What I did on my holidays – Perth

Friday 3 July 2009

On my last journey I broke both a window and a friendship. The window was easily mended but the friendship has shown to be beyond repair, though I have tried on a number of occasions. The most recent attempt was two days ago when I rang to see if he would like to meet when I’m in Melbourne. He politely said no then hung up. Oh well, I thought, that’s that then. I’m still to be punished.

This trip I’m also staying with friends. Let’s hope I’ve learnt my lesson.

–+–

All packed, I left for the airport at 1pm, 4 hours before my flight. I like being at the airport all checked in – there’s nothing else you can worry about, it’s all done. You’re stuck till you get to your destination so you might as well relax.

I started my book – Moby-Dick (incidentally did you know that only the title is hyphenated? The Great White Whale itself if always written as two words – how about that!) and was over 120 pages into the 634 by the time the flight was called. Great story, considering nothing’s really happened so far, but it’s kept me page turning. Some great moments of comedy too. You can sense the excitement of the chases that are to follow.

Why didn’t someone tell me that Perth was so far away! Stupid Me for not being able to count. 3 hours time difference between take off and landing + 2 hours time difference = 5 hours. I had it burnt into my brain it was only going to be 3 hours (I forgot the time difference). It wasn’t till I was sitting on the plane in a chair that would only stay upright, with an overhead light that didn’t work that I realised the difference. And then, due to on coming winds, it was a further hour before I landed – 6 hours! At least I got lots of reading done.

At one point a flash of brightness out the window caught my eye. First I thought it was a light on the wing of the plane but on closer viewing there was Zeus lighting a patch of clouds in the near distance. I watched mesmerised as the clouds sparked with neon light, giving body and magnitude to their size. The plane was above the clouds and I realised that while the sky was ink blank, the clouds themselves were a deep purple, like an eggplant that has lost it’s gleam. Slowly the plane past by the electrical storm and was lost in the shadows of the wing. Zeus will have to play without an audience. I went back to my book.

Writing this, about half hour from Perth, I’ve finally put the book down at the end of Chapter 40. I think I’ve read enough about Cetology for one night (Chapter 32: 16 pages – 16 pages!!! – on the descriptions of the different types of hunted whales!). Moby Dick (the whale – note no hyphen) is about to make his first entrance into the story, so I thought this a perfect place to stop – something for next time.

Arriving I was a little sad to not find Anita waiting for me. Damn it, I said, I’ve told her the wrong date! And here’s me without her number in ready reach (it’s safe on the laptop). But before long there she is – I was just being a Silly Impatient Billy (and SIB, not an SOB – bit of a difference). After hugs I grabbed my bag (“Is that all you’ve got for 2 whole weeks?” Anita said) and we headed back to Anita’s home and my base camp for the next week. A really nice place, I was well impressed. John (A’s hubby) made us each a tea and we chatted for a while before realising that with the 2 hour time difference it was now past 1am Sydney time – no wonder I was so tired. So off to beds we went and a very good night’s sleep.

I kept waking up through the night but realised I was still on Sydney time so would roll over and get a few more hours sleep. I finally arose and left the house about 10.30 – perfect holiday getting up and about time. Anita had given me basic instructions to get into the city – just go that way, then turn left – and it was as simple as that. 20 minutes’ walk later I was in the city – three cheers to Anita and John for such a great location! First things first I popped into the tourist centre, picked up some brochures, and booked my ferry to Rottnest. The lady behind the counter was a little hesitant with my chances for getting to Rottnest – the weather hadn’t been the best. “Good luck” she said in not the most encouraging way as I made for the door.

The rest of the morning was a “getting to know you” stroll around the city centre and down to the wharf to find the ferry point – not that difficult, they’re all at the same spot. Walked past the bell tower (might go back later) and the ferris wheel (it seems that you’re not a city these days unless you’ve got one of those bloody great things on your water’s edge) then back to wander around the malls. There’s always a sense of comfort when you realise that all malls, to an extent, all look the same. I idled my time visiting all the regular shops I would normally visit when in the city, then went looking for a food court for lunch. I enjoy food courts; there’s something so cosmopolitan about them – all these national gourmets all side by side and being dished out on cheap crockery. But half an hour later… no food court. I ended up settling on a very nice Asian place that did a yummy-ish BBQ pork and noodles, plus a glass of wine – my first since arriving.

Still early in the day so I thought I’d visit the Art Gallery of Western Australia. An hour and a half later I left the gallery, every piece of art viewed. Can’t say I wasn’t disappointed, but there were some lovely pieces there that I knew, and they have an interesting complete gallery exhibition concept (each room being themed, such as the body, the line, etc, so that different eras sit together on the one wall) and it’s a very nice space too (circular around a spiral staircase) but there was nothing that stole me, nothing that sold itself as truly “Western Australian”. NSW has Brett Whitely and Sydney Nolan and Margaret Preston and Grace Cossington Smith (and there was some Nolans and Prestons and C Smiths on the WA walls), and Victoria has the Heidelberg Collective and JohnBrack (and there were examples of both on display here), and Queensland ‘s got Ian Fairweather (and there many of his here as well!) but here was nothing that I learnt to be WA’s grand artist. I thought this was very disappointing and a little sad. Everyone needs someone to promote.

