Quick pickled radishes

The word ‘pickle’ tickles my fancy. For starters, it rhymes with ‘fickle’, ‘trickle’ and ‘sickle.’ (Not a word that I have had many chances to use, up until now.) Its origin appears to derive from the Dutch word ‘peckel’ which historically referred to a vinegary brine or spicy sauce, not an actual pickled vegetable. In Britain, a pickle is a relish made of chopped veggies or fruit preserved in vinegar. In the US and Canada, a pickle is widely thought of as a cucumber preserved in brine. In these here parts and in much of my foodie reading, we now seem to refer to pickles as any vegetable that has undergone the pickling process.

Getting ‘pickled’ also alludes to partaking of too many alcoholic beverages resulting in inebriation. Finally, all of this pondering leads me to the delightfully old-school sounding idiom ‘in a pickle’. Meaning to find oneself in a quandary, difficulty, tight spot or jam. (Now this is getting confusing.) Certainly a state that all of us who are undertaking the human experience, find ourselves in at one point or another. When I find myself in a pickle (the idiom, not swimming in a giant bowl of vinegary liquid), nothing soothes my troubled soul as much as spending quality time in the kitchen. Making your own preserves is a highly satisfying process. The radish and myself are good friends. This crisp, peppery root vegetable adds zing to my salads and is a favourite snack when sprinkled with a smidgen of salt. It is also delicious when pickled.

This is a quick pickle, meaning you do not need to sterilise the jars and process them in a boiling water bath to ensure shelf stability. They need to be refrigerated and are at their best when eaten in the first few days after making. These rosy-hued radishes sing with a gentle hum of chilli heat and an earthiness from the Indian spices. To add freshness and zing, pop them in salads, sandwiches, tacos or burgers. Also delicious as a condiment with cured meats, cheeses and alongside curries and casseroles.

QUICK PICKLED INDIAN STYLE RADISHES

WHAT YOU NEED
1 bunch radishes
1/2 cup sherry or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tbl granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsps sea salt
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1/4 tsp chilli flakes

HOW YOU DO IT
Wash the radishes then remove the green leafy tops, the bottoms and any hairy bits. Using a sharp knife or a mandolin (please use the guard and watch your fingers!), slice them very finely and pack them into a jar. I used a medium sized Weck jar that takes about 500ml of liquid.
In a small saucepan, combine all of the other ingredients and cook over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and let it cool down for about ten minutes.
Pour the brining liquid into the jar, ensuring that the radishes are covered with the liquid.
Let the pickles cool down to room temperature then cover, shake or rotate the jar gently to ensure that the spices are coating all of the radishes and refrigerate the pickles for at least 1 day before using.
They can last up to five days but they are at their best and crunchiest for the first few days.
Serve on a salad, alongside curries, as an extra taco condiment, with burgers, as part of a sandwich filling or alongside a sandwich.

Cooking Notes: it is important to use pure sea salt and not table salt as additives can make the pickling liquid cloudy.

A Cheergerm adaptation of a bunch of different recipes.

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Stopped

Cicada’s buzz, the heat shimmers on the tents and children play endless rounds of Uno.

The rain has left and summer is once more upon us.  Twenty eight degree days allow for fun filled beach activities and the evenings are cool enough for  sleep.

Sets of white tipped waves swell and crash against us, they are stronger than they look. Ice-creams and potato cakes from the Horseshoe Bay Kiosk rule the day.

Our camping collective eat well. Whether it be a slow roasted shoulder of lamb, a myriad of crunchy corn fritters , carnival coloured coleslaw, a mound of roast potatoes or fresh white bread rolls laden with bacon and egg.

Time slows and it is good to just stop.

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All the little lights

‘We’re born with millions of little lights shining in the dark, and they show us the way. One lights up, every time we feel love in our hearts.’

I was sitting with Uncle R and Aunty L in their lounge room. We were listening to an album called ‘All the little lights’ by Passenger, aka Michael David Rosenberg, an English folk-rock singer songwriter with an unforgettably raspy voice and poignant lyrics. L is mending and R is reading. The lyrics from the song ‘all the little lights’ lodge within me, there is definitely a light shining in my heart in that moment.

