Just Sous Just Me

Musicians, inspired recipes, songs and food adventures.


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Orange Is The New Soup Ingredient – Carrot, Fennel and Orange Soup

IMG_9377 Surprisingly several songs exist with ‘Orange’ in the title like Orange Crush by REM, Clockwork Orange by Kraftwerk, Bruised Orange by John Prine, Orange Wedge by the Chemical Brothers and Orange Blossom Special of course. My favourite is ‘Orange Juice Blues’ by Bob Dylan & The Band. Not so surprisingly the term ‘Orange’ in these songs is purely metaphorical having nothing to do with the actual fruit itself. I tend to side with cooking exploitations of the very versatile Orange rather than writing or listening to songs about them. And no ducks were harmed in this recipe either!

My earliest memories of Oranges stems back decades ago to my childhood netball ventures. It was during rigorous Saturday afternoon games, when juicy segmented pieces of oranges presented in Tupperware containers was our hydration of choice. Fancy electrolyte sport drinks and bottled water hadn’t even been thought of back then and when H2O was required this entailed a trip to the bubbler queue. I still opt for an Orange segment over a swig of sugar-loaded Gatorade anyday. IMG_9380The quest is on-going during this long cold Winter to come up with tasty, to-the-bone warming and at the same time healthy, flu-fighting soup recipes and so far have succeeded in avoiding being bed-ridden with any un-welcome ailments even though have been in the front-line of exposure to sniffly individuals on pretty much a daily basis. (It could very well be due to the large amounts of garlic I consume which contributes towards the distance kept between us). More elaboration on this here – Flu-shot in a soup bowl.

IMG_9385The proven immune-boosting ingredients used in Carrot and Orange Soup takes flu-shot in a soup bowl to a new level and there is no compromise in taste either. The citrus bursting Orange flavour in this, next to robust beta-carotene ant-oxidant loaded Carrots, and Fennel which incidentally is also loaded with Vitamin C produces an extraordinarily delectable and moorish bowl of goodness indeed. For added eupepsy properties, I added a good lug of grated fresh ginger to further heighten the experience. Once assembled, this soup becomes a vision of orange exquisiteness due to the high carrot and orange content.

My new go-to version of Sea-Salt, combined with Chilli Flakes. 10 out of 10!

My new go-to version of Sea-Salt, combined with Chilli Flakes. 10 out of 10!

During the past week I prepared two different versions: One where the peel was removed before the blending process, and the other where I left the peel in. It made a difference to the end result, the second being far more zesty plus after recently discovering orange peels contain a ginormous amount of nutrients and should be consumed rather than discarded! Who’d have thought…

Carrot, Fennel & Orange Soup

(Serves 4-5)

Ingredients: 1 TBS Coconut Oil

1 Red Onion, chopped

1 Stick Celery, chopped

1 Kilo Carrots, peeled and chopped

1 Medium Sized Fennel Bulb, chopped

1 Orange, peeled

1 TBS grated Ginger

4 Cups Organic Chicken Stock or Veg Stock

Method

1) Heat Coconut Oil in large saucepan over medium heat then add onions and sauté gently for a few minutes.

2) Add Carrots, Fennel, Ginger,  Orange Peel and cook gently for five minutes, stirring often

3) Add Stock, bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

4) Turn off heat, let cool slightly then transfer contents to a blender, whizzing till smooth consistency. (Remove orange peel before blending if you don’t want it too orangey).

5) Pour back into saucepan; juice the orange and stir through soup then gently reheat till ready to serve

(Optional: A scattering of toasted sesame and a bit of chilli sea-salt (pictured above) goes very well with this). No need for any green garnishes, as detracts from the orange flavour).

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Roast Garlic and Ginger Soup (Flu-Shot in a Soup Bowl)

 

GarlicThere appears to be much discussion in Sydney right now about the unusually warm weather we are experiencing for this time of the year, but it’s only a matter of time before it will inevitably snap. And when it does, contrary to Summer-loving Sydneysiders  I am a self-confessed cryophilic and find gratification with the on-set of Winter – presenting with it a season of opportunities to create hearty soups, aromatic stews, roasts and whatever else needed to be nourishingly slow-cooked for hours with the fire crackling away near-by, luckily situated in my kitchen. Early darkness also appeals, as this means I can get dinner cracking earlier and usually do a little happy Mexican Hat dance whenever Daylight Saving finishes as this signifies remedying, cosy kitchen times ahead.

