Sunday, 30 October 2011

Review of The Rum Diaries

When we arrived at The Rum Diaries, there was no sign out the front, so - it being our first time there - we tentatively walked in and recognised the place from the pictures on the website. It was smaller than we'd anticipated, but very cosy. Almost like stepping into someone’s home.

Immediately we were greeted by a friendly waitress, who remembered our booking for five without having to consult a book. She showed us to a round booth table which was comfy and intimate; however had a rather dangerous outcropping that one of my friends lightly grazed her back on, as she struggled to exit the booth.

The wine was expensive, at $10-11 a glass, but it's a price I'd expect for this sort of establishment. The Malbourgh pinot gris was fantastic. We ordered the scallops, poached chicken, lamb and a haloumi entree. All dishes were a bit on the small side, but each was delicious and cooked just right. It's what I'd expect for tapas, and I was pretty happy. Although, we ended up being given the beef instead of the chicken by mistake (the girl took our order without writing it down), we were happy to eat it, and I got the feeling that we wouldn't have had a problem exchanging it, if we'd made a fuss.

All through the night our water was topped up, there was never any pressure to move on and we were politely asked if we would like any more drinks, when a dish was bought out or taken away.

All in all, it's a "special occasion" outing, but I'd definitely go there again.
Rating: 3/5

Monday, 18 July 2011

This one's for you, Nachos

I've been attempting to make cheaper alternatives for dinner and lunch lately. I love cooking, but it's hard to find the time to do it these days. I have constant competing demands on my attention. Some more delightful than others.

Normally, I cook with a very fixed focus and I'm 100% involved in the process. I cook based on what I have in the fridge and pantry and often I start without knowing what I'm creating. This is the theme of tonights dish and the recipe below is the result.

This isn't about to turn into a food blog. There are many people out there more talented and dedicated than I to hold the cooking blog flag loud and proud. But I have a secret love for food and who says I have to choose a narrow field of style for my own creative corner.

I really enjoyed this dish and the pasta I used was amazing. Now I have enough of it for the next three lunches and two dinners (as well as sneaky second helpings tonight). As I had all the ingredients already, this whole dish probably would have cost me just under $15, taking into account the portions of each ingredient that I used. Not bad for my budget conscious (dwindling) bank balance.

And, of course, I always welcome suggestions for improvement!

Sultry Stovetop Salmon with Red Sauce and Pasta or Rice


1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 a bunch of coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
400gm can salmon
1 broccoli head
1/4 of a pumpkin, diced.
2-3 carrots, sliced
2-3 garlic cloves
1 red onion
200gm can of whole tomatoes
50gm can of tomato paste
200gm can red kidney beans
I - 2 chilies w/out seeds
1 cube of reduced salt chicken or vege stock dissolved in 50-100mls water
pepper to taste

1-2 cups short pasta or rice. (one cup will make 2- 2.5 cups of rice/pasta. 2 cups will make 4 - 4.5 cups)

Roast Pumpkin

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper


Turn oven on to 200 degrees, fan forced

1. Dice pumpkin and mix with fennel seeds, cumin seeds, olive oil, rock salt & pepper. Put in oven for 20 minutes or until cooked. After 10 minutes, check pumpkin and turn.

2. On stovetop, turn heat to high under saucepan and wait until hot. Put cumin seeds and fennel seeds in pot and swirl around the base until just after they become aromatic. Turn heat down to high/medium. Add tablespoon olive oil.

3. Put chopped garlic and seedless chili in saucepan and stir till lightly browned.

4. Put diced red onion, roughly sliced broccoli, and carrot in saucepan. Stir until combined then put lid on saucepan to partly steam the veges.

5. In separate saucepan, start boiling water for the pasta or rice. 2.5 cups of water to one cup of rice/pasta.

6. Open can of red kidney beans over a strainer and wash with cold water until all traces of bubbles from the can-water are gone. This may take up to two minutes.

7. Add kidney beans to the sauce, stir, then add tomato paste, paprika and drained can of whole tomatos. Mix, then put lid back on.

8. Wash the strainer and then open the can of salmon over it to drain the can-water. When drained, add salmon to sauce and gently break apart chunks slightly as you mix it in. Put lid back on.

