Hello welcome to my Blog

Mezze is widely served in the Greek and Middle eastern world. An assortment of little dishes and tasters which accompany a nice ouzo or a glass of wine. So when you read mezze moments you will have tasty snippets of life as I live it, India for four years and now Brisbane Australia, all served up with some Greek fervour and passion.

Search This Blog

Friday, 22 August 2014

Survival skills - could you make it ?

Life in the first world, lets be honest, is exceptionally easy for most of us, and if you haven't seen Catherine Tate in her skit about Posh parents trying to survive without "essentials" here is the link : 


You might wonder why I am telling you this but recently we had an experience that proved to be not only fun but instructive and a wee bit scary.

We met with our guide Linc on a beach and he presented us with three spears. The spears were long, thin bamboos and they had barbed tips at the end of them. Linc handed us one each and made us practice throwing them on the beach - our aim was to hit a coconut shell. Well the results were variable and hilarious but that is only half the tale.
We rolled up our shorts and headed down the beach- the tide was receding so we could comfortably walk along while listening to Linc. He showed us Hibiscus flowers growing in a big bush and told us how the leaves soothed inflammations and the sap had a slightly antiseptic effect. We saw and tasted beach lettuce and listened to tales of his aboriginal roots and his ancestry. We learnt about spearing and fishing and what to look for to find our catch.  Once we had rounded the first bit of beach land we headed straight into the mangroves. I never thought you could walk in mangroves, they always have this look of being a little dark and full of sprouting bits which pop up in the sand and which look uncomfortable to walk on. In addition they are quite dense and it is actually a bit of an exercise in overcoming obstacles trying to get through them but Linc powered ahead and we followed with our bucket and our spears.We heard about the red and black mangroves their aerial roots able to withstand the high concentrations of salt and how successful they are in attracting the creatures of the sea. 
These pictures give a good indication of how dense the undergrowth was. Our mission for the day - to catch our lunch - no supermarkets, no corner shops, just the big wide ocean and the mangroves. We must have walked for miles and I enjoyed every minute of it as I stopped to photograph the roots, that give up their oxygen, the barnacles that grew on them, the oysters, welts, winkles and the crabs.

Photographing however does not yield any food - and I am sorry to tell you that I would have soon become an evolutionary dead end. The men were slightly more successful and here are some of the photographs to prove it.

We looked for crabs and fish and we caught both. One poisonous fish and four small crabs and what a sense of achievement that was. The mangroves are not the easiest terrain and we were bitten silly by the mosquitos but they are a rich and fertile area for shell fish and for fish. Many insects, reptiles and mammals use mangroves for food, shelter and breeding. They also provide habitats for many small insectivorous plants.So protecting them and ensuring they are not destroyed is hugely important to the coast line.
The biggest joy however was returning along the beach and consuming the crabs for lunch. No brie, no wine, nothing but our bare hands and some water and what a meal it was. 

Monday, 18 August 2014

Ekka over for another year

Wherever I go it is important for me to grasp the history of the city as much as the places and the people who inhabit it. EKKA, one of the country's biggest agricultural shows, is so much a part of erstwhile Brisbane but is also a celebration of all that is wonderful about current Brisbane. It used to be a bit of a country town where people would gather once a year to bring their best stock, their best produce and to put on their suits and frocks for a day out. Now of course it is a lot more than that, there  are monster truck parades, fireworks, horse and dog shows, beef and poultry and wood chopping, a whole pavilion of food and cooking, wines and spirits, fashion and flair.

I volunteered for the Garden Platform and this also promoted regional harvest. There were some passionate women there who brought farmers and growers from the region to talk about the beauty of local produce, be it goats cheese, fresh milk, or organic vegetables. 

We had demonstrations for flower arranging, cooking, sampling of produce, talks about soil and garden care, looking after chickens and even a fashion show of Horti couture. There is no end to human imagination and endeavour. What fun it was. 

Some of the exhibits for biggest pumpkin.

