Sunday, December 23, 2018


Where do I start?   I suppose here is the most obvious spot – as good a place as any - seeing I’ve already begun. 

In case you’re not yet aware, Christmas is, as I write, one sleep away.  One sleep away! It seems less than a week ago I was saying similar about Christmas 2017. 

Time certainly does fly whether you’re having fun or not; and when you find yourself still finishing off the dregs of last Christmas’ fruit mince tarts and pud!  It’s not quite as bad as that, but it sometimes seems so.  

With the year flying by so quickly, I don’t know how Santa and his helpers find time to make the massive variety of toys for the kiddies, while also squeezing in time to go shopping for those articles out of their creative expertise.  Mrs. Claus must be a very patient lady.  She must be exhausted keeping the coffee supply up to them.

What we need for Christmas are myriad sleigh loads overflowing with goodwill, respect, love, happiness, positivity and peace.  Sadly, throughout 2018 we’ve been infiltrated by negativity, stupidity, hypocrisy and ignorance. Far too much of each weighs heavily upon us.

 If Santa’s letters or emails have not yet been written and sent – it’s not too late to get cracking - perhaps, instead of asking for items really not needed; things that will be used once or twice, then forever sit on a shelf, taking up space, gathering dust, we should ask for the above. 

Certainly here, with the high temperatures we’ve experienced lately, a new dress or shirt isn’t needed; socks definitely aren’t.  It’s been too hot for clothes. 

Naturally, I’m not suggesting we go au naturale when out shopping.  I, for one, don’t want to create pandemonium, causing shop owners/assistants and general public alike, to run off screaming in terror.  Anyway, they already do when they see me approaching.  Our police have enough on their hands without having to worry about you or me scaring the living daylights out of each other – and them.

My Christmas wishes are for kindness, compassion, humility and consciousness to envelop the earth – to become a pandemic - and then become second nature.

For hate, abuse, greed and thoughtlessness to disappear into the ether; to allow peace, decency, harmony and commonsense to reign supreme; for everyone to take responsibility for his/her actions; to hold fast and true to worthy values and high principles; to  not be consumed by violence and ugliness.  For each of us to be a better person - me included. 

Am I asking for too much?

Thank you everyone who, during this past year, shared with me fun, laughter and kind words - to those who good-humouredly put up with me and my nonsense. 

I’ve everything I need for two furry mates, and my stash of Liquorice Allsorts. It takes all sorts to make the world go ‘round.   My cupboards, fridge and freezer, as per normal, are full.

Always be aware - many are worse off than you or I.

Feast on goodness, kindness and love; dispose of nastiness, malevolence and hostility.
To once again repeat myself, I say  - the gift of giving is the best gift of all.


Christmas Salad: Put 1kg peeled king prawns, 2 avos, cut into large pieces, 130g toasted, sliced almonds and 2tbs diced red onion in salad bowl. Dressing: combine 1/4c x-virgin olive oil, 1/4c red wine vinegar, 1 large garlic clove, minced, 1tsp chopped parsley, 1tsp Dijon mustard; season. Add desired amount of dressing to salad; serve extra dressing on the side. 

Smoked Salmon Salad:  In pan on low heat add 1/2tsp each black and white sesame seeds and sunflower seeds; heat 2-3 mins until aroma rises. In bowl combine a handful of rocket, 1 sliced avocado, 1 punnet halved cherry tomatoes, 1tbs olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper; toss together. Add 100g smoked salmon slices; garnish with coriander and seeds. Serve with lemon wedges.

Christmas-New Year Nibbles: Place 20 plump dried apricots on serving platter. Spread spreadable blue cheese on each apricot and top with a walnut, a sprig of fresh rosemary and a drizzle of honey.  If you can't find spreadable blue cheese - mix 1/2 room temp cream cheese with 1/2 blue cheese in processor until smooth; or use goat cheese. Make ahead, preparing without the honey, store in fridge. When ready to serve, bring to room temperature and drizzle with honey; serve.  

