Wednesday, March 22, 2017

COCK-A-DOODLE- DOO! THERE’S NO NEED TO BE SO COCKY!




You’re probably sick of it - my haranguing.  I’ve ranted on similarly in the past.  Here I am ranting in the present; and, no doubt, I will again rave on in the future.  

You’d better brace yourself!  Buckle your seat belts! Grab a cup of coffee, or better still, something stiffer! 

Never will I get used to the questionable bad behaviour and/or inhumane actions by some humans, nor will I get used to idiotic decisions made by some within our society.  

Having no desire to do so, I prefer to stick with the values I was taught when I was child, values such as good manners, decency and respect for our fellowman.

Shock! Horror! Yes, I said/wrote it. There it is in black and white - “fellowman” – the meaning of which is - “a kindred member of the human race”.
  
I give no apology to the gender equality brigade (nor do I offer any apology to the politically-correct mob) such as the Yarra councillor in Victoria, for example, who, it appears, has more time and more money on her hands than good sense. 

I refer to the councillor who wants to see more “green and red lady” pedestrian signals installed across inner-city traffic lights; she who figures the figures on the traffic lights to be of the male variety. 

How does she come to that conclusion?  To me they are non-gender specific stick figures; but what would I know - nothing, obviously.   For heaven’s sake!  What’s next? 

Are she, the Yarra Council and VicRoads who have agreed to go along with her ludicrous idea hopping mad?

I like the suggestion Kochie made on Channel 7’s “Sunrise” the other day.  His bright idea to solve the traffic light problem (not that there is a problem, to my way of thought) is to have the current shape replaced with a kangaroo figure. 
 
Inevitably, if a kangaroo was chosen to grace the “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” traffic lights that, too, would cause a lot of jumping up and down.  Some would kick up a fuss.

If a roo replaced the present non-gender figures many are bound to complain. And then, whoever made the decision to use a roo would rue having leapt to such a solution to the world-shattering dilemma. They’d cop a lot of flack.  For sure it’d rebound on them.

The red kangaroo would be thrilled to be represented on the red lights, but the eastern and western grey kangaroos would be bouncing about demanding recognition. Who could blame them?  The antilopine kangaroo would pine having not been considered.

Wallabies have to be taken into consideration, too. Wallabies most definitely would throw a wobbly.  They’d have their nose out of joint for being overlooked.  No doubt they’d be wannabes, wanting to skip up to the plate.   

Ouch! If using a kangaroo or wallaby another problem has hopped into the frame.  What about the pouch?  Only female macropod marsupials are suitable, I guess, so there’d be no point the boomers trying to buck the system by putting their two bob’s worth in.

And what about the wombat?  He'll be ready for combat!

Commonsense, good manners and respect appear to have flown out the window nowadays. It doesn’t cut the mustard with me! 

Take what happened to me yesterday. The galah down the road called me cocky!  How rude and ignorant!  As you can imagine, I was taken aback. Wouldn’t you be if similar was said to you?  How dare he presume to assume! 

Why do some creatures– and that’s what they are – creatures – think they know you when they haven’t a clue?  

All I did was walk past his cage, and he started screaming out at me; “Hello Cocky!”  Raising my head high, I chose to ignore him.  I wasn’t going to be at his peck and call!  

Roasted Cauliflower with Raisin, Pine Nut Vinaigrette: Preheat oven to 250C. Cut 1 cauliflower into 8 wedges; toss wedges with 3tbs x-virgin olive oil; season to taste. Transfer to foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet.  Roast on middle shelf until cauliflower is tender and deeply browned on both sides, about 20mins, flip cauliflower half way through. Combine 3tbs x-virgin olive oil, 1tbs sherry vinegar, 1tbs honey, 2tbs rinsed, drained, finely chopped capers. 1/4c toasted pine nuts, 1/4c raisins and 2tbs finely chopped parsley; season. Transfer cauliflower to serving plate; spoon dressing over; serve immediately.

Honey Mustard Chicken with Turmeric & Pine Nuts: Pat dry 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. Combine 1tbs x-virgin olive oil, 1tsp ground turmeric, 1tsp mustard powder, salt and pepper; rub into chicken, working well into all surfaces of thighs. Whisk together 2tbs whole grain mustard, 3tbs Dijon mustard, 3tbs honey, 2tbs chicken stock, salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy-based pan; sear thighs on both sides until golden and crispy. Drain excess oil; pour honey-mustard mixture over thighs. Bake in 190C oven, 30mins or until cooked through. Halfway cooking time, add some black olives, whole or sliced, if you like.  Serve with toasted pine nuts sprinkled over chicken.

