Thursday, March 30, 2006

Cowra Smokehouse

Just on the Great Western Highway as you come into Cowra, an old converted train warehouse houses one of Cowra's biggest successful small business. (I know the last sentence sounds a bit of an oxymoron) This is none other than the Cowra Smokehouse. It opened ,mid 2004 if I remember correctly, and started out mostly as a trout farm as well as selling mostly smoked trout and smoked trout pate made on the premises.

We, the city folk craving new experiences checked it out soon after it opened. We tried catching our own fish with handlines from the "adult" tank. No its not the tank for fetishes ... its the tank where trout grown to a certain size are placed so people know they are mature and a good size for eating. It was $6 a fish if you were successful and they helped you clean and gut it too!

As you can see the tank is still here today but they don't do the catching thing anymore as they are pretty busy promoting their goods all over NSW. When we went before, we got a tour of the place and Tim, the owner explained how smoking worked, what kind of bark they used etc. I caught a glimpse of him on Sunday but he just waved as he was unloading goods off a truck as he had just been to markets in Wagga Wagga. They also travel once a month to Sydney's Pyrmont markets and got a brief mention in Grab Your fork one of the better and more popular food blogs in Sydney.

What was here today was a tasting platter and I see that they had actually increased their range and included sundried tomato, smoked salmon and mushroom pates to their flagship smoked trout pate(AUD $4.50 each). They had also added their own line of sheep fetta, separate to the COWRA label, produced by a local farm. The fetta was absolutely delicious!! I tasted the basil and garlic flavour that was there and immediately bought a jar.(AUD$9.50) There was also olive and plain available. The tubs on the left contain the 'large' size of their sundried tomatoes. These were also dangerously addictive as they are marinated in spices such as garlic, and cracked black pepper.

The place is nothing much to look at and most of their wares are held in this refrigerator. The fish are on the left....

And the right side contains the other goodies such as the cheese, the pates and on the lower shelves you can find the smaller packet of sundried tomatoes ($5) smoked chicken ($8.50 for the maryland), available in plain, spanish or morrocon spices. Also, smoked duck ($8.50) for a piece about the size of the average palm.

I noticed that prices had risen a bit since the last time I was here. (The chicken used to be $6.50.) Hence, the pleasure of the food was not as high as the last time. Its funny how if you find a good eat that you consider cheap or reasonable, you enjoy it so much more than if it was expensive because you expected it to be good anyway?

I am glad though that Tim managed to start small and think big and has risen to the challenge of the growing demand for fresh, unusual gourmet foods. I am sure that the high demand for this produce at markets everywhere are a testimony to that. If you ever chance upon it, it is defintely worth a try as all the flavours are unique, tasty and fresh.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Believe it or not... I'm walking on air

Sunday the 26th of March was Cowra Aero Club's open day. It featured joy flights as well as short intros to the world of ultralight flying and information on certification. They had a sausage sizzle around lunchtime and there was also a raffle on. I missed a lot of that as friends of mine came up to visit and helped me to start packing (eek!). We visited the Mulyan winery as well as Cowra Smokehouse (post to come later) which smokes many of their own farmed trout as well as other delicacies.

I was extremely curious about learning to fly, especially since one of my patients is just about to become an instructor. He invited me to visit that day and said he would take me up in his plane. Thus, I decided to brave the unknown and went along by myself (since Richard was at an engagement party in Qld).

When I first got there, there were quite a few families still there (it had started at 8 am) I could see that they had a steady flow of traffic as a few more arrived in the time I was there. Kids were pretty excited about seeing the planes take off and land. I met another patient of mine Les who coincidentally is the father-in-law of Sue of the noodlebowl fame. He services planes and explained a lot to me and quickly hooked me up to go on a flight. It cost a mere $20, understandably for petrol and running costs.

I watched planes take off and land and families go up in some of the slightly bigger ones ( four to eight seaters) one even did barrel rolls in the sky!! This is an example of an ultralight. It seats just two people but is exremely fuel economical and can travel four hours on a full tank at about 200 knot's( I think that's what he said). This will take us approximately from here to the middle of Queensland.

A "Jaberoo" type ultralight plane.

Soon it was my turn as Mick arrived to whisked me away on his white plane. This is a slightly different type of plane to the Jaberoo as you can see the cockpit is not under the wings. It can get hotter on longer flights but this also enables the plane more manouverability. "This particular plane is also built for some aerobatics." Mick tells me, but only after I have walked up on the wings already and buckled in the seatbelt. "Its time for revenge!!!" He says and gives me the evil grin. I think to myself ... what am I in for??

