Tag Archives: Easter

Wanderlust 3, from the snowy mountains to the sea

*A post! For Fiesta Friday no less! brought to you by a messenger mangosteen, and that awesome breakfast paratha, freshly made, fluffy, wonderously layered, drizzled with condensed milk AND sugar…*

Here’s Part 3 of the Wanderlust series.

I’m taking you away from steamy hot Yangon, back to late autumn/early winter in the Snowy Mountains, Australia. The Snowy probably evokes all kinds of folklore-ish associations for Australian school kids, from that Banjo Patterson poem about the man from Snowy River, the history of the Aboriginal people, and later, gold mining in Kiandra and the Snowy Hydro scheme. A place of legend and history and old fashioned pioneering.

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We drove from Albury, through the Upper Murray Valley, and into the mountains for a couple of days. Part of the Valley is a floodplain, punctuated by the occasional abandoned town and many skeletal trees.

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After the floodplains, the mountains became closer and closer. They became a backdrop to fertile farms and really neat, pretty localities. Sometimes, it’s just the general store, pub and the petrol station. Occasionally, it was just the pub (at least the priorities are right, right??). Once, there was even a hipster cafe that would cut a dash in Sydney.

But the main event was always the mountains themselves. Especially the climb to the top of Mount Kosciuszko, the highest peak.

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The climb was made, really, embarrassingly easy by the ski chairlift (as this is part of the ski field in winter). Only a 13km return journey, all of it on a steel mesh/rocky gravel boardwalk – I think they also serve to protect the environment from the flocks of tourists. This short walk was full of “oh look over there” views of the surrounding mountain ranges, as there are no trees at that altitude and we had an uninterrupted view around us.

In particular, the mountains faded in colour as they were further away, creating a gorgeous, hyper coloured layers of blue. Blue that matched the sky. I wanted to stay there until sundown…

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Wanderlust 2 – vintage railways and a windmill

*Also sending this to Fiesta Friday 22 at Angie’s, this time with a messenger monkey! I think he likes anything and everything food and drink, and sometimes cameras*

A few years ago, I discovered a book called “100 great books in haiku” by David Bader. Witty, sometimes plain funny, it was a great way to while away an afternoon.

For Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, party of the haiku was:

“roadde trippe!” (the rest, appropriately for Chaucer, was a tad demi-scatological…)

Ever since then, before every road trip, I always said to myself, “roadde trippe!” (childish, isn’t it?)

I said the same thing before heading off to Myanmar. And before our regional NSW road trip during the Easter/Anzac Day break. So in the spirit of road tripping and wanderlusting, here are some more photos from that trip (the first lot of photos are here).

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This trip unexpectedly became a journey around historic railway monuments in our regional centres. Some were sad relics. Like these wooden truss bridges in Gundagai. What a project! The bridges spanned the Murrumbidgee River flood plains (by the way, isn’t Murrumbidgee a great-sounding word that just wants to roll around your tongue?). The first was the Prince Alfred at 922 meters, which formed part of the Old Hume Highway. The second was part of the Gundagai to Tumut railway at 819 meters.

But the engineering ambition was greater than the size of the public purse, or something. These bridges fell into disrepair later in the century.

Despite some equally ambitious, perhaps utopian, restoration plans, they remain crumbling and fenced off with no public access. The sign described the pair of bridges as a ‘managed ruin’. Poetic, more than a little sad, especially in the twilight hours.

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An adventurous Easter: sourdough hot cross buns

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On this road trip, we’ve noticed the different types of place names that you can find in Australia. Words from England, Scotland, other places in Europe, and from the Aboriginal languages.

We have our share of Inverary, Baden Powell, New England, Kingston, even Neuhaus. Words from the old world. Then, we have words from our first people, strange and beautiful sounds. Araluen, Adaminaby, Cootamundra, Tumbarumba, Wagga Wagga, Wee Waa, Jindabyne, Gundagai.

A trip into regional Australia becomes a jumble of these names and sounds. A pair of city slickers finding new sights and sounds, new air to breathe.