Spinach, Chicken, Pine Nut Salad: Place 8c spinach in large salad bowl; add 1c halved cherry tomatoes, ½ corn kernels (fresh, canned or frozen), 1-1/2c chopped cooked chicken, 1 sliced, large avocado, 1/3c crumbled goat or feta cheese and 1/4c toasted pine nuts. Make dressing – combine 3tbs white wine vinegar, 2tbs x-virgin olive oil, 1tbs Dijon, salt and pepper; pour over salad; toss.  

Pear Pine Nut Cake: Heat oven to 175C. Toast 2tbs pine nuts; cool. Spray 9-inch round cake pan. Combine 1-1/4c plain flour, 3/4c sugar and 1/4tsp salt.  Cut in 1/4c cold butter until mixture looks like coarse meal. Remove 1/3c mixture to small bowl; stir in 1/4tsp cinnamon and toasted pine nuts. To remaining mixture, add 1/3rd cup sour cream, 1/4c milk, 1tsp lemon zest, 1tsp vanilla, 1/2tsp baking powder. 1/4tsp baking soda and 1 egg; beat on med-speed until well blended. Pour into cake pan; arrange 2c thinly sliced, peeled pear over batter; sprinkle reserved pine nut mixture over top. Bake 45-50mins until cooked; cool completely in pan on rack.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE – IDES WATCH MY BACK IF I WERE YOU!




I spent yesterday, 15th March, from sun-up until midnight, walking backwards.
To my surprise, and relief, not once did I stumble, nor did I fall over.  Miracles do happen!  In the meantime, I did cause a few bemused spectators to wonder if I was coming or going. 

The confused observers were obviously oblivious to the fact that yesterday, 15th March, was The Ides of March, the day/date in 44BC Big Julie aka Julius Caesar got stabbed in the back. 

A seer had warned Big Julie an assassination attempt was in the wind, but Caesar just blew off the seer’s prophecy.  The seer told Julius Caesar – “Julie!  Don’t go! Don’t go, Big Julie!’  But Big Julie believed he was too big a deal to heed a mere seer.

The attack by Brutus at a meeting of the senate was a brutal thing to do.  The political arena even back in 44BC was a dangerous place to hang about in. 

Who’d want to be a politician? Not me, not without a worthy amount of armour plate, anyway; either that or I’d ensure I was a backbencher, right up in the back row, with my back against the wall, allowing no room for anyone to be behind me! 

Trust no one...the brutes!

So that was yesterday, done, dusted, out of the way.  Whew! And, I’m still here to tell the story sans knife in my back! 

Today is today.

With some forward thinking while backward walking I managed to get through The Ides of March unscathed.

Tomorrow is tomorrow so I’m now readying myself for tomorrow -  St. Patrick’s Day. 

Actually, for months I’ve been preparing myself for Paddy’s arrival.  I didn’t allow the Ides, or anything else to get in my way. For hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month I’ve been practising my Riverdance steps. 

Although, yesterday, trying to execute complex foot actions with my arms stationary at my sides all the while being in backward mode was a bit awkward. There were moments, more than a few moments I resembled Kath, Kel and Sharon Karen Trzelecki’s performances (all wrapped up in one) in that memorable episode of the satirical Aussie TV comedy, “Kath & Kim”. 

Kath, Kel, Kim, Brett and Sharon caused much laughter when they entered our homes via our television screens from 2002 to 2005.  Aussie fans of the show will remember the “Riverdance” episode, I’m sure....how could you not?

Because of the myriad offers I received I was forced to flatly decline a most generous one from Michael Flatley to join his world-acclaimed troupe of dancers.

I’ve written much about St. Patrick, aka Paddy or Pat to his mates, over the years.  I guess there’s little else I can say about the dear old chap, except he didn’t actually drive snakes out of Ireland. 

Ireland never had any snakes before or after Paddy adorned in his cassock went charging through causing havoc while, below foot, treading on the shamrock. 

In the meanwhile, the flow of the Druids driven out to sea by Paddy was most fluid. 

Ever since Patrick’s death on 17th March, 461AD (appropriately, he was interred at “Downpatrick”) people all over go in search of a four leaf clover to bring them good fortune.

If you see me out and about tomorrow foraging on the grassy verges or in your garden ignore me.  Be on alert - here is a chance you may not notice me because I’ll be dressed in green. 