9. Dissolve reduced-salt chicken or vege stock separately in 100mls boiling water. Leave for around 30seconds, then stir until dissolved. Slowly add stock to sauce while stirring. Turn heat right down to a low simmer then put lid on.

10. By now your separate saucepan of water should be boiled, so add the pasta/rice and stir. When this reaching boiling point again, add half a cube of chicken stock to flavour the pasta/rice.

11. Take the pumpkin out and check with a knife to see if it's cooked. If it is, then eat one, say mmm, then mix the rest in to the sauce (be careful not to pour the excess oil from the baking tray in to the sauce) and put the lid back on.

12. When the pasta is cooked, drain, run for a quick second under the tap to get rid of any starchiness from the pasta/rice then turn off the heat and serve with a generous helping of the sauce on top.

Viola! You have a saucy Salmon pasta for your delightful dinner.

This whole thing took me about 20-25minutes to cook and prepare.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Tales From The Garden

I've been starting to cook a lot more, recently. I really enjoy it. It's something that I can become completely immersed in, and has so many rewards connected to the delicious pastime. Also, it's a creative pursuit to smooth my worries and help forget the uncreative work of the day. It has immediate gains - praise from dinner guests - cooking can produce beautiful food when done right. I particularly reveal in the challenges I face making something from what most people would consider to be nothing special. The basics: a single carrot, a can of chickpeas, broccoli stalks garlic and chili, tomato paste and of course my herb garden. For me, it's all about the taste.

This mix and others from the depths of my fridge almost always creates the most tantalising aroma from a bubbling pot of Italian inspired ingredients. Italian food being so simple and good - just as life should be. Magical tastes arise from a dish infused with herbs.

Some of my strongest memories are food related. Not fussy, showy food; good, strong peasant style dishes and home made. We had six or seven plum trees, while I was growing up in rural New South Wales. My brother and I use to help pick the plums for an assortment of mum's creations, including plum sauce, stew, pudding, jam. It was glorious.

There's a picture of me under the plums trees from when I was about four years old, a wicked smile on my face, with wild plum blossoms softly nestled in my hair. I vividly remember moments like this; standing on top of our wooden garden table and reaching for plums. But plums weren't the only fragrant plant in my parents garden.

Fennel is a bulbous herb that is coming back in to cooking fashion at the moment, but I'll always associate the smell and taste with the (seemingly) giant fennel bush growing in my parents backyard, in the country. I'd hide under it with the dog panting in the sun just across from me, pink tongue out and glistening. The cat stalking insects of the other side of me, tail twitching with lively intent.

As I reached up and ate bunches of fennel, chewing slowly on the strong, stringy herb, I would hear the murmur of my parents voices floating over me, as they worked in the vegetable garden, and feel comforted by their presence.

Food has always had a tugging emotional attachment with me, and I'm certain I'm not alone in this fact. Food is enough to bring people together and, when good, can silence a rowdy table to occasional slurps and appreciate moans of culinary delight.

I know people who take photo's of the food they eat. While this behaviour on one hand puzzles me, on the other it makes perfect sense. In a world where we can capture every moment, these people are attempting to capture delight and surprise at the colour, smell and sensation of food. Food is a sensory symbol of their emotional attachment and their sense of satisfaction with the social situation they're in. Food brings people together, and in my experience, seems to strengthen the bond of relationships when experienced socially.

Despite my strong roots of a childhood spent in gardens, until recently I was never what one would consider a green thumb, and was more closely linked to that unfortunate group of individuals that manage to kill cactuses.

I had a cactus. I named him Gary and he gave me a good five to six months of cactus love before his untimely demise. I worshipped that cactus. I would greet it as I came home after work, and bid goodbye to it as I left in the morning. Gary and I were getting along fine; but, like any relationship with an untimely demise, Gary couldn't give me the affection I was after, and could often be quite - dare I say - prickly. He suffered under the weight of my constant love and watery affection. And was so infrequently allowed outside, into the warm arms of the waiting / lurking sun.

In short, Gary died from an overdose of affection. Luckily those days are behind me. These days I have my own garden. It's not as impressive or as ambitious as my parents garden, but it has a small selection of herbs and leafy veges. When I grew some herbs from seed, I was fascinated by the slow growth of the green shoots, struggling up through the softly packed dirt, and defying the slow, intent snails, ready to pounce and chomp their way through my baby shoots.