Actually, thinking about this later, I think the problem is that the Gallery is only half a gallery. It’s a modern gallery only. What they need is another space for the 19th and turn of the 20th Century works. There must be some old building they can find to slap a coat of Federation paint on to hang the huge European landscape canvases. I reckon they do that… International standard!

I came back home, picking up some milk at the local IGA on the way. I also found out where the gay bar is – The Court. I had walked past it on my way into town and not realised. I didn’t go in, there will be plenty of that next week. It was also, on the way home, that I remembered it was my birthday. I’m now 36. I felt ever so slightly like Nick Carraway, but while I remembered my birthday while purchasing a three litre container of milk, he had just been in attendance to a wild party. Now that I think about it, I’m nothing like Nick Carraway at all.

For my birthday dinner, Anita and John took me to the Little Creatures Brewery down in Freemantle for the most sublime bowl of chillied muscles, my main after the shared nibbles of skewered kangaroo served with a tomato relish(more please), prawns in something delicious, pork belly all mouth meltingly wonderful, and a bowl of perfect chips accompanied with the creamiest aioli ever – ended up eating it with a spoon. I was in heaven. Our fourth dinner guest, Julie, did say that the aioli at Flipside was better, so I jotted that down for a later treat. Greedy me then deserted on waffles with poached apple and rhubarb drizzled – drizzled! – with maple syrup; all washed down with an assortment of Little Creature beers. They needed to roll me back to the car for the journey home. A great way to end my birthday night, but a great night all around, beginning with my pares ringing to wish me a happy day. I was very touched.

Back home, and after a tummy-settling cup of tea, I took Moby-Dick to bed. Didn’t read a page.

–+–

Today, Thursday, did the Western Australian Museum, or mUSEum as they advertise themselves which I think is a pretty nifty way of promoting a museum, and what a lot of fun that was! Best $5 I’ve ever donated. There is something quite enjoyable about looking at a display of stuffed marsupials; their stolen lives snarling at you though plastic teeth, glaring at you through marble eyes. I did also get a kick out of the hallways of butterflies, each jousted with a sewing pin right through their gullets. Admittedly, I did find them quite educational, but more for my screenplay than for their lepidopteral genealogical value – I’ve now worked out how I’m going to remove the secretary.

They’ve got a stuffed bison!

Are dinosaurs just the greatest thing ever? I stood aside, smiling, watching a school group of young boys all going “Waaaauuuuuuwwww!” Do young girls “ahhh” and “0ooh” at the site of a reproduction of a Tyrannosaurus Rex’s skull? I hope so. I’ve always loved dinosaurs having several books as a kid (I do have a willy after all) and it was a ticklish delight to stand in the shadow of the immense skeletons and just be awed by their size. It was a great time.

Less involving was the Indigenous Collection of which I quickly glanced before moving on. I’m the same at the art galleries when it comes to Aboriginal work – I simply do not care. It actually makes me angry – not the torture “White man” inflicted, or destruction of cultures, or the “significance” of the dot and line paintings – I’m angry with myself for not even wanting to know more. I just think, So what? and move on to the Dutch still lives. Dinosaurs, meteorites, collections of Bakelite radios – tell me more! Aboriginal anything – tell someone who cares.

Presently at the WA mUSEeum there’s an exhibition on Nick Cave. Strange place to show an exhibition on a Victorian, I thought. Lots of Cave note books (which were interesting) and art works and collectibles (not as much). All very worthy, but he’s never done anything musically to me. I’ve just always thought him a skinny bloke with bad hair. Apparently he sings all right. So Cave’s importance was mostly lost on me. Now, Rick Astley – the Exhibition… that would be something.

Did you know that the Laughing Kookaburra is an introduced species to Western Australia? Neither did I. Turns out they were released form the Perth Zoo some time around the turn of the 20th Century and now inhabit the entire southern coastline. Isn’t that interesting?

For lunch I dined at the mUSEeum cafe on a very nice toasted chicken melt thing and the world’s largest coffee. They upgraded me from a mug to a bucket due to my long waiting time, which was nice of them.

Had my first beer in a Perth gay bar. The Court is right across from the mUSEum so I popped in for a soothing ale. Looks pretty much like every other gay bar I’ve ever been in. Nice flocked wallpaper though. After one beer (it’s only middies and pints here. I, of course, had a pint, though I do think they are a little too big for ease of drinking) and collecting the pink press (a monthly which probably goes to suggest the amount of gay life in Perth) I headed home. Anita’s throwing a special dinner for me tonight and a work colleague. Should be a night of quality conversation and delectable dining.