My three sisters and I had landed in full force in Christchurch, New Zealand, the day before. It had been many years since we have travelled there all together, four curly haired lasses reunited on an adventure once more. We encountered a little pocket of summer in autumn, the warm wind wrapping around us like a loving blanket. Tessa the wonder retrieving cat was a delighting and diverting ball of possum like fur. Our Uncle and Aunty love her to the point of distraction. It is no no hardship to see why. We are all in her thrall before we know it.

Their house, built in 1909, timber walls, lovingly maintained by strong hands and strong hearts and held up by the firm foundations of a loving marriage. To our Uncle, this house is part of his story, a direct reflection of himself. Solid through the toughest and most unimaginable heartbreaking of times. It suffered in the earthquakes but the fact that liquification did not travel beneath and the extra work and timber that they built into it ‘back in the day’, ensured it’s continuing existence.

There is true beauty here. Both in the people it houses and in each lovingly chosen or inherited piece. A living, breathing diaroma of their history, just like the patchwork quilts artfully made by Aunty L. Old Pop’s piano accordion, stained glass and hand crafted wooden sculptures made by a close friend. A man’s garage laden with treasures and tools used by the hands of a bloke who fixes and beautifies discarded objects. The garden provides pumpkins, perfumed climbing roses, lavender, a magnificent veggie patch and an apple tree. Saffron seeds given to Uncle R from an Iranian student have been grown into delicate yet vibrant golden threads.

Hot Wheels and Low Rider, how good it is to see them again. No, these are not some hot rodding gang members but two of our cousins. Rest assured, these titles are of their own choosing. These two beautiful men have Frederich’s Ataxia and use wheelchairs as their current mode of transport. This condition causes progressive damage to the nervous system. We are well pleased to clap eyes on them both again along with Big Bibbity Bob (aka Bob) the beautiful brown eyed dogger friend of Hot Wheels. To know Bob, is well, to love him.

A strong food gene appears to be written in all of our DNA. We ate and drank from dusk to dawn, Aunty L’s rich mushroom soup and sourdough bread. The coffee we encounter is seriously good and excellent New Zealand wine flows. Denheath’s custard squares thank you very much, iconic ginger slice and lolly slice, something I don’t think you will see in another part of the world. A miniature Bombe Alaska filled with a rhubarb parfait is well, frankly, the bomb. We are entertained by Uncle R’s amazing ability to recite poetry and witty sayings handed to him by his own personal mentor and hero, Old Pop. (His grandfather, our great/grandfather. He is the dapper fellow in the first photo on the left wearing a beret.)

Special gin (laden with botanicals) and tonics with orange peel, Italian food, cousins and beers, laughing like loons and catching up. Some cooking and baking is also accomplished by sisters together again. A perfectly balanced carrot cake (not too sweet, not too savoury) topped with walnuts foraged from the tree next door. A delicate seafood chowder laden with NZ seafood. We all pitch in.

Reconnecting with our loved ones, family from both our fathers and mothers side, time has passed but not passed at all. The goodwill and interest is still there as if we only saw each other yesterday. Coffee at the local library, lunch at the Boatshed and drinks at the Astrolabe Bar. More laughter and some tears. We pore over photos from a bygone era, looking for snippets of ourselves in the faces that gaze back at us.

Leaving here is hard for many reasons. We miss all of our family and this beautiful city that is rebuilding itself in new ways after the earthquake. It is made more difficult this time because our beloved Uncle R is fighting a health battle that brings new meaning to the saying that ‘life isn’t fair’. As Uncle R would say, quoting Old Pop, ‘Life isn’t fair, so what are you going to do about it?’ Our uncle has spent his life ‘doing something about it.’ Battling injustices committed not only against his own boys but for others who lacked a voice.

We do not say goodbye but instead, ‘until we meet again.’ If love is a tiny light that burns, then there are many tiny lights burning as brightly as they can right now.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CoONtDv9eJg

http://www.fara.org.au

http://www.denheath.co.nz

http://www.christchurch.org.nz


Back to Bathurst and a spot of Tex-Mex

Restlessness and a modicum of discontent sat curled, viper like, in the depths of my belly. We were nearing the end of the first week of the lads two week school holidays. A last minute opportunity arose to visit Mr Bagpipes, aka the father figure. He is currently house sitting a large ex-vineyard property ten minutes outside of old Bathurst. It felt darned good to pack up and get the heck outta Dodge. A chance for familial reconnection far from the maddening crowd in the country air and wide open spaces.