Merry Blue Balls: Beat until combined 240g cream cheese, 2tbs butter, 1tsp lemon zest, 1/4tsp Worcestershire sauce, dash of Tabasco and 1/4tsp salt. Stir the mixture together with 120g blue cheese and 2tbs red currant jam. Chill 10mins; form into balls; roll in chopped currants. Serve with crackers and/or thin gingersnaps.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2018


Gympie's Memorial Park
Jacaranda Time on Tamborine Mountain
Eagle Heights Mountain Resort-Hotel
Open Air-Undercover Beer Garden, Eagle Heights Mountain Resort
Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Dressed Up for a Wedding at the Eagle Heights Mountain Resort

Bar Area - Eagle Heights Mountain Resort

You may have noticed over the years I find it difficult to kerb my enthusiasm for repeating myself.

At this time of each year I’m enthused and enraptured by the glorious, blooming jacarandas. The breathtaking brilliance of jacaranda season takes me back to my childhood and teenage years spent in Gympie where the stunning jacaranda trees grew and bloomed prolifically.  During jacaranda season the town became a picturesque sea of purple; a glorious sight to see.  

Up here on the plateau aka mountain top the jacaranda trees have graced us again with their wonderful displays of lilac blossoms.  Soon, the curtain will close, and then, we will have to wait patiently until late 2019 to once more be enhanced by the wonder of their beauty.

Apparently, the Brisbane City Council doesn’t like jacarandas, calling the tree a “weed” because the tree isn’t native to Australia.  The BCC would disagree with my enthusiasm. Those reckless cowboys want to rip jacaranda trees out by their roots, and have done so in some areas.

Similar to most of us, my roots came from elsewhere.  

My maternal ancestors immigrated to Australia from the Scottish Highlands and Ireland in the mid-1800s. Later on, in the early 1900s, my paternal grandparents wandered in from Northern Ireland, settling in Rockhampton, Central Queensland, otherwise now known as the “Capricorn Coast” because Rocky, the “Beef Capital of Australia” sits upon...albeit gently...the Tropic of Capricorn.

Therefore, with the above being the facts, like the jacaranda tree, I must be a weed. 

Shhh! Don’t tell the Brisbane City Council!

On the subject of kerbing one’s enthusiasm, the recent over-the-top brouhaha about which side of the bread Bunnings Hardware Stores should place their fried onions during their Saturday sausages sizzles...under or over said sausage... reminds me of an incident which occurred one Sunday shortly after I arrived here on the hill. 

At the time, I was one of the happy cooks/chefs at the expansive Eagle Heights Mountain Resort (there were three of us), with its spectacular views - not that I got many opportunities to appreciate the magnificent vista when working. 
Sundays, in particular, were always very busy with visitors from far, wide and below, all wanting to enjoy not just the views, but the delicious fare on offer. 

As was our habit (necessity), my co-workers and I had done our prep – and lots of it.

We, along with the stoves and fryers were fired up and ready to go, taking no prisoners along the way.  

The doors opened, and in flooded an enthusiastic crowd of hungry diners, far more than we had expected...and let me tell you...we had expected, and prepared for, a crowd! 

On that particular Sunday everyone within coo-ee and beyond descended upon the Eagle Heights Mountain Resort Hotel for lunch.  Everything we’d prepped rapidly disappeared; and we had prepared a tonne.  Frantically, when possible, we chopped up more ingredients...multi-tasking at its best!  No fingers were lost in the process...

The menu on offer was vast and varied.  The broad choice also included burgers and steak sandwiches, each individually plated and served with chips/fries and extra salad on the side.

Out of the madding crowd he emerged to place his order...a fellow in his late 20s/early 30s.  His excitement about his order of a hamburger and fries was palpable. His order might’ve been a steak sandwich, not a burger – that’s by the by - but, pertinently, at the very moment of his salivating, drooling appearance, we’d just run out of sliced onions!   Oh! Dear!

From the look on his face when, politely, I informed him of the unavoidable, dire situation I thought I’d inadvertently announced the world was due to end within a few minutes, and his time was up. 

The desperate diner’s face distorted like that of a two year old about to break into tears and throw a tantrum.  The fellow was unable to kerb his distress – his emotions were raw and visible for all to see. 

Sure...he probably sheds tears when peeling and chopping onions, but to cry because he couldn’t have fried onions on his burger or steak sandwich was a bit over the top; a little underwhelming.

I had to kerb my enthusiasm in wanting to slap him across his face while telling him to wake up to himself!

