Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Recipe: Beer Bread

Beer bread - perfect when the local store has run out and the nearest bakery is a couple of hundred kms away.

First you need a recipe, I asked at the local pub - well, why not? and the nice publican insisted on checking out Mr Google, and printed out the recipe for no charge. Great service!
"The Family Hotel" Tibooburra
Ingredients -
3 cups of flour -  the recipe specified white flour, but I used atta flour (a wholemeal flour traditionally used for making Indian flat bread) - it was all I'd packed. (My attempt at making flat bread was a total  disaster.)
3 teaspoons baking powder - This required a trip to the local store which didn't stock it, then off to the roadhouse which thankfully had a container at a reasonable price. I may have added either more or less. I didn't have a teaspoon so shook it into the palm of my hand and guessed, but it was windy and some blew away.
1 teaspoon salt - it tasted good so I must have got that right!
A stubbie of beer & water to make to 400 ml - this meant another stop at the Hotel to do a taste test prior to purchase. Tooheys Old was the decision, but pretty much anything would work, I think chilli beer would add a certain piquancy. A bit of guesswork was needed as I didn't have a measuring cup, and of course there was the obligatory sample for the cook. Add enough to make the mixture squishy.
1/2 cup grated cheese - drat no fresh cheese on hand - I used dehydrated pre-grated parmesan cheese.
 No beer? 
Method - 
Mix. It helps to read the whole recipe before diving in. The cheese should have gone on top.

Bake - 
at 200 degrees C. Tricky with no oven. But flat breads are baked in a frying pan, damper can be cooked in all sorts of ways, including twisted on a stick and cooked over hot coals. So I divided the mixture in two, patted it out a bit, heated some oil in my fry pan, (on the gas hot plate so thoughtfully provided by the NSW National Parks people) flopped the mixture in, put the lid on, took a photo or two of the great scenery and after an indeterminate length of time when the bottom was crispy, flipped it over and cooked the other side.

Yummy! Now I want to try it with raisins and spices.
The hot plates and BBQ are under the green shelter to the right.
View over Tibooburra area and Sturt Nat Pk from Sunset Hill.
If anyone has a recipe for something similar, but with raisins and spices could you share please? I need to get some more variety happening.

Another recipe! Beer Bread

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Silver screen @ Silverton

I guess I could acknowledge that I'm no movie buff, but even I've heard of the Mad Max movies. In the vague sort of way non movie goers have, I knew it'd been filmed somewhere in Australia, but hadn't realised I was in the very town we were camping near till someone asked how much time I'd spent at the Mad Max Museum and the Silverton Hotel.
Hmm, perhaps I missed out on something?
The Silverton Hotel.
Its name changes regularly to fit the theme of the movie.
As for the Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, I had seen and enjoyed it. Oh, so that was filmed here too - and how many other movies? Twenty-four! How many have I seen? mumblemumblemumble, shuffleshuffle, change of subject...
What I referred to as The Priscilla Road. I resisted the
temptation of sitting on the roof of the car, swathed in chiffon.
Possibly I'd seen some of the vast array of advertisements filmed in Silverton? Perhaps something eyecatching from Panasonic, Landrover, Telstra, Coca Cola, West End Beer, Dove Soap, Hyundai, Mercedes Benz, Pajero, Smiths Chips, Pepsi, Gatorade or Mastercard? um, er, no, ah well there you have it, I don't watch TV much either.
Googlemaps gives an idea of the size of Silverton in its heyday. There you'll see streets and house lots clearly marked as if they exist even today. Now it's a shadow of its former self, except I assume during filming.

At its peak there were 3000 people enjoying the spoils of the minerals found here, but as these declined, and people moved to the now bustling town of Broken Hill a short drive away, with its richer mineral deposits, the population fell to its current level of less than 50.

There are places of interest for the tourist in Silverton, an attractive cafe, artists clearly inspired by the dramatic landscape selling their work, museums, a coin cutter and not a lot else.
The cafe features old walls and garden -
the indoors part of the cafe is out of the pic to the right.
Andy Jenkins, the coin cutter is the only person registered to deface Australian coins. He makes great jewellery! Any of the pieces would make a distinctively Aussie gift or memento.  Link here with good shots of his welcoming studio and an aerial photo of Silverton - his web site is well worth looking at to get a sense of the area.  (No, I'm not on commission! We spent an entertaining 1/2 hour at Andy's workshop - he clearly loves his work and spins a good yarn.  His pendants, buttons and charms are refreshingly different from the mass produced, cloned jewellery you see all too frequently.)

As a destination Silverton is great and I'm glad we stayed there rather than at the more urban Broken Hill.
We picnicked at the most remote picnic bench I've ever sat at.
Thanks to the people who carted it  up the hill!
Hmm, but if you want to live the high life, it may not be your thing.
Vast, desolate, beguiling. We missed the lightning storms over the Mundi Mundi Plain
 - which was possibly for the best, as we would have been the tallest things around for ... forever.
A close up of the sign in the pic above.
I wanted to ask who would trespass, and why -
which I hope doesn't sound cityfied and arrogant, but I am genuinely curious.
The Mundi Mundi Plane stretches 400 km to the west to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. Mundi Mundi means no water - uh huh, that seems pretty accurate. Video here.
See all those little blue lines that normally denote rivers and wetness?
It's a trick. They're mostly dry except after the odd flood.
Wheehooo - a pretty standard riverbed!
Note the blocks of concrete - they used to be the road.
It was washed out in the recent severe floods.
The Barrier Ranges viewed from the campsite.
Delicate sunset over the Mundi Mundi Plain

More information on Silverton is here, including accommodation, tours, history and places of interest.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The joys of camping - creepy crawlies

I’m not a particularly froggy, reptile kind of person, but I love camping even though I know I'll have to share my space with creatures I'm not particularly fond of. 
Making the most of the late afternoon sun and a rare internet connection.
Sturt National Park. Outback NSW.

