Thursday 26 November 2009

Irish food

image from

I'm back from Lae. This time last week, I was basking in the glow of a weekend at Madang, snorkeling with Nemo and eating pineapple so sweet, you would weep.

This week, I am back to reality, with the last of Lima Bean's VCE exams and Mme Mouse being laid up with a small operation on her foot.

I have gone from having my own haus mari, to being a beck and call girl.


So, with Mme Mouse bed-ridden and mainlining Panadeine Forte, I needed to cook something delicious and nutritious and easily re-heated.

Colcannon (Irish: cál ceannann, meaning "white headed cabbage") is a traditional Irish dish made from mashed potatoes, kale or cabbage, butter, salt, and pepper. It can contain other ingredients such as milk, cream, leeks, onions, chives, garlic, boiled ham or Irish bacon. At one time it was a cheap, year-round staple food.

An old Irish Halloween tradition was to serve colcannon with prizes of small coins concealed in it, as the English do with Christmas pudding. This is still done today and small amounts of money are placed in the potato.[2]

It is similar to the modern version of the English dish, bubble and squeak. In Atlantic Canada (especially Nova Scotia and Newfoundland), a local version of the dish is popular among those raised in rural communities. Brought to the provinces by Irish and Scottish settlers, the recipe consists of potatoes, milk, butter, diced carrots and turnip mashed together. This gives it a distinct orange and white colour (as opposed to the green of the Irish version). Some also add onions, garlic and even chopped up bacon. It is routinely served during large holiday meals like Christmas, New Years Eve, Robbie Burns night and Canadian Thanksgiving.

The Dutch also have a dish that is similar called stamppot boerenkool, made from potatoes and kale mashed together with milk, butter, salt, and pepper, and often served or cooked with a large sausage. A condiment of pickled pearl onions is common.

It is also called Rumpeldethumps in Scotland. And it is a perfect accompanyment to a roast chook.

Take an organic, free-range chook, and stuff an orange in the cavity. Slide some butter and sage under the skin and bake at 200C for 1hr 20 mins.

While chook is cooking, boil 1kg of Dutch Cream potatoes. Mash roughly with S&P, a knob of butter and some double cream.

In a pan, wilt some cabbage, kale or silverbeet with a diced onion and some diced bacon.

When bacon is crispy and onion glassy, add to potato mix and stir through. Pour into an oven proof dish, top with grated Cheddar and bake with the chook for the last 40 mins.

When done, let the chicken rest, and make pan gravy with some orange juice and a splash of Cointreau, and serve with the colcannon.

Just before serving, make a wee well in the colcannon, and add another knob of butter.

A recipe for the traditional Irish Halloween dinner (lunch) on the back of a 10kg pack of Rooster spuds

Wednesday 18 November 2009


One of the things I wanted to do while I was up here in PNG, was learn about the local food. PNG, and Lae is blessed with an abundance of tropical fruits and veggies that we just can't get in Melbourne. For example, I have tried paw paw at home, and found it really rather nasty. But up here, fresh off the tree, with a squeeze of lemon juice...


PNG is a foodie/localvore's wet dream. All the produce sold at the local market is from the area... and I mean, within a couple of hours' WALK. No pesticides are used (too expensive) and the suppliers are the local villages, so the money you spend stays in the local community.

You can go to the supermarkets and get apples or pears, or watermelon wrapped in plastic, but why would you??

I also wanted to find out about local dishes, and on the way home from Madang this weekend, we stopped at a road side stall to buy what I thought was lemon grass.


It turned out to be something called pit-pit, and at K2.00 (AUD $0.75) I thought that I'd give it a red hot go, and get our haus mari to teach me to cook it.

pit-pit is the edible stalk of a wild cane that grows rampantly up here. It looks like lemongrass on steroids. And I was reliably informed that to cook pit pit, you need coconut. Not kulau, young coconut, but "dry" coconut.


And to get to the meat of the dry coconut, I was going to need some tools.

A panga, or a mean-arse freaking HUGE bush knife. And a coconut scraper.


You can buy electric coconut scrapers up here, for about K300.00, but for the amount of times that I will be using it, a K4.00 worked just fine.

It's bloody hard work, though, and took about half an hour to scrape the meat from a single coconut.


you peel the outer leaves from the pit pit, and expose the "meat", which can only be described as like a white bullrush.


