Saturday, July 30, 2022





For decades grocery shoppers have been spoiled by choice.  Over the years supermarket shelves have grown longer, wider and higher.  Shelves are stacked to the hilt with myriad choices…unlimited choices.  If what you want isn’t available, be adventurous, choose something else…there is always something else on offer. Don’t stand around like a tantrum-throwing petulant child.  Another choice might be preferable.  We’re not going to starve, not in this country!

Giving my age away…which worries me not…I remember when the first supermarket opened in my old hometown of Gympie.  Until then, small, family-owned corner stores were the grocery-shopping choices.  Stand-alone butcher shops were dotted throughout the town.  At the time, Lane & Ward, Gerard & Sullivan, and Nolan Bros. were the three butcher companies.  Each had about two stores with their names above the doors selling their wares.

Upon the arrival of BCC supermarket akak Brisbane Cash & Carry, the major concern of the kids was the variety of lollies on offer in the long glass-covered counters at the entrances of Woolies and Penneys would remain.  We kids certainly weren’t overlooked when it came to lollies!  

There, at the entrances of Woolies and Penneys (Penneys opened in October 1931. The store in Nambour, a rural town in the Sunshine Coast region of Queensland was the 1st Penneys chain store in Australia.  By 1956 the chain had expanded to 40 stores.  Penneys closed in 1959 to reopen as Coles) while ogling the array, we kids were spoiled by choice.

With our pocket money clasped tightly in our hands we pondered, as we decided what to pick…Aniseed Balls, Liquorice Allsorts, Golden Malts, Minties (must-haves on a journey), Fantails, Jaffas, Jelly Beans, multi-coloured boiled lollies, strips of Liquorice, green and white Peppermint Balls, Musks (no relation of that Elon bloke).  Our choices were varied and vast. After all, we needed to build up our energy and strength to climb the trees and play in our tree houses, packets of lollies clasped firmly so as not to drop them.

For years Arnott’s Jatz Crackers were about the only savoury crackers available on the market. Sao biscuits had been our savoury stand-bys, as well.  To our delight, our mother was inventive at topping Saos and Jatz crackers with delicious, tasty toppings. It’d be pretty messy putting the toppings beneath the crackers.  By doing the latter, the toppings would be called “beneaths”, I guess. I do digress. 

Once upon a time the only breakfast cereals we had to choose from were, Weetbix, Cornflakes, Rice Bubbles and Rolled Oats. Muesli wasn’t heard of, nor was Granola! These days cereal shelves are 10 miles long and 100 feet high!  With so many to choose from, even serial shoppers get lost amongst the cereals!

In my recollection, when I was a kid the only laundry powders available were Persil and Rinso.  Later on down the track, circa 1959, Surf hit our fair shores.  Of course, a few bars of Sunlight soap were always close by for those times when elbow grease was needed.

If I’d been allowed my choice when I was a kid I would’ve had a horse, but Mum and Nana believed it not to be a good idea.  Our neighbours would’ve agreed. The young Elizabeth Taylor’s “National Velvet”, Anna Sewell’s beautiful “Black Beauty”, “My Friend, Flicka” et al heightened my admiration for the exquisite equine creatures. I adored Gene Autry’s magnificent palomino, “Champion”, and all Saturday matinee western movies.

My love of horses was my Nana’s fault.  Nana’s exciting tales about her childhood, about the horses she owned and rode, held my interest, and fed my desire.  I could never get enough of her stories about the “olden days”.  Of course, in my Nana’s day, there were only a few choices in how to get about. Choices such as, go by buggy, horseback, or by shank’s pony.

The only time I’ve ridden a horse (“ridden” used extremely loosely) was when a friend and I decided to give bare-back riding a go. We were about 11 or 12 years old at the time.  I’ve told this tale previously.

The horse was minding its own business, grazing aimlessly in a local Gympie park.  The beautiful grey animal wasn’t impressed by our attention. After climbing aboard, it began to canter. We ended up under the horse’s belly, and then on the ground, with only our pride injured. The young grey mare sniggered and trotted away without a backward glance. 

That day my horse-riding career began and ended abruptly, I didn’t have any other choice. I still love horses even now when I’m an old grey nag….


