We have a lot of drought in Australia and when we’re not in drought, it’s flooding.
About a six or seven hour drive north of Sydney is a town called Coffs Harbour. When I was about 15 my parents announced to us with great excitement that we were going to Coffs Harbour for a very modest two-week holiday where we’d be staying in a apartment within a complex. They warned that the apartment was a tad small for all seven of us (being only two bedrooms) but that we’d hardly be there as the complex was on the beach and we’d be spending all of our time on the sand or in the water.
Our family car was typical of the day and only contained seating for five so two of us were lucky enough to be spared six or seven hours of misery on the roads and were dropped off at the airport while the rest of us endured the trip. And I mean endured because my father is somewhat of an impatient person who would drive with great focus and determination to beat all previous time-travel records and have us there at least an hour earlier than anyone else making the same trip. And this also meant we couldn’t stop for any breaks for fear one of the cars he had just overtaken suddenly sped past us while we were taking that very necessary stop at the public amenities.
When we arrived at the complex in Coffs (early and ahead of schedule) there was a wee bit of sunshine. We took a look around the apartment and that didn’t take long. The second bedroom had two bunk beds that you could just squeeze between and there was a day bed in the lounge for the fifth child. As soon as we were unpacked we took the short walk to the beach. It probably is a pretty beach on a lovely day but the clouds suddenly came over turning the sky dark and the ocean gloomy and the temperature plummeted so we were underwhelmed with the vista and hurried back to the little apartment.
The optimists amongst us said, ‘Cheer up, the clouds are just passing, the sun will be out tomorrow’. But the clouds weren’t gone by the morning and they weren’t just passing. They were rain clouds and they opened up and bucketed down with tremendous force leaving us nothing to do but look at each other.
My sister, Em and I went for a wander around the complex and discovered there was a squash court. We’d never played squash before and we weren’t that interested in the sport but we thought we’d give it a go. We’d play for a few hours then run back to the apartment trying not to get soaked, then have something to eat then. With few other options I’d yell out, ‘Does anyone want to have a game of squash?’ And my sister would agree so off we’d go again to kill another few hours.
And this went on day after day after day with us not being able to even walk on the beach, let alone swim or sunbathe. We spent most of our time either in the tiny apartment or confined within the four walls of the squash court. It’s amazing how having never played before, how well we were playing by the end of the first week.
But we were bored with our one activity and the rackets were owned by the complex and the handles were sweaty and smelly and we would have loved to have been doing anything else and Em and I were so looking forward to getting on the plane and coming home.
However, before we reached the end of our holiday a State of Emergency was declared. Coffs Harbour was under water, flood levels were rising dangerously and we were ordered to evacuate. I was so happy to be heading to the airport. However, when we got there, the airport was closed. No plane could take off on a flooded tarmac. There was no other option but to drive home and we had that one five-seater car. All seven of us squeezed into the car and drove for seven hours in sheet rain and flooded conditions back to Sydney.
And we never visited Coffs Harbour ever again.
And I have not played a game of squash since.
Back then, Coffs Harbour had lots of Chinese Restaurants but none cooked Chinese like this authentic recipe from Kylie Kwong.
Soy Sauce Chicken
Serves: 4-6 as part of a banquet
Degree of Difficulty: 3/5
Cost: This is a very reasonably priced family meal
- 3 cups shao hsing wine or dry sherry
- 2 cups dark soy sauce
- 1 cup light soy sauce
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 12 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 cup ginger slices
- 8 spring onions (scallions), trimmed and cut in half crossways
- 1 tspn sesame oil
- 10 star anise
- 4 cinnamon quills
- 7 strips fresh orange zest
Place all stock ingredients, plus 6 ltrs (6 quarts) of cold water, in a large stockpot and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 40 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse. Meanwhile, rinse chicken under cold water. Trim away excess fat from inside and outside cavity, but keep neck, parson’s nose and winglets intact.
Lower chicken, breast-side down, in to simmering stock, ensuring it is fully submerged. Poach chicken gently for exactly 14 minutes. There should be no more than an occasional ripple breaking the surface, adjust the temperature, if necessary, to ensure stock does not reach simmering point again. Remove stockpot immediately from the stove and allow chicken to steep in the stock for 3 hrs at room temperature to complete the cooking process.
Using tongs, gently remove chicken from the stock, being careful not to tear the breast skin. Place chicken on a tray to drain and allow to cool.
Chop the chicken Chinese style and arrange on a platter. Spoon over some of the master stock and serve at room temperature.
This recipe is from Kylie Kwong, Simple Chinese Cooking.
Want to keep in touch? Join the fun on the Hotly Spiced Facebook page!