Saturday, 25 October 2014

Recipe: Tastes of Iran

The brilliant thing about Australia is that the people within it are so diverse. Last night I sat at a dinner table with two Brazilian brothers, an Iranian couple, a Belgian, a Dutchwoman and one other Aussie.

Earlier in the evening we smoked a shisha (what others may know as a hookah, or to the less educated “a big, giant bong with a hose on it”). But don’t worry folks, this shisha wasn’t packed with pot. My stance against illegal substances still stands! What it was packed with was grape leaves soaked in apple essence heated by chunks of burning charcoal. There’s no side effect, it’s done for socialising more than anything. And despite the apple essence it is actually more like liquorice. It gave way to lots of fun and laughs and I think by the end of the night the boys had smoked the whole packet.

Our hosts for the evening was obviously the Iranian couple. They had left their home country due to the opportunities and freedoms that Australia provides. But their journey hasn’t come without some interesting experiences.

A common misconception about Australia is that every animal wants to kill you and the place is filled with crocodiles, sharks, spiders and snakes. The couple were renting a house in Adelaide when a strange creature had made its way inside through an open door. Catching sight of it the pairs’ immediate reaction was “Crocodile! Crocodile!” They rushed to their neighbours’ house and asked him if he was able to do something about the croc. A little confused he obliged only to find that the invasive reptile was in fact a blue-tongued lizard which he effortlessly scooped up and put back outside in the garden not holding back his fits of laughter.

Mr and Mrs Iran have embraced the Australian way of life but certain traditions, just like the shisha, they have kept alive and in this instance it’s food! She made tzatziki and a tomato based sauce to accompany the Persian kebabs cooked over the barbeque by Mr Iran. The kebabs aren’t what would normally be thought of in terms of chunks of meat on a stick. The Persian way is to use very finely minced beef mixed in with garlic, salt, pepper and very finely diced onion. The prepared beef is encased around long, flat skewers that are about an inch and a half wide. When cooked properly on both sides the meat is slid off the skewers to be served.

The Persian kebabs were accompanied by Mrs Iran’s sauces, tossed salad, warm flat bread, tomatoes also cooked on the skewers and rice sprinkled with saffron grown on Mr Iran’s family farm in the mountains of Iran. Dessert was chocolate cheesecake (traditional out of a Sara Lee packet) and semolina cake made by Mrs Iran. And there’s nothing like a good night with full tummies and good friends.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Day I Tolerated Children

It was horrific. Borderline nightmarish. They were everywhere. I took my seat, petrified. They moved erratically and noisily. I was surrounded by them. Only the introduction over the microphone could quieten them down. Moments later, the man, who entertained millions of children across Australia since the late 80’s, bounced on stage with such enthusiasm, wearing a shirt that probably also began its career in the late 80’s. It was of course Peter Coombs and if you couldn’t tell, I was at a children’s concert filled to the brim with bloody children. I have only myself to blame. I should have known that there would be hoards of them.

The mother’s sat down, their hair all done up in a practical fashion. Their children running riot on the floor in front. They weren’t really here for the kids, for these mothers, just like myself, grew up listening to the sounds of “Juicy, Juicy, Green Grass” and “Quirky Berserky the Turkey from Turkey”.

I sang along where I could because I was told once that singing or humming whilst on a fresh horse will calm ones nerves. I wasn’t on a fresh horse but this was close enough. I watched the children have little spacky fits. I don’t know how else to describe it. They thrashed around like a druggie trying to drag out his hit. These children must have been on eccy’s too because they were pretty happy to be there.

Once the little children got in to the swing of the concert, they crept closer and closer towards the stage, like a virus spreading. It was bad enough at one point that even the seasoned entertainer expressed concern. At one stage I was questioning whether the children were louder than Mr Coombs, especially when one nearby child wouldn’t stop shrieking. This was the same child who kicked off his shorts with panache to indicate to his mother that he would like to visit the bathroom facilities. Either that or he was really, really happy.

After all the off-key yodelling and out of time clapping from the children, Mr Coombs sang his finale, my favourite, “Mr Clickety Cane”. We all sang along to the nonsense of washing our face with orange juice and cleaning our teeth with bubble gum till the song ended and it was time to go home.

Seeing Peter Coombs in concert wasn’t on my bucket list but it sure did make my day!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Welcome Back Hughie

Normally we wait, complaining endlessly about the heat, the humidity. We make bets, even the local newspaper holds a competition “When’s it gonna rain?”. October drags on, like a big, old, nasty oven. November is like a sauna except there are no old geezers sitting around in just a towel. And then December rolls in with Hughie at the helm. All darkness and thunder, lightning and rain. The Wet season finally arrives. But this year, oh, this year is a wonderful exception…

It’s mid-October and we Top Enders have felt relief already. What stations are getting rain are skiting about it on Facebook, joyous in that hopefully this year won’t be as bad as the last. The townies are loving it too. It’s soothing and refreshing.

I was quite happy on the Monday night to watch sporadic raindrops plop on my windscreen after I finished having dinner with a friend. Another friend turned on her wipers due to rain whilst on the dirt tracks of a station on the Sturt Plateau. Then a post on Facebook lifted my spirits when the station owners where my cattle are agisted announced that some places on the property had 20mm.

And why, do you ask, are we so bewildered and delighted with the rain? To a Southerner it highlights dreary weather that can’t be enjoyed, only the farmers appreciate it. To us it is life.

I’d been watching the rain build up in the clouds while down at Mataranka checking fruit fly traps in mango orchards. As my colleague and I left the area, I watched as the clouds got too heavy and dropped its load directly on top of the station my cattle are on. I did a happy dance every time I looked back in the car mirror and sung about it in the worst, off-tune fashion I could much to the annoyance of my colleague (who deserves to frequently be annoyed by the way).

Katherine was still building up, still waiting its turn. It took a few hours but by 6:30pm it was done and down it came. Heading down the highway I noticed two horses galloping towards a tiny clump of trees where 15 other horses had already beaten them to it. They didn’t care, their tails were in the air and their ears were forward and their heads held high as they maintained their stride. For them it was an exciting time too.

On the road home it was like a disco. The puddles reflected my headlights into the trees and the lightning broke the darkness. Every drop of rain that fell into the wheel ruts sparkled as the lights hit them. Steam rose from the bitumen. I had strobe lights, a disco ball and a smoke machine all gifted to me by Hughie. Pity the CD player carked it last week! A bit of Luke Bryan and Jerrod Niemann would have topped it off just nicely with their party/country anthems.

Despite the fact that I had a strong feeling that we were going to get rain in October I didn’t trust myself enough to believe it. Part of that strong feeling included that we might not see rain again until December. A mate, ever the optimist, told me there was a sixty percent chance of rain this week and I doubted him. “Only sixty!” I pointed out.

I’m hoping that the second part of my strong feeling is off and that we don’t have to wait well over a month for more rain. I’m hoping that it comes sooner. Because it’s got us all excited now. The green pick can start to come up. The brolgas will start dancing. The cattle will fatten. The wildlife will reappear. The waterholes will fill. The creeks will flow. The country will clean itself. The landscape will come alive. The Territory will be new again.