January 2006

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cold soba and crab salad

A very special first time ever treat for you all,

************a spiceblog original joke!!!!!!!!**********

Noodle: Another vodka tonic and make it snappy!
Barman: Are you always this rude?
Noodle: Well if you think this is bad, you should see me when I’m soba.

************* : ) : ) : ) : ) : ) : ) : ) : ) : ) : ) : )**********

Soba is a greyish Japanese noodle made either mostly or entirely of buckwheat (soba) and water. Friend to vegetarians and the gluten intolerant, it also makes for a great train platform or highway service area snack and is marvellous cold with a soy/dashi/wasabi based dipping sauce.

Quite easy to buy dried but flush from successes with making fresh pasta, I thought I’d make some. The gear used to make it is fabulous. Traditionally the soba dough is rolled out with a long wooden pin on a large wooden board. They also use large red and black wooden bowls for mixing. All very stylish and the soba knives are the coolest things ever and it saddens me they aren’t seen more in hand to hand combat with heads fortuitously rolling into soba mixing bowls flecking buckwheat flour with crimson or perhaps a show tune with the rolling pins as canes. Alternatively you could say hello to the BandoTaro. I used my pasta roller.

Not the best occasion to make it, back from the shops at 5:15, unshowered from a run, and having decided barely an hour area that we’d be having a BBQ for 10 for Toni’s family at ours at 6. She came back in after sweeping the outdoors area to find me covered in flour, what was I doing, “making noodles”. I got the look. Ah well it was just a matter of bunging out a coleslaw as well.

The crabs are Shark Bay blue swimmer/ blue manna crabs after our crabbing trio in Mandurah didn’t eventuate due to conditions inclement.

The mix of buckwheat to wheat flour can vary but commonly it’s 80/20 respectively with the gluten in the wheat binding it together. Pure buckwheat soba is possible but this site recommended starting with 50/50. My balance was about two thirds to one third and then alternating between buckwheat and wheat flour to get the dough to sufficient dryness. Start with a third as much water as flour and mix and then add water until it’s “as soft as an earlobe”. Knead for five minutes, wrap with gladwrap and put in the fridge for an hour.

It’s a beautiful thing to work with. The buckwheat has a strong smell which makes it feel more alive than dough and it feels softer and pliable. This may be an illusion caused by its stone like appearance.

As with pasta, make sure the dough is well coated with flour to prevent it sticking in the roller. You just need to roll it out to a “3” and then pass it through the spaghetti cutter in foot long lengths.

Cook in plenty of boiling water for two minutes or less, it shouldn’t be soft, and refresh under cool water and chill. You can actually drink the cooking liquid as a tea and it’s quite refreshing.

This salad came into my head, the sources of which are unknown but I had a vague feeling from somewhere. What convinced me it wasn’t the whispers of malevolent demons or mischievous faeries was that lemons are good with seafood, chilli has made a fine partner with lemon in previous pasta sauces, and the oil would add a certain slipperiness. I had thought nuts and coriander but decided against as the latter would have made it too busy and that buckwheat is already “nutty” of sorts for the former.

Remove the flesh from 4 crabs and flake into small pieces. Finely chop half a largish red chilli (remove the seeds). Finely chop the rind of one lemon (you can use a zester or grate it). Add the juice of one lemon and an equal amount of EVOO. Mix together the soba, crab, and dressing and serve.

Refreshing but really I prefer more traditional combinations of Charcoal Cooked Crabs, Cold Soba, and assorted Tempura. I also felt the noodles had been cooked too long and lacked that bit of chewiness that makes really good soba, thicker noodles would have helped here. A good start though and if you used dried soba, this would be extremely quick and easy to make.

Many thanks Amy for hosting.

Roundup! More noodles: Cooking with Amy: A Food Blog: IMBB 22 Use Your Noodle Part 1, 2, 3 & 4


patriotic coriander and watermelon salad with fennel risotto stuffed baby squid

Australia Day. Why they chose a day that says a big fuck you to the people who’d just happened to be here at the time and had been for quite a while before that is a bit beyond me.

