Tuesday, May 29, 2018


You didn't know that "Camelot" was just around the corner and along the road a bit from where I live!
Aerial view of Tamborine Mountain Rainforest

Smashed avocados have been smashing it, whether in cafés, or in our own home kitchens. We’ve all been having a smashing time; a harmless smashing time. However, the avocados might think differently.  The current craze of smashing of smashing avos is nothing new, though.  The way the “café society set” make out, you’d swear, however, it was a new thing...the latest and greatest...the fashionable way to enjoy avocado.  

If you don’t smash avos and whack them onto a thick slice of bread, sourdough or otherwise, you ain’t in the loop, my friends!  You’ve not gotten with the programme!
Avocados really started to become the rage here in Queensland back in the late Seventies-early Eighties.  Everyone who owned a property up in the Sunshine Coast hinterland in those years was planting trees by the dozens. Similar occurred here, in the Gold Coast hinterland, from all appearances.  

Up here on this plateau, which is classed as part of the “Gold Coast Hinterland”, there is hardly a property that doesn’t have avocado trees growing on it.   This property, upon which my humble cabin sits quietly, has at least 12 fruit-bearing avocado trees with their roots firmly rooted in the deep, rich, red, volcanic soil...all  are proficiently prolific in their generosity.

The Yuppies of yesterday, or rather, yesteryear (the term was coined in 1977 - it means "young urban professional" or "young, upwardly-mobile professional”), beat the Yuppies of today by a country mile. They smashed it!   And the Yuppies smashed avos, too.

 I’ve no idea what the term for Yuppie is in 2018. 

The Yups, along with the rest of us yobbos who didn’t slip into “in-the groove” category got into the swing of smashing avos long before The Smashing Pumpkins were smashing the music charts. 
Having a ready supply of avocados on hand lately I’ve been smashing avos with gusto – (“Gusto” isn’t my roomie, by the way) - making bowls of guacamole, and eating them...the avos, not the bowls.

I love soup...any time of the year, but now with the weather turning a little cooler I’m switching from bowls of guacamole, or avocado-filled bowls of salads to bowls or mugs of soup.  

I’ve been making pots filled with soup of various descriptions – not all at once, in the same pot, of course. 

Meal-size portions also fill my freezer for future enjoyable ingestion. 

When pondering the pile of avocados before me, I had brainwave...an epiphany.
Soup!  I love it by the bowlful or in a large mug...spring, summer, autumn and winter - and, I love avocados. 

Mix the two together....what do you get? 

Abracadabra!  Bliss in bowl - magic in a mug, that’s what! 

Pumpkin soup was all the rage back in the Eighties, too.  If you were serving soup as an entree at your regular Saturday night dinner parties you were behind the times; not “in vogue” if it wasn’t pumpkin soup.

When my ex and I managed a restaurant at Noosaville back in the early Eighties, our delicious, thick seafood chowder was an integral part of the restaurant’s menu – as were lightly-baked seafood-filled avocados. 

Lately...over the past few months...I’ve had a constant craving, not for k.d. lang, although I do love her singing...but for chicken and corn chowder.   

I’ve succumbed to my craving, many times, and have made a few pots of the delicious soup.  I intend to make more later on this week.  I’ve also been making pots of asparagus soup...using fresh asparagus.  “Yum” describes it very well.

In the Seventies French Onion Soup was on everyone’s lips.  It was the soup, not just of the day, but of the Seventies. 

A basic rich stock made from a huge pile of beef bones and a potpourri of vegetables and herbs would’ve been simmering away on the stove for hours before the making of the recipe.  There’s nothing quite like – nothing quite beats - a home-made stock, whether it be beef, chicken, fish or vegetable.

In the mid-70s, as well as my full-time Monday to Friday day job, for a couple of years, I worked a few nights a week at “Scaramouche”, a French-style inner-city Brisbane restaurant.  Previously, I’ve written about my time at “Scaramouche”.

French Onion Soup was the most popular soup on the menu, a menu that introduced many French recipes to Brisbane...all of which were eagerly gobbled up by the diners, a lot of which, later, I’m sure, tried them out at home where the delicious recipes became part of the regular fare.

With avos in plentiful supply here right now, instead of smashing and spreading on sourdough, avo go at avo soup. Serve in a mug or a bowl...your choice. 

You’ll smash it out of the park!

Avocado-Kumara Soup: Heat 4c chicken or vegetable broth, 450g diced kumara, 1 small onion, diced, 2tsp honey, 1/4tsp cumin, 1/4tsp salt and 1/8tsp chipotle powder, (or to taste). Cook until kumara is cooked; cool 10mins.  Slice 1 avocado into the cooled mix; puree until smooth; reheat before serving; pour soup into bowls; add more avo slices on top.  

