Tuesday, September 12, 2017

BY GEORGE! IT’S GEORGE’S!



George's Paragon, Gallery Walk, Tamborine Mountain

Three aspects of Gallery Walk, Eagle Heights, Tamborine Mountain
Tamborine Mountain eastern view to the Gold Coast
Curtis Falls, Tamborine Mountain
A couple of mountain homes...both "slightly" larger and fancier than my humble little cabin!




Monday before last was my Fun Day Monday.   Being the reclusive, happy hermit (by choice) I am, I let loose. I brushed away the cobwebs and dust (off me), discarded the mothballs, and donned my glad rags in readiness to hit the bright lights...bright sunlight.   It was a clear, sunny, warm day with a sky of brilliant blue above.. 

Once I’d checked my visa and passport were up to date, I took a deep breath and poked my nose out the door. After looking both ways, tentatively I ventured forth to walk the Walk, playing to the gallery.  

 To be honest, I’m not a paragon of virtue. I admit there are times when I “talk the talk”, but I these days don’t really “walk the walk”...it’s more of a “hobble the hobble”, with my trusty walking stick in hand.

Without a second thought, I tossed pride to the wind a few years ago.  Pride comes before a fall and with my wonky hips I choose not to fall.  So, my walking stick goes with me everywhere I go.  It’s a fashion statement....a statement I’m sticking by!

Monday of last week I became one of the “Ladies Who Lunch”, following the path of those portrayed in Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical, “Company”.

I was in good company.

Our hostess for the special luncheon held at “George’s Paragon” on Gallery Walk was a unique lady...a centenarian...not to be confused with a centurion.   However, Queen Dorothy, the Grand Dame of the Mountain, the mother of a good friend of mine, held court and was in command of us group of wayward girls. She kept the five of us under control. 

Showing due respect (we’re fearful of the rod), we ensured our best behaviour was on show; minding our ‘Ps” and ‘Qs” while out and about in the public domain.  I think we passed the test because we didn’t get reprimanded.  Our conduct was praiseworthy– perhaps not mine.

On 22nd June, Dorothy hit a 100 not out.  At the time she was in an aged care facility down on the Gold Coast.  A big party was held in her honour on the day...with an Elvis impersonator present.  

On Saturday, 24th June an afternoon tea party was held in Dorothy’s honour up here on the mountain hosted by her daughter and son-in-law at their home.  Family and friends from as far south as Coffs Harbour, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne were in attendance, as were friends who live here on the hill.

The reason for the luncheon last week was Dorothy wanted to “shout” those who helped her daughter, Susan (my friend) put the party together – the catering etc.
I’m sure those who were present will agree an enjoyable time was had while around the luncheon table we sat, sharing genial conversation, laughter and delicious food - generous quantities of each. 

About us were other contented gorgers gorging on the gorgeous food at George’s while admiring the colourful Greek Islands-influenced artwork on the walls. 

I half expected Zorba the Greek to make an appearance.  If Zorba had appeared, without hesitation, I would’ve tossed aside my cane and joined him in his dance - not on the tables - of course.   How I love the book, the movie and the music – “Zorba, the Greek”.  I wrote a post a while back that I saw Mikis Theodorakis, the composer of the “Zorba, the Greek” soundtrack, live in concert at Brisbane’s Festival Hall back in the early Seventies.

I like to “kill as many birds with one stone” when I’m out, so I popped into IGA, our local supermarket, on my way home.

There I was, incognito, minding my own business, putting mandarins into a bag when I was accosted from afar by a maniacal Sir Loin aka Nathan, the young butcher.  I swear he was brandishing a meat cleaver. (That latter sentence may be untrue).

Hurling abuse from one end of the rather large store to the other, he bombarded me with questions, severely admonishing me, demanding to know why I was shopping in the afternoon, not early morning as I usually do.  

His genteel appearance doesn’t fool me - it’s a facade!

Duly contrite from my dressing down, I promised I’d abide by his rules; that I’d never again dare break them.

If, for some inexplicable reason I felt the need, I gave my word to call beforehand begging his permission. 

Saluting in repentant servitude, I then continued shopping...quietly... in the hope I’d not draw further attention.

Is nothing sacred anymore?

By George!  I love living  here on the hill, surrounded by good, fun people and great eateries; but, upon my return home, I had to apologise to my two furry mates for my lengthy absence...contritely I handed them my note...while begging their understanding and forgiveness.