Savoury Oats: In large non-stick pan, heat about 2tbs x-virgin olive oil. Add 1x455g sweet potato, chopped into ½-inch cubes and 1 chopped onion; season. Cook over med-high heat 5 mins, tossing occasionally. Cover and allow to cook another 5-7 mins or until tender. Meanwhile, cook 1c oatmeal in 2c boiling water for about 5mins; season. Fry or poach 4 eggs to your liking.. Assemble the savory oats bowls. Spoon some cooked oats in bowl; add in the sweet potatoes, cubed avocado, and cooked egg. Finish with a handful of halved cherry tomatoes, parsley, crumbled feta, and a sprinkle of seasoning of your choice. Serve.

Gluten-Free Oatmeal Muffins: Preheat oven 190C. Spray 12-cup muffin pan. Heat 2tsp olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the3/4c diced red capsicum and 250g diced chicken  or pork sausages. Cook 3-4 mins until capsicum starts to soften and sausage is browned. Stir in ⅓ cup of sliced shallot stems. Remove from heat. Whisk 3/4c gluten-free quick cooking oats, 1-1/4c gluten-free flour, 1tbs baking powder 1tsp salt, 1-1/2tsp garlic powder, and 3/4tsp thyme together.  Stir in sausage mixture and 1 heaped cup grated cheddar cheese.  Whisk 2 large eggs, 1c milk and 3tbs melted butter together in a bowl. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients; stir until just combined. Spoon batter into muffin pan, making 12 muffins. Sprinkle tops with sliced shallots and grated cheese.  Bake in centre of oven, 16-18mins, until puffed and cooked through.  Remove from oven; cool on rack before serving. 


Saturday, July 16, 2022


Four Aspects of Airlie Beach, in the Whitsundays, North Queensland



Whenever you’re feeling blue…I don’t mean blue from the cold, but when you’re feeling down, a sure-fire remedy to lift your mood is to watch “Jimmy Buffett: Welcome to Fin City”. 

Via a streaming service, the other day I watched the 2011 concert by a barefooted Buffett clad in casual Bermuda shorts and T-shirt entertaining his adoring fans in Las Vegas. "Gypsies at the Palace", in particular, is so much fun!  A smile never left my face for the duration of the concert.  The resultant extra wrinkles worry me not. I’ve always been a Buffett fan (not so much buffets I prepared and served when I was cooking for a living. Witnessing the greed of some around the buffet tables annoyed me no end). 

I loved Margaritas, although it’s been quite a few years since I’ve enjoyed the pleasure of sipping on same. 

One tropical night in the early 90s a friend and I had fun at an Airlie Beach cocktail bar.  The barman was an expert Margarita-maker.  On the wall behind the bar was a large, coloured photo of one of Jimmy Buffet’s beautiful sloops, afloat, upon an azure sea.  My friend’s unit was not far from the bar.  Singing “Margaritaville” all the way she and I had only a short stroll back to her home after our fun-filled, Margarita-filled evening,.

From the moment I heard Elvis Presley’s first hit single, “Heartbreak Hotel” I fell under his spell.  When Elvis’ first movie, “Love Me Tender” arrived at Gympie’s Olympia Theatre, my brother and I, along with the rest of the townsfolk, raced off to the matinee.  We weren’t disappointed.  I doubt there is one Presley movie I’ve not seen, even though many of them were repetitious fairy floss frivolities.  All those light-hearted movies manipulative Colonel Tom Parker insisted Elvis make didn’t deter me.  Movies like “King Creole” which was based on Harold Robbins’ novel “A Stone for Danny Fisher” was proof positive Elvis could act…if, and when, allowed to do so.  It’s a pity he wasn’t allowed to do more along a similar vein.  Elvis wasn’t given free rein to show his dramatic talent. Devious Parker had other ideas, all of which were prompted by the sound of Parker’s personal cash registers.

Baz Luhrman is a brilliant, creative movie-maker.  I’m looking forward to viewing his latest colourful creation, “Elvis”.  However, I’m not sure to where Luhrman, the man, has disappeared. I fear Madame Tussauds is missing a wax model from its vast collection. Watching Baz’s immovable face during his current promotional interviews, I think he’d better watch out, or Tussauds will grab him and put him on display.  These days Luhrman’s face doesn’t move. It’s as stiff as a poker, and as pumped up as a car tyre. 

Why anyone would want to look like a moai, one of the stone statues created centuries ago by the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island, beats me. Why not allow one’s wrinkles tell the story of one’s life?  Each line has its own story...each worthy to be a chapter in its own biography. 