Annoyingly, there is a not so enjoyable side to Winter in the form of the Flu. And the hot topic on the talk-back radio I caught today comes as no coincidence coinciding with the cooler weather approaching being about none other than the Flu-Shot. It’s not something have given much thought to before and only subliminally being aware of its existence after seeing posters on the walls at my GP’s office, or after hearing people talk about it. Visiting the USA last September, it was hard not to miss the confronting billboards displaying the question, ‘Have You Had Your Flu-Shot Yet?’ placed along freeways we were frequenting? Impressive and ominous advertising for a jab. I won’t bang-on about vaccinations here as it’s the recipe am in a hurry to share, and do realise the Flu-Shot is necessary for some people such as those chronically ill. However I truly believe if you are otherwise a healthy specimen with your immune system in top match-fit fighting condition achieved through consumption of good food full of vital nutrients on a regular basis, those nasty little flu germs should have little chance of successfully invading your body and creating the irritating havoc they are very capable of achieving.

Royal Blue Potatoes

Royal Blue Potatoes

Roast Garlic and Ginger soup is a good place to start. Not only is this incredibly tasty, but it can be referred to as having a ‘prophylactic’ nature, which translates to using with the ‘intention’ of preventing disease or infection but does not actually have an effect on the severity or duration of the symptoms if you are already sick, just what the Flu-Shot is designed for (I think devouring this soup is a more enjoyable experience).  Consuming on a regular basis, it can also decrease the frequency of colds and flu. There’s no secret about the therapeutic properties of Garlic having been used for thousands of years to treat various ailments particularly respiratory issues.

Head of Garlic, sliced and ready for roasting

Head of Garlic, sliced and ready for roasting

Garlic is the main star of this show, with Ginger in the co-starring role. Besides benefiting digestion, which ultimately leads to better immunity, Ginger also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties and makes your body sweat out nasty toxins. And it tastes great in this soup, added in the cooking process and again finely minced and stirred through at the end.

Mmmm. Garlic Bread

Mmmm. Garlic Bread

The final essential ingredient for this soup is the home-made, thoughtfully prepared chicken stock. Apologies, but the pre-packaged store-bought variety which is usually just salty water, just won’t do here. If the prospect of making your own chicken stock scares you or isn’t something you’ve ever bothered doing preferring the purchasable convenience, I can offer assurance there is no comparison taste-wise between the home-made variety and the stock-standard cube. Plus if you’ve made it yourself, you know exactly what’s in it and it’s not likely you’d be adding extra flavour and colour enhancers or, gulp, MSG which is found in some of those mystery parcels.  Next time you roast a chicken, and go organic for extra taste and goodness, throw all of the remaining bones and bits in a pot with water, sea-salt, peppercorns, parsley, celery tops, onion, bay leaf and half a lemon. Bring to the boil then simmer for a few hours – don’t bother skimming off the fatty bits because you’re going to strain it afterwards. Then place in containers , freeze or refrigerate if using within the next week. Or, start from scratch with one kilo of chicken necks and feet using the same method.  Or even better, use this genius method to make a chicken stock from scratch in fifteen minutes !

Flu-Shot in a soup bowl :-), and unless you are watching you grain in-take, make sure you serve it up with some very garlicky bread or giant garlic croutons drenched with olive oil for an added hit.

 

ROAST GARLIC AND GINGER SOUP

1 Whole Head of Garlic; and a few extra cloves reserved for mincing and stirring through at the end

1 TBS Coconut Oil

1 Celery Stick, chopped

1 Brown Onion, chopped

1 Thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and minced – 1 Tsp full reserved for adding at the end

500gms Royal Blue Potatoes, peeled and chopped

500ml Chicken Stock

1 Bay Leaf

Fresh Thyme

Sea Salt

METHOD

1) Carefully slice the top off the head of garlic making sure it all stays in-tact, then wrap in foil and roast in 200C oven for 30-40 mins, or when smells amazing and is just caramelised.