You’ll be proud of me...I succeeded in kerbing my enthusiasm....just!

(For my US readers....We Aussies spell kerb - "kerb"...not "curb" as you do.  The meanings are the same).

Cheesy Onion Potato Gratin: Whisk 1tbs finely chopped parsley, 1/2c breadcrumbs and 1tsp minced garlic; season; set aside. Put 700g baby chats in pot of salted water; cook until tender; drain. Peel 700g pickling onions.  Place 240gx2cm bacon pieces in a pan; cover with 1cm water. Cook, shaking pan occasionally, until water evaporates and bacon begins to crisp and brown. Add potatoes, onions, 2tbs cream, and 1tbs chopped parsley; toss to combine; season. Put in rectangular casserole dish; cover with grated gruyere; place in 205C oven; bake 10-15mins.  Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over top; return to oven until browned.

Onion-Spinach Bread: Preheat oven, 176C.  Heat 2tsp olive oil in pan over med-heat; add 1 thinly sliced large brown onion; season. Cook 10mins, reduce heat to med-low; cook until onions are golden. Add 1tsp olive oil to onions; stir in 2 minced garlic cloves and 2 packed cups fresh spinach leaves. Stir until spinach wilts, about 1min. Remove from heat. In bowl, whisk 2-1/2c plain flour, 2tsp baking powder and 1/2tsp salt. In a bowl, combine 2 lightly beaten eggs, 3/4c milk, and 2/3rd cup x-virgin olive oil. Whisk well until combined. Pour flour mixture into eggs; stir until just combined. Don’t over-mix or bread will become tough. Add spinach mixture and 30g crumbled fetta; stir until just combined. Grease loaf pan. Spoon 1tbs flour into pan; tap flour around pan. Shake out excess. Scoop batter into pan; smooth top. Bake until top is light golden and inserted wooden skewer comes out dry, 35-40 mins. Cool 15mins, then remove from pan; cool on wire rack.

Onion Rings: Slice 2 large onions into rings.  Place separated rings in bowl; cover with 1c buttermilk. Cover; chill 1hr or up to 24hrs. Combine 2c plain flour, 1tbs salt, 2tsp smoked paprika, 1tsp garlic pow3der and 1/2tsp cayenne; drain onions; toss in flour to coat. Shake off excess flour; in batches cook in hot oil.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


The Mavericks....Back in My Arms Again...they never left!!

I’ve just been enjoying a video clip of the eclectic US band, “The Mavericks” performing their 1998 huge hit single “Dance the Night Away”.   

The joyful clip was filmed in a supermarket, trumpets a-blaring, guitars a-twanging and drums a-beating; shoppers tripping the light fantastic, dancing up a storm up along the aisles - wriggling their rumps as they hoof it.  Be-bopping, doing the Shimmy-Shimmy-Shake like it never went out of Vogue.  Such fun!  Let’s face it!  We could do with a bit more fun and laughter – a lot more - these days.

I’m a long-time fan of “The Mavericks”, and have a couple of their CDS among my vast and varied collection.  

Next time I visit IGA, our major supermarket up here on the hill, I might just bust a few of moves to get the joint hopping as I Cha-Cha around the green-grocery section.  The ladies in that department already acknowledge the fact I’m a bit of a fruit loop, so they won’t take any notice. Knowing them, they’ll swing their heels and join me in the Mashed Potato. 

Maybe Neville, the boss butcher, is prepared to do The Chicken.   

As we only get a fleeting glimpse of his side-kick, Sir Loin nowadays because, even though he hasn’t given up his knighthood, Sir Loin has hung up his knives, and taken up a pick, a hoe and a shovel - “Hoe” as in garden tool - Neville might step up to the chopping block in his stead..  

Sir Loin, aka Nathan, the butcher, is elsewhere doing the Hully Gully down in the gully, 

Neville, even though we crack a few jokes between each other, many jokes, probably would chuck a wobbly, ordering me to stop mincing about and rack off if I ask him to do The Chicken with me.  It’s worth a try, though!

On the top side, I’m not sensitive about some things.  I can handle a rib or two. I enjoy a good belly laugh.

