Saturday 25 February 2023

Point Nepean Quarantine Station tour

A couple of weeks ago I went to a conference on the Mornington Peninsula.  At the end of the meeting I took the optional tour of the Point Nepean Quarantine Station.  It was used as a quarantine station between 1852 and 1980 and the buildings now reside within a national park on the tip of the peninsula.  It is so good to be out of the city with wide open spaces and to be able to look out over the sea.  It felt like the best of Australia but if you were dumped here with an infectious disease at the end of a long sea journey it probably felt less impressive.  

The end of the Peninsula where the Quarantine station is located is where ships would first enter Port Phillip Bay on the way to Melbourne.  It is not quite the end of the Peninsula.  Just a bit further along is Fort Nepean.  Point Nepean was an important site for protecting Melbourne and surrounds from threats in seafaring vessels.

Our tour guide (you can see him in the bottom right corner of the top photo) started with the story of the Ticonderoga.  When this ship came through the heads in 1852 with about 100 people dead and more ill from an outbreak of Typhus and Scarlet Fever, the yellow flag was raised, to signal the contagion.  The fledgling government in Melbourne activated plans to use this area in Point Nepean for a quarantine station.  Though the acquisition of the land had been discussed, being moved off his farm must have been a shock for Patrick Sullivan.

The above monument lists the 168 passengers who died either during the voyage or in quarantine.  What really struck me were the deaths of 86 babies and children.  So sad for the families (mostly from Scottish Highland clearances) who were travelling to Australia in search of a better life.

The above notice reminds detainees that they are subject to the rules of the station.  I am not sure what they did all day but they were definitely forbidden to leave the quarantine station.  When it was first open, the police station for the area was located at the entrance and the only way to travel to Melbourne was by boat or walking along the seashore.  There was no road at the time.  This did not stop some determined detainees making it all the way to the village.  Note that the penalty of $200 is in the decimal currency that was introduced in 1966 so it is quite a recent poster.

We then went through the "Foul Luggage Station".  When passengers arrived at the quarantine station they would be taken to the bath house to be stripped of their clothes and washed.  Their luggage went to the foul luggage station to be disinfected, at first in boiling water (which did not leave some clothes in great shape) and later during its history with a hot air system.  I think the large chimney was from the huge boiler used to heat the water.  It all looked very Auschwitz to me.

So I was not surprised when the tour guide told us that some passengers from Poland in the late 1940s were pretty freaked out by the whole set up.  Imagine escaping Hitler's Holcaust only to fear you had found it over the other side of the world!

By the 1880s, the complex had 5 "hospital" buildings.  Four were actually sleeping quarters for passengers under observation: two up the hill for first and second class passengers and two buildings for steerage or third class passengers.  Hospital 5 was for the sick to be under isolation.

We were able to go into Hospital Building 3 which had some displays about the history over time.  The biggest extended use of the quarantine station was in 1919 during the Spanish flu pandemic.  From the 1950s and 60s the increase in people coming to Melbourne by air rather than sea made the quarantine station less useful as it was so far from the airport.

From the 1950s, the quarantine station was used for the Officer Cadet School, the School of Army Health, training courses with the occasional quarantine, and in 1999 it housed Kosovo refugees from the Balkans war.  In 2009, Point Nepean became a National Park, permanently open to the public with a program of conservation of the historic buildings and spaces.

During the tour we quickly passed by an art exhibition: While We Were Sleeping, by Liz Walker.  So once the tour finished I returned and had a quick look.  The artist had collected plastics and made it into art to explore the damaging effects of plastics in our oceans.

There were exhibits on a mortuary slab and pictures made of found plastics.  I was quite taken by this table of food.  On closer inspection it was not real food.  But from afar it could have fooled me.

Here is a close up of some of the "food": pizza, sushi, fish and chips, kebabs, licorice.  I really loved the kebabs which were made out of bottle tops and all the colourful plastic on the pizza.  But it is sobering to see how much plastic was in the exhibit.