My garden and the plants within it bring me pleasure, and perhaps pride in what I and my neighbours have achieved. I've been cooking a lot more, recently, and the other day I even caught myself taking a photo of my latest culinary creation (my dinner), to send to my mum. I tend this garden with some of the people in my apartment block, and it's one of the many links that ties the building together. We share the herbs, and I have been known to pick giant bunches of rosemary and press it upon people who come to visit me. Perhaps I am becoming a bit of a green thumb after all. Who would have imagined it, but it makes me happy, and that's a fact.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Empty Galleries in a Post-Postmodern World

In a post-postmodern world there is an empty gallery, full of signs that describe concepts for intangible art. People come to the gallery, read the signs, then sit surrounded by empty walls and contemplate the ideas that lie within.

The "art" world now belongs to philosophers and the term "artist" is considered outdated and trite. And then, one person does something outrageous and paints a picture, without a concept. People flock to this anomaly and try to make sense of it. "What does it mean?" They ask. "How do we see it without knowing what it is?"

Monday, 23 May 2011

From Michel Foucault

"If man did not imperiously close his eyes, he would finally be unable to see the things worth seeing."

Michel Foucault
From: A Preface to Transgression

My Musings..

It's hard to find an exceptional teacher, because it's hard to find an exceptional person.

My Musings..

I dance to the beat of my own drum. Some might think I can't find my own feet, but I know I feel music all over the street.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Buses & The Badass Elbow Brigade

This morning I sat down next to a relatively slender woman on the bus, thinking I'd get an easy ride. As soon as I sat down, she shoved her elbow out and all but winded me, and she stayed in this position for the whole half hour trip.

As much as this annoyed and puzzled me, as I tried to ignore the bony elbow shoved up directly under the right side of my rib cage, it didn't completely surprise me. It's the forth time this week that it's happened. I understand that it's hard to share a bus seat at times, having never owned a car, I've surfed more than my fair share of the public transport wave. However, surely it's not that big a leap of empathy to see the fairness of sharing the other side of the seat with traveller number two?

It makes me wonder what this lacklustre reception to bus seat sharing stems from. It is an increasing wish for personal space or territory, in a city that's growing more and more populated? I hardly think so - look at Asia. From personal experience, when I was in Thailand and Malaysia a few years ago people were crammed into buses and train carriages and didn't much mind sharing their - and my - personal space. So maybe it's a cultural thing? Australia does have more wide open spaces, and an expansive skyline, after all. Perhaps this translates in to expectations of a wider circle of personal space per person in public transport.

I quite like public transport. It's cheaper than a car and I get an extra half to full hour worth of sleep in the morning (if I'm lucky enough to get a seat). Sometimes there are those wonderful moments when you have a connection with another person while waiting for the bus or when someone hops up and gallantly offers their bus seat (there is still romance and chivalry in the world). Even in angry big and scary cities I've seen these moments happen many times.

So I suppose the elbowing phenomenon shouldn't come as a surprise. This isn't my first encounter with the eager elbow brigade either. I've noticed it a few times in the last few weeks, mornings mostly. I tend to fall asleep after about five minutes on the bus and not wake up until my destination (like clockwork). But this morning I was distracted, and awake.

While travelling between France and Spain I spent six hours on a nighttime bus, next to a effervescently cute, but completely hammered Spanish boy. He didn't speak English, I don't speak Spanish but he shared his music and his smile with me. If not for this connection, I would not have known where to leave the bus when I got to my destination. He nudged me to tell me that this was "San Sebastian". I also think that he just wanted to get out and drag deeply on another cigarette.

When my friend Danny and I first flew into Malaysia a few years ago we were exhausted and I was overwhelmed by sights, sounds and the general strangeness of everything. Two days later we were waiting for a train, our weary backs resting up against the slightly slimy cold wall at a train station in KL, to take us to the border of Thailand. We weren't the only young travellers sitting around, patiently sharing peanuts. With us was a young Swedish girl, Malin, that Danny got to talking to. I was too overwhelmed and sat reading the guide book (not yet the 'seasoned' traveller I like to think I am today).