As is flag waving. I mean I think my wife is just the best but I don’t insist she wear a name tag to remind me what a great wife she is. Anyway that’s all neither here nor there because it’s also the day all the swearing in of new citizens happens and since my Quebecois brother in law was to become a citizen. We thought we’d do the right thing just in case he’d thought he’d signed up for some other country.

A big and tasty lunch was had and I brought the above along. I started with squid and worked my way back. Stuffing would be risotto and then I thought that just squid is a bit squiddy and then I saw the watermelon in the fridge and remembered Neal Jackson does a very nice fried squid with a watermelon salad. It uses coriander instead of the more traditional mint. The value of being exposed to ideas is that you can nick them later at an opportune moment of inspiration. Here’s a quick run through.

Baby squid tubes:
15. Already cleaned, too easy. Otherwise you’ll just have to clean them

One finely chopped white onion and a similar amount of similarly finely chopped white of the fennel bulb and four finely chopped garlic cloves. Saute in olive oil, colour the aborio rice (a cup and a half) and then continue with the slow process of stirring and adding liquid until al dente (won’t be explaining that today). I used a mix of about 80% white wine to 20% chicken stock. Can’t say I was overly impressed with the resulting flavour, as it ended up a bit vinegary like sushi rice. The effect was much more harmonious once inside the squid. About two thirds of the way through I started adding a small handful of parsley and fennel leaves as well as half a cup of sliced fennel stalks. Finished by adding pepper and stirring in a nice big dob of butter to keep it moist whilst cooking in the squid.

Another thought is I wasn’t exactly sure when to add the parsley and fennel leaves. I didn’t want to put them in at the beginning and have them end up as much but I also wanted to them to blend in a bit, hence the two thirds result. Curious to know how it might have worked out otherwise.

Watermelon and Coriander Salad:
A nice exercise in size and flavour. If the watermelon is cut into cubes a little smaller than a coriander leaf, the flavours balance out nicely. For the same reason the spanish onion shouldn’t be bigger than one of the smaller buttons on your remote control (no I’m not writing this on the sofa no). Mix together.

Stuff the squid tubes with the risotto and close each one up with a toothpick to prevent rice jizzing everywhere. Place them in an oven tray with a glass of white wine (I used cask Moselle), cover with foil, and cook in an oven at 200C for 40 minutes.

I gave the squid a bit of a sear on a griddle before putting them on the salad. The rice was nice and compact so I could have in fact sliced it up rounds which would have been nice. The fennel taste wasn’t strong at all and matched nicely with the squid. The watermelon salad is great and should be compulsory at summer barbecues.

And there we go, a suitably traditional and diverse dish that didn’t send acrumble our cultural mainsteam of the decent us with the culinary introduction of the them. As for my brother in law Jean [below], he is now an official Aussie: don’t think I’m happy about it, he is no doubt rooting my sister, watches ice hockey, and objectively has a much better motorbike than me. Anyway here’s to 218 years of hey how did you get in here.

Australia's newest citizen


and thanks to whoever voted me into second place as the 2006 Best West Australian Blog . I didn’t mention it as well I’m a bit iffy about comps, as Buddha says “a competition brings with it losers and with losers, unhappiness”. Pleased again to be nudged out by Robert Corr and congratulations to third place on preferences Tama Leaver – for those that aren’t familiar with preferential voting, it means he’s more popular but I’m less unpopular. If you missed out, tough! ahahaha, I mean I meant to say robbed!

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dessert at parliament house

Sydney is a big place. Big. BIG. big. Large. Like Madame DeFarge. All knotty, uppity and out for revenge. [an account of the journey there]

I’d present a coherent food experience but the trip was decided on a few days before we left so no meticulously planned set of reservations for my moleskine notepad. Melbourne is all streets and cafe reccomendations, Sydney is all celebrities. Closely regarded monomonikered – Bill, Neil Kylie, Tetsuya; they don’t have KFC, they have Sander’s (you must try the chicken). I managed to knock off two. Bill and Kylie.