Boil the pit pits in water and salt, for about 20 minutes. Add sliced "strong banana" if you care to.


While the pit pit is cooking, add about 1/2 a cup of water to your scraped coconut and wring the cream out of it. Discard the coconut pulp.


Drain the cooking water from the pit-pit/banana and return to pot. Add the coconut milk, a sliced chili, 1/4 of a brown onion finely chopped, a knob of fresh grated ginger and bring back to the boil. Simmer for a further 10 minutes.


The banana takes on the texture of a cooked potato and the pit-pit absorbed a lot of the coconut water. It's amazingly tasty and must be super low-GI, as we weren't hungry again for hours.

Monday 16 November 2009

I don't have crabs :(

John and Jack took to Labu Market today, to buy mud crabs.

This is one place I am definitely NOT allowed to go to on my own.

To get to Labu Market, you have to go via the docks.. which is where Furry got the bullet hole in his car.

Labu Market sells mostly buaii and marijuana, but also mud crabs.

Except today, they sold out.

So, Tuesday, I am grabbing a banana boat

and for $15AUD, I am being taken to Labu Village

to forage for them myself!!

Hooray for Labu-ians with no crabs, that lead to foraging adventures!!

and here's my posse.. complete with Jack (in the safety vest)

heading off to Top Town to buy a baby billum to take to Madang for the weekend.

Will report back later.

Thursday 12 November 2009

coconut prawn curry

Get some prawns


Open some coconut milk






Total cost? about $10AUD for the prawns and about $0.75c for the coconuts.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Arbinoon ol man an meri!


I am in love.

Totally, utterly smitten!

with Lae.

Forget everything you might have read, or seen on the Interwebs.

It is simply the most amazing, foreign, wonderful place in the entire world. Sure, we've got pot holes that would swallow a small family saloon, but pretty much everything else I'd heard is crap.

So far,I've walked around the markets (the ones I had photos of last time), driven around with my window down (a huge no-no according to Lonely Planet), stopped on a lonely stretch of road to buy fish from the scary-looking dudes who string their catch up between two palm trees (no photos, I was being well-behaved and respectful)

Highlight?, Myhaus mari came running thru the gate, with her arm out, and gave me the biggest hug and said "Missus Ella!!! OH! I am so happi!! Welcome HOME!"

Everything here is so BIG.. I mean, freaking HUGE!!!!! The mountains, the bird, the freaking prawns the size of lobsters... on steroids....

The giggles of the young women at the market, when I told them I would cry if there were no mud crabs.

Here's a little sample of my life over here. I am sitting in my very chi chi poo poo house, with my guards and my house staff, typing on the internet to a worldwide audience of educated people. But later this afternoon, I am going to meet with a 9th generation female witch doctor, whose going to read my future.

Day one here, I drove around in the car, with John and Jack .. the Company "fix it" man, who is an ex-PNG policeman, and HIGHLY respected up here. He is very gruff and tough, and not above ordering someone beaten badly for a perceived slight on me.

So I am packing some serious "cred" with these two guys in the car.

Lae has a population of about 50,000 Nationals, and I reckon, withing 24 hours of me arriving, the word was out that Missus Ray was in town and driving around (the cars are all recognised)..., people were waving out in the street and calling out "Hello Missus!! You good driving!!"

So, Jack and John take me to the Supermarket..... queues part, as Jack leads me thru. Armed guards follow us, to make a point of keeping me "safe"... and showing Mr Jack how fearsome they are...

And there is music in the Supermarket... piped in music.

And on comes a song......

That I like.......

So I start singing.....

And dancing......

In the supermarket aisle...

To "Buffalo Soldier"

And the armed guards do this: Shocked

And Jack does this: Shocked

And John does this: Confused

and withing about 20 seconds I have Jack and John swaying like Hula Girls (complete with hand movements) while I croon Buffalo Soldier into a potato masher.

That is kinda how me and my posse bounce up here.

So, about 2 hours after the above incident, I get back home, and the guard opens the gate and starts laughing at me.

The word is out.

I am not Missus Ray any more, I am "Crazy White Ladi bilong Trukai" or something like that!

So here's another example.