When the tardy train finally arrived Malin sat with us in our third class carriage and over the eight hour trip through bone clattering hell, we made a pact to meet up at the Full Moon Party at the end of the month. And we did, and it was awesome, and six years later I met her and stayed with her in Sweden. Not to mention the other Swedish girl we met through her, who stayed with my friend Kat and I for three months in 2006. But that's another story...

You know that moment, when the person on the inside of the bus seat you're sharing moves slightly, but deliberately against you, and you brace yourself to get up at what will potentially be their stop? Well I felt that this morning, and then she (the elbow lady) made another movement as if she was going to arise from her hallowed seat, but didn't. So I asked, "Is this your stop?" and she haughtily said no and harumpted. That sound one makes when displeased. I smiled, and inwardly rolled my eyes.

So perhaps my lovely (loosely speaking) bus companion of this morning was one of a kind, but I feel a sense of loss for her. There are so many whimsical and entrancing moments I've had on buses, planes, trains, ferries and in shared taxis. Not to mention standing in shelters and waiting for never arriving buses. It's a connecting feeling and it reminds me of the links I share with the people around me. I'm not standing on the outside, in my metal bubble, looking in to the world. I'm in a sardine can of emotion, leaning against my seat buddy as I sleep my way to work each morning. Who wouldn't want more of that?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Cockatoos & Captured Moments

I’ve been using writing as a tool to express my emotions for a while now. The first poem I remember writing and being proud of, was one about cockatoos in an umbrella tree, like the tree outside my parents’ house in Queensland. My brother and I use to play in the cubby house under that tree and swing precariously from the lower branches, challenging each other to go higher and higher until one of us piked and the other won. Both of us elated, yet relieved that the challenge was done.

I must have been about nine, when I wrote it.

Writing with emotion can be a tightrope between poignancy and verbose rubbish. I often wonder which side I’m on. It’s harder with poetry than prose. Words are slippery and often twist away from the meaning that I attempt to capture.

But then, why do I use the word “capture” to describe meaning through words. My purpose is potentially emotional flight and freedom through wordy expression. Some cultures believe when you take a photo of someone, you capture their soul. I wonder if people see my soul through my writing. Or if they just see bad writing.

There was a small group of young kids living in the houses that surrounded the park near where I grew up. It was a fantastic space for creation and play. We would race each other across the green and yellow grass poking up through moulds of dirt left by torrential rains in summer. I can’t remember ever winning a race. One of our favourite games was tying each other up with ropes and pretending we were horse and rider; seems a bit savage now. We made a circular coral out of large sticks. No one ever told us not to touch sticks. We’d be at this for hours, until the light faded or we realised as one that we were hungry and arrived, filthy and sweaty in some poor, unsuspecting parents house, searching for snacks.

We rarely went to my house for snacks, as we were all somberly aware of the peanut hunt substituted for lollies at my last birthday party. This most recent matronly transgression on my mother’s part had not assisted my social standing with the local kids.

I was a quiet and contemplative child. Sometimes I would spend an hour bent in silent contemplation of a lizard sunning or an ant at work. I don’t remember many moments of pure joy. I remember feeling intensely about things, and sometimes even now I remember a thought I had back then, as intensely as I must have felt it at the time. Though these grow more faint, as the years go on.

When I capture collections of memories like this, it reminds me of how much time I had then, and the freedom to explore and use each day to its full potential; although, I perhaps didn’t feel so free at the time.

I don’t know what happened to the poem about cockatoos. It was written in one of my many journals, most of which have sadly disappeared over the years. Perhaps when we try to capture memories, like words and pictures, they too eventually disintegrate, are forgotten or fly away.

Monday, 16 May 2011

My Wings The Drum

I feel as if my wings were clipped the moment they unfurled
My head is spinning, my body is still.
My hand shaking to the beat of water drumming on the window sill.
I feel the throb of the city; its soul pounding out a rhythm I can dance to
And yet, I am so still.

The winds of change are strong now, when once they were so subtle
I barely realised the transformation, before I came undone.
Just one step and I will wake, walk from the rain and step into the sun
One step and I begin to run.

I draw breath into my lungs, one step and I begin to run.
Breaking sunlight shines through me, piercing my skin
I hold my arms out wide, to catch the flowing tide
The city beats beneath my feet, and carries me along

I listen for the muted beat of the drum.
I know it won’t be long.