Avocado-Tomato Soup: Heat 1tbs olive oil in pot over med-heat; add 1 chopped onion; cook 5mins; add 2 minced garlic cloves; cook 1min. Stir in 1 can diced tomatoes, 1tbs tom paste, 1-1/2c tomato juice, 2tsp sugar, 1/2tsp pepper and 1/2tsp dried thyme; add broth; increase heat to med-high; bring to boil; reduce heat; simmer 5mins; cool 5-10mins. Cut 1-1/2 avocados into cubes; add to cooled mixture.  Puree until smooth; reheat before serving. Serve soup in mugs or bowls, with diced avocado placed on top.  

Avocado-Chicken Soup: In a large saucepan, heat 2tbs x-virgin olive oil over med-high heat. Stir in 1finely chopped onion and 6 thinly sliced garlic cloves; lower the heat to medium; cook until onion begins to brown, about 7mins. Increase heat to high, push vegetables to the side of the pan, add 6 boneless chicken thighs, cut into ½-inch pieces chicken; cook, stirring, until golden, about 5 mins. Stir in 2 canned chipotle chillies and 2tbs adobo sauce; then stir in 6c chicken broth. Lower heat; simmer for 15 mins, skimming any foam. Stir in 1/2c chopped coriander and juice of 2 limes; season with salt and pepper. Place 2 avocado slices in each of 6 soup bowls and pour in the soup. Top with the tortilla chips.

French Onion Soup: Heat 4tbs butter and 2tbs olive oil in a large pot; add 6c sliced brown onions; cook over high heat for 15 mins; stir occasionally. Add 4 minced garlic cloves and 1tsp sugar. Reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden brown (don’t burn), 40mins; add 1/3c Cognac, warm it; then flame with a match/lighter. When flames subside, add 1tbs Dijon mustard and 1/2tsp thyme.  Add 2tbs plain flour; cook; stir often, 3mins. Gradually stir in 3lt quality beef stock and 1-1/2c dry white wine; season to taste. Simmer uncovered over med-heat, 1hr.  Preheat oven 175C.  Using 8 thick slices of French bread - spread 1 side of each with garlic butter and olive oil; place prepared side up on baking sheet; toast only that side until golden, 12-15mins.  Combine in bowl, 240g each, shredded Gruyere, smoked mozzarella and Parmesan. Ladle hot soup into ramekins; float toasted bread in centre of each bowl; top lavishly with cheeses; place under heated grill until cheese is melted and bubbling; serve immediately.

Thursday, May 24, 2018


Newry Island Foreshore
Bluespotted ribbontail stingray
Victor Creek
Victor Creek Boat Ramp

There are some things that can’t be wrapped, though.  Gifts can be wrapped, as can garbage; a long-running, or even short-running, television series can be wrapped up. Some wounds can be wrapped. And then, there are those wounds that cut too deep making wrapping impossible.

Many years ago when working in a Brisbane restaurant in the role as “Functions Coordinator” I donned a different disguise during the daily busy lunchtime trade, something I’d not expected when offered the previous position. 

Ever-ready for a challenge, I thought why not add another string to my imaginary bow. Being “imaginary” I had no idea how many strings it had, or if it even had one string!  

Once 11.30 am struck I operated the cocktail bar.  It became my domain for the next three or so hours.   

Those were the years of “long business lunches”.

I may not have been able to spin liquor bottles and cocktail shakers in the air with the expertise of the characters played by Bryan Brown and Tom Cruise in the movie “Cocktail”, but I was fleet of foot and flexible of wrist. 

Even if I am blowing my own trumpet (again - an imaginary trumpet), I was pretty good at mixing drinks for our clientele, most of whom members of advertising agencies, radio stations, corporations of varying descriptions etc; a suited, eclectic mixture of businessmen.  

When leaving home one morning, at the front gate, a wasp decided it didn’t like the look of my right hand, so it stabbed me with unwarranted vengeance.

Bees and I have a hive of admiration for each other, but the relationship between wasps and me is malicious.  They started it!

Wasps are a different kettle of stingers.  They are mean little critters that show me no mercy. 

As the morning progressed my hand grew in size. The pain was excruciating.  I’d done nothing to that wasp or its family to deserve the throbbing pain I was experiencing.   

It’s amazing how much discomfort a little prick can cause. 

Battling through, I mixed and served drinks to the drinkers, all the while with my right hand buried in an ice bucket filled with ice.  A one-armed bandit had nothing on me that day.