Before we hit the property, we popped into Legall Patisserie for some takeaway pastries, including of course, my favourite toffee choux. I am marginally grateful for my ever expanding ice-cream pants that this joint is not around the corner from home and is relegated to the less often occurring Bathurst visits.

Finally we arrive at the country house and life was good again. Marshmallow clouds, Pinot grapes withering on the vine, tiny wagtail birdies and a family of unseen foxes near the adorably sized dam. Leaves turning to autumn and unseasonably warm weather welcomed us, it was a holiday weekend indeed. Elvis the dogger was quite overwhelmed by the open spaces. We scoffed the pastries for arvo tea then did a bit of exploring. Dinner was a quick noodle stir fry hungrily consumed before we all collapsed happily into our beds.

Saturday morning brought more Legall pastry and a very good Fish River coffee enjoyed in the stunningly autumnal Machattie Park. A spot of shop perusal followed, finishing at Annie’s for a kiddy ice-cream treat. Back at the house, Kid 1 slept exhaustedly on the couch for a record two hour nap. Daylight savings and a growth spurt have made him hungry and moody. The spectre of pre-adolescence hovers over him, prophesising of things to come. Sleep beautiful lad, sleep. This Mumma was able to contentedly read before the Yak and I hoofed up and down the one kilometre driveway. We couldn’t afford not to, there was further eating to be done.

Saturday night sneaked up on and us and we found ourselves (after booking at the last minute), at the relatively new Tommy’s, Tex-Mex food joint in Bathurst town. We walked into what appears to be a dodgy hole in the wall and happily arrive in a cool, candle dripping entry way. This space screamed Mexican Day of the Dead and we were warmly welcomed by the service staff. Tommy’s has a laid back, understated hipster vibe going on. The menu is a marvellous combination of man-food and classic Mexican faves with a modern twist.

For starters, we greedily ordered two serves of the perfectly crispy fried onion rings and coleslaw along with a jug of ice cold margarita. After a good gander at the menu, three of us decided upon the baby back pork ribs that had been marinated in charred chorizo and served with corn and garlic bread. The Yak ordered the vegetarian nachos and Kid 2, despite strong persuasion, simply chose the shoestring fries. Don’t ask for the ribs marinade, in the tried and true saying, it is top secret. And those ribs my friend, as that overplayed hit 90’s song went, ‘I would walk 500 miles, just to get a bite of those falling off the bones, unctuous meaty delights .’ (Well, it kind of went like that.) All three of those ribs plates were licked clean.

Other delicious sounding menu choices included the Tijuana big dog and the Austin Texas hamburger. There were also some tasty sounding smaller bites to choose from such as jalapeño poppers, empanadas and corn chips with pico de gallo. The Yak enjoyed the myriad levels of flavours and toppings on his nachos, which were cutely served in a cardboard box. (An inspired idea to avoid a messy cleanup later.)

Back to the vineyard, we delighted in the clear as a bell night sky, children pointing out the Southern Cross, Orion’s Belt and the Milky Way swathed across the black velvet. The pip peep of frogs was the only sound, you just don’t get that in the city.

Sunday morning, children still asleep at 7.15 (unheard of) I lay and listened to, well, not much. A snoring dogger, the occasional slumberous murmur from the boys and my own contentment. Upon awakening, I was jumped upon by two laddies, morning snuggles from ferocious dragons who threaten to rip out my guts and still beating heart. Raising boys, a continuing dichotomy of sweetness and blood curdling violence.

As we left, the sproglets shouted goodbye to the sentinel guard alpaca, they have named Mr Banana, who watches sternly over the sheep in neighbouring fields. Then we headed off to The Hub for breakfast. (Again we booked, the people in this town know what is good and you will not always get in on a weekend if you are not prepared. On saying that, always try to get in, you never know your luck.)