2) Heat Coconut Oil in a pan then Saute Onion, Celery, Ginger till soft and fragrant

3)Add Potatoes and Thyme and gently fry for another five minutes

4) Pour in stock, add Bay leaf, bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer till potatoes are soft

5) Turn off heat, squeeze all roasted garlic into potato mixture

6) Transfer into a blender and puree till smooth

7) Put back in the pot, re-heat till ready to serve

8) Just prior to serving, stir through reserved minced garlic and ginger

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All-Green Broad Bean Salad; Pre-Xmas Detox

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December is absolutely upon us, the finale to a lightning-speed elapsed year of 2013 and all of the celebratory carry-on and over-indulgence that will accompany the season right up to the New Year and beyond. There’s no easy escape for anyone, best just to go with it. Musicians particularly will most likely be following a hectic schedule right now playing at Xmas parties and participating in Candlelight Carol events around the country. This can mean hours of rehearsal then being placed on a stage to read endless charts of Xmas songs, like Mariah Carey’s epic arrangement of Joy to the World including three key changes, multiple chord-subsitutions and references to the ‘Three Dog Night’ song thrown in as well just to keep us on our toes. To keep up the level of concentration needed in these situations, being well-nourished is vital. Take a bag of almonds and some bananas  to the rehearsal.

I have decided this year to be well armed for the onslaught figuring a few weeks of healthy eating will put the body in ship-shape preparedness for the upcoming weeks and damage-control can be enforced prior to excessive consumption.  For this task am thinking along the lines of Green.

IMG_8708There are no limitations to an All-Green Salad, truly fresh being the most important element. Make sure every green ingredient of your choice (or follow list below) is fresh and clean by washing all leaves/herbs free from residues – organic included. Even if you’ve grown it all yourself  it still must be rinsed thoroughly. If you have cultivated your own greens you’ll be aware of the freshness and taste sensation as opposed to you know what. If you are purchasing from markets or grocers, go for the most vibrant looking and use that very same day.  The French approach – shop seasonally and if you are good with time-management, daily for optimum zest.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABroad Beans are the stars of this salad and are in season now, but really anything green and lush will work. Don’t be afraid of Broad Beans. Yes they are fussy and time-consuming to prepare but the results, both nutritionally loaded with protein and fibre also taste wise are worth it if you set aside the time to prepare them. Based on top of an all-green salad and served with Green Tea for the ultimate de-fox, this is a nice early Xmas present for your body. You could also serve this up with some cooked prawns and basil oil tossed through as a Turkey alternative on The Day itself.  You’ll have yourself a very merry little Christmas indeed.

All-Green Broad Bean (Pre-Xmas Detox) Salad

Ingredients:

1 Cup prepared Broad Beans

1 Bunch of Rocket Lettuce

1/2 Cup of Green Peas

Mint Leaves, shredded

Basil leaves, torn

Bunch of Chives, chopped

Lime Juice

Sea Salt

Method:

* To prepare Broad beans – Split the pods and remove the beans, discard pods. Blanch beans in boiling water for a few minutes, drain then place into ice water. Slip the skins off simply with your finger, or make a small incision with a knife and pop the inner bean out (this is the time-consuming part)

* Place the rest of the salad ingredients in a bowl with the beans, toss gently.

* Sprinkle with Sea Salt and Lime Juice

For a bit more of a zing, try the salad with this Basil Oil Recipe (which also is delicious with prawns)

Basil Oil

1/2 Cup Basil Leaves

1 Garlic Clove

1 TBS Lemon Juice

1 TBS Apple Cider Vinegar

1/2 Cup good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sea Salt and ground Black Pepper

Method:

* Place all ingredients in a food-processor and blend well.

* Pour what you don’t use straight away into a jar and store in the fridge, it will keep for a week. (Just bring it to room temperature before next use as the oil solidifies).  Once you try this oil, you’ll find you want to put it on everything – it’s spectacularly good on poached eggs for breakfast 🙂


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Baking Bad Scrambled Eggplant

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Sometimes you need to look outside the proverbial circle to source food and recipe inspiration, or maybe it just occurs naturally if you trust your instincts in certain situations. Usually I find green-grocery shopping nothing short of a rejuvenating sensory experience with display after display of fresh, multi-coloured fruit and vegetables beautifully presented like paint on an artist’s palette. They haven’t just been dumped randomly, serious thought has gone into these displays for maximum visual appeal which turns into enticement and ultimately (in my case) more purchases than needed at the time – like the four inviting artichokes I bought yesterday just because they looked so content nestling happily next to the eggplants, not because I was going to be using them in my recipe but solely for decorational purposes in my kitchen.