I enjoy hearing frogs at night croaking reassuringly in dams and waterways - it’s one way to know the area is healthy and that things are well. Snakes, not so much, particularly when camping and they seem keen to share the area, especially at night when you need to answer the call of nature. They could well be lurking in an all too familiar way nearby, fangs fully charged and ready to puncture an innocent limb.
Possibly a mulga snake, aka 'hiding under the picnic table snake'
about 1.5 metres long - I wasn't going to get closer to measure - could have been longer.

This frog, possibly the Desert Tree Frog, and barely as big as my thumb, appeared stealthily on a picnic table at Sturt National Park near Tibooburra (outback NSW).  It was almost dark with the full moon rising, when I became aware of his intense gaze. He sat and watched me curiously, lazily stretching and peering at the keyboard with apparent interest. He had the cutest little fingers and toes and seemed to be getting ready to show a closer interest in the keyboard when I reached for my camera. The blighter! He rapidly sidled over to the gas stove, and squeezed himself into a tight bundle trying to burrow between the metal stove and the wooden table, delicate little arms and legs tucked in coyly.
Possibly the Desert Tree Frog. Aka 'cute little golden frog'
This next fellow appeared on the mesh screen of the tent completely without warning. Whether he’d climbed up or leaped I don’t know, but once he saw me he stretched his arms and legs – boy were they long – and ninja jumped a 90 degree angle from one face of the tent to another. He was determined to persevere and win over the slippery mesh. Again as soon as I whipped the camera out he quickly shuffled off keeping his arms and legs close.

Totally forgetting about him, I wrestled myself into my sleeping bag. Torch out, zippered in and snuggling down…when…flop! Waaarrrggghhhhhhhhhhh. I sat up, frantically trying to find arms, torch, and alien invader. The wretch had found a miniscule gap in the tent zip and obviously decided that the inside of the tent was more enticing than the outside, snuck through, and leaped agilely and delicately onto me. I’m reasonably tolerant usually, (well, some might disagree I suppose) but I don’t intend to share my sleeping space with a 4 footed, web toed, gorilla armed frog. No matter if he’s rare, endangered or cute, it’s simply not a happening thing. Removal was the only realistic possibility. Before I'd unzipped my bag, hubby unceremoniously evicted him.

The 'way too friendly Ninja frog' - home near Wentworth NSW.
Goannas are another thing entirely, one look at those massive claws and I'm happy for them to stalk off in the other direction. This one was over a metre long.
The 'I'm not talking to you goanna'
The following guy was keen not to be photographed. As I shuffled around the tree constantly peering upward with camera to eye, hoping to avoid snakes, spiky grasses and mega bindi prickles, he kept pace with me placing the branch between us. By sheer sneakiness I got this photo.
The 'blending into the tree lizard'
Some lizards are ever so delicate and shy. I suppose this one had discovered that the white covered rock was warmer than the surrounding ones. It's about 10cm long.
The cute 'keep out of my sun lizard' 
Oh. my. goodness. The bearded dragon. Mating season. GET OFF MY ROAD YOU STUPID BLOODY INTRUDER 4WD OR I'LL HAVE YOUR WHEELS OFF. Squillions of them, on roads, atop rocks or spiky bushes, all being ruggedly territorial and defiant. They didn't give ground happily or readily as evidenced by the squashed bodies along the roads. Not many cars pass each day (maybe 6 on a busy day) so I suppose they... nah, they're just bloody minded.
This is my territory and you'd better remember it.
aka 'bloody minded bearded dragon'
The slower moving Shingleback. Kind of nice in a stumpy tailed way. Reminds me of the lizards kids used to keep as pets. Do kids still keep lizards?
The 'please don't run over me' Shingle Back lizard

Where do you enjoy unwinding? What is it about that place that works for you?


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Day photos of a perfect night in Yangshuo

Stars float in the dark velvety sky, music from a wooden reed flute hovers, rich and light; the notes float as I do too, in the pool. This is an idyllic, simple pleasure, no demands, just floating in time and space - timeless perfection.

Children giggle and splash in the nearby river, no distinct voices or words, just sheer, unadulterated joy in the perfect moment.

This place, not tied to any particular era is uniquely Chinese. Majestic karst mountains are silhouetted softly against the moonlit sky, deep valleys are a darker shade of blue-grey, the reed flute music is transient yet timeless - ancient, haunting, beautiful.

I could float in the warm water forever; it’s a perfect temperature and laps gently on my chin as I tickle the mirrored surface with my fingertips. The lazy breeze plays about my damp hair and face, warm and refreshing after the heat and gritty humidity of the day.

Lilting and trilling notes enfold me, transport me to times long gone, to my childhood fairy stories of an idealised China - of elegance, rich silks, harmony and balance.

Iridescent blue dragonflies appear briefly in the fingers of light to hover and dip, before being absorbed in the surrounding dark. Bright butterflies, (a night-time variety?) fleeting gems of colour, seem also to be drawn to the music.
Day variety of dragonfly.
Ghost gums, lithe limbed and sinewy stretch toward the moon and contrast strangely with the tall lush bamboo, which appears top heavy and arches gracefully towards the pool.
Ghost gums vie for height with drooping stands of bamboo.
I feel so fortunate to have experienced this perfectly balanced evening, but eventually pruned fingers and toes put a stop to my reverie.

What moments bring you joy? Do you remember to revisit them often?