Greek Leek Pie (Prasopita): Wash and trim 800-900g leeks. Cut white part into 2cm wide slices. Heat a little olive oil in saucepan; add leeks and 3 or 4 finely chopped spring onions or shallots; season. Sauté until tender. Deglaze with 1/2c dry white wine; let it evaporate. Remove from heat; cool. In bowl whisk 1 egg yolk with 1c milk or cream; stir in leek mixture, 150g crumbled feta, 100g Graviera cheese or a hard yellow cheese; season with pepper. Brush med-baking tray with oil; lay 1 sheet phyllo, allowing it to exceed pan; brush with oil or melted butter; continue with 5-6 more sheets, brushing each with oil. Tip in filling; even out. Trim some of the excess phyllo; cover top with phyllo; roll the edges.  Whisk 1 egg with 1tsp water and brush top and edges of pie. Bake in preheated 180C oven, 50-55mins. 

Greek Bean Soup (Fasolada): Soak 1/2kg haricot beans overnight.  Next day put beans in saucepan with enough water to cover. Just before they come to the boil remove the surface froth. After coming to the boil, simmer 15mins. Remove beans; drain. Put back into pot; cover to about an inch above bean surface with boiled water; add 1 large, diced onion, 2 diced carrots, 1tbs roughly-chopped celery leaves, 1 red hot chilli, 1/2tbs tomato paste, 150ml tomato juice, 150ml olive oil; season. Simmer 1 hour or so, until beans are tender.

Gemista: Slice 2 large potatoes into big pieces. Slice-off the top of 8 large tomatoes and 4 green capsicums (keep the tops); use a spoon to remove the flesh without tearing the skin. Remove the capsicum seeds. Sprinkle the sugar inside tomatoes. Put the vegetables upside down on a baking pan to drain. Prepare stuffing: Put flesh of tomatoes and capsicums in pan; add 2 large finely chopped onions, 1 finely chopped bunch of parsley, half cup of olive oil, salt and pepper; bring to boil. Remove from heat; add 1-1/2c white rice, 1/2c raisins and 3tbs mint or spearmint. Arrange tomatoes and capsicums in baking pan; fill with stuffing; place the potato chunks between them. Place cut off tops on stuffed vegies. Sprinkle with olive oil and with breadcrumbs. Bake at 230C, 60-80mins.    





Wednesday, September 06, 2017

GOLDEN OLDIES – NIFTY FIFTIES – FRISKY SIXTIES – HEFTY SEVENTIES




In the mid-Fifties when Elvis shook up the world by telling everyone to stay off his blue suede shoes, I was a little girl with plaits.  I certainly obeyed his order, staying well clear of blue suede shoes if or when I saw them. I can’t recall ever seeing any.  That’s not the point - if I had, I would not have stood on them.  Elvis told me over and over not to do so....

The handsome young Elvis, with his lop-sided, come-hither smirk, bedroom eyes and uncontrollable hips taunting his audiences, set the girls’ hearts a-flutter. Every red-blooded young bloke wanted to be like him.

It’s hard to believe 40 years have passed since Elvis left the building.   But, they have. 

I clearly remember the day well, and what I was doing at the time the news broke of his death.   I was up a ladder painting the walls of our lounge area of the house in the Brisbane suburb of Torwood my ex and I had purchased a few months earlier.

The music scene changed forever when Elvis first told Mama that’s all right.   
Teenagers of the world knew it was all right.  Nothing Elvis could say, sing or do would sway their dedication away.

 “Bodgies” and “Widgies” created concern, raising the eyebrows of some disapproving, tut-tutting parents and adults.  To the detractors, rock ‘n roll was the “music of the devil”.

Nevertheless, the resurgent jiving was thriving. Rock ‘n roll won the poll; stole the day, and didn’t gather moss along the way! 

Elvis remains The King; not a pretender, but the owner of the throne.
 
Similar to the attitudes held by some towards rock ‘n roll, not everyone was enamoured of “the brave new world”.

As the Fifties unfolded, fashions changed.  Even though the first bikini hit the beaches, stunning goggle-eyed onlookers in 1946, bikinis really took off in the 50s. Shapely young lasses embraced the beachwear. The National Legion of Decency had multiple fits, and turned purple in the process.

Wearers of the cheeky garb gave beach inspectors a run for their money. 

The legendary Paula Stafford introduced the bikini to Queensland’s Gold Coast in 1952.  The brief, navel-gazing outfits were a far cry from 1907 when Aussie swimmer Annette Kellerman was arrested on a Boston beach for wearing a modest, neck to toes swimsuit. 

In magazines of the Flirty Fifties navels were air-brushed out of photos.  To be corrupted by a belly button was a definite no-no!

The Sixties broke loose, overtaking The Fifties, taking no prisoners. 

Shorty-pyjamas graced bedrooms across the land; a revolution lay ahead.  

The Sixties kicked off innocently enough with Brian Hyland’s “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”.  Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon had fun kicking up the sand at their beach parties. 

Then....POW! POW!  The world turned upside down! The Beatles, The Kinks, The Stones, The Animals etc., etc., arrived. 