ricotta pancakes at bill's

Bill Granger, Bill’s, Surry Hills
Bill has more than one place, A revelation which made for a hasty humid sweaty walk along Oxford Street to Surrey Hills to meet the Sydney food bloggers for brekky. First thing I have to say is that the great thing about meeting fellow bloggers is that you can conversationally cut to the chase without those awkward “so what do you do” type forays where you end up talking about house prices because you both assume that that’s what the other person wants to talk about and instead talk about stuff like skinning rabbits. Lovely bunch of people. Hello Sarah and Duncan, Sue and J, and Saffy who organised it. I was a bit sad to let them go and had to make up some story about wanting to go to Central Station so we could follow Saffy around. The food. No sign of Bill with his daughter on hip but Toni did have his famous scrambled eggs. They were good but a bit milky and underwhelming after the build-up I heard. The ricotta pancakes with honeycomb butter were extremely good though and if there’s a gripe it’s that having to get bacon on the side is like having to pay for tomato sauce with a pie. Just saying.


scallop wontons kingfish sashimi steamed snapper
duck silken tofu mussels

Kylie Kwong, Billy Kwong , Surry Hills
There are no reservations so you just rock up and wait at the pub until they call you. Ideal for chancers like us. We got there a bit after six and there were just two people sitting at a table doing business like stuff and waiters standing around. I was a bit hesitant to enter thinking it was closed but no we were just the first and within half an hour it was full.

Kylie was actually there but spent the evening sitting there wondering if she should come up and talk to me and what she’d say once she did. Eventually deciding she’d probably feel like a wanker and settled for a smile and a nod when she caught my eye.

Great great great food. To get a wider range as there was just the two of us we went for the Kylie banquet. Only about $70 a head and great value since we sat on mineral waters after swearing off alchohol for 24 hours after too much sparkling and beer.The great thing was that it didn’t end up being like a dego, it was just a lot of dishes that didn’t look any different in size to the a la carte. We had
[checks notes on back of Newtown Beauty Therapy flyer]
steamed oyshes w/-ck mm; scallop wontons + crown; kingfishsashim; cutthefish-dried pork-lapsun; mussels in black bensau with garlic oneu size mantdy; sillu tofu ws hh peas br?l; duck; spqer;
All extremely good and extremely smart. Lots of looking over at other tables to see what they were having. Mucho ribboning and clever combos of core of ingredients with a menu that was obviously very personal rather than arch. The quality of the ingredients like the kingfish and the oysters and the tofu and seasonal touches like peas. The cooking was spot on and things like the cuttlefish just right. The duck was very arresting with large slices of orange and length of cassia bark on perfectly crispy skin. So impressed I bought the cookbook. Staff were great and knew their stuff. Vibe is a very imprecise quality bit the vibe was good.


Elvis’ Birthday Night Tribute at the Empire somewhere near Newtown
Lovley night. You don’t have to be young to be in a band you know. The drummer looked like Dennis Lillee and didn’t miss a beat. The organist looked like he’d just stepped off minding the door and kept scanning the room for someone to drag out into the street no doubt. The lead guitarist looked like he’d fallen asleep after a Bachelor and Spinster’s Ball 15 years ago and was awoken, befuddled at first, for this very gig. The MC made we wish there were more cabaret style Singing raconteurs in around these days. John Kennedy was a taller skinnier deeper voiced Nick Cave with better sidies and a more kinetic pointing style. Outstanding. Headliner Dave Graney was shit. Like being at Kim Il Sung’s Karaoke party. Did the cold spoon by following upn a rousing everybody up on stage singalong of Viva las Vegas for all the other artists with Are You Lonesome Tonight.

suckling pork at parliament house

Stranger’s Dining Room New South Wales Parliament House
cappucinoThis was the best for lots of reasons. Firstly that I would be having Sardinian style Roast Suckling Pig at a venue supported by the NSW taxpayer. The bits of pork from the flesh of each rib tasted that much sweeter and the crackle that much cracklier with the though that it might inspire a hundred speed dials to Alan to have whinge about how they only had beans on toast for lunch. No really thank you, as a little person, it was a special honour. The other thing was that it was a rare opportunity as the staff cafeteria was out of action so it was open to staff and they’d just got a new chef who was great. The place was abuzz with talk of suckling pig even at the bar where I picked up a bottle of Keith Tulloch 2000 Semillon. The decor is decidedly 70’s but they’ve got this great colonial style tableware with gold trimmed plates and everything bearing the emblem or the stamp of NSWG. I didn’t think to nick any but if they ever have a garage sale, I am so driving back over there. Cappucino and a dessert of Baked Apple with an Orange Glaze and a Blood Orange Sorbet. All fabulous and all for not much more than a meal at Cocklebiddy. Thank you New South Wales, here have some resource derived export revenue.