The "Brumby" - my flying coffin

As the plane starts to taxi, he starts explaining things such as the foot pedals are not clutches and brakes but to steer the plane on the runway. I am only half taking it in as I start to think about who I haven't said goodbye to yet. However, the takeoff was unbelievably smooth and very soon we were up in the air!! He explains to me some of the various instruments on the dashboard and what they were.

Steady now....

As soon as we reached a cruising altitude of 5000 feet, he got me to take the controls!! The feeling was indescribable... like anything was possible. The plane, being partly aerobatic was very responsive so I had to hold on to the err joystick (never quite asked what the right word for it was) pretty firmly. Mick got me to try turns as well and those were a bit nerve racking as you felt like you were tipping over. I flew for a few more minutes as Mick said to turn here or there and try and keep focused and level with the horizon. (It was like driving instruction, but in 3-D) He then took the controls back and asked me if I liked roller coaster rides. Of course! He then took us down in a negative G with the tummy left behind kind of feeling. That was great. Positive 1G was good, but 2G was getting a bit stressful. He then right into some 360 degree turns which had a spiraling effect. That, I was not as good with! However, I didn't feel sick ... just a little bit off. All too soon, it was time to land and it was an extremely smooth landing too.

I am pretty fortunate living in the country and getting to experience so many new things. In the cities, hangar fees are a lot higher so to experience something like this today would have been hard to do, lots more crowded and probably cost a lot more too. The flyer I got at the place said that flying lessons cost around $120 per hour and it takes a minimum of 20 hours (although the majority of people need more than that) After certification, we are able to rent the planes for $80 and hour or for the more serious hobbyist, buying one starting at about $70 grand (not including insurance and maintenance). Wow... it is so much more accessible here than I ever thought possible. I am definitely going to look more into this and maybe start with one or two lessons and see how I go. But once you've had that feeling ... well, I can't wait to go up in the air again!!

Cowra from the air!!

Sunday, March 26, 2006


I still can't get blog bot to accept my offerings of pictures :( Its been a bit frustrating as there are definitely new things I would like to blog about and some things are just not the same without pics.

To tantalise your tastebuds and ignite your imaginations, these include going to the Cowra Aero club open day and getting a joy flight. I even got to take the controls once we were up in the air!! Also a visit to the local smokehouse as well as a girls weekend away with some of the ladies at work and we did touristy things. Yes there are pictures of the opera house and the harbour bridge :)

I feel a bit frustrated as I believe a picture paints a thousand words and it just won't be the same as describing it. Besides, I can tend to be a little like tolkein and write on and on describing something if I don't have a photograph as an adjunct.
Oh well. I will keep persevering. I have even tried using a different browser with no success :~( I'll give it a few more days otherwise I'll just have to keep writing in this journal so it gives me a good look at my days, months and even year gone past.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Making and Baking - Hooray its finished!!

***Hooray!! Its finally finished!!***
Ok its kinda just past mid-week and I don't have heaps new to report. So this is the time when I bring out a few things I have been saving to share about. Lots of people ask me what I cook. I kind of find that a bit odd because its hard to list the things you cook. I give a vague sort of answer like "oh all sorts of things." To which the other party begins the spanish inquisition. "Do you only cook chinese food?" (This is most often asked by caucasian Australians) I am unsure whether to be offended by that or not, especially as they start asking "How about Richard? Does he like all the things you cook?" At this point I wonder if they have been sent by Richard's mother to spy on me.

So anyway, I have decided to share a few things which I have made, actually all the baked ones have been quite successful experiments here in Cowra. I used to have a huge fear of ovens, mostly because I have no control over what comes out the other side of the tunnel. I think it also may be due to the fact that alot of my cooking was learned from watching and I am glad my mother made spag bol as well as she made hokkien mee and mee siam. She also made a mean chicken tonight ;) However, I have never once seen her bake in my life. She made wonderful stews in the pressure cooker so I am dreaming of acquiring one except they are quite rare here. She made crispy chicken in the turbo broiler and smoked chicken and duck on the outdoor webber. So I am fine with rotisseries and such but mention the word baking and I freeze.

When I first came to Cowra and visited the baptist church, I had not been to church in a very long time. I knew I would like to learn more about God again and get close to him as I always believed in my heart that His words were the truth. Austin the minister here grabbed me and got my contact details. He then never gave up knocking on my door to invite me back as well as calling me and inviting me to dinner with his family. I know that he could see I needed some persuasion (he hasn't really tried it on anyone else) and when I finally started attending it was really nice as the church was a great family church but also with singles, single mums, widowers, old retired couples etc. This will be one of the places I will really miss about Cowra. Its been the most welcoming church I have been to my whole life. Anyway this paragraph has a point: All the morning teas every sunday have been amazing. Pikelets, cakes, slices ... and all made by the ladies and brought along on Sunday. It was very inspiring so I decided to try my hand at making a few things in the dreaded cave of fear. The first thing that triggered off was a zucchini slice made by Mrs Atkins. It was sooooo good I had to ask her for the recipe and I braved my phobia of a large batch of failed goop and tried it at home.I would say it is a cross between a fritata and a quiche with no crust. The first batch worked a treat! The one in this photo is a bit too moist as I got overexcited with my leftover veggies.