Thyme from the Wall Garden

Thyme from the Wall Garden

Right now it appears the planet is collectively obsessed with, either just starting, completely finished or half-way through that ubiquitary TV series Breaking Bad which has presented me with an inspiration for a dish. How is this be possible you ask? If you are familiar with this completely compelling piece of Television excellence you’d be familiar with the character Marie who, as the series goes on you eventually notice is constantly surrounded by the colour purple. Not only is she wearing purple (contrasted with yellow or other complimenting purple colour-matches) the kitchen is also full of purple appliances, the crockery, shopping bags, curtains, the bedroom theme, furniture and even a purple cork-screw makes an appearance.  I also wonder if she she eats eggplant every night for dinner? It’s entirely possible she does.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe more I watch this series and am blasted with visions of purple the more thoughts I have about eggplant and other assorted purple coloured vegetables to the point of Marie Schrader’s obsessive behaviour. Red Onions (which are really purple and should be called purple onions), Raddichio, Beetroot, Purple Garlic, Purple Carrots, Purple Chillis and the King of them all, Eggplant. Traditionally serving sliced, drenched with olive oil, grilled and consumed just like that is sensational but there are other ways to incorporate eggplant in your cooking if you like to experiment. This recipe is based on an Iranian dish ‘Mirza Ghassemi’ plus a few additions and omissions. Baked with thyme the night before, then folded through scrambled eggs the following morning the sweet, smokey flavour intensifies over night. Baking has to be one of the easiest and tastiest ways to prepare eggplant.  Chop the skin and flesh up, fold through the scrambled egg and serve on a bed of rocket topped with dollops of dill yoghurt. and a squeeze of lemon. For the Chilli freaks, throw some chopped fresh purple chillis over the final result.

Baked Eggplant Scramble

1 Large Eggplant; Cut in half lengthways criss-cross scored without piercing skin

2 tsp Sea Salt

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

Few sprigs of fresh Thyme

* Sprinkle salt in the slits of the eggplant and set aside for 30 mins

* Squeeze all liquid from eggplant (like a sponge)

* Pre-heat oven to 200 C

* Brush flesh sides with Olive Oil

* Place flesh side down on top of Thyme sprigs in a roasting tin and bake for 1 hour or till skin starts crisping up.

Creamy Scrambled Eggs

4 – 6 Free Range Eggs

1/4 Cup of cream or Milk (or if dairy issues, just plain old water)

50 gms Butter

Salt and Pepper

Smokey Paprika for dusting

* Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk with a fork

* Add milk then use an electric beater to whip them up till well mixed, light and aerated

* Melt butter in pan till sizzling, pour in egg mixture and let settle for around a minute before moving it all with a spoon.

* Do not over stir, just gently fold cooked parts over each other till barely cooked; just slightly un-cooked as off the flame it is still setting. (Over-cooked scrambled eggs become watery rather than what you want light and fluffy)

* Chop the eggplant at this stage and gently mix through the scrambled eggs.

* Serve on a bed of Rocket drenched with lemon with the dill yoghurt sauce and a sprinkle of smokey paprika

Dill and Yoghurt Sauce

1/2 cup of Greek Yoghurt

2 Tbs finely chopped fresh dill

* Mix together till well combined

Note*

For the full ‘purple explosion’, grate some purple carrot over the rocket and add some caramelised red-onions before the eggs go on top, sprinkled with some edible purple flowers. (Sorry there is no picture, am only imagining this but am sure would look great)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy cute little Artichoke 🙂


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Shane’s Asian Baked Snapper

Snapper Marinade Ingredients

There are some musicians who throw themselves into performing on stage with as much gusto and energy as they do cooking. They are as passionate about singing, songwriting and honing their craft much the same as they are at preparing and serving up a favourite recipe. One such musician is Shane Flew who I have performed with many times over the years and witnessed first-hand his high level of enthusiasm exuded on stage which also extends to his passion in the kitchen.