Three fave places: Kinokuniya bookstore, Dinosaur Designs, and DEUSexMACHINA. Fucked if I could find a copy of Gravity’s Rainbow anywhere. 5 000 0000 copies of Ayn Fucking Rand though.


You HAVE to do the Sydney by Diva tour where you are driven around the city in a bus with a drag queen for a hostess. It’s hilarious. My cheeks ached. Goes the classic sites like the Opera House and Bondi with bits on local history, tells you where to meet a feller (anywhere with bushes it seems) and where you can wash your hands, very personal at times – I was touched (but not as much as the Canadian guy). Lots of champagne and cheezels if you’re in economy and you get to do a choreographed routine.

And that’s most of it, shouldn’t have left it for five years. Worth the drive. Cheers to all the nice folks I met and caught up with.

Hmmm baked eggs in newtown Ophelia Circular Quay

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Work progresses slowly at spiceblog

My lackeys lag. Trying to finish off a story for Spice mag and all I can say is that if I cooked like I wrote I would be a lean 23kg instead of my actual 72. Onions would be replaced by garlic which would in turn be tossed out in favour of yams before eventually settling with onion again and then not having a clue what I was going to do next. Can somebody else out there gently stroke my hair and tell me that they can’t hammer out 500 words like a short order cook either (or just tell me to get on with it ya precious git).

Once done, and it will be tonight, good things will happen – stories from Sydney, an archive with pictures, recipes, and more gnome pictures. Back to it cheetah, and you too cheetah.


I’m backtracking here [cue waviness] but I should keep the recipe count up a bit and, as I didn’t get much of a chance after the New Years Eve dinner, I thought it’d be worthwhile going over the dinner in a bit more detail.

Chook and Sue and us decided two weeks before to have a proper dinner party for New Year at their place and the numbers were going to be from four to sixteen. They ended up being 11. The main concern was to allow the dinner to stretch through the evening so midnight would be part of it. This would be achieved by increasing the number of courses and this isn’t necessarily a hard thing to do. A cold soup can be made in advance. Seafood entrees are best left simple. Vegetables can be their own course. A sorbet isn’t too hard. A cheeseboard is just shopping and arranging, leaving only dessert and mains as the main concern. So seven courses isn’t much more of a stretch. They were:

Vichyssoise with a crayfish bisque base
Oysters with crème fraîche and salmon roe, ponzu sorbet, and champagne and chives sorbet
Sue’s Vegetable Terrine
Pear and limoncello sorbet
Spatchcock marinated in pomegranate syrup stuffed with lemon and thyme with poached baby pears, fig, and rosti
Gummo Trotskies – champagne zabaglione on pannetone with persian fairy floss and berry coulis

Chicken too dull, quail too small, pork too feasty, lamb too sunday, seafood too entree, venison to medieval, rabbit too pricey, pigeons too feral, steak too pubby, so this kind of left spatchcock. Spatchcock, poussin, is really just a young chicken and is a perfect size for mains with a surprising amount of meat. They’re also very reasonably priced at around $7 each. I thought I’d approach their cooking from a quail perspective and drew from a couple of recipes. I also decided to debone them, which was a considerable amount messy work, but good practice and it saves the guests from the pile of bones that shouts they’ve eaten a whole animal. And I then stitch them up again as if nothing had happened. The bones, handily become part of the stock. To compensate for the moisture giving properties of the bones, I bought some backfat and stuffed each one with half a lemon – and basted well. The only hiccup was the impossible task of finding kitchen string on NYE, which we ended up finding in a hardware store.