As I was peeling the potatoes I learnt that Mollie Sugden has died. I’m very sad.

Oh damn, a glass just smashed upstairs.

–+–

Anita’s Most Fantastic Kangaroo and Coopers Pie
(which started life as a beef and Guinness pie)

From Delicious Magazine, July 2009

Serves 6 (well, 4 plus leftovers for 1)

  • 1/2 cup (50g) plain flour
  • 1kg diced kangaroo (or chuck or blade steak)
  • 140ml sunflower oil
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 220g small button mushrooms (I wouldn’t ‘cos I’m anti-mushroom but most people like them and I couldn’t taste them anyway)
  • 2 onions, thickly sliced
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 300ml beef stock
  • 300ml Coopers (or Guinness)
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • Leaves from 3 thyme sprigs
  • 3 tsp Worcestershire sauce

For the Mustard suet crust:

  • 175g self-raising flour, plus extra to dust
  • 2 tsp English mustard powder
  • 40g powdered suet mix (you can get it at supermarkets)
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten (for brushing)

(You can use puff pastry instead.)

For the suet pastry, sift the flour, mustard and 1 tsp of salt into a bowl, then stir in the suet. Sit in 1/2 cup (125ml) cold water to make a soft dough. Tip onto a floured surface and knead dough gently for 1-2min until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap, then chill for 2 hrs.

To make the filling, place the flour in a shallow bowl, season with salt and pepper, then add the kangaroo, tossing to coat. Shake off and reserve the excess flour. Heat 1/4 cup (60ml) oil in a flameproof casserole over a medium-high heat. In 2 batches, cook the kangaroo for 8 min or until browned all over. Lift onto a plate with a slotted spoon. Set aside.

Increase the heat to high, add half the butter and all the mushrooms to the casserole pan and cook, stirring for 2 min until slightly golden. Remove and set aside with the kangaroo.

Reduce heat to medium-high. Add the remaining4 tbsp oil to the pan with the onion and sugar. Cook for 15 min, stirring until onion is caramelised. Add remaining butter and garlic and cook for 1 min. Stir reserved flour into onion, followed by the stock, Coopers, tomato paste, thyme and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil, stirring, then return the kangaroo and mushrooms to the pan. Season, partially cover then reduce heat to low and simmer for 1.5 hrs or until beef is tender and sauce has thicken. Cool mixture.

Preheat oven 220C.

Spoon kangaroo mixture into a deep 2 lire pie dish. Push a pie funnel into the centre, if desired.

Working quickly as the pastry will become very soft when brought to room temperature, unwrap pastry and roll it out on a lightly floured surface to form a disc that’s slightly larger than the top of the dish (about 8mm thick). Cut off a thin strip from the edge, brush with a little water and press onto the trim of the dish. Brush with more water. If using a pie funnel, cut a small cross in the centre of the pastry and lay over the dish so that he pie funnel pokes through (Alternatively, cut a slit in the pastry to allow steam to escape). Seal pastry edges, trim excess, then crimp the edges to seal. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg yolk mixed with a little water. Bake for 30-35min until the pastry is crisp and golden, then serve.

Anita serves this with a hearty potato and sweet potato mash.

–+–

Chocolate Fondants

From Delicious Magazine, April 2008

Serves 4 (the recipe says 6 but who listens to recipes)

  • 200g good-quality dark chocolate (such as 70% Lindt)
  • 240g unsalted butter, diced
  • 4 eggs
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 30g plain flour, sifted
  • icing sugar to dust

Grease and line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Grease and line the sides of 6 (4) 4cm deep, 8cm metal rings with baking paper and place them on the trays. You can also use six 3/4 cup (185ml) soufflŽ dishes that have been greased and lightly dusted with flour (shake off any excess flour).

Chop the chocolate. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water) and allow to melt, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and pale. Fold in the chocolate mixture, then fold in the flour. Pout into metal rings or souffle dishes and chill for at least 2 hours (this help fondants maintain their soft centre during cooking).

Preheat oven 200C. bake the fondants for 10-12 minutes until set – they should be cooked on the outside but runny in the centre (Anita did for another two lots of 5min before she was happy the tops had set).

Remove form the oven and allow to sit for a moment before turning out. If using metal rings, use a palette knife or spatula to carefully transfer fondants to serving plates, then remove metal rings and baking paper. Fondants cooked in souffle dishes can be served straight from the dish.

Dust with icing sugar and serve with a double cream and ice cream.

When Anita served these, they looked magical, and it was a sweet joy when you cracked open the outer cooked shells to see the gooey chocolately insides trickle out. A top marks sensational ending to a night.