The recipe is basically 1 1/2 cup of chopped veggies eg brocolli stalks, grated carrot/zuchinni
1 small onion chopped fine
1/2 cup cheese
1/2 cup bacon (optional if vegetarian)
2 eggs
1 cup self raising flour
salt and pepper to taste
Adjust the flour according to how big your eggs are. It should turn out like a thick batter and will set firm to touch like a fritata. Skewer test and medium oven should do the trick.

This other one has no name and is surprise surprise a concoction of my own! I made it when we had a guest over who was vegetarian. It is basically layers of filo pastry, chargrilled capsicum and eggplant, crumbled fetta, ricotta and spinach(silverbeet).

This one is simply heavenly when done right and because it is sweet means it is in the I-know-absolutely-nothing-at-all zone. It turned out way to dry in this pic. It is a basic "rubbing in method" half fat to flour and add some egg and water and sugar until it is a a doughy batter and bake. The magic is in the passionfruit icing which gives this shortbread a bite. The bar at the back is my product. We had leftover icing so we iced a box of Walkers shortbread. BTW although dry, the homemade shortbread was wayyy better!!! Walkers was a bit too rich.

This wasn't done in the oven but its another example of something I throw together. I was given sage (but no parsley, rosemary or thyme) by the female half of the husband and wife team who are my employers. She suggested cooking it in some butter with pumpkin and shredded parmesan and toss it all with some pasta. It turned out really well and was eaten with marinated wings and a salad.

And last but not least, some real 'roo action! Yessiree all you non-aussies this is prime kangaroo steak, fresh off the road, hit by the car in front of us that morning. Ok I jest! It was bought at the supermarket as they are farmed and definitely disease free. They are very lean (0.3% fat only !!) and have lots of iron and nutrients. It is also very cheap (about $6 a kg for prime steak)
This was just grilled and served with mash and stir fried veggies in teriyaki sauce.

Hope this gives some people insight to the fact that I don't just cook Singaporean/ Chinese stuff!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Naked Lady Cowra

This is a photo of the mosaic and statues forming the back wall for the outdoor water feature at the Naked Lady. The cafe is a well decorated spot, featuring both an outdoor and an indoor water feature. Everything here is available for sale, from the potted plants surrounding the tables and outdoor area, to various garden decorations scattered throughout. The cafe raised a buzz when it first started, one of the reasons was due to its icon; a sillhouette of a lady, with three strategically placed small flowers. After a while it bubbled over and has become an accepted part of the town, it serves breakfast and lunch seven days but can be hired for late functions as well.
This was my brunch, the nudie burger. I missed out the important part that the pattie was going to be made of BEANS. I only saw burger, chargrilled veggies, pesto and cheese and went Bingo!! I'll have that thanks. So I got a rude shock when the pattie arrived looking as un-beefy like as it could. The saving grace was that it was extremely tasty ... it just kept sticking to the roof of my mouth. The pesto was also very creamy and didn't taste much of basil. The char grilled vegetables were very nice. Overall I enjoyed my lunch but found it a bit too rich and greasy. It was also very large and I ended up giving my chips to Richard, and still couldn't finish it.
Richard ordered this salt and pepper squid. It was very tender but it didn't have enough salt or pepper in it to jazz up the batter. The salad was nice and fresh but was sans dressing. A suace looking suspiciously like my "pesto" sat in a dish on the plate. It is unknown if it was meant to be a dip or a dressing.
This was B's choice, the farmyard sambo (aussie for sandwich) it had ploughmans bread, chicken, bacon and mushrooms plus other veggies. A simple hearty meal for any boy or girl next door.
This was J's choice, supposedly southern fried chicken strips with salad served with chilli-lime and pepper dressing. I wanted to point out that it looked like a cut up large crumbed chicken schnitzel. The dressing was also a bit strange. Overall it worked but they could have given it a different name. All meals were about $15 which, for Australia and for this town was pretty average. It made for a very relaxing venue and location. It is defintely a place to go on a nice day, just make sure you have lots of time.