Debone. This involves slicing down the backbone, working around the rib cage and dislocating each joint so there’s only one bone in each limb. If you come over to my place I can show you. The marinade is from a Moroccan recipe in the Delicious-let’s entertain (or just drink enough to give a semblance of) book that called for rose jam and since I couldn’t find any or had the disposition to make any, I used pomegranate molasses instead (sadly it was a month or so before pomegranates are in season). The amounts are for 11 spatchcocks: 6 crushed garlic cloves; 1tbs ground cumin, 1 tbs ground cumin; 3tbs pomegranate molasses; 1/3 cup of lemon juice and 1/3 cup of olive oil.

Once they’ve marinated for a few hours, stitch them up and truss them. You need half a lemon, a twig of thyme and a piece of backfat inside, and a piece of backfat over the breast.

Place them in the oven at 220 for 10 minutes and then lower it to 180 until cooked. I can’t recall how long exactly they took but I’d be surprised if it was as much as 30 minutes. Keep a sharp eye on them and give them a baste. They were done before the skin could brown which was a shame. In hindsight I could have browned them in a pan or given them a blast with the kitchen blowtorch.

Cherry Sauce
A Keith Floyd sauce and apparently good for all non-piscean white meat.
The chicken stock was already made so to complete the sauce: 250gm of pitted cherries, 3tbs chopped parsley, 1 tbs chopped dill, one glass of white wine and enough chicken stock to cover. Simmer gently for 15 minutes. Thicken with mashed together 25gm of flour and 25gm of butter. Add bits of it gradually, stirring constantly. Boil rapidly for two minutes and then puree.

Poached Baby Pears
These were a great last minute find at the Innaloo fruit and veg shop. Peel the pears, slicing the end off to allow it to stand, and rub with lemon juice to prevent discolouration. Poach a saucepan in white wine and chicken stock covered with a sheet greaseproof until they’re tender without being mushy.

Slice vertically, just there for looks and vitamins.

aka Potato Cakes. I saved myself a lot of bother by finding a kind of blini pan – looked like a very shallow muffin tray. I could then cook them all at the same time rather than cook each one in a frypan.

Grate the potato into fine strips. You’ll have to use the mandolin for this job so mind your fingers – losing half a spud is better than several stitches. Once grated you need to get rid of the excess water and this can be done my sandwiching it between two boards with something heavy on it, harmless depleted uranium shells for example.

Shape them it to the pan (must get very small frypan too) and roast in the oven with a generous dollop of goose fat on each one. You can heat the fat beforehand to give it a bit of a head start.

spatchcock marinated in pomegranite syrup stuffe with lemon and thyme with poached baby pears, fig, and rosti.

Arrange nicely on a plate, spatchcock on the rosti, a tasteful drizzle of cherry sauce, pears in three, and a slice of fig. Tasty. Very easy to prepare during the meal as it’s just stuff in and out of the oven and would make for a very neat small dinner party.

Oh and you may have noticed the green ingredients. I found a cookbook with someone else who just puts the ingredients in mid-dialogue but distinguishes them by doing them a different colour. He’s this mad wild haired speccy English guy who lives on a farm and goes on about back to basics produce. He’s got this fantastic big book out but I can’t remember his name. Anybody know?

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Tim Dunlop of Road to Surfdom has got a really engaging post up on Australia and food – Bonza appetit. Well worth a read and a comment. I can’t stop rabbiting on over there.

Kathy of What Would I Know is planning a cookbook from recipes by bloggers to raise money for Médecins Sans Frontières and is looking for submissions. Go have a look –Bloggers Who Cook.


When catering for large numbers of people, it’s important to plan carefully and well in advance have a few dishes around a theme. I didn’t do any of this which probably explains the anxiety attack I had the night before up until about midday before when it susbsided to highly stressed. I’ve got to stop this what will the market tell me but to be honest I’ve got no idea what around $600 for 60 people’s worth of food looks like so it was a case of buying a bunch of stuff, seeing how much I had left, and then buying some more.

