Needing an escape from Covid19-induced cabin fever? Take a 3h drive to Port Stephens.

This is not our first trip to the area, but this time, it is just Mr T and I. With a couple of free nights and an urge to go the road less travelled, we set off north and decide to drive a new route, Putty Road. 

Well known by motorbike riders for its windy sections, bends and twists the road takes you on the western edge of the Hawkesbury river for 160km and north to the Hunter Valley…it is supposed to be very busy in weekends, but on a Tuesday morning, there is hardly any traffic. Admittedly it is raining quite heavily ( the east coast low is hovering ) and being the middle of winter, who in their right mind would want to take up a scenic drive? To reach the scenic Putty Road drive, we have to deal with heavy traffic in western Sydney for about 1 hour, but once on the scenic road proper,  all cars disappear and it is pretty much us and the odd council truck. The road winds its way thru bush that obviously burnt last summer. Never I have seen so many cremated trees before, though most have regrowth on the trunks. Nature obviously will recover. On the other hand, there are lots of burnt out cars around, how many from the bush fires, I don’t know.

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kumquat tea cakes

 

Here is a variation on the almond and orange cake I posted about a few weeks ago.

It came about after receiving my fortnightly veggie box. There is always some new and unusual produce included, and last week’s surprise was a handful of kumquats.

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Mr T: “ There is a 3 day weather window this week. Let’s take the boat out somewhere. “

Me: “ Great, how about we go into Sydney Harbour ? It’s months since I have seen the city”

Mr T: “ Nahhhh…I want to see something different. Pittwater and the Hawkesbury River?” 

And this is how we find ourselves on this cold winter morning, motoring off Sydney Heads up north to Broken Bay for a 3-days cruise exploring the Hawkesbury River, NSW.

Motoring past Coogee beach
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Half a pumpkin, two beetroots and a few broccoli stems. That was the extent of our supplies one Monday night. 

To be fair, we did have some meat in the fridge, but after a heavy Sunday roast,  the whole family felt like a light vegetarian dinner. 

With my vegetable box due in the next 48 hours, I didn’t want to shop for extra and actually was keen to see if we could end up with a meal big enough to feed the four of us.

Truth be told, it was quite a fun challenge, reminding me of cooking on the boat. While cruising, it’s always been an exercise to come up with delicious and nutritious meals using whatever is available. I would read recipes of classic dishes and end up dreaming up ways to use the local produce, mixing up flavours and textures. Far from seeing myself as a recipe developer, it was more about making do with what was on hand and experimenting.   

Over the years, I have learnt a lot from locals showing me the ropes, reading tons of cookbooks and of course cooking. Drawing on this knowledge, and to this day, I mostly start cooking by focusing on one ingredient and building the meal around it. 

So I present you with our latest meatless Monday feast:

Roasted pumpkin with  garlic cream sauce

Puy lentils and broccoli stems salad

Warm salad of beetroot and red onions

A typical no-waste kind of meaI, I  am pleased to say that there was plenty to eat, thanks to a deep forage into the pantry and the crisper. A little imagination helps too. 

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“Just follow the Old Ghan Railroad north until Marree and turn left”

These are my instructions to Mr T, as we are on the lookout for the Marree Man.

We’re on day 2 of our Outback flying trip and heading north after circling inside the crater of Wiilpena Pound earlier.

The Old Ghan Railroad is not that obvious to spot from the air, but luckily it runs along the Outback Highway and that is easy to follow with the few trucks and caravans leading the way.

We fly over Parachilna, which was one of our potential stopovers with its famous Prairie Hotel until it turned out too complicated to arrange a lift from the airstrip ( save it for the Overlander trip, says Mr T ). 

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