Interestingly before becoming a full-time musician, Shane was employed in the food industry briefly. Firstly a stint in the Mossvale Abattoir (so I am not surprised at his skilful ways with a knife watching him slice up the Snapper) and then as a kitchen hand at a North Sydney Hotel. While being a kitchen hand, he got some time off work to attend the Nimbin Aquarius Festival in 1973 – Australia’s answer to Woodstock. This set him on a path to pursue music for a living so hung up his apron from then and has had a very successful musical career ever since, working with many great Australian Artists as a drummer, guitarist and vocalist. In more recent times he has forged his own solo-career being a clever songwriter as well.

Snapper Prep

Snapper Prep

Having survived a recent bout of cancer, healthy eating is of very high-importance to Shane. His approach to cooking and food preparation involves the freshest ingredients possible, preferably organic and sensible eating habits. When it came to sourcing and picking out the freshest Snapper for this recipe, he looked into the eyes to make sure they were bright and clear rather than dull-eyed as this in an indication they may be past their prime.

Asian Baked Snapper

After contacting Shane for a musicians recipe, he made the suggestion to visit my place and cook his chosen dish up for me. This was a fabulous idea, a dinner party at my place where didn’t have to prepare anything! I just had to supply the vegetables and the oven, perfect. The Snapper was also delicious. South East Asian flavours of ginger, spring onions, chilli and coriander infused well into this baked dish, I must invite Shane over to cook for me more often 🙂

Shane’s Asian Baked Snapper:

Ingredients:

1 medium-sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

3 Shallots, chopped

Bunch of Coriander, chopped

1/2 Red Capsicum, diced

1 Tbs Olive Oil

1/2 Lemon, sliced

Sea Salt

1/2 Jar of Masterfoods Soy Honey Garlic Marinade Sauce

Method:

1) Pre-heat oven 180 C and line a large baking dish with baking paper

2) Place all chopped vegetables in a bowl with Olive Oil and Soy Garlic Marinade, use hands to mix together

3) Place Snapper on a board and carefully slice deep down one side of the spine, creating a cavity

4) Cut three incisions on side of Snapper (as pictured)

5) Stuff marinade ingredients into the cuts and cavity and pour the rest over the top

6) Place Lemon slices over and sprinkle with sea-salt

6) Place fish inside foil, wrap, put in lined baking dish and bake for 30 minutes

7) Serve with  Jasmine Rice and steamed Bok Choy

Prawn and Mango Salad – (A suggestion from Shane to serve this as an entrée with the Snapper)

1 ripe Mango, peeled and sliced

10 Banana Prawns, cooked

1 Bunch Coriander, chopped

Juice of 1 Lime

Method

Place all ingredients in a salad bowl, mix to combine


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Imam Bayildi and the Eggplant Song

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In the world today it’s doubtful any more than one song exists where the subject and title is Eggplant. A quick Google search reveals that yes there is indeed more than one song with Eggplant in the title like ‘The Eggplant That Ate Chicago’. The band Train also has a song called Eggplant and there are a band-names like ‘My Eggplant Died Yesterday’ and ‘Kenny Young and the Eggplants’.  The search also indicates resoundingly by far and above the most well-known Eggplant song of all is ‘Eggplant’ by Michael Franks from the album Art Of Tea.

I heard this song in remix form recently after not hearing it for years, then quite annoyingly remained in my head for a few days afterwards. Anyone familiar with the lyrics  would know the chorus suggesting his girlfriend cooks it up ‘about nine-teen different ways and he sometimes has it raw with Mayonnaise’? More Googling reveals indeed this is a way some people consume it, raw with mayonnaise on a sandwich. (Perhaps they got the idea from the song?) Eggplant, whether it be roasted, fried or Baba Ganoushed is a vegetable unsurpassed with its sweet, cooked flavours and melt-in-your-mouth texture. Raw is just not an option.

Imam Bayildi

Imam Bayildi

I recently performed in Yamba with the Bushwackers, where we were fortunate enough to experience the cooking of Sevtap Yüce. Turkish born, she now owns her own restaurant in Yamba where the menu is a creative mix and modern slant on traditional Turkish recipes. Being so impressed with the food I buy her cookbook full of treasures ‘Turkish Flavours’ and there she was in the open kitchen to sign it for me too with a smile to match as big as her flavoursome, generous cooking.