A little later the buds of Flower Power burst into bloom. Free love, free thought, Ban the Bomb...freedom to choose

Monterey and Woodstock music festivals were fitting endings to the Swinging Sixties; each showcased artists such as Otis Redding, Hendrix, Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Canned Heat, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Santana, The Grateful Dead, who, along with many others of note, spread the word and scattered the love through a smoky haze. 

The Mamas and Papas closed Monterey.  Scott McKenzie helped.  He urged everyone to go to San Francisco, but to be sure to wear flowers in their hair.  

Post haste, VW Kombi vans decorated with multi-coloured, hand-painted flowers and rainbows travelled the highways and by-ways.  The world as we once knew it would never be the same again.

The 70s brought conflicts and upheavals.  Changes in attitude and in leadership occurred. 

Martial Law was declared in the Philippines by President Ferdinand Marcos while his wife, Imelda was out buying more shoes.

Coups were going on in all corners of the world e.g. Syria, led by Hafez al-Assad. 
Idi Amin kicked up a stink in Uganda. 

Allende was overthrown and killed in Chile, an event that caused a reaction here in Brisbane (a story I will relate at a later date.  At the time I was good friends with the then Chilean Consul, Dr. Robert Wright...a fine Queensland-born gentleman and veteran of the Second World War.  I have written about Robert previously.  Sadly, he passed away in 1990).
 
Haile Selassie, in Ethiopia was overthrown by a communist junta. 

A military coup occurred in Argentina, while another went on in Pakistan.  And an attempted coup went on in Iran.

The Vietnam War came to an end in 1975.

Chairman Mao died.

Times they were a-changing....but, then again, perhaps not...It doesn’t appear we’ve taken many steps forward to improvement - come today....We humans are slow learners...

The Seventies gave us mini-skirts, pantihose, bell bottoms, Afros, tie-dye, hot-pants, wide-collar shirts, jumpsuits, pant-suits, culottes and crop-tops....

The Seventies also gave us great music...music we love to this day – music that has yet to be matched!  I doubt it ever will be.

Slow-Roasted Pork Belly: Preheat oven, 200C. Dry skin of 500g pork belly; score skin. Rub well with salt and 5-spice powder. Cook in oven 45-60mins until crispy. Remove from oven; lower temp to 110C. Cool pork a little; cover with smoked chilli honey. To pan the pork was in, add 175ml dry white wine, a splash of olive oil, ½ large butternut, diced, 3 diced beetroot, 1large red onion, quartered, 4 whole garlic cloves and 5 springs of thyme; season.. Lay pork on top; return to oven,1-1/2hrs, baste every 15mins or so.

Braised Pork Belly: Criss-cross score skin of 1.5kg pork belly.  Rub salt into cuts; chill 2-4hrs.  Heat oven, 105C.  In Dutch oven, over med-high heat, heat 1tbs sesame oil; brown pork belly on all sides; remove; set aside. Add 1tbs minced garlic, 2tbs grated ginger and 2tbs minced shallot; cook about 1-2mins. Add 2c chick stock, 2/3c orange juice, 1tbs brown sugar, 2tbs soy sauce; season to taste. Bring to boil; adjust seasonings as desired. Add pork belly; simmer in hot broth 5-6mins. Cover; place in oven; braise, 3-5hrs, checking and basting periodically until desired tenderness – tender, but not falling apart. Increase temp to 218C; remove lid; cook 15-20mins or until skin is crispy and golden. Remove pork from liquid. Place Dutch oven on stove top; reduce braising liquid to desired consistency, approx 1-1/2c of broth left. Cut pork into serving portions; serve in bowl with broth and sautéed vegetables of choice.

Orange Upside Down Cake: Preheat oven 162C. Topping: Place 1c white sugar, 1/2c water, 1 scraped vanilla pod and vanilla pod halves in large oven-proof, non-stick or cast iron skillet. Stir until sugar dissolves; turn off heat. Remove pods. Slice 2 navel oranges very thinly; arrange in pan; overlap slices a little, but don’t make multiple layers. Turn heat to med-low; simmer 15mins, until oranges soften. Realign slices that moved around; remove pan from heat. Melt 10tbs butter.  Place 4 eggs, 1c sugar and 1tsp vanilla extract in bowl; whisk with electric mixer 8-10mins until thick, pale, increased in volume. Combine 1c plain flour, 1-1/2tsp baking powder and 1/2tsp salt. Sprinkle over egg mixture; fold through; fold in the melted butter and 1-1/4c almond meal. Pour over oranges; bake 40-45mins.  






Friday, September 01, 2017

THE “F’ WORD IS ALLOWED - HEY! DON’T JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS!







This time each year I find it difficult to write about one particular word or subject.  I do want to give the meaning of the word and the subject justice, but my lack of personal experience causes my hesitation. 