The Yak and I couldn’t say no to the Glaswegian potato pancakes served with smoked salmon, poached eggs, cream cheese and hollandaise. (Spinach for the Yak of course.) This dish was The Boss. The creamy sauces were the perfect foil to the potato, it was rich but worth every bite. The Hub coffee was as always, marvellous. Smooth and rich as a royal. Other enticing sounding menu plates were the dukkah boiled eggs and a brekkie salad with chimichurri sauce, roasted tomatoes, almonds and poached eggs (amongst other things.)

Farewelling Mr Bagpipes, we popped back in the car, feeling refreshed, renewed and rather full. Can’t complain about that. Hasta la vista Bathurst.

https://www.facebook.com/anniesbathurst

https://www.facebook.com/LegallPatisserieCafe

http://www.tommysbx.com.au

https://www.facebook.com/tommys.

https://www.facebook.com/thehubbathurst

http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/country-nsw/bathurst-area?gclid=CLC2xd6F_8QCFU-VvQodtm0A8w

http://www.bathurst.nsw.au

http://www.bathurst-nsw.com/machattie.html

https://cheergerm.com/2014/07/20/bathurst-and-bagpipes/

https://cheergerm.com/2014/08/24/shadow-sisters-and-the-apple-bar/


Blackheath babes and Vesta

A certain girl, who shall go unnamed (let’s face it, everyone goes unnamed in this blog), recently celebrated a birthday of significance. Maybe this blog should be called The Birthday Blog?

The partying did not stop I tell you. Next on the birthday agenda (far more exciting than a political or meeting agenda) was a girly trip for six, away to the Blue Mountains, just west of Sydney. The funky wee village of Blackheath to be specific. This mountain town is one of my very favourite to visit. (Go on now, I love them all.)

The adorable Blackheath Getaway Cottage is a homey wooden cottage with quaint touches and a stone fireplace. This would have been my fourth stay here. (Shh, don’t tell anyone. I would hate it to become popular.) Cherry blossoms lined the streets and the well known rhodedendron gardens were coming into bloom. This weekend spoke of open fires, champagne and Cuban sandwiches. Fish river coffee and secondhand shops up the wazoo.

Wide greened streets and cookie cutter cottages that you want to shrink, pop in your pocket and take home. A dog show and waratah’s so red, lush and unreal, you think you could have fallen down a rabbit hole into a psychedelic wonderland.

Serious conversation, happy birthday toasts and the kind of ribbing that only a loved one can get away with.

Mountain appropriate glad rags were put on and we trailed out to a celebatory birthday dinner. Our destination was a restaurant that was once the iconic Vulcans and has now morphed into Vesta. Having never eaten at Vulcans, I had no preconceived notion of what this space should be or feel like. It was once the Blackheath Bakery, built in the nineteenth century and was made famous by Philip Searle and Barry Ross in the 1990’s who produced iconic food in the woodfired scotch oven.

Vesta is an intimate, rustic and charming space. The woodfired oven sits at the back of the open kitchen for all to see. This oven is a magical kingdom within itself; producing plates of seasonal, slow cooked food tinged with the smokiness that only real fire can produce.

A ruby red blood orange and Campari cocktail was enjoyed by two of our number and a cracking bottle of Provenance Pinot Gris from Victoria was ordered and promptly consumed. Woodfired walnut bread was dipped in olive oil and dukkah and we nibbled on smoked paprika almonds and marinated olives.

My standout dish was a silky light and rich, twice cooked Manchego goats cheese soufflé. I would walk to the Blue Mountains on burning hot tar just to get this down my gob again. The experience of mopping up that cheese sauce with bread requires a sonnet to be written in its honour and bards to sing to its glory. I appreciated my next dish, lobster tail with a blood orange and chervil dressing with asparagus. It was light and spoke of spring, the perfect dish after the rich soufflé.

I managed to grab a mouthful of the delicately smoky and unctuous Persian lamb ragout with dill rice and the very good ratatouille with polenta and Bulgarian feta. These dishes were also served in the black cast iron pans they were cooked in. What’s not to love about food served right from the belly of the oven? Even the sides were grand. Broccolini with garlic breadcrumbs and crispy oven roasted kipfler potatoes.

Because this was a birthday celebration, one candle holding, embarrassment causing ice-cream bombe comprising of a strawberry sorbet and honeycomb ice cream was ordered. We stuffed a gorgeous tasting spoonful into our straining stomachs. Just another wafer thin slice? I think not. Thank goodness we had the walk back to the cottage.

