Category Archives: Cooking

They do have a winter

Yes it does rain, winter (relatively speaking) is part of the Queensland experience. Best part of the morning spent exploring the foreshore in Bongaree. This location named after the aboriginal who travelled with Matthew Flinders while he mapped the area. Names aside, while the sun shone we did plan to go to the beach but by the time we got home clouds were gathering and it was much too cool. Some good, some bad – non beach day. Our plans included going to Mooloolba but a minor medical emergency meant sampling the excellent support services on the Bribie Island.

Bongaree Jetty
The Bongaree Jetty, many a pleasant afternoon spent here

We are enjoying – as part of house sitting- the joys of a fully equipped gourmet kitchen. Instant heat under high-tech stove top hot plates, homemade yoghurt, obscure products, seasonings, garnishes and gourmet, organic or even freshly gathered, locally sourced food. The surrounds provide us with papaya, passionfruit, mint, herbs, rouquette and spinage. So I can be creative. Results include a mandarin slice and green papaya salad.

Another grey day and we drive north to Mooloolaba, apparently holidaying. What used to be little more than one bakery, plank footpaths and a caravan park, largely surrounded by swampland is now an up-market, bustling café strip. More crowded, more resort towers than we are used to, this is a bonsai Gold Coast. Still some shabby areas though, the Aquarium centre, or down on the spit where the fishery/ seafood area. The adjacent foreshore has a sheltered swimming area but the chilly air puts us off.untitled (320)

Being deep in Maroon territory when the State of Origin Rugby happens is a new experience. Many in the neighbourhood deck out houses, buses, offices in their team’s colours. Queensland having won eight years on the trot are very popular. They are definitely walking the walk of winners. The whole state rivalry is much less noticeable south of the border, or perhaps we just live in the wrong area.

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While Queensland has adopted the Cane toad as their emblem, and with no love lost those from south of the border are aligned to cockroaches, we have our own invasions to deal with: tiny ants along the hand basins in the guest’s bathroom and perhaps kindred NSW cockroaches. House sitting does have its down side.

Cane toad
Great invader, taking over so much.

When we eventually explore the coast Cotton Tree and Maroochy Surf club do not live up to the hype. Much of the foreshore is being rebuilt and heavily dressed in construction site garb.

A garbage truck stalks us northwards. My memories of a lovely family lunch in the Surf club on a previous business are destroyed by insistent jack-hammering.

Much of the façade is the ‘same-same’ as all along the coast. Why do people come here? Scratch just below the surface, behind the shops, sparkling businesses, and gleaming towers are still garages, back alleys and waste areas.

Much changed Mooloolaba foreshore

A favourite up away from the coastal strip is the Kunrana Organic Supermarket – Brownies worth the drive. (featured image) They have bulk bins and paper bags for customers to fill, mark the product code and you are charged accordingly. The range is enormous, everything squeaky-clean and good for you. Now the complex has been extended to include café, garden centre and even an organic butcher. I notice a sign indicating they now sell, “Grass fed Lamb”, and wonder; is there another sort? Do they eat something else?

We are frequently asked, ‘how long we’re staying or what are we doing here?’ Which leads us to feel we are being judges as clearly not locals! As far as I can see the only evidence to support this assumption is that we are clothed in shorts and T shirts, obviously damming evidence, when others around us are in more wintery outfits. When we get a chance to respond to this curiosity any mention of house-sitting is greeted with platitudes.


The Curry Fest 2014


For a reasonable $5 (per couple) $3 a single, you entered a barricaded off areas of stalls selling all sorts of relevant food, try yoga, watch dancing, and generally survey all things from the sub-continent. You are given a lovely silk scarf for that entry fee. We ask, ‘where does the money go?’

‘Down to the head office, to be counted.’

‘No, who gets the funds?’

Goes to the volunteer committee, pays expenses – barricade fencing, toilets, acts from Sydney. Never mind, if they use it to ensure future festivals, that’s fine. Apparently this is the 9th year, we are told it washed out last year so no fee was charged. The decision was taken to fix a token entry payment. Food is at an additional cost, which is fine as for $10 Rod gets a huge plate of butter Chicken.

To eat we sit near a family, surrounded by people wearing all sorts of Punjabi outfits. Fewer saris than I’d expect. There seems too many kids – families have come up from Sydney. We are told, ‘how much more peaceful it is here compared to the crazy frenzy when they make the reverse trek to see relatives in Ryde.’