The word/subject that gives me grief - the basic, central, critical point of the matter in question - begins with the letter “F”.   

My now late father never played a role in my life, or in the life of my older brother, Graham.  He was an absentee father in every way.

My brother and I were raised in a purely maternal household (by the otherwise known as “The Golden Girls”).   

Therefore, on that score, I really don’t have a factual base upon which to form an argument, not one I’m guaranteed of winning, anyway – but, I’ll give it a good go.  “In for a penny; in for a pound” - I’m ready for anything, win or lose - dressed up for every game, as it were.  Too bad if you take umbrage at my tracky-dacks and Sloppy Joe, I’m not changing!  Accept me as I am!

Here I go...below is my take on the subject.  Pick it apart at your peril!

F - Firm, but fair; forthright; foresightful; fun

A - Adventure Activities’ Agent; able and admirable

T -Tactful tutor; teacher with a tender touch; thoughtful
                                         
H - Honourable; hero - hard act to follow; hugs; happiness
               
E - Easygoing; energetic; enthusiastic; encouraging; efficacious 
             
R - Rational; receptive; relatable; reliable; responsible; referee

On reflection, and I often do reflect upon this ...for example, only a few days ago I discussed with a male friend my thoughts on this matter...I wish my brother, more than me, had had a father role model in his life.   

A father with whom he shared backyard cricket matches and goal-kicking a football over the front fence, or onto the neighbour’s roof; fishing trips to Tin Can Bay, and off the banks of the Mary River, returning with tales of the monster that got away. 

Fortunately, our mother, who was very keen on fishing, fulfilled the latter role for both my brother and me.  That activity was well under control.  We were taught by an expert in the art of fishing and crabbing.   Our Nana, the champion oyster-gatherer and shucker passed on the skill to my brother and me.  

My brother was resourceful.  Even though he lacked the manual guidance a father could give him, he taught himself all the manly things such as gardening; how to repair plumbing issues; carpentry, mechanical problems etc., etc., et al. 

Every time I see happy young fathers out and about with their kiddies, I smile.  When I see fathers like the one I wrote about a couple of years back who was shopping in IGA with his delightful daughter, Poppy; or the Dad I mentioned a few weeks ago with his two little boys who loudly and exuberantly declared their ages, a feeling of warmth and contentment fills in my heart. 

Happy Father’s Day to Aussie Dads...Father’s Day doesn’t only fall on the first Sunday in September...it is every day...but it doesn’t do any harm to have a special day of celebration.

Be your best at all times...be someone your children will be proud of forever and a day...teach your children well....

Dad’s Brekkie: Preheat oven 190 C. Generously spray muffin tin with oil. Combine 4c finely grated potatoes, approx 450G with 1 thinly-sliced shallot, 1/4c chopped parsley or herb of choice, 1/2c corn kernels, 2tbs melted butter, 1tbs cornflour; season. Divide evenly in muffin tray, filling each cup to about1/4 full. Press down gently to form. Sprinkle tops with a pinch of salt and pepper; bake 20mins. At 20mins mark, increase temp to 218C; bake, 10-12mins, until golden. Rest 5mins before removing; serve with a chilli sauce.

Cornmeal-Rosemary-Battered Fish: Combine 3/4c plain flour. 1/2c yellow cornmeal, 1tbs chopped rosemary, 1tsp baking powder and 1-1/4c light beer; whisk until smooth; set aside to rest. Pat dry 600g white fish fillets, cut into 10cm pieces; season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne. Combine more flour, cornmeal and rosemary in a shallow plate. Pour about 2-inches of oil in large pot; heat over med-heat. Dredge fish in flour mixture; dip into batter; let excess drop off.  Fry in hot oil, 2mins per side.

Cappuccino Cheesecake:  Preheat oven 170°C/fan 140°C.  Line 23cm spring-form cake tin with non-stick baking paper. Sit tin on a baking tray. Mix 175g crushed dark chocolate digestive biscuits, 150g ground almonds, 1 tbsp dark brown sugar and 50g melted butter. Press into cake tin base, and slightly up sides. Mix 250g golden caster sugar and 1 heaped tbsp cornflour with 625g cream cheese and 250g mascarpone. Add 4 med-eggs, 1 by 1, beating with wooden spoon, followed by 2tsp vanilla extract, 1 heaped tbs instant coffee granules and 300ml sour cream. Pour into tin; bake on middle shelf, 1hr 20 mins. Turn off oven; open door slightly; allow cake to cool. Mix together 200ml sour cream, 1tbs golden caster sugar and 1tsp lemon juice; spread over cheesecake. Chill 4 hrs or overnight. Sift 1 tbsp cocoa powder over cheesecake before serving.   

                                                        D = Dedicated

                                                 A = Attentive                                    

                                                 D = Dependable