Around 10 am on a sunny day when I was running the small resort on Newry Island I waded out to the channel where my boat was moored.  The tide was low, but it was on the turn, and was on its way back in.   

The water out to the edge of the drop-off that alerted the start of the channel was rather shallow.  The further one waded out from the main beach the sand became quite muddy, making the water murky and the floor of the sea difficult to see.   

If the tide was in when I had to go out to where the 21 foot Trojan De Havilland was moored I rowed my little red “tinnie”, which was always tied to a tree on the foreshore, out to the mooring and the Trojan with its 175 hp Johnson outboard motor.  Once I’d secured the tinnie to the mooring, I’d jump aboard the bigger boat, and head off across the waters.

The particular morning, to which I’m referring, was similar to many other mornings. At the Victor Creek boat ramp over on the mainland new guests were eagerly waiting for me to pick them up. 

As I approached my boat, barefoot, of course, I was struck on the top of my left foot by a small coral stingray aka bluespotted ribbontail ray...a fairly small ray, not exceeding much more than 35cm/14-inches in width.

They may lack in size, but they sure can pack a whack with their stinging spine.  The pain in my foot grew by the second as I powered forth to Victor Creek, and my waiting guests.

Smiling through gritted teeth, I helped the folk climb aboard the boat.  They were none the wiser of the torturous agony I was enduring while ferrying them across to the island.   Making a big fuss wouldn’t have been a very welcoming welcome to them, I believed.

The first thing they wanted upon reaching their destination was to sit at the bar for a drink or two before settling into their cabins - of all days! 

If that wasn’t bad enough, some of my existing guests were already waiting at the bar - their tongues hanging out. 

While everyone was introducing themselves, I used the moment to excuse myself briefly.  I rushed through to the kitchen to boil some water.

I then proceeded to serve drinks to the thirsty guests with my foot immersed in a bucket filled with the near-boiling water.   The bucket was on the floor behind the bar, out of sight of the guests.  Keeping my predicament to myself, no one was aware of the pain and discomfort I was suffering.   

I was relieved when the group finally had had enough...I certainly had had enough, and was glad to see them head off to do whatever it was they wanted to do!  

Remember - ice is for wasp stings. Water as hot as you can tolerate for stingray stabs...no wrapping required.

Lettuce-Prawn Wraps: In med-bowl whisk together 1/4c chicken broth,2tbs soy sauce,1/4c apricot jam, 1/4c honey, 1tbs cider vinegar, 3tbs tom paste, 1/2tsp sesame- chilli oil, 1/2tsp each garlic and ginger powder, 1/4tsp black pepper, pinch of chilli flakes and 2tbs cornflour. Set aside. Preheat pan over med-heat. Add 1tb coconut oil; melt. Add 1 small onion, cut into ½-inch pieces and 1 red capsicum cut similarly; allow to soften 8-10mins. Remove from pan; set aside. Add 700g peeled, de-veined prawns; cook on one side, 3-4mins; flip; add the reserved sauce. Cook 2-3 more minutes. Add capsicum and onion back to pan; toss with prawns and sauce. Spoon into lettuce cups; top with chopped roasted cashews and thinly sliced shallots.

Beef Lettuce Wraps: In base of slow cooker combine 1/4c each soy sauce, honey and brown sugar, 2tbs rice vinegar, 2tbs sesame oil and 2tbs garlic chilli paste. Cut 1kg round beef roast in half lengthwise; coat beef in the sauce; arrange side by side in base of the slow cooker. Cook on lowest setting 6-8hrs. Keep an eye on the beef during the last 2hrs of cooking. Remove beef from cooker to large bowl. Shred with two forks. Toss with remaining cooking liquid to taste. Sesame Cucumber Salad – combine 3tbs sesame oil, 4tbs rice vinegar and 1tsp sugar until sugar dissolves. Toss 3c cucumber matchsticks, 1-1/2c bean sprouts and 3c thinly sliced radishes in dressing. Place salad and shredded beef in lettuce cups; sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Rapture Wraps: Melt 2tbs butter in pan over med-low heat until sizzling; add 240g boneless, skinless chicken; cook, turning once, 13-18mins or until golden brown on both sides and juices run clear; remove from pan; cut into strips. Mix together 1/c salad dressing and 1/4c shredded parmesan; spread onto 4 warmed tortillas; top each with shredded Cos/Romaine lettuce, sliced Roma tomatoes, fresh basil leaves and Italian-herbed flavoured, slightly crushed croutons. Wrap up burrito-style.