Last time I was up here, was told I wasn't allowed to go to the Botanical Gardens, as it is full of "cowboys and raskols".. ie, escaped convicts and criminals, who would chop me up and sell me back piece by piece to my family.

So I mention to John that I want to put in a herb garden at the house, and he suggests that I go to the Botanical Gardens.

I am a bit worried, but I trust John, so off we go.

Far from what others have described, I find a beautiful, if not poorly maintained garden that could be of world standard with a bit of care.

This dude come out. His English is very good. VERY good. He's wearing a filthy torn shirt, ragged pants and barefoot. he looks like a classic bloody raskol. He takes me walking and shows me stunning... and I mean STUNNING plants. He picks me frangipanis for my hair. He shows me a hybrid ginger plant that he has bred.

Umm.. What?? This guy is a ragged. filthy gardener (at best).


He's the senior Botanist.

And he is giving me a private, free tour of HIS botanical garden.

And he's going to strike me a cutting of a vanilla vine, to grow at the house.


And he asked me why more tourists don't come to visit him.

And I didn't know the answer to that.

I am a firm believer in setting your own house in order. Thinking local and acting global and all of that.

I am going to make the Lae house a place of respectful employment for Nationals, based on mutual trust and respect, and ethical and equitable wages.

And be fucked, if I am going to drive around with my window up, just because the Lonely Planet Guide says I should.

And I am going to use the Interwebs to change the entire world's perception of Lae.

I swear it.

Thursday 5 November 2009

VCE exams.

For the next few weeks, the House of Fur and Purple Love is going to revolve around our son, The Lima Bean. He's sitting his VCE exams. This means that the rest of the household defers to his every whim. It was the same for all his other sibs who have previously sat their VCE. The rules in our house are simple. During your VCE year (and more so during the exams) their job is to study. To eat, sleep. drink., fart and poop study. The rest of the family's job is to facilitate that happening.

The Lima Bean came to me recently and told me that he was thinking of throwing in his studies and becoming a barrista. I instantly went into Jewish Mother mode and told him he was pronouncing it wrong

"It's BARRISTER, dahlink, not BARRISTA"

So, more of the Jewish/Italian/Greek mother came out in me this morning, when I was making him breakfast. What do you make to send your son out into the most stressful time of his entire schooling?

For me it was a no-brainer. It had to be something low GI, nourishing, healthy and "brain-boosting"

Enter my fave range of breakfast foods, Real Good Foods .

What is Real Good Food?

The closest most of us come to eating wholefoods is through a diet of white & refined rice & bread – nutritionally ‘empty’ food that fails to give us the essential nutrients found naturally in wholefood. Advocates of wholefood claim that up to 90% of nutrients such as b vitamins, calcium, protein and vitamin e are removed from the grain in its refinement.

With the idea of returning organic wholefood to our diet in an enticing way, realgoodfood began. Eleven years on we remain committed to our philosophy of working with certified organic and biodynamic organic wholefood. Our ingredients are grown in nutrient rich soil by Australia’s best growers and minimally processed to preserve flavour and valuable oils. This is premium wholefood.

My personal fave is their organic lemon polenta porridge.

A coeliacs delight, this organic porridge has a zesty tang that will warm your heart. Made with freshly ground corn meal & wholegrain rice this is a creamy meal that gives long lasting energy. Corn & wholegrain rice are nutritious grains that are well worth a place in a wholefoods diet. ? We recommend it be cooked with a combination of water, milk & apple or pear juice
I cooked it in whole milk, with some organic honey. It's wonderfully creamy and rich, with a real "stick to your ribs" goodness about it. It's bung full of whole nuts and dried fruit as well. It is pretty much made of pure, organic, biodynamic, Lima Bean-fueling awesomeness. It's not cheap, but 1/2 a cup of mix makes about 1.5 cups of finished polenta. More than enough for a growing Lima Bean. I get mine from the organic fruit shop in Kerrie Road, where they stock quite a few Real Good Food products, including another fave:

So, if you're reading this today, spare a thought for Lima Bean. There is a lot of pressure on kids today to make life decisions at the tender age of 17, and the pressure that's applied to kids, in regard to VCE, is far more than when I did my HSC all those years ago. He may not end up being a barrister, and I am actually quite OK with that, but however today's results turn out, I know that he's gone off with a tummy full of brain-enhancing goodness.