 The top was made out of macadamia nut shells -
 This dress was made with shredded old telephone directories
 A bouquet .. er behind
 A little garden nymph
A dress made of artificial flowers all sewn together. 
 Origami paper circles make the flowers on this dress and the headress was from recycled material
The winning entry - a gorgeous dress made of lotus leaves. 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Judging ... wheelbarrows with Australian landscapes

Becoming a judge crossed my mind in another life. My enthusiasm however was always muted and so it is not something that I pursued. Today, however I became a judge of a rather special kind and it was so much fun. Together with two friends, fellow judges, we set about judging a school competition.This is in conjunction with Brisbane's wonderful and vibrant agricultural show, called the "EKKA." I blogged about the show last year but this aspect of it is new to me.  The brief was to create an Australian Landscape depending on what they knew and how they perceived it in the confines of a wheelbarrow. Transforming neglected and rusty wheelbarrows into a stunning Australian landscape. 

We saw, studied, walked around, and asked copious questions of school children who were responsible for creating them and all I can say is that we thoroughly enjoyed the interaction with the children but also with the teachers. We heard some little ones tell us with confidence and pride, how they conceived their project and what they had to do to bring it to fruition. Children as young as 4 were involved. Others aged 7 were there to guide us through their projects, some remembered all the names of the plants they had sown and watched grow. Everyone put a lot of care and attention into it and had a lot of fun and learnt something in the process. I took a few pictures to share with you all as it is such a good idea and one that schools anywhere can adopt according to their terrain and their circumstances. 

This group of children created a snowy mountain on the one side with chicken wire, because they anticipate seeing snow on a school trip to Canberra, but their area is rather dry and arid so the rest was filed with succulents which is what they are used to.

The detail here was wonderful and not all is visible but there were bicycles made of bendy shiny pipe cleaners to represent active life. Plants grown from seed which were all edible and the seven year old girl who told us about them knew them all and then the lego building complete with water storage tanks at the back was to show us life in the here and now. 

This was probably one of my favourites and again the picture leaves a lot unseen. This was created by older children but who were in a correctional secure training centre. 60 % according to the teacher, are indigenous and they were keen to paint their cultural symbols, their flag, their serpents, turtles,and other patterns on the pebbles to represent who they are which they then fired.  All the plants were chosen to have a cultural significance for the children, such as the vines and even the lilies. 
This was the overall winner - They looked at the history of Australia's most notorious criminal, Ned Kelly and they created The Incredible Nedibles - edible plants made in a garden and a stream  which symbolised where he had killed the two policemen. The straw people were made of leaves of corn wrapped around a central pole. The top silk threads of the corn were woven around their heads, like hair. All the plants were NEDibles. 
This was a watering hole created with glue and water to create the stream effect and the plants were those found in the rainforest. 

This one depicted the Great Barrier Reef with all the plants being the coral and the sea plants in the ocean. The barrow was decorated with shells that the children had collected. There were more, each one special in its own way and telling a separate story. The children were rooted to their landscape and had a clear and detailed vision of it as well as problems that were likely to affect their landscapes and their lives in the years ahead.

Friday, 8 August 2014

The Daintree Rainforest

What is so special about this rainforest in Northern Queensland? Well in a very short answer it is said to be the oldest rainforest in the world. They say it is over 135 million years old. Australia was covered with rainforests, but as the conditions became drier, they died off. In Daintree however, the frequent rain and the topography make ideal conditions for the rainforest's survival, which extends all the way down to the sea. It became a World Heritage site in 1988 and this meets the other World Heritage site, the Great Barrier Reef, just off its coast.

In 1970 a fruit was discovered which is probably one of the rarest and most primitive of flowering plants. It is rather cruelly named the Idiot Fruit, or Ribbonwood, when in my eyes it should have been named, Bright Spark, for surviving through the eons! It was thought to be extinct but found in cattle in 1970 which ate it and died from the toxins in it. Its re-discovery helped confirm the age of the forest and make it into a World Heritage Site. 

So taking a hike or several in these surroundings is special, particularly because on one of our walks we had the chance to be guided by an Aborigine of the Kuku Yalanji tribe. We were welcomed by a traditional smoking ceremony where we all had to walk around a smoking fire,  that cleanses and keeps away the evil spirits.