It did work in the end and despite the meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep moments, it is more interesting going I can get this and do this and doable if you have few core items. The were three main items. Gazpacho in a shot glass because they do this at work and it seems like a great way to welcome guests with an interesting sharp start on a warm summer’s night. Green curry, I’ve done this before at a similar sized party (with a shocking hangover so – not sure how I did that), and it’s something you can make before and fill the hungrier people with. Cardboard boxes are cute and save on washing up. Fried wontons, good of people will help you folding them up and people love fried food especially after a couple of drinks. Then you just fill in the spaces, a platter for people to graze, reuse the shot glasses as tuna delivery systems and for a passionfruit and melon sorbet. A bit of lamb on skewers, a few blinis for general classiness, and a couple of boxes of sausages rolls for the end of the night

blini for the kids polenta with tapenade and caponata

Platter with home-made lavosh, beetroot dip, tzatziki, and olives

Lavosh is unleavened therefore easy to make, kinda. The beetroot dip was taken from a salad recipe from Delicious using cooked beetroot, EVOO walnut oil, red onion, walnuts, and rosewater but lightly pureed adding the mint and coriander after for colour. If you’re making tzatziki, leave the yoghurt to strain in a fine sieve. Excess water will strain out and you’ll be left with a thicker richer yoghurt. The best value for olives is still Northbridge Continental on the corner of James and Fitzgerald street.


The shorter way is to puree the capsicum and tomato and then run it through a strainer. This fills me with guilt and I think it’s better to roast the capsicum to remove the skin as it improves the flavour. Tomatoes are skinned by popping them in boiling water with a cross cut in the bottom. Squeeze over a sieve to remove the seeds and the bread can be soaked in the juice below. It seemed to take about three hours all up to make but extremely tasty and I can’t imagine how healthy it must be. Would make for a superb bloody mary.

Blini with Creme Fraiche, Smoked Salmon and Salmon roe

I used the yeast method rather than just the egg whites and, to be proper like, buckwheat. Salmon roe isn’t cheap but 50gm goes a long way, doing about 30 blini. Creme fraiche is expensive to buy but you can make your own. I did it in a slightly cheaper fashion by using two parts king island cream and one part creme fraiche and letting it sit for a few hours, covered, on the bench top. Blini can be made beforehand and frozen if you like. Reheat.

tuna with mango salsa sashimi tuna with ponzu sorbet

Seared tuna cubes with mango salsa and Tuna sashimi with ponzu sorbet

This was one of the “still got some money purchases and the idea is from earlier here. And the ponzu (soy with citrus) sorbet was still left over from new year. The ponzu makes the sashimi more like a ceviche and won a few converts. Both were served in shot glasses with the tuna chugged with a couple of bites to prevent choking.

Asparagus wrapped in pancetta

People love these. Just trim the spears, wrap a piece of pancetta around them, and cook in a hot oven.

Grilled polenta with caponata, sun-dried tomatoes, and tapenade

Gah! Blisters from stirring one and a half kg of polenta. A cup of milk to make it creamier and parmesan added. Spread out and chilled then put in a sandwich press for a grilled look. Reheated on site.

Lamb skewered on rosemary

Keeping Sam Kekovich happy. Cubes of lamb marinated in EVOO, paprika, and garlic and then threaded onto sticks of rosemary. Kept my rosemary bush under control. Leave some leaves at one end to sprinkle over the meat. Cooked in an oven and then taken off the sticks and piled on lettuce.

sporks Ash's nimble hands green chicken curry

Green Chicken Curry

Charmaine Solomon’s trick is to reduce some of the coconut milk over heat to about a quarter then add the paste and stir until the paste starts to release oil and then add the meat, stir until it’s cooked on the outside, and then add the rest of the coconut milk. Chopped green chilies and coriander are added at the very end. I used a few different cuts of chicken including a whole chicken cut up and the best was drumsticks. They were the cheapest cut and gave the juiciest meat which just dropped off the bone. I was a bit surprised by the popularity as I thought I’d just have it as a filler but everybody wanted some and sadly some folks missed out. I could only offer hugs as consolation.

deep fried wontons

Deep fried Chirashi Sushi and Prawn and Pork wontons

Mmm fried. While colder food suits the more receptive palate of the early evening, nothing suits the booze soaked tongue than a bit of fried food. Vinegared rice with soy and wasabi with shiitake, black mushrooms, and tree mushrooms in one. Pork, prawn, spring onion, chives and the same mushroom mix in the other. The first is vegetarian so you can keep vegetarians happy by serving the separately, unless you mix them up, which I did, and tell somebody it’s kind of vegetarian lucky dip and then be told that they’re vegetarian which was a tad insensitive on my part really. Fair enough. For person who didn’t like rice or fish and wasn’t around for the lamb though, tough titties I am forced to say.

