately attended to that need...I am now re-watching ‘Mozart in the Jungle”, and episode or two a day.  I’m enjoying the series, if not even more, the second time around.  For me, I believe the series could end up being on continuous replay.  Without embarrassment I admit I am hooked.  

I'm also hooked on the Mexican actor, Gael Garcia Bernal, who plays the lead role of "Rodrigo De Souza", the Maestro in the unique series.   What a wonderful character he is. Small of frame, he's larger than life.

Music, Maestro, please! Let’s continue the tone.

The daily classical music programmes on the radio during my childhood played an instrumental part in my listening pleasures. 

Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1 in B flat minor is no minor piece. Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 in E Flat major Op. 73 is major, but definitely not flat.  Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade excites. 
Joining the throng were Chopin, Haydn, Mahler, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Wagner, Prokofiev, Debussy; the Strauss family e.g. Johann (1,11and 111), Richard, Eduard, Josef waltzed in – the Liszt goes on and on. It’s hard to get a Handel on everyone of them!  Puccini sent Madame Butterfly to stop Ravel from unravelling.  Dimitri Shostakovich entered the scene with a clash of the cymbals, upsetting Stalin and his mob of communist thugs in the Soviet Union.

Mozart’s Symphony No. 34 is as brilliant as Nos. 1, 5, 31, 38, 40, 41, and all in between. So are his concertos – piano, violin and woodwind - particularly when conducted by the prodigious, world-renowned Indian conductor – Maestro Extraordinaire - Zubin Mehta.

In the early 70s, as a member of the audience at Brisbane’s Her Majesty’s Theatre, I was in awe of the marvellous voice of Bundaberg-born tenor, Donald Smith. 

Smith began his career on Radio 4BU in the 1940s; oddly enough, singing country songs.

Donald Smith was a natural tenor who went on to sing opera, not only in Australia, but also overseas at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre, and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Donald Smith received rave reviews everywhere he performed. Adoring fans flocked to see him each time he appeared at the Sydney Opera House. 

The evening I witnessed Smith’s sublime performance in “Cavalleria Rusticana” you could’ve heard a pin drop.  When he sang “Vesti la giubba”, the famous aria from Leoncavallo’s two-act opera, “Pagliacci”, you could’ve heard a feather drop. I doubt there was a dry eye in the house.  Unashamedly, I admit mine weren’t. 

Sonata Bites: Preheat oven to 281C/425F. Cover base of baking sheet with foil. Brush over 1tbs olive oil to cover entire pan. Slice 1 kumara/sweet potato into ¼-inch slices. Place slices onto the sheet.  Pour 1tbs olive oil into a small dish, using a brush, brush tops of sweet potato slices with the oil. Lightly season with salt. Bake in oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven; gently flip the sweet potatoes slices over. Place back in oven; bake an additional 5-7 mins. Remove; set aside.

To prepare the Guacamole: Add flesh of 4 small avocados, 1/4c coriander/cilantro, 2-3tbs lime juice, 1-1/2tbs red wine vinegar, 1/2tsp chilli/red pepper flake to a food processor; season to taste. Lightly pulse until smooth. Set aside. To prepare the Chipotle Prawns: In a small bowl, add 450g green (raw) peeled, de-veined large prawns, 1/2tsp smoked paprika, 1/2tsp ground cumin, salt, cracked pepper and chipotle chilli powder. Toss to coat prawns in the seasoning blend. Heat a large pan to med-high heat. Add 1tbs olive oil to pan; then add prawns. Cook 2-3 mins per side.  Assemble the bites. Top each sweet potato slice with a dollop of guacamole, one prawn; garnish with fresh corn.  Serve.....A melody on the palate.

Italian Easter Bread: Have 1-1/2c peeled, boiled and riced potatoes on hand. Dissolve 2-1/4tsp dry yeast in 1c lukewarm milk. Add 1tbs sugar; stir. Set aside 10 mins. Whisk 5 room- temp eggs at med-speed until frothy, 3-4 mins. Gradually add1c sugar; whisk another 3-4mins. Whisk in 1/2c veg oil and zest of 1 orange. Combine yeast with riced potatoes; add to eggs; whisk at low speed. Add 3c plain flour; mix on low speed, 1min. Switch to dough hook; add 3c plain flour. Mix 5-8mins until smooth and elastic; or you can knead by hand. Line large baking sheet with paper.  Place dough in lightly greased bowl; turn dough to coat with the grease. Let rise until doubled in size.  Punch dough (you beast!). Cover, let rise until doubles in size. Punch dough again; divide into 6 portions. Place on baking sheet; cover with tea towel; let rise, 30-50mins.  Brush loaves with egg wash. Bake in preheated 175C oven, 25-30mins. Cool on wire racks.

Italian Fried Rice: Warm large pan over med-heat; add 2tbs x-virgin olive oil; when warm, add 4 thinly sliced garlic cloves and pinch of chilli flakes. Sauté 30-60 secs; add 1 punnet halved cherry tomatoes, ½ bunch fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces, 1 or 2c thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms; season; about 5-6mins; add a few fresh basil leaves, sliced; sauté until wilted. Add 3-4cs cooked short grain brown rice, 2-3c chopped leafy greens, like spinach and kale, stems removed; season; sauté until rice is warmed through and greens wilted. Optional...serve with grated Parmesan or Pecorino, poached or fried egg and/or toasted, chopped nuts.

