Barbequed shrimp Aussie style

I wonder if there is a nationality on earth that doesn’t have a stereotype associated with it?

As an Irish ex-pat, I sometimes get wished a lovely morning; and while I always appreciate the sentiment, I’m not usually a fan of the delivery. Let me be clear here, Irish people don’t, nor have they ever used the phrase ‘top of the morning to you’.

When Australians say this to me, my response is always the same. I say ‘Ahh yeah, throw a shrimp on the barbie mate’.

That usually gets a reaction.

And I just love a reaction.

Prawns on the barbie, BBQ, Aussie BBQ
If the only thing you know about the Land Down Under comes from Crocodile Dundee or Men at Work songs, you need to throw out those misconceptions. I’ve never seen a deadly spider or snake;  I’m still not entirely sure what a billabong actually is; I don’t carry around large knives; The Fella hardly ever drinks Fosters or rides kangaroos to work. It’s all a bit disappointing really. Although I still hold out hope of one day finding a koala bear living in my back garden.

Barbequed crustaceans are sadly lacking from my life, so in honour of Australia Day I decided to turn that around. God damn it, I threw some shrimps on the barbie and they were bloody bonzer mate!

Barbequed shrimp Aussie style

Barbequed prawns

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Pho bo

Time for another travel post methinks; it’s been a while.

Pho bo recipe

I’ve previously written about how the Fella and I packed up our lives in Dublin and took the slow boat other side of the planet. We stopped off in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore before making the final trek to this great red land Down Under. Truth be told, I only picked those countries because of the delicious and unusual treats that were waiting to be discovered. As I’ve said before: feck culture, I’m hungry!

Vietnam was …… oh god, how do you describe Vietnam in a few succinct words and do it justice? The simple fact is you can’t, well, I can’t. Not without gushing endlessly.

Asian ingredients

We started our Vietnamese adventures in Hanoi, the home of the famous pho soup. On nearly every street there is a stall selling this hot and savoury beef soup, you can smell the star anise at almost every turn. So many stalls and restaurants all claim to sell the best version in Hanoi, the competition is fierce. It is light, spicy, full of green freshness and yummie; oh so very yummie.

Images from Vietnam

I would urge any of you who can to visit Vietnam; the people, scenery and food all combine to make such a wonderful and interesting holiday. Just some of our highlights included sleeping at a gibbon sanctuary, celebrating the full moon festival in Hoi An and exploring the coffee plantations and waterfalls of the Dalat highlands by moped.

Pho bo (beef pho)

Pho bo

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Sydney Swelters

Passion fruit, lemon and mint and creamy cherry ice-lollies

This is the counterpoint to my post Sydney sparkles. It seems in the springtime Sydney sparkles; but by the time January rolls around, Sydney simply sweats.

Last week, all of Australia struggled through a massive heat-wave. Temperatures were literally off the charts with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology having to come up with new colour indicators on their forecast charts. Bush fires raged across Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales, but thankfully no one lost their lives. The weather in this country certainly is serious business.

Colourful fruit ice lollies

On Wednesday the mercury in Sydney reached over 41 C, which is just as uncomfortable as it sounds. When it was still 37 C at half eleven that night, I regretted my decision not to just sleep at the pool. So what do you do when you live in a country located – as Dylan aptly observed – three quarters of a mile from the surface of the sun, in a house with no air conditioning? You make ice-pops and eat them while sitting in the bath, isn’t it obvious?!

Don’t let the fact you’ve no ice-pop making accoutrements stop you, do what I did and make them in little shot glasses with straws instead of sticks. You can all judge me if you want, but I was hot and I wasn’t driving to the shops. Anyway, I think they look kind of cute in a DIY sort of way. They tasted good at least and they were cold, which was really all that mattered to me.

Lemon and mint, passion fruit and creamy cherry ice-lollies

Lemon and mint, passion fruit and creamy cherry ice-lollies

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Sunny blue swimmer crabs

New Year’s Eve in Sydney is something very special indeed. I would urge everyone, at some point in their lives, to try and spend it here. I mean, who doesn’t love fireworks? Or spectacular harbours? I’ve been watching some clips on the web, but none of them really do the experience justice.

Blue swimmer crab

However, perhaps I should mention that I don’t really have much else to compare it to. Like, I’ve never spent New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh, New York or even London. Up until the point I moved to Australia the majority of my New Year’s celebrations had been in smelly pubs, dodgy nightclubs and other equally glamorous venues throughout Ireland. One memorable year, my date and I were politely (not) asked to leave a county Louth nightclub in sub-zero temperatures because he had fallen asleep under a Christmas tree. Needless to say the relationship didn’t last. The last year The Fella spent at home was with friends, in what was almost certainly the coldest house in Ireland. The central heating broke just as it was beginning to snow outside; so we had to drink buckets of alcohol, purely to keep warm, obviously.

Hence spending New Years in the sunny, warm and party-soaked atmosphere of Sydney is a welcome change. There are no deputes on where to go (see venues described above), or what to wear (party clothes don’t tend to be that warm), or how you’re going to get home (taxis mysteriously disappear on NYE at home). Instead you grab a nice bottle of vino and picnic blanket and make your way to the nearest park, to lounge in the sun for the day and enjoy the midnight show.

This year, I treated myself to a very special lunch. Eating seafood in the sunshine with a crisp white wine isn’t a bad way to finish off the year, not too bad at all.

Roll on 2013; I can’t wait to see what it brings!

Happy New Year!

Steamed blue swimmer crabs with vermicelli noodles in a lemon soy dressing

Steamed blue swimmer crabs with vermicelli noodles in a lemon soy dressing

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