As we left, Vesta was heaving with a mixed crowd of the older well heeled set and uber-cool young, bearded hipsters. (Well, the blokes were bearded, I didn’t notice any moustachioed chicks.) The only question left to ask is, whose birthday is it next?

http://www.blackheathgetaway.com.au/default.asp

http://www.vestablackheath.com.au

http://www.provenancewine.com.au/get-wines-direct-buy-online/


Shadow sisters and the Apple Bar

Time away with friends is precious. A week or so ago, I was lucky enough to spend three whole nights and four, yes four, days away with some long time girlfriends. One of these gorgeous women has a mum-in-law with a beautiful 100 acre property outside of Bathurst in the NSW countryside in Rock Forest. We have been lucky enough to visit there before and were excited to get the chance to go there once again.

We travelled up on the Thursday, kidlets tucked safely away in school. Us womenfolk giddy with freedom and hedonistic joy, crammed ourselves into a car and headed up towards the Blue Mountains. There may have been whooping, I cannot deny or confirm that.

First stop is Leura, a delightful Blue Mountains town. We wandered happily through craft, homeware and vintage shops. Lunch was at the Red Door Cafe where we ate a superb salmon fillet with crispy skin, preserved lemon, capers, nut butter sauce on a bed of mash. People, this dish was the bees knees. A yummy goats cheese tart with rocket, balsamic and caramelised onion was also consumed without complaint. Then, a few groceries were purchased and we piled back in the car.

Before we knew it we had arrived. The gate is opened and we drive onto this rocky and glorious landscape. (This area ain’t called Rock Forest for nowt.) We organise ourselves with military precision and a brisk walk up the driveway settles down the crazy car leg spasms we have all contracted.

The inaugural fire is built by our very own talented fire starter. This spacious log mansion has a spectacular open fireplace and a mantlepiece that is as solid as the rock of Gibraltar. Fizzy wine is popped, whilst cheese and bikkie snackles hit the spot. Yes, we now know we are on holiday.

Cold, cold country nights with clear sparkling skies. The night song of the river rocks me to sleep and is a salve to my citified soul.

Friday morning we ventured into Bathurst town to the divine Legall Patisserie once more, where toffee choux and other assorted delights were the order of the day. We ate patisserie for our breakfast, oh yeah. A quick squiz at the well cool Keppel Street shops, then a takeaway Fish River coffee from the Hub and back to the farm for some more hard work chilling out. Lunch was silky scrambled eggs and crunchy bacon with a side serving of tomatoes and mushrooms. Why? Because we can have breakfast for lunch if we damn well please.

Shadow sister figures on rocks, movies that made us cry until our insides hurt and caused eyes to swell up like stepped on puffer fish. We revel in this time to be just ourselves without being mums, wives or employees. We are not ungrateful for these roles but it’s good to feel the form of ‘just yourself’ once again.

Rocks in the shape of particular body parts that made us guffaw our way back down the hill. Our raucousness causes kangaroos to jump and sheep looked at us askance as they once again followed each other (as sheep will do) away from the insanity of five women laughing like their lives might just depend upon it.

Cliff the alpaca stood his ground and guarded the sheep because his life might very well depend upon it.

Steaming hot bowls of slow cooked Chilli Con Carne for dinner shore us up until the next feed. And who knew that it also makes a great breakfast dish on toast?

This trip is free from animal attack. On a previous trip a baby giant bat flew into the hair of one of our number in a vicious nighttime attack. It’s hard to explain the horror of being awoken by a high pitched squeak and a rustle across the top of your head. The brave woman valiantly fought off this flying rat with wings but vowed never to sleep in that particular bedroom again. To this very day, she never has.

Reading books that have been greedily hoarded for this occasion in the sweet knowledge and safety that there is no ‘Mum, Mum…I need, want, would like…’ The sunny, funny days warmed every vertebrae in our spines as we sat and read on grassy knolls overlooking the Macquarie River. The temperature at night dropped into the minuses but winter weight doonas soothed and lulled us into a satiated slumber. (As did a good side serving of nougat, chocolate and the odd glass of wine.)