Let’s face it…all the lifting and filling draws attention to the face.  Why go to the trouble of trying to hide the truth when the end result does the exact opposite? It’s a new slant on “keeping a stiff upper lip”. Now it includes stiff bottom lip, chin, cheeks, nose, eyebrows and forehead!

When Elvis, with his dulcet tones and lively hips, hit the scene in the 50s the side-burned bodgies, and the widgies, in their starched rope petticoats leapt for joy.  Even if someone stepped on their blue suede shoes they just shrugged, and continued to shake, rattle and roll.  They weren’t all shook up about it.  When Elvis begged, “Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear” the hound dogs howled.  On the sidelines, the Hard-Headed Woman pleaded, “Don’t Be Cruel! Let the Jailhouse Rock!”  Even though there are many pretenders, and some may be great, there will only ever be one Elvis,   Lock the doors! Don’t let him leave the building!


Uplifting Ravioli: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Chop 250g fresh asparagus into thirds.  In pan  melt 2tbs butter until frothy; add asparagus; stir; cover. Cook 4-5mins.  Add 230g ravioli to boiling water; cook about 4mins; drain; add to a bowl. Add 2tbs lemon juice and black pepper to asparagus; turn heat to high; cook, stirring, 30 secs. Remove from heat. Add asparagus, butter lemon sauce to ravioli.  Add 1/4c walnut pieces, 2tbs minced parsley and 2tbs grated parmesan.  Toss gently; serve sprinkled with extra parmesan.

Lemon Parmesan Chicken: Preheat oven 200C. Line baking sheet; set aside. Add 1/3rd cup flour to a bowl. Combine 1c panko crumbs, 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, 1tsp dried parsley, 1/2tsp garlic powder, about 1/2tsp each of salt and pepper; stir.  In another bowl, add 1-2tsp lemon zest, 4-5tbs lemon juice, 1tbs minced garlic and 5tbs melted butter. Remove 4tbs of mix; set aside.  Slice 680g boned, skinless chicken breasts into strips. Coat in flour; heavily dredge in garlic lemon mix; coat in parmesan-panko mix; place on pan. Sprinkle any remaining panko-parmesan over strips.  Sprinkle lemon pepper over chicken. Bake 10mins; remove.  Flip to other side.  Place 450g fresh asparagus next to chicken; drizzle with reserved lemon butter sauce.  Sprinkle remaining 1/2c parmesan over asparagus; toss with tongs. If desired, place lemon slices over chicken.  Return to oven; bake 10-12mins.  Whisk 3tbs melted butter, 2tbs lemon juice, 1-2tsp lemon zest, 3tbs olive oil and 3tbs honey in bowl; add some pepper and parsley, if desired. Remove chick-asparagus from oven; top with the honey lemon mixture and fresh parsley if desired.  Do not top chicken breasts with the honey lemon mixture unless eating immediately and aren't planning on having leftovers since it will make it soggy. 


Friday, July 01, 2022



View from Main Western the west, and valley below. Hang-gliding area around the corner from where I live...the view I see when driving to my local supermarket

The house at the end of the lane upon which I live (south-eastern view to Gold Coast).  There are only 4 houses and my tiny, humble cabin in this lane

This is Gunabul Restaurant & Function House, Gympie...I was the cook/chef there for 4 years...1998-2002


                                                                 Pushkin, circa 2000



My spirits were low…I’m not referring to spirits that come in glass bottles.  The early, unapologetic winter chill in June not only froze my butt off, but my fingers, toes, ears and nose, too.  I was a walking (hobbling) human ice block.  There was a tribe of us, I’m sure.

Out of the cold, blue air on a Thursday mid-June I received a phone call from a couple of valued Gympie friends. They were heading to Tamborine, down in the valley west of this mountain, on the Friday thereafter to get tanked.  That is…to go for a military tank ride. When told what they were about to do, I suggested they, instead, should sit atop their water tank at home rugged up against the cold. Scoffing at my idea, they ignored my suggestion.

Fortunately the tank rides are still operating..,for now. The military monsters are being sold off, one by one, and eventually, the whole operation will be closed down.

The generous owner fulfilled the promise of the voucher purchased by the male in the relationship as a surprise gift for his lady. My friends invited me to join them for lunch up here on the hill after their thrilling, rumbling experience.   

