Monday, 22 March 2010

Gifted Gourmet (Thanks Liz)

Hi Folks.

Sorry that you've had to wait almost 2 years for my next blog post. I would like to make some excuses but the only thing that feels right to say is that it just hasn't felt right. Today it does.

Many of you will be familiar with Simon Marnie. He's the morning radio host of 702 weekends. He's been a foodie for ages. My sister -in-law dobbed Barbie and I into a his radio segment called Gifted Gourmet. The segment gives non-professional cooks an opportunity to share their cooking skills using what's in season.

Simon choose me. Barb's bio of me for 702 (that never got published) explains why:

Like her South Indian head wobble, my mother used cooking to express a thousand things. Mostly love, but it could also show ambivalence (cabbage thoran), displeasure (a slightly over cooked cutlet), indignation (the spit of fish fry). But like I said, mostly love (a mountain of prawn biriyani).

As an adult I try and use words as my main means of communicating – but I am still infuriated and delighted by the subtlety of my mother’s ability to communicate through food. I think growing up with this connection between food and emotion has developed my ability to know exactly which food I need to eat to suit a particular mood or situation. Thus, I need to eat the right food to make an experience right, which necessitates my need to be able to cook what I need to eat, in order to express and complete a moment or experience.

My wife, who grew up in a meat and seven soggy veg kind of family, is doing her best to become a good Malayali wife – at least in the kitchen.

The edited version

If you want to hear the segment just click on the link below:

Many friends and family listened when the show was originally broadcast on the 16 October 2008. Speaking to my Mum (many of the recipes I learnt from her) after the show aired I had to laugh when she chastised me about the amount of tumeric I said should be used in one of the recipes. Not to worry, tumeric has many medicinal qualities.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Camping with the Nances

Sometimes I think that Barb and I are crazy. We made the decision to stop buying presents (stuff) for family that they don't really want. We've decide to purchase or organise fun stuff and experiences instead. A couple of Christmas's ago we bought our extended family tickets to Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, as done by Belvoir St theatre. It was a really fun day out. 

Last Christmas we decided to organise to take Barb's extended family camping and we would cater for the weekend. It was surprising how soon March 14th came around.

Barb and I had a really stressful and busy week leading into the weekend away. We were exhausted. I had a couple of job interviews on the Friday we were going away, we'd just had some bad news that we were starting to come to terms with. We'd also had a relatively fruitless early morning trip to the markets, that we'd assumed that it would save us time and $$. (we came back with a box of figs and a couple of herbs). The week sucked.   

Barb really put in that week. After trying to teach 5 kids with autism she came home to prepare a goulash and a tex-mex special so we could reheat it on the weekend. She spent Friday morning preparing camping gear and packed the car when I returned from my interview. Everyone should have their own personal Barb.

We camped at East Beach, Kiama. All Nances and Walkers (Liz's family) came. We were also fortunate that Jo's new beau, Matt could come along. Matt was great to have along. He patiently taught those interested how to use a river kayak in the surf. 

Everyone pitched in their own way. We borrowed a tent for the Walkers, Carol and Rob pitched a giant tarp, Jo brought lots of lovely beer and the Walkers  brought enough apples and grapes to feed the entire camp ground!

I still find these events stressful. I love being with everyone but I'm not so good with the chaos. Being around young children can be fun but also reminds me of what Barb and I don't have. I struggle to not let this show too much. 

It was fun to be together. No one had to rush to another engagement or had an important errand to run. Our job was to be together.   

Wednesday, 2 April 2008


The latest Food Appreciation Guild (FAG) outing was to Bagan, a new (and Sydney's only) Burmese restaurant in Strathfield. I had read a review in the SMH that stayed with me. You can search for the review: 

We were greeted by velvet covered menus that could have been mistaken for a Indian wedding album. The menu was full of pictures, labeled with names that gave you little indication of what the meal contained. Mitch ordered, with a lot of help from the waitress.

We order the famous pennyworth salad, fried whole fish, lamb curry, seafood hot pot and a couple of other dishes. The food looked influenced by Indian and Chinese cuisine. The curry was divine.

We were joined by Renjit, who was in Sydney after his recent move to the USA and his old flatmate, Caroline. I want to come back and try some of the other dishes on the menu.