Passionfruit, melon and vodka sorbet

and cleanse. Pulp is from a jar, melon adds volume, make some sugar water to taste, vodka makes it a little bit slushy. Too easy.

Cheese platter

Figs, grapes, crackers, one stinky, one soft, and one hard. For the browsers. Was having a bit of a chat about cheeses and one guest told me she doesn’t have cheese because her boyfriend doesn’t like it. Tsk, the feminist struggle is far far from over.

people eating my nosh general chaos one soft, one stinky, one hard and another one

A success. A haphazard and incoherent way to do it but I don’t think I could do it any other way. Handiest thing for the evening was my cook’s uniform. Kitchen’s in parties are messy places to work. People like to linger and chat, ask questions about where the glasses or bottle openers are, kids will run around, offer to help, and this is nice it’s not until 70% of the dishes are out that my head has unwound enough to appropriately deal with this. If I were wearing jeans when I say “no”, wave a cleaver at a child, or say “that’s a really bad place to stand” I’d just be that rude wanker in the kitchen. In uniform, I am that rude professional wanker in the kitchen. All in all a horrible mad stress filled thing to do but it’s doing things like this and getting through them that make us feel alive. Michael and Claire were lovely hosts. Toni, Ash (hands pictured above), and Malinda did the dishes and served stuff making an otherwise impossible job possible. It’s chuffing to have people come up and say nice things about the food or just watch a few under 60 eat your curry, and for complete strangers to offer to help. Oh the recently completely house is for sale if you’re in the Fremantle area – nice, very nice. The kitchen is still in one piece too.

quick the cake

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The trip to Sydney

another bacon and egg burger

And Sydney and back. The 4000km journey there was like following a long line of wool to a tangled ball at the other end. Sydney is a baffling city and deliberately so. In Perth you don’t feel like you have any urgency to go anywhere at all. In Melbourne you can be taken anywhere by a tram or a train ride and once there, there’s more than enough for an easy wander. Even Tokyo, with its messy back streets and baffling subway maps, breaks into an orderly series of circles and lines that will take you where you need to be. Sydney you can’t go anywhere without feeling you’re unwittingly involved in a transportation krypton factor – roads turn into bridges and toll roads, walking will get you on long roads and no one train seems to take you from where you are to where you want to be. Even the beaches aren’t the long stretches of sand and water they are here but a series of bays, separate and distinct. And on top of this, there are about 70 places you need to go to. So I don’t feel I was able to get much done there, but maybe that’s the point. Sans-seriffy.

road train and rain fine country dining at day's end elevated sweeping views at Madura One M is not nearly enough

Day one started early, filling up the 121 with our stuff, a double swag that shared the boot and the back seat and the three of us. We had no idea how far we were going but the lack of a goal places the present moment in an amiable context and we did make it as far as Cocklebiddy by sunset. It had rained since Southern Cross. We stopped in at the Cocklebiddy caves in spite of finely tuned instincts that driving on a poorly marked track in a small car off the highway for 11km to visit a large underground cave after a day of as darkness settled may be unwise. Simon went in, we waited so at least there’d be somebody to inadequately explain what we were doing to rescue workers. He emerged disappointed but that’s darkened voids for you. Rain meant shelter and we stayed at the Cocklebiddy roadhouse motel. They seemed to be in a hurry to get to bed but we caught the kitchen and I enjoyed bangers, mashed potato and egg at a cheeky $17.50 (Cocklebiddy prices is now a standard measure of food prices). No point in sleeping in and the Cocklebiddy Roadhouse hadn’t opened yet (despite the early night) so a 100km or so drive to the next roadhouse for a full tank of petrol, a coffee and bacon and egg burger and an elevated view over a tree filled slope that opened out to a spotted plain and then 90 miles of curveless road. By mid-morning we were out of Western Australia and the border village was, unusually covered with water.