We walked through the forest, stopping to listen to how Aborigines use the forest plants to protect them, to guide them and to feed them. Seeing the forest for the resource that it is for all the indigenous people but also for us. He was able to pin point the plants in the rainforest that they use to make houses, antiseptics, soap, paint and as food.
 Some of the fungi growing in amazing colours 
 The famous peak which looks like a brow and a nose of a person lying down. 
 The infamous stinging nettle which can cause severe pain for weeks if you are stung by it. 

 Rodney Bill Dockrill our guide, showing us the colours from natural pigments which they use as body paint. 
 Amazingly blue-black fungi 
More fungi almost looking like periscopes. 

The Mossman Gorge Centre was opened in 2012 and is run and managed by aboriginals living in this area. A Dreamtime Walk through the forest is a real eye opener and adventure for all its visitors. Our guide who seemed fluent in several languages was informative to listen to but also great fun. We could then enjoy a circular walk in the forest a little further on, with a different eyes.

There are many rare species in the forest.The most impressive is the Cassowary Bird. We saw the plums it eats but not the Bird.The Cassowary is the only bird that can swallow them whole and they pass, largely undigested, through its system, helping them to germinate! My favourite moment was seeing the Ulysses butterfly catching the rays of the sun, with its iridescent turquoise wings flash through the bright green canopy.
 The Cassowary Plums 
The Ulysses Butterfly, a symbol of tropical Queensland in a rare moment of settling. I could not trace why this beautiful butterfly was given the name of an ancient Greek hero of the Odyssey.

Back at the centre we devoured fried yams, a bit of a special, on the menu.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Silky Oaks Lodge

I am sitting up above the trees, nearer their crowns then their roots. In front of me are stag horns, elk horns and crow’s nests. This animalistic image bears little resemblance to what is in front of me. Softly shaped horns, it is true, but ones that bend and flow in the breeze in vibrant shades of green.
I look below and I see the water burbling past the rocks further up, sliding smoothly before me, through an expanse of river, which shimmers green, yet unerringly translucent.

 A type of Ginger 
This is Silky Oaks Lodge, a haven in the rainforest, sitting on the edge of the Mossman river, in Northern Queensland where I had the delight to spend three days just recently.

The dining room and the reading room are beautifully positioned along the side of the river, while the tree houses are hidden in amongst the trees of the rainforest. The view from them a mixture of trunks, leaves, ferns and bark, as far as the eye can see. A hammock is offered on the balcony in case there is an urgent need to recline in front of such natural beauty.

We travelled up from Cairns and enjoyed the wonderfully warm and friendly stories of the area that Des shared with us. Tales of how Cairns, Port Douglas and Mossman grew with the gold rush and the timber and how eventually the sugar cane came to dominate the area. The slaves were brought in from the islands to help cut the cane in fields full of rats and mice, which the deadly taipan snake happily pursued. 
This snake is considered to be the most venomous snake in the world, the poison from one bite able to kill 100 men! The only way they could cut the cane safely was to burn it before it was cut to make sure that the snakes had gone before they went in with their machetes. Back breaking, hard and often dangerous work, men’s lives were lost and families torn apart.
 The sugar cane grows again rapidly in this moist and warm environment to a height of some 6-8 ft. 

Mercifully now the cane is cut by a machine and loaded onto to carts, which go to the processing plant nearby. The sugar cane was being harvested all along our journey, with vast tracks of the canes being cut and loaded onto the waiting bins.The raw sugar is exported to China. Chinese immigrants came to this area for the gold and some stayed and set up businesses. 
Port Douglas was devastated by a cyclone in 1911 and its recovery was long. It is off this coast that Steve Irwin was stung by a ray and died. It is here also that Bill and Hilary Clinton visited several times, the last time when 9/11 struck the US. The area now welcomes many more tourists and Chinese businessmen see the potential. People come here to enjoy the nice beaches but also a World Heritage site – the Daintree Forest.
The weather was a little wet – but that is not surprising- it is after all the "rain" – forest. It is probably the oldest in the world and comes right down to the sea. More about the forest in my next blog.