The Naked Lady Cafe Cowra 14 Railway Lane. Phone 6341 1455

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Cowra's Festival of International Understanding

Once a year, Cowra celebrates a weekend festival of international understanding. A guest country is chosen and that becomes the theme for that year. All the schools invite kids to decorate the shopfronts of main street, there are various workshops on the country's culture and displays in the art gallery might also reflect that nature. A silver birch is also planted every year in honour of the guest nation. The highlights of the festival include a parade with various floats and decorated vehicles. We saw antique vehicles, even an old 50s style rusty truck which putt-putted along. Another highlight is the festival carnival which has the usual games and rides, farmers bring some of their produce such as cheese, jams and chutneys, honey etc. to sell and there are country craft stalls as well as the token sausage sizzle.

We were a bit late to the parade so missed a lot of good bits. This is the group which you will see later dancing on stage. They are a polish dance troupe with a branch in Sydney.

Here they are singing and performic various folkloric dancing.

Here is the polish style fencing with various rapiers and swords. They also gave a talk which was pretty interesting, about the weapons including maces and shields.

This was from the polish foodstall at the carnival. It was a slice of porkneck with 3 potato pancakes and salad with yogurt dressing. The porkneck was tender enough to cut with the plastic fork and knife! It was extremely tasty as was the pancakes. Mmmm They also had black pudding which we gave a miss as well as other smallgoods for sale such as hams and sausages.

The carnival had a good turnout and it was a great weekend of fun for lots of people. I'm glad it had a revival as they had a different, off the main street location the last few years and numbers had started dwindling. Sunday had Polish dancing lessons and also easter egg painting but since B and J were visiting us, we decided to visit The Naked Lady cafe instead. A bit controversial in the town when it first opened, this cafe proved to be a stayer. A photo to pique your curiosity, more to be said in the next blog.

Friday, March 10, 2006

And so it begins ....

Tutor demonstrating right way to introduce canula.

Well the graduate diploma course in dental sedation has officially started. It was a very interesting two weeks. The first week consisted of theory stuff like physiology and pharmacology, revising first aid on dummies. The best part of this week was that we got to practice various levels of nitrous oxide (happy gas) sedation on each other. At the level we like to achieve, it can produce a light buzzy happy feeling, like you've had a couple of drinks sort of feeling. At higher levels, it can even induce some analgesia. We were poking each other with probes and pinching each other at that level and the subject could feel we were doing something but didn't care as it didn't hurt. Interesting...

The second week, we had anatomy of veins in anticubital fossa (area other side of the elbow) and back of the hand and practiced on a dummy as well as each other! Well I got out of it but since for all of us it was the first time, there were a few blood baths! Well not that bad but a friend forgot to take the torniquet off after inserting the catheter and a little river of blood started flowing down even when she applied pressure to the site. She couldn't figure out why until she noticed that the tourniquet was still on. Many others wore bruises the next day. Let it not be said that students don't sacrifice for the sake of medicine! We also learnt to use a semi-automatic defibrillator. It was pretty interesting as I had never used one before.
My 60s room at the hospital accomodation complex.

Other highlights of the fornight include:
-going to a free music under the stars night with B and J, had the sydney symmphony orchestra playing mozart. Quite soothing especially when a picnic was thrown in.
-my first blogmeet with flatfeet which was really enjoyable actually so enjoyable we met up 2 more times in the 2 weeks :) Posts on food and stuff we had to come later.
-staying with Clare before the course started. My first taste of paella when we went to a spanish restaurant in Newtown
-Richard visiting with the doggies
My gorgeous boy Magic (Anshaygav Ashlea)
My beautiful girl Raven (Ecebe Raven Beauty)

I apologise for the picture quality and it wasn't because of some romantic soft filter I used on my camera. It was due to my phone having a VGA camera which isn't as sharp.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

I'm back!!

Just a short post to say that I enjoyed the 2 weeks of lectures but it will only be the beginning of 2 years of work. My first clinicals start in June ... a bit late but my nearest and dearest has volunteered to be my pin cushion as I practice cannulating. I didn't take too many from the hospital so hopefully will get it right in the first few gos!

We had a few turns practicing on each other. I got out of it as I was told they could only feel very "small veins". I will have to ponder that one. I think they just didn't want me fainting on their hands as I told them that I had fainted when giving blood. Its fine as long as it isn't my own!!

I have graphic pictures (ok not that graphic) and stories but its late at night so off to bed now. Will fiddle with software from my new mobile (cell) phone so i can upload some pictures. I love new technology! It even still has the new technology smell fresh from the factory ... *sniff*

I have been thinking about setting up a separate blog for clinical and dental cases and keeping this to food, life, travel and musings. I would appreciate some comments to see what people think.