Blanched Tomatoes Chopped

Blanched Tomatoes Chopped

I consult Sevtaps’ cookbook for Eggplant dishes and discover Imam Bayildi – which translates to ‘The Priest Fainted’. Some say he fainted because the dish tasted so good and others because of the amount of expensive olive oil used. I’ve never fainted because a dish tasted so good, quite the opposite. And with no shortage of Olive Oil thanks to Adina Vineyard decide to attempt this dish.

There appears to be more than one way of approach with many variables of ingredients right down to the initial preparation of the Eggplant. Being a bit trepidatious as to peeling Eggplant correctly I consult YouTube to find out how to, someone must know. And there I find ‘The Imam’ with his recipe and how-to. It’s in Turkish with no sub-titles, but make a note of it all just the same, hoping that I haven’t added salt instead of sugar. There is a green vegetable added, and I can’t recognise it so go with Septavs addition of green capsicum at this point.

Here is the Imam at work himself and the secondary inspiration for this recipe combined with Sevtaps, and a few of my own additions.

Imam Bayildi – Stuffed Roasted Eggplants

1 Large Eggplant (or 3 smaller aubergines) trimmed, peeled, scored, halved and salted in a colander

1 Cup Olive Oil

2 Cloves Garlic, sliced thinly

Sea Salt

1 Brown Onion, chopped

1 Green Capsicum, diced

2 Ripe Tomatoes, scored, blanched, peeled and chopped

1/2 Litre Water

Bunch of Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped

Juice of 1/2 Lemon

1 Clove Garlic, minced

2 Large Green Chillis split lengthways, de-seeded and de-membraned

Method:

1) Pre-heat Oven to 170 Degrees C. Fry onions in half the oil over medium heat for a few minutes

2) Add Capsicum and Tomato. Sprinkle liberally with Salt, let sizzle a bit then add water

3) Let boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for twenty minutes

4) Push slivers of garlic inside scored eggplant

5) Fry eggplant in rest of oil till golden on all sides, remove and drain on paper towels till cool then place in a roasting tin

6) Add parsley, minced garlic and lemon juice to tomato mixture, turn off heat

7) Drain veg mix through a colander, reserving liquid.

8) Dig a well in each cooled eggplant, making sure the skin below is left intact and evenly scoop in veg mixture

9) Top with half a large green chilli (pictured) secured with a toothpick and a sprinkle of slithered almonds

10) Pour reserved liquid around (not over) eggplants, cover and bake 40 minutes.

Garlic Yoghurt

1 Clove Garlic

Sea Salt

1 Cup Greek Yoghurt

Method:

Ground Garlic and Sea Salt in a Mortar and Pestle to paste consistency

Fold into the Greek Yoghurt

I served this on top of prepared red quinoa, Garlic yoghurt (also by Sevtap) a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds and a squeeze of lemon juice. It tasted so good I nearly fainted 🙂


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Tangled Up In Darwin and Rudd

Tangled Drumkit

The life of a full-time travelling musician is rarely dull. Not only are we lucky enough to have the privilege of performing alongside greatness on stage, we also on occasion get to travel to some tasty destinations for work and today is no exception.  Just the mention of the name Darwin conjures up exotic images of sun-drenched harbour walks, vibrant markets, dangerously seductive crocodile-infested waters, vivid coloured skies blanketing bright red Northern Territory dirt and general tropical thoughts of all kinds. It’s been seven years since I last visited Darwin so am thrilled at the opportunity to be a part of the Bob Dylan Tribute ‘Tangled Up In Bob’ at the Darwin Railway Club.

Any air travel needed to be undertaken within Australia with more than one hours’ duration, and I know Dobe Newton from the Bushwackers will whole-heartedly agree can only be on Qantas. Tiger Airlines has been putting in a valiant effort as of late, as has Virgin (who have relaxed their rules of baggage allowance for musicians through APRA). And ever since they provided ‘all-responsibility and no-care’ with my accordion on one ill-fated trip, Jetstar remains an all-round disappointing experience. There is a certain amount of tactility and romanticism associated with Qantas like the intoxicating aroma of a soft, well-worn leather jacket. Complimentary SMH at the gate, your own personal iPad with movies, a free hot-meal are just some of the features that Qantas won me over with when it was time to book the flight to Darwin.