To increase the interest and attention in my performance, I’ll appear as mutton dressed up as lamb.  After which, I’ll shake a leg, Twist around, and then make a rapid escape...before I’m carted away to be served up as chopped liver to the authorities or an institution.

Of course, you do realise I’m writing this tongue in cheek.  I won’t be sticking my neck out by making more of a fool of myself than I usually do. 

Doing the Jitterbug up and down the supermarket aisles with James would be a lark, if I didn’t break something in the meantime...including, a bone or two of my own - and, if my complaining hips allowed me to be hip!  

Perhaps I should stick to Hand-Jiving.  It was always good fun.  And, you can be seated while doing it, which is a plus....when the hips refuse to be hip!

I Rockabilly, too, if I happen to stumble into him when I’m out on The Stroll I undertake every other day down along the Madison Line.  He likes a bit of Boogie Woogie, but he can be a bit of a Jerk at times. 

He Struts his stuff, and was doing so the day I saw the Bunny Hop. Alarmed, I watched the Fox Trot after it. 

I was trying to Hitch-Hike on the day in question, but I had to put that in Limbo while I applied the mechanisms of Loco-Motion. 

It was as if a Time Warp had come into play!  I morphed into the Running Man. 

Grabbing The Lawnmower, I turned on The Sprinkler in The Cabbage Patch, disturbing The Worm as I did so. 

However, I succeeded in chasing the fox away.  Off to the barn it danced!  Fortunately, The Pony didn't escape when the gate was left open. He wasn't thirsty so he didn't drink any of the water in the dam.

I loved to dance, and did so very often. 

Being not Hip these present days, I can barely Hop, which is fortunate, in one way.  If I attempted to do the above moves in the supermarket, with a Quick Step or three, they’d Hustle me out the front or back door - Two Steps at a time! 

Oh, well!  It’s a Rap!

Chicken Lettuce Wraps: Pre-heat oven 230C. Line baking tray with foil; grease lightly; put 2 chicken breasts in tray. In bowl, whisk 1/2c sweet chilli sauce, 2tbs soy sauce, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1tbs grated ginger, juice of 1 lime, and 1tsp sriracha, or to taste. Pour half of the sauce over chicken; bake 20-25mins.  Thinly slice ½ a red capsicum and ½ a yellow, 1 carrot and ½ Continental cucumber. Cut chicken into strips.  Evenly spread veggies between lettuce wraps; top with chicken; then chopped peanuts, chopped coriander and more sauce.

Left-over Roast Beef Wraps: Beat 450g cream cheese, 3-1/2tbs horseradish and 3tbs Dijon mustard together in until well blended. Spread a thin layer of the mixture over 12 soft tortillas. Arrange fresh spinach leaves evenly over the tortillas. Place two slices of thinly sliced roast beef over the cream cheese. Sprinkle with grated cheddar. Starting at one end, gently roll up each tortilla into a tight tube. Wrap with foil or cling film to keep wraps tight; store in fridge.

Boogie Woogie Mashed Potato: Place 6 garlic cloves on a double thickness of heavy-duty foil. Drizzle with 1tsp olive oil. Wrap foil around garlic. Bake at 218C, 15-20mins, until softened. Cool 10-15mins. Boil 1-1.2kg scrubbed red potatoes until tender.  Drain; transfer to a large bowl. Squeeze softened garlic into potatoes. Add 125g softened cream cheese, 1/2c cubed butter, 1/2c milk, 1/2tsp each salt and pepper. Mash potatoes until combined. Stir in about 113g Stilton cheese, 6 cooked and crumbled bacon rashers and 2tbs finely chopped parsley. Sprinkle with remaining parsley before serving.

Bacon Jalapeño Twists: Preheat oven 190C. Line 2 baking trays with paper. Gently roll out 1 thawed sheet of puff pastry, adding about 1-inch/2.5cm on each side. Spread 55g cream cheese across puff pastry. Sprinkle 1 diced jalapeño over cream cheese; press in gently so it sticks. Cut into 12 strips. Lay a slice of bacon on top of each pastry strip. Twist together each strip; put on prepared trays. Place 6 twists on each tray. Brush twists with barbecue sauce; sprinkle a little shredded cheddar or Parmesan over each one. Bake, 35-40mins until bacon is crispy.