Homemade chicken soup made by one of us, really is good for the soul. Friendship with these women isn’t always about seeing eye to eye. The longer we know each other we sometimes speak truths that are softened by good food and the solid love that underpins these conversations. The sounds of the crackling fire is the only musical backdrop we need on this long, lazy weekend.

Naturally, all good things must come to an end and as my wise mother always says, you can’t come back if you don’t leave. The blow of going home is softened by a lunch visit to the Apple Bar in Bilpin. We had booked weeks in advance to ensure we got a table. The food here floats our boats. A glass of Pinot Gris from Orange sets the tone, as does the glow from the fireplace.

This simple, rustic restaurant has an eclectic group of diners ranging from our sweet selves to inner city hipsters, from country folk to grey nomad travellers passing by. Choices are made from a menu overflowing with good sounding tucker. This Cheergerm gobbles down an amazing wood grilled pork loin cutlet with Patomaki’s messmate honey, black pepper, garlic, soya glaze, avocado salad with chips. I kid you not, this was the best darned pork I have eaten in years. Juicy and tender with a sweet spicy glaze. The assumption is that Patomaki’s messmate honey is a honey from bees that hang out near eucalypts but whatever it’s story, it tastes darned good.

Other dishes included a glorious woodgrilled salmon fillet with Lombok ‘Honeymoon’ sauce and a tasty version of fish and chips using lightly battered mirror dory.

The good news is that I married my dessert and we are now living happily together in a two bedroom bedsit in the inner city. Churros with a caramel mou and Belgian chocolate ice cream. Crunchy batons of deep fried batter with a melting interior accompanied by a fancy caramel sauce with hints of salt. The chocolate ice cream is to die for, it’s bitter undertones the perfect foil to the richness of the sauce. Other desserts tasted were a decent caramelised upside down orange and poppy seed cake and a rather wonderful gluten free local raspberry, coconut, white chocolate and almond clafoutis. (Try saying that five times quickly.)

Satiated we said adios to the Apple Bar and continued on our merry way back to the bosoms of our beloved families, who were waiting with bated breath for our return. (Hello, I’m home….hello…anyone here?)

Goodbye dear shadow sisters, until next years trip.

http://www.applebar.com.au

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Red-Door-Cafe/171123429579921?ref=ts&fref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/LegallPatisserieCafe

http://www.fishriverroasters.com.au

https://www.facebook.com/thehubbathurst

http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/country-nsw/bathurst-area

http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/blue-mountains


Bathurst and bagpipes

We recently took an extended weekend to travel to the NSW country town of Bathurst. This is the chosen place of residence for our Papa, Mr Bagpipes. He was celebrating a rather, cough cough, significant birthday. How old you ask? Bloody 70, he would reply. Despite his misgivings, this is a good thing. He is a young 70.. I mean, like a 21 year old 70.

Beautiful Bathurst was the place of the first goldrush in Australia. With a population of around 41,000 people, there is an elegant and historic city centre with a slightly slowed down country feel. To balance this, Bathurst is also a university town with a youthful and energetic vibe. It is famous for Mount Panaroma, an internationally known race track that attracts petrolheads from all over every October for the awesomely noisy Bathurst 1000.

Bathurst is a bit of an understated beauty. The dark haired, brown eyed demure lass who stands undemandingly in the corner. But when you give her your full attention, she shines like soft sunlight on a stained glass window.

There is no sugar coating it, in winter it is BC…Bloody Cold. But what better excuse to rug up in your snuggliest clothes and traverse from shop to shop, park to park, red apple cheeked like someone from a 1950’s American TV sitcom? There is much to appreciate. The fine architecture, fabulous food and coffee and great shoes. (Shoes do matter, well, they do to me….)

First stop, Legall Patisserie, this is when I really know we are in Bathurst. Toffee choux, lemon tart and creme brûlée tart. Naturally, I have no scientific basis for the next claim but this has got to be the best patisserie in Australia. I kid you not. The light choux pastry balls filled with fresh cream and coated in a thin crunchy almost burnt but not, toffee coating almost bring me undone. Served with Fish River coffee, blended locally, this java always has a luscious, smooth mouthfeel and great aftertaste. It ain’t crap people.