If you see a large clump of grass moving around while you’re mowing dodge it – it could be me. I’d like to keep all my limbs intact, in fact. 

The wearing of the green came into vogue long after St. Patrick had his day. However, the Irish brogue existed before brazen Paddy did his best to rid the country of its pagans.

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were mostly influenced by the dispersion of the Irish to lands other than their homeland; the Irish diaspora who settled in the US, especially, kick-booted the sometimes boisterous celebration into gear. 

St. Patrick’s Day at the resort on Hinchinbrook Island was a hoot.  My barman made sure all the drinks ordered had drops of green food colouring added to them, much to the delight of our good-humoured holiday-making guests.

At lunch time a little boy was jumping for joy when he was served his lunch; that was until he tried what he thought was a huge blob of green ice cream on his plate.  When he discovered it was green mashed potatoes, his face took on a completely different appearance as he let out a very disappointed and loud, “Yuck!  I thought this was ice cream!” 

The young lad's reaction caused much laughter among the rest of the diners and my staff.

The following morning, Bronnie, one of my staff members came into my office, a very concerned look on her face.  In hushed tones, she told me she feared there was a virus of some sort going through the resort.  She believed there was a problem - bacteria of some sort - in the resort’s water supply. 

From her tone, I could’ve sworn everyone on the island was about to die or, at least, end up in hospital for weeks.  I broke into uncontrollable laughter, much to Bronnie's surprise.  There she was serious and very concerned, and all I could do was laugh.

The abundance of green food colouring used the day before in celebration of St. Paddy’s Day had caused a massive alteration in the colour of one’s bodily waste matter...if you know what I mean.  I’ve often wondered what the guests thought when they discovered the surprise that awaited them that morning. 

No one, other than Bronnie made mention to me of the rapidly contagious “disease” that had taken over the resort!  I would have immediately put them at ease that the black plague wasn't rampantly spreading!

In the early part of last century my paternal grandparents, shortly after marrying, came to Australia...all the way from County Armagh, Northern Ireland.   

My maternal forefathers and foremothers (how many can one person have?) were mostly Scottish, and Presbyterian; and when we were children my now late brother and I attended the Presbyterian Sunday School and Church...in days long gone by in the distant haze!

My paternal grandfather was Catholic; my paternal grandmother was not, but she jumped over to the green side to keep the peace.   

They settled in Rockhampton, Central Queeensland – and the rest is history... just like St. Patrick, Big Julie and Brutus, the brute!

Caesar Salad: Dressing: Place 4 whole anchovy fillets in processor/blender; add 2-3tbs Dijon mustard, 1tbs balsamic or red wine vinegar, 1tsp Worcestershire sauce, 2 garlic cloves and juice of half lemon; pulse on low for a few seconds. With processor/blender on, slowly drizzle in 1/2c x-virgin olive oil.  Add 1/4c freshly grated Parmesan, salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste; pulse until thoroughly combined; chill for a few hours before using it on the salad. Make croutons: Slice ½ loaf of crusty French bread into thick slices; then cut into 1-inch cubes. Place on baking sheet; Heat 1/4c olive oil in small pan over low heat; crush – don’t chop – 2 garlic cloves; add to oil; move the garlic around in pan for 3-5mins; remove garlic from the pan. Slowly drizzle the garlic-infused oil over the croutons; mix together with your hand; sprinkle lightly with salt; toss; then cook in pan until golden and crisp. (Add a little butter to enhance the flavour, if you like).  Salad: Wash and dry the hearts of 2 or 3 romaine/cos lettuce. Leave the hearts whole. Place in salad bowl. Drizzle about half of the dressing over the top of the hearts. Use vegetable peeler and shave off large thin slices of a block of Parmesan cheese; add a good handful of the shavings to the lettuce; give it a good toss; add more dressing and Parmesan to taste. For a variation on a theme...you can top the salad with 2 grilled chicken breast fillets, cut into 1cm thick slices and 4 cooked, crisp, rind-less bacon rashers cut into strips to the salad along with 4 soft, poached eggs gently sitting atop – with some Parmesan scattered over the lot – the choice is yours..Caesar won’t mind!