Bittersweet Symphony: Combine 45ml strawberry-flavoured vodka, pureed fresh strawberries and 90ml lemonade in tall ice-filled glass; garnish with a strawberry. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Molly Malone's Statue

*****   As you can see below, some familiar refrains and song titles have been used in the telling of my tale.

The Wild Rover, Danny Boy and I’ll be off to Tipperary in the morning.  We’ve got a gallon of Whiskey in the Jar to help us on our way. 

We’re going via Ragland Road, The Rocky Road to Dublin, The Town I Loved So Well.  
Following in Finnegan’s Wake ,we’ll stroll through the Foggy Foggy Dew.  By the way, we had a grand time at Finnegan’s Ball.

After we cross The Fields of Athenry Molly Malone, The Star of County Down, will be joining us. 

It’s clear Molly has stolen The Irish Rover Danny’s heart. 

They first met one pleasant evening in the month of May in Oranmore, in the County of Galway.   She wore no jewels, nor costly diamonds; no paint or powder... no, none at all.  But she wore a bonnet with a ribbon on it, and around her shoulder was a Galway Shawl. 

Having The Luck of the Irish, over a bowl of Cockles and Mussels, the pretty colleen caught Danny’s eye.

Danny and Molly planned to meet the following day at a carnival in Galway Bay, but as She Moved Through the Fair he lost sight of her amongst the madding crowd.   

The lyrics of the Bard of Armagh flooded his mind as he searched high and low. He thought he’d never see her again.  At that moment he believed Ireland was simultaneously an Isle of Hope...An Isle of Tears. 

Knowing he had to leave for Dear Old Donegal in the evening, heartbroken, Danny Boy couldn’t linger long.   Aware Molly was headed for Tipperary early the next morning it felt like the Final Curtain was being drawn across his heart. 

As he stood on Fiddler’s Green, the sound of The Galway Piper playing in the background brought tears to his eyes. 

From Donegal It’s a Long Way to Tipperary down Where the River Shannon Flows. 

However, fate, with the help of the Boys from County Armagh, had taken a turn for the better.

The lads had organised a conference to be held in the south. Danny knew Limerick Is Beautiful (But Galway Is Better).  

En route, while standing on the Cliffs of Dooneen, thinking of his sweet Molly, The Rose of Tralee, he heard someone approaching him from behind...

“How Are Things In Glocca Morra?” 

His heart leapt when he recognised the voice of his Brown-Eyed Girl. 

Donegal Danny was overcome with joy.

Taking her in his arms, Danny said, “My Wild Irish Rose!  We’ll be Sweethearts in the Spring – and forever thereafter.”

Magically, a rainbow suddenly appeared in the sky.  A golden glow hovered on the horizon. 

Danny spotted a little bearded man, dressed in green and wearing a top hat mischievously dancing in the field of four-leaf clover. 

“Three wishes!  Three wishes! I’ll grant you three wishes!”  The leprechaun joyously sang.

“Thank you! Thank you very much, but I don’t need them!” Danny replied, his heart brimming with happiness and love.

Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral .Too-ra-loo-ra-li, my friends. That’s an Irish Lullaby for St. Patrick’s Day, which is this Saturday.

Hold on there a moment! As promised... I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen.

Shamrock Eggs: Slice a large green capsicum into thick slices; remove core. Melt butter/olive oil in pan; add slices; crack an egg into centres; cook approx 1min. Flip; cook to desired consistency. Sprinkle Parmesan on top.

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts: In pan, heat 1tbs bacon fat or butter over med-high heat; add 4 diced, thick-cut bacon strips; cook 5mins. Add 1 diced onion. When bacon starts to get crispy and onion, deep golden, remove to paper towel-lined plate, leaving fat in skillet. Trim and halve 700g Brussels sprouts; lay sprouts cut side down in pan; reduce heat to medium; cover. Cook 5-8mins before stirring. Add bacon-onions to pan; stir; cook until sprouts are fork-tender, but not too soft; season. Drizzle over 2tbs balsamic glaze; serve hot.

Green Meatballs & Pasta: Combine 2c finely chopped basil, 1/2c finely chopped parsley and 1/2c finely chopped chives. Soak 1 bread slice with 1/3-4c milk, 5 mins; remove; lightly squeeze out milk. Break bread up into a bowl; combine with 240g beef, pork or lamb mince, 1 cup of the herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Work mixture with your hands until well-combined; add a little milk, if necessary, to help bind ingredients into a slightly sticky consistency. Shape into 1-inch meatballs. Cook 450g spaghetti (or pasta of choice) until al dente; drain; reserve 1c of pasta cooking water.  Heat 2tbs olive oil in pan over med-heat; cook meatballs until brown on all sides; remove to plate; reserve pan drippings. In small processor, puree the rest of the herbs with 4tbs olive oil, 1 garlic clove and 1/4c water; season.  Put pasta into meatballs’ pan along with a splash of the pasta water; add herb sauce; toss well over low heat; add more pasta water if needed. Divide among bowls; top with meatballs and grated Parmesan.

Nutty Irishman: Pour hot, strong coffee into 2 mugs; add 30ml each Baileys Irish Cream and Frangelico liqueurs to mugs; put dollop of whipped cream on top; sprinkle with nutmeg.