The conference at Cape Schanck had been incredibly busy as I had helped with organising (it was also so much fun - networking bingo and a Billy Joel Piano Man lip synch competition were big hits at the Banquet)!  I had wanted to quickly visit the beach, being so close, but it was not easy.  At one point I went on what looked like a quick drive on GPS but ended at a locked gate with a sign saying: Dead end, GPS is wrong.  All I could manage was to finally find was a lookout to the coast.

So I was pretty happy after the tour to find some rocks to climb down to the beach.  It was a warm day and so nice to take my shoes off and walk along the water's edge.  The beach was just perfect, despite a few jelly fishes washing up in the tide.  Velvety sand, cool clear water and blue skies.  I only saw one other person further down the beach.  I walked up to view the first class hospital building from the beach and then back again.

I really enjoyed visiting the Quarantine Station.  It was quite interesting to see the history of quarantine after all the quarantine dramas during the Covid pandemic.  Our guide from the Nepean Historical Society had some great stories and was very knowledgeable.  Tours can be organised for a minimum of 15 people.  If you can't do a tour, there is quite a bit of information about the history on the Nepean Historical Society website.

Saturday 18 February 2023

Vegetarian cheese and bacon quickbread

We bought some vegan bacon recently that looked much more like pork bacon than any other vegan bacon I have ever bought.  It seemed very meaty to me but not to E who eats bacon regularly.  Sylvia found the texture quite odd.  I liked the idea of cooking rashers of bacon to have in a fry up or a sandwich but it seemed a bit intense.  So I found a recipe for a cheese and bacon bread and made it vegetarian.

This is the vegan bacon (or facon as I like to say).  I liked that it was called "bacon rashers without the oink".  One thing I often find different between meat and vegan alternatives, especially with bacon, is that the meat version releases lots of fat so it can affect the texture of dishes to use veg versions.  With this facon I chopped it first (with scissors like my mum often cut bacon) and fried it on a cast iron frypan in a slosh of rice bran oil.  It was lovely and crisp and chewy.  I would love to a comparison with my favourite tofu bacon - I can't help but feel I loved the ease of this ready made facon than the one we usually make with tofu.

When I made the bread - a quickbread with no yeast - I had quite a bit of "vegan Artisa Gladstone aged cashew cheese smoked with Tasmanian applewood".  I'd eaten some on crackers but had had enough of that so I grated it into the mixture.  It is the more beige than the yellow dairy cheese above. 

When the cheese and bacon bread came out of the oven it smelled so good that it was too hard to wait until it was cooled.  We ate warm slices with melting butter and it was wonderful.  The cheese and facon and chive mixture made it full of flavour and texture.

The next day I had some with dinner with a delicious carrot and roasted capsicum soup from the Colour Me Vegan cookbook by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (who also wrote The Joy of Vegan Baking).  As I didn't change the recipe I am not reproducing it here but suggest you check out the cookbook.

Sylvia at first wasn't sure of the bread but by the end of the loaf had come around to it.  I wonder if it was more yellow because it was all dairy cheese.  When she made it we didn't have chives.  The recipe was fine to make a few changes to and tasted just as wonderful.  We hope to try it with tofu bacon at some stage.  I am sure it will disappear just as quickly as these loaves.

More quickbread recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:

Vegetarian cheese and b/facon quickbread

Adapted from Country Living
Makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 cup plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt 

1/2 tsp mustard powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup of milk plus a tsp of vinegar)
4 tbsp (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
125g (about 1 cup) vintage Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 slices (vegetarian) bacon, fried and finely chopped
3 tbsp chopped fresh chives
extra grated cheese for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 180 C.  Grease and line a loaf tin with baking paper.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and mustard powder in a large bowl.  Melt butter and lightly whisk in eggs and buttermilk.  Pour into dry ingredients and gently mix.  Then mix in cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, fried bacon bits and chives.  

Spoon into prepared tin, smooth the top with the back of a spoon and sprinkle with extra cheese.  Bake for 35-50 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

NOTES: if you don't have a vegan bacon like this one, you could use tofu bacon that is fried until crisp or chewy.  I would use parsley instead of chives if I didn't have them.