Colcannon-Bacon Bites with Caper Aioli: Aioli - Whiz 2 egg yolks, 2tbs lemon juice and 1/4tsp salt in processor. With motor running, slowly add 1c sunflower oil until thick and smooth; add 1tsp Dijon, 2tbs sour cream, 1tsp white wine vinegar, 1c flat-leaf parsley leaves and rinsed, drained, finely-chopped salted capers; whiz to combine; season. Transfer to bowl; chill. Boil 1kg starchy potatoes until tender; drain well. Heat olive oil in pan over med-high heat; cook 250g chopped, rind-less bacon until crisp; drain. Blanch 100g trimmed cabbage (or kale); drain; finely chop. Mash potatoes over low heat; add 20g butter and 1/4c cream; mash; add bacon and cabbage/kale; season; remove from heat. Roll mixture into 24 patties. Combine 3c fresh sourdough breadcrumbs, 1c finely chopped flat-leaf parsley and finely grated zest of 1 lemon; season.  Whisk together 2 eggs and 2tbs milk; coat patties with egg wash; then with breadcrumbs. Heat 1cm olive oil in pan over med-high heat; shallow fry patties until golden and crisp; serve with aioli.

Spud Murphy Muffins: Oil-spray muffin pan. Stir together 3 packed cups left-over mashed spuds, 1 large egg, 3/4c shredded cheddar, 2tbs chopped chives, salt and pepper. Divide mixture evenly into muffin pan, packing mashed spuds down into each cup. Bake in 190C oven 30-35mins; remove from oven; top each muffin with more shredded cheese; return to oven for 3-4mins; cool in pan 5mins; transfer to serving plate; eat! 


Paddy’s Lucky Slices: Preheat oven to 175C. Mix together 1-1/2c chocolate wafer biscuit crumbs (about 30 wafers) and 1/3c melted butter.  Press firmly onto bottom of foil-lined 9-inch square baking pan. Chill until ready to use.  In a large bowl, beat together on med-speed, 240g softened cream cheese and 1c sugar until well blended.  Add 1/2c sour cream and 1tspn pure peppermint extract; mix well.  Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition...just until blended.  Pour half of the batter over crust.  Tint remaining batter green with food colouring.  Pour over batter in pan.  Bake 25-30mins or until centre is almost set.  Cool completely on wire rack.  Chill 4 hours or overnight. Lift out of pan; cut into bars.  Drizzle bars with melted chocolate.


Shimmy-Shimmy Shamrock Shake: Blend together until thick and smooth, 3-4 scoops vanilla ice cream, 1/2c Bailey’s Irish Cream, 4 ice cubes, 2tbs vanilla vodka, 1tbs Kahlua, 1/2c milk, mint extract to taste and 5 drops green food colouring ; if shake is too thin, add more ice cream; pour into glasses; top with whipped cream. 



Saturday, March 11, 2017

GETTING PICKLED...AND NOT A DROP TO DRINK!
















Soon it will be that way if we don’t get rain - rain that lasts more than just a few minutes.  Summer here on the hill has been quite dry.  The “wet season” didn’t wet us this season, which was very unfortunate because the few little drops we received whetted my appetite for more.

If this keeps up I’ll be forced to drink my stock of wine I’ve got stored away. I might just have to get pickled.  

It’ll be either that or use the liquid contents for pickling because I’m sure some of them, by now, have turned to vinegar. That’s good and not so good, depending on which way you choose to look at it.  I might seriously consider the latter option because hangovers are a waste of time, and are not at all enjoyable.  I prefer leftovers, instead.

There would be no point pretending I’m Cleopatra and bathe in red wine (rather than milk).  Firstly, I don’t have a bathtub here in the cabin, only a shower recess. Secondly, if I bathed in red wine I’d emerge from the non-existent bathtub looking like pickled beetroot!

The bathing in milk has reminded me of an incident that occurred years ago – in the early Seventies. At the time I lived in Toowong, a Brisbane suburb.  I was living alone…nothing much new about that.  I did have my two furry mates with me – nothing new about that, either. My ginger beauty and Lord of the Manor, Sasha, and my blue-steel stunner, Smocka were my housemates.

One Saturday afternoon I decided I’d give myself a cleansing face mask. I think it probably is the only one I’ve ever given myself.  Some probably would be tempted to suggest I should always wear a mask, but that’s their opinion; one I choose to ignore!

Not one to use face creams or lotions, I’ve always relied upon the benefits of drinking lots of water; and ever since I was a child I’ve continued the practice of splashing my face with cold water after I’ve finished showering. A piece of sage advice handed down to me by my grandmother and my mother.

I’d found an interesting mask recipe in a magazine. On the Saturday afternoon to which I refer, having nothing better (or more productive) to do, I decided to spend a couple of hours “spoiling” myself.