It had been a few years since we’d last met up in person. On the Friday I defrosted myself, and agreed to meet them for lunch at a venue I’d chosen.  Arriving at the warm cosiness of Elevation Café before my mates I enjoyed a warming latte in the meantime (followed by another later), while chatting with a friendly couple at a nearby table.  Upon seeing my friends’ smiling, familiar faces, my spirits lifted even further.

What a delicious fare host Michael has on offer at his café.  The servings are most generous as are the friendly smiles of the staff. Those in the hospitality industry work hard.  They work long hours…often, without thanks, unfortunately.  The long hours are spent on their feet.  Dealing with the public is not always easy.  However, smiles, friendly words, swift service and delicious food…loads of it…are all on offer at Elevation Café.

Feeling wild and free who am I to deny myself self-indulgence once in a while?  Without a morsel of guilt I gave into my wanton desire that particular Friday. A slice of decadently rich chocolate torte with a mountain of whipped cream on the side was my shameless choice.  My friends each chose an appetising savoury meal, which they devoured and, obviously enjoyed.  I almost was sorry I’d not ordered similar…almost…maybe next time.

Warmed by my friends’ company, the café’s ambience, and the delicious fare, I even considered discarding my thick jumpers!  

As an aside, when the temps lifted a little the following week, I was to blame. It was because I purchased a new blanket…a doona, in fact.  Extra warmth on my/our bed won’t go astray. My two bedfellows are contented.  I may not need a crane to lift my spirits, but a crane may be needed to lift the bed covers.  The temperatures did dip again…The crane is on stand-by!

The feminine member of the couple and I became friends 24 years ago when she worked with me as my part-time kitchen hand at the Gympie restaurant-function house in which I cooked.  Loyally, for four years, she stood by my side on Friday and Saturdays (she and her partner are both long-time employees of the Mains Road Department). Able to stand the heat in the kitchen, when I needed her assistance for other festive occasions, she never hesitated to heed the call. 

At the beginning she was very reserved, but chip by chip, I knocked down her walls. Our firm, lasting friendship was forged. Together, we had many fun times.  Long conversations at my home at the end of work on Saturday evenings…with Pushkin, my ginger cat curled up on my lap, joining in when he felt it necessary…and well-deserved and earned glasses of red wine.

The day after our get-together in June my friend sent me an email. Her words, the nicest said/written to me in a very long time, brought tears to my eyes; words I shall cherish forever more. 

Valued friendships with valued friends are heart-warming and uplifting.


Chicken Parmesan Pasta: Heat 1tbs x-virgin oil in ovenproof pan over med-high heat. Add 1/4c panko crumbs and 1tsp minced garlic.  Cook, stirring, until panko is golden brown. Transfer to a bowl; set aside. Wipe pan. Heat 1tbs oil in pan over med-high heat. Add 500g skinless chicken breast cut into ½-inch pieces, 1tsp Italian seasoning, 1/4tsp salt and 1tbs minced garlic. Cook, until chicken is no longer pink on the outside. Add 3c chick broth, 1-1/2c crushed tomatoes and 270g penne. Bring to boil; cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until pasta is cooked and sauce has reduced and thickened. Meanwhile, position an oven rack in the upper third of oven. Preheat grill to high. When  pasta is cooked, sprinkle ½ c shredded mozzarella over pasta. Place pan under grill until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown,. Top with the panko mixture; sprinkle with Parmesan and chopped fresh basil.

Irish Whisky Chocolate Mocha Cake: Preheat oven 175C. Butter and flour an 8-inch cake pan, Melt 170g dark chocolate along with 4tbs strongly brewed coffee (mocha or mocha java) and 2tbs Irish whisky; let cool. Beat together 6tbs raw sugar and 113g butter until pale and fluffy; add yolks of 3 large eggs, 1 at a time.  Whisk egg whites in another bowl with pinch of salt to soft peak stage. Add further 1tbs raw sugar; beat until firm peaks form. Have 6-1/2tbs plain flour at the ready. With a spatula, blend choc mixture into creamed mix; then stir in 1/2c freshly ground blanched almonds, and a few drops of almond extract; fold in a spoonful egg whites, then a spoonful of flour; continue until all is blended in. Scrape mix into pan; bake 25-30mins. Cool in pan 10mins; turn cake out onto a rack.  Irish Whisky Glaze: Melt 37g dark choc and 2tbs whisky until satiny smooth; remove from heat; beat in 4tbs butter, 1tbs at a time. Stand bowl over iced water; continue beating until combined, but not quite a light and fluffy butter cream; spread glaze over cake; let it dribble down sides.