There are plenty of samples to be had. I try Kombuca – a type of fermented tea. “Yogi bear” brand, sounds dreadful, but with all sorts of detox capabilities. Does not taste nice. But the Indian sweets do. Also various types of local ginger beers. Other samples are from the range of dips and pickles. White Salt is doing a Sri-Lankan fish curries.

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Bright happy dancers as part of the Curry Fest 2014

While people from the sub-continent are to be expected. Staff in the local chemists who are happy to give me cash out on a purchase are decked out in sparkly Punjabi scarfs. There are many surfie types in the crowd, again no surprise. They might be famous world champions? Highly likely. It’s weird to see the red-neck types, escapees from fat central, wearing bronco’s tops and beanies with platted ear flaps. Takes all sorts.

Crowds are thickening, we watch yoga classes, check out the cooking displays, watch a few energetic dance groups. And generally take in the ambience using that seat as a point to come back to, in case either of us gets lost in the masses. 

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Just one of the stalls

An elderly couple has an ‘Edge of the World’ (image at end of this post) stubby cooler. ‘We’ve been there.’ They’ve toured Tasmania three times. ‘If you could add 15 degrees C to the temperatures, we’d live there.’ An echo of our exact same sentiments.

I talk to a local tri lady, who strikes up a conversation because I am wearing a 70.3 shirt. She does not realize this is different from an Ironman, ‘been swimming since August, and did 2km today,’ she tells me.

‘Such great weather here, definitely could live here,’ is Rod’s mantra.

Edge of the World Tasmania
If you look hard enough you can see Sth America.- The Edge of the World Tasmania
Green papaya Salad

Childhood to Master-chef

Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat. That meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.

Free free to focus on any aspect of the meal, from the food you ate to the people who were there to the event it marked.

Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.

Again I am going to change the parameters of this challenge, as my blog is all about 2014. But I also want to say at the outset, and to strengthen my anti-childhood memory stance. It was lousy back there: Food in late 1950s and early 1960s in Perth working class post war re-patronized suburbs was very conservative: Lamb roasts, baked potatoes and two veges – usually lamb with peas and carrots.

Roast and three veg
Our childhood dinners

Oh, and what about that dreadful pumpkin baked with orange juice my Nanna used to make. Fish and chips an essential Friday catholic thing. My mother did a Continental cookery class at night classes down the hill at Tuart Hill High School to learn how to prepare the wonderful new things Italian and Greek immigrants were bringing into the country.

But I want to move forward, a whole generation and a new –ism (multiculturalism). Instead of remembering the world of a 14 year old I am going to focus on 2014.

Being on the road in 2014 has been imbibed with a necessity for simplicity, pasta and stir through sauce. Fish and Chips (see other blog entries about this challenge) Soup and toast. Grilled meat and a salad which might depending upon what is in the larder sometimes only sliced tomatoes with artful seasoning (sachets of salt and pepper released from a MacDonald’s restaurant).

Crepe grill
Every kitchen should have one, a crepe machine.

Imagine my delight at being introduced to a stocked pantry and gourmet appliances in my sister’s house – Our home for an 8 week house sitting term. We have been instructed to use up foodstuffs, to avail ourselves of the facilities, but leave the treasured record collection alone. In return our tasks are to water an out of control garden, and walk an extremely well behaved dog.

On one early morning walk out along the boundaries of Bribie Island National Park I find a Paw-paw – Papaya tree. A few unripe fruit have been victims of overnight strong winds, they come home with me. I can make Green Papaya Salad, a delicacy I encountered once at a Cooking class.

Thank you Google for the recipe: I reflect that electronics has impacted on our use of books.

Amongst products in my sister’s kitchen I can find fish sauce which usually draws the – ‘can I have mine without fish sauce’ comment from my husband. Rice wine, dried shallots, sweet soy sauce, chilies (another prohibited item) and sesame seeds. I cut loose in a frenzy of chopping and slicing. He can have the meat pie from Beefy Pies we didn’t eat yesterday.

When the two culturally diverse meals are ready he looks longingly at my colorful – very like the Google image – preparation. ‘Wish I had what you have got.’

‘I didn’t think you would like it.’ Unspoken is – because I know what is in here and its al; the things you don’t like me to use at home.

‘Could I at least try some?’

Green papaya Salad
Master chef ! Even looked like the picture

‘Of course.’ Again I am silently sure it will be instantly rejected. But nope!

So next time I find green papaya there is to be two bowls of green papaya salad made. I might even be able to sneak some exotic spices, sauces and basic ingredients into the shopping trolley when we are done with our travels.

Have I met the challenge of a distinctive voice by keeping this first person, but changing the boundaries?