On the Stereo:
Ask Me No Questions: Bridget St John

Saturday 11 February 2023

In My Kitchen: February 2023

February starts and the year is well underway.  January was a nice holiday month with trips to the beach, catch ups with friends and a trip to the Grampians.  I even got a bit more time for blogging!  But February is back to work.  It's busy.  School is back.  I have two work trips in the next 3 weeks. Our weather continues to be fickle; official covid numbers are down, and politics feels like groundhog day with more boosters, more interest rates rises, and the Robodebt royal commission showing the worst of politicians. 

One of our holiday treats was a trip to Moon Cruller in 50 Rose Street, Fitzroy.  Sylvia was fascinated by crullers, crispy doughnut rings of choux pastry, which she had seen on Private Practice.  We got the 6 pack: original glazed, vanilla, raspberry, passionfruit, cream and jam, and the daily special black sesame and cherry.  They were really good so crispy outside and light inside, but I think I prefer the yeastiness of doughnuts.  I really liked the cherry and black sesame flavours but it had too much cream in it.  The passionfruit was one of the beset with a tang working nicely with the sweet rich dough.  And I finally got some new bathers in Ftizroy.

Another fun shopping trip was when we finally made it to Terra Marde in Brunswick (775-781 Sydney Road).  It was quieter than the Northcote Terra Mardre but perhaps that was because we went in early evening.  I just went for some black salt and seemed to come back with the rest of the shop.  I exaggerate.  A little.    It was an Aladdin's cave of temptation.  

We bought facon that really looks like bacon "without the oink", vegan sour jubes that were too sour for Sylvia, vegan Artisa Gladstone aged cashew cheese smoked with Tasmanian applewood, Moo Free Bunnycomb chocolate "for dairy dodging chocolate chompers", instant cheezy broccoli soup, Tony's chocolonely chocolate bar, Terra Madre maple syrup with a cool label, etc etc.  I hope to find time to tell you more about the facon soon.

We also bought kombucha.  It amused me to buy one that was called "way better" so I could tell Sylvia mine was way better.

After one of our measuring spoons got badly bent on hard frozen ice cream,, I was determined to buy a new ice cream scoop.  Sylvia was less keen until she tried it and then needed me to buy more ice cream so she could enjoy scooping.

This is a random photo of vegies and tofu we cut up for Rice Paper Rolls.  They were one of the foods we were enjoying in the summer holidays.

These are Jelly Fruits that Sylvia saved up to buy online.  Apparently they are a tik tok sensation.  They are really weird.  I found it unnerving to have to bit a hole in the plastic to suck the jelly through.

I got a little carried away at Christmas and as well as making nut roast and tofurkey, I bought this Nature's Kitchen Christmas Roast.  Actually I think I had it on standby in case I didn't manage anything else for Christmas day.  About a week or two after Christmas I baked it with the tomato chutney on top - like my mum used to bake meatloaf.  I am not a fan of gluten heavy mock meat and I think that might be why I wasn't so keen on it.

For those who have never heard of cheezels, they are a ring shaped "chip" that is an Aussie classic.  I really enjoyed these cheezel flavoured crackers.  They were very moreish and left a lot of cheezy yellow powder on my fingers.  Sylvia was right when she said she missed the fun of putting cheezel rings on your fungers and eating them off one by one.

This is another dinner with bits and pieces: brown rice salad, potato salad without mayo, corn on the cob, peas, fried onion and veg sauce.

I have made this antipasto focaccia a couple of times lately.  We made it once and took it straight out of the oven to the pictures when we saw Lyle Lyle Crocodile.  The second time I took it for a picnic with friends at the Fiztroy Gardens.  It is such an easy thing to make that is satisfying and impressive.

At the end of the month we went for a holiday at the Grampians.  I bought this Desert Quandong Jam at the Brambuk Indigenous Centre.  We had it with scones and cream that my mum brought to my place.  Quandongs are Australian native peaches, if you want some idea of how it tastes.  Behind is a picture of our holiday cottage.

This is the lollies Sylvia got on our holidays.  She was a big fan of the lolly shop!

Here is a slightly healthier photo from our holiday kitchen at the Grampians.  When I have more time I will write more about the holiday.  

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event.  If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 13th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog to visit more kitchens and her gorgeous hand drawn header.