Railway Club Beer-Garden

Railway Club Beer-Garden

In 30 Degree temperatures, a fairly mild but ever so gentle ferocious humidity blasts me on arrival. Feels like a storm is on its way to this troposphere town but turns out is a tease only and more a sign of whats to come over the next six months. As soon as I check into the hotel, am out of my tight black Sydney Winter jeans and boots and into the Havianas and shorts quicker than you can say ‘Story of the Hurricane’.

Slightly peckish and with a few hours to kill before sound-check at the Club I get pointed in the direction of the Parap Village which is directly across from the hotel where I discover a fabulous supermarket, Parap Fine Foods. This establishment has been run by an Italian family for years and they have an extensive stock of top-shelf gourmet selections of all kinds. It takes me by surprise and spend the next hour perusing labels of local and imported jams, sauces and spice mixes. The fruit and veg section is all local and mostly organic. Then I spot the Deli with an incredible display of chocolate sweet delights and macarons, salamis and a cheese component equating the quality and quantity of anything found in a French Fromagerie.

Parap Fine Foods Deli

Parap Fine Foods Deli

I can’t decide on a cheese and this must be obvious to the woman behind the counter as have stared glazed-eyed for some time. She offers assistance and decides for me, giving me a sample of a German Sheepskin Milk Picasso which is divine. Being the end of the role due to the popularity of this cheese, she wraps it up and hands over 200 gms worth with a discount at $14 adding she likes her cheeses to go to a good home and I reassure her this will be the case. This woman knows her cheeses. I also purchase local vine-ripened tomatoes, Kalamata Olives drenched in lime and garlic and a 2010 Mount Benson Merlot from South Australia. Forty-five dollars later, and all I wanted was a snack 🙂

Wheelbarrow Basil at the Railway Club

Wheelbarrow Basil at the Railway Club

The Darwin Railway Club is a fascinating place. This is the first time I have performed at a Club that raises their own chickens and uses the eggs for spinach pies, grow their own herbs and also harvest ducks for consumption. They recently held a feast night where these ducks were (sorry vegetarians) after being raised lovingly, then put to sleep, prepared and served up for the members. Welcome to Darwin! Before the gig, I order a glass of Shiraz and forgetting am in the NT for a moment, shudder at the fact that the bottle comes out of the fridge. After mentioning this to the bar-girl she responds in her NZ accent to just give it two minutes when it will arrive at room temperature. Of course it will.

Beergarden Buddha

The Green-Room where we are hanging before the gig with the local Darwin Musicians in the Tangled Band tonight is the hottest room in the building. I learn later this room is also a completely cyclone-proof bunker made of solid concrete. Unlike performing at the Gympie Muster last weekend in arctic temperatures where the lights on the stage being LED based no longer generate any kind of heat, we are exposed to the old faithful R & R full-on-heat emitting old-school globe variety. The Band also cooks, renditions of Maggies Farm and Subterranean Blues are well executed by these local talented Darwinite Musicians.

Parap Market Flowers with Ginger

Parap Market Flowers with Ginger

Thanks to the Qantas In-Flight Magazine, I have already read about the Parap Markets held every Saturday being touted as a must-do on the Darwin tourist agenda. How serendipitous that I am here on a fleeting twenty-four hour visit, staying directly opposite where these markets occur. The produce is primarily of South East Asian flavours – mountains of chillis, coriander, paw-paws, mangoes, garlic, ginger and accompanying spices. Lebanese flavours are also represented along with reams of tye-dyed clothes and locally crafted silver jewellery. But it is the food that is impressing me here and I circle around in a holding-pattern deciding on what just to go for. Instinct tells me that anything will be good so I go for a Thai spicy chicken larb style salad, a watermelon, lime and ginger juice plus a Lebanese custard desert drenched in rose-syrup. Heaven. I also purchase a Chilli Sauce, made with only birds-eye chillis, garlic and lime. NO SUGAR or preservatives of any kind and is very hot according to the grocer who has made it himself.

Oddly, there appears to be some media action rustling up with TV cameras all assembling in the vicinity of where I am. A quiet buzz turns into frenzy as none other that Kevin Rudd appears out of no-where. All of a sudden I am engulfed by a sea of zoom-lenses and a tsunami of paparazzi, surreal indeed. Now there’s a traffic jam and general mayhem surrounding the previous serenity of the Parap Markets and people are asking Kevin to move-on. Something tells me he’s not here for the Laksa 🙂

The Rudd Circus at Parap

The Rudd Circus at Parap