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We have seen a lake and a river (any large body of water inland of our dry continent is a mesmerising sight); so many cows and sheep, and glimpses of the Snowy Mountains. We have also seen old train stations with cast iron lace, rusty sheds, ruined timber bridges. And that’s only the first few days.

I knew we would be on the road, so I made hot cross buns early this year, and using sourdough starter called Patrick, no less! I’ve nurtured wee Patrick since Christmas, but have only started baking with him.

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Gubana: Italian Easter bread for an Australian road trip

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We are on a road trip!

Tonight, we are in the inland town of Gundagai. First stop in what is shaping up to be a trip through historic inland towns and villages.

I haven’t driven our car for weeks, and for at least a couple of months before that, since I prefer to walk or take public transport to get around our patch of inner Sydney. It took a while to get used to the manual gears, the road, other cars, but then I settled back into familiarity with our good little car, and we were away, to quieter and greener places.

When I was not driving, I nibbled on a slice of gubana.

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Gubana. A special Easter cake/bread I stumbled across almost by accident. I made the recipe, and found the flavours intriguing, lingering, in a way that says old fashioned good things. Bread-like, not quite as rich as brioche or challah, crammed full of walnuts, pine nuts, raisins, chocolate, hazelnuts, and more. The bread is almost like panettone, and filling is so flavoursome, with a lingering sweetness that comes from dried fruit rather than sugar.

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Making ma’amoul, a Syrian recipe for semolina and date cookies

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Do you have a Christmas tradition (or traditions for other religious or secular holidays)? Would you like to have celebrations that involve little crumbly, buttery semolina cookies filled with date butter, or sugared walnuts or pistachios, and scented with orange blossom water?

Yep, me too.

We made ma’amoul (also spelled mamool, mamoul or maamoul) in a cooking class in the Almond Bar, Sydney. I had heard about these cookies being made for Easter celebrations in Lebanon, and remembered eating them in Syria. Chef Sharon Salloum (whose family is from Syria) said her mum made lots of these cookies for Christmas too – I guess these are celebratory kinda cookies. Once you’ve had one, you’d be looking for more reasons to celebrate too.

The recipe we used comes from the new Almond Bar cookbook. The pastry starts with a mix of semolina, ghee (clarified butter) and sugar, rested, then kneaded with orange blossom water, milk, mahlab and yeast. Then, balls of dough are wrapped around balls of date filling, shaped in a specially made wooden mould, and baked until light brown. Other common fillings are walnuts, or pistachios, chopped finely and mixed with sugar. Be still my beating heart.

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The resulting cookies are melt-on-the-tongue soft, yet crumbly. After the richness of the ghee, comes the fragrance of orange blossom water and the hint of something from the mahlab. Then, the more intense hit of fruity sweetness from the date filling. Then, it’s gone and you find yourself reaching for another one.

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Hot cross buns, or, how not to make rock cakes

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(with apologies for the photos taken on a phone)

I remember the first time I saw home made hot cross buns. A colleague in Canberra had worked as a chef in a former life, and to mark our first Easter in the nation’s capital, he brought enough hot cross buns for everyone in our graduate year.

It seemed a miraculous thing to me, the ability to pull real hot cross buns out of a home oven. I also remember the buns were moist, darkly spiced, laden with plump raisins. But more than anything I remember his assurance “they are easy to make.”

A few years later, I have learned to make things with yeast – croissants, pizza, ciabatta – and this year, I was determined to tackle hot cross buns. After all, Alan said they were easy.

My first attempt was a dismal failure. The recipe called for far too much flour compared to the amount of milk, egg and butter. The dough had the texture of scones (or American biscuit) dough. Even after adding extra milk, what came out of the oven was more like rock cakes than English buns. (this really tested my faith in Australian Gourmet Traveller)

For the second attempt, I turned to my bread bible, the River Cottage Bread Handbook.

And, almost miraculously, the buns came together just like that. And the whole Gander household (including Mr Gander’s mum and grandmother – more brownie points for me) had toasted home made hot cross buns for Easter Friday.

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