I [heart] bureaucratic schadenfreude straight straight osyters kilpatrick pelicans

Flat scrub but a view of the ocean then the cliffs of the Australian bight. A nasty tear from when we detached from Antarctica – no loss really. Ceduna, famous for oysters, was our first town for a day of driving and after passing through quarantine we stopped for two dozen oysters and a glass of wine at the Oyster Bar. Despite tourist info radio’s suggestions, we didn’t stop at the tyre place or the pharmacy but instead drove down the coast past Smoky Bay to Streaky Bay which made me think of bacon. We had enough sunset left to walk the wooden pier, have a few Coopers and a meal of a mixed grill and oysters kilpatrick (cheap as it was tasty) at the pub that faces it, and then wander around the caravan park looking at the pelicans. Streaky Bay is still the place you had holidays when you were a kid at, it should be frozen in time for posterity (or gotten into to make a killing on development).

and 10 randomly picked villagers too in authoritarian South Australia fuel the fish that simon never ate three on the tree ute

Much excitement at going to Iron Knob, the most amusingly named place in the world for my money. More so than Poochera, which was the first town we went through which is only slightly amusing it if you imagine it as a metal band for Japanese children’s characters. More fuel and we’d picked up a hitchhiker – a small finch wedged in the grill. Iron Knob has the first peaks after much flatness so the anticipation was killing me. Sadly it is one of the most depressing places in the world. People seemed to live there but the place was empty and it seemed that every last piece of value had been dug out and shipped elsewhere. Port Augusta was the first large town and if the if the Eyre Peninsula is the body and Adelaide on the the arm, then Port Augusta is the armpit. We grabbed fish and chips and Simon had his piece nicked by a local and we thought perhaps this wasn’t for us and got out of South Australia to NSW and Broken Hill.

social democratic club palace hotel T-bone at the social democratic club balcony

Broken Hill is NSW’s answer to Kalgoorlie and after house of concentrated flatdullness we had our hopes up. The faded signs for Mario’s hotel that we passed were true and we booked in at the Palace Hotel. Famous for being in Priscilla Queen of the Desert it’s value comes from every available space on the wall being painted by an aboriginal artist with a landscape or the ceilings by Mario himself with Aphrodite and the Garden of Eden. Nothing coheres – logs, stuffed animals, mermaids all in a gorgeous 19th two story pub that started as a coffee parlour. A $12 t-bone and two bottles of wine at the Barrier Social Democratic Club followed by port on the wide wraparound balcony on the Palace. A cachet of happiness was built for the last 1100km or so to Sydney.

Flatdullness returns quickly and then the hills build and we’re in rolling agricultural area. Dubbo. Orange. And then Bathurst. I turn in a respectable 6 minutes and 9 seconds on the Mt Panorama track, joining a line of Australian motoring legends. The Blue Mountains see rain as a feature of three of our four travelling days and the vista is zero. Dinner at Katoomba, I finally have a cappucino and am unhappy with cocoa on the top and vow to ask for it not to be there in the future. A risotto is a meal without chips. And then down the hill to Sydney and that’s enough for now.


In Sydney

Somewhere in South Australia

We’ve made it to Siddonme. A great 4 day 4000km dynomeditative journey from the ocean to the ocean where the trees shrank and then disappeared and the land went up and then down again, susbsisting on proteins, starches, and fat. Perth-Cocklebiddy-Streaky Bay-Broken Hill-Sydney. More questions than answers. Why do only Western Australian roadhouses have toasted ham and cheese sandwiches readily available? Do they really kill drowsy drivers in South Australia? Why do the residents of Port Augusta think it acceptable to take a mans piece of fish and help themselves to au handful of chips? Why is a place called Iron Knob, depressing? Is the Social Democratic answer cheap T-bones and pokies? Why doesn’t Orange have a great big orange? A salute to the 1997 Mazda 121 which was neither particularly uncomfortable nor did it miss a beat in getting us here. How’s Sydney? I’ve already been told off in a choccie cafe for taking pics. Pah!


Outta here. Bests for 2006 and thanks for making my 2005 such a fun one. Hope you had a good start to it. 6 course dinner party for 11 at a friend’s house, some more pics here – NYE 2005