Using full cream powdered milk and a dash of olive oil, I followed the instructions given in the article, and mixed the two ingredients together to form a paste.

Once I spread the concoction over my face, the mask quickly set solid like concrete.

Not to be deterred, I followed the instructions to the letter, leaving the mask on for the allotted time, even though I couldn’t move even the tiniest muscle in my face.

Finally, the moment arrived to remove the powdered milk mask – it was time for the long-awaited unveiling.

It has been said often – “Curiosity killed the cat”.  Well, curiosity didn’t kill Sasha that afternoon, but he certainly did succumb to its unignorable power.

Much to his delight and interest, Sasha decided to join me. He perched himself on the side of the bathroom sink.  Never before had he seen such a sight.  It was one too good to miss!

Unexpectedly, to my surprise, Sasha then proceeded to try to lick and chew the mask off my face!

Much to his dismay and disappointment I shoo’ed him away. I was having enough trouble trying to remove the immovable, glued-on-forever mask without his keen interference.  

I never did try a face mask of any description ever again.***  

It hadn’t made any difference to my appearance. Sasha had a fun time, though!

*** A fib has been told.  One Halloween when we were living at Sunshine Beach in the early to mid 80s, my ex and I were invited to a Halloween Party being hosted by good friends who lived in Tewantin.  Through a fancy-dress costume outlet in Brisbane I bought a fabulously, horrific, rubber witch’s mask for myself and a truly gross-looking mask for my husband. I made (sewed) suitable attire to match.  When the masks arrived I immediately put mine on, thinking Ruska, our the ginger cat (Sasha had became Ruska’s mentor) would get a fright.  My mean attempt at humour backfired.  Ruska didn’t twitch a whisker – not even the slightest movement! My ego was deflated in a mere second! Poof!”

Forget all of that…let’s get pickled!

Giardiniera (Pickled Vegetables): Bring 2-1/2 cups white vinegar, 3 cups water, ¾c sugar, 5tbl sea salt, 1tsp mustard seeds and 1/2tsp dried hot chilli flakes to a boil over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a 4-quart bowl and cool for 30mins. Then bring about 6 quarts unsalted water to a boil in a large pot. Have at the ready a large bowl of ice and cold water. Add 1 head cauliflower, trimmed and broken into florets to the pot of boiling water; boil until crisp-tender, transfer using slotted spoon to iced water. Then cook these remaining vegetables in the same manner, allowing 4mins each and 2mins for the celery; 1 red and 1 yellow capsicum, cut into 1-inch pieces, 4 carrots, cut diagonally into 1/2inch thick slices, 4 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch slices, 1c large brine-cured green olives and ½c oil-cured black olives. Drain vegetables in a colander and spread out on 2 large kitchen towels to dry. Add vegetables to pickling liquid. Weight down with a plate to keep them submerged. Chill, covered at least 1 day; the pickled vegetables will keep, chilled and covered for one week.
 
Pickled Garlicky Red Capsicums: Roast 10 capsicums,( mixed colours, if you like), in a pre-heated 205C oven. Line capsicums on a large baking sheet; roast them for 45mins, turning them once or until they’re soft. Once roasted, while they’re hot, throw them into a large bowl, cover with lid or plate, trapping the steam inside. When they have cooled a bit, their skins will be easy to remove. Once the skins are removed, remove the core and seeds and tear the capsicums into strips. Meanwhile you’ve prepared a pickling mix of 3c water, 2/3-3/4c sugar and 1/4c table salt, which you’ve brought to a boil over moderate heat and cooled.  Pour this liquid over the capsicums; add 4 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped. Place into a non-reactive container. Chill; covered for one day. These also will keep a week.

Pumpkin Pickles: Peel and cube pumpkin, making 6 cups. Place in colander; set over boiling water. Don’t let water touch pumpkin. Steam until just tender; drain. Simmer 2 cups each vinegar and sugar and 2 large sticks cinnamon for 15min. Add pumpkin; simmer 3mins. Set aside 24hrs. Heat and simmer 5mins more. Remove cinnamon. Pack boiling hot in hot jars then process in boiling-water bath for 10mins.

Beet Relish: Combine 12 cooked beetroot, 1 red onion, 2 cups finely chopped red cabbage, 1 red capsicum (all put through a food processor with large blade), with 1-1/2tsp salt, 3/4c sugar,1-1/2c vinegar and 2tbls prepared horseradish; bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmering for 15mins, stirring often. Ladle hot relish into hot jars; process in boiling-water bath for 10mins.  
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