Macadamia Nut capital of the world

There's not a lot of photos of my friend Libby on this blog. That makes me a bit sad because the reason for this is that she lives in a small town outside Lismore called Dunoon. She moved up there about 5 years ago due to her circumstances at the time. I would tease Lib by saying she lives in the "macadamia nut capital of the world".

I recently spent three days hanging out with Lib after leaving my job under difficult circumstances. I really needed some time out We had a great time of catching up, reflecting on some of the difficult things we'd been through and were currently experiencing. We drank lots of Cooper's green and Campos' coffee, and I had the occasional rolly.

We visited the famous markets at The Channon and spent lots of money. Lib kindly modeled some clothes I was thinking about buying for Barb. Lib bought a very cool bookmaker's hat. I really enjoyed hanging out walking, talking, browsing and buying.

We went to Byron Bay one arvo to watch Into the wild. We had to have a couple of beers afterward.

I miss Lib. I miss having a schooner or two of Toohey's Old at the White Cockatoo in Petersham. I miss inviting Lib over for a curry. I miss drinking too much coffee and beer in her backyard. I miss chatting and laughing together. I miss growing up together.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Rob at the cricket

I took my father-in-law, Rob, to watch the final of the Pura Cup. NSW was desimating the Vics. We both had the day off: Rob - because he was retired, me - because I was unemployed. When we arrived we took a seat in the Ladies Stand. As you can see by the photo above there was plenty of room!   

Rob recounted that he hadn't been to the SCG since he was a child. I think he mentioned that he came with his Dad to watch The Don.

The food choices were severely limited. Pies, chips, beer and warm coffee were on offer. I had to take a photo of Rob eating chips. He lives off a very healthy diet, smothered with salads, thanks to his wife Carol.  We then had ate lunch at Thai place in Surry Hills that we found along the walk to Central Station.  

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

The Last Dumpling

The final event for FAG in 2007 was a visit to Hong Fu North East Chinese Restaurant in Parramatta. Mitch ensured us that the pork dumpling were to die for. I guess that's why we had two servings.

Speaking of near death Barb has a great story of when she burnt her face when she ate a very hot dumpling at a similar place in Chinatown. As she bit into the steaming hot dumpling juice from the hot meat squirted across her cheek leaving a red hot burn mark. Barb used the very cold can of unopened coke that I had ordered to cool the burn and continued eating. What a trooper!

Northern Chinese food came into my life when I was 21 years old. My friend Glenn took me to the legendary Seabay Restaurant on Pitt Street to eat hand made noodles and dumplings for my birthday. The host, a tall thin elderly man greeted you with a warm smile and cheesy music. I have eaten here several times, with different groups of friends, some who I've lost contact with. Each time I visit Seabay it brings back memories of both the food and the people I've shared a meal with.

Parramatta is an underrated foodies paradise. Indian and Sri Lankan restaurants jostle with Lebanese and kitsch western food establishments like Hooters, Hog's Breath Cafe, Lone Star & City Extra. A couple of places to try are: El Phoenician (Lebanese), Istana (Malaysian), Temasek (Singaporean), Tingha Palace (Yum Cha), Flavour of Ceylon, Neelam (Indian), Orexi (Greek) and Sahra (Middle Eastern). That should keep you going for a little while. Thanks to

I would also highly recommend the Coffee Emporium in Westfields (Level 5, near the fruit shop). I used to drink coffee at the original shop in Bankstown. Check out their website:

Wobbly Dessert

When my friend Renjit turned 30 a couple of years ago I wanted to take him out for a quintessential Sydney experience. I organised for a small group of friends to go swimming at Palm Beach followed by an early dinner at Jonah's. Justin, Kate, Barbara, Renjit and I had all become close friends since Renjit re-located to Sydney, from Perth, via Melbourne.

I had met Renjit in December 1993 at the inaugural Marthoma Youth Camp which was organised by a team of displaced Malayalees living in Canberra. One of the group was Reji, Renjit's older brother. Renjit and I have shared a bond ever since. He still teases me about the bandanna and Roy & HG t-shirt (with an underpants emblem on the front) I wore at the camp. Yes, I was too cool for school.

We had a great time at the beach and had to get dressed after having outdoor showers. I imagine that Renjit, Justin's and my bodies would have been terribly distracting for the locals.

At Jonah's the view was a perfect metaphor for our friendship. We were sitting on the edge of the ocean all looking out together in awe. None of us really knew what was ahead of us but we all knew that we would share the journeys to come together.

The video below captures the moment we shared perfectly. Do it.