Icicles on bench parks and shrubbery, Jack Duggans Irish pub for plates of cockle warming country food the size of a small galaxy and pints of velvety Guinness that make the world a happier place. Duck feeding at the pond, excellent takeaway coffee from Crema or Country Fruit and fat ice creams (yes, children will still eat them, even when it is 9 degrees outside.)

Green leprechaun boots from Gorgeousness, the temple of all things girly and beauiful. The very cool Keppel Street with the marvellous secondhand shop The Naked Bud, op shops and other delightful wee retail outlets worth a squiz at. Artisan handcrafted takeaway pizza from Capers, devoured in the stunning cottage rented by Sister No 4. (We all had serious rental house envy.)

And the shindig itself? Come Saturday evening, we popped our glad rags on and headed off to celebrate. Mr Bagpipes had booked out The Hub, Espresso Bar & Eatery for the entire evening. A charming, partially red wall painted, cosy eatery on the aforementioned Keppell Street. Owned and operated by Mr Ross, a chilled out dude who’s personality is reflected in the happy food and service this wee gem provides.

Family and friends of Mr Bagpipes gathered from near and far in this welcoming space and sipped on sparkling wine whilst snarfling delicious tidbits of canapés. The chilled dinner party atmosphere was framed by the beautiful musicianship of Aaron Hopper and Rob Shannon. Mr Bagpipes surprised us all by banging out a few cool tunes on the bagpipes accompanied by Mr Shannon on the tabla, an Indian drum. The mystic sounds took us to a more ancient time where windy, bagged instruments ran free on stilted legs, shepherded by crazy, wee percussion instruments.

Back to the food. To start, a cauliflower soup served with truffle oil and fine shavings of fresh truffle. Holy fungi! Seriously, one of the most luxurious soups to ever slide down the gob of this greedy Cheergerm. The sweet brassica was highlighted by the hard to describe, earthy taste that is that strange little orb, the truffle. This was followed by tender crusted lamb rack on a bed of kumara mash, a red wine jus and lovely steamed fresh garden vegetables. Vegetarians and the vegetarian Silly Yak dined on a tasty veggie curry. They were well pleased.

Music, warmth, poetry, food, wine and laughter. Hopefully Mr Bagpipe’s heart swelled as his friend piped in the kiwi decorated birthday cake. Celebrations are important, they might not totally erase the darker times but they feed our souls and give us hope for the future.

Enough of that serious malarkey, let’s talk dessert. Adorable piccolos of Fish River Coffee came to the table accompanied by Sister No 2’s amazeballs kiwi covered birthday chocolate stout fruit cake and slices of lemon tart from Legall next door.

Sunday, in party recovery mode, we drove through freezing cold sleet like rain to visit the Beekeepers Inn 20 minutes outside of Bathurst. We enjoyed nice food and coffee along with a great honey tasting station, a myriad of amber honey jars, bee type goodies and gourmet yummy things to peruse. As night fell, we met once again in the enviable cottage rental for great warming Indian curry from Tamarin Indian Restaurant.

Before we took our leave on Monday, we needed to stuff our faces for the last hurrah. Back to The Hub we went. Trunkey Creek triple smoked bacon was the business served with heavenly (give me a hallelujah chorus from the balcony) scrambled eggs that were like tiny little hobbit clouds. A friend devoured chorizo, sweet potato rosti and poached eggs topped with a silky hollandaise sauce that was lemony and not heavy or overpowering as some. A reliable expert on sausages (the Polish stepfather) assured me the fennel and pork sausage with beans was superb. No words left his mouth whilst he chowed down.

So happy birthday Dad, as you traverse into the next decade of your life, may the road rise up to meet you and the melodic drone of bagpipes be the continuing soundtrack to your life.

Bathurst, we will be back.

https://www.facebook.com/LegallPatisserieCafe

http://www.fishriverroasters.com.au

https://www.facebook.com/thehubbathurst

http://www.jackduggans.com.au

http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Naked-Bud/138814430734

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Gorgeousness/264710080253858

http://www.beekeepersinn.com

https://www.facebook.com/TamarinRestaraunt

http://www.trunkey.com.au

http://www.encoreapartments.com.au

http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/country-nsw/bathurst-area